Saturday, February 13, 2010

Roundup of recent news and commentary

Divorce - Texas

In October, a Dallas judge ruled that it would be unconstitutional to deny a divorce to a same-sex couple. Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a notice of appeal before the 5th Circuit that automatically stayed the ruling. (Texas Lawyer Blog). In December, a same-sex couple in Austin sought to dissolve their marriage, but in their case, one of the two wives moved to dismiss the other's divorce petition, preferring a declaration of voidance instead. They later agreed on custody and a division of property. As a result, the wife who initially moved to dismiss the divorce petition prepared to withdraw her motion, and the judge said that he would grant the petition. Now Abbott wants to intervene in the case to get the petition dismissed.
(Texas Lawyer Blog) But News 8 Austin reports that Judge Scott Jenkins has approved the petition.

Constitutional amendments - West Virginia, New Mexico, and Iowa

A year ago, state legislators in West Virginia introduced resolutions (HJR 5 /HJR 24 / SJR7 / SJR 12) for a super-DOMA amendment. The proposals stalled. In July, a specially appointed committee of the West Virginia legislature (study resolution HCR 88) heard testimony on whether the legislature should approve such an amendment. (See, for example, testimony by Jordan Lorence, Senior Counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.) Republican legislators - like their counterparts in Iowa earlier this week - tried a procedural maneuver to force legislative action on one of the amendment proposals. In Iowa, the procedure involved a "call of the House" that appears to represent that legislature's form of a "discharge" vote - a vote on a request to move Iowa H.J.R. 2001 out of committee and on to the House floor. (You can watch a related, Iowa Press debate between Iowa Family Policy Center Board Chair Danny Carroll and One Iowa Campaign Manager Brad Clark .) In West Virginia, Republican members of the House Constitutional Revision Committee moved to place HJR 5 on the Committee agenda, but the Committee defeated the motion. A discharge motion will probably follow. "I'll be surprised if there isn't a motion soon to discharge the (House Constitutional Revision) committee so we can get this issue on the House floor for a vote by the entire membership," said House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. (Herald-Dispatch) The Committee's chairwoman, Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, explains why she thinks it would be premature for the legislature to act now. (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)

The Senate Rules Committee of New Mexico has been scheduled to consider proposed a "defense of marriage" amendment (SJR 1).

Domestic partnerships - New Mexico

In New Mexico, the state Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing on February 15th to consider a domestic partnership bill (SB 183) that would give same-sex couples the protections and benefits of marriage. (e-mail from Equality New Mexico) On February 2nd, the legislation was the subject of hearing by a joint meeting of two other Senate committees. The state Judiciary and Public Affairs Committees approved SB 183, despite opposition by the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops. (Catholic News Agency) At the state capitol, several couples participated in a commitment ceremony to support establishment of domestic partnerships. (New Mexico Independent)

Developments abroad

Portugal's Parliament has approved marriage equality legislation. It's uncertain whether President Anibal Cavaco Silva will veto the legislation. (Agence France-Presse)

Marriage alternative

The Salt Lake Tribune reports on a marriage-alternative proposal that Pepperdine University law professors Douglas Kmiec and Shelley Ross Saxer made last year.

Related news

This is Freedom to Marry Week (February 8th -14th). As the nation prepares to celebrate Valentine's Day, gay and lesbian couples mark another year without opportunity to marry by repeating attempts to obtain marriage licenses in states, such as California and Virginia, that ban same-sex marriage. In New York, a lesbian protested denial of a marriage license by picking a random stranger to marry, and a heterosexual man in Florida protested the ban by planning to marry a woman he does not know.

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