Alaska Supremes: tax discrimination against gay couples is unconstitutional
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
April 22nd, 2014
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
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.
Illinois GOP ousts anti-gay committee members
April 21st, 2014
Pat Brady, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, started 2013 off with a bang by announcing that he was lobbying state legislators to support marriage equality. While this received immediate reaction, the situation did not play out as might have been expected.
There was movement for Brady’s removal and some members of the state central committee called for a vote on his ouster. But this effort did not receive support from party leadership and both the GOP House Leader and US Senator Mark Kirk (who has endorsed equality, himself) supported Brady.
Eventually, Brady resigned from the position. But not before it became clear that he did so on his own volition and that the ouster effort did not have the necessary votes to remove him. Only seven of the 18 committee members signed onto a letter demanding his removal.
In November the state legislature passed a marriage equality bill, by a narrow margin, with the necessary support of three GOP representatives. Anti-gay activists vowed that they’d pay for their “betrayal” at the polls. Last month Republican voters rejected primary challenges to all three.
And now it appears that the social agenda activism of the anti-gay committee members has placed them on the outs in Illinois GOP politics. (Daily Journal)
A crop of Republican officials who wanted to oust former Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady for his statements supporting same-sex marriage have been replaced in their party positions.
Illinois Republicans across the state held elections for all 18 state central committee member posts this week, replacing six of the seven officials who signed on to a letter last year to hold a vote on removing Brady as chairman. The seventh person to sign the letter, Mark Shaw of the 10th Congressional District, was re-elected to a four-year term.
I think it is now clear that irrespective of what they may individually believe about marriage, Illinois Republican voters have no stomach for continuing a culture war against the rights of their gay neighbors.
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.