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Posts for April, 2014

Utah Backs Away from Regnerus Study

Jim Burroway

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.

Is Arizona a Turning Point?

Jim Burroway

February 27th, 2014

It would appear that the outcry over Arizona’s license-to-discriminate bill that was finally vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer last night may have reached something of a high water mark. Major companies, business group, professional organizations, and major league sports all came out with strong statements denouncing the bill in the moments leading up to Brewer’s veto. Typical was this one from Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman:

SB 1062 would serve to create an environment where consumers would not know how they would be treated – or whether they would even be served – when they patronize a business. This bill goes against the rule that every great business subscribes to, which is that the customer is always right. It will not only be bad for customers, but also bad for local business in the state. I also believe that it would be in consumers’ interests to be made aware of businesses within the state that did engage in discriminatory behavior. Since early 2010, Yelp has hired over 650 employees in Arizona. Over the next few years, we hope to hire hundreds more. It would be unconscionable for the state to encourage discrimination against any of them.

Arizona joins three other states in putting an end to their license-to-discriminate bills in just the past twenty-four hours:

  • Sponsors of Ohio’s license-to-discriminate bill withdrew their support yesterday. Moments later, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee announced that the bill was dead.
  •  The Mississippi House of Representatives Civil Subcommittee late yesterday voted to strike almost all of the provisions of their license-to-discriminate bill, leaving only a provision adding “In God We Trust” to the state seal. This move came after the state Senate gave its unanimous approval in January.
  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced yesterday that he will veto a proposed license-to-discriminate bill if it reaches his desk. Earlier that day, he had refused to address the question during an interview on MSNBC.

Over the past several weeks, license-to-discriminate bills have been defeated or withdrawn in Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Tennessee, and Utah. But we’re not out of the woods yet. Similar bills are still working their way through Idaho, Missouri, South Dakota, and Georgia, where Atlanta-based Delta Airlines has announced its opposition. The Idaho bill was returned to a House committee last week, with the sponsor saying he wants to “find the right language.” In addition, there’s a push to put a similar measure on the ballot in Oregon in November.

 

Utah to allow married tax filings for same-sex couples

Timothy Kincaid

January 16th, 2014

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more confusing, the Utah State Tax Commission has announced that same-sex couples who receive Federal recognition as “married” for income tax purposes may also file their Utah State Income Taxes jointly.

2013 UTAH INDIVIDUAL INCOME TAX RETURNS

Same-sex couples who are eligible to file a joint federal income tax return and who elect to file jointly, may also file a joint 2013 Utah Individual Income Tax return as provided in Utah Code § 59-10-503. Eligible married couples may file a joint return if they are married as of the close of the tax year. (As of December 31, 2013, the Supreme Court had not yet issued its stay of the District Court’s injunction).

This applies only to the 2013 tax year.

Views about marriage in Utah

Timothy Kincaid

January 14th, 2014

They might not be what you think they are. From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Residents are now evenly split on whether same-sex couples in Utah should be allowed to get state-issued marriage licences — 48 percent for and 48 percent against — and nearly three-fourths (72 percent) said same-sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions or domestic partnerships in lieu of marriage.

NYTimes takes on Utah’s no-gay-marriage arguments

Timothy Kincaid

January 13th, 2014

The New York Times takes on the arguments (three, so far) presented by the state of Utah as to why their ban on same-sex couples marrying is a legitimate state interest. It’s quite funny. Here’s their take on the second argument:

In the Supreme Court, state officials changed tack. They pressed a different argument, one built on a contested premise.

“A substantial body of social science research confirms,” the brief said, “that children generally fare best when reared by their two biological parents in a loving, low-conflict marriage.”

Lawyers for the couples challenging Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage responded that the assertion “is not true.” For evidence, they cited “the scientific consensus of every national health care organization charged with the welfare of children and adolescents,” and listed nine such groups. The view of the groups, the challengers said, “based on a significant and well-respected body of current research, is that children and adolescents raised by same-sex parents, with all things being equal, are as well-adjusted as children raised by opposite-sex couples.”

Utah responded that it would not be swayed by “politically correct trade associations,” referring to, among others, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association. “We are not ruled by experts,” the state’s brief said.

Feds will recognize Utah marriages

Timothy Kincaid

January 10th, 2014


In another twist in the Utah marriage battle, the Federal Government has weighed in on the legality of the nuptials performed in Utah’s marriage window. (NYTimes)

The Obama administration on Friday said that it would recognize as lawful the marriages of 1,300 same-sex couples in Utah, even though the state government is refusing to do so.

“I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” Mr. Holder said in the video. “These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds.”

This should not be seen as an affront to Utah. It is completely consistent with something that the state’s Attorney General said on Wednesday: (Fox13)

“I want to be clear that we are not saying those marriages are invalid,” Reyes said in an interview Wednesday with FOX 13. “However, as a state we cannot recognize those marriages.”

Reyes insisted that by refusing to recognize the marriages, the state was not effectively invalidating the unions by pointing to other states that recognize same-sex marriages.

“It’s not invalidating it in the same way that if they went to Hawaii, they could potentially apply for benefits there based on the marriage that took place. They can’t be recognized (here),” he said. “There is a very fine distinction, but a very important distinction based on those two things.”

It does, however, help force the hand of the courts a bit. To find that these marriages are invalid and had “never occurred” would be to cause a flood of confusion and administrative nightmares.

Hundreds of couples will be filing Federal income tax returns as married couples, there are likely even some who have made legal changes to their names and who will – by the time of the decision – have signed legal documents or established credit as married couples, and even some may have moved to states in which their marriages are fully recognized and may have availed themselves of state services.

Utah’s rather odd ruling about married couples

Timothy Kincaid

January 8th, 2014

On December 20, 2013, Judge Richard Shelby determined that the anti-gay marriage laws of the State of Utah were in violation of the equal protections clause of the United States Constitution. And, as Shelby refused to grant a stay, same-sex marriages began immediately.

The state requested that the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals grant a stay, and their request was denied. Finally, a request to the US Supreme Court resulted in a stay of Shelby’s ruling, but about 1,000 same-sex couples had married by the time that county clerks were instructed to deny new applicants for marriage licenses.

Now the state has issued instructions on how state services are to treat the married couples. It is a most inelegant decision:

Based on counsel from the Attorney General’s Office regarding the Supreme Court decision, state recognition of same-sex marital status is ON HOLD until further notice. Please understand this position is not intended to comment on the legal status of those same-sex marriages – that is for the courts to decide. The intent of this communication is to direct state agency compliance with current laws that prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Wherever individuals are in the process of availing themselves of state services related to same-sex marital status, that process is on hold and will stay exactly in that position until a final court decision is issued. For example, if a same-sex married couple previously changed their names on new drivers licenses, those licenses should not be revoked. If a same-sex couple seeks to change their names on drivers licenses now, the law does not allow the state agency to recognize the marriage therefore the new drivers licenses cannot be issued.

In addition to being awkward and placing same-sex couples in extreme legal confusion, this may have been a strategic misstep on the part of the state. It places Utah in the position of treating people in exactly the same situation (same-sex couples married under Federal authority) in disparate ways.

The second problem with the Attorney General’s decision is that in many ways this closely mirrors the Proposition 8 scenario. In Hollingsworth v Perry, the Ninth Circuit found that you cannot grant rights to a group of people and then take those rights away. Here the state granted specific rights to married same-sex couples and then swooped in and took those specific rights away. And while the Ninth Circuit decision does not create precedent in the Tenth Circuit, it nevertheless will be given consideration.

Had Utah simply said, “if you got married, you are married; if you didn’t, you are not”, that would have been a clean and simple ruling. But by taking a “we will not give you one iota of protection that we haven’t already processed” stance, the state demonstrates a significant degree of hostility. And by doing so, they have strengthened both our argument that the banning of same-sex marriage is rooted in animus and our call for heightened scrutiny in legal decisions.

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.

Utah Marriage Opponents Call For “Uprising”

Jim Burroway

January 6th, 2014

Okay, if you thought the poor guy on a hunger strike was off his rocker, now we have a room full of people who got together on Saturday to call for an “uprising” against same-sex marriage in Utah. Former Graham County, Arizona, sheriff Richard Mack, a (thankfully) former officer of the law with almost no concept of how the U.S. Constitution works, saying things like this:

Mack says that the federal government’s ruling doesn’t overrule Utah’s laws.

“That’s a lie. That’s an absolute lie. We have a right to raise our kids without homosexuals being part of the Boy Scouts, the schools and teachers and doing everything. They can be all that, but don’t shove your agenda down my kid’s throat. We have a right to raise our kids how we want not how you want,” Mack said.

Mack and Eager urge citizens to call upon their local leaders because change will come from the bottom-up.

“The way you take back freedom in America is one county at a time. The sheriffs need to defend the county clerks in saying, ‘No, we’re not going to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals,’” Mack said.

Mack used the cramming-down-our-throats metaphor twice. I snickered twice. Don’t these people even listen to themselves when they speak?

Mack may be a clown, but he’s well known in nullification circles. After Graham County voters voted turned him out of office, Mack founded the Constitutional Sheriffs and Law Enforcement Officers Association. He now goes around the country speaking to various militias, Tea Party groups, John Birch Society, and radical right talk radio arguing the supremacy of sheriffs over other law enforcement authorities, including (and perhaps especially) those of the federal government. The Southern Poverty Law Center profiled him in 2012.

Utah man starves himself to oppose equality

Timothy Kincaid

January 3rd, 2014

Trestin Meacham has convinced himself that the State of Utah could get rid of gay marriages by simply declaring the Federal Judge’s decision null. Although the Supreme Court has ruled many times that states cannot nullify decisions that fall under the US Constitution (the Supremacy Clause), Meacham insists otherwise.

And the erstwhile Constitutional Party candidate has vowed not to eat until Utah nullifies Judge Shelby’s ruling, subsisting only just water and “an occasional vitamin”.

I’m not sure that I believe Meacham. He says he’s lost 20 pounds since the decision, but he’s still up walking around and that seems a bit suspect to me. Twelve days without food is a very very long time.

But, since Utah isn’t going to go with his wacky hypotheses, I guess he’ll either he’ll break his fast, be institutionalized, or die.

Plaintiffs ask SCOTUS not to stay Utah decision

Timothy Kincaid

January 3rd, 2014

WaPo

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor should ignore Utah’s request for a temporary ban on gay marriages, attorneys representing gay couples argued in a Friday morning filing.

“Forcing same-sex couples and their families to wait and hope for the best during the pendency of this appeal imposes an intolerable and dehumanizing burden that no family should have to endure,” James Magleby and Peggy Tomsic, attorneys at Magleyby and Greenwood argued in the filing.

It isn’t certain when Sotomayor will respond or if she will instead take the stay request to the full court.

One of the reasons that the State of Utah gave for seeking the stay (and one of their arguments as to why they assert they would win on appeal) is that same-sex marriage is one of them there newfangled gadgets and not “deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition.” Which reminds me of this paraphrase of Nathaniel Hawthorne:

Tradition sometimes brings down truth that history has let slip, but is oftener the wild babble of the time, such as was formerly spoken at the fireside and now congeals in websites.

Utah files stay request with SCOTUS

Timothy Kincaid

December 31st, 2013

The State of Utah has now requested that the Supreme Court halt the ongoing issuance of same-sex marriage licenses that have been occurring since their ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional by federal Judge Richard Shelby (that wascally wepublican “activist judge”).

USA Today:

In papers filed Tuesday with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the state asked her to overturn court decisions to let the marriages go forward. Sotomayor handles emergency requests from Utah and other Rocky Mountain states. She can act by herself or get the rest of the court involved.

As the stay request was filed hours before the New Year holiday, I’m curious to see what argument they made to convince Sotomayor that the federal judges in the Tenth Circuit abused their discretion.

NYT profiles Utah’s “activist judge”

Timothy Kincaid

December 30th, 2013

The New York Times has run an informative, though not particularly thorough, article about Judge Robert Shelby, the Federal judge who found that the state of Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the US Constitution.

He had been a combat engineer in the Persian Gulf conflict and was, according to state voter records, a registered Republican. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a seven-term Utah Republican, recommended him for a federal judgeship, calling him an experienced lawyer “with an unwavering commitment to the law.” Senator Mike Lee, a Tea Party Republican, said that Mr. Shelby was “pre-eminently qualified” and predicted he would be an outstanding judge.

He was active in the state and local bar associations, and was a leader in a group that mentors young trial lawyers. But he largely stayed out of the spotlight and away from politics. In 2010, he and his wife gave a $50 contribution to a Republican candidate for the State Legislature — the only political donation found in state and national campaign-finance databases.

Former colleagues said they did not know his religious background. The judge did not respond to emails and a phone call requesting an interview.

Utah’s SCOTUS appeal is delayed

Timothy Kincaid

December 26th, 2013

The next step for the State of Utah in their quest to halt same-sex marriages is to appeal to the Supreme Court for a stay on enforcing Judge Richard Shelby’s ruling overturning the state’s constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. But while I expected that to happen immediately this morning, it seems that there will be a delay. (fox13)

A spokesman for the Utah Attorney General’s Office told FOX 13 the office is not expected to file an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court to halt same-sex marriage licenses from being issued “for a few days.”

The state had said Tuesday it would file a request with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver rejected the request. On Thursday, attorney general’s spokesman Ryan Bruckman said the office was coordinating with outside counsel before proceeding.

Having finally recognized that they are completely inept and that they have bungled every step of the way, the state is now seeking to craft a request that will speak to the concerns of the Supreme Court justices.

But after a week of equality and a thousand marriages, getting a stay may be increasingly difficult with each day that passes.

Why the Tenth denied stay

Timothy Kincaid

December 25th, 2013

As important as the fact that the Tenth Circuit denied the state of Utah’s request for stay from Judge Shelby’s ruling that the state’s gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional, is the reason they did so.

A stay pending appeal is governed by the following factors: (1) the likelihood of success on appeal; (2) the threat of irreparable harm if the stay is not granted; (3) the absence of harm to opposing parties if the stay is granted; and (4) any risk of harm to the public interest. Homans v. City of Albuquerque, 264 F.3d 1240, 1243 (10th Cir.2001); 10th Cir. R. 8.1. The first two factors are the most critical, and they require more than a mere possibility of success and irreparable harm, respectively. Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 434-35 (2009).

Having considered the district court’s decision and the parties’ arguments concerning the stay factors, we conclude that a stay is not warranted.

In other words, the Tenth Circuit looked primarily at two things. They asked themselves if the state was likely to succeed on appeal and found the answer to be “no”. And they took the state’s chief argument for stay – that allowing marriages now will harm the gay people who will only have their marriages reversed later – and said “we don’t think so.”

We don’t know why the Court delayed responding until so late in the day. It may be that they made efforts to determine or ponder the general feeling of the other circuit members. But even if not, considering that the two judges considering stay, Holmes and Bacharach, are among the conservative members of the Tenth Circuit, this may bode well for the appeal.

Tenth Circuit says “no” to a stay

Timothy Kincaid

December 24th, 2013

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has given the state of Utah it’s answer. They will not stay Judge Shelby’s ruling.

Merry Christmas!

Now they will petition Justice Sotomayor for a Supreme Court stay. But in the meanwhile marriage moves on.

No action from Tenth Circuit

Timothy Kincaid

December 24th, 2013

As we slide into the final hours before the Christmas holiday, the Tenth Circuit remains closed-lipped about whether or not there will be a stay of Judge Shelby’s ruling. In the meanwhile, county clerks continue to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples, including several clerks who had refused to do so yesterday.

I’m curious as to the delay in announcing their decision. Decisions released in the afternoon before a holiday tend to get little attention and I wonder if this is a consideration (judges are, to some extent, politicians).

My wild hope is that the Tenth Circuit will refuse the stay based on the state’s inability to show any likelihood of winning the appeal. It’s a lot to hope for. But the timing couldn’t be better; by the time anyone pays attention, it will be a week down the road.

Utah update

Timothy Kincaid

December 23rd, 2013

As you know, Judge Shelby refused to issue a stay to his ruling. And while he didn’t exactly call the state officials idiots, he did politely point out that is was their own fault that no stay was considered on Friday. (QSaltLake)

[State's attorney] Lott gave the example of then-District Judge Vaughn Richard Walker deciding to stay his ruling at the same time he ruled against California’s Proposition 8.

Shelby explained the difference between what happened in that court and why it didn’t happen in this court.

“There was no motion for a stay pending when I made my ruling,” he said. “When Judge Walker ruled, the plaintiffs had filed a motion to stay the ruling in case it didn’t come down their way.”

There was no such motion filed by the State of Utah before Shelby made his ruling.

“I had no authority to rule on a temporary stay,” he explained.

By the time that the state came in to ask for a stay, they were no longer protecting the status quo. Now the rules of the game had shifted and marriage was the status quo.

So the state has now requested that the Tenth Circuit issue a stay, and the courts gave the plaintiffs (our side) until 5:00 to file a brief as to why no stay should be granted. Unlike the DA’s office, it is highly likely that the arguments were prepared long ago and only needed to me amended to take on the ‘status quo’ arguments.

Meanwhile, today is the day that Governor Herbert decided to appoint a new State Attorney General. The previous Attorney General resigned in November in a corruption scandal and the marriage filings were conducted by acting Attorney General Brian Tarbut.

Interesting side note, acting Attorney General Brian Tarbut had been the commander of the Utah State National Guard having worked his way up the rank. Also in the Utah State National Guard for eight years, leaving about the time that Tarbut assumed control, was Robert Shelby, the judge in this case.

It is impossible to predict whether the Tenth Circuit will now grant the state a stay. Nor do we know when it is that they will decide.

However, we do know that they will be considering “the factors that must be established to be entitled to a stay pending appeal.” In other words “this is controversial and we don’t like it” will not be sufficient for these judges. It is expected that they will need to be convinced that the state has a good chance of winning and that if no stay is granted that the state will be harmed.

But irrespective of the stay or whether the ruling is reversed, It is estimated that around 800 couples have married on Friday and today.

And those who refused to issue licenses may find that obstinance is not always a winning trait. After being denied a license by a lesbian couple, the County Clerk of Utah County has been sued. Should a stay be granted and this couple were unable to get a license elsewhere, he may find himself with a rather serious civil rights lawsuit on his hands; there is no confusion whatsoever about whether an un-stayed ruling by a federal judge should be followed.

Shelby denies stay

Timothy Kincaid

December 23rd, 2013


Judge Shelby has denied a stay of his ruling on marriage equality. Marriages can continue.

The state will now go back to the Tenth Circuit and ask them to stay the ruling pending appeal. They have said “no” twice, but those denials were based on procedure (a court can issue an emergency stay outside of ordinary procedure – they chose not to). It is difficult to know how the Appellate Court will respond to the third request.

Utah asks pretty please, 10th again says no

Timothy Kincaid

December 23rd, 2013

It appears that the state of Utah again asked the Tenth Circuit to stay the ruling of Judge Shelby until Judge Shelby rules on the stay. And the Tenth Circuit said, “ahem, perhaps you aren’t listening closely enough.”

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