Monday, September 30, 2013

Around The Nation

Prop 8 lawyers target Virginia for same-sex marriage test case
Theodore Olson,(L) and David Boies * File Photo
By Brody Levesque | NORFOLK -- The legal team that overturned DOMA and California’s ban on same-sex marriage by the U. S. Supreme Court this past June are gearing up for a lawsuit aimed at overturning Virginia's constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights announced Monday that its high profile legal team of conservative Republican lawyer Theodore Olson and liberal Democrat David Boies will join a lawsuit in Norfolk to challenge Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages. Voters in 2006 amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions, and bans recognition of those performed elsewhere.
Thirteen states, including Maryland, plus the District of Columbia, allow same-sex marriage. The legal team wants another chance to take a suit forward through the Federal courts ending up again in the high court to get a final ruling that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry no matter where they live.
Olson said AFER was invited to join the case by attorneys for the plaintiffs, Norfolk residents Timothy Bostic and Tony London, whose marriage application was turned down, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley, who have a 15-year-old daughter and whose marriage in California is not recognized by the commonwealth.
Virginia is an “attractive target,” said Olson, who lives in the state, because its rejection of same-sex marriage and civil unions is so complete.
“The more unfairly people are being treated, the more obvious it is that it’s unconstitutional,” Olson said.
A SCOTUS court analyst told LGBTQ Nation Monday that while the June SCOTUS rulings overturned the Defence of Marriage Act, (DOMA) and overturned the Prop 8 case in California allowing those marriages to resume, the justices did not rule that the Constitution requires that gays and lesbians be allowed to marry and left the issue to be determined by the states in the Prop 8 ruling.
The case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, the legal challenge which was the result of California's Proposition 8 passed by voters in 2008 to stop the same-sex marriages that the state’s high court had authorized, reached the Supreme Court via the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after a full trial before U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker.
Judge Walker had ruled that the California ban violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.
The justices did not rule on the constitutional question, instead finding that those who were appealing Walker’s ruling did not have the legal standing to bring the challenge. Same-sex marriages resumed in the state almost immediately.
Since June, dozens of challenges have been mounted in federal courts across the nation in 18 states according to LGBTQ Equality groups Freedom To Marry and the Human Rights Campaign.
This past Friday, a Circuit Court Judge in New Jersey ruled that same-sex marriages are legally valid and ordered the state to allow them. Republican Governor Chris Christie has signaled his intent to appeal the ruling. A spokesperson for HRC indicated that the ultimate goal by activists is the recognition of a constitutional right, citing the Supreme Court ruling that struck down Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages in the 1967. [Loving v. Virginia]
The Washington Post reported that Olson said he did not anticipate a trial in the Norfolk case being heard by U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen, but he pointed out that the record from California “is a great foundation for us which we can convey into the federal courts in Virginia.” The Post also noted that the Virginia case is attractive because it is moving quickly, at the state’s request. Although Virginia’s constitutional amendment was easily approved, recent polling shows a majority of residents favor legalizing same-sex marriage. However, Republicans who control the state’s political leadership and legislature are opposed to same-sex marriage, and removing the constitutional amendment would be difficult.
The constitution can be amended by voters only after a constitutional convention or if a proposed amendment is passed twice by the General Assembly, with an election occurring between the two votes.

Caribou Coffee Company calls erasing GSA student's artwork mistake and apologises
NORTHBROOK -- A homecoming tradition for this northern Chicago suburb's Glenbrook North High School's clubs has been to decorate the windows of local businesses and this year was marred by controversy, after the local Caribou Coffee shoppe erased the artwork done by the school's Gay-Straight Alliance.
The Chicago Tribune reported that on Sept. 25, the students from the GSA saw that their window display — which included rainbow colors and male, female and transgender symbols — had been wiped clean, according to the group's faculty adviser Bill Horine, a Glenbrook North social studies teacher.
Horine told the paper that school administrators received a message from Caribou manager saying he had heard a couple of complaints about the window and decided to erase the decoration. 
A member of the local chapter of the Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays,(PFLAG) Debby Shulman, told the Trib that the manager had said to her that he had the window washed because he did not want the store to take a side on any issue.
In a phone call Monday, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis based coffee shop chain confirmed to LGBTQ Nation that it is corporate policy that it does not discriminate based on race, creed, color, religion or sexual orientation but deferred commenting on the incident leaving it to the local regional management. 
Caribou's district manager, Meike Fonteyn, whose area includes the Northbrook store, said;
"Our approach is to partner with the community. We're open to a lot of possibilities to resolving this, but it has to be authentic, not just saying, 'I'm sorry.'"
PLAG's Shulman spoke about the incident with Fonteyn noting that he was trying to handle the situation "sensitively."
Glenbrook North's student leaders are scheduled to met Tuesday to consider their response to the company.