Monday, December 27, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

N.Y. Marriage: Hey, You Never Know | News | The Advocate

N.Y. Marriage: Hey, You Never Know | News | The Advocate:

By Julie Bolcer

There is work to be done in 2011, but marriage equality advocates are betting on improved odds with a Republican senate majority in New York State.

As 2011 dawns, observers identify three states with strong prospects for achieving marriage equality in the new year: Maryland, New York, and Rhode Island. Among the three, New York boasts the largest population by far, with nearly 20 million residents, and as the media capital of the country, the state guarantees to put an even more intense spotlight on marriage equality as landmark legal cases make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“If some of the federal cases do wind up getting to the court in 2012, one of the main things we can all do to help shape good results in the Supreme Court down the road is to have more wins in 2011 in places like New York,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, one of many groups working on lobbying and public education campaigns in the state. “Everyone has a stake in winning.”

Last December, New York got closest to flirting with marriage equality, which ended in heartbreaking defeat at the hands of a Democratic-controlled senate elected with millions of dollars in gay support in 2008. Marriage equality lost by a vote of 38 to 24, with all 30 Republicans and eight Democrats, including some who seemed to hint otherwise, voting against the measure. The state assembly has already passed the bill three times, and polls indicate that solid majorities of New Yorkers support marriage equality.

Although Democrats could still dispute the November election results, Republicans expect to be in control with a 32-30 majority when the senate convenes in early 2011. Some observers view the new dynamic as a reason to feel pessimistic about marriage equality, but many more seem to think the leadership change, combined with evolving public attitudes and other favorable political developments, leaves advocates in their strongest position to date. Cautious optimism rules the day in New York, the state with the legislature repeatedly ranked as the nation’s most dysfunctional, and where the lottery motto once proclaimed, “Hey, you never know.”

First and foremost, despite the all but assured loss of the Democratic majority, the senate saw a net gain of two votes for marriage equality this election cycle, bringing the total number of anticipated yes votes to 26. Where many insiders believe the winning formula involves a bipartisan effort with anywhere from 27 to 29 Democrats and three to five Republicans in favor, the numeric victory of 32 votes now appears more within reach.

More important than the raw vote count, however, is the way the new votes were won. Groups like the Tim Gill–financed PAC Fight Back New York, the Empire State Pride Agenda, and the Human Rights Campaign demonstrated their ability to harness money and human power toward the defeat of incumbents who voted against marriage equality. Targeted efforts in November ended the careers of two long-term incumbents, a Republican from Queens and a Democrat from Buffalo. ............

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gay rights take center stage in N.Y. - Ben Smith and Byron Tau -

Gay rights take center stage in N.Y. - Ben Smith and Byron Tau - "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Gay rights take center stage in N.Y.
By: Ben Smith and Byron Tau
December 14, 2010 04:36 AM EST

NEW YORK — Last spring, a low-profile Colorado millionaire, Tim Gill, and other gay donors financed a quiet wave of polling in a state Senate district in Buffalo and another in a Hispanic section of Queens.

The question: Would the news that a candidate “was being targeted by wealthy homosexual activists for his vote against gay marriage” make voters more or less likely to support him? Sizable majorities responded that they didn’t care much one way or the other.

The results gave courage to Gill and other top gay donors, producing a campaign that helped unseat three incumbent state legislators and opened a new phase in the politics of the gay rights movement that could have an even larger impact on the 2012 cycle. Under the New York model, well-funded gay rights groups will seek to make support for same-sex marriage as mandatory in blue America as allegiance to the Second Amendment is in red America — and to make opposition just as politically suicidal.

“We’re at a point of time where the national conversation around marriage in a lot of states has moved to a point where it’s no longer acceptable to not be there,” said Bill Smith, the deputy executive director of the Gill Action Fund, the donor’s political arm.

“This is the first time we’re going to name names and say, ‘We’re coming to get you because you’re against marriage equality,’” said Smith. “The point is, when you vote against marriage equality, there are consequences.”

The New York campaign marks a sea change in the politics of same-sex marriage, one driven by a political context that — in Democratic-leaning states, at least — has changed dramatically in the past decade. In New York, for instance, the past half-decade has seen nearly every statewide Democrat shift his or her position into supporting full marriage equality, as public support in the most recent state polls hovers near 50 percent. Gill, a publicity-shy Coloradan who made his money in software, drew national attention in 2007, when The Atlantic revealed that he’d led a successful, stealth effort to unseat dozens of anti-gay state legislators across the country.

“His surreptitious methods suggests how far they still have to go,” The Atlantic’s Josh Green noted at the time.

That has now changed.

Gay donors “came out of the closet with this,” said David Mixner, a veteran gay activist who called the New York campaign “transformational.”

With same-sex marriage battles ramping up this year in Maryland, Rhode Island and New York (again), the new strategy, said Smith, is a shift to offense.

“In the past, the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community has been more carrot, less stick,” he said. “Now I would say, ‘Have stick, will travel.’”

This newly aggressive attitude comes from 2010 results that were truly striking: The group, despite playing in just three carefully targeted districts, spent more money in New York — $790,000 — than any other outside group. The money went to negative mailings, television ads and get-out-the-vote calls. By November, Fight Back New York had helped unseat all three incumbent legislators, something almost unheard of in Albany, and to defeat another Republican candidate who opposed same-sex marriage.

The effort does have its limits. The closely divided New York state Senate does not appear on the verge of passing marriage legislation, though even the Republican leader has said he’s willing to bring such a bill to the floor. “Look at the Senate,” said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage. “It was a failure.”

But the lesson Gill and his allies sought to send in the 2010 cycle is a revolutionary one for gay politics: that there can be a higher cost to opposing same-sex marriage than to supporting it and that it’s one of those marginal issues — as the Club for Growth has made tax votes or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has made Israel votes — that can end a legislator’s career.

The group’s breakthrough also had much to do with the tone of its campaign. Though Gill and company made no effort to hide their identity, the attacks they funded also had nothing to do with marriage. This was hard-edged politics, not an educational effort.

“Why would Sen. Bill Stachowski vote against mammograms for women?” asked a typical mailing, targeting a 28-year veteran Democratic legislator from the suburbs of Buffalo who had voted against the marriage bill. Another attacked Stachowski for collecting an unusual number of per diem reimbursements.

Stachowski’s Democratic allies tried to shut the group down. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Democrat who is a lesbian, recalled receiving calls pleading with her to stop the campaign.

“That doesn’t happen because you’ve gone unnoticed,” she said, adding that she told callers they had “misdialed.”

Stachowski hit back in the primary’s closing week with a robocall responding to “the innuendo spread by an out-of-state single-issue organization.”

“They choose to disguise their real agenda behind misleading vague mailings,” he said in the call. “Make no mistake: They care about a single issue. Gay marriage.” (Stachowski didn’t respond to POLITICO’s calls about the race.)

But it didn’t turn the tide, and Fight Back’s polling had led it to believe that the issue couldn’t hurt its candidate, Democrat Tim Kennedy, who ultimately won the primary contest.

“Our view was, ‘Come and get us, it’s not going to help you,’” said Valerie Berlin, whose firm, BerlinRosen, ran the group’s media campaigns.

A Queens Republican, Frank Padavan, also was hit by a pile of Fight Back mailings, attacking him for votes on health care regulations and for spending $3 million on his Senate office over four years. “Frank Padavan’s paper clips must be made of gold,” one mailing sneered.

Padavan, a 38-year incumbent, lost by about 3,000 votes. He told POLITICO he thought the group — which he called “insidious” — had played a role in his defeat.

“Their primary issue was same-sex marriage, [and] they never even mentioned it,” he said.

In another Queens district, the group says it sent 95,322 individual pieces of mail to 15,887 voters in the district of state Sen. Hiram Monserrate, who had voted against the marriage bill after saying he’d support it and who was also facing charges that he’d assaulted his girlfriend with a bottle.

One mailing showed him gazing menacingly through a broken window. “Criminals belong in prison, not in public office,” it said. (Monserrate lost badly, but, in fairness, the Fight Back New York attacks were only one factor. He was acquitted of the major charges in his domestic assault case but convicted on a minor one.)

Such opportunistic attacks are a standard feature of contemporary politics, but defeated legislators said they weren’t fair play.

“For a group whose main concern is marriage equality, they didn’t run a single campaign about marriage quality,” said Jack Quinn, a former assemblyman whom Fight Back New York helped Kennedy defeat in a general election in the Buffalo district that Stachowski had represented. Quinn said he had no hard feelings. “I understand where they’re coming from. This is no different than a Second Amendment group.”

The National Organization for Marriage’s Brown and other critics say Fight Back New York showed its weakness by campaigning on issues other than gay marriage and that the legislators it helped elect may run away from the issue.

But Kennedy, the candidate for whom it played the biggest role, said that while the issue wasn’t at the center of his campaign, he won’t run away from it.

“My support for marriage equality legislation ... was up in the forefront from the very beginning of my primary campaign and in the general campaign. I’m looking forward to voting on legislation so that people can be open and safe in their home and their community,” he said. “I believe that my election was one seat that is now a ‘yes’ vote for marriage equality.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

With Democratic gains in state Senate, Maryland poised to approve same-sex marriage

With Democratic gains in state Senate, Maryland poised to approve same-sex marriage: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

A majority of senators on a key committee in Maryland now favor legalizing same-sex marriage, making it increasingly likely that the state will join five others and the District in allowing such unions.
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STATE SENATE: Two Sides Testify on Same-Sex Marriage
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Bills Pursued to Gain Rights Piece by Piece
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Membership changes on the panel, where same-sex marriage bills have previously died, are among a handful of shifts produced by last month's elections. Collectively, they appear to have tipped the balance on the most high-profile social issue the General Assembly will consider during its upcoming 90-day session.

Republican gains Nov. 2 in other state legislatures are expected to lead to more conservative social policies. But Democrats in Maryland bucked the trend, adding two seats to their majority in the Senate. Moreover, when the General Assembly convenes next month, a few senators who lost primaries will be replaced by Democrats more supportive of same-sex unions.

"This has truly been a transformative election on this issue," said Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), an openly gay lawmaker who has sponsored same-sex marriage legislation and plans to push for passage this session. "I could not have hoped for a better result. You can see a real path to enacting this legislation."

Despite Maryland's reputation as a liberal state, lawmakers have been slower to embrace same-sex unions than their colleagues in some other blue states, in part because of the strong opposition of the Catholic and black churches.

The legislation would remove a long-standing requirement in Maryland law that recognizes only marriages between a man and a woman.

Leaders of the House of Delegates, traditionally the more liberal chamber on social policy, said they have the votes to pass the measure. And Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has said he would sign such a bill, although he has previously supported the alternative of civil unions.

Some potential hurdles remain - both inside and outside the State House - before Maryland can become the latest state to allow same-sex marriage since Massachusetts began doing so in 2004 and the District followed suit in March.

If a same-sex marriage bill is approved, advocates on both sides say they expect opponents to take advantage of a provision in Maryland that allows residents to petition recently passed laws to the ballot. A successful signature drive would put the measure on hold, pending the results of a statewide referendum in November 2012.

Support for ballot measures can be difficult to gauge this far out, but a Washington Post poll conducted in May found that 46 percent of Marylanders favored legalizing same-sex marriage, 44 percent opposed it and 10 percent had no opinion.

Those results reflected rapidly evolving attitudes on an issue that tends to break along generational lines. In late 2007, an identical Post poll question found 44 percent in favor overall and 51 percent opposed in Maryland.

In the nearer term, opponents in the Senate are expected to mount a filibuster to block the legislation. That would require a super-majority to move forward - including support from some more conservative Democrats opposed to the measure but willing to allow an up-or-down vote.
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What are some reasons society should support same-sex marriage? « Family Scholars

What are some reasons society should support same-sex marriage? « Family Scholars: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Barry Deutsch 12.03.2010, 8:19 PM

In the comments of Family Scholars Blog, Kisarita wrote:

The only reason to accord a unique status to a sexual relationship is because of the procreative aspect.

I disagree. Quoting The Marriage Movement Statement of Principles:

What is Marriage? Six Dimensions.

Marriage has at least six important dimensions:

1) Marriage is a legal contract. Marriage creates formal and legal obligations and rights between spouses. Public recognition of, and protection for, this marriage contract, whether in tax or divorce law, helps married couples succeed in creating a permanent bond.

2) Marriage is a financial partnership. In marriage, “my money” typically becomes “our money,” and this sharing of property creates its own kind of intimacy and mutuality that is difficult to achieve outside a legal marriage. Only lovers who make this legal vow typically acquire the confidence that allows them to share their bank accounts as well as their bed.

3) Marriage is a sacred promise. Even people who are not part of any organized religion usually see marriage as a sacred union, with profound spiritual implications. “Whether it is the deep metaphors of covenant as in Judaism, Islam and Reformed Protestantism; sacrament as in Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy; the yin and yang of Confucianism; the quasi-sacramentalism of Hinduism; or the mysticism often associated with allegedly modern romantic love,” Don Browning writes, “humans tend to find values in marriage that call them beyond the mundane and everyday.” Religious faith helps to deepen the meaning of marriage and provides a unique fountainhead of inspiration and support when troubles arise.

4) Marriage is a sexual union. Marriage elevates sexual desire into a permanent sign of love, turning two lovers into “one flesh.” Marriage indicates not only a private but a public understanding that two people have withdrawn themselves from the sexual marketplace. This public vow of fidelity also makes men and women more likely to be faithful. Research shows, for example, that cohabiting men are four times more likely to cheat than husbands, and cohabiting women are eight times more likely to cheat than spouses.

5) Marriage is a personal bond. Marriage is the ultimate avowal of caring, committed, and collaborative love. Marriage incorporates our desire to know and be known by another human being; it represents our dearest hopes that love is not a temporary condition, that we are not condemned to drift in and out of shifting relationships forever.

6) Marriage is a family-making bond. Marriage takes two biological strangers and turns them into each other’s next-of-kin. As a procreative bond, marriage also includes a commitment to care for any children produced by the married couple. It reinforces fathers’ (and fathers’ kin’s) obligations to acknowledge children as part of the family system.

And furthermore:

Married adults live longer, healthier, happier, and more affluent lives than adults who don’t marry or don’t stay married. This phenomenon is not simply an artifact of selection; marriage itself makes adults better off, by offering them greater emotional and financial support, wider and more integrated social networks, important economies of scale, and productive boosts in earnings, parenting capacity, and life management.

There are clearly many justifications for marriage in addition to (not instead of) the procreative aspects.

Opponents of same-sex marriage tend to argue for a single-dimensional view of marriage — marriage is about procreation, full stop — but that argument doesn’t withstand much examination. (As David Blankenhorn has written, marriage is a “multi-dimensional, multi-purpose institution. It is not true therefore to say that the state’s only interest in marriage is marriage’s generative role. Instead, marriage’s role as a pro-child social institution is only one, albeit the most important, of these legitimate state interests.”)

In her book The Case For Marriage, Maggie Gallagher (and her co-author Linda Waite) dismissed the idea that “marriage is mostly about children” as a “myth.”

Of course, all of these purposes for marriage apply to same-sex couples as they do to opposite-sex couples.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Prop 8 Argument Day FAQ - Poliglot

Prop 8 Argument Day FAQ - Poliglot: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

The topic of same-sex marriage -- particularly, marriage in California -- has popped into the public's eye with regularity over the past two-and-a-half years. On Monday -- with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing the oral arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the challenge to the state's Proposition 8 -- the attention will again turn to the West Coast and marriage.

So, what do you need to know to get through Monday?

Here it is: The top 10 questions for Monday's oral arguments.

1. What is the background here?

In May 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled, in a 4-3 decision, that California's Constitution prohibited the state from discriminating against same-sex couples in the state's marriage laws. By mid-June, couples began marrying -- although the future of same-sex marriage in the state already was headed to the November ballot.

Then, after about 18,000 same-sex couples had married in the state, on Nov. 4, 2008, the voters of the state of California elected Barack Obama president -- but also voted to pass Proposition 8, which amended California's Constitution to add, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." This created an upending of an otherwise joyous night for progressives, which was borne out by protests across the state -- and country -- in the weeks that followed.

With the vote, though, the marriages came to a halt. An attempt to have the initiative thrown out under state law, brought by the organizations who had supported the original lawsuit, was unsuccessful. The May 2009 ruling of the California Supreme Court upholding the amendment as valid, however, galvanized, once again, opponents of Proposition 8.

2. What's so special about this case?

The same day that the California Supreme Court ruled, word came that, very quietly, the law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, with help from the law firm of Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP, had a few days earlier filed the lawsuit in federal court that all of the LGBT legal organizations had been avoiding: a direct, federal challenge to a state ban on marriage equality.

The challenge was not just any challenge, of course. It was not only that two of the leading national law firms were serving as the lawyers for plaintiffs Kristin Perry, Sandra Stier, Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo -- because big law firms had been helping the LGBT legal groups with cases for years. It was, instead, the lead lawyers, Ted Olson and David Boies, who made the headlines. The sparring partners in Bush v. Gore had come together to press the case for marriage equality.

The organization formed to bring the challenge -- the American Foundation for Equal Rights -- was an unknown entity until the day of the filing, and its leader, Chad Griffin, had -- also quietly -- pulled together the support of his PR firm, the Olson/Boies team and some Hollywood heavyweights gay and straight, including Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and director Rob Reiner.

The headlines continued, but the case also moved forward quickly, and a three-week trial was held in January 2010, with closing arguments held in June.

3. So, what happened?

An Aug. 4, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker held that Proposition 8 violated the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection of the laws and due process of law, which protects "fundamental" rights -- including marriage.

Regarding equal protection, he found that "Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license." He concluded, "Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional."

Regarding due process, he noted that marriage has been considered by the U.S. Supreme Court to be a fundamental right that he found was defined as "the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household." He went on to discuss past marriage restrictions, including racial ones, then concluded, "Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs' objective as 'the right to same-sex marriage' would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy -- namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages."

Concluding that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional on both of those grounds, he also later refused to stay his ruling -- or keep it from being enforced -- while the proponents of the measure attempted to appeal his decision. He did, however, give them a brief period of time to seek a stay from the Ninth Circuit, which the Ninth Circuit granted. The parties and other groups and individuals interested in the case filed briefs giving the court their views, and argument was scheduled for Monday, Dec. 6, 2010.

ca9.png4. And, Monday is?

At 10 a.m. Pacific Time on Monday (1 p.m. on the East Coast) the three Ninth Circuit judges who were randomly assigned to hear the case will conduct two hours of arguments -- to be televised live on C-SPAN and elsewhere -- about the issues in the case.

The judges themselves have been noteworthy, with the proponents asking for Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a Carter appointee known for being one of the most unabashedly liberal of judges in the appellate courts, to recuse himself because of his wife's leadership of the ACLU of California and involvement in discussions about whether to bring the case -- a request he quickly turned down. The other two judges are Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, President Clinton's first nominee to the Ninth Circuit, and Judge N. Randy Smith, a conservative Bush appointee who attended Brigham Young University for both undergraduate and law school education and previously served as the head of the Idaho Republican Party.

The first hour of oral arguments, in which the judges will ask the attorneys questions at will, is to be focused on the issue of standing and will give half of the proponents' time to the lawyers for Imperial County to argue that they should have been allowed to intervene in the case to defend Proposition 8. The second hour is to be focused on the merits of the case, with the attorney representing San Francisco County to be given 10 minutes to argue against the constitutionality of the measure along with the AFER team.

5. What about the proponents' standing?

Because the parties who have to follow Walker's ruling -- the state defendants -- chose not to appeal the trial court's ruling, previous U.S. Supreme Court cases throw into doubt whether the proponents have standing -- one of a series of doctrines that relate to the requirement that federal courts can only hear cases involving a "case or controversy," or actual dispute.

The proponents will argue that they have standing because California courts have recognized that initiative proponents do have the ability to defend challenges to the initiative in state court. Additionally, they will be arguing that the reason why they should be found to have standing is especially clear here, where there would be no ability for higher court review of Walker's ruling if initiative proponents are denied standing. The plaintiffs, meanwhile, will argue that the state cases are inapplicable to the federal "case or controversy" requirement and that, under the federal law, the proponents simply do not have the ability to appeal a decision like the trial court's in this case.

6. What is the deal with Imperial County?

Imperial County is located in the far southeast corner of California, and it is represented in this case by lawyers from Advocates for Faith and Freedom -- which describes itself as "a non-profit law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts." Walker denied Imperial County's request to intervene at the trial level, and the plaintiffs will argue before the Ninth Circuit that Walker's denial was proper because -- as with the proponents -- Imperial County and its officials "have no duties related to the enforcement of California's marriage laws."

Imperial County, however, will argue that they are, in fact, responsible for reviewing and granting or denying marriage licenses and are a proper party to the lawsuit who should have been allowed to intervene because their interests were not otherwise being met.

7. What are the merits of the case?

The merits of the case, as discussed in terms of Walker's ruling, are the equal protection and due process questions. Look for the proponents to attack Walker's findings of fact and conclusions about the state's interests in limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples and for the plaintiffs to focus in on Walker's conclusion that there is no rational basis for Proposition 8 and that it is instead "based on moral disapproval of homosexuality, animus towards gays and lesbians or simply a belief that a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women."

Among the interesting questions to be tossed around will be the level of scrutiny that classifications based on sexual orientation should receive. The plaintiffs argued at trial that a heightened scrutiny should apply; the proponents argued that rational basis would suffice. Although Walker found that "strict scrutiny is the appropriate standard of review to apply to legislative classifications based on sexual orientation," he also found that Proposition 8 failed even to meet the lowest level of scrutiny. If the Ninth Circuit decides that strict scrutiny should apply, then it would be more difficult to uphold Proposition 8 as constitutional because it would have to be proven to serve a "compelling" governmental objective and be the "least restrictive means" of achieving that objective. If a rational basis would suffice, then the amendment merely needs to be found to be "rationally related" to a "legitimate" government interest.

Finally, as to due process, the primary question is the definition of the "fundamental right" at issue. If the right is "marriage" being sought, then same-sex marriage prohibitions are more likely to be seen as an unconstitutional exclusion. If the right being sought is "same-sex marriage," then that is a new right being sought, which is difficult to secure under prior U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

8. What could the court rule?

With no specified timeline, the court will issue its ruling -- although the fact that the court gave the case expedited consideration as to briefing and the scheduling of the oral arguments suggests it is cognizant of the desire for a quick resolution of the case.

If the court holds that some party has standing to appeal Walker's ruling, it could affirm the trial court and say that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional or it could reverse the trial court and say that Proposition 8 is constitutional. At that point, the ruling would have "precedent" -- meaning the judges would need to adhere to it -- in all of the trial courts in the Ninth Circuit.

The court also could find that neither the proponents nor Imperial County have standing and dismiss the appeal. This would leave Walker's ruling in place and invalidate Proposition 8, but would limit the ruling only to his order and provide no appellate precedent that would apply to the entire Ninth Circuit.

To take the least likely position, it could dismiss the appeal and also hold that no standing existed at trial, which could lead the appellate court to vacate Walker's judgment and, effectively, erase the entire case. This would mean that Proposition 8 would remain in effect. Because the state of California was enforcing Proposition 8 at the time of trial -- and still now -- it would be extraordinary for the court to take this route.

9. What happens after that?

Once the three-judge panel issues its decision, the party or parties unsuccessful on appeal -- on standing or on the merits -- could seek a review of the decision by an en banc panel of the court. Usually, en banc appeals involve all of the active judges on the court, but the Ninth Circuit has a unique ''limited en banc'' procedure in which all the active Ninth Circuit judges vote whether en banc consideration will be given. If a majority supports en banc consideration, then the chief judge of the circuit, Judge Alex Kozinski, and 10 randomly selected appellate judges from the circuit will hear the en banc appeal.

After that, theoretically, a party dissatisfied with an en banc ruling of the Ninth Circuit can ask for the full Ninth Circuit to review the en banc panel's decision, but the court has not agreed to do so since adopting the "limited en banc" procedure.

After en banc consideration or in lieu of even attempting it, the unsuccessful party can petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. At that point, the parties submit written arguments explaining to the court why the justices should or should not hear the case. Then, if four of the nine justices agree to hear the case, another round of briefing occurs, with the parties and outside organizations and individuals arguing the merits of the case to the justices. Oral arguments are then set and held at the Supreme Court, and some time later a decision is handed down.

10. Outside of California, does this matter?

Yes, but it is not clear yet how much and whether it will matter only as to the public discussion that the case has raised or as to the law. As discussed above, a decision on the merits by the Ninth Circuit could have enormous impact depending on the scope of the ruling. Because of the breadth of the circuit, marriage laws from Hawaii to Idaho to Alaska could be impacted.

Moreover, if a party eventually appeals the case to the Supreme Court and the court takes the case, the precedent of that decision, of course, would apply across the country. If a decision on the merits by the Supreme Court is as broad as Walker's trial court decision, then laws from the federal Defense of Marriage Act to states' laws or amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage could be in question.

But, no matter the happenings on Monday, that day is a ways off.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

NY Marriage Equality On Hold for Now :: EDGE Miami

NY Marriage Equality On Hold for Now :: EDGE Miami: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Outgoing New York Gov. David Paterson has decided not to press for marriage equality legislation from state lawmakers before he leaves office.

Paterson had gauged whether state lawmakers might consider granting New York’s gay and lesbian families marriage parity during a lame duck session, but upon hearing that such legislation wouldn’t stand a chance, he decided to leave the issue alone.

The New York Assembly had approved marriage equality legislation four times before the State Senate took up the issue a year ago and voted it down. State Sen. Thomas K. Duane had indicated that there was adequate support to get the measure passed, but in the end, the state’s senators rebuffed the measure, voting 38-24 to reject the bill on Dec. 2, 2009.

The outcome capped a drawn-out and dramatic series of maneuvers and political shakeups. Marriage supporters slammed the final vote, with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer--himself heterosexual--noting at the time, "Only the State Senate could snatch defeat from the jaws of pride and progress."

Added Stringer, "We will keep fighting, and in the end, equal justice will prevail."

But not quite yet. A Dec. 1 New York Times article said that Paterson had left marriage off the table when the state’s lawmakers re-convened on Nov. 30 for a final session before the start of the new year. The state Senate, which never took up the issue when GOP lawmakers were in charge, will most likely revert to Republican control, the article said.

Paterson blamed "lobbyists" for the bill’s failure to pass last year, remarking during a Dec. 1 appearance at Manhattan’s Yale Club that the timing had not been right, and that proponents had pushed too soon for marriage parity.

Even so, the outgoing governor said that he had taken measure of the political climate to see whether it would be constructive to "take one more shot at marriage equality," the article reported, before going on to say that at least one senior policymaker told the Times that he had not heard about Paterson polling lawmakers to judge the level of support a bill might receive a year after the senate rejected it.

Even the bill’s champions saw little point in revisiting the issue right now. "What’s not clear is why today is different than any other day," Democratic Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell, who had spearheaded last year’s repeated passage in the Assembly, told the publication.

Paterson had a simply remedy for the problem. "Get rid of the lobbyists," he told his audience at the Yale Club, going in to say that pro-marriage activists "get enthralled by being involved in the whole legislative process" to the detriment of their own cause. "The lobbyists literally forced the vote," Paterson opined.

"It was a frustrating, difficult and emotional time for lots of people," the executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, Ross D. Levi, told the media. "We know it was for Governor Paterson, as well, because of his deep personal commitment to this issue."

That commitment is still strong; said Paterson, "It’s probably the one issue that I will keep replaying in my mind because I really wanted it to happen on my watch as governor. But I will come back--free of charge, by the way--to lobby the next time it comes up."

Marriage parity for all New York families is almost certain to be an issue once newly elected lawmakers join the ranks of the State Senate and the Assembly. Gov.-Elect Andrew Cuomo embraced the cause of GLBT equality from the get go, indicating that if a marriage equality bill is sent to him by lawmakers, he will approve it. In his victory speech, Cuomo touched upon the issue briefly, saying, "Yes, we are gay and we are straight. But we are one state because we are New York."

"It’s really exciting," said open lesbian Christine Quinn, who serves a speaker for the New York city council. "To have a governor who not just supports marriage equality but says he is going to sign a marriage equality bill sends a message to the legislators that they need to get the job done and get it done soon."

Other lawmakers have indicated that the issue is in for a fresh look. Though the marriage bill did not attract a single Republican supporter in the State Senate last year, GOP State Sen. Dean Skelos pledged that the chamber would vote on marriage equality if Republicans regained control of the New York Senate.

Activists--lobbyists among them--are hardly going to abandon the effort to usher marriage. GLBT equality group Fight Back New York, which was formed in the aftermath of last year’s State Senate vote, endorsed Cuomo in last month’s elections, and rallied voters to defeat anti-gay State Sen. Frank Padavan.

Text at the Fight Back New York site read, "Padavan has helped lead the charge for the passing an anti-gay so-called ’defense of marriage act’ in New York State. He doesn’t even believe that same-sex couples deserve civil unions."

Fight Back New York had also targeted other state lawmakers who had voted against the bill, particularly legislators who had previously vowed their support but then deserted the cause of marriage equality and cast their votes against the bill. One political figure who did just that and felt Fight Back New York’s wrath was Hiram Monserrate, who was tossed out of the State Senate, only to run for his old seat in the special election to replace him.

Fight Back New York was not alone in seeking to ensure that Monserrate failed in his bid to regain office. "Hiram Monserrate is one of the 38 State Senators who voted no on the marriage equality bill on December 2, 2009," text at the Web site of Empire State Pride Agenda, a New York-based GLBT equality organization, read. "Not only did he vote no, but he broke his previous commitment to support marriage equality when it came to the Senate floor for a vote," the text continued.

"Monserrate was convicted last year of assaulting his girlfriend, which led to his recent expulsion from the State Senate. But now he’s running to try to get back into the Senate," the text added. "Our candidate in the March 16 Special Election is popular Assembly member Jose Peralta, who has consistently voted in favor of marriage equality, transgender civil rights and other important LGBT issues." The site went on to encourage readers to donate, declaring, "This is our first chance to replace an anti-LGBT Senator with a strong, pro-LGBT Senator. Every dollar that you contribute will go to making sure this shameful legislator does not return to the State Senate.

"If you’re mad about the December 2 marriage vote, now is the time to get even," the text read. "Join us in taking out Hiram Monserrate and electing Jose Peralta." Though it’s unclear to what extent Monserrate’s change of position on marriage affected the outcome, he lost to Peralta in the special election.