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SC Attorney General Will Continue to Defend State's Same-Sex Marriage Ban: VIDEO

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has said that he will continue to fight a lawsuit aiming to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage despite a ruling by a federal appeals court, reports The Daily Journal.

Unlike Wilson, yesterday North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced he would no longer defend the state's ban in court. There are four lawsuits currently challenging it in North Carolina.

South Carolina passed a law banning same-sex marriage in 1996. Voters approved a similar constitutional amendment in 2006.

Yesterday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The ruling has jurisdiction over South Carolina which is in the circuit, along with North Carolina and West Virginia.

The lawsuit against South Carolina was filed by a Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin who were legally married in Washington, D.C., and are now living in South Carolina. The case has been on hold while the appeals court considered the Virginia case.

Mark Powell, a spokesman for Wilson, said he sees no need to change course because the U.S. Supreme Court will likely make the final decision.

"Ultimately, this will be a decision for the U.S. Supreme Court. People should not rush to act or react until that time, when a decision is made by the highest court in the land.”

However, according to Ryan Wilson, executive director of South Carolina Equality, the ruling brings the state one step closer to same-sex marriage and “confirms that gay and lesbian couples are no different from straight couples.”

Last October, Linda Oliver, the mayor of West Union, South Carolina, came under fire for saying that she didn't want "queer" marriages "rammed down her throat."

Watch a Wavy.com report on the striking down of Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "SC Attorney General Will Continue to Defend State's Same-Sex Marriage Ban: VIDEO" »


Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens Moves To Dismiss Challenge To Same-Sex Marriage

Sam olens georgia

Georgia attorney general Sam Olens has asked a judge to dismiss a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, reports ABC News.

Olens said in a July 21st filing that Lambda Legal’s lawsuit takes away Georgia residents’ right to define marriage.

In 2004, Georgia voters supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Despite a later challenge, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the vote was valid.

While acknowledging moves in other states to legalize same-sex marriage, Olen’s brief states that “judicially imposing such a result now would merely wrest a potentially unifying popular victory from the hands of supporters and replace it instead with the stale conformity of compulsion.”

Olens also argued that recent decisions striking down constitutional bans in other states should not apply to Georgia because the state's marriage laws do not imply a right to marry someone of the same sex.

According to Beth Littrell, a senior attorney for Lambda Legal and co-counsel on the case, "this is a strong indication the attorney general plans on defending the marriage ban regardless of the precedent lining up against him that the federal Constitution provides to all citizens the right to marry the person they love.”

In April, Art Gardner, one of seven Republicans running for retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss's U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, announced his support for Lambda Legal's suit and asked Olens to not fight the suit.


Hobby Lobby and the Democrats Who Want to Fix It

SupremesBY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court's conservative majority allowed a large swath of for-profit companies to deny contraception to their female employees. Hobby Lobby, a national chain of arts and crafts stores, is a privately held, for-profit company that is run by a religious family. It's not a church. Nor is it a religious-based organization. It is simply a company that happens to be owned by religious people, but employs about 21,000 of varying beliefs. The owners objected to the part of Obamacare that required employers to provide health insurance that includes access to certain forms of contraception. They challenged that requirement and won, leaving the Supreme Court with a decision that declared that Hobby Lobby was a "person" entitled to the religious rights of persons.

We discussed the details of that decision here, in Part 1 of this three-part series on Hobby Lobby. In Part 2, I discussed how the Supreme Court actually made Hobby Lobby worse! For now, let's put aside our understandable anger at a decision that discriminates against women, denies necessary health care to those who need it, abuses precedent, and bloats religious freedoms to dangerous levels.

Hobby Lobby was a confusing decision and it is worth discussing it again not only so we can all understand it, but so we can fully appreciate its potential effects on the LGBT community. The ruling discussed religious freedom, which is enshrined in the First Amendment, but it was really based on a statute passed by Congress called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (as if religious freedom needed to be restored). It talked about corporations deserving the freedoms of persons, but it never fully explained if corporate personhood applies to everything or just certain freedoms and rights. Then, after going out of its way to explicitly narrow and cabin the decision to very specific situations, the Court majority did an about-face the next day, possibly expanded the scope of the decision, and admitted to the American people that, sometimes, the majority's words are just words, nothing more.

The decision did a lot of damage. So much damage, in fact, that Democrats in Congress are introducing legislation to overturn the decision. Speaker Boehner's conservative majority in the House is never going to bring the bill to the floor; the act of introducing the bill of pure (and great) politics. But to most of us, the entire scenario begs the question: How can Congress introduce a bill aimed at overturning a Supreme Court decision?

AFTER THE JUMP, I delve into the legal background of the Hobby Lobby decision so we can see how the case was decided and how legislation could fix it. 

Continue reading "Hobby Lobby and the Democrats Who Want to Fix It" »


The Supreme Court Made Hobby Lobby Worse, for Women and for the LGBT Community

Hobbylobby

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

The end of a Supreme Court term usually brings a flurry of action on big cases. Last year, we got Justice Kennedy's decision in United States v. Windsor that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and ushered in an unbroken marriage equality winning streak in the courts. This Supreme Court docket did not include any similar LGBT law cases. Nor did it end as heroically. This year, the Court's conservative majority allowed for profit companies to discriminate against women in the provision of health care in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

But sometimes, it's the less heralded maneuvers that make all the difference: a silent nemesis that creeps up behind you can do a lot more damage than a screaming Visigoth charging head on.

SupremesThat's what happened at the end of the Court's term last month. Justice Alito's Hobby Lobby majority opinion explicitly limited the decision to closely-held (family-run) corporations and explicitly limited it to the particular forms of contraception that were at issue in the case. The justices in the majority went out of their way to say that the decision leaves antidiscrimination laws intact, that it does not apply to publicly-traded corporations, that the decision should be confined to its facts. What's more, the Court also stated that one of the main reasons the government could not compel for-profit companies to provide objectionable health care was because there already was a viable work around aimed at religious nonprofits. Those organizations fill out a form attesting to their religious objection and the contraception would be provided directly from the health care company and not through the employer.

Not 24 hours later, the Court proved to us that all those words meant nothing. After issuing a decision, the Court also ordered lower courts to rehear related cases that could be changed by the decision. If Justice Alito and the majority could be taken at their word, the only cases that would need rehearing were those cases within the explicit narrow confines of Hobby Lobby. But the order went further. To the great consternation of Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan (notably, the three female justices on the Court), the majority ordered lower courts to rehear all pending cases involved religious exemptions to the contraception requirement, not just cases involving companies like Hobby Lobby and not just cases involving the particular forms of contraception involved in the case. And, as if that were not enough, the Court enjoined the very workaround meant for nonprofits that it appeared to endorse in Hobby Lobby as a viable alternative.

Left-leaning bloggers and writers -- not to mention the three female justices on the Court -- were apoplectic. The Court seems to have gone back on its word. Perhaps worse, the Court has broadened an already dangerous decision.

I summarize what the Court did, why Justice Sotomayor seemed so irate in her dissent, and why this matters for the LGBT community, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "The Supreme Court Made Hobby Lobby Worse, for Women and for the LGBT Community" »


SCOTUS Justice Samuel Alito Denies Pennsylvania County Clerk's Petition to Intervene and Halt Gay Marriages

Santai-gaffneyTheresa Santai-Gaffney, the Schuykill County, Pennsylvania Clerk who has been waging a one-woman crusade against the state's legalization of gay marriage, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court this week to intervene, halt the state's gay marriages and defend the state's ban in an appeal since the governor has refused.

Justice Samuel Alito denied Santai-Gaffney's request today, writes Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog:

In another development on same-sex marriage Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., denied without comment a Pennsylvania county clerk’s plea to stop such marriages in that state.  That appears to remove the last potential legal barrier to Pennsylvania becoming the nineteenth state in which same-sex marriages are permitted.  A federal judge struck down the state ban, and state officials declined to appeal.  The Schuylkill County clerk sought to appeal in their place, but that move has now been turned down at all three levels of the federal court system.


Utah Attorney General to Appeal Gay Marriage Ruling Directly to U.S. Supreme Court

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes won't ask for an en banc (all the justices rather than a three-judge panel) Tenth Circuit appeal of the Kitchen v. Herbert ruling striking down Utah's gay marriage ban. He plans to appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

ReyesThe AG's statement, via Fox 13 Salt Lake City:

“To obtain clarity and resolution from the highest court, the Utah Attorney General’s Office will not seek en banc review of the Kitchen v. Herbert Tenth Circuit decision, but will file a Petition for Writ of Certioari to the United States Supreme Court in the coming weeks. Attorney General Reyes has a sworn duty to defend the laws of our state.  Utah’s Constitutional Amendment 3 is presumed to be constitutional unless the highest court deems otherwise.”

Writes Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog:

This will be the first case reaching the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of such state bans since the Justices in United States v. Windsor a year ago struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act — a ruling that set off a series of decisions by federal and state trial courts, all of which so far have nullified state bans on same-sex marriages.  The Tenth Circuit was the first federal appeals court to issue such a decision...

...With the case going to the Justices via such a petition, the Court will have complete discretion whether to review the Tenth Circuit ruling, or pass it up.  Utah officials are almost certain to argue that the Court should take up the issue promptly based on the argument that there is now a conflict among federal appeals courts on the constitutionality of such bans.

...The Supreme Court has seen the Utah same-sex marriage issue before.  In January, the Justices issued an order temporarily blocking a federal trial judge’s ruling against the state ban, pending review of the case by the Tenth Circuit.  That review then went forward, with the three-judge panel splitting two to one on June 25 in finding the ban unconstitutional.

The panel, however, has put its decision on hold, and said it would remain suspended until the state had a chance to take the case to the Supreme Court.  Wednesday was the final deadline for Utah to ask the Tenth Circuit to rehear the case en banc, and the state has now chosen not to do that.


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