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04/19/2007


Obama Nominates Second Gay Black Judge to Federal Bench

More than a year ago, Obama nominated Judge William Thomas to the Federal District Cour for the Southern District of Florida. Thomas would have been the first gay black judge on the federal bench had it not been for Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) who succeeded in blocking the Thomas nomination for political reasons.

GaylesNow, Obama has nominated a second out gay African-American judge to the federal bench.

Gayles' background, via the White House:

Judge Darrin P. Gayles has served as a Circuit Judge in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida since 2011.  From 2004 to 2011, he was a County Judge in the same Circuit.  From 1999 to 2004, Judge Gayles served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and from 1997 to 1999, he served as an Assistant District Counsel at the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service.  Judge Gayles began his legal career as an Assistant State Attorney in the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office from 1993 to 1997.  Judge Gayles received his J.D. in 1993 from George Washington University Law School and his B.A. in 1990 from Howard University. 

Gayles was endored by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund for his reelection in 2012, according to MetroWeekly.

They write:

If confirmed, Gayles, much like Thomas before him, would become the first out black man in the nation's history to serve on the federal bench. He would also be the second out African-American to serve as a federal judge. The first, Deborah Batts, was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of New York by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Gayles was nominated today along with three other Florida judges to serve on U.S. District Courts.

Rubio does not take issue with any in the latest round of nominees, according to a statement.


Denial of ‘Second Parent’ Adoption Puts Same-Sex Couples Parental Rights in Jeopardy

BY RICHARD VAUGHN and ARI EZRA WALDMAN

Earlier this month, in a ruling that rocked the worlds of same-sex couples and attorneys alike, a Brooklyn court denied the non-biological mother of a child born to a married lesbian couple the right to legally adopt her child.

VaughnThis seemingly arcane quadrant of family law matters because this process of adoption has, traditionally, been the only legal tool protecting gay families when they travel to marriage discrimination states. A biological parent has parental rights, obviously. But her non-married cohabitant, which is how marriage discrimination states look at same-sex spouses, is not considered a parent. She is considered a stranger even though she helps feed, raise, and care for the child.

But in a world of marriage equality, this form of adoption seems unnecessary. Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court Judge Margarita López Torres reasoned that New York recognizes the couple’s marriage and the names of both mothers appear on the child’s birth certificate. Thus, the judge wrote in her decision, the non-biological mother is already the legal parent of her child.

The “purpose and effect" of adoption is “…to create a new legal relationship where one did not previously exist. Adoption is not utilized for, nor…is it available to reaffirm, an already existing parent/child relationship.”

That makes sense. But, as we discuss below, the decision represents ideals over reality and endangers families run by same-sex couples.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Denial of ‘Second Parent’ Adoption Puts Same-Sex Couples Parental Rights in Jeopardy" »


Gay Jurors and Marriage Equality: The Common Legal Thread

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

We all know that some of our best marriage equality news of late has come from unexpected places--namely, Utah and Oklahoma. Federal judges in even deeply conservative states are starting to realize the thinness of anti-equality arguments and the long arm of the Supreme Court's decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in Windsor v. United States.

JuryThe narrative of marriage equality progress is bound up with a recent story out of the Ninth Circuit, in which a three-judge panel of the appellate court found that you cannot exclude a person from a jury simply because that person is gay. More to the point, the court not only concluded that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation demanded heightened scrutiny, but cited Windsor in support!

This is big news. Windsor did not really say anything about scrutiny levels; it kept the unclear status quo from Lawrence despite lower court nudges toward heightened scrutiny. If Windsor takes on this broader, though still eminently reasonable, interpretation, the case has the potential to pave the way for full equality under the law.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Gay Jurors and Marriage Equality: The Common Legal Thread" »


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?


Trans Teen Charged With Battery After Defending Against Attacks

Jewlyes

16-year-old California high school student Jewlyes had been enduring ongoing torment from bullies for being transgender until she finally fought back in self-defense. As a result, she is now being charged by the District Attorney for battery despite no one walking away from the altercation with anything more than light scratches. None of the other students involved, all three of whom ganged up on her, are having charges of any kind levied against them.

According to Jewlyes, she had made prior attempts to work with school officials to handle the bullying she was receiving, but to no avail. Deputy District Attorney Dan Cabral told NBC Bay Area that they will not comment on their reasoning for charging Jewlyes unless ordered by a court to do so.


1,300+ Same-Sex Marriages 'On Hold' in Utah. Now What Happens? Are They Valid?

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

1389143459000-XXX-USL-UTAH-03Marriage equality is on hold in Utah, even though it should not be. Slightly more than 1300 couples, like the couple to the right, married in Utah's equality window. The anti-gay leaders of this conservative state are on course to fight for discrimination all the way to the Supreme Court. That course began yesterday. Utah's Republican Governor Gary Herbert put recognition of those marriages on hold: his state agencies will not recognize the marriages until there has been a final disposition of the case. This entire situation demands we ask several questions: What of the 1300-odd marriages performed in Utah's equality window? Are they valid? Will they be undone if marriage discrimination is upheld? Should the state recognize them as married? Will the federal government recognize them as married.

These are real-world, Main Street concerns. The turn of the calendar to 2014 brings tax questions. Plus, uncertainty as to the legal status of a marriage could delay family planning, relocation, and employment decisions, to say nothing of the stress, anxiety, and associated depression that can result from living in a state of limbo.

The problem is that this limbo was foisted upon loving, committed couples by conservatives hell bent on discriminating against gays for no other stated reason than to maintain the status quo. This really puts the injustice of the stay and the appeal into stark relief.

At the end of the day, the marriages should be valid, at the state and federal level, regardless of what ultimately happens with this particular case.

I discuss why, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "1,300+ Same-Sex Marriages 'On Hold' in Utah. Now What Happens? Are They Valid?" »


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