Photo from the American Foundation for Equal Rights
After weeks of silence on the matter the U.S. Supreme Court has finally announced that it will take up two cases concerning same-sex marriage: Windsor v. United States and Hollingsworth v. Perry. Both cases are very significant, as Windsor is a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act which limits federal marriage benefits to heterosexual married couples, while Perry--a challenge to the California state constitution's ban on same-sex marriage--may have nationwide implications for same-sex marriage. Arguments will begin in March of 2013 while a decision is expected in late June.
With several critical victories last night, the 2012 election has been a historic one for the LGBT community. In Maine, Maryland and Washington, voters took to the polls and approved the legalization of same-sex marriage--making this the first time that same-sex marriage has ever been approved by a popular vote. In Minnesota, an amendment to the MN constitution which would have defined marriage as being between a man and a woman was rejected--making Minnesota the first state in which such an amendment was defeated. In Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin defeated former Governor Tommy Thompson in the state's senate race, making Baldwin the first openly gay senator in U.S. history. Finally, according to the Victory Fund, at least 118 gay and lesbian candidates managed to win state and local races last night, making this election cycle a decisive victory for the LGBT community and its supporters.
Saturday October 27, Professor Jennifer Levi will speak at the law school about
federal marriage discrimination. Her presentation is part of the 17th Annual
Supreme Court Review Conference which will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in
the Moot Court Room. The topics to be discussed during the Conference include
federal marriage discrimination, the Affordable Care Act, GPS tracking,
affirmative action, and Arizona's "show your papers" immigration law. The
faculty presenters will be Professors Harpaz, Leavens, Levi, Miller, and Wolf.
Professor Levi will be the first speaker and will begin the Conference by
talking about the federal marriage discrimination cases that the Supreme Court
may consider during the current Term.
Tomorrow, September 28th, WNE will host a conference entitled "Building the Arc of Justice: The Life & Legal Thought of Derrick Bell." The conference, sponsored by WNE School of Law's Center for Gender & Sexuality Studies, will be held in the Law School Commons from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Information about the conference and its participants can be found here.
Yesterday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional on the grounds that it both interferes with the right of individual states to define marriage and discriminates against same-sex married couples by denying them the same federal benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples. In an opinion written by Judge Michael Boudin, a conservative Reagan-appointee, the argument that DOMA was enacted to strengthen heterosexual marriages was soundly rejected:
Although the House Report is filled with encomia to heterosexual marriage, DOMA does not increase benefits to opposite-sex couples--whose marriages may in any event be childless, unstable or both--or explain how denying benefits to same-sex couples will reinforce heterosexual marriage. Certainly, the denial will not affect the gender choices of those seeking marriage. This is not merely a matter of poor fit of remedy to perceived problem, but a lack of any demonstrated connection between DOMA's treatment of same-sex couples and its asserted goal of strengthening the bonds and benefits to society of heterosexual marriage. [cites omitted]
As noted by The American Prospect, the 1st Circuit Court did not find that classifications based on sexual orientation merited heightened scrutiny, but this was still in line with Supreme Court rulings such as Romer v. Evans in which such classifications were subjected to the so-called "rational basis with teeth" analysis.
In 2009, Pastor Scott Lively was one of three American evangelists who traveled to Kampala and delivered a series of lectures about homosexuality to Ugandan audiences--which included police officers, teachers and politicians. As part of his lecture, Pastor Lively promoted the myth that the Holocaust was actually orchestrated by homosexuals. Shortly thereafter, a Ugandan politician introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 which would, among other things, make homosexuality a capital offense. Although the bill was temporarily shelved (having finally been revived once more last month), persecution of gay men and lesbians in Uganda reached new heights, as Rolling Stone, an Ugandan newspaper, ran a piece outing homosexuals and calling for them to be lynched. In 2011, David Kato--a prominent Ugandan gay rights activist whose photo was shown in Rolling Stone--was brutally murdered. In response to the increasingly hostile, anti-gay climate, the gay rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda has filed a lawsuit against Pastor Lively under the alien tort statute. The lawsuit alleges that Lively's actions have led to the "persecution, arrest, torture and murder of gay men and lesbians in Uganda."
In yet another victory for marriage equality, Maryland is now the 8th state to have made same-sex marriage legal. The same-sex marriage bill was approved by the Maryland Senate on Thursday evening, and has now been signed by MD Gov. Martin O'Malley. It should also be noted that former Vice President Dick Cheney was among a handful of influential Republicans who lobbied Maryland legislators in favor of the bill. In 2009, Cheney, whose daughter is openly lesbian, told the National Press Club, "I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish."