Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Marriage Equality' Category

Editorial Scolds Idaho Lawmakers for Judicial Impeachment Stance

An editorial in the Idaho Press-Tribune takes Idaho legislators to task for passing a resolution urging the impeachment of federal judges who support marriage for same-sex couples.   In a sharply worded piece, Opinion Editor Phil Bridges notes that the state House resolution disregards the fundamental constitutional principle of separation of powers.  He goes on to remind lawmakers that many of them voted for a law requiring the state’s high school seniors to pass a basic civics test.

Underscoring his point, Bridges writes, “You can’t declare that a judge should be kicked out because he or she has a difference of opinion on constitutional interpretation. That would be akin to judges declaring that lawmakers should be impeached for passing ‘bad law.’”

A wave of court rulings affirming marriage rights for same-sex couples has generated increasing calls for impeachment and censure of judges in a number of states.  While some have been symbolic, as in Idaho, others could result in penalties for sitting judges if passed.  See Gavel Grab.



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Cruz Wary of ‘Illegitimate’ Court Ruling on Marriage Equality

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, told an Iowa audience that if the Supreme Court legalizes marriage for same-sex couples, it would be a “fundamentally illegitimate” ruling.

And if such a ruling comes from the nation’s highest court, Cruz said he would push Congress to remove federal court jurisdiction over the issue, the Dallas Morning News reported.

You can learn more from the Justice at Stake web page about court-stripping,  the removal of specific cases, or types of cases, from a court’s jurisdiction. This prevents courts from playing their vital role in our system of checks and balances—protecting individual rights, and ensuring that other branches of government uphold the law and Constitution.

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Alabama Chief Justice Moore to Headline Rally in Texas

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was to headline a rally organized by the Conservative Republicans of Texas Monday afternoon, taking a stand against marriage for same-sex couples. Moore made headlines last month when he ordered Alabama probate judges to ignore a federal court ruling that declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

The Associated Press reports that the rally was one of several related events taking place in Texas’s capital on Monday. The Coalition of African American Pastors, another anti-marriage equality group, will hold a news conference, while Equality Texas will lobby lawmakers to support equal rights.

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Marriage, the Courts, and AL: Article Explores Judges Caught in Middle

alabama-flag-descriptionWhile the skirmish between Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and a federal district court over the legality of banning marriage for same-sex couples has made plenty of headlines, a Los Angeles Times article may do the best job yet in depicting the elected county probate judges who are caught in the middle.

Gavel Grab has chronicled the dispute, which has yet to play out. Many of Alabama’s county probate judges are not lawyers, yet they’re dealing with a white-hot issue that has stirred up neighbors and voters. As the Times notes, the bind they are in jeopardizes their livelihoods. “Probate judges are elected, not appointed. Did they dare contradict Moore, and perhaps the electorate?” Read more

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Idaho House Panel Backs Resolution for Impeaching Federal Judges

Idaho’s House State Affairs Committee voted 12-4, along party lines, on Tuesday for a non-binding resolution urging Congress to support the impeachment of federal judges who issue rulings in favor of marriage for same-sex couples.

The sponsor, Republican Rep. Paul Shepherd, told the panel, “All the people in the United States seem to be just rolling over with whatever the Supreme Court comes down with, so we need to do something about the Supreme Court.”

“I would say that arrogance and ignorance does not isolate itself to any one branch of this government. I cannot support this,” said Rep. Melissa Wintrow, a Democrat.

Rep. John McCrostie, a Democrat who is gay, said, “This bill puts us on the wrong side of history again, and I would encourage you to vote no on this.” He said his “life was transformed” when he exchanged wedding vows with his partner, according to a Spokesman Review blog post  about the resolution.

As more court rulings have struck down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples, there have been more impeachment calls (see Gavel Grab). Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg wrote in a USA Today op-ed recently, “Courts deal with important issues, so controversy comes with the black robes. But the use of political impeachment threats over decisions can only pervert justice. This kind of bullying has no place in our political culture.”

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U.S. Judge Won’t Lift Order on Marriage Licenses in Alabama

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade of Alabama has refused to stay her order that  Mobile County Probate Court Judge Don Davis go along with her earlier order and begin issuing licenses for same-sex couples to wed.

Judge Davis had asked her for a stay of her ruling. The Alabama Supreme Court recently maintained that the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is constitutional, and it contravened Judge Granade’s decision to the contrary, according to Reuters.

The contradictory directives have heightened the battle over marriage for same-sex couples in Alabama, Reuters said. Meanwhile an analysis by legal journalist Lyle Denniston at Constitution Check provides context. It is headlined, “Who will blink first on same-sex marriage in Alabama?”

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JAS Board Member, Deputy ED on Marriage and Courts

Liz and JamieIn a commentary piece for Governing, Justice at Stake Deputy Executive Director Liz Seaton and Board of Directors member Admiral Jamie Barnett note an alarming rise in legislative attacks on state courts, tied to the issue of marriage for same-sex couples.  The piece, Same-Sex Marriage and the War on Our Courts, points out that legislators in several states “are pushing bills to intimidate, punish or fire public employees, including judges, who recognize or grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

The authors note that legislatures are weighing such bills in at least four states: South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa.  With the exception of a high-profile controversy in Alabama, the attacks on state courts have flown largely under the radar as news coverage of marriage equality focuses  on the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s “outrageous,” the authors write, “that sitting judges who decide cases based on the law and constitution should fear reprisal from politicians.”  Not only have some state lawmakers moved toward enacting punitive measures against courts, but impeachment threats against individual judges have been on the rise as marriage cases advance.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of marriage for same-sex couples by the end of its current term: see Gavel Grab for more.

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Texas Bill Would Defy a Supreme Court Ruling for Marriage Equality

Texas State FlagHow many ways can legislators craft to punish judges for handling cases involving marriage for same-sex couples — or defy a Supreme Court ruling, if it occurs, that strikes down bans on these marriages?

In Texas, a recently filed bill would amend existing state law declaring that a marriage exists solely between one man and one woman by adding: “regardless of whether a federal court ruling or other federal law provides that a prohibition against the creation or recognition of a same-sex marriage or a civil union is not permitted under the United States Constitution.”

This legislation was reported by Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts, a Justice at Stake partner organization. Read more

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Columnist: On Marriage, Alabama Justices Bowing to Politics

alabama-same-sex-marriageThe Alabama Supreme Court’s recent ordering of probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples (see Gavel Grab) continues to generate controversy in the state.

In an column, Kyle Whitmire wrote that the Alabama justices “thumbed their noses at the federal bench, which in Alabama makes for good politics and really awful law.” He added, “The question now isn’t whether the court will be overruled, only a matter of when.” Members of the state Supreme Court are elected.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that several civil rights organizations have asked a U.S. district court judge to order state probate judges to issue the questioned marriage licenses. Read more

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Alabama Supreme Court Defies Federal Judge’s Ruling on Marriage

alabama-flag-descriptionThe Alabama Supreme Court issued a controversial defense of the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage this week, conflicting with Federal District Court Judge Callie V. S. Granade’s ruling last month, which overturned the ban.

The New York Times reports that the 7-1 ruling (Chief Justice Roy Moore abstained) declared probate judges cannot be bound by a federal court ruling, and also rebutted each of Judge Granade’s findings. SCOTUSblog expands on the opinion, which “lambasted the Supreme Court for making a ‘moral judgment, not a legal judgment’ when it struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in U.S. v. Windsor in June 2013.” That decision made no ruling on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, but “spoke favorably of the dignity of such marriages and the need for government to respect such unions,” leading to lower court decisions legalizing the unions in 36 states.

Read more

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