Tag Archives: appeal

Prosecutors want Brendan Dassey to stay in prison

Prosecutors want a federal judge to keep a man convicted in a case profiled in the popular Making a Murderer Netflix series behind bars while they appeal his release.

A federal magistrate judge ruled in August that investigators tricked Brendan Dassey into confessing that he helped his uncle, Steven Avery, kill photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005.

The judge ordered Dassey freed from prison unless prosecutors appealed.

Attorneys for the Wisconsin Justice Department filed a brief this week arguing Dassey should stay in prison because he’s a serious threat to public safety.

Dassey’s attorneys have asked the magistrate to release him while the state’s appeal is pending.

The brief from the state attorneys notes that the magistrate clearly said his ruling would be stayed if it was appealed.


‘Making a Murderer’ subject Steven Avery files appeal of murder conviction

A convicted killer who is the subject of the Netflix series “Making a Murderer” filed a wide-ranging appeal claiming authorities used an improper warrant and that a juror was out to get him, among other things.

Steven Avery, who’s seeking to be released on bond, was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of photographer Teresa Halbach a decade ago. Avery had been wrongfully convicted years earlier in a rape case and served 18 years in prison. He had sued Manitowoc County for tens of millions before he and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, were arrested in Halbach’s death.

The appeal, filed on Jan. 11 in an appeals court in Madison, bears Avery’s signature and contains numerous spelling and grammar errors. His new attorney’s name doesn’t appear on it.

Manitowoc County Sheriff Robert Hermann said on Jan. 12 he hasn’t seen the appeal, but he has said in the past that the investigation was proper.

The filmmakers behind “Making a Murder” cast doubt on the legal process used to convict Avery and Dassey, and their work has sparked national interest and conjecture. Armchair investigators have flooded Twitter and message boards, and key players in the case have appeared on national news and talk shows.

Authorities involved in the case have called the 10-hour series biased. Filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, meanwhile, have stood by their work.

Avery’s new attorney, Kathleen Zellner, wasn’t immediately available for comment.

In the filing, Avery takes issue with a search conducted during the murder investigation, saying it improperly included multiple properties and therefore any evidence that was uncovered “is clearly ‘FRUIT OF THE POISONOUS TREE.'” The appeal also says that a juror tainted other jurors “THROUGH DIRECT OR INDIRECT IN FLUENCE,” stating numerous times that Avery “IS F—— GUILTY.”

He also said Judge Angela W. Sutkiewicz made misleading statements and that his lawyers were ineffective.

How do companies prey on your weaknesses? | A Q&A with the author of ‘Phishing for Phools’

It’s no secret we do things we know we shouldn’t. We overeat, gamble away our savings and live like tomorrow will never come. One reason, two Nobel laureates argue, is that there are plenty of businesses happy to lead us astray.

Robert Shiller, an economist at Yale University, used his understanding of how human behavior can affect markets to predict the dot-com crash of the early 2000s and the housing collapse of 2007. He won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2013 for his work showing that stock and bond prices can move out of step with economic fundamentals even over the long run.

In his new book with George Akerlof, another Nobel-prize winning economist, Shiller examines the many ways credit-card companies, financial firms and other businesses lure people into buying things that might harm them. The authors call that phishing, adopting the word for a common email scam to a broad array of cynical business practices. They call the person who takes the bait a phool. Their book is called “Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception.”

Their big point: It’s not that bad actors are gaming the free market, it’s that hucksters and dishonest marketing are part of the free-market game.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Shiller talked about how phishers lure phools, the appeal of one-armed bandits and the media’s misleading fascination with splashy stories. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What prompted you to write this book?

A: I often tend to think that things are not what they seem.

Q: Your focus isn’t on malevolent fraudsters but people just doing their job?

A: We agreed that we shouldn’t portray these people as evil. This is just what you get with free markets, depending on how free you let them be. My previous books were all about the positive aspects to markets. But markets are often presented too positively, with a certain reverence. Life is more complicated than that.

Q: Could you explain why you chose the word, phish?

A: We use it as a metaphor because people are aware of computer phishing. You can so easily be fooled by them because you don’t see all the work that went into luring you in. Things look perfectly plain and simple but in fact it’s all artifice. There are a lot of these phishers, some of them are savvy operators, and they’re experimenting. They find a ploy and, man, it works.

Q: This isn’t a new trend but it’s getting worse?

A: Yes. Take the slot machine. In the 19th Century, it dispensed sweets and toys. It was the first vending machine. Now, it’s optimized for gambling. Companies experiment with different things. There’s the jingling and bright lights, all part of a mesmerizing effect. They like to give you the sense that you’ve almost won, with three cherries, for instance. You can program it so that two cherries come up, and you can see the third cherry stopping just one off. You think, “I almost won!”

I don’t actually play these machines, mind you.

Q: The gist is that businesses keep casting new lures into the water until they get a bite?

A: It’s the same thing with Cinnabon. They don’t publicize the experimentation they do. Manufacturers of food try to get the optimal ratio to tap into your impulsivity. They don’t care about your health. Cinnabon boasts about their genuine Makara cinnamon from Indonesia. They can boast about that sort of thing. They can’t say, “Boy, we really cranked up the fat and sugar.”

They place them carefully indoors, in train stations and airports, where you’ll smell it. You’re frustrated, your flight was delayed, and you’re in a bad mood. They catch you right there. The mind tends to have a conversation, producing an excuse to eat it alongside a memory of your resolve not to eat it. They try to help one side of this conversation with the slogan, “Life needs frosting.” It’s a beautiful slogan, a great justification for giving in. It works, I bet.

Q: You say the news media is guilty of phishing, too. How so?

A: They often focus on things that aren’t important because they know what kind of story sells. In March of last year, this Malaysia Airlines plane went down mysteriously. The logical thing is to think somebody made a mistake. However, the news media latched onto a mystery story for days and days. It’s just a waste of time to think about. In terms of human welfare, it would be much better if the cable stations put up the periodic table of the elements to remind everybody. That would be useful information compared to the Malaysian airlines story.

I was on Neil Cavuto’s Fox Business TV show. He asked me what I thought about the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. I said I don’t think it really matters whether the Fed raises rates this meeting or next meeting. He said, “Look we’re doing a whole show about this.” There’s too much attention to these little stories.

Q: Do you see any speculative bubbles out there now?

A: There was a stock market bubble from 2009 to 2014. It might have ended last year. People have been worried about valuations in the market recently. The problem is there’s no exact science. We don’t know the probabilities of future events. Still, you have to take action and so you do it on gut feeling. That’s the world we live in. There’s so much disagreement about investing, and it’s because nobody really knows.

Why John Doe prosecutor should appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court

Special prosecutor Francis Schmitz has an obligation to appeal the decision by the Wisconsin State Supreme Court to dismiss the John Doe investigation. That decision legalized coordination between candidates and outside groups so long as those groups don’t say “Vote For” or “Vote Against” a certain candidate.

Schmitz was investigating alleged coordination between Scott Walker and several outside groups during the recall elections in 2011 and 2012, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered him to close that investigation.

Schmitz has two solid grounds for appealing that order to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The first is that the conservative justices who ruled against him, 4-2, were biased and should have recused themselves.

The second is that those justices misread the U.S. Supreme Court precedents on campaign finance law and the First Amendment.

On the first ground, the four conservative justices — Justice Patience Roggensack, Justice Annette Ziegler, Justice Michael Gableman, and Justice David Prosser — had an obvious conflict of interest. Three main groups that the special prosecutor was investigating – Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Wisconsin Club for Growth, and Citizens for a Strong America — spent a combined total of more than $8 million on expenditures to help elect those four justices.

Here is the breakdown:

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce spent about $5.6 million on these four conservative justices:

  • $500,000 in support of Roggensack
  • $1,100,000 in support of Prosser
  • $1,760,000 in support of Gableman
  • $2,200,000 in support of Ziegler

Wisconsin Club for Growth spent about $1.75 million on the four conservative justices:

  • $350,000 in support of Roggensack
  • $400,000 in support of Ziegler
  • $500,000 in support of Gableman
  • $500,000 in support of Prosser

Citizens for a Strong America spent about $1 million in support of Prosser in his tightly contested reelection race against JoAnne Kloppenburg in 2011.

In the landmark Caperton v. Massey Coal case in 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a judge needs to recuse himself or herself when a party to a case has given so much campaign support to that judge that there is a “serious risk of actual bias.” As the Brennan Center for Justice has noted, the U.S. Supreme Court cited several factors that demonstrate such a serious risk: the “relative size” of the financial support in comparison to the total amount contributed to the campaign; the “apparent effect” of this financial support on “the outcome of the election”; and the timing of the financial support relative to the election day and the likelihood that a case involving the donor would be soon before the court.

The relative size of the expenditures on behalf of all four justices and the apparent effect those expenditures had on the outcome of their elections provide a solid basis for ruling that all four justices should have recused themselves.

As regards Justice Gableman, the $1,760,000 that Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce spent on his behalf proved decisive in an election that he won by only 20,000 votes. He has reliably ruled in favor of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce since getting on the state’s highest court.

As regards Justice Prosser, the $2,600,000 that all three groups combined spent on his behalf proved decisive in the 2011 election that he won by only 7,000 votes. His victory came at a time when the recall process was just getting under way (and it was the activities of these three groups during the recalls that were at issue in the John Doe investigation).

Special prosecutor Schmitz had filed a motion seeking the recusal of at least one of the justices. That motion was not granted. And therefore this is one clear path for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The second grounds for appeal is equally strong. As the Brennan Center has noted, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court’s ruling is “at odds with nearly forty years of Supreme Court precedent.”

The Wisconsin State Supreme Court ruled that it was protecting “political speech, a vital First Amendment right,” when it said that it was OK for outside groups to coordinate with a candidate so long as those outside groups aren’t engaging in express advocacy.

But in the famous 1976 U.S. Supreme Court case, Buckley v. Valeo, the court ruled that expenditures by outside groups that are coordinated with candidates amount to campaign contributions. “The ultimate effect is the same as if the person had contributed the dollar amount to the candidate and the candidate had then used the contribution,” the court ruled. Such expenditures, it said, should be “treated as contributions rather than expenditures.”

In fact, it is only the lack of coordination that reduces the risk of corruption, the Court argued in Buckley. “The absence of prearrangement and coordination of an expenditure with the candidate or his agent . . . alleviates the danger that expenditures will be given as a quid pro quo for improper commitments from the candidates.”

By contrast, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, by legalizing coordination, is inviting precisely the kind of “quid pro quo” that Buckley was aiming to prevent. Ironically, the Wisconsin statute it invalidated was treating coordinated expenditures as contributions, just as the U.S. Supreme Court had instructed in Buckley.

In its 2003 ruling in McConnell v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the illegality of coordination, stating that “outside expenditures that are coordinated with a candidate — or “made after a wink or nod” — often will be ‘as useful to the candidate as cash.’ ”

Even in its infamous Citizens United decision of 2010, which allowed independent groups to spend unlimited amounts of money, the U.S Supreme Court stressed that such groups had to be independent; they couldn’t coordinate with their favored candidates. “By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not coordinated with a candidate.”

The Wisconsin State Supreme Court simply chose to ignore that, just as it ignored and overran the Buckley and McConnell rulings.

And as the Brennan Center has noted, the U.S. Supreme Court has never said that coordinated expenditures are OK so long as the so-called independent group is not engaging in “express advocacy.” The Wisconsin State Supreme Court made that up on its own.

The special prosecutor should appeal that to the U.S. Supreme Court.

From Buckley to Citizens United and beyond, the U.S. Supreme Court has advocated disclosure of contributions. The decision by the Wisconsin State Supreme Court undermines these precedents.

Here’s how: In Wisconsin, if you’re running for governor, your richest donor can give you only $10,000, which you have to disclose. But now you can ask your billionaire friend to give $100,000 or $1,000,000 to an outside group and you can tell that outside group how to spend it (as long as it doesn’t run an ad saying, “Vote for” or “Vote against”). And the kicker is that this outside group doesn’t have to disclose where it got the $100,000 or the $1,000,000. In this way, our democracy in Wisconsin will drown in a sea of dark money.

In Buckley, the U.S. Supreme Court said that disclosure requirements were necessary to “deter actual corruption and avoid the appearance of corruption by exposing large contributions and expenditures to the light of publicity.”

The Wisconsin State Supreme Court decision runs 180 degrees counter to that.

For these reasons, the special prosecutor must appeal the decision of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court in the John Doe case and give democracy a chance in Wisconsin.

Federal judge strikes down South Dakota’s ban on same-sex marriage

A federal judge on Jan. 12 declared South Dakota’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, but marriage licenses won’t be immediately issued because the ruling was put on hold pending a potential appeal.

U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier sided in favor of the six couples who filed the lawsuit in May in Sioux Falls. The lawsuit challenges a 1996 state law and a voter-approved 2006 constitutional amendment that ban gay marriage.

“Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to marry,” Schreier wrote. “South Dakota law deprives them of that right solely because they are same-sex couples and without sufficient justification.”

Attorney General Marty Jackley on Jan. 12 said the state will appeal the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a conservative-leaning federal appeals court that in 2006 affirmed Nebraska’s right to ban same-sex marriages.

“It remains the state’s position that the institution of marriage should be defined by the voters of South Dakota and not the federal courts,” Jackley said.

He said he’s obligated by law to defend both the state constitution and state statutes.

At the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, legal director Sarah Warbelow said, “According to Judge Schreier’s ruling and two dozen others over the last year, there is no justifiable reason to keep these discriminatory marriage bans on the books. The truth is, laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying serve no purpose other than to harm Americans who simply want to protect and provide for themselves and their families. Ultimately the U.S. Constitution does not allow states to continue discriminating against committed and loving gay and lesbian couples.  It’s only a matter of time before the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue once and for all.”

Two other states – Arkansas and Missouri – already have appealed similar federal district court rulings to the 8th Circuit. This court is generally considered more conservative than others, said Adam Romero, senior counsel in the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. However, Romero warned, judges “from all ideological perspectives” have tended to agree that state marriage bans are unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

“While it is impossible to predict what the court will ultimately do, given the large number of judges who have struck down same-sex marriage bans, we can assume that the 8th Circuit will give the marriage bans in this circuit a very, very close scrutiny,” Romero said.

The U.S. Supreme Court again is considering whether to hear a gay marriage case, and more appeals court rulings — especially if they conflict — could increase the likelihood the justices will do so.

In November, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Cincinnati became the first appellate court to recently uphold state bans on same-sex marriage. Plaintiffs from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are asking the Supreme Court to reverse that decision. Four other appeals courts — based in Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Richmond, Virginia — have ruled in favor of gay and lesbian couples. Arguments over bans in three Southern states were held last week before a New Orleans-based appellate court.

Romero said that the more cases that are pending at the 8th Circuit will only increase the pressure on that court to issue its ruling. But the court could put the cases on hold if the Supreme Court decides to take on the issue.

Presently, 36 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry, nearly twice as many as just three months ago. 

The South Dakota couples’ attorney, Josh Newville, said this week’s developments represent the last opportunity for the state’s “elected officials to be on the right side of history” by not appealing Schreier’s decision.

“I would say that Attorney General Jackley needs to consider very seriously the amount of money that he’s pouring into this lawsuit on behalf of the state to keep a discriminatory law in place,” Newville said.

Five of the couples have already married in either Iowa, Connecticut or Minnesota. Nancy Rosenbrahn, of Rapid City, married her longtime partner in April in Minneapolis.

“On one hand, this is like the best present ever,” Rosenbrahn said of the decision Monday. “On the other hand, you go back and you say `Well, yeah, it should be a yes,’ because we are no different than anybody else. There is no reason to say we can’t get married. There is no valid reason to do that anymore.”

South Carolina to appeal ruling overturning marriage ban

A federal judge on Nov. 12 struck down South Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional, opening the door to such marriages but also giving the state a week to appeal. The attorney general said he would do so immediately.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, ruling in the case of a same-sex couple from Charleston who sued to be married, found South Carolina’s state constitutional ban “invalid as a matter of law.”

He also blocked any state official from interfering with the plaintiffs’ rights to be married. But Gergel wrote that order would not take effect until noon Nov. 20, allowing Attorney General Alan Wilson a chance to appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

“Today’s ruling comes as no surprise and does not change the constitutional obligation of this office to defend South Carolina law, including, but not necessarily limited to, appeal to the 4th Circuit,” Wilson said in a statement.

He noted the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati recently upheld gay marriage bans in four other states, and the issue could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the Fourth Circuit already has struck down Virginia’s gay marriage ban, a ruling that applied to other states in the circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of that case last month and South Carolina is the only state in the circuit that has refused to allow such marriages.

Gergel wrote that the 4th Circuit decision is precedent in South Carolina and the court has “recognized a fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry and power of the federal courts to address and vindicate that right.”

Derek Black, who teaches constitutional law at the University of South Carolina School of Law, said “the prospects are zero” that Wilson will be able to get a stay of Gergel’s ruling at the Fourth Circuit.

“If you thought of the attorney general here and the attorney generals in the 6th Circuit as football teams, they are down about 10 touchdowns with 10 seconds left,” Black said. “You can’t score 10 touchdowns in 10 seconds.”

The South Carolina case was brought by Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley, who applied for a same-sex marriage license in Charleston County last month.

But before it could be issued, the state Supreme Court blocked issuing licenses until a federal court in Columbia ruled in another gay marriage challenge. In that case, a couple wants the state to recognize their same-sex marriage performed in Washington, D.C.

Condon and Bleckley sued in federal court on Oct. 15 after the state Supreme Court action.

“We’re excited and relieved and pleased that the federal court issued its ruling striking down this discriminatory law,” said Beth Littrell, an attorney for Lamda Legal, a national civil rights law firm that assisted Condon and Bleckley in their lawsuit.

“It would have been nice if it had come earlier, but in the scheme of the amount of time most federal lawsuits take this is a very quick decision and so we are happy,” she added.

Meanwhile, the nation’s highest court was considering whether to block Kansas from enforcing is ban on gay marriage while federal courts review a legal challenge.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit last month on behalf of two lesbian couples denied marriage licenses. A federal judge ordered the state to stop enforcing its ban as of 5 p.m. Tuesday – when county courthouses were closed for Veterans Day.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt appealed to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She put the federal judge’s order on hold and gave the ACLU a chance to respond to the state’s request to maintain the ban for now.

Wisconsin Unites for Marriage coalition launches

A new statewide coalition aimed at securing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Wisconsin launched on Aug. 7, less than 20 days before a federal appeals court will hear arguments on the issue.

The Wisconsin Unites for Marriage Coalition launched as a partnership of the ACLU of Wisconsin, Fair Wisconsin and Freedom to Marry.

The coalition representatives vowed an unprecedented grassroots public education campaign with the goal of winning the freedom to marry for all couples.

Launch celebrations were taking place on Aug. 7 in Appleton, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee, with religious leaders, civil rights advocates, attorneys and also the couples who are suing the state for marriage equality.

In a news release, Katie Belanger of Fair Wisconsin said, “This is the first time since the 2006 campaign against the constitutional amendment that we have had a diverse statewide coalition working together to achieve the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. We are thrilled to join forces with Wisconsin’s leaders in the business and faith communities, and state and national partners in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, as we move Wisconsin forward together.”

Chris Ahmuty, executive director of ACLU Wisconsin, added, “Wisconsin Unites for Marriage gives a voice to couples, their friends and families, and everyone committed to freedom and equality. You don’t have to be a plaintiff or lawyer to be heard as we make history together.”

The ACLU of Wisconsin and the ACLU national are representing same-sex couples demanding the right to marry in the state or recognition of their out-of-state marriages. They are challenging the constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages that was approved by voters in 2006.

In early June, a federal district judge in Madison overturned the amendment, a decision that for a few days cleared the way for more than 500 gay and lesbian couples to marry in the state.

The weddings ended as Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican who is not seeking re-election in November, pursued an appeal.

That appeal is now before the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, with oral argument set for Aug. 26.

“My partner Katy and I have been together for over 25 years and want very much to get married. To be honest, before we won the case in federal court, we didn’t realize how much marriage meant – mostly because we could never let ourselves imagine it, because it wasn’t a reality for us for so many years,” said Judi Trampf, one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

Her partner, Katy Heyning, added, “But now more than ever, I think about what would happen if something happened to Judi. In the eyes of the legal system, we’d be little more than two people who knew each other. After 25 years of commitment, living together and loving each other – we’d be nothing.”

As the coalition was announced to the public, its website went live at www.wisconsinunites.org. 

The site invites people to share their marriage equality stories, offers freedom to marry facts and announces opportunities to volunteer.

Wisconsin AG files appeal in marriage equality case

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen filed his appeal of the federal ruling striking down the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The appeal was filed this week, officially bringing the case to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, where the court is expected to deal with the challenge as it takes up an equality lawsuit from Indiana.

In early June, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the state ban on same-sex marriage, which voters approved in 2006, violates the equal protection and due process guarantees in the U.S. Constitution.

Crabb’s ruling in the ACLU case led to a rush on the county clerk’s offices in Dane and Milwaukee counties on June 6. Same-sex couples began marrying in those counties on that night, and more county clerks joined in issuing licenses over the next several days.

In all, more than 500 gay couples were married in early June in Wisconsin.

The weddings of same-sex couples in Wisconsin ended with the issuance of a stay pending the state’s appeal, which was not filed until July 10. Van Hollen had until July 21 to file.

He said in an email to the Associated Press that the state filed early because of the court’s decision to expedite its review of the Indiana case. Briefs on motions in the Indiana case are due on Aug. 5.

Van Hollen said, “The goal of our timing is simple: to ensure that Wisconsin is placed on equal footing with Indiana, and that our constitution and laws are given timely consideration by the appellate judges.”

John Knight, a lead attorney with the ACLU, said, “We’re disappointed to see that the state is still fighting to stop loving, committed couples from marrying. However, we are glad to see an end to the state’s effort to put off resolution of this case.”

Meanwhile, the state of Utah has said it plans to take its defense of its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Marriage equality march in Wisconsin: A timeline

• November 2006: Wisconsin Referendum 1 passed and became Article XIII, Section 13, of the state constitution. The amendment states, “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.”

• June 26, 2013: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Windsor v. United States that Section 3 of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and that the federal government cannot discriminate against married lesbian and gay couples for the purposes of determining federal benefits and protections.

• Feb. 23: The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm of Mayer Brown filed a federal lawsuit in Madison on behalf of four same-sex couples seeking marriage equality.

• Feb. 28: Four additional same-sex couples were added to the ACLU case. At the same time, the ACLU requested an order that the state may not enforce Wisconsin’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

• May 19: This was the deadline set by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb for the parties — the plaintiffs represented by the ACLU and the defendants represented by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen — to submit motions. The state filed a motion to dismiss the case and the ACLU, on behalf of eight client couples, filed a motion for summary judgment.

• June 6: Crabb declared the state constitutional amendment a violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That night, clerks offices in Dane County and Milwaukee County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and waived the five-day waiting period for couples who paid for expedited service. Gay and lesbian couples began marrying immediately.

• June 7: Clerks in Dane and Milwaukee continued to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

• June 9: Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen pressed for a stay at both the district and appeals court levels. He also made clear that he planned a full appeal of Crabb’s ruling. Meanwhile, the number of counties where clerks were issuing marriage licenses to gay couples grew and continued to grow throughout the week.

• June 13: Crabb issued a permanent injunction to ensure that same-sex couples can marry, but she stayed her opinion pending the state’s appeal to the 7th Circuit in Chicago. County clerks stopped issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

• June 16: Wisconsin Democratic leaders in Congress called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to confirm that the federal government will recognize the marriages of gay couples in Wisconsin.

July 10: Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen files an appeal in the case.

— L.N.

WNBA debuts Pride site, plans Pride game

Amid a surge of public opinion in favor of gay rights in the United States, the WNBA is launching a campaign to market the league to the LGBT community, becoming the first pro sports league to specifically recruit gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender fans to its games.

With the marketing campaign, the WNBA is capitalizing on what it has known for years: The community makes up a significant portion of its fan base. The difference now is that the league is talking about it publicly and making it a deliberate part of its marketing strategy.

The campaign, which began with the debut of a website, includes having teams participate in local Pride festivals and parades, working with advocacy groups to raise awareness of inclusion through grassroots events and advertising with lesbian media. A nationally televised Pride game will take place between Tulsa and Chicago on June 22. All 12 teams will also have some sort of pride initiative over the course of the season.

“For us it’s a celebration of diversity and inclusion and recognition of an audience that has been with us very passionately,” WNBA president Laurel Richie said.

It’s taken the league 18 years to take the step, though it had discussions about the possibility previously. Teams have done some promotion locally, sponsoring booths at gay pride events and hosting groups at games.

“We embrace all our fans and it’s a group that we know has been very, very supportive. I won’t characterize it as `Why did it take so long?’ For me it’s been we’ve been doing a lot of terrific initiatives. The piece that’s different this year is unifying it,” Richie said.

Before launching the campaign, the league took a close look at its fan base. It commissioned a study in 2012 that found that 25 percent of lesbians watch the league’s games on TV while 21 percent have attended a game.

Rick Welts, who was the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the NBA when the WNBA first started in 1997, said that when the league began executives figured the fan base would be a carryover from the NBA.

“We guessed very wrong on that,” said Welts, who is the president and COO of the Golden State Warriors and became the highest-ranking executive in men’s sports to publicly acknowledge he’s gay in 2011. “Maybe we should have known better. I think from its outset, the WNBA attracted a fan with different interests than our profile of an NBA fan.

“I remember sitting in a few meetings where we had really interesting thoughtful discussions of: Should we be proactive marketing to the LGBT community? What does that say if we do? We certainly didn’t want to position the league of being exclusionary to anyone. What were we saying if we did it more proactively? Society and sports culture is very different today than it was back then. Teams were trying to figure out the right thing to do.”

Brittney Griner, who is one of a handful of WNBA athletes who have publicly identified as lesbian, was happy the league was embracing the community. Griner, who was the No. 1 pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the draft in 2013, plans on wearing rainbow-colored shoes during the month of June in support of the initiative.

“We’ll pave the way and show its fine and there’s nothing wrong with it. More sports need to do it. It’s 2014, it’s about time,” said Griner, who served as grand marshal of the Phoenix Pride parade last season.

Rebecca Lobo, who played in the league for six seasons and has been a broadcaster for the last decade, has seen a change from when the league began in 1997.

“It’s culturally more acceptable now than it was when it first started,” she said. “The league has been around for so many years they can do these sort of things without worrying about what some people might think.”

It wasn’t always that way.

“For a long time they were happy to have those lesbians fill those seats in the stands, but not willing for a long time to embrace the fan base,” said Pat Griffin, professor emeritus in the social justice education program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “I attribute that to the homophobia, fear that somehow acknowledging the fan base would encourage other fans not to go to games. What they’ve learned is that the fan doesn’t keep other people from going to games.”

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UPDATED: Right-wing group denied emergency stay to block gay marriage in Oregon

The right-wing National Organization for Marriage on May 19 filed an emergency appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a stay any gay marriage proceedings in Oregon. And not long after the filing, the motion was denied.

A federal judge has just ruled for marriage equality, and NOM had wanted to get in line for a stay.

NOM wanted to argue that it should be allowed to intervene in the federal case. NOM also wanted the appeals court to strike down any ruling in favor of marriage equality in Oregon.

In a news release, NOM president Brian S. Brown, said the case was an “ugly example” of cooperation between Oregon’s attorney general and “the gay marriage lobby, both of whom want to redefine marriage in contravention of the overwhelming decision of the people to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The people of Oregon are entitled to a defense of their decision on marriage rather than being abandoned in court.”

In a series of rulings this past year, judges in the federal and state courts have overturned state measures prohibiting same-sex marriage and last summer the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on same-sex marriage in the so-called Defense of Marriage Act of 1996.

NOM alleged in its motion with the appeals court that government clerks and business people will “will face injury if marriage is redefined.”

Meanwhile, in Maine, the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices staff issued a report concluding that NOM intentionally violated state law by failing to register or report its activities despite playing a central role in co-managing and funding a $3 million marriage referendum campaign in 2009.

The report said, “The staff views NOM’s failure to register and file financial reports as a significant violation of law. Maine people deserve to know who is funding political campaigns to influence their vote.” 

The report recommends civil penalties against NOM totaling $50,250 and that NOM be directed to register as a ballot question committee and file campaign finance reports reflecting its contributions and expenditures in support of the 2009 Maine referendum.

The commission will vote on the staff recommendation at its meeting on May 28.

“This detailed investigative report once and for all exposes NOM’s fundamental mission to secretly and illegally funnel contributions from a few large unnamed donors to its extreme political causes,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin. “NOM was formed to be an illegal pass-through for a few secret donors to fund discrimination against LGBT Americans. Maine’s regulators have caught on and said enough is enough.”

Over the past four years, following a complaint by Fred Karger, the Maine commission conducted the most detailed investigation of NOM’s activities to date.

The investigation included deposing Brown and subpoenaing documents. The investigation was significantly delayed by a series of lawsuits initiated by NOM intended to stonewall the investigation.

NOM appealed unsuccessfully all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in its effort to evade Maine’s public disclosure law.    

Among other findings, the 37-page investigative report found:

• NOM played the critical leadership role in the 2009 referendum campaign. Political consultants close to NOM had significant leadership positions within the campaign and NOM was by far the largest donor. The commission determined that NOM failed to tell the truth when it stated that it made no expenditures to promote the referendum other than by monetary contributions.

• NOM promised its donors anonymity if they gave directly to NOM. According to the report, “NOM intentionally set up its fundraising strategy to avoid donor disclosure laws.”

• NOM sent out a series of emails specifically soliciting contributions from Maine and received contributions sufficient to require it to register as a ballot question committee.

NOM also qualified as a ballot question committee through contributions from major donors. The report noted that in 2009, NOM raised 75 percent of its revenue from 14 major donors. Contrary to NOM’s representations, the report found that “the basic elements of NOM’s communications are known, and they indicate that NOM told major donors in 2009 about NOM’s activities in support of the Maine referendum and NOM’s specific commitment to financially support the Maine referendum.”

NOM failed to disclose these donors in accordance with state law.