Daily News – Court of Appeals Refuses To Hear Gay Marriage Appeal

Court of Appeals Refuses To Hear Gay Marriage Appeal (UPDATED3X)
New York’s top court today refused to hear an appeal challenging the state’s gay marriage law.

Without explanation, the Court of Appeals denied a request to appeal by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical group.

UPDATE: “With the Court’s decision, same-sex couples no longer have to worry that their right to marry could be legally challenged in this State,” Gov. Cuomo, who pushed for passage of the law last year, said in a statement. “The freedom to marry in this State is secure for generations to come.”

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms had claimed the state Senate failed to follow proper procedure when it gave final passage last year to a bill allow same-sex couples to wed. Gov. Cuomo signed the bill into law.

The group argued that the Senate Republican majority violated the state open meetings law by meeting behind closed doors, including with Mayor Bloomberg, to discuss the issue.

A state appellate court in July unanimously reversed a lower court ruling and dismissed the case. Because the decision was unanimous, New Yorkers For Constitutional Freedoms needed permission from the state’s top court to continue its appeal, a request that was denied today.

“Obviously we’re disappointed in the Court of Appeals decision, but I wouldn’t’ say surprised,,” said the Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers For Constitutional Freedoms.

“It’s a pretty liberal-leaning court,” McGuire said. “Every time the people had the chance to vote on the issue of marriage, they view it one way [against gay marriage]. But when it comes before rogue legislatures or the courts, they view it differently.”

McGuire said his group will now focus on a complaint brought with the state Division of Human Rights by a lesbian couple who were told by Liberty Ridge Farm near Albany they could not get married at the site because they were lesbians.

The owners of the site, Robert and Cynthia Gifford, are said to object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

McGuire said he believes the state religious freedoms exemptions in the gay marriage law does not go far enough and could be a violation of the US and state constitutions.

UPDATE 2: Erica Pelletreau, spokeswoman for the Empire State Pride Agenda, the largest gay advocacy group in New York, ripped gay marriage foes for trying to “throw anything at this law just to see if something sticks.”

“Nothing will,” Pelletreau said. “Nothing can stop the momentum for full equality that started right here in New York State.”

She added that “while extremists dabble around in the arcana of parliamentary procedure, they forget one thing: They are targeting real people and real families. But love has already won the day. Victory is ours.”

UPDATE3: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office handled the case for the state, praised today’s court decision. Here’s his statement.
“Today another barrier has been overcome in the struggle for full equality for gay and lesbian New Yorkers. The New York State Court of Appeals sided with my office in a rejecting a challenge to the Marriage Equality Act. With this ruling by our state’s highest court, same sex couples can now have peace of mind that this legal challenge to their marriages has been laid to rest. The struggle to secure federal recognition of all New York marriages continues, but today’s decision is an important victory for equal justice. My office will keep fighting every day to defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection of the law for all New Yorkers.”

Advocate.com – Boehner’s DOMA Defense Hits $1.5 Million Limit

Boehner’s DOMA Defense Hits $1.5 Million Limit

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi has decried Republican leaders in Congress for hitting the $1.5 million spending cap on the legal defense of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which is led by House speaker John Boehner, has intervened in 14 DOMA challenges in federal courts now that the Department of Justice and the Obama administration have decided to stop defending the law in court. So far, $1,447,996.73 of the allotted $1.5 million to continue defending DOMA has been spent within one year and three months, according to the Committee on House Administration. The current contract, agreed upon by the committee’s chairman, Dan Lungren, specifies that spending to defend DOMA in court cannot exceed $1.5 million.

“The American people should no longer have to foot the bill for Speaker Boehner’s campaign to appease the most conservative forces within the Republican Party,” Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday. “It is time for the Speaker and Congressional Republicans to drop their frivolous, taxpayer-funded lawsuits without any delay. When they do, we will all look forward to the day when DOMA is relegated to the dustbin of history once and for all.”

Human Rights Campaign legislative director Allison Herwitt added that defending DOMA counters the changing tide in Americans’ opinions that same-sex couples should be allowed to receive the same benefits and responsibilities as heterosexual couples.

“In poll after poll, we see that voters do not view marriage equality as a critical issue for lawmakers — likely because a good majority of the country already supports it,” Herwitt said. “The American people need job creation and infrastructure improvements. Instead of focusing on the real problems that impact people’s livelihood, Speaker Boehner and House Republicans are funneling money into an issue that does nothing to improve conditions for the millions of Americans in need of help, and actually harms loving and committed same-sex couples looking to start their own families.”

LA Times – 2012 ballot initiatives: Protect gun rights, gay rights and dogs

2012 ballot initiatives: Protect gun rights, gay rights and dogs


Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown kicks off his campaign for Proposition 30, a November state ballot initiative that would temporarily increase sales and income taxes. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press / August 15, 2012)

INTERACTIVE: 2012 California propositions
At a glance: Proposition 30 and Proposition 38

Maryland may be first to support same-sex marriage in ballot box

Gay Republicans say they are optimistic despite rebuffs from party

White working class: Clinging to guns, religion and Romney
October 9, 2012, 3:30 a.m.
California may be best known for its full platters of ballot measures served up every election season, which have in the past tried to push roomier accommodations for chickens and permission to grow pot.

But this November, voters in states across the country will be asked to weigh in on initiatives on the ballot that range from the high-profile — approving gay marriage — to the plain odd, such as the South Dakota initiative that would make it a felony to harm a cat, dog or horse.

Four states — Maryland, Minnesota, Maine and Washington — will weigh in on gay marriage in November. Minnesota will ask voters whether the state constitution should be amended to prohibit prohibiting same-sex marriage (though the state already has a law banning it). Maryland and Washington voters will be asked whether they want to repeal laws passed in state legislatures allowing same sex marriage. Maine’s Question 1 would allow the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

On another front, four states have ballot initiatives preserving their rights to hunt and fish. Hunting advocates in Idaho are trying to add a constitutional amendment allowing residents to hunt and fish, which is opposed by an anti-trapping group. Hunters in Kentucky, Nebraska and Wyoming are trying to add similar amendments. States including Arizona, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee tried to pass similar hunting rights laws in 2010 — Arizona’s attempt failed. Louisiana gun owners are also trying to add a constitutional amendment to protect their rights to own guns. North Dakota, on the other hand, has an initiative on the ballot making it a class C felony to “maliciously harm a living dog, cat or horse.” Trappers would be excluded from this law.

TIMELINE: Gay marriage initiatives

A few ballot initiatives seem to target immigrants, though none are as controversial as the amendment that didn’t make it on California’s ballot, which would have required law enforcement officers to check suspects’ immigration status. A Montana initiative would require people to provide proof of citizenship before receiving state services, while a Minnesota ballot initiative would require voters to present ID at the polls. The Minnesota legislature has passed similar voter ID laws, both vetoed by the state’s governor, a Democrat.

In New Hampshire, where the giant state House is controlled by a tea party Republican, a measure will appear on the ballot to add a constitutional amendment prohibiting the state from ever levying personal income taxes. New Hampshire doesn’t have personal income taxes, and House Speaker William O’Brien, who co-sponsored the measure to put the amendment on the ballot, says he wants the state to stay that way. The South Dakota legislature also put a constitutional amendment on the ballot — this one would require that the state’s budget be balanced.

Unions, which have been under concentrated attack across the country since Republicans won state offices in 2010, also show up on ballots. In Michigan, a proposed constitutional amendment would make collective bargaining a right for private and public workers. Another initiative in that state would give collective bargaining rights to home healthcare workers. In Alabama, an initiative would allow for the use of secret ballots in union votes — a law labor groups oppose but that passed in Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah in 2010. The National Labor Relations Board challenged the Arizona law, saying that states shouldn’t be able to regulate union elections, but a federal court upheld the law last month.

Four states also have questions about casinos on the ballot, indicating that the tough economy is making many turn to gambling as they hunt for revenue. Arkansas’ Issue 3 would allow for casinos in the state (it has gambling, but not casinos). Arkansas voters approved a lottery as recently as 2008, and now, casino owners in Las Vegas are salivating over the state’s virgin territory. Ballot questions in Maryland, Oregon and Rhode Island would allow for the construction of new casinos in specific areas.

Finally, a few very divisive subjects have made it onto the ballots. California’s Proposition 34 would end the state’s death penalty, and opponents have waged an aggressive ad war against the idea. In Florida, two controversial measures are on the ballot: one to prohibit public funds for abortions, the other to allow religious institutions to receive public money. Both Planned Parenthood and the Catholic Church have been active in the state around these initiatives.

Still, for every controversial initiatives, there are measures like the sole one on the Kansas ballot, which would alter how the state taxes boats, and the initiative in South Dakota to change how much money is taken each year from the state’s cement plant trust fund.

[For the Record, 8:28 a.m. PST Oct. 9: An earlier version of this post referenced New Hampshire’s state Senate instead of the state House.]

Advocate.com – Scalia: Easy to Rule on Gay Rights, Abortion

Scalia: Easy to Rule on Gay Rights, Abortion
With the court considering whether to hear cases on marriage equality, Justice Antonin Scalia says ruling on gay rights is a no-brainer.

Ginsburg, Scalia
With same-sex marriage likely to come before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, one of the court’s most conservative justices, Antonin Scalia, has left no doubt as to how he would rule.

Cases on gay rights and certain other controversial issues are no-brainers for Scalia, he told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., this week.

“The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy,” Scalia told the conservative group Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. “Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, part of the court’s liberal wing, said this week the court is likely to take up a case involving the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. Several have been submitted. “I think it’s most likely that we will have that issue before the court toward the end of the current term,” she told an audience at the University of Colorado in Boulder Wednesday, the AP reports.

She said that was why she could not answer a student’s question about whether the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection provisions would apply to sexual orientation, explaining that she could not discuss issues that might come before the court.