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Posts for March, 2015

Oklahoma may be getting out of the marriage business

Timothy Kincaid

March 10th, 2015

Governments love control. That’s a given.

So while many people – right, left, or center – have exclaimed, “the government get out of the marriage business, anyway!”, I’ve mostly ignored those cries as impractical. But by a vote of 67 to 24, the Oklahoma House of Representatives has voted to do just that.

HB 1125 removes all references to issuing marriage licenses and instead allows a provision by which the officiant of a marriage files a certificate after the fact informing the state that a legal marriage has occurred (and those who don’t wish for an officiant can file a common-law marriage affidavit). In this way, such county clerks or other public employees as don’t wish to issue licenses that offend their faith won’t have to issue any licenses at all.

Currently the marriage certificate is the final step in the process. And that would remain the same. Except that the certificate, once recorded and certified, is returned to the couple as their legal proof of marriage.

It’s not completely clear why receiving and documenting the certificate is less offensive to a clerk than issuing a license, but perhaps it’s a matter of filing the record of an event rather than issuing a license which is a form of permission.

Or, though unlikely, perhaps this whole fight has caused the Republicans in Oklahoma to ponder on some of the supposed small-government positions that they like to spout and ask themselves why it is that a couple should have to ask the state for permission to marry in the first place.

Interestingly, the law omits any ‘male-female’ requirements and the certificate has signature spaces for “first spouse” and “second spouse”. It does continue restrictions on under-age marriage.

The bill now goes to the state Senate and, if passed, would go into effect November 1, 2015.

Libertarians on Equal Protections

Timothy Kincaid

March 10th, 2015

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, has filed its brief before the Supreme Court in support of marriage equality. In it, Cato seeks to show a distinction between original meaning and original understanding.

Some opponents of equality have taken an ‘original intent’ position and argued that the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment did not intend to include gay people in their promise of equality under the law.

Cato argues that the meaning of equality is the same and that their intent was, indeed, equality. They merely didn’t understand their meaning to include gay people at that time.

This is interesting in that they don’t throw ‘original intent’ out the window, but rather sees intent in terms of principle and objective rather than in terms of some list of people that the framers may have or may not have had in mind.

The lower court erred by focusing on a certain kind of original understanding (the immediate effect supporters “understood” the Fourteenth Amendment to have). This Court has rejected that approach to constitutional interpretation, focusing instead, on original meaning. … In the Fourteenth Amendment context, this Court has asked how the well-established meaning of terminology added to the Constitution in 1868 applies to modern exclusions of new as well as established social groups.

Laws can and must have consequences beyond those understood or anticipated by the generation of their promulgation. … As one prominent originalist scholar recently put it, original-meaning originalism “is entirely consistent with updating the application of its fixed principles in light of new factual information. Indeed, such updating is often not only permitted, but actually required by the theory. Otherwise, it will often be impossible to enforce the original meaning under conditions different from those envisioned by the generation that framed and ratified the relevant provision.”

And rather than rely on speculation about intent as imagined by pundits or certain Supreme Court justices, they turn to the language of the framers:

Contemporaries explained the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause in precisely this way. Introducing the Fourteenth Amendment, Senator Jacob Howard said that the Equal Protection Clause “establishes equality before the law, and . . . gives to the humblest, the poorest, and most despised . . . the same rights and the same protection before the law as it gives to the most powerful, the most wealthy, or the most haughty.” The clause plainly “abolishes all class legislation in the States and does away with the injustice of subjecting one caste of persons to a code not applicable to another.” Cong. Globe, 39th Cong.,1st Sess. 2766 (1866) (Sen. Howard); see id. at 2961 (Sen. Poland) (similar). House Speaker Thaddeus Stevens explained that the public meaning of the clause was that “the law which operates upon one man shall operate equally upon all.” Id. at 2459 (emphasis in the original).

The Fourteenth Amendment was not an amendment to give rights to black people, but rather an amendment to prohibit legislatures from establishing castes of people with varying laws and benefits by class. Irrespective of how well that worked, that was its original intent.

Their blog commentary may put it in more approachable terms

Essentially, the Equal Protection Clause means, in 1868 as in 2015, exactly what it says: states cannot have one set of laws for the rich and another for the poor, separate schools for white and black students, or marriage licenses only for opposite-sex couples.

More on the amicus briefs

Timothy Kincaid

March 7th, 2015

The plethora of amicus briefs have now been filed encouraging the US Supreme Court to find that anti-gay marriage bans violate the Equal Protections and Due Process provisions of the US Constitution. They included

Mayors for the Freedom to Marry. This brief was signed by the 229 mayors from the nation’s largest cities to tiny burgs, from cities with vastly different racial, religious, and cultural heritage, by Republicans and Democrats, along with several dozen towns that signed on.

Corporations. Leaders of the nation’s largest corporations circulated a brief which garnered support from the Who’s Who of business. Most of the names you would expect to see – such as Apple, Microsoft, Target and Wells Fargo – are there. But also included in the 379 names are some less obvious supporters like Alcoa, New England Patriots, and ConAgra Foods.

Project Right Side. Ken Mehlman circulated the brief obtaining support from Republicans, Libertarians and other conservatives. Among the 300-plus signatures are some expected names: Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Senator Susan Collins, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Other names were less expected, such as Meg Whitman, who did not support equality while running for California Governor in 2010, Andrea Saul, Mitt Romney’s press secretary, and Former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, the guy who hired Andrew Shirvell. They range from longtime supporters to newly evolved to some I assumed were foes of equality.

Alabama attorneys petition for class action on marriage case

Timothy Kincaid

March 6th, 2015

The attorneys who won their case against Alabama’s anti-gay marriage ban have gone back to Judge Granade and requested that the case be made a class action, impacting all same-sex couples who wish to marry.

Specifically, Plaintiffs seek: (a) a declaration that Alabama’s prohibition of marriage for same-sex couples violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution; (b) a declaration that Alabama’s refusal to recognize the marriages of samesex couples under state law violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution; and (c) a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction, as well as a permanent injunction, (i) preventing Defendant Class members from denying Plaintiffs and Plaintiff Class members the right to marry, (ii) directing Named Defendants Davis and Russell and the members of the Defendant Class to issue marriage licenses to all same-sex couples who otherwise satisfy the qualifications for marriage under Alabama law; and (iii) directing Defendants to recognize for all purposes the marriages of all same-sex couples validly entered into pursuant to marriage licenses issued in Alabama or any other jurisdiction at any time.

Whatcha gotta say about that, Roy Moore?

Eighth Circuit stays Nebraska ruling

Timothy Kincaid

March 5th, 2015

Washington Blade

Without explanation, the court announces in a two-page order it has stayed pending appeal a decision by U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon against Nebraska’s prohibition on same-sex marriage, which was set to take effect at the start of next week.

The court has included Nebraska into the joint hearing they are having for rulings lifting bans in Arkansas, South Dakota and Missouri.

Directing the clerk to expedite briefing in the case, the court announces that oral arguments for all three lawsuits will take place in Omaha on May 12.

Which is between the time that the US Supreme Court will hear arguments (April 28) and the time that the high court issues its ruling in June.

MA GOP leadership supports equality

Timothy Kincaid

March 5th, 2015

Among several amicus briefs being submitted to the Supreme Court in favor of marriage equality is one circulated and signed by Republicans and other conservatives. Among the fairly broad array of politicians, party activists, significant funders (including David Koch), and political thinkers, one group stands out.

From the first state to allow same-sex marriages, Massachusetts Republicans have had the longest opportunity to observe whether any feared repercussions came to pass. And they have overwhelmingly endorsed equality. Those signing include:

Governor Charlie Baker
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito
Former Governor William Weld
Former Acting Governor Jane Swift
RNC Committeeman Ron Kaufman
Romney advisor Beth Myers
Former Senate Minority Leader Rich Tisei

Mark your calendar, we’re going to court

Timothy Kincaid

March 5th, 2015

The Supreme Court of the United States has announce that it will hear arguments on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee on April 28th at 10:00 am (EST).

We will want to pay close attention to the direction of the questions as that may give us a hint as to the outcome.

I’m still betting on a 6 to 3 positive ruling.

Alan Chambers responds to Ben Carson

Timothy Kincaid

March 4th, 2015

By now you’ve probably heard the rantings of potential GOP presidential contender Ben Carson:

CUOMO: What if the people of the state vote for a law 100 to 0 that winds up infringing on the rights of a minority – like happened very often with slavery, like many would argue is happening now with people who are gay?

CARSON: AND our Constitution was followed and we corrected those things.

CUOMO: And isn’t that what’s happening now with same-sex marriage? It’s being corrected as a form of violation of equal protection.

CARSON: No. You can’t just say because it happened that way this time this is the same situation. It’s not the same situation.

CUOMO: Why not?

CARSON: Because people have no control over their race, for instance.

CUOMO: You think they have control over their sexuality?

CARSON: Absolutely.

CUOMO: You think being gay is a choice?

CARSON: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Why do you say that?

CARSON: Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out they’re gay. So did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.

Carson has since backtracked, “apologized“, and gave the “there’s no proof anyone was born that way” lameass response.

But more interesting, and an indication of how far things have come in the past few years, Dr. Warren Throckmorton sought out an opinion from someone who had worked for years with those wishing to choose to be straight, former Exodus President Alan Chambers:

Any behavior is a choice. Sexual orientation, however, is not a choice. In 20+ years of working w/ gay and lesbian people I’ve never met one person who chose to be gay. At 43 years old, though faithfully and happily married to my wife for over 17 years and completely attracted to her, my own same-sex attractions have not diminished. Claiming orientation is a choice is archaic and causes great shame for the beautiful men, women, youth, and families who live this reality.

Alabama weddings screech to a halt

Timothy Kincaid

March 4th, 2015

bamaThe members of the Alabama Supreme Court appear to think that the state is not subject to federal rulings and apparently believes that they, not the federal judicial system, are the final word on applying the Due Process and Equal Protections provisions of the US Constitution.

Some of the anti-gay probate judges, along with anti-gay activist groups, sued in state court to have same-sex marriages stopped. The state Supreme Court responded:

As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for “marriage” only between one man and one woman. Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.

In other words, it doesn’t matter in the slightest that the Alabama law has been found by a federal judge to be a violation of the US Constitution. Nor does it matter that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals did not grant a stay, finding it unlikely that this ruling will be overturned. Nor is it relevant that the Supreme Court of the United States also refused to stay the ruling, making its intentions clear.

Nope. Neither Judge Granade nor the judges on the Eleventh Circuit Panel not the Justices of the Supreme Court know what is “in the United States Constitution”. No sirree. ‘Bama knows better.

So they’ve ordered the stop of all same-sex marriage licenses.

The named respondents are ordered to discontinue the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

And not just the specific counties sued.

Further, and pursuant to relator Judge Enslen’s request that this Court, “by any and all lawful means available to it,” ensure compliance with Alabama law with respect to the issuance of marriage licenses, each of the probate judges in this Stateother than the named respondents and Judge Davis are joined as respondents in the place of the “Judge Does” identified in the petition.

Now there is one possible exception. Because Judge Granade specifically ordered Mobile County Probate Judge Davis to issue marriage license to four couples, the Alabama Supreme Court has not yet ordered him to stop. Rather, they demand that he come back and tell them whether he thinks that Granade’s ruling only extends to those four couples. Cuz unlike their rulings, federal rulings are limited only to the specific appellants.

So all the counties have stopped issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Including Mobile County which has closed its offices.

Of course no one, inside the state or outside, thinks this has anything to do with law, justice, or constitutionality. This is merely arrogance and animus on the Alabama court’s part.

Every now and again the good ol’ boys down there seem to need to remind the world that when it comes to matters of equality and civil rights, ‘Bama ain’t having it.

Slovenian Parliament votes for marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

March 3rd, 2015

europe

dark green = marriage equality
light green = other partner recognition

From rvtlo.si (as translated by Google for those who don’t read Slovene)

Members with 51 votes in favor and 28 against endorsed the amendment of the Law on Marriage and Family Relations Act, which equates homosexual and heterosexual communities.

Amending Act, proposed by the United Left, was given the green light. Same-sex couples will be given the opportunity to marry and all rights and obligations arising therefrom, such as legal, economic and social – as it has so far had a marriage or cohabitation of two people of different sexes. Among them is the ability to adopt children.

Those who opposed the effort are promising a referendum. There does not yet appear to be clarity on the effective date of the act.

And Nebraska falls

Timothy Kincaid

March 2nd, 2015

US District Judge Joseph Bataillon has ruled that Nebraska’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the US Constitution.

Nebraska’s “Defense of Marriage” Constitutional Amendment, Section 29, is an unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens. The State primarily offers as its rational basis for this gender-specific discrimination the encouragement of biological family units. The essence of this rationale has been rejected by most courts and by no less than the Supreme Court. With the advent of modern science and modern adoption laws, same sex couples can and do responsibly raise children. Unfortunately, this law inhibits their commendable efforts.

For the majority of married couples, those without children in the home, marriage is a legal and emotional commitment to the welfare of their partner. The State clearly has the right to encourage couples to marry and provide support for one another. However, those laws must be enforced equally and without respect to gender.

It’s interesting that Judge Bataillon noted that the majority of married couples do not presently have children in the home. I hadn’t really thought of that.

The judge has given the state a week to appeal.

IT IS ORDERED that all relevant state officials are ordered to treat same-sex couples the same as different sex couples in the context of processing a marriage license or determining the rights, protections, obligations or benefits of marriage.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this order will be effective on Monday, March 9, 2015, at 8:00 a.m. CDT

It is uncertain whether the Eighth Circuit will stay the ruling pending appeal. However, should they fail to do so, it is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court will issue a stay.

This leaves only North Dakota and Georgia without a federal ruling on the unconstitutionality of anti-gay marriage bans.

CA GOP recognizes Log Cabin

Timothy Kincaid

March 2nd, 2015

LCR

Log Cabin Republicans was founded in 1977 in Southern California to oppose a ballot initiative that would have banned gays and lesbians – and those who supported them – from holding the position of teacher in a California public school. Log Cabin was able to marshal support from what was called ‘country club Republicans’, and eventually, after former GOP Governor Ronald Reagan took a stance in opposition, the Briggs Initiative was defeated by a vote of 58% to 42%.

In the 38 years since that time, Log Cabin has had varying times of success. As the Republican Party turned more and more to social issues and adopted opposition to gay rights as a fundraising and voter rallying point, LCR took an an odd role. Candidates for offices often used the political shorthand of supporting or denouncing Log Cabin to publicly identify with either the right-wing social activist or the fiscal conservative wing of the party.

And Log Cabin grew. First within California and then, in the 90s, into a nationwide organization.

In the beginning, LCR’s position within the community was often welcomed and respected. As co-founders of California’s LIFE Lobby, which provided one of the first full-time gay lobbyists to a state legislature, Log Cabin utilized its perspective and partisan language to appeal to Republican legislators. And Log Cabin forged relationships within other growing national groups.

But over time, national groups began to see themselves as more aligned with progressive ideology and, rather than strictly advancing legislation that dealt with matters impacting gay people, instead saw their place as partners in a progressive movement. As this movement drifted further towards the left side of the Democratic Party, there was less and less commonality with Log Cabin and eventually the organization separated itself from the nominally non-partisan joint efforts.

Log Cabin turned, instead, to a tactic that had been used successfully by social conservatives in the past. They became grassroots activists. Turning to county central committees and structures within the GOP, they sought to influence and change the presumptions of ‘the base’.

And Log Cabin has made visibility within the party a priority, knowing that simply being in the room could change the rhetoric.

Some places they found harsh opposition. The Texas GOP has proudly waved its bigotry and homophobia like a banner. New England was much more welcoming.

In California, the group has had a mixed record. In some years, statewide candidates have been supportive, in others homophobia has ruled the day.

For many years there has been a battle within the state GOP for control of the party and its image. Some wanted the GOP to be a voice for fiscal conservatism and others wanted to champion theocracy. As the latter gained more influence, the party as a whole lost power.

The Legislature has seen a constant decline in GOP representatives as moderates and independents in the state have found the Party’s positions to be harsh and not reflective of their views. Currently Democrats have a super-majority in both the Assembly and the State Senate and the GOP holds no statewide elected office.

In this climate, the statewide party structure has not been historically supportive of the gay group. They have never been banned from visibility in state conventions – and one of the best attended social events has always been the Log Cabin party.

And in several counties, Log Cabin has had chartered recognition and gay Republicans pretty much keep the party going in some places. But access to statewide decision making has been limited.

However over the weekend there came an important change (LA Times)

The Log Cabin Republicans, a 38-year-old organization that had unsuccessfully sought a charter from the state party several times in the past, received the formal imprimatur on a 861-293 vote at the party’s biannual convention in Sacramento.

This is more than just a polite acceptance. As an official part of the structure of the California Republican Party, Log Cabin gains rights and access on the same terms as other volunteer organizations. They now have a vote on the State Central Committee and a voice in establishing party policy.

This move did not come without opposition.

Some opponents said Log Cabin’s proposal was sneaked onto the convention agenda without notice, and that the group violates the party’s by-laws, which forbid the recognition of organizations focused on “lifestyle preferences.”

“The only thing I ask is this body stand on the rules we’ve supported for two decades that say there is a process to change the rules and the bylaws,” Assemblywoman Shannon Grove repeatedly pleaded during the hearing.

And Grove is correct. Anti-gay factions in the party had specifically changed language in the past to exclude the possibility of Log Cabin’s inclusion. This seems, however, to have been ignored by 75% of the delegates to the convention.

It is difficult to know exactly what this says about the future of the California Republican Party. Symbolically, this may send a message that the theocrats have finally lost. It may be the first step in the dismantling of bigotry and exclusion within the California Republican Party.

Or it may simply be a middle ground. This may be an indication that party members want a ‘balance’ that allows for gay people to be in the room but keeps policies and positions as hostile.

I’m inclined to see this as reflective of significant change. Because the vote was so large and because it was vehemently fought by the far right contingent, this seems to be to be a major gain for the party’s moderate faction.

Rest in peace Lesley Gore

Timothy Kincaid

February 16th, 2015

lesleygoreAP

Singer-songwriter Lesley Gore, who topped the charts in 1963 with her epic song of teenage angst, “It’s My Party,” and followed it up with the hits “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” and the feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me,” died Monday. She was 68.

Gore died of cancer at New York University Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, according to her partner of 33 years, Lois Sasson.

In addition, she was nominated for an Academy Award for “Out Here On My Own” from the film “Fame”, which she co-wrote with her brother Michael.

Alabama Presbyterians vote for marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

February 12th, 2015

Alabama Presyterians

In a rather timely decision, the central Alabama presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to endorse changes in the church rules that would allow them to conduct same-sex marriages. (AL.com)

The Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, a central Alabama group of churches affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), voted 75-39 Thursday in favor of approving gay marriages.

They became one of about 38 presbyteries nationwide that have voted in favor of gay marriage, with 14 voting against. The change to the 1.8-million-member denomination’s official stance will become official if 86 of the 171 presbyteries vote in favor.

Now the Presbyterian Church is nowhere as dominant in Alabama as the Southern Baptists. But news like this does go a long way to dilute the But God Says! and Attack on Christianity! messages upon which anti-gay Christian rely so heavily.

Ironically, some of the supportive Presbyterians looked a bit askance at the impromptu ceremonies conducted this week.

Webster said he prefers that gay marriage in the church follow a protocol of the couple being members in a church and seeking pre-marital counseling before being married in a sacred ceremony in a church.

“It seemed frivolous and impetuous,” Webster said. “We would have dealt with it more seriously, with church members in the context of a church community. For us, it’s a worship service.”

And perhaps that’s one of the ways in which we know that society is on the road to full acceptance, when levels of establishment feel that you should follow the prescribed order, just like everyone else!

Mobile County Alabama ordered to issue marriage licenses

Timothy Kincaid

February 12th, 2015

On Monday, Judge Carrie Grenade’s stay was lifted and marriage equality came to Alabama. But not to all of the state.

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered (apparently on his own imagined authority) and order commanding probate judges to refuse service to same-sex couples. Some probate judges followed Moore’s order and flouted the law, issuing marriage licenses to opposite sex couples but not same sex couples. And some chose to not issue licenses to anyone, citing conflicting orders.

Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis was one who froze all marriage licenses. On Monday, he was sued by same-sex couples in Mobile County who wish to marry.

Today Judge Grenade specifically ordered Davis to open his office and issue marriage licenses to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. (AL.com)

A federal judge in Mobile on Thursday ordered Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to start granting marriage licenses to gay couples, and he immediately took steps to do just that.

Less clear is whether other probate judges, who are not defendants in either case considered Thursday, would alter their position in the face of a new ruling by Granade. Marshall, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said he believes most probate judges will take their cues from Granade’s new order. For those who continue to resist, he said, same-sex marriage advocates will file new lawsuits naming them as defendants.

This will, undoubtedly, result in most probate judges issuing licenses. But I suspect some will be recalcitrant and fight tooth and toenail.

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