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Entries in Supreme Court (96)

Thursday
Apr182013

Scalia Discusses Race, Homosexuality, Boredom

Paul Morigi/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia showed a lighter side while joking with students from the University of California Washington Center.

At the event Monday, held to publicize his new book, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts, Scalia answered students’ questions on a range of issues and offered insight into the perspective from the other side of the bench.

Scalia said most times justices ask questions in order to make colleagues understand which way they are leaning a certain way on a case.

“Sometimes I ask questions just because I’m bored, just to stay awake,” he joked. “Very often the questioning is done to convey your point of view to your colleagues.”

Scalia also touched on topics as varied as his viewpoint on the Constitution and opposition of Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The section requires that states and regions that have previously discriminated against minority voters such as African Americans gain federal approval when they want to change voting regulations in their states.

Scalia called the act one of “racial preferment,” which would continue to be reauthorized by Congress unless the high court took action.

Congress last reauthorized the act for another 25 years in 2006. The Supreme Court decision on the act’s constitutionality is expected in late June.

In February, when the act was last brought before the Supreme Court, Scalia had said Congressional support was based in part on what he called “racial entitlement.”

“I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about,” Scalia said. “Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.”

Scalia shot down a question on homosexuality when a student asked about the interpretation of the constitution’s 14th Amendment regarding same-sex relationships, something the student suggested was a “new technical phenomena.”

“There was homosexuality in the time of the 14th Amendment. Every state had laws against it. It was criminal in every state,” he said. “I don’t consider homosexuality a new technical phenomena...people didn’t come forward and demand a constitutional right to homosexual marriage before (in the time of the 14th Amendment).”

Scalia agreed when questioned by a student as to whether fellow Justice Clarence Thomas pushed him to the right when Thomas came on to the court in 1991 or if it was the other way around.

“What had happened was I had followed Clarence’s lead, he knew that,” he said. “Clarence is his own man, he’s not going to follow me just to follow me. You know he’s a very stubborn man too, which is why he won’t ask questions. The more the press is on him for not asking questions the less likely he is to ask questions.”

Thomas broke his silence for the first time in seven years earlier this year when he made a joke during an oral argument.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar242013

Supreme Court to Hear Arguments Regarding Gay Marriage this Week

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments from both sides of the same sex marriage debate this week.

At issue are California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Both prohibit same sex marriage, but public opinion seems to increasingly be in favor of gay marriage.

The big question is whether the Court will rule such bans unconstitutional nationwide or if it will leave the issue up to individual states to decide. Opponents of same sex marriage are against the issue being resolved in such a top-down manner by the courts rather than through elections, but most experts seem to think that the Court likely won’t go that far in its ruling.

“They see the wave developing in support of gay marriage. We've seen that develop now majority support in the country. It's moving very, very quickly,” said ABC Chief Political Correspondent George Stephanopoulos.

“They're not gonna wanna risk looking anachronistic …What they're likely to do is create the space for states to make their own decisions.”

California State Attorney General Kamila Harris believes that same sex marriage is about equality. “The majority of Americans believe it, the majority of Californians believe it, the majority of Catholics in this country believe it,” Harris said on CNN's State of the Union.

Austin Nimocks of the Alliance Defending Freedom disagrees with Harris’s assessment.

“We're talking about Californians going to the ballot box twice in a nine year period and voting to uphold marriage between one man and one woman,” he said on State of the Union. “That's our most fundamental right in this country is the right to vote and the right to participate in the political process.

The proponents of same sex marriage note that protecting the rights of minorities has traditionally been done by the courts rather through elections.

Evan Wolfson, President of the advocacy organization Freedom to Marry compared the current marriage debate to another similar case in the 1960's during an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation.  

“The Court ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and 70 percent of the American people at that time were against inter-racial marriage. Fortunately, in America we don't put everything up to a vote.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar012013

President Obama Explains Legal Argument for Same-Sex Marriage

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama strongly suggested Friday that his interpretation of the Constitution does support a fundamental right to same-sex marriage, even if he didn’t put that argument in writing before the Supreme Court in a legal brief against California’s Proposition 8.

“What we’ve said is that same-sex couples are a group, a class that deserves heightened scrutiny, that the Supreme Court needs to ask the state why it’s doing it, and if the state doesn’t have a good reason it should be struck down,” Obama said Friday at an impromptu news conference in the White House briefing room. “That’s the core principle, as applied to this case.

“The court may decide that if it doesn’t apply in this case, it probably can’t apply in any case,” he said.  ”There is no good reason for it. … If I were on the court, that would probably be the view that I’d put forward.”

On Thursday, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to strike down the California ban on same-sex marriage but stopped short of calling for a fundamental right to marriage in every state under the Constitution.

The administration argued on paper that California’s Proposition 8 violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution, noting that the state extends all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage to gay and lesbians, but forbids them the designation of “marriage.”

The brief suggested that if the court were to agree with the administration’s position, gay marriage laws in seven other states could be in jeopardy. Those states – Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island – offer same-sex couples access to civil unions, which carry the same package of legal benefits as marriage without the name.

“The specific question presented before the court right now is whether Prop 8 and the California law is unconstitutional. And what we’ve done is we’ve put forward a basic principle which applies to all equal protection cases,” Obama said Friday.

“Whenever a particular group is being discriminated against, the court asks the question, what’s the rationale for this, and it better be a good reason, and if you don’t have a good reason we’re going to strike it down,” he said.   “When the Supreme Court essentially called the question by taking this case about California’s law, I didn’t feel like that was something that this administration could avoid.”

Experts say the administration’s legal argument to the Supreme Court on Prop 8 reflects Obama’s recognition that the court prefers to move incrementally on major social issues and is unlikely to approve of a sweeping 50-state solution at a time when 39 states still ban same-sex marriage.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb272013

Civil Rights Leaders Swarm Court for Voting Rights Act’s Section 5

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Just hours before the unveiling of a new Rosa Parks statue at the U.S. Capitol, civil rights pioneers, young and old, convened on the steps of the Supreme Court to demonstrate for the importance of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Section 5 requires certain states and jurisdictions to have any change in voting procedures approved by the federal government. Sparking outrage from protestors was Justice Antonin Scalia’s comment calling Section 5 "the perpetuation of a racial entitlement."

“I will not dignify Justice Scalia’s comment by repeating it,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous. "But let us be very clear. The protection of the right to vote is an American entitlement. It is a democratic entitlement. And those who would seek to use incendiary rhetoric from the bench of the Supreme Court should think twice about their place in history.”

Arguments regarding the constitutionality of Section 5 of the law began Wednesday morning in Shelby County, Al. vs. Holder.

“Voting rights are not a racial entitlement, they are an American entitlement, secured by our Constitution, starting with the Preamble, and protected by critical statutes such as the Voting Rights Act,” said the president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, Doug Kendall.

“To erect a statue today of Rosa Parks is historic, it is something long overdue. But to take a chisel and break down the statues of law of the Supreme Court is to have one side of the town make progress and the other side of town go regressive,” said Rev. Al Sharpton prior to the Court’s commencement.

Sharpton claimed the possible removal of Section 5 is an attempt by certain parties to “rob the right to vote.”

Several members of Congress, including representatives from the Congressional Black, Hispanic, and Asian-Pacific American Caucuses, also participated in the demonstration.

“We must answer President Obama’s call in the State of the Union address to shorten lines at polling places to ensure that all citizens can cast their ballots without obstruction or delay,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on the steps of the Court.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., spoke on his experience fighting for voting rights in the “Bloody Sunday” Selma to Montgomery civil rights march of 1965.

“We were met by state troopers who shot us with tear gas, beat us with nightsticks, and trampled us with horses,” said Lewis, who went on to speak about the challenges that minority voters still face.

“Literacy tests may be gone, raising questions like how many bubbles on a bar of soap, how many jelly beans in a jar may be gone, but people are using other means, other tactics and techniques” to infringe on the right to vote, said Lewis.

“The Voting Rights Act without Section 5 amounts to an abused Indian treaty,” continued Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Following oral arguments, Martin Luther King III, son of Martin Luther King Jr., made a different point, saying that America should make the voting process “easier, not harder.”

“It is embarrassing to some degree that in our nation, only about 48 percent of the population votes,” said King.

But the attorneys representing Shelby County bit back, claiming Section 5 infringed on certain states’ right to sovereignty.

“We put these states under prior restraint. You cannot change your election law unless the attorney general, a single unelected official, says it’s O.K. And if he doesn’t say it’s O.K., you’ve got to come to Washington…and beg the federal government for the exercise of your sovereignty?” said attorney Bert Rein.

Rein also said Section 5 causes a “substantial financial burden” and said it has cost them more than $1 billion on the state level over the past 25 years.

Shelby County attorney Butch Ellis said, "It’s time to recognize that we and the other covered states need to be considered with the same rights of sovereignty that the non-covered jurisdictions of the country experience.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb242013

White House Brief Foreshadows Supreme Court Arguments on Gay Marriage

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House has asked the Supreme Court to strike down a main provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, but in the legal paper filed with the judiciary it may have signaled a wider push for same-sex marriage as a constitutional right on the horizon.

The Justice Department issued an amicus brief Friday urging the court to repeal Section 3 of DOMA when it hears a challenge to the act late next month. The portion bars the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages for health benefits, income tax purposes, and other issues.`

In 2011, President Obama announced the executive branch would cease upholding the 1996 law, although it remained on the books. Given that the Obama administration has been named a party to the case, the filing with the court does not come as a surprise, yet the equal protection issues covered in United States v. Windsor are relatively narrow in scope.

Instead, court watchers have been waiting to see whether the president would weigh in on a separate case involving gay marriage: California’s Proposition 8. The administration has until next week to decide whether to join other parties in challenging the ballot-approved state law, later overturned, that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Friday’s brief could serve as hat-tip that the Justice Department is preparing for such a move.

Any ruling regarding Prop 8 would have sweeping ramifications over a much broader issue than DOMA: Whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees a fundamental right to gay marriage.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. is not required to file a so-called “friend of the court” brief in that, but sources say the administration is considering the possibility at the highest levels.

In an interview Wednesday with San Francisco’s ABC station, KGO-TV, Obama said his administration had yet to reach a decision.

“I have to make sure I’m not interjecting myself too much into this process, particularly when we’re not party to the case,” he told KGO-TV. “I can tell you, though, that obviously my personal view is that I think that same-sex couples should have the same rights and be treated like everybody else.”

Historically his administration has left such decisions to the states; the administration has not previously offered an official statement on Prop 8 because the federal government was not directly affected by it.

Although the California case and DOMA do not directly intertwine Friday’s brief does offer a window into the language likely to be employed by the Justice Department in Prop 8, should it become involved. The brief can be found at the well-established SCOTUSblog.com.

“Gay and lesbian people are a minority group with limited political power,” reads the administration statement. “Although some of the harshest and most overt forms of discrimination against gay and lesbian people have receded, that progress has hardly been uniform (either temporally or geographically), and has in significant respects been the result of judicial enforcement of the Constitution, not political action.”

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has also filed a brief urging that the law be upheld, arguing gay-rights issues would be better left to the democratic process.

“Gays and lesbians are one of the most influential, best-connected, best-funded, and best-organized interest groups in modern politics, and have attained more legislative victories, political power, and popular favor in less time than virtually any other group in American history,” it says.

The House named itself a party to the case after the executive branch announced its decision to abandon the legislation.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec312012

Chief Justice John Roberts Highlights ‘Fiscal Cliff’ in Year-End Report

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Acknowledging the “much publicized fiscal cliff” and the country’s “truly extravagant and burgeoning national debt,” Chief Justice John Roberts dedicated the majority of his annual year-end report to a summary of the efforts by the Judiciary Branch of government to contain costs.

In the report, which is traditionally released on the last day of the year, Roberts writes, “No one seriously doubts that the country’s fiscal ledger has gone awry,” and says the public will look to its “elected officials to craft a solution.”

“We in the Judiciary stand outside the political arena, but we continue to do our part to address the financial challenges in our sphere.”

In the report, Roberts writes, “The Judicial Branch continues to consume a miniscule portion of the federal budget.”

Roberts explains:

  • In fiscal year 2012 the judiciary (including the Supreme Court , other federal courts, and the Federal Judicial Center) received a total appropriation of $6.97 billion.
  • The judiciary branch is focused on three targets to reduce expenses: rent, personnel expenses and information technology.
  • The rates of pay for judicial support staff have stayed the same for the past three years. Every employee’s compensation is continuously reviewed to ensure that it is consistent with job responsibilities.
  • The judiciary is exploring the practice of sharing administrative services among court units within judicial districts.

But Roberts cautions that it will become increasingly difficult to economize further “without reducing the quality of judicial services.” He points out that unlike the executive branch agencies, the courts do not have discretionary programs that can be eliminated or postponed.

Also, as he has done in years past, Roberts urges the other branches of government to act quickly to nominate and confirm judges in order to fill judicial vacancies across the country.

Roberts concludes the report on a hopeful note: “We know from experience that our durable Constitution provides the framework needed for able hands to overcome any obstacle, consistent with the rule of law.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec092012

Supreme Court Decision to Hear Same-Sex Marriage Cases Reignites Debate

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock)(NEW YORK) -- The Supreme Court's announcement that it would hear two cases challenging laws prohibiting same-sex marriage has reinvigorated one of the most hotly contentious social debates in American history, a debate that has been fueled by a dramatic change in attitudes.

With some states taking significant steps towards legalizing gay marriage, the hearings come at a critical moment.

This week in Washington State, hundreds of same-sex couples lined up to collect marriage licenses after Gov. Christine Gregoire announced the passing of a voter-approved law legalizing gay marriage.

"For the past 20 years we've been saying just one more step. Just one more fight. Just one more law. But now we can stop saying 'Just one more.' This is it. We are here. We did it," Gregoire told a group of Referendum 74 supporters during the law's certification.

Washington is just the most recent of several states to pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, signifying a significant departure from previous thinking on the controversial subject.

A study by the Pew Research Center on changing attitudes on gay marriage showed that in 2001 57 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage, while 35 percent of Americans supported it.

The same poll shows that today opinions have greatly shifted to reflect slightly more support for same-sex marriage than opposition -- with 48 percent of Americans in favor and 43 percent opposed.

In fact, just two years ago, 48 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage while only 42 percent supported it -- indicating that opinions have changed dramatically in the last couple of years alone.

It's hard to imagine that only 16 years ago, the fervent gay marriage debate led to the conception of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union solely held between a man and a woman.

While debating the Defense of Marriage Act in September 1996, former Sen. Robert Byrd said: "If same-sex marriage is accepted, then the announcement will be official: America will have said that children do not need a mother and a father. Two mothers or two fathers will be OK. It'll be just as good. This would be a catastrophe."

Even a few short years ago a newly-elected President Obama did not support the legalization of gay marriage. It wasn't until earlier this year, at the end of his first term and with the impending election in sight that the president told ABC's Robin Roberts the he'd "been going through an evolution on this issue."

Obama went on to attribute his shift in stance to the influence of his daughters.

"You know, Malia and Sasha, they've got friends whose parents are same-sex couples. It wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently," he said. "That's the kind of thing that prompts -- a change in perspective."

Obama isn't the only one to experience an evolution in thinking on the matter of gay marriage. Attitudes towards same-sex marriage have shifted dramatically over the past decade across the board, particularly in the past few years.

Gone are the days when a majority of people opposed same-sex marriage; the days when gay politicians and supporters of same-sex marriage could not get elected.

Today, nine states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex unions -- a number likely considered inconceivable just a few short years ago. And yet, the same-sex marriage debate still begs for the answering of a question: Will this newfound public opinion, largely driven by young people, women and Democrats, have an effect on the Supreme Court's ultimate decision on the matter?

"I think (gay marriage is) just not a big deal for a lot of young people," Elizabeth Wydra of the Constitutional Accountability Center says. "The justices are human beings so they're not completely immune to public opinion. ... I think the real question for them is going to be do they want to be on the wrong side of history?"

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov302012

Supreme Court Takes No Action on Gay Marriage

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- When the nine Supreme Court justices retreated behind closed doors Friday for their regularly scheduled conference, they considered the issue of gay marriage and were widely expected to decide whether to take up a case that could ultimately determine whether there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage.

But the justices surprised court watchers when they took no action at all. Although they discussed the issue in their closed door conference Friday morning, they made no decision on whether they would hear unrelated cases having to do with California's 2008 Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Court could act on Monday when it is scheduled to release orders, or discuss the cases again in their next scheduled conference on next Friday.

At issue in the cases is Proposition 8, the controversial 2008 California ballot initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. It passed with 52 percent of the vote.

A divided three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in February struck down "Prop 8," ruling that it "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."

Supporters of Prop 8 are asking the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of that ruling. Gay marriages have been put on hold in California until the Supreme Court decides whether to step in and hear the case.

In court briefs, Charles J. Cooper, a lawyer for ProtectMarriage.com, the original sponsor of Prop 8, writes, "Californians of all races, creeds, and walks of life have opted to preserve the traditional definition of marriage not because they seek to dishonor gays and lesbians as a class, but because they believe that the traditional definition of marriage continues to meaningfully serve society's legitimate interests, and they cannot yet know how those interests will be affected by fundamentally redefining marriage."

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who authored the Prop 8 decision, made clear that the court was ruling on the "narrowest grounds" specific to circumstances concerning the passage of Prop 8 and was leaving the more general question concerning whether under the Constitution same-sex couples "may ever be denied the right to marry" to be resolved "in other states" and by "other courts."

Opponents of Prop 8 are represented by David Boies, and Theodore Olson, two lawyers who argued on opposite sides in Bush v. Gore.

They contend in court briefs that the question about whether the states might discriminate against gay men and lesbians in the provision of marriage licenses could be the "defining civil rights issue of our time."

They say that the Prop 8 case might be an "attractive vehicle for approaching, if not definitively resolving, that issue."

"By eliminating the right of individuals of the same sex to marry, Proposition 8 relegated same-sex couples seeking government recognition of their relationships to so-called 'domestic partnerships.' Under California law, domestic partners are granted nearly all the substantive rights and obligations of a married couple, but are denied the venerated label of 'marriage' and all of the respect, recognition and public acceptance that goes with that institution," Boies and Olson say.

But because they won at the lower court, even though it was a narrow ruling, they have urged the Supreme Court not to take up the case. In part, they argue, the court should decline the case because more review would delay the ability of their clients to marry in California.

The Supreme Court could still act Monday in a number of ways. Even if it granted the case, it could issue an opinion narrowly tailored to California and, thus, avoid the broader question regarding a fundamental right to same sex marriage. It could decline to take up the appeal, which would mean gay marriages could resume in California.

Court watchers speculate that some of the conservative members of the court who are uncomfortable with a lower court decision that struck down a successful ballot initiative, might have a greater concern with Justice Anthony Kennedy's ultimate vote. While it only takes four justices to agree to take a case, it takes five to win and Kennedy is seen as a likely swing vote.

"Conservative justices hoping to find an ally in Justice Kennedy may be concerned about his majority opinion in favor of gay rights advocates in two previous cases in 1996 and 2003," professor Margaret Russell of the Santa Clara University School of Law said.

"Kennedy's basic approach in those cases was to protect the individual liberty and choices of gay men and lesbians."

Other justices might vote against taking up the case out of a belief that the issue should be allowed to percolate further at the state level.

Nine states and the District of Columbia allow (or will soon allow) gay marriage.

Besides the Prop 8 case, called Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Justices Friday will also address several challenges to a federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Such cases do not involve a fundamental right to gay marriage, as the couples involved are already legally married in their state. Instead, at issue is whether legally married same-sex couples (in states that allow gay marriage) can be denied federal benefits, such as Social Security survivor benefits and federal health care, that are available to opposite-sex couples.

The Obama administration decided in 2011 to no longer defend DOMA in court, arguing that it was unconstitutional. Two federal appeals courts have struck down the law.

Because the government refuses to defend the law in court, Republican Speaker John Boehner of Ohio moved to intervene and appointed the U.S. House of Representatives Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to do so.

Paul D. Clement serves as BLAG's lawyer and stresses that DOMA was enacted with strong majorities in both houses of Congress and was signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. In court briefs, Clement writes that DOMA was not meant to invalidate any marriages, but "simply asserts the federal government's right as separate sovereign to provide its own definition which governs only federal programs and funding."

Kenji Yoshino, a professor at New York University School of Law, believes that the court is more likely to take up one of the DOMA cases than the Prop 8 case. "I think the court is almost certain to take the DOMA cases, as they involve lower courts striking down a federal statute rather than a state law, as is the case in the Prop 8 case," he says.

"The DOMA case also asks the court for less, in that it does not affect the marriage law in any state. Rather it returns the Congress to its traditional posture of deferring to state definitions of marriage."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov302012

Supreme Court to Decide Whether to Take Gay Marriage Case

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- When the nine Supreme Court justices retreat behind closed doors on Friday for their regularly scheduled conference, they will consider the issue of gay marriage and decide whether to take up a case that could ultimately determine whether there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage.

At issue is Proposition 8, the controversial 2008 California ballot initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.  It passed with 52 percent of the vote.

A divided three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in February struck down "Prop 8," ruling that it "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."

Supporters of Prop 8 are asking the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of that ruling.  Gay marriages have been put on hold in California until the Supreme Court decides whether to step in and hear the case.

In court briefs, Charles J. Cooper, a lawyer for ProtectMarriage.com, the original sponsor of Prop 8, writes, "Californians of all races, creeds, and walks of life have opted to preserve the traditional definition of marriage not because they seek to dishonor gays and lesbians as a class, but because they believe that the traditional definition of marriage continues to meaningfully serve society's legitimate interests, and they cannot yet know how those interests will be affected by fundamentally redefining marriage."

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who authored the Prop 8 decision, made clear that the court was ruling on the "narrowest grounds" specific to circumstances concerning the passage of Prop 8 and was leaving the more general question concerning whether under the Constitution same-sex couples "may ever be denied the right to marry" to be resolved "in other states" and by "other courts."

Opponents of Prop 8 are represented by David Boies, and Theodore Olson, two lawyers who argued on opposite sides in Bush v. Gore.

They contend in court briefs that the question about whether the states might discriminate against gay men and lesbians in the provision of marriage licenses could be the "defining civil rights issue of our time."

They say that the Prop 8 case might be an "attractive vehicle for approaching, if not definitively resolving, that issue."

"By eliminating the right of individuals of the same sex to marry, Proposition 8 relegated same-sex couples seeking government recognition of their relationships to so-called 'domestic partnerships.'  Under California law, domestic partners are granted nearly all the substantive rights and obligations of a married couple, but are denied the venerated label of 'marriage' and all of the respect, recognition and public acceptance that goes with that institution," Boies and Olson say.

But because they won at the lower court, even though it was a narrow ruling, they have urged the Supreme Court not to take up the case.  In part, they argue, the court should decline the case because more review would delay the ability of their clients to marry in California.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov092012

Supreme Court Will Take Up Major Voting Rights Case

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Only three days after the contentious 2012 election, the Supreme Court announced Friday that it would take up a major voting rights case; it will be heard in the next few months and decided by June.

At issue is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was passed in 1965. It’s a central provision of the law that requires states with a history of voter discrimination, mostly in the South, to clear any changes to their election laws with federal officials in Washington.

The Supreme Court’s decision Friday comes just after a long and bitter election during which Democrats accused Republicans of voter supression tactics and Republicans feared voter fraud.  "After the biggest push to restrict voting in decades, the battle over voting rights is now moving to the Supreme Court with a major case, which could determine the future of a critical provision of the federal voting law that guarantees equal voting rights,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal-leaning think tank/advocacy group at New York University.

Several covered states argue that while Section 5 “served a noble purpose,” Congress was wrong in 2006 to extend it for 25 more years. They argue that things have changed in the South and the coverage formula of Section 5 is based on data that is more than 35 years old.

The case the Court agreed to hear is called Shelby County v. Holder. Shelby County is in Alabama.

Attorney General Eric Holder has defended Section 5 and called it a “key stone” of the historic law. Chief Justice John Roberts, in a 2009 opinion in a related case, wrote that some of the justices had “serious misgivings” about its constitutionality.

Section 5 affects Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and portions of seven other states.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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