Wednesday, April 14, 2010

GLBT cases in front of the SCOTUS, 1

We're all anxiously waiting progress on the Prop8 federal case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which at the moment is awaiting a series of legal maneuvers because the bad guys (the defendent-interveners, who are defending Prop8) want campaign documents from groups who opposed the initiative, even though those groups are not parties to this suit. This case will eventually be decided by Judge Vaughn Walker in US District Court, and then almost certainly will be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. After that, it may get to the SCOTUS, depending on if it is appealed there, and whether SCOTUS chooses to hear it. So there is a long, long way to go.

As that wends its way through the legal arcana, there are two other cases affecting our rights that are already on their way to the Supreme Court. I'll discuss them in turn.

The first is Doe #1 v Reed in which arguments are scheduled for Monday, 19th April. That's Doe, as in John Doe: an anonymous! We have talked extensively here about the new right-wing anti-equality meme, that it's THEY who are the victims of those EEEEEvvvvvviiiiillll rampaging homos. This appears to be based entirely on a few incidents post-Prop8, and the mean things said about them in the papers and on the internet. Most of the incidents are completely unsubstantiated, and moreover, they conveniently ignore substantiated incidents where the conservatives attacked GLBT supporters.

In the wake of California Prop8, a web site was published that contained all the donor information from the pro-H8 side. (The information from BOTH sides was published by the state and freely searchable). This led to howls of outrage from the right, and fears that they would be attacked. And you know what happened? Absolutely nothing! That's right, no one was firebombed for being a donor. Oh, I'm sure some words may have been exchanged, but there was no evidence of violence.

Still, pointing at this, the supporters of referendum 71 in Washington State (which wanted to overturn domestic partnerships--remember this next time They claim it's only about marriage) have filed suit to prevent the release of the names of those who signed the petition to put its intolerance on the ballot,

Washington's laws, like California's, have transparency rules that require the release of names. So this is nothing special. But Their Side claims they fear intimidation. There's again absolutely NO evidence that this has or would occur.

Our side has two major arguments, I think. First, there were widespread accusations of signature violations on the petitions, in which signatures were invalid, or obtained under false pretenses. It seems to me that the rule of open government works on the side of release, here. Petitioners had no expectation of privacy and there is a legitimate public interest in seeing those names.

Second, we do not allow people to wear hoods and attack the rights of others. If you are ashamed of what you are doing, you are doing the wrong thing.

The problem for Our Side is that this Supreme Court has already bought into the intimidation argument EVEN THOUGH there is no evidence for it. As Chris Geidner reports,

The broad issue — the intimidation question — already has arisen twice in recent months at the Court, when the Court rejected the attempt to allow a live-streaming of the Proposition 8 trial to other courtrooms and in Justice Thomas’s opinion in Citizens United.
. That's the stunning case in which the court ruled corporations are people and can spend freely to influence elections.

I have just about lost any respect for Justice Thomas, but I really expected better of Justice Kennedy who is generally the swing vote between the sensible liberal side and the reactionary conservative bloc.

So although it seems obvious to me that Doe should be decided in a way that maintains an open government, I greatly fear that the current Supreme Court will decide in favor of secret cabals and blackballing.

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