Day: 2015.04.21

The Countdown: One Week

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

We should not let it pass unmentioned that there is one week left before oral arguments in Obergefell, when marriage equality has its day before the Supreme Court. Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog offers the press some advice on covering the case, but it’s pretty much worth a read for anyone who wants to know what’s about to happen.

About the briefs. There are a lot of them. Some amount of triage is essential to get ready for the oral argument. All of the briefs are housed here on the blog (organized for each case — Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, and Kentucky) and on the Supreme Court’s own website.

In each of the four cases, the parties’ briefs are generally the most important. There are briefs on the merits by the plaintiffs challenging the state laws; they are known as the “petitioners” because they “petitioned” the Court to review the lower court’s decision upholding the state laws. On the other side, each set of state officials defending the laws – known as the “respondents” – filed briefs in their respective cases. The petitioners also get to file reply briefs, which are due at the Court on the afternoon of April 17.

In addition to the parties’ briefs, there are also over a hundred amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs filed by everyone from the Cleveland Choral Arts Association and Facebook – both of which filed briefs in support of the challengers – to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and an advocacy group founded by Mike Huckabee, which support the states that seek to uphold bans on same-sex marriage. The United States also filed an amicus brief supporting the challengers.

With the possible exception of the Justices’ law clerks, no one will read all of these amicus briefs – and you don’t really need to either. Each amicus brief is required to contain a “summary of argument,” which lays out the issues that the brief will cover and generally gives you enough information to decide whether you want to keep reading or instead move on to the next one. The only exception is the brief of the United States, which always receives considerable attention from the Court (and which will participate in the oral argument on the marriage question).

And that’s just part of what you need to know before the show gets started. It is worth noting that the Court is allowing a longer session for oral arguments, two and a half hours split into two parts. The first will see the Court spend ninety minutes on the basic marriage question, with Mary Bonauto arguing on behalf of the same-sex couples, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli representing the United States, and John Bursch of Michigan explaining the case for the states. Of the three, only Bonauto will have rebuttal time.

The second part will have to do with the recognition question, and in this case it really would seem rather quite clear. Nonetheless, Douglas Hallward-Driemeier will stand for the challengers; Joseph Whalen of Tennessee will represent the states.

For a look at what we’ve heard before, and perhaps a hint of what’s in store, Zack Ford of ThinkProgress offers up a serving of strangeness. And despite the absurdity of a certain amicus brief, which, it should be noted, was obsolete before it was submitted―the democratic process has already brought same-sex marriage to multiple states―the crown still goes to Paul D. Clement, arguing on behalf of House Republicans in Hollingsworth, that gay marriage was wrong because “Unintended children produced by opposite-sex relationships and raised out-of-wedlock would pose a burden on society”, and further reasoned that same-sex couples “don’t present a threat of irresponsible procreation”.

What a show.

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Howe, Amy. “A reporter’s guide to covering the same-sex marriage cases at the Supreme Court”. SCOTUSblog. 20 April 2015.

Ford, Zack. “Ten Novel, Absurd, And Irrelevant Arguments Made In Supreme Court Briefs Against Marriage Equality”. ThinkProgress. 17 April 2015.

Savage, David G. “Gay marriage opponents take unusual tack with Supreme Court”. Los Angeles Times. 26 January 2015.

Trivia, But Not Trivial

Undated photo of the iconic sign welcoming visitors to Las Vegas.  The sign was designed by Betty Willis in 1959.  (Photo: Sam Morris/AP)

Associated Press brings us the sad note:

The woman who came up with a neon sign that has welcomed countless visitors to “fabulous Las Vegas” since 1959 has died.

Betty Willis, credited with designing the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, died in her Overton, Nev., home on Sunday, according to an obituary on the Virgin Valley & Moapa Valley Mortuaries’ website.

The 91-year-old artist’s often-copied sign sits in a median in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard south of the Strip.

“It’s the most recognizable icon in the world,” said Danielle Kelly, executive director of The Neon Museum in Las Vegas, where the signs of Sin City’s past are retired and on display.

So recognizable an icon is hardly a trivial contribution; be not surprised should Betty Willis turn up on trivia night at the pub in the near future.

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Image note: Undated photo of the iconic sign welcoming visitors to Las Vegas. The sign was designed by Betty Willis in 1959. (Photo: Sam Morris/AP)

Associated Press. “Betty Willis, who designed iconic ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign, dead at 91”. New York Daily News. 21 April 2015.

Not Exactly a Legal Argument

This is something really quite genuinely incredible. The “Brief of Amici Curiae Same-Sex Attracted Men and Their Wives in Support of Respondents & Affirmance”, authored by one Darrin K. Johns, a Utah Attorney, defies general description. For those given to such myths as the seriousness and gravity of jurisprudence, the proposition that any court, much less the Supreme Court of the United States, ought be expected to endure such frivolity and, ultimately, self-harm as this brief constitutes might bring something of a shock. And no, it is not supposed to be this way.

It is also worth noting that the brief opens with quotes from three of the amici couples. The seven paragraphs that follow establish the interest of the amici; keep that in mind. (more…)

The End Times Shuffle (Bachmann’s Belfry Backbeat)

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — MARCH 16: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) speaks at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 16, 2013, in National Harbor, Maryland. The American Conservative Union held its annual conference in the suburb of Washington, DC to rally conservatives and generate ideas. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

There are so many things going on, here.

In a radio interview last week, Bachmann, the former Minnesota Republican congresswoman, told “End Times” host Jan Markell, “We need to realize how close this clock is getting to the midnight hour.”

“We in our lifetimes potentially could see Jesus Christ returning to earth and the rapture of the church,” Bachmann said. “We see the destruction, but this was a destruction that was foretold.”

Bachmann cited the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran as a cause. The U.S. and five partner nations are discussing a deal with Iran that would prevent the country from developing or obtaining nuclear weapons.

“We are literally watching, month by month, the speed move up to a level we’ve never seen before with these events,” Bachmann said. “Barack Obama is intent. It is his number one goal to ensure that Iran has a nuclear weapon.”

(Fang)

(more…)

Required Reading: Choices and Changes Edition

Serrano, Piss Christ (detail)“To all of my Christian brothers and sisters who insist that homosexuality is a choice, I need to break down and finally admit something: I agree with you.”

John Pavlovitz

Oh, come on. With bait like that, you know it’s worth the click.

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Pavlovitz, John. “Yes, Homosexuality Absolutely Is a Choice”. The Huffington Post. 21 April 2015.

A Marketplace Standard?

Detail: "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La. speaks in New York on Oct. 16, 2014." (John Minchillo—AP)

Sometimes―

The Republican governor, whether he realizes it or not, is effectively making a Democratic argument: voters, especially in red states, may like the idea of far-right governing, but when GOP officials implement that vision in the real world, the public quickly reconsiders. Jindal was surprisingly explicit on this point: his support faltered, not because he strayed from his agenda, but specifically because he did what he set out to do.

As a 2016 pitch, his couldn’t be any less persuasive. The Louisiana Republican effectively told New Hampshire voters over the weekend that his former backers rejected his agenda back home, so now he wants to take it national.

(Benen)

―the politics, the optics, really are that straightforward.

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Benen, Steve. “Jindal’s unique spin on his unpopularity”. msnbc. 21 April 2015.

Parma (¡expletive!) Missouri

Missouri

To put it bluntly: What the hell am I supposed to do with this?

Most of the police force and several officials resigned after the small town of Parma, Missouri elected its first African American woman as mayor, reported KFVS.

Tyrus Byrd, a former city clerk, was officially sworn in as mayor on Tuesday after beating incumbent Randall Ramsey. Ramsey had served as mayor of Parma for 37 years under two terms.

The outgoing mayor said five of the city’s six police officers submitted their resignation, citing “safety concerns.” Parma’s city attorney, clerk and water treatment supervisor also quit.

(Chen)

No, really. What the hell?

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Chen, Kelly. “Police, Officials Resign After Small Missouri Town Elects First Black Female Mayor”. The Huffington Post. 19 April 2015.