June 7, 2007
Plessy v. Ferguson and Same Sex Marriage
"A potentially groundbreaking legal battle over Connecticut’s exclusion of gay people from the state’s marriage law has catapulted the debate over same-sex marriage to a new level.
Appearing last month before the state’s highest court, a lawyer representing eight same-sex couples led a spirited attack on Connecticut’s refusal to grant gay couples the freedom to marry. He also challenged the notion that civil union laws — like those enacted in Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, and most recently New Hampshire — are a constitutionally adequate alternative.
The plaintiffs’ argument was laced with references to Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court’s notorious 1896 decision which justified racial segregation under a deplorable standard of “separate but equal.” Although startling, the analogy is apt. In establishing civil unions two years ago, Connecticut lawmakers created a separate and inherently inferior institution that continues to deny gay couples the equality they seek and deserve."
N.Y. Times Editorial Link to Article (last visited 6-7-07 NVS)
June 5, 2007
Largest Divorce Award in History?
"An energy magnate's estranged wife was awarded $184 million Monday in what appears to be one of the biggest divorce verdicts in U.S. history.
Citing irreconcilable differences, Maya Polsky, a 55-year-old art gallery owner, filed for divorce from her husband, Michael Polsky, in 2003.
Judge William Boyd ruled in October that Maya Polsky was entitled to half of the Chicago couple's cash and assets, with her share valued at $176 million. On Monday, the judge amended his decision to include previously omitted assets that increased the value of her award to $184 million.
Maya Polsky's attorney, Howard Rosenfeld, said more than $170 million of the award is nontaxable cash. He said that in researching the case he could find nothing in which a homemaker wife received such a significant award.
"She's very much satisfied with the court's decision. She thinks she was fairly treated by the court," Rosenfeld said." AP, CNN.com Link to Article (last visited 6-5-07 NVS)
Safe Harbor Act
"The New York State Legislature is rightly pleased with itself for passing a new law that offers tougher penalties for sex traffickers, as well as help for their victims who are often smuggled in from abroad and forced to work as sex slaves. As important as it is, the trafficking law fails to deal with the serious and growing problem of American children, some as young as 13 years old, who are dragooned into prostitution by brutal pimps.
The best way to care for these children would be for the State Senate to pass the Safe Harbor Act, a groundbreaking law that was passed by the House.
By law, sexually exploited children are too young to even consent to sex. But instead of treating them as victims, prosecutors too often charge them with prostitution and send them off to the juvenile equivalent of jail. Under the Safe Harbor law, sexually exploited children would no longer be charged with prostitution. They would be placed under state supervision and lodged in safe houses where they would get the counseling and medical care they need and are unlikely to receive in detention."
By N.Y. Times Editorial Link to Article (last visited 6-5-07 NVS)
June 3, 2007
Ohio Supreme Court Allows Parents to Sue School Without Lawyer
"Sandee Winkelman calls her experience with her Ohio school district "horrific" and accuses officials of "bullying" her over who should pay for the special education their autistic son receives.
But Winkelman and her husband, Jeff, won a round Monday when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in their favor regarding a legal sticking point in their lawsuit against their local school board.
The justices concluded federal law includes an exception permitting the Winkelmans to represent themselves without a lawyer in their ongoing lawsuit. They had argued they could not afford a lawyer and better understand their child's special needs.
"The parents enjoy enforceable rights at the administrative stage," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, "and it would be inconsistent with the statutory scheme to bar them from continuing to assert those rights in federal court." He added the parents can sue for their child's needs "on their own behalf.""
By Bill Mears, CNN Link to Article (last visited 6-3-07 NVS)
Child Fighter to be Arraigned at Guantanamo
"The facts of Omar Ahmed Khadr’s case are grim. The shrapnel from the grenade he is accused of throwing ripped through the skull of Sgt. First Class Christopher J. Speer, who was 28 when he died.
To American military prosecutors, Mr. Khadr is a committed Al Qaeda operative, spy and killer who must be held accountable for killing Sergeant Speer in 2002 and for other bloody acts he committed in Afghanistan.
But there is one fact that may not fit easily into the government’s portrait of Mr. Khadr: He was 15 at the time.
His age is at the center of a legal battle that is to begin tomorrow with an arraignment by a military judge at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, of Mr. Khadr, whom a range of legal experts describe as the first child fighter in decades to face war-crimes charges. It is a battle with implications as large as the growing ranks of child fighters around the world."
By William Glaberson, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 6-3-07 NVS)
Conjugal Visits for Gay and Lesbian Prisoners
"Gay and lesbian prisoners in California will be allowed overnight visits with their partners under a new prison policy, believed to be the first time a state has allowed same-sex conjugal stays.
The policy comes more than two years after a 2003 California law provided equal rights for registered domestic partners in California, including those of the same sex and non-married heterosexuals. Gay and civil rights groups had threatened to sue to permit the conjugal visits in prisons, which they say have been slow to enact changes promised by the law."
By Jesse McKinley, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 6-3-07 NVS)