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A Few Takes on Yesterday's Historic Gay Marriage Arguments at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals

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Here are a few takes on yesterday's historic hearing of six separate gay marriage cases from Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee, at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Above, Judges Martha Daughtrey, Jeffrey Sutton, and Deborah Cook.

Our legal editor Ari Ezra Waldman posted a preview of the arguments yesterday and will have some analysis coming up. For now, here are a few excerpts from various media reports.

Listen to audio from the proceedings HERE.

The Washington Blade:

Based on their line of questioning, two judges — U.S. Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey and U.S. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton — seemed prepared to rule against bans on same-sex marriage. The remaining judge, U.S. Circuit Judge Deborah Cook, was relatively quiet, but appeared poised to rule in favor of the laws. Similar to other federal appeals courts, the panel seems headed to make a 2-1 decision in favor of marriage equality.

Although Sutton didn’t make an effort to telegraph how he’d rule, throughout his questioning he suggested he believes  prohibition on gay nuptials are unconstitutional. Ruminating on the changing societal perception of marriage, Sutton said a ban a same-sex marriage “seems to hard to justify even on rational basis grounds” if the institution is intended to express love and commitment.

That said, Sutton also had tough questions for attorneys seeking to overturn bans on same-sex marriage, posing the inquiry of why the LGBT rights movement would want to proceed through the judicial process — as opposed to legislative and ballot process — if the desired result was changing hearts and minds to achieve greater acceptance.

The NYT:

In three hours of back-and-forth questioning, it appeared that neither side could take victory for granted in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where the cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee were heard by two judges appointed by President George W. Bush and one by President Bill Clinton.

Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, one of the Bush appointees and a likely swing vote among the three, repeatedly asked why gay rights advocates wanted to use the courts to hasten an outcome they were gradually winning through elections and changes in attitude.

“I’d have thought the best way to get respect and dignity is through the democratic process,” he said, expressing a view that, in practice, would most likely deliver a victory to the states seeking to keep bans on same-sex marriage.

The Washington Post:

It became clear after three hours of arguments that the panel could become the first roadblock for proponents of same-sex marriage who have had an extraordinary winning streak in knocking down state restrictions following a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2013.

That 5 to 4 ruling struck down the part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.

But a panel of three randomly chosen judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit left questions about whether it would follow the lead of two other appeals courts. Those courts said the reasoning of the Supreme Court’s decision meant that states lacked the right to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples and to deny recognition of unions conducted elsewhere.

Al Jazeera:

Cook, also a Bush appointee, was largely silent throughout the afternoon, with the exception of a few questions that seemed intended to help anti-gay-marriage attorneys hone their arguments. She is so known for her conservatism that she was on the short-list to be appointed to the Supreme Court for the vacancy filled by Samuel Alito.

One concern for Sutton was the fact that the Supreme Court passed last year on a prime opportunity to assert a federal right to marriage. At the same time the high court considered the Windsor case, it also dealt with Hollingsworth v Perry, an appeal of a federal court in California’s decision to strike down a gay marriage ban put in place by voters in 2008 via Proposition 8. The court dismissed that case — and in the process let the California decision stand — on technical legal grounds unrelated to the question of gay rights.

“It does seem fair to say the Supreme Court’s trajectory favors” the pro-gay side, Sutton said. Citing cases that went in favor of gay rights, he then noted, “but they didn’t reach today’s issue in Hollingsworth.”

The 6th Circuit presents gay marriage foes with their best opportunity so far to halt an unbroken streak of more than 30 state and federal cases that have gone for pro-gay groups since Windsor. Sutton and Cook are both appointees of the Bush administration, which vetted federal judge candidates to ensure their conservative bona fides.

That’s a shift from the 4th and 10th circuit panels, which were dominated by more liberal or moderate appointees. In all, 15 of the 22 federal judges who have ruled on gay-marriage bans were Democratic appointees.

The AP:

Constitutional law professors and court observers say that the 6th Circuit could be the first to uphold statewide bans on gay marriage following an unbroken string of more than 20 rulings in the past eight months that have gone the other way.

They point to Sutton, the least predictable judge on the panel. In 2011, he shocked Republicans and may have derailed his own chances to advance to the U.S. Supreme Court when he became the deciding vote in a ruling that upheld President Barack Obama's health care law.

If the 6th Circuit decides against gay marriage, it would create a divide among federal appellate courts and put pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the issue in its 2015 session. The panel did not indicate when it would rule.


Six Marriage Equality Cases at the Sixth Circuit Today: A Preview

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BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

The Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in a series of marriage equality cases today from the jurisdiction's four constituent states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. It is an unprecedented coming together of marriage equality litigation that has the potential to change the destiny of marriage in the federal courts for several reasons:

6thcircuitFirst, these cases cover the entire Sixth Circuit and any decision could affect all of them directly, even if a decision is stayed pending appeal to the Supreme Court. We have seen this happen in the Fourth Circuit, where the appellate court overturns a ban on marriage equality and other states in the circuit, North Carolina and West Virginia, either stop defending their own bans or take other pro-equality actions because they see the writing on the wall even though the decision is stayed pending appeal.

Second, the three-judge panel reflects the right-of-center tilt of the circuit, consisting of a Clinton appointee and two George W. Bush appointees, one of whom has made his fiercely conservative views public.

And, third, as the third federal appeals court to hear a post-Windsor marriage case -- after the Tenth (the Utah case) and the Fourth (the Virginia case), but before the Seventh (on August 26), the Ninth (on September 8), and at some point, the Fifth -- the Sixth Circuit is being watched to determine if a pattern is emerging among the circuits or if there will be a split among the panels.

AFTER THE JUMP, I summarize the cases and briefly profile the judges on the panel. I will also discuss a few things to watch for during the marthon oral argument, scheduled to being at 1 PM.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Six Marriage Equality Cases at the Sixth Circuit Today: A Preview" »


Anti-Gay Christian Radio Host John Balyo Admits To Second Child Rape: VIDEO

John baylo

Cornerstone University radio host John Balyo, who was arrested in June in connection with the rape of an 11-year-old boy, confessed late last month to the rape of a second boy.

Detroit Free Press reports:

“Balyo and Ronald Lee Moser paid the boy for his involvement in the April 19th assault. His hands and feet were handcuffed and he was tied to the bed, according to courtroom statements today. While bound, Balyo took nine photos of the boy, first in his underwear and then naked. The boy's family wept in the back of the sixth floor courtroom as details of the assault were told to Magistrate Ellen Carmody during today's plea hearing.”

Baylo’s courtroom confession reads in part:

“I did take images of a child and they were sexually explicit involving bondage and nudity. I performed sex acts as described. I knew it was wrong.''

Cornerstone University, a "Christ-centered" college in Grand Rapids, Michigan, requires students to sign a "lifestyle pledge" prohibiting "every form of immorality, including immoral sexual behavior, homosexuality, lying, stealing and cheating."

Concerns have been raised that Balyo may have had many more victims.

Balyo faces life in prison on the first case and up to 50 years for the second.

Watch a Wood TV 8 report on the case, AFTER THE JUMP...

 

Continue reading "Anti-Gay Christian Radio Host John Balyo Admits To Second Child Rape: VIDEO" »


Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to Hear Six Marriage Equality Cases in One Day on August 6

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is lining up the cases for a pretty impressive combo score on August 6th and will be hearing six discrete marriage equality cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

6thcircuitFrom the National Center for Lesbian Rights:

On August 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit will hear oral argument in six marriage equality cases--the most marriage cases that any federal circuit court has ever heard in a single day, and the fourth argument to be heard by a federal circuit court since the United States Supreme Court's decision last summer striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Federal Judges Martha Craig Daughtrey, Jeffrey S. Sutton, and Deborah L. Cook will hear the challenges to laws banning marriage equality in Kentucky (two cases), Michigan, Ohio (two cases), and Tennessee. The National Center for Lesbian Rights is representing plaintiffs in Tennessee, American Civil Liberties Union is representing plaintiffs in Ohio, and Lambda Legal is representing plaintiffs in Ohio.

Oral arguments will begin at 1pm ET at the Potter Stewart Courthouse in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Michigan Democrat Adam Zemke Introduces Bill To Ban Gay Conversion Therapy in the State

Adam zemke

New legislation has been introduced by Michigan Democrat Rep. Adam Zemke which aims to ban gay conversion therapy for minors in the state, reports mlive.com.

Zemke hopes Michigan can join California and New Jersey in banning “ex-gay” therapy for under-18s.  Efforts to introduce bans on conversion therapy in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York state have been blocked or stalled.

Zemke said:

"The evidence shows you cannot change sexual orientation, so the legislation was kind of a no-brainer. We want to make sure children cannot be exposed to situations that are emotionally harmful to them because of their parents' beliefs or desires to try to change their orientation."

In 2009, the American Psychological Association said that attempts to change sexual orientation are ineffective and can have harmful side effects including depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety.

Zemke has had positive support from some Republicans. However, Republican Rep. Gail Haines, chair of the House Health Policy Committee, said that new laws intervening in the relationship between parents and their children "seems unnecessary."

The “ex-gay” movement has had a number of recent setbacks. Last week, Duane Youngblood was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a teenager. Yesterday, we reported that Yvette Cantu Schneider, one of the most vocal and best known representatives of the ex-gay movement, announced that she no longer wishes to identify with anti-gay groups.


Two Dozen Prominent Michigan Republicans File Brief In Favor Of Same-Sex Marriage

A brief has been filed by over two dozen prominent Republicans in Michigan's 6th Circuit Court of Appeals case regarding the state's same-sex marriage ban. This is an exciting development in the state whose voters originally approved the ban by a 59% majority.

BernardFriedmanAfter judge Bernard Friedman (right) overturned the ban this March, declaring it unconstitutional, Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette appealed that decision and asked for a stay; 299 couples married in the one day between, but as briefs pile up in support of same-sex marriage, the case for marriage equality is stronger by the day (especially considering precedent from the Supreme Court and other regional cases around the country). The Republican brief is a particularly resonant example of changing public opinion.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

“As various states have legalized civil marriage for same-sex couples, undersigned Amici, like many Americans, have examined the emerging evidence and have concluded that there is no legitimate, fact-based reason for denying same-sex couples the same recognition in law that is available to opposite-sex couples,” they said in the brief.

The brief was signed by 15 former members of either the state or U.S. House of Representatives, including former Speaker of the House Rick Johnson of LeRoy, U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz of Battle Creek, and state Rep. Chris Ward of Howell.

RainbowMichiganOther signers included attorneys and staffers whose opinions regarding marriage equality have changed in recent years. One former representative, Leon Drolet, argued that the brief could feasibly encourage other Republicans to "come out of the closet" about same-sex marriage, while former Michigan house speaker Rick Johnson said he believes the change in opinion is important for the continuation of the party.

“You make decisions, especially when you’re the leader, based on what’s going on at the time, and that was the movement at the time,” he said. “But now, if you’re going to be Republican and make the comments that we want a broad tent, then you should include everyone. A lot of people are tired of government in their house, in the backyard or in their bedroom.”

Many Michigan Republicans have retained their anti-same-sex marriage stance, but the thirty-one briefs filed in opposition to the ban on Monday indicate that such attitudes are ultimately falling by the way side. Drolet commented:

“Hopefully we’re moving to a place where treating people differently based on gender or sexual orientation will be an embarrassing part of our past.”


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