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Posts for May, 2014

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.

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