Tuesday, July 29, 2014

General Issue

It happened again. Another court weighed down on the side of equality. However, this time was special.

This time, an appellate court ruled unequivocally in favor of marriage equality. And unlike the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals' rather restrained ruling that overturned (just) California's marriage ban in 2012, the Fourth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals did not hold back when striking down Virginia's marriage ban. In fact, this ruling doesn't stop at the Virginia state line.

While the 3 judge panel at the Fourth Circuit specifically took on Virginia marriage law in this case, they ruled 2-1 in favor of a strong rebuke of marriage discrimination on 5th and 14th Amendment grounds that applies to the entire region covered by the Fourth Circuit. The majority opinion was strong enough for North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) to declare he will no longer defend his state's marriage ban in court. And for the record, North Carolina also falls under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals (along with Maryland, South Carolina, and West Virginia).

This Fourth Circuit ruling comes just month after the Tenth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals struck down Utah's and Oklahoma's respective marriage bans. And it comes about 4 months before the Ninth Circuit takes on marriage equality again as Nevada's own Sevcik v. Sandoval law suit arrives in San Francisco. And with Governor Brian Sandoval (R) and outgoing Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) both declining to defend Nevada's marriage ban any longer, Nevada may soon go the way of California and Virginia.

Outgoing Secretary of State and current Attorney General candidate Ross Miller (D) refused to mince words when he delivered a passionate legal and personal endorsement of marriage equality in Reno last month. His general election opponent, Adam Laxalt (R), has dismissed this and other LGBTQ civil rights matters as mere "political issues" that he prefers to mock and demean.

Funny enough, Virginia Republicans have been screaming at Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) ever since he decided to drop the state's defense of its marriage ban. Perhaps they even sensed this was coming, as Virginia Republicans spent millions trying to defeat Mark Herring in the very hotly contested Attorney General race last year.

A State Attorney General's job is to defend both the state constitution and the federal constitution. But when the 2 are in conflict, the US Constitution trumps all. Ross Miller seems to understand this, yet Adam Laxalt does not. Keep an eye on this, as it may become a "political issue" this fall that Mr. Laxalt may later come to regret mocking.

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