Monday, November 26, 2012

Supreme Court may take up gay-marriage cases

The Supreme Court justices this week will decide if now is the time to rule on whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry.

WASHINGTON — After two decades in which gay rights moved from the margin to capture the support of most Americans, the Supreme Court justices this week will decide if now is the time to rule on whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry.

The justices must decide whether to hear an appeal from the defenders of California's Proposition 8, the 2008 voter initiative that limited marriage to a man and a woman.

At the same session Friday, the court will sift through several appeals to decide whether legally married gay couples have a right to equal benefits under federal law. Appeals courts in Boston and New York have struck down this part of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the justices are almost certain to take up a case to resolve that question.

The Proposition 8 case, known as Hollingsworth vs. Perry, presents justices with the more profound "right to marry" question.
Opinion polls now show a majority of Americans favor marriage equality, and support for it has been growing about 4 percent per year. On Nov. 6, voters in three states — Maine, Maryland and Washington — approved same-sex marriage, bringing the total to nine states.
Does the shift in public opinion suggest the court should uphold gay marriage now, or wait for more states to legalize it?

The defenders of Proposition 8 say their case "raises the profoundly important question of whether the ancient and vital institution of marriage should be fundamentally redefined," and in this instance, by federal judges.
A federal judge in San Francisco struck down Proposition 8 as discriminatory and irrational. In February, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that by a 2-1 vote, ruling the ban on gay marriage violated the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection of the laws. The majority relied heavily on a 1996 opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy that had struck down an anti-gay initiative adopted by Colorado voters.

Usually, the justices are inclined to vote to hear a case if they disagree with the lower-court ruling. The most conservative justices — Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — almost certainly think the 9th Circuit's ruling was dubious. Scalia, for example, says the "equal protection" clause, added to the Constitution after the Civil War, aimed to stop racial discrimination and nothing more. He often insists the justices are not authorized to give a contemporary interpretation to phrases such as "equal protection."

If Chief Justice John Roberts joins the other three, the conservatives would have the needed four votes to hear the Proposition 8 case.
They may hesitate. To form a majority, they would need Kennedy, the author of the court's two strongest gay-rights rulings. His 2003 opinion struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law and said the state could not "demean" gays by treating them as second-class citizens. Five months later, the Massachusetts Supreme Court, citing Kennedy's opinion, became the first to rule that gays and lesbians had a right to marry.

If the court were to take up the Proposition 8 case, Kennedy, 76, would be likely to control the opinion.

"If you care about history and your legacy, that must be pretty tempting, to write the court's opinion that could be the Brown v. Board of Education of the gay-rights movement," said Michael Klarman, a Harvard legal historian, referring to the case that ordered school desegregation.

If the court votes to hear the California case, it will be decided by late June. If the appeal is turned down, it means gay marriage will become law in California. The court may also put off a decision on the Proposition 8 case until the justices have decided on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), also by June.

The court is likely to announce whether it intends to hear the cases by Dec. 3.

The high court has scheduled a closed-door conference for Friday to review the case of Karen Golinski, a staff lawyer for the federal appeals court based in San Francisco who married her partner of 23 years, Amy Cunninghis, during the brief 2008 window when same-sex marriages were legal in California.
The purpose of the meeting is to decide if that case or any of four others that also seek to overturn DOMA to put on the court's schedule for next year.

The outcome carries economic and social consequences for gay, lesbian and bisexual couples, who now are unable to access Social Security survivor benefits, file joint income taxes, inherit a deceased spouse's pension or obtain family health insurance.
The federal courts that heard the cases all ruled the act violates the civil rights of legally married gays. Two appellate courts agreed, making it highly likely the high court will agree to hear at least one of the appeals, Lambda Legal Executive Director Jon Davidson said.

"I don't think we've ever had an occasion where the Supreme Court has had so many gay-rights cases knocking at its door," said Davidson, whose gay legal-advocacy group represents Golinski. "That in and of itself shows how far we've come."

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

So true...

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving,

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Go Daniel!

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Seattle Prepares for Gay Weddings

In the wake of Washington state's passage of Referendum 74, which enacted marriage equality in the northwestern state, officials are gearing up for an influx of weddings.

Same-sex couples can begin marrying on December 6, and local officials are anticipating a rush to the altar, reports the Seattle Times. King County Executive Dow Constantine told the Times that he will open the Seattle Recorder's Office just after midnight on December 6, ready to legally marry the first same-sex couples in Washington. Constantine told the Times he'll be on site and ready to sign marriage licenses immediately after midnight, making Washington the first state to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples after legalizing marriage equality by popular vote. Once couples receive a marriage license, they must wait three days to hold a ceremony, according to Washington state law.

Maine and Maryland voters also approved marriage equality at the ballot box on November 6, marking the first time in history LGBT relationship recognition has been affirmed by a majority of voters. And Minnesota voters rejected a proposal to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, another historic first for the country.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

States I've Ran

With a short five mile run yesterday, Colorado became the 25th state in which I have logged a few miles. It was a great run along the river in Boulder. We saw a huge buck drinking from the river.

1) Washington
2) Oregon
3) California
4) Florida
5) New York
6) Massachusetts
7) Texas
8) Hawaii
9) Nebraska
10) Iowa
11) Georgia
11) Louisiana
12) Nevada
13) Arizona
14) Idaho
15) Minnesota
16) Alaska
17) North Dakota
18) Illinois
19) DC
20) Maryland
21) Utah
22) Wisconsin
23) Missouri
24) Kansas

I wonder what the next state will be?

Later - Jim

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

One in Five Gay Couples Now Live in Marriage Equality

Thanks to Tuesday’s votes establishing marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, and Washington State, one in five U.S. same-sex couples now live in a state where they can legally marry, according to the Williams Institute.

The institute’s analysis of 2010 Census data indicates that there are approximately 35,000 same-sex couples in those three states. The votes this week mean that nine states and the District of Columbia now have marriage equality, and 20% of the same-sex couples in the nation live in those jurisdictions, the institute reports.

If the U.S. Supreme Court affirms or lets stand a federal appeals court decision striking down California’s anti-equality Proposition 8, 35% of same-sex couples in the U.S. will live in states where they can marry, the institute notes.

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Voters approve same-sex marriage; opponents concede

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Washington state has approved gay marriage, joining Maine and Maryland as the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote.

Voter returns released since election night show Referendum 74 has maintained its lead. Opponents conceded the race Thursday, while supporters declared victory a day earlier.

Zach Silk, a spokesman for Washington United for Marriage, called it a "historic day."

"We have always understood that there are good people on the other side of this issue," he said in a statement issued Thursday. "Yet, we remain confident that once people see how much marriage matters to families, they will realize that the love and commitment that marriage embodies only strengthens families, neighborhoods and communities."

R-74 asked people to approve or reject a state law legalizing same-sex marriage that legislators passed earlier this year. That law was signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire but has never taken effect. It was on hold pending the election's outcome.

Washington is one of four states where voters were asked about the issue this election cycle. Maryland and Maine approved gay marriage Tuesday night, while Minnesota voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Six other states - New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont - and the District of Columbia already allowed gay marriage. But Maryland, Maine and Washington are the first to enact it by public vote. The other states' laws were enacted either by lawmakers or court rulings.

Preserve Marriage Washington issued a statement Thursday saying that while its members were disappointed with the results, they "will continue to educate citizens and policymakers on the timeless truth that real marriage is the union of one man and one woman."

"We are disappointed in losing a tough election battle on marriage by a narrow margin," said Joseph Backholm, the campaign chairman.

Backholm blamed several factors, saying Washington is a "deep blue state."

"The election results reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in this very liberal and secular state," he wrote. "The results show only that in a deep blue state, with a huge financial advantage, gay marriage activists can win - barely."

About $13.6 million was spent on the initiative in Washington state, with the bulk of it coming from gay marriage supporters. Washington United for Marriage far outraised its opponents, bringing in more than $12 million, including donations from big names like CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Opponents of gay marriage raised just $2.7 million.

Many supporters started celebrating early, taking to the streets in a Seattle neighborhood and cheering at election watch parties Tuesday night as early results showed the referendum taking a narrow lead. Police closed off several blocks in Seattle's Capitol Hill area as more than 1,000 people gathered for a late-night, impromptu election celebration, dancing and chanting "74, 74, 74."

Gay couples in Washington could start picking up their marriage certificates and licenses from county auditor offices Dec. 6, a day after the election is certified. However, because Washington has a three-day waiting period, the earliest a certificate could be signed, making the marriage valid, is Dec. 9.

The law doesn't require religious organizations or churches to perform marriages, and it doesn't subject churches to penalties if they don't marry gay or lesbian couples.

The road to gay marriage in Washington state began several years ago.

A year after Washington's gay marriage ban was upheld by the state Supreme Court, the state's first domestic partnership law passed in 2007. That law granted couples about two dozen rights, including hospital visitation and inheritance rights when there is no will. It was expanded a year later, and then again in 2009, when lawmakers completed the package with the so-called "everything but marriage" bill. Voters upheld the bill later that year.

This year, lawmakers passed the law allowing gay marriage, and Gregoire signed it in February. Preserve Marriage gathered enough signatures for a referendum, putting the law on hold before it could take effect.


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It's a great day in the state of WA!

Same-sex-marriage opponents concede in Washington
Opponents of same-sex marriage have conceded, saying it appears that Referendum 74 will pass

By Lornet Turnbull
Seattle Times staff reporter

Opponents of same-sex marriage have conceded, saying it appears that Referendum 74 will pass.

Approval of the measure would make Washington the ninth state to approve gay marriage and the third to do so this week.

"With added results showing that we have not closed the gap, it now appears clear that Referendum 74 will be narrowly approved," said Joseph Backholm, chairman of Preserve Marriage Washington, which worked to defeat the measure.

"We are disappointed in losing a tough election battle on marriage by a narrow margin. But while we are disappointed, we are not defeated."

Backers of the measure declared victory on Wednesday.

Backholm pointed out that Washington is a very liberal state and one of the most secular in the country. He said the polling indicated 80 percent of "unchurched" voters approved of Referendum 74.

Their opponents, he said, had a substantial financial advantage and outspent his campaign by $10 million.

In the most recent ballot count in Washington on Wednesday evening, Referendum 74 was still narrowly winning approval, 52 percent to 48 percent.

With incoming ballots from King County increasingly favoring the measure — 67.6 percent Wednesday, up from 65.5 percent on Tuesday evening — it seemed unlikely gay-marriage opponents would gain enough votes to win.

Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or On Twitter @turnbullL.

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