Archive for the 'Marriage Equality' Category
Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has declared Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples to be unconstitutional. She also issued a stay that blocks her ruling from taking effect until appeals are considered.
“Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal,” the judge wrote, according to the New York Times. “Surely this means all of us.” The newspaper called her ruling “the strongest legal reversal yet of restrictive marriage amendments that exist throughout the South,” and said the case or one like it from another state could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
A non-profit group working to maintain fair and impartial courts in Iowa has questioned an appointment by Gov. Terry Branstad to a screening commission that vets candidates for the courts.
The appointee, former state Rep. Betty De Boef, was among five legislators who filed articles of impeachment against four state Supreme Court justices who had participated in a controversial marriage ruling.
“Of all the Iowans available in this district, why did the governor choose one of the most hostile, anti-judge activists in the state?” Justice Not Politics chairwoman Connie Ryan Terrell asked, according to the Waterloo Cedar Falls Gazette. ”A position on the Commission should not be entrusted to activists who will likely pursue a political agenda. It appears that the Governor is playing to the most extreme anti-judge elements of his political party.” Read more
A section of Kentucky’s marriage amendment violates the federal Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law, Judge Heyburn wrote, by according treatment to lesbians and gays “differently in a way that demeans them,” the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.
Judge Heyburn was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, a Republican. Given his ruling, Kentucky joins nine other states where bans on marriage for same-sex couples have received similar judgments from state or federal courts, the Associated Press said. The judge partially based his ruling on U.S. v. Windsor, a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that struck down a key section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), denying federal benefits to gay or lesbian couples who are married. Read more
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of Texas was to hear arguments on Wednesday challenging the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Two couples challenging the ban are relying on the same legal argument that has led to court injunctions against similar bans in two other conservative states, Utah and Oklahoma.
The couples maintain a ban on marriage for same-sex couples violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, according to an Associated Press article.
Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general and a Republican, was prepared to defend the state’s ban, which is contained in a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. In two other states, Nevada and Virginia, the attorneys general have chosen not to defend such a state ban.
In one of the more recent marriage equality battles, Nevada officials have changed course, deciding not to defend the state’s gay marriage ban after recent court decisions made the state’s arguments “no longer defensible.” The Associated Press is reporting that this move comes at the same time as other courts and the federal government have “chipped away at laws that prohibit same-sex marriage and benefit…”
Tara Borelli, senior attorney with Lambda Legal, said Nevada’s move is “a signal there’s no longer any excuse to defend this discrimination… I think it will send a powerful message to the court that no Nevada official is willing to defend the ban any longer.”
Since December, federal judges have struck down state bans on marriage equality in Utah and Oklahoma for the same reason Nevada dropped its case. Both made the conclusion that these bans violate the Constitution’s promise of equal protection under the law.
Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court is making waves by advocating that states call for amending the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and woman.
“The moral foundation of our country is under attack,” Chief Justice Moore told the Associated Press. He said it is appropriate for him to urge action because Alabama has a state constitutional amendment like the one he supports nationally, and “Basically, I’m upholding the law.”
State Rep. Patricia Todd, a Democrat who is openly gay and who married her partner out of state, said, “He’s fighting a losing battle, and he probably knows that.” The chief justice has written 50 state governors. Todd said most of them will probably throw his letter away.
While previously serving as chief justice, Moore became well-known in 2003 for refusing to follow a court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building. He was removed from the bench. He won re-election in 2012.
Another timely reminder of how courts matter comes in a New Yorker blog post by attorney Richard Socarides entitled “The Growing Impact of the Supreme Court’s Gay-Marriage Ruling.”
In United States v. Windsor last year, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a key section the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), denying federal benefits to gay or lesbian couples who are married. The court did not go so far as to find a constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples.
Nonetheless, Socarides writes, “The sweeping significance of the Supreme Court’s landmark gay-rights decision in United States v. Windsor, last June, has become even more evident in the past month, thanks to a series of important lower-court decisions that have interpreted it broadly.” He chronicles these rulings and suggests that “the language of the Windsor decision may have been so powerful that the Court in fact accelerated a movement it sought to temporarily restrain.”
Last month, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby of Utah found that Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples was unconstitutional. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court halted further marriages for same-sex couples in Utah while state officials there appeal Judge Shelby’s ruling in the federal courts.
Utah had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block Judge Shelby’s ruling, saying he mistakenly created a new constitutional right for same-sex couples.
According to veteran legal journalist Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog, Monday’s high court action “can be interpreted as an indication that the Court wants to have further exploration in lower courts of the basic constitutional question of state power to limit marriage to a man and a woman.” Denniston added that as a result of Monday’s ruling, “it now appears almost certain that the question of state power to bar same-sex marriages will not be before the Justices during the current Term.” Read more
When will the U.S. Supreme Court tackle the brewing legal issue of whether state bans on marriage for same-sex couples violate guarantees of equal protection and due process in the Constitution? Due to recent events, that day may be approaching.
In December, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby of Utah (photo) found that state’s ban on unions for same-sex couples was unconstitutional. Utah responded by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block his ruling, saying he created a new constitutional right for such couples, according to the Washington Post.
At his Election Law Blog, scholar Rick Hasen wrote a commentary entitled, “How Soon Before SCOTUS Reaches Merits of Same-Sex Marriage Issue? Very Soon.”
A New York Times article profiled Judge Shelby, saying the case “case has transformed [him] into a hero for hundreds of newlywed gay couples and an object of derision for many social conservatives who supported Utah’s 2004 ban on such unions.” Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, labeled him an “activist federal judge.” Read more
Regular readers of Gavel Grab are familiar with Iowa’s turbulent judicial retention (yes-or-no) elections in recent years. In 2010, three Iowa Supreme Court justices were ousted in retaliation for a controversial marriage ruling. In 2012, a similar ouster effort against a fourth justice was turned back, and the justice was retained.
For those less familiar with this history, the Talking Points Memo blog recaps much of it in fixing a spotlight on a more recent, related event: The Family Leader group posted last month an attack on Polk County District Judge Karen Romano, saying she apparently “has not learned a lesson” from” the 2010 election (see Gavel Grab). The Family Leader and some outside groups sought the justices’ removal then.
Judge Romano recently stirred controversy for some when she stayed a new Iowa Board of Medicine rule adopted to regulate medication abortions.
Talking Points Memo writer Andy Kopsa sees in Iowa — and other states — a growing threat to fair and impartial courts through retention election ouster efforts driven by special interests for political reasons: Read more