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Posts Tagged ‘DOJ’

The Mighty Kozinski?

December 27th, 2009 No comments

In a battle that only lawyers and marriage debate partisans (like me) could love, federal appellate court judge Alex Kozinski has been sparring with the Obama DOJ over whether the government must (or even can) provide federal benefits to the same-sex partner of a staff attorney for the 9th Circuit (Kozinski’s court). You can find good accounts of the issue here and especially here; I’ll refer you to those and not rehash their good work.

Whatever happens with this case, though, it’s become increasingly clear to me that some case involving same-sex marriages — either directly or indirectly — is going to reach the Supreme Court sooner rather than later. For relentless coverage of the legal landscape relating to this issue (and of the many cases that might get to the high court), there’s no better place than Proposition 8 and the Right to Marry. The site chronicles almost every procedural and substantive development on cases from Massachusetts and California (to name two of the likeliest to come before the Supreme Court), and provides a rich source of links to official documents, reporting, and legal analysis.

This development may or may not be good news for the marriage equality movement; historically speaking, you’d have to say that this is a bit early. The Court doesn’t like to get ahead of social changes by much (by the time it declared bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional, only a handful of states still had them), but things move faster than they used to, and people are more mobile than they were. So all kinds of questions of interstate recognition of same-sex marriages keep popping up (often in the context of divorce, as I wrote here and here), and these create problems because of DOMA.

Of course, Congress might be able to stall the Court’s participation by repealing DOMA, but that move is a ways off; so far off, in fact, that Barney Frank won’t even co-sponsor the legislation leading to its repeal. So DOMA’s constitutionality may be the vehicle for examining the ban on same-sex marriages more comprehensively. And when that happens, it will likely be up to Justice Kennedy, as it so often is. The other eight are likely set, four to a side, making Kennedy an audience of one for the advocates. Is this really what  anyone wants?

Throw Those Dogs A Bone

June 16th, 2009 No comments

Word coming out tonight is that the Obama Administration is set to extend benefits to the same-sex partners of gay and lesbian federal employees. The announcement came without fanfare or warning, and is apparently to be made official tomorrow.

This is a small step, but ordinarily I’d be cheered by it. Now, though, not so much: It looks like an effort to calm down the LGBT community after the fiasco of the DOJ’s incendiary brief filed in the DOMA case. (See my earlier posts, here and here, on the topic, with links to others.) According to the same AP story reporting the move, appeasement might also have been driven by the withdrawal of cash by gay fundraisers for a June 25 event to feature VP Joe  Biden.

And keep in mind that all the government is doing is what many private employers, including my own, already do: extend benefits to “domestic partners.” A real step, and valuable to the couples who gain from it, but the move doesn’t touch the issue of benefits that the federal government ties to marriage; for that, we’d need a repeal of DOMA. Oh, wait — DOJ just…filed…a…brief…[slump]

If this is the first of a series of steps to move towards real equality, I’ll eat crow — happily. But I’m already cynical, not six months into this Administration. Pres. Obama, if  you want to convince fair-minded people — of all sexual orientations and identities — that you really “get” this, how about a transformative speech, followed by action? The 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is less than two weeks away.

Update: The “bone” is even smaller than first thought. The NY Times is reporting that the benefits won’t include full health coverage for same-sex partners. We don’t yet know what goodies will be granted, but I’ve heard mention of…relocation expenses! Hooray! (Excuse me, I’m tucking in my sarcasm.)

What this may really be about is the statement the President will make at 5:45 today (EDT), when he signs the memorandum making this happen. How broad will it be? Will it contain promises? An apology for the DOJ  brief? Stay tuned.