Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Some "Issues"

This morning, 3 very important judicial decisions dropped. So let's take a look at them.

In Denver, the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling overturning Utah's ban on marriage equality. And in doing so, the 10th made a very critical announcement. In their ruling, the majority of 10th Circuit Justices made a major declaration that may end up further accelerating the arrival of nationwide marriage equality.

“Today’s ruling marks the first time a federal court of appeals has ruled that excluding same-sex couples from the freedom to marry is unconstitutional," said NCLR executive director Kate Kendell in a statement. "The court makes clear that the promise of equality embedded in our revered U.S. Constitution includes the lives and loves of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. That recognition marks an indelible milestone in our nation’s journey to full inclusion — and one that will undoubtedly influence other courts in the months to come.”

Attorney Peggy Tomsic, who presented the arguments on behalf of the Utah couples — Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge, and Karen Archer and Kate Call — noted the far-reaching consequences of a federal appeals court's involvement.

"The court’s ruling is a victory not only for the courageous couples who brought this case," Tomsic said in a statement, "but for our entire state and every state within the 10th Circuit.”

The 10th Circuit includes Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. In its opinion, the 10th Circuit noted that the Windsor case "left open the question presented to us now in full bloom: May a State of the Union constitutionally deny a citizen the benefit or protection of the laws of the State based solely upon the sex of the person that citizen chooses to marry?" Then it sided unequivocally against the ban. "Having heard and carefully considered the argument of the litigants, we conclude that, consistent with the United States Constitution, the State of Utah may not do so. We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws. A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union."

Every so often, we've examined the awfully strong Constitutional case for marriage equality. None other than 5 US Supreme Court Justices hinted at it in their Windsor ruling almost exactly a year ago. In fact, several federal district judges have cited Windsor in their rulings striking down state marriage bans...

Including the latest one in Indiana. Judge Richard L. Young didn't mince words when ruling in favor of couples seeking the freedom to marry. And while it's unclear how soon marriages will begin in Indiana, this ruling just adds to the favorable trend for equality in federal court.

And speaking of federal court, let's take a glance at some big news happening closer to home. In San Francisco, the full 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals rejected an en banc (or full court) review of an earlier decision requiring heightened scrutiny in all cases regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation. Remember that Sevcik v. Sandoval is now in the 9th as it awaits a November hearing. And even before this confirmation, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) & Governor Brian Sandoval (R) had already abandoned their legal defense of Nevada's marriage ban. So today's announcement further signals the arrival of marriage equality to Nevada is no longer a question of if, but when.

So today, we have 3 more federal court rulings in favor of LGBTQ equality. And all 3 suggest Question 2's stoppage of marriage equality in Nevada are numbered. Attorney General candidate Adam Laxalt (R) and his "TEA" tinged ideological soulmates may have "political issues" with this, but judges who actually interpret the US Constitution for a living only seem to have issues with those who want to deny millions of loving families their b civil rights.

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