WBEZ | Supreme Court http://www.wbez.org/tags/supreme-court Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Supreme Court ruling ‘bittersweet’ for Illinois civil-union couples http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-ruling-%E2%80%98bittersweet%E2%80%99-illinois-civil-union-couples-107867 <p><p>The U.S. Supreme Court&rsquo;s move to strike down the federal definition of marriage on Wednesday likely won&rsquo;t have much of an effect on the thousands of Illinois couples who have entered civil unions, according to legal activists.</p><p>The justices&rsquo; decision to invalidate a part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, clears the way for married gay couples to qualify for some federal benefits previously granted only to heterosexual couples.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7322_DOMARallySmall%20%2817%20of%2024%29-scr%281%29.jpg" style="height: 233px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Chicago's Gay Liberation Network hosted a rally the evening that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down provisions of DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The court also sent back a decision on California's Prop 8. The event was mostly celebratory, but organizers pushed Chicago's LGBT community to press Illinois legislators to pass approval of same-sex marriage. Josh McGrane (left) and Jihad Id-Deen came to the rally together. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" />But most of those benefits likely will not apply to same-sex couples in Illinois civil unions, said Camilla Taylor, a lawyer with the gay rights group Lambda Legal.</p><p>&ldquo;As a general rule, couples in civil unions are gonna feel the hurt of discrimination on a federal level, as well as a state level,&rdquo; Taylor said. That&rsquo;s because most federal laws refer only to marriage, not civil unions, she said.</p><p>Same-sex civil unions, which confer some state-level legal benefits to couples, are currently allowed in six states, including Illinois. About 6,100 couples have applied for civil union licenses in the state through May, according to the state Department of Public Health.</p><p>But court&rsquo;s decision will only apply to couples in the thirteen states, and the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriages are currently allowed, Taylor said. Those couples could qualify for certain Social Security benefits, veterans benefits and immigration status, once federal agencies sort out their procedures in the wake of Wednesday&rsquo;s ruling.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7332_DOMARallySmall%20%284%20of%2024%29-scr.jpg" style="float: left; height: 450px; width: 300px;" title="Robert Castillo, 45, of Logan Square attended a rally hosted by Chicago's Gay Liberation Network the evening after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down provisions of DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The court also sent back a decision on California's Prop 8. The event was mostly celebratory, but organizers pushed Chicago's LGBT community to press Illinois legislators to pass approval of same-sex marriage. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" />&ldquo;There&rsquo;s certainly people who have gone to Iowa, or elsewhere&mdash;to another state or even to Canada to get married,&rdquo; said John Knight, director of the ACLU of Illinois&rsquo; LGBT project. &ldquo;That marriage is legal but it&rsquo;s not recognized by the state of Illinois as a marriage, it&rsquo;s recognized only as a civil union.&rdquo;</div></div><p>He says those marriages may be eligible for certain benefits but they&rsquo;re waiting for guidance from the federal government to make it clear that federal benefits are provided to those people even though the state doesn&rsquo;t recognize their marriage.</p><p>That&rsquo;s why news of Wednesday&rsquo;s court decisions was met with mixed emotions from couples like Lakeesha Harris and Janean Watkins, both from Chicago.</p><p>Two years ago, the pair became the first in Cook County to get a civil union license, after being together for about a decade.</p><p>But now, Harris, 38, said she feels elated, yet distant, from Wednesday&rsquo;s rulings.</p><p>&ldquo;For Illinois, in this middle ground, this holding place...it&rsquo;s very bittersweet,&rdquo; Harris said. &ldquo;Like, we&rsquo;re watching these federal laws progress, [but] here in the state of Illinois, not so much.&rdquo;</p><p>A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois fizzled in the waning hours of the legislative session last month, when its sponsor declined to call it up for a vote in the House. The bill has already cleared the State Senate, and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has vowed to sign it if it passes the General Assembly.</p><p>But Watkins, 39, said she hopes the rulings will add some momentum to the push for same-sex marriage in Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;Hopefully, that&rsquo;ll make some of the legislators and lawmakers see that, okay, it&rsquo;s not gonna make everything come to pieces,&rdquo; Watkins said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s gonna help economically, it&rsquo;s gonna help socially, it&rsquo;s gonna help in many different ways.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politcs for WBEZ. Follow him @<a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">akeefe</a>. </em></p><p><em>WBEZ producer Katie O&#39;Brien contributed to this report. </em></p></p> Wed, 26 Jun 2013 15:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-ruling-%E2%80%98bittersweet%E2%80%99-illinois-civil-union-couples-107867 Morning Shift: SCOTUS rules on Prop 8 and DOMA http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-06-26/morning-shift-scotus-rules-prop-8-and-doma-107849 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Gay Marriage Flickr- carlosmelia.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SCOTUS rules on Prop 8 and Doma. What will the impact be on marriage rights across the states?&nbsp;</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-is-there-wheat-in-that-is-it-process.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-is-there-wheat-in-that-is-it-process" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: SCOTUS rules on Prop 8 and DOMA " on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Wed, 26 Jun 2013 08:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-06-26/morning-shift-scotus-rules-prop-8-and-doma-107849 Chicago filmmaker and BRCA-positive woman celebrates liberation of her genes http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-filmmaker-and-brca-positive-woman-celebrates-liberation-her-genes-107722 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BRCA.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Joanna Rudnik&rsquo;s mother was in her early 40s when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Fearing a similar fate, the Chicago filmmaker decided to document her family&rsquo;s history&mdash;and her own predisposition&mdash;in the 2008 film, <a href="http://www.pbs.org/pov/inthefamily" target="_blank"><em>In the Family</em></a>.</p><p>She was single and just 27 years old when she tested positive for a mutation of the so-called breast cancer gene. But Rudnick desperately wanted children. She wasn&rsquo;t ready to lose her ovaries to lower her risk of cancer.</p><p>She then had to decide between surveillance and surgery.</p><p>But at least she had a choice.</p><p>Not many women get that choice. Because not many women have access to the information she had; to know that they are possibly living with a ticking time bomb inside of them.</p><p>Those who test positive for BRCA mutations have up to an 85 to 90 percent lifetime chance of developing breast cancer. And up to a 50 to 60 percent life chance of developing ovarian cancer.</p><p>Dr. Olufunmilayo Olopade directs the Cancer Risk Clinic at the University of Chicago. She said many family members live under a cloud of fear.</p><p>Olopade&rsquo;s been working for more than nearly two decades to open up genetic testing to all women.</p><p>&ldquo;I spent my time as a cancer geneticist and expert in cancer-risk assessment actually calling insurance companies to advocate that women would benefit from the test and they should cover it. Sometimes when it&rsquo;s denied, then the women can&rsquo;t afford it, then they just don&rsquo;t take the test,&rdquo; Olopade explained.</p><p>See, many uninsured or underinsured women couldn&rsquo;t afford the test. And really, most third-party payers didn&rsquo;t want to cover the BRCAnalysis test. Because it generally cost over $3,000.</p><p>The reason? There&rsquo;s just one test. A Salt Lake City-based biotech company called Myriad Genetics had a monopoly. They obtained patents on the two genes back in the 1990s, eliminating any chance of market competition.&nbsp;</p><p>Near the end of filming, Rudnik went to Myriad&rsquo;s offices to confront them. She met with the founder and Chief Scientific Officer Mark Skolnick. He said the bottom line is that women were getting tested&mdash;in fact, he claimed she would not have been tested were it not for Myriad. And that doctors were &ldquo;not prepared to do this.&rdquo; He claimed that Myriad has addressed every problem that came up and solved it because they had a commercial interest.</p><p>The Supreme Court ruled that Myriad&rsquo;s interests did not give them the right to patent parts of naturally-occurring genes. The unanimous decision came at an especially significant time for Rudnick.</p><p>Thursday was her 39th birthday.</p><p>In December, Rudnick was diagnosed with breast cancer&mdash;just a few months after giving birth to her second daughter. She just finished chemo and recently underwent a bilateral mastectomy and an oophorectomy.</p><p>&ldquo;I just want better choices for my daughters&mdash;because I don&rsquo;t want my daughters to go through what I went through and I want them to have better options&rdquo; Rudnick said.</p><p>Soon after the Supreme Court delivered its decision, several labs announced plans to offer genetic testing. One lab, DNATraits, said it planned to offer the BRCA test in the U.S. for $995&mdash;that&rsquo;s less than a third of the current price.</p><p>Rudnick called the court&rsquo;s decision an absolute victory. But she believes it needs to be taken a step further. Now that women&rsquo;s genes have been reclaimed, she says it&rsquo;s time to collect the data Myriad compiled&mdash;so that better, cheaper tests and treatments can be developed.</p><p>In Honor of the Supreme Court&rsquo;s decision, PBS has posted Rudnick&rsquo;s film, In the Family, on its website. It can be <a href="http://www.pbs.org/pov/inthefamily/full.php#.UbuX6b-R98E" target="_blank">viewed online</a>, free of charge.</p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez" target="_blank">@katieobez</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 17 Jun 2013 07:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-filmmaker-and-brca-positive-woman-celebrates-liberation-her-genes-107722 Tea Leaves, Notes on Prop 8 and DOMA http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-03/tea-leaves-notes-prop-8-and-doma-106399 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7174_AP29021142819-scr.jpg" title="Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in DOMA, outside the Supreme Court (AP)" /></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>There seems to be a growing consensus that the Supreme Court will strike down the Defense of Marriage Act but step away from Prop 8, ruling that the plaintiffs in the case -- private citizens who led a public referendum to undo California&rsquo;s same sex marriage legalization -- don&rsquo;t actually have standing.<br /><br />If that&rsquo;s what they do -- and I tend to lean in that direction -- the net effect will mean that, on Prop 8, the ruling of the lower courts will stand: Prop 8 will be thrown out and same sex marriages will be legal in California again. The ruling will affect only California.<br /><br />Ruling DOMA unconstitutional will mean that same sex couples married in any one of the eight states and the District of Columbia that permit it will be eligible for all the rights and privileges of opposite sex couples -- and as the Justices pointed out, there are more than 1,000 benefits from which same sex married couples are currently excluded, including Social Security survivor benefits, military family housing, tax filing, etc.<br /><br />But here are a few other things to consider:<br /><br />* There may be no majority opinion on Prop 8. Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed torn between wanting the case tossed and not wanting to devalue referendum efforts. But some of the Justices may rule the law unconstitutional (probably Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Steven Breyer and Ruth Gingsburg), others may argue standing (Samuel Alito, John Roberts), and some may argue that Prop 8 should be upheld (Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas). If the majority opinion doesn&rsquo;t have five Justices signing it, there&rsquo;s no precedent. If the Justices don&rsquo;t rule it out on standing, this may be the only way out on Prop 8. Otherwise, the court will be forced into establishing a constitutional precedent: either there&rsquo;s a right to same sex marriage (which the conservatives don&rsquo;t want on the books) or there&rsquo;s not (which the liberals don&rsquo;t want). Prop 8 is all or nothing -- there&#39;s almost no way to narrow it down; ruling on standing avoids both of those conclusions, as does not getting a majority.<br /><br />* If the Justices strike down California&#39;s ban on gay marriage by upholding Prop 8, tossing the case, or not getting a majority, it would trigger marriage ban repeal efforts in other states. Forty-one states now ban same-sex marriage. On the other hand, a verdict to find Prop 8 unconstitutional would render all of those bans illegal without state recourse.<br /><br />* If the Justices rule that the citizen organizers of Prop 8 don&rsquo;t have standing, that the interests of the people of California can only be represented in court by elected officials such as the state&rsquo;s governor, attorney general or solicitor general, they will seriously cripple California&rsquo;s referendum system (perhaps not the worst thing that could happen, given the state&rsquo;s history of controversial, and frequently problematic, propositions).<br /><br />* Standing -- whether there is an actual adversarial relationship between the parties before the court -- may actually be more tentative in DOMA than in the Prop 8 case. In fact, the Justices appointed an attorney to argue there&rsquo;s no standing in DOMA but not in Prop 8.</p><p>In DOMA, the government has already determined the law is unconstitutional but has continued to enforce it in spite of lower rulings that agree. In other words, the Obama administration and Edie Windsor, the plaintiff, are on the same side. In the meantime, the people defending DOMA are with the House of Representatives&rsquo; Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG). Both Roberts and Scalia made a point of saying it was unprecedented for a case to come to the court in which the law was being defended by a group that had not sustained injury or, basically, had much to do with the original suit. Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Leader in the House, has argued BLAG does not, in fact, represent the House&rsquo;s interests but only that of the GOP leadership. (BLAG has racked up a a $3 million bill so far.)</p><p>If the court decides BLAG doesn&rsquo;t have standing, it&rsquo;s less clear what will happen. Most likely, there will be no precedent and DOMA will continue on the books until there&rsquo;s another case or until Congress repeals it. Windsor would most likely get her tax monies back, as ordered by the lower courts.<br /><br />* Should there be no decision on DOMA, and if the law gets kicked back to Congress for repeal, the votes would break straight down party lines in the Senate but not quite in the House. There are currently six Republicans who support repealing DOMA, and <a href="http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/doma-who-are-the-19-democrats-who-voted-for-doma-this-week/legislation/2011/07/08/23322">19 Democrats who support DOMA</a>, including two in Illinois: Jerry Costello and Dan Lipinsky.<br /><br />* The National Organization for Marriage has said that, should there be a vote for same sex marriage in either case, it will begin <a href="http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/nom-s-brown-invokes-lincoln-push-federal-marriage-amendment-we-cannot-be-half-slave-half-fre">a campaign</a> for a Federal Marriage amendment, banning marriage equality nationwide. &ldquo;We need a solution in this country, we cannot be, as Lincoln said, half slave, half free,&rdquo; said Brian Brown, NOM&rsquo;s president. The FMA has been around since 2002, when former Supreme Court aspirant Robert Bork helped draft it, but it&rsquo;s never had enough support to even come for a vote. Nothing suggests it would have any better success now.<br /><br /><br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 29 Mar 2013 22:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-03/tea-leaves-notes-prop-8-and-doma-106399 You can support equality without being into marriage http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/you-can-support-equality-without-being-marriage-106303 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/prop8.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px; float: right;" title="File: Prop 8 demonstrators. (AP/File)" /></p><p>F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that intelligence is the &ldquo;ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.&rdquo;</p><p>I thought of Fitzgerald today as SCOTUS deliberated on Prop 8 and God was flooded with prayers from queer people to strike Scalia dead and friends flooded my Facebook feed with equal signs to show their support for marriage equality. It should have been an easy decision, right? I click a button, make a red mathematical mark my profile pic and then go back to watching <em>Bob&rsquo;s Burgers</em> instead of being productive.</p><p>But I didn&rsquo;t do it. I couldn&rsquo;t do it. I support marriage equality, but my support deserves more explanation than a simple photograph can explain, and I saw a number of fights break out on Facebook as people struggled to articulate their mixed emotions on marriage to friends and family. Our politics are complicated. A picture might speak a thousand words, but in this case, those would be the wrong ones. These are my thousand words. They are my own.</p><p>As a queer person and a human person who respects the dignity of all people, I support everyone&rsquo;s right to love and to have that love recognized, if they so choose. I support my friends who have waited for years and decades to do something that Britney Spears can do when she&rsquo;s drunk.</p><p>I support everyone that deserves to be able to visit their partner in the hospital or inherit half of their life together when their partner dies. I support their right to completely, totally screw them up, just like straight parents do. I support the rights of distant gay dads and overbearing lesbian mothers. I support their right to a divorce -- to the ugliest, most Real Housewives-esque arbitration known to man.</p><p>I support everyone&rsquo;s right to have whatever beautifully imperfect love they want, to strive to do better than their parents and fail sometimes and post pictures of it on Facebook. One day, I spent an hour and a half looking through Facebook photos of my favorite professor and her partner&rsquo;s preposterously adorable twins, which they dress in matching baby jumpers. They even dressed them up like chickens for Halloween. Motherflipping c<em>hickens</em>. How can I not support baby poultry? I&rsquo;m not a monster.</p><p>However, supporting and affirming their marriages doesn&#39;t mean I have to support marriage as a concept or believe it should be the issue sweeping our social media. I want to see people coming together to think critically about assimilation and what marriage, as a value, means for us. Same-sex marriage isn&#39;t a shortcut to queer liberation, and it&#39;s not just society&#39;s views on who can get married that need to evolve. It&#39;s marriage.</p><p>Of all people, I feel that Rufus Wainwright put it best. Wainwright is a libertarian (like our good friend Ron Swanson) and doesn&rsquo;t believe in marriage in general. When asked about it his feelings on marriage equality back in 2008, Mr. Wainwright <a href="http://www.towleroad.com/2008/12/rufus-wainwrigh.html">quipped</a>:</p><div><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Oddly enough, I&rsquo;m actually not a huge gay marriage supporter. I personally don&rsquo;t want to get married but I think that any law or amendment to the constitution that deals with sex and love should just be banned in general. I don&rsquo;t think any government should encroach on what goes on in the bedroom at all. Frankly, if you want to marry a dog, why don&rsquo;t you go ahead and marry a dog, I don&rsquo;t care.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">But despite his opposition to marriage in general, Wainwright affirmed his belief in the individual&rsquo;s right to decide for themselves: &ldquo;A girl likes options,&quot; he said. &quot;Maybe someday I will want to marry.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">I agree with Wainwright (who later did get married to his partner). I believe in a person&rsquo;s right to choose the relationship that&rsquo;s right for them, whether that&rsquo;s a beautiful lesbian family with heartbreakingly photogenic children or no family at all. I also want to celebrate the unattached people and everyone who resists our culture of Singleism and doesn&rsquo;t confer rights to healthcare and visitation just because they&rsquo;re in a relationship the state approves of.</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/femmehulk.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 390px; float: left;" title="(Feminist Hulk/Twitter)" /></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">As a feminist, I don&rsquo;t want to tell anyone that they need to get married to be deserving of rights and protections. Imagine if you told a female friend of yours she had to get married to have worth. She would Hulk-smash you.</p><p dir="ltr">Instead, I think that we need to do more work to give the benefits of marriage to everyone. Single folks deserve healthcare, just like poly folks shouldn&rsquo;t have to decide which of their partners gets to have rights and which do not. While we figure out what the Affordable Healthcare Act means for queer and trans* folks, we must continue to fight for our community health, including the people that marriage leaves out.</p><p dir="ltr">The problem is that marriage, as <a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com/post/46405747469/for-me-queer-theory-is-the-emblematic-example-of">an ideology</a>, speaks to a homonormative subset of the community, where our worth is predicated on our ability to fit into a straight-approved archetype of &quot;gay identity.&quot; It asks us to be a part of the new normal, rather than critiquing the idea of a normal existing at all. Instead, we need to fight for the people outside of the box and their right to critique the box and tear down the box. We need to recognize the institutions that created the box, ask whose agenda the box really serves and question why we need a box at all. Screw the box.</p><p dir="ltr">We can support our friends who want to get married while realizing that marriage doesn&rsquo;t speak to all of our experiences, reflecting on those whose systemic issues marriage can&rsquo;t fix. What about the queer and trans* youth who don&rsquo;t need a ring to fix their problems? We need to put a roof on it, providing shelter for all those who need solace and refuge. All of us deserve love, whether that love is a piece of paper that speaks to decades of struggle for recognition or having a community that supports you and gives you the safe spaces you need.</p><p dir="ltr">Our love needs to be bigger, greater and more inclusive. Our love needs to stop asking trans* people to wait their turn, to start recognize bisexuals as even existing and to work to create a culture that isn&rsquo;t just marriage positive: it&rsquo;s body positive, fat positive, single positive, sex positive and intersectional. While we fight for marriage equality, we must remember to simply fight for equality.</p><p dir="ltr">Equality isn&rsquo;t just an inevitability. It&rsquo;s a necessity. Our community needs equal rights, so we can stop funding the rights of some and focus on the rights of all. It&rsquo;s time for marriage equality, but it&rsquo;s also time to move on. It&rsquo;s time for trans people. It&rsquo;s time for gender non-conformers. It&rsquo;s time for the differently abled. That&rsquo;s what equality means to me. Equality means everyone.</p><p dir="ltr">I know they don&rsquo;t have a Facebook photo for that, but that&rsquo;s what I want to see my Facebook feed light up with. I don&#39;t want it just to celebrate some of the luminous people I know. I want it to celebrate all of you.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can follow Nico on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Nico_Lang</a> or find him on <a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com">Tumblr</a> and <a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang">Facebook</a>.</em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 27 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/you-can-support-equality-without-being-marriage-106303 Prop 8 lawyer's Supreme Court argument: Babies and timing http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-03/prop-8-lawyers-supreme-court-argument-babies-and-timing-106291 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7163_AP080613018219-scr_0.jpg" style="float: right; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="File: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy is considered the swing vote in the Prop 8 case. (AP/File)" />The weirdest part of this morning&rsquo;s arguments on Prop 8 before the Supreme Court is that everybody -- including the lawyer representing Prop 8 backers -- seems to think same sex marriage is an inevitability, but that the court&rsquo;s duty is not to hurry it along.</p><p>&ldquo;<a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2013/03/26/law-blog-doc-dump-transcript-of-proposition-8-arguments/?mod=e2tw" target="_blank">Consider the California voter</a>, in 2008,&rdquo; said Charles Cooper, the attorney for Prop 8&rsquo;s backers, &ldquo;in the ballot booth, with the question before her whether or not this age-old bedrock social institution should be fundamentally redefined, and knowing that there&rsquo;s no way that she or anyone else could possibly know what the long-term implications of -- of profound redefinition of a bedrock social institution would be. That is reason enough, Your Honor, that would hardly be irrational for the voter to say, I believe that this experiment, which is now only fairly four years old, even in Massachusetts, the oldest state that is conducting it, to say, I think it better for California to hit the pause button and await additional information from the jurisdictions where this experiment is still maturing.&rdquo;</p><p>The pause button! Not the stop or off button, but the pause button!</p><p>And what&rsquo;s the rationale for the slowdown? To see if same-sex marriage is working?</p><p>Here&rsquo;s my question: How in heaven&rsquo;s name would that be measured?</p><p>The arguments put forth by Cooper were, frankly, stunning to me. They center mostly on procreation.</p><p>&ldquo;The concern is that redefining marriage as a genderless institution will sever its abiding connection to its historic traditional procreative purposes, and it will refocus, refocus the purpose of marriage and the definition of marriage away from the raising of children and to the emotional needs and desires of adults, of adult couples,&rdquo; Cooper said.</p><p>But doesn&rsquo;t that actually sound like what modern marriage already is? Hasn&rsquo;t that redefinition already taken place among heterosexuals without any influence from the debate about same sex marriage? Hasn&rsquo;t industrialization and feminism already made &ldquo;the emotional needs and desires of adults&rdquo; the focus of modern marriage?</p><p>And because the case is based in California, where adoption is permitted to same-sex couples and where both partners in same-sex couples appear on the birth certificate of biological children, how does same sex marriage affect procreation and, specifically, procreation in traditional heterosexual families?</p><p>It&rsquo;s obvious it doesn&rsquo;t.</p><p>Still, this morning&rsquo;s proceedings suggest that the decision -- if there is a decision -- will likely be split and narrow. While it&rsquo;s fair to say that Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer seem ready to toss the totality Prop 8, Justice Anthony Kennedy, possibly the most anguished of the justices and the necessary vote in either direction, seemed a bit reluctant. (Kennedy is also the author of the only two Supreme Court decisions to affirm rights for gays.)</p><p>It was Kennedy, in fact, who today specifically brought up the ruling by the 9th District Court, which determined that Prop 8 improperly denied a right granted to same sex couples by the California Supreme Court. If the justices choose to uphold that verdict, the dismissal of Prop 8 would apply only to California and have no bearing on any other state. In other words, it would be a way of avoiding affirming a constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples.</p><p>But there is also a chance -- slim but present -- that the case might be dismissed based on standing. That is, that the backers of Prop 8 do not have right to defend it before the court because the state of California itself -- meaning the governor and the attorney general -- have chosen not to defend it.</p><p>This last scenario would have multiple effects: One, it would toss out Prop 8 but without setting precedent. And it would hurl California&rsquo;s ballot initiative process into chaos.</p></p> Tue, 26 Mar 2013 13:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-03/prop-8-lawyers-supreme-court-argument-babies-and-timing-106291 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/us-supreme-court-justice-sonia-sotomayor-105536 <p><p>The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, <strong>Sonia Sotomayor</strong> has become an instant American icon. Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench in her new book,&nbsp;<em>My Beloved World</em>. The journey recounted in this memoir offers testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.​</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79271429" width="100%"></iframe></p><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CPL-webstory_28.jpg" title="" /></div></div><div>Recorded Thursday, January 30, 2013 at the Harold Washington Library Center.</div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 30 Jan 2013 13:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/us-supreme-court-justice-sonia-sotomayor-105536 Gay rights arrive at the Supreme Court http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-12/gay-rights-arrive-supreme-court-104317 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6806_AP217659454282-scr.jpg" title="(AP)" /></div><p>On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, challenged during a Q&amp;A after a lecture about the loaded language he has sometimes used when discussing gay people, <a href="http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/scalia-defends-controversial-remarks-on-gays?ref=fpb">shot back</a>,&nbsp;&quot;If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?&quot;<br /><br />The polemic came in the wake of the Supreme Court&rsquo;s decision to hear two cases which involve marriage rights: the odious Defense of Marriage Act and California&rsquo;s Prop 8. Never mind Scalia&#39;s casual stringing of together of homosexuality and murder and how it might suggest moral equivalency &mdash;&nbsp;neither case involves our rights to &ldquo;feelings&rdquo; or even to discriminate and hate.<br /><br />Scalia, who&rsquo;s a likely nay vote on both cases, <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/in-2003-justice-scalia-saw-gay-marriage-coming.php?ref=fpnewsfeed">saw their arrival</a> on the court&rsquo;s docket way back in 2003. At that time Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_v._Texas"><em>Lawrence v. Texas</em></a>, said the court&rsquo;s ruling &ldquo;does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.&rdquo;<br /><br />&ldquo;Do not believe it,&rdquo; Scalia replied. The decision, he argued, opened up the way to legalizing same sex marriage. He added that it left state laws restricting unions to opposite sex couples pretty &ldquo;shaky.&rdquo;<br /><br />Now here we are, as Scalia predicted. <a href="http://www.southfloridagaynews.com/news/national-news/8253-supreme-court-adds-twist-to-announcement-on-prop-8-doma-cases.html">Prop 8</a> is a California case that will mostly affect Californians. The court could decide the merits &mdash; the very legality of same-sex marriage &mdash; but it could also come down very narrowly, making it possible for California to restrict or allow same-sex marriage without spillover effects to other states.<br /><br />The Defense of Marriage Act, which has <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/11/nyregion/edith-windsor-gay-widow-revels-in-supreme-court-fight.html?pagewanted=1&amp;_r=2&amp;nl=todaysheadlines&amp;emc=edit_th_20121211">tax </a>and <a href="http://immigrationequality.org/2012/12/within-reach-the-end-of-doma/">immigration implications</a> as well as those of equal access, is the real red meat before the Supreme Court. It&rsquo;s what really keeps state bans alive, what keeps binational couples apart and what denies queer families a host of federal benefits available to heterosexually-constructed families. The repeal of DOMA would change that.<br /><br />This time around, the defense of DOMA is brought us by, among others, the Republicans from the U.S. House of Representatives. When President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder decided in March 2011 to stop defending the law, Speaker of the House John Boehner and his gang decided to hire Paul Clement (the same guy who argued against Obamacare in front of the Supreme Court), at <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2012/12/gop-mute-as-supreme-court-tackles-gay-marriage-84883.html">a cost of $2 million of taxpayer money so far</a>. His job: to convince the high court to keep the law on the books.<br /><br />The law is ugly and it looks uglier now that public opinion seems to be favoring same-sex marriage, but it wasn&rsquo;t always so: DOMA was signed by Bill Clinton and <a href="http://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/104-1996/s280">supported in the U.S. senate</a> by none other than Joe Biden.<br /><br />He was joined by several Democratic senators who are still serving: Tom Harkin of Iowa, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Carl Levin of Michigan, Max Baucus of Montana, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.<br /><br />In fact, DOMA passed 85-14, a shameful exercise in fear. Among those who stood up against the law there are a few who are still in the Senate: Both of California&rsquo;s senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Hawaii&rsquo;s Daniel Inouye, Massachusetts&rsquo; John Kerry, and Ron Wyden of Oregon. Not a single Republican voted to protect LGBTQ citizens.<br /><br />In the House, <a href="http://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/104-1996/h316">DOMA passed 342-67</a>, and only one Republican opposed it: Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin. In the Illinois delegation, only two Democrats voted against it: Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Luis Gutierrez. Even Bobby Rush, that great civil rights lion, voted for DOMA, as did current U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.<br /><br />But times change. Clinton says he&rsquo;s sorry about DOMA, and Biden loves gays (I suspect he always did). Every single Democratic Senator who supported DOMA in 1996 now supports its repeal. Durbin and Rush are now on board.<br /><br />And the Supreme Court? Well, if <em>Lawrence v. Texas</em> is an indication, Justices Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven Breyer &ndash; who were in the majority &ndash; should be votes to strike down DOMA. Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who were joined by William Rehnquist in this case, will likely continue their dissent.<br /><br />Elena Kagan actively worked <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052702304846504575178390602940072.html">to undermine DOMA</a> as Solicitor General and Sonia Sotomayor has a record of <a href="http://gaylife.about.com/od/samesexmarriag1/a/soniasotomayor.htm">ruling against discrimination of LGBTQs</a>, making them very likely supporters of a DOMA repeal.<br /><br />Before joining the court, Samuel Alito had <a href="http://www.progressive.org/media_mpwolfe010906">supported the right to privacy</a>, including consensual sexual activity, but he also believes that &quot;anti-harassment&quot; policy violates free speech, including the right to make &quot;derogatory&quot; speech on &quot;contentious issues&quot; such as &quot;sexual orientation.&quot; Speech and same sex marriage aren&rsquo;t the same thing, of course, but part of the argument against same sex marriage, especially Scalia&rsquo;s, involves the right of society to discriminate against certain behaviors and reserve certain privileges. If I were to bet, I&rsquo;d say Alito joins Scalia and Thomas. Or maybe he dissents alone, but he very likely dissents.<br /><br />So the count looks good for repeal, so much so that Chief Justice John Roberts&rsquo; vote might not be necessary. But I suspect that Roberts, who is keenly concerned with history and precedent, may be about to disappoint conservatives again. My suspicion is that Roberts&rsquo; hand will be felt in keeping the ruling to its narrowest possible conclusion, but that, in the end, he&rsquo;ll support repeal.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s been a while so most folks will have forgotten, but Roberts is no stranger to gay rights. In fact, once upon a time, he volunteered, pro bono, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/08/AR2005080801146.html">to advise on the queer side of a gay rights case</a>. He doesn&rsquo;t talk about it, the Right tries to rationalize it, but it&rsquo;s there: as a young lawyer, Roberts weighed in for gay rights.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s not often that the Supreme Court makes me feel optimistic. But this time, especially given everything that&rsquo;s happened since Lawrence, LGBTQ Americans may finally get some real honest-to-god rights.</p></p> Tue, 11 Dec 2012 14:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-12/gay-rights-arrive-supreme-court-104317 Supreme Court rejects plea to block taping of police http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-rejects-plea-block-taping-police-104013 <p><p>WASHINGTON&nbsp; &mdash; The Supreme Court has rejected an Illinois prosecutor&#39;s plea to allow enforcement of a law aimed at stopping people from recording police officers on the job.</p><p>The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that found that the state&#39;s anti-eavesdropping law violates free speech rights when used against people who tape law enforcement officers. The law sets out a maximum prison term of 15 years.<br />The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in 2010 against Cook County State&#39;s Attorney Anita Alvarez to block prosecution of ACLU staff for recording police officers performing their duties in public places, one of the group&#39;s long-standing monitoring missions.</p><p>Opponents of the law say the right to record police is vital to guard against abuses.</p></p> Mon, 26 Nov 2012 09:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-rejects-plea-block-taping-police-104013 Risky Business: What happens when only the sick buy insurance http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/risky-business-what-happens-when-only-sick-buy-insurance-100525 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP120627040013.jpg" style="float: right; width: 300px; height: 214px; " title="(AP)" />On Thursday, WBEZ talked to lawmakers, strategists, doctors, lawyers and economists over five hours of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/supreme-court-rule-obamas-affordable-care-act-100488">live health care coverage</a>. We heard from moms with sick kids who were overjoyed by the news of the upheld mandate, and we heard from conservatives so convinced that the law is flawed that they vowed to repeal it in Congress. Friday morning on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>&nbsp;we return to the story after a day of reflection to explore how the legislation, now that it is confirmed, will affect the insurance market going forward.<br /><br />Many believe that Illinois legislators were lackadaisical about creating a health care exchange because they thought the mandate would be struck down. Now that they&rsquo;re sure it will stand, it&rsquo;s time to figure out what the exchange will mean and how we&rsquo;ll manage to comply before the federal deadline.<br /><br />One thing both of Friday morning&rsquo;s guests agree on is that the exchange will almost certainly decrease the breadth of provider networks. Health Alliance Medical Plans CEO Jeff Ingrum says the penalty &mdash; or what we&rsquo;ll now call a tax &mdash; &quot;is not high enough to compel someone to buy insurance.&rdquo; Healthy consumers will opt out of the exchange, flooding the exchange pool with high-risk buyers. &ldquo;If you ask an insurance company to exist in a system where they can&rsquo;t control their risk or plan design,&rdquo; says Marcus Newman, &ldquo;the only variable left for them to use is network, so I imagine they will have very thin provider networks, similar to HMOs or even more anemic.&rdquo;<br /><br />Newman is the small businesses director for GCG Financial, a 38-state operation that provides health care communications and consulting for over 500 independently owned companies. It&rsquo;s very rare, Newman says, that after conferring, an employer will choose to buy an insurance plan through an exchange. Newman reminds us that the health insurance an employer buys for his employees is often de facto his own insurance, and that many employers would prefer to retain their current doctors and networks.<br /><br />Ingrum says that while Health Alliance&nbsp;has not yet settled on a final strategy, they are prepared for the transition. He does expect &ldquo;narrower networks&rdquo; as well as a &ldquo;less rich product design,&rdquo; and further, that Illinois will end up with a federally facilitated exchange, not a locally managed one. Many opponents to the ACA predict a decrease in the efficiency of the markets if they are no longer locally managed. A press release from the National Federation of Independent Businesses said, &ldquo;the ruling guarantees that Illinois residents will have their most personal health care decisions made by politicians and bureaucrats in Washington and in other states whom they&rsquo;ve never met and whom they&rsquo;ll have a hard time influencing in the future.&rdquo;</p><p>One major question small &nbsp;business owners will have in the coming days, Newman predicted, is what the cost of the exchange will be -- a question says nobody will have an answer to for a long time. Newman will be offering what advice he does have for employers as he chats with Richard Steele Friday morning, and we&rsquo;ll ask Jeff Ingrum for specifics on how insurance companies plan to proceed now that the mandate is here to stay.</p></p> Fri, 29 Jun 2012 08:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/risky-business-what-happens-when-only-sick-buy-insurance-100525