Oregon’s lopsided marriage hearing
April 18th, 2014
In 2004, Oregonians voted to prohibit the legal recognition of marriage to one man and one woman. In October of 2013, two separate lawsuits were filed challenging the constitutionality of that ban, and the consolidated case will be heard on April 23 before U.S. District Judge Michael McShane.
But Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum will not be defending the ban. She believes it to be an unconstitutional violation of civil rights. Instead she filed a brief stating that, “This case presents that rare case in which there simply is no legal argument to be made in support of a state law.”
Nor will the Governor be defending the ban. Nor any other state officer. Nor any intervenor. In fact, no one at all will be there to argue on the law’s defense.
This does make it difficult for a judge to rule in the law’s favor. Without some brief to quote or some argument to accept, a justice is limited to relying on outside or third party argument, such as an amicus brief.
And plenty of amicus briefs have been filed. For example Nike and Intel and Kaiser and a bunch of other businesses filed a brief saying that the ban was bad for business. And gay groups filed briefs saying that the ban was unconstitutional. But those won’t be much use to a judge looking for a legal argument for keeping the ban. (Oregonlive.com)
Opponents of gay marriage have stayed away from McShane’s court — declining, for example, to file any “friend of the court” briefs aimed at influencing his thinking. Some say there’s little reason to get involved since they don’t have standing to appeal.
However, I suppose, were a justice sufficiently driven by his own anti-gay animus he might create out of whole cloth a reason why gay people are not entitled to equal status as citizens. Despite a growing list of courts that have found for equality, from the right and the left, we know that someone like Antonin Scalia would have little hesitation to impose his religious doctrine on top the Constitution and find within the catechism what he needs to oppose equality.
Except Judge McShane is not such a judge.
Unlike the five federal judges who have struck down laws prohibiting same-sex marriages in other states in recent months, McShane won’t have anyone in the courtroom defending Oregon’s constitutional ban when he holds oral arguments Wednesday.
And, unlike the other judges, McShane also happens to be one of just nine openly gay members of the federal judiciary, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
There is never a foregone conclusion when it comes to court cases. But if there were…
Prop 8 defender plans daughter’s wedding
April 17th, 2014
Proposition 8, California’s 2008 ban on marriage equality, has suffered much indignity. Not only was it pilloried at trial, condemned in appeal, and pronounced dead at the Supreme Court, but it became an international rallying moment and a watershed in the struggle for marriage equality.
The 2010 trial of Proposition 8 – though not televised or even radio broadcast – was one of the more captivating media events of the year. Social media and websites gave snippets of testimony which collectively provided a tale of drama. Local and national television recounted the day’s events.
And the presumptions and prejudices underlying anti-gay bills were placed in the harsh light of scrutiny. A watching nation realized, many for the first time, that opposition was based not in morality, truth, or tradition, but on animus and a desire to diminish the dignity and honor of gay citizens.
In the subsequent years, greater embarrassment has attached itself to the Proposition and its legacy. Perhaps one of the sharpest cuts came in June of 2012 when David Blankenhorn, the chief – and virtually only – witness in defense of the proposition reversed position and announced that he supports marriage equality.
And now the proposition has yet another disgrace to bear: (WaPo)
The conservative lawyer who defended California’s ban on gay marriage at the Supreme Court is at work on another project: planning his daughter’s upcoming same-sex wedding ceremony.
Charles J. Cooper, a former top official in the Reagan Justice Department and onetime “Republican lawyer of the year,” learned of his daughter’s sexual orientation during the legal battle over California’s Proposition 8, according to journalist Jo Becker’s soon-to-be-released book chronicling the movement to legalize same-sex marriage.
“My family is typical of families all across America. We love each other; we stand up for each other; and we pray for, and rejoice in, each other’s happiness. My daughter Ashley’s path in life has led her to happiness with a lovely young woman named Casey, and our family and Casey’s family are looking forward to celebrating their marriage in just a few weeks.”
Malta passes civil unions
April 15th, 2014
The Maltese parliament legalized same-sex unions and gay adoption on Monday in a 37-0 vote, signaling a major change in social policy for a conservative country where Catholicism is the state religion.
“Malta is now more liberal and more European, and it has given equality to all its people,” Labour Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.
The opposition Nationalist Party abstained from the vote, saying that although it supports civil unions, it has doubts about adoption rights for gay couples.
The bill now goes to the President for a formal approval at which time Malta will become the southernmost part of Europe to recognize same-sex relationships. From what I glean from their local press, they are rather proud of themselves for this move. As they should be.
UPDATE: The opposition party was anxious that their abstention was not seen as opposition to civil unions or even necessarily as an absolute opposition to adoption, but rather that they opposed that the issues were addressed together. They proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which both parties supported.
Utah Backs Away from Regnerus Study
April 10th, 2014
A brief filed last month by attorneys representing the State of Utah in its same-sex marriage appeal cited Mark Regnerus’s discredited study purporting to show that children raised by gay “parents” fared worse than children raised by straight parents. (In fact, Regnerus’s study consisted of only two children who had been raised from birth by same-sex parents; both children did “pretty good,” Regnerus admitted during his disastrous testimony before a Michigan court.) In the Utah brief, attorneys included Regnerus’s study as demonstrating that “even when they have two caregivers of the same sex, children who grow up without a father or a mother are socialized in a way that undermines their ability to function effectively in a dual-gender society.” They add, in a footnote:
Professor Regnerus’ study has been criticized by advocates of the “moms-and-dads-are-interchangeable” theory. But in his thorough response, he concludes that, even accounting for his critics’ concerns, the data “still reveal numerous differences between adult children who report maternal same-sex behavior (and residence with her partner) and those with still-married (heterosexual) biological parents.
That brief was filed in February. Regnerus was fully shellacked on the witness stand in Michigan a month later. And when the ruling came down that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, US District Court Judge Bernard Friedman devoted several pages to smacking down Regnerus’s testimony and study.
So now it looks as though that whole episode has left the Utah lawyers feeling nervous. Yesterday, just a day before this morning’s oral arguments, they filed a “Supplemental Authority clarifying position re: Regnerus study”:
Utah files this supplemental letter in response to recent press reports and analysis of the study by Professor Mark Regnerus, which the State cited at footnotes 34 and 42 of its Opening Brief, and which addresses the debate over whether same-sex parenting produces child outcomes that are comparable to man-woman parenting.
First, we wish to emphasize the very limited relevance to this case of the comparison addressed by Professor Regnerus. As the State’s briefing makes clear, the State’s principal concern is the potential long-term impact of a redefinition of marriage on the children of heterosexual parents. The debate over man-woman versus same-sex parenting has little if any bearing on that issue, given that being raised in a same-sex household would normally not be one of the alternatives available to children of heterosexual parents.
Second, on the limited issue addressed by the Regnerus study, the State wishes to be clear about what that study (in the State’s view) does and does not establish. The Regnerus study did not examine as its sole focus the outcomes of children raised in same-sex households but, because of sample limitations inherent in the field of study at this point, examined primarily children who acknowledged having a parent who had engaged in a same-sex relationship. Thus, the Regnerus study cannot be viewed as conclusively establishing that raising a child in a same-sex household produces outcomes that are inferior to those produced by man-woman parenting arrangements.
So get this: Utah is going to argue that allowing gay people to marry will have a long-term impact on children of heterosexual parents. Umm, yeah. Good luck with that.
A Marine speaks out
April 4th, 2014
Go read this op-ed (NewsTribune)
I slept with a gay man for six months in Afghanistan.
No one asked. He did not tell.
In 2005, I and 200 Marines in my squadron deployed to Afghanistan to support the global war on terrorism. We were stationed at Bagram air base, a deep bowl surrounded by snowcapped mountains, where it rained and snowed while the sun beamed, prompting one Marine to remark, “Welcome to Afghanistan, the only place on Earth where you get all four seasons and a rocket in the same day.”
Judge: Ohio must recognize out-of-state marriages
April 4th, 2014
In December, Federal Judge Timothy Black ruled that if you were a resident of Ohio and if you were legally married to someone of the same sex by another state, the state had to recognize that marriage for purposes of death certificates. We noted at that time that this was a very narrow ruling.
Now the plaintiffs have gone back to Judge Black and requested that he expand his ruling to all state functions, and he has agreed. (ABC)
Judge Timothy Black announced his intentions in federal court in Cincinnati following final arguments in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the marriage ban.
“I intend to issue a declaration that Ohio’s recognition bans, that have been relied upon to deny legal recognition to same-sex couples validly entered in other states where legal, violates the rights secured by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Black said. “(They’re) denied their fundamental right to marry a person of their choosing and the right to remain married.”
Black said he’ll issue the ruling April 14. The civil rights attorneys who filed the February lawsuit did not ask Black to order the state to perform gay marriages, and he did not say he would do so.
Ohio State Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) has announced that he will appeal the ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Regnerus claims judge had bias
April 2nd, 2014
There was, for a brief time, a period in which I was open to argument that Mark Regnerus was a principled researcher whose conclusions were misconstrued by others and whose intent was the advancement of knowledge in the area of family structures. Though he was religious and his research was funded by a conservative organization, that did not preclude him from credibility.
And, indeed, for a while he claimed that he didn’t assert the conclusions that anti-gay media attributed to his paper. Until it became clear that his “not asserting” was a technicality, a game he played so as to advance deception while holding to “but I didn’t personally say it”.
And, following the criticism of his employer and the denunciation by Judge Friedman, the world knows Regnerus to be a charlatan willing to sell his integrity in a futile attempt to forward his anti-gay agenda.
Take, as an illustration, his latest whine in his ongoing effort to portray his dishonesty as a badge of martyrdom. (Anti-gay Catholic website LifeSiteNews)
“I frankly don’t understand why the judge elected to pass on a discussion of some of the very real concerns our research raised,” Regnerus told LifeSiteNews in an e-mail. Regnerus says Friedman “chose to privilege certain scholars as well as research that leaned on self-selected samples.”
“it’s as if raising standard methodological issues on this subject is just unwelcome today, unless it’s clear that you are friendly to the political goals of the same-sex marriage movement.”
Yeah, that’s it. It’s not that your study of children of broken families had no relevance to a case about couples wishing to create intact families. No, it must be judicial bias.
Say bye-bye to your career, Mark. Bye-Bye.
San Diego Mayor co-chairs marriage equality group
March 27th, 2014
From Freedom to Marry:
Today Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego became a chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, joining fellow chairs Kasim Reed of Atlanta; Julián Castro of San Antonio; Michael Nutter of Philadelphia; Annise Parker of Houston; Greg Stanton of Phoenix; and Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles.
“I am a strong supporter of marriage equality,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “I came to my decision after speaking with my fellow San Diegans about the importance of ensuring that everyone in love has access to the respect, dignity and protections offered by marriage. I value freedom, family, and individual liberty, and I’m proud to join Mayors for the Freedom to Marry to continue making the case for marriage nationwide.”
The group has about 400 mayors from cities in 38 states.
Michigan Gov. Snyder coy on marriage, waiting for legal counsel
March 26th, 2014
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) has been walking a narrow line since Federal Judge Bernard Friedman found that his state’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the US Constitution. Although Snyder is on tape stating in 2010 that he believed marriage to be “between a man and a woman”, he is now insisting that he has no public opinion on the matter and will go by whatever the courts decide.
Snyder is trying to differentiate himself from the state’s Attorney General, Bill Schuette (R), who has appealed the decision and on whose behest the court has issued a stay. He’s trying to play the role of spectator, an uninterested party who will do as directed.
And, as a practical matter, he is. Other than as cheerleader in either direction, his views are immaterial to the outcome.
But Snyder does have one significant role in the process. He will decide whether or not the State of Michigan will honor those marriages that occurred between the ruling and the stay.
Of course the courts can overrule Snyder’s decision, whatever it may be. But should he decide to honor the marriages, it will eliminate delay and ease the transition. And it is unlikely that a court would overturn such a decision or even that anyone has standing to appeal it.
And on that matter, Snyder is walking softly: (MLive)
“I appreciate that it’s a confusing circumstance, and I would like to provide some clarity, but I need to do that based on legal advice,” Snyder told reporters after an unrelated event in Lansing. “We’re going through that analysis at this time.”
The legal status of those marriage licenses is in question, and a three-judge 6th Circuit panel did not offer any clarification on Tuesday when they extended the stay pending the outcome of an appeal by Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Press Secretary Sara Wurfel said the Snyder administration is prepared to offer guidance to same-sex couples who obtained licenses as soon as a legal analysis is complete. That could be later Wednesday, or it could be later in the week.
Wurfel said the governor’s legal team is examining whether the state should recognize those marriage licenses for tax purposes, adoption and more. Michigan does not currently recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.
“Legal advice” could go either way. But, to speculate, I think the likelier course is that Snyder’s legal team will find that legally married couples are legally married.
There’s very little political downside to recognizing marriages that have occurred. And Snyder, who seems to have no fire in his belly over social issue has mostly shied away from contentious issues, expressing a desire to focus on jobs and the economy.
And the risk of opposing recognition is high. Michigan is a purple state in which a majority supports marriage equality. Should he refuse to recognize marriage – only to be overruled by a court – it could make him appear to be an intransigent right-winger in a year in which he is seeking reelection.
UPDATE: Snyder opposes recognition.
Michigan Episcopalians on marriage
March 25th, 2014
What do you do if the Speakers for Jesus speak words that reflect the message of no Jesus that you know? If you are Episcopal Bishops in Michigan, you take to the papers. (Detroit Free Press)
As Christians, we cannot be silent as our state’s highest laws discriminate against segments of our society based on the personal biases of those in power, particularly when a majority of Michigan’s population now supports marriage equality. To remain silent is to be complicit in the decline of our society through demonizing unprotected minorities, segregation based on sexual preference, denial of benefits to selected groups, and fear-based prejudice. Our continued silence can lead only to further discrimination, bullying and other forms of physical, emotional and spiritual violence.
About that radical militant activist Judge Friedman
March 25th, 2014
The National Organization for Marriage (theirs, not yours) has had a rough time of it lately. With loss after loss in courts across the country, financial woes, and staggering shifts in public opinion, they’ve pretty much given up the fight in the US.
Oh, they are still flogging their plans for a Marriage March (as the last one was so effective, snark) but when I went to their website following the Michigan ruling for the predictable rant about liberals and one man in robes overruling the voters, Brian Brown and Co. hadn’t even made a comment. They finally, yesterday, got around to posting the opinion of the local Catholic bishop, but it was just too tame to quote.
So we’ll have to settle for the knowledge that if Brian Brown hadn’t been sobbing under his desk, he’d have served us the usual portion of “radical militant activist judges legislating from the bench”.
So let’s take a look at radical militant activist Judge Friedman. And you already know where this is going, don’t you.
The great gods of irony have long since writ the script on marriage equality decisions. And they’ve decided that despite decades of Republicans campaigning on the idea that they must be elected to appoint true defenders of the constitution, a good many of those jurists who have found that gay people are equally protected by the US Constitution hail from the R side of the judicial pool.
So, of course, for this ruling – the one that tolled the death knell of their last claim to anti-gay “research” – the irony gods pulled out all the stops. Not only is Friedman a life-long conservative Republican with long record of right-side-of-the-aisle perspective on law, he was appointed by the glowing idol of the GOP. (Slate)
Judge Bernard Friedman is from eastern Michigan, where he was an honors student at Michigan State University and did JAG service during Vietnam. He became a reliable conservative jurist and was appointed by President Reagan in 1988.
Someone hand Brian Brown another hanky.
Judge Friedman on Mark Regnerus
March 25th, 2014
The Michigan trial on the constitutionality of excluding same-sex couples from the rights and responsibilities of marriage was (after Hawaii and California) only the third case to present and try the facts presented by the various sides. And, as such, the ruling by Judge Friedman was important not just for finding the ban unconstitutional but also in its measure of the merits of the arguments presented.
Particularly interesting was US District Court Judge Bernard Friedman’s opinion on the arguments presented by star witness Mark Regnerus, whose “study” comparing children raised in intact heterosexual families to, well, something else, has been touted by anti-gays as their smoking gun.
It’s a bit lengthy, but here it is in its entirety:
In defense of their asserted justifications for the MMA, the state defendants first called sociologist Mark Regnerus. Regnerus’s testimony focused on the results of his 2012 “New Family Structures Study” (“NFSS”), a survey data collection project that was formulated to assess adult outcomes of children who reported that one of their parents had been in a “romantic relationship with someone of the same-sex” during the respondents’ childhood years. Of the 15,000 participants ranging in age from 18 to 39, 248 of them reported that one of their parents had been in such a romantic relationship. From this sample, 175 reported that their mother had a same-sex romantic relationship while 73 reported that their father had been romantically involved with another man. Regnerus then compared the adult outcomes of these two subgroups with another set of participants who were raised by intact biological parents. The outcomes of these groups were significantly different.
Regnerus found that children who reported that their mothers had a same-sex relationship were less likely to pursue an education or obtain full-time employment and more likely to be unemployed and receiving public assistance, more likely to experience sexual assault, more likely to cheat on their partners or spouses and more likely to have been arrested at some point in their past. Similarly, Regnerus discovered that children who reported that their fathers had a same-sex relationship were more likely to have been arrested, more likely to plead guilty to non-minor offenses and more likely to have numerous sexual partners.
Although Regnerus touted the NFSS as one of the few studies to use a large representative pool of participants drawn from a random population-based sample, other sociological and demographic experts, including Rosenfeld and Gates, heavily criticized the study on several grounds. First, it failed to measure the adult outcomes of children who were actually raised in same-sex households. This is because the participants’ household histories revealed that many parental same-sex romantic relationships lasted for only brief periods of time. And many of the participants never lived in a same-sex household at all. Regnerus reported that “just over half (90) of the 175 respondents whose mother had a lesbian relationship reported that they did not live with both their mother and her same-sex partner at the same time.” Id. at 11. Second, many critics voiced their concern that the NFSS made an unfair comparison between children raised by parents who happened to engage in some form of same-sex relationship and those raised by intact biological families. This is because almost all of the children in the former group were the offspring of a failed prior heterosexual union, which produced a significant measure of household instability and parental relationship fluctuation.
Even Regnerus recognized the limitations of the NFSS. In his expert report, Regnerus acknowledged that “any suboptimal outcomes may not be due to the sexual orientation of the parent” and that “[t]he exact source of group differences” are unknown. Defs.’ Ex. 28 at 5. Moreover, of the only two participants who reported living with their mother and her same-sex partner for their entire childhood, Regnerus found each of them to be “comparatively well-adjusted on most developmental and contemporary outcomes.” Id. at 11. Nonetheless, Regnerus testified that there is no conclusive evidence that “growing up in households wherein parents are in (or have been in) same-sex relationships” does not adversely affect child outcomes. Id. at 16.
The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 “study” was hastily
concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it “essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society” and which “was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.” See Pls.’ Motion in limine to Exclude Testimony of Mark Regnerus, Ex. 9. In the funder’s view, “the future of the institution of marriage at this moment is very uncertain” and “proper research” was needed to counter the many studies showing no differences in child outcomes. Id. The funder also stated that “this is a project where time is of the essence.” Id. Time was of the essence at the time of the funder’s comments in April 2011, and when Dr. Regnerus published the NFSS in 2012, because decisions such as Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 704 F. Supp. 2d 921 (N.D. Cal. 2010), and Windsor v. United States, 833 F. Supp. 2d 394 (S.D.N.Y. 2012), were threatening the funder’s concept of “the institution of marriage.”
While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged. Additionally, the NFSS is flawed on its face, as it purported to study “a large, random sample of American young adults (ages 18-39) who were raised in different types of family arrangements” (emphasis added), but in fact it did not study this at all, as Regnerus equated being raised by a same-sex couple with having ever lived with a parent who had a “romantic relationship with someone of the same sex” for any length of time. Whatever Regnerus may have found in this “study,” he certainly cannot purport to have undertaken a scholarly research effort to compare the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples with those of children raised by heterosexual couples. It is no wonder that the NFSS has been widely and severely criticized by other scholars, and that Regnerus’s own sociology department at the University of Texas has distanced itself from the NFSS in particular and Dr. Regnerus’s views in general and reaffirmed the aforementioned APA position statement.
Translation: liar, liar, pants on fire.
World Vision unifies marriage requirements
March 24th, 2014
World Vision is one of the largest charities in the world, pulling in between 1.5 and 2 billion dollars each year. They are also highly rated, with good transparency and spending about 85 cents of each dollar on program services.
Focused on fighting poverty, hunger and injustice, they provide services to about 100 million people in 100 countries basing their charity on need, not on religious belief or political ideology. Although they are one of the largest AIDS services providers in the world, they also focus strongly on community development and sustainable futures.
World Vision is decided an Evangelical Christian organization. And, as such, they have strict rules about hiring, requiring employees to be Christian and to adhere to sexual ethics which includes “abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage”.
Now World Vision has decided to, well, NOT change the terms of those requirements. They have, however, decided that gay Christians who seek employment with them must follow the same rules as heterosexuals. (Christianity Today)
“Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues,” he said. “It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”
This was a decision based on the reality that Christendom is no longer unified on the place of gay people in society or the church. With many Episcopalians and Lutherans and Congregationalists now finding grace in same-sex marriages, World Vision decided that it was not its job to hold to some purity test for just who could be the hands of Christ to a sick child or impoverished family.
Stearns took pains to emphasize what World Vision is not communicating by the policy change.
“It’s easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there,” he said. “This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support.”
“We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us,” said Stearns. “This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church.
“Denominations disagree on many, many things: on divorce and remarriage, modes of baptism, women in leadership roles in the church, beliefs on evolution, etc.,” he said. “So our practice has always been to defer to the authority and autonomy of local churches and denominational bodies on matters of doctrine that go beyond the Apostles’ Creed and our statement of faith. We unite around our [Trinitarian beliefs], and we have always deferred to the local church on these other matters.”
The organization leaves a great deal of autonomy to local affiliates in hiring decisions, so this policy will not necessarily have global impact. For example, although World Vision opposed the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda, there is a recognition that the Christian community in Uganda is homophobic so there is little expectation that local managers will hire someone in a same-sex marriage.
Nevertheless, this is a hugely important shift.
Until just a few years ago, marriage was a shared position of much of Christian faith and those who supported inclusion were an anomaly. Now it appears that one’s take on recognition of same sex marriage is becoming – at least to this important organization – a issue of denominational theological variance, an interesting and respected matter of opinion but not essential to Christian faith.
[The article is incorrect on one item: the Presbyterian Church (USA) does not allow its ministers to conduct same-sex marriages. It is likely that this policy change will occur at the next convention (it narrowly lost in 2012), but at present the Presbyterian Church (USA) is not a marriage equality denomination.]
It’s a good day not to be anti-gay
March 19th, 2014
Remember when marriage equality passed in Illinois with the (necessary) support of a handful of Republicans. And remember how the anti-gays pledged to destroy the GOP traitors and replace them with true loyal purveyors of discrimination and hate.
Well, there’s this (WaPo)
None of the Republicans who voted for gay marriage lost.
When the Illinois state House passed a bill to legalize gay marriage last fall, just three out of 47 Republicans voted for it. On Tuesday, none of them lost. State Rep. Tom Cross (R) cruised to a 14-point victory in the primary for state treasurer while state Rep. Ed Sullivan (R) easily won renomination in his district. The third, state Rep. Ron Sandack (R), narrowly edged out his opponent by fewer than 200 votes, according to an unofficial tally. The close margin could mean the race goes to a recount. Sandack and Sullivan both faced pressure from third-party groups looking to oust them over their gay marriage votes. In Sandack’s case, the issue became a central focus. Had the three Republicans lost, it would have probably given pause to Republicans considering backing gay marriage in other states where the matter comes up in the future. But given two decisive wins and a third tentative victory, gay rights advocates have a lot to be happy about a day after the election.
Marriage in the Western states, brought to you by Abbott Labs
March 11th, 2014
In January, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a HIV drug pricing dispute between GlaxoSmithKline and Abbott Laboratories. Part of the dispute was over whether a potential juror could be excused because he was gay. Although Abbott insists that they excused him for other reasons, the Ninth Circuit found otherwise and ruled that just as one cannot exclude racial minorities or women from the jury pool, gay people also could not be excluded.
But the more important portion of their ruling had to do with why a gay man could not be excluded. For the first time at the Appeals Court level, it was determined that discrimination based on sexual orientation is subject to heightened scrutiny. This was a game changer.
Although courts have increasing held that gay people are entitled to equality in marriage and other matters, they’ve done so on ‘reasonable basis’ determinations, the lowest level of consideration. It is generally agreed that if laws that segregate by orientation are held to heightened scrutiny, few if any can survive.
In fact, so certain is this conclusion that the Democratic Attorney General and Republican Governor of Nevada decided that they would not even defend their state’s anti-gay marriage ban, citing the Ninth Circuit’s ruling.
However, all of this is subject to the US Supreme Court upholding or striking down the Ninth Circuit’s standard of scrutiny. If they were to hear Abbott Lab’s appeal (or that of AbbVie, the spin-off that is now the legal party in the dispute), they could strike down this decision and deal a rather heavy blow to the community.
But they won’t.
Because they are not going to hear the appeal.
Because Abbott Labs has decided that some things are more important than winning in court. (BuzzFeed)
An AbbVie spokesman, Dirk van Eeden confirmed that the company would not be pursuing further appeals in the case.
“AbbVie recognizes that the implications of the Court’s findings extend far beyond the underlying case. For that reason, we chose not to appeal,” van Eeden told BuzzFeed.
This is a potentially multi-million dollar decision. Frankly, I’m a bit stunned.
They may still appeal another section of the ruling. And perhaps they figured they’d lose anyway so why put out the cost of appeal. Or maybe they didn’t want to alienate customers.
But on the face of it, AbbVie chose to behave like a good citizen and neighbor. And because of that decision, I believe that probably before the end of the summer all area covered by the Ninth Circuit – Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and possible Guam and the Mariana Islands – will have marriage equality.
Marriage comes to United Methodist Church, in New York
March 11th, 2014
The United Methodist Church has been split for decades over the issue of where gay people fit within the body of faith. Many churches, even districts, have made loud gestures of inclusion and advocated for equality. But the UMC is a global, rather than national, denomination and representatives from Asia and Africa have allied with conservatives in the US to block advancement and inclusion. And so gay members remain banned from the clergy and officiating at same-sex marriages is forbidden.
Consequently, there is a growing sense of frustration by many of the UMC laity and clergy and an increasing likelihood of schism. This has been exacerbated by the ferocious and punitive responses by conservative Methodists who, holding the advantage of votes from foreign delegates, have arrogantly imposed their values on the majority of American Methodists.
The latest example was in November when a church trial in Pennsylvania convicted Frank Schaefer of violating the Methodist Book of Discipline by officiating at his son’s wedding. Those leading the charge were vile in their attack and succeeded in having Schaefer de-credentialed.
In response, Minerva Carcaño, UMC Bishop of Los Angeles, invited Schaefer to Southern California to work out of her office and to minister, though in a somewhat lesser capacity.
But while Schaefer’s trial caught the attention of the church and the public, it promised to pale in comparison to the scheduled trial of another Methodist minister accused of breaking the church’s doctrine by officiating at his son’s wedding. Schaefer was somewhat obscure, but Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree is not. (Yale)
Professor Ogletree has served as dean of Yale Divinity School (1990–96) and the Theological School at Drew University (1981–90). He was director of graduate studies in religion at Vanderbilt University (1978–81). He is the author of five books… He was also one of the principal drafters of the current United Methodist Disciplinary statement on doctrinal standards. Under the auspices of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Cross-Disciplinary Fellowship from the Society for Values in Higher Education, he pursued postdoctoral studies at the Free University in West Berlin, and at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Sorbonne in Paris. He is a life member of Clare Hall at Cambridge University.
Defrocking a pastor of a rural Pennsylvania church is one thing. But seeking to expel the former dean of Yale Divinity School from your denomination commands global news coverage, and not in a way that makes your church look more Christian.
And so, with less than a week before trial, the bishop responsible for Ogletree’s trial made a dramatic decision. (NYTimes)
Bishop McLee, who oversees about 460 churches in lower New York State and Connecticut, agreed to drop all charges against Dr. Ogletree; in exchange, he asked only that Dr. Ogletree participate in a dialogue about the church and its stance on matters of sexuality. Promoting dialogue, the bishop said, could be a model for other United Methodist bishops to follow.
“While many insist on the trial procedure for many reasons, I offer that trials are not the way forward,” Bishop McLee said in a statement attached to the resolution of Dr. Ogletree’s case. “Church trials result in harmful polarization and continue the harm brought upon our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”
McLee said that he would not prosecute cases in his district in which UMC ministers violated the Book of Discipline by officiating at same sex weddings, effectively giving permission to begin UMC gay marriages in New York.
It is too soon to know whether other bishops follow McLee’s lead, but I think it likely. And the consequence will be either to disunite the Methodists, or to result in an uneasy alliance under which each bishop or church can follow their conscience and the conservatives will fade into the corners. But irrespective of the eventual consequence to the denomination, to gay and lesbian Methodists this is an exciting and joyous moment.
Marriage support in two graphs
March 10th, 2014
Pew research has conducted another poll on marriage equality. You may have heard the headline that now 54% of the US population now supports equality; but here are two graphs that make it clear as to why the picture is much more positive than just “four percent more than half”.
More GOP voices for equality
March 4th, 2014
From the NYTimes
Evoking Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, a group of Western-state Republicans plans to enter the battle in favor of same-sex marriage on Tuesday, urging a federal appeals court to declare gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma unconstitutional.
The most prominent of the approximately 20 signers of the brief are former Senator Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming, a longtime supporter of gay rights, and former Senator Nancy L. Kassebaum of Kansas, who said last year that she had reconsidered her former opposition to same-sex marriage. The document says that “marriage is strengthened” and “the social stability of the family unit are promoted” by allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
Neither of those names is exactly surprising, but very welcome. For too long mainstream Republicans have let the far right be the face and voice of the party on social issues so, while they have a long way to go, it is encouraging to see momentum build in the moderate side of the party.
And Texas falls
February 26th, 2014
A federal judge in San Antonio ruled Wednesday that Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutionally deprives some citizens of due process and equal protection under the law by stigmatizing their relationships and treating them differently from opposite-sex couples.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia cited recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings as having trumped Texas’ moves to ban gay marriage.
“Today’s court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent,” he said in his order. “Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution.”
The decision is on hold pending appeal at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Garcia is a former Democratic Texas State Representative from San Antonio. He was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton.
This should all prove to be interesting. Texas has more than it’s fair share of those opposed to treating their neighbor like themselves and Texan’s are unusually willing to let their biases and bigotries be known.
Wyoming House votes down anti-gay marriage bill
February 14th, 2014
The state later Thursday voted down a bill sponsored by Casper Republican Rep. Gerald Gay that would have specified that Wyoming wouldn’t recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
Cheyenne Rep. Dan Zwonitzer [R - Cheyenne] spoke against the bill, saying the “Equality State” shouldn’t take a step backward.
The House voted against introducing the bill by a vote of 31-to-29.
I suppose the message here is that the Wyoming House of Representatives is not ready to support marriage equality. Yet. But they’re on their way.
Perhaps it is time to try again for Domestic Partnerships.