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Why There Should Be No Stay of Marriage Equality in Utah


131223-utah-gay-marriage-hmed-10a.380;380;7;70;0Gays and lesbians have been free to marry in Utah -- yes, Utah -- for two weeks. Judge Richard Shelby, who was appointed by President Obama at the behest of Utah's arch-conservative Republican senators, cited the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor when he said that the Constitution's guarantee of equal "dignity" for gays and lesbians requires the state to recognize their love. Since the decision was handed down, hundreds of gay couples, including Natalie Dicou, left, and her partner, Nicole Christensen, have gotten married.

Now, the State -- the home of the Mormon Church, Prop 8's principal benefactor -- wants those marriages to stop. After failing to ask for a stay during the course of the case before Judge Shelby, after messing up its request after the fact, and after ultimately losing before the Tenth Circuit, the State has one last hope to delay equality: Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

There are many problems with the State's request. Let's set aside for the moment the fact that the conservative leaders of Utah's state government want to deny the very existence of our love. Set aside the injustice of anti-gay marriage discrimination, in general, and focus on the stay itself.

The standard for a stay in federal court is demonstrating "irreparable harm." Where is the harm in letting gays continue to marry?

AFTER THE JUMP, I discuss the problems with the stay argument in more detail.

Continue reading "Why There Should Be No Stay of Marriage Equality in Utah" »

LA Times Predicts Coming Marriage Equality Victories Will Occur In Courts

The LA Times provides a glimpse into the next round of marriage equality battles.

MarriageIts takeaway on the situation until now: although anti-gay conservatives in the late 90s whined about "activist judges" forcing gay marriage onto states whose citizens didn't necessarily want it, that narrative has largely changed — especially as 11 of 17 states with legalized same-sex marriage got it through elected legislatures and ballot measures. The LA Times says these non-court victories "are robust reflections of public acceptance" and "less susceptible to resentment and challenge."

However, the paper predicts that the next round of marriage battles will likely return to the courts. Their proof? The Civil Rights Movement:

…in truth, the road to civil rights historically has involved a mix of approaches — popular opinion, lawmaking and court ruling — each affecting the others. The repeal of state laws against interracial marriage, for instance, followed this path, with a combination of judicial rulings and voluntary state repeals in the late 1940s and beyond until, in 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned such laws in the 16 states that still had them. Some of the state decisions to repeal discriminatory marriage laws took place when a majority of Americans still favored such restrictions. But increased recognition of these rights by both legislatures and courts led to increased public support by the early 1960s.

It has been the same with gay marriage so far. The first state to recognize it — Massachusetts — was required to do so by a court ruling in November 2003, at a time when polls showed it would not have been approved by popular vote. Ten years later, a new poll found that Massachusetts voters had now changed their minds. Most of them believed the law had had no negative effects on the state, and 60% favored recognition of same-sex marriage...

Now, the fight for same-sex marriage is entering a new phase. The low-hanging fruit — states without strong laws banning gay marriage and with more progressive populations — is pretty much picked and the new battles will be in stiffly resistant territory. In 32 states, same-sex marriage is banned by a combination of laws and constitutional amendments, which means change is less likely to come via popular or legislative votes. Courts will play a bigger role.

An interesting development that piece didn't hit on was the role of pro-LGBT county clerks who issue same-sex marriage licenses in states with marriage bans. Clerks in Michigan, New Mexico and Pennsylvania have all done this — could this be a new tactic forcing state Supreme Courts to rule on the constitutionality of state marriage amendments more quickly than in the past?

Russian Parliamentarian Argues Against Country's Anti-Gay Laws: VIDEO

Russian Duma

Renowned opera singer and parliamentarian for Putin's United Russia party Maria Maksakova met with the liberal wing of her party to discuss the existing anti-gay propaganda laws and argue for a repeal. Her first argument that the use of "non-traditional" in the law's wording was unnecessary as "traditional" relations such as heterosexual pornography are also harmful to minors.

Maria MaksakovaI’m not against our family values, but couldn’t we take ‘non-traditional’ out of this law through amendments? And expand the law, so that any harmful propaganda of a sexual character to minors became inadmissible.

This would at least put heterosexual and homosexual citizens, theoretically, on the same level. Maksakova also brought to the party's attention that the law is having substantial negative impact on Russia's investment climate, noting in particular that Russian artists are having a harder and harder time finding work abroad, such as conductor Valeriy Gergiev being faced with questions and protests as he tours. 

Lastly, Maksakova also brought to light the substantial increase in hate crimes that have occurred as a result of the law, citing the murder of a 23-year-old man in Volgograd in particular.

You can see a video of Maksakova's speech AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Russian Parliamentarian Argues Against Country's Anti-Gay Laws: VIDEO" »

New Mexico Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Decision: An Analysis



New Mexico became the 17th marriage equality state today when the state's supreme court declared marriage discrimination unconstitutional. It was a unanimous ruling and one that was based on legal concepts with which we should all be familiar: equal protection, intermediate scrutiny, state interests, and "responsible procreation".

NMFLAGRegular readers of Towleroad's law column already know the basics: The constitution--in this case, a state constitution--guarantees equal protection of the law. Denying marriage licenses to certain individuals simply because of their sex or sexual orientation is unequal treatment that the state has to justify. Because the LGBT community has long been a victim of institutionalized and insidious discrimination, the state has a high burden to meet, a burden we call "intermediate scrutiny." The supposed justification that restricting marriage to opposite sex couples prevents accidental children out of wedlock is no justification for discrimination because marriage has never had anything to do with raising children. Because the state cannot meets its burden, the discrimination is unconstitutional. Gays can marry.

It is remarkable that this legal narrative has become so simple, so obvious, so matter-of-fact that we can summarize it in a paragraph and move on. Ten years ago, it was a theory a few of us deeply believed in. But it has become as airtight a legal doctrine as any I know. Today's decision from the New Mexico Supreme Court reinforces that view. It also highlights the impact the Supreme Court's recent DOMA decision (Windsor v. United States) will have on the next generation of marriage cases.

Follow me AFTER THE JUMP for a more detailed analysis.

Continue reading "New Mexico Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Decision: An Analysis" »

The Supreme Court Will Rule on Obamacare's Contraception Requirement. Here's Why You Should Care.


131002191139-tsr-moos-obamacare-sign-up-glitches-00000812-story-topLast week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases challenging the Affordable Care Act. The last time that happened, the Court determined by a bare 5-4 majority that the so-called individual mandate, the requirement that everyone has to buy health insurance or pay a tax, was constitutional. Next year, the Court will consider whether corporations can refuse to provide insurance plans that include contraception if doing so would violate the religious beliefs of those corporations' owners.

This matters, not just to those of us in need of health care and not just to those of us who work for companies run by religious people. It matters to all LGBT Americans because the scope of this particular religious exemption could affect the scopes of other religious exemptions.

The cases -- Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius -- will determine the breadth of the religious exemption from Obamacare. Unfortunately, the pretext of religious freedom has gained much traction of late in justifying continued discrimination. And this Court's conservative majority has set itself up to strike a blow against equality.

AFTER THE JUMP, I will construct the argument I expect the Court's conservatives will use to expand the religious exemption. I will show how that argument is deeply flawed. And then I will show how dangerous it is for the LGBT community.

Continue reading "The Supreme Court Will Rule on Obamacare's Contraception Requirement. Here's Why You Should Care." »

Research Proves Harm Of Anti-Gay Legislation

School of Public Health

The Michigan School of Public Health conducted research on the effects of anti-gay legislation, particularly (but not exclusively) bans on gay marriage and same-sex adoption, on young gay men and came to an utterly shocking conclusion: they cause harm. Of the over 1400 18- to 24-year-old gay men surveyed, those living in states with regressive anti-gay legislation...

...had higher levels of depression and lower levels of self-esteem in states with LGB restrictive policies than men with the same aspirations in states without the bans.

Furthermore, in policy-restrictive states, the more a participant valued his fatherhood aspirations, the more symptoms of psychological distress he reported.

According to Public Health Prof. Gary Harper, the only reason politicians even propose such legislation in the first place is from a desire to be reelected with no thought on the impacts that such legislation will have on their constituents.

The full study can be found - for purchase - here.


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