Monday, May 17, 2010

Religious right leader caught with male prostitute has played roles in legal battles over marriage, Boy Scouts, and adoption

Columnist Frank Rich reports in Sunday's NYT that George Rekers -- the Baptist minister, proponent of gay "cures," and cohort of fellow Christian right leader James Dobson who was recently exposed for having rented a 20-year-old male prostitute to accompany him on an overseas trip -- has played key roles in recent state legal battles over adoption, the Boy Scouts, and same-sex marriage:

No less destructive [than the quack treatments promoted by organizations with which Rekers is affiliated] has been Rekers’s role in maintaining the draconian Florida law prohibiting adoptions by gay couples and individuals, a relic of the Anita Bryant era. When the law was challenged in court two years ago, the state Attorney General Bill McCollum personally intervened to enlist Rekers as an expert witness to uphold it. Rekers charged $120,000 for his services — a taxpayers’ expenditure now becoming an issue in the Florida gubernatorial race, where McCollum is a Republican candidate to succeed Charlie Crist. A Miami judge ruled Florida’s law unconstitutional, and even now McCollum is appealing that decision.

Rekers was also an expert witness in a similar court case in Arkansas in 2004. That anti-gay-adoption law was also ruled unconstitutional. (His bill there was $200,000, but he settled for $60,000.) In 1998 Rekers was hired as an expert witness by the Boy Scouts to uphold its gay ban in a case before the District of Columbia Human Rights Commission. And then there’s Rekers’s cameo in the current Proposition 8 trial in California: one of his homophobic screeds can be found in the bibliography for the “expert report” by David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values, the star witness for the anti-same-sex-marriage forces.

-SS

May 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Military bloggers: repeal DADT

The New York Times reports that a group of military bloggers -- described as "often hawkish, critical of White House and military leadership, devoted to both the First and Second Amendments," and an "increasingly powerful voice from the ranks" -- have signed a statement calling for the end of the military's anti-gay Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. 

The text of the bloggers' statement is as follows:

We consider the US military the greatest institution for good that has ever existed. No other organization has freed more people from oppression, done more humanitarian work or rescued more from natural disasters.  We want that to continue.

Today, it appears inevitable to us that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and law restricting those displaying open homosexual behavior from serving will be changed.  And yet, very little will actually change.  Homosexuals have always served in the US Military, and there have been no real problems caused by that.

The service chiefs are currently studying the impact and consequences of changing the DADT policy, and how to implement it without compromising the morale, order and discipline necessary for the military to function. The study is due to be completed on Dec. 1st. We ask Congress to withhold action until this is finished, but no longer.  We urge Congress to listen to the service chiefs and act in accordance with the recommendations of that study.

The US Military is professional and ready to adapt to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell without compromising its mission.  Echoing Sec. Def. Gates and ADM Mullen, we welcome open and honorable service, regardless of sexual orientation.

-SS

May 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Specter of a Lesbian Supreme Court Justice

Our colleague Ruthann Robson collects more commentary on the speculation about Elena Kagan's sexuality and links to her (that is, Ruthann's) 1993 article discussing The Specter of a Lesbian Supreme Court Justice.

Andrew Sullivan makes the case here for why it's appropriate to ask about Kagan's sexuality.  In brief: if she is gay, it would be appalling to use this nomination to advance the politics of the closet. 

-SS

May 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Kagan and the lesbian rumors

Several blogs have coverage and commentary (see, e.g., here, here, and here) regarding rumors that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is gay, whether it matters, and what it says about leading gay groups and the White House that they rushed to deny the rumors as if they were a slur.

-SS

May 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kagan and the Solomon Amendment

Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSBlog has a good account of Harvard's response to the Solomon Amendment (which punished universities and their law schools for expressing opposition to the military's anti-gay personnel policy) during Elena Kagan's tenure as dean.  (Scroll down to the subhead "The Solomon Amendment").

-SS

May 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 3, 2010

May Lesbigay Law Notes now available

The May edition of Professor Art Leonard's indispensable Lesbian/Gay Law Notes is now available.  In the lead story, the 15-member Supreme Court of the Philippines unanimously ruled that Ang Ladlad LGBT Party is entitled to participate as a party-list organization in the forthcoming national elections. Reversing a decision by the Commission on Elections that rejected LadLad's petition to be included on the ballot, the court issued a ringing endorsement of equal participation in the political process for the Philippines' LGBT minority, and condemned COMELEC's reliance on religiously-based morality arguments to exclude the LGBT party from participation.

-SS

May 3, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Lawmakers in Hawaii (the state that started it all) approve civil unions; governor's decision pending

In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ordered the state government to show a compelling interest why same-sex couples should be prohibited from marrying.  A subsequent voter-approved change to the state constitution cut the legs out from under that decision, and the legislature voted to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. But the brief prospect that gays might be able to marry in Hawaii set off a stampede in Congress and other states to enact so-called "defense of marriage" acts.

Now, the state's lawmakers have approved a bill that would give same-sex and heterosexual couples the ability to enter into civil unions and enjoy the same rights as married couples under state law (though these would still not be "marriages"). The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, who has not said whether she would sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without her signature.

-SS

April 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New edition of Lambda's "Of Counsel-On Campus" now available

The latest edition of the "Of Counsel - On Campus" newsletter from Lambda Legal is now available.  The newsletter includes articles and links and focuses on issues of special interest to law students. 

-SS

April 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Analyses of arguments in Doe v. Reed petition signature case

Our colleague Ruthann Robson at Conlawprof Blog has an analysis of yesterday's arguments at the Supreme Courtin Doe v. Reed, which involves a claim that signing a petition should be protected by the First Amendment in order to avoid harassment.  The case arises out of a Washington state ballot initiative over same-sex marriage.  Veteran SCOTUSBlog reporter Lyle Denniston's take is here.  

-SS

April 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Supreme Court to hear arguments on whether gay marriage opponents can remain anonymous

Veteran ScotusBlog reporter Lyle Denniston has a preview of today's argument in a case that asks whether signers of a petition -- in this case, to get an initiative on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage -- may remain anonymous.

-SS

April 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

TX appellate court to hear arguments in same-sex divorce case

Last year a local judge in Texas granted a divorce to a same-sex couple who had been legally married in Massachusetts. The decision was controversial, since Texas does not recognize same-sex marriages. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports

The question of whether same-sex couples who marry in other states should be able to divorce each other in Texas — a state that only recognizes marriages between one man and one woman — heats up Wednesday when it goes before an appeals court in Dallas. 

The case expected to draw national attention involves two Dallas men, identified in court documents as "J.B." and "H.B." who married each other in Massachusetts in 2006 and now want a divorce. State attorneys will argue to the 5th Court of Appeals Wednesday why that should not happen in Texas. 

 This is the first such case in Texas to be appealed to a higher court — and one that could go all the way to the Texas Supreme Court before a precedent-setting ruling is delivered, political observers say.

-SS

April 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Analyses of argument in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

Our colleague Ruthann Robson at Conlawprof blog has an insightful analysis of yesterday's Supreme Court argument in a case that pits a law school non-discrimination policy against the associational rights of Christian students.  Scotusblog veteran reporter Lyle Denniston has another analysis here.  The transcript is here.  

-SS

April 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Supreme Court to hear arguments on whether public law school can deny recognition to Christian group that discriminates against gays

NPR has a preview of the arguments in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, which promises to become a landmark case on freedom of association, gay rights, and whether discriminatory religious groups are entitled to public funding and other benefits. Specifically, the case tests "whether state colleges and universities can deny official status and subsidies to student groups that bar homosexuals and other groups from membership. The case could affect public colleges and universities across the country, and it puts the court in the middle of a long struggle by Christian activists who contend that their rights are violated on campus by secular rules."

-SS

April 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 9, 2010

With Stevens retirement, Court loses strong and consistent voice on gay rights

Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly has an appreciation of the contributions Justice John Paul Stevens has made in cases affecting gays and lesbians.

-SS

April 9, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April Lesbigay Law Notes now available

The April edition of Professor Art Leonard's indispensable Lesbian/Gay Law Notes is now available.  In the lead story, a panel of the European Court of Human Rights has held that Polish officials violated Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights when they categorically denied tenant succession rights to same-sex couples but allowed succession rights to unmarried opposite-sex couples.  The Polish court had held that any succession right under a claim of de facto marriage could not apply to same-sex couples, since marriage was limited to opposite-sex couples.  The panel of the European Court held that the legal distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex couples was not justified.   The panel also affirmed that the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits members-states from interpreting their own laws in a way that unjustifiably discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.

-SS

April 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Religious conservatives up in arms over recess appointment of Chai Feldblum to EEOC

Fox News reports that "President Obama's recess appointment of an outspoken supporter of gay rights to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is causing alarm among social conservatives, who worry that she'll strip religious rights from schools and businesses and 'revolutionize' social norms in the workplace."  Georgetown Professor Chai Feldblum was one of Obama's recess appointments last Saturday, meaning the president bypassed the need for approval in the Senate where Feldblum's appointment had languished.  I previously reported about the opposition to Feldblum based on a statement she had signed about alternative families.

-SS

April 2, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Texas judge grants state's first same-sex divorce over AG's objections

A Texas judge who allowed a lesbian couple to divorce in Texas (the couple had married in Massachusetts in 2004) has rejected the state attorney general's move to overturn his decision.  The AG had argued the divorce could not be granted because Texas does not recognize same-sex marriages.  The case is expected to end up in the Texas Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Professor Art Leonard analyzes a similar case that went the other way in Pennsylvania.

-SS

April 2, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Experts react to Pentagon shift in DADT policy

The Pentagon today announced it would make it more difficult to discharge lesbian and gay service members by issuing rules that only a general or admiral may initiate firings; adding a litmus test for the type of information that can start an investigation; and limiting third-party outings. A summary of changes is available from the Pentagon, as well as revised procedures for discharging enlisted personnel and officers. 

The following comments by scholarly experts are provided by the
 Palm Center at the University of California Santa Barbara
 
Aaron Belkin, Director, and Associate Professor of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara:

The changes announced today are the first cracks in “don’t ask, don’t tell” since the policy was implemented seventeen years ago. While the operational impact of the Obama Rule may be limited, the political impact will be widely felt. These steps represent important forward movement. They send a signal to the military chain of command and the public that repeal is on the horizon, and that the military is prepared.
Nathaniel Frank, Senior Research Fellow, and author of Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America:

Today the Pentagon took an important step to end “don’t ask, don’t tell” by making it harder to fire lesbian and gay troops. For over two hundred years, the U.S. military was hostile to homosexuality, but today the Pentagon sent a message that lesbians and gays can serve our country without harming the force. By making it more difficult to fire gay service members, the Pentagon has signaled that service members who are widely known to be gay should continue to serve.
 
The full impact of the changes will depend on how they are actually enforced. We know that past attempts to dress up a bad military policy have been like putting lipstick on a pig and have failed. Perception is reality, and if the higher bars to discharge are not actually used to reduce firings and create a sense of privacy for gay troops, these changes will be a charade.
 
As Secretary Gates said today, the Pentagon could have raised the bar even higher, but chose not to. So while the administration is to be commended for taking this step, its work is far from over. As the focus shifts to Congress, the President has a major role to play to end the ban outright. If the President builds on this step by fighting successfully for legislative repeal, he will ensure his place in civil rights history not only for his own story, but as a fierce advocate of equal treatment.

Diane Mazur, Legal Co-Director, and Professor of Law, University of Florida Levin College of Law, former Captain, USAF:

When the military requires high-level approval for personnel actions, it is indicating that it believes enforcement of the policy is harming military effectiveness. In chipping away at the effects of the law, the Pentagon is conceding that knowledge of openly gay colleagues is not a problem, which is the whole basis of the policy. The changes announced today under the Obama Rule show repeal is inevitable.

 -SS

March 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Giving plaintiffs a trial on their claims was unfair, Prop 8 defendants complain

The religious-conservative groups who intervened as defendants in the federal constitutional challenge to California's Proposition 8 had moved early in the case for summary judgment.  Recognizing the value of making a record for the inevitable appeal, the judge decided to hold a trial instead.  Now that the trial has occurred, the defendants are ratcheting up their criticism of the decision to hold it -- an interesting tactic, given that the judge has yet to rule on the merits.

Adam Liptak of the NYT reports:

Opponents of same-sex marriage have long said the issue does not belong in the courts. Lately they have gone a step further.

They say Judge Vaughn R. Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, made a serious mistake by calling for a trial in a challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage rather than deciding the case based on paper submissions.

“To think that somehow the rules of evidence can lead you to the right answer is just not right,” said Jordan W. Lorence, a lawyer with Alliance Defense Fund and a member of the trial team for the people and groups who intervened to defend the ban after state officials would not. “There should not have been a trial.”

Ted Olson, one of the lead attorneys for the gay couples challenging Prop 8, retorted that the defendants' complaints are sour grapes.  They’ve got to complain about something,” Olson told the NYT. “They think they’re going to lose.” 

Regardless of what they may think of a particular judge and his rulings, most litigants remain extremely circumspect and avoid anything approach public criticism while a case is pending.  It's just common sense.  This reality makes you wonder: were these criticisms just a matter of advocates being caught off guard, or do they portend a strategic legal and political line of attack in which the federal court -- and in particular Judge Walker, who is gay -- are attacked as biased, undemocratic, activist, etc.  And if the latter, is the audience for those attacks limited to the public (which tends to know almost nothing about summary judgment standards or the fine points of Constitutional law), or is the Alliance Defense Fund pitching at potential allies on the 9th Circuit or the Supreme Court? 

-SS

March 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Is VA attorney general's anti-gay directive to universities about law or personal bigotry?

Social conservative activist Ken Cuccinelli, recently elected Republican attorney general of Virginia, has told the state's public colleges and universities that the protections they offer against sexual orientation discrimination are inconsistent with state law and should be rescinded.  Now Cuccinelli is captured in a video interview with a local television reporter in which he agrees that homosexual "acts" are "a detriment to our culture." 

-SS

March 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)