Filed under: Right-wing
By Scottie Thomaston
- LGBT families will not be included in the “comprehensive” immigration reform bill.
- USAID has launched a partnership for the promotion of LGBT rights internationally.
- The marriage equality bill in Illinois has gained some bipartisan support.
- Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has announced his support for civil unions for same-sex couples. Hatch still opposes same-sex marriage.
Virginia’s attorney general asks full Fourth Circuit panel to uphold the state’s “crimes against nature” law
By Scottie Thomaston
Last month, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state of Virginia’s “crimes against nature” law prohibiting same-sex intimacy. The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas that such laws are unconstitutional and it struck down Texas’ “Homosexual Conduct” law. The Fourth Circuit said the Lawrence case is controlling precedent in the case brought in Virginia, though same-sex couples weren’t involved in the latter. In several states, especially in the South, these laws remain on the books (including in Texas) and occasionally gays and lesbians have been arrested for violation of these laws.
Now, Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has filed a petition with the Fourth Circuit asking them to rehear the case en banc, with the full panel of all Fourth Circuit judges.
The Washington Blade reports that Virginia’s LGBT equality organizations are saying that a petition for rehearing en banc is the wrong course of action, and Virginia’s legislature should work on a rewrite of the bill to remove its unconstitutional applications:
Parrish said Equality Virginia wouldn’t object to a careful revision by the legislature of the state’s criminal code to allow for continued prosecution of offenses such as sex with minors.
“What we’re saying is we agree with the court ruling that, in this case, the law was used unconstitutionally. The best course of action would be for the General Assembly to address that, just like they did with the cohabitation law that they took off the books this year,” he said.
“We think that’s a better recourse than the Attorney General filing another appeal and diverting precious state resources on an issue that the General Assembly should address because the court made the correct ruling on March 12,” Parris said.
Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who’s gay, said he is looking into the issue and the possibility of introducing legislation to address it.
“I’m reviewing this and will consider introducing a bill next year to repeal the Virginia Crimes Against Nature law for consenting adults,” he told the Blade.
The issue appears to be that this specific case involved an underage girl, and the Lawrence decision arguably may not apply to underage sexual activity. The Fourth Circuit’s opinion held that Lawrence struck down the sodomy law at issue “on its face” rather than simply as applied to gays and lesbians. That would mean there’s no set of circumstances under which Virginia’s law could be applied constitutionally.
Even so, courts of appeals rarely grant en banc review of their judgments, and Virginia’s LGBT equality organizations believe it’s unlikely in this case that a rehearing will be granted. It’s not clear why Virginia’s attorney general would continue to press federal courts to uphold the law given Supreme Court precedent on point on the issue. And it’s even less clear since the state legislature can easily fix the constitutional deficiencies in the law and still use it to prosecute sexual activity with people who are underage.
Virginians are essentially split on the issue of marriage equality, 46% oppose it, 45% support it; that’s within the margin of error for the poll. Attitudes are shifting rapidly on issues involving LGBT rights, even in states like Virginia, so the attorney general’s attempt to uphold the state’s anti-gay law is a fight against a rapidly changing environment.
By Scottie Thomaston
Yesterday, EqualityOnTrial reported that the marriage equality bill in Rhode Island is scheduled for its first Senate committee vote on March 21. There is also a “compromise bill” which would put the issue of marriage equality on the ballot for the voters to decide; the bill would also repeal the part of the state’s anti-discrimination law related to businesses that offer services related to a marriage ceremony. The bill was introduced by Senator Frank Ciccone.
As Pam’s House Blend noted, a ballot initiative on the issue of marriage equality is opposed by Rhode Islanders United for Marriage and Rhode Island’s Governor Lincoln Chafee.
The bill is backed by the National Organization for Marriage. Yesterday, they sent an email to supporters which said:
Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, bishop of the Diocese of Providence, had this to say about the newly proposed bill by Senator Frank Ciccone:
“We will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to redefine the institution of marriage in Rhode Island. Nevertheless, the legislation introduced by Senator Ciccone presents an eminently reasonable approach to this divisive issue. It advances the discussion in a positive and democratic way, while at the same time safeguarding the rights of all parties. The citizens of Rhode Island have a right to vote on this crucial issue.”
We stand alongside the bishop 100% in this statement.
NOM has backed civil unions in the past, in New Hampshire, but this is the first time they’ve announced support for a marriage equality referendum.
Since the amendment, if passed, would remove anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians, it would seem to pose some constitutional problems at the very least. The Supreme Court addressed the taking away of anti-discrimination protections in Romer v. Evans, and they’re considering the issue again now in the Prop 8 case. Laurel Ramseyer at Pam’s House Blend suggests that the bill is a “poison pill” bill and an attempt to persuade legislators who don’t want to take a position on marriage equality to back an amendment that voters would have to approve.
Also in NOM news, yesterday, the Associated Press ran a story about the family diversity of Supreme Court Justices. The story suggested that the family backgrounds of all the Justices are diverse: two Justices (Thomas and Chief Justice Roberts) raise adopted children, some have no children, and some were never married. Since the Court is going to hear cases related to marriage and families in less than two weeks, the report discussed what impact that diversity might have on the Justices’ views.
The chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, John Eastman, told the AP that Chief Justice Roberts’ decision to adopt children rather than to have biological children and raise them was the “second-best” option. He mentioned Roberts by name. Later, Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade (who is attending CPAC this week) asked NOM’s president Brian Brown about the comments, and Brown didn’t respond directly.