Thursday, December 10, 2015

Southern Judges Continue to Reject SCOTUS Marriage Equality Ruling

Alabama Capitol
While Muslims are the current favored bogey man and target of hatred for the Republican Party, LGBT Americans remain another favored target, with Christofascists demand special "right to discriminate" laws under the ruse of "religious freedom."    But the anti-gay efforts of the GOP go even further.  Here in Virginia hysterically anti-gay Del. Bob Marshall (who was distressingly reelected in November) has introduced HB77  which provides that for the purposes of the Virginia Human Rights Act, an ‘unlawful discriminatory practice’ shall not include conduct that violates any federal administrative policy, rule, or regulation adopted on or after January 1, 2012.  Blue Virginia has noted:
“Sideshow Bob” wants Virginians to continue being able to discriminate against people based on their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. And yes, this really is what the guy’s focused on, along with his relentless crusade against a woman’s right to choose, his concern that Virginia might need to create its own currency, etc. What a guy, huh?
But the problem goes beyond a lunatic homophobic legislator, especially in the South where elected judges - many, surprise, surprise, Republicans - have decided that they can ignore the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell and refuse to perform or allow same-sex marriages.  Kim Davis is still just the tip of the iceberg.  A piece in The Advocate looks at the religious based batshitery still going on.  Here are highlights:

It’s been nearly five months since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges guaranteed the freedom to marry for same-sex couples throughout America. Most state courts with pending marriage cases promptly implemented the ruling. Today, around 99.9 percent of Americans live in counties issuing marriage licenses to all couples. But in the counties where same-sex couples continue to be denied the right to marry, elected judges are casting aside their duty to follow the law for political reasons.

In Alabama — where justices run in partisan races — probate judges in 13 counties still refuse to issue any marriage licenses.
Earlier this year, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges not to issue licenses to same-sex couples, despite a federal court ruling the state’s marriage equality ban unconstitutional.

Politicized, big-money elections create more pressure on judges to rule in a way that pleases voters. Thirty-eight states conduct some kind of election for their supreme courts — and these races are increasingly indistinguishable from elections for the political branches. Alabama is a prime example: the state has a history of expensive, politicized judicial elections, with supreme court candidates raising more than $58 million since 1993.

Meanwhile, elected justices in Mississippi and Louisiana have issued divided rulings in marriage-related cases, with dissenters arguing for defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court. A disturbing dissent from Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jefferson Hughes — who was elected with campaign ads claiming that he was “pro-life, pro-gun, pro-traditional marriage” — not only suggested that he would not comply with Obergefell, but went on to imply that same-sex parents shouldn’t be trusted to adopt children of the same sex.

In a recent 5-4 decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court recently granted a divorce to a lesbian couple.  . . . .  Justice Randy Pierce, who put politics aside and joined the majority, also minced no words regarding the political forces at work: “As an elected member of this court, the politically expedient (and politically popular) thing for me to do is to join my colleagues' separate statements and quote the dissenters in the Obergefell case.” 

Judges must decide cases based on the law, not on politics, popular opinion, campaign contributions, or super-PAC spending. In order to protect individual rights, judges must sometimes issue unpopular rulings. While we expect governors and legislators to reflect the will of the majority of voters, judges must protect the constitutional rights of individuals, regardless of the political cost. Judicial elections make that exceedingly difficult — if not impossible. 

1 comment:

EdA said...

In a somewhat tangential side note to this, in their dissents in the under-reported case Caperton v. Massey, 556 U.S. 868 (2009), which I consider to be the prelude to Citizens United, the four most corrupt justices on the Supreme Court (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito) held that it was OK for Massey's CEO (Don Blankenship) to give a $3 million bribe to the chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court hearing Massey's appeal of a $50 million judgement as long as the bribe was laundered appropriately. (Totally coincidentally, that chief justice ruled in favor of Massey's appeal.)

(* Michael -- I hope that I've read the dissents accurately. If you have the chance to, and if I've mangled them, I'd appreciate it if you could please let me know.)