Tag Archives: arguments

Milwaukee police: August homicides highest in 25 years

More homicides were recorded in Milwaukee in August than in any other month over the past 25 years, police said.

Milwaukee’s total of 24 homicides in August was the highest since July 1991, when the victims of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer were discovered, according to police. The department said the city’s per capita rate was even higher than that of Chicago, which recorded 90 homicides in August.

Chief Edward Flynn discussed the violence at an afternoon news conference on Sept. 1, saying police have recorded a slight increase in domestic violence homicides this year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“But the biggest driver of our homicides is arguments and fights and retaliation among people with criminal records,” Flynn said.

A statement from the department said it is being stressed by recent unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood, where a black man died after being shot by a police officer earlier this summer.

The fatal shooting of Sylville Smith on Aug. 13 sparked two nights of violence, including gunfire and fires that destroyed businesses. Police have said Smith was holding a gun when he turned toward the officer who shot him.

The department’s statement also cited the use of two-officer squads as a strain on its resources. Milwaukee police have patrolled in two-person teams since July, after an officer was shot and wounded by a suspect, according to the newspaper.

Few top GOP officials back same-sex marriage at high court

The partisan divide over same-sex marriage among top elected officials remains stark, with Democrats overwhelmingly on record in favor and Republicans mostly silent so far.

The list of Republicans who are supporting same-sex marriage, in cases set for argument April 28 at the U.S. Supreme Court, is much longer than it was two years ago, but it remains conspicuously short of sitting members of Congress and governors.

President Barack Obama is the top Democrat calling on the Supreme Court to extend same-sex marriage nationwide. He is joined by 211 Democrats and independents in Congress and 19 Democratic state attorneys general.

On the Republican side are just seven sitting members of Congress and one governor, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts was the first state in which same-sex couples could marry, starting in 2004, as a result of a state Supreme Court ruling.

Baker put his support in personal terms. “My view on this is pretty simple. I have a brother who’s gay. He lives in Massachusetts. He’s married,” Baker said when the Republicans’ brief was filed in early March. “There simply wasn’t a moral justification” for denying same-sex couples the right to marry, Baker said.

Senators who signed the brief are Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois. The House members are Reps. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, Bob Dold of Illinois, Chris Gibson of New York, Richard Hanna of New York and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who announced his support for same-sex marriage in 2013 after Portman’s son told him he is gay, is not among the signers.

The Supreme Court is considering state marriage bans from Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

Other prominent Republicans who joined the brief are: billionaire political donor David Koch; former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; Mary Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney; former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, six former governors and 16 former members of Congress.

Super Bowl champs, World Series winners back marriage equality in Supreme Court briefs

The New England Patriots are rooting for marriage equality. The San Francisco Giants also are fans of same-sex marriage rights.

The reigning baseball and football champions, along with baseball’s small-market Tampa Bay Rays, are among the thousands of businesses, religious groups, advocacy organizations and politicians who are filing legal briefs at the Supreme Court in support of gay marriage.

The cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee will be argued April 28, and a decision is expected by early summer.

Roughly six dozen briefs backing pro-gay rights plaintiffs in the four states are expected by the Friday deadline. Included is a “people’s brief” filed by the Human Rights Campaign with the signatures of 207,551 people.

The Super Bowl champion Patriots, the World Series-winning Giants and the Rays are part of a brief from hundreds of U.S. businesses.

The Patriots play in Massachusetts, the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry, and the Giants represent a city that is notable for its gay and lesbian community.

Rays president Brian Auld said it was important that his team stand up, as well.

“We’re a small but visible business and I actually think it’s important that we send this signal of inclusion to the entire region,” Auld said in a telephone interview Thursday as he watched the Rays’ first spring training game in Port Charlotte, Florida.

The team also has participated in the “It Gets Better” project to encourage gay and lesbian teenagers who’ve been bullied.

“Our players have traditionally been supportive of these kinds of things,” Auld said.

Mayors of 226 U.S. cities also are expressing their support for same-sex marriage. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley says he is not sure how his constituents feel about the issue, but said it wouldn’t affect his view either way. “I don’t think constitutional rights are subject to public opinion,” Cranley said.

Four couples from California and Virginia who had wanted the court to use their cases to settle the issue of same-sex marriage nationwide also are calling on the justices to strike down state gay-marriage bans everywhere.

Same-sex couples, widow sue for marriage equality in Georgia

A widow and three same-sex couples represented by Lambda Legal are challenging Georgia’s marriage ban in U.S. District Court.  The case, announced on April 22, was filed on behalf of Christopher Inniss and Shelton Stroman of Snellville, Rayshawn Chandler and Avery Chandler of Jonesboro, Michael Bishop and Shane Thomas of Atlanta and also Jennifer Sisson of Decatur.

“Georgia is our home. Our family is here, our business is here, and our community here is a great support for us,” said Christopher Inniss, a veterinarian and pet resort owner. “Shelton and I have been together for 13 years. We own a home together, we own a business together, and we are raising our son, Jonathan, together. We have done everything we can to protect and take responsibility for our family but marriage is the only way to ensure that we are treated as the family that we are. We need the protection that marriage affords.”

Lead plaintiffs Inniss, 39, and his partner Shelton Stroman, 41, have been together for 13 years. Their son, Jonathan, is 9. 

“Every day that same-sex couples in Georgia are denied the freedom to marry, the government sends a message that their families are not worthy of dignity and respect,” said Tara Borelli, Lambda Legal senior attorney. “Georgians believe in the Southern values of love, honor and family, but as long as the state of Georgia continues to bar same-sex couples from marriage, it devalues these families and reinforces unfairness and discrimination.”

Joining Inniss and Stroman as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are:

• Rayshawn Chandler, 29, and Avery Chandler, 30, Atlanta Police Department police officers who have been together for almost three years.

• Michael Bishop, 50, and Shane Thomas, 44, together for seven years and the parents of  two children.

• Jennifer Sisson, 34, whose wife, Pamela Drenner, died on March 1 at age 49. The women were married in New York in 2013. Despite being legally married, the state of Georgia has refused to list Sisson as Drenner’s wife on the death certificate.

In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal argues that Georgia’s marriage ban unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples and sends a purposeful message that lesbians, gay men and their children are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections and support that different-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.

There are more than 60 marriage equality lawsuits pending in the United States.

Same-sex couples can marry in the District of Columbia and 17 states.

Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage goes before federal judge this week

The future of Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage goes before a federal judge this week, and there appears to be little support for it to be upheld.

Oregon’s attorney general, Democrat Ellen Rosenblum, says the state’s ban is legally indefensible. Her office filed a lengthy brief urging judge U.S. District Judge Michael McShane to throw it out. There have been no legal arguments submitted for upholding the ban.

Federal judges in five states have thrown out voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage on constitutional grounds since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year, and many other challenges are pending.

For Oregon’s ban, oral arguments are scheduled for April 23 in U.S. District Court in Eugene.

The court is deciding two cases that have been consolidated. Portland attorneys Lake Perriguey and Lea Ann Easton filed a lawsuit in October on behalf of two women in a relationship for more than 30 years. Two months later, the American Civil Liberties Union and lawyers from two firms went to court on behalf of a lesbian couple and a gay couple.

“The ban on same-sex marriage serves no rational purpose and harms Oregon citizens,” lawyers for the state wrote. “This case presents that rare case in which there simply is no legal argument to be made in support of a state law.”

The U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause prohibits the government from treating a group of people differently from others unless there’s sufficient justification that furthers a legitimate public interest. In this case, much of the legal analysis surrounds how high the bar should be for the government to prove it has an interest in treating gays and lesbians differently with respect to marriage.

Even so, both the same-sex couples bringing the suit and the state argue that the marriage ban is unconstitutional under any standard of review because it fails to advance any legitimate government interest.

Voters added a ban on gay marriage in 2004 after Multnomah County issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In other states where gay marriage bans have been challenged, defenders have argued that marriage is intended to create a stable family unit from relationships that can result in procreation. They say the government has an interest in promoting a safe and nurturing home for children.

Attorneys opposing the Oregon law reject those arguments, saying the state has never required procreation as a condition of marriage and allows marriages of heterosexual couples that cannot have children. Oregon allows same-sex couples to adopt children, they say, and parents of the same gender can provide a loving home for children.

“There is no evidence or even rational speculation that permitting same-sex couples to marry will in any way reduce the desire of opposite-sex couples to marry and create stable families,” lawyers for the state wrote in a brief signed by Sheila Potter, deputy chief trial counsel at the Oregon Department of Justice.

Teresa Harke, a spokeswoman for Oregon Family Council, which opposes same-sex marriage, said the organization did not seek to get involved in the Oregon case or file a legal analysis because it does not have legal standing.

Proponents of overturning Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban say they’ve collected enough signatures to force a statewide vote on the issue. They say they’ll discard them, however, and drop their campaign if the court rules in their favor by May 23. Since both sides of the case essentially agree, an appeal would be unlikely if they win at the lower court.

Gay rights advocates will focus instead on defeating a separate ballot measure that would allow business owners to refuse to participate in same-sex weddings.

“It’s hard to justify a symbolic victory when we have to stop a real threat,” said Peter Zuckerman, a spokesman for Oregon United for Marriage, the pro-gay marriage campaign group.

McShane is Oregon’s newest federal judge, appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed last year by the Senate. He was previously a judge for Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Since late last year, federal judges have struck down as unconstitutional the voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage in five states: Utah, Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas and Virginia. In three other states — Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee — federal judges have ordered the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.

Wisconsin’s anti-gay ban is being challenged in federal court in Madison. A trial could take place in August.

Tenth Circuit set to hear Utah, Oklahoma marriage cases this month

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit on April 10 will hear arguments in the appeal of a federal ruling overturning Utah’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.

The arguments will be heard by a three-judge panel.

Then, on April 17, the Tenth Circuit will hear arguments on a federal ruling overturning Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The three judges who will hear the Utah case are Paul Kelly Jr, who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush and confirmed in 1992, Carlos Lucero, who was nominated by President Bill Clinton and confirmed in 1995 and Jerome Holmes, who was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed in 2006.

Holmes was one of two judges who denied the state of Utah’s request for a stay after the district court judge ruled against the marriage ban.

The Human Rights Campaign, in its latest tally of marriage equality lawsuits, says there are at least 55 cases pending in 28 states — including in Wisconsin — and Puerto Rico. There are 250 plaintiffs challenging the anti-gay laws.

There are seven other cases at the federal appeals court level and they are challenging bans in Nevada, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan.

The only states with anti-gay marriage laws not facing lawsuits are Alaska, Georgia, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Save the dates from HRC: 

• Kitchen v. Herbert, Utah, Tenth Circuit: April 10
• Bishop v. Smith, Oklahoma, Tenth Circuit: April 17
• Bostic v. Schaefer, Virginia, Fourth Circuit: May 13
• The first filings in Love v. Beshear (Kentucky) and Tanco v. Haslam (Tennessee), both in the sixth circuit, are due on May 7. Oral arguments have not been set yet.

Federal appeals court reviews Texas anti-abortion law

A federal appeals court heard arguments Jan. 6 on whether the state of Texas can enforce a law that led to the closing of several abortion clinics, a case that ultimately appears bound for the U.S. Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans didn’t indicate how soon it would rule on whether a district judge erred in declaring parts of the 2013 law unconstitutional.

Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued to block two of the law’s provisions. One requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of where the abortion is performed. The other restricts how doctors administer abortion-inducing drugs.

The groups say U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel correctly ruled in October that the provisions place an unconstitutional burden on women’s access to abortion. But the state argues that the new requirements promote the health and safety of abortion patients and advance the state’s “interest in protecting fetal life.”

An Oct. 31 ruling by the 5th Circuit allowed Texas to enforce the law while it appealed the decision. Judges Jennifer Walker Elrod and Catharina Haynes, two of the three judges on the panel that stayed Yeakel’s ruling, also heard Monday’s arguments.

More than a dozen Texas abortion clinics closed after the law took effect, but some have since reopened, according to the groups opposed to the law.

Janet Crepps, a New York-based lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the Rio Grande Valley had two abortion providers before the law took effect and currently has none.

“Women are now forced to travel 150 (miles) or a 300-mile-round trip,” she said.

5th Circuit Judge Edith Jones, however, questioned whether a drive of that length truly places an undue burden on women seeking an abortion.

“Do you know how long that takes in Texas at 75 miles an hour?” she asked. “This is a peculiarly flat and not congested highway.”

Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell said the groups had no way of knowing how clinics would be affected by the law before it took effect. Jones and Haynes also cast doubt on the groups’ forecast that the privileges requirement would force at least one-third of the state’s abortion clinics to close, denying more than 20,000 women access to an abortion annually.

“Predicting the future is hard,” Haynes said. “Addressing the past is far more straightforward.”

The law’s supporters also accuse its opponents of overstating how many abortion providers are affected by the admitting-privileges provision.

“The Supreme Court allows states to regulate abortion to ensure women have all the information they need to make an informed decision and to make sure it’s done in a safe manner,” Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said outside the courtroom after the hearing. “That’s all this law does.”

Haynes pressed Mitchell to explain why lawmakers settled on 30 miles as the “magic” distance in the admitting-privileges provision.

“In a state the size of Texas, 30 miles seems a little bit short,” she said.

“Their burden is to show that that 30-mile radius is unconstitutionally burdensome everywhere through the state,” Mitchell said of the law’s opponents. “And they have not met that burden here.”

Haynes also questioned whether a lack of abortion providers in Texas is tied to the 2013 law or results from unrelated factors.

Crepps said many doctors who have hospital admitting privileges choose not to provide abortions because they are “rightfully afraid of the violence and harassment” that other providers have faced.

In November, the groups challenging the new provisions asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 5th Circuit’s stay of Yeakel’s ruling. The high court rejected the request in a 5-4 opinion. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the minority opinion that he believes at least four justices will vote to hear the case no matter how the 5th Circuit ultimately rules.

The 2013 law also requires abortion providers to follow a U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocol in administering abortion-inducing drugs. The FDA protocol limits the use of the drugs to the first 49 days after a woman’s last menstrual period, but many doctors have developed an “off-label” protocol that permits a drug-induced abortion up to 63 days after the last menstrual period.

“Abortion doctors do not have a constitutional right to second-guess the FDA’s judgment,” Mitchell argued.

Wisconsin high court to hear partner arguments in October

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear arguments next month in a challenge to the state’s domestic partner registry.

The registry give same-sex couples some legal rights. Members of the right-wing group Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit in 2010 alleging the registry violates a 2006 state constitutional amendment barring gay marriage and anything similar.

But defenders of the registry maintain that it offers no where near the rights, benefits and respect of legalized marriage.

A state appeals court upheld the registry in December, saying married couples have more rights than same-sex couples on the registry.

The Supreme Court announced in June it would take the case. The justices have set oral arguments for Oct. 23.

Fall showdown in court on Mich. gay marriage ban

A federal judge will hear arguments Oct. 1 on the legality of Michigan’s ban on gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

Judge Bernard Friedman set the date this week in what could be a ground-breaking lawsuit filed by two Detroit-area nurses who are lesbians.

Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer and three adopted children live under one roof in Hazel Park. But Michigan law bars the women from jointly adopting each other’s kids.

At the judge’s suggestion, the lawsuit was expanded last year to also challenge a 2004 constitutional amendment that recognizes marriage in Michigan as only between a man and a woman. Rowse and DeBoer say the amendment and the adoption law violate their rights.

Friedman recently turned down the state’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.

Web goes red as equality box for gay marriage spreads

Bud Light said it with beer cans and Martha Stewart with red velvet cake as companies and celebrities from Beyonce to George Takei joined millions of social media users in posting and tweaking a simple red logo in support of gay marriage.

A square box with thick pink horizontal lines (the mathematical equal symbol) was offered for sharing this week by the Human Rights Campaign as the U.S. Supreme Court took up arguments in key marriage rights cases.

The image, replacing profile pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and elsewhere, is a makeover of the advocacy group’s logo, usually a blue background with bright yellow lines. The HRC made it available in red – for the color of love – on Monday and estimated tens of millions of shares by Wednesday.

“It shows the enthusiasm and the passion,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the nonprofit in Washington, D.C.

Like viral campaigns of yore, supporting breast cancer awareness (pink), President Barack Obama (change your middle name to Hussein) and even Arab Spring (green), a bit of fatigue set in on some social media streams by those questioning whether such efforts serve to change any minds or, put simply, are plain annoying.

“My Facebook feed is a cascading aesthetic nightmare. Thanks, equality,” Washington Post writer Dan Zak wryly grumbled on Twitter.

A photo of Justice Anthony Kennedy made the rounds with the quip: “Before we make a ruling, did enough people change their Facebook profile picture?!”

None of that mattered to the masses of same-sex marriage supporters. Some swapped matzoh for the pink lines as Passover got under way, or added frowny Internet star Grumpy Cat, who explained marriage equality would make her happy.

Bert and Ernie showed up against the red background. (They’re best friends with no plans to marry, according to Sesame Street.) Another version featured Paula Deen atop the red square and lines turned a shade of yellow akin to her favorite fatty ingredient and the tagline: “It’s like two sticks of butter y’all.”

Takei, a noted punster with nearly 4 million followers in Facebook, turned the equal sign into the division sign for those opposed to marriage equality.

Beyonce, with more than 44 million followers there, played it straight, leaving the logo alone and adding a personal message: “It’s about TIME!!! (hash)EQUALITY (hash)MarryWhoYouLove.

Fergie let the image speak for itself on Twitter, adding: “No words necessary.” Montana Sen. John Tester, a Democrat who endorsed same-sex marriage on Tuesday, put the logo up as his profile on Facebook while the clothing site Bonobos swapped its usual Facebook pic for the red square using fancy white pants for the equal sign.

Martha Stewart’s Facebook page used a slice of red cake with white icing to make the image and the HBO page for “True Blood” added fangs.

All in good fun?

“There’s a lot of serious conversation going on and there’s an awful lot of important concepts that the Supreme Court justices are discussing,” Sainz said. “What this logo going viral means is individuals have reduced it to a very straightforward concept.”

Steve Jones, a professor of online culture and communications at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wondered whether all the mash-ups muddle the message.

“Once you throw it together with something like Grumpy Cat it’s fun,” he said. “But was this message intended to be fun?”