Federal Appeals Court: Lawyers Cannot Exclude Jurors Because They are Gay

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that lawyers cannot exclude potential jurors from a jury because they are gay, Buzzfeed reports:

JuryThe 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a unanimous decision, held that discrimination based on sexual orientation is subject to heightened scrutiny — a decision the court concluded has been made in action, though not in word, by the Supreme Court itself.

In describing the reason for the new standard, Judge Stephen Reinhardt examined the Supreme Court’s June decision in Edith Windsor’s case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. Writing for the three-judge panel, Reinhardt wrote:

Windsor review is not rational basis review. In its words and its deed, Windsor established a level of scrutiny for classifications based on sexual orientation that is unquestionably higher than rational basis review. In other words, Windsor requires that heightened scrutiny be applied to equal protection claims involving sexual orientation.

Back in September, our legal editor Ari Ezra Waldman discussed the case, Glaxo v. Abbott:

The case may not initially strike us as the stuff of social justice: two multibillion dollar companies fighting over potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue while paying multimillion dollar law firms millions of dollars to do it. But in the blink of an eye, the lawyers went from talking about "unfair competition" to talking about "antigay discrimination."

The case revolves around the price of an HIV drug and whether one company's decision to quadruple the drug's price violates unfair competition laws. At jury selection time, one of the attorneys used his right to exclude certain members from the jury pool to, ostensibly, exclude a gay person. We don't know for sure that this is what happened; these are allegations and proof is always hard to come by in these circumstances. But if the allegations are true, the act is troubling, at best: the lawyer was suggesting that a gay person cannot be impartial in a case involving an AIDS drug.

The case now asks: Can a person be excluded from a jury simply because of his or her sexual orientation?

JibJab's Annual 'Year in Review' for 2013 Includes DOMA Repeal: VIDEO

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As the end of the year approaches, JibJab looks back on all the memorable moments and characters of 2013, including Miley Cyrus, the Harlem Shake, the repeal of DOMA, and Carlos Danger (aka Anthony Weiner)

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Continue reading "JibJab's Annual 'Year in Review' for 2013 Includes DOMA Repeal: VIDEO" »

Social Security Administration Initiates Processing of Widow and Widower Benefits to Surviving Gay Spouses

Statement of Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, released the following statement this morning:

Ssa"I am pleased to announce that, effective today, Social Security is processing some widow’s and widower’s claims by surviving members of same-sex marriages and paying benefits where they are due. In addition, we are able to pay some one-time lump sum death benefit claims to surviving same-sex spouses. As I stated shortly after the Supreme Court decision on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, our goal is to treat all Americans with dignity and respect.

We ask for continued patience from the public as we work closely with the Department of Justice to develop policies that are legally sound so we can process claims.

If you believe you may be eligible for Social Security, I encourage you to apply now to protect against the loss of any potential benefits. We will process claims as soon as additional instructions become finalized."

Learn more here.

Edie Windsor is a Finalist for TIME 'Person of the Year'


TIME managing editor Nancy Gibbs has named the shortlist for the magazine's annual 'Person of the Year' issue, and it includes DOMA plaintiff  and SCOTUS victor Edie Windsor.

TimeBashar Assad, President of Syria
Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder
Ted Cruz, Texas Senator
Miley Cyrus, Singer
Pope Francis, Leader of the Catholic Church
Barack Obama, President of the United States
Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Edward Snowden, N.S.A. Leaker
Edith Windsor, Gay rights activist

President Obama took the title last year.

Marriage Equality Comes to Hawaii: #TBT and 20 Years of Marriage History


It's appropriate that today is #tbt (Throw-back Thursday) because this week, marriage equality came to Hawai'i, the state where it all began, where the this long (and increasingly successful) fight for the freedom to marry we are in right now started.

BaehrOf course, that's not entirely true. The fight for the freedom to marry for the LGBT community began decades and decades ago, in small living rooms in New York and secret coffee shops in San Francisco and in the minds of a few forward-thinking law students. In the late 1960s, a gay couple asked for a marriage license in Minnesota; the Minnesota Supreme Court said no. The U.S. Supreme Court had no objection. That was a case called Baker v. Nelson and it ended in 1971, over 40 years ago! Jack Baker's and Michael McConnell's losing effort was the first salvo in the first generation of marriage cases.

The current generation of marriage cases began in Hawai'i when three same-sex couples, including Ninia Baehr and Genora Dancel (pictured, right), asked the Hawai'i Department of Health for a marriage license, arguing that they met every state requirement for marriage except for the mere fact that each person loved someone of the same sex.

What happened next was remarkable.

Follow me AFTER THE JUMP to get the rest of the story and see how what happened in Hawai'i brought us to where we are today.

Continue reading "Marriage Equality Comes to Hawaii: #TBT and 20 Years of Marriage History" »

The Impact Of The Death Of DOMA For America's Schools: READ

A new report titled "The Do's And Don'ts of DOMA" has been issued by the National School Boards Association in partnership with the National Education Association and the American Association of School Administrators spelling out how the Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA in United States v. Windsor applies to school districts across the country, The Washington Post reports. A few notable excerpts on the impact the decision has on benefits for same-sex couples and what actions school districts need to take to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling can be found below:

DomaWhat school board policies and benefits are affected?

Every policy and benefit that defines or refers to marriage or spouses in the application of a federal benefit is affected. The reference to marriage may be by use of the term “husband,” “wife,” or “spouse.” Major areas could include health benefits, FMLA policies, leaves of absence under policies and collective bargaining agreements, retirement benefits, beneficiary designations, health care spending accounts, dependent care accounts, COBRA policies, nepotism rules, and ethics policies. [...]

Must school district benefit plans cover same-sex marriages?

Yes, school districts must provide federally derived benefits to same-sex spouses, if the marriage is recognized by the applicable state. [...]

What terminology should be used in referring to marriage in school district policies and plans?

It is advisable to refer simply to “marriage” and “spouse,” and let the prevailing state law determine its application. This will keep the school district’s documents current, even if a state’s law changes over time.

LogosWhat should school districts do to implement the DOMA ruling?

There are several actions school systems should take:

1. Issue amended W-2 statements reversing any income imputed to an employee because their same-sex spouse received medical or other benefits.

2. Investigate obtaining an employer refund for FICA taxes.

3. Review and revise all policies, benefit plans, summaries, and forms, etc., that apply to or affect married employees as needed.

4. Consider the need for sponsoring a limited enrollment window for benefits.

5. Notify employees of this ruling and their possible eligibility for benefits, including retroactive application.

6. Review all collective bargaining agreements and confer with association representatives to see if changes are needed.

7. Consider revising your FMLA policy to provide benefits regardless of the employee’s residence, for ease of administration.

8. Review the civil rights laws in your state and local jurisdiction for anti-discrimination or benefit provisions that apply to these issues.

9. Monitor updates to federal regulations, especially from the U.S. Department of Labor of the definition of “spouse” under the FMLA.

10. Monitor legislation and court rulings in your jurisdiction that may establish marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity as protected classes for civil rights purposes.

You can read the entire text of the report, provided by The Washington Post, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "The Impact Of The Death Of DOMA For America's Schools: READ" »


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