In a surprising anti-climax to one of the most important legal battles of the last several decades, the Supreme Court announced today that it would not hear several cases where federal appeals courts held that the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the same marriage rights as straight couples. The announcement listed these marriage equality cases as part of a lengthy order listing the cases where the Court had denied review. The justices offered no explanation for their decision.
As a practical matter, however, this decision not to hear these cases is an earthquake for gay rights. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which covers Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, refused to issue a stay halting its order favoring marriage equality. Although the Supreme Court later stepped in with its own stay order, that order provides that the Supreme Court’s stay will “terminate automatically” if the Supreme Court denies review of the case. Now that the justices have done so, there should be no further legal barriers preventing marriages from beginning in those five states — although it is possible that there may be some delay before marriages may begin due to procedural steps that need to be taken by the judiciary.
The Court also denied review in cases arising out of the Seventh Circuit, which covers Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, and in the Tenth Circuit, which covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. It is likely that marriages will be able to begin quickly in those states as well — although it may be necessary for plaintiffs in some of those states to seek an order from a federal court requiring states that oppose marriage equality to comply with their obligations under the Constitution.
One thing that should be noted is that there are still marriage equality cases pending before conservative circuits that could rule against equality. Nevertheless, the fact that marriages are likely to begin very shortly in the states currently subject to court orders will make it very difficult for the Supreme Court to reverse course — and retroactively invalidate those marriages — in a subsequent opinion.
BREAKING: #SCOTUS puts #MarriageEquality on hold in Virginia.
BREAKING: Barring a last-minute stay by #SCOTUS, marriage equality is coming to Virginia next week. #VA4M
Without Supreme Court action, Virginia could start same-sex marriages next week: http://t.co/WP91WqWUIj— Vox (@voxdotcom) August 13, 2014
BREAKING: Fourth Circuit declines to stay Virginia #marriage ruling. Marriages can begin in Virginia on Monday unless SCOTUS grants a stay.— HumanRightsCampaign (@HRC) August 13, 2014
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced Tuesday he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Virginia's same-sex marriage suit.
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced Tuesday he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Virginia’s same-sex marriage suit.
Herring says he plans to file the petition Friday to “definitively settle the constitutional issues for the Commonwealth and the rest of the country.” Utah filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court earlier Tuesday.
A filing Tuesday in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals requested the Court stay its mandate pending the Supreme Court’s decision whether to hear the case.
Click here to read the full ruling: http://ftpcontent4.worldnow.com/wwbt/PDF/20140728%20BosticOpinion.pdf
"Throughout this case, I have fought for the fundamental rights of Virginians and the quickest possible resolution," said Attorney General Herring. "I believe the district and appeals courts ruled correctly in striking down Virginia’s discriminatory marriage ban, but it has long been clear that the Supreme Court will likely have the final word. I want that decision to come as soon as possible and I want the voices of Virginians to be heard. This case has moved forward at an incredibly swift pace, and I look forward to a final resolution that affirms the fundamental right of all Virginians to marry."
Virginia’s General Assembly approved the same-sex marriage ban in 2005 and it was ratified into law by 57 percent of voters in 2006.
Attorney General Mark Herring has sided with same-sex marriage advocates, however both sides have conceded the final decision likely will be made in the Supreme Court.
The law is being challenged by Timothy Bostic and Tony London, a Virginia Beach couple, as well as Carol Schall and Mary Townley from Chesterfield.
Bostic and London have been in a relationship since 1989 and have lived together for more than 20 years. They applied for a marriage license in Norfolk in July 2013, but were denied by the clerk of court.
Schall and Townley have been together since 1985, have a child together and were legally wed in California in 2008.
Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester also joined the suit.
Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, according to the Associated Press, however those rulings remain in various stages of appeal.
Same-sex marriage is currently legal in the District of Columbia and 19 states. In all, the AP counts more than 70 cases filed in the remaining 31 states prohibiting same-sex marriage.
Less than two months after his stunning primary upset and just hours after stepping down as House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor said Thursday that he will resign his seat in the House of Representatives effective Aug. 18.
"[I]nertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws."
WASHINGTON — The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals held Monday that Virginia’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages is unconstitutional.
On a 2-1 vote, the appeals court joined the wave of court decisions declaring such bans unconstitutional. The decision, by Judge Henry Floyd acknowledged both the debate over such laws and, in the court’s view, the clear constitutional impediment to laws banning same-sex couples from marrying.
“We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable,” he wrote. “However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws.”
In considering the matter, Floyd, joined by Judge Roger Gregory, ruled, “The Virginia Marriage Laws … impede the right to marry by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and nullifying the legal import of their out-of-state marriages. Strict scrutiny therefore applies in this case.”
Judge Paul Niemeyer dissented from the decision, writing, “Because there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage and there are rational reasons for not recognizing it, just as there are rational reasons for recognizing it, I conclude that we, in the Third Branch, must allow the States to enact legislation on the subject in accordance with their political processes.”
The court heard arguments in the case in May.
Source: Chris Geidner for Buzzfeed
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) plans to move forward with Medicaid expansion even without lawmakers’ support, the governor announced on Friday. The battle over Medicaid expansion has been particularly contentious in Virginia over the past several months, as McAuliffe been unable to convince the GOP-controlled legislature to move forward with implementing the policy even though it has bipartisan support in the state.
The governor announced his decision to expand Medicaid unilaterally during a press conference on Friday. He said he will use his executive power to expand Medicaid administratively, and asked the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to draw up plans for that project by the beginning of September. “I am moving forward,” he said, noting that lawmakers’ continued refusal to extend health care to an estimated 400,000 of the state’s poorest residents sends him “to bed every night with a pit in my stomach.” He called the GOP’s decision to block Medicaid expansion “unconscionable.”
Earlier this week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Jeff Schapiro laid out what an administrative expansion might look like. Essentially, McAuliffe could enlist private businesses to execute the public program, a so-called “public-private partnership.” It’s a method the state has used before to finance a highway.
Although the governor wasn’t explicit about the specifics of his plan, he did say that he’s been consulting with the attorney general every step of the way, and “whatever we do will be in full compliance with the attorney general’s office.”
After the GOP took control of the state Senate earlier this month — in a dramatic turn of events that may have involved an illegal bribe to get a Democrat to step down — Virginia lawmakers rushed to pass a budget that explicitly bans the state from expanding Medicaid. Republicans say that the expansion is too expensive and that it’s irresponsible to pour more money into a broken government program.
But McAuliffe announced on Friday that he plans to veto that provision, along with several other line items in the budget that he doesn’t want to approve. The political fight over the state’s budget has been threatening a government shutdown, so McAuliffe opted for line vetoes rather than rejecting the entire proposal outright.
Across the country, GOP-led resistance to Medicaid expansion is leaving an estimated 5.8 million impoverished Americans without any access to affordable health care whatsoever. Meanwhile, the states that have agreed to expand the public program are seeing dramatic drops in their uninsurance rates and significant boosts to their budgets.
RARE POLITICAL SURPRISE: "No sitting majority leader has lost a primary since the position was invented in 1899."
For the first time in history, the House majority leader has lost in a primary. Nobody saw it coming.
No one thought Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, could actually lose. His primary challenge in his suburban Richmond district, from a local economics professor named David Brat, was thought to be nominal. No sitting majority leader has lost a primary since the position was invented in 1899. Cantor, though unloved by many in his party and in Congress, was seen as the speaker-in-waiting whenever John Boehner decided, or was forced, to hang it up.
But all those assumptions went out the window Tuesday night, when Cantor shockingly lost—and by a wide margin. With 97 percent of the vote counted, Brat had 56 percent of the vote to Cantor’s 44 percent.
In retrospect, there were signs Cantor felt endangered. As the Washington Postreported, in a dispatch that seemed far-fetched at the time but now appears prescient, Cantor was booed at a local Republican gathering last month, and his handpicked candidate for district GOP chair was defeated. His campaign aired TV ads and sent mailers crediting him for blocking immigration reform—signs he had begun to sense a threat. Meanwhile, Brat, a Tea Party activist, was championed by national conservatives like Ann Coulter and Mark Levin. (According to Virginia’s “sore-loser” law, Cantor can’t run against Brat as an independent in the general election, though he might be allowed to mount a write-in bid.)
One immigration-reform-supporting conservative operative emailed me mournfully: “I can’t vote for Democrats because I am pro-life, but my party seems beyond repair.”
Cantor’s loss will prompt the reexamination of some other pieces of conventional wisdom: One, that the Tea Party is dead—clearly, at least in one restive precinct, anti-Washington anger is alive and well. And two, that supporting immigration reform doesn’t necessarily hurt Republicans in primaries—Cantor’s supposed support for “amnesty” was Brat’s chief line of attack. Supporters of immigration reform now fear that Republican members of Congress, leery of touching the issue before, now will never be persuaded that it is not politically toxic. As one immigration-reform-supporting conservative operative emailed me mournfully: “I can’t vote for Democrats because I am pro-life, but my party seems beyond repair.”
In truth, it’s not quite so simple. The Tea Party has come up short in most of the big races where it played this year, and other, unapologetic Republican supporters of immigration reform, like North Carolina Representative Renee Ellmers and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, have held on in the face of primary challenges. Cantor may have suffered more for his role as part of the unpopular House leadership than for any particular issue. After Republicans took the House in 2010, Cantor positioned himself as conservatives’ voice in leadership, a role in which he was blamed for scuttling the 2011 debt-limit deal that led to the nation’s credit being downgraded. But he had since patched things up with Boehner, a turnaround that led many House Republicans in both camps—the hard right and the establishment—to be unsure they could trust him. Cantor was ambitious, perpetually billed as a “rising star” despite his seven terms in Congress, but his ideas, like his “Making Life Work” reform agenda, never seemed to gain traction within his party.
There are few real surprises in politics. Tuesday’s result in Richmond was a rare exception. The political world now must get to know an obscure Randolph-Macon professor named Dave Brat; his Democratic opponent, an even more obscure professor at the same college named Jack Trammell; and a new world order in the House of Representatives.
#VA07: House Majority Leader and Possible House Speaker Candidate Eric Cantor Defeated By Tea Party Challenger
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated Tuesday by a little-known economics professor in Virginia’s Republican primary, a stunning upset and major victory for the tea party.
Cantor is the second-most powerful member of the U.S. House and was seen by some as a possible successor to the House speaker.
His loss to Dave Brat, a political novice with little money marks a huge victory for the tea party movement, which supported Cantor just a few years ago.
Brat had been a thorn in Cantor’s side on the campaign, casting the congressman as a Washington insider who isn’t conservative enough. Last month, a feisty crowd of Brat supporters booed Cantor in front of his family at a local party convention.
His message apparently scored well with voters in the 7th District.
"There needs to be a change," said Joe Mullins, who voted in Chesterfield County Tuesday. The engineering company employee said he has friends who tried to arrange town hall meetings with Cantor, who declined their invitations.
Tiffs between the GOP’s establishment and tea party factions have flared in Virginia since tea party favorite Ken Cuccinelli lost last year’s gubernatorial race. Cantor supporters have met with stiff resistance in trying to wrest control of the state party away from tea party enthusiasts, including in the Cantor’s home district.
Brat teaches at Randolph-Macon College, a small liberal arts school north of Richmond. He raised just more than $200,000 for his campaign, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.
Beltway-based groups also spent heavily in the race. The American Chemistry Council, whose members include many blue chip companies, spent more than $300,000 on TV ads promoting Cantor. It’s the group’s only independent expenditure so far this election year. Political arms of the American College of Radiology, the National Rifle Association and the National Association of Realtors also spent money on ads to promote Cantor.
Brat offset the cash disadvantage with endorsements from conservative activists like radio host Laura Ingraham, and with help from local tea party activists angry at Cantor.
Much of the campaign centered on immigration, where critics on both sides have recently taken aim at Cantor.
Brat has accused the House majority leader of being a top cheerleader for “amnesty” for immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Cantor has responded forcefully by boasting in mailers of blocking Senate plans “to give illegal aliens amnesty.”
It was a change in tone for Cantor, who has repeatedly voiced support for giving citizenship to certain immigrants brought illegally to the country as children. Cantor and House GOP leaders have advocated a step-by-step approach rather than the comprehensive bill backed by the Senate. They’ve made no move to bring legislation to a vote and appear increasingly unlikely to act this year.
Cantor, a former state legislator, was elected to Congress in 2000. He became majority leader in 2011.
WOW! A major upset.
The Washington Post reports that Virginia state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, a Democrat, “will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission.” Currently, the Virginia senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, with Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam holding the balance of power. If Puckett resigns, Republicans will gain control of the body for at least as long as it takes to elect a replacement.
The full details of this arrangement, including whether or not Puckett was explicitly offered the position as deputy director of the tobacco commission in return for his agreement to resign his senate seat, are not yet known. Although the executive director of the commission is appointed by the governor — who is currently Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe — the deputy director is appointed by the commission itself. Both the chair and the vice chair of the commission are Republicans.
If Puckett was offered the seat on this commission in exchange for his decision to resign from the state legislature, however, he may have committed a very serious crime. Under Virginia’s bribery law, it is a felony for a state lawmaker to “accept or agree to accept from another … any pecuniary benefit offered, conferred or agreed to be conferred as consideration for or to obtain or influence the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant or party official.”
Given this statutory language, two questions need to be answered before Puckett could be prosecuted. The first is whether Puckett agreed to accept the tobacco commission job “as consideration for” his resignation from the state senate — that is, whether there was a quid pro quo deal where the job was offered up as the prize Puckett received if he agreed to resign. The second is whether Puckett’s resignation counts as an “exercise of discretion as a public servant.” Based on a search of Virginia court cases using the legal search engine Lexis, there does not appear to be a court decision answering this question.
In any event, the circumstances of this anticipated resignation — in which a Democratic senator throws control of the state legislature to the GOP, and then immediately receives a job from a commission controlled by a Republican chair and vice-chair — is suspicious. It also could have very serious consequences for Virginia’s least fortunate residents.
Gov. McAuliffe is currently embroiled in a fight with Republicans, who control the state house, over whether Virginia should accept Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. If Republicans take the state senate, even briefly, they can use their control over the entire legislature to pass a budget that does not include the Medicaid expansion. Though McAuliffe could veto the budget, Republicans could use that veto to try to blame him for an ensuing government shutdown.
A federal judge ruled Virginia’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional late Thursday.
The Court finds Va. Const. Art. I, § 15-A, Va. Code §§ 20-45.2, 20-45.3, and any other Virginia law that bars same-sex marriage or prohibits Virginia’s recognition of lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions unconstitutional. These laws deny Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen wrote that the constitutional right to equality should apply to all, including same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses.
"Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal. Surely this means all of us," wrote Wright Allen, an Eastern District of Virginia judge in Norfolk. ”While ever vigilant for the wisdom that can come from the voices of our voting public, our courts have never long tolerated the perpetuation of laws rooted in unlawful prejudice. One of the judiciary’s noblest endeavors is to scrutinize law that emerge from such roots.”
Wright Allen stayed her order to allow an appeal, meaning nothing immediately changes for same-sex couples in the state.
Mark Herring, Virginia’s Democratic attorney general, recently announced his support for gay couples seeking marriage licenses.
"After thorough legal review, I have now concluded that Virginia’s ban on marriage between same sex couples violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution on two grounds: marriage is a fundamental right being denied to some Virginians, and the ban unlawfully discriminates on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender," Herring said in January.
h/t: Huff Post
Virginia Republican state delegate Bob Marshall is preparing a bid for the House seat currently held by retiring Rep. Frank Wolf, according to a Virginia-based conservative blog. This would set up a challenge to fellow right-wing state delegate and former Clinton-hunter Barbara Comstock.
Just in case you aren’t familiar with Marshall, here is a quick refresher on some of his most extreme positions:
1. Disabled Children Are God’s Punishment For Abortion
At a 2010 press conference attacking Planned Parenthood, Marshall said that “the number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically” because “when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children.” He called disabled children a “special punishment” from God on women who have had abortions.
It is no wonder that Marshall sponsored a personhood bill that would ban abortion in call cases along with some forms of birth control, one of several bills he proposed that would curtail abortion rights and contraception coverage.
2. Ban Gay Service Members From The National Guard
Marshall reacted to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell by proposing legislation to prohibit “active homosexuals” from serving in the Virginia National Guard, warning that the end of the anti-gay ban would “jeopardize our alliances,” ruin the military and possibly lead to a military draft. Marshall said that if he were in the military he wouldn’t trust gay service members because they might give him a sexually transmitted infection or harass him: “It’s a distraction when I’m on the battlefield and I have to concentrate on the guy 600 yards away, am I worrying about this guy whose got eyes on me?”
3. Anti-Gay Crusade
Marshall has staunchly defended of Virginia’s unconstitutional sodomy law, successfully pushed to block the appointment of an openly gay judge and attempted to stop the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank from flying a rainbow flag, warning that LGBT equality “undermines the American economy.”
He also complained that anti-gay activists are being treated in the same way as Dred Scott.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
A Loudoun County Circuit Court judge on Tuesday ordered Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio to appear in court next week for a hearing into whether he should be removed from office after a group of Sterling residents filed a petition alleging that he was not fit to represent their district.
Delgaudio (R-Sterling), one of the region’s most controversial politicians in part for his denunciation of gays as “perverts” and “freaks,” was the subject of a criminal investigation last year sparked when a former aide said he used county resources and staff to benefit his political campaign.
Judge Burke F. McCahill ordered the hearing shortly after the grass-roots group, Sterling Deserves Better, submitted the petition requesting Delgaudio’s removal. It alleges “neglect of duty” and “misuse of office.”
Delgaudio’s attorney, Charles King, said the allegations outlined in the petition are “a long reach.”
“Although I welcome the opportunity to try Supervisor Delgaudio’s case, I don’t believe the petition will get very far,” King said. “Many of the allegations involve subjective questions of temperament best decided by the voters of Sterling, not a Circuit Court judge.”
The four-term supervisor was not indictedas a result of the investigation, but a special grand jury made the unusual decision to issue a detailed report in June that outlined a number of alleged problems with Delgaudio’s conduct. Those concerns included the potential misuse of county staff and resources; campaign funds that might have gone unreported; a disregard for constituent services; a hostile work environment; and blurred lines between his county office and his conservative nonprofit group, Public Advocate of the United States, which campaigns against gay rights and has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Loudoun supervisors voted to formally censure Delgaudio in July, and his district budget was placed under the control of the full Board of Supervisors. He was also removed from his place on county, local and regional committees — although his seat on the county Transportation and Land Use Committee was restored by the board this month.
Delgaudio, who has consistently denied wrongdoing and first tried to fight the board’s censure in court, apologized in September for the “embarrassment” the investigation had caused and said he would accept the board’s punishment.
Sterling Deserves Better announced the filing of the petition at a news conference in the board room of the Loudoun County Government Center on Tuesday morning, where a large poster showed a mounted photograph of Delgaudio in conversation with recently indicted former governor Robert F. McDonnell, along with the words “Corruption Hurts Virginia.”
VIRGINIA BEACH — State Del. Lynwood W. Lewis Jr. has won the recount for a Hampton Roads Senate seat, throwing control of the state Senate to Democrats and giving Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s first-year agenda a crucial boost.
Lewis’s slim lead held over the course of the recount Monday, which Republicans and Democrats had watched closely given its outsized importance to the balance of power in Richmond.
His victory gives Democrats new leverage in the General Assembly, where the House of Delegates is overwhelmingly Republican — and overwhelmingly opposed to several of McAuliffe’s priorities. The new Democratic governor is trying to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but many other issues, including increased public school funding, gun control and gay marriage are also being examined.
Election officials in five localities, including Norfolk and Virginia Beach, recounted results Monday in the special election for the state Senate seat vacated this month by Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam (D). The district includes parts of Norfolk, Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore.
Lewis (D-Accomack) had been certified by the State Board of Elections as the winner of the Jan. 7 contest to fill the state Senate seat vacated this month by Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam (D). His slim margin — nine votes out of more than 20,000 cast — entitled Republican Wayne Coleman, a shipping company owner, to request a recount paid for by local governments.
The recount became all the more crucial last week, when Democrats kept the Northern Virginia seat previously held by Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D).
With Lewis’s victory, the chamber will remain evenly split, 20-20, but power will shift to Democrats, with Northam serving as the tie-breaking vote.
Before Northam’s inauguration this month, Republicans controlled the chamber with the tie-breaking vote of Northam’s predecessor, Republican Bill Bolling.
Virginia’s attorney general will announce Thursday that he has concluded that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, local news providers reported early Thursday.
A spokeswoman for Democrat General Mark R. Herring confirmed that he will not defend the ban in a case in federal court in Norfolk in which two same-sex couples are seeking to have it overturned, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Herring will file a brief in the case supporting the challenge, the Washington Post reported.