Massachusetts

Meet Justina Pelletier, The Religious Right's Next Campaign

For the last several months, Glenn Beck has tirelessly focused on a case involving a young woman named Justina Pelletier who was diagnosed by one set of doctors at Tufts Medical Center as having a condition known as mitochondrial disease, for which she had been receiving treatment. At one point, Justina became ill and ended up at the Boston Children's Hospital to see her longtime gastroenterologist, who had switched hospitals, when doctors there determined that she did not, in fact, have mitochondrial disease but was rather suffering from a somatoform disorder, which is "a mental disorder characterized by symptoms that suggest physical illness or injury."

Justina's parents disagreed with the diagnosis given by Boston Children's Hospital and sought to discharge their daughter but the hospital refused, instead informing them that an allegation of medical child abuse had been filed against them. At that point, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families got involved, taking custody of Justina, placing her under psychiatric care and limiting her contact with her parents.

That set off a long and on-going legal battle between Justina's parents and the state and while the case has been heavily covered in the local media, few outside of Glenn Beck have been paying much attention to the story. Beck continues to focus attention on it daily and last week, Justina's father appeared on his television program in violation of a gag order, for which he is now facing contempt charges.

Those were the latest developments until, suddenly, a bunch of Religious Right groups got involved in the fight yesterday, including Patrick Mahoney, who was deeply involved in the Terry Schiavo fight, and Personhood USA, as the two groups announced that they would be protesting outside the Suffolk County Juvenile Court during a hearing that was scheduled to take place regarding Justina's case.

On top of that, Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver just as suddenly announced that he was the Pelletier family's legal counsel and his organization made this case its top priority as Staver began making the rounds promoting it on Fox and elsewhere.

Why, after months of total silence and literally no interest, did several Religious Right organizations suddenly and collectively begin to care about this case, all on the same day? 

Well, as Beck explained on his radio program today, last week an unnamed billionaire benefactor of his The Blaze network saw the program featuring Justina's father and was so outraged by it that he vowed to hire a legal team and turn this into a crusade:

As Beck said, the "new attorney" hired by this benefactor would be appearing on his program tonight to discuss the latest developments in this case ... and that attorney is none other than Mat Staver:

Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, will appear on the Glenn Beck TV Show today from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time to discuss the ongoing story of Justina Pelletier, who was taken from her parents and is currently being denied medical treatment.

So that at least seems to explain why, all of a sudden, a bunch of Religious Right groups have gotten involved in this complex and frequently confusing case: because some unnamed billionaire is footing the bill for them to do so.

Warren Warns of ‘Corporate Capture of Federal Courts’

At an AFL-CIO convention this weekend, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren called out the increasingly pro-corporate lean of the U.S. Supreme Court. Politico reports:

On the opening day of the AFL-CIO’s convention, Warren — the highest-profile national Democrat to address the gathering here — warned attendees of a “corporate capture of the federal courts.”

In a speech that voiced a range of widely held frustrations on the left, Warren assailed the court as an instrument of the wealthy that regularly sides with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She cited an academic study that called the current Supreme Court’s five conservative-leaning justices among the “top 10 most pro-corporate justices in half a century.”

“You follow this pro-corporate trend to its logical conclusion, and sooner or later you’ll end up with a Supreme Court that functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Business,” Warren said, drawing murmurs from the crowd.

The study that Warren was referring to is a Minnesota Law Review study that found that the five conservative justices currently on the Supreme Court have sided with corporate interests at a greater rate than most justices since World War II. All five were among the ten most corporate-friendly justices in over 50 years. Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts were the top two.

The Supreme Court majority’s consistent twisting of the law to put the interests of corporations over those of individuals is one of the main characteristics of the Roberts Court, but it is not the only extremely influential court with such a pro-corporate bent. In fact, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to which President Obama has nominated three highly qualified candidates, has been following the same trend, also because of the influence of judges named by George W. Bush.  This is the court whose ultra-conservative justices declared that cigarette label warning requirements violate the free speech rights of tobacco companies and that requiring that employers inform employees of their right to unionize violates the free speech rights of the corporations.

While there is not currently a vacancy at the Supreme Court that could affect its balance, there are three at the DC Circuit.  That is why Senate Republicans are working so hard to keep them empty.

PFAW

PFAW Voters Alliance PAC Endorses Carl Sciortino for Congress in Massachusetts' Fifth Congressional District

(Washington, DC) People For the American Way Voters Alliance PAC today endorsed Carl Sciortino for Congress, praising his strong record of progressive leadership. Rep. Sciortino, currently a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, is running to represent Massachusetts’ fifth congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat was recently vacated by Ed Markey on his election to the U.S. Senate.

Since his election in 2004, Carl has fought tirelessly for progressive causes. A founding member of the Massachusetts House Progressive Caucus, he has pushed for closing corporate tax loopholes, advocated for better access to transportation and healthcare, stood up for workers’ rights, and been a staunch defender of LGBT rights. The 2012 Transgender Equal Rights Bill, which Carl co-authored, provided legal protection against discrimination for transgender individuals in Massachusetts.

Before his election to the state legislature, he served as Massachusetts state director of the affiliated People For the American Way Foundation's Young Elected Officials Network.

“Carl is a strong leader, a committed public servant, and a true progressive,” said People For the American Way Voters Alliance PAC political director Randy Borntrager. “He knows that being a progressive means standing up for Americans from all walks of life; it means fighting for a woman’s right to choose, for better transportation access, for workers’ rights. And he has done all of this in Massachusetts. He has also been a real champion for LGBT rights, achieving a number of significant victories for LGBT people, including the Transgender Equal Rights Bill.

“There’s no question that Carl would defend these principles just as strongly in the U.S. Congress, where we need his powerful progressive voice more than ever. Carl will bring an unmatched dedication to progressive values to his constituents to the U.S. Congress, and we’re proud to endorse him.”  

Carl Sciortino said, “We need to change the conversation in Washington and fight hard for progressive values. As a state representative, I have fought to close corporate tax loopholes, protect access to abortion clinics, and to make the economy work for regular people—not Wall Street or the big banks. In Congress, I will fight against those who put corporations over the rest of us and Tea Partiers who want to tell women what to do with their bodies.”
 

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MassResistance: LGBT-Rights Celebration Brought 'Spiritual Darkness' to Massachusetts State House

Last month, MassResistance head Brian Camenker claimed that teachers in LGBT-inclusive schools in Massachusetts will be just like “Nazi concentration camp guards” following the passage of a transgender anti-discrimination law. MassResistance attended a celebration of the transgender equality law and issued a report titled “The State House event from hell.” The group said that the event’s “spiritual darkness took a long time to get over” as “hatred and evil resonated throughout the room,” and went on to warn that the LGBT rights movement is targeting children for recruitment.

Hatred and evil resonated throughout the room

It was their "victory dance" and they wanted to make a point that there's a lot more to come. The room was filled with hardcore transgender and homosexual activists.

Of all the "gay" events at the State House over the years, this was the worst. The sheer hatred in the room against pro-family people was so thick you could feel it, and it seemed to resonate through every speech. The spiritual darkness took a long time to get over. It was reminiscent of the horrible cheering and screaming scene by homosexual activists outside Boston City Hall in 2004 when the first "gay marriages" took place.



The event began with several high-profile speakers, including the Governor, Attorney General, and Speaker of the House, and other politicians, followed by leaders and major figures from various state homosexual and transgender organizations.

The speakers were all very candid about their hostility for pro-family values and their plans to push the homosexual and transgender demands as far as they can. The speeches certainly fired up the activists. But to anyone else, it was eerie and unnerving.



• Children. A big target of this movement is children. They want to "help" children to find their identities.

• Demonizing our side. The people who did not agree with this bill are bigoted and backwards. Or, as Attorney General Martha Coakley "gracefully" put it: "nearsighted."

• Ruthlessness. They are going to be ruthless in enforcing it.

• More to come. This is just the beginning. They intend to use the law to its fullest, and expand it as much as they can. At a minimum, they intend to push through the "public accommodations" sections this session.

• Change America. They now have the power they need to change society, starting here but eventually across America.



As you can see, they are not stopping here. The radical activists have more plans are for you, your children, and all of society. And the high government officials who have contempt and hostility for people with traditional pro-family values are only too eager to carry them out. And they're relishing the fact that they have the power to do it as harshly as they wish.

PFAWF Releases Reports on Outside Election Spending in 21 States, Organizes ‘Money Out/Voters In’ Events Across the U.S.

Out of State Money Floods Contests in 2012

Washington, DC –  Today People For the American Way Foundation unveiled new state-by-state fact sheets detailing outside spending in U.S. Senate and House races in 21 states.  Each report analyzes the outside spending totals from Super PACs, dark money groups, and out-of-state spenders in the down ballot federal races from the 2012 election cycle.  The fact sheets reveal that, on average, a majority of outside election money in these states came from Super PACs.  And in every case, a vast majority came from organizations registered outside of the state.

The release of the “Outside Spending, Outsized Influence” reports coincide with the weekend marking Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the third anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC  to draw attention to the dual threats of voter suppression and unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics. The reports – a partnership between PFAWF and U.S. PIRG – are part of the Money Out/Voters In campaign.  As part of that campaign, People For the American Way Foundation, its affiliate People For the American Way, and other organizers across the country are hosting “Day of Action” events in more than 76 cities in 33 states this weekend. Members of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council will be leading Money Out/Voters In events in Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.

“Last year’s elections were far and away the most expensive in history,” said People For the American Way Foundation Executive Vice President Marge Baker.  “A major reason was the influx of outside, special interest spending in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision. When big money floods our elections, it dwarfs the ability of individual Americans to have their voices heard. Just as important, when politicians push laws to suppress the vote, we turn back the clock on decades on progress to expand and improve our democracy. We need to pursue the full range of remedies to address the problem of too much money in politics, including amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United, and we need to stand up against the growing threat of voter suppression.  This weekend we are joining with allies across the country to call for a democracy that gets Money Out and Voters In.”

The states featured in the reports are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

For links to each report, please visit: http://www.pfaw.org/issues/outside-spending-outsized-influence-big-and-s...

For more information about the Money Out/Voters In campaign or the Days of Action, please visit: http://www.moneyout-votersin.org

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Scott Lively Envisions a Religious Right/Progressive Grassroots Third Party Coalition

Scott Lively dropped in on "Focal Point" today, mostly to discuss developments in Uganda, but also to provide some insights on his plan to run for Governor of Massachusetts, which he apparently thinks he can win by creating a third party coalition by merging anti-gay Religious Right activists with "the grassroots of the progressive movement": 

On his blog, Lively has posted a manifesto explaining how this new coalition would work as Religious Right activists leave the corporate GOP and set about "plundering the 'Progressive' base" by winning over Blacks, Hispanics, libertarians, environmentalists, and labor unions: 

Why will ethnic minorities join us in the first place, before we’ve been able to prove ourselves champions of true social justice? We will make a simple appeal to the thing we most share in common. “Our Bond Is Family!” There’s our pitch and strategy in bumper-sticker simplicity. The typical African American or Hispanic person is generally more Christian and pro-family than the average American (as are the Russian, Eastern European, East Indian, African and Asian immigrants). RINO Republicans could never build a bridge to these minorities because they don’t share these values. But we can and should.

The illegal immigration issue has unfortunately distracted both conservatives and Hispanics from the interests we hold in common, but from my experience I think most Hispanics who are legal citizens would gravitate naturally to the Republican Party and not the Democrats if our agenda were centered on family rather than fiscal matters (especially if we had our own social justice platform). Frankly, I’d happily trade any number of pro-abortion, hate-America White liberal suburbanites for the equivalent number of pro-life, pro-family working class Hispanic citizens. We’d be a much stronger country for it.

...

We should reach out to moderate and conservative-leaning environmentalists as well. Environmentalism is another movement we should rescue from the Marxists and rebuild on a Christian foundation. Our responsibility to be good stewards of the earth is a central tenet of Christianity, and we are certainly much more capable of fulfilling this duty in a balanced manner than the Marxists are. (Not to mention that we would do the world a great service to steer at least some portion of this powerful movement away from power-grabbing globalist goals such as Agenda 21 and “global warming” and toward authentic environmental needs.)

One key point in this arena that deserves immediate, urgent advocacy is opposition to genetically-modified foods. RINOs would never take this position for fear of alienating agri-business and mega-corporations like Monsanto, but we conservatives should.

Environmentalists might at first seem to be an impossible constituency to recruit, but Christians share an important common ground with them: an embrace of the natural and rejection of the unnatural. The most important concepts in environmentalism — bio-diversity, eco-systems, and the inter-dependence of species — rest on the clear “natural law” presupposition (central to Christianity as well) that there is an existing order in nature that should be protected by human beings. We also share a distrust of the corporate giants whose myopic pursuit of ever greater profits represents the greatest threat to the environment.

If we craft an appeal based on our common preference for the “natural” over the “artificial,” and frame this as a logical basis for deciding social policy in every area, we suddenly have a powerful unifying theme for our entire slate that could win every intellectually honest environmentalist to our side: the natural value of life vs the unnatural termination of unborn babies, natural marriage vs. un-natural homosexual unions, God-given liberty vs. man-made Statism, commerce among real persons vs. that with artificial corporate “persons,” natural foods vs. genetic experiments, a return to family farms and rejection of agri-business, a return to natural remedies and rejection of Big Pharma, etc..

While we’re plundering the “Progressive” base, lets not forget the labor unions. There’s nothing inherently evil or unbiblical about labor unions. The evil comes from the Marxist ideologues and organized crime elements who control them. Union members were the heart and soul of the so-called “Reagan Democrats” who crossed party lines in droves for Reagan because he sincerely espoused Christian values. This is a natural constituency for a newly Bible-centered GOP. The only reason we don’t have them now in any significant numbers is that the corporate giants don’t like them (for obvious reasons) and continually foster hostility against them among the Republican rank and file.

Movement to Overturn Citizens United Wins Big Across the Country

Washington, DC – The movement to overturn Citizens United v. FEC scored major victories in state and local elections across the country Tuesday as citizens voted to support a constitutional amendment returning democracy to voters. Statewide ballot initiatives calling for a constitutional amendment passed by wide margins in Colorado and Montana, as did initiatives in over half the cities and towns of Massachusetts. Initiatives in San Francisco, Chicago, and three cities in Oregon also passed by wide margins.

“Americans across the country are fed up with the enormous influence of big money in elections,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “Yesterday, over seven million Americans in six states spoke out with their votes and overwhelmingly rejected corporate money in politics. What’s more, Americans reelected a president who supports a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United over a man who thinks “corporations are people.” This is a huge step for the ever-growing movement to return elections to the voters.”

More details about the successful ballot measures can be found here.

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The Right to Vote Under Attack, 2012 Update

Here we detail, as of October 6, 2012, except where otherwise noted, the latest efforts across the country to suppress the vote, as well as some encouraging successes in expanding the franchise.

Elizabeth Warren Ad Warns of Republican Senate Influence On Supreme Court

People For the American Way has been stressing the enormous importance of the Supreme Court in the next election, emphasizing that if Mitt Romney is elected, he has promised to nominate extreme right-wing judges who will limit our civil liberties and rescind equality measures. In a new ad, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren echoes these concerns, warning that a Senate dominated by Republicans has the potential to approve a justice that would help overturn Roe v. Wade. Warren’s opponent Scott Brown has already voiced his support for Justice Antonin Scalia, naming the ultra-conservative judge as his favorite on the Supreme Court. We cannot afford to elect candidates like Mitt Romney or Scott Brown, who are sure to nominate and confirm justices that will take us back in time and turn back the progress we have made on behalf of women’s rights, worker’s rights, voting rights, and more.

PFAW

Romney Distorts His Record As Governor

During Tuesday’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney continued to sell himself as a turnaround artist and savior of the economy—a former CEO whose stellar business acumen will create an abundance of jobs (12 million in four years, to be exact), champion small businesses, and improve the middle class.

But what Romney failed to mention is that when he inherited Massachusetts’ damaged economy in 2003, he was unable to spur the economic growth he had promised in his gubernatorial campaign. And it doesn’t stop at an unsuccessful economic policy. Many of the “accomplishments” that Romney touted last night, such as his education policies and his advocacy of women in the workplace, were futile as well. If we delve deeper into Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts and look past the lies he spouts, we can foreshadow what a Romney presidency would look like. And it’s not a very promising vision.

Last night at the debate, Romney promoted his five-point plan, alleging that he “knows why jobs come and go.” He claimed that he knew “what it takes to get this economy going.” But does he? Here is how Romney’s leadership played out in the Massachusetts economy from 2003 to 2007:

  • In Romney’s four years as governor, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 in job growth. Jobs growth over that period was a pitiful 0.9 percent.
  • Massachusetts only gained one percent in payroll jobs under Romney, compared to 5.3% in the nation as a whole.
  • The net number of jobs added during the four years Romney was in office was 24,400 – a fraction of the total of about 200,000 lost during the recession.
  • Manufacturing jobs in Massachusetts declined by more than 14 percent, the third worst record in the country. The loss was double the rate that the nation as a whole lost manufacturing jobs.
  • Massachusetts infrastructure accrued a $20 billion deficit of overdue maintenance by the end of Romney’s term, according to the Massachusetts Taxpayer’s Foundation.
  • Between 2003 and 2005 the median hourly wage for Massachusetts workers fell 5%–the largest decline in the country during that period.
  • Under Romney, Massachusetts had the 3rd highest rate of domestic out-migration.

Though Romney assaults Obama’s economic record, job growth in the U.S. has been swifter under Obama than job growth in Massachusetts under Romney.

Romney also likes to flaunt the education policies he put in place in Massachusetts. Last night at the debate, he boasted about his John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, which he claimed would send the top quarter of each high school class to the Massachusetts college of their choice tuition-free. But this is not the full picture. Here is the reality of Romney’s education policies in Massachusetts, according to a report in the Boston Globe:

  • Romney’s valued John and Abigail Adams Scholarships cover only tuition at state colleges, not fees , which account for more than 80 percent of yearly costs at some schools. Just a quarter of the recipients actually choose to attend state colleges.
  • Massachusetts students regularly score at the top on national and international tests. But that achievement is largely due to the state’s 1993 landmark education reform law.
  • Mitt Romney campaigned for governor in 2002 in favor of eradicating the nation’s first bilingual education law and instead immersing non-English speakers in classrooms where only English would be taught.
  • In 2006, three years after the law Romney campaigned for went into effect, new state tests showed that 83 percent of students learning English as a second language in the third through twelfth grades could not read, write, speak or understand English well enough for regular classes after their first year in Massachusetts schools.

When asked about pay equity, Romney highlighted his efforts as governor of Massachusetts to hire women to work in his administration. However he does not have a history of appointing women to high-level positions in the private sector, nor did he appoint many women to judicial positions:

Romney’s record in Massachusetts related to women’s health is also not very encouraging:

  • Romney vetoed a bill to require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims.
  • Romney vetoed $35,678 for early breast cancer detection and research.
  • Romney vetoed $2.8 million for cervical and breast cancer treatment.

Romney is right that his record as governor of Massachusetts shows us a lot about how he would act as president. But he’s intentionally misleading voters about what that record is.

PFAW

Brian Camenker Blames Gay Marriage for Spike in Domestic Violence

MassResistance has updated its report, “What same-sex ‘marriage’ has done to Massachusetts,” and the group’s head Brian Camenker appeared on VCY America’s Crosstalk to go down the list of all of the so-called negative impacts of marriage equality.

Anyone who thinks that same-sex "marriage" is a benign eccentricity which won't affect the average person should consider what it has done to Massachusetts since 2004. It's become a hammer to force the acceptance and normalization of homosexuality on everyone. The slippery slope is real. New radical demands never cease. What has happened in the last several years is truly frightening.

Camenker rehashed the typical claims about how gay rights is leading to anti-Christian persecution, but also told host Vice Eliason that marriage equality is responsible for an uptick in the state’s domestic violence cases. Experts say that domestic violence has increased nationwide, likely connected to economic stress, Massachusetts included.

But Camenker says gay couples are responsible for the increase, arguing that “the rates of domestic violence among homosexual couples is many, many times that of heterosexual couples,” which he alleges is a manifestation of “the dysfunctional nature of homosexual relationships.”

However, Jane Doe Inc. The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence writes, “Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals are abused at approximately the same levels as heterosexual couples, but the abuse may be exacerbated by social isolation caused by societal oppression and discrimination.” The Center for American Progress also notes that “studies have found that domestic violence occurs among same-sex couples at comparable rates to straight couples,” not “many, many times that of heterosexual couples” as Camenker claims.

Eliason: Domestic violence, what’s happening in that field dealing with this new lifestyle?

Camenker: Well it’s well known that the rates of domestic violence among homosexual couples is many, many times that of heterosexual couples for all kinds of reasons. What’s happened in Massachusetts is that it has gotten so high that the legislature is having to budget more and more money, millions of dollars now, toward dealing with this problem up from a hundred thousand dollars just a few years go.



Camenker: It’s interesting at homosexual related events, you know gay pride events and all this stuff, they’re handing out all this gay domestic violence, partner violence literature, which is funded by the state. Apparently this has become a big problem; it’s even being passed out at high school gay clubs and all of this stuff. You know, the dysfunctional nature of homosexual relationships, which nobody wants to talk about, is being manifest more and more we’re seeing.

New Young Elected Progressives Endorsees

Today we are unveiling three more new endorsees of People For the American Way’s Young Elected Progressives program: Sean Garballey (MA), Carl Sciortino (MA), and Luz Robles (UT). These three, young individuals, under the age of 35, have been great progressive leaders in their respective states.

Sean Garballey (MA)

Sean Garballey is running for reelection to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He has been a member since 2008, representing Arlington, MA. Garballey has established himself as a leader of the Massachusetts progressives and currently serves on four committees, including as Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws. Prior to serving in the House, Garballey was an Arlington Town Meeting Member for 5 years. He has been a proven progressive champion in the Massachusetts legislature, sponsoring several bills to increase the funding of public education and grants for those seeking public higher education. Garballey also received the Public Service Award in 2011 from affiliate PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network. Visit his website here.

Carl Sciortino (MA)

Carl Sciortino is running for reelection to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He has been serving the Somerville and Medford areas in the House since 2005. Sciortino serves on the Public Health and Transportation Committees, among others, and has been a leader in the House for the past several terms. He was named "Best of the New" by Boston Globe Magazine and "Legislator of the Year" by the National Association of Social Workers and has been a great progressive leader in fighting for equal, social rights. Visit his website here.

Luz Robles (UT)

Luz Robles is running for reelection to the Utah Senate. She has represented Utah’s 1st district since 2008. Robles serves on the Senate Ethics Committee, the Health and Human Services Committee, and two others. Robles has fought hard for equal rights for all individuals and sponsored a bill which would give illegal immigrants an accountability card allowing them to gain work without changing their legal status. She was named the Fifth Most Influential Person in Utah by Deseret News and is a great progressive representative for the people of Utah. Visit her website here.

PFAW

Massachusetts working toward positive electoral reforms

Where other states have placed obstacles between voters and the ballot box, Massachusetts is working on making the process easier.
PFAW Foundation

No Reason for DOMA, Says Appeals Court

 A federal appeals court in Boston today upheld a lower court ruling that called the key section of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” unconstitutional. Section 3 of DOMA bans the federal government from recognizing legal marriages between people of the same sex, meaning that it willfully discriminates against a set of married people when it comes to Social Security benefits, joint-filing tax breaks, military spousal benefits and immigration. When DOMA was passed in 1996 no states allowed gay and lesbian couple to marry – its provisions were purely theoretical. Today, marriage equality exists in six states and the District of Columbia, and DOMA actively harms thousands of married Americans – 100,000 couples, according to the court.

In its decision concluding that DOMA violates the Constitution, the unanimous First Circuit panel – two out of three of whom were nominated by Republican presidents – was cautious. The panel said that under First Circuit precedent DOMA doesn’t trigger “heightened scrutiny” – a tougher standard for the federal government to meet. It also declined to address any arguments based on the premise that lesbians and gays have a constitutional right to marry (as opposed to having their existing marriages recognized by the federal government).

But the court was clear that Section 3 of DOMA does not meet the “rational basis” test for upholding a federal law that denies equal protection to a group long subject to discrimination – in other words, there’s just no good reason for DOMA to do the harm that it does.

The court looked at several justificiations offered for the law by DOMA’s supporters and found that each comes up short. Supporters say DOMA will save the federal government money (reports say that it actually costs the government money…and saving money isn’t a good enough reason for legal discrimination in the first place); that allowing lesbians and gays to marry harms children (it doesn’t, and Section 3 of DOMA doesn’t affect these couples’ rights to raise children anyway); and just plain moral disapproval (Supreme Court precedent says this isn’t enough of a reason). And finally, the court takes on the constant argument of opponents of same-sex marriage: that somehow gay couples getting married will harm the institution of marriage for everyone else:

Although the House Report is filled with encomia to heterosexual marriage, DOMA does not increase benefits to opposite-sex couples--whose marriages may in any event be childless, unstable or both--or explain how denying benefits to same-sex couples will reinforce heterosexual marriage. Certainly, the denial will not affect the gender choices of those seeking marriage. This is not merely a matter of poor fit of remedy to perceived problem, but a lack of any demonstrated connection between DOMA's treatment of same-sex couples and its asserted goal of strengthening the bonds and benefits to society of heterosexual marriage.

This is the crux of any number of court decisions that have struck down barriers to marriage equality. The main reason given for many laws that seek to deny marriage rights to gays and lesbians is that same-sex marriage will somehow weaken marriage for everybody else. It’s a claim that just doesn’t hold water.

The First Circuit panel did, however, go out of its way to defend DOMA’s supporters even while rejecting the law.

The District Court judge whose ruling the appeals court upheld declared that DOMA was motivated by “irrational prejudice” toward gays and lesbians. The First Circuit explicitly refuses to go there, instead stating that while that may have been true for some supporters, others were motivated instead by what it characterizes as the non-biased wish to “preserve the heritage of marriage as traditionally defined over centuries of Western civilization.” Under recent Supreme Court precedent, they write, the wish to uphold tradition isn’t a good enough one for denying equal protection. But the Supreme Court can change that if it wants:

In reaching our judgment, we do not rely upon the charge that DOMA's hidden but dominant purpose was hostility to homosexuality. The many legislators who supported DOMA acted from a variety of motives, one central and expressed aim being to preserve the heritage of marriage as traditionally defined over centuries of Western civilization. Preserving this institution is not the same as "mere moral disapproval of an excluded group," and that is singularly so in this case given the range of bipartisan support for the statute.

The opponents of section 3 point to selected comments from a few individual legislators; but the motives of a small group cannot taint a statute supported by large majorities in both Houses and signed by President Clinton. Traditions are the glue that holds society together, and many of our own traditions rest largely on belief and familiarity--not on benefits firmly provable in court. The desire to retain them is strong and can be honestly held. For 150 years, this desire to maintain tradition would alone have been justification enough for almost any statute. This judicial deference has a distinguished lineage, including such figures as Justice Holmes, the second Justice Harlan, and Judges Learned Hand and Henry Friendly. But Supreme Court decisions in the last fifty years call for closer scrutiny of government action touching upon minority group interests and of federal action in areas of traditional state concern.

Recognizing that the Supreme Court will likely review its reasoning, the court stayed the decision, so it will not go into effect yet.

PFAW Foundation

PFAW Foundation Applauds First Circuit DOMA Ruling

A unanimous three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld a lower-court ruling which held that Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The panel included two Republican appointees.

Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way Foundation, issued the following statement:

“The First Circuit has reached the inevitable conclusion on DOMA: the arguments for such a discriminatory, hurtful law just don’t hold up. Over 16 years, DOMA has denied thousands of legally married Americans the protections and responsibilities granted to all other married couples under federal law. DOMA prevents married couples from providing for each other through Social Security; sponsoring each other for visas; helping each other with the tax benefits reserved for married couples; and prevents some service members and veterans from having their marriages recognized by the military. DOMA marginalizes a group of Americans, declares them inferior, and denies them rights granted to all others.

“ DOMA has caused real harm to Americans. A law that discriminates against a class of people just for the sake of discrimination is contrary to our principles and contrary to our laws.”

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