Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Recent news and commentary

Divorce - Texas

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott seeks to intervene in a same-sex divorce case in Austin, now that the judge has granted the divorce petition. Judge Scott Jenkins appears to have relied on petitioner's argument that he has the authority to divorce the couple under the the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution. Abbott said that "[a] divorce is an ending or a termination of a valid legal marriage. In this instance there was no valid legal marriage recognized by the state of Texas. Texas can't have a faulty precedent on the books that validates an illegal law. (Houston Chronicle) Abbott claims that voidance of the marriage represents the only alternative to divorce that Texas law recognizes. With voidance, "the parties can achieve a legal termination of their Massachusetts marriage, through an enforceable judgment." (Austin Statesman) Austin News Station KXAN interviewed Angelique Naylor, who petitioned for divorce from her wife, and Naylor's attorney. (linked at Boston Edge and Dallas Voice)

Varnum v. Brien

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rod Roberts wants Iowa voters to vote against three state Supreme Court justices in this fall's retention election. "Roberts notes that the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision in Varnum v. Brien [763 N.W.2d 862 (Iowa 2009)] – in which the court struck down the state’s law restricting marriage to one man and one woman – is one of the primary reasons why he opposes retaining the justices who are up for retention next year." (The Iowa Republican) Republican state legislators have introduced several bills on the state judiciary. One would outlaw the use of precedent; another would require election of judges. The Iowa Independent calls this legislation "the GOP's war" on the state judiciary. In an interview by Iowa Public Radio, Chief Justice Marsha Turnus defended the state's merit-based selection of judges. She said that voters should decide retention according to whether judges fairly and impartially discharge their duties. "[O]ur judges are chosen on the basis of their professional qualifications, their integrity, and their ability to do the job. If we go to political elections it would change the entire nature of judiciary." (Iowa Independent)

Religious liberty exemption - D.C.

Before D.C. enacted its marriage equality law
, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington demanded an exemption allowing religious organizations, like Catholic Charities, to deny married, same-sex couples foster care and other public services it provides. But as law professor Nancy Polikoff observed at the time, the D.C. Human Rights Act already bars discrimination based on marriage or sexual orientation. "What Catholic Charities seeks," she said, "is immunity from existing civil rights laws that predate marriage equality by decades and will continue to exist regardless of whether same-sex couples are allowed to marry in the District of Columbia." Now the Diocese has announced that Catholic Charities will end its D.C. foster care program to avoid placement with married, same-sex couples. (Washington Post)

Out-of-state recognition

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler has been preparing a legal opinion on recognition of out-of-state, same-sex marriages. He appears likely to interpret Maryland law in favor of recognition. One legislator tried - and failed - to gain approval of a bill that would preclude such an opinion. (The Maryland Reporter) Another legislator has sent a letter to a state prosecutor with a threat of impeachment charges against Gansler. He accuses Gansler of taking “sides on an issue where he potentially intends to abuse the power of his office to usurp the authority of the General Assembly and circumvent Maryland’s High Court regarding Maryland’s current marriage law." (Examiner)

Related news

Justice Carlos Moreno dissented in Strauss v. Horton, 49 Cal. 4th 364 (2009). He determined that Prop. 8 would fundamentally change the state constitution by denying same-sex couples equal protection and a constitutional right to marry, and was therefore an invalid attempt to revise the constitution. Bob Egelko of the San Francisco reports what Moreno said during an interview:

"It's of great concern to me that certain basic rights, such as equal protection, the right to privacy and other fundamental rights, can be subject to change by simple majority vote," Moreno said in an interview last week while preparing to accept a gay-rights group's Equality Leadership Award. [See his prepared remarks at the Equality California gala.]

"Majority rule is nice in concept, but I think there has to be some kind of restraint on that to fulfill the larger purpose of our democracy."

No comments:

Commentators, Subjects and Cases