Speed Read: Monday 2 December 2013

1-    ALOHA CEREMONIES BEGIN: Same-sex couples began getting married in Hawaii just after midnight today, as the state’s newly enacted marriage equality law went into effect. The first six were married in a ceremony at the Sheraton on Waikiki after applying for their marriage licenses online just after midnight. According to the Honolulu StarAdvertiser, the ceremonies were delayed 40 minutes because of a website “glitch.” The Honolulu “Mayor’s Marriage Equality and Family Day” rally on Sunday, to enable couples to pre-register, had to be canceled due to weather, but couples who wanted to be married just after midnight were allowed to pre-register at the mayor’s office instead.

2-    ILLINOIS GETS FIRST: The marriage equality law does not take effect until June 1 in Illinois, but the state did see its first legally married same-sex couple November 27. A state judge granted an emergency order enabling Chicago couple Vernita Gray and Pat Ewert to marry due to the serious nature of illness for one of the women. Judge Patricia Logue, a former head of Lambda Legal’s Midwest headquarters in Chicago, conducted the ceremony.

3-    FMLA REGS UNDER REVIEW: The U.S. Department of Labor indicated in a somewhat obscure annual document last week that it plans to issue a revised definition of “spouse” for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in response to last June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). FMLA enables an employee to take unpaid leave to care for a “spouse” or other immediate family member. Given that only 16 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry, same-sex couples in the other states might suddenly need the FMLA but find themselves ineligible. The announcement came November 26 via the Fall 2013 Agency Statements of Regulatory Priorities, published by all federal agencies.

4-    GUARDS CLOSE THE COUNTER: The National Guards of Texas and Oklahoma have backed off an attempt to defy federal law in the treatment of married same-sex couples. The Guards had refused to allow the spouses of married gay Guard members to sign up for identification cards and benefits, citing state constitutional bans on recognition of same-sex marriages. They are still refusing to do so, but after pressure from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Oklahoma announced in early November that all spouses would now have to drive to a federal base to enroll for benefits and, on November 26, Texas Guard said the same. Three of eight state Guards have now complied with the post-Windsor DOD regulations.

5-    PROTESTERS FINED ONE-CENT: A jury in Louisville, Kentucky, decided a gay couple should be fined only one-cent for refusing to leave a county clerk’s office after being refused a marriage license. According to an Associated Press report, the couple could have been fined as much as $250 for their act of civil disobedience. The couple, Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James, said they considered the tiny fine a “big victory.”

6-    WISCONSIN’S ‘HEALTHY BALANCE’: Republican Governor Scott Walker suggested in an interview with Bloomberg November 22 that the state’s law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and it’s ban on allowing same-sex couples to marry strike a “healthy balance.”

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