Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two Marriage-Related Victories

Some good news today!

1) DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional. Again.

A federal bankruptcy court has ruled (PDF) that "no legally married couple should be entitled to fewer bankruptcy rights than any other legally married couple."

For some background on this case, two men who were legally married in California and who remain so since they got married before the discriminatory Prop 8 was passed, filed a joint bankruptcy petition under a law that allows married couples to file jointly. The United States Trustee, which oversees the administration of bankruptcy cases, sought to dismiss the joint petition because the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines "spouse" as a person of the "opposite sex."

The court in this case applied rational basis review to each of the reasons Congress put forth for enacting DOMA back in 1996: "the governent's interest in defending and nurturing the institution of heterosexual marriage; the government's interest in defending traditional notions of morality; and the government's interest in preserving scarce government resources." Some snippets:

"...[T]he joint petition of the Debtors will have no effect on procreation or child-bearing. It would not appear to be fair or rational for the court to conclude that allowing the Debtors to file a joint bankruptcy petition will in any way harm any marriage of heterosexual persons....

This court can conceive of no fair, just and rational basis to conclude that DOMA will contribute to the achievement of the goal of preserving scarce government and finds no basis in the evidence or record in this case to credit such a proposition.

Although individual members of Congress have every right to express their views and the views of their constituents with respect to their religious beliefs and principles and their personal standards of who may marry whom, this court cannot conclude that Congress is entitled to solemnize such views in the laws of this nation in disregard of the views, legal status and living arrangements of a significant segment of our citizenry that includes the Debtors in this case."

Finding no valid governmental basis for DOMA, the court concluded that DOMA fails even the least stringent rational basis test.

I've said before that if the "marriage exists for procreation" argument were anything other than an attempted after-the-fact argument against allowing same-sex couples to marry, the "marriage defenders" would put their money were their mouth was and de-link all rights, privileges, and benefits of marriage that were not directly linked to procreation. As Judge Walker noted in Perry: "There are support obligations and there are a host of other obligations that flow from a marriage that have nothing to do with the sexual conduct of the parties to the marriage."

The right to file joint bankruptcy petitions is, of course, one of many such rights. I'm glad this court recognized that.

In general, DOMA has not stood up to judicial scrutiny and as a Supreme Court battle looms in the near future, the irrationality of the law probably explains why organizations like the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage are focusing on everything but the substance in that debate.

2) Judge Walker's Perry Decision Not Vacated

Because we allow gay people in gay relationships to be judges even on gay issues, a court found that Judge Walker did not have to recuse himself from California's Prop 8 case Perry v. Schwarzenegger even though he is in a same-sex relationship.

I'm sure this decision will disappoint professional anti-gay Matt Barber, who believes "practitioner[s] of the homosexual lifestyle" can't judge marriage cases, as well as the folks at Protect Marriage, who filed the motion to get Perry vacated.

This decision appeared to have been a no-brainer for the court, which I'm sure will also come as a shocking revelation to the anti-gays who are convinced of the Utter Genius it took to argue that it wasn't so much the judge's homosexuality that was the problem, it was his being in a homosexual relationship that was the problem. The court cut right to the chase in articulating:

"The fact that a federal judge shares a fundamental characteristic with a litigant, or shares membership in a large association such as a religion, has been categorically rejected by federal courts as a sole basis for requiring a judge to recuse her or himself."


Gee, I wonder if the motion was mostly We're-Victims-Of-A-HomoFascist-Tyranny posturing intended to rile up frothy anger and a sense of heterosexual persecution?

Anyway, in addition to echoing the concerns that I (and other commentators) raised about the precedent vacating Walker's decision would have set with respect to minority groups' ability to, like, ever rule on civil rights cases, the court noted:

"Among other things, this means that if, in an overabundance of caution, [Judge Walker] were to have disclosed intimate, but irrelevant details about his personal life that were not reasonably related to the question of disqualification, he could have set a pernicious precedent. Such a precedent would be detrimental to the integrity of the judiciary, because it would promote, incorrectly, disclosure by judges of highly personal information (e.g., information about a judge's history of being sexually abused as a child), however irrelevant or time-consuming."

I think undercutting the integrity of the judiciary is actually, no joke, a big part of the Anti-Gay Agenda. So, cue Team Inequality's whining about the judiciary in 3....2.....1.

Sigh. So predictable.

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