Oetken sidesteps questions on brief in sodomy case

Paul Oetken

Gay court nominee says arguments in brief he wrote for Lawrence v. Texas expressed his client’s views, not necessarily his

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

When openly gay federal district court nominee Paul Oetken went before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in March, Sen. Charles Grassley was the only Republican who showed up.

 

He introduced Oetken, who was born in his home state of Iowa, but had no questions.

But not all questioning takes place in front of cameras. Some takes place on paper, and that’s where Grassley grilled Oetken over his positions on gay-related issues, and Oetken responded in a way that might make some LGBT activists cringe.

“Do you personally believe that government classifications based on sexual orientation deserve a heightened level of scrutiny?” asked Grassley, in one of 17 questions to Oetken.
Grassley’s question concerned a brief Oetken wrote for the National Gay and Lesbian Bar Association and submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of overturning laws prohibiting same-sex sexual relations.

The case was Lawrence v. Texas and, in 2003, a majority of the Supreme Court did overturn such laws. Oetken’s brief argued that the courts should use the strictest form of scrutiny when examining laws that treat gay people differently.

In responding to Grassley, Oetken put some distance between himself and the brief, saying, “I have not expressed a personal view on this subject. The arguments in the amicus brief that I co-authored in Lawrence v. Texas were arguments made on behalf of clients.”

“Although I believed that there was a good faith basis in Supreme Court precedent for making those arguments [in the brief], they do not necessarily reflect how I would approach these issues as a district judge,” wrote Oetken.

Oetken also put some distance between his brief and the Supreme Court’s decision, noting that, “The Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas did not decide that case under the Equal Protection Clause, but rather under the Due Process Clause, and it therefore did not decide the issues addressed in my amicus brief in that case.”

Oetken also said, “If confirmed as a district judge, I would apply the applicable precedents of the Supreme Court and the Second Circuit.”

Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions also submitted written questions about Oetken’s brief in Lawrence. Sessions noted that Oetken had argued that the issue of physician-assisted suicide should be decided by each state legislature.

He quoted Oetken saying, the issue of physician-assisted suicide “should stay where it belongs, in the legislatures” because the states’ “varied approaches to the issue may, over time, aid in forming a national consensus, making it possible for Congress to resolve it through national legislation.”

But Sessions was interested in how Oetken could argue, in 2002, to leave the suicide issue to the states and then argue, in 2003, “that Texas’ anti-sodomy law was something that warranted federal intervention. …”

Oetken, again, noted that the Lawrence brief included “arguments made on behalf of clients.”

His argument to leave the suicide issue to the states, he said, was appropriate given that there was no federal legislation addressing it.

Oetken’s nomination was reported out of committee on April 7 and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

© 2011 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a Democrat, on why she’s going to the Log Cabin Republicans Convention

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

The Log Cabin Republicans will hold their National Convention in Dallas this coming weekend, and we’ll have a full story in Friday’s print edition. But because the convention actually begins Thursday, we figured we’d go ahead and post the full program sent out by the group earlier this week.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the program is a scheduled appearance by gay Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is of course a Democrat.

Valdez, who’ll be one of the featured speakers at a Saturday luncheon, contacted us this week to explain her decision to accept the invitation from Log Cabin (not that we necessarily felt it warranted an explanation). Here’s what she said: 

“We have more things in common than we have differences, but it seems like in politics we constantly dwell on our differences,” Valdez said. “If we continue to dwell on our differences, all we’re going to do is fight. If we try to work on our common issues, we’ll be able to accomplish some things.”

On that note, below is the full program. For more information or to register, go here.

—  John Wright

Equality Texas lauds House committee’s decision to advance bipartisan anti-bullying bill

Rep. Diane Patrick

The Texas House Committee on Public Education voted 10-1 today to advance a bipartisan anti-bullying bill, authored by Republican Rep. Diane Patrick of Arlington. The bill, a committee substitute for Patrick’s HB 1942, doesn’t specifically protect LGBT youth but incorporates much of the language from another anti-bullying bill by Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin. For example, Patrick’s bill would update the definition of bullying to include cyberbullying, and it would allow the bully, instead of just the victim, to be transferred to another classroom or campus. Strama’s bill had the backing of Equality Texas, which now plans to support Patrick’s bill. The text of the committee’s substitute for Patrick’s bill wasn’t immediately available on the Legislature’s website, but Equality Texas provides details of the measure in a press release below.

—  John Wright

Updates from California and Hawaii

The California Supreme Court justices announced today that they will be issuing an opinion on whether YesOn8.com, the group that successfully pushed for Proposition 8 amending the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage there, has standing to appeal Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that Prop 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.

That announcement further delays the 9th Court of Appeals’ consideration of the appeal in the case that could ultimately end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Further west, news coming out of Hawaii was much more positive, as a bill creating civil unions for same-sex couples  cleared its final legislative hurdle and is headed to the governor’s desk.

Although Republican then-Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed essentially the same bill last July. But current Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said he will sign it into law.

—  admin

Virginia Republican Introduces Bill Attacking LGBT Families

On Thursday, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) introduced H.R. 635, the “Parental Title Protection Act,” which would require all federal agencies and contractors to use the words “mother” and “father” when describing parents on all official documents and forms. This bill is a direct attack on actions by the State Department, which we told you about last month, to make passport forms inclusive of all families by adding “parent 1” and “parent 2” alongside “mother” and “father.” In a press release, Forbes argues that “symbolism is important” and that his legislation is necessary to prevent even “subtle” changes that “undermine the traditional American family relationships that have served as the bedrock of our nation since its inception.”   

Forbes’ bill ignores the reality of millions of children being raised by same-sex couples in this country.  Those children deserve the same recognition and protection from the federal government that other American families enjoy.  Rep. Forbes is right that symbolism is important – his bill is emblematic of a brand of Republicans callously willing, time after time, to attack LGBT people and their children in order to score cheap political points.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Key Prop 8 decision coming; marriage ban advances in Ind.; Gaga hatefest

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The California Supreme Court is set to consider today whether it believes Prop 8 supporters have legal standing to defend the same-sex marriage ban in federal court, after state officials refused to do so. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is currently reviewing the case, has asked the California Supreme Court for an opinion on the matter. And the decision about standing could determine whether the Prop 8 case applies only to California or affects same-sex marriage throughout the country. In other words, this is kinda big.

2. If and when same-sex marriage bans are ultimately declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, Indiana apparently wants to be one of the states that was on the wrong side of history. Indiana’s newly Republican-dominated House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would ban not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions and domestic partnerships. The good news is the amendment can’t actually appear on the ballot until 2014 because it must first be approved by two separately elected legislatures. But in case it hadn’t dawned on you yet, those tea party nuts were lying to your face when they said they only care about fiscal issues.

3. Some gays are turning against Lady Gaga and rejecting their own so-called anthem, “Born This Way,” according to various media reports including this one. But the most amusing critique we’ve seen thus far comes from the Zeitgeisty Report, which suggests that Gaga HATES gay people: “Take for instance the very first part of the song where Gaga comes right out and accuses gay people of having paws instead of hands or feet. Yep, Lady Gaga officially thinks gay people are animals.”

—  John Wright

How can you tell a gay Republican is self-loathing? (Hint: His lips are moving)

No, not all gay Republicans are self-loathing. And of late, a number of Republicans, both gay straight, have really done a great job advancing marriage equality – a shockingly good job, really. But then, there’s always guys like this one to remind us of how far they still have to go.

It’s always fun when someone who comes off totally gay complains about guys who come off totally gay. (About 2:15 into the video – Ebone Bell of Metro Weekly does a good job of hosting the video.)




AMERICAblog Gay

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Man confesses to murder of gay activist in Uganda; equality under attack in Utah

David Kato

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A man has confessed to the murder of Ugandan gay-rights activist David Kato, who was beaten to death with a hammer in his home last week. If you’ll remember, Kato had been outed by an anti-gay newspaper that called for him to be killed, and had received death threats since then. But the government-sanctioned cover-up is well under way: An anonymous police source is telling the media that the suspect killed Kato because he failed to pay him for sex.

2. Speaking of Uganda, the U.S.-based group that’s been linked to “kill gays” legislation in that country, the Fellowship, was also the sponsor of this morning’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., which was attended by President Barack Obama, among others. The LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL protested outside the event.

3. And sticking with this morning’s theme of religious-based bigotry and oppressive regimes, a Utah GOP lawmaker has filed legislation that LGBT advocates say would gut local nondiscrimination ordinances and nullify directives between same-sex partners.

—  John Wright

More on Republican push for legislation to overturn DC marriage equality

Joe posted yesterday about Rep. Jim Jordan’s comments that he will push for Congress to overturn DC’s marriage equality. Shortly after, the Log Cabin Republicans responded to the story in an interview with Metro Weekly.

“While Log Cabin Republicans support Chairman Jordan’s efforts to reign in government spending, we strongly protest a House vote that would be a direct incursion on state’s rights,” Cooper told Metro Weekly. “For the House of Representatives to roll back DC marriage equality would be an anti-conservative expansion of federal authority.”

As someone who is being attacked here as both a gay man and a disenfranchised DC voter, I have three immediate thoughts:

  1. It’s too bad that even when Republicans attack LGBT Americans, the Log Cabin Republicans won’t issue a response that doesn’t include praise. I guess the reality that people like Rep. Jordan just don’t like you doesn’t beat out their desire to be fully loyal to the Republican party.
  2. It’s important to really focus on Joe’s comments on the likelihood of this passing. While this effort has virtually no chance as a stand alone effort, it’s important to note those who are still pushing this and how they might inject it into other legislation. DC residents certainly know how we’re used as a pawn in Congress (think overturning gun control to kill voting rights).
  3. I’m sure the Log Cabin Republicans didn’t mean to confuse DC for a state (unless they’re announcing their support for statehood, which would be fantastic).




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

N.H. lawmakers seek to repeal gay marriage

Welcome to 2011, the year in which we’ll have to prove we still know how to play defense. Take, for example, New Hampshire, where state lawmakers have already filed four draft bills seeking to repeal same-sex marriage, which was legalized in 2008. It’s unclear how the bills would affect the 1,500 same-sex couples who married last year, but if you’ve always dreamed of tying the knot in the Granite State, you may want to hurry up and do it. The Telegraph reports:

While some House members work to craft the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, others could work through the spring to shape the repeal legislation, sending a bill to a vote by the end of the legislative session in July, said state Rep. Leo Pepino, a Manchester Republican, who introduced one of the proposals.

With a 297 to 103 advantage in the House, and a 19 to 5 divide in the Senate, Republicans could have the two-thirds majority necessary to override Gov. John Lynch, who has promised to veto any repeal bill.

In 2008, the Democratic-led legislature passed the marriage law with 198 votes in the House and 14 in the Senate, becoming the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage.

“I think we have the votes (to repeal),” Pepino said last week. “We have a lot of really good conservatives and a good conservative doesn’t believe in gay marriage. … It’s a matter of ethics.”

—  John Wright