Tag Archives: equal protection clause

What’s with this Texas Senate gay marriage recusal nonsense?

Why do Texas Senate Republicans insist on making ridiculous statements about gay marriage?

The state Senate has approved a measure — with all GOP members and one Democrat joining them — that allows county clerks to recuse themselves from signing off on marriage licenses for gay couples.

Senate Bill 522, authored by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, allows county commissioners courts to appoint someone other than the county clerk to sign such a marriage license if the county clerk objects on religious grounds.

As the Texas Tribune reports: “It ‘guarantees county clerks and every American the free exercise of religion even when they are working for the government,’ Birdwell told his colleagues on Tuesday.”

Huh? Senate Democrats are perplexed at this. Why? Because current state law already allows county clerks to deputize an employee to carry out that duty.

What about the oath of office?

County clerks are entitled to follow their religious faith. I get that. Here is what I do not understand: I do not understand how they can place their hand on a Bible or some other holy book and then pledge to follow the laws of the land and uphold the U.S. Constitution.

I now shall refer to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2015 ruled that the equal protection clause of the Constitution guarantees the right of gay couples to marry. That means, if I understand this correctly, that gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states, which would require county clerks to perform the duties of their public office.

SB 522 now allows county clerks and judges to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. Sure, they can cite their own religious objection. Existing state law, though, already allows them to step aside and hand the marriage license issuance duty to someone else.

Which brings me back to my original question: Why is the Texas Senate enacting legislation for which there is no need?

Hold on! Court balance won’t change

All this hyperventilating over Donald Trump’s choice for the U.S. Supreme Court is making me dizzy.

The president tonight brought out Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the 10th Circuit of Appeals, as his nominee for the nation’s highest court.

He’s a conservative, just as Trump promised. He is a “strict constitutional constructionist,” again as Trump vowed. He’s also a disciple of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, as Trump pledged.

Now we’re hearing talk about the “nuclear option” that Senate Democrats might employ to stop Gorsuch’s confirmation. They’ll oppose this fellow, seemingly as payback for the shabby treatment Senate Republicans leveled against President Obama’s choice to succeed Obama. Remember that? Senate GOPers said within hours of Scalia’s death that they would block anyone the president nominated. Obama selected Merrick Garland and the Senate didn’t even give him a hearing and a vote.

Let’s take a deep breath here.

I want to make a couple of points.

One, I detest the notion of Donald Trump nominating anyone to the court. But he won the presidency without my vote. He won enough electoral votes to take the oath of office. Thus, he earned the right to choose anyone he wants.

Gorsuch isn’t my kind of justice. But someone else is the president.

Two, the ideological balance of the U.S. Supreme Court is not going to change when — or if — Gorsuch is confirmed. Scalia was a conservative icon. He was a heroic figure among political conservatives. Placing another judicial conservative on the high court restores the court’s narrow 5-4 conservative bent.

I feel compelled to note that the court — with that narrow conservative majority — made two decisions that riled conservatives, um, bigly. It upheld the Affordable Care Act and it declared same-sex marriage to be legal under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

Would a Justice Gorsuch change that equation? I don’t see it. A nominee to succeed, say, one of the liberals on the court would most assuredly prompt a titanic political battle … as it should.

None of this will matter, of course, to Senate Democrats who are enraged at the president over many — seemingly countless — issues. His behavior in the first 10 days of his presidency, culminating with his firing of an acting attorney general over her refusal to defend Trump’s paranoid refugee ban, has angered Democrats to their core.

Thus, the fight is on.

It pains me to acknowledge it, but I must. Donald Trump vowed to nominate someone from a list of 20 or so jurists he revealed during his campaign. He has delivered on his pledge.

Judge Gorsuch isn’t to my liking. Moreover, my candidate lost. The other guy won. As they say, elections do have consequences.

Judge removed — with cause — from state’s highest court

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Roy Moore took an oath when he became chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

The oath required him to follow the law, to adhere to the U.S. Constitution.

Then the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay people have the right — under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment equal protection clause — to marry others of the same gender.

Moore disagreed with that ruling. So he ruled that county clerks and other duly empowered local officials should adhere instead to a state law that denied marriage to gay people.

Well, Judge Moore’s days as head of the state’s highest court are over. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary has suspended Moore for the remainder of his term, declaring that he violated state and federal law by denying gay Alabamans the right to marry.

This isn’t the first time Moore has gotten into trouble over his refusal to abide by federal law. He was removed earlier for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse grounds in Montgomery, Ala. That act of defiance didn’t bother me nearly as much as this one does.

The nation’s highest court is empowered to interpret the Constitution. It ruled that the 14th Amendment provides equal protection to all Americans under the law and that the amendment doesn’t allow for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Moore has no authority to flout that ruling, the state’s Court of the Judiciary has ruled.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/alabama-justice-off-bench-for-defying-feds-on-gay-marriage/ar-BBwQ2VL?ocid=st

When will it sink in to this fellow’s apparently thick skull that when he takes an oath to follow the law and obey the U.S. Constitution, that there’s no wiggle room.

None.

Adhere to your oath or else step aside.

County clerk wins court fight; now, get to work

kim davis

Kim Davis is back in the news, if only for just a fleeting moment.

The Rowan County, Ky., clerk has won a court fight launched against her by two gay couples and two straight couples who had sued her for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

A federal judge ruled that Kentucky state law has been enacted that removes county clerks’ names from marriage licenses, which Davis and her supporters said protected her religious liberty, as she refused to issue the licenses based on her devotion to her Christian beliefs.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/08/21/judge-dismisses-lawsuits-against-kim-davis-over-marriage-licenses.html

As I see this ruling, it’s a dismissal on a technicality. Rowan no longer has to put her name on these licenses, which in Rowan County are issued by one of her deputies.

This whole case erupted after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is protected under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Davis decided to make a show of it by refusing to issue the licenses to gay couples — even though she took an oath to uphold the law of the land, the Constitution, and the laws of her state.

Davis has won a court battle. I get that.

She also messed up royally when she refused to fulfill the tenets of the oath she took when she assumed this public office.

Her religious liberty does not supersede the rights of those she has sworn to serve.

The county clerk can thank the Kentucky legislature for giving her room to wiggle her way out.

Irony abounds in Cruz citizenship debate

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There’s no denying the irony in this growing discussion over whether U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is constitutionally qualified to run for president of the United States.

To my mind — and to many others who know a whole lot more about constitutional law than I do — there should be no question about the Republican presidential candidate’s eligibility.

He is eligible to run. Period. End of discussion. The Constitution spells it out. He is a “natural-born citizen” whose mother is an American; thus, he is granted U.S. citizenship by birthright, even though he was born in Canada.

The irony?

Well, this issue came up regarding Barack Obama, except that some individuals didn’t believe what Obama had said, which is that he was born in Hawaii. They kept harping on his alleged birth in Kenya. So, what’s the big deal? The president’s mother also was an American citizen; his father was Kenyan.

If either Obama or Cruz — or both of them, for that matter — had been born on Mars, their citizenship shouldn’t be an issue.

The other irony is that Cruz is relying on the opinion of courts comprising unelected federal judges. He calls this matter a case of “settled law.” Strange, actually, that he would say such a thing, given the disdain he expressed for the federal judiciary after the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that gay marriage is now legal throughout the country, that the Constitution’s equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment applied to gay citizens seeking to marry people of the same gender.

I happen to believe that Cruz is right about the citizenship issue.

It won’t go away as long as Donald J. Trump continues to raise it along the GOP presidential campaign trail. Other Republicans now are beginning to echo Trump’s questioning of Cruz’s eligibility — although this concern seems born more out of Cruz’s rising poll numbers than of actual doubt over whether he’s a qualified U.S. citizen seeking the highest office in the land.

The volume is rising among those who are seeking to stall the Texas Republican’s campaign momentum.

It’s entertaining, to be sure, to watch the irony build on itself as this (non)-issue continues to fester.

I’m wondering: How does President Obama feel about it?

Gay marriage . . . it’s back

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Let’s see if we can clarify something.

The U.S. Supreme Court comprises nine individuals who are charged with interpreting the constitutionality of laws. They decide whether certain laws are in keeping with the nation’s founding governing document. The justices are diverse in their thinking. Their judicial philosophies cover the entire length of the judicial/political spectrum.

The highest court in the land ruled not long ago that people are entitled under the equal protection clause of the Constitution to marry others of the same sex. The court, therefore, legalized gay marriage in all 50 states.

That settles it, right? The nation’s highest court ruled that gay people are entitled to marry whoever they love with no regard to sexual orientation.

Not so fast. An Alabama state supreme court chief justice — Roy Moore — has told probate judges in his state that they shouldn’t issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Why? Chief Justice Moore said the nation’s highest court’s ruling is inconsistent with Alabama court rulings on the subject.

OK, then. Which court’s rulings carry more weight? The U.S. Supreme Court, which is where the judicial buck stops? That court’s rulings are supposed to be final, definitive. Or does a state court have the authority to overrule the nation’s highest court?

Chief Justice Moore is not new to notoriety. He once thrust himself into the limelight over whether to display the Ten Commandments on public property.

This time, he has spoken out of turn . . . in my humble view.

The U.S. Supreme Court has settled the issue about gay marriage. The Constitution, a majority of justices ruled, grants all Americans the same protection under the law. It doesn’t single out heterosexual people, granting protections to them and not to homosexuals.

Can we simply just allow the nation’s highest judicial body’s ruling stand?

 

Governor allows clerks to hide their names

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Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin took office and immediately issued a series of executive orders. Let’s look at one of them.

It no longer requires county clerks to put their names on marriage licenses. Can we hear an “amen!” from Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk who refused to do her job as required by law, and her oath, on the grounds that issuing such licenses to gay couples violated her religious beliefs?

Bevin’s order intends to protect the religious rights of county clerks who object to issuing the licenses on religious grounds.

I believe the main issue here is whether county clerks — who take an oath to protect and defend their state and federal constitutions — are obligated to marry anyone who seeks a license. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that all citizens are guaranteed equal rights and protection under the law and it makes no stipulations about their sexual orientation.

If Gov. Bevin’s order now guarantees that all Kentucky residents can now seek and receive legal marriage licenses, without regard to whom they are marrying, then he’s done the right thing.

 

Pope steps into U.S. political struggle

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Pope Francis got a lot of love from Americans during his whirlwind trip to the United States.

Much of it is deserved. I join many others in applauding the Holy Father’s humanity and humility.

Then he said something today that I find, well, not quite so praiseworthy. He said upon returning to the Vatican that U.S. elected officials have the right to object to performing their duties on matters of conscience.

At issue: gay marriage.

Your Holiness, I believe you are mistaken.

Francis gets it wrong

There, I said it. I hope I’m not struck down for criticizing the pope.

“Conscientious objection must enter into every judicial structure, because it is a right,” he told reporters while flying to Rome.

Fans and allies of embattled Rowan (Ky.) County Clerk Kim Davis are no doubt cheering the pontiff. She has refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples on the basis of her religious faith, which she said opposes gay marriage.

The pope agrees with her, which is his right.

Back to his point about “conscientious objection.” Americans who get elected to public office take a secular oath, even though many of the oaths instruct them to say “so help me God.” Still, the standard oath doesn’t give officeholders the option to object to doing certain duties because their conscience won’t allow it.

It’s a secular oath that binds the officeholder to upholding the laws of the land.

The Supreme Court upheld a challenge to a law — in Kentucky — that banned gay marriage. A gay couple sued and the high court ruled earlier this year that the Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law for gay couples who want to marry.

So, the county clerk must follow the law.

She is free to quit her public job. She also is free to campaign as a private citizen to make gay marriage illegal. Contrary to what the Holy Father believes, though, Davis or any other public official isn’t free to invoke his or her personal belief in the performance of their public duty — when it discriminates against Americans.

Surely His Holiness knows this.

Hey, I still love the guy.

 

 

Where was this voice on gay marriage?

Of all the voices heard across the United States of America that were commenting — pro and con — on the historic Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage, one voice was conspicuously silent.

It belonged to the former vice president of the United States, Richard B. Cheney.

He’s been quick to lambaste the liberals ever since leaving office in January 2009. He calls Barack Obama the “worst president of my lifetime.” He’s leveled heavy fire on congressional Democrats on any number of foreign and domestic issues.

On this one, the issue that resonates on both sides of the political divide — for vastly different reasons, of course — he’s been silent.

The gay marriage debate hits the former VP squarely where he feels it. His daughter, Mary, is married to a woman.

In this instance, Vice President Cheney’s silence has been remarkable.

He dare not rile the base of his Republican Party, the folks who still adore him for his staunch conservative views, by endorsing how the Supreme Court has affirmed the Constitution’s equal protection clause contained in the 14th Amendment.

Then again, he dare not criticize the court out of concern that critics might jump all over him for condemning his very own daughter — who I am absolutely certain he loves without condition. Fathers do that, you know.

Man, it’s a dicey world when you have to decide which brand of loyalty wins out — loyalty to family or to political principle.

My hope is that family takes precedence.

 

Hats off to local county clerks

If I were wearing a hat at this moment, I’d tip it to two Texas county clerks: Randall County’s Renee Calhoun and Potter County’s Julie Smith.

All they did was agree to adhere to their oath of office and will issue marriage licenses to gay couples who seek them.

This is in accordance with a Supreme Court decision this past week that legalized gay marriage across the nation. It also resists the notion that they could refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples, which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton authorized them to do.

Given the extreme partisan divide across the land, it’s fair to make this point: Both women, Calhoun and Smith, are Republican county clerks. The state AG also is a Republican. They are defying the state’s attorney general, who contends that clerks could object if they had religious objections to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The two county clerks plan to issue the licenses as soon as they get some paperwork matters straightened out.

Good for them.

Paxton’s decision to allow the clerks to refuse issuing the licenses has met with mixed response from county clerks across the state.

The attorney general’s approach to this matter is wrong-headed, as it seeks to allow these elected officials to disavow the oath of office they took, which is to follow the laws of the nation and the state.

The Supreme Court has determined — as the final arbiter of what is constitutional and what is not — that state bans on same-sex marriage violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Thus, gay marriage is now legal.