Speed Read: Tough ruling in Colorado


NO ‘MODERN DAY HARUSPEX’ IN COLORADO: His ruling wasn’t unusual, but a federal judge’s follow through Wednesday (July 23) definitely stood out from the crowd of federal judges striking down state bans on same-sex couples marrying. U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore ruled that the Colorado ban violates the equal protection and due process guarantees of the U.S. Constitution. And Moore, an appointee of President Obama, issued an immediate stay of his decision in Burns v. Hickenlooper until August 25. But he denied the state’s motion to let that stay stand until resolution of another Tenth Circuit case, Kitchen v. Herbert out of Utah. In doing so, he chastised other federal courts for issuing stays, saying they presumed to read the minds of U.S. Supreme Court justices when they granted a  stay in the Utah case. Moore said “this Court is not some modern day haruspex skilled in the art of divination. This Court cannot – and, more importantly, it will not – tell the people of Colorado that the access to this or any other fundamental right will be delayed because it ‘thinks’ or ‘perceives’ the subtle – or not so subtle –content of a [Supreme Court] message not directed to this case.” He gave the state until August 25 to seek a longer stay from a higher court.

BOULDER CONTINUES ISSUING LICENSES: A three-judge panel of a state appeals court in Colorado on Thursday denied a motion by the state attorney general to order the register of Boulder County to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The panel said simply that the state had not provided sufficient reason for its request.

RUBIO: STRAIGHTS DESERVE TO BE ‘ELEVATED IN OUR LAWS’: U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a presumed Republican presidential candidate, told a Catholic University audience July 23 that “we have come a long way” since the days when government banned gays from jobs, bars, and restaurants. And he lamented that “many committed gay and lesbian couples feel humiliated by the law’s failure to recognize their relationship as marriage.” But Rubio said he personally supports the man-woman marriage tradition “not because I seek to discriminate against people who love someone of the same sex, but because I believe that the union of one man and one woman is a special relationship that has proven to be of great benefit to our society…and therefore deserves to be elevated in our laws.” He did not discuss how such “elevation” squares with the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that there be equal protection of the law.

LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD: While Republican presidential prospect Marco Rubio is eager to elevate straight couples under the law, New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, also considered a likely presidential candidate in 2016, is taking action to ensure that LGBT people can access the same services as other citizens. In a first-of-its-kind project, New York on Wednesday launched an effort to “strengthen data” on LGBT state residents to “better tailor services to meet LGBT needs” to improve their health and lives. “By being more inclusive with how state agencies monitor the demographics of those they serve, we can address health and financial disparities, safety concerns, and a myriad of other issues that impact LGBT New Yorkers,” said Cuomo. “This is another step forward for an important community in New York, and our administration will continue standing up for all New Yorkers, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

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ALASKA SUPREME COURT RULES FOR WIDOW: The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the life partner of a woman who was killed on the job should be potentially eligible for a death benefit. Deborah Harris filed a claim with the state Workers’ Compensation Board after a disgruntled former employee shot her partner to death at her job, managing the Millennium Hotel. The Board denied the claim, noting that the couple could not be married under Alaskan law. The court said the workers compensation law discriminates between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. It sent the case back to the Board with instructions that it consider evidence Harris submitted to support her claim that she and her partner were in a relationship that qualifies her for compensation.

EXXON MOBIL PROMISES COMPLIANCE: The oil giant Exxon Mobil, which has steadfastly refused to add protections for LGBT employees in its company policy, said Tuesday it would abide by the executive order President Obama signed Monday to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Dallas Morning News reported that Exxon Mobil won $480 million worth of federal contracts in 2013 and over $8 billion worth since 2006. A spokesman for the company said Exxon Mobil will “abide by the law.”

SECOND FLORIDA VICTORY: For the second time this month, a Florida judge has ruled the state’s marriage ban on same-sex couples is unconstitutional. In a 35-page decision July 25, Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel in Miami-Dade County said the laws banning same-sex couples from marrying violate the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Constitution and “offend basic human dignity.” However, she immediately stayed her decision, noting that her ruling was “unlikely to be the ‘final word’ on the topic of same-sex marriage.” The National Center for Lesbian Rights filed the case, Pareto v. Ruvin, on behalf of Equality Florida and several couples.

FIRST FLORIDA STAY REMAINS: A Florida appeals court on Wednesday denied a motion to remove a stay imposed on the first Florida state decision striking down the bans on same-sex couples marrying. Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia issued that first court ruling, in Huntsman v. Heavlin July 17, in a case brought by a couple in the Florida Keys.

SEVENTH CIRCUIT DENIES FAST-TRACK: The Seventh Circuit on Friday denied a request by Indiana to skip the three-judge panel phase of appeal and take its defense of the state ban on marriage to the full circuit bench. The court set August 26 as the date for oral arguments in the consolidated cases of Indiana and Wisconsin.

EMOTIONAL SCENE IN IDAHO: Twenty-three LGBT supporters were part of an emotional courtroom scene in Boise, Idaho, Monday when a judge ordered them to pay court costs and/or do community service after being convicted on misdemeanor trespassing charges, according to the Idaho Press-Tribune. The charges stemmed from protests that blocked state house entrances this year while quietly urging the Idaho legislature to consider pro-LGBT non-discrimination bills. More than 190 people were arrested but the legislature refused to take up the bill.

ANOTHER ONE PERCENT BILL: Openly gay U.S. Rep. Mark Takano introduced a bill July 23 seeking to amend the federal Social Security Act to “provide for equal treatment of individuals in same-sex marriages.” This, like many similar bills seeking to ensure equal rights for LGBT people, is given a “one percent chance of passage” by the website GovTrack.us, a privately operated legislation tracking service. Given Republican domination of the House and the fact that Takano is a first-year Democrat, some might argue the “one percent” estimate is a little generous; but, the site evaluates the prognosis for a bill based on a number of criteria, including committee assignments and the fact that only three percent of all bills introduced in the last session of Congress were enacted. Other “one percent bills” include Rep. Jared Polis’ Employment Non-Discrimination Act (HR 1755) is one percent. However, Polis’ new House Resolution 678, introduced July 22 and seeking to force House consideration of the ENDA bill that passed the Senate last November, is given a 31 percent chance of being agreed to.

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