Speed Read: Virginia seeks Supreme leap
BIGGEST NEWS OF THE WEEK: A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals voted 2 to 1 Monday to strike down Virginia’s ban on same-sex couples marrying. The decision in Bostic v. Schaefer is the third federal appeals panel to weigh in on statewide bans on same-sex couples marrying and the second since last year’s U.S. v. Windsor decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision provides for a 21-day stay pending appeal. The Fourth Circuit covers Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Read full story.
FOURTH CIRCUIT APPEAL SEEKS FAST-TRACK: One of two clerks who served as defenders of Virginia’s marriage ban filed a motion Friday, seeking a stay of the Fourth Circuit decision pending her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Michele McQuigg, circuit court clerk for Prince William County and represented by the anti-gay Alliance Defending Freedom, asked the Fourth Circuit not to issue its mandate to enforce the July 28 order –a mandate it said it would issue August 18. McQuigg’s motion says she will petition the Supreme Court within 90 days. Lambda Legal and the ACLU oppose McQuigg’s request, according to her motion, and the legal team led by Ted Olson and David Boies did not respond.
NORTH CAROLINA GUMPTION: Following Monday’s decision by the Fourth Circuit, finding Virginia’s marriage ban for same-sex couples unconstitutional, North Carolina’s attorney general announced he would no longer defend the Tar Heel State’s ban. The leaders of the state House and Senate said they believe the ban should be defended. The Raleigh-Durham News-Observer editorialized July 29 that, if the state defends the ban, the “state will look foolish, spend a fortune and ultimately lose…. At least the attorney general has the gumption and good sense to say so.”
SOUTH CAROLINA COUPLES DENIED: Five same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses at a Greenville, S.C., courthouse Wednesday, following Monday’s Fourth Circuit decision, but all five were denied, as the state’s attorney general vowed to continue enforcing the state marriage ban against same-sex couples. West Virginia’s attorney general indicated he’d continue enforcing that state’s ban. Maryland voters approved marriage equality in 2012.
WISCONSIN PARTNERSHIPS UPHELD: The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision released Thursday, upheld a state law allowing same-sex couples to register as domestic partnerships. Lambda Legal, which participated in defending the domestic partnership law, acknowledged the “limited” benefits of partnerships but said they were “very important” benefits for same-sex couples to have until the state provides for marriage equality. The state ban limited marriage to one man and one woman and barred recognition of any “substantially similar” relationship. Lambda argued, and the court agreed, that domestic partnerships are not “substantially similar” to marriages. The court noted that, while marriage laws create an “enforceable contract” between two people, the domestic partnership law “makes no similar demand on domestic partners.” “There are important statutory distinctions in the way the state treats marriage and domestic partnerships and important differences in the lists of benefits and obligations that inhere in the two types of relationships,” said the court. The case was Appling v. Walker.
UGANDAN PRESIDENT INVITED FOR WHITE HOUSE EVENT: In June, the National Security Council announced the U.S. was taking action in response to the Ugandan government’s enactment of its Anti-Homosexuality Act — action that would include denial of entry to the United States by “certain Ugandan officials involved in serious human rights abuses, including against LGBT individuals.” Those officials apparently do not include Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who signed the Act. Museveni is in Washington, D.C., tomorrow for the U.S.-African Summit at the White House. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a similar anti-gay bill and he’s invited too. Associated Press quoted a National Security Council spokesperson as saying the Obama administration will continue its “conversations” about LGBT human rights issues at the summit.
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UGANDA’S ANTI-GAY LAW NULLIFIED: The Ugandan Constitutional Court voted unanimously Friday to nullify a recently enacted law that called for harsh penalties for engaging in sex with a person of the same gender or promoting homosexuality. According to the Ugandan daily newspaper New Vision, the court nullified the law on the grounds that the law was passed by parliament during a session when there was not a quorum of members present. The Constitutional Court is the second highest court in Ugandan; supporters of the law are expected to appeal to the country’s highest court, the Supreme Court, or simply re-pass the legislation with a quorum.
REPORT ON LGBT PEOPLE IN AFRICA: The Human Rights Campaign and the international group Human Rights First this week issued a report on “The State of Human Rights for LGBT People in Africa.” Among other things, it notes that 37 African countries criminalize same-sex relations, including four which include the death penalty to punish such relations. Only one nation in Africa provides marriage equality and protection against discrimination: South Africa.
BOULDER STOPS ISSUING LICENSES: The Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday granted a motion ordering the clerk of Boulder County to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Denver Post reported that Recorder Hillary Hall had issued more than 200 such licenses before being ordered to stop. The court also accepted for review a case to determine whether Colorado county clerks could issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Tenth Circuit ruling that struck down Utah’s ban.
NJ BAN ON CONVERSION THERAPY SURVIVES: A federal judge in New Jersey Thursday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on use of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) for persons under 18. The same judge, Freda Wolfson, dismissed a similar case last November but that case was appealed to the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which on Wednesday, asked for more briefing. In the latest case, Doe v. Christie, Judge Wolfson said the ban on conversion therapy “does not regulate speech, directly or indirectly, but rather only regulates a mental health procedure.” “Surely it is undisputed,” wrote Wolfson, “that a state has the power to regulate not only medical and mental health treatments deemed harmful, but also those that are ineffective or that are based not on medical or scientific principles but, instead, on pseudoscience.”
WYOMING JUDGE WON’T WAIT: A state judge in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on Tuesday gave the state 110 days to prepare to defend its ban on marriage for same-sex couples. In a case brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Judge Thomas Campbell of Laramie County denied the state’s request to withhold a ruling in Courage v. Wyoming and wait, instead, for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on Kitchen v. Herbert from Utah. According to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Campbell said he has “no confidence at all” that the Supreme Court will take the Utah case and decide the issue.
TEXAS AGREES: DON’T WAIT ON SUPREME COURT: In its appeal to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Texas also expressed doubt that the Supreme Court will make a decision concerning state marriage bans through the Utah Kitchen v. Herbert case. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s brief in DeLeon v. Perry said “jurisdictional issues” could cause the Supreme Court to avoid Kitchen. The comment, though not explained in Abbott’s brief, is an apparent reference to questions raised during Kitchen’s appeal as to whether state officials could continue the appeal after the original defendant, a county clerk, had declined to do so. In a separate marriage case, the Tenth Circuit panel said the governor and attorney general were not the proper targets of the lawsuit, Bishop v. Oklahoma, because, in Oklahoma, marriage licenses are issued by court clerks. The panel ruled just the opposite in the Kitchen case noting that, in Utah, marriage licenses are issued by county clerks, over whom the governor and attorney general of Utah have authority.
HOW LIBERAL ARE LGBT PEOPLE? A Gallup Poll released Wednesday shows that LGBT people are not as liberal as many might think. Only 46 percent of 2,767 LGBT adults surveyed through a poll between January and June said they consider themselves “liberal.” Thirty-three percent described themselves as “moderate,” and 20 percent said they were “conservative.” Unlike community-based polls in the 1990s, the Gallup Poll said the data indicates that LGBT people are ”slightly less likely to be registered to vote and slightly less likely to say they were going to vote than non-LGBT individuals.” A much larger percentage, 63 percent, identified as leaning Democratic, compared to 21 percent leaning Republican, identifying as Independent or leaning toward no particular side.
HOW RELIGIOUS ARE AMERICANS? The Gallup Poll has set the bar relatively low for what constitutes a “very religious” person in a survey released Monday: A person was counted as “very religious” if they said religion is important to them and said they went to services “almost every week.” With that definition, 41 percent of 87,023 people qualified. Forty-nine percent of those “very religious” people said they lean Republican, 36 percent lean Democrat, and 11 percent either lean independent or expressed no leaning. The big exception, however, was among black Americans, of whom 77 percent lean Democratic and nine percent lean Republican.
GOP HOUSE VOTES TO SUE OBAMA: The Republican-dominated U.S. House voted Wednesday to file a lawsuit against President Obama over his use of the executive order to delay implementation of one part of the Affordable Care Act. House Speaker John Boehner announced his idea for the lawsuit just days after the White House announced President Obama would sign an executive order to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by federal contractors. The talk now, however, is strictly regarding use of the executive order with regards to the ACA.
NINE-HOUR GIG AS GAY GOVERNOR: California’s lesbian Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins was Acting Governor for nine hours Wednesday, courtesy of Governor Jerry Brown, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, and Senate President Darrell Steinberg all being out of state. Appearing on the Jimmy Kimmel Show during the 10-hour stint, Atkins casually acknowledged she’d enjoy being the real governor some day…
ABA HONORS MASSACHUSETTS JUSTICE: The American Bar Association announced Thursday that it will honor former Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margaret Marshall for her landmark opinion for marriage equality. The award, named for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, will be presented by the ABA’s Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities at the ABA’s annual meeting in Boston August 9.
A GESTURE TO THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT: Two GOP lawmakers introduced bills Wednesday seeking to make it easier for religious-oriented adoption services to discriminate against potential adoptive families by citing their religious beliefs. The Human Rights Campaign warns that the legislation, if passed, could “open a floodgate of adoption discrimination around the country.” But the bill has a zero chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, according to GovTrack.us, and only a two percent chance in the Republican-controlled House. In fact, according to GovTrack.us, there are more than 9,500 bills pending in Congress right now, and only about five percent will be enacted by the end of the current Congress.
FIRST-TERMERS MAKE PITCH THROUGH HRC: Political pundits say Republicans have a realistic chance of taking over the Senate and certainly of keeping the House. And two first-term openly LGBT members of the U.S. House, Kyrsten Sinema and Sean Patrick Maloney, created a video to urge Human Rights Campaign members to make contributions to Democratic candidates in the upcoming mid-term elections. RealClearPolitics.com show voters in both Sinema and Maloney’s districts are only “leaning Democratic.”
LESBIAN WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL ON ‘BEAUTIFUL’ LIST: The Hill newspaper, which focuses on political news from the federal government in Washington, D.C., profiled lesbian White House official Monique Dorsainvil Thursday for its series on the “50 Most Beautiful” politicos in Washington. Dorsainvil, 27, is director of planning and events for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs for the White House. The White House’s social secretary, Jeremy Bernard, also made the list.
10 YEARS FOR SEATTLE NIGHTCLUB ARSONIST: A U.S. district court judge in Seattle sentenced a 31-year-old man Thursday to 10 years in prison for attempting to set fire to the crowded gay nightclub Neighbours on New Year’s Eve. According to the Seattle Times, Musab Musmari, pleaded guilty, claiming to have committed the act during an alcoholic blackout. The judge, however, believed Musmari to intentionally target gays for the attack and double the minimum mandatory sentence for the crime.