First, we might finally have exciting news in my congressional district, where the party has thus far failed to recruit anyone to run against the unpopular Justin Amash even after his own party put a target on his back by making the district more Democratic. One of the key players in the successful DADT fight, Trevor Thomas, is thinking of challenging Amash. Now, local Dems are worried about an out gay and pro-choice man carrying the Democratic banner. Even aside from the bigotry implied by that worry, they don’t seem to be thinking about the benefit of having such a proven campaign winner carrying the banner of working people. Don’t our working men and women deserve the same kind of successful advocate that our gay service members got? (Trevor was also involved in Jennifer Granholm’s thumping of Dick DeVos in 2006, so he knows how to win locally, too.)
Trevor is reportedly going to make his decision in the next few days. If and when he announces, you can expect to hear more from me about him, because I’d be genuinely excited about this race.
Meanwhile, speaking of bigots, here’s the stupid, racist ad I’m going to be treated to during the Super Bowl. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Lawmakers voted late Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed and giving the national gay-rights movement new momentum from the state where it was born.
The marriage bill, whose fate was uncertain until moments before the vote, was approved 33 to 29 in a packed but hushed Senate chamber. Four members of the Republican majority joined all but one Democrat in the Senate in supporting the measure after an intense and emotional campaign aimed at the handful of lawmakers wrestling with a decision that divided their friends, their constituents and sometimes their own homes.
Senate approval was the final hurdle for the same-sex marriage legislation, which was approved last week by the Assembly. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the measure at 11:55 p.m., and the law will go into effect in 30 days, meaning that same-sex couples could begin marrying in New York by late July.
Outstanding. A friend in New York told me this was going to happen and that it would be done late and on Friday night, because that is how monumental and controversial legislation gets done in Albany historically. And that is exactly how it came down. You can almost feel the awesomeness of New York all the way out here in the desert.
But I want to touch on the bigger picture and what the enlightened New York action means to the push for marriage equality for all across the nation. In short, this is →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
I’m busy watching this hearing today (and trying to watch one that happened last week). It’s hard to watch two hearings at once!
But I didn’t want you think I was still celebrating St. Paddy’s Day, so for the moment I’ll direct you to this story, another example where DOJ is taking an unreasonable stance against democratic activists:
Just got a report from Paul Yandura who is at the Federal Court House where the arraignment is for the 13 DADT protesters. As reported yesterday, the protesters, who were arrested on November 15, 2010 in front of the White House, are facing tougher charges than usual for cases like this. The government’s lawyers intend to prosecute the 13 defendants for “violating the orders of a federal law enforcement officer,” which could result in jail time. This is the first time DADT protesters have been in federal court. The other defendants were processed for minor misdemeanors in DC’s court system.
At today’s arraignment, Mark Goldstone, the lawyer for the 13 protesters, explained to Federal Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola that the statute under which the defendants are being charged was unusual. He noted that it had not been used in recent past against people engaging in civil disobedience at the White House. For whatever reason, the government has decided to pursue the more serious criminal charges.
What happened next was surprising to those in the Courtroom. Judge Facciola got up out of his chair, while pacing, gave a speech about the history of the civil rights movement in the United States. He intimated that there were trumped up charges back in the 50s and 60s, too. And, he evoked the Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham case, Martin Luther King’s “letters from the Birmingham jail” and how civil rights protesters were often brought to court to face stricter charges. The judge clearly linked the protest over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to those earlier civil rights protests.
The Judge asked the government prosecutor a lot of questions, including why the government didn’t charge the protesters under the lesser crime of disorderly conduct.
You may remember Facciola from the White House email case, in which he ordered the White House to actually keep its emails.
I’m glad the Magistrate judges are pushing back against DOJ’s unreasonable positions.
As Marcy Wheeler pointed out, the Obama Administration this morning made an abrupt and seismic shift in its legal policy and position on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). There are two documents of note in this regard, the Attorney General’s press announcement and the detailed letter to speaker John Boehner announcing the change in policy and describing the legal foundation therefore.
Marc Ambinder explains what this means to the two key cases in question:
The decision means the Justice Department will cease to defend two suits brought against the law. The first was a summary judgment issued in Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services last May by the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the law’s definition of “marriage” as a legal union between a man and a woman.
District Judge Joseph Louis Tauro ruled Section 3 of the act unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated states’ rights to set their own marriage policies and violated the rights of same-sex couples in the states that permitted marriages. But the president felt compelled to defend the law, reasoning that Congress had the ability to overturn it. The Justice Department entered into an appeal process on October 12, 2010. Tauro stayed implementation of his own ruling pending the appeal. The department filed its defense in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit on January 14.
The second lawsuit, involving the cases of Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management and Windsor v. United States, would have been appealed in the Appeals Court for the 2nd Circuit, which has no established standard for how to treat laws concerning sexual orientation.
I would like to say this is not only a welcome, but extremely strong position that has been taken by President Obama, Attorney General Holder and the Administration. You can say they are late to the dance, that it is political opportunism because the boat was already sailing, or that it is a “bone to the base” with an election looming. To varying degrees, all would have some validity. However, the bottom →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
As we celebrate President Obama signing into law the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, I’d like to congratulate the activists who made it happen. This is the progressive high point of Obama’s presidency so far, and it came because of the hard work of a lot of people who relentlessly fought to win civil rights.
May this civil rights victory lead to full equality for gay men and women.
But I wanted to also note what this moment says about Obama’s system of governance: that the only thing he responds to is hostage-taking.
FDL has written a lot about Obama’s serial capitulation to those — whether the Republican caucus or people like Joe Lieberman and Max Baucus — who hold legislation hostage.
But this victory, the biggest progressive victory under Obama, is largely due to the fact that a number of men and women chained themselves — took themselves hostages, effectively — to the gates of the White House.
And while I doubt the optics of environmentalists or housing activists chaining themselves to the White House (with their consequent arrest) will be so toxic to the White House, the lesson does seem to be that the only thing Obama (who bills himself a pragmatist and loves to claim he listens to all sides) listens to is hostage-taking.
After nearly two years of ignoring, scorning, demeaning and lecturing the progressive blogosphere that provided substantial and critical portions of the fuel propelling him into office, President Obama suddenly found time to sit down with five carefully chosen token representatives of the unwashed dirty hippy community five days before the coming mid-term election. An election increasingly looking quite catastrophic to his own Democratic party, and due in large part to his performance and policy selection in office. How thoughtful of Mr. Obama to finally have a dialect with his base now that he is desperate and less than a week out from the electoral tsunami.
Courtesy of Duncan Black (Atrios), one of the participants, here is a transcript of the festivities. You can draw your own conclusions as to how large of a dog and pony show this was, but I would like to focus on the portions of the meeting dealing with LGBT discrimination and the government’s relentless DADT policy.
Asked by Joe Sudbay of Americablog whether he actually had any real plan to accomplish passage of repeal legislation for DADT, Obama responded:
…And my hope is that will culminate in getting this thing overturned before the end of the year.
Now, as usual, I need 60 votes. So I think that, Joe, the folks that you need to be having a really good conversation with — and I had that conversation with them directly yesterday, but you may have more influence than I do — is making sure that all those Log Cabin Republicans who helped to finance this lawsuit and who feel about this issue so passionately are working the handful of Republicans that we need to get this thing done.
You’re financing a very successful, very effective legal strategy, and yet the only really thing you need to do is make sure that we get two to five Republican votes in the Senate.
And I said directly to the Log Cabin Republican who was here yesterday, I said, that can’t be that hard. Get me those votes.
Asked to describe his plan to pass critical legislation he has long promised one of his core constituencies, this is the pathetic drivel Barack Obama comes up with? The President of the United States and leader of the entire Democratic party pleads powerlessness to accomplish the goal, but demands the Log Cabin Republicans go forth and deliver him intransigent GOP Senators on a golden platter? Seriously, that is his plan? Perhaps Mr. Obama has mistaken the LCRs for the NRA or something, but if there is any entity with less sway over the entrenched and gilded GOP Senate leadership than Obama, it is the Log Cabin Republicans. Absurd and lame is too kind of a description for such tripe. I honestly don’t know what is worse, that this is Obama’s response or that he has the politically incompetence to state it on the record.
But there was more, oh yes there was more. Asked by Sudbay the straightforward yes or no question as to whether he considered DADT to be unconstitutional, the self proclaimed “Constitutional scholar” President came up with the following bucket of blarney:
And one of the things I’d like to ask you — and I think it’s a simple yes or no question too — is do you think that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is unconstitutional?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s not a simple yes or no question, because I’m not sitting on →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Last night (Tuesday October 19), Central District of California Judge Virginia Phillips entered her order denying the Obama DOJ motion for stay of her surprisingly broad worldwide injunction against enforcement by US Military of the DADT policy. Here is a report from Josh Gerstein at Politico on Phillips’ decision.
As expected, the DOJ has appealed Phillips’ denial of stay to the 9th Circuit, and did so already this morning. Here is the full main brief submitted in support of the motion for stay.
Having read the brief, I will say that it is much better constructed than previous filings by the DOJ regarding the injunction, maybe they are starting to take the matter seriously. By the same token, it is also striking that the filing is much more forceful in its assertion that the policy of President Obama and his Administration is for elimination and repeal of DADT. That message is conveyed by language such as this from footnote one in the brief:
The Administration does not support § 654 as a matter of policy and strongly believes that Congress should repeal it. The Department of Justice in this case has followed its longstanding practice of defending the constitutionality of federal statutes as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of their constitutionality.
That is positive. What is very troubling, however, is that the Administration, by and through the DOJ never – never – indicates that it considers DADT to be unconstitutional on its face. Every objection by team Obama is in favor simply of study and legislative repeal; and, in fact, they doggedly protect the constitutionality of DADT. There is a HUGE difference between the two concepts of saying it is simply something that should be fixed by Congress (increasingly unlikely, it should be added, in light of the massive gains conservative Republicans are poised to make) and saying the Administration fully believes the policy unconstitutional and invidiously discriminatory (the position Obama blatantly refuses to make).
It should also be noted that a refusal to acknowledge the fundamental constitutionally discriminatory nature of DADT is also entirely consistent with the recent history of Obama Administration conduct and statements on the issue. Whether it be Obama himself, official spokesman Robert Gibbs or Valerie Jarrett, every time the direct question on constitutionality of DADT is raised, it is deflected with a flimsy response framed in terms of Congressional repeal. At this point, you have to wonder if Barack Obama and his Administration even consider the blatant discrimination of DADT to be of a Constitutional level at all; the evidence certainly is lacking of any such commitment.
Congress should repeal DADT as Obama suggests, but the basis and harm is much deeper and more profound than →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
As David Dayen is reporting at FDL News, Judge Virginia Phillips of the Central District of California United States Federal Court has issued her injunctive order in the Log Cabin Republicans’ (LCR) Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) case, formally known as Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America and Robert M. Gates:
(1) DECLARES that the act known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” infringes the fundamental rights of United States servicemembers and prospective servicemembers and violates (a) the substantive due process rights guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and (b) the rights to freedom of speech and to petition the Government for redress of grievances guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
(2) PERMANENTLY ENJOINS Defendants United States of America and the Secretary of Defense, their agents, servants, officers, employees, and attorneys, and all persons acting in participation or concert with them or under their direction or command, from enforcing or applying the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Act and implementing regulations, against any person under their jurisdiction or command;
(3) ORDERS Defendants United States of America and the Secretary of Defense immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Act, or pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 654 or its implementing regulations, on or prior to the date of this Judgment.
(4) GRANTS Plaintiff Log Cabin Republicans’ request to apply for attorneys’ fees pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2412; and
(5) GRANTS Plaintiff Log Cabin Republicans’ request to file a motion for costs of suit, to the extent allowed by law.
Judge Phillips’ order is being hailed far and wide as the greatest thing since sliced bread – at least on LGBT rights as they relate to DADT. I am quite decidedly not so sure about that.
I simply do not see how this judge, Virginia Phillips, has either the authority or jurisdiction to enter the sweeping injunctive mandates she has done in sections 2 and 3. The scope of those sections appear well beyond her actual authority and, quite frankly, have the patina of such an overreach that they should be appealed based upon protection of Executive Branch power and authority concerns. It is hard to see how the federal government in DC can allow a single remote District Court judge to have that type of reach over the conduct of the entire United States military across the globe.
There is little question but that the CACD had the jurisdiction to hear the case itself and to grant relief to the specific individuals within the established umbrella of the designated plaintiff “Log Cabin Republicans” within the territorial jurisdiction of the CACD. Further, there is no question Phillips has the authority to rule the DADT policy unconstitutional on a facial challenge to its constitutionality, which the government strongly argued this case was →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
The late, but great, news this fine Friday afternoon is the decision of Western District of Washington (WDWA) Judge Ronald Leighton in the case of Air Force Major Margaret Witt. Witt has been an Air Force reserve flight and operating room nurse since 1987 and was suspended from duty in 2004, just short of retirement, upon her base commanders being informed by an off base nosy neighbor that she was a lesbian.
A federal judge ruled Friday that a decorated flight nurse discharged from the Air Force for being gay should be given her job back as soon as possible in the latest legal setback to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton came in a closely watched case as a tense debate has been playing out over the policy. Senate Republicans blocked an effort to lift the ban this week, but two federal judges have ruled against the policy in recent weeks.
Maj. Margaret Witt was discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and sued to get her job back. A judge in 2006 rejected Witt’s claims that the Air Force violated her rights when it fired her. An appeals court panel overruled him two years later, leaving it to Leighton to determine whether her firing met that standard.
This is indeed a wonderful decision, and one based upon the elevated level of scrutiny that is now clearly the standard in Federal court consideration of the rights based on sexual preference. The full text of the court’s decision is here. The critical language from the decision setting and clearing the table is as follows:
Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a Complaint on April 12, 2006. On July 26, 2006, this Court granted the government’s motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), concluding that the regulation was subject to rational basis scrutiny, and that the evidentiary hearings held, and factual findings adopted, by Congress provided a sufficient foundation to support the regulation. Plaintiff timely appealed.
The Ninth Circuit agreed with plaintiff. It held that Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 123 S. Ct. 2472 (2003) effectively overruled previous cases wherein the Ninth Circuit had applied rational basis to DADT and predecessor policies. It held that something more than traditional rational basis review was required. Witt v. Department of the Air Force, 527 F.3d 806, 813 (9th Cir. 2008). The Circuit
Court vacated the judgment and remanded to the District Court the plaintiff’s substantive and procedural due process claims. It affirmed this Court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s equal protection claim. On remand, this Court was directed to determine whether the specific application of DADT to Major Witt significantly furthers the government’s interest, and whether less intrusive means would substantially achieve the government’s interest. Witt, 527 F.3d at 821.
Now comes the interesting part of the opinion (and case as argued by the government) and it ties in directly with the Log Cabin Republicans v. USA DOD decision recently rendered in the Central District of California (I will return to that in a bit). Specifically, the 9th Circuit based at least partially upon briefing in the alternative by the government (i.e arguing multiple positions), granted the government’s argument that, at a minimum, they were at least entitled to argue that homosexuals were bad for →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
This is just pathetic:
Vice President Joe Biden travels to Boston Wednesday, where he’s scheduled to team up with Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.
A Democratic source tells CNN that the event is a fundraiser for the two-term Democratic senator, who faces a very difficult re-election bid this year.
Blanche Lincoln just joined Republicans to scuttle the defense bill, and with it the DREAM Act and DADT repeal–both purportedly Administration priorities (to say nothing about the Defense bill itself). Moreover, no amount of money is going to get Blanche out of her electoral hole this year. And her patrons, the Waltons, have plenty to give her all by themselves, without picking the pockets of Boston liberals.
So why is Joe Biden wasting some of his precious time and political capital helping a woman who, yesterday, broke with the party on the defense bill? Is this Administration so dysfunctional it can’t even demand discipline from those it’s financially supporting?