Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Marriage Equality' Category

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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Call for Judge’s Impeachment Echoes Ex-Gov. Huckabee

Brown of NOM

Brown of NOM

Add Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, to those calling for impeachment of Arkansas Judge Chris Piazza (see Gavel Grab), who recently struck down a state ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Here are excerpts from Brown’s letter in the NOM blog:

“As former Governor Mike Huckabee has said, Piazza apparently sees himself as some sort of ‘super-legislator’ who can decide important matters by judicial decree. We say it’s time to hold Judge Piazza accountable — by impeaching him.

“Please contact Governor Mike Beebe and your State Representative and Senator today and urge them to call for a special session of the Arkansas legislature in order to impeach Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza.

Read more

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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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