Court of Appeals Rules Against Christian Legal Society, Denies Request to Reopen Challenge to University’s Non-Discrimination Policy

November 17, 2010

Today the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the Christian Legal Society’s request to present additional evidence in Christian Legal Society v. Wu, a case challenging a California law school’s policy that student groups may not discriminate based on sexual orientation, religion, or other bases. Today’s ruling brings an end to six years of litigation in this case, which began in 2004 when the Christian Legal Society (CLS) sued the University of California Hastings College of the Law because CLS wished to exclude gay and non-Christian students. In June, the Supreme Court of the United States rejected CLS’ challenge and held that public universities are free to require funded student groups to comply with non-discrimination policies. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit to determine whether any additional issues remained to be resolved in the case. The Ninth Circuit ruled today that the case is over and that the Supreme Court’s opinion upholding Hastings’ policy stands as the final judgment in the case.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, along with cooperating counsel Paul Smith of Jenner & Block LLP, represents Hastings Outlaw, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender student organization at Hastings, which intervened in the case to defend the constitutionality of the non-discrimination policy. Hastings College of the Law is represented by Gregory Garre of Latham & Watkins LLP and Ethan Schulman of Crowell & Moring LLP.

Statement by Shannon Minter, Esq., NCLR Legal Director:

“Today’s ruling brings a welcome close to six years of intense litigation, including a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court affirming that colleges and universities may adopt non-discrimination policies that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. Hastings Law School did not adopt its non-discrimination policy to suppress any group’s freedom of speech, but only to ensure that all campus organizations are open to all students. Now that the Supreme Court’s decision is final, colleges and universities have a green light to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to participate in student activities, without fear of being threatened with litigation by anti-gay groups.”


NCLR Applauds Court Decision Striking Down Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

September 9, 2010

Today, a federal district court judge in the Central District of California held that the federal government’s policy of barring lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from serving openly in the military violates the United States Constitution. In a sweeping decision, Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that the government’s policy—popularly known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—is unconstitutional on its face, and must be struck down. The decision details the voluminous evidence presented by the plaintiffs about the harm caused by the government’s policy. The court held that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell violates the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members without advancing any important government interest. The court held that the law also violates lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members’ First Amendment rights because it forces them to be silent about the most basic information about their identities, family relationships, and daily activities, and prevents them from seeking protection from harassment and discrimination. The case was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans on behalf of its members and included testimony from a number of service members affected by the policy.

The decision will not take effect immediately. Judge Phillips asked the plaintiffs to submit a proposed judgment, including a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law, by September 16, 2010. If upheld on appeal, the decision would prevent the federal government from enforcing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell against any service member.

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“Today’s decision by Judge Phillips—following other recent decisions striking down California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act–is another landmark victory for LGBT Americans. Once again, those who seek to defend discriminatory government policies failed to present a shred of evidence to justify laws that are based entirely on prejudice and fear. After considering the overwhelming evidence presented by the plaintiffs, Judge Phillips held that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell inflicts severe harm on lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members who put their lives on the line to protect and serve our country, while undermining our national security by requiring the discharge of loyal, qualified, and highly trained personnel. This decision puts another nail in the coffin of official government discrimination based on sexual orientation. It is past time for our country to include LGBT Americans as equal citizens, and today’s ruling is a major milestone toward realizing that goal. We congratulate and thank the Log Cabin Republicans for bringing this historic case.”


On Prop 8, It’s the Evidence, Stupid

August 19, 2010

by Lisa Bloom | CNN.com

There’s a big difference between a political debate about same-sex marriage and the recent hard-fought court challenge to the California ban, Proposition 8.

read more


Statement from NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell on Today’s Ninth Circuit Ruling in Prop 8 Case

August 16, 2010

(San Francisco, CA, August 16, 2010) — Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the Proposition 8 proponents’ motion to stay U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision, which means that same-sex couples in California will not be able to marry while the case is on appeal. However, the Ninth Circuit put the appeal on a fast track and specifically directed that the Prop 8 proponents to address “why the appeal should not be dismissed for lack of Article III standing” in their opening brief.

 ________________________________________

Statement from NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell

 “Every additional day that couples must wait to marry again in California is painful, but despite the terrible disappointment for the many couples whose right to marry has been delayed yet again, today’s ruling includes another significant victory for our side. The court did the right thing by putting the case on a fast track and specifically ordering that Prop 8 proponents show why they have a legal right to appeal. This ruling brings us one step closer to ending the nightmare of Prop 8, and restoring full equality for all Californians.”


What Today’s Ruling in the Ninth Circuit Means for Same-Sex Couples Who Want to Get Married

August 16, 2010

(San Francisco, CA, August 16, 2010) — Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the Proposition 8 proponents’ motion to stay U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision, which means that same-sex couples in California will not be able to marry while the case is on appeal. However, the Ninth Circuit put the appeal on a fast track and specifically directed that the Prop 8 proponents to address “why the appeal should not be dismissed for lack of Article III standing” in their opening brief. That means that the Court will consider whether the decision can be appealed at the same time that it is considering whether Judge Walker’s decision that Prop 8 violates the federal constitutional is legally correct.

All the briefing must be completed by November 1, 2010 and the oral argument will take place the week of December 6, 2010.

Proponents’ opening brief is due September 17. The plaintiffs’ opposing brief is due October 18. The proponents’ reply brief is due November 1.

The Ninth Circuit is not required to issue its decision within any particular time frame after oral argument; however, when an appeal is expedited, the Court tends to issue decisions more quickly. That said, it is still likely to take at least a few weeks or months after the oral argument in December for the Court to issue a decision.

Once the Ninth Circuit rules, the losing side can ask the United States Supreme Court to hear the case. The Supreme Court then has discretion to take the case or to let the Ninth Circuit’s decision stand.


Green Light and Delay on Same-Sex Marriage

August 13, 2010

by Jesse McKinley | New York Times

Same-sex marriage is legal again in California. Sort of.

read more


Judge Walker’s Ruling Extending Stay Until August 18— What Does It Mean and What Happens Next?

August 12, 2010

Does Judge Walker’s ruling mean that same-sex couples in California will be able to marry starting August 18, 2010?

Not necessarily. Judge Walker ruled that there is no legal reason to delay letting same-sex couples marry; however, he kept the stay on his ruling in place until August 18. That extra time will allow the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether to let same-sex couples in California marry while the appeal proceeds, or whether to continue the stay until the Ninth Circuit reviews Judge Walker’s decision that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.

In practice, this means that the proponents of Prop 8 have a chance to file a motion for stay with the Ninth Circuit, and the Ninth Circuit has a chance to grant or deny that motion, but it must do so by August 18. If it does not, marriages will automatically start again at that time. The proponents of Prop 8 filed an emergency motion for stay pending appeal on August 12, 2010, shortly after Judge Walker issued his new ruling.

Does the Ninth Circuit have the final say over whether to stay Judge Walker’s ruling?

No. If the Ninth Circuit denies a stay, the proponents of Prop 8 can ask the United States Supreme Court to issue a stay. That request would be directed to Justice Anthony Kennedy, because he is the justice designated to hear requests for stays in the Ninth Circuit. If Justice Kennedy denied the motion to stay, the proponents of Prop 8 could ask the entire court to rule on that issue. Remember, this is not about whether Prop 8 is unconstitutional, but only about whether couples can marry based on Judge Walker’s ruling while the case is being appealed.

If same-sex couples in California can begin to marry again starting on August 18, will those marriages be valid if Judge Walker’s ruling is later overturned on appeal?

We strongly believe that marriages based on Judge Walker’s decision should be valid, even if the decision is later overturned on appeal (which we do not expect, given the strength of Judge Walker’s opinion). In his stay order, Judge Walker also supported that position, stating, “The court has the authority to enjoin defendants from enforcing Proposition 8. It appears, then, that marriages performed pursuant to a valid injunction would be lawful, much like the 18,000 marriages performed before the passage of Proposition 8 in November 2008. See Strauss v Horton, 46 Cal 4th 364, 472 (2009) (holding that married couples’ rights vest upon a lawful marriage).”

That said, to be safe, we strongly encourage same-sex couples in California who marry based on Judge Walker’s decision to also register as domestic partners to ensure that you are protected in the event your marriage is ever challenged. California law permits a couple both to marry and register as domestic partners, so long as it is with the same person. Also, you do not have to be a California resident to marry in California or to register as domestic partners.

What if the Ninth Circuit stays Judge Walker’s decision?

If the Ninth Circuit stays the decision, then same-sex couples in California will not be able to marry until the case is resolved on appeal.

Why is Judge Walker’s August 12 ruling important?

Even though Judge Walker did not immediately let same-sex couples in California marry, the ruling provides important insight into the merits of the issues that the Ninth Circuit will consider on appeal. For example, in his stay order, Judge Walker casts serious doubt on whether the proponents of Prop 8 even have “standing” to pursue an appeal because they do not speak for the state of California, and the official representatives of the state agree that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. Standing refers to whether a particular person has a legal right to bring an appeal.

In his stay order, Judge Walker said: “As it appears at least doubtful that proponents will be able to proceed with their appeal without a state defendant, it remains unclear whether the court of appeals will be able to reach the merits of proponents’ appeal.”

What would happen if the proponents of Prop 8 do not have standing to appeal?

That would mean that Judge Walker’s decision would go into effect and could not be appealed. Same-sex couples in California would once again be able to marry, and Prop 8 would be permanently struck down.

Who gets to decide whether the proponents of Prop 8 have standing to appeal?

The Ninth Circuit will have the first chance to rule on that issue. No matter which way the Ninth Circuit rules, either side could appeal that decision to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court can then choose whether to rule on the issue or let the Ninth Circuit’s decision stand.

Would it be unusual for a federal court opinion striking down a state law not to be appealed?

Not particularly.  For example, in 1997, a federal district court struck down most of Proposition 187, a California ballot initiative that tried to exclude undocumented immigrants from many basic rights.  The State of California ultimately decided not to appeal the court’s ruling.


Official Prop. 8 Plaintiffs’ Statement on Today’s Stay Ruling

August 12, 2010

from the American Foundation for Equal Rights

The Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, who last week rendered a sweeping decision striking down California’s Proposition 8 as an unconstitutional violation of the rights of gay and lesbian citizens to due process and equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment, today denied the proponents’ motion to stay that decision pending a full resolution of the merits on appeal, instead granting only a short stay until August 18, 2010 “solely in order to permit the court of appeals to consider the issue in an orderly manner.”  This means that unless the Court’s decision is stayed by a higher court, Californians who were denied equality by Proposition 8 will soon, and once again, enjoy their fundamental right to marry.  Today’s order can be found here:  http://www.equalrightsfoundation.org/legal-filings/ruling-on-motion-for-stay-pending-appeal/

“The overwhelming evidence at trial established beyond any doubt that Proposition 8 denies gay men and lesbians the fundamental right to marry and treats them unequally, without any rational basis for doing so, and that it causes them irreparable and immediate harm,” said Theodore B. Olson, who together with David Boies led the legal team in this lawsuit.  “The Court’s decision today recognizes that there is no reason to delay allowing gay men and lesbians to enjoy the same rights that virtually all other citizens already enjoy.”
“The unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 is comprehensively and unequivocally demonstrated by the Court’s 136-page ruling, and so we are confident that we will continue to prevail,” said Chad Griffin, the Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. “Our nation was founded on the principle that every American is equal in the eyes of the law. This case is about affirming that principle.”

The American Foundation for Equal Rights and plaintiffs Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo challenged Proposition 8 in federal court for violating the U.S. Constitution. After a three-week trial (including the testimony of 17 plaintiffs’ witnesses, among them the foremost experts on the relevant issues, and thousands of pages of documents and a wealth of other evidence) the Court ruled last Wednesday, August 4, that Proposition 8 violated the rights to equal protection under the law and due process that the U.S. Constitution guarantees to every American.


Judge Walker Rules Marriages Can Begin Aug. 18 Unless Court of Appeals Intervenes

August 12, 2010

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that there was no basis to stay his Aug. 4 ruling that Proposition 8 violates the United States Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws. However, Walker also ordered that marriages cannot begin until Aug. 18 at 5 p.m. in order to give the United States Court of Appeals time to review his decision to deny the stay.

A Statement from NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“It is clear that there is no basis for a stay of Judge Walker’s ruling striking down Prop 8. We hope that the Ninth Circuit will agree that no stay is warranted and will allow marriages to resume. The chance for same-sex couples to marry again is not only fair and just, but an affirmation of love and basic humanity.”


Judge Who Overturned Prop 8 Extends Temporary Hold on Gay Marriage

August 12, 2010

from the Los Angeles Times

A federal judge Thursday refused to permanently stay his ruling overturning Proposition 8’s ban of gay marriage but extended a temporary hold to give supporters time to appeal the historic ruling.

read more


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