Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Same-Sex Marriage in NY & the Religious Exemption: Town Clerk News

As we've previously discussed, the religious exemption in the NY same-sex marriage statute does not apply to public employees, including town clerks who issue marriage licenses.  One town clerk at first said she would not issue licenses. Town clerk

Today's news has a different town clerk resigning: "I have been in contact with Jason McGuire from New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, our Town Attorney, Richard Lewis, and a Constitutional Lawyer regarding the Marriage Equality Act that was passed June 24, 2011. There was no protection provided in the legislation for Town Clerks who are unable to sign these marriage licenses due to personal religious convictions, even though our US Constitution supports freedom of religion."  The letter therafter includes Bible passages.

RR

 

July 12, 2011 in Current Affairs, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ninth Circuit to Federal Government: State Your Intentions Regarding Defending the Constitutionality of DADT

[update here]

In a brief order today from the Clerk of the Court of the Ninth Circuit in Log Cabin Republicans v.  United States, the Ninth Circuit essentially asks the federal government to state its intentions.

Just last week the Ninth Circuit lifted the stay of the district judge's injunction against the enforcement of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy relating to sexual orientation.

Today's order provides that after "reviewing the briefs filed by the parties, it appears to the merits panel
that the United States is not prepared to defend the constitutionality" of the don't ask, don't tell statute, 10 U.S.C. § 654. The order continues:

The Government, of course, may refrain from defending the constitutionality of “any provision of any Federal statute.” 28 U.S.C § 530D(a)(1)(B)(ii) (providing that the Attorney General shall submit a report to Congress outlining his decision to refrain from defending a Federal statute); see e.g., Letter from Attorney General to Speaker of House of Representatives (Feb. 23, 2011), filed as Attachment A to the Motion of Appellee / Cross-Appellant Log Cabin Republicans to Vacate Stay of Injunction, Dkt. No. 107, (May 10, 2011). If the Government chooses not to defend the constitutionality of § 654, however, the court may allow amicus curiae to participate in oral argument in support of constitutionality pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 29(g).

Repeal of DADT

The parties have ten days to respond by letter (not more than 10 pages or 2800 words!) as follows:

(1) the Government is hereby ordered to advise the court whether it intends to submit a report to Congress under § 530D(a)(1)(B)(ii) outlining its decision to refrain from defending § 654;
(2) the Government is further ordered, if such report is to be submitted, to advise whether it will do so within such time as to enable Congress to take action to intervene in timely fashion in this proceeding, as provided in § 530D(b)(2);
(3) the parties are ordered to show cause why this case should not be dismissed as moot, either immediately or upon such time as the President certifies that all conditions for the repeal of § 654 set forth in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act have been satisfied.

RR
[image via]

July 11, 2011 in Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Sexual Orientation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Government will not appeal bankruptcy judges' decision that DOMA Unconstitutional

Last month 20 bankruptcy judges in California signed an opinion that concluded that section 3 of DOMA - - - the Defense of Marriage Act - - -was unconstitutional.  Thus, a same-sex married couple (under state law) could proceed with their bankruptcy action as a married couple (under federal law).

While the bankruptcy trustee initially appealed the order, today the trustee moved to withdraw the appeal.

DOMA UNCONSTITUTIONAL

In a pleading filed today, the trustee represented that not only will the Department of Justice not defend the constitutionality of DOMA, but that

The Department of Justice has advised the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (the "BLAG") of the pendency of this appeal, and the BLAG has responded that it does not intend to appear to present arguments in support of Section 3 of DOMA.  The BLAG is actively participating in litigation in several other courts . . .

Thus, the trustee "has determined that it is not a necessary or appropriate expenditure" of resources to continue to litigate the appeal.

The bankruptcy judges' opinion, unappealed, is yet another rupture in the constitutional status of DOMA.

RR

July 8, 2011 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Family, Gender, News, Sexual Orientation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

DADT Enjoined by Ninth Circuit: Military Cannot Enforce Don't Ask, Don't Tell

In a brief order today, the Ninth Circuit lifted its previous stay of District Judge Virginia Phillips injunction against the enforcement of the military's don't ask, don't tell policy with regard to sexual orientation.   Recall that the policy codified at 10 U.S.C. § 654 requires that a member of the Armed Forces "shall be separated" from military service under one or more of the following circumstances.  

  • First, a servicemember shall be discharged if he or she "has engaged in, attempted to engage in, or solicited another to engage in a homosexual act or acts." 
  • Second, a servicemember shall be discharged if he or she "has stated that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual, or words to that effect . . . .
  • Finally, a servicemember shall be discharged if he or she has married or attempted to marry a person "known to be of the same biological sex."

In Log Cabin Republicans v. United States, Judge Phillips found not only that the government's articulated interest in military readiness and unit cohesion was not served by the policy, but that the policy actually undermined the government interests.  Thereafter, the Ninth Circuit granted the DOJ Motion and stayed the district court's injunction (and refusal to stay the injunction) of the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy which the judge had declared unconstitutional.

Repeal DADT Training

Today, the three judge panel (Kozinski, Wardlaw, and Paez) of the Ninth Circuit lifted its stay because the "balance of hardships have changed," interestingly citing DOMA developments:

In their briefs, appellants/cross-appellees do not contend that 10 U.S.C. § 654 is constitutional. In addition, in the context of the Defense of Marriage Act, 1 U.S.C. § 7, the United States has recently taken the position that classifications based on sexual orientation should be subjected to heightened scrutiny. See Golinski v. U.S. Office of Pers. Mgmt., No. C 3:10-00257-JSW (N.D. Cal.) (Doc. 145, July 1, 2011) (“gay and lesbian individuals have suffered a long and significant history of purposeful discrimination”); Letter from Attorney General to Speaker of House of Representatives (Feb. 23, 2011) (“there is, regrettably, a significant history of purposeful discrimination against gay and lesbian people, by governmental as well as private entities”). Appellants/cross-appellees state that the process of repealing Section 654 is well underway, and the preponderance of the armed forces are expected to have been trained by mid-summer. The circumstances and balance of hardships have changed, and appellants/cross-appellees can no longer satisfy the demanding standard for issuance of a stay.

Thus, the don't ask, don't tell policy of the military is enjoined as unconstitutional.

Oral argument is set for the week of August 29, 2011.

RR
(thanks Jen Hogg)
[image:  May 2011, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) Repeal training for enlisted, officer and civilian staff via]

 

July 6, 2011 in Cases and Case Materials, Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Fundamental Rights, News, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rhode Island Civil Union - Religious Exemptions Include Civil Union Status

The nation's smallest state, Rhode Island, is poised to adopt civil unions for same-sex couples.  The legislature has passed the statute and Governor Chafee is expected to sign it.  However, unlike the New York statute passed last week, the status is not marriage and the religious exemptions are exceedingly broad.  In New York, the religious exemptions are limited to solemnization or celebration.

Rhode island

The Rhode Island bill, H6103, amended as H6103aaa, includes this exemption:

Conscience and religious organizations protected.

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no religious or denominational organization, no organization operated for charitable or educational purpose which is supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, and no individual employed by any of the foregoing organizations, while acting in the scope of that employment, shall be required:
    (1) To provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, certification, or celebration of any civil union; or
    (2) To solemnize or certify any civil union; or
    (3) To treat as valid any civil union;
if such providing, solemnizing, certifying, or treating as valid would cause such organizations or individuals to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.

(b) No organization or individual as described in subsection (a) above who fails or refuses to provide, solemnize, certify, or treat as valid, as described in subdivision (a)(1), (a)(2) or (a)(3) above, persons in a civil union, shall be subject to a fine, penalty, or other cause of action for such failure or refusal.

(emphasis added).  Thus, under this broad exemption, it seems that religious organizations  - - - including "faith-based" organizations that contract with the government to provide services - - - could refuse to recognize a civil union.

RR

June 30, 2011 in Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Family, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Same Sex Marriage in New York: Religious Exemptions Do Not Extend to Public Employees

Despite some possible ambiguities in the religious exemptions to the New York same-sex marriage law, which will be effective July 24, 2011, the clear language does not extend an exemption to public employees in the town clerks offices issuing marriage licenses.  Town clerk sign

The town clerk or public employee is an individual and obviously not:

A religious entity as defined under the education law or  section two of the religious corporations law, or a corporation incorporated under the benevolent orders law or  described  in  the  benevolent  orders  law  but  formed  under  any  other  law  of  this  state,  or a  not-for-profit corporation operated,  supervised,  or  controlled  by  a  religious corporation, or any employee thereof, being managed, directed,  or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious corporation, benevolent  order, or a not-for-profit corporation as described in this subdivision, shall not  be  required  to  provide  services,  accommodations,  advantages,  facilities,  goods,  or privileges for the solemnization or  celebration of a marriage.

Moreover, the town clerk is not a "clergyman or minister as defined in section two of the religious corporations law."

Additionally, in New York, solemnization is distinct from licensing as a legal act; presumably the ministerial duties that accompany the licensing process are also not within the defenition of "celebration."

Thus, the town clerk who has stated her intent to refuse to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple is certainly not within the statutory requirements.  Some great reporting from "Left of the Hudson" discussing clerks seeking their own exemptions in New York and elsewhere.

As for a First Amendment right?  Not likely.

[Update here]

RR

June 29, 2011 in Current Affairs, Family, First Amendment, Gender, News, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Same-Sex Marriage States

Screen shot 2011-06-27 at 12.51.35 PM Gse_multipart39203

 

 

 

A guest-post over at IntLawGrrls reviews last Friday's passage of a same-sex marriage law in New York in context of other states: geographic, legal, and political.

RR

 

June 27, 2011 in Gender, International, News, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, State Constitutional Law, Theory, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 24, 2011

New York Legislature: Senate Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

In a highly anticipated event, this evening the New York State Senate debated and passed "The Marriage Equality Act," 33-29, with religious exemption provisions.

420px-New_York_State_Senate_journal,_1832 The Act provides in part:

Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as  the  "Marriage Equality Act".

S 2. Legislative intent. Marriage is a fundamental human right.  Same

couples  should  have the same access as others to the protections ;responsibilities, rights, obligations, and benefits of civil  marriage. Stable  family  relationships  help  build  a  stronger society. For the welfare of the community and in fairness to all New  Yorkers,  this  act formally  recognizes otherwise-valid marriages without regard to whether the parties are of the same or different sex. It is the intent of the legislature that the marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples be treated equally in all respects under the  law. The  omission  from this act of changes to other provisions of law shall not  be  construed  as  a  legislative  intent  to  preserve  any  legal distinction  between  same-sex  couples  and  different-sex couples with respect to marriage. The legislature intends that all provisions of  law which  utilize  gender-specific  terms  in reference to the parties to a marriage, or which in any other way may be inconsistent with  this  act be  construed  in  a  gender-neutral  manner  or in any way necessary to effectuate the intent of this act.

S  3. The domestic relations law is amended by adding two new sections 10-a and 10-b:

    S 10-a.  Parties to a marriage. 

1. A marriage that is otherwise valid shall be valid regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are  of the same or different sex.

 2.  No  government  treatment or legal status, effect, right, benefit, privilege, protection or responsibility relating  to  marriage,  whether deriving  from  statute,  administrative  or  court rule, public policy common law or any other source of law, shall differ based on the parties the marriage being or having been of  the  same  sex  rather  than  a different  sex.  When necessary to implement the rights and responsibilities of spouses under the law, all gender-specific  language  or  terms shall  be  construed  in  a gender-neutral manner in all such sources of law.

    S10-b is the religious exemptions and nonseverability amendments here.  In an interesting move, the Senate voted on the amendments before voting on the bill.  A few Senators mentioned the importance of the religious exemptions in determining their affirmative votes.

The bill passed by a narrow margin in the Republican-controlled Senate.  Senator Steven Saland was one of the deciding votes and his statement is here. Governor Cuomo, who actively supported the bill, is expected to sign it. [update: Cuomo signed bill].  New York will then become the sixth state in the United States that currently recognizes same-sex marriage as a legal relationship.  New York would join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Iowa, as well as the District of Columbia.  California and Maine had legal same-sex marriage for a limited time; California's Proposition 8 limiting marriage to opposite sex couples was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge, but that ruling was stayed and the case is presently on appeal. 

 

RR
[image via]

June 24, 2011 in Current Affairs, Family, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

New York Assembly Approves Religious Exemption to NY Same-Sex Marriage Law

NY Assembly approved an amendment sent by the Senate regarding religious exemptions for the same-sex marriage bill that the New York Senate is expected to vote on this evening. UPDATE:Senate passed bill.

The proposed amendment provides:

 

2011-2012 Regular Sessions I N ASSEMBLY June 24, 2011

 Introduced by M. of A. O'DONNELL -- (at request of the Governor) -- read
 once and referred to the Committee on Judiciary
 AN  ACT  to amend the domestic relations law, in relation to the ability
 to marry; and to amend a chapter of the laws  of  2011,  amending  the
 domestic  relations  law relating to the ability to marry, as proposed
 in legislative bill number A.  8354,  in  relation  to  the  statutory
 construction  of such chapter; and repealing certain provisions of the
 domestic relations law relating to parties to a marriage
 THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND  ASSEM
 BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
Section 1.
Section 10-b of the domestic relations law, as added by a chapter of the laws of 2011, amending the domestic relations law relat ing to the ability to marry, as proposed in legislative bill number A. 8354, is REPEALED and a new section 10-b is added to read as follows:
S 10-B. RELIGIOUS EXCEPTION. 1. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY STATE, LOCAL OR MUNICIPAL LAW, RULE, REGULATION, ORDINANCE, OR OTHER PROVISION OF LAW TO THE CONTRARY, A RELIGIOUS ENTITY AS DEFINED UNDER THE EDUCATION LAW OR SECTION TWO OF THE RELIGIOUS CORPORATIONS LAW, OR A CORPORATION INCORPO RATED UNDER THE BENEVOLENT ORDERS LAW OR DESCRIBED IN THE BENEVOLENT ORDERS LAW BUT FORMED UNDER ANY OTHER LAW OF THIS STATE, OR A NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION OPERATED, SUPERVISED, OR CONTROLLED BY A RELIGIOUS CORPORATION, OR ANY EMPLOYEE THEREOF, BEING MANAGED, DIRECTED, OR SUPERVISED BY OR IN CONJUNCTION WITH A RELIGIOUS CORPORATION, BENEVO LENT ORDER, OR A NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION AS DESCRIBED IN THIS SUBDI VISION, SHALL NOT BE REQUIRED TO PROVIDE SERVICES, ACCOMMODATIONS, ADVANTAGES, FACILITIES, GOODS, OR PRIVILEGES FOR THE SOLEMNIZATION OR CELEBRATION OF A MARRIAGE. ANY SUCH REFUSAL TO PROVIDE SERVICES, ACCOM MODATIONS, ADVANTAGES, FACILITIES, GOODS, OR PRIVILEGES SHALL NOT CREATE ANY CIVIL CLAIM OR CAUSE OF ACTION OR RESULT IN ANY STATE OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACTION TO PENALIZE, WITHHOLD BENEFITS, OR DISCRIMINATE AGAINST SUCH RELIGIOUS CORPORATION, BENEVOLENT ORDER, A NOT-FOR-PROFIT EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD12066-08-1
A. 8520 2 CORPORATION OPERATED, SUPERVISED, OR CONTROLLED BY A RELIGIOUS CORPO RATION, OR ANY EMPLOYEE THEREOF BEING MANAGED, DIRECTED, OR SUPERVISED BY OR IN CONJUNCTION WITH A RELIGIOUS CORPORATION, BENEVOLENT ORDER, OR A NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION. 2. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY STATE, LOCAL OR MUNICIPAL LAW OR RULE, REGU LATION, ORDINANCE, OR OTHER PROVISION OF LAW TO THE CONTRARY, NOTHING IN THIS ARTICLE SHALL LIMIT OR DIMINISH THE RIGHT, PURSUANT TO SUBDIVISION ELEVEN OF SECTION TWO HUNDRED NINETY-SIX OF THE EXECUTIVE LAW, OF ANY RELIGIOUS OR DENOMINATIONAL INSTITUTION OR ORGANIZATION, OR ANY ORGAN IZATION OPERATED FOR CHARITABLE OR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES, WHICH IS OPER ATED, SUPERVISED OR CONTROLLED BY OR IN CONNECTION WITH A RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION, TO LIMIT EMPLOYMENT OR SALES OR RENTAL OF HOUSING ACCOMMO DATIONS OR ADMISSION TO OR GIVE PREFERENCE TO PERSONS OF THE SAME RELI GION OR DENOMINATION OR FROM TAKING SUCH ACTION AS IS CALCULATED BY SUCH ORGANIZATION TO PROMOTE THE RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES FOR WHICH IT IS ESTAB LISHED OR MAINTAINED. 3. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL BE DEEMED OR CONSTRUED TO LIMIT THE PROTECTIONS AND EXEMPTIONS OTHERWISE PROVIDED TO RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS UNDER SECTION THREE OF ARTICLE ONE OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK. S 2. Subdivision 1-a of section 11 of the domestic relations law, as added by a chapter of the laws of 2011, amending the domestic relations law relating to the ability to marry, as proposed in legislative bill number A.8354, is amended to read as follows:
    1-a. A refusal by a clergyman or minister as defined in section two of the religious corporations law, or Society for Ethical Culture leader to solemnize any marriage under this subdivision shall not create a civil claim or cause of action OR RESULT IN ANY STATE OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACTION TO PENALIZE, WITHHOLD BENEFITS OR DISCRIMINATE AGAINST SUCH CLER GYMAN OR MINISTER. S 3. A chapter of the laws of 2011, amending the domestic relations law relating to the ability to marry, as proposed in legislative bill number A. 8354, is amended by adding a new section 5-a to read as follows:
S 5-A. THIS ACT IS TO BE CONSTRUED AS A WHOLE, AND ALL PARTS OF IT ARE TO BE READ AND CONSTRUED TOGETHER. IF ANY PART OF THIS ACT SHALL BE ADJUDGED BY ANY COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION TO BE INVALID, THE REMAINDER OF THIS ACT SHALL BE INVALIDATED. NOTHING HEREIN SHALL BE CONSTRUED TO AFFECT THE PARTIES' RIGHT TO APPEAL THE MATTER. S 4. This act shall take effect on the same date as such chapter of the laws of 2011, takes effect.

June 24, 2011 in Family, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 17, 2011

A More Constitutional Military

Books ConLawProf Diane Mazur's recent book published by Oxford University Press, A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger argues that the military has become unmoored from constitutional constraints.   The Court, she argues, has not only engaged in military deference, but in military exceptionalism.

In an interview about the book, Mazur states "the military is most healthy when it respects constitutional values.  Unfortunately, since the end of the Vietnam draft, our civilian branches of government–the President, Congress, and the courts–have been trying to distance the military from the Constitution.  They assume that constitutional values get in the way of military effectiveness, but that’s not true."

Much of her book concerns the constitutional concerns of equality: how should the military deal with sexual minorities and with women within its ranks?   She provides concrete examples, but argues that the Court - - - in cases such as the unanimous opinion in  Rumsfeld v. FAIR (the Solomon Amendment case) - - - has impeded the military from diversifying.

RR

June 17, 2011 in Books, Fifth Amendment, Foreign Affairs, Gender, Profiles in Con Law Teaching, Sexual Orientation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Motion to Vacate Judgment based on Disqualification of Proposition 8 Judge, Vaughn Walker, Denied

United States District Judge James Ware, who assumed the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now Perry v. Brown) after the retirement of Judge Vaughn Walker, has issued his opinion on the motion to vacate Walker's judgment that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.  Walker issued his opinion after an extensive trial in January 2010.

JUDGE As expected given the clear state of the law, Judge Ware denied the motion.  As Judge Ware's opinion stated,  "The fact that a federal judge shares a fundamental characteristic with a litigant, or shares membership in a large association such as a religion, has been categorically rejected by federal courts as a sole basis for requiring a judge to recuse her or himself,"  citing, Bryce v. Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Colorado, 289 F.3d 648, 660 (10th Cir. 2002); MacDraw, Inc. v. CIT Group Equip. Financing, Inc., 138 F.3d 33, 37 (2d Cir. 1998); Blank v. Sullivan & Cromwell, 418 F. Supp. 1, 4 (S.D.N.Y. 1975); Feminist Women’s Health Center v. Codispoti, 69 F.3d 399, 400 (9th Cir. 1995); United States v. Alabama, 828 F.2d 1532,1541-42 (11th Cir. 1987); In re City of Houston, 745 F.2d 925, 931 (5th Cir. 1984).

The question of personal bias based on identity rising to the level mandating recusal is a fraught one.  Indeed, it is usually persons who have not traditionally been members of the judiciary who are most likely to be perceived as biased.  Professor Reg Graycar's work, which we discussed here, provides extensive examples.  Judge Ware expressly acknowledges this situation: "it would not be reasonable to regard a fact as bringing a judge’s impartiality into question if doing so would institute a “double standard for minority judges” whereby the fact that a judge is gay, or black, or female would “raise doubts about [that judge’s] impartiality.”  (quoting United States v. Alabama, 828 F.2d at 1542).

Judge Ware ultimately concludes:

the presumption that “all people in same-sex relationships think alike” is an
unreasonable presumption, and one which has no place in legal reasoning. The presumption that
Judge Walker, by virtue of being in a same-sex relationship, had a desire to be married that rendered him incapable of making an impartial decision, is as warrantless as the presumption that a female judge is incapable of being impartial in a case in which women seek legal relief. On the contrary: it is reasonable to presume that a female judge or a judge in a same-sex relationship is capable of rising above any personal predisposition and deciding such a case on the merits. The Motion fails to cite any evidence that Judge Walker would be incapable of being impartial, but to presume that Judge Walker was incapable of being impartial, without concrete evidence to support that presumption, is inconsistent with what is required under a reasonableness standard.

Judge Ware does not broach the subject of whether any judge would be impartial in the Proposition 8 case, given the arguments that the Defendant-Intervernors have advanced.  Specifically, in light of the Defendant-Intervernors' arguments that same-sex marriage is injurious to opposite-sex marriage, presumably anyone who had entered into an opposite-sex marriage - - - or who might be eligible to enter into an opposite-sex marriage - - - would be biased.

RR
[image: A Judge, Wenzel Hollar, circa 1650)

 

June 14, 2011 in Courts and Judging, Family, Gender, News, Opinion Analysis, Sexual Orientation | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Bankruptcy Judges in California Declare DOMA Unconstitutional

The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California has allowed a same-sex married couple to proceed with their federal bankruptcy action as a married couple, despite the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). 

Bankruptcy code

 

In an opinion signed by 20 bankruptcy judges (a vast majority of the bankruptcy judges in the district), the judges concluded:

The Debtors have demonstrated that DOMA violates their equal protection rights
afforded under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, either under
heightened scrutiny or under rational basis review. Debtors also have demonstrated
that there is no valid governmental basis for DOMA. In the end, the court finds that
DOMA violates the equal protection rights of the Debtors as recognized under the due
process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

The judges discuss Attorney General Holder's letter regarding the unconstitutionality of DOMA, but the opinion has its own equal protection analysis, discussing both heightened scrutiny and rational basis.

RR
(h/t Sara Pearl Bird)
[image of bankruptcy code in USCA via]

 

June 14, 2011 in Cases and Case Materials, Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Family, Fifth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

June is LGBT Pride Month: The White House Perspective

President Obama has issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring "June 2011 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month" and calling "upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people."  Here's the opening:

The story of America's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is the story of our fathers and sons, our mothers and daughters, and our friends and neighbors who continue the task of making our country a more perfect Union. It is a story about the struggle to realize the great American promise that all people can live with dignity and fairness under the law. Each June, we commemorate the courageous individuals who have fought to achieve this promise for LGBT Americans, and we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The White House has also launched a webpage, "Winning the Future" which has updates and a "factsheet" touting accomplishments in the several areas. 
White house


In the area of LGBT families, DOMA is noticeably absent, but it appears under the last section, "Supporting LGBT Progress":

  • President Obama has called for the Congressional repeal of the discriminatory “Defense of Marriage Act” and has announced that in his view, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional
  • President Obama also continues to support legislation that would directly impact the LGBT community, including an inclusive ENDA and the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act
  • President Obama believes that all students should be safe and healthy and learn in environments free from discrimination, bullying and harassment; that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation; and that Americans with partners from other countries should not be faced with a painful choice between staying with their partner or staying in their country

RR

June 2, 2011 in Executive Authority, Family, Gender, Sexual Orientation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Footnote of the Day: Colonial Criminal Sodomy Statutes

Footnote 5 provides:

Byron White

Criminal sodomy laws in effect in 1791:

Connecticut: 1 Public Statute Laws of the State of Connecticut, 1808, Title LXVI, ch. 1, § 2 (rev. 1672).
Delaware: 1 Laws of the State of Delaware, 1797, ch. 22, § 5 (passed 1719).
Georgia had no criminal sodomy statute until 1816, but sodomy was a crime at common law, and the General Assembly adopted the common law of England as the law of Georgia in 1784. The First Laws of the State of Georgia, pt. 1, p. 290 (1981).
  Maryland had no criminal sodomy statute in 1791. Maryland's Declaration of Rights, passed in 1776, however, stated that "the inhabitants of Maryland are entitled to the common law of England," and sodomy was a crime at common law. 4 W. Swindler, Sources and Documents of United States Constitutions 372 (1975).
Massachusetts: Acts and Laws passed by the General Court of Massachusetts, ch. 14, Act of Mar. 3, 1785.
New Hampshire passed its first sodomy statute in 1718. Acts and Laws of New Hampshire 1680-1726, p. 141 (1978).
Sodomy was a crime at common law in New Jersey at the time of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. The State enacted its first criminal sodomy law five years later. Acts of the Twentieth General Assembly, Mar. 18, 1796, ch. DC, § 7.
New York: Laws of New York, ch. 21 (passed 1787).
At the time of ratification of the Bill of Rights, North Carolina had adopted the English statute of Henry VIII outlawing sodomy. See Collection of the Statutes of the Parliament of England in Force in the State of North Carolina, ch. 17, p. 314 (Martin ed. 1792).
Pennsylvania: Laws of the Fourteenth General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, ch. CLIV, § 2 (passed 1790).
Rhode Island passed its first sodomy law in 1662. The Earliest Acts and Laws of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations 1647-1719, p. 142 (1977).
South Carolina: Public Laws of the State of South Carolina, p. 49 (1790).
At the time of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, Virginia had no specific statute outlawing sodomy, but had adopted the English common law. 9 Hening's Laws of Virginia, ch. 5, § 6, p. 127 (1821) (passed 1776).

Footnote 6 of the opinion then lists the "Criminal sodomy statutes in effect in 1868." 

These footnotes are from the opinion of Justice White (pictured above via) for the Court in Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), in which the Court reversed the Eleventh Circuit, and held Georgia's sodomy statute constitutional, based in large part on its reasoning that these criminal statutes formed a background against which a "claim that a right to engage in such conduct is "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition" or "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty" is, at best, facetious." 

Bowers v. Hardwick was reversed by Lawrence v. Texas,539 U.S. 558 (2003). 

RR

April 27, 2011 in Courts and Judging, Due Process (Substantive), Fundamental Rights, Games, History, Interpretation, Privacy, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Arkansas Supreme Court Holds Ban on Adoption by Unmarried Couples Unconstitutional

Affirming a state trial judge's conclusion rendered almost a year ago, the Arkansas Supreme Court today declared the Arkansas law banning adoption by unmarried couples unconstitutional under the state constitution in a 25 page opinion, Arkansas Department of Human Services v. Cole.

The law, Act One, was passed by the voters in November 2008 and prohibited cohabiting same-sex couples and (unmarried) heterosexual couples from becoming foster or adoptive parents. 

 

CHILDREN ART

The Arkansas Supreme Court held that there is a fundamental, if implicit, right of privacy in the state constitution: "under the Arkansas Constitution, sexual cohabitors have the right to engage in private, consensual, noncommercial intimacy in the privacy of their homes."  This right was infringed by Act One which "precludes all sexual cohabitors, without exception, from eligibility for parenthood, whether by means of adoption or foster care."   The court found it objectionable that under Act One state "agencies must 'police' couples seeking adoption or foster care to determine whether they are sexually involved in the event those couples represent that they are celibate."

Based on the existence of the fundamental right, the court applied a "heightened scrutiny" standard which it defined as requiring a compelling interest and least restrictive method to carry out that interest.

The court articulated the interests and concerns raised by the state and the intervenor, Family Council Action Committee, that has sponsored the ballot initiative. These concerns included arguments that unmarried cohabiting relationships are less stable, put children at higher risk for domestic violence and abuse, and have lower income rates, higher infidelty rates, and less "social support."  The court did not engage in any discussion about whether or not such propositions were true, but instead concluded that such concerns could be "addressed by the individualized screening process currently in place in foster and adoption cases."

Thus, the individualized assessments were the least restrictive means and the categorical ban failed to pass "constitutional muster." 

 RR

(H/T Tony Infanti, at Feminist Law Professors Blog)

 [image: by Moritz Pläschke, circa 1888) via]

April 7, 2011 in Cases and Case Materials, Family, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Privacy, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, State Constitutional Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

DOMA and Federalism Event at Indiana University School of Law

Mary Healey A "mini-symposium" on April 7, 2011, starting at 3pm, will feature a lecture on "One State's Challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act" by Maura Healey, Chief, Civil Rights Division, Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. 

Healy (pictured right) will be speaking about Massachusetts' successful constitutional challenge to section 3 of DOMA; Judge Tauro found that section 3 "offends" the Tenth Amendment reasoning that marriage is a quintessential matter of state, and not federal, power.

Healy's talk will be followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Steve Sanders, and including:

  • Thomas M. Fisher, Solicitor General, State of Indiana
  • Dawn Johnsen, Walter W. Foskett Professor, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Brian Powell, Rudy Professor of Sociology, Indiana University College of Arts & Sciences and co-author of Counted Out: Same-sex Relations and Americans' Definitions of the Family
  • Deborah Widiss, Associate Professor, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

More information about the event and its webcast available here.

RR

March 22, 2011 in Conferences, Family, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Spending Clause, Tenth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Is DOMA's Demise Imminent?

The judicial finding that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, preceded by DOJ's vigorous defense of DOMA in another case, some waffling, and then the announcement that the DOJ will not defend the constitutionality of DOMA, which some characterized as a constitutional crisis,  has seriously compromised the future of DOMA.  

Bill DOMA REPEAL Today, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the Respect for Marriage Act of 2011, which would repeal DOMA and change the federal law to provide:

§ 7. Marriage
(a) For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual's marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State.

Feinstein was joined by co-sponsors Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii), and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii).

 The precusor Respect for Marriage Act was previously introduced in 2009.

With considerably less fanfare, the State Department has amended its policy to include same-sex partners of foreign service employees. (H/T Professor Janet Calvo).  Here is an excerpt from the State Department's explanation of the process:

Scenario Three: American Foreign Service Employee Partners with Same-Sex American or non-American

Amending the Orders: To add your same-sex domestic partner to your orders, you will need to provide your HR Assignment Technician with an updated Foreign Service Residence and Dependency Report (OF-126), a completed affidavit Pursuant to Declaring Domestic Partner Relationship (DS-7669 ), and a medical clearance. The DS-7669 affidavit should be submitted to the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources, Office of the Executive Director, Assignment Support Unit (HR/EX/ASU). As soon as your HR Assignment Technician has all of these documents, he/she can process your orders. Guidance can be found at 3 FAM 1600. In addition, if your partner is not a U.S. citizen, please note procedures outlined in 12 FAM 275 – Reporting Cohabitation with and/or Intent to Marry a Foreign National (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/88344.pdf) or contact HR/CDA.

For non-US partners, this will include an alteration of the immigration policies, to include a same-sex partner that would not be included ordinarily:

Foreign-born partners holding non-U.S. passports: If your new partner is not an American citizen, he/she may be able to enter the U.S. on a J-1 visa. In February, 2011, the Department designated the Bureau of Human Resources as an Exchange Visitor Program (J-1 visa) sponsor for a government visitor program under which non-US-citizen same-sex domestic partners (SSDP) of members of the Foreign Service may be eligible to come to the United States during their partners' domestic assignments. . . . 

Strictly speaking, this process is not barred by DOMA, but it does cast even more doubt on the federal government's committment to enforcing DOMA.

Meanwhile, earlier this month Speaker of the House John Boehner issued a statement entitled House Will Ensure DOMA Constitutionality Is Determined By The Court:

“Today, after consultation with the Bipartisan Leadership Advisory Group, the House General Counsel has been directed to initiate a legal defense of this law.  This action by the House will ensure that this law’s constitutionality is decided by the courts, rather than by the President unilaterally.”

RR

March 16, 2011 in Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Executive Authority, Family, Federalism, Foreign Affairs, Fundamental Rights, Gender, News, Sexual Orientation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Libby Adler's Rights Critique, Law Reform, and Responses

Harvard Civil Rights - Civil Liberties Journal has held an online forum on Professor Libby Adler’s piece (available on the forum) entitled “Gay Rights and Lefts: Rights Critique and Distributive Analysis for Real Law Reform." 

  Harvard Civil Liberties-Civil Rights
Adler, author of The Gay Agenda, here argues for a "critical approach to law reform agenda setting," with a methodology that

 

rests on a distinction between reconstruction and decisionism. Decisionism, according to my usage, consists of making difficult choices about which law reform initiatives to undertake based on broadly informed distributional hypotheses and cost-benefit calculations and then acting on the best information one can get with the best judgment one can muster, always prepared to bear the costs of one’s choices. Each law reform achievement, should it materialize, rather than being a step along a path in the direction of a lodestar such as formal equality, will—one hopes—effectuate a positive distributive impact for marginalized persons while imposing bearable costs. As a theoretic matter, the achievement is likely to be generalizable only to a limited extent, if at all. In other words, it will not necessarily further any overarching theoretic objective

Twelve invited commentators respond to Libby Adler's advocation of  “decisionism" including Angela Harris, Art Leonard, Aziza Ahmad, Francisco Valdes, Katherine Franke, Nancy Polikoff, Darren Rosenblum, Sarah Valentine, and Anthony Varona. 

Adler's piece and the comments demonstrate that the problem of "rights" in constitutional law remain a persistent issue, as well as the problems of "equality" and "identity."  

This forum could be an excellent basis for discussion in a constitutional law seminar or a jurisprudence class.

A "live" Colloquium will be held on March 9, 2011 at 5-7p.m. at Harvard Law School in Austin North.

RR

March 3, 2011 in Conferences, Current Affairs, Gender, Profiles in Con Law Teaching, Race, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, Teaching Tips, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Does the Obama DOJ's Position on DOMA Create a Constitutional Crisis? Redux

The DOJ's decision not to defend the constitutionality of DOMA, but to continue to enforce DOMA, is being illustrated in a few examples, such as that of Karen Golinski, the lawyer who works for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as the ABA Journal noted.  An excellent overview by Aziz Huq over at Slate compares Golinski's situation to that of a few others who the DOJ decision might assist.

DOJ DOMA
As for the unprecendented "constitutional crisis" character of the DOJ's decision not to defend the law, Nina Totenberg at NPR offers some historical perspective:

While the administration's DOMA shift is unusual, it is not rare. It has happened more than a dozen times since 2004 and many more in the past 60 years, including in some very important cases.

  • During the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Truman administrations, the presidents, in one form or another, refused to defend separate-but-equal facilities in schools and hospitals.
  • The Ford Justice Department refused to defend the post-Watergate campaign finance law, much of which was subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • The Reagan administration refused to defend the independent counsel law, a law subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court by a 7-to-1 vote.
  • It also refused to defend the one-house legislative veto of many executive actions; in that case, the administration was more successful, winning 7-2 in the Supreme Court.
  • The Clinton administration refused to defend a federal law mandating the dismissal of military personnel who were HIV-positive.
  • The George W. Bush administration refused to defend a federal law that denied mass-transit funds to any transportation system that displayed ads advocating the legalization of marijuana.
  • And in the George H.W. Bush administration, the Justice Department refused to defend a federal law providing affirmative action in the awarding of broadcasting licenses — a law subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court by a narrow 5-4 vote. Solicitor General Kenneth Starr was recused in the case, so the lead counsel for the government in the case was Starr's deputy, a fellow by the name of John Roberts, now the chief justice of the United States.

 

Listen to broadcast here: 20110301_me_17

 

RR

March 1, 2011 in Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Family, History, News, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Obama DOJ's Position on DOMA: Constitutional Crisis or Constitutional Opportunity?

The Obama DOJ's announcement that it will no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act has provoked a range of reactions.

New Gingrinch, in the video below (via) states that the president "is not a one-person Supreme Court" and that

the House Republicans next week should pass a resolution instructing the president to enforce the law and to obey his own constitutional oath, and they should say if he fails to do so that they will zero out [defund] the office of attorney general and take other steps as necessary until the president agrees to do his job."

Gingrich continues:
“I don’t think these guys set out to create a constitutional crisis. I think they set out to pay off their allies in the gay community and to do something that they thought was clever. I think they didn’t understand the implication that having a president personally suspend a law is clearly unconstitutional.”

 

 

Attorney General Holder anticipates such arguments in his original letter to Congress:

the Department has a longstanding practice of defending the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense, a practice that accords the respect appropriately due to a coequal branch of government.   However, the Department in the past has declined to defend statutes despite the availability of professionally responsible arguments, in part because the Department does not consider every plausible argument to be a “reasonable” one.   “[D]ifferent cases can raise very different issues with respect to statutes of doubtful constitutional validity,” and thus there are “a variety of factors that bear on whether the Department will defend the constitutionality of a statute.”   Letter to Hon. Orrin G. Hatch from Assistant Attorney General Andrew Fois at 7 (Mar. 22, 1996).   This is the rare case where the proper course is to forgo the defense of this statute.   Moreover, the Department has declined to defend a statute “in cases in which it is manifest that the President has concluded that the statute is unconstitutional,” as is the case here.   Seth P. Waxman, Defending Congress, 79 N.C. L.Rev. 1073, 1083 (2001).

Steve Sanders on the U Chicago Law School Faculty Blog supports the DOJ analysis; Tony Infanti discusses the tax consequences and Sheila Velez Martinez discusses the immigration aspects over at Feminist Law Professors. 

RR

February 25, 2011 in Congressional Authority, Current Affairs, Executive Authority, Family, Full Faith and Credit Clause, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)