Integrity Legal

Archive for the ‘States’ Rights’ Category

12th January 2012

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand made no comment regarding the possibility of a Cabinet reshuffle although she did note that attendance at upcoming children’s day festivities is apparently encouraged by the Thai government. To quote directly from the official website of the Thai-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) News Network at Tannetwork.tv:

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra avoided answering questions about a possible Cabinet reshuffle today and only smiled at reporters...The PM added that she would like to invite children to attend the Children’s Day celebration on Saturday at Government House as she has prepared some surprises for the kids…”

Concurrently it also came to this blogger’s attention that the government of Canada seems to have made some comments regarding same sex marriages performed in that nation. To quote directly from the website Advocate.com:

“Thousands of non-resident same-sex couples married in Canada may not be legally wed if the marriage is not recognized in their home country or state, according to the Canadian government…”

The issues surrounding the status of same sex couples has been an issue of debate in the United States of America especially as the Presidential elections continue to draw closer. However, politics does not appear to be the core concern of those who are the most effected by these issues. For example, those families wishing to maintain a same sex bi-national relationship with a non-American in the United States could be deeply impacted by both American and Canadian policy regarding same sex marriage. This issue could further be hypothetically defined where the same sex marriage (or civil union depending upon the jurisdiction) takes place outside of the United States as such a fact pattern could place the merits of the marriage under the purview of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). How this issue will ultimately be resolved in North America remains to be seen, there is one thing that seems to be a certainty: this issue is not one that will simply disappear since there are many in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Community who wish to see full equality in matters reflecting their marital status. American Courts have dealt with this issue in recent months although a definitive decision does not seem to have been reached hopefully this issue will be resolved in short order.

For related information please see: Full Faith and Credit Clause.

For general legal information pertaining to South East Asia please: Legal.

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14th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Consulate in Chennai, India has issued an apology statement pertaining to remarks made by a Consular Officer in that jurisdiction. In order to provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of Yahoo News at Yahoo.com:

The United States has apologised for controversial remarks made by a US diplomat who spoke of “dark and dirty” Indians, calling the comments “inappropriate”. US Vice-Consul Maureen Chao told Indian students on Friday that her “skin became dirty and dark like the Tamilians” after a long train journey, according to Indian media — referring to people from the southern state of Tamil Nadu. During her speech in the Tamil Nadu capital, Chennai, Chao was quoted as saying: “I was on a 24-hour train trip from Delhi to (the eastern Indian state of) Orissa. “But, after 72 hours, the train still did not reach the destination… and my skin became dirty and dark like the Tamilians.” Following her speech, the US Consulate in Chennai on Saturday issued a “statement of apology”. “During the speech Ms. Chao made an inappropriate comment. Ms. Chao deeply regrets if her unfortunate remarks offended anyone, as that was certainly not her intent,” the US Consulate said on its website…”As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently noted, the US-India partnership is based on our shared values of democracy, liberty, and respect for religious and cultural diversity,” the US consulate added…

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail.

Although the comments noted above are unfortunate, inappropriate, and downright impolite it should be noted that mistakes do happen. Notwithstanding the fact that the individual in question is a civil servant of the United States government she is also human and therefore not immune from making mistakes. It is admirable that the US Consulate noted above took the opportunity to quickly and maturely respond to the comments and issue an apology. Hopefully the whole situation will stand as an example to future American State Department personnel.

In news related to the continuing struggle for LGBT equality, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that there has been further analysis of the factual situation surrounding the story of a same sex married couple who may be compelled to separate due to enforcement of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). In order to provide further information it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of CNN, CNN.com:

Anthony Makk was trying to become a permanent U.S. resident – like many heterosexual couples do – so he could stay with his loved one who he married seven years ago in Massachusetts. Makk, who has been with Bradford Wells for 19 years, is also doing it because he is a caregiver for his husband who has AIDS.

Frequent readers of this web log may recall that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has allowed for the legalization/solemnization of same sex marriage through intra-State licensure protocols. Notwithstanding the fact that this sovereign American State and other jurisdictions such as the State of New York have legalized such unions they are neither recognized nor granted routine Full Faith and Credit pursuant to the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. There are currently cases pending in the US Courts which address these issues, but a final resolution has yet to come to fruition. To continue quoting from the aforementioned article on CNN.com:

..But the federal government denied his final appeal two weeks ago on the basis of the Defense of Marriage Act which doesn’t recognize their same-sex marriage. “The claimed relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary is not a petitionable relationship,” the government’s ruling said. “For a relationship to qualify as a marriage for purposes of federal law, one partner must be a man and the other a woman.” The U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services echoed the sentiment, saying as long as DOMA was in place, they will continue to operate under that standard…The couple is calling for the U.S. government to step in and allow Makk to stay and care for Wells. The couple said they feel the federal government is doing everything to keep them from being able to do what any other heterosexual couple already can do. “I feel that my government is trying to destroy my marriage,” Wells said. “And my government is trying to impose a great deal of harm on my life for no reason whatsoever. I feel like I’m being bullied by my government.” But the fight to stay together has strengthened the couple’s bond, Makk said. “We made a big commitment to each other and the harder they make it, the stronger our relationship is.” What’s more frustrating for Wells, who says that the couple never intended for this to become a public debacle, is that they make sure to do everything that all married couples are required to do – like pay joint taxes, but get none of the benefits. “We have all the responsibilities, do the penalty parts of marriage, but then when it gets to the same benefits, we’re told no, you don’t qualify,” Wells said. “The government has decided they don’t like who I marry. For the federal government to say this isn’t a marriage – it’s degrading.” Still, the couple holds out hope. Hope that President Obama could step in to the battle that’s already raging in Congress over a repeal of DOMA, which he said he would support…

This blogger asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail.

The first question this blogger would pose under the circumstances is: Could the Attorney-General of the United States not issue a hold on this deportation in much the same way that a hold was placed on the removal of the New Jersey same sex civil union partner of an American Citizen? Notwithstanding the fact that the provisions of DOMA preclude the accordance of American visa benefits such as the K-1 visa, the CR-1 visa, or the IR-1 visa to same sex couples the American Attorney-General has rescinded a deportation apparently to scrutinize the Constitutional issues at play where a State has licensed a marital union. Under the circumstances in this case it seems only prudent to infer that there may be even more significant Constitutional issues because the underlying union is a same sex marriage and not a civil union. As noted previously on this blog, it is this blogger’s opinion that once a State sovereign has exercised their prerogatives with respect to the licensure of marriage, then the imprimatur of that State’s recognition of the underlying marriage should be accorded both inter-State Full Faith and Credit and federal recognition. Under the current situation with respect to DOMA, the States’ Rights are being marginalized and the American Citizenry’s individual liberties are being infringed.

Meanwhile, American legislators such as Representative Jerrold Nadler have introduced legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) to directly address the current discrimination being imposed upon same sex bi-national couples. Furthermore, the provisions of the Respect for Marriage Act would seem to deal with the Full Faith and Credit issue by according same sex marriages performed in those States which legalize and/or solemnize such unions with federal “certainty“. How this issue will ultimately be resolved in the American Congress or Courts remains to be seen.

 

–Benjamin Walter Hart

 

For related information please see: Consular Processing.

For information pertaining to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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11th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that officials from the jurisdictions which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are being encouraged to implement the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint. In order to provide further insight into these developments it is necessary to quote directly from a fascinating article posted to the Live Trading News website, LiveTradingNews.com:

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Wednesday was urged to implement the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2015 timely. “This year’s ASEAN Economic Ministerial meeting takes place at a critical juncture when there is so much uncertainty about the global economy given the fiscal situations in the United States and members of the European Union. From Indonesia’s perspective, it is imperative that ASEAN implements the AEC Blueprint 2015 on time as this will bring benefits to all of its members and allow ASEAN to grow together with our dialogue partners,” said Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu…

Readers are encouraged to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail.

Those who read this web log with any frequency may be aware of the fact that there have been many significant developments pertaining to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). One major announcement, from this blogger’s perspective, was the broaching of the subject of a possibly unified ASEAN visa similar to the Schengen visa scheme currently utilized in Europe. Concurrently, in the context of the Kingdom of Thailand; there has been discussion surrounding the idea of creating Thailand Plazas throughout the ASEAN jurisdictions in order to promote Thai business interests in the region. With respect to geopolitics, ASEAN has been in the news recently as this organization seems poised to eventually promulgate a formal declaration with respect to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. How such matters will ultimately evolve remains to be seen.

In news pertaining to United States immigration, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Governor of the sovereign State of Arizona has petitioned for Supreme Court review of that State’s recently enacted immigration law. In order to provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of Politico, Politico.com:

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced late Wednesday she has filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to consider her state’s appeal to a lower court ruling that put on hold key parts of Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law. “I am hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will choose to take this case and issue much-needed clarity for states, such as Arizona, that are grappling with the significant human and financial costs of illegal immigration,” Brewer said in a statement released by her office. “For too long the Federal government has turned a blind eye as this problem has manifested itself in the form of drop houses in our neighborhoods and crime in our communities. SB1070 was Arizona’s way of saying that we won’t wait patiently for federal action any longer. If the federal government won’t enforce its immigration laws, we will.” Brewer, a Republican, vowed this spring to take the case to the high court after a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting her motion to throw out a district court’s ruling that blocked implementation of parts of the law. The deadline to do so was Wednesday…

This blogger asks interested readers to click upon the relevant links above to read this article in detail.

As noted previously on this web log, the powers related to immigration and often wielded by the federal legislature and the federal executive are plenary in nature as immigration is one of the relatively few areas in which the United States federal government maintains virtually unfettered seemingly exclusive jurisdiction. That stated, how said jurisdiction interrelates with reserved States’ Rights and prerogatives is an interesting and almost interminably unsettled question. Hopefully, the Supreme Court of the United States can provide insight into these issues and possibly delineate a framework which will facilitate a better understanding of all of these issues and their interaction within the context of the United States Constitution.

For information related to US immigration from the Kingdom of Thailand please see: K1 Visa Thailand.

For information pertaining to general legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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9th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that some media outlets are noting the comparatively positive aspects of the economies which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In order to provide further insight to the reader it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of The Wall Street Journal, WSJ.com:

JAKARTA—Investors and companies should look to Southeast Asia as they seek shelter from the world-wide markets meltdown, said the secretary general of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Surin Pitsuwan noted that Southeast Asia is growing, it is nestled between India and China and it dealt with its own scary debt problems over a decade ago, making it an attractive alternative amid the global volatility triggered by concerns about how the U.S. and Europe will deal with their debt, as well as whether the U.S. economy will slide into recession again. “If they are looking for a safer haven, this is it,” he told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. “The Chinese and the Japanese that are worried will want to look around for better prospects for their investments and this is one of the hopeful regions…”

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this well written article by Eric Bellman in detail.

Frequent readers may recall that the ASEAN region as a whole, and the component jurisdictions therein, have shown tremendous economic strength in recent months. Meanwhile, these jurisdictions are believed by some to have substantial economic potential in the future. There has been some discussion in recent weeks regarding the prospect of a possible ASEAN visa not unlike the Schengen system currently employed in Europe. Whether such a program will ultimately be implemented remains to be seen. In any case, there is certainly strong evidence to support the inference that the ASEAN jurisdictions will be increasingly important in a geopolitical and economic context moving forward.

In news pertaining to the continuing struggle for LGBT Equality in the United States, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States appears to be refusing recognition of same sex marriages, even those legalized and/or solemnized in an American State jurisdiction. To provide further information this blogger is compelled to quote directly from the official website of MSNBC at MSN.com:

For all those same-sex newlyweds in New York, Lawrence S. Jacobs has a message: Enjoy the Champagne and the honeymoon, but expect no gifts from the IRS. Jacobs, a lawyer in Washington, specializes in estate planning for same-sex couples — and in delivering the bad news that their unions aren’t legal in the eyes of the IRS, a policy that will cost them time and money during tax season.Same-sex couples in Washington, which last year legalized gay marriage, must fill out a federal return to make calculations required for their D.C. joint return. But then they must set that work aside and fill out separate federal returns because the IRS doesn’t regard their union as legal, Jacobs says. “You just spent decades getting your marriage recognized, and now the feds say, ‘No, you’re not,’” says Jacobs, who as a partner in a same-sex marriage has firsthand experience of the problem.

The administration of this web log strongly encourages interested readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to view this story in detail.

Frequent readers may recall that the issue of same sex marriage has been a “hot button” issue in recent months as Senate Judiciary hearings have recently been held to scrutinize the Constitutionality of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) in light of proposed replacement legislation in the form of the bill colloquially referred to as the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA). In an immigration context, the issue of federal recognition of same sex marriage is of substantial importance since agencies such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and each and every US Embassy or US Consulate overseas is legally compelled to disregard a same sex marriage when adjudicating family visa matters pursuant to the provisions of DOMA. Therefore, bi-national same sex couples cannot obtain a travel document such as a K-1 visa, CR-1 visa, or IR-1 visa in the same manner as their different-sex counterparts. Meanwhile, there is some hope that this current legal discrimination will be overcome as some US Courts have ruled that DOMA’s non-recognition, at least at the federal level, of State licensed same sex marriage is Un-Constitutional. Concurrently, the United States Bankruptcy Courts have begun allowing joint bankruptcies for same sex married couples.

It remains to be seen whether same sex couples will ever be accorded the same benefits as their different-sex counterparts in the eyes of American law, but the overall situation appears to be gradually improving.

For related information please see: Americans Resident Abroad.

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2nd August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that personnel of the United States Justice Department have filed a case challenging the provisions of a recent State immigration law enacted by the sovereign State of Alabama. In order to provide further information this blogger is compelled to quote directly from the website AL.com:

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — The U.S. Justice Department today filed a lawsuit challenging Alabama’s new immigration law, which is slated to go into effect next month. In its lawsuit, the Justice Department says Alabama’s law unconstitutionally interferes with the federal government’s authority over immigration. “To put it in terms we relate to here in Alabama, you can only have one quarterback in a football game. In immigration, the federal government is the quarterback,” said Joyce White Vance, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. Justice Department lawyers write in the lawsuit that the department is filing the action “to declare invalid and preliminarily and permanently enjoin the enforcement of various provisions” of the state law, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Birmingham this afternoon. Provisions within the state’s immigration law “are preempted by federal law and therefore violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution…”

The administration of this web log asks readers to click upon those relevant hyperlinks noted above in order to read this insightful article in detail.

Frequent readers of this blog may have noted that this blogger has rather strong feelings regarding inherent States’ Rights and the inherent prerogatives which are reserved to State sovereigns notwithstanding the enumerated powers of the federal government pursuant to the United States Constitution. That stated, American immigration is one of the relatively few fields in which Congress has virtually monopolistic power regarding the imposition of laws, rules, and regulations. This is due to the fact that immigration falls into the jurisdiction of Congressional and executive plenary power. Therefore, it is little wonder that this recent case was filed since the Alabama law would seem to be operating in violation of that aforementioned plenary power. How this case will ultimately be resolved remains to be seen, but clearly issues pertaining to US immigration can be dramatic in a political context.

Of further interest to those who find the information above to be noteworthy, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the American Congress seems to be attempting to create some sort of extra-Constitutional body for legislative purposes. To provide further elucidation regarding these developments it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of the Huffington Post, HuffingtonPost.com

This “Super Congress,” composed of members of both chambers and both parties, isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, but would be granted extraordinary new powers. Under a plan put forth by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his counterpart Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), legislation to lift the debt ceiling would be accompanied by the creation of a 12-member panel made up of 12 lawmakers — six from each chamber and six from each party. Legislation approved by the Super Congress — which some on Capitol Hill are calling the “super committee” — would then be fast-tracked through both chambers, where it couldn’t be amended by simple, regular lawmakers, who’d have the ability only to cast an up or down vote. With the weight of both leaderships behind it, a product originated by the Super Congress would have a strong chance of moving through the little Congress and quickly becoming law. A Super Congress would be less accountable than the system that exists today, and would find it easier to strip the public of popular benefits. Negotiators are currently considering cutting the mortgage deduction and tax credits for retirement savings, for instance, extremely popular policies that would be difficult to slice up using the traditional legislative process…

This blogger asks that readers click on the appropriate hyperlinks above to read this article in detail.

This blogger would argue that this proposed so-called “Super Congress” is a prima facie violation of the United States Constitution since there is no explicit reference to such an institution within the text of the Constitution itself and because Congress cannot delegate their lawmaking function to this institution per the doctrine of nondelegation. As noted in the quotation above, under the proposed scheme “rank and file” Representatives and Senators would not be able to make amendments or changes to proposed legislation emanating from this questionably Constitutional body, but would be required to vote “yes” or “no” only. This blogger would not have a Constitutionality issue with the proposed scheme if it were proposed as an Amendment to the Constitution and not as a statute since, again, the Nondelegation precludes such a transfer of power and therefore any law passed pursuant to this scheme may not be in compliance with notions of due process of law in American jurisprudence since there is a specific Constitutional framework for enacting legislation which does not include a “Super Congress”. For those who wish to understand this issue through the prism of analogy there are certain parallels between the argument that this scheme violates the Nondelegation doctrine and the argument that the so-called federal “line item veto” violated the Presentment Clause of the American Constitution. The future circumstances of this scheme have yet to unfold, but clearly there are many legal aspects of this plan which could face challenge down the road.

– Benjamin Walter Hart

For information pertaining to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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23rd June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that American federal legislators appear poised to introduce legislation aimed at legalizing marijuana in an intra-State context (although there do appear to be measures in place to deal with the possibility of inter-State smuggling and issues associated therewith). To provide better perspective on this issue it may be best to quote directly from Yahoo News Canada at Yahoo.com:

A group of US representatives plan to introduce legislation that will legalize marijuana and allow states to legislate its use, pro-marijuana groups said Wednesday. The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, and allow people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal. The bill, which is expected to be introduced on Thursday by Republican Representative Ron Paul and Democratic Representative Barney Frank, would be the first ever legislation designed to end the federal ban on marijuana. Sixteen of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes…

Readers are strongly encouraged to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to learn more about these developments. Readers are also prudent to note that as of the time of this writing, marijuana is either illegal or its usage is highly restricted in many jurisdictions around the globe. Those Americans interested in learning more about such matters are encouraged to contact a licensed attorney in their jurisdiction. Readers should further note that usage of marijuana is strictly prohibited in the Kingdom of Thailand.

These developments are interesting as it would appear that the real impetus behind this legislative move stems from what would appear to be a genuine bi-partisan desire on the part of legislators to find new sources of tax revenue at the State and federal levels while simultaneously relaxing restrictive regulations that diminish the civil liberties of the American Citizenry. Readers are asked to recall that Representative Barney Frank has been a proponent of a more permissive regulatory structure pertaining to online gaming. Meanwhile, Representative Ron Paul has been an ardent advocate for American civil, individual, and States’ Rights for a number of years. It will be interesting how this proposed legislation fares in the nation’s Congress.

Although seemingly unrelated to the developments in the United States, officials on the island of Taiwan have recently noted that there is to be a relaxation of restrictions placed upon tourists coming to that location from Mainland China. In order to place these developments in context it may be prudent to quote directly from the website News.com.au:

TAIWAN has lifted a decades-old ban on travel to the island by individual Chinese tourists, saying visitors would act as “peace ambassadors” for the former arch foe. The first batch of independent mainland tourists, from Beijing, Shanghai and the city of Xiamen on the southeast coast, were expected to arrive next Tuesday, local media reported. Travel between the island and mainland stopped at the end of the civil war in 1949, and mainland tourists have so far only been allowed to visit Taiwan in groups due to official concerns they might otherwise overstay their visas and work illegally…

The administration of this blog recommends that readers click upon the relevant hyperlinks above to learn more details on this developing story.

Clearly, intra-China tourism is likely to increase revenue and commerce for all concerned. As noted previously on this blog, China continues to show signs that there will be significant economic growth moving forward. It stands to reason that such growth may have beneficial consequences for other jurisdictions in the region as Chinese tourists travel to other locales and Chinese businesses trade and increase their presence in foreign venues. Hopefully these developments will be an economic boon to the Taiwanese economy.

For information related to pending legislation in the United States please see: Uniting American Families Act or Respect for Marriage Act.

For information related to legal services in Asia please see: Legal.

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13th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that issues surrounding same sex marriage have recently been analyzed by mainstream media outlets. To shed light upon this development further it may be best to quote directly from an insightful article written by Tara Siegel Bernard on the official website of the New York Times, NYTimes.com:

“There is the possibility that, even without DOMA on the books at all, that a married same-sex couple might not be treated as married by the federal government as to some particular program, benefit or obligation because of simply how the particular federal program determines eligibility in looking to state law to see if a person is married or not,” said Gary Buseck, legal director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders…But legislators have come up with a fix. The Respect for Marriage Act, which was introduced in both the House and Senate in March, repeals the Defense of Marriage Act and  also includes a provision — known as “certainty” — that says marriages that are valid in the state where the couple got married will be recognized in other states for the “purposes of any federal law in which marital status is a factor…”

The administration of this blog strongly recommends that readers click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to learn more.

In previous postings on this web log it has been pointed out that the ramifications of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) are such that discrimination results for same sex bi-national couples as well as the LGBT community at large. In recent years, legislators such as Representative Jerrold Nadler and Representative Mike Honda have introduced legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), the Reuniting Families Act, and the Respect for Marriage Act. The Respect for Marriage Act would seem to have been designed in order to deal with some of the more glaring separate sovereignty issues that arise in the context of intraState, interState, and State-Federal recognition of same sex marriage. To expound upon this more it may be best to quote further from the aforementioned article:

Technically speaking, he said, the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act on its own should be enough for couples to receive federal recognition. But the certainty provision would also protect couples if a less gay-friendly administration interpreted the repeal more narrowly, and only recognized same-sex marriage for couples who lived in states that recognized their marriage. Mr. Moulton said that his organization was still working with members of Congress to build support for the bill, and educating them about “the concrete harms that DOMA has done to same-sex couples…”

For those who read this blog with any frequency it has, no doubt, been noticed that the administration is in opposition to the very existence of DOMA as that legislation infringes upon the sovereign rights of the States and the people to make decisions regarding the licensure of marriage and the maintenance of consensual relationships, respectively. That stated, since DOMA is still “on the books” it currently results in the separation of same sex bi-national couples in an immigration context and discrimination against the LGBT community in a broader sense. This certainty provision noted above is interesting as it pertains primarily to Federal rights and privileges in an interState context. Therefore, if a same sex couple marries in a State which legalizes and/or solemnizes same sex marriage, then the Federal benefits derived therefrom would likely travel with that couple no matter what State they travel to and no matter what Federal benefit they seek. This blogger would argue that perhaps this scenario would already occur pursuant to the privileges and/or immunities clauses, but in this situation it may be best to have some legislative guidance in order to streamline possible future policies pertaining to same sex marriages. As of the time of this writing UAFA, the Respect for Marriage, and the Reuniting Families Act have yet to be adopted, but hopefully, for the LGBT community’s sake, that will change sooner rather than later.

For related information please see: Full Faith and Credit Clause.

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4th June 2011

I have sworn on the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

–Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of the United States of America, First Secretary of State [Washington Administration])

Gay rights are human rights.

– Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (Former First Lady of the United States)

The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

– 9th Amendment of the United States Constitution, quoted from Wikipedia

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

– 10 Amendment of the United States Constitution, quoted from Wikipedia

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond located in the sovereign Commonwealth of Virginia has taken political criticism for flying a rainbow flag (traditionally viewed as a flag denoting support for the LGBT community and, for some, their struggle for equal protection under United States law and/or equal recognition of same sex marriage solemnized and/or legalized in one of the sovereign American States, the District of Columbia, or the Federal territories, if applicable). To quote directly from an article by Olympia Meola posted on the official website of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, TimesDispatch.com:

Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, is asking the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank to remove the rainbow flag flying below the American flag outside of the building, calling its presence “a serious deficiency of judgment by your organization, one not limited to social issues.” In a letter to Richmond Fed President Jeffrey M. Lacker, Marshall says the homosexual behavior “celebrated” by the bank “undermines the American economy…”

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this story in detail in order to gain further insight into this developing situation.

This blogger must pause this analysis for a moment of personal observation. It is intriguing that Delegate Marshall would seem to be trying to scapegoat some of the blame for recent economic events upon the LGBT, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (transsexual, or “third sex“), community. This blogger must retort: how could the LGBT community “undermine” America’s economy? Explain this? Especially since a great deal of economic activity that produces revenue in America comes from married couples trying to make a living, build a home, and start a family. Is it in dispute that marriage and family generate economic benefits for America? If it is not, then the only way the LGBT community could be at fault for some hypothetical economic downturn would seem to arise from the fact that they have not started families (and therefore not generated the concomitant economic activity derived therefrom) due to the fact that they cannot gain the same legal recognition of their relationships in the same way that those in different-sex relationships are able to. This is especially true in the context of same sex bi-national couples as some of these relationships are separated by thousands of miles and jurisdictional boundaries due to the fact that federal enforcement of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) does not allow a same sex bi-national couple to petition for the same US visa benefits (such as the CR1 visa or the IR1 Visa, not to mention the K1 visa which is a US fiance visa) in the same manner as a different sex couple. There are currently American federal legislators such as Representative Mike Honda and Representative Jerrold Nadler who have introduced legislation, such as the Reuniting Families Act, the Uniting American Families Act, and the Respect for Marriage Act; which would, to one degree or another, at least end the current discrimination that the bi-national LGBT community faces when trying to reunite with family in the United States of America. Apparently this Federal Reserve Bank was flying this flag pursuant to a request from another organization which appears dedicated to the cause of LGBT equality:

The flag is being flown at the request of PRISM, a Richmond Fed group representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees and allies.

This PRISM organization should be commended for their efforts on behalf of the LGBT community, but this blogger must say that he would like to see legislation passed which provides tangible benefits to the LGBT community rather than a gesture from a private corporation which, at least ostensibly, has no role in deciding American policy toward legal recognition of LGBT relationships. Others echoed some of these sentiments, but for what are, in this blogger’s personal opinion, the wrong reasons:

Its presence also prompted mention from Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation in an email release on Wednesday. Although the Federal Reserve is a private entity, it is disappointing to see it participate in this celebration,” she said.

This blogger is always a bit skeptical when a group uses the term “family” when describing themselves as it is usually an indicator that such an organization has its own idea about what the definition of “family” actually is. Concurrently, such organizations are sometimes known to attempt to foist their own paradigm or definition of family upon others who may not necessarily share the same view. Therefore, readers are asked to always conduct their own research on all aspects of such issues in order to form their own well informed opinions.

This blogger must confess that this recent display of support for LGBT equality by the Fed seems a bit disingenuous considering the timing and circumstances. It has recently been reported on some mainstream and alternative media outlets that there are currently worries growing about the state of the American economy. Meanwhile it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the government of China is reported to have diminished their position in United States Treasuries. To quote directly from an article written by Terence P. Jeffrey and posted to the website CNSNews.com:

(CNSNews.com) – China has dropped 97 percent of its holdings in U.S. Treasury bills, decreasing its ownership of the short-term U.S. government securities from a peak of $210.4 billion in May 2009 to $5.69 billion in March 2011, the most recent month reported by the U.S. Treasury. Treasury bills are securities that mature in one year or less that are sold by the U.S. Treasury Department to fund the nation’s debt. Mainland Chinese holdings of U.S. Treasury bills are reported in column 9 of the Treasury report linked here

Readers are strongly encouraged to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this article in full and learn more. This situation is only brought up in the context of this posting to elucidate the fact that the Fed is currently in something of a “pickle”. This news comes upon the heels of recent announcements (noted in a previous posting on this blog) that the USA and China are set to be engaging in cooperative efforts in the context of relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Clearly, current American relations with China and countries in Southeast Asia are multi-facted and complex so those interested in such topics are encouraged to conduct thorough research before forming opinions on issues associated with American, Chinese, and ASEAN economic policies and relations.

It was recently reported on the website Law.com that the Federal Reserve has come under intense scrutiny from legislators such as Representative Ron Paul for current policies supposedly being maintained by the Fed. To quote directly from an insightful article written by Shannon Green and posted on the website Law.com:

The Congressman criticized the Fed for its reluctance to disclose to the public when banks are unhealthy. Paul said the Fed’s practices of protecting banks’ privacy appears to be at odds with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which is pushing companies to reveal more information.

Readers are strongly encouraged to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this article in full to gain more context.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with positions held by the various members of House of Representatives is not really relevant to the issue of the Fed’s decision to hoist this particular flag at this particular time. Although it is certainly a commendable gesture, this blogger’s response, with all due respect, must be: why so late, and why now? If the Fed is raising the Rainbow flag because they genuinely support LGBT Equality, then great; but if this institution is simply raising this flag because of political expediency or to score some sort of “political points”, then one must ask: why? Hopefully the LGBT community will see their equal rights fully vested soon and this valid grievance will be redressed. In the meantime, this blogger hopes that the American economy will rebound from any relative downturn to find itself more vibrant and dynamic than ever, but some developments take time. For those personally impacted by the current state of affairs: it is hoped that change will come sooner rather than later.

Readers should note that in the context of same sex marriage this blogger feels that fundamentally the issue of LGBT equality is an individual rights issue as the right to enter into a consensual relationship with whomever one wishes is an inalienable natural right reserved to the People notwithstanding the Constitution, but nevertheless enshrined within the provisions of the 9th and 10th Amendments noted above. The implied right of “free association” has also long been held to provide Constitutional protection for Americans wishing to form intimate associations with others. Concurrently, this blogger feels that where sovereign States have heeded the call of their citizenry to provide government licensure of same sex marriages or marital unions, then that licensure acts as an imprimatur of sovereign recognition which, in this blogger’s opinion, cannot be negated by the federal government and must be accorded Full Faith and Credit by sister States within the Union. Those unfamiliar with the Full Faith and Credit Clause should note that Congress can make rules regarding the effect of State law upon other States, but, in this blogger’s opinion, such law cannot be made to render the States’ laws ineffective, which is the current result of the federal government’s application of some, or all, depending upon circumstance; of the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act“. This blogger must point out that although same sex couples ought to be able to get Full Faith and Credit for those marriages solemnized and/or legalized in one of the sovereign States of the United States of America, they may not necessarily see States which do not permit same sex marriage in an intrastate context engaging in the legal procedure of divorcing same sex couples as this blogger believes that one must utilize a “horizontal vs. vertical” analysis of the Full Faith and Credit Clause in the context of same sex marriage since there is both an intrastate and interstate component to such an analysis. Such an analysis could, at times, result in a situation where a State Court permits recognition of the fact that a same sex marriage exists in another State jurisdiction, but the Full Faith and Credit Clause’s provisions may not necessarily be interpreted to mean that States should be compelled to grant same sex divorces if the public policy of the State in question does not permit State sanctioned legalization or solemnization of such unions in the first place.

On a side note, this blogger just thought of an interesting hypothetical: could a federal Court with concurrent federal jurisdiction over State territory grant divorces for same sex couples who were married in another State jurisdiction (which allows same sex marriage) if the underlying State’s public policy runs counter to the notion of granting recognition for such unions? It would currently seem that pursuant to the Erie Doctrine the US Courts under such circumstances may be prohibited from undertaking certain functions pertaining to same sex marriages if the underlying State’s law does not recognize such unions. That stated, as of the time of this writing any such analysis remains mere speculation as a broadly binding legal opinion on these issue has yet to be handed down.

Readers interested in learning more about the struggle for LGBT Equality are encouraged to check out UnitingAmericanFamilies.Net, Lez Get Real, and/or the Immigration Equality Action Fund Blog.

For further related information please see: Rainbow Flag or US Company Registration.

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12th May 2011

It recently came to the attention of this blogger that legislation has been introduced in the jurisdiction of the sovereign State of South Carolina which would incorporate provisions for “sound money” or “legal tender reform” therein.  To quote directly from the website of Midlands Connect at MidlandsConnect.com:

COLUMBIA (WACH) — South Carolina lawmakers are proposing a bill that would give the state another form of legal tender. Sen. David Thomas, a Republican from Greenville, wants to make gold and silver coins another option in the Palmetto State.  Lawmakers are calling it the Sound Money Legislation. “I’m no financial expert but am I smart enough to know that you can’t keep printing money when it has no backing,” says SC Republican Representative Mac Toole. Thomas also wants a special joint committee to study the need and process for establishing an alternate currency.  Read the entire bill here.

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click on the hyperlinks above to gain further insight on this developing story.

Readers of this blog may be aware that the sovereign Commonwealth of Virginia appears to have a similar bill in her legislature while the Governor of the sovereign State of Utah recently was reported to have signed similar “sound money” legislation thereby apparently enacting legal tender reform in that State.

Meanwhile, the issues associated with States’ Rights are coming to a head in the context of the sovereign State of Arizona as that jurisdiction may see a bill brought to the State legislature which would divide the State into two separate sovereign States. To quote directly from what appears to be a Reuters story posted on Yahoo News Canada:

TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) – A long-simmering movement by liberal stalwarts in southern Arizona to break away from the rest of the largely conservative state is at a boiling point as secession backers press to bring their longshot ambition to the forefront of Arizona politics. A group of lawyers from the Democratic stronghold of Tucson and surrounding Pima County have launched a petition drive seeking support for a November 2012 ballot question on whether the 48th state should be divided in two.

Readers of this blog are asked to click upon the hyperlinks above to learn more about this interesting state of affairs.

Under American law it is generally considered possible in an intraState context to see a State legally and peaceably subdivide herself. This is not a common occurrence within the American political system and the ramifications on a geopolitical level could be tremendous. At the same time, such a subdivision could have an important impact upon American national politics as the addition of a new American State to the United States of America would mean that the United States House of Representatives and and the United States Senate could see new membership traveling to those hallowed halls from a newly created “Baja Arizona” (the current label apparently being applied to the as-yet unborn State).

How all of these issues will play out over the course of the coming weeks and months remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: it is an interesting time to be an American.

For related information please see: Full Faith and Credit Clause.

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23rd April 2011

Much to her credit Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once declared:

“Gay rights are human rights.”

Although this blogger may not have personally agreed with every one of the opinions espoused by Mrs. Clinton over the years, he can at least state that she has been a zealous and effective advocate, where possible, for the rights of the LGBT community. However, this blogger might add that the statement quoted above could be construed as incomplete.  In order to elucidate why this statement may be incomplete this blogger would need to quote directly from a recent posting on the website Lez Get Real:

Sen. Al Franken is the newest co-sponsor of legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate late last week that would give binational same-sex couples the same rights as married couples for immigration purposes. The Uniting American Families Act is authored by Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont and is sponsored by 18 other Democrats. Even though same-sex marriage is legal in seven jurisdictions in the United States, couples in which one partner is not a citizen do not have any right under current federal law.

Frequent readers of this blog may recall that Representative Jerrold Nadler recently introduced similar legislation in the United States House of Representatives. To continue by quoting an interesting question raised in the previously cited posting on Lez Get Real:

DOMA’s repeal will enable gays and lesbians – same-sex spouses – to sponsor foreign spouses for green cards so why do we need both bills before an unfriendly house at the same time?

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read the full story on the website cited above in order to gain further insight and perspective into this posting.

The question above raises a great many issues that are both complex and, at times, controversial; but go to the heart of the current struggle to secure equal rights for all Americans under the law of the United States of America.  Getting back to Mrs. Clinton’s remark: it is perhaps incomplete because it fails to take into consideration the rights of the Several States. The United States Constitution is composed of 50 co-equal sovereign States as well as a Federal government which has enumerated powers to perform certain functions while reserving the residual inalienable rights to the States and the People respectively. One of the rights which the States have always reserved unto themselves is the right to legalize and/or solemnize a marriage within their jurisdiction. Notwithstanding this fact, the United States Federal government decided to pass legislation referred to colloquially as The “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). By doing so, they rode roughshod over the rights of the States to make decisions regarding the intra-State definition of marriage and how State sanctioned marriages between two people of the same sex would be treated by other States (including the Federal government which is a separate sovereign from the 50 States), but at that time this was not readily apparent due to the fact that States had yet to change the law regarding what constitutes a marriage.

To shed more light upon these issues it may be best to quote directly from an extremely insightful article on the subject of Full Faith and Credit by Justice Robert H. Jackson and posted on the website, RobertHJackson.org:

By other articles of the Constitution our forefathers created a political union among otherwise independent and sovereign states. By other provisions, too, they sought to integrate the economic life of the country. By the full faith and credit clause they sought to federalize the separate and independent state legal systems by the overriding principle of reciprocal recognition of public acts, records, and judicial proceedings. It was placed foremost among those measures(n69) which would guard the new political and economic union against the disintegrating influence of provincialism in jurisprudence, but without aggrandizement of federal power at the expense of the states.

To quote the Full Faith and Credit Clause directly:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Some have discussed the issue of Full Faith and Credit at length with this blogger and cite the quotation above noting that Congress does have the power to prescribe laws regarding the “Effect” of State legislation. This blogger would concur with such an assessment, but the current provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) do not merely regulate the Effect of duly solemnized and legalized same sex marriage in the States which allow such unions, but instead DOMA makes such legislation wholly INEFFECTIVE because that law simply refuses to recognize the validity of same sex unions. In this blogger’s opinion this is clearly violative of the U.S. Constitution as true Full Faith and Credit has not been accorded to same sex marriages legalized within those sovereign States.

In Justice Jackson’s concurring opinion in the case of Youngstown Steel & Tube Co. v. Sawyer the following framework was created for analyzing executive action:

In determining whether the executive has authority, there are three general circumstances:

  1. When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, the President’s authority is at its greatest.
  2. When the President acts in the absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority. When this is the case, the test depends on the imperatives of events and contemporary imponderables rather than on abstract theories of law.
  3. When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, the authority of the President is at its lowest.

This blogger asks that readers click on the hyperlinks above to understand this case further.

To continue analyzing this issue: it is this blogger’s opinion that States’ Rights issues in connection with Full Faith and Credit could be analyzed in a similar manner to the first prong of the analysis used by Justice Jackson to adjudicate Presidential authority. When the Sovereign States act pursuant to an express or implied authorization of their legislatures or pursuant to the will of the People (ex. a State referendum), then shouldn’t the greatest amount of Full Faith and Credit be accorded to the laws created therefrom? Why does the Federal government get to override sovereign prerogatives clearly reserved to the States and the People, respectively? Clearly, from the plain language of the Full Faith and Credit Clause Congress can make rules regarding the regulation of the Effect of such legislation on other States which do not have similar prerogatives, but, in this blogger’s opinion, the Federal government simply cannot unilaterally overrule, either preemptively or after the fact, State prerogatives simply by citing their power to regulate the Effect of such prerogatives.

To get back to the issue of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) vs. repeal of DOMA (either outright or through a statute similar to the Respect for Marriage Act). In this blogger’s opinion the reason that both of these bills are on the floor stems from the inherent tensions which arise as a result of the fact that the USA uses a federal system within her Constitution providing concurrent jurisdiction for 1 Federal government as well as 50 State sovereigns. Institutions within government, especially the US Federal government, are often loathe to give up power. By recognizing that refutation of marriages solemnized and legalized within sovereign State jurisdiction is outside of their bailiwick the Federal government could be construed to have conceded to a practical loss of authority on such issues (which this blogger believes that they do not have to begin with).

Concurrently, there are sound political reasons for having both bills out there on the floor of the Federal legislature. One, it provides a better chance of seeing at least some progress on this issue. If a DOMA repeal is not possible within this session, but passage of UAFA can occur, why not take it? At the very least passage of UAFA could lead to reunification of same sex bi-national couples who are geographically separated due to the provisions of DOMA. Therefore, this blogger would argue that such a strategy is sound, but those within the LGBT should not lose sight of the ultimate goal: full equality under the law. IF UAFA can be secured along the way, all the better, but mere passage of that legislation should not be viewed as the end of the struggle.

To sum up, the issues associated with accordance of Full Faith and Credit to same sex marriages solemnized and legalized by a sovereign State with appropriate jurisdiction are myriad and few, if any, have been resolved, but they continue to be some of the most interesting issues to be currently debated in the realm of U.S. Constitutional law. In conclusion, although it is not debatable in this blogger’s mind that Gay Rights are Human Rights. Perhaps Gay Rights are States’ Rights as well?

For related information please see: Same Sex Visa.

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