Sunday, March 7, 2010

Recent news and commentary

As same-sex couples in D.C. realized their dreams by marrying, the District's marriage-equality law still has an uncertain future. The U.S. Supreme Court may have opportunity to give proponents of "traditional" marriage what they want - a decision allowing D.C. citizens to vote on the D.C. Marriage Initiative of 2009. The opportunity raised by Chief Justice Robert's decision did not escape notice by, a news service for evangelical Christians. It also been the subject of comment at SCOTUS Blog and Leonard Link. Given the stakes, I have been preparing a procedural history of the litigation over the initiative.

It will take me more time than I expected to complete the procedural history. As a result, I don't know if I can avoid delays in updating this site. My limitations have an arguably distinguished pedigree, though I would not otherwise compare myself with U.S. presidents. Lyndon Johnson said of Gerald Ford that "he couldn't chew gum and walk straight at the same time." While I am less prone to trip over stairs than Ford, I find myself unable to work on two demanding tasks - more or less at the same time - with equal levels of energy and concentration.

Here's the latest update:

Marriage equality v. religious liberty exemption - D.C.

Upon taking effect, D.C.'s marriage-equality law marks what law professor John Culhane calls a "another milestone on the superhighway to full equality." (Freedom to Marry links to the Washington Post's video coverage of the historic day.) But he also discusses a carefully timed decision by the Archidiocese of D.C. to ban spousal benefits for employees of Catholic Charities - a decision that its former chief operating officer opposes. (Washington Post) Before the law took effect, Catholic Charities had announced that it would end its foster care program in the District, allegedly to avoid the law's requirement that it provide foster care and adoption services equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples. (Washington Post) Culhane faulted the latest retrenchment as a "publicity stunt," because Catholic Charities had alternatives to ending spousal benefits. For other examples of alternatives, see letters to D.C. Archbishop Donald Wuerl that I link to here.

Without considering the alternatives, law professor Robert J. Araujo tries to defend the Archdiocese's decision. He finds that, under Church doctrine, granting spousal benefits provides merely a means to an end - the defining goal of promoting "traditional" marriage. The Church would unacceptably risk compromising its identity if it continued offering the benefits - or, presumably, if it reached some other accommodation. To preserve its identity over "traditional" marriage, the Church must deny heath care coverage, and other important benefits, to heterosexual spouses of Catholic Charities employees. That 's an odd position, but, Araujo would claim, it's the inevitable result of the marriage equality law.

One blogger says that it's "hard to spin religious discrimination as a moral principle." The difficulty has not been a deterrent. Sister Anne Flanagan invites comparison between D.C. Catholic Charities with its Chicago counterpart in the era of segregation. (Chicago Tribune) Chicago Catholic Charities refused to follow the city's demand of racial segregation because, she says, doing so would have undermined the Church's identity. Do Catholics agree that the Church's admirable, if uneven,* history of opposing racial segregation provides just the support they need for supporting discrimination against same-sex couples?

(*For example, Catholic schools in Baltimore remained segregated until 1962.)

Domestic partnerships - D.C.

The Washington Post has a revealing article on the incremental strategy that marriage-equality advocates successfully pursued. The strategy involved more than timing introduction of legislation after Obama's election, but before the 2010 election. It also involved adding domestic partner benefits since 1992, when a domestic partnership law was first adopted, until the law became an "all-but-marriage" law. All-but-marriage laws are - by design - inherently unstable, subject to legislative action in favor of marriage equality, or to the epic legal battle over Prop. 8 in the Perry case.

Perry v. Schwarzenneger

U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero has ordered "several gay rights groups that campaigned against California's 2008 same-sex marriage ban to furnish some internal memos and e-mails to lawyers for the measure's sponsors." (AP)

At an address to the Orange County Equality Coalition, constitutional scholar and law school dean Erin Chemerensky said that Perry plaintiffs have not brought their challenge prematurely - or so a blogger in the audience reports.

Marriage equality legislation / out-state recognition - Maryland

Last week, "Maryland Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee had hearings scheduled on one bill that would legalize gay marriage in Maryland and another that would invalidate a recent attorney general opinion and prohibit the state from recognizing same sex marriages authorized by other states." (AP, cross-posted by Gay Marriage Watch; see also and the Baltimore Sun)

Constitutional amendments - New Hampshire and Iowa

Legislators in New Hampshire and Iowa failed to gain legislative approval of constitutional amendments that would reverse marriage-equality if also adopted by voters. The proposed amendment in Iowa now appears to have died in the current legislative session, even if "proponents haven't given up on trying to force a debate." (Sioux City Journal) New Hampshire Public Radio reports that more than 100 towns will consider an article urging legislators to let citizens vote on an amendment. Proponents of the articles identify the towns here. Their campaign has led to organized opposition. One opponent of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, claims that "three or four dozen people from area towns started meeting regularly to defeat the articles."

Divorce reports that a same-sex couple in Indiana will not appeal a ruling that nullifies their marriage but bars a divorce. (cross-posted by Gay Marriage Watch)


A same-sex couple in Santa Cruz, California, has settled their legal dispute over custody. The mother who gave birth to twins tried to prevent her former partner from claiming parental rights. (NCLR Out for Justice / Santa Cruz Sentinel)


The Louisiana Attorney General has requested reconsideration in a 5th Circuit ruling that requires the state to recognize a New York court decree of adoption by gay parents. (AP / Times-Picayune / Lambda Legal press release) The case is Adar v. Smith, No. 09-30036 (5th Cir., Feb. 18, 2010).

Developments abroad

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Poland's government may not discriminate against a man who sought to remain in the home of his deceased partner. (Financial Times, cross-posted by Gay Marriage Watch)

The first gay wedding has taken place in Buenos Aire (Buenos Aires Herald, cross-posted by Gay Marriage Watch), and gay couples have received their first marriage licenses in Mexico City. (Wall Street Journal,CNN, and BBC, cross-posted by Gay Marriage Watch)

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