A New Jersey judge ruled on Friday that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry, finding that failing to do so deprives them of rights that are now guaranteed by the federal government following a ruling by the Supreme Court in June.
It is the first time a court has struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage as a direct result of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and it comes as Gov. Chris Christie continues to oppose allowing gay marriage in the state. His administration may appeal.
“The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts,” wrote the judge, Mary C. Jacobson of State Superior Court in Mercer County. “Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution.”
For instance, Judge Jacobson wrote, civil union partners who are federal employees living in the state are not eligible for benefits stipulated in the federal pension system.
Couples in civil unions also may not enjoy the same federal tax benefits as married couples or the protections of the Family Medical Leave Act, she wrote…
Support for gay marriage by companies as varied as Goldman Sachs, Microsoft and Starbucks is gathering steam to change policies in states that bar same-sex couples from tying the knot.
Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions on June 26 heartened supporters of the cause while showing an increased willingness of business to back the effort. In one case, more than 200 companies signed a brief against a federal law that denied benefits to same-sex couples. Five years ago, only a handful had lobbied against California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriages, the target of the high court’s other decision…
State legislators stand to feel the heat as more businesses speak out against laws in states including Texas, Florida and Michigan that recognize only heterosexual marriage. While fewer than half the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 are based in states that allow gays to wed, most already have policies that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“Companies do have the choice where they locate, where they set up shop,” said Kellie McElhaney, founding faculty director of the Center for Responsible Business at the University of California Berkeley. Local policies on sexual orientation “will eventually become part of the choice process…”
Goldman Sachs and Expedia are among businesses gearing up to support a federal bill to prevent workforce discrimination based on sexual orientation. Of Fortune 500 companies, 88 percent include orientation in their nondiscrimination policies and more than 60 percent offer domestic partner health benefits, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Companies moved ahead on providing health benefits for same-sex couples and adopting nondiscrimination rules since the 1990s just as Congress went in the opposite direction to approve the federal government’s rejection of gay marriage in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Now, corporate America is pushing for uniform laws that protect against workplace discrimination, said Edith Hunt, Goldman Sachs’s chief diversity officer…
In a breakthrough legal victory, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. In a 5-4 ruling, the court majority said the anti-gay law is discriminatory: “DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty.”
The decision was written by Justice Kennedy, who was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan…
First Update: The full ruling is online here (pdf)…
Second Update: From the ruling: DOMA is “unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
Third Update: Pete Williams’ initial read suggests this ruling is “broad” enough that marriage-equality proponents “to attack laws in other states.”
Fourth Update: Some of the reach of the ruling will depend on a deeper analysis of the decision itself, but keep in mind that the end of DOMA will have significant consequences. The Defense Department, for example, ended DADT, but could not apply equal benefits to gay servicemembers because of this law. Now that it’s been struck down, it’s no longer an issue.
Fifth Update: It’s worth clarifying that the DOMA ruling does not extend marriage equality to all 50 states, but rather, as Amy Howe explained on Scotusblog, that “same-sex couples who are legally married will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law– with regard to, for example, income taxes and Social Security benefits.”
Sixth Update: The other major Supreme Court case on gay rights was a challenge to California’s Prop 8. In this case, Chief Justice John Roberts and the court majority punted on procedural grounds, saying the defendants lacked the standing needed to defend the case in court. The full ruling is online here (pdf).
I’ve editorialized elsewhere about the number of times I still get to say, OVERDUE. Our Supreme Court is still essentially a Republican Supreme Court – often dominated by the inherent racism, class loyalty and bigotry of corporate America, tempered slightly by one or another of these four cowards worrying more about what history books will say about him than his buddies at the country club.
The decision is overdue and welcome. Civil rights for all Americans is a vision held by some of the framers of our Constitution who paid the groundwork during our fight to free ourselves from colonial England. Let us all celebrate.
U.S. restrictions on same-sex marriage are making it harder for Wall Street to attract some foreign workers, said executives including R. Martin Chavez, who leads equities trading for Goldman Sachs…
Chavez, a 49-year-old U.S. citizen, cited his own story as an example of the potential hurdles those restrictions create, saying they almost forced him to leave the country. He married his partner last year, which proved to be problematic when they tried to replace his partner’s student visa.
“We got married in the state of New York,” Chavez said at the event, which was held at Goldman Sachs’s Manhattan headquarters. “You’d think this would be a wonderful thing, except we ended up in this crazed paradox where because we were married in the state of New York, that created the presumption of his attempt to immigrate, which meant he would not be eligible for a student F-1 visa.”
Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing, the marriage doesn’t give Chavez’s partner the right to immigrate or obtain a green card permitting him to live and work in the country.
After several months of interviews and paperwork, Chavez’s husband received a new visa. In the meantime, Chavez said he spoke to Goldman Sachs executives about moving his role to London if his husband wasn’t allowed back into the U.S. He also considered retiring from his job running the largest equity- trading business in the world and moving abroad…
While the issue affects only a limited number of employees, it can result in significant costs for companies that have to move workers out of the U.S. or in lost productivity from dealing with an employee’s or partner’s immigration status, Alisa Seminara, associate general counsel for Citigroup said at the event…
The immigration issues will probably be remedied if the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA, which defines marriage as a heterosexual union and prohibits gay spouses from claiming federal benefits, Rachel Tiven at Immigration Equality said. The court may rule on the case by the end of June. Activists are also pushing for inclusion of same-sex rights in an immigration bill being debated in Congress…
Overdue. But, then, that’s always been the lot of civil rights in America.
The most reactionary elements in our land seem to spend a significant portion of their waking life working to manipulate Congress – and state and local government – into denying full civil rights for ordinary citizens feared and hated by cowards and bigots.
Biology has returned to the nation’s highest court. It’s not Darwin’s theory of evolution on the docket this time, but the nature of sex. Defenders of Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage, base their case on what they call the “objective biological fact” that procreation is an exclusively heterosexual process. Citing the 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone, they argue that marriage should be “founded in nature.”
Evolution or sexuality, the same religious conservatives bring their ignorance to court.
This invocation of nature echoes other voices. Last December, before Pope Benedict XVI resigned, he used his Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia to deplore what he called a “new philosophy of sexuality” that manipulates and denies nature. Roy S. Moore, re-elected last fall as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, once let rip with less measured language, exclaiming in a child-custody case that homosexuality was “a crime against nature and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” Meanwhile, Tennessee legislators have repeatedly sought the prohibition of any sexual education “inconsistent with natural human reproduction.” None of this is, in fact, new: Oscar Wilde’s trials hinged on the courts’ understanding of natural love and unnatural vice.
References to biology coat these arguments with a gloss of scientific rigor. But before we write nature into law, let’s take a stroll outside the Supreme Court’s chambers and check those biological facts. Descending the steps of the court, we enter Washington’s planted landscape, a formal park where nature stands alongside patriotic monuments and federal buildings. There is no shortage of counsel about biology here.
The grandeur of the National Mall is rightly famous. Less well known are the hermaphroditic sex lives of many of its inhabitants. Japanese cherry trees break bud in explosions of pink; male and female coexist at the heart of each flower. The American elms that frame the Mall’s lawns present a more reserved countenance to the world. But their inconspicuous lime-green flowers are biologically bisexual. Ginkgo, another tree common in Washington, follows a Prop 8-approved sexual separation, growing as discrete males and females. But even the ginkgo will sometimes surprise horticulturalists with a stray flower of the other sex.
The nation’s most influential pediatrician’s group has endorsed gay marriage, saying a stable relationship between parents regardless of sexual orientation contributes to a child’s health and well-being.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ new policy…cites research showing that the parents’ sexual orientation has no effect on a child’s development. Kids fare just as well in gay or straight families when they are nurturing and financially and emotionally stable…
The academy believes that a two-parent marriage is best equipped to provide that kind of environment. Their policy says that if a child has two gay parents who choose to marry, “it is in the best interests of their children that legal and social institutions allow and support them to do so.”
The policy cites reports indicating that almost 2 million U.S. children are being raised by gay parents, many of them in states that don’t allow gays to marry.
The academy announced its position Thursday. Officials with the group said they wanted to make the academy’s views known before two gay marriage cases are considered by the U.S. Supreme Court next week…
The pediatricians’ stance is not surprising. They previously joined other national groups including the American Medical Association in supporting one of the Supreme Court cases, which contends the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The academy also previously supported adoption by gay parents.
The academy’s statement notes that several other national health groups have supported gay marriage. Those are the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the American College of Nursing.
Dr. Ben Siegel, a Boston pediatrician and chairman of an academy committee that developed the new policy, said its focus is on “nurturing children. We want what’s best for children.”
Not that it means much to folks whose hearts and minds haven’t left the Dark Ages, yet. Fact remains, most bigots are as anti-science as they are anti-human beings living with basic civil rights.
Nakisha Hardy spent the first nine months of her marriage on a remote Army base in Afghanistan, a tour of duty punctuated by sporadic mortar blasts and constant e-mails to her spouse back home.
The strains of that separation lingered even after First Lt. Hardy returned to Fort Bragg in September. So she signed up for a military retreat to help soldiers and their husbands and wives cope with the pressures of deployments and relocations.
But less than 24 hours after arriving at the retreat, she and her spouse were told to leave. The military chaplains who organized the program last month said that the couple was making others uncomfortable. They said they had determined that under federal law the program could serve only heterosexual married couples.
Anyone surprised a biblethumper decided bigotry was more important than helping service personnel?
Lieutenant Hardy is a lesbian in a same-sex marriage who had hoped that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011 would allow her to fully participate in military life. But she and many other gay and bisexual service members say they continue to encounter a raft of rules and regulations barring them from receiving benefits and privileges routinely accorded to heterosexual service members…
Gay marriage is now legal in nine states and in Washington, D.C. But because same-sex marriages are not recognized under federal law, the spouses of gay service members are barred from receiving medical and dental insurance and surviving spouse benefits and are not allowed to receive treatment in military medical facilities. Spouses are also barred from receiving military identification cards, which provide access to many community activities and services on base, including movie theaters, day care centers, gyms and commissaries.
Gay service members who are married are not permitted to receive discounted housing that is routinely provided to heterosexual married couples.
Don’t waste too much time on the crap states’ rights excuses offered by politicians and pundits. The military can ignore that hogwash easy as pie whenever they honestly feel like doing so.
No – this is one more instance of professional bigots in the Pentagon and Congress quietly backing up the good old boys club that still won’t give up on their stupid ideology.
…One of the first acts of the Republican leadership is to continue their $1.7 million defense of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, despite the defeat of one of its champions, former Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Sacramento.
DOMA is under Supreme Court review, and as we know, the Obama administration abandoned its DOMA defense nearly a year ago, after which it was taken up by House Republicans.
…Republicans buried the DOMA provision in their rules package, making no mention of it publicly. That left the field wide open to Democrats to hammer away.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the GOP “fiscal responsibility mantra does not extend to their efforts to stand firmly on the wrong side of the future. Republicans will take the extraordinary measure of including an authorization of their efforts to defend DOMA in the Rules of the House of Representatives and by doing so, continue to spend taxpayer funds, already adding up to $1.7 million, in their attempts to defend this shameful law in federal courts and the Supreme Court.”
Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, lambasted Republicans for not allowing an up-or-down majority vote on a stand-alone DOMA defense, instead of hiding it in the rules package.
“On this defining issue of our time, House Republicans are continuing to fight for discrimination and using the Rules package to make it seem as if all Members of the House feel that way”…
These creeps always say they campaigned on Jobs, Jobs, Jobs – turn their back on jobs to continue a pattern of bigotry and class loyalty, introducing bills to squash Obamacare, spending taxpayer dollars on DOMA, ignoring their reduction in ranks to continue the Kool Aid Party mantra.
Log Cabin Republicans have to be world leaders in masochism, continuing to support politicians who characterize them as a Satanic abomination. I guess that for a tiny corner of the Gay community, class still counts for more than liberty.
The Supreme Court has seized center stage in a historic social policy debate over same-sex marriage by agreeing to review the validity under the Constitution of a federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
In an order, the court also announced that it would consider a challenge to California’s ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8, which voters narrowly approved in 2008.
Same-sex marriage is a hot-button issue in a country where 31 of the 50 states have passed constitutional amendments banning it while Washington, D.C., and nine states have legalized it, three of them on Election Day last month.
Yet even where it is legal, married same-sex couples do not qualify for a host of federal benefits because the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, passed by Congress, only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman.
Gays and lesbians married under state laws have filed suits challenging their denial of such benefits as Social Security survivor payments and the right to file joint federal tax returns. They argue the provision, known as Section 3, violates equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
The court could follow the model of some lower courts and rule narrowly…or it could demonstrate the courage of previous courts and come down on the side of equal civil rights for all Americans, recognize a right to marriage equality.
My concerns are obvious, the same experienced by any American confronting the political theater our legal system has become. There is no shortage of bigots and fools who would apply the heart of constitutional freedoms only to a limited number of citizens. Egalitarian law applied to all citizens doesn’t occur to many who base their beliefs on superstition instead of science, privilege instead of equal opportunity.
I have more confidence in the legal flunkies of the Right who sit on the Supreme Court bench being more concerned – for once – with their image and reputation in future legal histories than with bending to the sound and fury of their class. It would be even more pleasing to see them stand up for the spirit of our constitution.
A small reminder of political opportunism selling out civil rights
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Thursday became the second federal appellate court in the nation to rule that the Defense of Marriage Act violates equal protection by barring same-sex couples legally married under state law from receiving the federal benefits available to heterosexual couples.
Any sensible reading of the Constitution and basic fairness demand a repudiation of this discriminatory law. So far, seven federal courts, including district courts, have reached the same conclusion about this improper denial of benefits. The next stop should be the Supreme Court.
The 2-to-1 ruling on Thursday came in the case of Edith Windsor, who married her partner of more than 40 years, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007. Their marriage was recognized by New York State. Yet, when Mrs. Spyer died in 2009, Mrs. Windsor, now 83, was prevented by the act from claiming an exemption from the federal estate tax available for surviving spouses, and was required to pay $363,053 in estate taxes.
Judge Dennis Jacobs, a George H.W. Bush appointee who wrote the majority opinion, said the law’s defenders — namely Republicans in Congress who took up the cause after the Obama administration decided in 2011 not to defend the law — did not offer any good reason for treating married same-sex couples differently from their heterosexual counterparts…
The new ruling also marked a legal breakthrough, one sought by the Justice Department. It is the first federal appeals court ruling to recognize that discrimination against gay men and lesbians — like discrimination based on gender or directed against children born out of wedlock — must be subject to “heightened scrutiny.” This standard requires government to have an “exceptionally good” reason to justify the different treatment. (Racial discrimination is subject to an even more skeptical review.)…
The Supreme Court should dismiss this law out of hand. If the self-titled strict constructionists have any loyalty to principles enshrined in the US Constitution this will not be a problem. Unfortunately, like most ideologues, they cannot be trusted to rule on behalf of reason and trust in democratic law.
Sound reasoning, a defense of open democracy means nothing, of course, to bigots. Opportunism is as consistent with American legal proceedings as it is within the chambers of Congress.