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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" »


Ohio Hospital Denies Woman Her Deceased Wife's Medical Records: VIDEO

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Marcia Gallas, a woman from Blue Ash, Ohio, has been denied access to her recently deceased spouse's medical records. While Gallas and her attorney have a federal injunction that is based on a similar case from Cincinnati, Bethesda North Hospital says they cannot release the information due to "state and federal privacy laws."

Watch a WCPO report on the story, AFTER THE JUMP...

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 10.02.08 AMTo Gallas, it seems the hospital's rationale for this denial is that they are waiting for Ohio's marriage equality fight to make its way through the courts. Said Gallas:

I'm grieving...It's going to take a long time to get over Barbara and I really don't understand why they won't recognize... what am I to think except that they have a problem with same sex marriage?

Gallas is trying to obtain the records of former spouse Barbara Graham because Graham participated in an 18-year study that requires the records.

While Bethesda North is stubborn in their position, Gallas did not have the same problems getting records from Cincinatti's Jewish Hospital. Said Gallas:

They [Bethesda North] just aren't budging... All they need to do is release her medical records, that's all I'm asking for...I don't think that's too much to ask for.

Gallas can get permission from Graham's sons to access the records, but this could take weeks to process.

[h/t WCPO]

Continue reading "Ohio Hospital Denies Woman Her Deceased Wife's Medical Records: 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.


Henry And George, Together Over 50 Years, Featured In New Ohio Marriage Equality Ad: VIDEO

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Henry Hawley and George Vassos were married in New York City last October, on their 50th anniversary. Their commitment to each other is not recognized in their home state of Ohio, though, and they are looking to create change. The adorable couple is featured in a new advertisement from Why Marriage Matters Ohio, and if their easy chemistry and clear adoration of one another does not convince you of love's universality, perhaps nothing will.

Check out Henry and George's testimony, AFTER THE JUMP...

And head over to the Why Marriage Matters Ohio website to make a contribution to the cause.

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Continue reading "Henry And George, Together Over 50 Years, Featured In New Ohio Marriage Equality Ad: VIDEO" »


Ohio Posters Advertising 'Straight White Guy Festival' Annoy Locals

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Misspelled posters advertising a "straight white guy festival" recently appeared near a gay-friendly neighborhood of Clintonville in Columbus, Ohio. The festival, ostensibly scheduled for September 20, will "celabrate [sic] our enjoyment of being straight, white and male" at Goodale Park.

The posters could be a hoax since city officials have reportedly received zero event permit requests for the park. 

The UK Mirror states:

The event has been taken by some as a homophobic backlash against the gay pride festival held at the park last month... Many have reacted with outrage, claiming every day is a straight white guy festival. Others have defended the unknown organisers, arguing that they have the same right to celebrate their sexuality and heritage as the LGBT community and other minorities.

In 2007, "straight pride" supporters marched in a Pride parade in Telluride, Colorado. Meanwhile, in 2011 the local government of Sao Paulo, Brazil approved a "straight pride day... protest against the privileges the gay community enjoys." 

But proponents of "straight pride" responses to gay pride events may want to consider CNN contributor LZ Granderson's thoughts on the matter:

Gay Pride was not born of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution... So instead of wondering why there isn’t a straight pride movement, be thankful you don’t need one.


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