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Michigan Court Denies Former Assistant AG Andrew Shirvell's Attempt to Claim Unemployment

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Andrew Shirvell, the ousted Michigan assistant attorney general, has been denied access to unemployment benefits following a ruling by the Michigan appeals court. In 2010 the Michigan attorney general’s office fired Shirvell for waging a homophobic personal campaign against Chris Armstrong, a gay college student at the University of Michigan. In addition to demonstrating on campus, Shirvell ran a blog, the Chris Armstrong Watch, where he accused Armstrong of being a Nazi as well as a recruiter for 'the cult that is homosexuality.’

Shirvell claimed that because his harassment of Armstrong took place outside of the office, his actions were protected by the First Amendment. In a 3-0 decision, however, judges Stephen Borrello, Christopher Murray and Peter O'Connell found that the attorney general’s office was justified in its decision citing that Shirvell’s actions had a markedly adverse impact on the office’s credibility.

"The department, as the chief law enforcement agency in the state, represents all of the citizens of Michigan irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or creed,” the court said in its ruling. “Shirvell's conduct reasonably could have created the impression that neither he nor the department enforced the law in a fair, even-handed manner without bias.”

Shirvell has expressed his intentions of appealing the court’s decision.

Listen to Andrew Shirvell attempt to justify his vicious online bullying AFTER THE JUMP...

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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


Michigan's 'License to Discriminate' Bill Passes House, Moves to Senate

BolgerLate Thursday evening Michigan’s House of Representatives decided to move forward with its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (House Bill 5958) following a Republican dominated 59-50 vote. Introduced by Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R), House Bill 5958 would empower service providers to more effectively use their deeply held religious beliefs as a legal defense in lawsuits involving LGBT discrimination.

The bill has now been sent along for a vote on the Michigan Senate floor. Should the bill become law, the government will be required to provide "compelling justification" as to why one party’s religious beliefs should give way to another’s way of life.

Michigan Democrats have expressed their concerns that the bill will give those with conservative beliefs a free pass to openly discriminate against LGBT individuals. 

Bolger refutes claims that the law would negatively impact the LGBT community and points to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as the predecessor to House Bill 5958. Passed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, the Supreme Court eventually concluded that the law did not affect state-level statutes.

While testifying in defense of the bill, Bolger cited a number of technical instances in which the bill would protect individuals such as giving families the right to refuse autopsy on religious grounds. 

The Michigan Senate is comprised of 26 Republicans and 12 Democrats. 


Supreme Court to Consider Michigan Gay Marriage Case January 9

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On January 9, the Supreme Court is expected to consider accepting the appeal of Deboer v. Snyder, the case challenging Michigan's gay marriage ban. 

You'll recall last month, the Sixth Circuit became the first appeals court to uphold state-level bans on same-sex marriage (with the court upholding the bans in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky). Plaintiffs in the cases promptly asked the Supreme Court to take up the anti-equality ruling and the Detroit Free Press reported at the time on why April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse's Michigan case was uniquely significant:

* There was an actual trial on the same-sex marriage issue in Michigan, whereas in other states, judges issued decisions after reading written arguments, with no cross examination of any witnesses or experts.

* Two, the Michigan plaintiffs aren't just seeking legal recognition for same-sex couples who were married in other states, but are actually fighting to make gay marriage legal in Michigan by challenging a voter-approved ban on it.

Michigan* Three, the Michigan plaintiffs also have children they are raising together — a key issue in the same-sex marriage debate. Those fighting to legalize gay marriage argue families are being harmed when same-sex parents aren't legally recognized, while traditional marriage advocates argue that children thrive best when raised by moms and dads and that it's too early to tell if same-sex parenting is a good idea or not.

* Four, the state of Michigan is actively seeking to keep same-sex marriage illegal, whereas in other states, officials have opted not to pursue appeals once a federal judge has spoken on the issue. That didn't happen at the conclusion of Michigan's same-sex marriage trial.

DOMA lawyer Mary Bonauto has also joined the Michigan legal team.


Michigan and Kentucky Plaintiffs Ask Supreme Court to Review Sixth Circuit Ruling Upholding Gay Marriage Bans

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Joining plaintiffs in Ohio and Tennessee who have filed similar petitions with the Supreme Court, the plaintiffs at the center of the cases challenging Kentucky and Michigan's gay marriage bans are asking the high court to take up the Sixth Circuit's anti-equality ruling. 

The Associated Press reports:

...Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has declined to defend the state ban and Gov. Steve Beshear has hired private attorneys to represent the state. The Ohio appeal focuses on the state’s refusal to recognize out-of-state gay marriages because of its own ban, while the Tennessee case is narrowly focused on the rights of three same-sex couples.

Detroit Free Press reports on the significance of the April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse's Michigan case:

While it remains uncertain which case -- if any -- the U.S. Supreme Court decides to take, here are some elements that make the Michigan case unique:

* There was an actual trial on the same-sex marriage issue in Michigan, whereas in other states, judges issued decisions after reading written arguments, with no cross examination of any witnesses or experts.

* Two, the Michigan plaintiffs aren't just seeking legal recognition for same-sex couples who were married in other states, but are actually fighting to make gay marriage legal in Michigan by challenging a voter-approved ban on it.

Michigan* Three, the Michigan plaintiffs also have children they are raising together — a key issue in the same-sex marriage debate. Those fighting to legalize gay marriage argue families are being harmed when same-sex parents aren't legally recognized, while traditional marriage advocates argue that children thrive best when raised by moms and dads and that it's too early to tell if same-sex parenting is a good idea or not.

* Four, the state of Michigan is actively seeking to keep same-sex marriage illegal, whereas in other states, officials have opted not to pursue appeals once a federal judge has spoken on the issue. That didn't happen at the conclusion of Michigan's same-sex marriage trial.

DOMA lawyer Mary Bonauto has also joined the Michigan legal team. 

Here are the briefs courtesy of Equality Case Files

[photo via screenshot]


Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Argues Sixth Circuit Ruling Invalidates Gay Marriages Performed in March

In a new brief filed in reaction to the Sixth Circuit's anti-equality ruling last week upholding Michigan's gay marriage ban, governor Rick Snyder is arguing the 300 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples back in March are now null and void. 

The Associated Press reports:

SnyderThe 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati issued a stay on marriages March 22, but not until after 300 couples had completed the steps to be married.

Afterward, Gov. Rick Snyder said the affected couples don't have the state benefits of marriage. On Nov. 6, the court in Cincinnati upheld Michigan's ban, and those in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

"Consequently, from a legal standpoint, because the marriages rested solely on the district court's erroneous decision, which has now been reversed, it is as if the marriages never existed, and Plaintiffs' requests for benefits attendant to a legal marriage must be denied," lawyers for the state wrote in the six-page brief.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in Michigan's gay marriage case are expected to file briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. The Ohio and Tennessee marriage cases have already been appealed to the high court. 

Read Snyder's brief below via Equality Case Files:


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