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Prominent gay rights advocate to argue landmark marriage case at the Supreme Court

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Lawyers advocating for a right to gay marriage at the U.S. Supreme Court announced on Tuesday they had chosen Mary Bonauto, a longtime champion of gay legal rights, to argue the landmark case on April 28.

The choice of Bonauto, a litigator with the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and an architect of legal strategy for gay unions since the early 1990s, was made after weeks of jockeying by lawyers and negotiations among challengers to bans on gay marriage in four states.

Although the nine justices typically rely on written briefs in such cases, a lawyer’s performance during oral arguments can sometimes tip the scales. It can also bring a lawyer in a big case public attention and professional prestige.

From the battery of lawyers representing gay couples in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky, only two could have spots at the lectern before the justices for the two legal issues in the case.

Those are: whether the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law protects a nationwide right to same-sex marriage; and, if it does not, whether states banning such unions must recognize gay marriages performed in states that permit them.

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Currently, 37 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage. To argue the second question, related to state recognition, the challengers chose Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, a former assistant U.S. solicitor general now with a private law firm.

Arguing for the states defending bans will be John Bursch, a former Michigan solicitor general, and Joseph Whalen, a Tennessee associate solicitor general.

Hallward-Driemeier, working on the Tennessee appeal, is an appellate specialist who has argued 14 times before the justices.

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Bonauto, who has not previously appeared before the high court, has argued extensively in lower courts for gay marriage including in the case that made Massachusetts the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry in 2004.

As gay advocates noted in announcing the news, Bonauto was dubbed “our Thurgood Marshall” by Barney Frank, a gay former U.S. House of Representatives member, referring to the civil rights legend who helped end school segregation before becoming the first African American justice.

Negotiations among the lawyers involved had gone beyond an informal March 17 deadline set by the court and culminated with mock oral arguments among contenders on Sunday in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Initial reaction from gay rights attorneys to Bonauto’s selection was positive. Bonauto said in a statement she was “humbled to be standing up” in the case.

The justices will hear arguments over 2-1/2 hours on April 28. A ruling is expected by the end of June.

(Editing by Will Dunham)


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Training journalists in the era of fake news

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As uncannily realistic "deep fake" videos proliferate online, including one recently retweeted by Donald Trump, journalism schools are scrambling to adapt to an era of misinformation -- or fake news.

Experts discussed how to train tomorrow's reporters for these new challenges at the World Journalism Education Congress in Paris last week.

The three-day event -- "Teaching Journalism During a Disruptive Age" -- was attended by 600 educators and researchers from 70 countries.

"We have journalism educators from places as different as Bangladesh and Uganda, but essentially we all face the same challenges," congress organizer Pascal Guenee, head of IPJ Dauphine journalism school in Paris, told AFP.

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Amazon workers strike as ‘Prime’ shopping frenzy hits

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Amazon workers walked out of a main distribution center in Minnesota on Monday, protesting for improved working conditions during the e-commerce titan's major "Prime" shopping event.

Amazon workers picketed outside the facility, briefly delaying a few trucks and waving signs with messages along the lines of "We're human, not robots."

"We know Prime Day is a big day for Amazon, so we hope this strike will help executives understand how serious we are about wanting real change that will uplift the workers in Amazon's warehouses," striker Safiyo Mohamed said in a release.

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Iran’s top diplomat warns US is ‘playing with fire’

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Monday that the United States is "playing with fire," echoing remarks by President Donald Trump as the two sides are locked in a standoff over Tehran's nuclear program.

The United States quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions.

Tensions have since soared, with the US calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed an American drone, and Washington blaming the Islamic republic for a series of attacks on tanker ships.

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