Connect with us

National

BREAKING: Boehner appeals DOMA cases to Supreme Court

Appeals court found anti-gay law unconstitutional

Published

on

House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) attorneys on Friday formally appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court an appeals court decision determining the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.

Drew Hammill, spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), told the Washington Blade on Friday afternoon Republicans had notified Democratic leadership that House counsel filed an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The court ruling that was appealed was the First Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the cases of Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, which was filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Services. On May 31, the appellate court issued a decision that Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional as a result of both cases.

In a statement, Pelosi slammed Boehner for continuing to assert the constitutionality of DOMA, saying the appeal is a decision that will “waste more taxpayer funds to advance a position rejected by four different courts and to defend discrimination and inequality before the highest court in the land.”

“Democrats have rejected the Republican assault on equal rights, in the courts and in Congress,” Pelosi said. “We believe there is no federal interest in denying LGBT couples the same rights and responsibilities afforded to all couples married under state law. And we are confident that the Supreme Court, if it considers the case, will declare DOMA unconstitutional and relegate it to the dustbin of history once and for all.”

Boehner’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on the appeal.

In the filing, Boehner’s attorneys present two questions to the Supreme Court: (1) Whether Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act violates the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment; and (2) Whether the court below erred by inventing and applying to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act a previously unknown standard of equal protection review.

“As the First Circuit recognized, this case calls out for this Court’s review,” the filing states. “The court of appeals has invalidated a duly-enacted Act of Congress and done so even though it acknowledged both that DOMA satisfies ordinary rational basis review and does not implicate heightened scrutiny. In the established world of equal protection law that result should have been impossible.”

The filing also cites a separation of powers issue as the result of the Obama administration no longer defending DOMA in court as it continues to enforce it and leaves the House to defend the law.

“Only this Court can settle this matter definitively,” the filing states. “Unless and until this Court decides the question, the executive branch will continue to attack DOMA in the courts, while continuing to enforce it, thus creating more potential litigation for the House to defend. This Court and this Court alone has the power to settle this question and redirect controversy over this important national question to the democratic process.”

Additionally, the filing argues the First Circuit ruling conflicts with Baker v. Nelson, a case related to same-sex marriage that the Supreme Court declined to hear in 1972.

Now that Boehner’s attorneys have filed an appeal, there will be 30 days for plaintiffs to file an opposition to the motion. It would then be left to the court to decide whether to grant cert, or hear the case. There isn’t a timeline for that, but it won’t happen while the court is in summer recess.

LGBT advocates also had harsh words for Boehner over his continued defense of DOMA.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, called Boehner’s appeal “shameful” and said it’s time for him to “respect basic American values of equal protection under the law.”

“Same-sex couples have waited long enough for the federal government to treat their lawful marriages with the respect and fairness every American wants and deserves, especially in tough economic times,” Wolfson said. “Judges appointed by Presidents Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, ‘Bush 1,’ and ‘Bush 2,’ among others, have all agreed that there should be no ‘gay exception’ to the normal practice of the federal government honoring the marriages celebrated in the states, and providing the 1138-plus federal protections and responsibilities accorded all other married couples.”

In February 2011, the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend DOMA in court. After the decision, Boehner convened the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which voted 3-2 on a party-line basis to take up defense of DOMA in the administration’s stead.

To assist House general counsel Kerry Kircher in defending DOMA, Boehner hired Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general under President George W. Bush. The cost cap to pay for House expenses in defending the law was set at $1.5 million.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has filed legal briefs in favor of lawsuits against DOMA and sent Stuart Delery, who’s gay and the Justice Department’s acting assistant attorney general for the civil division, to make the case against the law in oral arguments.

Six federal courts have found that DOMA is unconstitutional as a result of cases filed by LGBT advocates. The ruling against DOMA in the First Circuit was the highest court to date to weigh in against the anti-gay law.

A White House spokesperson deferred comment to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.

NOTE: This article has been updated

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Pennsylvania

Gay journalist murdered inside Philadelphia home

Josh Kruger’s death has left city ‘shocked and saddened’

Published

on

Josh Kruger with his cat Mason (Photo courtesy of Josh Kruger's Facebook page)

An openly gay journalist was shot to death in his Point Breeze neighborhood home in the 2300 block of Watkins Street in South Philadelphia early Monday morning.

According to Officer Shawn Ritchie, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department, 39-year-old Josh Kruger was shot at about 1:30 a.m. and collapsed in the street after seeking help. Kruger was transported to Penn Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 2:13 a.m.

Police said that Kruger was shot seven times throughout the chest and abdomen and that no weapons were recovered nor have any arrests been made. Homicides investigators noted that there was no sign of forced entry and the motive remains unclear.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement:

“Josh Kruger lifted up the most vulnerable and stigmatized people in our communities — particularly unhoused people living with addiction. As an openly queer writer who wrote about his own journey surviving substance use disorder and homelessness, it was encouraging to see Josh join the Kenney administration as a spokesperson for the Office of Homeless Services.

Josh deserved to write the ending of his personal story. As with all homicides, we will be in close contact with the Philadelphia police as they work to identify the person or persons responsible so that they can be held to account in a court of law. I extend my deepest condolences to Josh’s loved ones and to all those mourning this loss.”

WHYY reported Kruger had written extensively with bylines in multiple publications, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, the Philadelphia Citizen, WHYY, and Billy Penn.

CBS News reported that Kruger overcame homelessness and addiction to work for five years in city government, handling Mayor Jim Kenney’s social media and serving as the communications director for the city’s Office of Homeless Services.

He left city government in 2021 to return to journalism, according to his website.

“He was more than just a journalist,” Kendall Stephens, who was a friend and neighbor of Kruger’s, told CBS News. “He was more than just a community member. He was somebody that fought that great fight so many of us are not able to fight that fight because we’re too busy sheltered in our own homes wondering if someone is going to knock down our doors and kill us the same way they killed him. The same way they tried to kill me. And we’re tired of it.”   

Kenney said in a statement that he is “shocked and saddened” by Kruger’s death.

“He cared deeply about our city and its residents, which was evident in his public service and writing. Our administration was fortunate to call him a colleague, and our prayers are with everyone who knew him.”

The District Attorney’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee issued the following statement:

“Many of us knew Josh Kruger as a comrade who never stopped advocating for queer Philadelphians living on the margins of society. His struggles mirrored so many of ours — from community rejection, to homelessness, to addiction, to living with HIV, to poverty — and his recovery, survival, and successes showed what’s possible when politicians and elected leaders reject bigotry and work affirmatively to uplift all people. Even while Josh worked for the mayor, he never stopped speaking out against police violence, politicized attacks on trans and queer people, or the societal discarding of homeless and addicted Philadelphians.

We are devastated that Josh’s life was ended so violently. We urge anyone who has information that could lead to an arrest and prosecution for Josh’s murder to contact the Philadelphia Police or the DA’s Office directly. LGBTQ+ Philadelphians experience violence of all kinds every day; few people used their platforms to remind powerful people in government of that reality as effectively as Josh Kruger did. Josh and the communities he advocated for every day of his life deserve nothing less than justice and accountability for this outrageous crime.”

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

Lesbian mother from El Salvador released from ICE custody

Jessica Barahona-Martinez arrested on June 26, 2017

Published

on

(Bigstock photo)

A federal judge last week ordered the release of a lesbian mother from El Salvador who had been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since June 2017.

Jessica Patricia Barahona-Martinez and her three children entered the U.S. on May 31, 2016. A court filing notes she fled “persecution she faced in El Salvador as a lesbian, and because the government had falsely identified her as a gang member.”

Barahona-Martinez lived with her sister and other relatives in Woodbridge, Va., until ICE arrested and detained her on June 26, 2017. She was housed at two ICE detention centers in Virginia until her transfer to the South Louisiana ICE Processing Center, a privately-run facility the GEO Group, a Florida-based company, operates in Basile, La., in October 2020. 

An immigration judge in November 2019 granted Barahona-Martinez asylum for the second time. The government appealed the decision and the Board of Immigration Appeals, which the Justice Department oversees, ruled in their favor.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana last month filed a writ for habeas corpus petition in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana’s Lafayette Division that asked for Barahona-Martinez’s release. U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty on Sept. 27 ruled in her favor.  

“Petitioner (Barahona-Martinez) ultimately argues that her prolonged detention violates due process; she moves that this court issues a temporary restraining order, requests release, a bond hearing, an expedited hearing and costs and attorney fees,” wrote Doughty.

“This court finds that petitioner has plausibly alleged her prolonged detention violates due process,” added Doughty.

An ACLU spokesperson on Monday told the Blade that ICE has released Barahona-Martinez and she is once again in Virginia with her children and sister. 

Continue Reading

State Department

State Department hosts intersex activists from around the world

Group met with policy makers, health officials, NGOs

Published

on

The State Department last week hosted a group of intersex activists from around the world. (Courtesy photo)

The State Department last week hosted five intersex activists from around the world.

Kimberly Zieselman, a prominent intersex activist who advises Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad, brought the activists to D.C.

• Morgan Carpenter, co-founder and executive director of Intersex Human Rights Australia

• Natasha Jiménez, an intersex activist from Costa Rica who is the general coordinator of Mulabi, the Latin American Space for Sexualities and Rights

• Julius Kaggwa, founder of the Support Initiative for People with Atypical Sex Development Uganda

• Magda Rakita, co-founder and executive director of Fujdacja Interakcja in Poland and co-founder of Interconnected UK

• Esan Regmi, co-founder and executive director of the Campaign for Change in Nepal.

Special U.S. Envoy for Global Youth Issues Abby Finkenauer and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine are among the officials with whom the activists met.

Zieselman told the Washington Blade on Sept. 21 the activists offered State Department officials an “intersex 101” overview during a virtual briefing.

More than 60 Save the Children staffers from around the world participated in another virtual briefing. Zieselman noted the activists also met with Stern, U.N. and Organization of American States officials, funders and NGO representatives while in D.C.

“The people we met were genuinely interested,” Rakita told the Blade.

Stern in an exclusive statement to the Blade said “the visiting intersex activists clearly had an impact here at State, sharing their expertise and lived experience highlighting the urgency to end human rights abuses, including those involving harmful medical practices against intersex persons globally.” Andrew Gleason, senior director for gender equality and social justice at Save the Children US, in a LinkedIn post he wrote after attending his organization’s meeting with the activists echoed Stern.

“There are many learnings to recount from today’s discussion, but one thing is clear, this is unequivocally a child rights issue, and one that demands attention and action at the intersection of LGBTQI+ rights, reproductive rights and justice, disability justice and more,” wrote Gleason. “Gratitude to the panelists for sharing such poignant testimonies and providing insights into what organizations like ours can do to contribute to the broader intersex movement; and thank you to Kimberly for your leadership and bringing this group together.”

The activists’ trip to D.C. coincided with efforts to end so-called sex “normalization” surgeries on intersex children.

Greek lawmakers in July passed a law that bans such procedures on children under 15 unless they offer their consent or a court allows them to happen. Doctors who violate the statute face fines and prison.

Germany Iceland, Malta, Portugal and Spain have also enacted laws that seek to protect intersex youth. 

A law that grants equal rights and legal recognition to intersex people in Kenya took effect in July 2022. Lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory earlier this year passed the Variation in Sex Characteristics (Restricted Medical Treatment) Bill 2023.

Intersex Human Rights Australia notes the law implements “mechanisms to regulate non-urgent medical care to encourage child participation in medical decisions, establish groundbreaking oversight mechanisms and provide transparency on medical practices and decision making.” It further points out the statute “will criminalize some deferrable procedures that permanently alter the sex characteristics of children” and provides “funding for necessary psychosocial supports for families and children.”

“It’s amazing,” Carpenter told the Blade when discussing the law and resistance to it. “It’s not perfect. There was some big gaps, but physicians are resisting every step of the way.”

The State Department in April 2022 began to issue passports with an “X” gender marker.

Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as non-binary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with an “X” gender marker. Zzyym in October 2021 received the first gender-neutral American passport.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular