Saturday, January 17, 2015

SCOTUS will rule on marriage equality this year

But as Hair Balls points out: will Texans just have to cool their jets until then?

Last week, when the federal Fifth Circuit appeals court heard oral arguments regarding gay marriage bans in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, things looked promising for advocates of marriage equality.  [...]

Both (plaintiffs' attorney Neel) Lane and the State of Texas had already asked the Fifth Circuit to rule, regardless of whether or not the Supreme Court decided to hear a gay-marriage case - "It is the only thing we agree with the state on," Lane says. If the Fifth Circuit does come down with a ruling in favor of gay marriage, it's unclear whether Texas' new attorney general, Ken Paxton, would try to further delay things by appealing the case to the Fifth Circuit's full 15-judge panel.

Nevertheless, Lane believes that the Fifth Circuit judges' questions last Friday indicate their willingness to lift the current stay that's kept Texas' gay-marriage ban in place. If the Fifth decides not to punt, there's the very real possibility that Texas could see gay marriages before the Supreme Court takes up the issue.

"The question is whether the Fifth Circuit will rule on the three cases before it, knowing that the Supreme Court is likely to give a definitive answer by June," Lane told us. "I hope the Fifth Circuit will rule rather than wait, because my clients have waited long enough for their rights to be recognized."

I'm skeptimistic.  I think much of that is a pile of BS waiting for Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton, Dan Patrick and the worst conservatives in the state legislature to roll around in, smear on their faces and all over each other, and generally continue to further embarrass the state of Texas in the eyes of the nation.

So I'll prognosticate a worst-case scenario and hope that any better outcome will happen.

To begin, my anonymous legal eagle has (fairly safely) predicted a 2-1 Fifth Circuit decision, with Higginbotham and Graves in the majority and Jerry Smith writing some harshly-worded minority rebuke.  My source similarly thought that ruling wouldn't come down for several months.  With this Supreme Court development, I would be surprised if the appeals panel waited until the summer; I'll fashion that they now move up their deadline.  As Michael Barajas of Hair Balls intimates, this opens the door to AG Paxton busting his move, which the full Fifth takes and then rushes to some conclusion ahead of the Supremes, probably an unfavorable one for marriage equality.  If the Supreme Court favors the plaintiffs and legalizes gay marriage -- not a silly guess at all -- then you've got an opening for Abbott to call the Lege into special session, with a charge to outlaw it in Texas on some convoluted application of the theory of nullification.

And yet another years-long court battle.

Update: More than a couple of lawyer-types have indicated that the Fifth Circuit is is likely not to issue a decision en banc before the SCOTUS rules (if that happens in June) due to the historical snail's pace at which these things move through the courts.  I welcome additional input that improves the nightmare described above.

If you really want to be disheartened, then read this speculative legal analysis behind why the Supremes took on these cases: because the reworked questions and their narrow framing might enable them -- most specifically, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy-- to vote to criminalize gay marriage.  Update: And take this as encouragement that Kennedy is the fifth vote to legalize.  And yes, this as well.

The past 15 weeks have shown, time and time again, that a majority of the Supreme Court is not only ready for, but has been preparing the country for, a decision enforcing nationwide protection of same-sex couples’ right to marry.

Paranoia aside and if the high court rules in favor of marriage equality, I cannot see the governor, the attorney general, Dan Patrick and the Lege just lying down and 'getting it crammed down their throats'... as conservatives enjoy saying so much.

All this while HERO's jury trial comes to a head.  It's going to a tempestuous year for the 'mophobes.  That much is the only certainty.  Via Charles, this Buzzfeed post is best for all of the SCOTUS details.

1 comment:

Gadfly said...

Hasan updated his original post. Squares more with Raw Story. I expect a ruling for legalization, but still one drafted as narrowly as possible.