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Marriage Equality and the Court: What Happened in Puerto Rico?



In a decision that willfully ignored the prevailing wisdom of most of the federal judiciary, a judge in Puerto Rico recently tossed a lawsuit challenging the island's ban on gays marrying. The judge did not expressly uphold the constitutionality of the ban; rather, he granted PR's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Either way, the case is headed for appeal at the First Circuit Court of Appeals. This case adds a little texture to the Supreme Court's refusal to take seven marriage equality cases, bringing an end to marriage discrimination in much of the country. But do not expect Puerto Rico to derail our forward march.

2_circuitsPuerto Rico is not just an LGBT-friendly locale in the Caribbean; it's also a territory of the United States under the jurisdiction of the First Circuit. That court also includes Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island and, as such, it has not had the opportunity to weigh in on the constitutionality of a state ban on same-sex marriage since Windsor because, like the Second and Third Circuits, all its states are marriage equality states. That is, except for Puerto Rico.

Into this mix walked several Puerto Rican same-sex couples, represented by Lambda Legal, who want to get married and who have been watching from the sidelines as bans topple like dominoes in the states. After they filed their lawsuit, the state's response was to ask the judge to dismiss the lawsuit for, among other things, lack of jurisdiction.

A motion to dismiss is not unusual. In fact, motions to dismiss or motions for summary judgment are two tools used often to decide cases without having to go through the complexities, expense, and uncertainties of a trial. Even this particular argument wasn't rare. But although the motion may not have been unusual, the judge's decision was, at least in a post-Windsor world.

I summarize the court's ruling and explain why the judge was utterly and completely wrong, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Philly City Council Unanimously Approves LGBT Hate Crimes Bill

The Philadelphia City Council has unanimously approved a measure that would provide additional penalties for crimes motivated by hatred regarding sexual orientation, gender identity or disabilities, The Inquirer reports:

Reynolds-brownThe measure approved Thursday, expected to be signed into law by Mayor Nutter, calls for up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 for crimes committed against a person because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

A similar bill was introduced at the state level last month, but it has stalled. The state's current hate-crime law applies only to attacks based on gender, religion, or ethnicity - not sexual orientation.

Passage of the city measure was hailed by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, a co-sponsor of the bill.

"My heart hurts for all people who are targeted because of who they are," she said in a statement. "If you think it is appropriate to hurt someone with hate in your heart, there will be a price to pay."

December court date has been set for the three suspects charged in the September 11 attack on a gay couple in Center City, Philly that catalyzed these efforts to amend the state and local hate crimes laws. 

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, Cynthia Nixon Open in ‘The Real Thing’ on Broadway: REVIEW

Real thing1


Equal parts cerebral and sexy, Tom Stoppard’s 1982 play about love, deception and the limits of fiction gets a chic, starry revival from Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines theatre, where it opened on Broadway last night. With ace performances from the cast, director Sam Gold’s production anchors the lofty intellectual tangents of Stoppard’s writing in grounded, emotional drama.

Real thingThe opening scene shows a wife, Charlotte (Cynthia Nixon) returning home from a business trip to her drunk, jealous husband, Max (Josh Hamilton). She’s gone from London to Switzerland without her passport, Max discovers, leading him to conclude she’s cheating. The following scene reveals the first is from a play in which Charlotte and Max are performing—Charlotte is married to the playwright Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Max and his wife Annie (Maggie Gyllenhaal), also an actress, are close friends of the couple.

When Henry and Annie are left alone, we learn they’re having an affair and by the play’s more engrossing second act, the two have left their spouses and married each other. Much of the play is concerned with the nature of romantic love, the fallacy of monogamy and the challenges of writing. Henry is widely accepted as a stand-in for Stoppard as they share many parallels, including Stoppard’s relationship with a married woman, the actress who played Annie in the play’s original production.

Real thing3Making a bold (and impressively verbose) Broadway debut, McGregor does fine work making clear sense of Stoppard’s dense, heady dialogue, and the mischievous charm for which he’s known on-screen perfectly suits gallantly vain Henry. Ms. Gyllenhaal likewise makes a radiant Broadway debut as Annie, her easy sex appeal and unwavering poise a formidable match for her indomitable lover. Nixon, a stage vet who originated the role of Debbie (Charlotte and Henry’s daughter) in the play’s first Broadway production, gives an assured performance as sharp, unflappable Charlotte.

Some 30 years on, Stoppard’s play could easily be set in the present, but the design team’s nod to early 80s London style gives the production its seductive angles and textures, including a dynamic set by David Zinn, enviable costumes by Kaye Voyce and lighting by Mark Barton. 

Music is also central to the play, and Gold brings it to the fore with company sing-alongs during transitions between scenes. The device feels gimmicky in a play already chock-full of myriad ideas, but it's one Henry would probably love. 

Recent theatre reviews...
Straight Couples Adrift on Fire Island in Terrence McNally’s ‘Lips Together, Teeth Apart’: REVIEW
Josh Radnor, Gretchen Mol Open in Pulitzer Prize-Winning ‘Disgraced’ on Broadway: REVIEW
Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane and Stockard Channing Open in ‘It’s Only a Play’ on Broadway: REVIEW
‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ Opens on Broadway: REVIEW
Political Sex Scandal Comedy ‘Tail! Spin!’ Opens Off Broadway: REVIEW

Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: joan marcus)

Idaho Governor Butch Otter Vows to Continue Wasting Taxpayer Money Fighting Gay Marriage

Marriage equality is already the law of the land in Idaho, thanks to the Ninth Circuit's mandate striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage. But you wouldn't know that listening to Governor Butch Otter, who continues to treat the courtroom battle over gay marriage as a winnable campaign issue.

OtterAt a gubernatorial debate last night, Otter declared he's "not ready to surrender to a few folks in black robes," The Huffington Post reports:

When Idaho adopted a constitutional amendment in 2006 banning same-sex marriage, "those people were voting for a value that they had and they were expressing that," he said.

A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, said Otter was fighting "a losing battle."

"At this point, the ship has sailed," Balukoff said. "You're not going to win that battle in federal court. You might as well start arguing about interracial marriage."

Last week, we reported Otter had filed a long-shot petition asking the full Ninth Circuit to re-hear the case challenging the state's gay marriage ban.

Curiously enough, the Associated Press adds Otter voiced support for extending non-discrimination protections to LGBT citizens should such a bill come to his desk. 

Although he voiced some reservations, Otter said he would sign legislation that would add the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Idaho's Human Rights Act. Currently, same-sex couples may marry in Idaho but there is no legal protection if they are fired or kicked out of their homes.

Otter said there would be a hearing during the 2015 legislative session. However, it's ultimately up to state lawmakers to pass the bill.

Los Angeles Couple Reach Plea Deal In Torture, Murder Of 'Gay Acting' Eight-Year-Old Son - VIDEO


Pearl Fernandez has reached a plea deal in the murder and torture of her “gay acting” eight-year-old son Gabriel, reports NBC. Fernandez, along with former boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, will also plead guity to the charges and avoid the death penalty. 

Fernandez_aguirreThe two will be be sentenced to life in prison without parole in exchange for their guilty pleas to first degree murder and torture with special circumstances. Both have waived their right to appeal. 

Fernandez and Aguirre had initially pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Gabriel, who died in May 2013, was allegedly beaten, doused with pepper spray, forced to eat his own vomit and locked in a cabinet with a sock in his mouth to muffle his screams.

Two of the boy’s siblings confirmed that Gabriel was forced to eat cat feces, rotten spinach and vomit; that he slept in a locked cabinet and wasn't let out to go to the bathroom; and that Fernandez and Aguirre called him gay, punished him when he played with dolls and forced him to wear girls' clothes to school.

Fernandez allegedly once jabbed Gabriel in the mouth with a bat and knocked out several teeth.

One of Gabriel’s siblings said that on the day of the fatal beating, Fernandez began hitting her son because he didn't want to pick up his toys. She then dragged him into a bedroom, where Aguirre joined her, and the siblings heard screaming, banging and then silence.

The incident has prompted calls for reforms to the Los Angeles County foster-care system because child welfare workers failed to remove Fernandez from his home. Moves have since been taken to fire two social workers and two supervisors, while others involved in the case have received letters of warning or reprimand.

Watch an NBC report on the case, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Federal Judge to Hear Challenge to Kansas Gay Marriage Ban Today: VIDEO


A federal judge in Kansas is expected to hear a challenge to the state's ban on same-sex marriage later today, the Associated Press reports:

Kansas flagThe hearing Friday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree in Kansas City, Kansas, is on the ACLU's request for an order to force Kansas to allow gay marriages.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit for two lesbian couples who were denied marriage licenses in Douglas and Sedgwick counties after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five other states seeking to preserve gay marriage bans.

The ACLU is seeking a temporary injunction to bring Kansas into line with 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals precedents in other cases.

Kansas City station KSHB adds the Kansas Supreme Court will take up a separate gay marriage case next week. Kansas remains the only state in the 10th Circuit without marriage equality.

Watch a KSHB report on today's case, AFTER THE JUMP...

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