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Three states are continuing the fight for marriage by taking their cases straight to the U.S. Supreme Court. Utah took the lead on Tuesday by asking the court to consider a recent court ruling that redefined the institution. Virginia and Oklahoma have done the same.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said it’s his job to uphold the will of the people.
“My responsibility is to defend the state Constitution and its amendments as Utah citizens have enacted them,” he said in a statement. “We recognize this litigation has caused uncertainty and disruption and have accordingly tried to expedite its resolution as quickly as possible by filing our petition a full month-and-a-half before its September 23rd due date.”
Virginia Attorney General Mike Herring announced later on Tuesday that he would ask the high court to hear Virginia’s marriage case. And today, ADF attorneys — representing an Oklahoma county clerk — asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the state constitutional amendment. Both states saw their constitutional marriage amendments struck down — in separate rulings — by federal courts in July.
The District of Columbia and 19 states have redefined marriage either by court order or legislation.
All states in the country have had their marriage law or amendment challenged. Appeals are pending in 14 of these cases. Focus on the Family Judicial Analyst Bruce Hausknecht said we’ll eventually see more states appeal marriage decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We’ll see more eventually, but Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia are at the Supreme Court now, and may be the ones from which the Court selects,” he said. “The nearest appellate court decision, probably from the 6th Circuit, will be weeks or even months behind. And it may be one of those situations, similar to the HHS mandate cases, where a few cases hit the Court, and every other case just stands still while the court addresses the constitutional question.”
As for Utah, the state welcomes the Supreme Court merits decision, Reyes said.
“All Utah citizens will benefit,” he explained, “when the Supreme Court provides clear finality on the important issue of state authority to define marriage.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read the petition to the Supreme Court in Herbert v. Kitchen.
Read the opinion in the case from 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
A Christian legal organization asked the Colorado Supreme Court on Monday to uphold a lower court ruling that affirms a county’s right to include private religious schools in the state’s school choice program. In other words, students should have the choice to attend a Christian school if they wish.
Taxpayers for Public Education filed suit against Douglas County School District claiming its school choice program is unconstitutional. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the schools they represent were initially on a list of 500 schools eligible for school-choice funds. After the ACLU and other groups sued, they were removed from the list.
“School districts have a responsibility to provide the best educational choices for parents and their children without discriminating against religious options,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “The Court of Appeals affirmed that the Choice Scholarship Program respects the First Amendment and the private religious choices of Colorado families. The Colorado Supreme Court has every reason to reach the same conclusion.”
ADF attorneys are representing the Association of Christian Schools International, the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colorado Christian University and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in its brief.
In 2013, Douglas County won its case in the Colorado Court of Appeals. The justices ruled the new Choice Scholarship Program was constitutional. ADF then appealed to the high court.
The brief points out that the First Amendment nurtures a long history of religious freedom by preventing the government from silencing religious viewpoints in the marketplace. While the government is prohibited from establishing a national religion, it is not allowed to exclude viewpoints because they are religious in nature.
“Religious schools that meet all other qualifications are constitutionally free to participate in a religiously neutral program,” Baylor said. “These schools provide an excellent education that meets all state standards. They should continue to be welcomed into programs like this one so that students, the community, and the government will all benefit.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Download the new Focus on the Family resource “Empowering Parents” from True Tolerance.
CitizenLink is proud to work with California Family Alliance and other family policy organizations across the country to stand for marriage, life and religious freedom. Learn more about the one in your state.
Building codes, tools, and techniques have certainly changed over the centuries. From the archaic rock and chisel to the computer-aided design and laser technology, a fundamental aspect of construction has not changed: no matter the method or material, the foundation must be sound.
Except in California.
That’s because traditional marriage, the first institution ever formed and a fundamental societal building block, has been further undermined in California after Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill (SB) 1306 (Leno D-San Francisco), a new law that strips all references to “husband” and “wife” from the family code.
In introducing SB 1306, Leno claimed that the bill’s purpose was to clean-up statutory codes to bring them in line with the state Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 22, a same-sex marriage ban passed by voters in 2000. SB 1306 goes much further, though, by also sanitizing traditional parental roles by substituting the gender-neutral word “spouse” for all references to “husband” and “wife” in the Family Code.
Unfortunately, the critical foundation of the family is not the only thing crumbling here. The foundation of trust, built on integrity, has also evaporated, as the bill’s author was not forthright in explaining the need for the measure.
In arguing for SB 1306 in his official fact sheet, Leno incorrectly stated last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8 “made permanent the August 2010 federal District Court judgment that found Proposition 8 unconstitutional and resulted in the restoration of same-sex couples’ freedom to marry in California.”
That assertion is misleading.
In a narrow, split decision, the Supreme Court ruled only that supporters of Proposition 8 had no legal authority, called “standing,” to appeal the case, thereby nullifying the appeal court ruling declaring the amendment unconstitutional. Under California law, the only way to void a constitutional amendment is by a vote of the people way or by way of an appellate court ruling—which no longer stands in this case.
As a result of the High Court’s focused ruling on standing and its failure to actually decide on the constitutionality of the amendment, Proposition 8 remains in legal limbo. In fact, the restoration of same-sex marriage in California only came about by order of the governor and attorney general, who each shirked their own constitutional duty to represent the voters in appealing the case. In essence, they vetoed the will of the people by fiat.
The question of legality over SB 1306 was not lost on Assemblyman Donald Wagner (R-Tustin), who challenged his colleagues on the Assembly Judiciary Committee in June.
“We shouldn’t take the dead letter language of Proposition 22 and act unconstitutionally because it’s more than code clean up,” Wagner, the committee vice chairman, said in testimony.
He added that liberal legal scholars, when dealing with a similar situation involving Proposition 187, the state’s controversial immigration initiative, argued that the “the legislature cannot do it (remove voter-approved language) on its own.”
“It’s doing exactly what we are trying to do here, taking out of the code something that the public put in,” Wagner said, adding, “When the public has rightly or wrongly exercised its franchise to put language into our law, it is bad form and, as I read the constitution, Article 2, section 10, I believe, specifically says we cannot do this. We also shouldn’t.”
But committee chairman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), balked at Wagner’s assessment.
“We’ll leave it to the courts if there is any unconstitutional action that we have taken,” Wieckowski said.
His comments prompted a swift chiding from Wagner who called such action to be a dereliction of duty and a violation of their oath to pass laws they know to be unconstitutional.
Despite Wagner’s sound arguments against the measure, the Judiciary Committee passed the measure 7-1 advancing it on to the full Assembly where it passed 54-16, mostly along party lines. Embracing Leno’s arguments was Assemblyman Brian Maienschein (D-San Diego). Assembly Democrats breaking ranks with the party included
Steve Fox (D-Palmdale) and Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield). Gov. Brown signed the bill without fanfare on July 7.
In an environment where Legislators carry a two-thirds Democratic super majority in one house and nearly the same margin in the other, it is clear that holding back the progressive onslaught on the rule of law will not be easy. But it is fundamentally refreshing to see a lawmaker stand up for truth and against tyranny as part of the policy-making process.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about California Family Alliance.