In a historic development, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down two decisions on Wednesday that advanced marriage rights for gay couples and will almost certainly reshape the national debate on the issue.
In one 5-4 ruling, the court determined that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional because it violates due process and equal protection for same-sex couples under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That decision means the U.S. government must begin recognizing same-sex marriages for a broad range of benefits, including those related to federal taxes and immigration law.
Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion and was joined by Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Kennedy said. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
The dissenting justices were Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. In his opinion, Roberts says Congress acted constitutionally in passing DOMA and took issue with the authority the court granted itself in overturning the anti-gay statute.
Writing his dissent, Scalia said the decision of the court robs the American public of its ability to decide the issue of same-sex marriage through the democratic process.
“Some will rejoice in today’s decision, and some will despair at it; that is the nature of a controversy that matters so much to so many,” Scalia writes. “But the Court has cheated both sides, robbing the winners of an honest victory, and the losers of the peace that comes from a fair defeat. We owed both of them better.”
In another 5-4 decision, the court determined anti-gay forces don’t have standing to defend California’s Proposition 8. That decision leaves in place a district court injunction that prohibits the state of California from enforcing its ban on same-sex marriage. Gay couples will be able to marry in the state once the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lift its stay.
Roberts wrote the majority opinion for the court and was joined by Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan. Kennedy wrote the dissenting opinion and was joined by Thomas, Alito and Sotomayor.
“The Article III requirement that a party invoking the jurisdiction of a federal court seek relief for a personal, particularized injury serves vital interests going to the role of the Judiciary in our system of separated powers,” Roberts writes. “States cannot alter that role simply by issuing to private parties who otherwise lack standing a ticket to the federal courthouse.”
The court’s ruling in the case against Prop 8, known as Hollingsworth v. Perry, is specific only to California — meaning the justices didn’t grant the expansive ruling that supporters of marriage equality had sought to bring marriage equality to all 50 states.
Shortly after HRC President Chad Griffin walked out of the court with plaintiffs in the marriage cases, he received a call from President Obama who was aboard Air Force One. Obama congratulated Griffin for the victories as reporters and onlookers watched.
The decisions were handed down 10 years to the day that the Supreme Court announced its landmark decision in the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws throughout the country.
The challenge to DOMA, known as United States v. Windsor, was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others in 2011 on behalf of lesbian New York widow Edith Windsor. Upon the death of her spouse Thea Spyer in 2009, Windsor had to pay the U.S. government $363,000 in estate taxes because of DOMA — a penalty that she wouldn’t have faced if she were married to a man.
The decision striking down DOMA affirms the initial rulings against the federal anti-gay law last year by U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones and the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Obama administration helped in securing the ruling against DOMA. After it stopped defending DOMA in 2011, the U.S. Justice Department began filing briefs against the law and sent attorneys to litigate against it during oral arguments. U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued against DOMA before the Supreme Court, saying the law doesn’t hold up under the standard heightened scrutiny, or a greater assumption it’s unconstitutional.
But the Supreme Court didn’t get to the issue of heightened scrutiny in the DOMA case because it found the law was unconstitutional under the less stringent standard of rational basis review.
The case against Prop 8 was filed by the California-based American Foundation for Equal Rights in 2009 on behalf of two plaintiff couples — a lesbian couple, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, and a gay male couple, Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo — who were unable to marry because of the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
The attorneys representing them were Theodore Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general during the Bush administration, and David Boies, a so-called “dream team” of attorneys who represented opposite sides in the 2000 case Bush v. Gore.
Because the state officials — California Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris — refused to defend Prop 8 in court, anti-gay groups that put Prop 8 on the ballot in 2008 such as ProtectMarriage.com took up the responsibility of defending the measure. The California Supreme Court certified the groups had standing under state law and the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed they had standing.
But the high court determined that these groups — even though attorney Charles Cooper spoke on behalf on them in oral arguments — don’t have standing because they lack any legal injury in the wake of the lower court’s determination that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.
The Obama administration had also assisted in efforts to secure a ruling against California’s Proposition 8. The Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief in February saying the ban was unconstitutional and Verrilli argued in court against Prop 8, suggesting all eight states with domestic partnerships should be required to grant marriage rights to gay couples.
The issue of standing also came up in the DOMA case for two reasons. One, the court had questioned whether the U.S. Justice Department could have appealed the district court ruling to the Second Circuit because the initial ruling against DOMA was what the Obama administration wanted. Two, the court questioned whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a five-member Republican-majority panel within the U.S. House, had standing to take up defense of DOMA in the administration’s stead.
But the court determined an active controversy remains in the case because the U.S. government still hasn’t refunded Windsor the $363,000 she paid in estate taxes. Once the court determined it has jurisdiction based on the Obama administration’s appeal of the lawsuit, it didn’t get to the issue of whether BLAG has standing.
In his ruling, Kennedy writes the continuation of litigation in the absence of a federal ruling on DOMA would cause uncertainty.
“[T]he costs, uncertainties, and alleged harm and injuries likely would continue for a time measured in years before the issue is resolved,” Kennedy writes in the ruling. “In these unusual and urgent circumstances, the very term ‘prudential’ counsels that it is a proper exercise of the Court’s responsibility to take jurisdiction.”
McAuliffe: School boards should make ‘own decisions’ on trans students policy
Former Va. governor debated Republican challenger on Thursday
Terry McAuliffe on Thursday hotly debated Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin at the Appalachian School of Law in southwestern Virginia on a variety of issues that include vaccine mandates, economic development, abortion access and policing. The former Virginia governor’s support for a law that protects transgender students, however, seemed less clear.
When the moderator asked if local school boards should be allowed to reject Virginia Department of Education “model policies” developed as part of a state law passed last year to protect trans and non-binary students from discrimination, McAuliffe said school boards “should be making their own decisions.”
This soft support for the law that Gov. Ralph Northam signed is in contrast to the Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement this week for his work as governor that includes signing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees and vetoing anti-LGBTQ bills.
HRC called out Youngkin, a former business executive and vocal Trump supporter, for “anti-LGBTQ and transphobic language” during his campaign. (HRC in 2019 named the Carlyle Group, the private equity company that Youngkin previously ran, as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index.)
“Once again, we are proud to have achieved a perfect score on the @HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. We know there is much work to be done and look forward to continuing the progress for our LGBTQ colleagues.” – Carlyle Co-CEOs, Kewsong Lee & Glenn Youngkin https://t.co/lwm53kZiKY pic.twitter.com/xatLs2WmOk
— The Carlyle Group (@OneCarlyle) March 28, 2019
Younkin has supported Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County elementary school teacher who was suspended in June after he spoke against the Virginia Department of Education policy known as Policy 8040. The Virginia Supreme Court last month supported Cross’ reinstatement on First Amendment grounds.
“As governor, I will stand up for teachers like Tanner Cross,” the Republican candidate tweeted.
Youngkin also told Fox News the school board was trying to “cancel” Cross “simply for expressing his views that are in the best interests of the children and expressing his faith.”
But state Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William County), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, told the Washington Blade in an earlier interview that the 2020 law passed with bipartisan support and most school boards are acting in accordance with the nondiscrimination law.
“Loudoun is catching headlines, but look at all of the other school districts who have adopted this without controversy,” said Roem, who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in a state legislature in the U.S. “They are acting in compliance with Department of Education best practices for how to humanely treat transgender kids in schools.”
McAuliffe, after stating that decisions regarding implementing trans student protections should be left to local school boards, said he hated seeing all of the “divisiveness” and “children being demonized.” He then pivoted to his talking points about increasing both teacher pay and broadband access for students.
Early in-person voting in Virginia is underway and lasts until Oct. 30. Election day is Nov. 2.
Black gay man hopes to ‘shatter lavender ceiling’ in Annapolis
Keanuú Smith-Brown is running to unseat Ward 3 incumbent
Keanuú Smith-Brown, who is affectionately called KSB by his friends, is running to unseat incumbent Annapolis Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell Charles (D-Ward 3) and become the first out LGBTQ elected official in the city.
“Keanuú is on-track to shatter a lavender ceiling in Annapolis, becoming the first out LGBTQ person ever elected in the city,” Victory Fund Vice President of Communications Elliot Imse told the Washington Blade.
Smith-Brown, a 26-year-old substitute teacher, announced in February that he was challenging Pindell Charles, who has represented his ward since 2013. They will face off in a Democratic primary on Sept. 21, then the winner advances to the general election on Nov. 2.
The Annapolis native is the eldest of six siblings, raised by a single mother and a first-generation college graduate who describes himself as a proud Black gay man. His opponent, also a Democrat, stated on an Annapolis Pride survey that she supports the LGBTQ community, just “not overtly.”
“But his candidacy is about more than just making history,” Imse said. “When in office, Keanuú will ensure the interests of the LGBTQ community are considered in every policy discussion and every piece of legislation that comes before the council.”
Smith-Brown told the Blade he is running to represent “those who have been left out,” emphasizing that “there is an urgent need for change in our ward.”
The Annapolis native first came out as gay while still a senior in high school, the same year Pindell Charles was first elected as his Ward 3 representative.
“I grew up surrounded by drug addiction and witnessed domestic violence both in my family and in my community,” he told the Blade, sharing he was raised by a single mom while his father was incarcerated during most of his life.
He still lives in the home in which he grew up, and within five minutes of his partner’s house “if you’re driving fast.”
After graduating from the University of Baltimore in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in government and public policy, Smith-Brown began working with legislators and advocating for LGBTQ bills in Maryland.
As president of the District 30 Democratic Club, Smith-Brown advocated for House Bill 1147 and its companion Senate Bill 401, which were both similar to neighboring D.C.’s requirement for single-occupancy bathrooms to be marked gender-neutral.
Both bills died in committee during the General Assembly’s pandemic-shortened session in 2020, but Smith-Brown’s advocacy continued.
He marched during the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and he continued to be a public advocate for LGBTQ rights and visibility as a member of Annapolis Pride.
“I have led and joined LGBTQ+ marches, rallies and events, even hosting a campaign ‘Love with Pride and Unity’ Drag Brunch,” Smith-Brown wrote in response to Annapolis Pride’s first LGBTQ-issues survey. “I helped organize for Maryland’s Health Care Decisions Act which would extend the rights of partners when making medical or funeral decisions.”
Pindell Charles, by contrast, in her survey response stated she did not consider her advocacy for the LGBTQ community to be “overt.”
“My support for the LGBTQ+ community, and even other communities, usually revolves around me working with persons individually, which I prefer,” she wrote. “One-on-one, rather than as a group, or public displays.”
FreeState Justice, Maryland’s statewide LGBTQ rights organization supports public advocacy.
“It’s extremely important for LGBTQ community members to participate in civic engagement — especially as elected officials,” Executive Director Jeremy LaMaster told the Blade in an email.
FreeState Justice has encouraged LGBTQ Marylanders to speak out at public hearings in support of legislation such as the state’s “panic defense” ban, waiving the publication of name change petitions and the establishment of a state commission on LGBTQ affairs. All of these measures passed during the 2021 legislative session.
“There is such immense power for our community that can be built at the grassroots level. From leading neighborhood associations to sitting on city councils, or representing the community in the General Assembly,” said Smith-Brown. “As the world changes, so do the ways in which issues disproportionately or uniquely impact the LGBTQ community, especially for our youth, elders, trans and Black siblings.”
Pindell Charles, who did not respond to the Blade’s requests for comment prior to publication, is a retired Baltimore City prosecutor and chairs the Annapolis City Council’s Public Safety Standing Committee.
During her time in public service, her advocacy included a variety of “groups and communities considered to be ‘underrepresented,’” according to her Annapolis Pride survey response.
Smith-Brown said Ward 3 deserves better.
“She is saying this is in a position of power, that she’s not willing to get out of her comfort zone,” he told the Blade. “You may not be okay with seeing two men or two women together, but when you don’t allow yourself in your position to be inclusive of all people you are now failing in your position.”
“If someone said that about the Black community, it would not be taken in the same way,” he added. “Admit that you don’t need to be here in this way. We can all do our best to do better.”
The Capital Gazette in February reported Pindell Charles intends to run for a third term and welcomes Smith-Brown’s challenge.
“We need to win this,” Smith-Brown said, encouraging LGBTQ and all voters to get out and vote. “My being at that seat at the table means that we are all in that seat. What is it they say? If I eat, we eat. That is the impact on our future, and I’m in it to win it.”
Lo que trae el Código de las Familias de Cuba
Tendría matrimonio igualitario y ‘multiparentalidad’
El anteproyecto del Código de las Familias fue publicado este miércoles por el Ministerio de Justicia (Minjus). Como estaba previsto, la propuesta incluye el matrimonio LGBTIQ+ entre otros conceptos nuevos para la legislación cubana.
“El matrimonio es la unión voluntariamente concertada de dos personas con aptitud legal para ello, a fin de hacer vida en común, sobre la base del afecto y el amor”, dice el artículo 61 del anteproyecto.
Esta es la versión número 22 del Código de las Familias, declaró el gobierno hace una semana cuando la comisión redactora se reunió con el presidente Miguel Díaz-Canel y otros funcionarios.
Según el ministro de Justicia Oscar Silvera Martínez, el gobierno decidió publicar la última versión para «captar opiniones» de la ciudadanía. La publicación se hizo efectiva este miércoles.
El Minjus, en su presentación del anteproyecto de ley, compartió el correo electrónico [email protected] para recibir sugerencias y comunicó que «del resultado de estos análisis se elaborará una nueva versión del anteproyecto que será sometida a aprobación de las diputadas y diputados de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, en diciembre de este año».
Posteriormente, ya convertido en proyecto de ley, el Código será sometido a consulta popular en 2022.
¿Qué dice el anteproyecto?
El matrimonio entre personas LGBTIQ+ provocó grandes discusiones en 2018, durante el debate del proyecto de Constitución que finalmente se aprobó en 2019. El gobierno tuvo que desistir del artículo 68, que definía matrimonio como «la unión de dos personas», y adoptar una fórmula más amplia.
El camino quedaba abierto, a pesar de los reclamos del activismo LGBTIQ+, que alcanzaron su tono máximo en la marcha del 11 de mayo de 2019, un mes después de promulgada la Constitución.
Un plazo de dos años quedó abierto en Cuba, por una de las disposiciones transitorias de la Constitución, para discutir sobre los alcances del matrimonio. La epidemia de covid-19 complicó el cumplimiento de los plazos. Finalmente, el anteproyecto de ley se hizo público este 15 de septiembre.
A pesar de la falta de transparencia para constituir la comisión redactora, criticada también por la ausencia de personas abiertamente LGBTIQ+, el anteproyecto trajo algunas sorpresas.
En Cuba, si se aprueba este anteproyecto, será posible tener más de dos filiaciones. Aunque se aclara que será “excepcionalmente”, la ley reconocerá la maternidad/paternidad de más de 2 personas.
El artículo dedicado a la “multiparentalidad” dice que “una persona puede tener más de dos vínculos filiatorios” y cita como ejemplos “los casos de filiación asistida donde no existe anonimato de la persona dadora o gestante” y “las adopciones por integración”. Este último caso es el de quienes adoptan a la hija o al hijo de su pareja.
Según el anteproyecto, este vínculo será válido sin que importe “el lazo biológico o el componente genético de las personas implicadas”. “La determinación de los apellidos y el orden de estos, si la hija o hijo es menor de edad, se toma en cuenta lo que resulte más beneficioso, conforme con su interés superior y el respeto a su identidad”, establece el anteproyecto.
La “gestación solidaria” también será posible en Cuba siempre que no tenga fines de lucro.
“La gestación solidaria se autoriza judicialmente cuando en la misma intervengan personas unidas por vínculos familiares, en beneficio de mujeres con alguna patología médica que les impida la gestación o de personas que presenten esterilidad o de hombres solos o parejas de hombres”, dice uno de los artículos del anteproyecto.
Con respecto a la adopción, buena parte de los procedimientos se hacen más sencillos. En la ley vigente, para adoptar hay que contar con autorización judicial. Con el nuevo Código aparece la opción de ceder un bebé voluntariamente “sin que de este acto sea exigible responsabilidad penal alguna”. Ofrece la posibilidad de hacerlo incluso con una simple escritura notarial.
El anteproyecto introduce el concepto de “comaternidad” para referirse a las parejas de lesbianas con descendencia y establece tácitamente la “filiación asistida” como un derecho, en vez de una opción para tratar la infertilidad según había sido considerada hasta ahora.
La noción tradicional de “patria potestad”, de origen romano y raíz machista, fue sustituida por la de “responsabilidad parental”. En esa línea, el anteproyecto prohíbe el castigo físico de los hijos, que está permitido “moderadamente” en la ley vigente.
Sobre la responsabilidad doméstica atribuida culturalmente a las mujeres, el nuevo Código expresa que “la división tradicional de roles de género y funciones durante la convivencia de los cónyuges no puede dar lugar a consecuencias económicas perjudiciales para ninguno de ellos” y establece por último que “el trabajo en el hogar es computable como contribución a las cargas”.
El anteproyecto se ocupa ampliamente de la violencia familiar con un adecuado enfoque de género. Los adultos mayores son otro foco de interés que no tiene tanta atención en la ley vigente. El nuevo Código también reconoció los derechos sexuales de las personas “en situación de discapacidad”.
A pesar de estos avances, en algunos casos extraordinarios, el anteproyecto no se refiere nunca a las personas trans y no binarias. El respeto a la identidad de género de menores trans por parte de sus familias, y en particular de quienes tienen la “responsabilidad parental”, es una significativa ausencia.
De ser aprobada la versión publicada hoy, el Código de las Familias sustituirá una ley de 1975 considerada un hito jurídico de la Revolución Cubana, pero sobre todo trascenderá por inaugurar el matrimonio LGBTIQ+ y por consagrar el derecho de esas familias a tener descendencia.
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