1723 posts categorized "Legal"

January 16, 2015

SCOTUS takes 6th Circuit marriage cases

Lyle Denniston reports at SCOTUSblog:

Taking on a historic constitutional challenge with wide cultural impact, the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon agreed to hear four new cases on same-sex marriage. The Court said it would rule on the power of the states to ban same-sex marriages and to refuse to recognize such marriages performed in another state. A total of two-and-a-half hours was allocated for the hearings, likely in the April sitting. A final ruling is expected by early next summer, probably in late June.

The Court fashioned the specific questions it is prepared to answer, but they closely tracked the two core constitutional issues that have led to a lengthy string of lower-court rulings striking down state bans. As of now, same-sex marriages are allowed in thirty-six states, with bans remaining in the other fourteen but all are under court challenge.

UPDATE 7:51 p.m. The Obama administration will file a brief in the same-sex marriage cases, supporting equal access to marital rights in all of the states, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

At last!

I really hope that counsel for our opponents boils it down during oral arguments by saying, "Your Honors, what about the chirren?!!" and sitting back down.

January 13, 2015

Court strikes down South Dakota gay marriage ban

The Blade reports:

A federal judge in South Dakota became the latest to rule against a ban on same-sex marriage on Monday, striking down the state’s law on the basis that it violates rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

In a 28-page decision, U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier, a Clinton appointee, grants summary judgement to plaintiff same-sex couples in the case, saying South Dakota’s marriage ban runs contrary to their rights to equal protection and due process under the U.S. Constitution.

“In Loving, the Supreme Court addressed a traditionally accepted definition of marriage that prohibited Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving from marrying,” Schreier writes. “Because Virginia’s laws deprived that couple of their fundamental right to marriage, the Court struck down those laws. Little distinguishes this case from Loving. Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to marry. South Dakota law deprives them of that right solely because they are same-sex couples and without sufficient justification.”

The decision is stayed pending appeal.

January 12, 2015

SCOTUS denies Louisiana case, reschedules 6th Circuit cases for consideration Jan. 16

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Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog reports:

The Supreme Court, returning from its winter recess, decided on Monday not to take on a same-sex marriage case that remains under review in a federal appeals court, but otherwise took no action on that constitutional controversy. The Court made no comment as it turned down a plea by same-sex couples in Louisiana to review that state’s ban, which had been upheld by a federal trial judge in New Orleans (Robicheaux v. George).

The four same-sex marriage cases challenging the Sixth Circuit’s ruling that upheld four states’ bans have now been set for consideration by the Justices at their Conference on Friday of this week.

Fifth Circuit poised to strike down gay marriage ban

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(Photo by Chris Geidner/BuzzFeed)

From Friday. Chris Gender reports that the Fifth Circuit hearing on marriage equality was sounding very good for our side:

More than halfway through the morning’s arguments, an exasperated Justin Matheny, the assistant attorney general in Mississippi charged with defending the state’s ban, tried to change his tune during his rebuttal arguments.

When it became clear that the three-judge panel was leaning against upholding the bans, Matheny acknowledged that the “trajectory” for marriage rights for same-sex couples is “undeniable” — but added his new argument: “it’s not there yet.”

Judge Patrick Higginbotham, born in Alabama almost eight decades ago and appointed to the appeals court by President Reagan more than three decades ago, spoke up. And though the older judge was hard to hear at times, he spoke loudly and clearly when he responded to Matheny: “Those words, ‘Will Mississippi change its mind?’ have resonated in these halls before.”

Boom.

January 06, 2015

Council member Charles Allen introduces surrogacy reform bill

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen this morning introduced the "Collaborative Reproduction Amendment Act of 2015," which was co-introduced by all of his colleagues. As I said to several CMs on Monday in urging them to co-introduce:

[This bill] will legalize and regulate surrogacy parenting agreements. A coalition of advocates has been working on this with former Judiciary Chair Tommy Wells and his staff, principally Anne Phelps (who is now working for Charles), for the past two years. Given its complexity and the crush of other business before the committee, it did not get done last year.

This bill is a top legislative priority for GLAA. It represents the last big piece of family law in need of modernizing to bring it in line with the District’s policy of equality for all families.

GLAA’s statement on surrogacy from our 2014 policy brief is here:
http://www.glaa.org/archive/2014/buildingonvictory.htm#_Toc24

Jeb Bush stumbles on marriage, settles on the rule of law

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(Jeff and Todd Delmay marrying Monday in Miami. By Angel Valentin for The New York Times)

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush stirred memories of his brother George from 2004 as he strove both to pander to the anti-gay right and to strike a civil tone in discussing the arrival of marriage equality in Florida. Here he is on Sunday:

It ought be a local decision — I mean, a state decision. The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it's been overturned by the courts, I guess.

And here he is on Monday, revising and extending his remarks:

We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law. I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue – including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.

Sound familiar? Here is what I wrote in Salon in March 2004:

After calling for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage without once mentioning the dreaded words "gay" or "lesbian," President George W. Bush ended on a conciliatory note: "We should also conduct this difficult debate in a manner worthy of our country, without bitterness or anger. In all that lies ahead, let us match strong convictions with kindness and goodwill and decency." This reminds me of Dame Edna Everage, who, after saying something horribly cruel about her bridesmaid Madge Allsop, habitually adds, "I mean that in a nurturing and caring way."

I would love to have Jeb explain to me what religious liberty has to do with this. The anti-gay right throws that expression around all the time, but its only meaning here is their liberty to infringe on mine. How long will the Republican Party and its purported leaders cling to this degrading nonsense?

Marriage equality comes to Florida

Joy erupts in a Miami courtroom as Judge Sarah Zabel of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida lifts a stay and allows gay couples to marry. Congrats to all the happy couples and all who helped make this happen.

January 03, 2015

January 10 - Justice For Leelah Alcorn Rally & March

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On Saturday, January 10 at 2 pm, a rally and march will be held in D.C. for Ohio transgender youth Leelah Alcorn, who was recently driven to her death by intolerance and abuse. The rally will be held at Mt. Vernon Square/Washington DC Convention Center. The organizers write:

"My Death Needs To Mean Something"

Join us January 10th as we gather in honor of Leelah's wishes to stand up for the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people everywhere.

This event will consist of a few speakers followed by a march.

For more information on the circumstances surrounding the death of Leelah Alcorn, as well as to read her final message, please see the following (warning: suicide and transphobia trigger warnings apply): http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2014/12/transgender-teen-struck-and-killed-on-ohio-interstate-in-apparent-suicide/

If you or someone you know is transgender or gender non-conforming and feeling suicidal, please know that there is a suicide hotline dedicated to transgender people that you can call: http://www.translifeline.org/

January 01, 2015

Putting It Together in 2015

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(Photo by See-ming Lee, United Nations Africa Renewal)

My look at the year ahead in LGBT activism is now up at Bay Windows. Here's an excerpt:

From a liberal perspective, 2015 promises continued fights against right-wing aggressions that include vagina policing and other gender-based discrimination; attacks on church-state separation; xenophobia; quackery disguised as science; biased profiling and excessive force by police; and criminalization of healthcare issues.

None of these will be resolved by the likely nationwide victory for marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, in the words of Ella Baker, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest." Here are some thoughts for the work ahead.

Read the whole thing here.

December 31, 2014

2014 year in review: Athletes and Ambassadors

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My year-in-review is now up at the Washington Blade. Here is an excerpt:

Military and international. The transition to openly gay military service has gone so smoothly it has generated little news. The fight to end discrimination against transgender service members continues; two dozen have been discharged in the past two years. The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lawsuit by Sexual Minorities Uganda against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity can proceed. In diplomatic news, Ted Osius III joined a growing list of openly gay envoys when he was sworn in as ambassador to Vietnam.

Health. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led 80 senators and House members in urging an end to the lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with men, calling for science to replace stereotypes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for wider use of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention, despite strong opposition by Michael Weinstein of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. There have been no new HIV infections among more than 500 Kaiser Permanente customers using PrEP. New York and the District of Columbia adopted rules forbidding health insurers from denying medically necessary treatment to transgender people. D.C. joined California and New Jersey in passing legislation banning "ex-gay" conversion therapy for minors.

Media. Schadenfreude was rampant after Sean Eldridge failed in his bid to buy a congressional seat and husband Chris Hughes provoked a mass walkout at The New Republic by sacking top editors. Hughes was faulted for wrecking a century-old magazine in his effort to create a "vertically integrated digital media company," that is, a word salad. Former TNR writer Jamie Kirchick at The Daily Beast dubbed them "America's worst gay power couple," but their youthful hubris and confusion of wealth for wisdom transcend sexual orientation.

Read the whole thing here.

December 30, 2014

Klingenschmitt praises Fayetteville for voting 'against the Devil'

Right Wing Watch reports. He aggressively opposes non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, yet HE is the one being persecuted.

December 29, 2014

Marriage News Watch

Today's update on marriage equality by Matt Baume at AFER.

December 23, 2014

Marriage equality cases headed to 8th Circuit, SCOTUS conference

December 22, 2014

Mayor Gray signs bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors

This morning, I was honored to attend on behalf of GLAA as Mayor Vince Gray signed Bill 20-501, the Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Amendment Act. Thanks to Gray, bill introducer Mary Cheh, and all who worked in support of this important legislation to protect our youth from a dangerous and discredited outgrowth of anti-gay junk science. It now goes to Capitol Hill for the requisite congressional review period before becoming law.

Read GLAA's testimony from last June.

Marriage News Watch

Matt Baume of AFER gives an update on marriage equality fights across the country.

Indict American war criminals, starting with Cheney

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(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

I agree with The New York Times.

For years I've thought that we cannot be like countries where leaders of the outgoing regime are jailed by the incoming one. The resulting political turmoil would not be worth it. But I am changing my mind. Dick Cheney's brazen, no-apologies trash talk has helped me reconsider. If he had the sense to choose a quiet retirement it might be one thing; but he continues his provocations and his aggressive contempt for international norms to which America is a signatory, and for simple decency. So we got the turmoil anyway. Meanwhile, the lack of justice looms larger. Indict him or give him a one-way ticket to The Hague.

December 20, 2014

Two police officers killed by ambush in Brooklyn; suspect dead by his own hand

NYT reports the awful news.

I agree with Jeffrey Wright. Citizens and police must stand together against violence and for justice for all. Otherwise madmen, provocateurs, and sociopaths will rule the day. My heart goes out to the families of the slain officers, and all who are the victims of senseless violence.

Prosecutor in Ferguson case knew some grand jury witnesses were lying

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(Photo by Reuters)

Mike Hayes at BuzzFeed reports:

In his first interview since announcing Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the shooting of Mike Brown, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch told radio station KTRS that he allowed witnesses he knew were lying to testify to the grand jury.

As Shaun King at Daily Kos points out, the perjurer whose testimony most lined up with that of Wilson was Witness #40, who turns out to be a white supremacist named Sandy McElroy. No perjury charges are being contemplated.

McCulloch should be fired at minimum and possibly disbarred. This is not justice. Anyone who could defend him after this is not really disagreeing, they just don't give a crap. We cannot accept this.

Chinese Court sides with gay man in electroshock therapy case

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(Photo by Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)

NYT reports:

In a victory for gay rights advocates in China, a Beijing court ruled on Friday that a Chinese clinic must pay compensation to a gay man who sued it for giving him electric shocks intended to change his sexual orientation.

Stating that homosexuality is not a mental illness, the Haidian District People’s Court ordered the Xinyupiaoxiang Counseling Center in the southwestern city of Chongqing to pay 3,400 renminbi, or $560, for costs incurred by the plaintiff, Yang Teng. It also ordered Baidu, China’s leading search engine, which was also named in the lawsuit, to remove the advertisement that Mr. Yang said led him to the clinic.

China bears watching. Now the world's largest economy, it has been a friendlier place for gay activists than one might have expected from a totalitarian state. Congrats to Yang and best of luck to his comrades for continued progress.

December 19, 2014

Persecution in Egypt continues

December 18, 2014

ACLU of Florida responds to Pam Bondi

Holder: Title VII prohibits anti-transgender discrimination

Bilerico reports that Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that transgender people are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under the category of sex-based discrimination. This is a big step forward.

Continue reading "Holder: Title VII prohibits anti-transgender discrimination" »

14-year-old exonerated, 70 years too late

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George Stinney, wrongly convicted and executed in 1944 at age 14 in South Carolina, was exonerated Wednesday by circuit court Judge Carmen Mullen. When he went to the electric chair, he was so small he had to sit on a phone book for the execution.

We do not have the knowledge of gods. There are too many people with motives to lie, to make false accusations, to seek out a scapegoat, to set an example. We should abolish the death penalty if only for this reason. It is good for Stinney's name to be cleared at long last; but his life was stolen. The sadness of this is beyond adequate expression.

December 17, 2014

Cutting Holes in the Law

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My column for this week is now online at the Blade. Here is an excerpt:

The Michigan House of Representatives recently passed a bill modeled on the 1993 federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, which featured in the Hobby Lobby case. The Michigan measure may allow emergency medical technicians to invoke sincerely held religious beliefs in refusing to serve LGBT people.

Where will religious demands in daily commerce end? If you view conscience clauses only in terms of gay families, the problem might seem limited. But what about people who object to interracial marriage or to second or third marriages after divorce? Assuming that gay conservatives are motivated by more than axe grinding against gay liberals, why does their solicitude for the religious right appear reserved for gay-related cases?

If an anti-gay Christian receives legal exemptions, why should a Christian Scientist parent opposed to modern medicine not be exempt from child welfare laws? Why should a Muslim devoted to the subordination of women (which, to be fair, is disputed within Islam) not invoke Sharia Law? Satanists, amusingly, have already responded to a Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma state capitol by demanding equal placement of a monument to the demon Baphomet.

Read the whole thing here.

December 16, 2014

Cory Booker defends D.C. home rule

I neglected to post this several days ago when Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) spoke out against congressional interference with D.C. voters' choice to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Thank you, Senator.

December 13, 2014

Somehow, a horse in a wedding dress refutes marriage equality

Why is a horse in a wedding dress any more related to gay couples than to straight couples? Gay people are not seeking to marry horses, but other human beings. But somehow, this sort of stunt seems to persuade some people.

Sen. Warren goes after Citigroup and its bailout provision

Sen. Elizabeth Warren lets Citigroup have it.

Update:

December 11, 2014

December 13 - #Justice4All march in DC

Perkins says conversion therapy ban will help gays recruit children

Because he says so. Pay no attention to the science. Just make stuff up. Sorry Tony, but you're losing the argument.

Congress and Initiative 71

Also:

December 10, 2014

Congressional spending bill blocks funds to implement marijuana legalization

City Paper reports.

In summary: The people of the District of Columbia have the right to govern ourselves, except when we don't. The fight continues.

December 08, 2014

Marriage News Watch: Dec. 8

Matt Baume of AFER gives a marriage equality update.

Michigan 'Religious Freedom' bill allows anyone to deny service to LGBT people

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NewNowNext reports:

Over the weekend, Republicans in the Michigan Statehouse passed a “license to discriminate” bill that would give just about anyone the right to refuse service to LGBT people if it conflicted with their religious beliefs.

The broadly written Religious Freedom Restoration Act would allow, for example, an EMT to refuse emergency treatment to a gay person or a pharmacist to refuse to refill HIV medication, because God decreed gays and lesbians should be put to death.

The measure is similar to one in Arizona that even right-wing governor Jan Brewer thought went too far and vetoed.

A similar issue arose during the D.C. marriage equality fight in 2009, and the overbroad religious exemption demanded by the Archdiocese of Washington was rejected by Phil Mendelson, then chair of the D.C. Council Judiciary Committee, at GLAA's urging.

LeBron: 'I Can't Breathe'

December 07, 2014

A question for Pope Francis

Season's Bleedings

My column this week is about a travesty of justice in the Michael Brown case in Missouri. Here is an excerpt:

What is the fuss about? Succinctly: A police officer who was more an occupier than a protector used deadly force to subdue a jaywalker, then prosecutors presented the case for his defense.

As protests sprang up across the nation and overseas last week, Wilson resigned from the force. St. Louis County police shut down a vigilante operation by the Oath Keepers militia. Twenty-year-old Deandre Joshua was murdered during the unrest on the night of November 24. When President Obama said after the grand jury announcement, "[T]here are still problems and communities of color aren't just making these problems up," reactions from the right would make you think he had torched a storefront.

Carlton Lee, Michael Brown Sr.'s pastor, received dozens of racist death threats in recent weeks, and his church, far from the riots, was burned down as he was off trying to keep the peace. Vowing to rebuild at a Sunday service beside the ruins, he urged love in response to the haters.

It is an old struggle....

Read the whole thing here.

December 06, 2014

Human Rights Amendment Act advances longtime GLAA goals

One of the bills that received unanimous approval on its final reading at the D.C. Council meeting on December 2 was Bill 20-803, the Human Rights Amendment Act. This bill enacted the recommendations in Sections 5.1 and 5.5 of GLAA's 2014 policy brief, "Building on Victory." Here is the bill summary:

To amend the Office of Human Rights Establishment Act of 1999 to require the Director of the Office to have a demonstrated professional background in human rights law, and to amend the Human Rights Act of 1977 to require the annual report include information on investigations and public hearings undertaken by the Office, and to repeal the exemption [known as the Armstrong Amendment] allowing religiously-affiliated educational institutions to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Thanks to Councilmember Tommy Wells, who introduced the bill and steered it through the Judiciary Committee. I blogged about the September 29 hearing here. A lawyer for Catholic University testified against the bill, falsely claiming that it would require the university to indicate its approval of a gay student group; in fact, it would only require the University to grant gay groups the same amenities as other student groups. Congress could act to overturn or block implementation of the bill, though that would require a presidential signature or a veto override. In the meantime, this is an overdue action in which the Council has resoundingly indicated its agreement with GLAA that the Armstrong Amendment (which was imposed by Congress a quarter century ago) needs to go.

The Washington Blade reported on the hearing and the final passage. Metro Weekly reports on the final passage.

December 02, 2014

D.C. Council passes bill to protect ‪#‎LGBT‬ youth from ‪#‎ConversionTherapy‬

NCLR writes:

Today, the District of Columbia Council unanimously approved a bill that will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy.

When signed into law, Washington, D.C. will become the third jurisdiction—behind California and New Jersey—to pass legislation protecting LGBT youth from practices that are known to cause severe depression and even suicide.

“Today, the DC Council sent a powerful message to LGBT youth and their families that they are accepted, supported, and loved,” said Samantha Ames, NCLR staff attorney and coordinator of the #BornPerfect campaign at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). “The Council has used its authority to protect our most vulnerable youth from dangerous and discredited pseudoscience that tells them who they are is wrong, and reaffirmed the consensus of every major medical and mental health organization that all children are born perfect, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

NCLR, in conjunction with other organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, played a key role in organizing the coalition behind the bill, which was authored by Councilmember Mary M. Cheh. A broad range of groups supported the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, including national LGBT organizations, mental health organizations, faith leaders, youth advocates, reproductive justice groups, and civil rights organizations.

Earlier this year, NCLR launched the #BornPerfect campaign to protecting LGBT youth across the country from conversion therapy over the next five years by passing laws, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices.

Learn more about #BornPerfect at www.NCLRights.org/BornPerfect.

GLAA is proud to be part of the coalition that pushed for this bill. Now it goes to Mayor Gray for his signature, then to the Hill for the requisite congressional review period. Our youth will be that much safer for our collective effort, and the national movement to protect minors from these dangerous practices will get a boost.

Thanks to NCLR and all our coalition partners. Special kudos to Alison Gill, formerly of the Trevor Project and now Senior Legislative Counsel with the Human Rights Campaign, who served as coordinator.

More on the bill here.

December 01, 2014

Lambda Legal: end HIV criminalization

Lambda Legal issued this by news release:

On World AIDS Day 2014, Lambda Legal urges those tasked with enforcing U.S. criminal law - from governors to prosecutors to police detectives - to halt the criminal prosecution of people based on their HIV status, thereby assisting efforts to combat the misconceptions, fear, stereotypes, discrimination and stigma faced by people living with HIV that fuel the epidemic in the U.S. and around the world.

HIV criminalization is a striking example of how misinformation, stereotypes and unfounded fears affect people living with HIV and of the government engaging in discrimination that perpetuates these stigmatizing messages. Imposing unjustified and unnecessary criminal prohibitions on people with HIV has led to a society where people are - among other forms of oppression - imprisoned, classified as felons and forced to register as sex offenders, based on outdated and inaccurate information regarding HIV.

We have not come nearly far enough in educating the public about HIV and in reducing stigma and discrimination. Fear and ignorance about HIV and discrimination against people living with HIV remains a serious problem that both marginalizes people and poses barriers to treatment and care.

Lambda Legal remains committed to securing equal protection and equal rights for this community - because living with HIV is not a crime. Lambda Legal's commitment to fighting HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination began more than twenty-five years ago in 1983 when we filed the nation's first challenge to AIDS discrimination and helped secure a court order stopping the efforts of neighbors to evict a doctor from his offices because he treated HIV-positive patients.

That commitment remains strong today. People living with HIV have a right to work and live free from discrimination, and laws, policies and other governmental actions should be based on sound science rather than fear and bias.

See the relevant portion of GLAA's 2014 policy brief.

November 27, 2014

A proud moment for Dan Snyder