Thursday, January 3, 2013
The Supreme Court of the United States has updated its website to include a page entitled "Filings in the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 cases," or "DOMPRP8."
The disclaimer is worth a look:
Disclaimer: We have provided a link to this site because it has information that may be of interest to our users. The Supreme Court of the United States does not necessarily endorse the views expressed or the facts presented on this site.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
An interactive map revealing gun information published by a suburban New York newspaper is causing an uproar. The newspaper explained, to "create the map, The Journal News submitted Freedom of Information requests for the names and addresses of all pistol permit holders in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam [Counties]. By state law, the information is public record."
The newspaper's actions come in the wake of renewed conversations regarding gun control and ownership. However, the disclosure of information using google maps is not new. Activists used Google maps to disclose the names, addresses, and contributions made by Californians in support of Proposition 8 that prohibited same-sex marriage. (Recall Prop 8 is now before the United States Supreme Court.)
While not using mapping applications, the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Doe v. Reed is relevant. In Doe v. Reed, the Court 8-1 rejected a First Amendment challenge to the disclosure of names on a petition seeking a ballot initiative, again prohibiting same-sex marriage, in Washington state. Interestingly, during the oral argument, the Justices seemed often to conflate the Washington initiative with California's Proposition 8. Yet the fact that state law through its public record law was merely requiring disclosure, rather than prohibiting speech, was central to the Court's opinion that there was not a right to remain anonymous. The names were thus disclosed.
State law could, however, provide a "Firearms Ownership Privacy Act" such as those being advocated by the National Rifle Association that might seek to declare gun permits non-public records. The firearms privacy act passed in Florida, prohibiting doctors from inquiring about gun ownership, was enjoined as a violation of the First Amendment.
[image screenshot via]
Saturday, December 22, 2012
In a one page order yesterday, the Ninth Circuit issued an injunction pending appeal in Pickup v. Brown, enjoining California's SB 1172, prohibiting licensed therapists from performing what is known variously as sexual conversion therapy, reparative therapy, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) on minors under the age of 18.
SB1172, slated to become effective January 1, had been enjoined earlier this month by Senior District Judge William Shubb in Welch v. Brown. In this appeal, David Pickup, "a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist whose practice is almost exclusively devoted to counseling clients, including minors, who have unwanted same-sex attractions," and the other plaintiffs, including NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, argued in their emergency motion (with extensive attachments) that the district judge's denial of a preliminary injunction created an intra-district conflict given Judge Shubb's preliminary injunction as to the plaintiffs in that case.
Thus, SB 1172 is clearly enjoined throughout California and the First Amendment arguments will be heard by the Ninth Circuit in 2013.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
In its opinion yesterday in Dixon v. University of Toledo, the Sixth Circuit addressed what it labeled a "narrow inquiry," articulating the issue as "whether the speech of a high-level Human Resources official who writes publicly against the very policies that her government employer charges her with creating, promoting, and enforcing" is protected speech under the First Amendment.
The panel held that it was not.
Dixon was the "interim Associate Vice President for Human Resources at the University of Toledo" when she wrote and published what the Sixth Circuit opinion describes as "an op-ed column in the Toledo Free Press rebuking comparisons drawn between the civil-rights and gay-rights movements." Crystal Dixon's op-ed, Gay rights and wrongs: another perspective, published in the Toledo Free Press in 2008 (available here), did not identify her position although it did address some university policies. It also approvingly discussed the ex-gay movement, quoted Biblical passages, and provided comparative economic data for gay men and lesbians - - - none of which the Sixth Circuit mentioned, but probably contributed to the University's decision to terminate her due to the "public position" she took that "in direct contradiction to University policies and procedures as well as the Core Values of the Strategic Plan which is mission critical."
There was no question that the speech was on a matter of public concern, but a question whether her speech was protected under the Pickering balancing test, Pickering v. Bd. of Educ., 391 U.S. 563 (1968). The Sixth Circuit precedent included a presumption that “where a confidential or policymaking public employee is discharged on the basis of speech related to his political or policy views, the Pickering balance favors the government as a matter of law.”
In its relatively brief opinion, the Sixth Circuit panel had little difficulty agreeing with the district judge that Dixon had substantial discretionary authority in her position and that her public statements conflicted with the university position's to extend civil rights protections to LGBT students and employees.
Dixon also raised an equal protection argument that other employees who made pro-LGBT statements and in one case attributing anti-LGBT sentiments to "religious bigotry" were not similarly terminated. The court held that Dixon did not demonstrate that these employees were "similarly situated."
Indeed, it seems that the case turns on Dixon's highly placed position in Human Resources.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
The Court's grant of certiorari last week in two same sex marriage cases included the question of standing in both.
The standing issues atypically arise not from the original plaintiffs' qualifications under Article III of the Constitution, but flow from the governments' decision not to defend the constitutionality of the challenged government action: California's refusal to defend Proposition 8 in Perry v. Brown and the Obama Administration's decision not to defend DOMA in Windsor (and in previous cases beginning in February 2011).
The inimitable Linda Greenhouse shares her analysis of the standing issues, admitting she is fascinating by the "procedural game the Supreme Court is playing in the same-sex marriage cases."
Greenhouse writes in the NYT Opinionator that her original thought was that the Court could be using "the jurisdictional issue as a kind of safety valve for a deeply polarized court."
But on reflection, that theory doesn’t really make sense, because a finding of no jurisdiction under these circumstances would call into question the court’s ability to deal with other instances of changed government positions, and would be inconsistent with the action the court took just last week in the prison immunity case. Further, a finding of no jurisdiction would amount to a huge grant of power to the executive branch at the expense of Congress, enabling the president to cut off further judicial review any time a law that he never liked in the first place is declared unconstitutional by a lower court. While executive power certainly has its fans on the court, including Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia, I’d be surprised if that sweeping proposition could capture five votes.
Greenhouse then provides some her own hypothesis - - - and it is certainly worth a read.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Writing in the New Republic today, Jeffrey Rosen focuses on the presumably central role Justice Anthony Kennedy (pictured) will play in the ultimate decision on the two same-sex marriage cases granted certiorari last Friday.
Regarding precedent, Rosen writes:
Moreover, regardless of what Roberts thinks of Kennedy’s opinions in Romer and Lawrence, they’ve been on the books for years and it’s impossible to uphold DOMA or Prop 8 without also overturning Kennedy’s holding that preserving tradition for its own sake isn’t a permissible basis for laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians.
Rosen's is only one of the tidal wave of commentators who have proffered predictions and analysis. An excellent collection is in Monday's SCOTUSBlog round-up by Marissa Miller.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
California's SB 1172, slated to become effective January 1 and prohibiting licensed therapists from performing what is known variously as sexual conversion therapy, reparative therapy, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) on minors under the age of 18. Senior District Judge William Shubb, in an opinion issued late yesterday in Welch v. Brown, has issued a temporary injunction of the statute.
Considering the claims of two therapists and one potential therapist who had undergone SOCE as an adult, Judge Shubb first held that the plaintiffs did not have third party standing to assert the claims of minors or parents. As to the therapists, however, Judge Shubb held that their First Amendment claims were entitled to strict scrutiny which they were unlikely to survive on the merits.
In so doing, Judge Shubb rejected the argument that lesser standards under the First Amendment should apply given that the regulation was directed at a profession. Additionally, the judge rejected the argument that the regulation was directed at conduct rather than speech, holding that because "at least some forms" of SOCE involve "talk therapy," speech was the central issue.
Supporting the conclusion that strict scrutiny was the correct standard, Judge Shubb focused on the legislative history of SB1172: the "Legislature’s findings and declarations convey a consistent and unequivocal message that the Legislature found that SOCE is ineffective and harmful."
Below is a video of the legislative floor statement of the bill's sponsor, Senator Ted Lieu, and the subsequent vote:
For Judge Shubb, because "a mental health provider’s pursuit of SOCE is guided by the provider’s or patient’s views of homosexuality, it is difficult, if not impossible, to view the conduct of performing SOCE as anything but integrally intertwined with viewpoints, messages, and expression about homosexuality." Thus, Judge Shubb concluded that the statute was undoubtedly subject to strict scrutiny.
In addition to Ninth Circuit precedent, Judge Shubb relied heavily upon the Supreme Court's 2011 decision in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass’n, finding unconstitutional California's violent video game sale to minors prohibition. Quoting from Entertainment Merchants, Judge Shubb stressed that SB1172 cannot survive strict scrutiny "unless the state demonstrates an “'actual problem’ in need of solving” and “a direct causal link” between SOCE and harm to minors. While protecting minors was a compelling state interest, Judge Shubb faulted the legislative findings:
evidence that SOCE “may” cause harm to minors based on questionable and scientifically incomplete studies that may not have included minors is unlikely to satisfy the demands of strict scrutiny.
Judge Shubb also faulted the "underinclusiveness" of the statutory scheme:
Here, SB 1172 prohibits only mental health providers from engaging in SOCE and, as defendants have pointed out, unlicensed individuals who do not qualify as “mental health providers” under the bill can engage in SOCE. If SOCE is harmful and ineffective, the harm minors will endure at the hands of unlicensed individuals performing SOCE is equal, if not greater,than the harm they would endure from mental health providers performing SOCE. In fact, the California Legislature has previously “recognized the actual and potential consumer harm that can result from the unlicensed, unqualified or incompetent practice of psychology.” [citation omitted] The limited scope of SB 1172 therefore suggests that it is likely underinclusive in its application only to mental health providers.
Given Judge Shubb's reasoning, it is likely that he will issue a permanent injunction and equally likely that the decision will be appealed to the Ninth Circuit.
Monday, December 3, 2012
Should the Court take certiorari in at least one of the circuit cases challenging DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, as is widely anticipated, the government interest will be at issue. Courtney Joslin's article, Marriage, Biology, and Federal Benefits, forthcoming in Iowa Law Review and available in draft on ssrn, is a must-read on the "responsible procreation" interest that is often proffered. Joslin (pictured) argues that this interest is based on what she calls the "biological primacy:" an "underlying premise that the government’s historic interest in marriage is to single out and specially support families with biologically-related children."
Joslin's task is decidely not to assess the "fit" of DOMA's means chosen to this interest, under any equal protection standard, whether it be intermediate scrutiny as some, including the Second Circuit in Windsor have applied, or rational basis as the First Circuit applied.
Instead, Joslin interrogates whether this interest is factually true: "Has the federal government historically accorded special solicitude and protection to families comprised of parents and their own biological children?" She demonstrates that the interest is, at the very least, not a consistent one. She examines the "history of federal family-based benefits in two areas: children’s Social Security benefits and family-based benefits for veterans and active members of U.S. military," and demonstrates that in a "vast array of federal benefits programs, eligibility is not conditioned on a child’s biological connection with his or her parent."
From the early years of federal family-based benefits, Congress both implicitly and explicitly extended benefits to children who were biologically unrelated to one or both of their parents. This unearthed history exposes that responsible procreation is based on normative judgments about sexual orientation and gender, not history and tradition.
Indeed, although Joslin does not discuss Loving v. Virginia, her article is deeply reminiscent of the Court's reasoning in Loving when it essentially rejected Virginia's proffered rationale of "racial integrity," with Chief Justice Warren writing that the "fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy." Joslin's article should be required reading for anyone analyzing DOMA.
Friday, November 30, 2012
In an 41 page opinion and order in Sevick v. Sandoval, United States District Judge Robert Jones has rejected an equal protection challenge to Nevada's statutory scheme disallowing same-sex marriage.
The judge relied upon Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972), in which the United States Supreme Court summarily dismissed an equal protection challenge to the Minnesota statutory marital scheme's exclusion of same-sex couples. While stating that the "present challenge is in the main a garden-variety equal protection challenge precluded by Baker," the judge was undoubtedly aware of Baker's problematic status (a case to be relegated to the dustbin of precedent, perhaps), and provided a full analysis, "so that the Court of Appeals need not remand for further proceedings should it rule that Baker does not control or does not control as broadly as the Court finds."
The judge's well-structured analysis begins with a discussion of the classification, considering the notion that the Nevada scheme makes no classification at all, as well as the notion that the scheme makes a gender classification, but settling for the widely accepted principle that the scheme makes a sexual orientation classification.
In determining the level of scrutiny to be applied, Judge Jones decides in favor of rational basis, noting his disagreement with the Second Circuit in Windsor involving DOMA. Supporting this conclusion, Judge Jones highlights the factor of political powerlessless and its relationship with the judicial role in a democracy. For example, Jones writes that "Any minority group can reasonably argue that its political power is less than it might be were the group either not a minority or more popular. That is simply an inherent aspect of democracy." Additionally, "Gross movements by the judiciary with respect to democratic processes can cause an awkward unbalancing of powers in a Madisonian constitutional democracy."
Moreover, Judge Jones rejects the heightened rational basis of Romer v. Evans and the Ninth Circuit precedent of Perry v. Brown, involving California's Proposition 8, because there is no animus in the Nevada scheme:
Because there has never been a right to same-sex marriage in Nevada, Romer and Perry are inapplicable here as to NRS section 122.020. That section of the NRS removed no preexisting right and effected no change whatsoever to the legal status of homosexuals when adopted by the Nevada Territorial Legislature in 1861. See Nev. Comp. Laws § 196 § 2, at 65 (1861–1873).
On this lowest standard of rational basis, the challenger must negate every conceivable basis - - - an exceedingly, if not impossible task, and Judge Jones not surprisingly finds that the challengers fail to meet their heavy burden. The "protection of the traditional basis for marriage," is a legitimate one for Judge Jones, and the exclusion of same-sex couples is rationally related to that interest. This is true even though Nevada has provided for a domestic partnership scheme for same-sex couples.
As the United States Supreme Court considers whether or not to decide the issue of same-sex marriage, either in the Proposition 8 posture of Perry v. Brown or one of the DOMA postures such as the Second Circuit case or First Circuit case - - - all of which invalidated bans on same-sex marriage - - - Judge Jones' opinion demonstrates that the constitutional issue of same-sex marriage remains a contested one, even in a state with otherwise permissive marital regulations.
[image "Little white chapel" in Las Vegas, Nevada, via]
As the news is filled with the expected decision from the United States Supreme Court on whether - - - and if so, in what constellation - - - to grant certiorari on the issue of same-sex marriage, including both Proposition 8 and DOMA, Lyle Denniston's excellent discussions at SCOTUSBlog are a welcome resource.
But equally vital is Tobias Barrington Wolff's recent brief remarks, to be as an essay in Fordham Law Review entitled Collegiality and Individuality Dignity, and available on ssrn, that discusses the more personal aspects of the issues for some ConLawProfs.
Wolff (pictured) explores the "deep tension that exists for LGBT scholars and lawyers who work" on issues of same-sex marriage and other sexuality issues, "between principles of collegiality and basic principles of individual and human dignity." For example, "there is this seeming willingness on the part of antigay advocates to go around calling LGBT people unfit parents, and to expect to be treated with courtesy in response. I’ve been doing this for a dozen years, and I have to tell you, in very personal terms: I’m getting a little tired of being courteous in response to this kind of argument."
I’ll just say quickly: One can refuse to engage with these arguments and the people who make them, which is a choice that some LGBT scholars make and is a choice that has obvious costs associated with it. One can continue engaging in a collegial fashion, which is the choice that I have made for most of my career, but carries serious individual costs. Or one can engage with a somewhat sharper- edged critique of the nature of the arguments that are being made, which is part of what, of course, I am doing today, which has its own set of costs and disruptions of the normal collegial atmosphere about it. I acknowledge that.
But I think that the impact upon the individual dignity of LGBT scholars from having to confront these ugly, ugly arguments over and over again is something that needs to be acknowledged as one of the central, central dynamics that warrants attention in conversations about these issues.
Wolff's worth-reading essay is situated in the context of scholarly discourse, but many ConLawProfs experience similar dynamics in the classroom. How do we discuss these arguments and issues without assaulting each other's dignity?
Thursday, October 25, 2012
In what should be the final opinion in the extended saga of the quest for anonymity by "Protect Marriage" members and supporters, the Ninth Circuit declared the case moot.Recall that in Doe v. Reed, decided by the United States Supreme Court in June 2010, the Court rejected a facial challenge to the state of Washington's Public Records Act (PRA), RCW 42.56 that governs the disclosure of public records including petitions seeking a ballot initiatives. The ballot initiative at issue sought to repeal the "everything but marriage" law for same-sex couples and was spear-headed by the controversial Protect Marriage organization. The John Doe plaintiffs challenged the public disclosure of their names as a violation of the First Amendment.
Subsequently, on remand from the United States Supreme Court, the district court's opinion ordered disclosure of the names of those who signed an anti-same-sex marriage petition in Washington state in accordance with the state's usual processes. The Ninth Circuit denied the request for an emergency stay last year.
Now, the Ninth Circuit panel unanimously finds the case moot. The panel discussed an exception to the mootness doctrine under a two-prong test: “(1) the challenged action is in its duration too short to be fully litigated prior to cessation or expiration; and (2) there is a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party will be subject to the same action again.” The panel quickly found that prong one was not satisfied and therefore did not reach the second issue.
Concurring, Judge N.R. Smith disagreed on the mootness question, essentially holding that the matter was not moot because the court could attempt to at least narrow the dissemnination of the information. However, Judge Smith's conclusion on the merits was interwoven with the mootness arguments. He reasoned that Protect Marriage's "arguments regarding the merits of the burden on their First Amendment rights is incongruent with the mootness argument, because it discusses a burden caused by the government action of disclosing identities at all. Plaintiffs cannot have it both ways."
While Protect Marriage may file a petition for writ of certiorari, it seems highly unlikely Doe v. reed will be returning to the Supreme Court again.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
In a divided opinion issued today, the Second Circuit in Windsor v. United States, affirmed the district judge's conclusion that the defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) section 3 is unconstitutional. Recall that the United States position is being defended by BLAG, Bipartisan Leadership Advisory Group, reportedly at a cost to taxpayers of 1.5 million dollars.
Second Circuit Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote the majority opinion that Judge Droney joined. The panel held that Windsor had standing, that the suit was not foreclosed by the Court's 1971 summary dismissal in Baker v. Nelson, that DOMA was subject to intermediate scrutiny and that DOMA failed intermediate scrutiny, as well as that there was no need to certify any questions to New York's highest court.
The Second Circuit rejected the district judge's finding that the appropriate level of scrutiny was rational basis, holding that intermediate scrutiny is correct under the basic Carolene Products factors as articulated in Cleburne. The panel stated:
In this case, all four factors justify heightened scrutiny:
A) homosexuals as a group have historically endured persecution and discrimination; B) homosexuality has no relation to aptitude or ability to contribute to society; C) homosexuals are a discernible group with non-obvious distinguishing characteristics, especially in the subset of those who enter same-sex marriages; and D) the class remains a politically weakened minority.
The panel then applied the classic articulation of intermediate scrutiny, requiring that the "classification must be substantially related to an important government interest." The panel analyzed BLAG's stated interests - - -the “unique federal interests ” (which include maintaining a consistent federal definition of marriage, protecting the fisc, and avoiding “the unknown consequences of a novel redefinition of a foundational social institution”) and the encouragement of “responsible procreation” - - - noting that at oral argument "BLAG’s counsel all but conceded that these reasons for enacting DOMA may not withstand intermediate scrutiny." The panel, however, does evaluate the interests, concluding they are not being substantially served by DOMA.
Dissenting Judge Straub, in a lengthy opinion, contends that DOMA merits only rational basis scrutiny and that it satisfies this low standard.
October 18, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Fifth Amendment, Gender, News, Opinion Analysis, Sexual Orientation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
As the United States Supreme Court continues to hold in abeyance its decision on whether to grant certiorari in the cases challenging the constitutionality of prohibitions on same-sex marriage in Proposition 8 or DOMA, and many mark the 158th birthday of Oscar Wilde (pictured), Professor Laura Appleman's 2011 article Oscar Wilde's Long Tail: Framing Sexual Identity in the Law, available here, is worth a read.
Appleman argues that Wilde's 1895 trials for sodomy and the 2010 Proposition 8 trial both functioned as a legal stage for "enacting social-cultural anxiety over sexuality." But beyond comparisons, Appleman argues that the Wilde trials constructed certain narratives about sexuality that the Court has been unwilling to confront in its sexuality decisions, including in Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas. The same-sex marriage decisions by state courts likewise participate in these narrative constructs. Although, as her article states in its last sentence, how the courts continue down these paths is "a story yet untold."
[image of Oscar Wilde, circa 1882 via]
Thursday, September 20, 2012
From the SCOTUSBlog same-sex marriage symposium, discussing how the Supreme Court should rule if the Court accepts Perry (the Proposition 8 case) or any of the DOMA cases, including Massachusetts v. United States Department of HHS and Gill v. Office of Personnel Management:
The suggestions of clearly articulated standards and rigorous analysis are not simply the fantasies of a law professor. While Supreme Court opinions need not be constitutional law examination answers, neither should they be confusing, or marred by sarcasm or sentimentality. Students studying law should be exposed to more Supreme Court opinions demonstrating trenchant analysis rather than rhetorical politics.
Clearly articulated standards might also allow the lower federal courts as well as the state courts to engage in their own rigorous analysis rather than attempt to discern the correct standard from Supreme Court precedents that are unclear, internally inconsistent, or point in several directions. This is not to say that the same-sex marriage issue should have been easily resolved by lower courts or that the applications of the standard are not difficult and value-laden. However, the grappling of the lower courts for several years now regarding the actual holding of Romer v. Evans, as well as Loving v. Virginia, could have been avoided.
The full post is here.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
With a focus on civil servants (or their equivalents) who act as marriage officers and who object to participating in the legal institutionalization of same-sex unions, co-authors Bruce MacDougall (University of British Columbia, Canada); Elsje Bonthuys (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa); Kenneth Norrie (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland), and Marjolein Van den Brink (University of Utrecht, the Netherlands) have produced an important comparative discussion centering on Canada, Scotland, South Africa, and the Netherlands, in their article "Conscientious Objection to Creating Same-Sex Unions: An International Analysis." It's published in the Canadian Journal of Human Rights, and available on ssrn.
Their explorations of the specifics of jurisdictions are excellent, but it is the final sections of the article that make the most vital contribution. By discussing the conflict of constitutional values in more generalized terms - - - not burdened by specific doctrinal developments and histories - - - the authors ask whether it is possible to satisfy both the equality and conscience concerns.
It's a question without an easy answer, but this article frames the issues and provides several perspectives. This would be a terrific article for a First Amendment class considering these issues.
[image: "The Interrupted Wedding" by Edmund Bristow circa 1860 via]
Friday, August 17, 2012
A little less than two years ago, then-assistant state attorney Andrew Shirvell made news for his blog "Chris Armstrong Watch," entirely devoted to Chris Armstrong, the student body president of University of Michigan. There was also some reportedly obsessive behavoir, such as showing up "at Armstrong's home three separate times, including once at 1:30 a.m," according to the state attorney general's investigation, which led to the termination of Shirvell.
Chris Armstrong sued Shirvell, as the video below discusses:
As the Detroit Free Press reports, a jury has awarded Armstrong 4.5 million dollars in damages.
While we previously suggested to ConLawProfs that Shirvell's termination from his assistant attorney general position would make a great class problem on the limits of Garcetti v. Ceballos , the jury verdict presents opportunities to explore First Amendment defenses to tortious behavior, including defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and stalking.
[h/t Art Leonard]
Sunday, August 12, 2012
In in an opinion exceeding 100 pages, Judge Alan Kay, Senior District Judge for the District of Hawai'i, upheld the Hawai'i marriage scheme in Jackson v. Abercrombie. The plaintiffs had argued that Hawai'i Constitution Article 1, Section 23 stating that “[t]he legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite- sex couples,” and Hawaii Revised Statutes § 572-1, which states that marriage “shall be only between a man and a woman,” violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution. Governor Abercrombie's Answer agreed with the plaintiffs' constitutional arguments. However, Defendant Fuddy, Hawai'i Director of Health, and Intervenor Hawai'i Family Forum, opposed the plaintiffs, and the Judge resolved the case on Summary Judgment.
Those conversant with same-sex marriage jurisprudence in the United States will recall that Hawai'i is a landmark in the second-generation litigation: In Baehr v. Lewin, 852 P.2d 44 (Haw. 1993), the Hawai'i Supreme Court found the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples violated the state constitution. This decision prompted the state constitutional amendment, Article I, Section 3, referenced above (and interestingly in terms of judicial review, not prohibiting same-sex marriage but allocating that power only to the legislature and not to the courts). It also prompted Congress to pass DOMA - - - the Defense of Marriage Act - - - constitutionally suspect at present.
Judge Kay rehearses these histories at length. However, he rests his rejection of the plaintiffs' constitutional challenges on a "decision" of the first-generation of same-sex marriage litigation: The United States Supreme Court’s summary dismissal in Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972) (mem.). For Judge Kay: "Baker is the last word from the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of a state law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples and thus remains binding on this Court." (Opinion at 46).
Most courts considering the issue have rejected the 1972 summary dismissal in Baker v. Nelson as binding precedent. Thus, Judge Kay also provides an "alternative analysis" under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. He applies rational basis review, concluding that "marriage" can be reserved to opposite-sex couples because the legislature can rationally choose to encourage the stability of relationships that have the ability to "procreate naturally" and choose to promote the raising of children by "a mother and a father." Judge Kay also credits the legislature's rational choice to "proceed with caution" in an area of social change:
Hawaii could rationally conclude that by enacting the reciprocal beneficiaries act, followed years later by the civil unions law, and retaining the definition of marriage as a union between a man and woman, it is addressing a highly-debated social issue cautiously. By doing so, it may observe the effect of the reciprocal beneficiaries and civil unions laws before deciding whether or not to extend the title marriage, along with the already conferred legal rights, to same-sex couples.
Yet Judge Kay's ultimate rejection goes further. He writes that "to suddenly constitutionalize the issue of same-sex marriage “would short-circuit” the legislative actions that have been taking place in Hawaii." (Opinion at 118). Certainly, the judicial restraint arguments are familiar by now, but to write in 2012 that the plaintiffs seek to "suddenly constitutionalize the issue of same-sex marriage" is odd. Indeed, it is undermined by Judge Kay's own opinion with its careful history of second-generation litigation since 1990 and his reliance on a summary dismissal in 1972.
The plaintiffs are doubtless preparing their appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
August 12, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Family, Federalism, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Reproductive Rights, Sexual Orientation, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
In what is becoming a common occurence, a federal judge held section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional.
Today's opinion in Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, with BLAG (Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives) intervening to defend the law, is by Judge Vanessa Bryant of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut.
Judge Bryant's thorough opinion, over 100 pages, treads by now familiar ground. Judge Bryant first rehearses the history ofthe Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), standing, and the (in)applicability of the Supreme Court's summary dismissal in Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972).
In applying Equal Protection doctrine to a classification based upon sexual orientation, the first task is to determine the level of scrutiny to be applied to sexual minorities. As Professor Julie Nice writes over at Jurist, this can put a court in a "dither" given the Supreme Court's "miminalism" on this issue.
But Judge Bryant attempted to be clear, both in her theoretical perspectives and doctrine. She first stated she "must not be tempted to tie conceptions of judicial restraint to historic notions of equality," but instead engage in a "rigorous examination of the fundamental meaning of the noble ideals established by our founding fathers as our guiding and enduring principles." (Opinion at 34-35). She then extensively applies the four common factors to determine whether a particular classification should be considered either a suspect or quasi-suspect class:
- (1) the history of invidious discrimination against the class burdened by the legislation;
- (2) whether the characteristics that distinguish the class indicate a typical class member's ability to contribute to society;
- (3) whether the distinguishing characteristics are ‘immutable’ or beyond the class members' control; and
- (4) the political power of the subject class.
Judge Bryant's opinion is especially worth reading on the "political powerlessness" prong in light of arguments regarding President Obama's opinions on sexual orientation. Having considered all four factors, the judge found that " homosexuals display all the traditional indicia of suspectness and therefore statutory classifications based on sexual orientation are entitled to a heightened form of judicial scrutiny." She then quickly defaulted to another rationale: "However, the Court need not apply a form of heightened scrutiny in the instant case to conclude that DOMA violates the promise of the equal protection as it is clear that DOMA fails to pass constitutional muster under even the most deferential level of judicial scrutiny."
Thus, Judge Bryant applied rational basis scrutiny requiring a "legitimate interest" that is reasonably served by the statute. The legislative history of DOMA advanced four interests for the statute: "(1) defending and nurturing the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage; (2) defending traditional notions of morality; (3) protecting state sovereignty and democratic self-governance; and (4) preserving scarce governmental resources." In litigation, BLAG asserted five: 1) To employ caution in the face of a proposed redefinition of the centuries-old definition of marriage; 2) To protect the public fisc; 3) To maintain consistency and uniformity with regard to eligibility for federal benefits; 4) To avoid creating a social understanding of bearing, begetting, and rearing children separate from marriage; and 5) To recognize an institution designed to ensure that children have parents of both sexes. One by one, Judge Bryant considered the interests and their rational relationship to the statute, concluded that not one of them was sufficient.
Judge Bryant considers judicial review and the role of courts in a democracy at several points, and concludes:
"In sum, having considered the purported rational bases proffered by both BLAG and Congress and concluded that such objectives bear no rational relationship to Section 3 of DOMA as a legislative scheme, the Court finds that no conceivable rational basis exists for the provision. The provision therefore violates the equal protection principles incorporated in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution."
Certainly this opinion will be appealed, as have the others, including three pending petitions in the United States Supreme Court. But with yet another federal judge finding DOMA unconstitutional, it would make a Supreme Court decision to the contrary look more and more problematical.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
As the 2012 Olympics get under way in London, participants, attendees and viewers may think they are watching a modern re-enactment of the Greek classical practice also known as the Olympics. The United States Supreme Court, in its majority opinion by Justice Powell in the 1987 case of San Francisco Arts and Athletics v. U.S. Olympic Committee, pointed out the differences:
The ancient Olympic Games lasted 5 days, whereas the modern Olympics last for 10 days. The ancient Games always took place in Olympia in southern Greece; the modern Olympic Games normally move from city to city every four years. (As an effort to reduce nationalism, cities, as opposed to countries, host the modern Olympic Games.) In ancient Greece there may have been a burning fire for religious sacrifice, since the Olympic Games were part of a religious festival. The torch relay, however, was an innovation of the modern Olympic Committee. The closest parallel to the modern opening parade was the opening of the ancient Games with the chariot race. As the chariots entered the arena and passed the judges, a herald called out the names of the owner, his father, and his city. There was no general parade of athletes by locality, as in the modern Games, and the athletes were naked, not uniformed. Athletes were eligible only if they were male, freeborn Greeks. There is no indication that the ancient Olympics included an “Olympic anthem” or were organized by an entity called an “Olympic Committee.” The awards in ancient Greece were wreaths of wild olive, rather than the gold, silver, and bronze medals presented at the modern Olympics.
Olympics, 483 U.S. at 541 n.18.
The purpose of these distinctions was to support the claim that "Olympics" was not an ancient and now generic term that could be adopted by others, but a specific term owned by the United States Olympic Committee, established by Congressional statute in 1896. The Committee had brought suit against the "Gay Olympics" for using the term. Interestingly, according to the Gay Olympics Brief, the US Olympic Committee did not seek to similarly prohibit other groups that used the term "Olympics" such as the International Police Olympics; Armenian Olympics; Olympic of Ballet; Olympics of the Mind; Senior Olympics; Golden Olympics; Firemen's Olympics; United States Skill Olympics; Virginia Golden Olympics; Wrist-Wrestling Olympics; Crab-Cooking Olympics; Dog Olympics; Nude Olympics; Rat Olympics; WackyOlympics; Xerox Olympics; Alcoholic Olympics.
The Court thus rejected the Gay Olympics First Amendment argument, with Justices O'Connor dissenting in part, and Brennan and Marshall dissenting.
I discuss the case and the use of the term "Olympics" as well as other ancient Greek terms such as "democracy," in an article available on sssrn.
[image: Olympic Rings hanging from London Bridge, 2012, via]
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Yet another opinion has held section 3 of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, unconstitutional.
Coming on the heels of the First Circuit's opinion issued last week, today's opinion by federal district judge for the Southern District of New York, Barbara Jones, in Windsor v. US reached the same conclusion that section 3 of DOMA does not pass rational basis. In November 2010, Edith Windsor filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York as the survivor of a same-sex couple married in Canada. Windsor sought a refund of estate taxes paid because the marriage was not recognized by the federal government and argued that the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, section 3 is an unconstitutional denial of equal protection. The New York Attorney General filed an amicus brief in support of Windsor.
Judge Jones' opinion rehearses grounds that are becoming quite familiar, and while she cites and quotes the First Circuit's opinion in Massachusetts v. HHS, she does not substantially rely upon it.
Instead, Judge Jones does not stress the heightened rational basis standard for legislation based on animus, but concluded that the Congressional interests support DOMA did not pass the threshold of being "legitimate." Judge Jones specifically considered the additional interest advanced by BLAG (supporting DOMA) that Congress intended to approach "same-sex marriage with caution." Judge Jones did not quite say that this was not a legitimate interest, but did conclude that "whatever the social consequences of this legal development" that is same-sex marriage "ultmately may be, DOMA has not, and cannot, forestall them."
Of particular interest to New York constitutional scholars, Judge Jones confronts Hernandez v. Robles, the 2006 decision by New York's highest court that rejected a constitutional claim against barring same-sex marriage. Yet this is in the context of Windsor's standing to raise the claim as to the 2009 tax year. As Jones notes, subsequent executive and legislative action in New York has disavowed that stance in 2009, rendering BLAG's reliance on the case to show a lack of injury "unpersuasive."
DOMA, it can certainly be said, has had its constitutionality seriously cast into doubt, yet again.