Marriage as protection against accidental pregnancies not a new argument

Greta has a post up about the “increasingly stupid” tactics used by supporters of DOMA and Prop 8 — but, for better or for worse, the argument that marriage is different for heterosexuals because of accidental pregnancy is not a new argument at all.  It is, in fact, the primary argument used by the proponents in the original Prop 8 case.

I know, because the first time I ever got published in a “big space” was on Salon, for writing about this argument.

And Greta’s not the only one pointing to this — Rachel Maddow’s blog did as well.  Not that it isn’t worth pointing out, it definitely is, but it is even more worth pointing out that in the two and a half years the lawyers have had since the closing arguments of Prop 8 they’ve been unable to come up with anything more compelling.  Ouch.

Here was Judge Walker’s response at the time:

And [marriage], as Mr. Olson described this morning, is a right which extends essentially to all persons, whether they are capable of producing children, whether they are incarcerated, whether they are behind in their child support payments. There really is no limitation except, as Mr. Olson pointed out, a gender limitation.

Good news for us, bad for them.

What Prop 8 and DOMA rulings from SCOTUS could mean

Today SCOTUS agreed to hear two of the gay marriage cases that had been submitted to them, and they were the two big ones — Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment, and DOMA, a law passed by Congress to prevent the federal government from granting federal benefits to those who are gay married.

The gay marriage court cases are a bit complicated because they are dealing with a few different issues.  I’ve noticed a couple people on Facebook confused about what exactly the court will be ruling on and I thought I would explain it a bit.

It should be noted that I am not a lawyer nor have I been to law school, I’m just really interested in constitutional law and prop 8.  I covered it somewhat obsessively when I lived in California.  I haven’t covered DOMA as obsessively.

PROP 8

Officially known as: HOLLINGSWORTH, DENNIS, ET AL. V. PERRY, KRISTIN M., ET AL.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. In addition to the question presented by the petition, the parties are directed to brief and argue the following question: Whether petitioners have standing under Article III, §2 of the Constitution in this case.

In 2008, California legalized gay marriage through the court system and began performing gay marriages in the state.  That fall, a constitutional amendment saying marriage was one man and one woman was passed by the general population, making gay marriage illegal again.  Immediately, the state was sued by several gay couples who wanted to be able to get married.

The original ruling, by Judge Vaughn Walker decided that the amendment was unconstitutional for several reasons, some narrow and some quite broad.  He declared gay people to be a population that had been historically discriminated against and deserving of heightened scrutiny when laws applied to them.  What that means is that, if you make a law concerning creating a “separate but equal” status or targeting a minority group in particular, the government must have a compelling interest in doing so that cannot be served by other means.  In this case, civil unions were not the same as marriage — historically we know “separate but equal” is not equal — and any denial of gay marriage was unconstitutional.

The district court issued a much more narrow ruling, saying that none of the broader things mattered to the case, but the fact that California allowed some gay people to get married during a specific period of time and then REVOKED access to that, the very specific case of Prop 8 meant that only California’s anti-gay marriage amendment was unconstitutional, but other states with anti-gay marriage amendments would not be affected by the decision.

As the decision is written, if the Court simply upholds the district court’s decision, gay marriage will become legal in California and nowhere else.  Historically, the court has tended towards narrow decisions, but because of the amount of cases it has been given and the complications of some states allowing gay marriage and others not and the general wave of public opinion it is possible that SCOTUS will write a broader opinion that will legalize gay marriage in general.

The other complication is that there is a suit also to determine whether the people participating in the suit have the right to do so, and if they don’t it can mean that none of the courts had the right to make decisions.  Basically, the government in California was like “I want nothing to do with standing on the wrong side of history, I’m not defending the amendment, it’s toxic” so other people stepped in.  California ruled that this was fine, but it’s still being brought before SCOTUS.  According to the release, SCOTUS is also considering the problem of “standing” so there is also a chance that the case will be more or less thrown out.

THREE POSSIBILITIES

1. Gay marriage is made legal in all states (Broadest ruling)

2. Gay marriage is made legal in California (What I think will happen)

3. The entire case is thrown out and who knows what happens then, it’s complicated, probably gay marriage would be legalized in California but I’m not entirely sure

DOMA

Officially known as: UNITED STATES V. WINDSOR, EDITH S., ET AL.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. In addition to the question presented by the petition, the parties are directed to brief and argue the following questions: Whether the Executive Branch’s agreement with the court below that DOMA is unconstitutional deprives this Court of jurisdiction to decide this case; and whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives has Article III standing in this case.

This case is a little more straightforward than Prop 8, if only because it’s not dealing with the minutiae of state law in addition to the question of gay rights.  DOMA states that people who are gay married do not have access to federal marriage benefits.  This has been ruled unconstitutional and, like in Judge Walker’s opinion, gay people have been declared a minority deserving of special consideration.

Like Prop 8, however, SCOTUS has to consider the issue of standing and could decide that the people participating in the suit don’t have the right to do so and could then throw the thing out entirely.

I think it most likely, however, that the court will be unable to find a constitutional justification for treating some marriages granted by states as federally acceptable while others are not.  I also think that, if California will have gay marriage, it will be incredibly difficult to justify not recognizing them federally, simply because California represents such a large portion of the US population.

DOMA is not my area of expertise, though, so I’m happy to hear other feedback.

Prop 8 Update: on the SCOTUS conference docket

The first SCOTUS conference of the session is today and both DOMA (multiple cases) and Prop 8 are on the docket, meaning the Court will (probably) decide whether to take one or the other up in the next term. The votes of four justices are required for a case to be heard by the Court.

Although they are on the docket, it’s not uncommon for cases to be rescheduled, so it’s possible for the day to end without any information on whether the Supreme Court is planning on hearing the cases.

So what do we want?

Well, because of the extremely narrow ruling in the Prop 8 trial, it would probably be better for the court to decline to hear it. As I understand it, this would make gay marriage legal in California, effective immediately. It would also mean that the court would not be ruling for universal gay marriage, but they are somewhat unlikely to do that off of the Prop 8 decision — again, because of the narrow ruling in previous courts.

DOMA, on the other hand, looks like it could be fully destroyed by the court if it is picked up.

Gay marriage might resume in California very, very soon.  We shall see.

What a Day

First, RIP Howard Zinn and JD Salinger. Strange to lose such great men on the same day. Perhaps they’d been keeping themselves alive for the State of the Union. I think there’s a John Adams and Thomas Jefferson story to be had under there.

Tonight at 8pm PST, the online test to qualify for Jeopardy! is available. You should go do that.

Scalito proved himself to be a horrific activist politician rather than an impartial judge last night. My level of hope for a reasonable decision on Prop 8 diminishes each time I consider the fact that Scalia and Alito exist.

And there was a study out today saying that gender didn’t matter in parenting.

Who will vote how on Prop 8; Supreme Court Justice breakdown

So, I’ve been trying to figure out how I think SCOTUS breaks down for the Prop8 vote.  I am going to be fairly optimistic based on the quality of the argument and Olson’s record with SCOTUS up to now.  Argued over 50 cases in front of SCOTUS, has won 3/4ths of them, including the decision today that said Corporations have freedom of speech and therefore can spend as much as they want on politics.  He’s clearly good at getting SCOTUS to expand rather than deny rights, no matter the public opinion.

Of course, there are 6 Catholics on the bench, and the Catholic Church, along with LDS, was responsible for most of the mobilization in support of Prop 8.  Anyway, in my optimism, I think it’s even possible for a 6-3 decision declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional.  Of course, 5-4 against is just as possible. No means declaring it unconstitutional, yes is saying prop 8 should stay.

And if anyone has any insight, feel free to post. These are mere conjectures based on what I can find on the interwebs.

JUSTICE ROBERTS

Pros: He donated legal to Romer vs. Evans which demanded equal rights for gays in Colorado. Fairly constructionist approach to Constitution, which is how Olson is making his case.

Cons: Catholic, part of the conservative block (though he has broken with them before), really into states rights

Vote: Likely yes, but some foundation for a surprise no

JUSTICE STEVENS

Pros: Staked out the anti-sodomy laws position in the mid-80s as a dissenting opinion, which eventually became the majority position in 2003. Considered part of the liberal block. Not Catholic.

Cons: None that I can find, though there’s nothing suggesting he’s particularly Pro gay marriage either.

Vote: Probably No

JUSTICE SCALIA

Pros: Just the one, he’s a big fan of the Constitution and Olson is making a very very strong argument.

Cons: He hates gay people. He’s the leader of the conservative block. Catholic. And he really hates gay people.

Vote: Burn all gay people at the stake Definite Yes.

JUSTICE KENNEDY

Pros: Kennedy has often taken a strong stance in favor of expanding Constitutional rights to cover sexual orientation. Though considered conservative, often a swing vote. References foreign law for precedence often.

Cons: Conservative more often than not. Catholic.

Vote: Likely No

JUSTICE THOMAS

Pros: None

Cons: Extremely conservative. Extremely into states rights. Performed a wedding for Rush Limbaugh. Even Scalia thinks he’s way too far to the right, “I am an originalist, but I am not a nut.” Super into religion, and thinks that religion should be allowed to be a lot more involved in public life. He also hates the gays.

Vote: Not just Yes, but a Yes to the RIGHT of Scalia

JUSTICE GINSBURG

Pros: She is awesome and my favorite. (Also liberal, pro-choice, pro-gay)

Cons: None

Vote: No

JUSTICE BREYER

Pros: Liberal. Refers to foreign law. Seems to like the gays.

Cons: None that I’m aware of.

Vote: No

JUSTICE ALITO

Pros: Was against anti-sodomy laws well before the court, but also was a student.

Cons: Conservative. Known as “Scalito”, though definitely to the left of Scalia. Catholic.

Vote: Almost certain Yes… but maybe…

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR

Pros: Some of the anti-Hispanic rhetoric exhibited by the yes on 8ers will probably not make her think highly of them. She lives in Greenwich village. Considered an ally, though little to support this.

Cons: Catholic.

Vote: Likely no, little to go on though.

4 extremely likely nos, 1 probable no
3 almost certain yeses, 1 most likely yes

Scalia in Lawrence V. Texas

Not that I’ve been reading supreme court opinions or anything but Scalia’s dissenting opinion basically says that the decision in Lawrence V. Texas means that Same Sex Marriage should be legal.  Excerpts below, bolding by me.

Justice O’Connor argues that the discrimination in this law which must be justified is not its discrimination with regard to the sex of the partner but its discrimination with regard to the sexual proclivity of the principal actor.

[...] This reasoning leaves on pretty shaky grounds state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. Justice O’Connor seeks to preserve them by the conclusory statement that “preserving the traditional institution of marriage” is a legitimate state interest. Ante, at 7. But “preserving the traditional institution of marriage” is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples.

[...] One of the most revealing statements in today’s opinion is the Court’s grim warning that the criminalization of homosexual conduct is “an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres.”

[...] At the end of its opinion–after having laid waste the foundations of our rational-basis jurisprudence–the Court says that the present case “does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.” Ante, at 17. Do not believe it. More illuminating than this bald, unreasoned disclaimer is the progression of thought displayed by an earlier passage in the Court’s opinion, which notes the constitutional protections afforded to “personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education,” and then declares that “[p]ersons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do.” Ante, at 13 (emphasis added). Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is “no legitimate state interest” for purposes of proscribing that conduct, ante, at 18; and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), “[w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring,” ante, at 6; what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution,” ibid.? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry. This case “does not involve” the issue of homosexual marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court. Many will hope that, as the Court comfortingly assures us, this is so.
Full horrifying opinion here, where he says he’s got nothing against the gays, he just thinks they’re going to hell.