Posts tagged marriage

What’s next for Proposition 8?

Yesterday, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California’s ban on same-sex marriage, under the law Proposition 8, was unconstitutional. Proponents of the measure have vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court (though they first need to request the court that issued the decision to reconsider its ruling). But will the Supreme Court accept the case?

On Talking Points Memo, a couple legal experts speculate that it will not:

Several California law professors speculated to Talking Points Memo that this “narrow” focus of the ruling could mean that the Supreme Court will decline to hear the case, since the ruling is so limited to California.

Professor Jane Schacter at Stanford Law School told TPM that “the big question” is whether or not the Supreme Court will agree to hear the case, and though at this point it’s “guesswork,” the narrowness of the opinion makes it less likely that they will. “It’s much more grounded in the specifics of the California ruling,” she said. For one thing, Schacter said, the Ninth Circuit’s opinion emphasizes that the right of same-sex couples to marry had been first granted, then eliminated. For another, unlike most other states, California already essentially granted all of the rights of marriage to same-sex couples, just under a different name than “marriage.” This means that Prop 8 was simply about the designation of same-sex unions as “marriages.”

"Those two things are somewhat peculiar to California," Schacter said, meaning that the opinion doesn’t necessarily provide the basis for a nationally recognized right for same-sex couples to marry. "Because of that, the Supreme Court may feel the stakes are limited, and it’s not as necessary for them to get involved," she said.

Even if the Supreme Court does accept the case, how might it rule? On The Huffington Post, Adam Winkler weighs in:

Gay rights lawyers have mixed feelings about an appeal to the Supreme Court. Some were opposed to the Proposition 8 lawsuit from the beginning, fearing what the conservative-leaning Roberts Court might do. In so many cases dealing with high-profile, controversial issues — from affirmative action to the Second Amendment — the Court’s conservative wing has emerged triumphant. If the Court decides against marriage equality in the Proposition 8 case, it will set a precedent that may take decades to undo. Given the evidence of public views moving quickly in the direction of acceptance of LGBT rights, many gay rights activists would prefer to wait a few more years before bringing a marriage equality case to the Supreme Court.

With four Justices expected to vote against gay marriage (Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Alito) and four others expected to vote in favor (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan), how the Court rules is expected to turn on the vote of Anthony Kennedy, the usual swing vote. And that, perhaps surprisingly, buoys the hopes of many in the gay rights community.

You can read more from the Los Angeles Times here.

Proposition 8 ruled unconstitutional

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has just ruled that California’s ban on same-sex marriage, under the law Proposition 8, is unconstitutional. Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the court’s 2-1 decision that:

“Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted. All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same sex-couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation ‘marriage.’ Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California.”

You can read the court’s full ruling here.

Separately, the court also refused to invalidate Judge Vaughn Walker’s initial ruling that Proposition 8 was wrong on the grounds that he should have disclosed he was in a same-sex relationship.

I’ll post links to analysis as I find them.

Catholic Bishops try to reframe the debate

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last week held a major news conference in which they attempted to recast the current debates on hot-button issues like marriage equality and reproductive rights as a struggle to preserve “religious liberty” from a government and culture working to restrict the church’s rights, reports the New York Times.

From the Times:

The bishops have expressed increasing exasperation as more states have legalized same-sex marriage, and the Justice Department has refused to go to bat for the Defense of Marriage Act, legislation that established the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

“We see in our culture a drive to neuter religion,” Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops conference, said in a news conference at the bishops’ annual meeting in Baltimore. He added that “well-financed, well-oiled sectors” were trying “to push religion back into the sacristy.”

The Bishops also lamented a new Department of Health and Human Services rule that requires private insurers to pay for contraception. While churches are exempt from the mandate, Catholic hospitals and universities are not. They also decried that Catholic adoption agencies in several states have lost government funding for refusing to adopt to same-sex couples.

To the Bishops, these are prime examples of attacks on religious liberty. Yet as astutely noted on Daily Kos, the Catholic Bishops have severely misunderstood “religious liberty.”

There is apparently a new drive underway. By “new” I mostly mean “old”, because it is the same campaign as always, it has only shifted fronts. The premise is and always has been that if government does not act to enshrine one particular religious viewpoint into law, it is oppression against that religious group. It is the worst, dullest, and most hollow notion of “religious freedom” possible, because it of course demands that the government reject all possible religious groups and interpretations except for your own. It demonstrates an inherent bigotry on the part of the asserting party, yes, but it also demonstrates a particular philosophical stupidity, one so egregious that it naturally makes the listener suspect all of the rest of the claimant’s philosophical underpinnings. If you devote your life’s work to the supposed study and expression of ethics and morality, but obtusely misunderstand the meaning of the word liberty, then your life’s work seems to have been considerably less productive than you imagine it to be.

You can read much more here.

Bishops issue another insignificant report

Every four years, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops publishes a report on how Catholics should think about important political issues in light of church teachings. The report typically discusses the relationship between religion and state, and hot-button issues such as marriage equality and abortion. The most recent edition of was released this week:

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops have released a voter guide for the 2012 election that repeatedly calls abortion “evil” without making revisions that some conservatives had demanded for an even tighter focus on the issue.

The document, called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” is nearly identical to the bishops’ guide published four years ago. It gives high priority to fighting abortion while also highlighting social concerns such as ending poverty and war. Catholics make up about one-quarter of the electorate nationwide but do not vote as a bloc. Most don’t base their choice on a politician’s stand on abortion.

Yet as you might recall from my blog post on Sept. 12, a recent poll found that most Catholics apparently ignore this seemingly fundamental document:

A new poll of U.S. Catholics shows that just 16 percent have ever heard of the bishops’ document, and just 3 percent say they have read it.

Most worrisome for the bishops may be that three-quarters of those who were even aware of “Faithful Citizenship” say the document had “no influence at all” on the way they voted in 2008; 71 percent said it would have made no difference even if they had known about it.

Overall, just 4 percent of adult U.S. Catholics say the statement from the U.S. hierarchy either was a major influence, or would have been if they’d known about it.

Which basically means the Bishops have just wasted a good deal of time writing a report few people will read or care about.

Catholics ignore Bishops’ instructions

Every four years, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops publishes a report on how Catholics should think about important political issues in light of church teachings. The report typically discusses the relationship between religion and state, and hot-button issues such as marriage equality and abortion.

Yet this seemingly fundamental document, which is published to align with the U.S presidential elections, is apparently ignored by most Catholics, according to a new poll:

A new poll of U.S. Catholics shows that just 16 percent have ever heard of the bishops’ document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” and just 3 percent say they have read it.

Most worrisome for the bishops may be that three-quarters of those who were even aware of “Faithful Citizenship" say the document had "no influence at all" on the way they voted in 2008; 71 percent said it would have made no difference even if they had known about it.

Overall, just 4 percent of adult U.S. Catholics say the statement from the U.S. hierarchy either was a major influence, or would have been if they’d known about it.

You can read more about explanations for and implications of the poll here.

A five-minute video clip from last week’s Republican presidential debate, in which the range of GOP candidates state their nonsensical views on the issue of marriage.

Another New York State town clerk resigns over marriage equality

Last week I wrote that a town clerk in upstate New York had quit her job to avoid having to sign marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples. Laura Fotusky wrote in her resignation letter that she would step down on July 21, three days before New York becomes the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage, due to her religious objections to marriage equality.

Fotusky is now joined by another town clerk in upstate New York, Ruth Sheldon, who resigned effective July 22 for the same reasons. In her letter of resignation, Sheldon wrote:

"I have always tried to treat everyone who comes to my desk with respect and without discrimination. Recently however, New York State passed the same sex marriage law, a law which violates my conscience and my faith. I have struggled prayerfully how to handle this situation, since I would be forced to sign same sex marriage licenses. It is clear that I must stand for what I believe."

And as Sheldon explained to news reporter Jim Kenyon:

"I believe God has made it clear how he feels about this type of thing. … [Signing marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples] would be going against my principles, it would be going against my conscience, it would be going against my faith. … I try to uphold the law, this is a law I could not uphold. I felt it’s time to step aside."

As wrong as I think they are, both Fotusky and Sheldon made the right decision given their beliefs. As Gov. Andrew Cuomo said: “When you enforce the laws of the State, you don’t get to pick and choose the laws. … If you can’t enforce the law then you shouldn’t be in that position.” However, while I expect more government employees to voice their objections, the poor state of the economy will probably convince most to swallow their morals and continue doing their job.

NY clerk quits over marriage equality

A town clerk in upstate New York has quit her job in order to avoid having to sign marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples, according to news reports.

Laura Fotusky wrote in her resignation letter that she would step down as town clerk on July 21, three days before New York becomes the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage. Her reasoning was based solely on religious belief.

Fotusky was not immediately available for comment, but in her letter, dated July 11, she said she believes the Bible takes precedence over man-made laws.

"The Bible clearly teaches that God created marriage between male and female as a divine gift that preserves families and cultures. Since I love and follow Him, I cannot put my signature on something that is against God. … I would be compromising my moral conscience if I participated in the licensing procedure."

The extent to which the government should recognize religious objections to same-sex marriage has been a topic of heated debate. While most state-level same-sex marriage legislation exempts private religious groups from performing marriages, it also requires government employees to follow the law (this is the case in New York). As explained by Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

Cuomo … told reporters that he agreed with Fotusky’s decision to resign because government workers have a responsibility to enforce the law.

"When you enforce the laws of the state, you don’t get to pick and choose the laws," Cuomo said.

Fotusky is the first clerk in New York to resign over objections to same-sex marriage (a town clerk in Syracuse has also cited religious objections, but said she will follow the law). I expect more government employees wil voice their objections, but given the poor state of the economy, I think most people will swallow their morals and continue doing their job.

Gallup gauges American morality

A recent Gallup poll measured American moral approval and disapproval for 17 different activities, ranging from abortion and gay marriage to gambling and pornography. The most divisive issue: doctor-assisted suicide. The least divisive issue: having an extramarital affair. Here’s a look at the full survey.

You can find further breakdowns — by age and political affiliation — on the Gallup web site.