Category archives: Legislation

The Constitution and Executive Orders

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 20, 2014

Family Research Council does not take a position on immigration reform. We’ve got enough on our plate, from protecting unborn children and their mothers from a predatory abortion industry and sustaining traditional marriage as the foundation of our culture to protecting religious liberty as the “first freedom” of our republic.

However, we take a strong position on the Constitution: We believe in it. We agree with the Founders that a written text contains objective meanings and that, to borrow a phrase from Jefferson, neither an activist judiciary nor an impatient president has a right to turn the Constitution into a “thing of wax.”

That’s why conservatives have every right to be concerned, even alarmed, by the President’s pending announcement of an Executive Order on U.S. immigration policy.

The Constitution invests the President with the authority to enact policies to ensure the faithful execution of laws passed by Congress and signed into law by the Executive (Section 3, Article II), and the “executive power” (or “vesting” power) granted the President (Article II, Section I) universally is recognized by constitutional scholars as involving only execution of federal laws, removing from the Executive Branch those officers who serve at the President’s discretion, and the formation and execution of foreign policy.

Then-Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v Sawyer (1952) offered a three-fold test for whether an Executive Order is valid:

  • When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he possesses in his own right plus all that Congress can delegate.”
  • When the President acts in absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone of twilight in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority, or in which its distribution is uncertain. Therefore, congressional inertia, indifference or quiescence may sometimes, at least as a practical matter, enable, if not invite, measures on independent presidential responsibility.”
  • When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter … Presidential claim to a power at once so conclusive and preclusive must be scrutinized with caution, for what is at stake is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system.”

The operative phrase in the above bullets is in the third paragraph: “measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress.” Clearly, as National Affairs’ Andrew Evans writes, “President Obama’s executive order is intended as a substitute for a law that Congress has not passed.

Finally, federal Courts have ruled that Executive Orders that surpass the express intent of Congress can only be executed in times of national emergency. Even then, according to the

U.S. Code, “When the President declares a national emergency, no powers or authorities made available by statute for use in the event of an emergency shall be exercised unless and until the President specifies the provisions of law under which he proposes that he, or other officers will act. Such specification may be made either in the declaration of a national emergency, or by one or more contemporaneous or subsequent Executive orders published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

In other words, even in the extreme event of a national emergency, the President has to justify by what authority he is declaring such emergency. And clearly, while both legal and illegal immigration policy involve a host of difficult issues, the Administration has not demonstrated, nor can it demonstrate, that any such emergency exists. If it did, why did the President – as he himself put it – wait a full year for Congress to act?

Legal scholar William J. Olson and Rutgers University historian Alan Woll have rightly noted that “Powers were separated not to make government more efficient but to restrain the natural bent of men, even presidents, to act as tyrants.” Mr. Obama hasn’t gotten what he wants, so he is acting like a monarch unconstrained by legality. This is not constitutional, republican governance. It is something else altogether – something that should evoke in everyone who values his Constitution-based liberty apprehension about what might come next.

Meddling Freedom From Religion Foundation Gets Tossed Out of Court

by Travis Weber

November 14, 2014

Thankfully, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in Freedom from Religion Foundation v. Lew, refused to let stand a decision which had declared the clergy housing tax allowance unconstitutional.

This case began when the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sued the U.S. government alleging that the government grants tax benefits based on religion. In a quite ill-advised lower court ruling, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb held that the FFRF could properly bring the lawsuit and that the tax allowance violated the Constitution. The case was then appealed to the 7th Circuit.

To understand how ridiculous the FFRF’s claim is, we must understand a little bit about the doctrine of “standing” to bring a lawsuit in federal court.

As the 7th Circuit explained, to bring a lawsuit, a party must show:

(1) they were injured in a concrete and personal way,

(2) that the injury can be fairly traced to the defendant’s action, and

(3) that the injury is likely to be remedied by a favorable judicial decision.

In addition, the court explained, merely being offended at the government’s action does not give one grounds to sue. Obviously, the fact that an atheist group is upset at other religious entities getting some tax relief for their ministers does not “injure” the atheist group at all. There is simply no personal injury present.

The 7th Circuit agreed, noting that the FFRF could not be injured by being denied any such tax exemption because the group never even asked for it.

The court also noted the FFRF’s own difficulty in arguing for liberal standing rules – almost anyone would have standing to sue for virtually any reason! This would result in over-clogged and over-worked federal courts, which, as they sift through heaps of frivolous suits, would have to take time away from truly meritorious suits where parties have been actually injured. To say this would be an injustice is an understatement.

The 7th Circuit concluded as follows:

To summarize, plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the parsonage exemption. A person suffers no judicially cognizable injury merely because others receive a tax benefit that is conditioned on allegedly unconstitutional criteria, even if that person is otherwise “similarly situated” to those who do receive the benefit. Only a person that has been denied such a benefit can be deemed to have suffered a cognizable injury. The plaintiffs here have never been denied the parsonage exemption be-cause they have never requested it; therefore, they have suffered no injury.”

Nevertheless, it’s troubling to think the FFRF’s claims could even be considered more seriously had it asked for and been denied the exemption. Such a possibly should serve to highlight the way the suppressors of any religious expression in public life manipulate our legal system in wasteful and unproductive ways.

The FFRF has hardly been “injured” here by any reasonable understanding of that term. Courts should take note of this when the FFRF is back before another judge claiming some other mental or psychological “injury.”

Sketchy Judicial Assignments in Ninth Circuit Marriage Cases

by Chris Gacek

November 14, 2014

The American people are justified in wondering if they are ruled by interlocking ruling bodies that operate in secret, govern with unbridled duplicity, and are immune to correction by the People acting through their representatives or acting directly in referenda. There have been many prominent examples in the last two months. Two involve our imperious judicial oligarchy.

But, first we have the recent reports of repeated statements by Obamacare insider and MIT economist, Jonathan Gruber, calling the American people “stupid” and boasting that Obamacare was foisted on the public through a determined campaign of lying and deviousness. Lies on top of lies on top of lies.

Second, in early October the U.S. Supreme Court appeared to act with stunning cynicism when it dismissed requests for review of marriage-definition cases arising out of several federal appellate courts. The Court had heard an identical case when it reviewed the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 less than two years ago. However, the Prop 8 case was dismissed because the plaintiffs, the proponents of Prop 8, were deemed to lack “standing” to sue. This conclusion was reached because California’s Attorney General took a dive in the litigation and refused to defend a ballot-approved amendment to the California constitution. (Prop 8 was supported by a 52% majority in November 2008.)

The October 2014 cases petitions to the Supreme Court checked all the boxes for standing, but the cases were still turned away allowing lower court rulings that struck down male-female marriage to stay in place. It appeared the that Supreme Court was taking the coward’s way out by allowing lower courts to redefine marriage in America without publicly putting forward a majority opinion explaining how the male-female definition of marriage could violate any constitutional principle. This Court, it appeared, didn’t even have the integrity to write its own Roe v. Wade for marriage. On November 6th the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit supported the traditional marriage definition. Now that there is a split among the circuit courts, the Supreme Court’s stealth imposition strategy won’t work – if that is what they were doing. Now the nation is left with an incoherent stew of constitutional slop consisting of incongruent reasoning and standards. The reputation of the Supreme Court is being badly damaged each day this continues.

Well, if you were to think that the reputation of our black robed masterminds couldn’t get much worse, think again. In October 2014 a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision striking down the male-female marriage regime established be the voters of Nevada and Idaho. (The court reversed an excellent Nevada opinion that had supported traditional marriage.) In mid-October, a private group in Nevada, the Coalition for Protection of Marriage, filed a petition and a supporting affidavit with supporting statistical analysis with the full Ninth Circuit purporting to demonstrate that the panels in cases on homosexual-related issues were not being assigned randomly. In fact, they claimed that two of the court’s most liberal members (Stephen Reinhardt and Marsha S. Berzon) were greatly overrepresented in such cases. Here is how the Coalition for Protection of Marriage summarized its claim of bias in panel selection:

The attached statistical analysis … explains that since January 1, 2010, Judge Berzon has been on the merits panel in five and Judge Reinhardt has been on the merits panel in four of the eleven Ninth Circuit cases involving the federal constitutional rights of gay men and lesbians (“Relevant Cases”), far more than any other judge and far more than can reasonably be accounted for by a neutral assignment process. Indeed, statistical analysis demonstrates that the improbability of such occurring randomly is not just significant but overwhelming. Thus, the odds are 441-to-1 against what we observe with the Relevant Cases—the two most assigned judges receiving under a neutral assignment process five and four assignments respectively (and anything more extreme). (Petition, 3-4.)

If assessed accurately, this assignment pattern was not random. The case assignment was rigged to help assure the politically desired outcome.

It goes without saying that this is an extremely serious accusation that needs investigation not just by some handpicked Ninth Circuit lackey but by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and by the new Senate Judiciary Committee to be chaired by Senator Grassley.

Elections Deal Another Setback to the “Rainbow Revolution”

by Peter Sprigg

November 14, 2014

On October 30, just five days before the mid-term elections, the McClatchy newspaper chain ran a breathless article under the headline, “Rainbow Revolution: U.S. welcoming gay marriage, changing politics.”

Much of the focus of the article was on changes in attitudes toward homosexuality in the Republican Party. It began with an account of something that it said “would have been unimaginable even a couple years ago.” It told how “[t]he most powerful Republican in Washington,” House Speaker John Boehner, “flew to San Diego … to help raise money for an openly gay candidate for the House of Representatives” (Carl DeMaio). It reported that DeMaio, along with Richard Tisei of Massachusetts, were “[a] pair of openly gay Republicans … running in competitive House races.” According to the article, Boehner’s “decision to campaign for gay candidates was met with surprisingly nominal opposition, which he was able to brush aside quickly.”

The McClatchy article, penned by Anita Kumar, also highlighted Monica Wehby, the (heterosexual) Republican candidate for the Senate in Oregon, who ran a TV ad highlighting her support for redefining marriage, “featuring a gay man who successfully fought the state’s same-sex marriage ban.”

Democrats were not completely ignored, however. The article also cited Maine “where Democrat Mike Michaud could become the first openly gay governor in the nation.” Meanwhile, “In Colorado, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall launched a social media campaign against his Republican opponent for voting against a bill that would protect gays from discrimination.”

Apart from specific candidates, this “first story in an occasional series on the changes in American attitudes about gays and gay marriage” declared, “After decades of solid opposition, a majority of Americans now support marriage between those of the same sex.”

That was the media spin on October 30, 2014.

What a difference five days make.

DeMaio and Tisei, the two homosexual Republican Congressional candidates? Both lost.

Monica Wehby, the Republican Senate candidate who considers someone a hero for helping to overturn a popular vote defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman? She lost.

Democrats Michaud and Udall? They both lost, too.

And that “majority” that supposedly supports same-sex “marriage?” According to nationwide exit polls on Election Day, it was only 48%—exactly the same proportion who continue to oppose such a redefinition (and a decline from the 49-46% plurality which supporters of marriage redefinition had in the 2012 exit polls). This was based on a poll question asking, “Should your state legally recognize same-sex marriage?” Note that polls which correctly frame the issue by asking about the definition of marriage have consistently shown that most American continue to believe that marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman. For example, in this 2013 poll, when asked, ““Would you approve or disapprove of changing the definition of the word marriage to also include same-sex couples?” only 39% approved while 56% disapproved.

While the media may view the world through rainbow-colored glasses, and there may be a “rainbow revolution” underway on the subject of marriage in the courts (which, under our constitutional system, are supposed to be the least revolutionary branch of government), it is clear that actual voters—you know, “We, the People,” who are the sovereign rulers of this country—are not so eager to join this “revolution.”

As FRC President Tony Perkins pointed out after the election, the concern about candidates like DeMaio, Tisei, and Wehby “was not these candidates’ sexual orientation, but their policy orientation.” The threat to the family posed by redefining marriage, and the threat to religious liberty posed by the aggressive agenda for the forced affirmation and celebration of homosexuality, are becoming ever clearer, and a candidate’s support for these radical policies is not something that will motivate the Republican base to turn out and support them.

In fact, exit polls showed that opposition to redefining marriage remains widespread—and even dominant in several of the key battleground states which were crucial to the Republican takeover of the Senate. The most complete set of exit poll results that I was able to find in the days after the election was posted online by NBC News, and included data on the marriage question for 24 states.

In Arkansas, Republican Tom Cotton unseated Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor in a state where voters said “No” to same-sex “marriage” by a whopping margin of 69% to 27%. In North Carolina—the most recent state to adopt a marriage amendment, in 2012—Republican Thom Tillis beat Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in a state which still opposes a revisionist view of marriage by 57% to 39%. In Louisiana, incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu in probably in trouble in a December runoff against Republican challenger Bill Cassidy (Louisiana is the most pro-marriage state in the NBC exit polls, opposing a redefinition of marriage by 73% to 25%). In West Virginia, Republican Shelley Moore Capito will replace retiring Democratic incumbent Jay Rockefeller (the state’s voters oppose same-sex “marriage” by a 67% to 31% margin).

Meanwhile, Republican incumbents Mitch McConnell, Tim Scott, and Pat Roberts held off Democratic challengers in Kentucky (against same-sex “marriage” 64%-33%); South Carolina (62%-34%); and Kansas (51%-45%). In Georgia, Republican David Perdue held the seat of retiring incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss (Georgia voters oppose same-sex “marriage” by 62%-34%).

Only one Democratic Senate candidate was victorious in a state where a majority of voters oppose same-sex “marriage”—incumbent Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who narrowly edged out establishment Republican Ed Gillespie (the state says “no” to recognizing same-sex “marriage” by 53% to 45%).

So Democrats fared extremely poorly in states that oppose same-sex “marriage.” Yet it is undeniable that the country is sharply divided on this issue. The 24 states with exit poll results on this issue reported on the NBC website included ten with majorities (and two more with pluralities) against recognizing same-sex “marriage,” eleven with majorities in favor of it, and one (Florida) perfectly mirroring the 48% to 48% tie nationwide.

Some have argued that as public opinion gradually shifts toward more people making peace with same-sex “marriage,” the Republican Party will have to abandon its staunch opposition in order to keep up with the times. Did Republicans who oppose same-sex “marriage” struggle at the polls in the states where majorities of voters reportedly support it?

The answer is no. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, and Cory Gardner of Colorado are all Republicans who were victorious in key battleground states without endorsing same-sex “marriage,” even though its recognition is reportedly supported by voters in Iowa (50% to 42%), Alaska (55% to 41%) and Colorado (62% to 32%). Scott Brown, on the other hand, lost in New Hampshire (where voters support recognition of same-sex “marriage” by the largest margin reported, 70% to 28%)—despite being endorsed by the pro-homosexual Log Cabin Republicans.

Although not tested by the exit polls, my theory is that even as polls seem to show significant support for the redefinition of marriage, that support is very thin, whereas the opposition is much more deep-seated. In other words, far more of those who express opposition to the redefinition of marriage do so out of deep conviction, and are likely to oppose a candidate based on this issue alone. Many of the 40% of Americans who (according to the exit polls) attend religious services at least once a week probably fall into this category.

On the other hand, much of the expressed support for changing the definition of marriage is just a matter of going along with the perceived cultural tide, rather than a deep conviction. (Indeed, with the recent spate of court rulings in favor of redefining marriage across the country, answering “yes” to the question, “Should your state legally recognize same-sex marriage?” may amount to little more than a declaration that their state should obey rulings of the courts—not that such a definition is the ideal public policy).

The percentage of voters who will oppose a candidate only because he or she refuses to endorse marriage redefinition is probably relatively small—mostly, just the 1.6% of American adults who (according to a recent federal survey) self-identify as gay or lesbian.

In summary, the historic 2014 elections for the Senate demonstrate that supporting the redefinition of marriage and the rest of the pro-homosexual agenda is a loser, and opposing it is a winner, across the country—especially for Republican candidates.

So much for the “rainbow revolution.”

[Below are the exit poll results on marriage for all 24 states where they were reported by NBC News, in order of the most to least opposition to redefining marriage:]

Question: “Should your state legally recognize same-sex marriage?”

State Yes No

Louisiana 25% 73%

Arkansas 27 69

West Virginia 31 67

Kentucky 31 67

Georgia 34 62

South Carolina 34 62

North Carolina 39 57

Ohio 41 54

Virginia 44 53

Kansas 45 51

Michigan 45 49

Pennsylvania 47 49

Florida 48 48

[Total U.S. 48 48]

Wisconsin 52 45

Iowa 50 42

Alaska 55 41

Minnesota 58 39

Illinois 58 38

New York 59 36

California 61 35

Colorado 62 32

Oregon 64 32

Maine 66 32

New Hampshire 70 28

A President Who Shrugs

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 6, 2014

I’ve written elsewhere of Barack Obama’s growing disinterest in being President of the United States. This observation has been made by many others, too.

But his boredom seems perhaps to have descended into contempt for politics generally. Here are some headlines regarding his response to Tuesday’s election that make this point. Of note is that these are stories in mainstream, certainly non-conservative publications like TIME, the New York Times and National Journal.

Republicans just won the election. President Obama doesn’t much care.”

Obama: Midterms? What midterms?

Obama Isn’t Listening to Voters He Claims to Hear

Obama, Chastened But Uncompromising”

Allies Right to Worry About Passive Obama”

His Party Is at a Low Point, and Obama Seems Passive”

Obama Resists Course Change After Election Rebuke”

President Obama is Not a Happy Warrior”

As an exasperated Dana Milbank wrote in today’s Washington Post, the President “seems numb to this latest ‘sheallacking’ of the Democrats:”

“I hear you,” President Obama said to the voters who gave Democrats an electoral drubbing in Tuesday’s midterm elections. But their message went in one presidential ear and out the other … It’s true that voters are disgusted with both parties, but they were particularly unhappy with Obama. In exit polls, 33 percent said their votes were to show disapproval of him.

Milbank says that although Mr. Obama “had called Democrats’ 2010 losses a ‘shellacking,’ he declined even to label Tuesday’s results.” Later in his piece, Milbank concludes that Mr. Obama’s “solution was to defer responsibility.”

No President has the luxury of petulance, disdain or disengagement. Christians should pray that, for the good of our country, Mr. Obama not only would make wise decisions and turn from wrong views and failed policies, but that he’d get his head in a game with stakes far, far too high to let languish.

Washington Post asks: “What went wrong for President Obama?”

by Robert Morrison

November 4, 2014

We are all waiting for today’s critical election returns and for the post-mortems that will inevitably follow. But our hometown newspaper, the Washington Post, is not waiting for the ballots to be reported tonight (and maybe some to be cast in Louisiana on December 6th with, perhaps, some even to be brought in by dogsled in Alaska!)

No, the Post is doing a pre-mortem. They printed this headline an amazing headline in this morning’s edition. This reliably liberal house organ is jumping the gun with analysis of the President’s failure and the “many crises [in his second term] and less faith in his [Mr. Obama’s] ability to respond.”

Finally, the liberal editors are asking themselves a question I can answer for them.

Here’s what went wrong for President Obama:

  1. He allowed himself to become the willing accomplice of Planned Parenthood. He told Speaker Boehner he would veto any Continuing Resolution of Congress that takes away even one dollar from this evil enterprise that dismembers a thousand unborn American children every day.
  1. His Obamacare legislation will force millions of Americans to pay for the killing of unborn children. This will be the greatest expansion of abortion since the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling.
  1. He has “evolved” into the nation’s most powerful marriagender. Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, a law we could have passed through Congress without a single Republican vote. Just 18 years ago, Democrats joined Republicans in supporting marriage. As recently as 2008, Barack told voters he believed “marriage is between a man and a woman and God is in the mix.” [emphasis added.]

Apparently, if you like your God you can keep Him. But President Obama has moved on on marriage. He has suddenly become aware that the Constitution all along has required every state to recognize counterfeit marriages. For a man who proudly tells us he taught Constitutional Law, this is an amazing, if tardy, discovery.

  1. He presides over the most anti-Christian administration in U.S. history. Never before have so many churches, pastors, priests and Christian citizens found their religious freedom so gravely endangered. Liberal reporters think this is rightwing hysteria and respond: “What about those Bible riots in Philadelphia in the 1840s?” Gotcha, they say. NO. Those Bible riots—deplorable as they were—were never instigated by the President and backed by the full power of the federal government. Today, Catholic bishops, Lutheran church body leaders, Evangelical pastors, Mormon officials, and rabbinical association spokespersons are united as never before in our nation’s history to push back against President Obama’s threats to religious freedom.
  1. His is the first administration in our history openly hostile to Israel. Woodrow Wilson, Democrat, favored the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine. Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt met with the Saudi king in 1945 in an effort to persuade him to accept a Jewish State. Harry Truman boldly recognized Israel 11 minutes after it declared its independence in 1948. But President Obama is pressuring Israel to permit the creation of a PLO Terroristan on the West Bank of the Jordan River. President Obama refuses to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but he went to reunited Berlin to bask in the adulation of German crowds.

For these and a host of other, lesser, reasons, this president has lost what the Chinese call “the Mandate of Heaven.”

Barbara Walters spoke to this world-weary sense that liberals have about the Obama Presidency when she sighed: “We thought he was going to be the Messiah.”

And Newsweek editor Evan Thomas cooed early in this administration that President Obama at Normandy “hovered over the nations like a sort of god.”

Can Mr. Thomas tell us what his god said at Normandy? Can President Obama remember what he said there? In 2009? In 2014?

Our God speaks. And through His Word, we learn of his tender concern for children, even those in the womb. We learn that He created marriage because it is not good for man to be alone. And we learn that when it comes to speaking His Word, we are to obey God and not men.

Our Founding Fathers believed that religious freedom was essential for political liberty. That’s why they guaranteed it in the Constitution they gave us. Socialist governments have always been hostile to three institutions—the family, the church, and free enterprise.

So we should not be surprised that President Obama is having mounting difficulty. It is a sign of a healthy body politic that the immune system is starting to reject his ruling philosophy.

Candidate Obama shocked Clinton Democrats when he said, “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not. And in a way that Bill Clinton did not.”

Barack Obama was promising liberals he would be their Ronald Reagan. But Reagan quoted the Founding Fathers’ wisdom more than any of his four predecessors and more than any of his four successors.

Perhaps that is why, respecting this country’s foundation and not seeking to “fundamentally transform this nation,” as Mr. Obama has, that Ronald Reagan was a success and this president is not.

Excerpts - Judge Upholds “Principles of Logic and Law” in Backing Natural Marriage in Puerto Rico

by Peter Sprigg

October 23, 2014

U. S. District Court Judge Juan M. Pérez-Giménez issued a ruling on October 21 upholding Puerto Rico’s law defining marriage:

Marriage is a civil institution that emanates from a civil contract by virtue of which a man and a woman are mutually obligated to be husband and wife . . .”

Pérez-Giménez, a Jimmy Carter appointee, was the second District Court judge to stand against the tide of judges who have asserted a constitutional right to “marry” someone of the same sex in the months since the June 2013 ruling of the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor. (Windsor struck down the portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or “DOMA” which defined marriage for all purposes of federal law as the union of one man and one woman.) Judge Martin L. C. Feldman upheld the Louisiana marriage law on September 3.

The fundamental basis of the opinion by Judge Pérez-Giménez was a simple one, but one that most of the other courts addressing this issue have sidestepped—namely, that there is already binding Supreme Court precedent on whether the U.S. Constitution requires states to permit “marriages” of same-sex couples, and the answer is, “No.”

Following are some excerpts from the strong decision (some citations omitted):

The plaintiffs have brought this challenge alleging a violation of the federal constitution, so the first place to begin is with the text of the Constitution. The text of the Constitution, however, does not directly guarantee a right to same-gender marriage . . .

Without the direct guidance of the Constitution, the next source of authority is relevant Supreme Court precedent interpreting the Constitution. On the question of same-gender marriage, the Supreme Court has issued a decision that directly binds this Court.

The petitioners in Baker v. Nelson [1972] were two men who had been denied a license to marry each other. They argued that Minnesota’s statutory definition of marriage as an opposite-gender relationship violated due process and equal protection – just as the plaintiffs argue here. The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected the petitioners’ claim . . .

The petitioners’ appealed … The Supreme Court considered both claims and unanimously dismissed the petitioners’ appeal “for want of [a] substantial federal question.”

… The dismissal was a decision on the merits, and it bound all lower courts with regard to the issues presented and necessarily decided, Mandel v. Bradley, … (1977) . . .

This Court is bound by decisions of the Supreme Court that are directly on point; only the Supreme Court may exercise “the prerogative of overruling its own decisions.” Rodriguez de Quijas v. Shearson/Am. Express, Inc., … (1989). This is true even where other cases would seem to undermine the Supreme Court’s prior holdings. Agostini v. Felton, … (1997)(“We do not acknowledge, and we do not hold, that other courts should conclude our more recent cases have, by implication, overruled an earlier precedent…”). After all, the Supreme Court is perfectly capable of stating its intention to overrule a prior case. But absent an express statement saying as much, lower courts must do as precedent requires.

… The Supreme Court, of course, is free to overrule itself as it wishes. But unless and until it does, lower courts are bound by the Supreme Court’s summary decisions “‘until such time as the Court informs [them] that [they] are not.’” Hicks v. Miranda, … (1975) … .

The First Circuit expressly acknowledged – a mere two years ago – that Baker remains binding precedent “unless repudiated by subsequent Supreme Court precedent.” Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, … (1st Cir. 2012). According to the First Circuit, Baker prevents the adoption of arguments that “presume or rest on a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”

. . .

Windsor does not – cannot – change things. Windsor struck down Section 3 of DOMA which imposed a federal definition of marriage, as an impermissible federal intrusion on state power. The Supreme Court’s understanding of the marital relation as “a virtually exclusive province of the States,” (quoting Sosna v. Iowa, … (1975)), led the Supreme Court to conclude that Congress exceeded its power when it refused to recognize state-sanctioned marriages.

The Windsor opinion did not create a fundamental right to same-gender marriage nor did it establish that state opposite-gender marriage regulations are amenable to federal constitutional challenges. If anything, Windsor stands for the opposite proposition: it reaffirms the States’ authority over marriage, buttressing Baker’s conclusion that marriage is simply not a federal question. Contrary to the plaintiffs’ contention, Windsor does not overturn Baker; rather, Windsor and Baker work in tandem to emphasize the States’ “historic and essential authority to define the marital relation” free from “federal intrusion.” It takes inexplicable contortions of the mind or perhaps even willful ignorance – this Court does not venture an answer here – to interpret Windsor’s endorsement of the state control of marriage as eliminating the state control of marriage.

. . .

Lower courts, then, do not have the option of departing from disfavored precedent under a nebulous “doctrinal developments” test. See National Foreign Trade Council v. Natsios, … (1st Cir. 1999) (“[D]ebate about the continuing viability of a Supreme Court opinion does not, of course, excuse the lower federal courts from applying that opinion.”); see also, Scheiber v. Dolby Labs., Inc., … (7th Cir. 2002) (“[W]e have no authority to overrule a Supreme Court decision no matter how dubious its reasoning strikes us, or even how out of touch with the Supreme Court’s current thinking the decision seems.”)(Op. of Posner, J.).

. . .

IVCONCLUSION

That this Court reaches its decision by embracing precedent may prove disappointing. But the role of precedent in our system of adjudication is not simply a matter of binding all succeeding generations to the decision that is first in time. Instead, stare decisis embodies continuity, certainly, but also limitation: there are some principles of logic and law that cannot be forgotten.

Recent affirmances of same-gender marriage seem to suffer from a peculiar inability to recall the principles embodied in existing marriage law. Traditional marriage is “exclusively [an] opposite-sex institution … inextricably linked to procreation and biological kinship,” Windsor, … (Alito, J., dissenting). Traditional marriage is the fundamental unit of the political order. And ultimately the very survival of the political order depends upon the procreative potential embodied in traditional marriage.

Those are the well-tested, well-proven principles on which we have relied for centuries. The question now is whether judicial “wisdom” may contrive methods by which those solid principles can be circumvented or even discarded.

A clear majority of courts have struck down statutes that affirm opposite-gender marriage only. In their ingenuity and imagination they have constructed a seemingly comprehensive legal structure for this new form of marriage. And yet what is lacking and unaccounted for remains: are laws barring polygamy, or, say the marriage of fathers and daughters, now of doubtful validity? Is “minimal marriage”, where “individuals can have legal marital relationships with more than one person, reciprocally or asymmetrically, themselves determining the sex and number of parties” the blueprint for their design? See Elizabeth Brake, Minimal Marriage: What Political Liberalism Implies for Marriage Law, 120 ETHICS 302, 303 (2010). It would seem so, if we follow the plaintiffs’ logic, that the fundamental right to marriage is based on “the constitutional liberty to select the partner of one’s choice.”

Of course, it is all too easy to dismiss such concerns as absurd or of a kind with the cruel discrimination and ridicule that has been shown toward people attracted to members of their own sex. But the truth concealed in these concerns goes to the heart of our system of limited, consent-based government: those seeking sweeping change must render reasons justifying the change and articulate the principles that they claim will limit this newly fashioned right.

For now, one basic principle remains: the people, acting through their elected representatives, may legitimately regulate marriage by law. This principle

is impeded, not advanced, by court decrees based on the proposition that the public cannot have the requisite repose to discuss certain issues. It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds … Freedom embraces the right, indeed the duty, to engage in a rational, civic discourse in order to determine how best to form a consensus to shape the destiny of the Nation and its people.

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, … (2014)(Op. of Kennedy, J.).

For the foregoing reasons, we hereby GRANT the defendants’ motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs’ federal law claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

San Juan, Puerto Rico, this 21st day of October, 2014.

S/ JUAN M. PÉREZ-GIMÉNEZ

JUAN M. PÉREZ-GIMÉNEZ

UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Conservatism’s Good - and Under-reported Ideas

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 24, 2014

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) today unveiled a plan designed to “expand (economic) opportunity in America—to deliver real change, real solutions, and real results” (http://paulryan.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=389081#.U9FlzkCuo7k).

It is likely there are proposals and assumptions in Ryan’s plan with which I agree, and others with which I do not. What has caught my attention is the way some of the media are covering his remarks. Here are some examples:

Ryan’s plan is substantive, far-reaching, and clear. It has much to commend it. Let’s also grant for the sake of argument that in addition to wanting to offer proposals that offer real hope, Ryan wants to dispel some of the stereotypes about Republicans not caring for the poor. That’s perfectly understandable and politically valid.

Yet with that said, why should he or anyone have to dispel a notion that is, itself, patently false?

Conservatives have long offered myriad proposals to help address issues of economic opportunity, educational failure, family collapse, and the struggles of millions of Americans wrestling with at-best modest incomes and dwindling hopes.

Yet the standard media narrative – heartless conservatives who pine for “orgiastic tax-cutting, the slashing of government programs, the championing of Wall Street” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/magazine/can-the-gop-be-a-party-of-ideas.html) – clings to the conservative movement like plastic wrap.

Why? Simply because so many in the “mainstream” media repeat it so often and, concurrently, so seldom report on the many ideas conservatives have generated that are designed to address intransigent social and economic problems. This is maddening, even if predictable, and also one of the principal reasons conservatives now operate their own print and electronic media outlets and networks.

Of course, sometimes a conservative spokesman will say something untoward or excessive. Pick a politician, Left or Right, who sometimes says things not almost immediately regretted. Do such offensive but incidental comments characterize entire movements, whole patterns of philosophy and ideas? No. Yet much too often, conservatives are portrayed as the purveyors of greed and callousness because of the few stupid statements of a few people.

Economic indicators cannot measure the values held by our children, or the suffering felt by broken families,” according to my old boss, U.S. Senator Dan Coats (R-IN). “We have discovered that our growing GNP also includes massive prison construction to house a lost generation, drug counseling in elementary schools, suicide hotlines, teen pregnancy centers, and clinics for battered children” (https://wikis.engrade.com/morality1/morality4).

The Senator said this in a speech in 1991. Since then, at least two things haven’t changed: The media’s general stereotyping of conservatives as heartless materialists, and their failure to report conservative ideas about how best to help our fellow citizens in need.

To death and taxes, perhaps media disinterest in conservative proposals should be added as an inevitability. This is not excuse for conservatives not to “stay in there pitching,” but a reminder that the next time you’re tempted to ask, “Why don’t conservatives say something about (pick your issue)?,” in all likelihood they already have.

The Tenth Circuit’s Kitchen v. Herbert Flubs Fundamental Rights Analysis

by Chris Gacek

June 26, 2014

Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed a federal district court’s decision striking down the definition of marriage found in Utah’s constitution. That definition limited Utah marriages to the union of one man and one woman. It was approved by referendum in November 2004 with 65.9% of the vote. In Kitchen v. Herbert, a 2-1 majority court struck down that definition by concluding, among other things, that there is a fundamental right to enter into a same-sex marriage. There is much more to the decision, but this note will focus on this key aspect of opinion.

As the U.S. Supreme Court instructed in Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997), the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees more than fair process. It “also provides heightened scrutiny against government interference with certain fundamental rights and liberty interests.” Id. at 720. But, how does one determine what rights and interests are “fundamental?” Glucksberg is the key case in setting forth the constitutional law in this area.

Paul Linton summarized the Glucksberg standard in the Family Research Council’s amicus brief in Kitchen (pp. 3-5) (edits to text, notes, and citations have been made below):

In determining whether an asserted liberty interest (or right) should be regarded as fundamental for purposes of substantive due process analysis under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment[] (infringement of which would call for strict scrutiny review), the Supreme Court applies a two-prong test. First, there must be a “careful description” of the asserted fundamental liberty interest. Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 721 (1997). Second, the interest, so described, must be firmly rooted in “the Nation’s history, legal traditions, and practices.” Id. at 710. ….

As in other cases asserting fundamental liberty interests, it is necessary to provide a “careful description” of the fundamental liberty interest at stake. For purposes of substantive due process analysis, therefore, the issue here is not who may marry, but what marriage is. The principal defining characteristic of marriage, as it has been understood in our “history, legal traditions, and practices,” is the union of a man and a woman. Properly framed, therefore, the issue before this Court is not whether there is a fundamental right to enter into a marriage with the person of one’s choice, but whether there is a right to enter into a same-sex marriage. ….

This is the point at which the majority opinion runs off the rails. It dodges the hard edge of Glucksberg requiring a tight, accurate definition of the claimed right. The Kitchen court goes in another direction asserting baldly (p. 35), “But we cannot conclude that the fundamental liberty interest in this case is limited to the right to marry a person of the opposite sex.” They cannot do so because they will not to do so.

Of course, there is a fundamental right to marry a person of the opposite sex. See Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 87 S. Ct. 1817 (1967). And, homosexuals are not precluded from marrying in any state. But, what is this national debate about? It is about the definition of marriage. Homosexual men and women assert that the laws of over thirty states should be nullified because, among other things, there is a fundamental right to marry members of the same sex. Furthermore, all states must be compelled to recognize male-male and female-female marriages.

Returning to the Glucksberg test it is manifestly clear that there is no such fundamental right, for it must be deeply embedded in “the Nation’s history, legal traditions, and practices.” How can this be possible with the claimed fundamental right to same-sex marriage? There is nothing about it that is firmly grounded in this country’s history, legal tradition, and practices. There were no same-sex marriages anywhere in the United States until the 21st Century.

Google is older than same-sex marriage.

There is a Supreme Court case that is instructive here, and it is Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972). Much blood in the same-sex marriage debate has been spilled over this case. In Baker, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal from a decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court which had rejected arguments for same-sex marriage similar to those being considered presently in our courts. Baker v. Nelson, 291 Minn. 310, 191 N.W.2d 185 (1971).

The U.S. Supreme Court declined the invitation to consider the matter stating that there was a “want of a federal question.” It has been argued that Baker precludes lower federal courts from even considering these issues, but federal courts have brushed aside those arguments, especially in the post-Windsor environment. It should be noted that the dissenting judge in Kitchen did accept this argument. Judge Kelly would have dismissed the case and left it for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether it wanted to revisit this area of the law. That seems like the correct approach.

Laying aside the argument that Baker requires a dismissal by lower courts, Baker is highly instructive in answering whether any claimed right to same-sex marriage is “fundamental.”

In 1972, the fundamental right argument was presented to the U.S. Supreme Court, and it was rejected – as it had been in Minnesota. Because Glucksberg tells us that fundamental rights must be rooted in our nation’s legal history and traditions, such a right should have been extant only forty-two years ago when the Supreme Court considered the Baker appeal. Fundamental right questions are dyadic – you either have one, a 0, or not, a 1. Baker gives us the Supreme Court’s answer in 1972: 0. Both courts had the constitutional issues presented in a manner we would recognize today. The Minnesota Supreme Court quoted Loving noting “there is a clear distinction between a marital restriction based merely upon race and one based upon the fundamental difference in sex.” Baker, 291 Minn. at 315 (concluding the court’s equal protection analysis and discussing Loving).

Thus, the Baker Court had the core legal concepts and precedents before it that we now routinely see in same-sex marriage litigation (e.g., fundamental rights claim, arguments based on Loving), and it dismissed the appeal.

Of course, there are equal protection arguments to also consider, but one must reasonably conclude that the Kitchen majority’s fundamental rights analysis fails badly. This point is underscored by footnote 4 of the FRC amicus brief in Kitchen which provides a lengthy list of courts that have rejected the argument that any fundamental rights (Due Process) analysis supports the claims of the Utah plaintiffs challenging the state’s natural marriage definition.

Human Trafficking: Modern-Day Slavery ¿ Here at Home and Around the World

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 20, 2014

The State Department has issued its annual report on human trafficking, “Trafficking in Persons – 2014”.  In announcing the release of the report, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that a conservative estimate places the number of trafficked persons at 20 million.

Here at home, it is estimated that up to 300,000 women and girls are at risk of being trafficked – held in bondage to sexual fiefs who use them for prostitution and/or pornography. That estimate was given at FRC by an aide to U.S. Rep. Anne Wagner (R-MO), who has introduced legislation to help combat human trafficking here in the U.S.

The relationship between abortion, pornography, prostitution, and trafficking is acute and extensive. Here are some resources to help better acquaint you with this rats’ nest of evil – and how you can work, in practical ways, to fight it, here at home and abroad (all of these resources are available and accessible at no cost):

FRC Online lecture: “Stopping Online Advertisers of Trafficking Victims: the ‘SAVE’ Act

FRC Brochure: “How to Fight Human Trafficking in Your Community

FRC Webcast: “Human Trafficking: Modern-Day Slavery

FRC Blog/Op-Ed: “How China’s ‘One Child’ Policy Fosters Human Trafficking

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