Tuesday, July 16, 2013

More on the Aftermath of Windsor (DOMA) and Perry (Prop 8) decisions: California, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, North Carolina Litigation

The Court's decisions in United States v. Windsor, declaring section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional, and Perry v. Hollingsworth, holding that the "proponents" of Proposition 8 lacked standing to appeal a federal judge's declaration of Prop 8's unconstitutionality, have not settled the matter of the unconstitutionality of same-sex marriage restrictions. 

In what promises to be a continuing series, here are a few highlights:

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In California, the home of Proposition 8, the litigation centers on Prop 8's constitutional status given that the Supreme Court held that the proponents did not have standing to appeal the federal district judge's holding that Prop 8 made a sexual orientation classification that does not satisfy the rational basis standard and thus violates the Equal Protection Clause.  The original injunction was stayed, and again stayed by the Ninth Circuit even as it affirmed the district judge, but after Perry, the Ninth Circuit dissolved the stay amid questions about the effect of Perry which we discussed here.

The proponents of Prop 8 have moved (back) to the state courts, filing Hollingsworth v. O'Connell on July 12 seeking a stay from the California Supreme Court.  Their basic argument is that a single federal judge should not have the power to declare a law unconstitutional for the entire state and they seek a mandate forbidding county clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.  On July 16, the California Supreme Court declared - - - as a docket entry and without opinion - - - "The request for an immediate stay or injunctive relief is denied." It also granted the motions for counsel to proceed pro hac vice, so the case will presumably be moving forward. 

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In Pennsylvania, a complaint in Whitewood v. Corbett was filed July 9, as a new constitutional challenge to the state's "little DOMA" provisions passed the same year as the federal DOMA, 1996  - - - 23 Pa. Consolidated Statute §1102 (defining marriage as between one man and one woman) and 23 Pa. Consolidated Statutes §1704 (declaring one man-one woman marriage as the strong public policy of state and refusing to recognizing same-sex out of state marriages).  The Complaint interestingly quotes and cites language from Windsor several times. For example:

¶10. The exclusion from marriage undermines the plaintiff couples' ability to achieve their life goals and dreams, threatens their mutual economic stability, and denies them "a dignity and status of immense import." United States v.Windsor, No.12-307, Slip Op., at 18 (U.S. June 26, 2013).  Moreover, they and their children are stigmatized and relegated to a second class status by being barred from marriage. The exclusion "tells[same-sex couples and all the world- that their relationships are unworthy" of recognition. Id. at 22-23.  And it "humiliates the ...children now being raised by same-sex couples" and "makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives." Id. at 23.

The Attorney General for Pennsylvania, Kathleen Kane, has reportedly declared she will not defend the constitutionality of the state statutes barring same-sex marriage. The Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Corbett, the named defendant and a Republican, as well as the state legislature, are presumably studying the holding regarding BLAG's standing in Windsor.

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In Arkansas, the complaint in Wright v. Arkansas was filed in state court on July 2.  Arkansas has both a statute and constitutional amendment DOMA (the belt and suspenders approach).  The 29 page complaint does not quote or cite Windsor, but does claim that the Arkansas prohibition of same-sex marriage violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of both the state and federal constitution, as well as violating the Full Faith and Credit Clause.  First reports are that the state will defend the lawsuit.

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In addition to new complaints filed post-Windsor (Perry), ongoing litigation will certainly be changed.  For example, the North Carolina federal court complaint in Fisher-Borne v. Smith challenging North Carolina's failure to provide so-called second-parent adoption is being amended - - - reportedly with agreement of the state - - - to include a claim challenging the state's prohibition of same-sex marriage. 

While one message of Windsor and even Perry could be understood as being that marriage, same-sex or otherwise, is a matter of state law, another message of Windsor is certainly that there are constitutional problems prohibiting same-sex marriage. 

 

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With a patchwork of state laws, this is a fertile landscape for continuing litigation.

RR
[all images Wikimedia; final image here]

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/conlaw/2013/07/more-on-the-aftermath-of-windsor-doma-and-perry-prop-8-decisions-california-pennsylvania-and-others-.html

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