Breaking: Attorney General of PA won’t defend marriage prohibition

From the NYT’s News Desk:

Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, said on Thursday that she would not defend the state against a lawsuit to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union with 23 plaintiffs, including 10 gay and lesbian couples, two teenage children of one couple and a widow who lost her partner of 29 years, cites a ruling last month by the Supreme Court striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

It was the first of a wave of lawsuits that activists are planning to file to expand the number of states allowing same-sex marriage, including in Virginia and North Carolina.

Attorneys general in Illinois and California have previously declined to defend their states in similar cases. In Pennsylvania, the general counsel’s office of Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, was seen as likely to pick up the defense.

Supreme Court strikes down DOMA, rules against Prop 8 defenders

In a landmark but mixed decision the US Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited federal recognition of gay and lesbian couples. In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy the majority decision announced in plain terms that the law violated the Equal Protection Clause and was therefore unconstitutional. Kennedy is the lone moderate of the court and a maverick of civil rights jurisprudence. He has now written three of the Court’s most important decisions on civil rights for gays and lesbians, including Romer v. Evans, which struck down Colorado’s Amendment 2 in 1996, and Lawrence v. Texas, which invalidated all state laws criminalizing sodomy in 2003.

The court also made a procedural ruling in the California case, effectively ending the efforts of Prop 8 proponents to overturn the Federal District Court ruling that struck down Prop 8 because it violated the Equal Protection Clause. In his majority opinion Chief Justice Roberts denied that private citizens had standing to adjudicate the appeals of state laws, arguing the Court had never done that before and would not do it now. Since Prop 8 proponents are not state agents, they cannot appeal the ruling of federal district judge Vaughn Walker, who found it unconstitutional after a long and highly publicized trial. However, Roberts and the Court stopped short of making a substantive ruling on whether state laws and marriage amendments passed by states are constitutional, signaling that it would let states decide for the time being.

The combined ruling of the two cases is seen as a victory by the LGBT community, particularly in California where the state assembly passed legislation allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry only to have the referendum Prop 8 overturn that legislation by small margins. This left the state in a strange place where many couples got married when it was legal, only to have other couples denied the same rights to marry several months later. Today, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered state agencies to prepare for issuing civil marriage licenses to all Californians regardless of their sexual orientation and gender, and he admonished the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to lift its injunction while Prop 8 was being appealed.

SCOTUS upholds ACA, including individual mandate for the uninsured

In a surprising ruling the Supreme Court today announced that the Americans With Care Act (ACA) is, in fact, constitutional according to the broad tax authority granted Congress by the Constitution.

Opponents of ACA were also dealt a stunning defeat in their argument that so-called “Obamacare” is unconstitutional because it permits the federal government to overreach its legitimate constitutional authority to regulate interstate business according to the Commerce Clause. The majority ruled that the ACA’s individual mandate is not an interstate commerce issue. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority in a stunning reversal of the swing vote normally reserved for Justice Anthony Kennedy, claimed the law allowed a choice to uninsured but penalized them with a tax if they chose not to get health insurance. That was the Obama administration’s back up argument, and the Supreme Court agreed.

The fact that Roberts sided with the majority and wrote the opinion underscores just how important this ruling is for non-partisan legitimacy of the new health care law. Although critics have scorned the law as “socialism” and derided it based on false assumptions and ignorance about the law’s many benefits, the ruling today represents a major victory for progress in developing a health care system that is both fair and just.

Some benefits of the Affordable Care Act:

  • Children will be able to stay on their parents health plans until age 26, an important benefit in an economy with high unemployment and shrinking benefits.
  • Insurers will no longer be able to discriminate against persons with prior medical conditions.
  • States must set up insurance exchanges so that market competition among firms will deliver low cost insurance to the uninsured.
  • Individuals who can afford insurance but lack it will be penalized by a “free-rider” tax, ensuring that their uninsured medical costs are not passed along to those persons with insurance in the form of higher premiums, more costly health care delivery, and higher taxes for public emergency rooms.

Stockton, CA files for bankruptcy

The city of Stockton will file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection after it failed to find acceptable terms for restructuring its ballooning debt. In a 6-1 vote the city council voted to adopt a budget that is tied to a bankruptcy plan.

The annual budget beginning July 1 calls for defaulting on $10.2 million in debt payments, as well as cutting $11.2 million in employee pay and benefits under union contracts. Those contracts could be voided by the bankruptcy court, a move likely to aggravate the deepening conflict between the public sector and public employee unions.

The city of Stockton with 292,000 residents becomes the largest U.S. city to go bankrupt, but the ongoing recession, along with right-wing instigated austerity measures, raises doubts about the solvency of the public sector at all levels as cities, counties, and states continue to struggle with declining tax revenues and increasingly expensive employee benefits. The aggravation of this conflict is quickly becoming the single largest struggle for worker rights since the 1967 Civil Rights Act.

OWS attempts to shut down Stock Exchange, hundreds arrested

Hundreds of protesters marched on Wall Street early this morning to prevent traders, financiers, and technocrats from reaching their jobs at the Stock Exchange. So far, 100 people have been arrested as the Occupy Wall Street movement vows to keep up its visible presence in New York, highlighting the greed and injustice of the American financial and political system.

84-year-old Dorli Rainey was brutally pepper sprayed by Seattle police, and has become a symbol of the brutal tactics used by law enforcement to suppress democratic dissent.

Protesters clogged the streets around Wall Street, blocking traffic and halting people from reaching the Exchange. Police in riot gear moved in quickly, telling the marching crowds to disperse or face arrest. When dozens of people began sitting down in the intersections, they were quickly arrested. Similar protests and marches are scheduled to continue throughout cities across the nation.

The tactics of law enforcement have come under increasing scrutiny as video footage is leaked to the public and press, showing police pepper spraying and beating otherwise peaceful protesters. In Seattle, the police are being heavily criticized for unjustifiably using pepper spray and truncheons on its own citizens including 84-year-old Dorli Rainey, who has come to symbolize the protest movements nationwide.

As law enforcement moves to evict occupiers in cities across the country, more attention should focus on police tactics, which all too often rely on the brutalization of citizens and the violation of their civil liberties. The police are supposed to “serve and protect,” but their role in suppressing these democratic protests raises the question whether they have become an instrument for the wealthy and powerful to preserve the status quo. Mayors, police commissioners, and officers who are implicated in these brutal tactics should be held accountable for their actions.

NYPD clears Occupy Wall Street encampment, hundreds arrested

The truth hurts us all.

Acting on behalf of the wealthy and powerful interests of Wall Street, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended his decision to clear out Zuccotti Park, where protesters have staged a camp out that has captured the attention of the nation in order to highlight the injustices and inequities of American-style capitalism.

Mayor Bloomberg claimed that conditions in the park had become intolerable, and that “public health and safety” determined his decision. However, he also announced that the park would reopen tomorrow morning, raising doubts that the conditions of the encampment in the public park were to blame. More likely, Bloomberg’s close ties with Wall Street pressured the billionaire to use his official position to deny the Occupy Wall Street movement its constitutional right to peaceably assemble.

This is not the first time Bloomberg has used the coercive powers of the state, as well as the notorious tactics of the NYPD, to deny democratic protesters their constitutional rights on the streets of the Big Apple. In 2004 his administration and the NYPD came under fire for mishandling the Republican National Convention protests around Madison Square Garden. Thousands of people were arrested in broad and unjustified sweeps of the city streets under the guise that “law and order” must be imposed in order to provide security against the threat of terrorism.

Many of those arrested were either innocent bystanders watching the protests from sidewalks, or people out shopping, or New Yorker’s walking home from work. I was personally jailed 46 hours, first at Pier 57 where a bus terminal was turned into a holding pen, and then at the city’s notorious central jail called “the Tombs.” The New York Civil Liberties Union and National Lawyer’s Guild later launched a class action suit against the city, which has been bogged down in a legal quagmire. Hopefully, the Occupy Wall Street movement will receive much needed legal aid from the armies of unemployed lawyers who have lost their jobs because of the greedy fucking pricks running Wall Street, our country, and the global economy into the ground.

Occupy Wall Street is a small movement fronting a gigantic cause for the rest of us. Mayor Bloomberg and has now established a precedent that other cities are likely to follow. In the name of “public health and safety,” the constitutional rights of Americans to protest government incompetence and inaction concerning the causes and consequences of the recession will be ignored and undermined. In the name of cleaning up some shit on the sidewalks, they will be asked to tolerate more shit flowing downhill as their incomes shrink and profits flow uphill.

The use of state violence to deny this constitutional right is a gross injustice that Americans are likely to tolerate, leaving them vulnerable, yet again, to future collusions between the state and wealthy individuals in which they bear the costs, socially, economically, and politically.

What is to be done? #occupycongress