Civil rights in the balance
posted at 3/31/2012 7:31 PM EDT
The Boston Globe is ignoring a major civil rights struggle on its home court, the federal First Circuit Court of Appeals. The case is an appeal from Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, civil action no. 09-10309-JLT, decided by District Judge Joseph Tauro July 8, 2010. [ memorandum of decision available at http://www.glad.org/uploads/docs/cases/gill-v-office-of-personnel-management/2010-07-08-gill-district-court-decision.pdf ]
In the original district court case, seven same-sex couples legally married under Massachusetts laws sought relief from federal discrimination under the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (PL 104-199), signed without objection by former Pres. Clinton. Judge Tauro, appointed in 1972 by Republican former Pres. Nixon, found the 1996 law was motivated by "irrational prejudice" and granted a summary judgement motion to overturn it. The Obama adminstration authorized an appeal but declined to defend the law. An ersatz caucus organized by House Speaker Boehner (R, OH) has mounted opposition.
The appeal is being heard Wednesday, April 4, in the "en banc" courtroom at Fan Pier by Chief Judge Sandra Lynch, Judge Juan Torruella and Judge Michael Boudin, signaling a case of major significance. Representing the original plaintiffs is Mary Bonauto, who prosecuted the Massachusetts case that legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, joined by Maura Healey, head of the Civil Rights section in the Massachusetts Attorney General's office, representing the Commonwealth.
Re: Civil rights in the balance
posted at 3/31/2012 9:41 PM EDT
Neh, not so major a civil rights case. Mostly a states rights case. Congress can pass laws as they wish. The issue is can the supreme court override the wishes of the elected officials with no consequence. There is a way to refuse the rulings of a bad supreme court, it just takes action.
Civil rights under the Constitution
posted at 4/1/2012 3:10 AM EDT
The previous reader is justified in seeing Gill v. Office of Personnel Management as involving rights of states, to some degree. However, reading the district court decision will show that the case was filed by individuals seeking to assert their civil rights under the U.S. Constitution. The district court decision focused on Constitutional rights, which Congress has no power to override.
Re: Civil rights in the balance
posted at 4/1/2012 6:31 PM EDT
There is a way to override the supreme court though. It is called a constitutional amendment. Maybe you have heard of it. There are a number of them already.
Federal civil rights of same-sex couples
posted at 4/3/2012 7:58 PM EDT
The previous reader might have made better sense of the situation by reading references provided. Gill v. Office of Personnel Management has become the leading case in a major civil rights struggle. There were always jurisdictions more and less sympathetic to civil rights. For example, at a time when Massachusetts communities still harbored many slaves, the Vermont constitution of 1793 outlawed slavery.
A decade of disputes over same-sex marriage has produced 28 state constitutions that prohibit it, 10 states with similar prohibitions by state law, 8 states plus the District of Columbia that recognize it, and 4 states that so far have no position. [ David Cole, The gay path through the courts, New York Review 59(6):34-36, 2012, at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/apr/05/gay-path-through-courts/ ]
Gill v. Office of Personnel Management addresses federal rights of same-sex couples in the jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriage, arguing that the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (PL 104-199) has unconstitutionally discriminated against legally married same-sex couples.