Monday, February 8, 2010

Roundup of recent news and commentary

Perry case

USA Today reports on how Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission may reveal a "turning point" in the Supreme Court's "caustic ideological divide." The same majority of five Supreme Court Justices in Citizens United also overruled Judge Vaugn Walker's decision to allow a trial broadcast. USA Today does not consider the implication for the Perry case if it reaches the Supreme Court. But several LGBT legal advocacy groups have been weighing the risk of an adverse Supreme Court ruling from the outset - whatever speculation surrounds Anthony Kennedy's susceptibility as a "swing" vote. They recently asked Judge Walker to rule for the Perry plaintiffs on broad and narrow grounds. In an amici brief, these organizations agree that all constitutional bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. But they argue that, even if the bans are constitutional, Prop. 8 is not.

The Washington Times includes this comment in its report on the case: "Jordan Lorence, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which helped defend Proposition 8, said factual testimony about the suffering caused by Proposition 8 may be compelling to a committee of elected legislators, or the voters, but it's irrelevant in a federal legal proceeding — or at least it should be. "

Constitutional amendments

Virginia Delegate David Englin, D-Alexandria has re-introduced a resoultion (HJ 55) to repeal the state's super-DOMA amendment. ( Equality Virginia "knows that it may be a long-term struggle to persuade Virginia to recognize relationships other than a marriage between a man and a woman."

Religious liberty exemption

Not surprisingly, the Alliance Defense Fund opposes California legislation (
SB 906 ) that would expressly recognize First Amendment protection of clergy for refusal to solemnize a same-sex marriage. (Baptist Post, cross-posted at ADF Alliance Alert.) State Senator Mark Leno appears to have introduced the bill as a means to pre-empt an objection Prop. 8 proponents raised, if a measure to repeal Prop. 8 qualifies for the ballot. The objection was that unless voters adopted Prop. 8, clergy would be "forced" to perform weddings for same-sex couples.

"Mike Johnson, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund — which opposes ‘gay marriage’ — said Leno’s bill avoids the real issues that have been raised by concerned Christians. ‘This deceptively-named bill is another attempt to confine the liberty argument to a very narrow area. ADF has religious liberty concerns that are far wider,’ Johnson told Baptist Press. 'Leno’s bill is a Trojan horse that does nothing to protect religious institutions or other agencies of the church from being forced to violate their religious beliefs. In fact, it further restricts church liberty and independence by giving the government greater power to define the church and its mission.'"

It's unclear why Johnson thinks express recognition of the clergy's First Amendment right somehow risks redefining the church. He refers to a civil union case in New Mexico that involves initial failure of a First Amendment defense by Christian evangelical photographers. ADF represents the photographers. (New Mexico, of course, doesn't recognize civil unions.) He appears to think that the mission of the "church" extends to wedding services by individual evangelicals.

A spokesman for the California Southern Baptist Convention also told the Baptist Press that the Convention doesn't support Leno's bill, even though the SF Chronicle reported that it did.

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