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Posts for January, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Four Marriage Cases

Jim Burroway

January 16th, 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the four marriage cases in which the Sixth Circuit turned back an effort to bring marriage equality or marriage recognition in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. According to today’s order: (PDF: 43KB/2 pages) the Court intends to keep the arguments focused on two narrow questions:

The cases are consolidated and the petitions for writs of certiorari are granted limited to the following questions: 1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? 2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state? A total of ninety minutes is allotted for oral argument on Question 1. A total of one hour is allotted for oral argument on Question 2. The parties are limited to filing briefs on the merits and presenting oral argument on the questions presented in their respective petitions. The briefs of petitioners are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, February 27, 2015. The briefs of respondents are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, March 27, 2015. The reply briefs are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, April 17, 2015.

Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog believes that oral arguments may take place in late April with a final ruling “probably in late June.” He adds:

Although the Court said explicitly that it was limiting review to the two basic issues, along the way the Justices may have to consider what constitutional tests they are going to apply to state bans, and what weight to give to policies that states will claim to justify one or the other of the bans.

SCOTUS drops Louisiana appeal

Timothy Kincaid

January 12th, 2015

Among the marriage case appeals under consideration last Friday was Robicheaux v. George, in which U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman had found that the state of Louisiana had a “legitimate interest” in prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying. The plaintiffs appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but also appealed to the Supreme Court to hear the case before the circuit court decision.

The Supreme Court has now announced that it will not be hearing Robicheaux at this time. This is likely not detrimental to the cause of marriage equality, as the case was heard last week by the Fifth Circuit, and nearly all observers predict that the ruling will be overturned by that court.

SCOTUS has also announced that the four cases in which the Sixth Circuit upheld discrimination will be considered at their conference this Friday. As it stands, if any marriage cases are taken up by the court this year, it will be those in which laws singling out gay people for exclusion have been upheld.

No SCOTUS marriage announcement today

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2015

The Supreme Court met today to determine which cases they will accept this year. Among those in consideration were the marriage cases from the Sixth Circuit (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee) and Louisiana.

The Louisiana case (which was also heard this morning in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals) is one of the few since the Windsor case in which a federal judge has ruled against equality. The Sixth Circuit is the only appellate court, to date, to rule in favor of anti-gay bans on marriage.

There was some expectation that the Supreme Court would release it’s decision to hear one or all of these cases today. However, no such decision has been announced.

This does not mean that the court will not hear any of these cases. Further announcements will be made Monday and could be made any time before the end of the month. The possible outcomes of today’s deliberation could be:

  • That none of the cases are heard. This would leave the nation divided as to whether the US Constitution allows legislation and state constitutional provisions designed to disadvantage gay citizens and deny them equal status under the law. This is unlikely.
  • That one or all of the cases are heard. This would result in another argument before SCOTUS which would probably answer the question once and for all. Marriage equality supporters predict that the court would rule that anti-gay laws are disallowed by the either the Due Process or Equal Protections provision of the US Constitution (or both).
  • That the court reverses the ruling of the Sixth Circuit outright. While this is not terribly likely, it would be very fitting in that it would treat bigotry with the same measure of cavalier distain that it treated equality 44 years ago in the Baker case.

SCOTUS marriage decision looms

Timothy Kincaid

December 23rd, 2014

The Supreme Court has scheduled January 9, 2015, as the date on which to consider whether to hear appeals in five marriage cases. The states from which these cases originate are Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Louisiana.

In Louisiana a federal judge ruled to uphold the anti-gay marriage ban, and the other four are in the Sixth Circuit, where the appeals court overturned federal judges who had ruled for equality.

We will not know until next month whether SCOTUS will hear any marriage appeals, but if they do so, it will only be those which are requesting that marriages be allowed. In other words, the court has not scheduled for hearing any appeals which could reverse a state’s current practice of allowing same-sex marriage.

I think that this, when taken with past appeal and stay decisions, may suggest a predisposition on the part of the court to move in the direction of equality.

However, the court has also illustrated a lack of willingness to rule directly on the issue. And this brings up another possibility – though probably not a likely one.

On January 9th – or some point thereafter – the court could take steps to reverse the Sixth Circuit decision without taking up appeal. They could return the cases from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals with instruction that the court more carefully consider or weigh some aspect of the case.

But whichever direction they go, it now seems encouraging that next month will prove to be a rather big step (likely forward) in the marriage movement.

Did SCOTUS just bless heightened scrutiny?

Timothy Kincaid

October 10th, 2014

When Idaho presented its brief explaining why the Ninth Circuit’s ruling overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, it focused on one point. Rather than argue the same tired arguments that have lost across the country and which were insufficient to merit certiorari in the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits, Idaho argued that it was the reasoning used in the Ninth, rather than it’s conclusion, which should be reconsidered.

On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit included in its ruling:

Without the benefit of our decision in SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Labs., 740 F.3d 471 (9th Cir. 2014), reh’g en banc denied, 759 F.3d 990 (9th Cir. 2014), the Sevcik district court applied rational basis review and upheld Nevada’s laws. Sevcik v. Sandoval, 911 F. Supp. 2d 996 (D. Nev. 2012). After we decided SmithKline, the Latta district court concluded that heightened scrutiny applied to Idaho’s laws because they discriminated based on sexual orientation, and invalidated them. Latta v. Otter, No. 1:13-CV-00482-CWD, 2014 WL 1909999, at *14–18 (D. Idaho May 13, 2014). We hold that the Idaho and Nevada laws at issue violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because they deny lesbians and gays who wish to marry persons of the same sex a right they afford to individuals who wish to marry persons of the opposite sex, and do not satisfy the heightened scrutiny standard we adopted in SmithKline.

When the Ninth Circuit decided SmithKline, Abbott Labs chose not to appeal the ruling, specifically because it was their wish to leave the section on heightened scrutiny as precedent and not subject it to potential loss at the Supreme Court. So this assertion by the Ninth has not been considered by the higher court.

Which brings the denial of extended stay by the Supreme Court into a different light. It may be that SCOTUS did not predict any likelihood of Idaho’s ban being upheld irrespective of the degree of scrutiny. Or it may mean that SCOTUS sees no likelihood of the Ninth’s application of heightened scrutiny being reversed.

SCOTUS allows marriage wins

Timothy Kincaid

October 6th, 2014

fireworks

The Supreme Court of the United States has just denied certiorari to the appeals by states from three circuit districts. (ABC)

The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for an immediate expansion of same-sex marriage by unexpectedly and tersely turning away appeals from five states seeking to prohibit gay and lesbian unions. The court’s order effectively makes gay marriage legal in 30 states.

Without comment, the justices brought to an end delays in same-sex marriages in five states— Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In addition to those five states, in which marriage equality will immediately become law, the other non-marriage states within those circuits are but a formality away. Filing for equality in federal court in states within the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth districts should result in an immediate favorable decision for West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming.

The question of the constitutionality of anti-gay marriage bans generally has not yet been determined. SCOTUS could take up other districts’ appeals should they reach the court.

However, it should be noted that the decision to grant or deny certiorari is not a majority vote. It takes but four justices to decide that a court will hear an appeal. This suggests that either the conservative end of the court is hoping to wait for an appeal that better fits their opposition, or (despite long supposition otherwise) there are not four justices on the Supreme Court that oppose marriage equality and find it’s prohibition to be within the confines of constitutional enactment by the states.

The denial of cert to the three districts is not, as I noted, immediately determinative on the other districts. However, it does provide strong legal precedent – unless and until the court indicates otherwise – leaving it difficult for district judges to conclude gay marriage bans have constitutional merit. And, though it is no longer given much attention, it completely invalidates Baker v. Nelson as an argument for precedent.

At this point, it looks promising that marriage may soon come to all states.

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.

SCOTUS issues Utah stay (Updated)

Timothy Kincaid

January 6th, 2014

NYTimes

The Supreme Court on Monday blocked further same-sex marriages in Utah while state officials appeal a decision allowing such unions.

The terse order, from the full court, issued a stay “pending final disposition” of an appeal to the federal appeals court in Denver. It offered no reasoning.

UPDATE from Jim B: Here’s the U.S. Supreme Court order (PDF: 27KB/1 page):

HERBERT, GOV. OF UT, ET AL. V. KITCHEN, DEREK, ET AL.

The application for stay presented to Justice Sotomayor and by her referred to the Court is granted. The permanent injunction issued by the United States District Court for the District of Utah, case No. 2:13-cv-217, on December 20, 2013, is stayed pending final disposition of the appeal by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Marriages entered into thus far are still in effect. There just won’t be any new ones for a while. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog speculates that “The order appeared to have the support of the full Court, since there were no noted dissents,” but “The order, however, cannot be interpreted as a dependable indication of how the Court will rule on the issue when it finally decides to do so directly.”

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals will continue with its expidited review of the lower court decision. Brief submittals occur between January 27 and February 25. No date has been set for oral arguments.

No DOMA or Prop 8 rulings today

Timothy Kincaid

June 20th, 2013

The Supreme Court did not deliver rulings on the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act or California’s Proposition 8 today. The next date for the announcement of rulings is Monday, June 24.

Monday is the last scheduled day of this year’s calendar, though the Supreme Court could schedule another day of their choosing. And while such an additional day would be expected to be within the week, as SCOTUS has neither a boss nor any constitutional restrictions, they could drag this out as long as they wish.

Marriage equality unlike Roe

Timothy Kincaid

June 10th, 2013

Some anti-gay activists have warned that a broad decision on marriage equality would have the same sort of cultural division and long-term social protest that has been the result of the decision on Roe v. Wade. James Richardson, a GOP “conservative communications strategist”, writes in the Christian Science Monitor on why that is not so.

The evolution of public opinion concerning the right to marry for gays and lesbians, too, follows a divergent track from abortion. Whereas the public sentiment on abortion has remained largely static since the Roe ruling 40 years ago, an uncommonly decisive shift in attitudes in recent years concerning gay marriage has radically reorganized the political landscape.

The support for same-sex marriage recently reached a record high, at 58 percent in a March survey by ABC News and The Washington Post. That number represents a 26-percentage-point growth over the span of just nine years. And in those 12 states where same-sex marriage is already legal, the support trend line is even more pronounced. In the few months since the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on gay marriage, three states changed their laws to afford equal rights and protections for gay marriage.

I’ll tell you when, Justice Scalia

Timothy Kincaid

March 26th, 2013

JUSTICE SCALIA: You — you’ve led me right into a question I was going to ask. The California Supreme Court decides what the law is. That’s what we decide, right? We don’t prescribe law for the future.

We — we decide what the law is. I’m curious, when — when did — when did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage? 1791? 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted? Sometimes — some time after Baker, where we said it didn’t even raise a substantial Federal question? When — when — when did the law become this?

Scalia rants as though there is no date, as though this is all arbitrary and subjective and up to some whimsical liberal social ‘living constitution’ interpretation of law. He is mistaken.

There is a date, a specific date, upon which it became unconstitutional under the provisions of the US Constitution to exclude homosexual couples from marriage.

On the day, the very first day, that a same-sex couple decided that they would avail themselves of the equal provisions of their governmental contract and seek the protections afforded by marriage, and on the very first day that this same-sex couple was told that, no, they were excluded – explicitly excluded – from the protections offered by the state because they were an unfavored people, on that specific day, Justice Scolia, the state acted in an unconstitutional manner.

Yes, the Supreme Court of the United States “decides what the law is”. But the wording of our contract – our agreement with the Federal Government that they may govern us and patrol our liberties and, at times, curtail our freedoms when necessary – is not decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. And that wording, that guarantee, allows the Federal Government to serve as our representative government only within certain confines, among which are that all citizens are provided with the same rights.

That provision exists either with or without social recognition. It exists whether or not a Supreme Court “decides” that it is the law.

It is inevitable that some day the Court will recognize – not decide – that gay citizens are equal citizens and that arbitrary animus-based discrimination such as that which Justice Scalia defends is a violation of our national contract. And some day, a Supreme Court will decide that the law is such that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a gross violation of the clear provisions of the US Constitution.

But that will not be the day in which such discrimination becomes unconstitutional. That day has passed.

NOM Rallied Today

Timothy Kincaid

March 26th, 2013

After their march, the National Organization for Marriage – along with their various supporting organizations – rallied to protect marriage from being equally applied to all citizens.

The Red Caped Loons of the Catholic organization, Tradition, Values & Property, were present

The rally surrounded the bandbox.

And they certainly had plenty of space in which to congregate.

But it’s nice to see that not much grass was damaged.

NOM Marched today

Timothy Kincaid

March 26th, 2013

The National Organization for Marriage has been declaring that they were going to turn out busloads of people to march on the Supreme Court to protect traditional marriage (in the fine old tradition of keeping rights limited to the people who they think are better than you). And they have posted pictures on their NOMblog showing their glorious march.

For Example: (NOMblog)

But NOM’s pics tend to be close up and don’t give much of a sense of size. That’s not to say there aren’t any large group pics in their photostream, but those tend to be problematic; they have rainbow flags and “Equality Now” signs in them.

Fortunately, a BTB reader had a birds eye view of NOM’s march and has offered to share some pictures that give some perspective to their “busloads”. Here they start marching past:

There they go, banners unfurled.

And the middle of the pack.

And finally, the last of the saints go straggling by.

And after months of preparation and “busloads” of support, that was their march, pretty much in total.

No, it’s not exactly pathetic; thirty or forty people would be pathetic. At what looks to me to be a few thousand people, this was … well, let’s just say Brian Brown probably found it to be a bit of a disappointing turnout.

But I fully expect NOM to claim “hundreds of thousands”.

A profile on Edie Windsor

Timothy Kincaid

December 13th, 2012

Perhaps the best profile I’ve seen to date on the plaintiff in the upcoming Supreme Court challenge comes from USAToday:

“People asked,’What could be different? You’ve lived together for over 40 years – what could be different about marriage?'” Windsor said. “And it turned out that marriage could be different.”

Do read it.

Just in: Scalia finds objecting to homosexuality is like objecting to murder

Timothy Kincaid

December 11th, 2012

Okay, that’s not news. It’s not even all that interesting.

Unless you consider that a Supreme Court justice is so extremely biased against one segment of the US population that he is incapable of viewing them as having rights at all.

Antonin Scalia was at Princeton (he has a new book to push) where he was introduced by anti-gay activist Robert George:

When questioned by Duncan Hosie ’16, who identified as gay, on his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas — which struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law — Scalia stood behind his decision. Hosie questioned Scalia’s comparison between having a moral objection to sodomy and having a moral objection toward things like bestiality or murder. Scalia defended his comparison as a form of argument.

“If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against these other things?” Scalia asked, explaining his dissent. “It’s a reduction to the absurd … I don’t think it’s necessary but I think it’s effective,” Scalia said, adding dryly, “I’m surprised you weren’t persuaded.”

But the thing about “reductio ad absurdum” is that it is but a hairs breadth from a strawman argument, an argument that argues against what is falsely presented as the opponents position.

At no point have supporters of marriage argued that no moral feelings should be considered. Rather, we assert that not all moral feelings are comparable. For example, it is perfectly possible to have moral feelings against murder (which does actual harm to actual people) and to still find that moral feelings against other people’s religions are not an acceptable basis for law.

A better comparison would have been “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against Catholicism?” But being the Pope’s proxy on the Supreme Court, I dare say that Scalia does not see anti-Catholic sentiment in the same light as anti-gay sentiment.

So, if there were any question, we have our answer. Tony will be voting against us on the rights of gay people to marriage. Or the right of gay people to adoption. Or the right of gay people to inheritance tax equality. Or the right of gay people to to eat oatmeal if it were to appear before him.

Because of his moral objections to murder, you see.

(Do you ever get the feeling that his grandchildren will change their names?)

UPDATE: Log Cabin does a good job analyzing the impact of Scalia’s views.

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