Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Arkansas, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Pennsylvania? and NOM's Very Bad Day: Where Marriage Equality Stands in the U.S., 20 May 2014

Rachel Maddow does (video link) a quick summary of what's happening with marriage equality in the U.S., as Oregon now begins marrying same-sex couples: twelve consecutive decisions by federal judges knocking down unconstitutional bans on same-sex marriage that explicitly target gay citizens. As Maddow notes, this is precisely what Justice Antonin Scalia predicted would happen when the U.S. Supremes declared the Defense of Marriage Act an unconstitutional attempt to immiserate gay citizens of this country and their families.

In his ruling in Oregon yesterday, Judge Michael McShane directly counters the claim of some U.S. citizens that the majority should enjoy a "right" to target stigmatized minority groups and snatch away their human rights through popular referenda. McShane writes,

At the core of the Equal Protection Clause, however, there exists a foundational belief that certain rights should be shielded from the barking crowds; that certain rights are subject to ownership by all and not the stake hold of popular trend or shifting majorities. . . . I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families. Families who we would expect our Constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure."

As for the larger pattern, today’s Oregon [ruling] comes just a week after a federal court struck down Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage. The week before that, a court ruled against Arkansas' anti-gay constitutional amendment.

Max Brantley compares what has just taken place in Oregon with what took place last week in Arkansas:  

In Oregon, the state declined to defend the law because, as in Arkansas, it's demonstrably a denial of equal rights and due process under the U.S. Constitution to discriminate against people on account of sexual orientation. 
In Arkansas, of course, the majority of the legislature doesn't recognize the U.S. Constitution except when it comes to guns.

And on the same day that the ban on same-sex marriage was struck down in Oregon, in Utah, a federal judge ordered the state to recognize those same-sex marriages that took place in the state after that state's ban was struck down, but before a stay on same-sex marriages was imposed. The state has sought to deny those legally married couples various rights that flow from their marriages, including the right to adopt, property and inheritance rights, and the right to custody and care of children. 

As the American Psychological Association's 2011 resolution supporting marriage equality notes, 

[M]arried individuals generally receive social, economic, health, and psychological benefits from their marital status, including numerous rights and benefits provided by private employers and by state and federal governments.

And so the APA explicitly opposes "ballot measures, statutes, constitutional amendments, and other forms of discriminatory policy aimed at limiting lesbian, gay, and bisexual people’s access to legal protections for their human rights, including such measures as those that deny same-sex couples the right to marry," as it also calls on state governments to repeal measures denying equal rights to same-sex couples, and on the federal government "to extend full recognition to legally married same-sex couples, and to accord them all of the rights, benefits, and responsibilities that it provides to legally married different-sex couples."

Last week, the Arkansas chapter of APA adopted this resolution and noted that the striking down of the ban on same-sex marriage in Arkansas is consistent with the APA position.

As Amanda Terkel notes, what happened yesterday in Oregon and Utah (and recently in Arkansas and Idaho) made for a very bad day for the National Organization for Marriage — and, at the same time, the The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices released a scathing report upbraiding NOM for flouting campaign finance laws in that state and refusing to reveal its donors as it sought to snatch the right of civil marriage from gay couples in 2009. The ethics board is recommending for NOM the largest fine ever imposed on any group violating Maine's campaign finance laws.

And today, Pennsylvania, the only state in the northeast still still banning and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages, where the state's auditor general, Eugene DePasquale, has just raked his governor, Tom Corbett, over the coals for the millions of taxpayer dollars he's spending fighting the right of gay couples to civil marriage. It's expected that the courts in Pennsylvania may rule today on the question of marriage for same-sex couples.

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