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Posts for November, 2014

Fed judge tosses Arkansas marriage ban

Timothy Kincaid

November 25th, 2014

In May, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Piazza ruled that Arkansas’ laws and constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution. Now a federal judge has concurred.

Specifically, U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker ruled that Arkansas’ ban violates the Constitution in two ways: by violating the fundamental right to marriage and by unconstitutionally discriminating on the basis of sex.

Baker ruled against the plaintiffs in the case on their claim that the ban unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, citing a 2006 ruling from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals — where federal appeals out of Arkansas are heard — as limiting her consideration of that claim.

The ruling is stayed pending appeal. Also stayed pending circuit court appeal are Texas and Florida.

Judge Piazza will be re-elected tomorrow

Timothy Kincaid

May 19th, 2014

Tomorrow is election day in Arkansas and the judge who found the marriage ban to be unconstitutional will be on the ballot. But not to worry, he’s going to be reelected. (Houston Chronicle)

A Pulaski County circuit judge recently tossed out Arkansas’ 10-year-old ban on gay marriage, and the state Supreme Court subsequently put the judge’s ruling on hold, but there’s no way for voters to take out their frustrations at the polls this year. Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, who made the ruling, didn’t draw an opponent this year and will be re-elected to a 6-year term Tuesday.

The National Organization for Marriage is calling demanding “Governor Mike Beebe to call a special legislative session so that lawmakers can impeach Piazza and remove him from office”. Beebe has already dismissed that notion.

Arkansas Supreme Court Halts Marriages

Jim Burroway

May 16th, 2014

In a simple one-sentence order, the Arkansas State Supreme Court has brought same-sex marriages in the state to a halt:

State Defendants-Appelants’ petition for emergency stay and separate White, Washington, Lonoke and Conway County appellants’ expedited motion for stay are granted.

The Arkansas Time blog describes what lies ahead:

Piazza’s decision will now go through the appeal process. A record of the lower court case must be prepared. A briefing schedule must be set and probably oral arguments. The court takes a two-month recess each summer. Even with an expedited schedule, it’s uncertain if the case can be decided this calendar year, when two of the current justices — Cliff Hoofman and Donald Corbin — will be replaced by Rhonda Wood and the winner of a race between Judge Robin Wynne and Tim Cullen. Typical there’s about 2.5 months for briefing after a record and transcript is completed. Part of this record has already been completed and it’s not an extensive record.  It conceivably could be completed by fall.

In other words, this may kick things down the road to 2015 or so.

Arkansas marriages resume

Timothy Kincaid

May 15th, 2014

Yesterday the Arkansas Supreme Court chose not to stay the decision by Judge Chris Piazza in which he found that the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was in contradiction with other provisions of the state constitution. However, then noted that his temporary order only addressed the amendment and not the legislator-passed state law.

Today Judge Piazza clarified that when he found anti-gay marriage bans unconstitutional, he really did mean all of them. (AP)

A day after the state Supreme Court effectively halted gay marriages in the state, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza expanded his ruling striking down a constitutional ban to also include the prohibition on clerks issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Justices had ruled Wednesday that Piazza’s decision on the gay marriage ban did not change that license law.

Piazza also rejected a request to suspend his ruling, saying there’s no evidence the state would be harmed by allowing gay marriages to continue.

So marriages in certain counties in Arkansas will resume.

Of course, now that he has issued his final ruling, the state Supremes may decide to place a stay on the ruling until they consider the appeal. Frankly, I’ll be surprised if they don’t; but should they choose not to, it will basically mean that the marriage question is over in that state.

Arkansas Supremes Deny Stay, Dismiss Marriage Appeal for Now

Jim Burroway

May 14th, 2014

But it looks like same-sex marriages in Arkansas will come to an end anyway, at least temporarily. From the Arkansas Times blog:

The Arkansas Supreme Court has denied an request for an emergency stay of Judge Chris Piazza’s order overturning the ban on same-sex marriage. The court also dismissed as premature an appeal of Piazza’s ruling because it wasn’t a final order.

Marriage equality remains the law of the land in Arkansas, but the court injected a wrinkle that will give counties cover to continue to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples. And that wrinkle has prompted Pulaski Clerk Larry Crane to say that, for the time being, his office likely will cease issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

The court noted that Piazza’s ruling didn’t mention a statute that prohibits clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. It remains in effect. Action will now shift to Piazza’s court to pursue final orders, injunctive relief and a cleanup on the omitted statute.

Said Jack Wagoner, attorney for the plaintffs:

We’ll fix that tomorrow and be back here again…. How can you  find something unconstitutional but not affect a statute that would require the clerks to do something unconstitutional?

Right now, this is throwing everything into chaos. The Carroll County (Eureka Springs) Clerk, which issued fifteen same-sex marriage licenses last Saturday, had already stopped issuing licenses by Monday after the local prosecutor issued a statement saying, “there was a law left on the books prohibiting a county clerk from issuing a marriage license to persons of the same gender. This  law was not addressed by Judge Piazza, and because of this, we advised the county clerk to stop  selling marriage licenses to persons of the same gender.” Marion and Saline Counties reversed course and stopped issuing licenses yesterday. Washington County  has indicated that it may also halt the issuing of licenses to same-sex couples.

Once the trial court fixes its order and enters a final judgment, I think you can expect that some counties will honor the ruling and some won’t, and the state will be back again before the Arkansas Supreme Court for another go at a stay and appeal.

You can read the Arkansas Supreme Court’s statement here (PDF: 237KB/7 pages).

Same-Sex Couples Marry In Little Rock

Jim Burroway

May 12th, 2014

Last Saturday, the court house in Eureka Springs was the only place in Arkansas where same-sex couples could marry following Friday’s decision by an Arkansas judge declaring the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. This morning, marriages are taking place at the Pulaski County Court House in Little Rock:

The first Little Rock license went to Shelly Butler, 51, and Susan Barr, 48, of Dallas, who have been together since they met at Southern Arkansas University in 1985.

“When we heard the news in Arkansas, we had to jump in the car to get here,” Butler said shortly before receiving the license. “I’m just excited to marry my best friend of almost 30 years, finally.”

The second couple to receive a license was Thomas Baldwin, 37, and Devin Rudeseal, 24. The Bryant couple quickly married in the courthouse, and Rudeseal planned to take a final at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock later Monday morning.

The Arkansas Times adds:

Most counties in Arkansas will not be issuing licenses, relying on legal guidance that — if the counties were not defendants in the case (only six were) — and absent a direct order to cease discriminatory practices, the state ban remains in place in those counties. At least one county that IS a defendant — Lonoke — apparently has announced it will not issue licenses.

Washington County, one of the defendants, also began issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Justice of the Peace Eva Madison posted a Facebook photo after she signed the first such license in Washington County.

Washington County’s seat is in Fayetteville, in the northwest corner of the state and not far from Eureka Springs. It’s the state’s third largest city and home to the University of Arkansas. Conversely, Benton County (Bentonville), which is immediately to the north of Washington County and is home to Wal-Mart’s headquarters, has announced that it would not be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The same goes for Faulkner County (Conway), just north of Little Rock.

The First Same-Sex Marriages In the Former Confederacy

Jim Burroway

May 10th, 2014

They took place in scenic Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which is both a gay-friendly enclave (it’s “the Gay Capital of the Ozarks“) and a popular wedding destination. From Freedom to Marry:

The first couple to receive a marriage license was Kristin Seaton and Jennifer Rambo (right, photo by Kendall Wright), who have been together for more than four years. The couple’s witness was Cheryl Maples (center), who filed the Wright v. Arkansas challenge last summer and has worked tirelessly to win marriage in the state.

The couple drove up to Eureka Springs from Little Rock when they learned the Pulaski County courthouse wouldn’t be open today. The AP has more:

Seaton and Rambo slept in their Ford Focus after arriving at 2 a.m. Saturday, waking up every 30 minutes to make sure they were at the head of the line. The moment they saw another couple pull up, Seaton and Rambo bolted to the courthouse.

“I don’t think I ran that fast,” Rambo said.

The Carroll County Courthouse was the only one scheduled to open today for regular hours, and it’s due to close at 1:00 p.m. CDT. Here’s the scene when it opened:

As for the other counties in Arkansas:

The executive director of the Association of Arkansas Counties says county clerks are scrambling to prepare for same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses after the state’s ban on gay marriages was overturned.

Chris Villines says he and his staff will spend Saturday talking with county clerks and attorneys about the ramifications of Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling Friday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

…Villines says he expects most clerks to be able to issue same-sex marriage licenses starting Monday.

That’s if the decision isn’t stayed before then.

Arkansas State Judge Strikes Down Marriage Ban

Jim Burroway

May 9th, 2014

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Piazza has ruled that Arkansas’ laws and constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution. In reaching his conclusion, Judge Piazza found that “same-sex couples fulfill all four factors to be considered a suspect or quasi-suspect classification,” but ultimately he decided it didn’t matter:

Regardless of the level of review required, Arkansas’s marriage laws discriminate against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause because they do not advance any conceivable legitimate state interest necessary to support even a rational basis review. Under this standard, the laws must proscribe conduct in a manner that is rationally related to the achievement of a legitimate governmental purpose. See Vance v. Bradley,440 U.S. 93,97 (L979). “[S]ome objectives … are not legitimate state interests” and, even when a law is justified by an ostensibly legitimate purpose, “[t]he State may not rely on a classification whose relationship to an asserted goal is so attenuated as to render the distinction arbitrary or irrational .” Cleburne,473 U.S. at 44647.

At the most basic level, by requiring that classifications be justified by an independent and legitimate purpose, the Equal Protection Clause prohibits classifications from being drawn for “the purpose of disadvantaging the group burdened by the law.” Romer, 517 U.S. at 633; see also United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. —, 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013); Cleburne, 473 U.S. at 450; Rational basis review is a deferential standard, but it “is not a toothless one”. Mathews v. Lucas, 427 U.5.495,510 (1976).

The Supreme Court invoked this principle most recently in Windsor when it held that the principal provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) violated equal protection guarantees because the “purpose and practical effect of the law … [was] to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages.” Windsor,570 U.S. —, 133 S.Ct. at 2693. The case at bar and many around the country have since challenged state laws that ban same-sex marriage as a result of that decision.

As you can see, last year’s Windsor v. U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act continues to reverberate through the many challenges of state marriage bans across the country. This case is no different, as Judge Piazza quoted extensively from the Windsor opinion. He also quotes from a statement Mildred Loving made for the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision which struck down anti-miscegenation laws throughout the country.

Judge Piazza also pointed out that the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which Arkansas voters passed in 2004 with 75% of the vote, is inconsistent with the rest of the state constitution, which he called “a dangerous precedent”:

Article 2, § 2 of the Arkansas Constitution guarantees Arkansans certain inherent and inalienable rights, including the enjoyment of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

All men are created equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights, amongst which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and reputation; and of pursuing their own happiness, To secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

ARK. Const., art 2, § 2.

In this case, Article 2 § 2 was left intact by the voters, but in Amendment 83 they singled out sarne-sex couples for the purpose of disparate treatment. This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equalrty. The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent.

Furthermore, the fact that Amendment 83 was popular with voters does not protect it from constitutional scrutiny as to federal rights. “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts.” W.Va. State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624,638 (1943). The Constitution guarantees that all citizens have certain fundamental rights. These rights vest in every person over whom the Constitution has authority and, because they are so important, an individual’s fundamental rights “may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” Id. at 638.

Judge Piazza turned away the state’s arguments against same-sex marriage: that the ban is necessary to promote procreation, that it is a federalism issue, that the voters have a right to uphold tradition. And he also anticipated the complaints about activist judges: “The court is not unmindful of the criticism that judges should not be super legislators. However, the issue at hand is the fundamental right to marry being denied to an unpopular minority. Our judiciary has failed such groups in the past.” He then went into the 110-year history from the 1856 Dredd Scott decision, which held that even a former slave had “no rights or priveleges” of citizenship, to the 1967 Loving decision which recognized that, regardless of racial differences, “the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” Drawing on the Loving example, Judge Piazza concluded:

THEREFORE, THIS COURT HEREBY FINDS the Arkansas constitutional and legislative ban on s{Lme-sex marriage through Act 144 of 1997 and Amendment 83 is unconstitutional.

It has been over forty years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice. The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples. It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.

Judge Piazza’s order came without a stay. But with it coming down after clerk offices around the state closed for the weekend, marriages may not be available until Monday. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office has announced that they will ask for a stay and they intend to appeal. McDaniel said last week that he supports marriage equality, becoming the first state-wide office holder to do so. He also said however that his office would continue defending the state’s marriage ban in court.

Arkansas school bans kids suspected of being HIV positive

Timothy Kincaid

September 15th, 2013

Pea Ridge School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin or disability in any of its policies, practice or procedures… unless we get all suspiciousy that a child might have the HIV

Oh Noes!!! The hiv!!!

Turns out that some idiot school superintendent in some podunk town in Arkansas seems to think it’s mid-80’s all over again and has banned three siblings from attending the local school until that take an HIV test and give him the results.

The Disability Rights Center of Arkansas, Inc. (DRC) claims the Pea Ridge Public School District has removed three siblings from school, two of whom have disabilities.

The group claims the students have been denied the right to attend school until documentation is provided that they are not HIV positive.

“The actions taken by the Superintendent of Pea Ridge School District are appalling and is reminiscent of times past and the case of Ryan White,” says Tom Masseau, Executive Director of DRC. “The fact that the foster families have to provide documentation that the children are HIV negative before entering the school is unlawful and immoral. Further, the fact the school’s attorney authorized this unlawful act is at best appalling. It stigmatizes individuals with disabilities or their “perceived” disabilities as there is no indication these individuals have HIV. There is only an unlawful fear that they do.

Other than that being likely illegal, it’s colossally stupid.

Not only is HIV a fragile virus that cannot exist outside the body and cannot be transmitted through casual contact, today’s medications make most infections so low in viral count as to be theoretically non-transmittable through high-risk sex*. There’s a greater danger of school children of being trampled by a buffalo stampede than there is from these children.

But stupidity and petty authority will always give us gems like this decision by Superintendent Rick Neal.

* – NOTE: The notion of non-transmissible viral loads is controversial and the science is not fully conclusive. There are documented cases in which HIV was transmitted even with a low plasma viral count and the CDC recommends condom use even when both the plasma and genital fluid viral loads are low.

ACLU Announces Three Marriage Lawsuits

Jim Burroway

July 9th, 2013

Fresh off its victory in Windsor v. U.S. which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the ACLU’s is filing three more lawsuits, in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia. In Whitewood v. Corbett, the ACLU is challenging Pennsylvania’s statute which bans same-sex marriage. In Fisher-Borne v. Smith, the ACLU will amend its lawsuit seeking adoption rights to include the right to marriage. In the Virginia case, the ACLU and Lambda Legal are still in the planning stages, with plaintiffs and precise details of the case still being worked out. They expect to file that lawsuit later this summer.

Meanwhile, the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have filed a motion with the New Mexico Supreme Court, asking it to order state officials to allow same-sex couples to marry. State law is currently silent on the question. Other lawsuits are working their way through Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and Michigan.

Arkansas Pol: “Why Didn’t Jesus or Paul Condemn Slavery?”

Jim Burroway

October 9th, 2012

Last May, Dan Savage got into all kinds of trouble for suggesting that the Bible didn’t just condone slavery, but also provided instructions on how Christians could own slaves correctly. Only a little more than five generations ago, about half of American Christians — “good Bible-believing Christians” — read those very same scriptures the same way. Today, very few Christians do, and the very idea of one man owning another person and that person’s spawn to do with whatever he pleases is an odious moral outrage to Bible-beleiving Christians — now that they have set aside those particular verses and concluded (even if they won’t admit to it out loud) that the Bible simply got it wrong on one of the most critical moral arguments our country has ever faced. And if Bible-believing Christians can do that when figuring out whether slavery is moral or not, they can do that with other topics — the morality of nationalism, racism, women’s rights, and, yes, gay rights — that the Bible also got wrong.

Of course, if you absolutely cannot accept the fact that the Bible got anything wrong, then it seems to me that you would have no other recourse but to agree with GOP Arkansas state Rep. Loy Mauch, who in 2003 penned this letter to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

Nowhere in the Holy Bible have I found a word of condemnation for the operation of slavery, Old or New Testament. If slavery was so bad, why didn’t Jesus, Paul or the prophets say something?

This country already lionizes Wehrmacht leaders. They go by the names of Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Custer, etc. These Marxists not only destroyed the Constitution they were sworn to uphold, but apostatized the word of God. Either these depraved infidels or the Constitution and Scriptures are in error. I’m more persuaded by the word of God.

It turns out that Mauch wrote several letters defending slavery and the Confederacy to the Democrat-Gazette, and in at least two of them he referred to the Bible to support his position, as did an extraordinary number of American Christians just 150 years ago. In 2009, he repeated himself here:

… If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it, why was it in the Constitution and why wasn’t there a war before 1861?

The South has always stood by the Constitution and limited government. When one attacks the Confederate Battle Flag, he is certainly denouncing these principles of government as well as Christianity.

This places Christians’ approach to the Bible in sharp relief: Either the slavery is a moral failing and the Bible got it wrong, or the Bible is always right, and therefore Mauch is right and anyone who disagrees with the Bible’s instructions on slavery is at least anti-Christian and possibly in league with Hitler and Stalin. Most Christians have accepted the former position — including the Southern Baptists — even if they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge what that means for the principle of Biblical inerrancy. But it is distressing to notice how often others find ways to agree with Mauch.

What does ‘hate’ look like?

Timothy Kincaid

June 29th, 2011

Maggie Gallagher loves to pretend that all gay people are screaming “hater” and “bigot” at every person who disagrees with us over full marriage equality. We aren’t. In fact, most gay organizations and a good many bloggers avoid using the words “hate” and “bigot” partly for just that reason and partly because using such terms loosely leaves us nothing for when true evil is encountered.

But sometimes we do see hate and it’s useful to know what it looks like.

Hate has an intentional desire to see harm or hurt come to others. Hate delights in the misery of others. Hate refuses to empathize, seeing the other as an enemy, someone so vile that you can’t put yourself in their shoes. Hate prioritizes the ill treatment of others, even above what is in its own best interest. Hate assumes the worst about others, ignoring any chance of decency.

Which brings me to the Batesville Arkansas Daily Guard. Now I’m not suggesting that Batesville (population about 10,000) is any less fascinating or newsworthy than any other similarly sized community, but a quick glance illustrates that obituaries make up a sizable chunk of the Daily Guard.

And it was to the obituaries that Terence James turned when John Millican, his partner of the past decade, passed away. And the Daily Guard ran Millican’s obituary complete with reference to parents and distant siblings, but no reference whatsoever to Mr. James. In the view of the Daily Guard, he simple didn’t exist.

When criticized, the Daily Guard responded with the usual “It’s not a gay thing. We don’t list unmarried couples, in-laws, or pets in the free obituaries.” Just real family, you know. But, even so, I’m not willing to call this hate. Ignorance, yes. Prejudice, certainly. But not necessarily hate.

However what they did next is simply unforgivable.

The Daily Guard promised to apologize and to reconsider their policy. Instead, they decided to humiliate Mr. Jones and to defame him. Seeing him in grief, they decided to compound the pain and to delight in his misery.

On June 27, the Daily Guard ran this editorial:

It was brought to our attention Terence James had a problem with our policy because he was not listed in the free obituary as a life partner. Once again, free obituaries do not list life partners or significant others, nor does it list in-laws or ex-spouses. Our local funeral homes know that if the obituary is not marked “paid” it will run to our free format.

Because we wanted to have all the information on the allegations, we did what any good newspaper would do: Our homework. After speaking with the funeral directors who assisted Mr. James, we learned he was REPEATEDLY told he would not be listed in the free obituary. (Contrary to what Mr. James said in a television interview, his mother was told the same thing, according to the directors.) The funeral director went on to say MR. JAMES MADE IT CLEAR TO THE FUNERAL DIRECTOR HE DID NOT WANT TO BE OUT THE EXPENSE OF A PAID OBITUARY.

After obtaining a copy of the paperwork filled out by Mr. James at the funeral home, we learned he listed two cats as daughters and a dog as a son. Once again, Mr. James was told by the director the Guard does not list pets as survivors in a free obituary.

We deal with the death of loved ones on a daily basis and our established policy allows us to do that with consistency. Listing pets as children is a direct slap in the face to every grieving parent who has buried a child, young or old.

This begs the question of exactly what MOTIVE Mr. James had when he began giving out FALSE information to news channels and various organizations in order to promote his own AGENDA.

Because of Mr. James, the Guard has come under fire for the policies that are in place for EVERYONE.

The Guard does not owe Mr. James a free obituary or an apology.

We can ignore all the nonsense about James listing pets. After Leona Helmsley’s obsession, those people who think of their pets as children may seem sad or silly, but they are hardly slapping anyone in the face. That was just gratuitously included so as to disparage James.

The motivation of the Daily Guard can be seen in two clauses “in place for EVERYONE” and “promote his own AGENDA”. To the Daily Guard, Terrence James – and indeed any surviving partner – is not part of everyone. Everyone has no need to include a life partner, Everyone doesn’t have one. Everyone is heterosexual.

And as for those who might have such a need, well clearly they have an AGENDA.

So take that, Terrence James. You can’t criticize the Daily Guard! They’ll put you and your agenda in its place. You think you’re grieving now, you just wait til they get done with you.

I can understand an ignorant and thoughtless policy. I can sympathize with the Daily Guard feeling unfairly challenged. But there’s no space for berating the grieving. There’s no good reason for trying to make Mr. James feel pain over the Guard’s own inconsideration.

That is just hate.

Arkansas Supreme Court Overturns Adoption Ban

Jim Burroway

April 7th, 2011

The Arkansas Supreme Court today ruled that a voter-approved initiative banning unmarried cohabiting couples, including gay couples, from adopting or serving as foster parents. The court found that because the law singles out cohabiting couples for the ban while allowing single individuals to adopt or foster children, it encroaches on a key right to privacy:

Act 1 directly and substantially burdens the privacy rights of “opposite-sex and same-sex individuals” who engage in private, consensual sexual conduct in the bedroom by foreclosing their eligibility to foster or adopt children, should they choose to cohabit with their sexual partner. The pressure on such couples to live apart, should they wish to foster or adopt children, is clearly significant. In Jegley, the burden perpetrated by the State was criminal prosecution for sodomy, although the act took place in the privacy of the bedroom. In the case before us, the burden dispensed by the State is either to remove the ability to foster or adopt children, should sexual partners live together, or to intrude into the bedroom to assure that cohabitors who adopt or foster are celibate. We conclude that, in this case as in Jegley, the burden is direct and substantial.

In 2002, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down that state’s sodomy law in the case of Jegley v. Picado, nearly a full year before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws nationwide in Lawrence v. Texas. A state judge struck down Arkansas’ adoption ban last April. The attorney general then appealed to the Supreme Court, which led to today’s ruling.

Because the court found that Act 1 infringes on a key right to privacy, the court determined that heighened scrutiny rather than rational-basis was the appropriate standard for the ruling:

We have held in this case that a fundamental right of privacy is at issue and that the burden imposed by the State is direct and substantial. We now hold, as an additional matter, that because of the direct and substantial burden on a fundamental right, the standard to be applied is heightened scrutiny and not a rational-basis standard. Using the heightened- scrutiny standard, because Act 1 exacts a categorical ban against all cohabiting couples engaged in sexual conduct, we hold that it is not narrowly tailored or the least restrictive means available to serve the State’s compelling interest of protecting the best interest of the child.

Utah and Mississippi are the only states remaining with adoption bans affecting gay people. Utah, like Arkansas until today, bans cohabiting couples from adopting but allows single adults to adopt when married couples aren’t available. Mississippi law allows unmarried and married adults to adopt regardless of cohabitation status, but contains a separate clause stating, “Adoption by couples of the same gender is prohibited.”

Little Rock religious leaders speak out against bullying

Timothy Kincaid

November 1st, 2010

Perhaps one positive result has come from the bald bigotry spewed by Arkansas school-board member, Clint McCance; it seems that some religious leaders have become shocked by McCance’s attempts to justify his statements by appeals to religion.

On Friday, several ministers in Little Rock spoke out against bullying and in support of gay and lesbian kids. (Arkansas Times)

The Arkansas Interfaith Alliance, a group of local religious leaders, spoke this morning on the steps of Christ Episcopal Church downtown in support for bullied gay and lesbian teens in the wake of the resignation of Midland School Board member Clint McCance.

The speakers were minister Barbara Jones, Bishop Charles Crutchfield of the United Methodist Church, Ruth Shepherd of Just Communities of Arkansas, Rabbi Gene Levy, pastor Bob Cline of the Universalist Unitarian Church, and former United Methodist Church Bishop Kenneth Hicks. They were backed by other community and religious leaders, including Judge Wendell Griffen and gay and lesbian advocate Randi Romo of the Center for Artistic Revolution.

It’s hard to say whether this is but a momentary response or whether this is part of a growing recognition on the part of people of faith that they have an obligation to break the connection between religion and bigotry. Let’s hope it is the latter.

State Marriage Equality Update

Timothy Kincaid

April 9th, 2009

There has been a lot of movement recently in various states on the issue of recognition for same-sex couples. Here is a brief synopsis (I apologize if I missed anything):

Arkansas – on March 27, a bill was killed that would have banned cities and counties from creating domestic partner registries.

California – the State Supreme Court is deliberating on whether Proposition 8 is constitutional and, if so, what impact it has on the 18,000 same-sex couples who married between June and November 2008.

Colorado – at least two initiative drives are underway to either change the constitution to allow for gay marriage or alternately to statutorily create civil unions. The legislature has just passed a Designated Beneficiary Agreement Act, which has been signed by the Governor.

Connecticut – last week codified – with bipartisan support – marriage equality in the state’s laws to agree with the decision of the state Supreme Court.

Delaware – proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage defeated in the Senate in the last week in March.

Hawaii – Civil Unions bill was tied up in committee. Although the bill has a strong majority of support in the Senate, they voted not to pull it from committee.

Illinois – a bill (HB 0178) has been introduced to legalize same-sex marriage along with a bill (HB 2234) to enact Civil Unions. The marriage bill is resting in the Rules Committee but the Civil Unions bill passed out of committee in March and now faces a House vote.

Iowa – last week the Supreme Court found that the state must recognize same-sex marriage. It will go into effect on April 27. The Governor, the Senate Majority Leader, and the Speaker of the House have all announced that they will oppose efforts to change the Constitution. Iowa has no initiative process so it would require a change in leadership and several years before it would be possible to revoke this right.

Maine – both a marriage bill and a civil unions bill are before the legislature. The Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on April 24. Gov. John Baldacci is “keeping an open mind”.

Maryland – on April 7, the State Senate upgraded benefits offered to same-sex couples in domestic partnership relationships but do not allow for official state recognition of those relationships.

Minnesota – there is a bill before the legislature to provide new marriage equality. It is unlikely to pass.

Nevada – a bill to provide Domestic Partnerships with all the rights and obligations of marriage has passed out of committee and is before the Senate.

New Hampshire – at the end of March the House passed a bill to allow for gay marriage. It will be considered by the Senate, where Democrats have a 14-9 advantage (a dozen Republicans in the House supported the bill). Governor John Lynch has not stated whether he will veto the legislation, should it pass.

New Jersey – a commission has found that civil unions are inadequate and polls have found that residents favor gay marriage but a bill before the legislature appears not to be moving.

New Mexico – in March the Senate defeated efforts to enact Domestic Partnerships.

New York – the Governor has announced that he will push for a vote in the Senate on gay marriage. Although marriage equality has passed in the House, without support from some Republicans, the votes do not appear to be there in the Senate.

Rhode Island – a gay marriage bill is unlikely to make it out of committee. A “reciprocal beneficiary agreements” bill, a darling of anti-gays who want to label gay couples as identical to roommates or cousins, has been proposed as a “compromise”.

Vermont – this week the legislature overrode the governor’s veto to pass marriage equality.

Washington - a bill to upgrade the state’s Domestic Partnerships to provide all the rights and obligations of marriage has passed the Senate and will come before the House soon.

West Virginia – last week the House of Delegates defeated a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage.

Wisconsin - the Supreme Court is being asked to review the constitutional ban on marriage. The Governor, in his budget, has proposed Domestic Partnership benefits.

Wyoming – in February the House defeated a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

District of Columbia – the Council voted unanimously to recognize out of state marriages. Same-sex marriage bill expected later this year.

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