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Archive for the 'Marriage Equality' Category

Marriage Equality Ruling Ahead? Supreme Court in Spotlight

111002075249-supreme-court-building-story-topAs the U.S. Supreme Court justices launched their new term with a private conference this week, they were the subject of attention on many news media fronts, with the issue of marriage for same-sex couples grabbing perhaps the highest profile.

A New York Times article was headlined, “Justices Embark on Road to a Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage,” and it suggested it is highly like the court will decide the issue one way or another by next June. The court could announce as early as this week which, if any, of several petitions for appeal on the topic it will consider in its new term. On other fronts, there was attention to immediate action by the court, and controversy around some of its justices: Read more

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Will Supreme Court Take Up Controversial Marriage Issue?

US-JUSTICE-GAY -MARRIAGEWith five petitions before it involving the constitutionality of state bans on marriage for same-sex couples, the U.S. Supreme Court could offer some clarity on its thinking in upcoming months.

Veteran Supreme Court-watcher Lyle Denniston offers that assessment in the Constitution Daily blog. Denniston notes that there is no inevitability to the high court’s settling the constitutional issue that has become the topic of so many lower court rulings lately, but at the same time he examines the factors that could lead up to the high court’s deciding to review one or more of the appeals.

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Another Appeals Court Strikes Down a Marriage Ban

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held unconstitutional on Monday Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The panel upheld a lower court ruling (see Gavel Grab).

Two federal appeals courts now have found such state bans unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in U.S. v. Windsor last year.

“We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable,” said appeals Judge Henry F. Floyd in Monday’s ruling, according to The Washington Post. “However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws. Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life.” Read more

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JAS: TN Judges’ Fundraising Part of Retention Election Trend

TN_SupremeCourtThe increasing politicization of state judicial retention races, when judges seek a new term on an up-or-down vote, has led to judges raising large campaign sums to defend themselves against ouster efforts, Justice at Stake said on Friday. JAS also reported on election fundraising developments in the state.

“In recent years we have seen state judicial retention races become more politicized,” noted Debra Erenberg, director of State Affairs for Justice at Stake, which has been monitoring money and politics in this year’s judicial elections. “As a result, we are seeing judges raising large sums of money to defend themselves against efforts to oust them. That’s what is happening in Tennessee.”

JAS said in a news release that campaigns to retain three targeted justices in Tennessee have purchased at least $107,610 worth of TV airtime and begun airing ads on behalf of the candidates. The justices’ campaigns have reported a fundraising total of  $598,261.99 according to state disclosure records.

Meanwhile, the Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington-based organization, registered with the state elections board on July 10, reinforcing expectations that it plans to launch a campaign aimed at ousting the three justices. Read more

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Utah Heads to Supreme Court to Appeal a Marriage Ruling

131226040854_gay-marriage-utah-640The office of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced that Utah will go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court to appeal a ruling by a panel of the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying the state cannot ban the marriage of same-sex couples.

When the appeals court issued its ruling last month (see Gavel Grab) it became the first federal appeals court to decide that voter-approved bans on marriage of same-sex couples violate the 14th Amendment rights of such couples to equal protection and due process, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Regarding Utah’s plans to appeal to the Supreme Court, Lyle Denniston wrote at SCOTUSblog, “This will be the first case reaching the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of such state bans since the Justices in United States v. Windsor a year ago struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act — a ruling that set off a series of decisions by federal and state trial courts, all of which so far have nullified state bans on same-sex marriages.”

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Utah Marriage Ban Struck Down by Federal Appeals Court

Utah cannot ban the marriage of same-sex couples, a Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled on Wednesday, the Associated Press said.

“A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union,” the panel wrote. It upheld the opinion of a lower court.

Reflecting the frequency with which courts are making such decisions, a federal trial judge in Indiana struck down that state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples on the same day, according to another AP article. Read more

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Will Arkansas Citizens Get Capacity to Recall Judges?

His call to impeach an Arkansas judge over a controversial marriage ruling didn’t go anywhere, so the sponsor tried another route. He won a legislative panel’s approval of a resolution criticizing the judge. And he’s also talking about possible consideration of a system for recalling judges.stock-footage-arkansas-flag-loop

According to, the Arkansas Legislative Council approved state Sen. Jason Rapert’s resolution that said Judge Chris Piazza had “overstepped his judicial authority” and that urged the state Supreme Court to reverse his ruling. Judge Piazza struck down a state ban on marriage for same-sex couples (see Gavel Grab).

Rapert said some state leaders are discussing a possible effort to win adoption of a system enabling public recall of judges. One of the leaders, Jerry Cox of the Family Council, said, “I think there’s a high level of frustration among many voters about what they would call judicial activism — legislating from the bench.”

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Hatch: ‘I Do Accept Whatever the Courts Say’ on Marriage

orrin_hatchSen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who has criticized “liberal judges” and those who practice “judicial activism” for trying to push for marriage of same-sex couples, took a decidedly different tone in an interview this week.

While saying on a radio show that he disagreed with two federal judges’ recent decisions about marriage for same-sex couples in Utah, he defended them as excellent judges who were working to comply with the law. Hatch said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune:

“We have an excellent federal bench [in Utah]. Other federal judges down there might not have arrived at the same conclusion that these two have. But I think it’s a portent of the future that sooner or later gay marriage is probably going to be approved by the Supreme Court of the United States, certainly as the people in this country move towards it, especially young people. I don’t think that’s the right way to go; on the other hand, I do accept whatever the courts say.” Read more

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Same Opinion on Marriage Bans Comes From Diverse Judges

APTOPIX_Gay_Marriage_Utah_Protests-00bd2On the road to the U.S. Supreme Court, the issue of the legality of marriage for same-sex couples has gained momentum from a wave of lower-court rulings by a diverse set of judges who ruled against state bans, the Washington Post reports.

“[T]he federal judges who have supplied an unbroken wave of victories across the country to supporters of same-sex marriage are more diverse than their rulings would suggest: white and black, gay and straight, nominated by Democrats (most of them) and chosen by Republicans (a few of them),” the newspaper says.

Just last week, Gavel Grab mentioned the same trend when judges in Pennsylvania and Oregon, one appointed by a Republican and the other by a Democrat, respectively, struck down state bans. The former judge had been supported by then-Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., while the latter is openly gay. Read more

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Marriage Bans in PA, OR Struck Down by U.S. Judges

Federal judges in Pennsylvania and Oregon are the latest to strike down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples. The two federal judges issuing the decisions have diverse backgrounds.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III struck down what was the sole remaining ban in the northeastern states, according to the Associated Press. An appointee of President George W. Bush, his supporters for confirmation 12 years ago included then-Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Slate reported.

In Oregon, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane found a state ban on marriages for same-sex couples unconstitutional. A separate Associated Press article said he is one of nine openly gay U.S. judges. He was nominated by President Barack Obama. The Oregonian said he used unusually personal language in his opinion, writing the following:

“Generations of Americans, my own included, were raised in a world in which homosexuality was believed to be a moral perversion, a mental disorder, or a mortal sin. I remember that one of the more popular playground games of my childhood was called ‘smear the queer’ and it was played with great zeal and without a moment’s thought to political correctness.”

In Pennsylvania, Republican Party chairman Rob Gleason said about Judge Jones’s ruling, ”An activist judiciary has substituted its judgment in place of the law created by the elected representatives of Pennsylvania and has stifled the ongoing debate of people with differing points of view.”

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