A federal appeals court on Tuesday declared California’s same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional, putting the bitterly contested, voter-approved law on track for likely consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that a lower court judge correctly interpreted the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedents when he declared in 2010 that Proposition 8 was a violation of the civil rights of gays and lesbians.
It was unclear when gay marriages might resume in California. Lawyers for Proposition 8 sponsors and for the two couples who successfully sued to overturn the ban have repeatedly said they would consider appealing to a larger panel of the court and then the U.S. Supreme Court if they did not receive a favorable ruling from the 9th Circuit.
“Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted,” the ruling states.
The panel also said there was no evidence that former Chief U.S. Judge Vaughn Walker was biased and should have disclosed before he issued his decision that he was gay and in a long-term relationship with another man.
The ruling came more than a year after the appeals court heard arguments in the case.
Proposition 8 backers had asked the 9th Circuit to set aside Walker’s ruling on both constitutional grounds and because of the thorny issue of the judge’s personal life. It was the first instance of an American jurist’s sexual orientation being cited as grounds for overturning a court decision.
Walker publicly revealed he was gay after he retired. However, supporters of the gay marriage ban argued that he had been obliged to previously reveal if he wanted to marry his partner — like the gay couples who sued to overturn the ban.
Walker’s successor as the chief federal judge in Northern California, James Ware, rejected those claims, and the 9th Circuit held a hearing on the conflict-of-interest question in December.
California voters passed Proposition 8 with 52 percent of the vote in November 2008, five months after the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage by striking down a pair of laws that had limited marriage to a man and a woman.
The ballot measure inserted the one man-one woman provision into the California Constitution, thereby overruling the court’s decision. It was the first such ban to take away marriage rights from same-sex couples after they had already secured them and its passage followed the most expensive campaign on a social issue in the nation’s history.
The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and the Law, a think tank based at the University of California, Los Angeles, has estimated that 18,000 couples tied the knot during the four-month window before Proposition 8 took effect. The California Supreme Court upheld those marriages, but ruled that voters had properly enacted the law.
Obviously, a stay in the order while the pro-Proposition 8 attorneys appeal the decision to either the full en banc Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or directly to the United States Supreme court. This process either way will delay a final decision in the case for at least two years and possibly three.
There is also the probability that gay marriage advocates will go back to the ballot to overturn the voter approved Proposition 8.
On Monday morning, Obama reviled the “negative” tone of the super PACs, a dominant fundraising source in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. But by the evening, word leaked to POLITICO that Obama had offered his support for Priorities USA Action, which thus far has raised a fraction of what GOP-backed groups have raked in.
Obama’s top campaign staff and even some Cabinet members will appear at super PAC events. The president himself will not address super PAC donors, although there’s nothing to legally prohibit the president, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden from expressing their support for the group — as GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney has done for the super PAC that backs him.
“We decided to do this because we can’t afford for the work you’re doing in your communities, and the grass-roots donations you give to support it, to be destroyed by hundreds of millions of dollars in negative ads,” campaign manager Jim Messina told supporters in an email Monday night.
The timing of the announcement seemed rushed, several Democrats told POLITICO. It was made in a 10 p.m. call to Obama’s top bundlers, known as the National Finance Committee. Several party fundraisers raised the possibility that the campaign wanted to offset bad publicity generated by a Monday New York Times story, which reported that the campaign had returned $200,000 to the family of a wealthy Mexican fugitive seeking a pardon for drug and other criminal convictions.
Obama campaign to support super PAC fundraising – In a change of position, Barack Obama’s reelection campaign will begin using administration and campaign aides to fundraise for Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing the president.
Obama has been an outspoken critic of current campaign financing laws, in particular a Supreme Court ruling that allowed the creation of super PACs. Until now he has kept his distance from Priorities USA Action.
But in the wake of the group’s anemic fundraising, made public last week, the campaign decided to change its position, and announced the new stance to members of its national finance committee Monday evening.
Two Obama campaign aides confirmed that senior campaign and administration officials who participate at fundraising events for the president’s campaign will also appear at events for Priorities USA Action, the PAC supporting Obama.
“This decision was not made overnight,” one campaign official said. “ The money raised and spent by Republican super PACs is very telling. We will not unilaterally disarm.”
The president, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will not appear at super PAC events, the aides said.
In an e-mail to supporters, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said the decision was a reaction to massive fundraising posted by super PACs supporting GOP presidential candidates.
Judge Michael Hawkins Is No “Moderate” – Lyle Denniston’s SCOTUSblog preview of tomorrow’s Ninth Circuit ruling in the Prop 8 case includes the assertion that one of the panel members, Clinton appointee Michael D. Hawkins, “is considered to be a moderate.” Hawkins has described himself that way—“I think of myself as being entirely moderate in all things”—but even he has hastened to add the disclaimer, “but others might say otherwise.” Indeed, they might.
As I reported when the panel members were initially made public, a source I trust told me that of the nearly 50 active and senior judges then on the Ninth Circuit, there were only five or six other judges who were as aggressively and reflexively leftist as Hawkins and his fellow panel member, the ultraliberal Stephen Reinhardt.
Prop. 8: Final ruling due – The Ninth Circuit Court will issue a ruling tomorrow — apparently, in a single opinion — to decide the challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage, approved by the state’s voters more than three years ago. In a brief announcement Monday, the Circuit Court said it would issue an opinion at 1 p.m. Tuesday Washington time (10 a.m. in San Francisco) dealing both with the constitutionality of the measure (“Proposition 8″) and with the issue of whether the trial judge should have disqualified himself from the case.
The three-judge panel actually has three issues before it: whether the backers of Proposition 8 had a legal right to appeal the District Court ruling striking down Proposition 8 (the “standing” issue), whether — if “standing” to appeal did exist — the ballot measure is unconstitutional, and whether now-retired District Judge Vaughn R. Walker should have recused and thus whether his ruling should now be vacated by the Circuit Court.
Although the wording of the announcement Monday was not entirely clear and made no promises about the scope of the ruling, it could be interpreted as indicating that the panel will find that the measure’s proponents did have the right to appeal, and thus the panel would be free to move on to rule on the merits and on the disqualification issue. Given the makeup of the panel and the past records of the three judges, the chances would appear to be quite strong that Proposition 8 would be struck down.
The company says 26 Fisker employees have been let go from the Delaware factory where renowned automotive engineer Henrik Fisker promised to one day begin producing affordable electric sedans. A Delaware newspaper also reported that subcontractors working on the car venture have been let go.
“It’s temporary,” said Roger Ormisher, a company spokesman. “We’re being prudent and sensible as a company.”
Because the initial phase sounds like it’s been such an unqualified success, the company is asking for terms of the federal loan to be altered so the company can have faster access to their line of time-released taxpayer-backed credit:
Continetti: Combat Journalism | Washington Free Beacon – We can pinpoint the moment that foretold the arrival of combat journalism. At 11:59 p.m. on September 8, 2004, a pseudonymous blogger on FreeRepublic.com accused 60 Minutes of publicizing forged documents to cast suspicion on President Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard in the early 1970s. The charge was publicized by conservative new media and soon proved correct: CBS was flaunting materials that had been produced using technology unavailable during the twilight of the Vietnam War. The ensuing backlash claimed the jobs of four at CBS and pushed anchor Dan Rather into early retirement. Conservatives had used the techniques of investigative journalism—documentary research, interviews, detailed reporting on the minutiae of typography and word processing—to debunk a media smear and force CBS and the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry into a defensive crouch.
Religious conservatives play culture war defense – Between the media’s uproar after a cancer-research charity temporarily suspended grants to the nation’s leading abortion provider, and the Obama administration’s recent decision to force Catholic schools to pay for 100 percent of their employees’ contraception, the last two weeks have helped clarify the shape of the culture war in America today.
The battleground is this: The Secular Left is on the offensive, while the oft-demonized Religious Right is mostly playing defense, trying to preserve the liberty of religious adherents to conduct their lives according to their own consciences.
“The right’s recent jihad against Planned Parenthood is about as loathsome as anything I’ve ever seen come out of them,” seethed Mother Jones writer Kevin Drum after Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a leading breast-cancer charity, briefly decided to not give new grants to Planned Parenthood for the coming year.
Drum was writing about conservatives’ opposition to taxpayer subsidies for Planned Parenthood, and, in this case, a charity under pressure from pro-lifers temporarily suspending funding for the abortion provider. It’s a peculiar “jihad” whose main weapon is refusing to give away your money to the enemy.
Prop 8 Merits Ruling Tomorrow – The Ninth Circuit has announced that it expects to issue tomorrow—by 10 a.m. Pacific time, 1 p.m. Eastern—its ruling on the merits of the Prop 8 appeal. Its opinion will address both the constitutionality of Prop 8 and the question whether former judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling should be vacated because of his failure to recuse.
As I’ve said, I think that it’s a sure thing that Judge Reinhardt and Judge Hawkins will vote to affirm Walker’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. I expect that they will stay their ruling from taking effect until the process of Supreme Court review is complete.
High-speed rail tapped state funds for unusual lobbying contract – In an extremely unusual use of taxpayer money, the leaders behind California’s $99 billion high-speed train quietly hired a lobbyist to sway the Legislature — the same politicians who appointed them to build the project in the first place.
Documents filed this week show the California High-Speed Rail Authority last year paid $161,103 to one of the country’s biggest public relations firms to lobby the state’s politicians as they consider spending $2.7 billion to launch the polarizing bullet train project.
Rail officials paid the lobbyists by issuing debt that will total about $300,000 with interest. It must be paid back through California’s impoverished general fund budget.
High-speed rail officials defended the spending as a “vital need” when their staff was too small. But both Democratic and Republican lawmakers and even die-hard bullet train backers decried the lobbying as a wasteful and unethical use of taxpayer funds, saying it essentially amounts to the state spending money to lobby itself.
“That is appalling to me. I’ve never heard of such a thing,” said Quentin Kopp, who helped launch the rail authority and was its longtime chairman before retiring in March. He said he never approved the expenses and that the state should go to court to keep the money. “That’s nonsense, absolutely nonsense. It’s embarrassing.”
Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers relied on mandatory Medi-Cal copayments to save $511 million in last year’s state budget and presumed that the state would continue saving in future years.
The governor’s latest budget, which estimates a $9.2 billion deficit, acknowledges the lost savings in 2011-12. But it is relying on $296 million to help balance next year’s budget, according to Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer.
In Arizona, Obama Approval at 41% – Many Democrats have high hopes for the Southwest in Election 2012 and some even think that President Obama even has a decent shot to move Arizona from Republican to Democrat in the Electoral College column this November. However, the president may have an uphill fight to achieve that goal as most voters in the Grand Canyon State disapprove of the way he’s done his job.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone poll found that just 41% of Likely Voters in Arizona approve of the way President Obama has performed his role. Fifty-six percent (56%) disapprove. Those figures are significantly lower than the president’s national ratings. They include 28% who Strongly Approve and 48% who Strongly Disapprove.