Love For All, Marriage For Some

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Prop 8 Ruling: Now What?

You’ve probably heard about the decision by the Ninth Circuit invalidating Proposition 8. But if you’re hungry for more information, I want to simplify your search a bit.

I’ve read a lot of articles today about the decision, and I think Phil Reese of the Washington Blade has the best broad, yet in-depth analysis. And he does it without getting too wonky.  Excerpt:

Official "Vote NO on Prop 8" logo

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In a two-to-one decision, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional in a federal case challenging California’s marriage ban.

The opinion, authored by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, affirms Judge Vaughn Walker’s 2010 ruling that the law passed by California voters at the ballot violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because 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 relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

The court also rejected the argument that Judge Walker should have recused himself from the case because of his sexual orientation and relationship status.

Legal experts began to weigh in on the meaning of the decision immediately.

“I think the biggest story is how narrow [the majority decision] really is,” Douglas NeJaime, associate professor at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, told the Blade Tuesday. “Which in some ways I think that might disappoint some folks who were hoping it would expand to more states, but I think in terms of setting it up for a Supreme Court review — either the Supreme Court not taking it, or approving it — for supporters of same-sex marriage, this is actually the most strategically sound way for the case to proceed.”

Legal experts agree that the decision represents a big win for same-sex couples in California, even though it was a narrow decision limited to California. The Ninth Circuit encompasses multiple Western states and some Prop 8 opponents had hoped the court’s decision would impact a wider swath of the country.

He also goes in to the likely next steps, which I find an excellent resource for those of us who wonder what kind of impact this will have across the country.

Read the full article here.

More On Montana Domestic Partnerships Appeal

The post I put up yesterday wasn’t alone, the Montana ACLU appeal got some good coverage over at Towleroad, and I also wrote a bit more of an in-depth piece at Bilerico. Excerpt:

As Niki Zupanic, Public Policy Director for the Montana ACLU told me today:

“Montana’s Constitution is clear. Everyone is guaranteed equal protection under the law. When our plaintiffs are being denied bereavement leave, access to medical information and death benefits they are not being treated fairly under the law. Montanans support treating same-sex couples fairly and providing them with the legal recognition they need to care for and protect their families. The Montana Supreme Court is the place where we can make that happen for Montana’s same-sex couples.”The decision to go to the Supreme Court just makes sense. The Montana Constitution has an obvious discrepancy here. Fair and equal treatment of persons can’t be applied arbitrarily – it has to apply across the board – and that includes people in same-sex relationships. Judge Sherlock did not rule on the constitutionality question in April, only that he couldn’t order the legislature to make any changes. The Supreme Court is the next logical step to clarify this issue.

Hopefully, it will clarify in favor of gay and lesbian relationship recognition, and not against.

For the rest of the story- and to add comments, click here.

ACLU Appeals MT Same-sex Partnership Dismissal

HELENA, MT — The American Civil Liberties Union today appealed a Montana District Court decision dismissing the same-sex domestic partnership case,Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana, to the Montana Supreme Court.

 

The Montana Constitution guarantees that all people, including gay and lesbian couples, should be treated equally and fairly, the ACLU said.  This case presents fundamental issues of privacy and equal protection that need to be resolved by Montana’s highest court.

 

“The couples we represent knew there might be some bumps along the way, but they are committed to seeing this case through so that they and all same-sex couples and their families can get the protections they need but are currently denied to them in Montana,” said ACLU of Montana Legal Director Betsy Griffing. “Our constitution requires that the state treat couples in committed relationships fairly and equally regardless of whether they are same-sex or different-sex couples.”

 

A recent poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the American Civil Liberties Union, found that 53 percent of Montana voters favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into domestic partnerships which include the same rights given to married couples. Only 40 percent oppose such partnerships.

 

The poll shows that Montanans understand that the lack of legal recognition of same-sex relationships leaves couples and their families extremely vulnerable — which is precisely what the evidence presented to the district court showed. One plaintiff was denied bereavement leave when her partner’s father died, and another lost her home because she was ineligible for worker’s compensation death benefits when her partner was killed in an accident.

 

Recently released 2010 U.S. Census numbers show 2,295 Montana same-sex households – a 54 percent jump since 2000. All are at risk without the legal protection of domestic partnerships.

 

Right now gay and lesbian people can be kept from their partners in hospitals, denied medical leave to help their partners and even be left with nothing if those partners die without valid wills,” said Griffing. “This case is about treating people fairly and humanely, and allowing them to protect their family and loved ones.”

 

Plaintiffs in the case Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana are Mary Anne Guggenheim and Jan Donaldson of Helena, Stacey Haugland and Mary Leslie of Bozeman, Mike Long and Rich Parker of Bozeman, MJ Williams and Nancy Owens of Basin, Rick Wagner and Gary Stallings of Butte and Denise Boettcher and Kellie Gibson of Laurel.

 

In addition to Griffing, the couples are represented by Elizabeth Gill, a staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project; James Goetz and Ben Alke of the Bozeman, MT, law firm Goetz, Gallik & Baldwin P.C.; and Ruth Borenstein and Neil Perry of the law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP.

 

Additional information about the case, biographies of the plaintiffs and links to videos of the plaintiffs can be found at www.aclumontana.org andwww.aclu.org/mtpartnerships.