April 11, 2009
In addition to marriage equality, Iowa also presents the country with another surprise: Democratic backbone
Iowa's Democratic governor said he is "reluctant to support amending the Iowa Constitution," reports the New York Times, and Democrats in the legislature blocked Republican efforts to bring up an amendment to overturn the state supreme court's unanimous decision in Varnum v. Brien.
Bryan English, a spokesman for the Iowa Family Policy Center, said of the decision, “Everyday folks who get up and go to work were shocked at what happened here, and it’s really gotten people activated." Apparently the spokesmen for equality were still in bed.
April 9, 2009
Those who want to discriminate against gays increasingly find themselves on the defensive
"Faith organizations and individuals who view homosexuality as sinful and refuse to provide services to gay people are losing a growing number of legal battles that they say are costing them their religious freedom," reports the Washington Post. "We are not required to pay the price for other people's religious views about us," said Jennifer Pizer, director of the Marriage Project for Lambda Legal.
April 8, 2009
Williams Institute releases studies on economic impact of marriage equality in Vermont and D.C.
Extending marriage to same-sex couples would boost the District of Columbia’s economy by over $52.2 million over three years, which would generate increases in local government tax and fee revenues by $5.4 million and create approximately 700 new jobs, according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School.
Another study finds that newly legal same-sex marriage in Vermont will generate $31 million in new spending over the next three years. This new spending will generate 700 new jobs and an additional $3.3 million in state tax revenues.
D.C. council votes to recognize other states' same-sex marriages, setting up possible showdown with Congress
The Washington, D.C., city council voted unanimously to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, apparently a step toward eventually allowing such marriages to be celebrated in the District. According to the Washington Post,
April 7, 2009
VT legislators override veto, making state the 4th to grant marriage equality
The votes this morning also made Vermont the first state to enact marriage equality by legislative action rather than court mandate.
Michigan university sued over discipline against grad student for views on homosexuality
When Julea Ward, a graduate student in the educational counseling program at Eastern Michigan University, was asked to counsel a client wishing to discuss a homosexual relationship, she objected and referred the client to another counselor. The EMU program adheres to the standards of the American Counseling Association, which require counselors to not engage in discrimination based on, among other things, sexual orientation. EMU disciplined Ward. Now the religious-activist group Alliance Defense Fund has now filed suit on her behalf against the university, claiming religious discrimination. A story from the Ann Arbor News is here. The full text of the federal court complaint is here.
"Judicial activism" in Iowa: the attacks begin
On the National Review blog, Ed Whalen dismisses the readable, citation-heavy 69-page opinion as "lawless," "blather," and "gobbledygook" by "judicial knaves." Meanwhile The GOP chairman calls it "sadly another example of judicial activism currently threatening family values in America." And a blogger at the natural law-oriented Public Discourse calls it "an injustice to religion, to the possibility of lawful public morality, and—yes—to our relationships themselves."
Vermont governor vetoes marriage-equality bill
The state House will attempt an override vote today, according to the Boston Globe.
Iowa Senate majority leader, in emotional video, explains his opposition to anti-marriage amendment
If this is the future of the politics of gay marriage, then the Iowa decision is having a big impact.
April 6, 2009
NYT presents dueling law profs' views on Varnum and the role of courts
The New York Times "Room for Debate" blog features dueling perspectives of law professors Kenji Yoshino and Robert Nagel on the Iowa Varnum decision.
Yoshino focuses on how the "Iowa decision repeatedly expresses pride in the state judiciary’s record on civil rights" (for more on this, see the amicus brief filed by Iowa law and history professors) and the significance of the fact that the decision was unanimous, a point on which he compares it to the moral authority of Brown v. Board of Education.
Nagel uses the decision as an occasion to attack the principle that judges may find within constitutions certain principles that override historical convention and the will of the majority. He criticizes the Iowa court's "proud but unsubstantiated belief that the mental efforts of a few judges are in fact a better source of wisdom than, as the court puts it, 'thousands of years of tradition,'" and the "complete inability to distinguish the kinds of considerations that are appropriate for judicial decision-making from the kinds that are appropriate for legislatures."
Obama "respects," but apparently stops short of cheering, Iowa decision
According to The Advocate, the White House released this statement about the Iowa marriage decision:
The first part of this statement seems a bit tepid. To say one "respects" a court's decision is usually code for "but that's not the outcome I had hoped for."
If he believes the issue is properly one left to the states, one wonders why the president would use this occasion to underscore once more his opposition to same-sex marriage per se. In the past, he has cited his personal beliefs about marriage as a religious institution. But as a former teacher of constitutional law, Obama surely understands the difference between civil marriage and religious marriage. Moreover, the mark of a sophisticated leader is the ability to rise above, for purposes of public policy, the limitations of one's own parochial personal beliefs. As commentator Robert Schlesinger writes in US News & World Report, "[I]f some religious institution wants to be bigoted ... well that's their business. But the state should not affirm that sort of bigotry."
On the other hand, as the White House statement indicates, it remains the administration's official position that the federal government should recognize not only same-sex marriages but also same-sex civil unions, which would be a major innovation in federal law.
April 5, 2009
Official summary of Varnum from the Iowa Supreme Court
Study sheds new light on young-adult and religious attitudes toward same-sex marriage
A recent analysis of public opinion data by the organization Public Religion Research reveals some interesting findings about Americans' attitudes toward same-sex marriage:
- Younger Americans are much more supportive of marriage equality. Almost half (46%) of young adults (age 18-34) support same-sex marriage, compared to less than a third (29%) of all Americans.
- Attitudes on same-sex marriage are shifting significantly among young people. In 2006, the American Values Survey found that 37% of young adults (18-34) supported same-sex marriage. Two years later, almost half (46%) of young adults now support same-sex marriage, an increase of 9 points.
- Support for same-sex marriage is significant among some young religious Americans. Among young (18-34) white mainline Protestants and Catholics, close to half (48% and 44% respectively) support same-sex marriage. Among young evangelicals (18-34), a majority favor either same-sex marriage (24%) or civil unions (28%), compared to a majority (58%) of evangelicals overall who favor no legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships.
- Having close friends and family members who are gay or lesbian increases support for same-sex marriage. Among Americans who are gay or lesbian or have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian, nearly half (48%) say they support same-sex marriage. Among those who have more distant relationships with gay or lesbian people (i.e. acquaintance, coworker), support drops to just 30%. And among those with no relationship with a gay or lesbian person support for same-sex marriage is only 14%.
- Addressing religious liberty concerns significantly increases support for same-sex marriage. When asked whether they would support allowing gay couples to marry “if the law guaranteed that no church or congregation would be required to perform marriages for gay couples,” support for legalized same-sex marriage climbed 14 points, from 29% to 43%.
- Religious groups that are more likely to hear negative messages about homosexuality are far more likely to oppose same-sex marriage. White evangelicals, for example, hear much more negative messages about homosexuality than white Mainline Protestants. The difference between these two groups on support for marriage equality is stark. Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) white evangelicals say there should be no legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples, compared to only 26% of white mainline Protestants.
The full report, "American Attitudes on Marriage Equality: Findings from the 2008 Faith and American Politics Study" is available here. The report was sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.