Prop 8 oral arguments are today, but if you’re not a lawyer it ‘might be like watching paint dry’

Ken Upton
Ken Upton

With DADT repeal all but dead, we turn our attention to California, where oral arguments are set today in the federal challenge to Proposition 8.

We’ve got a full preview and viewer’s guide over on the main page, and the two-hour proceedings will be broadcast live on the CSPAN website beginning at noon Dallas time.

But we also inquired of Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal in Dallas, as to what he’ll be looking for this afternoon. Here’s what Upton said:

I’ll be particularly interested in the panel’s questions surrounding standing (the constitutional principle that says only people actually affected or injured by the dispute have a right to litigate it, not people who merely have an opinion about it in a general sense). Courts can be willing to turn to this doctrine when appropriate to dispose of cases they aren’t ready to decide on the merits.

As for the second session, I’m interested in how the panel reacts to the evidence at trial and what weight they choose to give it. The marriage cases that were lost (e.g., NY, WA, IN, AZ) all resulted from a court willing to allow the government to speculate about the justifications for excluding same-sex couples from marriage. The victories happened when courts required the government to give real justifications that are grounded in fact, not theories made up after the fact based on rank speculation or outdated stereotypes. That will be the key here. How will the panel treat the evidence (which was overwhelmingly supportive of striking down Prop 8)?

It will be fun to watch (for lawyers, at least — might be like watching paint dry for many non-lawyers).

—  John Wright

Mormon church says HRC statement about its stance on homosexuality ‘can’t be taken seriously’

Earlier today the Human Rights Campaign issued a press release suggesting that the Mormon church no longer considers same-sex attraction sinful.

But the Mormon church swiftly responded by saying HRC’s statement “mischaracterizes the church’s position” and “can’t be taken seriously.”

The HRC press release came in response to recent changes to the Church Handbook of Instructions. The handbook contains guidelines used by leaders in dealing with members, and the new version softened language related to gays.

The headline of HRC’s press release said, “Mormon Church: Same-Sex Attraction is Normal,” followed by a sub-headline saying, “New Church policy removes same-sex attraction from ‘list of sins.’” The HRC press release went on to suggest that recent advocacy by HRC and other LGBT groups was partly responsible for the changes.

The Mormon church responded by saying, “The HRC press release mischaracterizes the Church’s position and can’t be taken seriously,” according to Steve Rothhaus at The Miami Herald.

The statement about HRC’s press release followed an earlier blog post in which the church slammed a Salt Lake City TV station for its report about the changes to the handbook. The church suggested that the TV station’s report was an example of the type of irresponsible journalism that’s becoming more common because of changes brought on by the Internet.

So here now is Instant Tea’s official, on-the-record response:

“The Mormon church says HRC can’t be taken seriously, and while we’re not here to defend HRC, we’d like to warn LGBT youth that the Mormon church should never, ever be taken seriously. It’s like a really bad joke. And while the church laments changes in journalism, we’re busy lamenting the church’s total disregard for the constitutional principle of separation between church and state.”

Let’s see if they respond.

—  John Wright