1641 posts categorized "Legal"

November 22, 2014

The five craziest conservative reactions to Obama on immigration

Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch reports. The right wing is losing it.

Moral courage in the face of hatred

November 21, 2014

Dear Mr. Speaker

'We were strangers once, too'

President Obama gave one of his finest speeches last night in announcing his executive action on immigration. Here is my favorite passage:

Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger -- we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too.

My friend Walter Dellinger, who was head of the Office of Legal Counsel from 1993 to 1996, explains in Slate that the President is on solid legal ground:

The idea that the immigration plan just announced by President Obama is a lawless power grab is absurd. As the Justice Department legal analysis that was just released amply demonstrates, much of the advance criticism of the president’s action has been uninformed and unwarranted. The opinion is well-reasoned and at times even conservative. The president is not acting unilaterally, but pursuant to his statutory authority. Wide discretion over deportation priorities has long been conferred on the executive branch by Congress, and it is being exercised in this case consistent with policies such as family unification that have been endorsed by Congress.

Dellinger's whole piece bears reading. Thank you and bravo, Mr. President.

November 20, 2014

#SCOTUS denies stay in South Carolina marriage case

November 19, 2014

President Obama previews primetime immigration address

More from the Associated Press.

Marriage victory in Montana

Slackers at the Chalkboard

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(Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

My post-election column is now up at the Blade. If you're dreading the holidays and could use a booster shot of snark, this could be just the thing. Here's an excerpt:

With Republicans winning the Senate and Obamacare on the run, a new Era of Good Feeling is surely around the corner. Vote suppression, gerrymandering, and truckloads of secret cash are just another way of saying, "The people have spoken!" Someone please turn this into lyrics for a new Christmas carol.

The best hope for Democrats is Republican overreach. By that I do not mean your right-wing uncle getting gravy on his sweater as he reaches across the table at Thanksgiving. I mean unhinged recklessness driven by hubris and Obama hatred. Profits are up, unemployment and deficits are down -- get that Muslim socialist out of the White House before he ruins us!

Republicans are furious at the President's unrepentant attitude, despite their own intransigence after past losses. Elections must have consequences when Republicans win. Talk of government shutdowns and impeachment is rising. But President Obama has little to lose by picking fights (by which I mean being president, black, and doing anything). If you abuse someone no matter what he does, he might as well stand his ground. That is what our 44th president, at long last, appears to be doing.

Read the whole thing here.

Marriage News Watch

An update from Matt Baume at AFER. (From Monday)

SC AG asks Chief Justice Roberts for stay of 4th Circuit marriage ruling

November 18, 2014

Good marriage news from South Carolina and Kansas

On Bill Cosby

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(Photo by Evan Vucci, The Associated Press)

Bill Cosby has entertained generations of Americans with his comedy. He is an educator and has created memorable children's programming. His creation "Little Bill" always says "Hello friend" because that's what Ennis, his murdered son, always said. Cosby is a great philanthropist. One does not want to believe that such a beloved and respected figure is a serial rapist. But 14 alleged victims, one of whom he settled with out of court, coupled with his silence, make it hard to credit his lawyer's dismissals. Sadness is all over this; but the seriousness of the accusations raises troubling questions about wealth and fame putting someone above the law. I sure could have done without this news.

Here are several relevant items:

Update: A thoughtful essay from Katie McDonough at Salon.

November 14, 2014

Montana: federal judge cancels marriage hearing, will rule soon

Tony Perkins Will Attend Upcoming Vatican Marriage Meeting

Miranda Blue at Right Wing Watch reports.

Botswana Gay Rights Group Wins Legal Recognition

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Reuters reports some good news from Botswana:

A Botswana judge overturned a government ban on a gay rights lobbying group on Friday, a rare victory for African gay rights campaigners on a continent where homosexuality remains highly contentious.

Justice Terrence Rannoane ruled that the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) would be allowed to register and campaign for changes to anti-gay legislation but reiterated that it was still illegal to engage in homosexual acts.

"In a democratic society such as ours, freedom of expression, assembly and association are important values duly protected by our constitution," Rannoane said.

Marc Solomon's Winning Marriage hits shelves

A busy week for marriage equality

Multiple developments this week on marriage equality. Above, victory in Kansas. Below, developments in MS and SC.

The Clarion-Ledger on marriage in Mississippi:
Analysis: Judge likely will overturn gay marriage ban

Reuters:
Gay marriage advocates get victories in Kansas, South Carolina

Meanwhile, Justice Thomas weighs in.

November 08, 2014

The great dissent by Sixth Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey

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Mark Joseph Stern writes in Slate:

Thursday’s 2–1 decision by the 6th Circuit upholding four states’ gay marriage bans is a deeply obnoxious slog that I would not recommend even to the most eager masochist. Its author, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, seems to fundamentally misunderstand the constitutional arguments behind marriage equality: Instead of analyzing the 14th Amendment’s dual guarantees of liberty and equal protection, he simply states that gay people have no business fighting for their civil rights in court. After a while, Sutton’s repeated insistence that it’s not a federal judge’s duty to enforce the constitution makes you want to grab him by the shoulders and ask, then what in the world were you hired for?

Luckily, someone has already done that for us: Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, the dissenter in the case. Daughtrey’s opinion isn’t just blistering; it’s a scorching, bitterly funny, profoundly humane excoriation of Sutton’s sophistry.

Stern quotes three fine passages by Daughtrey:

The author of the majority opinion has drafted what would make an engrossing TED Talk or, possibly, an introductory lecture in Political Philosophy. But as an appellate court decision, it wholly fails to grapple with the relevant constitutional question in this appeal. … Instead, the majority sets up a false premise—that the question before us is “who should decide?”—and leads us through a largely irrelevant discourse on democracy and federalism. In point of fact, the real issue before us concerns what is at stake in these six cases for the individual plaintiffs and their children, and what should be done about it. Because I reject the majority’s resolution of these questions based on its invocation of vox populi and its reverence for “proceeding with caution” (otherwise known as the “wait and see” approach), I dissent.

Continue reading "The great dissent by Sixth Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey" »

Judge Sutton's desperate effort to hold back the marriage equality tide

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(Photo of Judge Jeffrey Sutton by Associated Press)

Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast looks at the ruling by Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton upholding gay marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

One of Sutton's arguments, designed to establish a rational basis for preventing gay couples from marrying, is the so-called natural law argument, which says that we are violating "nature's laws." As I have said before, natural law is merely religion in pseudo-scientific drag, cooked up by people who haven't the slightest understanding or respect for the scientific method. It amounts to a more polite rephrasing of the great line by playwright Christopher Durang's Sister Mary Ignatius, "You do the thing that makes Jesus puke." Instead of studying what nature has actually produced in all its diversity, they try to dictate to nature to stay within their comfortable boxes. Or, if you will, instead of studying God's creation, they tell God what to do. It's both bad science and presumptuous religion.

Sutton, by the way, is a respected conservative jurist. But as for those who say that the Sixth Circuit ruling sets back the cause of marriage equality, that is only true if you ignore the fact that this almost certainly propels the issue of marriage equality back to the Supreme Court of the United States, by creating a conflict among the federal circuit courts. That's less like losing and more like luring your enemy into a trap. Not that I am calling marriage opponents my enemies. We are all loyal Americans with an honest disagreement. If you ignore our opponents' endless lies and slanders, that is.

November 07, 2014

President Obama chooses Brooklyn federal prosecutor Lynch for AG

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(Photo courtesy Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

Reuters reports:

President Barack Obama will nominate Brooklyn federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch to replace the retiring Eric Holder as U.S. attorney general and if confirmed, she would become the first black woman to serve in the post, the White House said on Friday.

The 55-year-old North Carolina native and Harvard-trained lawyer has deep experience in both civil rights and corporate fraud cases. Lynch is known for a low-key personality and stirred little controversy during two tenures as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

If confirmed, Lynch would be the first black woman to serve as Attorney General of the United States. She has been confirmed to posts at the federal level twice before.

And now Kansas

Sixth Circuit ruling against marriage equality sets up #SCOTUS review

Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed reports here and here.

Federal judge strikes down Missouri ban on same-sex marriage

Metro Weekly reports.

Richard Land Calls For 'A Two Year Moratorium On Any Confirmation Of Federal Judges'

Because they're all about governing.

(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)

October 31, 2014

AG candidate Karl Racine talks to LGBT community

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(Photo by Darrow Montgomery, Washington City Paper)

The top-polling contender in the District's first election for an attorney general is Karl Racine, who is the first African American to have been named managing partner at a top 100 law firm. I met with him earlier this fall and was impressed. Many friends in the legal profession are supporting him.

While the only AG candidate to send a statement to GLAA is Lorie Masters (GLAA is not rating candidates in the AG race, but invited them to send us statements), Racine is interviewed today by Metro Weekly. Here is an excerpt of his comments:

I have always been deeply concerned with making sure that the same opportunities are available to others regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other trait.

As Managing Partner at Venable, I was responsible for hiring, promoting, and training our attorneys, and emphasized the importance of ensuring diversity in doing so. I drafted, implemented, and enforced clear policies regarding equal treatment and equal opportunity. I specifically hired a diverse team, including women, minorities, and LGBT individuals, and promoted many of these individuals to positions of prominence within the firm. Furthermore, I strongly believe in the power of proactive diversity training. Intolerance is based on ignorance, but can be addressed through creative programs such as our firm-wide book clubs dedicated to educating employees on issues of diversity.

On a personal level, I am a long-time volunteer with the Whitman-Walker Clinic, the primary community-based provider of HIV/AIDS services in the city. I have taken numerous pro bono cases representing people living with HIV/AIDS and helped them obtain social security benefits. I also took on pro bono work representing the Clinic itself. To further support Whitman-Walker’s work, I encouraged my Venable colleagues and other friends to take on additional projects, earning Venable the Clinic’s “Going the Extra Mile Law Firm Award” in 2004, among other honors.

In addition to my work with Whitman-Walker, I have volunteered with the D.C. Bar’s Pro Bono Legal Advice Program at Bread for the City, which provides vulnerable residents with comprehensive services such as housing, food, legal assistance, and medical care. I am also a member of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, an organization dedicated to creating a truly diverse legal profession.

As Attorney General I will treat each and every resident of the District with dignity, respect and with equality before the law.

See other candidate responses to Metro Weekly. In other coverage, the Blade reported on the candidates' pro-LGBT positions; and candidate Smitty Smith essentially bought the Stein Club endorsement.

While GLAA is not rating AG candidates, I personally have concluded that Masters and Racine are the most qualified based on their experience, and I am supporting Racine. The District has seen several public officials taken down by scandal. Choosing as our first elected attorney general a man who has played a pioneering role as an African American among top law firms would be a feather in our cap and a reminder of the talent, accomplishment, and leadership available in our city.

Vote for Initiative 71

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GLAA endorses Initiative 71, the "Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014," and urges you to vote for it.

We have included it in our ratings ad, discussed it in our policy brief, Building on Victory, and discussed it in our testimony this week before the D.C. Council Judiciary Committee decrying racial disparities in police stops:

[W]e appreciate the work of our friends at ACLU of the Nation's Capital, which reported in 2013 on the dramatic racial disparity in marijuana arrests in the District:

"Officers from fifteen different police forces … made marijuana arrests in 2010, however MPD officers made 4,996 of the 5,393 total arrests, or almost 93%.... PSA 602, located in Anacostia, had a 2010 marijuana arrest rate of 2,488 per 100,000. By contrast, PSA 204, located in Woodley Park, had a marijuana arrest rate of just 33 per 100,000."

Given the roughly equal rates of self-reported marijuana use by white and black citizens, the disparity in enforcement must be confronted by this committee. In the meantime, the people are changing the law. GLAA endorses Initiative 71, the "Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014." This will not end all problems associated with the disastrously counterproductive war on drugs, but it is a start.

Unfortunately, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, who leans conservative on many issues, is not quite with the program, judging by her comments on Twitter:

I replied to her this morning:

Do not think for a moment that your vote doesn't matter. Please vote on or before November 4, and make sure to vote for Initiative 71. It will be a vote for fairness and justice.

October 29, 2014

Kansas couple files brief claiming gays are stealing their marriage

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Kansas couple Phillip and Sandra Unruh, whose motion to intervene in marriage equality case Marie v. Moser was denied in federal district court, have filed a brief airing their absurd arguments.

Your Honor, we cannot sleep knowing that down the street those homosatanists are doing the thing that makes Jesus puke!

Olson, Wolfson discuss marriage cases

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One of the sessions I attended at Wednesday's Washington Ideas Forum (hosted by Atlantic and the Aspen Institute) was this discussion by attorneys Ted Olson and Evan Wolfson of the state of the battle over marriage equality in federal courts. Jonathan Capehart moderated. Here's an excerpt of David A. Graham's report:

"We are winning, but winning is not won," Wolfson said. "It's not a done deal until it’s done. It's not going to waft in on waves of inevitability."

Wolfson has been leading the fight for gay marriage for more than three decades; Olson, alongside Democratic lawyer David Boies, has recently been one of its most high-profile advocates. The men were chummy, despite a kerfuffle this spring over Jo Becker's Forcing the Spring, a book some LGBT advocates felt aggrandized Boies and Olson at the expense of Wolfson and others.

There was no rivalry—just a mix of hope and frustration. On the one hand, about two-thirds of states now have gay marriage, and about two-thirds of American citizens live in those states. On the other hand, that means one third do not, and as long as same-sex marriage is not legal everywhere in the United States, they argued, the rights of gay people and their families are painfully compromised.

Other highlights of the Washington Ideas Forum were DefSec Chuck Hagel, who announced that service members returning from West Africa will face a quarantine; and Attorney General Eric Holder, who said that no reporter will go to jail as long as he is AG. Holder was interrupted by a protester decrying DOJ's record on civil liberties under Holder. Capehart, who was also the interviewer in this case, smoothly turned to Holder and asked him what about DOJ's poor record on whistleblowers and journalists. Holder defended himself, but was more credible when he talked about his decision not to defend DOMA in court.

Thanks to Atlantic Washington Editor At Large Steve Clemons for inviting me to the forum, which was held at the Harmon Center and continues on Thursday morning. A Thursday highlight will be an appearance by Secretary of State John Kerry.

October 27, 2014

GLAA: racial disparities in police stops must end

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(Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Today I will testify on behalf of GLAA at an oversight hearing of the D.C. Council Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety on the Metropolitan Police Department's stop and contact policies and procedures. In it I cite findings and recommendations by our allies in the ACLU and NAACP. Here is my conclusion:

In looking at citizen complaints of police practices, we keep coming back to disparities by geography, race, and class. This is unacceptable. As I wrote in 2012, "It is easier to make excuses for stopping and frisking if you are never targeted by police based on your skin color."

Not only police but citizens in all eight wards must face the inequities around us with open eyes. When the law is not enforced in a fair and equitable manner, we undermine respect for the law. The standard carved above the entrance to the Supreme Court, "Equal Justice Under Law," is more a mockery than a reality for all too many. Dr. King issued the challenge the day before he was struck down: "All we say to America is be true to what you said on paper." If his words continue to sting, perhaps it is because love of country is all too often an excuse for self-congratulation instead of a call to self-correction.

Read GLAA's full testimony here.

October 24, 2014

Rick Santorum: 'We're losing' because gays 'silenced the church'

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Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch reports:

Rick Santorum thinks that young people would have come around to his anti-gay political stances if only the “statists” in the gay community hadn’t “silenced” him and other Religious Right figures.

The former senator and likely presidential candidate made the claim yesterday in an interview with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, where they discussed the case in Houston where pastors sued the city for rejecting their petitions to repeal a non-discrimination ordinance. The city in turn subpoenaed several pastors, which Santorum and Perkins considered an affront to pastors’ rights.

“I really believe in this subject matter at hand with the gay community that a Judeo-Christian worldview cannot survive with a worldview that is as rabidly secular as this movement is,” Santorum said.

Pardon me, but if we silenced the church, why is the church still talking?

John Oliver's solution for Supreme Court video

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has solved the problem of SCOTUS not allowing television cameras during oral arguments.

October 22, 2014

NYT Columnist Apologizes For Attending Fundraiser For Anti-Gay Legal Group

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I am quoted in this article by Carlos Maza and Joe Strupp at Media Matters. They report:

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat apologized for appearing at a fundraising event for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an extreme anti-gay legal group working to criminalize homosexuality....

As Media Matters noted, ADF is one of the most extreme anti-gay legal groups in the country, fighting against even basic legal protections for LGBT people and working internationally to repress LGBT human rights, including supporting Belize's draconian law criminalizing gay sex.

On Wednesday, Douthat explained that he did not know ADF's event was a fundraiser and said he plans to decline the honorarium he received from the event.

I note that my quote (follow the link) was given before word of Douthat's apology. I am glad that he apologized and will not accept the honorarium.

October 21, 2014

The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel controversy

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(Donald and Evelyn Knapp, owners of the Hitching Post Chapel. Photo credit: Alliance Defending Freedom)

The anti-gay Alliance Defending Freedom is suing the City of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho in a "gays are bullies" case. Last Friday, ADF attorneys filed a federal lawsuit and a motion for a temporary restraining order against the city. Here is an excerpt:

This case is about the City of Coeur D’Alene unconstitutionally coercing two Christian ministers, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies at The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in violation of their religious beliefs, their ordination vows, and their consciences. Coeur D’Alene does so by imposing a Hobson’s choice on the Knapps through City Ordinance §9.56, which bars sexual orientation discrimination in public accommodations: the Knapps can either violate their religious convictions and ministerial vows by performing same-sex wedding ceremonies or follow their religious convictions and vows by declining to perform same-sex ceremonies and face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
This was reported by Todd Starnes of Fox News: City threatens to arrest ministers who refuse to perform same-sex weddings

The story was given legs by Eugene Volokh at WaPo: Can ministers who make a living by conducting weddings be required to conduct same-sex weddings?

The claim that those awful gays are bullying ministers does not survive closer inspection. Here are several stories to check out:

A quick Google search shows that the right wing is going nuts over this story. We have to fight back with the truth.

October 17, 2014

Sen. Cruz attacks Mayor Parker over Houston Equal Rights Ordinance


The battle over the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance continues, with Sen. Ted Cruz demagoguing (see video below) and the city clarifying its subpoena.

Arizona gets marriage equality


Good news from Arizona! Lily Hiott-Millis at Freedom to Marry reports:

Today, October 17, U.S. District Court Judge John Sedgwick ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in Arizona in two federal legal cases that challenged the state’s anti-marriage constitutional amendment.

Attorney General Horne has said that he will not appeal the ruling meaning that marriage licenses could be issued as soon as today.

In celebration of hermaphroditic snails

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("Snail Shell on Keys" by Garry Gay)

In an update on my earlier post regarding the new snail species Aegista diversifamilia, Manon Verchot at Treehugger.com quotes me, including my new lyrics channeling Cole Porter:

Bi-curious whales do it, quails do it,
New hermaphroditic snails do it.
Let's do it, let's fall in love.

Below, though sadly without benefit of my special lyrics, Billie Holiday gives her rendition. Use your imagination.

October 12, 2014

Gay Marriage Obstacles Fall in Conservative States

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(AP Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau, Brian Jones)

AP surveys the remarkable legal developments of the past week. Here's a portion:

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an order Friday that appears to have cleared the way for gay marriages in conservative Idaho. Gay rights supporters are cheering in Boise as state officials were trying to determine when weddings might take place. At least one county clerk in Idaho began issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in North Carolina has struck down the state's gay marriage ban, opening the way for the first same-sex weddings in the state to begin immediately. The ruling follows Monday's announcement by the U.S. Supreme Court that it would not hear any appeals of cases before the 4th Circuit Court, which has jurisdiction over North Carolina.

As our opponents continue to make noise and talk about the downfall of civilization, it is good for us to savor the simple happiness and decency of so many families gaining legal protections and recognition that they never had before. In winning these battles, we are helping make America live up to its founding principles. This is not the end of the struggle for marriage equality, but it is a sweet moment.

Texas AG: gay marriage ban reduces out-of-wedlock births

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(Greg Abbott poses with 10 Commandments at state capitol. Photo by Jana Birchum, Getty Images)

Houston Chronicle reports on the brief that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor, filed with the Fifth Circuit on Friday in that state's fight against marriage equality:

Writing in a brief filed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, Abbott said the state was not obligated to prove why gay marriage might be detrimental to the economic or social well-being of Texans. It was only required to show how opposite-sex marriage would be more beneficial for its citizens.

“The State is not required to show that recognizing same-sex marriage will undermine heterosexual marriage,” the brief read. “It is enough if one could rationally speculate that opposite-sex marriages will advance some state interest to a greater extent than same-sex marriages will.”

Abbott may not be charged with contempt of court, but the contempt he shows for the court, the truth, and real families in his preposterous brief could hardly be more clear. It must at last be recognized: we are no longer talking about disagreements, but about lies. Desperate, insulting, cynical lies. Stopping me from marrying the man I love does nothing to advance any state interest. The notion that straight people's marriages are somehow devalued by allowed gay couples to wed should leave any decent and honest person's mouth agape. The final resolution of this nonsense cannot come soon enough.

Go Wendy.

October 09, 2014

Justice Kennedy's busy day

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Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy issued a temporary stay Wednesday to the Ninth Circuit's ruling that same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada are unconstitutional. Later in the day, he lifted the stay on Nevada.

Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed discusses it.

My main reaction is: Hey thanks, Justice Kennedy, for jerking us around. By all means, take your sweet fucking time while thousands of families' lives are up in the air. Would you like more coffee? I just put a fresh pot on. Have another scone.

Update: And now this:

October 06, 2014

SCOTUS declines marriage appeals from five states

The Supreme Court of the United States today declined to hear appeals in marriage equality cases from Oklahoma, Utah, Indiana, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Chris Johnson of the Blade reports.

Gay marriages began in Virginia this afternoon. Today's high court ruling will also mean equality in six other states, which are in the same federal appeals circuit courts as the five directly affected. This will bring the U.S. marriage equality roster to 30 states and the District of Columbia, representing 60 percent of America's population.

We will not be done until all fifty states enjoy equality, but this is an enormous step forward. Justice Ginsburg recently indicated that there was no need for SCOTUS to weigh when all the appellate rulings so far have been for marriage equality. If one of the remaining circuits upholds a state ban on same-sex marriage, that would set up a conflict that SCOTUS needs to resolve.

This is not the end, but it is a very good day. Congrats to everyone in the new marriage equality states.