Entries in Federal Appeals Court (3)


Appeals Court to Rule on California's Prop 8

Jupiterimages/ThinkstockUPDATE: A federal appeals court in California struck down Proposition 8 on Tuesday, the controversial ballot measure passed in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- In the months leading up to the passage of Proposition 8 -- the controversial 2008 California ballot initiative that bans gay marriage -- some 18,000 same sex couples obtained marriage licenses.

The marriages came to a screeching halt when Prop 8 was passed with 52 percent of the vote.

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court is poised to rule on the measure. Prop 8 supporters says they are fighting for the traditional definition of marriage. Opponents argue that Prop 8 violates constitutional rights.

In 2010 U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker struck down Proposition 8, ruling that it “both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Tuesday, before reaching the constitutional question, the panel of three judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will have to decide whether to vacate Walker’s decision because he failed to disclose at the time of the Prop 8 trial that he had been involved in a long term same sex relationship, although he was not married. Supporters of Prop 8 argue Walker had a vested interest in the outcome of the case.

The court will also decide whether the supporters of Prop 8 have the legal right to defend the law in court after California’s public officials declined to do so. If the court finds that the supporters of Prop 8 have the necessary “standing,” the court will then decide whether it is constitutional.

Currently six states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to same sex couples: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Denver Federal Appeals Court to Hear Arguments on Sharia Law Use

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- A federal appeals court in Denver is poised to hear arguments Monday regarding the use of Sharia law in state court.

A panel of judges from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will eventually decide whether a lower court judge was correct in blocking a 2010 ballot initiative forbidding Oklahoma courts from considering Islamic laws in their decisions.

Sharia law is broadly defined as a body of law based on Islam and its central religious text, the Quran.

The ballot measure passed by a 70 percent margin but was immediately challenged by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).  The group argued the measure violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution forbidding the government from favoring one religion over another.

U.S District Court Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange blocked the measure in November of 2010, ruling that any harm that would result from a delay in certifying the election results is “minimized” because the defendants were “not aware of any situation where Sharia Law has been applied in an Oklahoma court.”  Judge Miles-LaGrange said that the challengers were likely to succeed on the merits of their case going forward.

In court documents defending the constitutionality of the measure, lawyers for the Oklahoma Attorney General said its “principle purpose” was to ban the Oklahoma courts from looking at the “precepts of other nations or cultures.”

They argue in court papers that the measure does not single out Sharia law.

“The measure bans, equally, all laws from other nations or cultures, including, but not limited to international law and Sharia law,” according to the court papers.

But opponents of the measure say it “stigmatizes Islam.”

In court briefs, lawyers for CAIR, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), write, “The State of Oklahoma makes no attempt to defend the practice of singling out one religious faith for official condemnation and disability."

“The measure tramples the free exercise rights of a disfavored minority faith and constrains the ability” of Muslims in Oklahoma to “execute valid wills, assert religious liberty claims under the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, and enjoy equal access to the state judicial system,” they argue.

They point out that Sharia Law is not outlined in any single document but is subject to “individual and communal” interpretations that differ across denominations among Muslims.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mount Soledad Cross Violates the Constitution, Says Federal Court

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a 43-foot-tall cross that sits atop Mount Soledad in La Jolla, California violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.
In a 50-page opinion, a unanimous three judge panel found “after examining the entirety of the Mount Soledad Memorial in context -- having considered its history, its religious and non-religious uses, its sectarian and secular features, the history of war memorials and the dominance of the Cross -- we conclude that the Memorial, presently configured and as a whole, primarily conveys a message of government endorsement of religion.”
The cross, which weighs approximately 24 tons, is visible for miles away and overlooks a popular interstate. It was built in 1913 and then blew down in 1952. The current cross was erected in 1954 and was a memorial to American service members and a tribute to God’s “promise of everlasting life.”
The case had generated controversy for over 20 years, during which time state and federal courts had considered its fate. The cross stood for many years on city property, but in 2005, it  was designated a national veteran’s memorial and was transferred to federal property. Over the years the memorial has been expanded and now also features 2,100 black stone plaques honoring fallen soldiers.
The Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, joined by several residents of San Diego and represented by the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit arguing that the cross, sitting on federal land, sent a message of government endorsement of religion.
On Tuesday the court recognized the controversy regarding the prominent public memorial and said, “We believe that no broadly applauded resolution is possible because this case represents the difficult and intractable intersection of religion, patriotism, and the Constitution.”
Judge M. Margaret McKeown, writing for the panel, sent the case back to the lower court to decide whether the memorial could be modified to pass constitutional muster. There had been a suggestion by some to transfer the cross itself to nearby private property on a church.
“This is a clear victory for the plaintiffs and for religious liberty. The court unanimously concluded that in displaying this giant sectarian symbol the government sends an unconstitutional message of religious favoritism,” said Daniel Mach the Director of the ACLU’s Freedom of Religion and Belief.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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