Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Marriage Equality' Category

Bipartisan Arkansas Leaders Reject Judicial Impeachment Calls

Arkansas_quarter_reverse_side_2003Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe’s office and the Arkansas House Speaker are vigorously rejecting calls to impeach a state judge who issued a controversial ruling in a marriage case.

A Beebe spokesman said the governor would not call a special session to consider impeachment of Judge Chris Piazza. “No, because when it comes to the judiciary, you don’t try to impeach a judge just because you don’t agree with his ruling,” the spokesman told The City Wire. “That’s what the appeals process is for. That’s the path we already know is going to be pursued.”

House Speaker Davy Carter, a Republican, opposed the idea of impeaching a judge over a single decision.  ”Notwithstanding the controversial subject matter of the decision, we are not going to impeach the circuit judge because members of the House don’t like the decision,” he said. “That’s just not going to happen. That’s a slippery slope. That’s why we have separation of powers. That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard.” Read more

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U.S. Judge Hands Ohio a Defeat in Marriage Ruling

Federal District Judge Timothy Black of Ohio ordered on Monday that Ohio officials must recognize the marriages of same-sex couples that were performed in other states where such marriage is legal, the Associated Press reported.

Gavel Grab has documented a recent increase in legislators’ calls to impeach judges who rule on the marriage issue, and Judge Black is one who has been targeted. Earlier this month Ohio state legislator John Becker renewed demands that Judge Black be impeached (see Gavel Grab), following the judge’s indications of how he expected to rule in the case decided this week.

In his ruling on Monday, Judge Black said that refusing to recognize marriages of same-sex couples violates constitutional rights and is “unenforceable in all circumstances.” Ohio intends to appeal Judge Black’s ruling, and the judge did not decide immediately whether to stay his order pending appeal.

Click here to learn more from Justice at Stake’s web page about impeachment threats against judges.


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Marriage Case Argued in Federal Appellate Court

gty_gay_marriage_supreme_court_jef_130614_wgA three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver heard arguments yesterday on the constitutionality of a Utah ban on marriage for same-sex couples.  The Los Angeles Times called it “a closely watched case that weighs a state’s right to enforce its own laws against the rights of individuals to marry regardless of gender.”

The case is the first to reach a federal appellate court since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year (see Gavel Grab).  “Many believe the case, or a similar one, is destined for the U.S. Supreme Court,” reports the Los Angeles Times, adding that the same panel of judges in Denver will hear an Oklahoma marriage case next week.

For more information on the role of courts in society and efforts to protect impartial courts, visit the Justice at Stake website.


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Courts Play Central Role in Marriage Debate

A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court in WashingtonWhether states can deny marriage to same-sex couples is an issue that is making a steady march toward the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a Washington Post piece headlined “Same-sex marriage battle escalates to force Supreme Court decision on constitutionality.”  The article comes as a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals’ Tenth Circuit takes up Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples today.  The Deseret News reports that advocates rallied outside the courthouse in Denver beginning last night.  The case is the first to reach a federal appellate court since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in U.S. v. Windsor last summer.   (See Gavel Grab.)

“It is a review soon to be repeated around the country,” the Post reported, “the intermediate step in returning a question to the Supreme Court that the justices avoided the first time around — whether marriage is a fundamental right that under the Constitution may not be denied to same-sex couples.”

Meanwhile,  marriage equality is moving forward in a number of other states.  Judges in Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas and Michigan have ruled against bans on marriage for same-sex couples, while courts in Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky have ruled those states must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond is scheduled to hear arguments May 13 reviewing the ruling striking down  Virginia’s laws.

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Amid U.S. Court Rulings, MI Top Judge Mum on Marriage Issue

justiceyoungWhile federal judges have recently issued rulings related to a Michigan ban on marriage for same-sex couples, Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. is staying mum on the topic in the event a case comes before his court.

“I’m a spectator just like everyone else,” he told the Grand Rapids Press editorial board, according to an article.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman struck down a voter-approved ban on marriages in Michigan for same-sex couples, saying it was unconstitutional. This week, a panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Judge Friedman’s order for now, according to the Los Angeles Times. Several hundred marriage licenses for same-sex couples were issued in the interim. Read more

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Challenger to Branstad: IA Justices Should Have Been Impeached

Republican Tom Hoefling of Iowa, seeking the GOP nomination in a primary against Gov. Terry Branstad, advocated at a campaign event for changing the way Iowa judges are selected. Hoefling also said four justices that were part of a unanimous, and controversial, state Supreme Court marriage ruling should have been impeached.

Hoefling is ardent social conservative who opposes marriage for same-sex couples, according to the Newton Daily News, which reported on his stump remarks.  In 2010, voters ousted three justices who participated in the ruling under the state constitution that allowed marriages in Iowa for same-sex couples, and the four other justices were not standing for retention then. An effort to impeach the four failed when legislators from both parties Read more

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Utah Attorneys: Beware ‘Unprincipled Judicial Wrecking Ball’

Some of the most fiery language directed at court rulings continues to be aimed at decisions about marriage for same-sex couples. In one of the latest instances, attorneys for Utah challenged in the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a decision by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby; he had found Utah’s ban on unions for same-sex couples to be unconstitutional. The attorneys decried the consequences if Judge Shelby’s ruling were affirmed.

It would not be “a narrow decision enforcing a clear Fourteenth Amendment command against one type of naked racial discrimination,” they said, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia ruling that struck down racial intermarriage bans. “Rather, it would be more like … an unprincipled judicial wrecking ball hurtling toward an even more important arena of traditional State authority.” Read more

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U.S. Judge Strikes Down VA Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

dp-pictures-gay-marriage-case-in-norfolk-20140-009Judge 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.

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Branstad Questioned Over Appointment to Screening Panel

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.

2013logoThe 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

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Judge: Kentucky Must Recognize Out-of-State Same-Sex Marriages

judge-kentucky-must-recognize-gay-marriagesU.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II has ruled that Kentucky must recognize marriages of same-sex couples that were performed in states where such marriages are legal.

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

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