The Florida Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 today to uphold a lower court decision striking down the country’s first state-wide voucher program. The Court affirmed the lower court ruling that the Florida voucher law violated the “no aid” clause of the state constitution providing that public funds cannot be used to aid sectarian institutions.
The California Supreme Court today invalidated the marriages of more than 4,000 same-sex couples, ruling that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom lacked the authority under state law to allow such marriages. The Court did not rule on whether the state’s prohibition on marriage for gay and lesbian couples violates the state constitution, the position taken by Mayor Newsom and the city. That issue is being litigated in other cases still working their way through the courts.
One Step Forward; One Step Back
In the same week, a Washington state court ruled in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples in accordance with the state constitution, while Missouri voters approved an amendment to their constitution to ban recognition of such marriages. The mixed results reflect the give and take that can be expected in the short run as the nation moves toward full equality for gay and lesbian Americans.
The U.S. House of Representatives today vote 233-194 to pass the so-called “Marriage Protection Act,” legislation that would effectively bar an entire class of citizens from asking the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights.
Contact your representative and tell him or her that challenges to federal laws should be heard in federal courts. Remind your representative that the federal courts exist to protect a person’s rights from government abuse, and that any attempts to restrict those rights are unwise and likely unconstitutional. Urge your representative to oppose court-stripping and the so-called “Marriage Protection Act.” Sign up for our newsletters and action alerts and we’ll keep you updated on new developments concerning this issue.
The “Marriage Protection Act” scheduled for a vote on Thursday in the House of Representatives would effectively bar an entire class of citizens from asking the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights. People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas strongly urged members of the House of Representatives to reject the bill.
Right Wing Intensifies Anti-Gay Election Year Strategy
Having fallen prey to intra-party GOP squabbling, the anti-gay marriage amendment could not even get enough support in the Senate to shut off debate and be voted upon. While the victory for those who would keep discrimination from being enshrined in our Constitution should be celebrated, the Right's anti-gay election-year strategy continues, unabated.
See how the senators voted
Today, the Colorado State Supreme Court declared unconstitutional and prohibited implementation of a law that would have provided private and religious school vouchers to qualifying students in Colorado. The Colorado law was the first passed in the nation since the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly decided such programs do not necessarily violate the U.S. Constitution. The Colorado court found that the voucher program violates the state Constitution’s requirement that local school districts retain control over locally raised education funds.
Today, a resolution urging a mass exodus of children from public schools was rejected by delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Indianapolis.
"Today's vote by a very conservative body should be seen as a powerful repudiation of anti-public education extremists," said People For the American Way Foundation President Ralph G. Neas. "The failure of this irresponsible resolution indicates that support for public schools is strong among Southern Baptists just as it is among Americans as a whole. A vast majority of parents prefer quality public schools to any other option."
The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) recently released a report, “Unfunded Mandates: Analysis of Reform Act Coverage,” finding that the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is not, technically, an “unfunded mandate.” U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige took the opportunity to divert attention from the struggle facing states forced to implement the law in spite of more than a $9 billion shortfall.
A narrow 5-4 Supreme Court upholding a person’s right to sue a state for damages for failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act highlights the fragility of federal civil rights enforcement and the importance of future Supreme Court nominees to the ability of federal courts to enforce civil rights protections. In recent years, similar cases have gone the other way as a 5-4 majority has pursued a new theory of “states’ rights” jurisprudence. The leaders of that “states’ rights” movement on the Court, including Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, dissented from today’s ruling.