SCOTUS delays deciding if it will review Prop. 8

Californians on both sides of the gay-marriage debate will have to wait a bit longer to hear whether and how the U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in.

Though the high court originally had been scheduled to confer next Tuesday, Nov. 20 on whether to take a case challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 of 2008 – which added a same-sex marriage ban into the state constitution – the justices will now consider it Friday, Nov. 30 instead, with an announcement expected Dec. 3.

If the court decides not to review the case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ Feb. 7 ruling will stand, invalidating Proposition 8 and allowing gay marriages to resume in California.

The court also moved from Nov. 20 to Nov. 30 its consideration of whether to accept several cases challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 statute barring gay marriage for all matters of federal law.


Who’ll decide the future of marriage in California?

I and my colleague Howard Mintz wrote an article today about how four other states’ votes in favor of gay marriage this week might or might not affect California’s situation on that issue. Here’s a tidbit that didn’t make it into the story:

Even if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds both California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, it might not fall to activists alone to make a renewed electoral push for same-sex marriage in California, suggested Rick Jacobs, chairman of the Courage Campaign, a Los Angeles-based progressive activist network claiming more than 750,000 members nationwide.

Thanks to this week’s elections, Democrats now hold supermajorities in both chambers of California’s Legislature as well as the governor’s office, Jacobs noted. Should the courts fail the movement, he said, “I can imagine a scenario … wherein we wouldn’t even have to pay the money to put it on the ballot: The Legislature and the governor could do it.”

Gil Duran, spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, responded that “it is premature to speculate on these matters while the case is pending before the United States Supreme Court.”

Similarly, John Vigna, spokesman for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said “the Speaker believes this discussion is premature because the case is still before the courts, and the Speaker is very confident that the courts will invalidate Proposition 8 because of the eloquent and powerful case made by the plaintiffs and cited by Judge Walker in his decision ruling Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.”

But state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, seemed to embrace Jacobs’ idea: “I’m open to any and all ways to promote the cause of marriage equality and civil rights for all people.”


Stark targets Medicare glitch for same-sex couples

A bill introduced today by Rep. Pete Stark aims to close a loophole deep in Medicare’s rules that has been costing seniors who are in same-sex marriages.

Medicare’s secondary payer rules generally let someone maintain employer-sponsored coverage after they’ve obtained Medicare eligibility. They don’t have to join Medicare Part B (covering certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies and preventive services) and pay its monthly premium as long as they maintain that workplace insurance as their primary coverage and Medicare Part A (covering inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care and some home health care) as their secondary coverage.

The law also protects people in this situation who later transition to Medicare Part B when they lose that employer-sponsored coverage: They don’t have to pay a late enrollment penalty, as would someone who simply waited to obtain Part B coverage until they got sick.

But Stark, D-Fremont, said constituent Joseph Goleman of Newark was told he would have to pay that late-enrollment penalty because he disclosed that he was in a same-sex marriage.

“The practical effect of my legislation is to provide people over age 65 in same-sex marriages the choice to remain on their spouse’s employer health coverage as their primary insurance, without facing significant financial penalties from Medicare in the future,” he said. “Regardless of one’s position on same-sex marriage, this small change in law makes financial sense for Medicare and will ensure consistent treatment of people regardless of their age.”

Current law has different definitions for family depending on whether one becoming eligible for Medicare through disability or through age. The definition is “family member” for people with disabilities includes legally-recognized same-sex marriages, but for those turning 65, the term is “spouse” – and the federal Defense of Marriage Act prohibits that term from including state-recognized same-sex marriages.

“Joseph knew what happened to him when he visited the local Social Security office didn’t feel right. Thankfully, he immediately reached out to my office and we were able get him the benefits he was due,” Stark said in a news release. “The confusion in current law is likely denying eligible beneficiaries the benefits they are due today – as it would have Mr. Goleman if he’d not reached out to me.”

Stark is the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee that oversees Medicare.


Prop. 8 committee fined $49,000 for violations

California’s political watchdog agency today slapped the committee behind 2008’s Proposition 8 – the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage – with a $49,000 fine for campaign finance reporting violations involving more than $1.3 million in contributions.

According to the Fair Political Practices Commission, ProtectMarriage.com-Yes on 8 and its treasurer, David Bauer, “failed to file late contribution reports in a timely manner; failed to file in a timely manner, contributions of $1,000 or more received during the 90-day election cycle ending on November 4, 2008; failed to file contributions of $5,000 or more in a timely manner, in an online campaign report within ten business days of receipt; failed to properly dispose of an anonymous $10,000 contribution received on or about October 28, 2008; and failed to disclose occupation and/or employer information regarding persons who contributed $100 or more” – 18 distinct violations in all.

“The total amount of contributions not timely reported on these reports is approximately $654,424, which is approximately 2% of the total contributions received by Respondent Committee during the audit period,” commission staffers wrote of the late contribution reports, in an exhibit to the stipulation agreed to by ProtectMarriage.com. Staffers noted “there are no cases that are similar in size and amount of contributions received that have been considered by the Commission in the recent past.”

ProtectMarriage.com also “failed to disclose 188 contributions of $1,000 or more totaling $582,306 during 90-day period before the November 4, 2008 General Election within 24 hours of receipt in online campaign reports,” the exhibit said. It also failed to disclose contributions of $5,000 or more on or about July 21, 2008 and August 5, 2008, totaling $95,000.


‘The Great Castro Valley Marriage Debate’

The Great Castro Valley Marriage Debate” is scheduled for 6 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, July 17, in the Castro Valley Public Library at 3600 Norbridge Ave. The debate resolution reads: “Same-sex couples should have the same legal right to civil marriage as opposite-sex couples.”

Arguing in the affirmative will be local activist Billy Bradford of Marriage Equality USA and GetEQUAL; the Rev. Dr. Arlene Nehring from Eden United Church of Christ; and Dr. Irene Landaw, a local Kaiser pediatrician. Arguing against the resolution will be Castro Valley residents Stacy Spink, Peter Hauer and Trinity Bustria. The debate will be moderated by Reema Kakaday from the Castro Valley High School JSA/Debate Team.

This is open to the public, and there will be an opportunity to ask questions.

I like this a lot: People of differing viewpoints getting together in a local, public forum to civilly discuss and debate one of the pressing social issues of our time.


Reactions to Obama’s same-sex marriage stance

Here’s what some of California’s state and federal elected officials are saying about President Obama’s statement today affirming support for same-sex marriage rights:

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer “This is a historic day and another step in our country’s long march toward equal rights and justice for all. The President’s statement is a milestone and so important for the millions of American families who deserve full equality. None of us can rest until marriage equality is a reality for all Americans.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi “Today marks progress for the civil rights of LGBT Americans and all Americans. With President Obama’s support, we look forward to the day when all American families are treated equally in the eyes of the law.

“Republicans are standing on the wrong side of history. Just yesterday, a Republican-backed amendment to ban same-sex marriage passed in North Carolina. Here in the House, Republican leaders refuse to bring up a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that includes critical domestic violence protections for the LGBT community, and they are using taxpayer funds to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act in court. These actions only serve to advance fundamental unfairness in our society.

“Throughout American history, we have worked to live up to our values of liberty and freedom, and to end discrimination in all of its forms. Today, we took another step forward in our march toward equality.”

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“I have never been more proud of our President than I am today. His journey to acceptance is an example of the one value we honor most in America, freedom; freedom to choose who we love, freedom to choose who we marry, freedom to choose who we partner with to raise a family. Denying the right for any two people to marry is discrimination. I can only hope the President’s personal position will swell the tide of public opinion to end prejudice against the LGBT community.”

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

John Perez “I am very proud of the President for today’s eloquent and bold announcement that he supports marriage equality for every person in this country. As with many Americans, his views on this issue have evolved towards an embrace of dignity, respect and justice for every American. Like the President’s successful effort to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I believe today will be remembered as a major milestone in the LGBT movement, and one that gives credence to Dr. Martin Luther King’s observation that ‘the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.’ I am deeply grateful for the President’s leadership on this fundamental issue of civil rights.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Equality before the law is a pillar of American democracy. I applaud President Obama’s support for the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

For counterpoint, here’s Alliance Defense Fund litigation staff counsel Jim Campbell:

“This shows that the Obama administration doesn’t understand the public purpose of marriage. Marriage – the lifelong, faithful union of one man and one woman – is the building block of a thriving society. It’s not something that politicians should attempt to redefine for political purposes. The president has spoken eloquently about how fatherless homes often hurt children and society. Today’s statement is a tragic contradiction that promotes the creation of even more fatherless and motherless homes.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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