Thursday, April 10th, 2014
A baby born in Tennessee last week made history when, for the first time, her state birth certificate listed women in both the “mother” and “father” categories. Reuters has more on the same-sex couple who fought in court for the milestone:
The marital status of the baby’s parents was the subject of a flurry of court filings up to a few days before her birth. Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty were wed in New York, a state that recognizes gay marriage, and moved to Tennessee, which does not.
They are among scores of same-sex couples who, working with advocacy groups, have filed lawsuits to expand gay-marriage rights following a major U.S. Supreme Court decision last June allowing federal tax and other benefits for same-sex married couples.
Depending on the pace of rulings, as early as next year Tanco and Jesty’s case or a similar challenge could reach the Supreme Court. Since the court’s June decision in U.S. v. Windsor, about 50 such cases have been filed, in nearly all 33 states that prohibit gay marriage.
So far, the eight federal judges who have ruled citing Windsor have sided with the same-sex couples, saying the states may not treat same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex ones. All of those cases are on appeal.
On Thursday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will begin hearing cases involving Utah and Oklahoma. In May, the 4th Circuit will hear a dispute from Virginia.
As Tanco approached her due date, a Nashville federal judge in mid-March issued a preliminary injunction forcing Tennessee to honor their marriage. The state appealed to the 6th Circuit.
It is possible a ruling against the couple could void Emilia’s birth certificate and require that it be reissued with only Tanco listed. A spokeswoman for Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the state Health Department, which oversees birth certificates.
But for now, says Jesty, “It gives me strength.”
Image: Women holding hands, via Shutterstcok
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Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
The Supreme Court case that will be heard March 25, which will examine religious objections to the provision of the Obamacare legislation that mandates coverage of birth control, may turn on testimony about the science of contraception–chiefly whether various birth control methods prevent an egg from being fertilized, or destroy an already-fertilized embryo. More from Reuters:
After decades of research the answer is not absolutely clear.
Two family-owned companies, Oklahoma-based arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby, controlled by evangelical Christians, and Pennsylvania-based cabinet-manufacturer Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp, owned by Mennonites, object on religious grounds to a requirement of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law: that employer-sponsored insurance cover contraception.
The companies say they have no objection to covering forms of birth control that prevent conception, the fertilization of an egg by a sperm.
What concerns them are after-intercourse products, so-called emergency contraception such as the “morning-after” pill, which prevent pregnancy.
Anti-abortion groups contend the products act after fertilization, destroying embryos.
“For us, the issue is the life-ending mechanisms that some emergency contraceptives can have,” said Anna Franzonello, an attorney at Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion legal group that has filed a brief for seven Catholic and other anti-abortion groups siding with the companies.
Mainstream scientific and medical organizations, as well as abortion-rights supporters, counter by citing research showing that the vast majority of emergency contraceptives prevent fertilization.
While the Supreme Court will not be ruling on the science, and has never defined pregnancy, many groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs offering their view of how emergency contraceptives work.
Image: Birth control pills, via Shutterstock
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Monday, January 28th, 2013
A number of religious organizations are filing lawsuits to challenge the provision of the new health care law that requires employers to cover birth control in their health plans. The flurry of lawsuits may mean the question will eventually be presented to the U.S. Supreme Court, legal analysts are saying. The New York Times reports:
In recent months, federal courts have seen dozens of lawsuits brought not only by religious institutions like Catholic dioceses but also by private employers ranging from a pizza mogul to produce transporters who say the government is forcing them to violate core tenets of their faith. Some have been turned away by judges convinced that access to contraception is a vital health need and a compelling state interest. Others have been told that their beliefs appear to outweigh any state interest and that they may hold off complying with the law until their cases have been judged. New suits are filed nearly weekly.
“This is highly likely to end up at the Supreme Court,” said Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia and one of the country’s top scholars on church-state conflicts. “There are so many cases, and we are already getting strong disagreements among the circuit courts.”
President Obama’s health care law, known as the Affordable Care Act, was the most fought-over piece of legislation in his first term and was the focus of a highly contentious Supreme Court decision last year that found it to be constitutional.
But a provision requiring the full coverage of contraception remains a matter of fierce controversy. The law says that companies must fully cover all “contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures” approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including “morning-after pills” and intrauterine devices whose effects some contend are akin to abortion.
As applied by the Health and Human Services Department, the law offers an exemption for “religious employers,” meaning those who meet a four-part test: that their purpose is to inculcate religious values, that they primarily employ and serve people who share their religious tenets, and that they are nonprofit groups under federal tax law.
Image: Lawsuit paperwork, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
The United States Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in a case that will likely set precedents in both the rights of adoptive parents and the rights of Native Americans to keep their families together. The case centers around a 3-year-old Cherokee girl named Veronica who was legally adopted by Matt and Melanie Capobianco in 2009. Though the girl’s birth mother had given up parental rights, her father, a registered member of the Cherokee Nation, sought custody shortly after her birth, and is currently raising the girl in Oklahoma. More from CNN.com:
Dusten Brown had earlier signed a legal document agreeing to put the girl up for adoption, but his attorneys say the father did not understand the extent of the waiver, and that the birth mother misrepresented the child’s American Indian heritage to social service workers when the adoption was finalized.
At issue is whether Brown, as the onetime non-custodial father, can gain parental custody, after the non-Indian mother initiated an adoption outside the tribe.
A special congressional law governs such interstate adoptions, since the current 556 federally recognized tribes all fall under Interior Department oversight, giving those tribes certain unique benefits and rights.
Lawyers for the Capobiancos say federal law does not define an unwed biological father as a “parent.”
The adoptive couple was excited that the high court will hear their case.
“We weren’t sure what to expect,” Melanie Capobianco told CNN’s Randi Kaye. “It was a low chance and we just feel really extremely happy that they decided to hear it.”
Her husband, Matt, added, “It restored some hope and a little faith in the judicial system.”
The federal law in question is the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978, a response to decades of often abusive social service practices that resulted in the separation of large numbers of native youngsters from their families, in many cases to non-Indian homes.
The legislation was designed to “promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and Indian families by the establishment of minimum federal standards to prevent the arbitrary removal of Indian children from their families and tribes and to ensure that measures which prevent the breakup of Indian families are followed in child custody proceedings.”
Brown’s relationship within the “federally recognized government” of the Cherokee Nation means Veronica — named in court papers as “Baby Girl” — is a member of the tribe and subject to their jurisdiction.
“It’s not anyone’s intent ever to rip a child away from a loving home,” said Todd Hembree, the Tahlequah, Oklahoma-based tribe’s attorney general. “But we want to make sure those loving homes have the opportunity to be Indian homes first.”
Still, the Capobiancos argue that the little girl’s real home is with them.
Image: The U.S. Supreme Court, via Shutterstock
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Monday, June 27th, 2011
The Supreme Court voted 7-2 today to strike down a California law that would have banned the sale of “violent” video games to children, citing the overtones of censorship that would come with government regulation of video game content, and free speech rights of parents who, the majority opinion stated, should have the right to decide for themselves which video games are appropriate, harmless fun.
“As a means of assisting concerned parents it (the law) is seriously overinclusive because it abridges the First Amendment rights of young people whose parents (and aunts and uncles) think violent video games are a harmless pastime,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion.
CNN reported that the law had been signed in 2005 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a way to apply similar controls to video games as are applied to movies. While it was in the court system, the law never took effect. According to CNN:
The legislation was designed to strengthen the current industry-controlled rating system, and would have placed an outright ban on the sale or rental to those under 18 of games deemed excessively “violent.” As defined by California, such interactive games are those in which the player is given the choice of “killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in offensive ways. It also defined such games as those that would “appeal to a deviant or morbid interest of children and are patently offensive to prevailing community standards.”
Retailers would have faced up to $1,000 fine for violations. The law would also have required game makers and retailers to place an “18″ label prominently on excessively violent games.
Courts in 8 other states have also rejected efforts to ban or restrict violent video game sales. The video game industry, which makes $10.5 billion annually, sued to strike down the California ban.
Proponents of the California law – and Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas, who dissented – say that the law fell under the purview of child protection, not free speech. “The First Amendment does not disable government from helping parents make such a choice here — a choice not to have their children buy extremely violent, interactive games,” Breyer wrote.
How do you treat violent video games in your house? Do you think children should be able to purchase such games themselves?
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