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.
Wyoming House votes down a marriage bill
February 13th, 2014
The Wyoming House has defeated a bill that would have changed state law to allow same-sex marriages.
Democratic Rep. Cathy Connolly of Laramie sponsored the bill. It would have removed the state’s current legal specification that marriage is a civil contract between a man and a woman.
The House voted 41-to-17 against the bill on Thursday.
I don’t think anyone expected this bill to pass. What’s interesting, however, is that the Wyoming House has 52 Republicans and 8 Democrats. Which means that a marriage equality bill in Wyoming got the support of 9 Republicans.
And that is a sign of progress.
Indiana’s anti-gay marriage ban delayed two years
February 13th, 2014
The Indiana Senate has passed the House version of a bill to amend the state constitution to define marriage as one man and one woman.
This is actually good news.
In order to amend the constitution, the bill must pass two separately elected legislatures with identical language and then be ratified by a vote of the electorate. In 2011 the legislature passed a bill that would ban same-sex marriage and also civil unions. Had it passed again, it would have gone to the voters this fall.
But this year the Indiana House of Representatives revised that bill to remove the civil unions restrictions.
There was some concern that the Senate might put the original language back into the bill. But now that the Senate has opted to accept the House’s version, it resets the clock and the earliest that the bill can be on the ballot is 2016.
And by then, political will may bring the death of the bill entirely. Or, perhaps, the conservatives may decide that they really really do want to put the civil unions ban back in and push it even further down the road.
More about ‘liberal’ Judge Heyburn
February 13th, 2014
Yesterday U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that Kentucky’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages from other states violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause.
Immediately, the antigay ranting voices started screaming about liberal activist judges.
Family Foundation of Kentucky (Courier-Journal)
Martin Cothran, an analyst for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, said the decision “puts Kentucky voters on notice that if their reasons for defining marriage as between a man and a woman don’t correspond with the political ideology of liberal judges, their votes don’t count.”
“Today yet another federal judge has entered the competition for lawlessness on the marriage front,” said Brian Brown, NOM President.
This ruling is another example of the deep betrayal of a judicial system infected with activist judges who are legislating from the bench.
So here’s a bit more about ‘lawless liberal activist’ Judge Heyburn from his bio:
From 1976 until his appointment to the bench, Judge Heyburn was associated with the law firm of Brown, Todd & Heyburn, where he was a partner at the firm from 1982 through 1992. His legal practice focused on civil litigation, with an emphasis on problems within the construction industry. Judge Heyburn also served as special counsel to then Jefferson County Judge Executive Mitch McConnell [who went on to be conservative Republican Senator McConnell]. Judge Heyburn was active in civic and political affairs in Kentucky. He was a delegate to the 1984 and 1988 Republican National Convention.
On March 20, 1992, President Bush nominated Judge Heyburn to the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. He was confirmed by the United States Senate in August, 1992. From December, 2001, to December, 2008, Judge Heyburn served as Chief Judge of the Western District of Kentucky.
(hat tip GoodAsYou)
Portion of KY ban on equality ruled unconstitutional
February 12th, 2014
From the Courier-Journal
A federal judge Wednesday struck down Kentucky’s ban on recognizing valid same-sex marriages performed in other states, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II joined nine other federal and state courts in invalidating such bans.
Heyburn did not rule that Kentucky must allow gay marriages to be performed in the state.
Heyburn is a Kentucky native and former Army Reservist. He was appointed by President George H.W. Bush at the recommendation of Senator Mitch McConnell (R). Predictably, the antigay groups are already calling him a “liberal judge”.
Nevada Gov and AG pull state’s defense of marriage ban
February 11th, 2014
Although Nevada generally allows its residents and visitors a greater degree of personal freedom, it was the fourth state to pass a constitutional amendment disallowing gay citizens equal access to marriage.
In 2000, 70% of voters passed the following language: “Only a marriage between a male and female person shall be recognized and given effect in this state.” As Nevada requires two votes of the public to amend their constitution, it was brought back to the ballot in 2002, where it passed by 67%.
In 2012, several same-sex couples sued the state in Federal court, arguing that the ban violated the equal protections provisions of the US Constitution. On November 29, 2012, Judge Robert C. Jones, an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), denied the plaintiffs’ claims in Sevcik v. Sandoval, asserting that “a meaningful percentage of heterosexual persons would cease to value the civil institution as highly as they previously had and hence enter into it less frequently.”
The couples appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The named defendants were three county clerks and Governor Brian Sandoval (R). Sandoval is represented by the State Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D). Also given intervenor status was the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, an anti-gay group.
In January, Cortez Masto filed the state’s defense before the Ninth Circuit. Many gay activists were angered by the Democrat’s language, which they believed compared homosexuality with bigamy and incest.
On January 21st, the Ninth Circuit issued it’s position on a jury selection case resulting from a dispute between two pharmaceutical companies. The result hinged on the court’s determination that gay civil rights cases are to be held to heightened scrutiny, a position that had, until then, been undetermined.
A few days later, Carson City District Attorney Neil Rombardo (acting on behalf of Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover) pulled his defense of the marriage ban. His opposition had been related to his fears of a slippery slope. But now that gay persons are affored legal status different from bigomists, polygamists, and the like, they were no longer on the same slope. (Las Vegas Review Journal)
Rombardo said Carson City’s initial concern was not that gay marriage should be banned, but rather that legal standards could have invited challenges to other state marriage laws, specifically prohibitions against polygamy.
“I did not oppose equal rights marriage,” Rombardo said. “I do oppose polygamy. I do not think they are one and the same.”
But the 9th Circuit’s decision in the SmithKline case essentially said that homosexuals are a protected class and that heightened judicial scrutiny applies in cases involving alleged discrimination, Rombardo said.
“Any concern I had regarding the previous analysis was gone,” he said.
Now the heightened scrutiny ruling has also caused the Attorney General Cortez Masto and Governor Sandoval to pull their support for the ban. (NY Times)
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, in a motion filed with the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, said Nevada’s legal arguments defending the ban voters approved in 2002 are not viable after the court’s recent ruling that potential jurors cannot be removed during jury selection solely because of sexual orientation. “The state has determined that its arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable,” she said.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican seeking re-election this year, said he agreed.
“It has become clear that this case is no longer defensible in court,” Mr. Sandoval said in an email to The Associated Press.
This leaves the defense of Nevada’s ban solely in the hands of the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage.
The Ninth Circuit is likely to decide in the favor of the plaintiffs. However, in the Proposition 8 case, the Supreme Court ruled that private groups do not have standing to defend a state, so there is no one to take such a ruling to the Supreme Court.
So the most likely result is that marriage equality will come to Nevada, but that this will not be the case on which nation-wide equality is achieved.
Indiana House amends marriage ban bill
January 27th, 2014
The Indiana House of Representatives has voted to amend the anti-gay marriage ban to remove the second sentence:
Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana.
A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.
The vote to amend passed by a healthy majority, 52 to 43.
The House has not yet voted on the bill itself. But if it does pass both the House and Senate as amended, it cannot go before the voters until the next legislative session passes identical language. This means that the bill cannot go before voters on the November ballot.
UPDATE: 23 of the state’s 69 Republican reps and 29 of 31 Democratic reps voted to strip the second sentence.
Indiana House to vote today on marriage ban
January 27th, 2014
The Indiana House of Representatives will vote around 1:30 today on HJR-3, a bill to place before the voters a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.
But though Republicans hold a 69 to 31 advantage, the vote’s passage is not a foregone conclusion. (IndyStar)
In an Indianapolis Star poll of all 100 members of the Indiana House, 38 said they planned to vote in favor of House Joint Resolution 3, the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, while 38 said they would vote no. Another 13 members said they were undecided going into the weekend; 11 declined to give a response. That leaves the outcome uncertain, with 51 votes needed to pass or defeat the amendment.
It seems that the biggest deterrent to supporting the bill is the second sentence, which includes a ban on civil unions or any other form of couple recognition. While Indiana’s voters might oppose equality, this hard stance might be too far for some legislators and could threaten the success of voter ratification in the fall. The bill is also strongly opposed by the business community, which sees it as hostile to recruiting efforts.
The solution for some legislators may be to amend HJR-3 to remove the second sentence. As a bill has to pass two consecutive sessions with identical language, this would effectively table the decision for another two years.
A teary-eyed Grammys
January 27th, 2014
Even had my pastor at the Hollywood United Methodist Church not told the congregation this morning to watch this year’s Grammy Awards because it would have a moment that would reflect our congregation’s values of equality, I had heard enough in advance to know that there would be a recognition of marriage in the show this year. And indeed, when Macklemore and Ryan Lewis sang Same Love, their marriage equality anthem, I was prepared for couples to exchange rings.
So when Queen Latifah officiated marriage for a variety of couples, with vocals from Madonna, I was prepared for a celebration of love (though I will admit that I was surprised that the first couple shown included my long-time friend Yawie).
Yet even so, I was composed. It was a nice touch, but that song was not even nominated for Record of the Year.
But tears came to my eyes watching Sir Paul McCartney stand and raise his fist in the air to agree with Daft Punk’s spokesman who, in their acceptance speech for the night’s highest honor, gave tribute to Macklemore and Ryan’s message:
You know I just got a message from the robots [Daft Punk's public image] and what they wanted me to say is that as elegant and as classy as the Grammys has ever been is that moment when we saw those wonderful marriages! And same love is as fantastic … and it was the height of fairness and love and the power of love for all people at any time any combination … is what they wanted me to say.
To take their moment in the spotlight to celebrate equality as expressed by someone else’s song was a moment of true generosity and an expression of integrity that few other artists could ever hope to emulate.
Indiana GOP moves gay ban bill to the floor
January 22nd, 2014
As expected, the hand-selected committee chosen by Indiana House Leader Brian Bosma has given its rubber stamp to the divisive and discriminatory HJR-3, a proposal to put a gay marriage ban before voters in November. (Journal Gazette)
A panel of Indiana lawmakers has approved a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage, sending the measure to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The House Elections Committee voted 9-3 to advance the measure Wednesday evening. The vote followed weeks of intense lobbying, emotional testimony and widespread uncertainty on the issue.
Indiana marriage ban moved to another committee
January 21st, 2014
You may recall that last week the Indiana Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill to place a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality on the ballot this fall.
At the time, I said that if Republican Party leadership was smart, they would kill the bill in committee. Not only will it hurt the future of the party in the state, it may go down to embarrassing defeat in November and drag Republican candidates down with it.
And, for a moment, it appeared as though that might have happened. No vote was called on the bill.
But, as it turns out, the party leadership is astonishingly stupid. Stunningly so. (IndyStar)
In a highly unusual move, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma today moved the controversial same-sex marriage ban to a new committee — where it stands a better chance of passing — after the measure stalled in another committee.
The measure had a hearing last week in the Judiciary Committee, but House Republican leaders decided against bringing it to a vote amid concerns that three GOP lawmakers might vote against it and kill the amendment.
Bosma said Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, Elections Committee chairman, told him he was not confident the amendment was going to come to the floor. Bosma said he didn’t talk to the members, but let Steuerwald do that.
OK UMC clergy declare support
January 20th, 2014
Today the Oklahoma United Methodists for Equality ran the following ad in the Tulsa World:
Utah to allow married tax filings for same-sex couples
January 16th, 2014
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more confusing, the Utah State Tax Commission has announced that same-sex couples who receive Federal recognition as “married” for income tax purposes may also file their Utah State Income Taxes jointly.
2013 UTAH INDIVIDUAL INCOME TAX RETURNS
Same-sex couples who are eligible to file a joint federal income tax return and who elect to file jointly, may also file a joint 2013 Utah Individual Income Tax return as provided in Utah Code § 59-10-503. Eligible married couples may file a joint return if they are married as of the close of the tax year. (As of December 31, 2013, the Supreme Court had not yet issued its stay of the District Court’s injunction).
This applies only to the 2013 tax year.
Who defended may have played a role in OK ruling
January 15th, 2014
As we have seen over and over, when it comes to marriage cases, who has standing may play an important role in the outcome. In the Oklahoma decision handed down yesterday, the case may have also hinged to some extent on who could defend the state’s constitutional amendment.
The case started nine years ago and has gone through a number of procedural hurdles since that time. The first of which may have been unexpectedly important.
In 2004, two lesbian couples filed a complaint against the Oklahoma Governor and the Oklahoma Attorney General seeking that the Federal DOMA law and the Oklahoma Defense of Marriage constitutional amendment be overturned.
The Governor and the Attorney General argued that as the issuer of marriage licenses was the County Clerk and that in Oklahoma the clerks are part of the Judiciary branch of government, the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue them. The court disagreed, but in 2009 the Tenth Circuit bought that argument and the Governor and Attorney General were dismissed.
Along with the state’s legal department.
However, the court allowed the plaintiffs to amend their case to name as defendants the Attorney General of the United States (for the federal DOMA side of the case) and the Tulsa County Court Clerk and the State of Oklahoma. The court then dismissed the State of Oklahoma as a defendant leaving only Eric Holder (for the US) and Sally Howe Smith, the clerk.
In 2011, Holder informed the court that the Justice Department would no longer defend the Federal DOMA case, and the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group stepped in. And, if this case is in any way similar to comparable cases, BLAG’s defense was likely nominal.
As the Hollingsworth and Windsor cases were advancing to the Supreme Court, the judge held the case in limbo until SCOTUS was heard. Upon announcement, the BLAG defense filed to have the Federal side of the case found moot and for their participation to be dismissed.
Which left the only counsel defending the amendment those who are described in the ruling as
Smith is represented by the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office and attorneys with an organization known as the “Alliance Defending Freedom.”
So it appears that the county, having found themselves way over their heads in defending the state and federal constitution, calling in the specialists, ADF. And it is true that when it comes to gay issues, the ADF has a truly impressive record. Astonishing, really.
Well, that is, if you look at things from my perspective. The Alliance Defending Freedom (nee Alliance Defense Fund) are losers on a colossal scale. Over and over. State after state. Case after case.
And yet they are trotted out with their tired old disproven defeated arguments to be the best defenders of “tradition” and “children”. For which I am thankful.
Cuccinelli declares a ban on gay tax returns
January 14th, 2014
Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions. This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.
On the other, like most states, Virginia tries to closely conform with Federal tax law. In general, states will start with the federally calculated taxable income and make such revisions and adjustments as are necessary to tweak for local differences.
And the Federal Government now recognizes legal same-sex marriages for federal tax purposes, even if the couple is residing in a state, like Virginia, which does not recognize same-sex marriages. So there’s a conflict.
Some states have resolved this by taking a sort of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach. They work under the logic that they don’t recognize Sally and Sue as married. But if the Federal Government, for it’s own reasons, has decided to act as though Sally and Sue have a ‘married’ filing status (though, in our non-recognition, we have no idea why), then those two single gals should file their state taxes using the same filing that the Feds (for some unrecognized reason) requires of them.
But failed gubernatorial candidate, Ken Cuccinelli (R), certainly has no desire for his state to allow gay people the same ‘lower taxes’ rights that he champions for heterosexuals. Cuccinelli is one of those ‘small government conservatives’ who believes that the role of government is to monitor and restrict the minutia of your sex life.
And on his last day serving as the Attorney General of the state, he issued an opinion as to the legality of allowing the State Department of Revenue to follow the lead of the Internal Revenue Service:
It is my opinion that a Governor may not direct or require any agency of state government to allow same-sex couples to receive joint marital status for Virginia income tax returns. Such a directive would represent an attempt to exercise legislative powers in violation of the constitutionally mandated separation of powers and would also violate the express terms of Article I, § 15-A of the Virginia Constitution.
Because, you know, Teh Ghey!
Views about marriage in Utah
January 14th, 2014
They might not be what you think they are. From the Salt Lake Tribune:
Residents are now evenly split on whether same-sex couples in Utah should be allowed to get state-issued marriage licences — 48 percent for and 48 percent against — and nearly three-fourths (72 percent) said same-sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions or domestic partnerships in lieu of marriage.
NYTimes takes on Utah’s no-gay-marriage arguments
January 13th, 2014
The New York Times takes on the arguments (three, so far) presented by the state of Utah as to why their ban on same-sex couples marrying is a legitimate state interest. It’s quite funny. Here’s their take on the second argument:
In the Supreme Court, state officials changed tack. They pressed a different argument, one built on a contested premise.
“A substantial body of social science research confirms,” the brief said, “that children generally fare best when reared by their two biological parents in a loving, low-conflict marriage.”
Lawyers for the couples challenging Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage responded that the assertion “is not true.” For evidence, they cited “the scientific consensus of every national health care organization charged with the welfare of children and adolescents,” and listed nine such groups. The view of the groups, the challengers said, “based on a significant and well-respected body of current research, is that children and adolescents raised by same-sex parents, with all things being equal, are as well-adjusted as children raised by opposite-sex couples.”
Utah responded that it would not be swayed by “politically correct trade associations,” referring to, among others, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association. “We are not ruled by experts,” the state’s brief said.
Luxembourg to get marriage equality this year
January 13th, 2014
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a nation a bit smaller than Rhode Island tucked into the corner where France, Germany, and Belgium come together, has been a likely candidate for marriage equality. With a gay Prime Minister, a gay Deputy Prime Minister, about 85% approval, and a mostly-Catholic populace, the question has not been whether this nation will adopt equality, but when. Now it appears that the answer is ‘this year’. (Wort)
Luxembourg Justice Minister Félix Braz announced on Wednesday that the government would vote on the bill this summer and, if approved, it could mean wedding bells for same sex couples before the end of the year.
The Grand Duchy’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community welcomed the news.
“We’re very happy about this decision of the new government. We thought initially it could be re-filed again for another couples of months or even years, due to the fact that it might be that the government judges other points on the political agenda more important than this law, ” said LGBT Rosa Lëtzebuerg Asbl president, Gabriele Schneider, adding: “We are indeed very happy to see that it is one of the important points on the agenda of the government continuing working on the law and vote all the necessary steps to have filed it during the year 2014.
The bill had been proposed in 2010 by the previous administration but when power shifted it was delayed as other items took higher priority. Luxembourg currently has a weak couple recognition system similar to the old French PACS.