by Hannah McCartney
Lawyer calls 1996 law "across-the-board disrespect"
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled today that the 16-year Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional for banning federal benefits for married same-sex couples. The Court's three judges ruled unanimously that DOMA is discriminatory because it denies equal rights to same-sex married couples. The ruling applies only to the regions included in the circuit: Massachusetts,
Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Puerto Rico. Despite the unanimous decision, no changes will take effect until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the case, which is expected to be appealed. The ruling still marks a significant victory for the gay rights community, as it signifies a unified federal effort to institute provisions that support marriage equality across genders and sexualities. The decision also comes just days after the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by The Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, which challenged Attorney General Mike DeWine's approval of the legality of the language in a proposed state ballot which, if passed, would legalize same-sex marriage in the state of Ohio. DOMA, passed in 1996, doesn't specifically invalidate same-sex marriages in states that rule to legalize them, but it trivializes the meaning of marriage for such couples by specifically prohibiting married gay couples from possessing same benefits as married homosexual couples, including the ability to:
File taxes jointly
Take unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured spouse
Receive spousal, mother’s and father’s, or surviving spouse benefits under Social Security
Receive equal family health and pension benefits as federal civilian employeesThe Court did not rule on the second provision of DOMA, which verbalizes that states that don't approve of same-sex marriage can't be forced to recognize gay unions performed in states where it's
legal, nor did the court decide whether or the act of gay marriage is actually constitutional.Since its passage, several states have taken their own stances on gay marriage, while eight states — beginning with Massachusetts in 2004 — have legalized same-sex marriage. In Feb. 2011, the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend DOMA's constitutionality after several large-scale challenges to the act — a decision quickly combated by Ohio House Speaker John Boehner with the formation of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, an assemblage of standing House representatives, to defend DOMA. In arguments before the Circuit Court in April, Mary Bonauto, a lawyer for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), called DOMA a result of Congress' "moral disapproval." "It is simply that, frankly, Congress just didn't want to deal with same-sex couples ... this is across-the-board disrespect," she stated in the hearings.Earlier this month, President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to openly approve same-sex marriage. Ohio belongs in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which also encompasses Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.
by Hannah McCartney
Judge rejects Columbus restaurant's argument that ban is "oppressive"
Since 2006, the Ohio Smoke-Free Workplace Act has banned indoor smoking at public establishments and places of employment, making Ohio the first Midwestern state to enact a state-wide ban. Despite controversy and contestment, that ban will continue to be enforced statewide. The owner of Zeno's Victorian Village in Columbus who attempted to combat the law was shut down by a unanimous 7-0 vote in the Ohio Supreme Court today, which ruled that the state's six-year smoking ban is constitutional. Ohio's ban affects some 280,000 establishments across the state of Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). According to the Supreme Court of Ohio's case summary, Zeno's was cited 10 times for violations of the ban from July 2007 and September 2009, receiving multiple fines, none of which were paid. In protest of the violations, the director of the ODH filed a complaint against Bartec Inc., the corporate entity that owns Zeno's, requesting the bar to pay all outstanding fines. Bartec and legal representative 1851 Center for
Constitutional Law, a nonprofit legal center, asserted that the smoking ban was unconstitutional, a violation of the state's policing powers and that prohibiting smoking in an adults-only liquor-licensed establishment such as Zeno’s is "unduly oppressive," according to the case summary. The ban and its enforcement, argued Bartec, constitutes an unlawful taking of property, meaning an improper confiscation of the owner’s control of the indoor air."The goal of this legislation is to protect the health of the workers
and other citizens of Ohio. ... It does so by regulating proprietors
of public places and places of employment in a minimally invasive way.
We therefore hold that the Smoke Free Act does not constitute a
taking,” wrote Justice Lanzinger in her opinion. In her written opinion, Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger also cited 2002 Supreme Court decision, D.A.B.E., Inc. v. Toledo-Lucas Cty. Bd. of Health:"We have previously stated that the General Assembly has the authority
to enact a public-smoking ban. ... Although the Smoke Free Act was
ultimately passed pursuant to a ballot initiative, the voters of Ohio
also have a legitimate purpose in protecting the general welfare and
health of Ohio citizens and workforce from the dangers of secondhand
smoke in enclosed public places. By requiring that proprietors of
public places and places of employment take reasonable steps to prevent
smoking on their premises by posting ‘no smoking’ signs, removing
ashtrays, and requesting patrons to stop smoking, the act is rationally
related to its stated objective.”According to the Columbus Dispatch, the bar owes the state approximately $33,00 in violation fines, and the state has threatened to seize and foreclose the bar if the fines aren't paid. See how Ohio's public smoking laws compare to those in other states across the U.S. here.
0 Comments · Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Gov. John Kasich last week denied a
request for clemency from Mark Wayne Wiles, who was convicted in 1986 of
the murder of a 15-year-old boy in northeastern Ohio. Wiles was scheduled to be executed April
18, the day this issue is published, at the Southern Ohio Correctional
Facility in Lucasville.
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: Courts
at 08:53 AM | Permalink
Judge rules state again capable of carrying out death penalty
Ohio can now resume carrying out executions for the first time since November 2011, after a ruling Wednesday from U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost of Newark. In January, Frost halted the Ohio execution of condemned murderer Charles Lorraine in light of several slip-ups by the state in following its own execution protocol. On Feb. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Frost’s decision, ruling that the number of documented failures to follow procedure were enough to place an official moratorium on executions. The failures to follow protocol were reportedly mostly minor paperwork technicalities, including not properly documenting that an inmate’s medical files were reviewed and switching the official whose job it was to announce the start and finish times of the lethal injection. The state argued that the errors were minor, and didn’t legitimately affect the state’s ability to carry out humane executions. Frost, however, expressed frustration at the state’s failure to follow codes it had set itself. "Ohio has been in a dubious cycle of defending often indefensible conduct, subsequently reforming its protocol when called on that conduct, and then failing to follow through on its own reforms," Frost wrote in his January ruling. Frost's ruling means that the state will move forward with the April 18 execution of Mark Wiles, who was found guilty for stabbing a 15-year-old boy to death in1985. Frost recently denied Wiles' request for a stay of execution. Although his ruling sided with the state, Frost seemed somewhat wary of the state's promises to reform. Since the moratorium, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has allegedly scrutinized its procedural policies and implemented a new "Incident Command System," which sounds like an initiative for ORDC Director Gary Mohr to more closely micromanage the processes during state executions.
"This court is therefore willing to trust Ohio just enough to permit
the scheduled execution," Frost wrote regarding his rejection of Wiles' stay of execution. "The court reaches this
conclusion with some trepidation given Ohio's history of telling this
court what (they) think they need to say in order to conduct executions
and then not following through on promised reforms." To date, Ohio has executed 386 convicted murderers. Click here for a schedule of upcoming executions in Ohio.
by Hannah McCartney
Supreme Court upholds lower court ruling that state has failed to follow proper protocol
A ruling that resulted in a temporary halt in Ohio executions last week means there are 148 inmates on Ohio's death row with uncertain futures. Ohio's death penalty is currently under scrutiny, largely due to opposition that's been raised from documented failures to follow protocol in state executions. In January, Federal District Court Judge Gregory Frost of Newark, Ohio halted condemned murderer Charles Lorraine's Ohio execution because Ohio has allegedly demonstrated problems over the last several months upholding the execution protocol the state put in place itself in 1981. On Feb. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Frost's decision, saying that because Ohio had been proven to stray from its own execution policies, it couldn't be trusted to carry out Lorraine's execution or any other death sentences. The next execution in Ohio is scheduled for April. Frost is one of several advocating for the abandonment on Ohio's death penalty. "For close to eight years, the Court has dealt with inmate challenges to the constitutionality of Ohio’s execution protocol. During that time, the litigation has morphed from focusing primarily on allegations of cruel and unusual punishment to allegations of equal protection violations. Ohio has been in a dubious cycle of defending often indefensible conduct, subsequently reforming its protocol when called on that conduct, and then failing to follow through on its own reforms," said Frost in his written opinion. He goes on to describe instances in which state agents lied to the Court concerning state executions, expressing frustration about the state's lack of commitment to constitutional execution. "No judge is a micro-manager of executions and no judge wants to find himself mired in the ongoing litigation in which he must continually babysit the parties," said Frost. That's just a piece of it; there are other judicial bigwigs hoping to have Ohio's death penalty overturned, including Senior Associate Justice for the Ohio Supreme Court Paul Pfiefer, who helped write Ohio's death penalty law when he was a state senator more than 30 years ago. According to Pfeifer, he's changed his mind because he sees the option of life without the possibility of parole more moral and socially beneficial. Evidently, most of the deviations from the execution regulations were minor paperwork technicalities. Huffington Post reports the errors included switching the official whose job it was to announce the start and finish times of the lethal injection and not properly documenting that the inmate's medical records were reviewed. Those in support of the hold, however, make another point. Controlling life and death is the most important power the state of Ohio holds; if it can't follow minor rules that it set for itself, who's to say there won't be larger, more detrimental errors in the future? It's difficult to tell whether or not Ohio will just get a slap on the wrist for its slip-ups or if reform will be seriously considered. The death penalty has almost always been a part of Ohio's history, since it became a state in 1803. Ohio ranked third in the U.S. for executions among the 34 states that have the death penalty in 2011. Listen to Paul Pfeifer and hear more about the controversy on The Sound of Ideas radio program below.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 1, 2012
It’s got to if we want to preserve any semblance of a functioning
democracy in our nation. “It” is overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s dreadful Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
ruling. The decision
undid nearly a century’s worth of campaign finance regulation in the
0 Comments · Tuesday, May 25, 2010
When Elena Kagan was nominated for the Supreme Court, an immediate story was that her confirmation would mean "three Jews, six Roman Catholics and no Protestants." The media still have a lingering fixation on Jews. Not Judaism, Jews. Somehow it often seems necessary to identify people by their religion when they're Jews.
0 Comments · Monday, February 1, 2010
It didn't take long before I realized the true horror of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision freeing corporations to spend freely to support political campaigns. It wasn't the new potential for corruption or wealth drowning out other voices. It's the promise of more campaign ads on local TV.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Those of us who received frantic text messages reading the likes of "MJ died today … FUCK!" were surprised and relieved to find out later that basketball legend Michael Jordan was, in fact, alive and well. The news wasn't so great for Pop icon Michael Jackson, who died suddenly at his Los Angeles home at age 50 and received hours of TV news tributes, tweets and descriptions of his "troubled" life in his honor.