May 1, 2009
New WashPost/ABC poll shows dramatic increase in support for same-sex marriage
"Support for legal gay marriage has increased dramatically over the past three years, and for the first time, those in favor outnumber those opposed," reports the Washington Post. "Nearly half (49 percent) of all Americans in the new poll said they favor legal marriage for same-sex couples, an increase of 13 percentage points since June 2006."
One notable finding in the poll was an apparent shift among self-identified conservatives. "Three in 10 said gay marriage should be legal, the highest proportion in Post-ABC polling, up from 19 percent in 2006, and strong opposition to the practice dipped from 72 percent in 2006 to 56 percent now."
Maine Senate votes decisively for marriage equality, continuing trend across the Northeast
The Maine state Senate voted 21-14 in favor of legislation that would permit same-sex couples to marry. The Senate also defeated an amendment that proposed putting the question before voters. The vote follows recent action by legislative bodies for marriage equality in Vermont, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.
April 30, 2009
Law prof offers daily reports from Equality Forum
John Culhane, a professor at Widener Law School in Delaware, is the official blogger for Equality Forum. The Philadelphia event runs through Sunday, culminating in an Equality Rally at Independence Hall. John's detailed daily reporting can be found on his blog, Word in Edgewise.
Equality Forum describes itself as "the largest annual national and international GLBT
civil rights forum." Speakers and panelists this year include Chai Feldblum of
Georgetown, Tobias Wolff of Penn, and Nancy Polikoff of American University. Other events include a colloquium with
Bishop Gene Robinson and a dinner honoring San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and
the New York Times.
April 29, 2009
On 100th day, failing marks for Obama on gay issues?
Politifact.com has compiled approximately 500 (500!) promises that President Obama made during the campaign and is tracking their progress on its "Obameter." Virtually nothing to report on five issues of concern to gays and lesbians, including several where Obama promised to "place the weight of (his) administration" or "use the bully pulpit": a hate crimes act, employment discrimination legislation, urging "states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws," and repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. Politifact reports all these as "no action" or "stalled."
Actually, though, Politifact may not be totally up to date with its facts. On Wednesday, the House passed gay-inclusive hate crimes legislation that was supported by the White House -- apparently the same bill Obama promised to support during the campaign.
Activist legislating? Same-sex marriage advances in NH; guv remains mum on veto
It seems like only recently that conservative anti-marriage-equality groups insisted that the issue of same-sex marriage should be decided not by a single person, such a judge, but by democratically elected, representative bodies like state legislatures. That, of course, was before such bodies started voting in favor of marriage equality in states like Vermont and, now, New Hampshire.
Now such groups insist that a single person -- a governor -- veto such activist legislating. They tried and failed with that gambit in Vermont, where the veto was overridden, but are trying again in New Hampshire.
"The New Hampshire Senate voted narrowly on Wednesday to legalize same-sex marriage, paving the way for the state to potentially become the fifth in the nation — and the third this month — to allow gay couples to wed," reports the New York Times. A similar bill has already passed the state House of Representatives.
Frustrated with the people's elected legislators, the anti-marriage "National Organization for Marriage" promises to intensively lobby Gov. John Lynch to veto the bill. Lynch has not revealed his intentions.
April 28, 2009
New ACS issue brief examines Prop 8, judicial interpretation of rights, and separation of powers
In a new issue brief distributed by the American Constitution Society, attorneys Gonzalo C. Martinez and Troy M. Yoshino address arguments that California's Proposition 8 is invalid as an improper constitutional revision of the state constitution that could not be accomplished through the initiative process, which only permits constitutional amendments. The issue brief distills arguments that were presented in the amicus brief filed in the Proposition 8 litigation by the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association, for which the authors served as counsel.
The authors agree that Proposition 8 should be struck down if the California Supreme Court finds it to have been an unconstitutional revision, but they focus on presenting an argument in the alternative:
[T]o the extent the rights to liberty, privacy, due process and equal protection have not themselves been changed, then the pre-existing interpretation of those rights in Marriage Cases must control-and the attempt to mandate a change in the California Supreme Court's interpretation of pre-existing rights violates separation of powers principles. Thus, even if Proposition 8 is construed as a permissible amendment (as opposed to a revision), it would necessarily violate separation of powers principles because it purports to dictate a specific interpretation of certain other-indisputably unchanged-constitutional provisions.
The authors explain that Prop 8's attempt to change the Court's reasoning and interpretation
of fundamental rights, "without revising the bases for the Court's reasoning,
violates separation of powers principles inherent in the California Constitution
and renders Proposition 8 unconstitutional." They conclude by advising, "[t]his attempt to control judicial interpretive power
should also underscore why those who care about separation of powers and the
integrity of the three branches of government should be profoundly troubled by
Proposition 8, regardless of their position on same-sex marriage."
April 26, 2009
Geoffrey Stone on civil unions
U of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone writes in today's Chicago Tribune about the civil unions bill pending in the Illinois legislature. Stone first notes the strong support for such a measure. Recent polls, he writes, show that Americans favor civil unions by 60 to 34 percent.
Stone calls legal recognition of civil unions (as opposed to full marriage) "a compromise, but it is a reasonable compromise at this time in our history." He also neatly dispatches objections by those who have been asserting, with increasing stridency, that equality for gays and lesbians violates their religious liberty: "The problem, though, is that in a society that values the separation of church and state, religious doctrine cannot be the source of our secular law.... It is not a violation of religious liberty for the state not to impose one group's religious beliefs on other citizens who do not share them."