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Marriage Equality Cases from Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi Go Before 5th Circuit Today

In addition to the U.S. Supreme Court considering the four marriage cases we lost at the Sixth Circuit, there is a lot more going on in marriage equality news to follow today.

HigginbothamIn New Orleans, the 5th Circuit federal appellate court will hear oral arguments in the Louisiana marriage case we lost at the district court level in September (remember Judge Martin Feldman's strange, hateful opinion?) beginning at 9 am. The 5th Circuit will also hear oral arguments in the Texas marriage case we won at the district court level in February. The 5th Circuit will hear oral arguments in the Mississippi marriage case we won in November at the District Court level.

Oral arguments in each of those hearings will last for 30 minutes, and the Court will hear from DOMA lawyer Robbie Kaplan in the Mississippi case.

Earlier this week we took a look at the three judge panel - James E. Graves Jr., Patrick E. Higginbotham (pictured) and Jerry E. Smith - who would be hearing the cases today. Read up on it here.

Stay tuned...


Handicapping The 5th Circuit: Are Gay Marriage Opponents About To Hit Rock Higginbotham?

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A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Friday, Jan. 9 in same-sex marriage cases from three states — Lousiana, Mississippi and Texas

Earlier this week, the 5th Circuit revealed judges for the panel — James E. Graves Jr., Patrick E. Higginbotham (above) and Jerry E. Smith.

Higginbotham and Smith are Reagan appointees, while Graves is an Obama appointee. The 2-1 split reflects the overall makeup of the 5th Circuit, which has 10 Republican appointees and five Democratic appointees. 

Although the 5th Circuit is considered to be among the most conservative federal appeals courts in the country, there is hope for a favorable ruling. From ThinkProgress:  

Supporters of equal rights for gay couples can almost certainly give up on Judge Smith. Smith once described himself, albeit somewhat jokingly, as a former “right-wing activist.” He also once described feminists as a “gaggle of outcasts, misfits and rejects.” ...

Judge Graves, meanwhile, is a much newer addition to the federal bench, so his views are less defined. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of federal judges to consider marriage equality cases since the Supreme Court struck down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 have sided with gay rights. If would be surprising if an Obama-appointed member of a federal appeals court joined the few outliers who broke with this consensus.

That leaves Judge Higginbotham. ... 

The Dallas Morning News has more on Higgonbotham, who is now widely expected to provide the swing vote: 

Once considered solidly conservative, Higginbotham has irritated some conservatives with his rulings critical of Texas judges’ handling of death-penalty cases and a recent decision in which he wrote an opinion upholding the University of Texas’ race-conscious admission policy.

Last summer, Higginbotham told The Texas Lawbook’s Mark Curriden that the New Orleans court has shifted considerably to the conservative side during his 32 years as a member.

“When I joined the 5th Circuit, I may have been the court’s most conservative judge,” he said. “Now, I’m probably left of center, even though I don’t think I’ve changed my views at all.”

On the same day the 5th Circuit hears oral arguments, the U.S. Supreme Court will meet to decide whether to hear marriage cases from five states, possibly paving the way for a ruling that would effectively render the 5th Circuit's decision moot.  

But even assuming the high court decides to hear at least one of the cases, the 5th Circuit panel has a chance to either harden the existing circuit court split or provide a huge momentum boost for marriage equality that would also be a devastating blow to gay-rights opponents. 


Supreme Court To Consider On Jan 9. Whether To Hear Challenges To Same-Sex Marriage Bans

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In the wake of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision earlier this year to uphold bans on same-sex marriage in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan, the United States Supreme Court has decided to consider hearing challenges to that ruling from marriage equality advocates during its closed doors conference on January 9th. At that same conference, the Court will also be considering a decision from a federal judge in Louisiana that let that state's ban on same-sex marriage stand. BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner reports: 

“The Tanco [Tennessee case] petition will be considered at the Court’s January 9 conference, along with … petitions filed by the plaintiffs in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Louisiana,” National Center for Lesbian Rights spokesperson Erik Olvera told BuzzFeed News on Monday afternoon.

The plaintiffs and marriage equality advocates alike hope the petitions will provide the Supreme Court with the chance to take a case to resolve the issue nationally with a ruling that would apply across the country.

Although the justices denied petitions filed earlier in the year from other states, all were in cases in which the lower court had struck down the bans — and before there was a “circuit split,” a disagreement among the federal appeals court on the issue. All five petitions before the court now come from decisions upholding the various states’ bans.

In November, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, reversed the four district courts to have heard the cases out of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee — sending the plaintiffs in the cases from all four states to the Supreme Court seeking an appeal. 

[…]

Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio officials agreed that the Supreme Court should take a case and resolve the issue nationally; only Tennessee officials opposed Supreme Court review.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Jeffrey Fisher, from Stanford Law School, joined the Kentucky lawyers, led by Daniel Canon, in Monday’s reply brief, arguing, “For petitioners here – and for lesbian and gay couples and families across both the Sixth Circuit and the country – the harm and confusion that the circuit split has caused calls out for immediate review.”

You can read the Kentucky plaintiffs' reply below:

14-575 Plaintiffs' Reply by Equality Case Files


Bobby Jindal Defends AFA Prayer Rally At LSU As Anti-Gay Hate Group Plans Similar Events In Other States: VIDEO

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Last week we reported that LSU students are organizing protests and other events in response to "The Response," a prayer rally to be hosted by the American Family Association — an anti-LGBT hate group — on the university's campus January 24. 

Since then, the LSU Faculty Senate has issued a strongly worded condemnation of "The Response," which will be headlined by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal (above) as he prepares to kick off his 2016 presidential campaign. The Faculty Senate said although it doesn't appear the university can legally deny the rental of space to the AFA, the rally is "inconsistent with the goals and aspirations of a great university":

The Faculty Senate has made use of its extensive media resources to focus public attention on this matter. ... In all of these interview opportunities, Faculty Senate representatives have stressed that the “Response” event both damages the University and conflicts with its values, whether by associating intolerance with University venues or interfering with the goal of disseminating the best in science. ... 

The story of “The Response” is far from over, but I do want to assure the LSU and the statewide higher education community that the LSU Faculty Senate is working vigorously to assist the administration not only in repairing the damage resulting from this event but also in using it as an educational, formative opportunity.

Despite widespread opposition from students and faculty at LSU, Jindal continues to defend holding "The Response" on campus. The other day, he insisted the rally is "not a political event, it's a religious event":

"Christians have the right to rent, to pay for a hall at a public university so they can come together and pray," Jindal told reporters at an economic development announcement in New Orleans.

Asked if he agreed with the American Family Association's agenda, Jindal sidestepped that question and said, "The left likes to try to divide and attack Christians."

Jindal said the protesters themselves should consider joining the prayer rally. He said they "might benefit from prayer."

Meanwhile, in addressing criticism of the event, AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer continues to suggest that gays are to blame for natural disasters. The website for "The Response" initially included a prayer guide blaming gays, abortion and pornography for Hurricane Katrina, but it was quickly removed. However, Fischer told The Times-Picayune:  

Fischer"We do know that natural disasters can be a form of God's judgement on an unrepentant nation. It's fitting that a part of the country that is obviously at risk for natural disasters would lead the nation in modeling repentance."

The AFA's David Lane told The Times-Picayune that "The Response" is the first in a series of similar events the group is planning next year, and he hinted that other possible headliners include perennial GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum. 

Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry headlined an AFA prayer rally in Houston in 2011 to kick off his presidential campaign, so we assume Perry and GOP Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will be fighting over the Lone Star State's AFA hatefest next year. 

Ultimately, though, these events may only backfire by galvanizing progressive opposition in places where they're held, such as in Baton Rouge. A reader poll on The Times-Picayune website shows that 66 percent of respondents believe "The Response" should be held at a private building or church. 

Watch Jindal's invitation to "The Response," AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Bobby Jindal Defends AFA Prayer Rally At LSU As Anti-Gay Hate Group Plans Similar Events In Other States: VIDEO" »


LSU Students Organize Protest Against Bobby Jindal's Hate-Backed Mass Prayer Event: VIDEO

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Students at Louisiana State University are organizing a demonstration in protest of the Baton Rouge campus administration’s decision to host “The Response,” a mass prayer event sponsored by the American Family Association hate group. A number of high-profile conservative political figures like Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal will join Christian evangelists in what the AFA has described as a group meditation.

Jindal"What we really need in these United States is a spiritual revival.  It is time to turn back to God," Jindal explained in a video invitation to the event. "It's time to light the spark that starts the spiritual revival that will put these United States of America back on the right path."  

Earlier this month the AFA published and quickly pulled an official prayer guide for The Response suggesting, amongst other things, that marriage equality and abortion were the causes of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

"As a member of the LSU student community, it saddens and offends me that our administration would welcome to campus a recognized hate group whose vile rhetoric targets gay and transgendered people, Muslims, immigrants, and other marginalized groups," said Maggie Cloos, a student responsible for creating a petition to ban the AFA from the LSU campus. the organizer of the student-led petition.

Organizing Against Hate Groups, the protest, is set to be an all day event featuring workshops teaching attendees how best to speak across political and social differences. So far six organizations housed at LSU’s Baton Rouge campus have signed up to participate in the protest with more expressing their interest in offering support.

Both The Response and Organizing Against Hate Groups will take place on January 24. Watch the American Family Association's video invitation to The Response - Louisiana: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "LSU Students Organize Protest Against Bobby Jindal's Hate-Backed Mass Prayer Event: VIDEO" »


Supreme Court to Review Louisiana Case That Upheld State's Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

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The Supreme Court of the United States will review a ruling handed down by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, who was the first federal judge to rule against marriage equality in the wake of SOCTUS' ruling on DOMA in United States v. Windsor. The New Civil Rights Movement reports:

Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a notice that states on [the same day that the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will consider Judge Feldman's ruling], January 9, the [Supreme] Court will consider reviewing Robicheaux v. George. The Court meets several times a year, in highly secretive closed-door meetings, to consider cases to review. 

"We are grateful that the Supreme Court will be considering our case and are hopeful that they will see the importance of taking up this issue sooner rather than later," Derek Penton-Robicheaux told The New Civil Rights Movement this afternoon. "As fate would have it, we will also be in oral arguments before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that same morning. What exciting way to start the new year."

Court watchers will remember that in October, the Supreme Court met and refused to review any same-sex marriage cases, leading to a flurry of states having to allow same-sex marriage, amid the dropping of several stays. Several states are still embattled in attempts to delay or ward off the inevitable.

The Supreme Court could also consider cases in the 6th Circuit, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, after that Court ruled last month that states can, indeed, ban same-sex marriage, setting up a constitutional crisis.


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