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Posts Tagged ‘Constitutional Law’

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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16th July 2011

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me…

[F]amous statement attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.”

quoted directly from the official website of  Wikipedia, Wikipedia.org

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the former Secretary of Defense of the United States of America has been the subject of a so-called “enhanced patdown” (A.K.A grope down) administered by the TSA.  To quote directly from a very insightful article by Josh Rogin posted in The Cable on the official website of Foreign Policy, ForeignPolicy.com:

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was on the other side of the homeland security policies his administration helped to create today when he was held up and patted down at the airport after setting off the metal detectors on his way to board a flight…Rumsfeld was in Chicago to attend a panel and luncheon hosted by the Heritage Foundation and was on the way to Grand Rapids, MI to attend the funeral of Betty Ford, whom he called “one of America’s most beloved first ladies.”

This blogger asks readers to click on the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this article in full and thereby gain insight into what apparently happened.

In this blogger’s opinion, the news above elucidates the fundamental absurdity and ridiculousness of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), as of late, especially in light of the United States Constitution’s 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.To provide poignant context it is again necessary to quote Wikipedia’s 4th Amendment entry:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In what way is it reasonable to assume that groping a former Defense Secretary is reasonable while he is traveling to the funeral of a former First Lady? Where is the probable cause for this activity? Where is the warrant for such an invasion of Mr. Rumsfeld’s personal space? These events seem rather ironic since it was Mr. Bush’s administration that began these Constitutionally-suspect practices. However, that should not divert the reader’s attention from the severity of this state of affairs. At what point did it become reasonable to deny everyone their Constitutional right to be free from unwanted touching? Or, perhaps more specifically unwanted searches of persons without a warrant supported by probable cause? To provide further insight, it is necessary to quote from another section of Wikipedia discussing fundamental legal issues associated with the American Constitution:

The U.S. Declaration of Independence states that it has become necessary for the United States to assume “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them”. Some early American lawyers and judges perceived natural law as too tenuous, amorphous and evanescent a legal basis for grounding concrete rights and governmental limitations.[3] Natural law did, however, serve as authority for legal claims and rights in some judicial decisions, legislative acts, and legal pronouncements.[66] Robert Lowry Clinton argues that the U.S. Constitution rests on a common law foundation and the common law, in turn, rests on a classical natural law foundation.[67]

This quotation above is important because it demonstrates the reason for the very existence of the 4th Amendment itself. Namely: to codify extremely important, yet utterly subtle natural rights. The founders were well aware of the fact some natural rights are so inherent to the very fiber of We The People‘s being that they are (under the weight of occasionally specious yet tempting legal reasoning) sometimes subject to being taken for granted by dint of their almost ethereal nature.

Readers are asked to bear the above in mind as this blogger feels compelled to quote directly from the website of My Fox New York, MyFoxNY.com:

[A] Colorado woman is accused of putting her hands on a TSA agent at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. Court records show 61-year-old Yukari Mihamae grabbed the left breast of the female agent Thursday at the Terminal 4 checkpoint…Mihamae now faces a felony count of sexual abuse. According to court records, she lives in Longmont, Colorado and is self-employed…

Readers are asked to click upon the hyperlinks above to read this article in detail. It is also necessary to point out that the woman in question noted above is innocent until proven guilty of any charge under American law and the American justice system’s adherence to Blackstone’s Formulation. That said, it will, no doubt, be interesting to ascertain the facts surrounding this incident since the lead-up to this incident may, at the least, provide context. Travel is stressful to begin with and, in this blogger’s opinion, such stress is only compounded by the duress which arises with the prospect of an invasive pat-down and the insistence, with little legal foundation, that such a pat-down be imposed.

In a somewhat startling turn of similar events it would appear that a woman in the sovereign State of Tennessee has been subjected to arrest as a result of an incident involving the TSA. In order to provide further insight on these developments it is necessary to quote directly from the Mail Online website at DailyMail.co.uk:

A mother has been arrested after refusing to let her child be searched by a TSA agent. Andrea Fornella Abbott, 41, was arrested at Nashville International Airport on Saturday after telling agents she did not want her daughter to be ‘touched inappropriately’ or have her ‘crotch grabbed,’ according to a police report. Mrs Abbott acted ‘belligerent and verbally abusive to staff’, yelling and swearing at them, according to the report. Police said after the woman refused to calm down she was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct…

The administration of this blog asks readers to click upon the hyperlinks above to read the totality of this report. Readers are reminded that those arrested in the United States of America are, as noted previously, viewed in the eyes of the law as innocent until proven guilty.
A wiser person than this blogger once wryly noted that even in matters pertaining to the law it is imprudent to attempt to try to interpose between a mother and a child whom the mother believes may be in distress. Such interposition may be especially imprudent if not fully backed by the Full Faith and Credit of American law. With that in mind it recently came to this blogger’s attention that Member of the United States House of Representatives, Representative Ron Paul, recently announced what would appear to be the re-introduction of a bill that could ameliorate some of the duress currently being borne by innocent Americans. To quote directly from the official website of Representative Paul:

Mr. Speaker, today I introduce legislation to protect Americans from physical and emotional abuse by federal Transportation Security Administration employees conducting screenings at the nation’s airports. We have seen the videos of terrified children being grabbed and probed by airport screeners. We have read the stories of Americans being subjected to humiliating body imaging machines and/or forced to have the most intimate parts of their bodies poked and fondled. We do not know the potentially harmful effects of the radiation emitted by the new millimeter wave machines. In one recent well-publicized case, a TSA official is recorded during an attempted body search saying, “By buying your ticket you gave up a lot of rights.” I strongly disagree and am sure I am not alone in believing that we Americans should never give up our rights in order to travel. As our Declaration of Independence states, our rights are inalienable. This TSA version of our rights looks more like the “rights” granted in the old Soviet Constitutions, where freedoms were granted to Soviet citizens — right up to the moment the state decided to remove those freedoms…Imagine if the political elites in our country were forced to endure the same conditions at the airport as business travelers, families, senior citizens, and the rest of us. Perhaps this problem could be quickly resolved if every cabinet secretary, every Member of Congress, and every department head in the Obama administration were forced to submit to the same degrading screening process as the people who pay their salaries…

The administration of this blog strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this announcement in detail. The legislation to which Representative Paul so passionately refers would appear to be the so-called American Traveller Dignity Act of 2010 or H.R. 6416 which provides that:

No law of the United States shall be construed to confer any immunity for a Federal employee or agency or any individual or entity that receives Federal funds, who subjects an individual to any physical contact (including contact with any clothing the individual is wearing), x-rays, or millimeter waves, or aids in the creation of or views a representation of any part of a individual’s body covered by clothing as a condition for such individual to be in an airport or to fly in an aircraft. The preceding sentence shall apply even if the individual or the individual’s parent, guardian, or any other individual gives consent.

This administration asks readers to click upon the links above to read about the totality of this information. In the interest of full disclosure to the reader it must be confessed that these pat-downs are not just the source of academic annoyance for this blogger as he was recently the victim of one of these “pat-downs”. When this blogger inquired as to the authority for the search especially in light of the Right to travel enshrined in the provisions of the 14th Amendment and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures without due process of law in the form of a warrant supported by probable cause pursuant to the 4th Amendment this blogger was told that such notions were subordinate to some amorphous and never-fully-explained (supposedly posted, but this blogger never actually saw them since no one was willing to provide them) “federal regulations”. This blogger does not have any particular issue with federal regulations per se as they are often the legitimate by-product of legitimate law-making, but they never can contravene Constitutional law as Constitutional law and the protections of the Bill of Rights can only act to override the provisions of federal regulation; and only then, when certain regulations offend the rightful liberties of the American People.

With respect to the this blogger’s opinion regarding his recent “enhanced pat-down” it can only be said that whatever my “enhanced pat-down” was, it certainly did not feel like the legitimate operation of a supreme government. Therefore, I shall look toward remedies for this issue and the most effective remedies appear to be awaiting at either the ballot box or perhaps one day upon the desk of the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. With respect to the Several States it should be noted that some such as Texas and Michigan may be discussing the the promulgation of State law with respect to involuntary touching at relevant airports. How State legislation of this variety would impact American jurisprudence especially in light of notions such as the Erie Doctrine remains to be seen, but it may merely remain an interesting point to speculate upon.

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

– Benjamin Walter Hart

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7th February 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that a State Judge in a Nebraska Court appears to have been unwilling to grant a divorce to a same-sex married couple on the grounds that the State of Nebraska does not recognize the existence of the underlying marriage. It would appear as though the parties in question were originally married in Vermont (a State which recognizes and solemnizes marriages between individuals of the same gender), but wished to have their marriage dissolved in Nebraska (a State which does not solemnize nor recognize same sex marriage). To quote directly from a posting on WCAX.com, a website dedicated to providing news pertaining to Vermont:

According to Judge Randall Rehmeier, the state can’t dissolve their marriage because gay marriage isn’t recognized by the Nebraska Constitution. That means their marriage doesn’t exist in the state’s eyes.

The administration of this blog highly recommends readers go to the website noted above to read the full posting. The Judge’s reasoning may go to the heart of the overall conundrum that arises from what some would consider to be the uncertain nature of the current legal status of same sex marriages in the United States. As noted previously on this blog, within the USA there are currently 5 sovereign American  States that recognize and perform same sex marriages. Meanwhile, there are many other States and jurisdictions which do not recognize such marital relationships. Furthermore, there are even some American States which have State constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage or defining marriage as exclusively to mean a marital union between two people of differing gender. Concurrently, the United States Federal Government does not recognize same sex marriages pursuant to the language of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). Under the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act the Federal government is legally barred from recognizing marriages between two people of the same gender. This is a significant issue in the area of United States Immigration law as same sex bi-national couples are unable to obtain the same family based visa benefits as different-sex bi-national couples, regardless of the fact that the couple may have been lawfully married in one of the American States which recognizes same sex marriage.

In the midst of all of these conflicting policies and laws there are currently cases pending in the United States Federal Courts which address the issues associated with same sex marriage and government recognition thereof. At the time of this writing, Federal District Courts in Massachusetts and California have ruled that Federal failure to recognize State sanctioned same sex marriage is unconstitutional. However, those decisions have been stayed pending appeal. Those appeals could very possibly go all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

At the time of this writing, the issue of same sex marriage is far from settled, but one thing is clear: it is unlikely that a solution will be easy to find. It is this blogger’s opinion that the issues associated with same sex marriage touch most particularly upon legal notions inherent in the Constitutional doctrine of Full Faith and Credit pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause. However, analysis under the Full Faith and Credit Clause may not lead to uniform State acceptance of same sex marriage. In this blogger’s opinion, the Defense of Marriage Act was rendered unconstitutional the moment that a sovereign American State began recognizing and performing marriages for people of the same sex. This opinion is based upon the belief that the right to solemnize marriages between parties within the jurisdiction of a given State is a right reserved to said State under the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Under certain circumstances, States have cited their power to promote “public health and safety” as a basis for issuing marriage licenses.

In this blogger’s opinion, if a State has duly legalized a same sex marriage within their jurisdiction pursuant to the laws and procedures of said State, then the Federal government must recognize that marriage pursuant to what this blogger would describe as Vertical Full Faith and Credit (i.e. Federal recognition of certain State prerogatives regarding intrastate matters pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause). However, the law dealing with what this blogger would describe as Horizontal Full Faith and Credit (State to State recognition of State adjudicated matters) can be opaque especially with regard to issues which one state has deemed to be in violation of State public policy. If a sovereign American State has a Constitutional Amendment which specifically defines marriage as a marital union between a man and a woman, then there is a strong argument in favor of denying divorces to same sex couples within that State since it would violate State public policy to recognize the existence of the marriage in order to dissolve it.

As more and more same sex couples legalize marriages in the United States, it stands to reason that more such couples may one day seek divorce. The issues associated with Full Faith and Credit and LGBT rights have yet to be fully resolved, but it seems likely that this issue will remain controversial both from a political perspective as well as a legal perspective.

Those reading this posting should take note of the fact that there are myriad legal and political opinions on this subject and until such time as a binding decision is made in the US Courts or Federal legislature this issue will probably continue to remain unresolved.

For information about legislation designed to deal with the immigration restrictions placed upon same sex bi-national couples please see: Uniting American Families Act or UAFA.

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