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24 posts from August 2009

August 30, 2009

Abortion building as health reform issue

Among the many problems facing progressives who want to enact a universal access bill this year that will work (i.e. not just shovel more dollars to insurers and big pharma) is abortion, as I've noted before. The only body to have dealt head-on with this issue so far is the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which adopted basically  the same compromise position that was developed 16 years ago in the Clinton effort.

The committee position has several components.  With regard to access via plans offered in new insurance exchanges, the amendment says there would have to be at least one plan that covers abortion and one that doesn't in every part of the country. As far as public monies subsidizing abortion through supplements to allow low-income persons to purchase insurance, the amendment allows coverage of abortion, but the money would have to come from the portion of the premiums that are paid by the individuals. A sliver of those monthly premiums would be segregated and abortion services would be reimbursed from that separate account.The Hyde Amendment and any state law restrictions on access to abortion would remain in place. Lastly, what would the default position be?  Most of the current legislation punts to the Secretary of HHS the authority to promulgate regulations defining what will and will not be required of a basic benefits plan.

Will this compromise hold?  It's not a good sign when elements of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, a faith group that has fought for access to care for the poor for many years, are preaching that no reform is better than any plan that offers an abortion option. As the legislative process becomes more focused on specific language in the coming months, the pressure around this aspect of health reform will grow ever more intense.

August 26, 2009

Happy 89th birthday to women's right to vote

The Nineteenth Amendment - women's suffrage - was ratified on August 26, 1920, when Tennessee put the campaign to secure ratification of two-thirds of the states over the top. It seems like another world, until one realizes, as Hillary Clinton noted of her mother, that a fair number of little old ladies among us were born before women could vote.

Here's the NY Times coverage:

Washington, Aug. 26 -- The half-century struggle for woman suffrage in the United States reached its climax at 8 o'clock this morning, when Bainbridge Colby, as Secretary of State, issued his proclamation announcing that the Nineteenth Amendment had become a part of the Constitution of the United States.

The signing of the proclamation took place at that hour at Secretary Colby's residence, 1507 K Street Northwest, without ceremony of any kind, and the issuance of the proclamation was unaccompanied by the taking of movies or other pictures, despite the fact that the National Woman's Party, or militant branch of the general suffrage movement, had been anxious to be represented by a delegation of women and to have the historic event filmed for public display and permanent record.

Secretary Colby did not act with undue haste in signing the proclamation, but only after he had given careful study to the packet which arrived by mail during the early morning hours containing the certificate of the Governor of Tennessee that that State's Legislature had ratified the Congressional resolution submitting the amendment to the States for action.

None of the leaders of the woman suffrage movement was present when the proclamation was signed. "It was quite tragic," declared Mrs. Abby Scott Baker of the National Woman's Party. "This was the final culmination of the women's fight, and, women, irrespective of factions, should have been allowed to be present when the proclamation was signed. However the women of America have fought a big fight and nothing can take from them their triumph."

Leaders of both branches of the woman's movement- the militants, headed by Miss Alice Paul, and the conservatives, led by Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt -- some of whom had been on watch nearly all night for the arrival of the Tennessee Governor's certification, visited the State Department, and the militants sought to have Secretary Colby go through a duplication of the signing scene in the presence of movie cameras. This Mr. Colby declined to do, on the ground that it was not necessary to detract from the dignity and importance of the signing of the proclamation by staging a scene in imitation of the actual signing of the proclamation....

At the same time Mr. Colby congratulated the women of the country on the successful culmination of their efforts in the face of discouragements, and declared the day "marks the opening of a great and new era in the political life of the nation."

"I confidently believe," said the Secretary, "that every salutary, forward and upward force in our public life will receive fresh vigor and reinforcement from the enfranchisement of the women of America. To the leaders of this great movement I tender my sincere congratulations. To every one, from the president, who uttered the call to duty, whenever the cause seemed to falter, to the humblest worker in this great reform, the praise not only of this generation but of posterity will be freely given."...

Late this afternoon Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, head of the National American Suffrage Association, and Mrs. Helen H. Gardiner, another active worker in that organization, were received at the White House by President and Mrs. Wilson. The National Woman's Party, known as the militants and a rival organization to that headed by Mrs. Catt, was not represented.....

A mass meeting [and jubilee at Poll's Theatre tonight] was attended by women from every section of the country and a number of officials of the administration, including members of the Cabinet, were present.

Continue reading "Happy 89th birthday to women's right to vote" »

For women, more authority = more harassment

Data presented at this year's meeting of the American Sociological Association demonstrate that women in management positions are significantly more likely to be harassed than women who do not supervise others. The study also found that effeminate men were susceptible to harassment, an observation borne out by the large number of same-sex harassment cases, almost all filed by male employees who are perceived for a variety of reasons to be weak.

Women who hold supervisory positions are more likely to be sexually harassed at work, according to the first-ever, large-scale longitudinal study to examine workplace power, gender and sexual harassment.

The study, "A Longitudinal Analysis of Gender, Power and Sexual Harassment in Young Adulthood," reveals that nearly fifty percent of women supervisors, but only one-third of women who do not supervise others, reported sexual harassment in the workplace. In more conservative models with stringent statistical controls, women supervisors were 137 percent more likely to be sexually harassed than women who did not hold managerial roles.

While supervisory status increased the likelihood of harassment among women, it did not significantly impact the likelihood for men.

"This study provides the strongest evidence to date supporting the theory that sexual harassment is less about sexual desire than about control and domination,"said Heather McLaughlin, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota and the study's primary investigator. "Male co-workers, clients and supervisors seem to be using harassment as an equalizer against women in power."

McLaughlin and her co-authors examined data from the 2003 and 2004 waves of the Youth Development Study (YDS), a prospective study of adolescents that began in 1988 with a sample of 1,010 ninth graders in the St. Paul, Minnesota, public school district and has continued near annually since. Respondents were approximately 29 and 30 years old during the 2003 and 2004 waves. The analysis was supplemented with in-depth interviews with a subset of the YDS survey respondents.

The sociologists found that, in addition to workplace power, gender expression was a strong predictor of workplace harassment. Men who reported higher levels of femininity were more likely to have experienced harassment than less feminine men. More feminine men were at a greater risk of experiencing more severe or multiple forms of sexual harassment (as were female supervisors).

In a separate analysis examining perceived and self-reported sexual orientation, study respondents who reported being labeled as non-heterosexual by others or who self-identified as non-heterosexual (gay, lesbian, bisexual, unsure, other) were nearly twice as likely to experience harassment.

Researchers also found that those who reported harassment in the first year (2003) were 6.5 times more likely to experience harassment in the following year. The most common scenario reported by survey respondents involved male harassers and female targets, while males harassing other males was the second most frequent situation.

McLaughlin co-authored the study with sociologists Christopher Uggen, chair of the University of Minnesota's sociology department and a distinguished McKnight professor of sociology, and Amy Blackstone, associate professor of sociology at the University of Maine. The multi-method research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Mental Health and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

From Signs of the Times.

August 25, 2009

Contesting birth certificates and "gender permanence"

A new paper by Paisley Currah and Lisa Moore on the struggle between transgender advocates and New York City agencies over the designations on birth certificates has just been published:

Currah, Paisley and Lisa Jean Moore. 2009.  “‘We Won’t Know Who You Are’: Contesting Sex Designations on New York City Birth Certificates.” Hypatia 24:3 (Summer 2009): 113-135. 

Here's the abstract:

This article examines shifts in the legal, medical, and common sense logics governing the designation of sex on birth certificates issued by the City of New York between 1965 and 2006. The experience of transgender citizens illustrates the problems that result from birth certificates’ dual functions as a) an authenticator of identity and b) an historical record. The analysis of our data, generated from participant observation, ethnography, official reports and minutes, and in-depth interviews identifies two key organizing principles animating the debates over the last forty years. Gender fraud dominated the discussions of the 1960s and 1970s and provided the rationale for rejecting the request of transgender individuals to change the sex on these documents.  The requirement of gender permanence figures most strongly in the most recent debates in New York City, and justified the re-imposition of the policy first articulated around fraud: that the genitals  be surgically modified before the state will re-issue an identity document indicating a change of sex. In an era when the foundational facts that sustain guarantees of identity—biometric, social, historical—can change, emerging state practices of identity management and the technologies enabling its growth and spread create real obstacles for transgender individuals.

August 23, 2009

My top three questions about the Perry case

Now that Judge Walker has denied the motion of lgbt organizations to intervene in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, I see three major questions looming, in addition to the specific issues of fact and law presented in the case:

What will the ramifications (if any) be of placing control of one of the biggest lgbt rights lawsuits ever filed in the completely private, non-transparent realm of big firms?  All of the lgbt rights groups are, of course, also private in the sense that they are not government agencies. But they are private non-profits with a culture of engagement with the lgbt community and subject to a major degree of disclosure rules about financial statements and governance structures (some required by the IRS). Not so the mega-firms, like Ted Olson's Gibson Dunn and Crutcher (which doesn't even mention the Perry case on its website, at least that I could find). As the case progresses, as questions arise about such things as how the "partially pro bono" attorneys are being compensated, will these differences matter? Or has civil rights litigation become so privatized already, so heavily enacted by big firms, that no one will notice or care?

Will the case be litigated in a way that forces the courts to address the constitutionality of all state law restrictions on same-sex marriage, as the public statements surrounding the case imply?  Or will it be litigated on extremely narrow grounds, i.e. as a challenge to a voter rescission by ballot initiative of a right previously declared fundamental by a state's supreme court, affecting a group previously declared a suspect class also by that state's supreme court, when the material components of the right in question continue to exist (through registered domestic partnership), so that the only state interest being served is the expression of animus implicit in limiting access to the preferred label?  In other words, will the Perry case ultimately be only about California, litigated in a way that its only possible impact will ever be on California?  If the answer is yes, it will be a lot easier to win (although not nearly so important in a strictly legal sense).

Lastly, what will the impact be of Perry on the effort to repeal Prop 8? Emotions are running high and ragged in California about whether to put repeal on the 2010 ballot (a prospect that diminishes in likelihood every day) or whether to wait, presumably until 2012. But how - if at all - will the dynamics change if the trial court rules that Prop 8 is unconstitutional, maybe a year from now, in summer 2010? Or if the Ninth Circuit finds it unconstitutional in 2011?  It takes time and money to put a question on the ballot. Will such rulings energize the repeal effort or the retention effort, or maybe both?  What will be the impact if the federal courts uphold Prop 8, as the California Supreme Court did?

NYU to preserve Gay Cable News footage

From Gay City News:

Thousands of hours of video news and features on the LGBT and AIDS movements produced by Lou Maletta for his Gay Cable Network (GCN) over 19 years have been acquired by New York University’s Fales Library for cataloguing and preservation. Maletta, 72, launched the network in 1982 with “Men in Films,” which explored male erotica, and soon went on to develop news programming that gave virtually the only television attention to the nascent AIDS crisis and the ongoing fight for LGBT rights ...

Maletta shut down operations in 2001, but has been paying for storage of the 6,100 hours of videotape in the hopes of selling the archive. While NYU is paying him a small fee for the donation, Marvin Taylor, the Fales director, called it “a major preservation challenge,” saying it could cost as much as $4 million to complete the digitization process — a task that will take many years and for which he is seeking funding.

“NYU has one of the most important gender studies programs in the country,” Taylor said, and the GCN material was a natural fit for the library, complementing its Downtown New York collection that documents the arts scenes from the 1970s through the ’90s, “a world decimated by the AIDS epidemic,” the library’s release said. “This is the age of YouTube,” Taylor said. “These days preserving history through moving images is what we need to be doing. And scholars really want it.”...

“No one else has anything of this nature in the world,” [Maletta] said. Maletta went out and covered everything he could in the community with a sense of mission and the conviction that “the way to educate people was with the greatest tool of all time — television.”

Part of what motivated him to use his video equipment to cover the community was watching a 30-year-old friend “turning into someone who looked 90 six months after being diagnosed with GRID [Gay-Related Immune Deficiency, the first acronym for AIDS] in 1982. No one had seen a KS lesion on TV until we put it on cable.”

From 1984 to 2000, the Gay Cable Network provided team coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, with reporters on the floor interviewing political leaders from Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger, and George W. Bush to Jesse Jackson and Ann Richards. The network also covered LGBT and AIDS demonstrations outside the conventions, as well as countless local and national protests including the 1987 and 1993 national marches on Washington and the rise of ACT UP in 1987. Regular weekly updates by AIDS experts, including Frank Oldham, were a vital resource for a community in crisis in the 1980s and ’90s.

But Gay Cable Network also covered the social, cultural, and sexual lives of LGBT people with in-depth interview programs such as “Be Our Guest” and a show on bondage — “In the Dungeon” with Slave Dale, an impish and socially conscious leather man. Some of the notable artists interviewed on the network were Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Harvey Fierstein, Tony Kushner, director Derek Jarman, Quentin Crisp, writer Vito Russo, Sara Jessica Parker, and Barbara Walters, among an eclectic mix of countless others.

Maletta said that much of the footage he and his crew shot did not make it into the final shows, but will be preserved in the collection. “The cablecast footage along with all the material that has never been shown is a tremendous resource for documentarians and historians,” he said. ...

Maletta and Taylor were introduced by Allen Zwickler, who heads the Phil Zwickler Foundation, named for his late filmmaker brother who made the documentary “Rights and Reactions,” about the passage of the New York gay rights bill in 1986, and was a correspondent for GCN. Phil died of AIDS in 1991.

“It’s more than 6,000 hours of film about civil rights and human rights,” Allen, an NYU alumnus involved in funding AIDS charities, said. “It is so incredible that it had to be preserved.”...

For information on how you can help support the preservation of the Gay Cable Network archive at NYU, contact Marvin Taylor at 212-998-2596 or at fales.library@nyu.edu.

August 22, 2009

Quote of the week - graffiti, marriage, and parallel worlds

Those who stroll through the streets of Portland today will see many buildings marred with graffiti. Five years ago it was rare. ... By now many readers are wondering why I am so concerned about the plague of graffiti in our cities. I am concerned because there is a close parallel between graffiti and same sex marriage. Both are warning signs that our society is very sick indeed, and may be entering its final crisis.

                                            - Mike Heath, Maine Family Policy Council Newsletter

August 21, 2009

Important new study on lgbt parenting

The professional journal Demography has accepted for publication a new paper by Stanford Professor Michael Rosenfeld that, for the first time, bases a study of the outcomes of children with same-sex parents on a large, nationally representative sample.  Using census data, Professor Rosenfeld found that:

  1. Children of same-sex couples are as likely to make normal progress through school as the children of most other family structures. The differential between them and children of heterosexual married parents - the group least likely to have children retained in grades - is mostly due to the higher SES of the married straight parents.
  2. Children in all families are far more likely to make normal progress through school than children in foster care or other group settings.

These findings have enormous potential to make important evidentiary contributions in marriage challenges, family law cases, and challenges to laws that bar same-sex couples from adopting.

(Pre-publication version of paper available here.)

Will new constitution in Zimbabwe decriminalize homosexual conduct?

Led by the fiercely anti-gay Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe has long been a nightmare for lgbt people.  Male homosexual sexual conduct is illegal there, a status reaffirmed by the nation's highest court in a prosecution of one of Mugabe's predecessors, Canaan Banana [S. v. Banana, 2000(3)SA 885 (ZS)].

This summer, however, meetings have been ongoing to draft a new constitution. Anti-democracy thugs disrupted the conference last month, but it then resumed. Given that Mugabe is still in power, it may be unrealistic to expect that the drafting project will lead to anything more than words on paper. If the process does continue to completion, though, there will be a referendum on the new constitution next year.

AIDS and lgbt activists have been seeking to invoke the kinds of protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation found in the South African constitution to achieve greater legal protection in Zimbabwe.

According to this dispatch from the Guardian, they plan to use the argument that criminal laws impede efforts to fight AIDS, an urgent issue there and throughout Africa, and the subject of a keynote speech at last year's International AIDS Conference:

Gay men and lesbians in Zimbabwe are hoping for an end to years of "hysterical homophobia" by having their rights enshrined in the new constitution.

Sexual acts between men are outlawed in the socially conservative country (there is no legal reference to women) and the president, Robert Mugabe, has encouraged a climate of hostility by condemning homosexuality, describing it as a western import.

His opponents in the Movement for Democratic Change are more supportive of gay rights, raising hopes that Zimbabwe's constitution could follow that of South Africa, the first in the world to specifically outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual preference.

Keith Goddard said the group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) – of which he is director – had tried twice to get sexual orientation included in the constitution.

"Now, with the new constitutional review, we are pushing again for sexual orientation," he said. "The National Aids Council has moved forward enormously from its original policy, and in its strategic plan for 2006-10 it specifically calls for the decriminalisation of homosexuality because punitive measures have simply driven the community underground and make this hidden population difficult to reach.

"So I think we can use it on the grounds of health and HIV/Aids interventions to try and argue the issue. Arguing it on religious or moral grounds is not going to get it anywhere. We live in hope. I think we've probably got a 50:50 chance."

Tips on posting comments

With thanks to Jim Benton, who sends along this helpful advice:

Every so often Typepad refuses to accept comments, for reasons no one has yet figured out.  (The same thing happens on COGITAMUS, another of my favorite blogs.)  One trick that has always worked for me is to copy the 'refused' comment, open a new tab or window, go to the blog, and paste it in the appropriate place there.  So far it has always worked.

August 19, 2009

LGBT groups denied intervention in Perry case

Judge Vaughn Walker has denied the motion to intervene filed jointly by the ACLU, Lambda and NCLR in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. He did allow intervention by the City of San Francisco. His ruling is a major victory for the Olson/Boies team of lawyers for the plaintiffs, who had strenuously opposed intervention by the groups, but acknowledged that the City presented distinctive interests - the impact of Prop 8 on local government - that additional individual and organizational plaintiffs did not.

Attorneys for the lgbt organizations said that they would not appeal the decision.

Judge Walker also set the trial date for January 11, 2010.

Why Ted Olson is challenging Prop 8

From lengthy man-bites-dog story in the NY Times:

... Last November, [Rob] Reiner and his wife, Michele, invited two prominent Democratic consultants, Chad Griffin and Kristina Schake, to lunch at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Ten days before, voters had passed Proposition 8, an amendment to the California Constitution negating a State Supreme Court decision that had briefly legalized same-sex marriage. Mr. Griffin, who had come out eight years earlier, said he felt like he had been gut-punched.

As the friends commiserated and discussed what to do next, an acquaintance named Kate Moulene stopped by. In a phone conversation later that afternoon, she suggested that Ms. Reiner contact her sister’s former husband, a leading constitutional lawyer. His name was Ted Olson, she said, and “knowing him as I do, I bet he’d be on your side of this.”

“Ted Olson?” Ms. Reiner recalls exclaiming. “Why on earth would I want to talk to him?”

Mr. Olson’s reputation, after all, went far beyond Bush v. Gore. As head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department in the Reagan administration, Mr. Olson had been an architect of the president’s drive to ease government regulation and end race-based school busing and affirmative action set-asides in federal contracting. He later provided assistance to those seeking to impeach President Bill Clinton.

As Mr. Bush’s solicitor general, in charge of representing the government before the Supreme Court, Mr. Olson became identified with the administration’s broad interpretation of its wartime power in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, in which his wife, Barbara, a conservative commentator, was killed. (Mr. Olson nonetheless privately counseled that terrorism suspects be given certain basic legal rights, administration officials said, correctly predicting that failure to do so would lead to Supreme Court setbacks.)

Still, Mr. Reiner was intrigued. The tactician in him saw the wisdom of hiring a lawyer who had won 44 of the 55 Supreme Court cases he argued; the director grasped the dramatic impact of such a casting decision. He dispatched Mr. Griffin to consult with experts about the feasibility of a federal court challenge to Proposition 8 and to gauge Mr. Olson’s interest.

“I thought, if someone as conservative as Ted Olson were to get involved in this issue, it would go a long, long way in terms of presenting this in the right kind of light,” Mr. Reiner said.

In fact, Mr. Olson’s history was more complex than Mr. Reiner imagined.

Mr. Olson had become active in the Republican Party as a college and law student in California in the 1960s, long before the rise of the religious right and its focus on social issues. He gravitated toward a particularly Western brand of conservatism that valued small government and maximum individual liberty, becoming one of a few law students at the University of California, Berkeley to support Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential bid.

At the time, the South was riven by racial strife, and during a college debate trip to Texas, Mr. Olson got his first close-up view of blatant discrimination. Lady Booth Olson, a lawyer whom Mr. Olson married in 2006, said he still tears up when telling how a black teammate was turned away from a restaurant in Amarillo. Mr. Olson “tore into the owner,” insisting the team would not eat unless everyone was served, recalled the team’s coach, Paul Winters. “If he sees something that is wrong in his mind, he goes after it,” Mr. Winters said.

Years later, during the Reagan administration, when Mr. Olson was asked if the Justice Department could dismiss a prosecutor for being gay, he wrote that it was “improper to deny employment or to terminate anyone on the basis of sexual conduct.” In 1984, Mr. Olson returned to private practice and was succeeded by Mr. Cooper, his adversary in the marriage case. The switch eliminated “what was seen as a certain libertarian squishiness at the Office of Legal Counsel under Ted,” Mr. Calabresi said.

During the Bush administration, Mr. Olson was consulted on a plan to amend the Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. “What were we thinking putting something like that in the Constitution?” he recalls telling the White House.

Around that time, state legislatures were debating alternatives to same-sex marriage like civil unions, but Mr. Olson said he saw them as political half-measures that continued to treat gay men and lesbians as separate and unequal. Over dinner at a Capitol Hill restaurant, he argued that marriage was an essential component of happiness that gay couples had every right to enjoy, recalled David Frum, a conservative author and former Bush speechwriter.

“I was really impressed and struck by how important the issue was to him,” Mr. Frum said. “The majority view at the table was on the other side, but his view was, ‘You have to make peace with this because it is sure to happen, and you will see it in your lifetime.’ ”

Mr. Olson signed on to the California case after a meeting at Mr. Reiner’s home last December, telling the group gathered there that he would not “just be some hired gun,” Ms. Schake recalled. In fact, he had already rebuffed a query about defending Proposition 8. Still, to allay suspicions on the left, he suggested bringing on his adversary in Bush v. Gore, David Boies, whom he had since befriended. Both lawyers agreed to waive part of their fees.

Continue reading "Why Ted Olson is challenging Prop 8" »

Smelt litigation strategy: New California, the 51st state

UPDATE: This case has been dismissed without prejudice on a procedural technicality, and it will probably be refiled in federal court.

From Gay City News, straight into the you-can't-make-this-up folder:

The attorney representing two gay men who sued in state court and now in federal court in southern California to win the right to marry hopes the case will spawn a political movement that will result in residents there voting by ballot initiative to divide the state in two.

“We’re hoping to use the case in court as a springboard to get a proposition on the ballot that will break up California into two states,” said Richard C. Gilbert, a partner at Gilbert & Marlowe, a law firm with two offices in California. “We think if we can get this proposition on the ballot, we think we’ll win.”

Gilbert said the ideal result would be that all the counties north of Los Angeles would become New California while the southern counties would remain California.

Gilbert likened the circumstances of his clients — Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer — to Dredd Scott, who sued for his freedom in the 19th century only to have the US Supreme Court rule in 1857 that no African-American, free or enslaved, could be a US citizen. That decision contributed to the Civil War and Scott was eventually freed.

“We don’t want a civil war,” Gilbert said. “We just want to have civil division in our state between people who are willing to respect the rights of all people and those who are not.” Residents of New California, in his view, would be far more amenable to arguments in favor of marriage equality than those in the southern part of the state.

The couple originally sued in 2004 in state court, where the case was dismissed, but they have continued fighting on procedural grounds into federal court. They are battling to keep the case alive in federal court where, Gilbert said, their chances of prevailing are poor.

“I would expect that we would not succeed in the courtroom, but that we have a much greater chance of success in creating a New California, two separate states, if we can spread the word,” he said. ...

The judge behind the scramble in the Perry case

When lawsuits are filed in federal court, judges are assigned by random.  When Ted Olson and David Boies filed the Perry lawsuit challenging Prop 8, they drew Judge Vaughn Walker, a maverick in many senses of the word.  From the SF Chronicle:

Mn-walker12_ph1_0500356003 Back in 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated San Francisco corporate lawyer Vaughn Walker as a federal judge and ran into a wave of local opposition. Gay rights advocates were seething about Walker's representation of the U.S. Olympic Committee in a lawsuit that prevented a local group from calling its athletic competition the Gay Olympics. To secure legal fees, he attached a lien to the home of Tom Waddell, the group's AIDS-stricken founder, and removed the lien only after Waddell died.

Other foes cited his membership in the all-male Olympic Club or simply questioned why the city needed another white male pillar of the establishment on the bench. It took nearly two years - and two renominations by Reagan's successor, George H.W. Bush - for the Senate to confirm him.

Times have changed since then, and perhaps Walker has, too. Or perhaps, as some of his supporters maintained, the big-firm lawyer who was merely following his clients' orders would look much different when he was a judge issuing his own orders.

Few would have predicted that Walker would be the judge who provided life support for suits challenging President George W. Bush's wiretapping program. Or that he would advocate decriminalization of drugs.

Walker, now the chief judge of the U.S. judicial district in San Francisco, is also the jurist who will hear the federal lawsuit over Proposition 8.... "I couldn't think of a better guy to hear it," said Terence Hallinan, the San Francisco lawyer and former district attorney who as a city supervisor spoke out against Walker's court nomination in 1988. "He's independent, he's smart and he's unpredictable. ...He doesn't think the government should be sticking their nose into people's business any more than necessary."

Admiration for Walker from the left isn't universal. Some advocates of anti-logging protesters whose eyes were swabbed with liquid pepper spray by Humboldt County officers during 1997 sit-ins haven't forgiven him for his handling of their damage suit.

After a jury deadlocked in 1998, Walker dismissed the case, saying no reasonable juror could have found that the officers used excessive force. When an appeals court reinstated the suit, Walker ordered the retrial moved from San Francisco to Eureka. The court overruled him again, noting the North Coast community's strong ties to the logging industry, and removed Walker from the case, which was later settled....

Walker, now 65, has described himself as a Vietnam War protester at the University of Michigan who became a Republican at Stanford Law School. He spent 18 years at the blue-chip firm Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro in San Francisco before his judicial appointment. In a 2008 interview with the Daily Journal, a legal newspaper, he said his legal thinking includes a touch of libertarianism. "I do believe that the important values of our republic maximize individual freedom and liberty consistent with the good order of society," he said.

Continue reading "The judge behind the scramble in the Perry case" »

August 18, 2009

Carolina lavender

Two pieces of good news for lgbt advocates in ye olde home state:

  • The North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld a second-parent adoption in Boseman v. Jarrell. See Nancy Polikoff's blog for analysis of the decision. The extra bonus is that the plaintiff who won the case - Julia Boseman - is the first and only openly gay member of the state legislature.  She is the state senator who represents Wilmington (ye olde home town).
  • The Durham City Council voted unanimously to endorse marriage equality for same-sex couples.  According to the News & Observer:
The [Durham] City Council got a standing ovation Monday night when it unanimously passed, without discussion, a resolution supporting civil marriage for same-sex couples.

"It is simply a statement" and has no effect on the law, City Attorney Patrick Baker said before the vote. Nevertheless, when the outcome was announced much of the full-house audience in the council chamber broke into applause and then stood.

The resolution states:

"The City Council of the City of Durham endorses and supports the rights of same sex couples to share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitments of civil marriage."