I posted a meme on Facebook about the marriage equality cases being heard in the Sixth Circuit on August 6th and a friend commented: "Nervous and excited about this. I think a lot of people forget that this isn't just political posturing and ideological debate -- it's personal, it's my life and the lives of many I love!"
And that called me to reprise this piece I wrote during the SCOTUS oral arguments:
I just want to "put out there"
that for all the drama, excitement,
enthusiasm and analysis
sparked by the debate on marriage equality
there is also another dimension
that is easy to overlook.
It is what comes up for folks
who have their internalized homophobia triggered
by the "old tapes" of messages they're hearing again:
messages that they're not good enough
-- not worthy enough
-- not deserving enough
-- to be treated equally.
Only they're not hearing
those tapes in their heads
-- they're hearing them
on the radio or the television.
It is what happens
when children see families like theirs
being talked about in "the news"
with question marks
about whether they're "real" families -
whether they deserve
the same protection the family next door has.
And it is the ongoing indignity
of having our deepest, holiest,
most precious loves and relationships
debated and dissected
in the public arena
as if it was OK
as if it wasn't dehumanizing
and as if it's not profoundly personal.
So if you find yourself hurting, angry,
anxious, scared or snarky
reach out and let someone you love
remind you that you're loved
and that no matter what
we're going to get through this.
And if you know someone
who may not reach out
find them where they are
and remind them that they're loved
and that justice WILL roll down like waters
and the arc of history WILL bend toward equality
and in the end all will be well
and all will be well
and all manner of things shall indeed be well.
And if all things are not yet well
then it's not the end. Yet.
La lucha continua.
The struggle continues!
Gay marriage supporters rallied in Cincinnati on Aug. 6 as the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals there heard arguments on gay marriage fights in four states.
Image: Al Behrman/Associated Press
CINCINNATI — A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld anti-gay marriage laws in four states, breaking ranks with other courts that have considered the issue and setting up the prospect of Supreme Court review.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel that heard arguments on gay marriage bans or restrictions in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee on Aug. 6 split 2-1, with Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton writing the majority opinion. The ruling creates a divide among federal appeals courts, increasing the likelihood the Supreme Court will now take up the issue.
The high court on Oct. 6 unexpectedly turned away appeals from five states seeking to prohibit gay and lesbian unions. The court's order effectively made gay marriage legal in 30 states. The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the next day overturned same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada, the fourth federal appeals court to rule against state bans.
But now that a different federal appeals court has upheld gay marriage bans, the disagreement at the appellate level may finally force the Supreme Court to step in and actually hear a case. The nation's highest court would have to decide whether states can ban gay marriage or whether gay and lesbian couples have a fundamental right to marry under the U.S. Constitution. Thirty-two states recently asked the Supreme Court to settle the issue once and for all.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently told a Minnesota audience that the 6th Circuit's then-pending ruling would likely influence the high court's timing. adding "some urgency" if it allowed same-sex marriage bans to stand.
The 6th Circuit's ruling on Thursday concluded that states have the right to set rules for marriage.
It followed more than 20 court victories for supporters of same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year.
Marriage equality comes to Wyoming.
During the Aug. 6 arguments, it was apparent that Sutton would be the deciding vote, with the two other judges clearly on opposite sides of the debate.
Sutton vigorously questioned each side's attorneys, though he repeatedly expressed deep skepticism that the courts were the best place to legalize gay marriage, saying that the way to win Americans' hearts and minds is to wait until they're ready to vote for it.
"I would have thought the best way to get respect and dignity is through the democratic process," Sutton, a George W. Bush nominee, said at the time. "Nothing happens as quickly as we'd like it."
Michigan's and Kentucky's cases stem from rulings striking down each state's gay marriage bans. Ohio's two cases deal only with the state's recognition of out-of-state gay marriages, while Tennessee's is narrowly focused on the rights of three same-sex couples.
Plaintiffs include a Cincinnati man who wants his late husband listed as married on his death certificate so they can be buried next to each other in a family-only plot and a Tennessee couple who both want to be listed on their newborn daughter's birth certificate.
Additional reporting by Mashable
Jeff Swinger, The Cincinnati Enquirer (AP)
Duane Lewis, left and his partner Rex Van Alstine, both of Finneytown, Ohio. join hundreds of others along with the group Why Marriage Matters Ohio at a rally for gay marriage in Lytle Park, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014 in Cincinnati.
Updated: 3:00 p.m. EDT
CINCINNATI — A federal appeals court began to hear arguments Wednesday in six gay marriage fights from four states – Kentucky. Michigan. Ohio and Tennessee – in the biggest such session on the issue so far, and hundreds of supporters rallied near the courthouse.
Three judges of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati considered arguments that pit states’ rights and traditional, conservative values against what plaintiffs’ attorneys say is a fundamental right to marry under the U.S. Constitution.
Michigan’s and Kentucky’s cases stem from rulings striking down each state’s gay marriage bans. Ohio’s case deals only with the state’s recognition of out-of-state gay marriages, while Tennessee’s is narrowly focused on the rights of three same-sex couples.
Michigan’s solicitor general, Aaron Lindstrom, opened the afternoon by saying that any change in the state’s ban on same-sex marriage should come through the political process.
“The most basic right we have as a people is to decide public policy questions on our own,” he said.
Fundamental constitutional rights shouldn’t be decided in popular votes, countered attorney Carole Stanyar, who represents the plaintiffs in a case that began when a lesbian couple sued over state law barring them from jointly adopting their children.
“The Michigan marriage amendment gutted the democratic process,” she said.
Attorneys on both sides in the Michigan and Ohio cases were to go first and get a half-hour each to make their cases. Kentucky and Tennessee will follow, with 15 minutes for each side from both states.
In nearby Fountain Square, advocates held up banners and signs urging freedom to marry or other messages in favor of the legal challenges to the bans. The crowd included couples who married in states where same-sex marriages are legal and other longtime couples who said they are waiting for it to become legal in their home states.
Hundreds of marriage equality supporters cheer during a rally in downtown Cincinnati on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, on the eve of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ hearings on challenges to state bans on gay marriage in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.
Jon Bradford, 26, of Covington, Kentucky, wore a wedding dress, and his partner, Matt Morris, wore a top hat and formal shirt.
“It’s to make a statement, really,” Bradford said. “We want to be married.”
He said they were hopeful the court will rule in favor of same-sex marriage.
“One day, it’s going to happen,” he said. “You can’t stop love.”
About a dozen gay marriage opponents prayed the rosary outside the courthouse. Foes said they would pray for judges to uphold “traditional marriage.”
Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year, gay marriage advocates have won more than 20 victories in federal courts. No decision has gone the other way in that time.
Constitutional law professors and court observers say the 6th Circuit could deliver the first victory to gay marriage opponents.
The three judges hearing the case are Jeffrey S. Sutton and Deborah L. Cook, both nominees of President George W. Bush, and Martha Craig Daughtrey, a pick of President Bill Clinton.
Sutton is considered the least predictable, shocking Republicans in 2011 when he became the deciding vote in a 6th Circuit ruling that upheld President Barack Obama ‘s landmark health care overhaul.
[ad]If the 6th Circuit decides against gay marriage, that would create a divide among federal appeals courts and put pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the issue for good in its 2015 session. The appeals court is not expected to issue a ruling for some time.
Two federal appeals courts already have ruled in favor of gay marriage, one in Denver in June and another in Richmond, Virginia. last week. On Tuesday, Utah appealed the ruling from the Denver-based court, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case and uphold the state’s ban.
The 6th Circuit is the first of three federal appeals courts to hear arguments from multiple states in August and September.
The 7th Circuit in Chicago has similar arguments set for Aug. 26 for bans in Wisconsin and Indiana. The 9th Circuit in San Francisco is set to take up bans in Idaho and Nevada on Sept. 8.
Developing story. This report will be updated.
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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court's arguments on Tuesday over same-sex marriage will cap more than two decades of litigation and a transformation in public attitudes.
Based on the court's actions during the past two years, a sense of inevitability is in the air: That a majority is on the verge of declaring gay marriage legal nationwide.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's pivotal member on gay rights, has been marching in this direction with opinions dating to 1996. In his most recent gay rights decision for the court in 2013, rejecting a legal definition of marriage limited to a man and woman for purposes of federal benefits, Kennedy deplored that U.S. law for making gay marriages "unequal."
That 5-4 decision did not address a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but lower court judges interpreted the ruling as an endorsement of it and began invalidating state bans.
When states appealed rulings striking down their same-sex marriage prohibitions, the Supreme Court declined to intervene, most notably in October 2014 when it denied appeals in seven cases on a single day.
Instead, the nine justices are hearing in Tuesday's oral arguments an appeal of the sole decision from a regional U.S. appeals court that went the opposite way. Last November, the Cincinnati-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld gay marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.
With 37 of the 50 states now permitting gay marriage, many because of judicial orders, it seems unlikely the country's highest court would reverse course. Public opinion polls over the last decade have shown large increases in support for gay marriage. A ruling is due by the end of June.KEY SWING VOTE
Yet some questions remain.
How much will Kennedy, a member of the court's five-man conservative bloc who often casts decisive votes in close cases, show his hand in the 2-1/2 hours of oral arguments? Will he reveal a clear view that the Constitution gives gay people a right to marry or will he voice concerns for state interests in controlling marriage laws?
An element of uncertainty hovers over Chief Justice John Roberts, who broke with the other court conservatives and cast the deciding vote upholding President Barack Obama's healthcare law in 2012. Roberts voted against gay rights in the 2013 ruling. But he separated himself from the most conservative dissenters and declined to declare outright that states may ban gay marriage.
He has demonstrated apprehension about the reputation of the court that, by virtue of his service as chief justice, informally bears his name. In his opinions, he has sometimes tried to lower tensions in controversial cases and reassure people that the court is aligning with precedent and public expectations.
The question is not only how Roberts might vote but what he might write.
In the 2013 ruling, he denounced the court majority's sentiment that federal lawmakers were deliberately harming gay people with the limited definition of marriage. "I would not tar the political branches with the brush of bigotry," he wrote.
For the other seven justices, expectations are clearer.
The four liberals, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, have signaled their opposition to state same-sex marriage bans. On the other side have been the three most conservative justices, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, asserting that nothing in the Constitution guarantees same-sex marriage.
Two legal questions are before the justices: whether the Constitution's guarantees of due process and equal protection cover a right to same-sex marriage; and, if they do not, whether states that ban same-sex marriages must recognize such unions performed in other states.
Gay couples and their families, about 30 adults and 20 children, have appealed the 6th Circuit's decision. The name petitioner is James Obergefell, who wanted his home state of Ohio, which prohibits gay marriage, to recognize his Maryland marriage to John Arthur as Arthur was dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Officials expect the courtroom to be packed to its 400-seat capacity. Lines for general spectator seats began forming around 6 a.m. on Friday, more than four days ahead of the scheduled oral arguments at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT) on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Joan Biskupic; Editing by Howard Goller and Will Dunham)More from Reuters:
As red numerals ticked away the minutes on a digital timer, lawyers fielded a barrage of questions from three federal appeals-court judges considering Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage.
In a rapid-fire series of exchanges, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges repeatedly interrupted the lawyers and, at times, even one another. They directed Thursday’s discussion toward the role of parents in rearing children, the constitutional rights of gay couples and the right of states to govern their own affairs.
The oral arguments in the Kitchen vs. Herbert case marked the first time that a state has defended its gay-marriage ban at the federal appellate level. It could take months for the judges to issue a ruling, and legal experts expect that the issue eventually will wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. Scores of gay-marriage supporters and traditional-marriage supporters have submitted friends-of-the-court briefs.
“I’m thrilled to be here with my partner,” said Derek Kitchen, kissing Moudi Sbeity outside the Byron White U.S. Courthouse in downtown Denver. “It was difficult to hear people arguing against us.”
About 100 spectators packed into the ornate courtroom with navy-blue carpet, wood molding and a glass-tiled ceiling with gold designs decorated with the seal of the United States. The three gay and lesbian couples who filed the lawsuit sat on a bench behind their attorneys’ table. They often smiled and squeezed each other’s shoulders.
An attorney for each side took turns standing at a lectern with the timer. Both were allowed to speak beyond the allotted 15 minutes, partly because of interruptions from the judges.
Two of the three justices on the panel seemed to telegraph their political inclinations with their questioning, while Jerome Holmes asked tough questions of both sides. Though appointed by President George W. Bush, Holmes and another circuit judge refused to stay a decision by a federal judge who found Utah’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional. It allowed 1,335 gay and lesbian couples to marry before the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily restored the ban.
Judge Carlos F. Lucero, appointed by President Bill Clinton, frequently interrupted Gene Schaerr, an attorney for Utah who was the first to give oral arguments. Although Schaerr tried several times, he could never finish a four-tiered definition of marriage, which appeared to be a highlight of his argument.
When plaintiffs attorney Peggy Tomsic came to the podium, Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr. who rarely asked Schaerr questions, bored in, frequently cutting Tomsic off midsentence. Kelly was appointed by President George H.W. Bush.
At one point, Lucero even interrupted a question by Kelly, who wanted Tomsic to explain whether there was something wrong with a state legislature defining its own state law. Before Tomsic could answer, Lucero asked whether constitutional law didn’t trump state laws.
Tomsic smiled at Lucero’s softball pitch and answered that constitutional law trumped legislative decisions when state laws infringe on the rights of U.S. citizens. Tomsic’s chief argument was that Utah’s ban on gay marriage violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
And so the hearing went.
Lucero asked Schaerr how Utah would treat children of a same-sex couple married in a state that allows gay marriages. The judge said it seemed to contradict Utah’s argument that the welfare of children was a major concern.
While acknowledging that children would be better off if their same-sex parents were married, Schaerr said it would likewise be better for thousands of children in polygamist households if they were allowed to legally marry.
“Let’s not talk about polygamy. Let’s talk about gay marriage,” Lucero said, setting off a peal of laughter through the courtroom.
Schaerr said the government has a legitimate interest in encouraging heterosexual marriages between a child’s biological parents. Allowing same-sex marriages would dilute that message, he said. A lesbian couple could conceive a child through artificial insemination and the child would not have a masculine role model, he said.
Schaerr told justices a key risk of gay marriage is that children are raised by someone other than their natural parents and that those children have a higher rate of criminal behavior. He said it also changes the primary role of marriage from being child-centric to adult-centric.
Later in the hearing, Kelly brought up polygamy again. He asked Tomsic why she would discriminate against polygamist households, if everyone has a right to marry.
Tomsic argued the gay-marriage ban violates the rights of only one class of citizen — same-sex couples.
“Every day, same-sex families face the stigma and harm of being treated like second-class citizens,” Tomsic said.
After the hearing, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes spoke with Kitchen and Sbeity. He said he told them the case was not intended to be personal.
Reyes also said the federalism argument will be the key to the court’s decision.
“We didn’t create a second class of people to harm them,” he said.
The same panel of judges will hear oral arguments in Oklahoma’s gay-marriage case next Thursday. Colorado has two same-sex marriage cases.
Kirk Mitchell: 303-954-1206, denverpost.com/ coldcaseskmitchell or twitter.com/kmitchelldp
Kirk Mitchell is a general assignment reporter at The Denver Post who focuses on criminal justice stories. He began working at the newspaper in 1998, after writing for newspapers in Mesa, Ariz. and Twin Falls, Idaho, and The Associated Press in Salt Lake City. Mitchell first started writing the Cold Case blog in Fall 2007, in part because Colorado has more than 1,400 unsolved homicides.
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