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Tuesday
Jun052012

Prop 8 Headed to the Supreme Court

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A federal appeals court in California has denied a petition to have Prop 8—the 2008 California ballot initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman—further reviewed by a larger panel of judges.  Tuesday’s filing means that the case is headed to the Supreme Court of the United States.  

In February, the majority of a three judge panel sitting on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Prop 8 ruling that the initiative “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California and to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.” The court ruled on narrow grounds specific to California and Proposition 8. It did not find a fundamental right of same sex couples to marry.

Supporters of Prop 8 had asked for “en banc” review of the case, which would have meant that the Chief Judge of the circuit along with 10 randomly selected judges would have mooted their colleagues’ decision and started anew. But in a filing Tuesday the court said that a majority of judges had voted to deny the petition.

The court stayed the three judge ruling pending an appeal to the Supreme Court.

“Today’s order is yet another federal court victory for loving, committed gay and lesbian couples in California and around the nation,” said Chad Griffin, the Co-founder of The American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that brought the challenge to Prop 8.

“This is a great step forward towards the day when everyone will be able to marry the person they love” said AFER attorney David Boies.

Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, the official proponents of Prop 8, said his group will appeal the case to the Supreme Court. “Perhaps the most positive news from today’s decision is that the court has stayed the decision up to and including the time that the United States Supreme Court finally decides this case. We will promptly file our appeal to the nation’s highest court and look forward to a positive outcome on behalf of the millions of Californians who believe in traditional marriage,” Pugno said in a statement.

Three 9th Circuit judges -- Carlos T. Bea, Jay S. Bybee and Diarmuid Fionntain O’Scannlain -- wrote separately Tuesday arguing that a larger panel of the court should have taken  up the case. In their dissent, the judges referenced President Obama’s recent interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts in which he said he personally supports same sex marriage.

“A few weeks ago, subsequent to oral argument in this case, the President of the United States ignited a media firestorm by announcing that he supports same sex marriage as a policy matter. Drawing less attention, however, were his comments that the Constitution left this matter to the States and that one of the things that he’d like to see is 'that the conversation continue in a respectful way.’ Today our court has silenced any such respectful conversation.”

Judges Stephen Reinhardt and Michael Daly Hawkins, who authored the three judge panel decision, wrote separately to address the dissent. “We are puzzled by our dissenting colleagues’ unusual reliance on the President’s views regarding the Constitution, especially as the President did not discuss the narrow issue that we decided in our opinion,” they wrote. They stressed that in their opinion they had ruled narrowly that under the particular circumstances relating to California’s Prop 8, the measure was invalid.

“We did not resolve the fundamental question that both sides asked us to: whether the Constitution prohibits the states from banning same-sex marriage. That question may be decided in the near future, but if so, it should be in some other case, at some other time,” they said.

Tuesday’s ruling comes a week after a federal appeals court in Boston struck down a key provision of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In that case, legally married same sex couples argue that the federal government is denying them benefits available to opposite sex couples.

The Supreme Court will most likely consider both the PROP 8 case and the DOMA cases next term.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb072012

Appeals Court Declares California's Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A federal appeals court in California on Tuesday struck down Proposition 8, the controversial ballot measure passed in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

About 18,ooo same sex couples had obtained marriage licenses in the state before the ballot initiative was passed.

Prop 8 “amounts to a distinct constitutional violation because the Equal Protection Clause protects minority groups from being targeted for the deprivation of an existing right without legitimate reason,” the court said.

“By using their initiative power to target a minority group and withdraw a right that it possessed, without a legitimate reason for doing so, the People of California violated the Equal Protection Clause.”

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Judge Steven Reinhardt, writing for the majority, said the court had decided the issue on the “narrowest grounds.”

“We do not doubt the importance of the more general questions presented to us concerning the rights of same-sex couples to marry, nor do we doubt that these questions will likely be resolved in other states, and for the nation as a whole, by other courts,” he wrote. “For now, it suffices to conclude that the People of California may not, consistent with the Federal Constitution, add to their state Constitution a provision that has no more practical effect than to strip gays and lesbians of their right to use the official designation that the State and society give to committed relationships, thereby adversely affecting the status and dignity of the members of a disfavored class.”

The narrow ruling, specific to California, means the case is less likely to reach the Supreme Court.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb072012

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

Thursday
Feb022012

Federal Court Blocks Release of Videotapes of 2010 Prop 8 Trial

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in California has ruled that videotapes of the 2010 trial regarding the constitutionality of Proposition 8 will not be released to the public. After the trial, a District Court judge struck down the California voter initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The panel of judges for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower court “abused its discretion” by ordering the unsealing of the recording of the trial after the trial judge -- former Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California -- had told the parties involved that the recording would not be publicly broadcast.

“The trial judge on several occasions unequivocally promised that the recording of the trial would be used only in chambers and not publicly broadcast,” the Court said.

After the trial, opponents of Prop 8 had asked that the videotapes be made publically available. Supporters of the initiative argued against public release.

The appeals court judges – Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Daly Hawkins and N.R. Smith – emphasized that their ruling was unique to the circumstances surrounding the creation and sealing of the recording in the trial. They said the decision does not address policy questions regarding whether courts should allow cameras in court and it has “nothing to do with the freedom of the press to publish, describe or comment on any information to which it obtains access.”

Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., an attorney representing opponents to Prop 8, released a statement after the decision, saying, “It speaks volumes that the proponents of Proposition 8 are so insistent about concealing the videotaped record of this historic trial. They know the videotape would expose their baseless campaign of fear and let the public see the powerful evidence we submitted showing that Proposition 8 flatly violates the United States Constitution. ”

Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, the official proponents of Proposition 8, issued a statement praising the ruling. His group had been extremely critical of the use of the videotapes by Judge Walker after the trial was concluded.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov172011

California Supreme Court Rules Prop 8 Sponsors Can Continue Case

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that sponsors of Proposition 8 have the legal right to defend the controversial ballot initiative in federal court.

In August of 2010 a district court struck down Prop 8 -- the California voter initiative passed in 2008 that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.  Because California’s Governor and its Attorney General declined to defend the law in federal court, Prop 8′s sponsors stepped forward to do so.  A federal appeals court took up the case, but put it on hold in order to ask the state’s highest court whether the sponsors have the legal right to bring the case.

Thursday’s decision is an advisory opinion that will be sent to the federal appeals court. That court will then take the ruling under consideration and determine on its own whether it thinks the supporters have the legal standing to bring the case.

“The California Supreme Court’s decision punts the ball right back to the Ninth Circuit, which will now have to decide whether Prop. 8′s proponents may go forward as a matter of federal law, and, if so, whether the district court was right to strike down California’s ban on gay marriage,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, Professor of law at American University. “The Ninth Circuit may have been looking for a way out of deciding this case, but the California Supreme Court refused to give them one”

The National Organization for Marriage, a group that supports Prop 8, issued this statement.:

“It has been nothing short of shameful to see Governor Jerry Brown, his predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Kamala Harris abdicate their constitutional responsibility to defend Proposition 8 in Court,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president.  “Although today’s ruling from the California Supreme Court confirms that the proponents of Prop 8 have the right to defend their initiative when the state officials refuse to fulfill their sworn duty, it is gratifying to know that the over 7 million Californians who supported the initiative will have a vigorous defense of their decision in our federal courts.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov172011

California Supreme Court to Issue Prop 8 Decision

Jupiterimages/ThinkstockUPDATE: The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that sponsors of Proposition 8 have the legal right to defend the controversial ballot initiative in federal court.

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- The California Supreme Court will issue its opinion Thursday on whether the sponsors of Proposition 8 have the legal right to defend the controversial ballot initiative in federal court.

In August 2010 a district court judge struck down the initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Because California’s governor and its attorney general declined to defend the law, its sponsors stepped forward to appeal the ruling.

But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals put the case on hold in order to ask the state’s highest court whether the sponsors had the legal right -- or “standing” -- to bring the challenge.

The decision Thursday will not be the final word on the standing issue. It will be sent to the appeals court which will then issue its own opinion in the weeks to come.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep072011

Goodwin Liu Makes Bench Debut on California Supreme Court

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Goodwin Liu made his debut on the bench as a Justice for the California Supreme Court on Tuesday in a controversial case regarding Proposition 8 -- California’s ban on same sex marriage.   

At issue in the case is whether supporters of Prop 8 , which was struck down in August of 2010, can defend the initiative in federal court since the official defendants, California’s Democratic governor and attorney general, have declined to do so.  Liu asked several questions of lawyers on both sides of the issue.

Liu’s path to the bench was not without controversy.  Although President Obama nominated him in 2010 to a seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Liu later had to withdraw his name after Republican Senators expressed concerns regarding his judicial philosophy.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions called Liu, who is a former Berkeley law professor, “a very liberal activist lawyer.”

After the Republicans successfully filibustered his nomination, Liu asked to have his name removed from consideration.  Supporters of Liu said at the time that the Republicans real reason for blocking Liu’s nomination was their fear that he might someday become a nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.

In July, Gov. Jerry Brown nominated him to the California Supreme Court.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun142011

Effort to Void Prop 8 Decision Fails in California

Spike Mafford/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A federal judge in California has denied a request from supporters of Proposition 8 to void a decision that struck down the controversial ballot initiative.  

Known as “Prop 8,” the ballot initiative defines marriage as being between a man and a woman and was approved by voters in 2008. But two years later, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker struck down the marriage ban calling it unconstitutional.

After ruling on the case Walker retired and revealed publicly that he was involved in a long-term same-sex relationship, but he never said whether he intended at any point to marry his partner.

Supporters of Prop 8 filed a motion arguing that Walker should have disqualified himself from the case because he had an interest in its outcome.

Tuesday, James Ware,  U.S. District Chief Judge for the Northern District of California upheld Walker’s ruling and said, “The sole fact that a federal judge shares the same circumstances or personal characteristics with other members of the general public, and that the judge could be affected by the outcome of a proceeding in the same way that other members of the general public would be affected, is not a basis for either recusal or disqualification.”

In a 21-page ruling Ware said, “The single characteristic that Judge Walker shares with the Plaintiffs, albeit one that might not have been shared with the majority of Californians, gave him no greater interest in a proper decision on the merits than would exist for any other judge or citizen.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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