Sunday, February 7, 2010

Roundup of recent news and commentary

Perry case

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) has posted amicus briefs supporting the plaintiffs, and has issued a press release. (cross-posted at LGBT POV)

The Burbank Leader has a profile of one of the plaintiff couples - Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo. UPI has an "analysis" of the case.

Reflecting on the trial, journalist Karen Ocamb of LGBT POV characterizes it as "a clash of cultures." She is preparing an overview of the trial for Frontiers in LA on February 9th.

Law professors Courtney G. Joslin and Lawrence C. Levine have published an opinion article on the case in the Sacramento Bee. They find the testimony "telling" that no concrete reason for Prop. 8 can be identified than animus against gays and lesbians. They also believe it's "more likely" that Judge Walker will rule narrowly than broadly, limiting himself to the unique circumstances surrounding Prop. 8. They don't try to read the tea leaves on whether the case will reach the U.S. Supreme Court. But Ron Prentice, executive director of Protect Marriage Action Fund, expresses a widely held view that the Court will end up deciding the case.

Is Judge Vaughn Walker gay? His sexual orientation strikes me as no more relevant to how he will rule than the race of white Supreme Court justices was when (with Thurgood Marshall) they failed to side with white American public opinion and overturned "miscegenation" laws in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). But two reporters on San Francisco politics discuss implications for the case, treating his gay orientation as a material fact rather than as a meaningless rumor. Not surprisingly, Ed Whelan at the National Review finds another reason to question Walker's impartiality. John Aravosis of AMERICAblog Gay says that he is "just getting ready for the latest round of religious right bigotry. When they start talking about how gay judges are per se biased, then respectable journalists need to ask them if Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from all cases involving questions of civil rights, and Sotomayor from all questions involving women, and Scalia from all cases involving Republicans."

Constitutional amendments

Pam's House Blend features an overview of efforts in New Hampshire to reverse marriage equality. The overview concens a campaign petitioning state legislators to approve a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage (CACR 28) that would then go to voters for final approval.

Indiana Equality has sent a letter to every member of the Indiana House, urging state Representatives to vote against S.J.R. 13, a resolution for a super-DOMA amendment that the state Senate recently adopted. The organization tells legislators that unlike a previous resolution, S.J.R. 13 would do more than curb "activist judges" who could invalidate the state DOMA . The bill would also prevent them from considering legislation to establish civil unions. So if they passed S.J.R. 13, they "will have essentially helped take away the right of our children and their children to see their legislators debate and reflect their own will." This argument evidently fits the state's political circumstances. Opponents of marriage equality in Indiana have had success in retailing the canard that democracy requires voters to decide whether same-sex couples have the state constitutional right to marry. The idea of "letting voters decide" has been successful enough for Indiana Equality to adapt it as a means to overturn a super-DOMA amendment. The adaptation appears to represent political expediency, not concession of underlying principle.

Citizens in Riverside, California, have a mixed public reception to "a statewide effort by the pro-gay-marriage group Restore Equality 2010 to collect 100,000 single-day signatures for [a constitutional] initiative to overturn Prop. 8, the November 2008 referendum that banned same-sex marriage." (Riverside Press-Enterprise)

Domestic partnerships

Equality New Mexico has told its supporters that the state Senate Finance Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing on a domestic partnership bill, SB 183. On February 2nd, the Senate Public Affairs Committee held a hearing and approved SB 183, but its odds of passage in the Senate remain doubtful.

Developments abroad

The NY Times reports on the new marriage equality law in Mexico City. Mexico's attorney general has challenged the law in the Supreme Court.

Public debates

"Same-Sex Marriage: State v. Fed" - that's the title of a Commonwealth Club forum in San Francisco on February 17th. Panelists include Therese Stewart, San Francisco's Chief Deputy Attorney. She represented San Francisco in In re Marriage Cases, 43 Cal.4th 757 (Cal. 2008) and Strauss v. Horton, 49 Cal. 4th 364 (2009), and represents San Francisco as a plaintiff-intervenor in the Perry case. (cross-posted at Straight Talk on Marriage)

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