D.C. files Supreme Court brief defending marriage
D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles and other city attorneys have urged the U.S. Supreme Court not to take a case filed by a local minister seeking to overturn the city’s same-sex marriage law.
In a 35-page legal brief filed Dec. 17, the city attorneys argue that the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled correctly earlier this year that the District has authority to prohibit a voter initiative or referendum seeking to overturn the Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009.
“This case is not important enough to merit review” by the Supreme Court because it “lacks national importance as it is confined in effect to the District,” Nickles and the other attorneys said in their brief.
The case, known as Jackson v. the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, was initiated by Bishop Harry Jackson and other local opponents of same-sex marriage earlier this year.
The city filed its brief on the last day such a brief could be filed under Supreme Court rules.
Jackson and his allies are seeking to overturn separate rulings by the city’s election board and the D.C. Superior Court and Court of Appeals that the District’s initiative and referendum law doesn’t allow ballot measures that would have the effect of violating the city’s Human Rights Act. The act, among other things, bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Most legal observers say the Supreme Court traditionally defers to state appeals courts –- including the D.C. Court of Appeals — in matters that don’t have national implications. The observers, including local gay rights attorney Mark Levine, have said the high court would be violating its own precedent and possibly showing a sign of bias against same-sex marriage should it rule in favor of Jackson’s petition.
The city’s brief also seeks to refute a claim by Jackson’s attorneys that the Supreme Court can take on a case without national significance if the lower court ruling is reached through an “egregious error.”
“In fact, the appeals court decision is correct” and the “egregious error” argument doesn’t apply, Nickles and his team of city lawyers argue in the brief.
Jackson’s petition to the high court, known as a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari,” calls for the court to take on the case and involves a decision by the nine justices to accept or reject that request. Should they accept the case, the justices would then review it on its merits through oral and written arguments and issue a separate ruling.
Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU’s D.C. area office, said the Supreme Court is likely to decide whether to accept or reject the Jackson case in January.
LOU CHIBBARO JR.
Mova closes temporarily; Straits of Malaya to shut down
The Logan Circle gay bar Mova at 1435 P St., N.W., closed its doors Sunday night following a weekend-long “moving party” that owner Babak Movahedi said highlighted his plans for reopening the bar in the spring of 2011 at an as-yet-undisclosed location in D.C.
Meanwhile, the gay-owned restaurant Straits of Malaya, which has operated at 1836 18th St., N.W., since 1989, will be closing permanently following its New Year’s Eve dinner servings, according to owner Lawrence “Larry” Tan.
Tan and his partner, Ken Megill, will retain the adjoining gay bar Larry’s Lounge, which they also own, while the two devote most of their time operating a non-profit group they founded to help underprivileged children and senior citizens in need in Malaysia. Another restaurant with different owners will soon open in the space currently occupied by Straits of Malaya.
Tan and Megill announced the official launch of their charitable group Hope Peace Love Compassion Charity (HPLCC) in last week’s Blade and in literature distributed at the restaurant and lounge. A detailed description of the organization’s mission, including information on how to make a donation to help it carry out its charitable work, can be found at HYPERLINK “http://hplcc.org/”hplcc.org.
Tan, a native of Malaysia, immigrated to Canada at age 22 and worked his way through college, obtaining an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in business administration before moving to Washington in 1984. He later opened Straits of Malaya as one of the country’s first restaurants specializing in Malaysian cuisine.
“HPLCC will work directly with the youth and seniors, many of whom are housed in orphanages and other institutions, to provide opportunities for these children and seniors that the homes and families cannot provide,” a statement on the group’s website says.
Mova’s parent company Logan Circle Spectrum LLC, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year, is now out of bankruptcy, Movahedi told the Blade Monday.
“We are going to reopen — definitely,” he said, adding that he might be ready to announce Mova’s new location “in a couple of months.”
LOU CHIBBARO JR.
Lanier urged to enlist outside help in Wone murder case
Three gay bloggers who have chronicled the Robert Wone murder case for more than three years are urging D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier to enlist the services of an “elite group of the world’s top criminologists, forensic experts and investigators” to help solve the murder.
The Who Murdered Robert Wone bloggers want Lanier to invite the Philadelphia-based Vidocq Society to review all of the evidence gathered by D.C. homicide detectives in the August 2006 Wone murder. The bloggers say they are hopeful that the society’s team of experts can shed new light on a case that has confounded D.C. police for more than six years.
According to a recent report on the Vidocq Society by ABC’s “20/20” program, the group’s members, who come from 17 states and several foreign countries, have solved as many as 90 percent of the 300 “cold case” murders they have investigated.
D.C. police charged three gay men, in whose house Wone was found stabbed to death, with conspiracy and evidence tampering in connection with the case. But they have yet to charge anyone with Wone’s murder.
And the three men – Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky, and Dylan Ward – were found not guilty by a D.C. Superior Court judge, who said the evidence presented by police and prosecutors was insufficient for a conviction.
In a Nov. 24 letter to Lanier, Who Murdered Robert Wone spokesperson Doug Johnson said the eclectic members of the Vidocq Society could provide the boost D.C. police need to crack the case.
“We understand that this case is exactly the sort that members of Vidocq look for – a senseless homicide that has gone ice-cold, and their pro bono assistance to local law enforcement can help resolve,” Johnson said. “It’s our deep hope that you will take the Society up on their offer to help.”
As of this week, Lanier has not responded to the bloggers’ letter.
LOU CHIBBARO JR.
Gray monitoring alleged anti-trans assault by cop
D.C. Mayor-elect Vincent Gray is monitoring a police investigation into a Dec. 1 incident in which a transgender woman says she was assaulted by an off-duty District police officer, according to Gray spokesperson Doxie McCoy.
Chloe Alexander Moore has charged that Officer Raphael Radon shoved her after calling her anti-trans names around 2 a.m. on Dec. 1 along the 1500 block of K St., N.W. Moore said she squirted the officer — who wore civilian clothes — in the face with pepper spray in self-defense, out of fear that she was in danger of being further assaulted.
Police charged Moore with simple assault against Radon, who Moore said did not reveal his identity as a police officer until after the altercation began. Radon has not been charged in the case. Moore said that after she used the pepper spray and attempted to flee, Radon chased her for two blocks and knocked her to the ground, causing her to suffer back and leg injuries.
Police Chief Cathy Lanier said she ordered the police Internal Affairs Bureau to investigate the incident.
“We’ve made inquires about the incident in light of the issues raised,” McCoy said. “Mayor-elect Gray is sensitive to the concerns of the GLBT community and is fully committed to ending sexual identity bias. MPD’s Internal Affairs has assured us that there will be a thorough, fair and impartial investigation, and as their review is in the early stages, we will await the findings,” McCoy said.
The D.C. Trans Coalition has said police appear to have violated a general police order pertaining to how police should handle cases involving transgender people.
“Medical attention was apparently not provided promptly, and the use of degrading, trans-phobic language is expressly forbidden,” said Trans Coalition attorney Alison Gill.
Moore is scheduled to appear in court for a status hearing on her assault case on Jan. 3.
LOU CHIBBARO JR.