Category Archives: News

Court to Review Gay Marriage Laws this April

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In a Charlotte School of Law blog published on November 18, 2014, the question was raised as to whether the U.S. Supreme Court would review America’s gay marriage laws this year?  The U.S. Supreme Court has since agreed to review four lower Court cases on the subject.  Specifically, the Court will address the following questions:

  1. Does the 14th Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
  2. Does the 14th Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between 2 people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

The Charlotte Observer said on January 17, 2015 that the consolidated cases to be heard this spring will be from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and the cases are from the following states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

The petitions for writs of certiorari were granted to the following cases from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals:

  1. OBERGEFELL v. HODGES - Ohio Docket No. 14-556
  2. TANCO v. HASLAM  – Tennessee
  3. DEBOER v. SNYDER - Michigan, 14-1341, 2014 BL 314380 (6th Cir. Nov. 06, 2014) Copy of Appeals Court decision which was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
  4. BOURKE v. GREGORY - Kentucky

A copy of the full Opinion from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals can be found at http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/14a0275p-06.pdf

(The case that was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court from the 6th Cir. Court of Appeals).

U.S. Law Week summarized the opinions of both the majority Judges and the one Dissenting Judge from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in their November 11, 2014 edition of. U.S. Law Week written by Kimberly Robinson.

Below are excerpts from Ms. Robinson’s published article:

 Same-Sex Marriage Bans Upheld in Sixth Circuit Appeals Court Opinion (excerpts with Analysis) provided by Kimberly Robinson

Regardless of when—or if—the Supreme Court does agree to hear the case, the Sixth Circuit’s divided decision makes it the first federal appeals court to uphold a state same-sex marriage ban since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in United States v. Windsor, 81 U.S.L.W. 4633, 2013 BL 169620 (U.S. June 26, 2013).

Writing for the majority in the Sixth Circuit’s 2-1 decision, Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton said that the issue is “not whether American law will allow gay couples to marry; it is when and how that will happen.”

The court detailed the claims brought by the 16 gay and lesbian couples, noting that all the suits “seek dignity and respect, the same dignity and respect given to marriages between opposite-sex couples. And all come down to the same question: Who decides?”

The court concluded that the matter is reserved for the “less expedient, but usually reliable, work of the state democratic processes,” rather than for federal courts.

The judiciary’s role is limited to the question of whether the 14th Amendment prohibits “a State from defining marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman,” the court said, not “whether gay marriage is a good idea.”

After applying rational basis review, the court answered that question in the negative.

“A dose of humility makes us hesitant to condemn as unconstitutionally irrational a view of marriage shared not long ago by every society in the world, shared by most, if not all, of our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of the States,” the court said.

In particular, the court said that the states could justify their bans on the procreative purpose of marriage.

“By creating a status (marriage) and by subsidizing it (e.g., with tax-filing privileges and deductions), the States created an incentive for two people who procreate together to stay together for purposes of rearing offspring,” the court said.

“That does not convict the States of irrationality, only of awareness of the biological reality that couples of the same sex do not have children in the same way as couples of opposite sexes and that couples of the same sex do not run the risk of unintended offspring.”

The appeals court also upheld Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee laws that prohibited recognition of same-sex marriages validly entered into in other jurisdictions.

Judge Deborah L. Cook joined the majority opinion.

Betrayed Oath?

Dissenting, Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey criticized what she called the majority’s “false premise—that the question before us is ‘who should decide.’ ”

“In the main, the majority treats both the issues and the litigants here as mere   abstractions,” she said.

“Instead of recognizing the plaintiffs as persons, suffering actual harm as a result of being denied the right to marry where they reside or the right to have their valid marriages recognized there, my colleagues view the plaintiffs as social activists who have somehow stumbled into federal court, inadvisably, when they should be out campaigning to win ‘the hearts and minds’ of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee voters to their cause.”

Daughtrey also appeared to accuse the two judges who signed on to the majority opinion of betraying their judicial oath, saying: “More than 20 years ago, when I took my oath of office to serve as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, I solemnly swore to ‘administer justice without respect to persons’ to ‘do equal right to the poor and to the rich,’ and to ‘faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me … under the Constitution and laws of the United States.’ ”

“If we in the judiciary do not have the authority, and indeed the responsibility, to right fundamental wrongs left excused by a majority of the electorate, our whole intricate, constitutional system of checks and balances, as well as the oaths to which we swore, prove to be nothing but shams.”

A follow-up blog will be posted once the U.S. Supreme Court has issued its opinion which should be sometime between April and June this year.

~Jane Fraytet~

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court Review America’s Gay Marriages Laws? — Part II

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Earlier in 2014, I said I would do a follow-up blog on whether the U.S. Supreme Court would grant Cert to any of the petitions they had received dealing with state marriage laws. As everyone knows, the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to address the issue of gay marriage because the Courts of Appeals had agreed on the issue.

Our local paper here in Charlotte, North Carolina, The Charlotte Observer, published an article in their editorial pages recently predicting how the Supreme Court would rule if they decided to settle the issue of same-sex marriage for everyone.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dealt a startling blow to homosexuals last week when it upheld same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio. But as difficult as the setback surely is for same-sex couples in those four states, it is probably temporary, and it comes with a larger benefit for other states, including North Carolina.

 

To see the full editorial article, click here.

 

Part III will be written when the dusts settles – sometime between now and June 2015.

~Jane Fraytet~

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The 50th Anniversary of The Civil Rights Act of 1964

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In case you are visiting Washington, DC in the coming year, plan a visit to the Library of Congress’ new exhibit “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom.” The exhibit which recognizes the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is open to the public Monday-Saturday 8:30 am- 4:30 pm until September 12, 2015.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (PL 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.  It provided injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations and segregation in public education. It enforced the constitutional right to vote, ending unequal voter-registration requirements. The law is a landmark piece of civil rights legislation.

The Library of Congress’ free exhibit “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom” highlights the legal and legislative challenges and victories leading to its passage. The exhibit highlights the individuals, both prominent leaders and private citizens, who participated in the process. The exhibit contains more than 200 items from correspondence to photographs, newspapers, legal briefs, drawings and posters. It also includes audio-video stations throughout the exhibit showing film clips of dramatic events related to the civil rights era such as protests, sit-ins, boycotts and other public actions. An introductory film narrated by Julian Bond focuses on the significance of the legislation.  Another video explores the impact of the Civil Rights Act. There are six themes in the exhibit: Prologue, Segregation Era, World War II and the Post War Years, Civil Rights Era, Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Impact.

Much of the exhibit’s documentation comes from NAACP Records in the Library’s Manuscript Division and the Prints and Photographs Division. The audio-visual materials come from the Library’s American Folklife Center’s Civil Rights History Project and the Library’s National Audio-Visual Conservation Center.  Newman’s Own Foundation with additional support from HISTORY® provided funding for the exhibition. Further details about the exhibit can be found at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/civil-rights-act/

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~Betty Thomas~

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It’s Banned Books Week: September 21 – 27

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Each year many organizations focus on Banned Books Week, and for good reason.  Banned and challenged books inhibit our freedom to read and promote censorship, both of which are intimately linked to our freedom of speech.  The American Library Association actively promotes recognition of Banned Books Week and encourages everyone to get involved.  Check out their site here.

Want to check out banned and challenged books from years past?  You can see those lists here.  Note that the Dave Pilkey series, Captain Underpants, has earned the top spot on the list for the past three years now.  Listen to Dave Pilkey’s public service message here and stick around to hear John Monforte read Maurice Sendak’s Into the Night Kitchen (another book on the banned/challenged list) while you are there.

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The focus of Banned Books Week this year is on graphic novels and comics.  NPR also featured Banned Books Week on it’s broadcast todayBone, by Jeff Smith, made the number ten spot on this year’s list.

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And your quiz of the day:  Which Banned Book are You?

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Stop by the Library to check out our displays of banned comics and graphic novels, as well as the DVDs we have of movies made from banned and challenged books.  Fight for your right to read – pick up a banned book today – it could set you free!

~ Julie Morris ~

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The U.S. Supreme Court Has Been Asked By 32 States to Settle the Issues Surrounding Gay Marriage

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Thirty-two states that either allow gay marriage or have banned it have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to settle these issues once and for all. The Associated Press reported that the following states have asked the Supreme Court to address the gay marriage laws that differ from state-to-state: Fifteen states that allow gay marriage, led by Massachusetts, filed a brief asking the justices to take up three cases from Virginia, Utah and Oklahoma and overturn bans. And 17 other states, led by Colorado, that have banned the practice asked the court to hear cases from Utah and Oklahoma to clear up a “morass” of lawsuits, but didn’t urge the court to rule one way or another.

Lyle Denniston, a reporter for SCOTUSblog, posted on September 10, 2014 that same-sex marriage cases were set for an early review by the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, the Court has set September 29 for a private conference to discuss same-sex marriage and to review the seven petitions it has received on gay marriage.

Listed below are the seven petitions the Court has received and from which states they came:

  1. Herbert v. Kitchen (Utah) http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Utah-same-sex-marriage-petition-8-5-14.pdf
  2. Smith v. Bishop (Oklahoma) http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Oklahoma-Smith-petition-8-6-14.pdf
  3. Rainey v. Bostic (Virginia) http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Virginia-ssame-sex-marriage-pet.-8-8-14.pdf
  4. Schaefer v. Bostic (Virginia) http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Virginia-Schaefer-petition-8-22-14.pdf
  5. McQuigg v. Bostic (Virginia) http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/McQuigg-petition-8-29-14.pdf
  6. Bogan v. Baskin (Indianna)http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/14-277-baskincert.pdf and
  7. Walker v. Wolf (Wisconsin) http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/14-278-pet.pdf

Will the U.S. Supreme Court Review Any of America’s Gay Marriages Laws?

Sometime after September 29, 2024, I will write a follow-up blog detailing which, if any, of the above listed petitions were granted Cert by the U.S. Supreme Court.

~Jane Fraytet~

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