BREAKING NEWS: SCOTUS strikes down Texas law restricting abortions

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The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the Texas law requiring clinics that provide abortions to have surgical facilities and doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The court issued its 5-3 ruling this morning (Monday, June 27), reversing the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the law in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

NPR reports that conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, while Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan in the majority.

Breyer, writing for the majority, said the restrictive law would “vastly increase the obstacles confronting women seeking abortions in Texas without providing any benefit to women’s health capable of withstanding any meaningful scrutiny.” Read Breyer’s entire opinion, Ginsberg’s concurring opinion and dissenting opinions by Thomas and Alito here.

—  Tammye Nash

Alabama’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore suspended

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

Alabama’s Homophobe and Asshole in Chief, state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, has been suspended for refusing to acknowledge the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last summer recognizing marriage equality nationwide.

The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, in a filing released Friday, May 6, wrote, “Chief Justice Moore flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority as the chief administrative officer of Alabama’s judicial branch.

As reported by The Washington Post, Moore faces six charges of violating judicial ethics, all stemming for his Jan. 6 order telling state probate judges — the ones who issue marriage licenses in Alabama — that they have a “ministerial duty” to abide by state law (even though a federal Supreme Court ruling overrides state law) limiting marriage to opposite-sex cases.

The commission ruled that Moore’s order violated not only the June 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, but two other court decisions as well.

As a result of the ruling, Moore is automatically suspended from the bench. The state Court of the Judiciary will ultimately decide whether Moore is guilty of violating judicial ethics.

Moore was removed from his seat as state Supreme Court chief justice in 2003 after refusing a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he had erected in the state judicial building in Montgomery. But the people of Alabama re-elected him 2012.

Last week’s ruling is a result of complaints filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In a statement following the ruling, SPLC President Richard Cohen said, “Moore has disgraced his office for far too long. He’s such a religious zealot, such an egomaniac that he thinks he doesn’t have to follow federal court rulings he disagrees with. For the good of the state, he should be kicked out of office. … We look forward to his trial in the Court of the Judiciary and his eventual removal from office once again.”

Moore, for his part, accused the Judicial Inquiry Commission of being influenced by LGBT rights advocates, saying “The JIC has chosen to listen to people like Ambrosia Starling, a professed transvestite, and other gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, as well as organizations which support their agenda. We intend to fight this agenda vigorously and expect to prevail.”

Starling, the Post explained, is a self-described drag queen who Moore has singled out before, suggesting that she suffers from mental illness and alleging that she performed an “illegal” wedding ceremony. A local Unitarian Universalist minister, the Rev. Fred Hammond, disputed that latter claim in a blog post late last month, saying that it was he who performed the cerem

—  Tammye Nash

Obama nominates Merrick Garland for Supreme Court

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Judge Merrick Garland

President Barack Obama has named D.C. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland, 63, as his nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Republicans have vowed not to consider any Obama nominee during the election year and said the next president should make the appointment.

That could be a risky gamble for Republicans. It assumes they win in the fall.

Should they win, however, President Trump might decide to turn the nomination process into a reality show. Ten judges compete to see who becomes the next Supreme Court justice.

“What would you do if protesters interrupted a campaign rally?” President Trump would ask.

“Calm down the crowd first,” the first contestant would answer.

“You’re fired,” President Trump would say. “Get ’em outta here.”

Or maybe, as he has suggested in the past, he’d appoint his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, a pro-choice federal judge.

On the Democratic side, President Bernie Sanders would appoint someone like Judge Phyllis Frye, a transgender judge from Houston, who pioneered trans rights in Texas.

Or President Clinton might nominate constitutional law scholar Barack Obama. Or maybe Michelle Obama. Or Wendy Davis.

So Judge Merrick Garland? He’s moderate. He’s the best they’re going to get.

Hold hearings on the nomination.

—  David Taffet

Supreme Court sides with lesbian mom seeking adoption rights

Supreme-Court-BuildingIn a decision issued today (Monday, March 7), the Supreme Court reversed a decision by Alabama’s highest court denying an adoption by the non-bio mom in a same-sex couple from another state.

The full text of the decision can be found here.

The plaintiff, V.L., and the defendant, E.L, were together for almost 17 years and had three children before splitting up in 2011. The couple had temporarily moved to the state of Georgia so that V.L. could formally adopt the children.

But the Alabama court argued that Georgia had erred in allowing the non-biological mother to adopt the children without first terminating the parental rights of the biological mother.

Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow praised the ruling, saying, “Any attempt to deny legal rights to our families is reprehensible, and this ruling established that bias and discrimination cannot be allowed to undermine the bond between LGBT parents and their children.”

“Our client was in a long-term same-sex relationship in which she and her partner planned for and raised three children together, using donor insemination. To ensure that both had secure parental rights, our client, the non-biological mother, adopted the couples’ three children in Georgia in 2007,” explained Kate Kendall, executive director of National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented V.L. in the case. “When the two later broke up, the other mother kept our client from visiting their children and argued that Alabama should not recognize the Georgia adoption.”

It is the first major Supreme Court decision impacting LGBT rights ruling since last summer’s Obergefell decision.

—  James Russell

Editorial Cartoon • 02.19.16

calencmyk

—  Dallasvoice

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dead at 79

Antonin_ScaliaOfficials in Presidio County in West Texas have confirmed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died this morning, Saturday, Feb. 13, at a ranch outside of Marfa. He was 79.

Scalia was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the bench in 1986 and known for his conservative views on issues ranging from abortion to same-sex marriage.

He was one of four dissenting justices in the Obergefell decision legalizing marriage equality last year. In his dissent, he wrote the majority “invent[ed] a new right and impose[d] that right on the rest of the country.”

He praised “the debate over marriage for same-sex couples [as a display of] American democracy at its best. But he also lamented the 5-4 decision for “ending the national debate.”

“Individuals on both sides of the issue passionately, but respectfully, attempted to persuade their fellow citizens to accept their views,” Scalia wrote. “Win or lose advocates for both sides continued pressing their cases, secure in the knowledge that an electoral loss can be negated by a later electoral win. That is exactly how our system of government is supposed to work.”

Scalia was a familiar voice of dissent in other notable LGBT cases. In the case Lawrence v. Texas declaring state sodomy bans unconstitutional, he wrote the court had “taken sides” in the culture wars.

“State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity [are now] called into question. The court has largely signed on to the homosexual agenda,” Scalia wrote.

Scalia stood by the comparison when asked by a student in 2012.

“If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder?” Scalia replied. “Can we have it against other things? I don’t apologize for the things I raise.”

In a discussion between Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. last February, Scalia asked the audience not to paint him as “anti-gay.”

His opinion in the Obergefell this spring will not pertain to the “substance” of whether couples should have the right to marry, but the issue of legal interpretation.

“That isn’t the issue,” he said. “The issue is who decides. Should these decisions be made by the Supreme Court without any text in the Constitution or any history in the Constitution to support imposing on the whole country or is it a matter left to the people?”

But his death also has another clear impact: will President Obama appoint a successor?

Not likely, wrote Emily Farris, assistant professor of political science at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

“I think it will be very difficult for Obama to get a nomination done in the midst of an election year. Even before Scalia’s death, people were predicting the 2016 presidential election could lead to a cataclysmic reshaping of SCOTUS,” Farris wrote.

Check out instant tea for the latest updates and commentary.

—  James Russell

UPDATE: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dead at 79

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Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died last night, Friday, Feb. 12, of natural causes at a ranch near Marfa. He was 79.

Check instant tea for more information as news comes in.

—  James Russell

T.D. Jakes on the marriage equality decision: You may be surprised

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The Rev. T.D. Jakes

I have never considered the Rev. T.D. Jakes to be a big supporter of LGBT rights. I am not saying that this speech indicates he is. But I applaud him for preaching on the necessity of separating church and state, and the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court makes its rulings, as it should, based on civil law, not biblical scripture.

“The world is gonna be the world, and the church is gonna be the church and you have to understand the difference. The Supreme Court is there to make a decision based on constitutional rights and legalities that fit all Americans. They are not debating Scripture.”

—  Tammye Nash

NOM ‘Committed to working to reverse’ marriage equality

Brian Brown

Brian Brown, president of NOM

We won. At least at the Supreme Court level. But we have a lot of work left to do. That’s blatantly obvious when you stop to look at opinions and instructions from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, who are encouraging county clerks not to follow the law by not issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Then there is this: A “give us money” plea sent out through email by Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage:

“MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2015

“Dear Marriage Supporter,

“As you know, a 5-4 ruling of the US Supreme Court has resulted in marriage being redefined, with genderless ‘marriage’ now being imposed on every state in the nation. This is a terrible decision that entirely lacks constitutional authority.

“NOM is committed to working to reverse this decision over time. But until that happens, we need to minimize the damage that is going to be caused to individuals, churches and other organizations that support marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“Please act today to support the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) (S. 1598, H.R. 2802) today by completing this Action Alert. FADA will prevent any federal agency from denying a tax exemption, grant, contract, license, or certification to an individual, association, or business based on their belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. For example, the bill would prohibit the IRS from stripping a church of its tax exemption for refusing to officiate same-sex weddings.

“This common-sense and urgently-need bill has become “must pass” legislation in light of the US Supreme Court decision. I urge you to contact your US Senators and Members of Congress to ask them to support this legislation.”

There was more. It was more of the same. Of course, the truth is the marriage ruling was good for NOM and others like it because it gives them a reason to beg for more money.

But even though we have won the battle, the war continues. Today, we are still celebrating. But we have to remember not to rest on our laurels, so to speak. We have to remember the fight continues.

—  Tammye Nash

Paxton bemoans the horror of marriage equality, predicts wrack and ruin

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Less than 24 hours after insisting that Texas county clerks needed to get his approval to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if the U.S. Supreme Court issued a pro-marriage-equality ruling today (Friday, June 26) — which the court did, shortly after 9 a.m. CST — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement calling the ruling “an assault on the actual text of the U.S. Constitution” and predicting widespread death and destruction — OK, really he just said it will dilute marriage as a societal institution and endanger religious liberty.

If we had even a smidgen of belief that Paxton has actually read the U.S. Constitution, or even the Texas Constitution, we might be more inclined to pay attention. But …..

Anyway. Here’s his statement in its entirety. If you have a weak. stomach, make sure you haven’t just eaten something when you read it:

“Today’s ruling by five Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court marks a radical departure from countless generations of societal law and tradition. The impact of this opinion on our society and the familial fabric of our nation will be profound. Far from a victory for anyone, this is instead a dilution of marriage as a societal institution.

“What is most disturbing is the extent to which this opinion is yet another assault on the actual text of the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law itself. Just as Roe v. Wade ripped from the hands of the American people the issue of life and placed it in the judge-made ‘penumbras’ of the Constitution, so has this opinion made clear that our governing document — the protector of our liberties through representative government — can be molded to mean anything by unelected judges.

“But no court, no law, no rule, and no words will change the simple truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Nothing will change the importance of a mother and a father to the raising of a child. And nothing will change our collective resolve that all Americans should be able to exercise their faith in their daily lives without infringement and harassment.

“We start by recognizing the primacy and importance of our first freedom — religious liberty. The truth is that the debate over the issue of marriage has increasingly devolved into personal and economic aggression against people of faith who have sought to live their lives consistent with their sincerely-held religious beliefs about marriage. In numerous incidents trumpeted and celebrated by a sympathetic media, progressives advocating the anti-traditional marriage agenda have used this issue to publicly mock, deride and intimidate devout individuals for daring to believe differently than they do. This ruling will likely only embolden those who seek to punish people who take personal, moral stands based upon their conscience and the teachings of their religion.

“It is not acceptable that people of faith be exposed to such abuse. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects our religious liberty and shields people of faith from such persecution, but those aspects of its protections have been denigrated by radicals, echoed by the media and an increasingly-activist judiciary. Consistent with existing federal and state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that should already protect religious liberty and prevent discrimination based on religion, we must work to ensure that the guarantees of the First Amendment, protecting freedom of religion, and its corollary freedom of conscience, are secure for all Americans.

“Our guiding principle should be to protect people who want to live, work and raise their families in accordance with their religious faith. We should ensure that people and businesses are not discriminated against by state and local governments based on a person’s religious beliefs, including discrimination against people of faith in the distribution of grants, licenses, certification or accreditation; we should prevent harassing lawsuits against people of faith, their businesses and religious organizations; we should protect non-profits and churches from state and local taxes if the federal government penalizes them by removing their 501(c)(3) status; and we should protect religious adoption and foster care organizations and the children and families they serve. Shortly, my office will be addressing questions about the religious liberties of clerks of court and justices of the peace.

“Displays of hate and intolerance against people of faith should be denounced by all people of good will and spark concern among anyone who believes in religious liberty and freedom for all.

“Despite this decision, I still have faith in America and the American people. We must be vigilant about our freedom and must use the democratic process to make sure America lives up to its promise as a land of freedom, religious tolerance and hope.”

 

—  Tammye Nash