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Archives – July, 2013

Report: Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage stalled in Republican-led House of Representatives

By Scottie Thomaston

Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill

Last month, when the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, a Republican representative in the House introduced an amendment to the United States Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Amendments have to pass by 2/3 in both houses of Congress and then 3/4 of the states. The marriage amendment has come up in different forms in the past, and has never passed Congress, although at the time Massachusetts was the only state with same-sex marriage. Now, there are 13, and a majority of Americans support marriage equality. The amendment seems to have no chance of passage at this point.

Now, Huffington Post is reporting that the latest proposal is ‘gathering dust’ in committee, with only 36 cosponsors:

When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in late June, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) didn’t waste any time filing legislation that would go around the court and ban same-sex marriage by amending the U.S. Constitution.

“This would trump the Supreme Court,” Huelskamp told The Huffington Post at the time. “The debate is not over.”

Since then, Huelskamp’s bill has picked up 36 cosponsors — all of whom are rank-and-file conservatives — and now awaits action in the House Judiciary Committee.

And that may be all you ever hear of the bill.

According to their story, Huffington Post contacted House leadership and various Republican House representatives, and “nobody seems to want to go near it[.]” House Speaker John Boehner has said he has no plans to take legislative action after the Court’s Windsor ruling.

There are no marriage equality cases awaiting Supreme Court review, though cases in Hawaii and Nevada are pending at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and a challenge to Michigan’s marriage equality ban is ongoing in district court. The Court ducked the question in the Prop 8 case, holding only that the ballot initiative’s proponents lacked legal standing to appeal from the district court when the state declined to appeal.

July 17, 2013

ACLU of Montana seeks marital rights–by not status–for same-sex couples

By Jacob CombsMontana state seal

The ACLU of Montana yesterday filed a lawsuit  in the state seeking marriage-like benefits for same-sex couples.  In the challenge, which comes after a previous lawsuit filed by the group, the plaintiffs asks only for marital benefits and not the legal status of marriage, The Missoulian reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana filed its amended complaint after the state Supreme Court rejected its first lawsuit in December for being too broad and not identifying specific laws that are discriminatory.

In the amended lawsuit, attorney James Goetz identifies numerous statutes, including laws he says prevent gay couples from receiving financial protections given to police officers and spouses and from designating their partners as beneficiaries for worker’s compensation.

The Montana Constitution restricts marriage to different-sex couples under a 2004 constitutional amendment that was approved by voters.  Despite that ban, the ACLU of Montana’s suit alleges, refusing to offer equal rights to same-sex couples that opposite-sex couples in committed relationships enjoy violates equal protection principles.

July 17, 2013

House of Lords gives final approval to marriage equality bill

By Jacob Combs

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The U.K. House of Lords yesterday approved Prime Minister David Cameron’s measure to allow same-sex couples to marry.  The bill will return to the House of Commons, which already passed the bill, for a final, procedural vote.  From Bloomberg’s report yesterday:

The upper, unelected chamber approved the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill without a vote in London today. Some members of the house wore pink carnations to mark the occasion.

The legislation has already been passed by the Commons amid opposition from more than 100 lawmakers from Cameron’s Conservative Party. The bill will now return to the Commons, where amendments introduced by the Lords will be considered. If they’re accepted, the bill will be sent to Queen Elizabeth II for her signature before becoming law.

All of the amendments that the House of Commons will consider are friendly amendments supported by the government.  Anti-gay members of parliament plan to introduce–yet again–a so-called ‘wrecking amendment,’ which is virtually guaranteed to fail.

After the Commons vote, the measure will go to Queen Elizabeth II for her approval, which is called royal assent, and is essentially a ceremonial step.  When the bill goes into effect, likely early next week, it will apply only to England and Wales.

6 Comments July 16, 2013

New rulings issued in anti-transgender employment discrimination cases

By Scottie Thomaston

Last year, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) issued a major employment discrimination ruling in favor of a transgender worker. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination based on sex, and the ruling held that anti-transgender discrimination is sex discrimination under that statute. The ruling was groundbreaking for the rights of people who are transgender, and the Justice Department reaffirmed, according to Buzzfeed.

Now, to Buzzfeed reports, a similar ruling has also been issued, this time against a private employer:

BuzzFeed has learned that the EEOC also acted on at least one similar complaint later in 2012, a claim brought against a private employer.

The EEOC itself conducted an investigation into the actions of a private company in Maryland, concluding in September 2012 by finding that “reasonable cause” existed to believe the company had discriminated against a transgender woman employed by the company, which is a federal contractor. Although such findings often remain unpublicized, Freedom to Work and Lambda Legal, which represent the woman, presented the information about the case to BuzzFeed at this time because they have now reached a settlement with the company on behalf of the woman.

The details of this latest action aren’t public, but Tico Almeida at Freedom to Work, an organization working to end employment discrimination against LGBT people, commented on the rulings:

Less is known about the private-sector case, in which the names of the parties are being withheld, but Tico Almeida of Freedom to Work praised the EEOC for its work.

“Coming just a few months after the EEOC issued its historic decision that transgender people are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the EEOC’s reasonable cause determination in this case is, to our knowledge, the first time in history that the EEOC has investigated allegations of anti-transgender harassment and ruled for the transgender employee. This case shows that the EEOC takes very seriously its role in protecting LGBT Americans’ freedom to work,” he said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed that is being released with the approval of both the plaintiff and defendant in the case.

An attorney for Lambda Legal involved in the private action suggested that President Obama should sign the executive order to prevent discrimination against LGBT contractors.

July 16, 2013

California Supreme Court declines to stay same-sex marriages

By Scottie Thomaston California state seal

The California Supreme Court has just denied Prop 8 proponents’ request for a stay on performing same-sex marriage in the state. The proponents asked the court on Friday to stay the marriages and to consider mandating enforcement of Prop 8 in all but two counties in the state, state officials responded, and proponents replied this morning.

The docket page says:

The request for an immediate stay or injunctive relief is denied.

Presumably, the court will keep its reported schedule for the remainder of the issues:

[O]pposition to the remaining questions (other than the question of the stay) is due Monday, July 22, and proponents can file a reply to that opposition on August 1.

Denial of the stat means marriages will continue as the court weighs these issues.

July 15, 2013

Arkansas attorney general rejects marriage equality ballot proposal

By Jacob CombsArkansas state seal

Last Friday, Arkansas attorney general Dustin McDaniel rejected a proposal that would have begun the process of repealing the state’s 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, the Southwest Times Record reported:

The attorney general said the proposal by Arkansans for Equality contained misleading tendencies and a failure to include any mention of the proposal’s effect on the state’s current law, Amendment 83, which was approved with 75 percent of the vote.

The proposal also failed to meet the state Supreme Court’s requirement for impartiality.

“Specifically, rather than simply describing Amendment 83 to the Arkansas Constitution (the amendment proposed to be repealed), your proposed ballot title asserts an abridgment of undefined ‘rights’ and seems to presume Amendment 83’s illegality in terms of federal law and the laws of other states,” the opinion said.

“It is conclusory and partisan to assert that Amendment 83 ‘limits’ Arkansans’ ‘rights’ and ‘prevents federal laws … being applied in a consistent manner,’” the opinion said. “To use such terms and phrases is to promote by implication, not to summarize, a proposal. As a consequence, the proposed ballot title has misleading tendencies and fails to meet the Arkansas Supreme Court’s requirement of impartiality.”

Another ballot measure, submitted last week by Arkansas Initiative for Marriage Equality, would bring marriage equality to the state through a 2016 ballot vote.  (The Arkansans for Equality bill would only have repealed Amendment 83, and was scheduled for 2014.)  It is unclear if Arkansans for Equality will seek to amend the wording of their measure and re-submit it.

As we reported early this month, a marriage equality lawsuit is currently pending in Arkansas state court.  In their initial complaint in that case, 11 same-sex couples wrote, “Gays and lesbians are a distinct group, singled out due to their sexual orientation to be denied rights enjoyed by all other adult groups.”


1 Comment July 15, 2013

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