Tag Archives: gay

Vets discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

The ABA is supporting legislation to allow veterans who were discharged under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to request a change in their military records.

“Restore Honor to Service Members Act,” H.R. 2839, will ensure that veterans who were discharged solely because of their sexual orientation and did not receive an “honorable” characterization of service can have the opportunity to request their characterization be upgraded. In addition, those who did receive an honorable discharge would be able to remove any reference to sexual orientation from their records by requesting a review.

This bill was introduced on July 25, 2013 and was referred to committee.  Since July 25, 2013 there has been no movement.  The ABA President’s letter, dated November 21, urges the subcommittee to take action.

via Vets discharged under Dont Ask, Dont Tell should be allowed to seek change in records, ABA says.

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Discrimination for being “unmanly”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (en banc) ruled that an iron worker who was subjected to gay slurs and simulated sex because he failed to conform to the employer’s male stereotypes was discriminated against under Title VII.

In EEOC v. Boh Bros. Constr. Co., No. 11-30770 (5th Cir. Sept. 27, 2013), the  court reviewed the jury’s findings and awarded damages.  The Fifth Circuit found that taking the case as a whole, a jury could have found that the employee was harassed because he did not fall under the “manly-man stereotype.”

This case arose when a worker, Kerry Woods, was subjected to sex harassment.  Woods was often sexual derogatory terms regarding Woods’ sexuality.  In addition, the superintendent also exposed himself when Woods was going to the bathroom, and made sexual innuendo comments to Woods.  When these actions were brought to the employer, the superintendent told the general superintendent that he didn’t care for Woods because he was “different” and “didn’t fit in.”

After trial the jury found that this verbal and physical harassment occurred daily.  The jury awarded Woods $200,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages.

via Harassed for being unmanly? En banc court sees Title VII violation; dissent sees clean-talk enforcer.

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Military Survivor Benefits for Same-Sex Spouse

In Copper-Harris v. United States, Case No. 2:12-00887 (Aug. 29, 2013), the Central District of California District Court recently ruled that the military could not deny survivor benefits to a same-sex spouse.  This case is interesting because it brings up a very interesting conflict of laws.

California recognizes same-sex marriages and recently the Supreme Court reversed DOMA.  You can see my prior post discussing the DOMA decision here.

Meanwhile, the Veteran’s Benefits statute, Title 38, defines a survivor spouse as “a person of the opposite sex who was the spouse of a veteran.” 38 U.S.C. 101(3).

The federal District Court in California, without referencing DOMA or what would be the appropriate standard of review, sided with the same-sex surviving spouse.  Using a rational basis review, the military would have to show that their action was rationally related to the purpose of the statute.  The questions can be summed up as follows:

  1. Is the survivor benefit exclusion of same-sex spouses rationally related to the goal of gender equality and expansion of the availability of veteran’s benefits?
  2. Is the survivor benefit exclusion of same-sex spouses rationally related to caring for and providing for veteran families?

The court said no.  Relying on expert testimony, the court noted that “veteran’s benefits are essential to ensuring that servicemembers perform to their ‘maximum potential,’ and other purposes justifying veterans benefits including readiness, recruiting, cohesion, and retention.”  Further, the court concluded that excluding same-sex spouses were not rationally related to the promotion of gender equality.

The court, based on the stated purpose of the Veterans Benefits statute, held that there was no rational basis for prohibiting same-sex survivors to receive the survivor benefits.

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DOMA is unconstitutional

The Supreme Court opinion on United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307 (2013) held that DOMA was unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment when it failed to recognize same-sex marriage federally.

It is important to note that the reasoning behind this ruling was based on the fact that there are States which granted same-sex marriage but were not recognized federally.  By failing to recognize those same-sex marriages, the government was discriminating against same-sex married couples.  In doing so, same-sex married couples were deprived of the benefits and responsibilities of over 1,000 federal laws.  Including protections under criminal law and provide financial harm to children of same-sex couples.

The Supreme Court noted that the State’s authority to regulate marriages was being squashed by the federal government.  Based on precedent, “[e]ach state as a sovereign has a rightful and legitimate concern in the marital status of persons domiciled within its borders.”  “The definition of marriage is the foundation of the State’s broader authority to regulate the subject of domestic relations with respect to the ‘[p]rotection of offspring, property interests, and the enforcement of marital responsibilities.'” (italics added).

Instead of respecting the State’s authority to regulate marriages, DOMA’s purpose was to “impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a sigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States.”

Given that DOMA’s purpose was to impose restrictions and disabilities, the Supreme Court stated that “[b]y doing so [DOMA] violates basic due process and equal protection principles.”

The Supreme Court found that

DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal.  The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency….

DOMA contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not other couples, of both rights and responsibilities.  By creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State, DOMA forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect.

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Minnesota Senate joins House in approving same-sex marriage

This news exploded in the media and social media.  Minnesota is set to become the first Midwestern state and the 12th state in the U.S. to allow same-sex marriage.

Yesterday, Minnesota Senate voted 37 to 30 in favor of allowing same-sex marriage.  Earlier, the Minnesota House of Representatives voted 75 to 59 in favor for it.  As a backdrop, in the prior election, Minnesota voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Governor Dayton stated that he will sign the bill once it comes to his desk.

via Minnesota Senate joins House in approving same-sex marriage | MinnPost.

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DOMA and Prop 8 goes to Court

On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases regarding the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Prop 8.

In Hollingsworth v. Perry (docket 12-144), the issue os whether Proposition 8 from California is constitutional.  These are the highlights and arguments in this case.

In United States v. Windsor (docket 12-307), the issue is whether the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is constitutional as it relates by providing that the definition of marriage means only a union between a man and a woman.

via Evening round-up : SCOTUSblog.

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1st Circuit Strikes Down Section of DOMA Law Denying Federal Benefits to Gay Couples

A federal appeals court has struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act on equal protection and federalism grounds.

The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law discriminates against married gay couples who are denied federal benefits, the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times report. The case is “all but certain to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court,” AP says.

The appeals court said rationales offered in support of the federal benefit ban are not sufficient under a standard of “closer than usual review.” The court ruled in challenges to the law filed by the state of Massachusetts, and by a group of same-sex couples and surviving spouses of such couples who were married in the state.

“Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress’ denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest,” the opinion (PDF) said.

The court ruled in a challenge to Section 3 of the law that defines marriages, for federal purposes, as a legal union between one man and one woman. Under the law, same-sex married couples are not entitled to the same federal economic benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. The benefits include the right to file joint federal tax returns, to receive Social Security survivor benefits after the death of a spouse, and to access health insurance benefits of spouses who work for the federal government.

The unanimous ruling doesn’t reach a second portion of the law that says states cannot be forced to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere. The author of the opinion, Judge Michael Boudin, is an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports. The other panel members are appointees of Presidents Clinton and Reagan.

The U.S. Justice Department had originally supported the law in the federal district court in Massachusetts and in initial briefs before the 1st Circuit. Later the department switched its stance and argued in a new brief that the law violated equal protection guarantees.

The 1st Circuit panel stayed its ruling “anticipating that certiorari will be sought and that Supreme Court review of DOMA is highly likely.”

“This case is difficult because it couples issues of equal protection and federalism with the need to assess the rationale for a congressional statute passed with minimal hearings and lacking in formal findings,” the appeals court said. “In addition, Supreme Court precedent offers some help to each side, but the rationale in several cases is open to interpretation. We have done our best to discern the direction of these precedents, but only the Supreme Court can finally decide this unique case.

via 1st Circuit Strikes Down Section of DOMA Law Denying Federal Benefits to Gay Couples – News – ABA Journal.

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