Holder: DOJ will file brief in favor of same-sex marriage

eric holder.small

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told ABC News’ Pierre Thomas on Monday that the Justice Department will be filing a brief in the Utah same-sex marriage case urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a lower-court ruling and block states from banning same-sex marriage.

District Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled last December that Utah’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling last month, and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced that instead of asking the full 10th Circuit Court to review the case, he would appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Holder said that filing the brief would be “consistent with the actions we have taken over the past couple of years,” in which the Justice Department has refused to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Holder said that decision was “vindicated by the Supreme Court,” which ruled last year in Windsor vs. United States that the sections of DOMA allowing the federal government not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in jurisdictions that recognize such marriages are unconstitutional.

Holder told Thomas that he believes banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and that such bans cannot survive the standard of heightened scrutiny. He called the fight for LGBT rights “a defining civil rights challenge of our time,” and that LGBT people are waiting for an “unequivocal declaration that separate is inherently unequal.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

Utah’s petition for stay in same-sex marriage case moves to Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor-ap

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is pondering whether to grant a stay of a federal district court’s order that the state of Utah stop enforcing its ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

The state’s new attorney general filed a petition Tuesday to the court to grant the emergency stay, after being denied a stay by the federal district court and the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Sotomayor is the justice designated to handle such requests from the 10th Circuit. She can either make a decision about the stay on her own or ask the full court to weigh in. If she refuses to grant the stay, Utah has the option of asking the full court to consider its request.

The brief filed on behalf of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, sworn into office Dec. 30, 2013, and Gov. Gary Herbert, both Republicans, relies on a statement in the Supreme Court’s two marriage decisions last June. The brief says the U.S. v. Windsor decision striking the Defense of Marriage Act’s key provision made clear that the federal government “cannot constitutionally disregard State laws allowing same-sex marriage.”

But the federal district court decision in Kitchen v. Herbert, says the state, “found no animus behind Utah’s marriage laws,” and yet exercised “an outright abrogation” of the state’s definition of marriage.

The brief calls each same-sex marriage in Utah “an affront” to the state and its citizens’ ability to define marriage “through ordinary democratic channels.” It argues that a stay is necessary to “minimize the enormous disruption” that might be caused by “potentially having to ‘unwind’ thousands more same-sex marriages….”

Utah voters adopted the ban on same-sex marriage and any other form of same-sex relationship in 2004 through a ballot measure known as Amendment 3 to the state constitution. Two other statutes enforce that ban. On December 20, in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby declared the ban unconstitutional.

In making its case for a stay, Utah’s brief said the question presented by Kitchen is “the same question” presented by last session’s Proposition 8 case. But unlike Hollingsworth v. Perry, said the Utah brief, the Kitchen case presents no questions concerning legal standing. Last June, the Supreme Court declined to rule on the constitutionality of California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage because the party appealing the case lacked legal standing to do so.

Meanwhile, the Utah Legislature is preparing to take up yet another constitutional amendment — one to specify that churches cannot be made to host same-sex marriage ceremonies in violation of their religious views. There seems to be less controversy surrounding this new ban. Openly gay state Senator Jim Debakis told the Salt Lake City Tribune  he doesn’t know of anyone who wants to force churches to perform ceremonies against their beliefs. The Legislature convenes January 27.

Local papers have reported that between 700 and 900 marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples since the December 20 order barring further enforcement of Amendment 3.

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

—  Steve Ramos

Edie Windsor is Time Person of the Year finalist

Windsor.Edith

Edie Windsor, right

Edie Windsor is among the 10 finalists for Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

Windsor is the New York widow who was required to pay $265,000 in estate taxes because she was married to a woman rather than a man. She filed suit, challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. The U.S. Supreme Court found in her favor in June.

That decision has had dramatic effect on the lives of gays and lesbians. Couples may now file joint tax returns and receive from Social Security as a surviving spouse. The military is granting equal benefits to same-sex couples. A number of corporations, such as ExxonMobil, finally offered partner benefits as a result of the ruling.

She would be the first woman named Person of the Year in 30 years and the only openly LGBT person ever named. The Person of the Year will be announced tomorrow.

According to GLAAD, the other finalists on the list are:

• Bashar Assad — President of Syria
• Jeff Bezos — founder of Amazon
• Sen. Ted Cruz
• Miley Cyrus
• Pope Francis
• President Obama
• Hassan Rouhani — President of Iran
• Kathleen Sebelius — Secretary of Health and Human Services
• Edward Snowden — NSA leaker

—  David Taffet

Sandra Day O’Connor officiates gay wedding at Supreme Court

Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O’Connor

WASHINGTON — For the second time since June, a gay couple married at the United States Supreme Court. Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor officiated at the wedding of Jeffrey Trammell and Stuart Serkin of Washington on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

In June, the Supreme Court justices stopped short of legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide but struck down a federal law barring benefits for spouses in same-sex marriages.

On. Aug. 31, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg officiated at a same-sex wedding at the Supreme Court. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Washington, D.C., since 2010.

O’Connor presided over the private ceremony in the court’s lawyers’ lounge, AP said.

—  Steve Ramos

Calif. binational gay couple’s marriage among first to be federally recognized

179703554SACRAMENTO — A recent federal decision relieved a binational gay couple of the fear of deportation.

Tom Knutson and Phan Datthuyawat have been together for 20 years and got married in 2008, but Datthuyawat, from Thailand, hasn’t been able to visit his ailing 84-year-old mother because he can’t leave the country and return legally without a green card, according to The Sacramento Bee.

On Oct. 15, however, a United States Customs and Immigrations Service official approved giving Datthuyawat a green card, making him and Knutson one of the first binational gay couples to have their marriage recognized by federal government officials. Officials denied Datthuyawat’s petition for a green card in January.

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on June 26, foreign-born gay and lesbian partners of American citizens had legal ground to petition for a green card. The fear of deportation is justifiable for immigrant same-sex couples who don’t have their papers. The Sacramento Bee reported Luxembourger Pascale Fusshoeller was ordered to be deported after a traffic stop earlier this month and is battling to stay in the U.S. with her American-born wife.

The USCIS said it is now processing same-sex marriages the same way as opposite-sex unions and does not differentiate by orientation. However, length of marriage remains a factor. If a couple has been married for less than two years, the government will subject them to more scrutiny to ensure there is no marriage fraud. That can work against same-sex couples who could not marry legally or were reluctant to come forward and publicize the nature of their unions.

—  Steve Ramos

My favorite image of the summer

Favorite image

There always a lot of good photos to enjoy over the course of a year, but perhaps my favorite — and certainly of the summer — is this one from the Associated Press, which says so much with so little. (It also reminds me of another iconic photo, which you can see after the jump.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Oklahoma couples sue for marriage equality

Oklahoma couple suing for marriage equality

Oklahoma couple suing for marriage equality

Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal group, is defending the Tulsa County Clerk’s Office against a lawsuit involving marriage equality because a federal appeals court ruled the governor and attorney general have no standing.

Two lesbian couples from Oklahoma, including one married in California, challenged the state’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional.

They believe the Defense of Marriage Act ruling bolsters their case. The case was filed in federal court in Tulsa in 2004 where it has been stalled. However, they are challenging the section of DOMA that still stands, allowing one state to refuse to recognize a marriage performed in another state.

Now that the DOMA ruling has been issued, attorneys for the couples are urging U.S. District Judge Terence Kern to rule in the case.

A number of cases are working their way through the courts. According to the blog Hunter of Justice, a Nevada and a Hawaii case are farthest along. In addition to the Oklahoma case, a Michigan and a North Carolina challenge to marriage bans are in federal courts. New cases have been filed in Virginia and Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey and New Mexico state courts.

And an Ohio judge ruled in July that the state must recognize a recent Maryland marriage on a death certificate.

A story on the Oklahoma couple on Oklahoma News 9:

—  David Taffet

New York’s Comptroller has new tactic to help ExxonMobil evolve

DiNapoli.Thomas

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli

Shareholder resolutions haven’t worked, so after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is trying a new tactic to force the ExxonMobil to adopt an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy.

In the past, DiNapoli has filed shareholder resolutions with ExxonMobil. As the sole trustee of the state’s $160 billion pension fund, he has some clout among many companies whose stock is in the fund. He has successfully negotiated changes in policies at about 30 of them.

As head of the pension fund, he uses the business argument. If ExxonMobil discriminates by not offering benefits to same-sex married couples, while Shell, Chevron and BP offer the benefits, then the company is shrinking its employee pool and hurting the value of the stock the state owns. New York controls more than $1 billion in ExxonMobil stock.

—  David Taffet

Federal Marriage Amendment reintroduced with strong Texas support

Johnson

Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano, one of four Dallas congressmen supporting the anti-gay marriage amendment.

UPDATE: Congressman Tom Latham’s office called this morning to say his name never should have been on the bill. Placing his name on the bill was a staff member’s mistake and it was withdrawn as soon as the mistake was discovered.

ORIGINAL POST: Since part of the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down, the Federal Marriage Amendment has re-emerged but appears to have little chance of passage at this time.

In the House of Representatives, one Democrat and 38 Republicans, including eight from Texas, have co-sponsored a House Joint Resolution proposing an amendment that would enshrine marriage in the Constitution as between one man and one woman.

Texas has twice as many co-sponsors of the bill as the next closest state, North Carolina, with four. The Democratic co-sponsor is Nick Rahall of West Virginia.

Four of the Texas Republicans are from the Dallas area — Rep. Sam Johnson of Plano, Rep. Joe Barton of Arlington, Rep. Kenny Marchant of Coppell and Rep. Ralph Hall of Rockwall.

Other Texas representatives co-sponsoring the resolution are Rep. Steve Stockman, Rep. John Carter and perennial crackpot Rep. Louie Gohmert.

Since its introduction, the resolution has already lost one co-sponsor, Tom Latham, R-Iowa,, but picked up Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, this week. Latham’s state has marriage equality.

The only current co-sponsor from a state with same-sex marriage is Rep. Andy Harris, R-Maryland.

No women co-sponsored the resolution. Only one co-sponsor is under 40 and all are white men.

Each house of Congress would have to pass the proposed amendment by a two-thirds vote before going to state legislatures where it would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. More than a quarter of the states have marriage equality.

FMA was first proposed in 2002 and last failed in the House of Representative in 2006.

—  David Taffet

Gay discrimination claim against Exxon advances; Resource Center sends letter

Almeida.Tico

Tico Almeida

The Illinois Department of Human Rights has agreed to investigate a discrimination claim against ExxonMobil brought by the group Freedom to Work.

The Illinois department said the investigation would take up to a year.

Tico Almeida, founder of Freedom to Work, said his group brought the charges in Illinois because that state has some of the country’s strongest protections based on sexual orientation.

In May, the organization sent similar resumes to ExxonMobil for an open position. The difference was that one applicant was lesbian while the other was straight and slightly less qualified. The company contacted the straight woman and held the job open for her even when she didn’t respond. The more qualified lesbian candidate was never contacted.

Locally, Cece Cox, CEO of Resource Center Dallas, sent a letter this week to two ExxonMobil executives — Malcolm Farrant, vice president of human resources, and David Rosenthal, vice president of investor relations and board secretary. Last year, she met with them along with LGBT executives from Dallas-area Fortune 500 companies to discuss implementing nondiscrimination policies.

“As most of my subsequent inquiries to you have gone unanswered, I am writing today to see where things stand on the matters that were discussed,” she wrote.

She references the recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and bipartisan Senate committee approval of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act this week.

Cox’s full letter is below:

—  David Taffet