Tag Archives: marriage

Debate on Same-Sex Marriage Case at the Sup. Court

The National Constitution Center will host a debate on June 2nd at 6:30pm EDT (which is available to be streamed free) on same-sex marriage and the Equal Protection Clause.  You can watch the video here.

The excerpt is:

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides: “No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

And now, the Supreme Court is poised to answer the question of whether this Clause requires States to license marriages between two people of the same sex. The best guess is that the Court will decide the question in late June. Does the Equal Protection Clause require States to license same-sex marriages, or will they decide that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

via The Equal Protection Clause Does Not Require States To License Same-Sex Marriages – IQ2 Debates.

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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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Prop. 8: official proponents of Prop 8 could not appeal

The Supreme Court decided Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144 (2013), holding that petitioners did not have standing to appeal Proposition 8.

As background, California granted same-sex marriages.  However, this was later reversed through Proposition 8.  Under Proposition 8, California Constitution was changed to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  The California Supreme Court held that Proposition 8 left the rights of same-sex couples largely undisturbed, reserving only the official designation of the term marriage for the union of opposite-sex couples.

The parties in this lawsuit help explain the Supreme Court’s decision.  Respondents (Plaintiffs), two same-sex couples who wished to marry, filed a lawsuit in federal court. Defendants (including the Governor, Attorney General, and other officials) did not decent the law.  Nevertheless, Defendants continued to enforce the law.

Petitioners, who appealed, were official proponents of Proposition 8.  Petitioners, instead of Defendants, defended Proposition 8.  The District Court then held that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.    Petitioners (not Defendants) appealed.

Now the question is: do these Petitioners have standing in order to be involved in this case?  The California Supreme Court held that Petitioners were authorized to appear and assert the state’s interest in the validity of Proposition 8.  The Ninth Circuit then affirmed the District Court’s decision, ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruled that Petitioners did not have standing.  First of all, when Proposition 8 was ruled unconstitutional two things happened: Respondents (Plaintiffs) no longer had an injury to redress because they won; and Defendants chose not to appeal.

Petitioners did not have a personal and individual injury.  There was no “direct stake” in the outcome of the appeal.  In other words, they were pushing a generalized grievance.  Consequently, Petitioners could not appeal.

The Supreme Court explained,

No matter how deeply committed petitioners may be to upholding Proposition 8 or how “zealous [their] advocacy,” that is not a “particularized” interest sufficient to create a case or controversy under Article III.

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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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Sup. Ct. March Calendar

Next month, the Supreme Court will be hearing high profile cases – including the gay marriage debate (California’s Proposition 8 and DOMA), as well as voter registration laws.  In addition, the Supreme Court will hear a variety of important issues, such as class arbitration waivers, generic pharmaceutical regulations, and reimbursement or payment under the Takings Clause.

The following are the oral arguments scheduled for March.

Monday March 18

Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona:

  1. Whether the 9th Circuit erred in creating a new, heightened preemption test under Art. 1, Sec. 4, Cl. 1 of the U.S. Constitution (“the Elections Clause”) that is contrary to the Supreme Court’s authority and conflicts with other circuit court decisions; and
  2. Whether the 9th Circuit erred in holding that under that test the National Voter Registration Act preempts an Arizona law that requests persons who are registering to vote to show evidence that they are eligible to vote.

Bullock v. Bankchampaign

  1. What degree of misconduct by a trustee constitute “defalcation” under Sec. 523(a)(4) of the Bankruptcy Code that disqualifies the errant trustee’s resulting debt from a bankruptcy discharge, and whether it includes actions that result in no loss of trust property.

Tuesday March 19

Sebelius v. Cloer

  1. Whether a person whose petition under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is dismissed as untimely may recover from the United States an award of attorney’s fees and costs.

Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett

  1. Whether the 1st Circuit erred when it created a circuit split and held – in clear conflict with this Court’s decisions in PLIVA v. Mensing, Riegel v. Medtronic, and Cipollone v. Ligget Group – that federal law does not preempt state law design-defect claims targeting generic pharmaceutical products because the conceded conflict between such claims and the federal laws governing generic pharmaceutical design allegedly can be avoided if the makers of generic pharmaceuticals simply stop making their products.

Wednesday March 20

Horne v. Dept. of Agriculture

  1. Whether the 9th Circuit erred in holding, contrary to the decisions of 5 other circuit courts of appeals, that a party may not raise the Takings Clause as a defense to a “direct transfer of funds mandated by the Government,” E. Enterp. v. Apfel, but instead must pay the money and then bring a separate, later claim requesting reimbursement of the money under the Tucker Act in the Court of Federal Claims; and
  2. Whether the 9th Circuit erred in holding, contrary to the decision of the Federal Circuit, that it lacked jurisdiction over petitioner’s takings defense, even though petitioners, as “handlers” of raisin under the Raisin Marketing Order, as statutory required under 7 USC 608c(15) to exhaust all claims and defenses in administrative proceedings before the United States Department of Agriculture, with exclusive jurisdiction for review in federal district court.

Dan’s City Used Cars v. Pelkey

  1. Whether state statutory, common law negligence, and consumer protection act enforcement actions against two-motor carrier based on state law regulating the sale and disposal of a towed vehicle are related to a transportation service provided by the carrier and thus preempted by 49 USC 14501-c-1.

Monday March 25

Oxford Health Plans v. Sutter

  1. Whether an arbitrator acts within his powers under the Federal Arbitration Act (as the 2nd and 3d Circuits have held) or exceeds those powers (as the 5th Circuit has held) by determining that parties affirmatively “agreed to authorize class arbitration,” Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. Animalfeeds Int’l Corp., based solely on their use of broad contractual language precluding litigation and requiring arbitration of any dispute arising under their contract.

Federal Trade Commission v. Actavis

  1. Whether reverse-payment agreements are per se lawful unless the underlying patent litigation was a sham or the patent was obtained by fraud (as the court below held), or instead are presumptively anticompetitive and unlawful (as the 3d Circuit has held).

Tuesday March 26

Hollingsworth v. Perry

  1. Whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman; and
  2. Whether petitioners have standing under Art. III, Sec. 2 of the Constitution in this case.

Wednesday March 27

United States v. Windsor

  1. Whether Section 3 of the Defense Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws as applied to persons of the same sex who are legally married under the laws of their State; 
  2. Whether the Executive Branch’s agreement with the court below that DOMA is unconstitutional deprives this Court of jurisdiction to decide this case; and
  3. Whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives has Article III standing in this case.

via New March argument calendar : SCOTUSblog.

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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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Further Prop. 8 review denied by court of appeals

The Ninth Circuit Court refused on Tuesday to reconsider the decision in February striking down California’s Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages in the state.  The Court, however, put the case on hold for at least 90 days to allow the proponents of the ballot measure to seek to appeal to the Supreme Court.  The denial came over the dissents of three judges, who called this a “momentous case” and argued that the divided decision of a three-judge panel had resulted from a “gross misapplication” of a key Supreme Court ruling on gay rights.  One other judge dissented, but did not join the three in their objection.  The combination of orders and separate opinions can be read here.

The ruling will set the stage for a major test in the Supreme Court, although the panel ruling is a narrow one that explicitly avoided deciding whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to get married.  The two judges who were in the majority in ruling against Proposition 8 briefly defended the narrowness of their decision in a concurring opinion Tuesday.

After the panel decision, the supporters of the measure had asked the full Circuit Court to reconsider the case en banc.  At the request of an unidentified judge, a vote was taken among the 25 judges eligible to vote on the question, and a majority of 13 would have been required to grant such review.  The final vote thus appeared to be 21-4, because the dissenting member of the panel favored en banc review, but did not join the dissenting opinion by three other judges.

via Further Prop. 8 review denied by court of appeals (FINAL UPDATE) : 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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ERISA and “spouse” definition

I bring to your attention Radtke v. Local 638 Health, Welfare, Eye & Dental Fund, 10-cv-4175 (MJD/JJG) (D. Minn. 4/2/2012).  In this case, the Fund terminated the enrollment of Plaintiff based on its interpretation of Minnesota law.  In summary, the Fund obtained information that Plaintiff was a transgendered individual and terminated her benefits.  The District Court disagreed with the Fund’s decision on the basis that the Fund had ignored all evidence of Minnesota’s view of Plaintiff’s sex and marital status.

When Plaintiff was born, Plaintiff’s gender was categorized as male.  Plaintiff was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, in which a patient’s psychological identification of her gender doe snot match the anatomical identification.  The Hennepin County Court granted the name change of Plaintiff to a female name.  Plaintiff also participated in a Transgender Program, and eventually underwent sex-reassignment surgery.  In 2005, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Modification of Birth Record and Issuance of Replacement Birth Certificate, whereby the birth record identified Plaintiff as female.  Later in 2005, Plaintiff married her spouse in Minnesota, and they were issued a marriage license by a Minnesota court.

The District Court determined that Plaintiff is the legal spouse of Mr. Radtke under Minnesota law and therefore an eligible dependent under the Plan.

The Plan was unambiguously written to allow all persons who are legal spouses under Minnesota law to be eligible family dependents.  The Fund’s role was to ascertain Minnesota law.  It was not the Fund’s role to impose its own definitions of gender and marriage upon its participants.  In this case, the Fund ignored all evidence of the State of Minnesota’s view of Plaintiff’s sex and marital status.  The Fund’s decision was not only wrong, under a de novo review, it was a flagrant violation of its duty under any standard of review. 

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