Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Senator Al Franken’

6th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that further support for the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) may be forthcoming from membership of the United States Senate. To quote directly from the official website of The Washington Independent, WashingtonIndependent.com:

Long a holdout in signing on to back the Respect for Marriage Act, Sen. Amy Klobuchar indicated this week she’ll sponsor the bill, which would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Klobuchar is the last Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to back the measure after Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin expressed his support in April. Fellow Democrat Al Franken was an original sponsor of the act…

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

Frequent readers of this blog may recall that Representative Jerrold Nadler introduced a “Respect for Marriage Act” counterpart piece of legislation in the United States House of Representatives where there is some doubt as to the ultimate fate of the bill notwithstanding the fact that it supports fundamental notions connected to States’ Rights pursuant to the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. Meanwhile, there is also a compelling argument that support for the RFMA as a replacement for the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) is simultaneously supportive of notions related to Equal Protection and natural law. How all of these issues will ultimately be sorted out by US Courts and/or the American legislature remains to be seen, but following the debate generates a great deal of intriguing insight into the evolving nature of the United States Constitution.

Meanwhile, in news related to the jurisdictions of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); it recently came to this blogger’s attention that some international media outlets have reported upon the Russian perspective of recent ASEAN meetings. In order to provide further particulars it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of The Voice of Russia, ruvr.ru:

The dialogue between Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is actively developing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said following a ministerial meeting in Indonesia. Experts cannot fully agree with this, saying that the sides have yet to completely activate their potential for both bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

The administration of this blog asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to learn further from this insightful article.

Although this blog attempts to primarily focus upon issues pertaining to ASEAN from an American context the activities of any of the so-called BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) in the ASEAN region is of compelling interest to those who follow geopolitics and economics with any degree of frequency. How negotiations regarding the future structure of ASEAN will play out is anyone’s guess. Concurrently, the confluence of economic forces at play in the ASEAN region could yield trade opportunities with the potential for future exponential growth in real terms. As a result, an understanding of the unique nature of ASEAN and her component jurisdictions (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam) could provide real insight to those looking to conduct business in Southeast and Greater Asia.

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

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21st July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that multiple media outlets are reporting upon the recent Senate hearings discussing the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). In order to provide sufficient insight it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of Lez Get Real, LezGetReal.com:

Al Franken looks bored. That is not surprising. Committee hearings are rather boring. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been hearing evidence both for and against repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. While the hearing heard testimony about the financial and symbolic damage that DOMA does to couples, it is unlikely that the Respect for Marriage Act will get anywhere in the House where the Republicans will ignore it. Heading up the push for the RFMA is Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. When DOMA first came in, Senator Leahy voted for it, but a decade and a half later, he has changed his mind and is pushing to end it. He has also hailed the decision by President Barack Obama to support the repeal of DOMA…

This blogger asks readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to learn more from this interesting story. This blogger must admit that he was rather pleasantly surprised by the questioning posed by Senator Al Franken which can be viewed by clicking on the relevant links above.

Those unfamiliar with the currently unfolding debate involving DOMA should note that that legislation in its present form precludes those in a same sex marriage (even one solemnized and/or legalized by one of the sovereign American States) from receiving similar benefits compared to those in a different-sex marriage. For example, a same sex bi-national couple is unable to obtain visa benefits such as the K-1 visa, the IR-1 visa, or the CR-1 visa in the same manner as their different-sex counterparts. Meanwhile there are many other federal benefits that are not generally accorded to same sex partners. In order to provide further elucidation on these points it is necessary to quote directly from The New Civil Rights Movement website, TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com:

Immigration for Bi-​National Couples. Nearly 26,000 same-​sex couples in the United States are bi-​national couples who could be forced to separate because they cannot participate in green-​card and accelerated citizenship mechanisms offered to non-​citizen spouses of American citizens…There are 581,300 same-​sex couples in the United States, including 50,000 to 80,000 legally married same-​sex and another 85,000 who are in civil unions or registered domestic partnerships. Approximately 20% of same-​sex couples are raising nearly 250,000 children, and DOMA deprives them of the legal and social protections being married offers. Additionally, almost one-​fourth of same-​sex partners are people of color, over 7% of individuals in same-​sex couples are veterans of the U.S. armed forces, and same-​sex couples live in every congressional district and in almost every county in the United States…

The administration of this blog asks readers to click through the hyperlinks noted above to read this very insightful article in full.

It should be noted that in the United States House of Representatives legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) have been introduced by Representative Jerrold Nadler in order to provide some sort of remedy to the current predicament faced by LGBT couples. As noted in the first excerpt quoted there is pessimism regarding the reaction of Republican legislators to the aforementioned proposed legislation. That stated, there are significant States’ Rights implications of these issues especially in light of the language regarding Full Faith and Credit in the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution. Therefore, speculation regarding willful ignorance of issues pertaining to DOMA and the RFMA by the United States House of Representative may ultimately prove unfounded although vigilance may still be necessary in the continuing struggle for LGBT Equality.

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

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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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