California Supreme Court to issue ruling Thursday on question of standing in Prop 8 case

The passage of Proposition 8 sparked angry protests around the country

The California Supreme Court today announced that it will issue its opinion tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 17, on whether supporters of Proposition 8 have standing to appeal a trial court ruling that the voter-approved amendment banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, according to this report at MetroWeekly.com.

Voters passed Prop 8 in the November 2008 election, 52 percent to 48 percent, just months after the state Supreme Court issued a ruling saying that a law prohibiting same-sex marriage in California violated the state’s Constitution. Prop 8, however, amended the California Constitution, adding a clause declaring that only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized there.

The vote sparked widespread protests, and opponents soon filed a federal lawsuit, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, claiming that Prop 8 violates the 14th Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection in the U.S. Constitution. Then-Attorney General Jerry Brown chose not to defend the case in court, saying he, too, believed Prop 8 was unconstitutional. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he supported the lawsuit because it asked important constitutional questions that needed to be answered, but none of the other state officials named as defendents were willing to defend the case in court, either.

At that point, a group called ProtectMarriage.com, the official proponents of Prop 8 in the election, and a second group called the Campaign for California Families both filed motions to intervene to defend the amendment. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker allowed ProtectMarriage.com to intervene but denied the second group’s effort. Imperial County filed a motion to intervene to defend Prop 8, but their motion was also denied because the deadline for filing had passed.

In August 2010, Walker ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional. He placed the ruling on hold, however, pending appeal to the 9th Circuit Court, a stay which the 9th Court later extended. ProtectMarriage.com appealed Walker’s ruling to the 9th Circuit, and again Brown and Schwarzenegger refused to defend the amendment in court. And this time, Walker’s ruling cast doubt on whether ProtectMarriage.com actually had legal standing to appeal his ruling.

A three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court heard oral arguments on the case on Dec. 6, 2010 and a month later, on Jan. 4, 2011, the 9th Circuit judges sent the request to the California Supreme Court, asking for an opinion on whether ProtectMarriage.com had legal standing to appeal Walker’s ruling.

Regardless of how the California Supreme Court rules tomorrow on the question of standing, the case is still a long way from settled. Whichever way the three-judge 9th Circuit panel eventually rules on the constitutionality of Prop 8, those on the losing side of that argument will likely appeal first to the full 9th Circuit Court, and from there to the U.S. Supreme Court.

—  admin

WATCH: HISD Board gets earful on anti-gay flier

Manuel Rodriguez

Trustee Manuel Rodriguez in the hot seat as public condemns his homophobia

A standing-room-only crowd greeted the Houston Independent School Board last night. While the board’s monthly meetings often attract an assortment of parents, community members and gadflies many in the crowd were there with a decidedly non-educational issue on their minds: the anti-gay flier distributed by Trustee Manuel Rodriguez during his recent reelection campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier encouraged Houstonians to vote against Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. because of his sexual orientation.

The first to address the issue were Rodriquez’s fellow trustees, Anna Eastman and Juliet Stipeche. Eastman spoke passionately of the importance of HISD’s anti-bullying policy which “protects people from harassment and bullying based on attributes we all have,” and said that she felt Rodriguez’s actions violated the spirit of that policy. Stipeche, near tears, read the names of teens who had committed suicide after enduring anti-LGBT bullying.

The board had planned to vote on a new ethics policy at the meeting that covered behavior by trustees. At the encouragement of two speakers, and the motion of Eastman, the board decided to delay that vote until December so that a policy stating that encouraging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression could be added.

After three and a half hours the crowd in the board’s chambers had dwindled, with most of those who had come to confront Rodriquez still waiting. When Board President Paula Harris finally opened the floor for public comment the first person to step up was Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Noel Freeman. Freeman told the board that the extant of Rodriquez’s homophobic campaigning was far greater than the flier which had drawn so much media attention. “What you all might not know is that he also went on television and said that he just couldn’t understand why a 54 year old unmarried man would want, quote ‘access to children,’” said Freeman. “That statement in and of itself, and the implications made therein is reprehensible and simply disgusting.”

Freeman asked that the Board remove Rodriquez as their representative on the Texas Council of School Boards, and as the board’s vice president. He went on to criticize the apology issued by Rodriquez after the election, saying that it did not address the concerns of the GLBT community, nor was it delivered to the community but rather to the press. “You cannot simply say ‘oops, I’m sorry’ and this all goes away,” said Freeman. “We will never forget what you did!”

Board President Harris had made frequent reference throughout the meeting to a group of students from HISD’s Milby High School, letting them know that their time to speak would come. As the students’ designated speaker stepped to the podium his hands visibly shook in nervousness. “When I first heard about [Rodriquez's flier] I did not agree with it because I believe that the message was that a gay person could not be as successful as a straight person and that really hurt me,” said the student. “My question to you is are you going to help us stop the bullying, or are you going to be a bully yourself?”

Perhaps the strongest response from the board was garnered by Paul Gonzales, who choked back tears as he described the challenges he faces as a gay man and parent of an HISD student. “I have a kid, and I have a kid that I have enrolled in HISD, and I love her. Me and my partner every single day are trying to show her that there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing wrong with our family. So for a board member to say that my family is reprehensible to him… I have to explain [to her] that there are still people who consider us not the kind of family that deserve respect,” said Paul to the board, who were fighting back tears of their own. “GLBT parents like myself trust HISD to give us that haven for our children, that they’re not going to be looked at any differently. But the words that we saw on this flier just made me cringe to think that this isn’t the place that I thought that it was.”

After the jump, watch some of the eighteen people who spoke to the board.

—  admin

Do We Want The CA Supreme Court To Say ProtectMarriage.com Has Standing To Appeal Perry?

To the disgust of plenty, the California Supreme Court has agreed to look into whether ProtectMarriage.com has standing in Perry v. Schwarzenegger to appeal the case in federal court. The Ninth Circuit asked the Supremes to interpret their own state law, which plenty of opponents to Prop 8 will tell you is a flawed legal theory, since it's not the job of a state court to tell a federal court whether a party to their case is in the right. Oral arguments on the matter will be "expedited," which for the court system means they could begin "as early as" September. At issue is Article II, Section 8 of the California Constitution, which states "the official proponents of an initiative measure possess either a particularized interest in the initiative's validity or the authority to assert the state's interest in the initiative's validity, which would enable them to defend the constitutionality of the initiative upon its adoption or appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative, when the public officials charged with that duty refuse to do so." And while, in public, the American Foundation for Equal Rights and other gay advocates want the Supremes to deny standing, and thus have the Ninth Circuit kill the appeal, doing so would inhibit Perry's chances of reaching the federal Supreme Court, which is where plenty want to see this go.


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Queerty

—  David Taffet

Major #Prop8 development: CA Supremes to hear standing issue

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*more as we get it

*From AFER:

Breaking: California Supreme Court Accepts Certified Question

For Immediate Release

February 16, 2011

Statement by the American Foundation for Equal Rights on California Supreme Court Response to Ninth Circuit

Los Angeles, CA – American Foundation for Equal Rights Board President Chad Griffin issued the following statement after the California Supreme Court’s response to the question from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case:

“More than six months ago, the federal district court declared unequivocally that Prop. 8 is unconstitutional and that it causes grave harm to gay and lesbian couples and their families each day that it is in effect. We look forward to assisting the California Supreme Court reach an answer to the question before them so that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals can affirm the district court’s ruling and end the state-sanctioned discrimination of Prop. 8.

“The American Foundation for Equal Rights is committed to achieving the freedom to marry for all Americans. We look forward to taking this case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which 14 times before has declared that marriage is a fundamental right for every American.”

About the American Foundation for Equal Rights

The American Foundation for Equal Rights is the sole sponsor of the Perry case. After bringing together Theodore B. Olson and David Boies to lead its legal team, AFER successfully advanced the Perry case through federal district court and is now leading it through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals before the case is brought to the United States Supreme Court. The Foundation is committed to achieving full federal marriage equality.

For more information visit www.afer.org

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*From Lambda Legal:

Lambda Legal Calls On California Supreme Court to Confirm Prop 8 Proponents Cannot Press Appeal

“THEY ARE NOT LAW ENFORCERS AND HAVE THE SAME LIMITED RIGHTS AS EVERYONE ELSE TO LITIGATE ONLY WHEN THEIR OWN RIGHTS ARE AT STAKE, NOT MERELY TO ASSERT THEIR OPINIONS ABOUT OTHERS’ RIGHTS.”

(San Francisco, February 16, 2011) — Today the California Supreme Court agreed to answer a question by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on whether or not supporters of a California ballot measure can continue litigation about that measure’s constitutionality when state officials decide against doing so. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals certified the question in the Prop 8 case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, on January 4. In response to today’s announcement, Marriage Project Director Jennifer C. Pizer of Lambda Legal issued the following statement.

“Because the federal appeals judges said they need clarification, we look forward to a decision by the California Supreme Court confirming that initiative proponents lack legal standing to continue the Perry case. They are not law enforcers, and have the same limited rights as everyone else to litigate only when their own rights are at stake, not merely to assert their opinions about others’ rights.”

Initiative proponents also cannot step into the shoes of the attorney general, the governor or other state officials. The reason for this is basic: the governor and attorney general are elected by the people to represent all the people, not just one point of view on one issue, out of countless, competing concerns. Most importantly, state officials swear an oath to uphold the federal and state constitutions, including their abiding promises of equal protection and due process for everyone. Initiative proponents take no such oath, and have no such duties.

Empowering initiative proponents with a special, new exception to these rules would be mistaken in any circumstances but the error is especially stark in this case. Prop 8’s proponents claim to represent “the people,” but in fact they only represent some seven million voters in a state of 38 million residents. Moreover, according to the U.S. Census, the tiny group of same-sex-couple residents targeted by Prop 8 is only around 200,000 people, or less than 2% of the population.

The state high court’s previous decision to allow the initiative power to be used in the unprecedented way Prop 8 did – to strip a terribly vulnerable minority of a fundamental constitutional right – also stripped the equality guarantees out of the California Constitution. Yet another departure now from bedrock California law to allow proponents an exception from the “legal standing” rules would invite further, deeply problematic consequences. It would mean proponents could enter every case about an initiative to argue against the state’s position. They could refuse ever to compromise about anything concerning the litigation process. And they could object to every settlement plan based on ideology about what the law should be, rather than what it is.

If the California Supreme Court rules that initiative proponents do indeed lack standing, as we believe is proper, we hope it brings a prompt end to the barrier facing lesbian and gay couples, who only wish to love and care for each other with their government’s equal blessing in civil marriage.”

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Good As You

—  David Taffet

California Supreme Court will hold hearing on standing issue in Prop. 8 case

Twitter is abuzz with the news that the California Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the standing issue in the Prop. 8 case.

From AFER:

BREAKING: Calif. Supreme Court to hear #Prop8 case with expedited schedule. Oral arguments as soon as Sept 2011.

One thing is clear: this case about marriage equality will be front and center during the 2012 presidential campaign. Background on what all of this means here. And, we’ll post more as we get more info. I expect we’ll see a statement from AFER — and that’s the one that matters.

UPDATE @ 6:16 PM: And, here’s that statement from AFER:

Statement by the American Foundation for Equal Rights on California Supreme Court Response to Ninth Circuit

Los Angeles, CA – American Foundation for Equal Rights Board President Chad Griffin issued the following statement regarding the California Supreme Court’s response to the question from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case:

“More than six months ago, the federal district court declared unequivocally that Prop. 8 is unconstitutional and that it causes grave harm to gay and lesbian couples and their families each day that it is in effect. We look forward to assisting the California Supreme Court reach an answer to the question before them as soon as possible so that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals can affirm the district court’s ruling and end the state-sanctioned discrimination of Prop. 8. We are hopeful that the California Supreme Court will also consider further expediting this matter so that it could be argued before the summer.

“The American Foundation for Equal Rights is committed to achieving the freedom to marry for all Americans. We look forward to taking this case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which 14 times before has declared that marriage is a fundamental right for every American.”




AMERICAblog Gay

—  David Taffet

Standing on the Side of Love

Dan Furmansky with two of HRC’s UUA members: Dr. Sharon Groves, Acting Director of the Religion & Faith Program and Orelia Busch, Clergy Call Coordinator

The Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA) Director of the Standing on the Side of Love campaign, Dan Furmansky (former colleague at HRC as well as former Executive Director of Equality Maryland), dropped by our office recently to discuss the UUA’s Valentine’s Day kickoff of their campaign to urge policy makers across America to “Stand on the Side of Love” and support the freedom to marry as well as other policies that bring fairness and equality to all.

Dozens of Standing on the Side of Love events are occurring across the country today and HRC staff who live in Maryland will be joining UUA members – and hundreds of other Maryland residents of all faith traditions – in Annapolis to support the “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act.”

What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than to work for the freedom to marry the one you love, regardless of gender!


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Standing With Veterans in Maine for DADT Repeal

The following post comes from HRC Regional Field Director Sultan Shakir:

Yesterday, I met with Maine veterans about the critical importance of letting Senators Snowe and Collins know about the need to pass the National Defense Authorization Act and to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  I have a deep respect for the men and women have who have served our country and was appreciative of the overwhelming support for repeal expressed by these vets.

Many expressed that they have firsthand knowledge of what military service is all about and how sexual orientation was never a factor in someone’s ability to do to their job.  One gentleman remembers serving alongside gay troops before and during DADT.  He expressed that he always felt that those troops were just as qualified and just as dedicated, if not more because of their willingness to serve, even under DADT.

Across the state, HRC will be meeting with vets to provide them with opportunities to reach out to Senators Snowe and Collins.  Both senators are key votes in the US Senate and can help to end discrimination against lesbian and gay  servicemembers by voting to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year.

If you or someone you know is a vet or a family member of someone currently serving, please email me at Sultan.Shakir@hrc.org


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Standing Beside Tony Avella in Queens

Last week I had to opportunity to visit the wonderfully diverse New York City Borough of Queens, where former New York City Council member Tony Avella is running a strong challenge to a long-time anti-gay incumbent for state Senate. With the future of marriage equality on the line, HRC and other LGBT groups including Marriage Equality New York and the Pride Agenda, are working tirelessly to help elect Avella.

I am so glad to behind a candidate that can make such a big difference in the state. If we are successfully in pulling of a dramatic upset win here and thus get us one vote closer to marriage equality in the New York state Senate, Tony Avella deserves to be anointed the real King of Queens.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Standing Against DADT in Texas

As we anticipate the Senate’s upcoming to vote on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”,  HRC members across the country take action.  Texans who came to the Alamo Draft house in Austin for the Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (GLIFF) took time between shows to call their senators.  By the time we left, three senate voice mails were filled!

I also had a chance to address the crowd during “Out Of Annapolis” . I told the crowd that we need to make sure that every senator hears that the time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is now.  Follow this link to find contact information for your senator. Your message can be brief but be sure to include your name, your address and say that it’s time to end the discharges of qualified gay, lesbian and bisexual service members.  Every call is tallied by Senate staff!  We need our senators to vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright