marriage equality

  • October 18, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    In helping to advance equality, a second federal appeals court today invalidated on equal protection grounds the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

    A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found a provision of the act a violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause. In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit also invalidated DOMA as a violation of the equal protection clause. Sec. 3 of DOMA states that the federal government only recognizes marriages between men and women.

    In Windsor v. U.S., the Second Circuit panel took a different route to invalidating Sec. 3 of DOMA, saying it could not survive “intermediate scrutiny,” meaning the discriminatory treatment of Sec. 3 of DOMA must surive a stricter test of whether a law violates constitutional rights. The government in this case had the burden of explaining why a grouping of people – lesbians and gay men – for discriminatory treatment did not violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

    In this matter Edith “Edie” Windsor and her partner Thea Spyer were married in Canada in 2007. The married couple lived in New York and when Spyer died in 2009, Edie was forced to pay taxes on Spyer’s estate, something she would not have had to do if her marriage were treated by the government like straight couples’ marriages.

    “The class affected by Section 3 of DOMA is composed entirely of persons of the same sex who have married each other,” and same-sex couples like Windsor and her partner  “are the population most visible to the law, and they are foremost in mind when reviewing DOMA’s constitutionality,” the appeals court ruled.

  • July 31, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The blatantly discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, a Clinton era law, is unconstitutional, says another federal court judge. The decision also marks another step forward for marriage equality, which is part of a much wider movement advancing equality for the LGBT community.

    As TPM reports, U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa L. Bryant, appointed to the bench by George W. Bush, said DOMA, recognizing only marriages between opposite-sex couples, violates “the equal protection principles incorporated in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.”

    In a lengthy opinion, Judge Bryant explored court precedent on the rights of lesbians and gay men, noting in part that a “long history of discrimination against homosexuals is widely acknowledged in American jurisprudence, including the United States Supreme Court jurisprudence. Many courts have concluded that homosexuals have suffered a long and significant history of purposeful discrimination.”

    “In sum,” Bryant continued, “the evidence in the record detailing the long history of anti-gay discrimination which evolved from conduct-based proscriptions to status or identity-based proscriptions perpetrated by federal, state and local governments as well as private parties amply demonstrates that homosexuals have suffered a long history of invidious discrimination. Moreover this conclusion is consistent with the majority of cases which have meaningfully considered the question and likewise held that homosexuals as a class have experienced a long history of discrimination.”

  • June 12, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    It took an incredibly ridiculous amount of time, but 45 years ago today the U.S. Supreme Court finally got around to invalidating state laws that banned interracial marriage.

    The case, Loving v. Virginia decided on June 12, 1967, involved Mildred and Richard Loving who were married in the District of Columbia in 1958, and later prosecuted in Virginia by authorizes intent on enforcing the state’s racist laws against interracial marriage. The couple later moved to the District of Columbia and lodged a class action challenging Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws as a violation of the Constitution’s liberty protections found in the Fourteenth Amendment.

    The case eventually reached the Supreme Court.

    Writing for the unanimous Court, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger rejected Virginia’s arguments that its laws did not subvert the Constitution. The state’s arguments are not worth reciting. Suffice it to say, those arguments were racist. The Warren Court easily found that Virginia’s laws were a serious affront to the Constitution’s liberty protections.

    “There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification,” Burger wrote. “The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriage involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.

    “We have consistently denied the constitutionality of measures which restrict the rights of citizens on account of race. There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause.”

  • June 7, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    While the marriage equality movement appears to be on the upswing – poll numbers show more support for same-sex marriages and President Obama has provided eloquent backing – the broader landscape for the LGBT community remains fraught with enormous challenges.

    The LGBT community continues to fight for protections against discrimination in the workplace, and struggle against callousness from government officials who are intent on cutting social safety net programs. And many LGBT youngsters, a new report finds, are growing up in hostile environments.

    A report by the Human Rights Campaign surveying more than 10,000 LGBT youths nationwide, perhaps not surprisingly, shows the overwhelming number of LGBT youngsters report facing harassment, discrimination and isolation. The Los Angeles Times says the report “paints an often stark picture of the challenges of growing up gay in this country, even as same-sex marriage gains support among many Americans and other legal and cultural barriers to gay equality begin to fall.”

    Linda Spears, vice president of policy for the Child Welfare League of America, told the newspaper that the HRC study confirms “our worst fears about LGBT kids. These kids are often so vulnerable in the way their lives are being led because of the lack of support they have."

    The report found that LGBT youth are “more than two times as likely as non-LGBT youth to say they have been verbally harassed and called names at school. Among LGBT youth, half (51%) have been verbally harassed at school, compared with 25% among non-LGBT students.”

    Four in ten LGBT youth, 13 to 17 year-olds, said they lived in a community not accepting of them. The report found that only 21 percent of LGBT youth say they reside in a place with a community that helps LGBT people.

  • June 5, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The movement for marriage equality, part of a much more expansive effort to advance equality for the LGBT community, avoided a setback as a federal appeals court in San Francisco refused to reconsider its ruling from earlier in the year that invalidated California’s anti-gay measure Proposition 8.

    Proponents of Proposition 8, which barred same-sex marriages in the state, had urged the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for Ninth Circuit to review and reverse a three-judge panel’s February ruling. But a majority of the Circuit’s judges voted against reconsideration, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    In February, the Ninth Circuit panel ruled 2-1 that Proposition 8 “served no purpose and no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians.” Writing for the majority in Perry v. Brown, Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt said, “Proposition 8 worked a singular and limited change to the California Constitution: it stripped same-sex couples of the right to have their committed relationships recognized by the State with the designation of ‘marriage,’ which the state constitution had previously guaranteed them, while leaving in place all their other rights and responsibilities as partners – rights and responsibilities that are identical of those married spouses and form an integral part of the marriage relationship.”     

    Today, three of the Ninth Circuit’s judges lodged a dissent saying the full Circuit should have reviewed the panel’s opinion. The dissenters accused their colleagues of muzzling “respectful conversation” of same-sex marriage. “Even worse,” they continued, “we have overruled the will of seven million California Proposition 8 voters based on a reading of Romer that would be unrecognizable to the Justices who joined it, to those who dissented from it, and to the judges from sister circuits who have since interpreted it.”

    In its February opinion, Reinhardt (pictured) cited the Supreme Court’s Romer v. Evans opinion that invalidated Colorado’s effort to use state law to marginalize a group of people, namely gay men and lesbians. Reinhardt noted that in Romer, the high court said Colorado’s constitutional amendment preventing localities from implementing laws protecting lesbians and gay men from discrimination undermined equal protection principles, saying that it was “not within our constitutional tradition to enact laws of this sort,” which targets “a certain class of citizens for disfavored legal status.”

    Reinhardt also lamented the impact of Proposition 8, which yanked marriage equality rights from same-sex couples not long after the California Supreme Court ruled that the state’s constitution granted them the right to wed.