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AFA Demands Justices Kagan and Ginsburg Recuse Themselves From SCOTUS Gay Marriage Case

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The American Family Association (AFA), known for its vehement and vitriolic opposition to gay rights, has demanded that Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a.k.a. Notorious R.B.G.) recuse themselves from the Court's review of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to uphold same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee because both justices have officiated at same-sex weddings:

“Both of these justices’ personal and private actions that actively endorse gay marriage clearly indicate how they would vote on same-sex marriage cases before the Supreme Court,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon. “Congress has directed that federal judicial officers must disqualify themselves from hearing cases in specified circumstances. Both Kagan and Ginsburg have not only been partial to same-sex marriage but they have also proven themselves to be activists in favor of it. In order to ensure the Court’s integrity and impartiality, both should recuse themselves from same-sex marriage cases. Congress has an obligation to Americans to see that members of the Supreme Court are held to the highest standards of integrity. The law demands it, and the people deserve it.”

AFA followed its statement with an "Action Alert" to its members, calling on them to write to their members of Congress, "urging them to remind members of the nation’s highest court of their charge to maintain impartiality."

The weddings in question were officiated by Kagan in September of 2014 and by Ginsburg in August of 2013


Ruth Bader Ginsburg Undergoes Heart Surgery

6a00d8341c730253ef01b8d06c011f970c-200wiSupreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, leader of the high court's liberal wing and beloved by many as the 'Notorious RBG' after her scathing dissent in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, underwent heart surgery this morning after experiencing discomfort while exercising Tuesday night. CNN reports:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 81, underwent a heart procedure Wednesday morning to have a stent placed in her right coronary artery.

A blockage was discovered after Ginsburg "experienced discomfort during routine exercise" Tuesday night and was taken to the hospital, according to a release from the Supreme Court.

Ginsburg is resting "comfortably" at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and is expected to be released in the next 48 hours.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, Justice Ginsburg is the court's eldest member and has also faced two bouts with cancer, having recovered from each. She previously balked at speculation that she would retire during President Obama's tenure so Obama could fill her vacancy with a liberal judge:

Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate Democrats] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided. As long as I can do the job full steam...I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer. But now I can.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Marriage Equality: 'No Crying Need' for SCOTUS Yet

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sat down with NPR's Nina Totenberg for a conversation at the 92nd Street Y which was streamed online.

NotoriousrbgGinsburg was asked about the Court's recent refusal to take up any of the marriage cases presented to it, setting in motion the legalization of same-sex marriage  in numerous states.

Ginsburg said that since all the appellate courts have so far been in agreement, there has been no need:

“Nina, as you know when there's no disagreement among the Courts of Appeals, we don't step in. The major job that the Court has is to keep the law of the United States more or less uniform, so when Courts of Appeals disagree about what the law of the United States is, then we are obligated to grant review. If there had been a court of Appeals on the other side, we probably would have taken that case, but up till now, all the Courts of Appeal agree, so there is no crying need for us to step in.”

When asked whether, with so many states having marriage equality, there is even a possibility that the country could reverse course on the issue, Ginsburg said:

"I can't give an opinion on that."

Ginsburg has said in prior remarks that the Circuit to watch would be the Sixth Circuit, whose marriage decision we're still waiting on.

Watch (marriage discussion starting at 4:20), AFTER THE JUMP...

Ginsburg also told Totenburg about the well-known "Notorious RBG" t-shirts.

The Justice said she has a large supply of them:

"I think a law clerk told me about this tumblr and also explained to me what Notorious RBG was a parody on. And now my grandchildren love it and I try to keep abreast of the latest that’s on the tumblr..."

And read our legal editor Ari Ezra Waldman's column from earlier this month on why we may not even need the Supreme Court HERE.

Continue reading "Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Marriage Equality: 'No Crying Need' for SCOTUS Yet" »


Rachel Maddow’s Best New Thing In The World Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Knowledge of Tumblr: VIDEO

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On her show last night, Rachel Maddow brought some attention to comments made by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month at the University of Minnesota that seemed to telegraph the Supreme Court's decision Monday not to take up any of the 7 petitions it was reviewing on the question of same-sex marriage bans. At the time, Ginsburg remarked that the Court would likely only step in if lower courts started contradicting each other. Otherwise, there would be "no need to rush."

In case that wasn't remarkable or notable enough, at that same Q&A at the University of Minnesota, Ginsburg also addressed her popularity on social media and, in particular, her moniker as The Notorious RBG (which gained popularity after her eviscerating dissent in the Hobby Lobby case). However, it was RBG was quick to correct her moderator who referred to the site dedicated in her honor as a "blog" when in actuality it is a Tumblr. Said Maddow, "So yes, there is a blog out there that is praising Ruth Bader Ginsburg as Notorious RBG, but if you don't know the difference between a blog and a Tumblr that's because you are not as hip and with it as 81-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg."

Watch Ginsburg's priceless correction, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Rachel Maddow’s Best New Thing In The World Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Knowledge of Tumblr: VIDEO " »


What's Happening at the Supreme Court Right Now

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BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

The justices of the Supreme Court are meeting right now to discuss a slew of petitions for hearings. There are seven such petitions on marriage equality cases from Oklahoma, Indiana, Utah, Wisconsin, and Virginia.

Regular Towleroad readers will recall our review of these cases here (discussing the Tenth Circuit decision declaring Utah's ban unconstitutional), here (discussing a similar decision about Virginia's ban at the Fourth Circuit), here (discussing the "Posner treatment" that lawyers for Indiana and Wisconsin got at the Seventh Circuit), and here (discussing the Seventh Circuit decision). 

Even though these cases are "ripe" -- the legal term for "ready" -- for review and even though both sides of all seven cases agree that the Supreme Court should take the case, do not expect the Court to take any of the cases today.

Supreme CourtThere are several reasons the Court may take at least one case:

First, everyone wants it. Freedom to Marry has an ongoing campaign urging the Court to take a marriage equality case and end marriage discrimination nationwide. Anti-gay and pro-equality attorneys filed briefs urging the Court to take their cases, both sides confident they can win. And that does not always happen. Generally, the party that wins in the appellate court is rarely inclined to have a higher court review the decision. Here, many people think it has to happen.

Second, all the decisions are stayed pending Supreme Court review. Every day that passes without a Supreme Court decision is another day in which gay couples face discrimination even though several federal appellate courts have said that the discrimination is unconstitutional, wrong, and must go. The orders stemming from those decisions are on hold pending a final word from the Supreme Court.

Third, these cases pose all the issues. Sometimes, the Court will decline to take a case because the case before it does not raise all the issues or because a quirk at the lower court prevents it from making a complete decision. It happens quite a bit: Imagine a criminal case where an attorney fails to make an objection or a defendant concedes a question of law. If that happens, an appellate court can rarely address those controversies. Here, all issues are in play, including heightened scrutiny.

There are, however, many more reasons why the Court may not take a case just yet.

First, there is no circuit split. Every appellate court to hear a marriage equality case has decided against the ban, declaring them all unconstitutional. Sure, the Seventh Circuit did it in flamboyant, unanimous fashion, but that's just icing. The Supreme Court most often takes cases when there is a disagreement between the circuits. Here there is none. And, a decision at the Eighth Circuit from before the Supreme Court decided Windsor does not count. There has been intervening case law that could impact the decision and, as such, the Eighth Circuit decision does not create a circuit split.

Second, there are several other cases pending. We have cases in the Ninth Circuit and, more importantly, in the Sixth Circuit. The Sixth Circuit hearing, which we discussed here, did not give us obvious clues as to its outcome. One judge seemed inclined to vote against the ban, another judge was in favor of discrimination. A third judge, a George W. Bush appointee and a conservative, is more of a wild card. If the Sixth Circuit goes against marriage equality, that would create a circuit split and would force the Supreme Court to act.

Third, there may be no need for the Supreme Court. If the Sixth Circuit goes with its sister courts -- an eventuality made more likely when someone as conservative and well-respect as Judge Posner eviscerated all anti-equality arguments -- there still will be no circuit split. The Ninth Circuit will decide its cases shortly, and will very likely strike down the bans. A couple of circuits are left, but it is not clear any of them will push the Court to act.

GinsburgFourth, Justice Ginsburg wants to wait. In a talk at the University of Minnesota, the dean of the Court's liberal wing suggested that she was inclined to wait for the Sixth Circuit (and perhaps other circuits) to act. There is no rush, she said. The Court will act when it is necessary.

Waiting might also be a good thing for the marriage equality journey in the long run. The longer we wait, the more federal circuit victories we can rack up, proving to wary conservative justices that the American consensus has emerged. Few -- maybe Justices Scalia and Thomas -- are going to want to stand in the way of that.

***

Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook. Check out my website at www.ariewaldman.com.

Ari Ezra Waldman is a professor of law and the Director of the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School and is concurrently pursuing his PhD at Columbia University in New York City. He is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. Ari writes weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg On Hobby Lobby, Congress, and Why She Has No Plans to Retire Anytime Soon

In a new and rare interview, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke with Elle Magazine, sharing her thoughts on a variety of topics.

Bader-ginsburg-306Much of the interview dealt with women's rights, specifically abortion. In the aftermath of Hobby Lobby, Ginsburg speculates that things have gotten "about as conservative as [they] will get." She notes that women having to cross state lines is not a new phenomenon, and that this policy is detrimental to the lower class. The Justice says people will eventually realize the folly of the policy — that "it makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people."

This wasn't even the sharpest of Ginsburg's quips on the topic. In response to whether the country will become more progressive on women's rights, the aspiring diva pulled out some less-than subtle shade of her own:

I think it will, when we have a more functioning Congress..

But Ginsburg's best answer of the interview all came when she was asked whether she plans to step down to assure that President Obama will be able to appoint a liberal judge. Ginsburg balked:

Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate Democrats] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided. As long as I can do the job full steam…. I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer. But now I can.

That clears things up nicely. Read the full interview excerpt HERE, where the Justice waxes eloquent on family, Antonin Scalia, and what she hates about the term "activist judge."


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