Women should be able to make personal decisions w/o intrusion of pols like Greg Abbott, who’d ban abortion even for rape and incest.#HB2
In July, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a ruling that threatened the future of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. By a vote of two to one, the court held, in Halbig v. Burwell, that the insurance subsidies that allow millions of Americans to buy health insurance were contrary to the text of the law and thus were illegal. If such a decision had been made earlier in Obama’s tenure, lawyers for his Administration would have been left with a single, risky option: an appeal to the politically polarized, and usually conservative, Supreme Court.
This year, the lawyers had another choice. When President Obama took office, the full D.C. Circuit had six judges appointed by Republican Presidents, three named by Democrats, and two vacancies. By the time of the Halbig decision, Obama had placed four judges on the D.C. court, which shifted its composition to seven Democratic appointees and four Republicans. In light of this realignment, the Obama Administration asked the full D.C. Circuit to vacate the panel’s decision and rehear the Halbig case en banc—that is, with all the court’s active judges participating. The full court promptly agreed with the request, and the decision that would have crippled Obamacare is no longer on the books. Oral argument before the full court is now set for December.
The transformation of the D.C. Circuit has been replicated in federal courts around the country. Obama has had two hundred and eighty judges confirmed, which represents about a third of the federal judiciary. Two of his choices, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, were nominated to the Supreme Court; fifty-three were named to the circuit courts of appeals, two hundred and twenty-three to the district courts, and two to the Court of International Trade. When Obama took office, Republican appointees controlled ten of the thirteen circuit courts of appeals; Democratic appointees now constitute a majority in nine circuits. Because federal judges have life tenure, nearly all of Obama’s judges will continue serving well after he leaves office.
Obama’s judicial nominees look different from their predecessors. In an interview in the Oval Office, the President told me, “I think there are some particular groups that historically have been underrepresented—like Latinos and Asian-Americans—that represent a larger and larger portion of the population. And so for them to be able to see folks in robes that look like them is going to be important. When I came into office, I think there was one openly gay judge who had been appointed. We’ve appointed ten.”
The statistics affirm Obama’s boast. Sheldon Goldman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a scholar of judicial appointments, said, “The majority of Obama’s appointments are women and nonwhite males.” Forty-two per cent of his judgeships have gone to women. Twenty-two per cent of George W. Bush’s judges and twenty-nine per cent of Bill Clinton’s were women. Thirty-six per cent of President Obama’s judges have been minorities, compared with eighteen per cent for Bush and twenty-four per cent for Clinton. Obama said that the new makeup of the federal bench “speaks to the larger shifts in our society, where what’s always been this great American strength—this stew that we are—is part and parcel of every institution, both in the public sector as well as in the private sector.”
Beyond diversity, the story of Obama’s influence on the courts is more complex. Indeed, it could serve as a metaphor for his Presidency: symbolically rich but substantively hazy. Obama took office after years of intense conservative focus on the courts. President George W. Bush spoke often of the need for judges who “will strictly apply the Constitution and laws, not legislate from the bench.” The conservative agenda included limiting abortion rights, ending racial preferences, and lowering barriers between church and state. Obama has shrunk from an ideological battle with conservatives on these constitutional issues. Claims for his judges are grounded in their personal integrity and professional competence. Notwithstanding their qualifications, many of his appointees have drawn fierce opposition from Senate Republicans. In those battles, too, where his judicial legacy has been at stake, the President has chosen to remain largely above the fray.
To the extent that there is an Obama legal legacy, it centers on gay rights and voting rights, subjects that the President addresses more with caution than with passion. Obama served as president of the Harvard Law Review (Class of 1991), and taught at the University of Chicago law school for more than a decade. He was never exactly a legal academic; he didn’t write law-review articles or seek a tenure-track job. He taught classes once a week while practicing law and, later, while serving in the Illinois state senate, in Springfield. When it comes to the law, Obama may never have been a full professor, but he remains fully professorial.
I asked him to name the best Supreme Court decision of his tenure. When the Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, in 2012? When it struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, a year later? Neither, it turned out.
“In some ways, the decision that was just handed down to not do anything about what states are doing on same-sex marriage may end up being as consequential—from my perspective, a positive sense—as anything that’s been done,” the President said. “Because I think it really signals that although the Court was not quite ready—it didn’t have sufficient votes to follow Loving v. Virginia and go ahead and indicate an equal-protection right across the board—it was a consequential and powerful signal of the changes that have taken place in society and that the law is having to catch up.” In the Loving decision, from 1967, the Court held that states could no longer ban racial intermarriage.
In other words, Obama’s favorite decision was one in which the Court allowed the political process to go forward, one state at a time. Not long ago, the President described his foreign-policy doctrine as one that “avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles.” On same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court had hit a single, or maybe a double, and that was fine with him.
Obama opposed marriage equality until May of 2012. He told me that he now believes the Constitution requires all states to allow same-sex marriage, an argument that his Administration has not yet made before the Supreme Court. “Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all fifty states,” he said. “But, as you know, courts have always been strategic. There have been times where the stars were aligned and the Court, like a thunderbolt, issues a ruling like Brown v. Board of Education, but that’s pretty rare. And, given the direction of society, for the Court to have allowed the process to play out the way it has may make the shift less controversial and more lasting.
“The bulk of my nominees, twenty years ago or even ten years ago, would have been considered very much centrists, well within the mainstream of American jurisprudence, not particularly fire-breathing or ideologically driven,” Obama went on. “So the fact that now Democratic appointees and Republican appointees tend to vote differently on issues really has more to do with the shift in the Republican Party and in the nature of Republican-appointed jurists. . . . Democrats haven’t moved from where they were.”
This is how Obama has attempted to define his Presidency—as an exemplar of common sense set against the extremism of the contemporary Republican Party. He has had the same mixed success in making this argument for his judges as he has had on most other issues during the past six years.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a recent interview published in Elle, said that she would not yet step down from the Court. “If I resign anytime this year,” she argued, Obama “could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the Court.”
I asked Obama if Ginsburg was right about his political weakness. “Well, we’ve got a pretty good track record,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of Supreme Court Justices confirmed who I think are doing outstanding work. My sense is that the Senate necessarily has to treat the Supreme Court nomination process differently than the circuit- or district-court nomination process—higher profile, people are paying attention.” He found that most people pay little attention to lower-court appointments, but when it comes to the Supreme Court “they have the sense ‘All right, this is big,’ ” and the media cover the story intensely, “which means that some of the shenanigans that were taking place in terms of blocking appointments, stalling appointments, I think are more difficult to pull off during a Supreme Court nomination process.
“Having said that, Justice Ginsburg is doing a wonderful job. She is one of my favorite people. Life tenure means she gets to decide, not anybody else, when she chooses to go.” Asked whether he had any advice about her retirement, Obama replied, with a big smile, “None whatsoever.”
Still, what the President calls “shenanigans” have defined his effort to move his circuit-court and district-court nominations through the Senate. For a politician who is still fairly new on the political scene, Obama has had considerable experience with judicial nominations and confirmations—a subject of great controversy in the past decade. As a senator and as President, Obama has recoiled from the particulars of these fights, leaving others to do the dirty work.
Charles Grassley, the veteran Republican senator from Iowa, dates the conflict between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate over judges to 1987. “It all starts with Bork,” Grassley told me. After contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearings chaired by Joseph Biden, Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court was voted down, fifty-eight to forty-two. Four years later, Clarence Thomas’s nomination produced an even more rancorous struggle. Ginsburg was confirmed easily, in 1993, as was Stephen Breyer, in 1994.
The tumultuous end to the 2000 election led to a renewed period of partisan struggle in the Senate over the confirmation of judges, which has never really ended. “Right after Bush was elected, all the Senate Democrats went on a retreat, with these liberal law professors, and they came back and changed the ground rules on judicial nominations,” Jeff Sessions, the Republican senator from Alabama, told me. “There is no question that the Democrats were always the aggressors on judicial nominations.” In particular, Senate Democrats rallied against the nomination of Miguel Estrada, a widely admired Republican lawyer, to the D.C. Circuit. Repeated filibusters forced him to withdraw, in 2003. More than a decade later, his defeat still irks Senate Republicans. “Estrada is the poster child for how the Democrats destroyed the process,” Sessions told me.
Most of George W. Bush’s judicial nominations were easily confirmed, but, in 2005, many Democratic senators decided to make a stand. They objected to several of his circuit-court nominees, and refused to allow votes to take place. The D.C. Circuit—often described as the second most important court in the nation—was the focus of the dispute. Democrats fought the nominations of Janice Rogers Brown, a justice of the California Supreme Court, who had once called Social Security and other New Deal programs “the triumph of our own socialist revolution,” and Brett Kavanaugh, a Bush White House aide who had made his name as a principal author of the Starr report.
There were only forty-five Democrats in the Senate, but that was enough to prevent the nominations from coming to the floor for a vote. Under the Senate rules, it took sixty votes to end a filibuster. In response to the Democratic tactics, Bill Frist, the Majority Leader at the time, threatened to invoke what became known as “the nuclear option,” which would have changed the Senate rules to allow nominations to proceed with a simple majority.
Obama had just been elected to the Senate, and, as he later suggested in his book “The Audacity of Hope,” he viewed the battle with disdain. “I remember muffling a laugh the first time I heard the term ‘nuclear option,’ ” he wrote. “It seemed to perfectly capture the loss of perspective that had come to characterize judicial confirmations.” In Obama’s account, he supported the efforts of Democratic colleagues, but with reservations. “I doubted that our use of the filibuster would dispel the image of Democrats always being on the defensive—a perception that we used the courts and lawyers and procedural tricks to avoid having to win over popular opinion,” he wrote. “I wondered if, in our reliance on the courts to vindicate not only our rights but also our values, progressives had lost too much faith in democracy.”
In 2005, a bipartisan group of senators who became known as the Gang of 14 achieved a compromise of sorts. The Republicans agreed to maintain the rules, and the Democrats agreed not to filibuster judicial nominees unless there were “extraordinary circumstances.” The agreement led to the confirmation of almost all of Bush’s nominees, including Brown and Kavanaugh.
That, more or less, was how things stood when Obama became President. Sixty votes were still required to end debate on judicial nominees, but the minority party in the Senate—now the Republicans—was supposed to acquiesce to votes unless the judicial candidate presented “extraordinary circumstances.”
Harry Reid and Barack Obama belong to the same political party but to different worlds. At seventy-four, the Senate Majority Leader is a generation older than the President, and his rough-hewn upbringing, in Searchlight, Nevada, makes him more comfortable with close political combat than with polished phrasemaking. When Reid was a law student, at George Washington University, in the nineteen-sixties, he didn’t spend his spare time on scholarly publications; he moonlighted as a Capitol police officer.
When I visited Reid in his small, elegant office, just off the Senate floor, he spoke wistfully about the first two years of Obama’s Presidency, when Democrats controlled the House of Representatives and enjoyed a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. “This first Congress, we were very successful. We were successful during the regular Congress, we were really successful in the lame duck,” he told me. But in 2010 the Democrats lost the House and several seats in the Senate, and, as a result, Reid told me, “the last two Congresses have been awful.”
With the House in Republican hands, the chances of passing meaningful legislation diminished to nearly zero, and that, in a peculiar way, put more focus on the issue of judicial nominations. Reid could confirm judges without the assent of the House, so he tried to push through as many nominations as he could. In his view, Republicans have violated the pledge made in the Gang of 14 pact of 2005. Instead of filibustering only in “extraordinary circumstances,” Republicans routinely insisted on sixty-vote majorities to end debate on lower-court judicial nominees. “I regret having been one of the premier movers of that deal we made, stopping the nuclear option,” Reid said. “I wanted to make peace here, I wanted the place to work better. Once they got those people on there—Janice Rogers Brown, a guy named Kavanaugh—they were virtually bringing everything to a standstill.”
Who filibustered more—the Democrats under Bush, or the Republicans under Obama—is disputable. Republicans have used filibusters to stop outright only two of Obama’s judicial nominations: Caitlin Halligan, a former aide to Andrew Cuomo, nominated to the D.C. Circuit; and Goodwin Liu, a Berkeley law professor, nominated to the Ninth Circuit. (Governor Jerry Brown later appointed Liu to the California Supreme Court.) But delays by Republican senators have slowed the confirmation process. “In the scheme of things, the long-term trend here, at least since the mid-eighties, is declining confirmation rates and rising length of time it takes to get nominees on the bench,” Sarah Binder, a congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution, told me.
The Senate’s inability to accomplish anything, including the confirmation of judges, began generating disquiet within Reid’s Democratic caucus. Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, and Tom Udall, of New Mexico, began pressing him to invoke his own nuclear option: to change the Senate rules so that only fifty-one votes, not sixty, were necessary to bring judges up for a vote. This precipitated a generational struggle among Democrats. An older group of senators, including Reid, initially opposed such a major change in the Senate’s rules.
The turning point came last November, when Reid brought to the Senate floor three Obama nominees to the D.C. Circuit: Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard, and Robert Wilkins. (A fourth Obama nominee, Sri Srinivasan, had been confirmed earlier in the year.) As the debate began, it became clear that few Republicans had any substantive objections to any of the nominees. Rather, they argued that the D.C. Circuit heard so few cases that there was no need to fill the vacant judgeships. “The D.C. Circuit is a thorn in my saddle,” John Cornyn, of Texas, told me. He said that Democrats simply wanted to gain a majority for cases when the judges sat en banc.
Reid confronted a dilemma, much as Frist had done in 2005. Like all his Democratic colleagues, Reid scoffed at the Republicans’ rationale for denying the votes. The Republicans had tried to fill those same seats on the D.C. Circuit when Bush was President. It hardly counts as court-packing to fill existing judicial vacancies. But Reid had only fifty-three votes. “I’m a traditionalist here,” Reid told me. “I didn’t want to stir up a lot of trouble.” Then, last November, Reid said, his deputy leader, Richard Durbin, of Illinois, remarked that their Republican colleagues were mocking them. “And I knew that was true,” Reid went on. “He said, ‘They’re just saying to each other, “Hey, he wants to change the rules, let him do it.” ’ Because they didn’t think we had the votes.”
Republican intransigence about the D.C. Circuit nominees finally brought around even the most senior Democrats to the idea of filibuster reform. “I was probably the last person to agree to it,” Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and its longest-serving member, told me. “I believe the Senate should be independent, not a rubber stamp of any Administration. But this was a wholesale filibuster, completely unprecedented in two hundred years.” On November 21, 2013, the Senate voted, along party lines, to change its rules so that only fifty-one votes were necessary to bring up for a vote a circuit-court or district-court nomination.
Since then, the Senate votes have cemented Obama’s judicial legacy. With simple majorities, the Senate approved the three D.C. Circuit nominees, who joined a court that has frequently served as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court. (John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Thomas, and Ginsburg all served on the D.C. Circuit.) The confirmed appeals-court nominees include several judges who conform to the Obama paradigm, in that they are all relatively youthful and impeccably credentialled, with indistinct ideological profiles: David Barron, a forty-seven-year-old Harvard Law School professor, and a former law clerk to John Paul Stevens, to the First Circuit; Pamela Harris, a fifty-two-year-old Georgetown law professor and another former Stevens clerk, to the Fourth Circuit; and Michelle Friedland, a San Francisco attorney active in the legal fight for gay rights (and a former clerk to Sandra Day O’Connor), who is forty-two, to the Ninth Circuit. According to statistics compiled by Sheldon Goldman, of the University of Massachusetts, the average age of Obama’s first-term appeals-court nominees was 53.5 years, and 49.4 for his second-term nominees. This predilection for younger nominees was a strategy of Robert Bauer, Obama’s White House counsel, and his successor, Kathryn Ruemmler. The judges are likely to serve for decades, and they constitute a farm team for prospective Supreme Court appointments.
The subject of voting rights has largely been thrust upon Obama by a conservative judiciary. “You look at something like the Voting Rights Act, which was uncontroversial from a legal point of view among both Republicans and Democrats ten, fifteen, twenty years ago,” Obama told me. “The ruling that struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act would have been considered a fairly radical step, but it’s a step that the Supreme Court took.” He was referring to the Shelby County decision, of 2013, which invalidated the portion of the law that required Justice Department review of electoral changes, mostly in Southern states.
In response, Obama offered a modulated criticism. As he put it, “The fact that the Supreme Court didn’t seem to internalize evidence where state election officials or politicians are pretty unabashed in saying we want to keep certain folks from voting, where you have voter-I.D. laws that clearly make it harder for certain folks to vote, despite the fact that there is no actual evidence of fraud—not just a little evidence of fraud but no evidence—as every mathematical assessment, statistical assessment that’s been done shows, it’s a pretext for wanting to shape the franchise for partisan advantage. The fact that that doesn’t seem to have gone into the Court’s reasoning I think makes it an ultimately flawed decision.”
For a long time, the Court has moved toward outlawing all forms of racial preference, including affirmative action, and Obama seems accepting, even supportive, of the change. In 1978, in Regents of University of California v. Bakke, the Court rejected the use of racial quotas in graduate-school admissions. Chief Justice Roberts has made the fight against the traditional civil-rights agenda a cornerstone of his tenure. He wrote nearly a decade ago, “It is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race.”
Specifically, Obama told me that he believes the Constitution permits the use of racial preferences, though only within carefully defined limits. “It’s legitimate to say that when the government takes race into account it should be subject to some oversight by the courts,” he said. Judicial “oversight” of affirmative action has a controversial history. For many decades, starting in the nineteen-thirties, the Court applied “strict scrutiny” to laws that discriminate against racial minorities, and struck down most of them.
Starting in 1995, though, with Adarand Constructors v. Pena, the Court, in an opinion by Sandra Day O’Connor, began applying “strict scrutiny” to laws that favor racial minorities—viewing affirmative action, in effect, as a form of racial discrimination. O’Connor’s opinion drew a stinging dissent from John Paul Stevens. “There is no moral or constitutional equivalence between a policy that is designed to perpetuate a caste system and one that seeks to eradicate racial subordination,” he wrote. “Invidious discrimination is an engine of oppression, subjugating a disfavored group to enhance or maintain the power of the majority. Remedial race-based preferences reflect the opposite impulse: a desire to foster equality in society.” In its embrace of judicial oversight of affirmative action, Obama’s view appears closer to O’Connor’s than to Stevens’s.
By 2003, O’Connor had softened her stance somewhat, writing the majority opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the use of affirmative action as a means to achieve diversity at the University of Michigan Law School. However, she made clear that she regarded affirmative action as a stopgap. In twenty-five years, she wrote, racial preferences would be neither required nor permissible. Again, Obama seemed to agree with O’Connor, in his grudging support for racial preferences in admissions. He said, “If the University of Michigan or California decides that there is a value in making sure that folks with different experiences in a classroom will enhance the educational experience of the students, and they do it in a careful way,” the practice should be allowed. Still, he added, “most of the time the law’s principal job should be as a shield against discrimination, as opposed to a sword to advance a social agenda, because the law is a blunt instrument in these situations.”
Obama reiterated his belief that the biggest issues concerning race are “rooted in economics and the legacy of slavery,” which have created “vastly different opportunities for African-Americans and whites.” He went on, “I understand, certainly sitting in this office, that probably the single most important thing I could do for poor black kids is to make sure that they’re getting a good K-through-12 education. And, if they’re coming out of high school well prepared, then they’ll be able to compete for university slots and jobs. And that has more to do with budgets and early-childhood education and stuff that needs to be legislated.”
I asked the President whether O’Connor’s time line in the Grutter case, now about halfway expired, was accurate. He replied that Justice O’Connor would “be the first one to acknowledge that twenty-five years was sort of a ballpark figure in her mind.” In any event, he said, progress in racial justice and equality would not come principally from the courts. “And that’s where politics comes in,” he said.
#WI04 GOP Congressional Candidate: Supreme Court Is Conspiring To Prevent Scott Walker From Becoming President
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN—Republican Dan Sebring, who is running to represent Wisconsin’s 4th District in the House of Representatives, told ThinkProgress he suspects a political motive behind the Supreme Court’s recent ruling putting the state’s voter ID law on hold.
“The United States Supreme Court said we can’t implement it for this election,” he said at a Milwaukee County Republicans party this week. “My personal feeling is that this is a play to steer the outcome of the gubernatorial election so that Scott Walker wouldn’t have a chance of getting on the ticket in 2016 for the White House. I think that’s what they’re trying to do.”
Last week, the Supreme Court halted the state’s voter ID law without providing a clear explanation for its decision. However, a short dissenting opinion by Justice Samuel Alito suggested that the majority was relying on a 2006 decision which found that altering election law close to an election could “result in voter confusion and consequent incentive to remain away from the polls.” Federal trial judge Lynn Adelman struck down Wisconsin’s voter ID law in April before a federal appeals court reinstated the measure in September.
But many at the event expressed concern that Republicans would lose without a voter ID law. Conservative talk radio host Vicki McKenna, who served as the evening’s emcee, even connected voter fraud to President Obama’s upcoming trip to Milwaukee.
“Mary Burke can turn out the base Democrats in a state that has same-day voter registration and does not protect the integrity of the election with voter ID,” she warned. “When Barack Obama comes to the state of Wisconsin, 20,000 people will cast their vote absentee at the rally. That’s why she’s bringing Barack Obama to Wisconsin.” In Wisconsin, however, “voters do not need a reason or excuse, such as being out of town on Election Day, to vote absentee” and filling out ballots at a rally would not be in violation of any law.
Milwaukee County Elections Commissioner Rick Baas added that the event’s attendees should all remain on the lookout for what he called a “really weird” phenomenon. “If people start to get mail at their homes around election time addressed to people who don’t live in that house, what you need to do is collect that mail and get it to me, so I can see if that person is registered to vote at your address,” he said. “Then we’ve got a case, a case Democrats say we don’t have.”
Research has shown that voter fraud is rare. A study of votes cast in Wisconsin during the 2004 election found just seven cases of fraud, none of which could have been prevented by a voter ID law. Such a measure could however disproportionately disenfranchise African Americans, low income citizens and other groups who tend to vote for Democrats. In his opinion striking down the law, Judge Lynn Adelman noted that the state failed to identify a single instance of known voter impersonation in Wisconsin’s recent past. Nine percent of registered voters, about 300,000 people, also lack the ID required under the law.
The state was previously permitted to enforce laws that forced all but eight abortion facilities in the state to shutter.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday halted enforcement of some provisions of a strict Texas abortion law that forced many clinics around the state to close.
The Court stopped enforcement of the requirement that abortion clinics meet the same facilities’ standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Requirements for doctors at clinics in McAllen and El Paso to have admitting privileges at local hospitals were also put on hold.
“Tomorrow, 13 clinics across the state will be allowed to reopen and provide women with safe and legal abortion care in their own communities,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights told The New York Times. But said, “This fight against Texas’ sham abortion law is not over.” Oct. 14, 2014, at 7:18 p.m.
Enforcement of the law was halted while it is under review by an appeals court. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voted against the court’s order.Supreme Court / Via supremecourt.gov
Cecile Richards, of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the order protected women’s right to safe, legal abortions from the unnecessarily severe law.
We’re seeing the terrible impact these restrictions have on thousands of Texas women who effectively no longer have access to safe and legal abortion. We’re relieved that the court stepped in to stop this, and we hope this dangerous law is ultimately overturned completely.
A federal appeals court will allow Texas to enforce strict regulations that will force all but eight abortion facilities in the state to close until the court can determine if the law is constitutional, the Associated Press reported.
The regulations require abortion facilities to include operating rooms and hospital-style air filtration systems. Another portion of the law has already required doctors working at clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
Currently, only seven clinics in Houston, Austin, San Antonio and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas meet the requirements, which critics say effectively deny many women the right to an abortion in the second most populous state in the U.S.
The 2013 law aimed to protect women’s health, said Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas conservatives. A U.S. District judge ruled in August that the law, which would require millions of dollars of upgrades at clinics, was actually about making access to abortions more difficult. Thursday’s opinion by a panel of judges in New Orleans puts a hold on the earlier decision pending more court review.
According to the law’s opponents, almost a million women will now live more than three hours away from an abortion clinic. It was briefly halted by a 13-hour filibuster by Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, who is now running for governor.
Davis reacted to the court decision Thursday on Twitter:
Texas attorney general Greg Abbott, who is running against Davis for governor, also posted his reaction.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has blocked Texas from enforcing key parts of a 2013 law that would close all but eight of the state’s abortion facilities.
The justices largely granted the request of abortion providers Tuesday. With three dissenting votes, the court suspended a ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed Texas to enforce a rule making abortion clinics statewide spend millions of dollars on hospital-level upgrades.
The appeals court’s ruling suspended an August decision by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, who found that such upgrades were less about safety than making access to abortion difficult.
Yeakel’s ruling stopped the requirements, so the state appealed. The 5th Circuit is still considering the overall constitutionality of the measure but allowed it to go into effect.
H/T: Huffington Post
Watch Ted Olson Destroy The Conservative Argument That Overturning Same-Sex Marriage Bans Is "Judicial Activism"
From the 10.12.2014 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday:
OLSON: We have a Constitution and Bill of Rights precisely because we want protections from majority rule. When the majority in a legislature or a popular vote take away rights of individuals that are protected by the Bill of Rights, then we have an independent judiciary to rectify that situation. It’s happened again, and again, and again throughout this country’s history. We have an independent judiciary to protect the rights of individuals like gay and lesbian citizens who only want respect, decency, and equality along with the rest of us.
N 2005, THE WITHERSPOON SCHOOL of Law and Public Policy held a conference in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The school’s name was something of a misnomer: Rather than grant JDs, Witherspoon staged seminars and lectures offering lessons in what it summarized as “the comprehensive biblical foundation for our common law and constitutional government.” Its target audience was homeschooled young men. The school itself was a project of Vision Forum, a Texas-based ministry whose founder was also a leader in the Christian Patriarchy movement, which preaches, among other things, that husbands should vote for their wives.
Timeline: The Personhood Movement
Most sitting judges would go to great pains to avoid such a gathering. But Tom Parker, then a few months into his first term on the Alabama Supreme Court, gladly accepted an invitation to speak at that year’s Witherspoon retreat. Before his election to Alabama’s highest court, Parker had been an aide-de-camp to Chief Justice Roy Moore, whose installation of a granite Ten Commandments monument in the state judiciary building had touched off what became for Alabama both a considerable embarrassment and a genuine constitutional crisis. At Parker’s swearing-in, he made it clear that he had sought the bench to continue his old boss’s spiritual fight.
“The very God of Holy Scriptures, the Creator, is the source of law, life, and liberty,” he declared to an audience that included his eight unsmiling fellow justices.
The atmosphere at Parker’s Witherspoon appearance was far warmer, and his remarks there were even more candid. A DVD of the session shows him gripping the lectern, dressed in a gray suit and blue tie, as he railed against the perceived sins of jurists at every level. “It’s the judges who have legalized abortion and homosexuality … They are shaking the very foundation of our society.” Parker made it clear that he had no intention of letting legal precedent get in his way. “We cannot fall under that trap,” he insisted. “We have to stand for what’s right.” The one thing he most wished for the young men before him was that they find a way to gain positions of influence and turn them to God’s purpose. No opportunity to do so should be shrunk from or wasted.
In the nine years Parker has now served on the court, he has made the most of his opportunities. Child custody disputes, for instance, have made good occasions to expound on the role of religion in parental rights. (“Because God, not the state, has granted parents the authority and responsibility to govern their children, parents should be able to do so unfettered by state interference,” he wrote in one case.) But Parker has been the most creative in his relentless campaign to undermine legal abortion. Again and again, he has taken cases that do not directly concern reproductive rights, or even reproductive issues, and found ways to use them to argue for full legal status for the unborn.
Those efforts have made Parker a pivotal figure in the so-called personhood movement, which has its roots in a loophole in Roe v. Wade. While that 1973 ruling was creating a broad new right to abortion grounded in a constitutionally protected right to privacy, an often-overlooked passage left an opening for those who would seek its undoing. Duringoral arguments, the justices had asked Roe’s lawyer what would happen if a fetus were held to be a person under the Constitution. “I would have a very difficult case,” she had replied. In his majority opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun noted that the Supreme Court could find no basis for such status, before adding, “If this suggestion of personhood is established, [Roe’s] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed.”
Roe’s fiercest critics immediately took up the challenge, launching a push for a constitutional amendment affirming that life begins at conception. But that first effort fizzled, and it’s only in recent years that a new wave of pro-life activists—many of them born after Roe and educated in fundamentalist Christian settings—have once again seized on personhood as a way not just of weakening Roe, but of overturning it. In state after state, they have been pushing to have their beliefs enshrined in policy. This November 4, in Colorado, voters will cast ballots on Amendment 67, an initiative that would include unborn human beings under the definition of “person” and “child” throughout the state’s criminal code. North Dakotans, meanwhile, will decide on Measure 1, which would alter the state constitution to recognize the “inalienable right to life” at every stage of human development.
Even if both initiatives fall short, others will follow. The first one to pass doubtlessly will then be challenged in court, igniting the potentially decisive battle that personhood advocates really want. Their goal is to get to the U.S. Supreme Court — as quickly as possible, while conservatives still dominate.
Christian-educated lawyers have been preparing for that day, churning out articles published by Christian law journals, which are then cited in briefs submitted to courts by Christian-right legal organizations. But given their provenance, the impact of those arguments has been limited. Parker, a graduate of Dartmouth and Vanderbilt who counts Clarence Thomas as a role model, has the imprimatur of his office behind him, and he has used it to build a body of reasoning that can be cited and re-cited, helping to frame and refine the thinking of other lawyers and judges in the battles ahead. “Now, it’s not just an obscure law-review article making these arguments,” said Glen Halva-Neubauer, a Furman University political scientist who studies anti-abortion activism. “It’s not just some treatise that twenty-five of your right-to-life friends know about and nobody else. The mainstream effect is not inconsequential.”
And that, of course, was the idea all along. “What Justice Parker has done,” said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the nonprofit National Advocates for Pregnant Women, “is explicitly lay out the roadmap for overturning Roe v. Wade.”
The Human Life Amendment, as personhood advocates’ first big push was commonly known, was ahead of its time. In the wake of Roe, pro-choice groups — which then included many centrist Republicans — had the momentum. Personhood proponents hoped in vain that Ronald Reagan’s election and the GOP’s capture of the Senate in 1980 would turn the tide, but the comparatively moderate pro-life mainstream wasn’t fully on board. By the time the Supreme Court reaffirmed a core right to abortion in the landmark 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the movement had shifted to its own incremental approach. Targeting legislatures in conservative states, it sought tougher penalties for fetal homicides, and, later, birth certificates for stillborn babies. The revised approach alarmed abortion-rights advocates because it was so emotionally resonant — and effective.
The basic holding of Roe obviously remains in place, and more than one million legal abortions are performed in the United States every year. Yet the personhood movement has made significant inroads. Today, 38 states have fetal-homicide statutes that make it a crime to cause the death of an unborn child during an act of domestic violence, for example, or while driving drunk. At least 15 have laws that make the pregnancy of a homicide victim an aggravating factor that can lead to the death penalty. And more and more jurisdictions have begun policing pregnant women themselves. In almost every state, women have been arrested or detained for exposing their fetuses to illegal drugs; in more than half of them, mothers can lose some or even all of their custody rights if they or their newborn tests positive for controlled substances. In some places, legislators have written laws expressly authorizing such steps. (Tennessee’s new statute goes the furthest, allowing pregnant drug-users to be charged with criminal assault.) More commonly, it’s constables and prosecutors who’ve taken the initiative, reinterpreting existing laws to detain and arrest mothers. “One clever thing about using drug cases this way,” said Sara Zeigler, a feminist scholar and dean at Eastern Kentucky University, “is that the average person is not going to be at all sympathetic” to a pregnant woman who gets high. Thanks to moves such as these, the idea that a fetus has rights separate from its mother’s has taken root in the law and flourished, even when the more controversial subject of fetal personhood is not directly invoked.
Parker’s own calling wasn’t clear for many years. He was born to a middle-class Montgomery family in 1952, at the dawn of the modern civil rights era, a few miles from the bus stops and churches where it all began. At a time when many white families were fleeing to segregated Christian academies, he attended the city’s public schools. (His senior year, he was student body president and, according to his classmates, “Most Sincere.”) At Dartmouth, he thought he might become a historian, but ultimately chose law school instead.
What he found at Vanderbilt Law School in the mid-1970s shocked him. The religious roots of American law were a forbidden topic. There were no classes specifically devoted to the founding document of American jurisprudence, he said.
“They teach you about what judges say about the Constitution rather than having you go back and study the Constitution,” he told a gathering last year.
As a young lawyer, Parker led fights to restore God to everyday life in the state — particularly in its schools and textbooks. But he often wound up frustrated, never more so than when a landmark school prayer case he worked on went down to defeat before the U.S. Supreme Court. He complained that the court’s 1985 decision in Wallace v. Jaffree was “the greatest setback to religious liberty that has ever occurred in this country.”
After a stint as a lobbyist, during which he helped establish two think tanks affiliated with James Dobson’s hugely influential Focus on the Family, Parker became a confidant of Roy Moore, then a county judge. When Moore became chief justice of the state Supreme Court in 2000, Parker served as his legal lieutenant, strategist and spokesman. And when Moore’s final Ten Commandments crusade ended in debacle, Parker was ousted, too.
If unemployed, Parker was hardly finished. He went to work at Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law, a think tank devoted “to protect[ing] the Constitution and protect[ing] the heritage of our Country.” It promoted the far-right strain of Christianity known asReconstructionism — supporters believe that the Bible should be the governing text for all areas of civil and political life; that America’s Christian founders intended it to be a Christian land; that there is no law without God; that the law and the Constitution don’t evolve any more than humans do, but are fixed and immutable. The Foundation was also a champion of the newly revived personhood movement — indeed, it claimed the group Personhood Alabama as one of its projects.
Parker won a spot on the state’s top court in 2004. Once elected, he freely recruited the kinds of committed, somewhat eclectic culture combatants who made up Moore’s circle. For the powerful behind-the-scenes job of chief of staff, he chose John Eidsmoe, an ex-law professor and author of several seminal Reconstructionist works — “the top Biblical law commander of the era,” according to Frederick Clarkson, a journalist and historian of far-right religious movements and senior fellow at Political Research Associates.
Two of Parker’s quirkiest hires were Alex and Brett Harris, 16-year-old homeschooled twins from outside Portland, Ore., whose blog, Rebelution (tagline: “a teenage rebellion against low expectations”) had made them the Jonas Brothers of the Christian homeschool world. After they blogged about one of his opinions, Parker took them on for a two-month legal internship; despite their lack of training, they quickly progressed from filing memos to researching and drafting legal opinions. A few months after that, in 2006, Parker made them the grassroots directors in his (failed) campaign to become chief justice. “They demonstrated a maturity comparable to the law students we’ve had, and sometimes exceeding that maturity,” Parker raved.
n 2013, a case landed on the Alabama Supreme Court docket that presented Parker with yet another opportunity to attack Roe v. Wade. One of the plaintiffs, Hope Ankrom, from Coffee County south of Montgomery, had pleaded guilty after her son tested positive for cocaine and marijuana at birth. The other, Amanda Kimbrough, from rural northwestern Alabama, had used methamphetamine while pregnant, giving birth 15 weeks prematurely to a boy who soon died. Facing the possibility of life in prison, she opted for a plea deal and a 10 year sentence in the notorious Tutwiler state penitentiary for women. But no Alabama laws specifically authorized the women’s arrests and convictions. Instead, prosecutors had charged them under a felony “chemical endangerment” statute enacted in 2006 to protect children from the noxious fumes and explosive chemicals that make home-based meth labs so dangerous.
Lawyers for Ankrom and Kimbrough argued that the state had grossly overreached, pointing out that legislators had debated — and rejected — expanding the meth-lab law to cover pregnant women. Parker, along with five other justices, didn’t buy it. He declared that the chemical-endangerment law did indeed apply to fetuses exposed to drugs in the womb. But again, Parker didn’t leave it at that. His main opinion in Ex Parte Ankron and Kimbrough ran 55 pages. His concurrence ran another 20.
This time, Parker’s goal was to establish the many ways that existing statutes recognize fetuses as persons with legally enforceable rights. The document is a kind of masterpiece of pro-life reasoning. “He’s someone who really takes time to read history and the development of jurisprudence,” said Mat Staver, the head of Liberty Counsel and a leading Christian legal theorist. “He’s not a surface thinker.” Step by step, Parker lays out his evidence: laws that give inheritance rights to unborn children, laws that ban pregnant inmates from being executed, laws that give fetuses legal guardians for the purposes of protecting their interests, laws that allow parents to sue for damages if fetuses are injured or killed as the result of negligence or some other wrongful act. Several pages of the concurrence consist almost entirely of lists of statutes from around the country conferring fetal rights. “Today, the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion,” he concluded, “and that denial is only because of the dictates of Roe.”
This past spring, as if to punctuate its reasoning, the Alabama Supreme Court confronted a virtually identical case, and, with Parker again writing the majority opinion, reached a virtually identical conclusion. In this concurrence, Parker called on the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the matter of full fetal rights once and for all.
The Court will soon have its chances, if it wants to take them. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit just upheld a set of abortion regulations in Texas that have shut down most of that state’s abortion clinics, the appeal of which the justices could well agree to hear. Meanwhile, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women is putting together a lawsuit that would challenge Alabama’s chemical-endangerment prosecutions, which now number at least 130. Going to the Supreme Court on any issue that touches on abortion feels increasingly risky for pro-choice supporters. Anthony Kennedy remains the swing vote, and, on the one hand, he has argued that people must be allowed “to define one’s own concept of existence.” On the other, he has upheld almost every abortion restriction to come before him. Staver is hopeful that Kennedy’s concern for “the dignity of the individual,” a recent theme of his ever-unpredictable reasoning, may make him newly amenable to overturning Roe on personhood grounds.
Pro-choice advocates, not surprisingly, are deeply worried about any ideas that Parker’s writings could give the justices in Washington. “Parker is pointing out all the ways the law treats the fetus as a person already,” Zeigler, the feminist scholar, said. “The pro-choice argument, meanwhile, is that the personhood of the fetus hinges entirely on the women’s perception of it.” To the question of what constitutes life, she continued, “Parker has answers. The pro-choice side is more, ‘It depends.’ … People will really struggle with that.”
Several times, we have heard David Barton make the absurd claim that biblical law was directly incorporated into the U.S. Constitution through the Seventh Amendment, which he then uses to assert that laws legalizing abortion and gay marriage are actually unconstitutional.
Lately, Barton has tried to bolster this argument by citing an obscure 1913 Texas Supreme Court ruling in a case called Grigsby v. Reib, which he claims proves that America can never accept a definition of marriage that differs from God’s definition.
In Barton’s telling, this case was about efforts to attain legal recognition for secular civil unions that were separate from marriage as a religious institution in which the court found that “government is not allowed to redefine something that God himself has defined.”
On his radio show yesterday, Barton once again cited the case as he read excerpts from the decision to argue that gay marriage can never be legal:
Marriage was not originated by human law. When God created Eve, she was a wife to Adam; they then and there occupied the status of husband to wife and wife to husband … The truth is that civil government has grown out of marriage. which created homes, and population, and society, from which government became necessary. Marriages will produce a home and family that will contribute to good society, to free and just government, and to the support of Christianity. It would be sacrilegious to apply the designation “a civil contract” to such a marriage. It is that and more; a status ordained by God.
The key finding in this case, Barton asserts, is that the court was basically saying that “we can’t do something different than what God’s done on” the issue of marriage.
Given that nothing that Barton said ought to be taken at face value, we decided to read that court decision for ourselves and, not surprisingly, Barton’s interpretation of the ruling is entirely misleading.
The case involved a woman named Jessie Stallcup, who claimed to have been the wife of a widower named G.M.D. Grigsby and who had sued Grigsby’s sister for control of his estate following his death. Stallcup was a prostitute whom Grigsby used to visit and she claimed that the two had agreed to become husband and wife, though they never held a ceremony, nor did they cohabitate or take any other actions to signal that they were now living has husband and wife.
The case heard by the Texas Supreme Court revolved around a lower court’s interpretation of a different ruling on the issue of common law marriage which said that common law marriage “requires only the agreement of the man and woman to become then and thenceforth husband and wife. When this takes place, the marriage is complete.”
Relying on this line, the lower court ruled in favor of Stallcup, but the Texas Supreme Court reversed this decision, pointing out that in the other case, the couple in question had then lived and presented themselves as husband and wife, with the Texas Supreme Court stating that it takes more than a simple verbal agreement to constitute a legitimate marriage.
To demonstrate this point, the Texas Supreme Court proposed a hypothetical situation in which a man and a women met for the first time, agreed to become man and wife, and then went their separate ways, never to see one another again. This obviously would not constitute a binding marriage, the court found, and neither did the relationship between Stallcup and Grigsby.
"It would be sacrilegious" to give legal standing to such relationships, the court found, because it would then give complete strangers the right to contest seemingly every inheritance by simply claiming to have been the secret spouse of the deceased.
Contrary to Barton’s claims that this case enshrines divine principles about marriage into our civil laws, the court repeatedly notes that marriage is a nothing more than a civil contract that requires “neither license nor solemnization of religious or official ceremony” to be legally binding.
Barton claims that this case was about trying to create a secular alternative to marriage, which the court slapped down because there can never be any legal marriage that does not correspond to “God’s definition.” In reality, the case addressed the issue of whether a supposedly secret verbal agreement to become husband and wife constitutes a legally binding and recognizable common law marriage and whether the relationship between Stallcup and Grigsby qualified as one under the law, with the court ruling that it did not because it didn’t meet the most basic requirements.
This is just one more example of Barton’s willingness to intentionally and flagrantly misrepresent history in order to promote his religious and political agenda.
h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW
Linda Harvey of Mission America warned on her radio bulletin yesterday that America has entered “a time of possible civil disobedience” following the Supreme Court’s recent marriage equality announcement, telling listeners that “we must not serve the interests of sin and darkness” and “this court’s inaction is an act motivated by evil and deception and ultimately will not stand.”
“This is attempted theft of what God has ordained and our Lord will not honor this lawlessness,” Harvey said. “Allowing homosexuality to become normal in America may certainly be part of God’s judgment on our once-Christian nation for our irresponsible sexual practices and for turning our back on what the Lord has taught us. Even so, God will at some point allow the consequences of such defiance to play itself out and that will be a very tragic day indeed for those who have thumbed their noses at the Lord as they celebrate sin.”
Harvey hoped the court’s action will actually give a boost to the work of anti-gay activists: “Those of us who know the truth about homosexuality are far from finished, and in fact, God will use this cowardly act by the majority in our high court to bring a new zeal and fervor to the pro-family movement.”
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver, who is still reeling from the Supreme Court’s decision this week to allow several lower-court marriage equality rulings to stand, is now lambasting his fellow Republicans for failing to defend the party’s anti-gay positions.
Staver told Greg Corombos of Radio America yesterday that a third party will be needed to take a strong stance against the legalization of same-sex marriage, just as the Republican Party emerged in the 1850s to oppose slavery as the Whigs were foundering due to divisions on the issue.
When Corombos asked why Republicans have delivered a muted response to the marriage decision, Staver didn’t hold back: “They’re cowards, and if Republicans don’t stand up for this, the party will become a non-issue and there will be a third party that will ultimately take its place. That’s what happened with the issue of slavery and there’s no party that’s immune from this situation.”
He said George W. Bush could have pushed through the Federal Marriage Amendment following the 2004 election but was too fixated on advocating for the privatization of Social Security.
Staver urged Republicans to ignore polls showing growing support for marriage equality: “Just because polls change, that doesn’t make the marriage issue change. You can’t change gravity because a number of people want to fly and get rid of gravity.”
He predicted that the tide will soon turn against gay rights advocates as “more people feel the impact of same-sex marriage, both directly within the family but also specifically with regards to religious liberty.”
Staver added that it is “absolute stupidity” to think that the fight over marriage equality is over: “That would be like saying with regards to Dred Scot, when the Supreme Court said, ‘Sorry Dred Scott, you’re black and blacks are inferior human beings, you don’t have rights of a citizen, therefore the debates over.’ That would be ridiculous then, it’s ridiculous now.”
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
On Wednesday evening, the Supreme Court overruled a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision reinstating same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting in North Carolina for the midterms. Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented.
It’s the second time the Supreme Court has ruled against voting rights in the past ten days, after the court also overruled an appeals court decision reinstating a week of early voting and same-day registration in Ohio.
The roots of the North Carolina case go back to June 25, 2013, when the Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, which meant that states with the worst history of voting discrimination – like North Carolina – no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government.
A month after that ruling, North Carolina passed the country’s toughest voting restrictions, repealing or curtailing every voting reform in the state that encouraged people to vote. The bill became far more extreme because of the Shelby decision and the federal government no longer had the power to prevent it from becoming law. As Justice Ginsburg wrote in her dissent, “These measures likely would not have survived federal preclearance.”
Key parts of the voting law were challenged in court this summer. A district court denied a preliminary injunction for the Justice Department and civil rights groups like the North Carolina NAACP and the ACLU, but the Fourth Circuit reinstated same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting on October 1.
The Supreme Court’s decision could have a very negative impact on the election. Nearly 100,000 voters used same-day registration during the early voting period in 2012, including twice as many blacks as whites. Roughly 7,500 voters cast their ballots in the right county but wrong precinct in 2012.
States with same-day registration, like North Carolina, have the highest voter turnout in the country. “Average voter turnout was over 10 percentage points higher in SDR states than in other states,” Demos reported for 2012. North Carolinians now have only two more days to register to vote before the October 10 deadline.
Hundreds of voters were prevented from casting ballots in the May primary when the state eliminated these reforms – a disturbing preview of what’s to come. North Carolina has one of the closest Senate races in the country between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis and is expected to have a large turnout this November. The Supreme Court’s decision could very well decide who controls the Senate.
There’s a cruel irony behind this ruling. The most popular conservative talking point during the Shelby County debate was that Section 2 of the VRA could replace Section 5.
"It seems to me that the Government can very easily bring a Section 2 suit," Justice Kennedy said during oral arguments.
But challenging voting discrimination under Section 2 has been far from easy of late. In three states where new voting restrictions have been struck down under Section 2 in the past year – North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin – the decisions have been reversed by the appeals courts or Supreme Court.
North Carolina’s new voting restrictions are now in effect until a full trial in July 2015. The Tarheel State is the case study for how devastating the Supreme Court’s gutting of the VRA has been.
The momentum continues.
The Ninth Circuit has ruled that the bans on same-sex marriage in Nevada and Idaho are unconstitutional. The Nevada case was remanded back to a district court, which means the final outcome might not come as quickly, but the decision’s mandate will issue in one week for Idaho, which will bring the number of marriage equality states up to 26 — presuming nothing happens in any of the other states impacted by other circuits’ decisions and the Supreme Court’s actions Monday.
Updates to come.
Source: Zack Ford for ThinkProgress
Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality is not exactly pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear appeals on several marriage equality cases, warning in a statement today that as a result of the court’s non-decision “we live not in freedom but under tyranny.”
“Now is the time for civil disobedience on a massive scale: we hope that statesmen and citizens alike -— in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah and Virginia — indeed, any state where the people’s will has been robbed by elitist judges — will reassert their state sovereignty against escalating judicial supremacy,” LaBarbera writes. “God is not mocked: the Scriptures are clear that homosexual practice is an offense against both God and the very bodies of those who practice it (as is all sexual immorality).”We are witnessing a “gradual Roe v. Wade" by which unelected judges impose homosexual ‘marriage’ on the nation. Hubris rules the day as millions of Americans’ votes defending actual marriage (one man, one woman) are negated by one court ruling after another. Each decision bastardizes America’s noble quest for racial justice by invoking "equality" for unions based on disordered sexual behavior that can never be "equal" to God-ordained sex within marriage. Now the nation’s highest court is content to let the ongoing disenfranchisement become law.
Yesterday’s action by the Supreme Court only solidifies the idea that the powerful elites who dominate politics, media and culture do not care what the people think, expressed through the ballot box or their elected state legislators. And if “We the People’s” votes do not count, then We live not in freedom but under tyranny.
The notion that nine men and women in black robes know more about what constitutes marriage than 76 percent of Oklahoma’s voters is insulting and preposterous. Now is the time for civil disobedience on a massive scale: we hope that statesmen and citizens alike—in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah and Virginia—indeed, any state where the people’s will has been robbed by elitist judges—will reassert their state sovereignty against escalating judicial supremacy.
From a moral and spiritual perspective, no court or government action can—to quote from the ill-informed ruling of Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner—“confer respectability on a sexual relationship” between two people of the same sex. Homosexual activists yearn to be told that their defining sin is not a sin at all—and legalizing genderless “marriage” is their holy grail to achieve that end. “Love is love,” we are told, or rather scolded. But God is not mocked: the Scriptures are clear that homosexual practice is an offense against both God and the very bodies of those who practice it (as is all sexual immorality).
The truly loving thing for Christians to do is not to “bless” same-sex relationships but to guide men and women caught up in false homosexual identities to the One, Jesus, who will forgive them and guide them to a life pleasing to God.
STFU, Porno Pete!
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Anti-LGBT activist and Colorado Republican state legislative candidate Gordon Klingenschmitt reacted today to the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal of lower court marriage equality rulings by asserting that “sodomy is still banned by God in all 50 states” and “God will have the last word.”
In an email to members of his Pray In Jesus Name project, Klingenschmitt lamented that “cruel judges now deny kids’ rights in 30 states,” telling his readers that conservatives must work even harder to “defend their children from such an agenda to normalize sin and recruit your kids.”Unfair to Kids: Judges force homosexual “marriage” in 30 states
Every child has a right to a mom and dad. Cruel judges now deny kids’ rights in 30 states.
Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear any of seven possible appeals from five states that would protect traditional marriage between one man and one woman. This dereliction of duty allowed bad lower-court rulings to enforce homosexual “marriage” in 11 new states, against the will of the voters. Many children will now be told by the government, “You can’t have a mother. You get two dads instead.” That’s unfair to kids.
THIS JUST IN: Sodomy is still banned by God in all 50 states. Gay marriage now “legal” in 30 states? Only 3 states voted for that, meaning it was imposed on kids in 27 states by oligarchs, against the voters’ will. 38 states had bans before this judicial TYRANNY overruled the people’s will. God will have the last word. …
Will Christians work this hard, to defend their children from such an agenda to normalize sin and recruit your kids? Legislation. Ballot Work. Courts. All fronts in all states.
Sadly, it appears some House Republicans are caving in without a fight. “The House has determined, in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Windsor, that it no longer will defend that [DOMA] statute,” said lawyers for the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG).
But we are not done. We are fighting back. We will fight to defend traditional marriage as Jesus defined it in Matthew 19:4-6, between one man and one woman. We must encourage Congress to NOT give up the fight.
I met several Congressmen last year in DC, and although they are discouraged, they are not ready to quit. But they must hear from us, that we still care about traditional marriage. Let’s send Congress a message today. Demand a Constitutional Marriage Amendment…
H/T: Brian Tashman at RWW
From Idaho to Florida.
In June 2013, the Supreme Court voted to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal ban on same-sex marriage. On Monday, by deciding not to hear arguments on seven new cases, the justices effectively rubber-stamped marriage equality in 11 more states.
The broader fight for a federal law to guarantee the rights of gay men and women to marry has been put off for now, but the court’s nondecision decision has cleared the way for another wave of states to open their books to new marriage laws.
These seven states — all of them now tied up in appeals after court decisions overturned state bans — could be the next to flip:
Louisiana’s same-sex marriage ban was upheld by a federal court, only to have it ruled unconstitutional by a state judge hearing another case. That split occurred on Sept. 22. The attorney general’s office immediately filed an appeal in the state case, but recent history suggests that attempt will fail and gay marriage could soon be a “geaux” in the Bayou State.
Like the five states listed below, officials in Texas are now appealing a federal court ruling that overturned a gay marriage ban. BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner picked out the mic-dropper from U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s decision back in February:These Texas laws deny Plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex. The Court finds this denial violates Plaintiffs’ equal protection and due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Garcia stayed his decision pending a ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
On Aug. 21, a U.S. district judge struck down the 2004 Michigan Marriage Amendment, which restricted the definition of marriage to being between “one man and one woman.” The appeal has already been heard by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which could hand down its ruling soon.
In May, the state supreme court stayed part of a lower court’s decision to overturn a 2004 ban, kicking off a confused few days during which a number of same-sex couples were married. The court eventually issued a full stop pending the ongoing appeals work.
Idaho is also awaiting a U.S. Court of Appeals decision, after state officials appealed a lower court judge’s decision to strike down same-sex marriage prohibition. The case is with the 9th Circuit.
Same story. A U.S. district judge ruled in July that the state’s ban was unconstitutional, but put his decision on hold pending a decision from the very busy 6th Circuit.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle struck down Florida’s 37-year-old ban, saying it ”violates the ‘due process’ and ‘equal protection’ provisions in the U.S. Constitution.” But, like the others on this list, he put his own ruling on hold until appeals were ready to be heard.
The common thread in each of these cases is that the forces fighting against marriage equality are banking on the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their cases and uphold their bans. But today’s decision by the justices to essentially ignore other states trying the same tactic sends a clear message: Marriage equality is here to stay.
Source: Gregory Krieg for Policy.Mic
Guest post by Tim Peacock
In a surprising turn of events, the U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday, October 06, 2014 that it would not be hearing arguments on each of the seven same sex marriage cases filed with the court. The anti-climactic yet substantially game-changing announcement effectively brings marriage equality to several states that have been waiting anywhere from weeks to months for news after circuit court of appeals wins accompanied by stays. The announcement affects several states spread throughout the Fourth and Seventh Circuits and provides the potential to allow marriage access to millions more LGBT Americans almost immediately.
Though many hoped the courts would take one of the seven cases in hopes of making marriage equality nationwide, legal experts point to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s commentary preceding the announcement for explicit reasoning why the court denied review. In a speech at the University of Minnesota’s Law School last month, Justice Ginsburg argued that there is, “no need for us to rush,” when it comes to same sex marriage cases.
In explaining herself, Justice Ginsburg pointed to the fact that each of the cases decided in Circuit Appeals courts have been unanimous thus far presenting no legal challenge for the high court to arbitrate. She did point to one potential upcoming decision to keep an eye on: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (which includes Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee). If that court rules against same sex marriage, the issue will likely be reviewed by the high court.
In the wake of Monday morning’s announcement, states have begun preparations to begin issuing marriage licenses including lifting stays and making celebratory social media announcements.
Breaking: 10th Cir in Utah case: “[T]he stay of the mandate directed in our decision dated June 25, 2014 is lifted.” pic.twitter.com/seDdBIcpBR— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) October 6, 2014
“The 4th Circuit says their mandate will issue at 1 PM & marriages can then begin. What a momentous & joyous day for thousands of Virginians,” Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said on Twitter.
We are in contact w/ 4th circuit on exact timing, but we’re expecting that marriages between same-sex couples can happen later today.— AG Mark Herring (@AGMarkHerring) October 6, 2014
While a majority of the sentiment surrounding Monday’s legal punt appears to be positive, anti-gay organizations like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and Breitbart have all reached DEFCON-five-level meltdown status.
“This is the beauty of Supreme Court doctrine: they don’t even have to do their judicial dirty work anymore,” Ben Shapiro argued at Breitbart. “They can rely on lower-level courts to violate the Constitution, then declare the Constitution magically changed because of an ‘emerging’ consensus on violating the Constitution. And the people have no recourse.”
NOM’s Brian Brown’s statements contained similar levels of hysteria. “This is wrong on so many levels. First, the entire idea that marriage can be redefined from the bench is illegitimate. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman; it has been this throughout the history of civilization and will remain this no matter what unelected judges say,” he said in part. You can almost hear the screeching through the page.
Despite opposition, today’s Supreme Court (in)action brings the total number of marriage equality states to 30 – and even that could change soon since appeals courts in two different cities (San Francisco and Cincinnati) are also considering marriage equality cases. Freedom to Marry elaborated in a statement on the Supreme Court announcement:
“With the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the cases, favorable marriage rulings in the 10th Circuit, the 7th Circuit, and the 4th Circuit will soon go into effect. Marriage bans in every state within those circuits will be invalidated, adding Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, and Wisconsin to the list of freedom to marry states. As a result of the Court’s decision, an additional 51 million Americans will live in a freedom to marry.”
While a decision against marriage equality (that will bring the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court) may be closer than we all realize, the LGBT community has cause to take a moment to celebrate as millions of people across several states now have access to the fundamental institution of marriage. It’s about time.