In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act said that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages from states that allow them. Since the decision, couples in states which do not recognize same-sex marriages have filed a flurry of lawsuits.
Conditions are ripe for litigation in those states, like Pennsylvania. In July, a rogue county clerk outside Philadelphia started granting marriage licenses to gays and lesbians, defying the state's ban.
Pennsylvania filed suit against D. Bruce Hanes, but he had already issued more than 100 licenses before the court told him to stop.
Under a Jewish wedding canopy, two brides signed the very first marriage certificate issued to a same-sex couple in the state of Pennsylvania. Dee Spagnuolo and Sasha Ballen were married, surrounded by their three young children, friends and family.
Hanes argued that after the Supreme Court's decision, denying couples like Spagnuolo and Ballen marriage licenses would violate the Constitution. Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, spokesman for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, said that wasn't Hanes' call to make.
"We are a government of laws, and the process is there to change laws or challenge laws. And that issue, these issues, are not solved by individual public officials deciding based on their own personal opinions what to do or what not to do," Frederiksen says.
Wanting The Same Benefits Other People Get
Spagnuolo and Ballen are now among two dozen couples who have asked the state to recognize their marriage licenses from Montgomery County.
They want the full spectrum of federal benefits now provided to same-sex couples in other states following the Supreme Court's decision. There's been a lot of legal activity regarding gay marriage in Pennsylvania's state and federal courts since the ruling.
"You have a lot of people living here, seeing that their neighbors are getting something that they aren't," says the couple's lawyer, David Cohen.
Pennsylvania remains the only state in the Northeast which does not yet allow same-sex partnerships. A judge in New Jersey ruled last week that New Jersey, which has civil unions, must begin recognizing marriages. Gov. Chris Christie has appealed.
Pressure From Inside And Out
Since the Supreme Court's decision, couples have filed dozens of constitutional challenges to state laws around the country, says Brian Moulton, legal director of Human Rights Campaign.
"It's less about identifying a particular state where it's the right argument, but a state where there's perhaps the greatest likelihood of success before the courts," he says.
The American Civil Liberties Union has thrown its weight behind suits in Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina in efforts to set precedents that would legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country. It expects federal judges in these regions will be receptive.
Opponents of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania say they would rather work this out legislatively.
"We should debate it as a society. And ultimately the best place in a democracy to deal with difficult issues is in our Legislature," says Randall Wenger, counsel for the Pennsylvania Family Institute.
On Thursday, Rep. Brian Sims, the state's first openly gay man elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature, introduced a same-sex marriage bill in the state House of Representatives.
TRENTON — A new coalition opposed to same-sex marriage said today its members will aggressively fight legislative efforts to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of gay marriage, calling instead for a voter referendum.
“We believe strongly, with Gov. Christie, that this issue should be decided by the people,” Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, said at a Statehouse press conference today. “Same-sex marriage is not about civil rights. It’s about special rights for people who do not want to marry someone of the opposite sex.”
The New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage includes numerous organizations that support traditional marriage, among them the Family Policy Council, the state Catholic Conference, New Jersey Family First and the state council of the Knights of Columbus.
Members of the groups admitted they were out-funded by organizations supporting gay marriage, but said they believe a majority of New Jerseyans agree with them. They said they were confident Democratic leaders in the Legislature would fail to find enough votes to override the governor. And they also rejected claims that they had “Neanderthal” mentalities or are stuck in the “dark ages.”
The renewed push comes less than a week after a state Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that same-sex couples in New Jersey were being denied their equal rights and must be allowed to marry, setting an Oct. 21 starting date.
The Christie administration said on Monday it would appeal the ruling directly to the state Supreme Court to prevent the marriages, bypassing the appellate courts, which is the normal procedure. It has asked Jacbobson to put same-sex marriages on hold while it appeals.
Representatives from the groups said the court should not decide on an issue that, in their view, “redefines” marriage and threatens religion.
Activist John Tomicki called Jacobson’s decision “56 pages of moral relativism which now is going to supposedly set the policy for the state of New Jersey.”
“It would completely strike at the heart of religion and religious freedom,” Tomicki said of allowing same-sex marriage.
Jim White, who was representing the state council of the Knights of Columbus, said same-sex marriage would open the gates to arguments for polygamy, polyandry, group marriage and marriage between siblings.
“Marriage under the present definition has served humanity well for millennia, and we change the definition at our own peril,” White said. “Finally, keep in mind that defending marriage is not bigotry, and change is not necessarily progress.”
Gay rights groups have argued that civil unions, currently allowed in New Jersey, do not provide same-sex couples rights equal to those afforded married couples. Many do not want a voter referendum because they say it not an issue of public opinion but rather civil rights.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
By Maura Dolan
September 30, 2013, 1:17 p.m.
SAN FRANCISCO -- A Los Angeles-based gay rights group that launched the federal challenge of Proposition 8 has hired high-powered attorneys Theodore B. Olson and David Boies to challenge Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights, started by a political strategist with support from Hollywood, announced Monday that the two legal luminaries who led the fight against California’s gay marriage ban would join a federal lawsuit to overturn Virginia’s prohibition.
The addition of Olson and Boies, Supreme Court practitioners on opposite ends of the political spectrum, suggests that Virginia's ban may become the next case to test gay marriage before the high court.
The court put an end to Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot measure that barred gay marriage in California, in a narrowprocedural ruling that left state bans in place elsewhere. Gay rights activists are hoping the next marriage case will prod the court to overturn bans nationwide on constitutional grounds.
The ACLU and Lambda Legal, a gay rights group, also are challenging Virginia’s ban in a class action lawsuit filed in a different federal court in the state.
“As a Virginian and a conservative, I believe these laws stand against the very principles of our nation’s founding,” Olson said.
Boies noted that a challenge to Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage led to the Supreme Court’s 1967 landmark ruling in Loving vs. Virginia, which ended restrictions on mixed-race marriages nationwide. Gay rights lawyers have cited that ruling in arguing for same-sex marriage.
“Virginia gave us the first marriage equality case — and the one that most clearly established that the right to marry the person you love is a fundamental right of all Americans,” Boies said. “It’s fitting, then, that Virginia be the battleground for another great test of that principle.”
Virginia amended its constitution in 2006 to ban same-sex couples from marrying. It is one of 37 states with such a prohibition.
TRENTON, NJ, September 27, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A New Jersey judge ruled on Friday that the state's law protecting marriage as the union between a man and a woman violates the state constitution.
Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson specifically cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in saying the state must recognize same-sex “marriages” by October 21.
Governor Chris Christie, the Republican who vetoed a bill redefining marriage in 2012, has promised to appeal to a higher court.
"Gov. Christie has always maintained that he would abide by the will of the voters on the issue of marriage equality and called for it to be on the ballot this Election Day," said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak. “Since the legislature refused to allow the people to decide expeditiously, we will let the Supreme Court make this constitutional determination.”
The state Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that homosexuals have no right to be recognized as “married” – by a one vote margin.
But New Jersey already has civil unions – also decreed by the state Supreme Court in the same case. The U.S. Supreme Court cited California's civil unions as proof the state did not value marriage as a unique legal relationship between a man and a woman in striking down Proposition 8.
Jacobson ruled that applying a different label to homosexuals barred gay couples from collecting federal benefits.
“Judge Jacobson has trampled on the right of the people of New Jersey to define marriage, a right that the Supreme Court has upheld in the very case she misuses to redefine marriage,” stated Brian Brown, the National Organization for Marriage’s president.
“The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts,” Jacobson wrote.
Jacobson was appointed by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner in January 2012. She succeeded Assignment Judge Linda Feinberg.
Hayley Gorenberg of Lambda Legal said she found the ruling “thrilling,” because “the state stood between these families and a host of federal protections, benefits, rights and responsibilities.”
But Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, told ABC News the ruling represented “judicial activism” that imposed an extreme social agenda on the state without the voters' consent.
State legislators had threatened to override Christie's veto but still lack the votes: 12 in the House, three in the Senate.
“This is a gross abuse of power that cannot be allowed to stand,” said Brown.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
CINCINNATI (AP) — A lawsuit seeking to have the out-of-state marriages of two gay Ohio couples recognized on death certificates has been expanded to include all similarly situated couples, despite a statewide ban on gay marriage.
Attorneys are now asking federal Judge Timothy Black to require Ohio's health department director to order funeral directors and coroners to list gay clients as married if they were legally wed in another state.
Black approved a request to expand the lawsuit on Wednesday and is expected to issue a ruling in December.
A spokeswoman for Ohio Department of Health Director Theodore Wymyslo did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
John Arthur and James Obergefell, both 47, are the couple who began the lawsuit. Arthur, who has Lou Gehrig's disease, and Obergefell sued in July to ensure that they can be buried next to each other in Arthur's family plot, which is in a cemetery that only allows descendants and spouses.
A second couple, William Herbert Ives and David Michener, joined the lawsuit earlier this month after Ives died unexpectedly and Michener wanted him to be listed as married before he was cremated.
Black found in favor of both couples, saying they deserved to be treated with respect and that Ohio law historically has recognized out-of-state marriages as valid as long as they were legal where they took place, citing marriages between cousins and involving minors.
"How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, single out same-sex marriages as ones it will not recognize?" Black wrote. "The short answer is that Ohio cannot."
His ruling has sparked backlash from opponents of gay marriage, including state Rep. John Becker, a Union Township Republican who last week called for Black's impeachment.
"The grounds are malfeasance and abuse of power," Becker wrote in a letter to U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup in which he asked the congressman to begin impeachment proceedings. "Judge Black has demonstrated his incompetence by allowing his personal political bias to supersede jurisprudence."
A woman who answered the phone at Black's office said the judge was prohibited from commenting.
Only eight federal judges in history have been removed by Congress, most recently Judge G. Thomas Porteous of Louisiana in 2010 after he was accused of accepting cash and other favors from attorneys and bail bondsmen with business before his court.
Phil Burress, president of the Ohio-based anti-gay marriage group Citizens for Community Values, said the effort to get gay couples recognized on death certificates is just a roundabout way to get gay marriage declared legal in Ohio.
"Basically they're trying to come through the back door," he said. "Until they change it they have to obey the law. Marriage in the state of Ohio is between one man and one woman."
Robert Grunn, a Cincinnati funeral director who is joining the lawsuit, said he wants to do what's right.
"It's making people more equal," he said. "A time of death is very painful and you don't want to have to exclude your loved ones on a certificate that's meaningful to your family history."
DETROIT, Sept. 24, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Despite strong criticism and a public rebuke from another bishop, Detroit’s Archbishop Allen Vigneron has reaffirmed his insistence that Catholics who support same-sex “marriage” should not receive Holy Communion.
The archbishop was speaking to media at a pro-life vigil in Motor City on Saturday.
“I don’t think they were hurtful,” he said of his comments from April, according to the Detroit Free Press. “I think they were straightforward. There’s nothing hurtful in telling people the truth.”
“And the truth is that... the teaching of the church about marriage is God’s way for us to flourish,” he added. “That’s what I want people to know.”
“For a Catholic to receive holy Communion and still deny the revelation Christ entrusted to the church is to try to say two contradictory things at once: ‘I believe the church offers the saving truth of Jesus, and I reject what the Church teaches,’” he said. “In effect, they would contradict themselves. This sort of behavior would result in publicly renouncing one's integrity and logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury.”
Four days later, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a retired auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese with a strongly liberal reputation who has made a name for himself as an opponent of Church teaching, gave an interview to oppose Vigneron’s stance.
"Don't stop going to communion. You're okay," Gumbleton told Fox News.
The highest authorities of the Church, including Pope Benedict himself, have insisted, however, that the Church’s law not only bars public advocates of abortion and same-sex “marriage” from receiving Communion but, in Canon 915, instructs clergy to deny them Communion if they refuse to recant after receiving instruction.
Canon 915 states that those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
Archbishop Vigneron offered a Mass at Assumption Grotto church for about 200 pro-lifers, and then joined a walk to two abortion facilities where he led a Rosary. The event was organized by the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants.
In his homily, he told the pro-lifers who gathered that they were part of the “field hospital” spoken of by Pope Francis in his widely-publicized interview published last week.
September 23, 2013 at 6:00 AM, updated September 23, 2013 at 7:47 AM
TRENTON — Under the din of a bustling election season, there’s a quiet movement afoot to make gay marriage a reality in New Jersey by the end of the year.
Advocates have been working to convince state lawmakers — including a number of Republicans — that they should cross Gov. Chris Christie and override his veto of a bill (S1) that would legalize same-sex marriage. The state currently allows civil unions, and Christie maintains same-sex marriage should be decided by a voter referendum.
The effort to override Christie is still an uphill battle: In the Assembly, advocates need 12 more lawmakers to vote for an override than those who voted for the original bill. Three more votes are needed in the Senate. And the clock is ticking, with the legislative session ending in January.
But with new pledges to vote for an override — and a lame-duck Legislative session approaching — there are signs the gap is shrinking.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), a supporter of same-sex marriage, says he has been given commitments for enough votes in the Senate, and lawmakers and advocates are still pressing to find them in the Assembly.
In the lower house, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) missed the vote on the bill last year. He has committed to voting for an override.
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), also absent during the vote, said she would vote in favor of an override, indicating she had been swayed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.
The court’s ruling will be key in convincing others, said Jeff Cook-McCormac, the senior adviser to the American Unity Fund, which is focused on convincing GOP lawmakers across the country to support same-sex marriage.
"It’s giving them a reason to re-think it," Cook-McCormac said of the court decision.
At least two more Democrats have indicated a willingness to back an override.
Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden), who was not a legislator last year, will vote for an override, said Carol Murphy, her spokeswoman. And Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton) said he may support an override but continues to listen to constituents.. He said the response has been evenly split.
SEEKING GOP SUPPORT
Advocates say they are hoping Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Ocean), who did not vote on the bill, will support an override. She did not return a call for comment.
Cook-McCormac said it is possible to convince more Republicans to support gay marriage because "the question is a little clearer than it was" last year.
"I think the first thing is recognizing that the circumstances have changed considerably in New Jersey," he said, adding that the Supreme Court’s decision makes it clear that civil unions do not provide equal benefits to marriage and polls show gay marriage is supported by most New Jerseyans. "By getting them directly in touch with their representatives we are letting legislators know where their constituents stand," he said.
Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, said his group is part of a coalition — including the National Organization for Marriage and the New Jersey Catholic Conference — that is lobbying legislators to vote against the override attempt.
"We’re working right now. The marriage coalition has been gathering and talking about opposition work to keep marriage as the union of a man and a woman," said Deo.
"I don’t think it’s going to be an easy push for (gay marriage supporters), but it’s going to be a battle for both sides," he said.
Meanwhile, a state Superior Court judge heard arguments last month over a lawsuit by six couples and Garden State Equality alleging civil unions fail to provide benefits equal to those afforded by marriage. The judge may rule soon, but the case is likely to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Lesniak said the Supreme Court could act before the Legislature has a chance to vote on an override, but that will have no impact on the effort to sway lawmakers. "We’re not going to give up on any avenue to get marriage equality done as soon as possible," he said.
Star-Ledger staff writer Matt Friedman contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 19, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The gay activist who opened fire inside the Family Research Council (FRC) last August, injuring a security guard, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for terrorism.
Floyd Lee Corkins II
Chief Judge Richard Roberts made the ruling inside the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this morning.
Federal prosecutors had asked that Floyd Lee Corkins II serve 45 years in prison for his planned shooting rampage at the Family Research Council last summer. They said Corkins' actions clearly met the definition of terrorism, because he intended “to use acts of violence to terrorize and intimidate those within the District of Columbia and the United States who did not share his political beliefs and views.”
Defense attorneys said Corkins deserved only 11.5 years, saying that he had been mentally ill at the time of the shooting.
FRC employee Leo Johnson, who was shot in the left arm as he stopped Corkins' planned massacre,told his assailant, "I forgive you but I do not forget. If you believe in God you should pray to him everyday, because not only did God save my life that day, he saved yours, too."
It was not the first time they had exchanged words.
On August 15, Corkins entered the FRC building with nearly 100 rounds of ammunition, 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches, and a list of four socially conservative “hate groups.”
In a videotaped confession, Corkins explained his had planned to "kill as many as possible and smear the Chick-fil-A sandwiches in victims' faces, and kill the guard." He hoped the shooting would "make a statement against the people who work in that building...and with their stance against gay rights."
“The trajectory of the round was such that, had Leo not ducked, it would have hit him in the head,” FRC President Tony Perkins told the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., last September. “The second round hit him in the arm, completely disabling his left arm.”
Once he had the gun, Johnson faced a moment of temptation.
“The thought approached me for a moment whether or not I shoot him, not knowing what he might do, but in that moment the Lord spoke to me saying don’t shoot him,” Johnson told Perkins.
In the filing, prosecutors said without Johnson's heroism, Corkins "would have almost certainly succeeded in committing a massacre of epic portions."
Instead, Johnson kept Corkins corralled as he waited for police to arrive.
“Southern Poverty Law lists anti-gay groups," Corkins admitted during his videotaped interrogation. "I found them online, did a little research, went to the website – stuff like that.”
On February 6, Corkins reversed his not guilty plea and confessed to three charges: one count of committing an act of terrorism with the intent to kill, one count of intent to kill while armed, and one federal count of crossing state lines with guns and ammunition. Seven additional charges were dropped.
The names of all four groups Corkins intended to terrorize have not yet been released. However, Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition learned her organization's name and address was found written in Corkins' pocket.
“If someone had mailed bacon to a mosque, all heck would have broken loose, and they would have sent in attorneys from the Justice Department...But they ignore the concerns of Christians,” Lafferty told LifeSiteNews.com
“I think Christians need to wake up,” Lafferty said. “We have a government that does not believe they need to protect us.”
Thursday, September 19, 2013
By Russell Berman - 09/19/13 06:00 AM ET
A group of Republicans in the House is set to unveil a proposal aimed at protecting conservative groups in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage.
Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) plans to introduce the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act Thursday. He said the bill “ensures that any religious institution, organization or church that believes that marriage should continue to remain between one man and one woman will not be discriminated against by the federal government.”
The Supreme Court in June ruled that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, paving the way for the federal government to grant marriage benefits to same-sex couples with licenses from states that have legalized same-sex marriage.
Citing examples in the states, Labrador said he and other conservatives are worried that organizations like the Boy Scouts or Catholic Charities could lose their tax-exempt status because of their official positions on the question of marriage.
“My bill does not deal with those state issues,” Labrador said in an interview, “but we have already seen the increased attack and discrimination of institutions at the state level, and we just want to ensure that it does not happen at the federal level.
“I believe the Constitution protects these institutions,” he said, “but I just want to make sure that it’s in the law, that it’s 100 percent sure, that people have no question about it.”
The bill has 60 co-sponsors, including the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), and two socially conservative Democrats: Reps. Mike McIntyre (N.C.) and Daniel Lipinski (Ill.).
Labrador emphasized that the bill was not an attempt to overturn the Supreme Court decision and that it should appeal to a wide range of members concerned about government intrusion, particularly following the IRS scandal.
“My bill is very narrowly drafted, so this is something that conservatives, independents, moderates, Republicans, Democrats can support — just so we can protect these religious institutions from any discrimination by the federal government,” Labrador said.
The Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights advocacy group, said the proposal was unnecessary.
“The federal government isn’t discriminating against religious groups or people of faith as it implements the Supreme Court’s decision striking down DOMA. And there’s no reason to believe that it ever will,” spokesman Fred Sainz said.
“This legislation’s real purpose is to let federal employees, contractors and grantees refuse to do their jobs or fulfill the terms of their taxpayer-funded contracts because they have a particular religious view about certain lawfully married couples — and then to sue the federal government for damages if they don’t get their way.”
ROME, September 13, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Replacing terms like mother and father with “Parent 1 and Parent 2” is not an innocuous defense of “equality” but the beginning of a complete re-write of Italian society, a prominent Italian cardinal said this week.
Changing the categories of family life and genealogy could send “a real earthquake” through the social structure.
The expression, that has already been proposed for all official documents related to public housing and kindergarten placements in the city of Venice, will make “the category of fatherhood and motherhood disappear, to be replaced by the generic category of ‘parenting,’” the Cardinal Archbishop of Bologna, Carlo Caffarra, said.
Speaking in a keynote address at a conference at the Teatro Manzoni in Bologna this week, Cardinal Caffarra identified the largest question facing Italian society: “Is marriage a reality at the disposal of the men, or does it have a ‘hard core’ that is not open to human preference?”
“Is the definition of marriage…exclusively dependent on social consensus?” he further asked. “Is it the social consensus which decides what marriage is?”
Cardinal Caffarra said that the main focus for the work of Catholic teachers should be understanding the primacy of marriage between man and woman, which has as its foundation the “intrinsic ability to give rise to a new the human person.”
He called fatherhood or motherhood “highest capacity and responsibility that men and women have,” because it is “one of the points where the creative action of God enters our created universe.”
In the modern world – busy with the reconstruction of marriage to include same-sex partners – the term “love” has been drained of its true meaning, he added.
“Have you noticed that I have carefully steered away from using the word ‘amore’?” Caffarra said. “Why? Because it’s been stolen.”
“Indeed, ‘love,’ one of the key words for the Christian, has been taken from modern culture and made into an empty term, a kind of container where everyone puts what he feels. For this reason, the ‘truth in love’ today finds little support.”
He quoted Pope Benedict XVI in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate, saying, “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled arbitrarily. It’s fatal to risk love in a culture without truth.”
He warned the teachers in the audience, “The witnesses of the truth of conjugal life will be difficult, as not infrequently happens to the witnesses of the truth. But this is the most urgent task of the educator.”
Yesterday the President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, echoed the same topics in his opening address to the 47th annual Social Weeks conference in Turin. To “weaken the family,” Bagnasco said, or “worse destabilize the meaning of the person, is to destabilize society.”
Although he did not directly mention the Parent 1 and Parent 2 controversy, Bagnasco added that “the person receives life through fruitful love of Dad and Mom.”
“You’re starting to deconstruct the sexual dimension to match the social,” he said. And by insisting on this ontological “liquidity” of the human person, we “run the risk of being pulverized in an indistinct egalitarianism that erases the rock of sexual and generational differences, thus eliminating the possibility of being father and mother, son and daughter.”