Showing posts with label Pro Gay Marriage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pro Gay Marriage. Show all posts

September 23, 2014

Expect a Supreme Court Favorable Early Term Decision on Gay Marriage


Over the last year, lower federal court judges have removed most of the suspense from the questions of whether and when the Supreme Court might rule marriage equality to be a federal constitutional right. In case after case, in red states and blue, judges have ruled that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. This makes it very likely that the Supreme Court will grant review in such a case this year, and even more likely, assuming it does, that it will rule that the Constitution requires states to extend marriage equality to gay couples.

Just one year ago, I wouldn't have been nearly so confideEarlynt in making such predictions. In June 2013, the court by a vote of 5 to 4 invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act, under which the federal government declined to recognize even those marriages between gay couples that were valid under state law.

In the last year or so, every court but one to consider the issue of gay marriage has ruled that the Constitution requires marriage equality.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's majority opinion in United States vs. Windsor was a masterpiece of intentional ambiguity, providing roughly equal amounts of support to two very different interpretations. On one hand, Kennedy's opinion seemed to be grounded in concerns about the limited power of the federal government over marriage, a ruling that would have had no implications for state bans on same-sex marriage.

On the other hand, language in Kennedy's opinion regarding the equal dignity and respect to which gay couples were entitled and the important interests of their children suggested that state prohibitions on gay marriage were vulnerable to constitutional challenge. One might reasonably have predicted after Windsor that lower federal court judges, who are no less politically polarized than the rest of the nation, would have divided roughly down the middle on how to interpret Windsor.
But that is not what has happened. In the year or so since Windsor, nearly two dozen federal courts have ruled on the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage. With only one exception (a district court in Louisiana), every court to consider the issue has ruled that the Constitution requires marriage equality. This is an extraordinary record of near-unanimity that transcends geographic region, age, sex, race and partisan affiliation.

When Windsor came down, most commentators assumed that the five justices in the majority would eventually be willing to invalidate state bans on same-sex marriage but that they preferred not to do so until public opinion had evolved further in support of marriage equality. In a case decided the same day as Windsor, the court ducked resolving the constitutionality of California's ban on gay marriage, ruling instead that the official sponsors of Proposition 8 lacked standing to defend its constitutionality on appeal. But the striking number and near-unanimity of the recent lower court rulings can only help convince the justices in the Windsor majority that the country is increasingly prepared to accept gay marriage with little political backlash.

What should we make of such a ruling when it comes? Although the majority will undoubtedly use the occasion to celebrate the court's historic role as protector of minority rights, such a decision will actually confirm the very limited sense in which the court performs that function. In fact, the entire course of American constitutional history reveals that the court defends minority rights only after a majority or near-majority of the country has come to deem those rights worthy of protection.
The court did not invalidate state-mandated racial segregation in education until 1954, by which time a narrow majority of the country agreed with the decision. The justices did not lift a finger in support of gender equality until 1971, after the powerful emergence of so-called second-wave feminism. During the first and second “Red scares,” the court put its imprimatur on the persecution of political radicals, and during World War II, it upheld the internment of Japanese Americans. Not until 1996 did the court defend the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians.

In short, the justices are too much a product of their culture and historical moment to defend in any robust way the rights of unpopular minorities. To many Americans, schooled in the romantic myth of the court as heroic defender of minority rights, this lesson is deeply disturbing.

Who wouldn't want a court that intervened to protect slaves rather than slaveholders, challenged the Southern system of Jim Crow at its zenith rather than during its demise, struck down Japanese American internment and protected women's equality and gay equality before it became fashionable to do so?

Not until 1996 did the court first defend the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians.
But our high court is not equipped to perform such a function, and believing otherwise can be a dangerous delusion. The more realistic our assessment of the court's capacity to protect minorities, the better we will appreciate the need for popular vigilance over politics.

Still, it is better for the court to protect minority rights late than never. Gay couples in states such as Mississippi and Alabama, where public support for gay rights remains relatively low, will be able to marry a decade or so before they otherwise could have plausibly done so because of a court ruling in favor of marriage equality.

Moreover, one might derive some solace from knowing that had the court tried to protect marriage equality much earlier, it probably would have generated a political backlash that would have retarded the cause. After the Hawaii Supreme Court in 1993 hinted at a state constitutional right to gay marriage, 35 states and Congress enacted defense-of-marriage laws.

And within five years of the Massachusetts Supreme Court's landmark 2003 decision squarely ruling in favor of gay marriage, nearly 30 states passed constitutional amendments barring it. Had the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality as little as 10 or 15 years ago, the decision probably would have prompted the enactment of a federal constitutional amendment mandating marriage discrimination, which would have substantially delayed the ultimate triumph of marriage equality.

Thus, not only would it be unrealistic to have expected the court to reach the just outcome on marriage equality well in advance of public opinion, but for the justices to have done so might actually have delayed that result. As Abraham Lincoln frequently observed, in the United States, public opinion is everything. Even the Supreme Court cannot act very independently of its constraints.

 by Michael J. Klarman who is a professor at Harvard Law School.

June 20, 2014

Stand on gay marriage by major churches/religions

This research is been conducted by

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) plans to hold a historic vote on same-sex marriage this week that could reverberate beyond the church’s nearly 2 million members. Church leaders gathering in Detroit are expected to decide as early as today whether to allow gay marriage or to continue to prohibit it, a move some Christian leaders believe could influence other centrist and liberal mainline Protestant churches as they also grapple with the issue.
FT_14.06.18_ChurchesOnSSM (1)
In the last two decades, several religious groups have moved to allow same-sex couples to marry within their traditions. This includes the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements, Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ.
At the same time, many of the largest religious institutions have remained firmly against allowing same-sex marriage, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Jewishmovement, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelical Protestant denominations. (Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project has published a fact sheet on religious groups’ positions on same-sex marriage.)
Among the four largest mainline Protestant churches, however, the same-sex marriage debate has not been so simple. The Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, theEvangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (not to be confused with the Presbyterian Church of America, which opposes same-sex marriage) have wrestled with the issue for years, often as part of a larger debate on the role of gays and lesbians in the church.
And while all of the major mainline denominations now allow gay clergy and welcome openly LGBT members, none of these churches have fully embraced same-sex marriage.
This is not the case for members of the mainline Protestant churches. Indeed, a solid majority of people who identify as mainliners now favor allowing gays and lesbians to wed. In a survey we conducted in February, 62% of mainline Protestants now say they favor same-sex marriage, up from just 34% a decade earlier in 2004.
Of the four mainline Protestant groups, the Evangelical Lutherans have come closest to fully sanctioning same-sex marriage. In 2009, the church passed a resolution recognizing that there was no church-wide consensus on the issue and giving its ministers the option of marrying same-sex couples.
Two other major mainline Protestant denominations now allow congregations to bless same-sex unions. The first to do so was the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which issued adecision in 2000 allowing its ministers to bless same-sex unions as long as those ceremonies do not equate these unions with marriage. In 2012, the Episcopal Church followed suit, approving an official liturgy for blessing same-sex unions that largely resembles a marriage ceremony without officially being one.
The United Methodist Church (which does not allow same-sex blessings or marriages) also has been intensely debating the issue, particularly in the last year or so, after a church court tried and eventually defrocked Frank Schaefer, a Methodist minister who had performed a same-sex marriage ceremony for his gay son. In recent months, the action against Schaeffer has split the church, with some clergy flouting the rules and marrying same-sex couples and other, more conservative, members threatening to leave if the church does not hold to its current rules prohibiting gay marriage.
The Presbyterian, Episcopal and Lutheran churches also have endured similar turmoil over gay marriage and similar issues, with some more liberal congregations and even bishops allowing actual marriage ceremonies (as opposed to blessings) in their churches and other more conservative congregations and bishops officially leaving their national church to protest what they see as its growing acceptance not just of same-sex marriage, but of gay ordination and other related issues.

June 11, 2014

A New Washington Post poll a milestone for gay civil rights


The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll released today on same-sex marriage, shows most Americans overall, 56 percent, support allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, not significantly different from the all-time high, 59 percent, three months ago. Thirty-eight percent are opposed. The poll conducted by Langer Research Associates, was conducted by telephone May 29-June 1, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents.
Seventy-seven percent of adults under age 30 - vs. just half as many seniors - support marriage equality. The polling data shows ideology and a vast age gap mark public attitudes.
Federal courts have handed down rulings in favor of gay marriage since the high court found part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional a year ago. Gay marriages now are legal in 19 states and Washington, D.C. Despite the flurry of court action, the issue's not on the front burner in this year's midterm elections: A third of Americans say gay marriage is important to their vote preferences, last on a list of eight issues. By contrast, 84 percent call the economy a top concern, and it's about seven in 10 apiece for the deficit, the new health care law and "the way Washington is working."

This, from a new Washington Post poll, is a milestone for gay civil rights:
Regardless of your own preference on the issue, do you think that the part of the U.S. Constitution providing Americans with equal protection under the law does or does not give gays and lesbians the legal right to marry?
Does: 50
Does not: 43
This is significant because it goes beyond the question of whether people support legal gay marriage. While we’ve seen a major cultural shift on that question — today’s Post poll finds 56 percent in support — the general idea of legal gay marriage can co-exist with some states keeping it illegal. But now support for a Constitutionally protectedright to gay marriage has hit 50 percent.
In recent months, state laws banning gay marriage have been falling like dominoes, largely because of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. As gay rights advocates point out, SCOTUS’s ruling in United States v. Windsor stopped short of declaring a Constitutional right to gay marriage, but it paved the way for gay marriage bans to be overturned on the grounds that they violate equal protection clause, in places like Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia.
Many advocates expect that one of the many outstanding cases will find its way to the Supreme Court soon enough. SCOTUS is expected to weigh public opinion in making its next decision. Polling like the above suggests rapid evolution in public attitudes on the core Constitutional questions here, which could make a broader ruling more likely.
“This is a highly significant number,” gay rights advocate Richard Socarides tells me. “The Supreme Court came right up to the edge in Windsor, stopping short of declaring a federally protected right to gay marriage, but most people think it is now ready to do so. This poll shows the country is ready for it. This poll and others like it to come will help lay the groundwork for a Supreme Court decision in the next 18 months holding that there is a Constitutional right to marriage equality.”
And once again, Republicans and conservatives are alone on this question. While 50 percent of independents and 54 percent of moderates say the Constitution’s equal protection language gives gays and lesbians the legal right to marry, only 34 percent of Republicans and 29 percent of conservatives say the same.

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