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Posts for May, 2014

Oregon United drops ballot measure (updated)

Timothy Kincaid

May 23rd, 2014

In July 2013, Oregon United for Marriage began the process of collecting signatures to place a proposition on the ballot to reverse the state’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. With significant high-profile political support and large contributions from some of Oregon’s corporate giants like Nike, they reached their goal of 116,000 signatures with an extra 50,000 to allow for errors or duplicates.

Earlier this year, in a brief submitted to the court, Oregon United stated that if Judge McShane ruled the ban unconstitutional by May 23rd, they would drop their ballot effort. The judge ruled earlier this week and the state will not appeal his ruling. So today Oregon United announced that they are discontinuing the process.

Today is May 23—and following Judge Michael McShane’s ruling that extended the freedom to marry to all loving, committed couples in Oregon, a ballot campaign to address the same issue is no longer needed. “We are confident that the freedom to marry is secure in Oregon and that we do not need to move forward with the ballot measure,” said Oregon United for Marriage deputy campaign manager Amy Ruiz. “It is time to celebrate this victory for Oregon.

UPDATE

Oregon United had accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars in anticipation of needing a media campaign for the proposition. Now they are giving it back. (Statesman Journal)

That money came in large part from donations from other organizations like Basic Rights Oregon, the ACLU of Oregon, SEIU Local 503, Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry, Gill Action Fund and the American Unity Fund.

And those groups will be getting some of that money back.

The marriage campaign’s executive committee has decided to return its remaining resources to its major donors in proportion to what they gave to the campaign.

Classy move.

Pennsylvania’s Marriage Equality Is Here To Stay

Jim Burroway

May 21st, 2014

No appeals, no stay. Pennsylvania Gov Tom Corbett (R), who is facing an uphill climb for re-election later this year, has announced that he will cut his losses in his defense of the state’s marriage laws which prohibited marriage equality for same-sex couples:

I have thoroughly reviewed Judge Jones’ opinion in the Whitewood case. Given the high legal threshold set forth by Judge Jones in this case, the case is extremely unlikely to succeed on appeal. Therefore, after review of the opinion and on the advice of my Commonwealth legal team, I have decided not to appeal Judge Jones’ decision.

As a Roman Catholic, the traditional teaching of my faith has not wavered. I continue to maintain the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. My duties as Governor require that I follow the laws as interpreted by the Courts and make a judgment as to the likelihood of a successful appeal.

Throughout the debate on this important and meaningful issue, I have maintained that Commonwealth officials and agencies would follow the provisions of Pennsylvania’s marriage law unless or until a court says otherwise. The court has spoken, and I will ensure that my administration follows the provisions of Judge Jones’ order with respect for all parties.

It is my hope that as the important issue of same-sex relationships continues to be addressed in our society, that all involved be treated with respect.

“We Are A Better People Than These Laws Represent”

Jim Burroway

May 20th, 2014

The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still bea racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of “separate but equal.” … In the sixty years since Brown was decided, “separate” has thankfully faded into history, and only “equal” remains.” Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.

We are a better people than these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.

– Federal District Judge John E. Jones III, in striking down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage.

As Timothy already noted, Federal District Judge John E. Jones III, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2002 with Sen. Rick Santorum’s recommendation, has declared Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The ban this time was in Pennsylvania’s 1996 marriage statute, rather than a constitutional amendment. Jones found that Pennsylvania’s statues violated both the Due Process and the Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. He also declined to stay his decision, which means that Pennsylvanians can apply for marriage licenses today. Pennsylvania imposes a mandatory three-day waiting period, which pushes the earliest marriages to Friday afternoon.

(Update: Ordinarily it’s pretty difficult to get a waiver for the three-day waiting period. But a number of judges are granting those waivers and the first marriages have now taken place.)

Jones begins his 39-page rather succinctly:

Today, certain citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are not guaranteed the right to marry the person they love. Nor does Pennsylvania recognize the marriages of other couples who have wed elsewhere. Hoping to end this injustice, eleven courageous lesbian and gay couples, one widow, and two teenage children of one of the aforesaid couples have come together as plaintiffs and asked this Court to declare that all Pennsylvanians have the right to marry the person of their choice and consequently, that the Commonwealth’s laws to the contrary are unconstitutional. We now join the twelve federal district courts across the country which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage.

Jones opened his ruling by describing, in considerable detail, the many ways that Pennsylvania’s denial of equal marriage have rendered same-sex couples and their families vulnerable. He notes that unmarried couples face as much of a 15 percent inheritance tax if one of them dies, that parents are force to spend thousands of dollars for second-parent adoptions, that some couples have spent over $10,000 in legal fees to prepare legal documents for wills, powers of attorneys, and other legal documents to protect their assets and partnerships, and couples have remained legal strangers to each other in life and in death because of Pennsylvania’s ban. It was that discrimination that this particular case was brought to address:

Writing for the majority in Windsor, Justice Kennedy opined that discrimination caused by the non-recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages “impose[s] a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon” same-sex couples in the eyes of the state and the broader community. Id. at 2693. Not only are these stigmatizing harms cognizable, they are profoundly personal to Plaintiffs and all other gay and lesbian couples, married or not, who live within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and thus are subject to the Marriage Laws. Additionally, and as discussed in greater detail above, see discussion supra Part I.B., Plaintiffs suffer a multitude of daily harms, for instance, in the areas of childrearing, healthcare, taxation, and end-of-life planning. With the Plaintiffs’ stories in mind, we easily find that Plaintiffs have sufficiently established that they suffer actionable harms, and Defendants’ argument to the contrary is rejected.

In his discussion of the Due Process clause, Jones hit on what I think is a key insight. The bolding is mine for emphasis:

With the weight and impetus of the foregoing Supreme Court jurisprudence in mind, this Court is not only moved by the logic that the fundamental right to marry is a personal right to be exercised by the individual, but also rejects Defendants’ contention that concepts of history and tradition dictate that same-sex marriage is excluded from the fundamental right to marry. The right Plaintiffs seek to exercise is not a new right, but is rather a right that these individuals have always been guaranteed by the United States Constitution. As aptly explained by the Supreme Court in Lawrence:

Had those who drew and ratified the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment known the components of liberty in its manifold possibilities, they might have been more specific. They did not presume to have this insight. They knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.

…we specifically hold that the fundamental right to marry as protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution encompasses the right to marry a person of one’s own sex. We further hold that this fundamental right is infringed upon by 23 Pa. C.S. § 1102, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman and thus precludes same-sex marriage. Accordingly, 23 Pa. C.S. § 1102 is unconstitutional.

Jones also declared that the Pennsylvania statute that barred the state from recognizing same-sex marriages from other states also violated the Due Process clause and was therefore unconstitutional.

Jones then went on to examine the Equal Protection Clause, which meant that he needed to determine the appropriate level of scrutiny to apply. Because the Third Circuit has never ruled on the level of appropriate scrutiny on cases based on sexual orientation, Jones was free to consider the arguments. Here, he gets a little bit of help from U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia:

While Windsor, the most recent apposite pronouncement by the Supreme Court, offers little concrete guidance, we glean from it and other Supreme Court jurisprudence that heightened scrutiny is, at minimum, not foreclosed. Indeed, in the tea leaves of Windsor and its forebears we apprehend the application of scrutiny more exacting than deferential.

As Justice Scalia cogently remarked in his dissent, “if [Windsor] is meant to be an equal-protection opinion, it is a confusing one.” Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2706 (Scalia, J., dissenting). Although Windsor did not identify the appropriate level of scrutiny, its discussion is manifestly not representative of deferential review. See id. (Scalia, J., dissenting) (observing that “the Court certainly does not apply anything that resembles [the rational-basis] framework” (emphasis omitted)). The Court did not evaluate hypothetical justifications for the law but rather focused on the harm resulting from DOMA, which is inharmonious with deferential review. …Indeed, far from affording the statute the presumption of validity, Windsor found DOMA unconstitutional because “no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure.” Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2696 (emphasis added)…

Jones notes that four factors are needed to determine if heightened scrutiny is to apply: “(1) the class has been subjected to ‘a history of purposeful unequal treatment,’ … (2) possesses a characteristic that ‘frequently bears no relation to ability to perform or contribute to society,’ … (3) exhibits ‘obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that define them as a discrete group[,]‘ … and (4) is ‘a minority or politically powerless. Of the four factors, the first two are most meaningful.”

On the first point, Jones noted that “the gay and lesbian community has endured historical discrimination at the national level is uncontested” and “we find that this consideration points strongly toward the application of heightened scrutiny. On the second point, “We need not linger on this criterion: it is axiomatic that sexual orientation has no relevance to a person’s capabilities as a citizen. For the third point, “Whether sexual orientation constitutes a sufficiently discernible characteristic is also little in debate and, for our purposes, undisputed by Defendants.” (He also dismissed the “immutability” test: “the test is broader, encompassing groups whose members can hide the distinguishing trait and where the characteristic is subject to change.”) And on the question of political power, Jones found that the failure of the state legislature to enact a marriage equality bill or an anti-discrimination bill amounts to “a weak positive in favor of heightened scrutiny.” All of which means that he found in favor of applying heightened scrutiny:

In terms of state interests served by Pennsylvania’s Marriage Laws, Defendants advance the following: the promotion of procreation, child-rearing and the well-being of children, tradition, and economic protection of Pennsylvania businesses. Defendants appear to defend only the first two aims, stating that numerous federal and state courts have agreed that responsible procreation and child-rearing are legitimate state interests and providing extensive authority for that proposition. Significantly, Defendants claim only that the objectives are “legitimate,” advancing no argument that the interests are “important” state interests as required to withstand heightened scrutiny. Also, Defendants do not explain the relationship between the classification and the governmental objectives served; much less do they provide an exceedingly persuasive justification. In essence, Defendants argue within the framework of deferential review and go no further. Indeed, it is unsurprising that Defendants muster no argument engaging the strictures of heightened scrutiny, as we, too, are unable to fathom an ingenuous defense saving the Marriage Laws from being invalidated under this more-searching standard.

In sum, Defendants have failed to carry their burden, and we conclude that the classification imposed by the Marriage Laws based on sexual orientation is not substantially related to an important governmental interest. Accordingly, we hold that the Marriage Laws violate the principles of equal protection and are therefore unconstitutional.

There is no word yet on whether Gov. To Corbett intends to appeal or seek a stay from the Third Circuit.

Radical Militant Activist Judge Jones

Timothy Kincaid

May 20th, 2014


Anti-gay activists like to pretend that the only way marriage equality is obtained is through the machinations of radical militant activist judges who impose their leftist agenda against the will of the people. So it’s always nice to know a little about who these judges are and how they came to hold their position.

Judge John E. Jones III, whose ruling found that Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage (legislative, not a constitutional amendment) is in violation of the US Constitution, is a bit hard to sell as a radical militant activist with a leftist agenda. But he’s certainly had that accusation thrown at him before, when he found that intelligent design could not be part of a school curriculum.

Before Jones became a jurist, re ran for Congress for the Sixth Congressional District seat and then, when unsuccessful, was co-chair of the transition team for Governor-elect Tom Ridge. He considered a run for Governor in 2001. As a Republican.

Jones was appointed by President George W. Bush as federal judge on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in February 2002 and was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on July 30, 2002.

Pennsylvania ruling: marriage ban unconstitutional

Timothy Kincaid

May 20th, 2014

Pennsylvania has become the latest state in which a Federal judge has ruled that marriage bans which exclude same-sex couples are in violation of the US Constitution. As of yet, there is no stay on the ruling. (WaPo)

In the wake of last June’s Supreme Court decision striking down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III said the commonwealth’s state version of the law was unconstitutional. The suit was brought on behalf of 23 plaintiffs by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“[W]e hold that Pennsylvania’s Marriage Laws violate both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Jones wrote in his ruling, uploaded by equalitycasefiles.org.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) had refused to defend the law, so attorneys for the Office of General Counsel, which reports to Gov. Tom Corbett (R), stood in for the state.

At present, including Oregon and Pennsylvania, there are 19 states and the District of Columbia in which same sex couples may marry. There are an additional nine states in which a marriage ban has been found to be unconstitutional but in which the ruling has been stayed on appeal.

It’s election day (primary) in Pennsylvania and Governor Tom Corbett has yet to comment on the decision. His history with the case has been one of embarrassment, including his rejection of the arguments made by his legal team. I’m certain that he’s hoping that the election results will allow him to keep as low a profile on the ruling as possible.

I expect an appeal, but would not be shocked by “the courts have spoken”.

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.

Ninth rejects NOM’s Oregon stay request

Timothy Kincaid

May 19th, 2014

Last week, Judge McShane denied the effort by the National Organization for Marriage to intervene in the trial over that state’s ban on same-sex marriage. They appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, along with a request for an emergency stay on Judge McShane’s decision, should it be that the ban is unconstitutional.

Today the Ninth gave their reply: “Appellant’s emergency motion to stay district court proceedings pending appeal is denied.”

This has not been NOM’s happy day.

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.

Ninth Circuit Temporarily Blocks Idaho Marriages

Jim Burroway

May 15th, 2014

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a temporary stay of a lower court’s ruling that found Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional. The lower courts ruling was set to go into effect on Friday at 9:00 a.m., but Gov. Butch Otter filed an emergency request with the Ninth Circuit asking for a stay until the pending appeal is completed. The Ninth Circuit has partially granted that request:

In a one-sentence order, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote, “The district court’s May 13, 2014 order is temporarily stayed pending this court’s disposition of appellants’ emergency motions for a stay pending appeal.”

In other words, the three-panel court (consisting of Judges Edward Leavy, Consuelo Callahan, and Andrew Hurwitz) have decided to issue a temporary stay to give them time to decide whether to keep the stay in place throughout the appeals process.

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.

Judge Denies Idaho Gov’s Request for Marriage Ruling Stay

Jim Burroway

May 14th, 2014

U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale, who yesterday ruled that Idaho’s state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution, has denied a request by Gov. Butch Otter (stop that, you guys!) to stay the ruling pending a planned appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Gov. Otter are expected to file an emergency motion with the Ninth Circuit asking for a stay pending an appeal. Otter and Wasden are optimistic they can get a stay somewhere:

In the request to Dale, Otter’s attorneys said they were convinced that if the judge wouldn’t issue a stay, the 9th Circuit or Supreme Court would.

“That conviction is based on the fact that the Ninth Circuit granted such a stay in the California same-sex marriage’ case, the Sixth district did the same in the Michigan same-sex marriage case, and the United States Supreme Court did the same in the Utah same-sex marriage case,” Otter’s attorneys wrote.

If the Ninth Circuit denies their motion for a stay and the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t intervene, then same-sex marriages will become legal in Idaho at 9:00 a.m. Friday.

Meanwhile:

After the ruling, the Idaho Republican Party issued a statement reaffirming the organization’s stance against same-sex marriage, and contending that the Tenth Amendment gives states the power to regulate and define marriage.

“The disintegration of marriage will lead to the disintegration of our society,” Idaho GOP Chairman Barry Peterson said in a prepared statement.

And Idaho

Timothy Kincaid

May 13th, 2014

Idaho Statesman

U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale has ruled Idaho’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

In her 57-page decision, Dale stated, “Idaho’s Marriage Laws withhold from them a profound and personal choice, one that most can take for granted. By doing so, Idaho’s Marriage Laws deny same-sex couples the economic, practical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of marriage, relegating each couple to a stigmatized, second-class status. Plaintiffs suffer these injuries not because they are unqualified to marry, start a family, or grow old together, but because of who they are and whom they love.”

And Idaho makes… ummm, I have no idea what number this one is.

Update: You can read some choice excerpts from Judge Dale’s smack-down opinion here.

Do they even listen to what they say?

Timothy Kincaid

May 13th, 2014

Dean Nelson

Today the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments for and against overturning Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruling that Virginia’s gay marriage ban was in violation of the US Constitution (the Olson-Boies case). There were, as expected, protesters on either side.

The anti-gay side made some interesting remarks.

Dean Nelson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, told the crowd, “Things have gotten so bad that even when you’re watching ESPN on Mother’s Day we have the kisses of homosexuals forced down our throats.”

Sometimes it’s just too easy.

Controversy for the coming generation

Timothy Kincaid

May 12th, 2014

Among the piles of press that surrounded the selection of Michael Sam during this past weekend’s NFL draft selection, I found this little gem regarding the decision of ESPN to air Sam’s reaction and his kiss with his boyfriend. (Sun Times)

When [ESPN Producer Seth] Markman’s wife explained to their 7-year-old son that dad was busy working on something that was controversial, Sam’s kiss on TV, the boy replied: “Is it because they’re not married?”

UMC approved married couple benefits

Timothy Kincaid

April 30th, 2014

A majority of United Methodist Churches in the United States have, for several years, attempted to be inclusive and supportive of gay Methodists and same-sex couples.

However, unlike most American denominations, the UMC is a global organization and representatives from Africa and Asia join local conservative churches to vote down progress on these issues. It is highly likely that this will soon lead to a division in the denomination and, indeed, this past year has seen an escalation of inclusive pastors defying the mandates of the Methodist Book of Discipline and publicly officiating at same-sex weddings.

A new move by the denomination may play a large role in schism (Religion News Service)

Same-sex partners can’t marry in a United Methodist Church. But if one of the spouses works at one of the denomination’s 13 general agencies, the couple can get benefits if state laws allow it.

The decision, made at last week’s meeting of the UMC’s Judicial Council in Little Rock, Ark., affirms one made in October by the church’s General Council on Finance and Administration, which expanded the definition of “spouse” to include same-sex spouses and partners.

Advocating for rights within the Utah GOP

Timothy Kincaid

April 28th, 2014

The former executive director of the Utah Republican Party was at the state party convention this weekend advocating for gay rights. (Salt Lake Tribune)

Along with his wife Megan, DuBois attended Saturday’s state GOP Convention wearing a big Equality Utah sticker. The couple, who were not delegates, were there to mingle with old friends, some of whom did a double take when DuBois urged them to support legislation to ban housing and workplace discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Such bills have received little traction in the conservative, Republican-dominated Utah Legislature.

His message was simple and blunt.

“I’m not scared of gay people,” said DuBois, who left his party post last year. “You can be a really good Republican and support people who don’t fit the same mold as you.”

Let’s hope they’re very persuasive.

UCC sues North Carolina over marriage freedom

Timothy Kincaid

April 28th, 2014

A strong component of the organized opposition to marriage equality lies in a desire to impose religious conformity. Although expressed as “religious freedom”, it’s quite the opposite. Opponents are not content with having the state stay out of their religious sacraments and ceremonies; rather, they desire that the state step in and declare that only their religious marriages are respected and those of other positions or faiths be denied.

Now the United Church of Christ is fighting back. (Charlotte Post)

The General Synod of the United Church of Christ filed a lawsuit today in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, contending state law that defines marriage as a union between a man and woman restrict its ministers from performing their religious duties is unconstitutional.

North Carolina prohibits couples of the same gender from obtaining a marriage license and makes it a crime for ministers to officiate a marriage ceremony without determining whether a couple has a license. UCC attorneys say the law limits ministers’ choices, violates the principle of “free exercise of religion” and restricts the freedoms of religion and expressive association guaranteed in the First Amendment. The church seeks a preliminary injunction that would allow ministers the choice of performing a religious marriage.

Although UCC is taking the lead, other individual places of worship have added their name to the lawsuit. (Charlotte Observer)

The Charlotte-area clergy members who have joined them include Allison of Holy Covenant; Robin Tanner, pastor of Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church; Rabbi Jonathan Freirich of Temple Beth El; Nancy Kraft, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran, and Nathan King, senior pastor at Trinity Reformed UCC in Concord.

They are joined by Asheville ministers Joe Hoffman of First Congregational UCC and Mark Ward of the city’s Unitarian Universalist Congregation; along with Nancy Petty, pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist in Raleigh.

I commend the denomination for this latest step in their long history of supporting the gay community. And I think that this may effectively illustrate for some that their insistence at imposing their own religious creeds into state law impose a burden not just on gay people but also on communities of faith.

Alaska Supremes: tax discrimination against gay couples is unconstitutional

Timothy Kincaid

April 25th, 2014

Alaska is one of the three (and soon to be two) states in which there is not a current court challenge to anti-gay marriage bans. However, in a tax matter, the Alaska Supreme Court has just ruled that the state cannot discriminate against same-sex couples. (ACLU)

The Alaska Supreme Court ruled today that the state unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples by denying them equal access to a property tax exemption for senior citizens and disabled veterans.

The rules were challenged by the ACLU of Alaska, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP on behalf of three couples who were denied full access to a $150,000 property tax exemption that Alaska makes available to opposite-sex married couples. Because same-sex couples cannot legally marry in Alaska, the state treated them as roommates rather than as families and let them get the exemption for only half of the value of their homes.

In 1998 Alaska amended its state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. As it seems unlikely that the state Supreme Court invalidated that constitutional provision, it will be interesting to see how this ruling is administered. It would seem that, in application, the court ruled that same-sex couples must be treated as though married.

Oregon to have hearing tomorrow without NOM

Timothy Kincaid

April 22nd, 2014

From Oregon United for Marriage:

Judge Michael McShane denied the National Organization for Marriage’s attempt to delay tomorrow’s scheduled oral arguments in federal lawsuit challenging Oregon’s marriage ban.

Previously, no party had stepped up to defend the ban. But this morning, the D.C.-based NOM filed a motion requesting to intervene in the case, simultaneously urging the judge to delay Wednesday’s oral arguments as he considers the last-minute motion.

With Judge McShane’s ruling today, oral arguments will proceed as scheduled tomorrow afternoon at the Federal Courthouse in Eugene. However, the judge will consider NOM’s motion to intervene in the case and has scheduled oral arguments on that issue for May 14th. If the motion to intervene is accepted, Judge McShane would then schedule a second briefing schedule on summary judgement or move the case to trial.

Sorry NOM, your delaying tactic didn’t work today.

Pennsylvania marriage ban may not get trial

Timothy Kincaid

April 22nd, 2014

The ACLU, which is challenging Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage, and Governor Tom Corbett (R), who is defending the ban, have both called on Judge John E. Jones III to not schedule a trial. (ACLU)

A trial became unnecessary after the commonwealth stated that it will not call any experts to counter the plaintiffs’ argument that there is no rational reason why lesbian and gay couples are excluded from marriage, nor does it plan to dispute the specific harms caused to the plaintiffs by the marriage ban. All legal papers in the case will be filed by May 12, meaning a ruling could come at any time after that date.

Both sides have presented written briefs and asked the judge for summary judgment.

Corbett’s defense of the ban has been tortured and troublesome.

On July 24, 2013, the county clerk in Montgomery County began issuing marriage licenses. And after the state Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) said that she was not defending the ban, Corbett took nearly a week before he announced that he would do so.

Then when his legal team filed a brief comparing same sex marriage to a union between 12 year olds, Corbett refuted the comparison and apologized. And then he provided a comparison of his own, marriage between siblings. And then found himself apologizing again.

Since that time, Corbett has tried to keep his defense of the ban mostly about “because it’s my job to defend the law” and has come out in support of a non-discrimination bill.

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