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Archives – August, 2012

Tasmania’s lower house passes marriage equality, New Zealand bill survives first vote

By Jacob Combs

While marriage equality may be on hold at the federal level in Australia right now, the issue is moving apace in a few of the state legislatures.  Sky News reports today that the Same-Sex Marriage Bill 2012 “sailed” through Tasmania’s lower house, the Legislative Assembly, paving the way for an upper house vote to allow full marriage equality in the state.  From Sky News:

Labor and Greens members and onlookers, including Australian Marriage Equality chief Alex Greenwich, erupted into applause as the bill was passed.

Liberal Leader Will Hodgman was the lone voice against the bill, saying his team was united in believing marriage was between a man and a woman, and a matter for the commonwealth.

For the first time in the state’s history, a bill in the lower house was co-sponsored, by Ms Giddings and Greens Leader Nick McKim.

‘I do not believe that the personal moral disapproval that some individuals may feel towards same-sex marriage is a valid reason to allow discrimination to continue in the 21st century,’ Ms Giddings said.

The bill’s fate in Tasmania’s upper house is uncertain: 13 of the 15 independents in the chamber have not yet taken a position on it.  Intriguingly, Tasmania was the last state in Australia to decriminalize homosexuality, which it did in 1997.  Legislators in South Australia look likely to make it the next state after Tasmania to make a move towards full marriage equality.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, legislators passed a marriage equality in the first of three votes by an overwhelming margin of 80 to 40.  The bill needed only a simple majority, so the AP notes that the numbers are a good sign of the bill’s future success.  A poll of lawmakers just this week found only a slim majority of 61 members said they would vote for the bill.  Notably, politicians in New Zealand cited President Obama’s May announcement in support of marriage equality as a reason for moving forward with legislation in their country:

The proposed changes can be directly traced to Obama’s declaration in May in support of gay marriage. That prompted center-right Prime Minister John Key to break his long silence on the issue by saying he was “not personally opposed” to the idea. Then lawmaker Louisa Wall, from the opposition Labour Party, put forward a bill she had previously drafted.

“If I’m really honest, I think the catalyst was around Obama’s announcement, and then obviously our prime minister came out very early in support, as did the leader of my party, David Shearer,” Wall told The Associated Press. “The timing was right.”

8 Comments August 30, 2012

Survey: how are we doing?

By Adam Bink

The staff here just wants to check in again and see how everyone’s doing, but without a long survey — just a check-in over in the comments. Tell us how we’re doing… what do you like about the content (the blog posts) and what could use improvement? The technical aspects of the site? The writers? Features you’d like to see? Please be as candid as possible and leave a comment. As always, you’re welcome to e-mail a comment in private to prop8trial at couragecampaign dot org as well.

Let us know in the comments, and thanks for reading

1 Comment August 29, 2012

I’m going to the White House!

By Scottie Thomaston

I have a quick bit of good news that I wanted to share with you all. The Vice President is hosting a group of LGBT activists and writers for a “celebrat[ion of] the next generation of LGBT Leaders” and Courage Campaign nominated me to be one of those recognized at the event. Officials at the White House agreed, and I will be headed there next month! I’ll be attending a BBQ at the Vice President’s residence with Vice President Biden himself and Dr. Biden, and then there will be a LGBT Policy Roundtable I’ll be able to take part in as well. I’ll be able to talk to other LGBT activists and probably some White House officials about my work for Prop 8 Trial Tracker and Courage Campaign. As many of us amateur legal eagles know, the coverage and attention to the goings on in the LGBT judicial realm out there can be quite minimal at times, so I’m excited to bring more attention to our blog here and the work we all do together.

I’ve never been to Washington DC, much less to the White House by invitation so this is all incredibly unreal.

A good friend of mine wanted to break the news herself, so she wrote a post over at Daily Kos about the invitation. She does a better job of explaining the significance of this in my life than I ever could, so I’ll just quote her:

So there he was, fifteen years old, suddenly in a wheelchair, and headed for rehab. At about the same time he inadvertently came out to his family through a letter-writing mishap and was met with horror and rejection and attempts to “pray the gay away”. He was told in no uncertain terms that “it” would not be “allowed” in his parents’ home. Now, imagine yourself in Scottie’s position. Imagine what that must have felt like. Fifteen-year-olds are all about body image and sexuality, right? How does a young man deal with loss of mobility, family rejection, and the complications of dating while in a wheelchair? Can you imagine how lonely and rejected and trapped he must have felt?When I met Scottie a few years ago he was disabled, unemployed, depressed, isolated, and living alone in a small low-income apartment. He had no local friends, little positive contact with his family, and forget about a social life. But he had one tiny tiny thing going for him: Scottie is freaking brilliant. Combine a huge intellect with a gift for writing, a passion for justice, and unending curiosity – not to mention a great sense of humor and an ability to listen- and you’ve got something damn special.

This is a big deal for me, and I’ll be able to learn more from fellow activists and bloggers while I’m in DC, and I will be able to promote the work that Courage Campaign is doing and the writing our team at Prop 8 Trial Tracker works tirelessly every day to get out there, to help explain these complex legal issues working their way through federal and state courts and even the Supreme Court. Many of these cases are coming to a resolution, some perhaps sooner than others, and it’s so important for the media, activists, bloggers, and the government to pay attention to these issues. This is a chance to not only promote our own writing, but an opportunity to carve out a place for LGBT legal issues to earn a real discussion.

I’m really grateful for the opportunity to make sure these issues get the attention they deserve, and even more grateful to be a part of the Prop 8 Trial Tracker team. I’ll be sure to blog from DC on my experience there. Thanks for helping make this blog what it is!

36 Comments August 29, 2012

House Republicans oppose grant of Massachusetts’ cross-petition in their DOMA challenge

By Scottie Thomaston

In the Gill/Massachusetts case, there are several petitions for certiorari to the Supreme Court. The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) is the main petitioner. They were the losing party at the First Circuit Court of Appeals, after attempting to defend the law for House Republicans. The Justice Department also filed a petition in the case to ensure the Court will be able to hear it, since the DOJ has argued that BLAG lacks Article III standing to appear in federal court. And finally, the state of Massachusetts filed its own conditional cross-petition. In a response brief filed at the same time as their petition, Massachusetts gave its reasoning for its own petition:

Out of an abundance of caution, the Commonwealth is also filing a conditional cross-petition for a writ of certiorari raising its Tenth Amendment and Spending Clause arguments, in the event the Court determines that such a cross-petition is required in order for this Court to reach those issues. See Conditional Cross-Petition for a Writ of Certiorari (filed July 20, 2012.)

BLAG has filed its response to the Massachusetts conditional cross-petition, suggesting that the Supreme Court deny it. BLAG writes that the conditional cross-petition is “not necessary” and that granting it “will simply complicate the briefing and scheduling of this case on the merits without materially assisting the Court[.]” BLAG also calls the Spending Clause and Tenth Amendment claims raised by Massachusetts “weak.”

Their main argument that the petition is superfluous is that:

Whether or not the Court grants Massachusetts’ conditional cross-petition, Massachusetts is a respondent for purposes of the House’s petition in No. 12-13 (and the Department’s petition in No. 12-15).

The House’s petition essentially is asking the Court to review a decision that was in favor of the state, and so the state itself has the ability to respond to arguments challenging the ruling in its favor. Therefore they suggest there is not a need for any other petition than their own. BLAG says that not only could Massachusetts still raise its Spending Clause and Tenth Amendment arguments as a respondent, but the DOJ is also defending DOMA against those particular arguments (since DOJ believes Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional under equal protection principles in the Fifth Amendment.) This, they suggest, could complicate the situation if the petition is accepted.

The filing attacks squarely Massachusetts’ arguments:

Massachusetts’ arguments are novel, meritless and antithetical to our basic constitutional design, which grants the federal and state governments separate sovereignty and makes each superior in its own realm except where the Supremacy Clause gives the federal government the upper hand.

Massachusetts, in its petition, said DOMA is a “sweeping federal incursion” into an area that has traditionally been regulated by states. And in the reply brief that was filed at the same time as the initial petition, Massachusetts pointed out that there was never any federal definition of marriage that precluded recognition of interracial marriage or any other type of marriage that a state deemed legal. They wrote:

BLAG responds that:

The notion that the federal government cannot adopt its own definitions for purposes of its own federal programs, but must adopt for federal-law purposes whatever definitions the states favor, would turn the Supremacy Clause on its head.

And it further argues:

The theory Massachusetts proposes is far more radical than anything ever suggested by this Court: That even when Congress has specifically defined family-relationship terms for purposes of federal law, the Tenth Amendment provides that state law will “reverse preempt” the federal definition.

BLAG also argues against Massachusetts Spending Clause argument, suggesting it is “unprecedented” and pointing out that Massachusetts has said that it relies on equal protection: if Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional under equal protection principles, then it also violates the Spending Clause because spending conditions can’t violate any other part of the constitution. BLAG says the fact that the arguments somewhat rely on each other only underscores the uselessness of the conditional cross-petition.

Since BLAG requested and was granted a short extension to file responses (August 31) more of their responses to petitions in this and other DOMA cases will be forthcoming soon.

h/t Kathleen for this filing

12-97 #2

11 Comments August 29, 2012

Judge grants short delay in hearing for DOMA challenge Aranas v. Napolitano

By Scottie Thomaston

Yesterday, we covered the Justice Department’s request for a delay of a hearing in Aranas v. Napolitano, challenging DOMA as applied to immigration. The plaintiffs filed a brief in opposition to the delay, writing that, “Plaintiffs’ letter [asking Defendants to confer on the deportation issues raised] advised that absent interim relief the lawful spouses of U.S.citizens and permanent residents—immigrants who would routinely be granted lawful status but for their sex and sexual orientation—“will be told they must leave the country, some will have work permits terminated, some will be told their presence is now unlawful and will be encouraged to leave the country, some will be forced to continue litigating removal cases, and some will leave the country.” Id. In an effort to demonstrate the gravity of bi-national couples’ plight and the soundness of the legal case for granting them interim relief, plaintiffs then provided defendants with a draft of their brief in support of a preliminary injunction.”

And the plaintiffs summed up the DOJ’s rationale for a delay, “Defendants’ priorities may accordingly be summed up as follows: first, counsel’s vacation; second, making an initial document response in another matter; third, answering a non-emergent motion by an entity that is not even a party in this case; and lastly, responding to motions to save the immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens and lawful residents from being consigned to the undocumented underground pursuant to a statute defendants themselves concede is unconstitutional.”

The DOJ would still have ten more days even without the delay: “As has been seen, defendants have been fully apprised of plaintiffs’ arguments—and have had opportunity to secure senior officials’ views with respect thereto—for more than six weeks; leaving the hearing date as is, they will have still another 10 days to prepare their opposition.”

However, the judge granted a delay – but not the October 29 date that was requested; the hearing will be on October 9.

h/t Kathleen for these filings

Plaintiffs’ opposition to delay:8:12-cv-01137 #16

Judge’s order:8:12-cv-01137 #17

August 29, 2012

Washington marriage equality group reserves $5 million in TV time

By Jacob Combs

The Seattle Times reported this week that Washington United for Marriage has reserved $5 million in television time after Labor Day in which it plans to run statewide ads leading up to a November ballot vote on marriage equality.  “We’ve always believed that we had to have a direct conversation with voters about the issue and this is the beginning of that dialogue,” Washington United’s Zach Silk said. “We’re excited to begin this next phase of the campaign.”

The funding numbers for the two sides in Washington couldn’t look starker: Washington United for Marriage has raised over $6 million, while Preserve Marriage Washington, which led the push to get the referendum on the ballot, has raised only around $471,000.  Christopher Plante, Preserve Marriage’s deputy campaign manager (and a NOM employee donated to the Wahsington campaign), says that he expects the group to raise $4 million.  “We’re convinced that if we have enough money to get our message out, we will be victorious,” he said.

The first pro-marriage equality ad in Washington ran last month during the Olympics and was financed by the Seattle-based Pride Foundation.  Former Republican Senator Cheryl Pflug, who voted for the marriage equality bill early this year, was featured in the ad.

A SurveyUSA poll released in late July showed 50 percent support for marriage equality, with opposition at 43 percent.  Those numbers are positive, but close, and Washington United’s ad buy is no doubt part of a strategy to open a wider gap of support in the state before November.

5 Comments August 29, 2012

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