By Jason Hines, PhD – The Court will answer two questions. First, “does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?” Second, “does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?” These questions create three possible outcomes.
On November 13, 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an atheist group challenging a tax-exempt housing benefit only available to clergy lacked standing to bring the suit because members of the atheist group could not demonstrate that they had suffered an injury as a result of the clergy tax-exemption.
Two ordained ministers, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, who operate a for-profit wedding chapel in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho were threatened with a misdemeanor charge for refusing to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. The Knapps responded by filing a lawsuit and a motion for a temporary restraining order against the city in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho.
A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals last week unanimously struck down state bans on same-sex marriage in Indiana and Wisconsin. In a 40-page opinion (http://www.scribd.com/doc/238675754/14-2386-212#download), Judge Richard Posner blasted the two states for arguing that the reason why gay marriages were prohibited while heterosexual marriages were encouraged was that heterosexuals needed marriage to make couples take responsibility for their unplanned children. The states had argued that since homosexual couples could not accidentally conceive children, the state had no interest in them being married.
Most business owners set up corporations as legal alter-egos to avoid being held personally responsible if their businesses get sued, but in this case, the employers (in Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood, and Mardel) are saying that their corporations can still manifest the owners' religious beliefs even if it comes at the potential expense of their employees. The Supreme Court agrees.
On June 16, 2014 the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in the much-anticipated case, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. Justice Thomas delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court finding in favor of the Pro-Life group, Susan B. Anthony List (SBA). The court ruled that SBA and co-petitioner COAST (Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes) have standing to challenge an Ohio election statute under which they had been threatened with prosecution for holding members of Congress responsible for their voting record.
By Michael Peabody – Last November, a federal judge stuck a stick in a beehive when she found that a long-standing tax-exemption for clergy housing was unconstitutional. The case, Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) vs. Lew, is currently on appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and religious organizations are out in force defending the exemption.
By Michael Peabody – Although the U.S. Supreme Court did not provide a reason for declining Huguenin's writ, it is probably not because the Court intends to lock in the New Mexico decision or that the Supreme Court is not interested in addressing this issue at a later date. It is most likely because the Court is looking for a better case, perhaps a combination of several cases which represent different results in different jurisdictions.
By James Coffin – In the United States, individuals and groups have a long history of discrimination against fellow humans.
But over many decades, legislators and judges have curtailed our freedom to negatively impact others' lives based on our own prejudices. Such government actions have been a great blessing to the targets of discrimination.
Although anti-discrimination laws limit our freedom to say by our actions that we view certain categories of our fellow humans as inferior, unworthy or evil, they also help ensure justice for all.
By Michael Peabody – On March 25, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores (transcript and audio). According to a number of court pundits, the court is expected to split with four justices on each side and the deciding vote is predicted to fall to Anthony Kennedy. Perfectly projecting the Court's decision is not much easier than predicting a perfect NCAA March Madness bracket, but here are some potential outcomes for the case.