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Posner-ed at the 7th Circuit: Appellate Court Issues First Unanimous Marriage Equality Decision

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

PosnerIt took 9 days for Judge Richard Posner to write his unanimous opinion striking down the marriage equality bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. And you can see the tone of the decision in one of its more pointed sentences:

Our pair of cases is rich in detail but ultimately straight-forward to decide. The challenged laws discriminate against a minority defined by an immutable characteristic, and the only rationale that the states put forth with any conviction—that same-sex couples and their children don’t need marriage because same-sex couples can’t produce children, intended or unintended—is so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously.

It wasn't long ago that marriage equality cases were achingly long affairs. Judges would have to pay homage to the deeply held opinions on both sides and recognize that many people vehemently disagree. But to Judge Posner, the cases are straight-forward.

It also wasn't long ago that we were debating whether being gay is an immutable characteristic. Even our progressive allies were not staking out ground on this subject, instead deciding cases without entering the minefield of heightened scrutiny. To Judge Posner, it's a throwaway line.

And it wasn't long ago that conservatives were making the "promiscuous heterosexual" argument to any judge who would listen. To Judge Posner, it doesn't pass the laugh test.

We expected a win at the Seventh Circuit. My colleague and distinguished law professor Dale Carpenter had a similar perspective. But few could have imagined the grand slam Judge Posner penned over the last few days.

A brief summary and analysis follows AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Posner-ed at the 7th Circuit: Appellate Court Issues First Unanimous Marriage Equality Decision" »


Seventh Circuit Rules 3-0 Striking Down Wisconsin and Indiana's Gay Marriage Bans

Seventh

As expected, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled 3-0 for the equality side, writing that the governments of Indiana and Wisconsin have given "no reason to think they have a 'reasonable basis' for forbidding same-sex marriage" 

Read the summary and final judgement below.

The Washington Blade reports:

Writing for the majority, U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner affirmed lower court decisions that determined state laws barring same-sex couples from marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Our pair of cases is rich in detail but ultimately straightforward to decide,” Posner writes. “The challenged laws discriminate against a minority defined by an immutable characteristic, and the only rationale that the states put forth with any conviction — that same-sex couples and their children don’t need marriage because same-sex couples can’t produce children, intended or unintended — is so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously. 

Saidopenly gay Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) via press release:

Baldwin“Today’s decision is yet another affirmation that discrimination doesn’t just violate our Wisconsin values – it violates our Constitution and marriage equality will be the law of the land in our state. It is simply wrong for Governor Walker and Attorney General Van Hollen to continue to defend discrimination and with the unanimous rejection of their position by another federal court, it is long past time for them to stop standing in the way of freedom, fairness and equality for all Wisconsinites. Love is love, family is family, and discriminating against anyone’s love, against anyone’s family, is not only wrong, it is unconstitutional.  It is now time for us to keep our promise to pass on to the next generation a Wisconsin that is more equal, not less equal.”

We'll have analysis from our legal editor Ari Ezra Waldman coming up shortly...stay tuned.

Previously, "7 Moments That Will Make You Want to Gay Marry Judge Richard Posner" [tlrd]


Anti-Equality Forces Get 'the Posner Treatment' at Seventh Circuit Hearing

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

Posner, Richard 08-10By now you have heard that the attorneys representing Indiana and Wisconsin got a shellacking from the famous Reagan-appointee, Judge Richard Posner. Sean brought us 7 classic outtakes from Judge Posner's questioning, but even those barely scratch the surface of what it must have been like. As someone who has had the privilege (and dread) of arguing before Judge Posner, as well as admiring him from afar, quoting his work, and disagreeing with some of his scholarship, I can say that this is just Posner being Posner. A brilliant scholar with strong views who's been around a long time, he does not suffer fools, whether those fools are seeking millions of dollars in damages or challenging the constitutionality of a ban on gays marrying. Do not think Judge Posner's obvious frustration with the anti-equality attorneys is evidence of a particular love of marriage equality, something he still calls "homosexual marriage," after all. This is how he would approach anyone who comes to him with a stupid argument.

And that is the greatest take away from the Seventh Circuit marriage equality hearings: the arguments against us are just stupid, and everyone appears to get that.

Let's start with Judge Posner, who seemed to relish the opportunity to inject some sanity into Wisconsin's and Indiana's arguments. He repeatedly said things like, "So you don't have an answer to that?" or "How can you brief it if you don't know anything about it," in response to Wisconsin's inability to support its arguments that heterosexuals would stop marrying if gays could, or "You don't seem to have any reasons" for banning gays from marrying, or, as Sean noted yesterday, "You don't have any sort of empirical or even conjectural basis for your law." Judge Posner followed that one with a little snark: "Funny." Mic drop.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Anti-Equality Forces Get 'the Posner Treatment' at Seventh Circuit Hearing" »


7th Circuit Hears Challenges To Same-Sex Marriage Bans in Indiana and Wisconsin: LISTEN

Chi

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals today heard oral arguments in two cases that challenged the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin, respectively. As the AP reports, the three judge panel composed of Judges Richard Posner, Anne Claire Williams and David Hamilton, were critical of arguments that sought to justify the bans. Judge Posner, the sole Republican appointed judge among the three member panel, was perhaps the most critical of the states defending their anti-equality laws, objecting in particular to arguments that relied on "tradition":

"It was tradition to not allow blacks and whites to marry — a tradition that got swept away," Posner said. Prohibition of same sex marriage, he said, is "a tradition of hate ... and savage discrimination."

Posner frequently cut off Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fischer, just moments into his presentation and chided him to answer his questions.

At one point, Posner ran through a list of psychological strains of unmarried same-sex couples, including having to struggle to grasp why their schoolmates' parents were married and theirs weren't.

"What horrible stuff," Posner said. What benefits to society in barring gay marriage, he asked, "outweighs that kind of damage to children?"

There was [also] some levity during the hearing. As Samuelson struggled to offer a specific reason for how gay marriage bans benefit society, he suddenly noted a yellow courtroom light signaling his allotted time was up.

"It won't save you," [Judge Ann Claire] Williams told him, prompting laughter in court.

Samuleson smiled, and said: "it was worth a try.”

The last anecdote indicates somewhat dramatically just how much the court may be inclined to disagree with the state’s arguments and find for the plaintiffs. 

Listen to oral arguments in both the Indiana (Baskin v. Zoeller) and Wisconsin case (Wolf v. Walker), AFTER THE JUMP…

(photo via Twitter)

Continue reading "7th Circuit Hears Challenges To Same-Sex Marriage Bans in Indiana and Wisconsin: LISTEN" »


Seventh Circuit Reveals Three Judge Panel To Hear Today's Gay Marriage Case

Judges

As Ari Ezra Waldman reported earlier, today's hearing on marriage equality before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals hinges in some part at least on the three judges chosen to hear the arguments. Those judges have now been revealed as Judges Richard Posner, Anne Claire Williams and David Hamilton. As ThinkProgress reports, this news seems to portend well for marriage equality advocates: 

Judge Posner is the sole Republican on the panel — he’s served on the Court since President Reagan appointed him in 1981 — but he is a highly idiosyncratic judge who has grown increasingly critical of his fellow partisans in recent years….On the specific issue of gay rights, Posner’s views are a bit nuanced, but he is openly sympathetic to the case for equality. In a 2013 essay entitled “How Gay Marriage Became Legitimate,” Posner questioned the view that the courts have played much of a role in advancing LGBT equality. Using antiquated language, Posner’s bottom line was that “the growing acceptance of homosexual marriage seems a natural consequence of the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s rather than an effect, even to a small degree, of litigation.” Yet he was also dismissive of arguments against gay equality. “[I]t is hard to make a case for discriminating against [gay people],” Posner wrote, “apart from a religious case based largely on Roman Catholic doctrine.”

Judge Williams is a Clinton-appointee and a noted liberal scholar. Hamilton, meanwhile, was appointed by President Obama and was filibustered by Republican Senators “in large part due to a handful of opinions he handed down as a federal district judge on social issues such as abortion and religion.” Early speculation suggests both would be unlikely to break with the dramatic trend of federal justices supporting marriage equality.

Stay tuned for more news on the hearing today before the 7th Circuit.


Marriage Equality Goes Before the 7th Circuit: A Preview

SeventhBY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

Marriage equality gets another hearing before another federal appellate court this morning. Before an as-yet-to-be-named three-judge panel of the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, gay and lesbian couples in Indiana and Wisconsin will argue that, as the district courts stated below, the states' bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional. The states' two Republican administrations will argue that gays and lesbians should not be included in the fundamental right to marry and that it is the states' best interest to ban gays from marrying. These arguments are tired, old, and have been rejected many times.

But although the weight of legal arguments and a string of legal victories are on our side, the Seventh Circuit poses an uncertain challenge for several reasons.

First, the panel. We will not know the panel until just a short time before oral argument begins. In previous previews of marriage equality cases before appellate courts, we were able to discuss the political leanings of the judges. We discussed that in the Fourth Circuit and in the Sixth Circuit. And although political affiliation is not always a perfect indication of how a judge will decide a ruling, the knowledge informs us. As a former appellate attorney, I made sure that at least part of my legal strategy reflected the decision histories and tendencies of the judges on the panel. I could never do that in the Seventh Circuit outside of a few on the fly preparations before oral argument.

We do know that 10 of the 14 judges (including senior judges with a lighter case load) on the Seventh Circuit were appointed by Republican presidents. But we also know that (a) many Republican judges have written eloquent marriage equality decisions and (b) some of the Republican-appointed judges on the Seventh Circuit defy traditional conservatism. The famous Judge Richard Posner, for example, is a scion of the law and economics movement and he does not necessarily toe a socially conservative line. For example, Judge Posner has been sympathetic to the pro-choice movement.

WoodWe also know that Judge Diane Wood, a Clinton-appointee and liberal scholar, is now the chief judge, but that does not necessarily matter for panel assignments. The Seventh Circuit's staff executive determines panels using a very simple matrix of 3 judge combinations. Judges learn their panels weeks, if not months in advance; we hear about it the day of.

Second, the arguments. Indiana's central argument is that banning gays from marrying is in the best interest of the state because the state needs to encourage opposite-sex couples to marry and have children within the marital relationship. We've heard that argument before and it is simply laughable. There is no way that banning one group from marrying actually encourages a totally different group to not just marry but also to have kids while married. Plus, gay couples have children, too. I cannot imagine judges like Posner and Frank Easterbook, another law and economics scholar, seeing any legitimacy to the supposed "incentive" for heterosexuals to marry in Indiana's argument.

Third, the history. We won more than 30 cases in a row after the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor. Remarkably, we lost one in Tennessee just two weeks ago, a decision I will write about presently. But the Seventh Circuit is looking at the cases before it in the context of a federal judiciary that, so far, has been overwhelmingly favorable to marriage equality. The judges will see it below them -- in the many district court decisions overturning bans in states across the country -- and above them -- in the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor. It is hard to see the appellate panel ignoring this context. Neither Judge Posner nor Judge Easterbrook, nor, for that matter, any of the senior judges, are likely to want to be remembered for going against the full weight of an unstoppable tide toward marriage equality in the federal courts.

We will know more once we hear the panels.

***

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.


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