Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘civil rights’

29th July 2011

Notwithstanding the fact that the American federal government currently finds itself in gridlock due to issues such as the debate over the raising of the debt ceiling and other issues pertaining to the national deficit there appears to be one issue that seems to be continually overlooked by members of both parties in the United States Congress. That issue is: federal recognition of State licensed same sex marriage. Regardless of the provisions in the United States Constitution regarding Full Faith and Credit as elucidated in the language of the Full Faith and Credit Clause, the third section of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” precludes federal recognition of same sex marriage even in situations where such unions are legalized and/or solemnized in one of the American State jurisdictions which license such marital unions.

In the interests of full disclosure, this blogger originates from the Great State of Kansas and that State has opted to pass a ban upon same sex marriage as a State Constitutional amendment. This blogger disagreed with the promulgation of that amendment at the time because he has always believed that the States have no right to legislate as to We The People‘s natural rights and prerogatives. That stated, where State legislation augments personal liberty and is not preempted expressly by the enumerated powers of the federal Constitution, such legislation should be accorded Full Faith and Credit pursuant to the United States Constitution not to mention pursuant to the law of the land in the United States of America.

Bearing the above in mind, the issue of same sex marriage and federal recognition thereof is a thorny one since there are those States which expressly ban such unions while concurrently there are those which expressly permit such unions. Therefore, there could be a situation where a same sex marriage is performed and thereby legalized in one State and thereafter the couple cannot be divorced in another State jurisdiction as said jurisdiction does not permit such unions pursuant to State public policy. The courts in the non-recognizing State may be required to recognize that a same sex marriage in another jurisdiction exists in fact, but may not allow the same sex couple to receive a divorce. For more on these concepts it is prudent to review the previous blog posting regarding the concept of vertical vs. horizontal Full Faith and Credit.

Bearing all of the above in mind, it is this blogger’s opinion that the issue of same sex marriage recognition, at least at the federal level, is a virtually non-partisan issue since it touches upon basic human rights as well as those notions inherent to the concept of States’ Rights. As a result, politicians should not have a “tough sell” on this issue with respect to their constituents as Republican legislators can note that support of legislation such as Representative Jerrold Nadler‘s Respect For Marriage Act is supportive of reserved State prerogatives. Meanwhile, Democrats can note that support for repeal of DOMA is in the interests of human rights, civil rights, and Equal Protection.

It remains to be seen how these concepts will come to evolve as the legislative session continues, but it is clear that this issue dovetails many key concepts that Americans associate with personal freedom and Constitutional law.

– Benjamin Walter Hart

For further information regarding federal recognition of same sex marriage please see: Certainty.

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

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26th July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that there may be a pending matter coming before the US Courts pertaining to same sex marriage in the sovereign State of New York. In order to provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the website of the Washington Blade, WashingtonBlade.com:

Before the ink had even dried on many of the first marriage licenses for same-sex couples in New York, the state Attorney General was busy filing a brief in one of the several cases against the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the Federal Government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in the states where such marriages are legal, and preempts the Constitutional ‘Full Faith and Credit’ cause by allowing states to refuse to recognize some marriages performed in elsewhere. Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed an Amicus Curie brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in the Windsor v. United States, a case brought against the government by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of New York widow Edie Windsor. When her wife Thea passed away in 2009, Edie was forced to pay penalties most married couples don’t have to pay because her marriage was not recognized, though the two had shared a life together for over 44 years. [sic]

The administration of this web log strongly encourages interested readers to click on the relevant hyperlinks above to read more from this always interesting website.

Frequent readers of this web log may recall that issues pertaining to Full Faith and Credit pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution are central to the issue of federal recognition of State licensed same sex marriages. This blogger has always felt that the issue of Full Faith and Credit in the context of same sex marriage will likely be adjudicated in the American Court system as there are those who would argue that the United States Congress does not have the political will to pass legislation to rectify the current discrimination imposed by the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). This argument is generally made notwithstanding the fact that legislators such a Representative Jerrold Nadler have introduced legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) which would alleviate immigration discrimination and provide “certainty” to State legalized and/or solemnized same sex marriages, respectively.

Congressional reluctance regarding the repeal of DOMA would seem to exist notwithstanding the fact that there is a fundamentally pro-States’ Rights element which augers in favor of DOMA repeal. States’ Rights arguments are often undertaken by those on the so-called “political right” in America politics. Meanwhile, there is a concurrent Civil Rights and Equal Protection argument which seems to operate in favor of DOMA repeal. Such arguments are often espoused by members of the so-called “political left” in American politics. How these issues will ultimately be resolved remains to be seen, but one this is certain: this situation makes for interesting political and legal theater.

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19th July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the President of the United States of America may be changing his position on the issue of same sex marriage in the context of a repeal of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). To quote directly from an article written by Helene Cooper and posted on the official website of the The New York Times, NYTimes.com:

WASHINGTON — President Obama will endorse a bill to repeal the law that limits the legal definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman, the White House said Tuesday, taking another step in support of gay rights. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Obama was taking the additional step away from the Defense of Marriage Act — which the administration said earlier this year it would no longer defend in court — in order to “uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.” If the measure passes, it would make same-sex couples eligible for certain federal benefits that have previously been available only to heterosexual married couples…

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

This news comes virtually contemporaneously with the announcement that the United States Senate’s Judiciary Committee is set to hold hearings on the issue of DOMA and the possible promulgation of legislation such as the Respect for Marriage Act. Such legislation would provide “certainty” to those same sex couples who have married in one of the States which allows same sex unions. Currently, same sex bi-national couples are barred from receiving American immigration benefits such as the CR-1 visa, K-1 visa, or IR-1 visa as section 3 of DOMA precludes awarding such benefits even if a same sex marriage has been legalized and/or solemnized by one of the sovereign American States.

In related news, it would appear as though advocacy groups calling for the repeal of DOMA are stressing the immediacy of the upcoming hearings and how a show of support could have a positive impact upon the legislative process. In order to shed further light upon these developments it is necessary to quote directly from the Instinct website, InstinctMagazine.com:

With the Senate set to begin the DOMA hearing tomorrow, the Courage Campaign is asking the community to help get the urgency across by participating in a new viral campaign. But no signatures here! Find out how to get involved after the jump. Two years ago, Courage Campaign launched “Fidelity,” a multimedia video focused on Prop. 8, urging the courts to not forcibly divorce same-sex families. With the first-ever repeal hearing for the Defense Of Marriage Act about to begin tomorrow in D.C., community leaders are calling on us all to get involved with “Fidelity II…”

The administration of this web log encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read further from this interesting posting.

It remains to be seen how these issues will play out, but it should be noted that there are other considerations inherent to this issue apart from Civil Rights and Equal Protection principles. For example, there are certain States’ Rights components to an analysis of American jurisprudence regarding the legality of the federal government’s refusal to recognize same sex marriages legalized and/or solemnized in the sovereign States since notions of Full Faith and Credit pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution come into play. Meanwhile, there are some who could argue that notions of natural rights and natural law should not be overlooked in any analysis of possible DOMA repeal. As this situation continues to evolve it should prove interesting to see how this issue is ultimately resolved.

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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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8th March 2011

In what could possibly be one of the most convoluted political and legal issues currently in the American zeitgeist it has been reported by various sources that President Barack Obama is under pressure from many different groups regarding his recent decision not to enforce key provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). To quote directly from an article posted on AfricaOnline.com:

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich suggested last week that President Obama overstepped his constitutional bounds when he announced he would no longer defend Defense of Marriage Act in court.

In matters pertaining to United States Constitutional law the lines between the political and legal spheres begin to blur and for this reason the issues surrounding what may be the most interesting legal situation in recent history are difficult to sort out for those who have not kept up with the evolving posture of this issue. To provide a brief summation: the United States Federal government is currently barred from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples pursuant to the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Meanwhile, 7 jurisdictions in the United States, including 6 sovereign States, currently license same sex unions. Meanwhile, many sovereign American States have promulgated State Constitutional amendments forbidding recognition of marriage between same sex couples. Currently, there is a case that has been adjudicated by the Massachusetts Federal District Court which found that States have a fundamental right to marry those within their jurisdiction. Amongst advocates of States’ Rights, the significant issue in the DOMA cases is: FEDERAL recognition of same sex marriages legalized and solemnized within the States’ jurisdiction. To continue quoting Mr. Gingrich according to AfricaOnline.com:

“Imagine that Governor Palin had become president,” Gingrich said. “Imagine that she had announced that Roe versus Wade in her view was unconstitutional and therefore the United States government would no longer protect anyone’s right to have an abortion because she personally had decided it should be changed. The news media would have gone crazy. The New York Times would have demanded her impeachment.”

For those unfamiliar with the Roe versus Wade decision, this was the Supreme Court case which allowed women to receive abortions based upon an interpretation of the US Constitution. It is interesting that Mr. Gingrich noted the lack of “Mainstream Media” attention to this issue as there are those who could argue that the issue of equal rights for the LGBT community is an issue often overlooked by major media outlets. Clearly, the issue of same sex marriage is provoking strong reaction from various sectors of the American political spectrum, to quote directly from the website ThinkProgress.org:

Now, in the right’s furor over the administration’s announcement that it will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) is calling for Obama to be impeached.

After the Arizona Republican advocated defunding the Department of Justice if it does not defend Section 3 of DOMA – “I would support that in a moment,” remarked Franks – he went on to say that he would “absolutely” favor impeaching President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder if such a move “could gain collective support”…

It would appear as though this issue is causing a great deal of political turmoil for Mr. Obama, but what is even more interesting are the underlying issues at stake for both the LGBT community and the sovereign States which comprise the United States of America.

To be clear, this blogger fully believes that the right to marry whomever one chooses to marry is a fundamental inalienable right and equal protection of that right should be accorded to members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. In this blogger’s personal opinion, if two people wish to consensually enter into a marital union, then their respective genders should not be relevant for purposes of government recognition of that union. However, there is an even stronger argument in favor of requiring Federal recognition of same sex marriage and this argument stems from the fact that 6 states have allowed some form of same sex union (civil union or marriage). Clearly, States have traditionally been vested with the power to solemnize and legalize marriages within their respective jurisdictions and the Federal government should be required to recognize such unions, but the provisions of DOMA preclude such recognition. For example, same sex bi-national couples who have legalized a marriage in, say, Massachusetts cannot be accorded the same immigration benefits as their different-sex counterparts pursuant to the provisions of DOMA. There has been some discussion of legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which would rectify this problem in the context of United States immigration, but this still leaves a fundamental question unanswered: when did the Federal government get the right to dictate to the States what shall constitute a marriage?

As to the Obama Administration’s decision to not pursue cases in support of the Defense of Marriage Act: the sentiment is laudable, but ultimately this action may not be in the best interests of the LGBT community as such inaction results in fewer, if any, cases or controversies coming before the Supreme Court thereby removing the platform for the Supreme Court to make a broad binding decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act itself (and possibly the overall issue of same sex marriage in general), the Full Faith and Credit Clause, and the other legal issues, such as discrimination against same sex bi-national couples, which come “part and parcel” with continued enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act.

It is this blogger’s personal opinion that the United States Supreme Court will find in favor of recognition of same sex marriage, but in what could prove to be a sort of convoluted decision wherein Justices such as Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts find in favor of the right of the States to set policy regarding who can get married within their jurisdiction while the more “liberal” or “civil libertarian” wing of the Court finds in favor of granting same sex couples the right to Federal recognition of a legally solemnized State marriage based more upon a finding that the issue is one of civil rights.

For related information please see: LGBT Visa.

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