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Watch LIVE: Ninth Circuit Oral Arguments in Idaho, Nevada, and Hawaii Gay Marriage Cases

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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Hawaii, Idaho and Nevada gay marriage cases today and will be live streaming the arguments from the courtroom in San Francisco.

The feeds will begin shortly before 1pm PT, with Idaho getting 30 minutes per side, Nevada getting 20 minutes, and Hawaii 10. 

Watch the feeds AFTER THE JUMP... 

Last week, we reported on the three judge panel that will hear the gay marriage cases - with Equality on Trial pointing out that the trio are considered "some of the most liberal appeals court judges in the country." 

MSNBC reports that sexual orientation also has "heightened scrutiny" in the Ninth Circuit, which bodes well for a pro-equality victory: 

With heightened scrutiny, defendants (such as state officials arguing on behalf of same-sex marriage bans) would have to show how a law that treats gay and lesbian people differently serves an important or compelling state interest, not just a legitimate one. Heightened scrutiny essentially shifts the burden of proof off of the plaintiffs, and makes laws that discriminate against same-sex couples more difficult to defend.

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9th Circuit Names 3 Judge Panel To Hear Same-Sex Marriage Cases

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has announced the 3 judge panel that will hear challenges to same-sex marriage bans in Idaho, Hawaii and Nevada: Judges Stephen Reinhardt, Ronald M. Gould and Marsha S. Berzon. All three were appointed by Democrats and, as Equality on Trial points out, are considered to be "some of the most liberal appeals court judges in the country":

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, nominated by President Carter, is a highly respected liberal judge, known for writing the opinion in the Prop 8 case when it came before the Ninth Circuit; Judge Reinhardt also wrote the opinion inSmithKline Beecham v. Abbott Labs, which held that a heightened level of judicial scrutiny is required for laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation, and that jurors can’t be discriminated against on that basis.

Judge Marsha Berzon, nominated by President Clinton, once clerked for Justice William Brennan, and is considered to be a solidly liberal judge. She joined Judge Reinhardt’s opinion in SmithKline as well.

The third judge on the panel is Judge Ronald Gould, also nominated by President Clinton. Judge Gould wrote the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in Witt v. Dept. of Air Force, challenging Major Margaret Witt’s discharge from the military on the basis of her sexual orientation under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. That decision held that heightened scrutiny is required under the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas, and it led to an eventual ruling that Witt’s discharge was unconstitutional.

The appeals court’s decisions in SmithKline and Witt had already ensured a more difficult path to victory in the cases for the state officials and groups defending the same-sex marriage bans. This panel makes it even less likely, though not impossible, the bans would be upheld.

The 9th Circuit assigns cases to judges on a random basis.

You'll recall that when the Prop. 8 case came before Judge Reinhardt, he denied a request that he recuse himself from the case because his wife, head of the Southern California chapter of the ACLU, was "an outspoken opponent of Proposition 8 and taken part in legal proceedings to overturn the voter-approved law."

The cases are set to be heard on Setpember 8th.


9th Circuit Denies Idaho Governor's Request For 'En Banc' Hearing Of Gay Marriage Ruling: READ

EMBLEMThe U.S. 9th Circuit Court of appeals yesterday denied a request by Idaho Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter for an ‘en banc’ hearing of its appeal of U.S. District Magistrate Candy Dale’s decision from May of this year which struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. 

The Idaho Statesman reports:

In an en banc hearing, the case would be heard before all 11 judges on the 9th Circuit instead of just three.

"I think that the governor thought that Idaho would realize a more favorable result before the limited en banc of 11 judges than a randomly drawn three-judge panel, so the denial may mean that Idaho is less likely to win," said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law in Richmond, Va., who has been monitoring gay marriage cases across the country.

Read the court's decision, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "9th Circuit Denies Idaho Governor's Request For 'En Banc' Hearing Of Gay Marriage Ruling: READ" »


Idaho LGBT Activists Praised by Judge, Ordered To Pay Court Costs

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Twenty-three LGBT rights activists who were arrested earlier this year at the Idaho state capitol for blocking entrances to the statehouse have been sentenced, The AP reports:

Each protester was given a chance to offer a brief statement before being ordered to pay court costs based on how many times they were arrested.

At times, the courtroom became emotional after attorneys called two mothers who both had a child commit suicide after facing discrimination to speak…

Testifying for the state, Idaho State Police Major Steve Richardson said group's peaceful demeanor helped the arrests go smoothly, but they still put a burden on the state's limited staff and resources.

The demonstration was meant to persuade legislators to amend Idaho’s Human Rights Act to include protections for LGBT Idahoans. The protesters wore shirts that read, “Add the 4 words Idaho,” referring to the terms “gender identity" and "sexual orientation” they sought to be added to the human rights act.

The protest cost the Idaho State Police approximately $24,000 according to Major Richardson.  

The presiding judge respected the protesters for how they conducted themselves but also called upon them to accept the ‘consequences’ of their protest:

District Judge Michael Oths said he appreciated the group's approach in its multiple protests. He added, however, that America's history of civil disobedience has involved accepting consequences for breaking the law.

"You put your name on the line, and it's not easy to do that," Oths said. "I think people have been responsible in their approach."


Lesbian Veteran Files Lawsuit To Be Buried With Late Wife in Military Cemetery: VIDEO

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The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and attorneys Deborah A. Ferguson and Craig Durham filed a lawsuit yesterday on behalf of military veteran Madelynn Lee Taylor to grant her burial rights in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery where her late spouse Jean Mixner’s ashes have already been laid to rest.

Cemetery employees denied Taylor’s request last year because Idaho state law prohibits recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.

In a statement, Taylor said “Idaho is where some of our best memories together are and it’s where I want to spend eternity with Jean."

The lawsuit argues that the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

On May 13th, U.S. District Magistrate Candy Dale struck down Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage.

However, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has placed a stay on the ruling following an appeal from Idaho Governor Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

Arguments in the case are set for September 8.

Read Taylor's 15-page lawsuit here.

Watch Taylor's story, which we posted last April, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Lesbian Veteran Files Lawsuit To Be Buried With Late Wife in Military Cemetery: VIDEO" »


9th Circuit Court of Appeals to Hear 3 Marriage Equality Cases in September

NincriSeptember is shaping up to be a busy month for the fight for marriage equality. Challenges to Nevada, Idaho, and Hawaii’s bans on same-sex marriage are slated to be heard to be heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals back to back to back on the same date.

The court’s official argument calendar now lists Jackson v. Abercrombie, Sevcik v. Sandoval, and Latta v. Otter as being heard on September 8th in the San Francisco court. Percentage wise, the 9th Circuit is comprised of the largest percentage (69%) of sitting judges appointed by Democratic presidents, making it a comparatively liberal circuit. The panel of judges presiding over these cases has not yet been made public, but it is safe to assume that the panel, as a group, will hear all three cases.


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