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Archives – July, 2011

Gov. Brown nominates Goodwin Liu to California Supreme Court

By Adam Bink

About a month ago, I wrote about the retirement of California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, and the longstanding vacancy to fill that position, and how it might affect the Prop 8 case.

Late yesterday, Gov. Brown finally nominated someone to fill the position — and it’s, in the opinion of many, one of the best candidates possible.

Gov. Jerry Brown nominated UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the California Supreme Court Tuesday, giving the state high court a fourth Asian justice and a collegial liberal who is likely to be strongly supportive of civil rights.

Liu was President Obama’s pick for a seat on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but he failed to garner enough Republican support. Liu, 40, has never been a judge, but his colleagues at Berkeley, including conservatives, strongly endorsed him for the position.

Liu, a graduate of Yale Law School, is the son of Taiwanese immigrants. He was born in Georgia, grew up in Sacramento and has a history of public service.

Liu was a controversial pick for Obama, who nominated him twice. Senate Republicans criticized Liu’s selection, saying that he was too left-leaning. Liu marked the first judicial pick to be blocked outright on the Senate floor since George W. Bush’s first term.

[Updated at 9 a.m.: Liu is considered an expert on constitutional law, education policy, civil rights and the Supreme Court.

Before joining the Berkeley Law faculty in 2003, Liu was an appellate litigator at O’Melveny & Myers in Washington. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and for Judge David Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He also served as special assistant to the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and as senior program officer for higher education at the Corporation for National Service (AmeriCorps).]

The appointment would fill the void left by the unexpected retirement of Justice Carlos R. Moreno, who gave Brown an early opportunity to put his stamp on the state’s highest court.

Moreno, 62, was the only Latino and Democrat on the court. When he announced his retirement he said Brown’s election cemented his decision to leave for work as either a private judge or for a private law firm.

Moreno was appointed to the top court by former Gov. Gray Davis in 2001.

Brown’s selection of Moreno’s successor had been closely watched. In 1977, he infuriated conservatives by naming Rose Bird, a friend and member of his Cabinet, as chief justice. Bird had never been a judge, and she voted to overturn every death sentence she reviewed. In 1986, voters rejected her in a retention election, defeating two other Brown appointees on the state high court at the same time.

Liu was one of 17 law professors who urged the California Supreme Court to end the ban on same-sex marriage in 2007 (In re Marriage Cases). He was one of President Obama’s picks for the bench, but never got a vote on the Senate floor. His nomination was eventually withdrawn. To land on his feet at the California Supreme Court is great news.

39 Comments July 27, 2011

Prop 8: Olson, Boies to receive American Bar Association Medal

By Adam Bink

From the team at AFER, via e-mail:

AFER’s Lead Attorneys David Boies & Theodore B. Olson Awarded Top Legal Honor by American Bar Association

Fighting to End Inequality & Secure the Freedom to Marry for All Americans, AFER’s Legal “Dream Team” Given Rare Award; Recognized for “Exceptional and Distinguished Service to the Law”
Los Angeles, CA – Today, the American Bar Association (ABA), the largest voluntary professional association in the world, announced that the American Foundation for Equal Rights’ (AFER) lead attorneys, David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, have been chosen to receive the rare designation and one of the most prestigious awards in the American legal profession, the American Bar Association Medal.

AFER brought these two highly-respected attorneys together in 2009 to lead the federal case against Proposition 8 (Perry v. Brown), which placed a ban on marriage for gay and lesbian Californians.  AFER, Olson and Boies achieved an unprecedented victory for marriage equality on August 4, 2010, when a U.S. District Court concluded that, “Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis.”

Boies is the founder and chairman of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP. One of the nation’s preeminent trial lawyers, Boies was recently named “Lawyer of the Year” by the National Law Journal and “Commercial Litigator of the Year” by Who’s Who.  Olson is a partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s D.C. office and is one of the nation’s premier appellate and U.S. Supreme Court advocates. The National Law Journal has repeatedly listed him as one of America’s Most Influential Lawyers. Last year, TIME selected both Boies and Olson as two of the 100 most influential people in the world.

“Ted and David show that excellence in the legal profession transcends partisan and ideological boundaries,” said Chad Griffin, co-founder and Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. “Thanks to these two world-class legal minds the dark walls of discrimination are beginning to crumble. Ted, David and AFER will continue to fight for full federal marriage equality for all Americans.”

Awarded for distinguished service by a lawyer or lawyers to the cause of American jurisprudence, the ABA Medal is given only in years when the ABA Board of Governors determines a nominee has provided exceptional and distinguished service to the law and the legal profession.

Among previous recipients of the ABA Medal are legendary justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, including Oliver Wendell Holmes, Felix Frankfurter, Thurgood Marshall, William J. Brennan Jr., Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy.

The award will be bestowed upon Boies and Olson during the meeting of the ABA House of Delegates at the Association’s annual meeting on August 8th, 2011.

32 Comments July 26, 2011

New York AG Schneiderman files brief challenging DOMA in Windsor v United States

By Adam Bink

This is one reason many of us New Yorkers told friends and family that Eric Schneiderman would be a strong advocate — perhaps an even better Attorney General than Eliot Spitzer. NYTimes:

The New York State attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, acting just days after the state began allowing gay couples to wed, filed a legal brief on Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Mr. Schneiderman asserted that the law, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, violates the right to equal protection under the law for gay and lesbian couples.

The brief, filed in Federal District Court in the Southern District of New York, refers specifically to New York State’s Marriage Equality Act, which was approved by lawmakers last month and took effect to great fanfare on Sunday.

“Without such equal treatment by the federal government,” Mr. Schneiderman wrote, “New York’s statutory commitment to marriage equality for all married couples will be substantially unrealized.”

Mr. Schneiderman submitted the brief in support of Edith S. Windsor, the plaintiff in Windsor v. United States. Ms. Windsor was married in Canada in 2007 to her longtime partner, Thea Spyer. The couple lived in New York City, and when Ms. Spyer died two years after their marriage, the federal government refused to recognize their marriage and collected estate taxes on her inheritance, prompting the lawsuit.

Ms. Windsor’s legal challenge was one of two lawsuits that prompted President Obama in February to direct the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which Mr. Obama determined was unconstitutional.

The full 25-page brief can be found here. Kudos to Schneiderman for capitalizing on, as I’ve written, an important window of opportunity to raise awareness that while same-sex couples can be married in New York, their marriages are not equal. People who don’t know a thing about DOMA will read and hear about this, and that serves an important purpose in public education.

19 Comments July 26, 2011

As New York Marries, Al Franken Catches a Fibber

After a hiatus, please welcome back Matt Baume, who just joined the team of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (lucky to have him!), for his weekly posts on marriage equality! -Adam

By Matt Baume

Pretty quiet week, nothing too exciting — except everyone in New York getting married! Plus hearings on DOMA repeal, with Al Franken calling out an anti-gay liar. Plus more news from Maryland to Washington state.

Here’s Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd getting married at midnight at Niagra Falls on Sunday. It’s huge that we now have marriage in New York. But it’s also important to recognize what we still don’t have: recognition in the vast majority of states, or from the federal government.
In fact, for some gay and lesbian couples, getting married carries special gay-only penalties. Under some circumstances, it could become harder for those couples to adopt. They could take on an extra federal tax burden. And if one of them is in the Army, they can still be discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
So gay couples can get married — but even in New York, we still aren’t treated the same way as straight couples.
For now.
The other big news last week were the hearings on DOMA in Washington DC. Congress is still a long way off from repealing the law — that is, if a legal challenge doesn’t invalidate it first. At this point, getting witnesses to speak on the record about DOMA’s effects is a significant step.
The best highlight from the hearings was when Al Franken caught anti-gay activist Tom Minnery in a big lie.

FRANKEN: You cite a Department of Health and Human Services study that I have right here. … And it actually doesn’t say what you said it says. It says that nuclear families, not opposite-sex married families, are associated with those positive outcomes. Isn’t it true, Mr. Minnery, that a married same-sex couple that has had or adopted kids would fall under the definition of a nuclear family in the study that you cite?

MINNERY: I would think that the study, when it cites nuclear families, would mean a family headed by a husband and wife.

FRANKEN: It doesn’t. … And I frankly don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways.

They do this all the time. The truth is that when studies compare gay parents and straight parents, they’re pretty much indistinguishable. That’s why so many professional organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have endorsed marriage equality. So if you hear someone say otherwise, don’t be afraid to tell them that you know they’re lying.
It’s kind of amazing how much has changed since DOMA was signed. The think tank Third Way has a new study out documenting our advancements. One of the most important changes: the number of people who say that they know a gay or lesbian person has gone up by 35 percentage points, from 42 to 77 percent. Of course, everyone knows an LGBT person, since we’re everywhere — in every town, every company, every family. All that’s changed is that more of us are open and honest than ever before.
So. What’s next?
Maryland. This week Governor Martin O’Malley committed to making marriage a top legislative priority in 2012. His tepid support during this year’s legislative session was partially blamed when a marriage bill failed to pass, so we have a very good chance of winning Maryland, possibly in a special session as early as October of this year.
And then there’s Washington state. This week Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown pledged to make a “serious effort” to pass a marriage equality bill within the next year.
So 2012 is shaping up to be an extremely busy year, with marriage fights all over the country. Oh, and also there’s going to be a presidential race, so clear your calendar. We’ll see you next week.

26 Comments July 26, 2011

The path towards DOMA repeal from marriage in NY

By Adam Bink

Sen. Feinstein was on CNN’s State of the Union yesterday, talking DOMA repeal in the context of marriage in NY:

One of the more uncovered issues (with the exception of CNN, to their credit) is how more couples married in NY will find the pain of DOMA now more applicable to their lives, which presents our movement with a strong organizing opportunity. Many same-sex couples think their marriages are equal to heterosexual marriages. They aren’t. Or, as Larry Kramer put it in his usual forceful way:

“These marriages, in whichever state, are what I call feel-good marriages,” Kramer told The New York Times for a story published over the weekend, as the first ceremonies took place. “Compared to the benefits heterosexual marriages convey, gay marriages are an embarrassment — that we should accept so little, and with so much hoopla of excitement and self-congratulation.”

I wouldn’t dismiss the joy in the way Larry does, but his point is well-taken. As I’ve written before, I was shocked when I went home recently that for all amount that people wanted to talk about marriage in NY, no one knew what the Defense of Marriage Act was. A strong public education opportunity. The next time someone asks me “isn’t it great?”, one might reply, “yes, but…” and continue the process of educating and mobilizing.

100 Comments July 25, 2011

NY’s anti-equality team heads to court; but does sorely losing = legal standing?

Cross-posted at Good As You

By Jeremy Hooper

Oh look, a lawsuit. And of course they’re using the Liberty Counsel, an extremely far-right legal outfit that decried the Prop 8 defense for not being anti-gay/pro-“ex-gay” enough:

A lawsuit challenging the legality of the process that brought gay “marriage” legislation to the floor of the New York State Senate will be filed in the Livingston County Supreme Court this morning.

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, Rev. Jason J. McGuire, Rev. Duane R. Motley and Rabbi Nathaniel S. Leiter are listed as plaintiffs. The plaintiffs, represented by the Liberty Counsel, contend that same-sex “marriage” legislation was only able to pass the State Legislature through:

-meetings that violated New York State Open Meetings Laws.

-the suspension of normal Senate voting procedures to prevent Senators who opposed the bill from speaking.

-failure to follow Senate procedures that require that a bill must be sent to appropriate committees prior to being placed before the full Senate for a vote.

-unprecedented Senate lock-outs by which lobbyists and the public were denied access to elected representatives.

-the Governor’s violation of the constitutionally mandated three-day review period before the Legislature votes on a bill by unjustifiably issuing a message of necessity.

-promises (which were fulfilled) by high-profile elected officials and Wall Street financiers to make large campaign contributions to Republican senators who switched their vote from opposing to supporting the Marriage Equality Act.

NYCF Files Suit Against State Senate [NYCF]

Look, I completely defend their right to bring a case. Have at it. Because not only is it a great American freedom, but also: These continued theatrics against something the state’s residents support in majority numbers only help our future pushes. A loss on this for them will mean another step towards our sustainable win.

Let’s just hope NYCF has enough fortitude to submit into evidence the “perverted and twisted” things they used to drum up their own cause.


*Oh, and Liberty Counsel: Please, please, please put your own Matt Barber on tho case, where he can share some of his but its charm with the court. Things like: The time Matt said that gay male relationships constitute “one man violently cramming his penis into another man’s lower intestine and calling it ‘love’”; the time Matt called President Barack Obama an anti-american enemy; the time he accused Obama and Barney Frank of being anti-religious bigots; the time he suggested there are “sinister motives” in the Obama White House; the time he agreed with TVC’s Andrea Lafferty that homosexuality is “among a litany of…sexual deviances” that include things like sex with an amputee’s stump and sexual behavior involving feces and urine; the time he likened pro-equality progressives to Fred “God Hates F*gs” Phelps; the time he referred to marriage equality advocates as “purveyors of evil“; the time he compared gay unions to marrying a house plant; the time he said Ellen Degeneres “guides her many adoring housewife fans into rebellion against God’s divine and explicit natural order”; the time he called Google “satanic” for supporting marriage equality; the time he accused gay-friendly media outlets of trying “to make the absurd appear reasonable and normal”; the time he referred to the Muslim faith as “Satanic”;etc., etc. More than just about anyone in the “pro-family” world (with the possible exception of Bryan Fisher), Matt has made the choice to go as personal, as negative, as hyperbolic, and as wantonly hurtful as humanly inhumanely possible. He does this on the daily.

49 Comments July 25, 2011

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