Federal Judge Rules Against Same-Sex Couple In Puerto Rico, Dismisses Case

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It just keeps getting more and more interesting! On 10.22.14 a federal judge sitting in Puerto ruled that the commonwealth was within its constitutional rights to ban same sex marriage. This is only the second federal judge to do so amidst numerous rulings striking down the bans. I have to wonder why none of the anti-gay marriage folks have jumped on this with glee. I thought that I would be hearing a lot of joyful howling by now.

United States District Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez has dismissed a case challenging Puerto Rico's 1999 ban on same-sex marriage, ruling that the government has the authority to decide who can marry -- and who cannot. The suit, filed in March, was brought by Ada Mercedes Conde Vidal and Ivonne Alvarez Perez, the first couple from the island to legally marry in Massachusetts.

The Washington Post tonight reports Judge Perez-Gimenez, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter, "concluded the outcome was controlled by the Supreme Court’s summary rejection of same-sex marriage claims in Baker v. Nelson in 1972, a view that has been rejected by every other federal court since United States v. Windsor on the grounds that doctrinal changes have eroded Baker."

http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement...dismisses_case
SCOTUSBLOG reported the following which included a link to the full opinion:

Relying mainly on two legal points that federal courts have repeatedly rejected over the past sixteen months, a federal trial judge in San Juan ruled Tuesday that Puerto Rico’s ban on same-sex marriage survives constitutional challenge. The combination of a one-line Supreme Court decision in 1972 and the Court’s full-scale ruling in June a year ago on the federal Defense of Marriage Act means that lower courts are required to leave the marriage question to the states (and to Puerto Rico), U.S. District Judge Juan M. Perez-Gimenez declared in a twenty-one-page opinion.
Judge Perez-Gimenez focused the first part of his constitutional analysis on the Supreme Court’s summary ruling in Baker v. Nelson forty-two years ago. In that case, the Court dismissed a gay couple’s appeal seeking a right to marry because, it said, the case did not raise “a substantial federal question.” That left intact a Minnesota Supreme Court decision in favor of that state’s ban on same-sex unions.
The San Juan jurist said the Supreme Court has never overruled that decision, so it is still binding on lower federal courts — an argument that has failed in all of the recent rulings against such bans. But the judge also said that he was bound to follow the Baker precedent because the First Circuit, which has binding legal authority in Puerto Rico cases, had itself done just that two years ago. http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/10/pu...rriage-upheld/
Yes it’s true, the first circuit cited Baker in its ruling that found DOMA unconstitutional prior to the landmark SCOTUS ruling. But that raises more questions than it answers:

• Did the first circuit court properly invoke Baker?
• Could Perez-Gimenez have ruled in favor of same sex marriage despite the circuit court’s opinion?
• What will the first circuit do on appeal?
• Does Baker still control under any circumstances. ?

I certainly have my ideas on these questions. I would like to hear yours. Please focus on the legal issues. Trolls and flame baiters will be ignored
 
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While I understand it is a states or territories right to legislate as such. I still don't get why they don't stop this craziness. If two people love and commit to each other, let them be.
 
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While I understand it is a states or territories right to legislate as such. I still don't get why they don't stop this craziness. If two people love and commit to each other, let them be.
They don't stop the craziness because......well, they are crazy. And, they do not understand that there are limits to states rights. They don't want to understand.
 
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Answer to Question 1 Did the first circuit court properly invoke Baker?

Well it seems that no one is jumping on my questions so I will offer my answers. At the outset the circuit court sates :

Equal Protection. The Legal Group says that any equal protection challenge to DOMA is foreclosed at the outset by Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972) There, a central claim made was that a state's refusal to recognize same-sex marriage violated.

In addition, they declined to create a new suspect classification for same-sex relationships because it would have far-reaching implications--in particular, by implying an overruling of Baker.

However, in the end they cited three decisions that did not adopt some new category of suspect classification or employ rational basis review in its minimalist form; instead, the Court rested on the case-specific nature of the discrepant treatment, the burden imposed, and the infirmities of the justifications offered.( Pg. 16 and 17 of the opinion.) Obviously this is not a court that is hostile to gay rights. It appears that they could have reached the same result by not invoking Baker. Furthermore, there are questions as to whether or not Baker was relevant to this case ( If it is even relevant at all)

First Circuit Opinion in Massachusetts v US DHHS | Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. US Dept of Health and Human Services | Bryan Beel - JDSupra
A link to the Baker case appears below. However the facts of the case are unimportant save for the fact that unlike the DOMA case, it had to do specifically with same sex marriage. What is important is what SCOTUS did with it, which was to dismissed the appeal "for want of a substantial federal question."

In most cases presented to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court's refusal to hear the case is not an endorsement of the decision below. However, since this case came to the Court through mandatory appellate review, the summary dismissal is a decision on the merits of the case.[As binding precedent, the Baker decision prevents lower courts from coming to a contrary conclusion when presented with the precise issue the Court necessarily adjudicated in dismissing the case.

When dealing with precedents like Baker, lower courts may have to guess at the meaning of these unexplained decisions. The Supreme Court has laid out rules, however, to guide lower courts in narrowly applying these summary dispositions
• The facts in the potentially binding case must not bear any legally significant differences to the case under consideration.
• The binding precedent encompasses only the issues presented to the Court, not the reasoning found in the lower court's decision.
• Of the issues presented, only those necessarily decided by the Court in dismissing the case control.
• Subsequent developments by the Court on the relevant doctrines may cast doubt on the continuing validity of a summary judgment

Baker v. Nelson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
It’s not hard to see how none of these criteria apply to the first circuit DOMA case. It is also worthy of not that when SCOTUS subsequently ruled to invalidate section 3 of DOMA, they did so by invoking the 5th amendment’s due process clause. Like the first circuit, they did not elevate gays to the status of a suspect class, nor did they find that a fundamental right was being violated, nor did they invoke Baker.

Baker v. Nelson: The Forgotten Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Case

Lastly, Almost every federal court decision on DOMA has pushed Baker v. Nelson aside and yet the Congressional Republicans defending DOMA now keep coming back with it. It is a losing argument and the Second Circuit offered us the best explanation to date: Baker refers to state law, the legalization of marriages in the first place, not the federal laws that are triggered when a valid marriage happens at the state level. Plus, Baker is outdated: it was from a time long before gay Americans were liberated from the status of enemies of the law.

Second Circuit Holds DOMA Unconstitutional, Supreme Court Up Next: An Analysis| Gay News | Towleroad
 
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Q 2...Could Perez-Gimenez have ruled in favor of same sex marriage anyway?

In addition to invoking Baker, Perez-Gimenez , resorted to a strong dose of an appeal to tradition that included a reference to Scalia’s dissenting opinion in DOMA:

“Recent affirmances of same-gender marriage seem to suffer from a peculiar inability to recall the principles embodied in existing marriage law. Traditional marriage is “exclusively [an] opposite-sex institution . . . inextricably linked to procreation and biological kinship,” Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2718 (Alito, J., dissenting). Traditional marriage is the fundamental unit of the political order. And ultimately the very survival of the political order depends upon the procreative potential embodied in traditional marriage. Those are the well-tested, well-proven principles on which we have relied for centuries. The question now is whether judicial “wisdom” may contrive methods by which those solid principles can be circumvented…..“

Breaking: Federal Judge Rules Against Same-Sex Couple In Puerto Rico, Dismisses Case - The New Civil Rights Movement
He also raised the specter of a slippery slope to polygamy and incest. One the has to wonder, to what extent did he want to find that there is no right to same sex marriage, vs. having no choice as he claimed. I contend that he could have ignored Baker if he want to, like so many other federal judges have, albeit, not in the first circuit.
 
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Question 3: What will the first circuit do on appeal?

The appeal process is already underway. The outcome is hard to predict because no other case involving gay rights, besides DOMA, has reached the first circuits The other four jurisdictions in the circuit have legal same sex marriage either by legislation, referendum, or, in the case of Massachusetts, by the state supreme court which was never challenged in federal court. The fact that we don’t know what their current thinking on Baker is further complicates any prediction. They may invoke it again in which case they will have to uphold the lower court setting up a circuit split that will be sure to land on SCOTUS doorstep. However, they are known to be a liberal court
 
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Question 4: Does Baker still control under any circumstances. ?

DoPerez-Gimenez, in his opinion, rejected an argument that most recent federal decisions on same-sex marriage have accepted — that the Supreme Court’s later gay rights rulings in several cases have undermined the Baker precedent.

Perhaps Perez-Gimenez was unaware of the fact the in a second circuit opinion-the one that found that DOMA was unconstitutional in the matter of Windsor (the case that ultimately made it to SCOTUS) that court came to the opposite conclusion with regard to Baker: In that opinion, the Court said that even if it is wrong about relevance to Baker, Baker is no longer good law. Significant doctrinal developments since Baker, which was decided in 1971, have changed the landscape of minority and gay rights, in general, and marriage rights, in particular. There was no such thing as intermediate scrutiny in 1971. Antigay discrimination did not even need a rational basis until 1996 (Romer v. Evans). And, until Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, gays were still presumptive criminals.

Second Circuit Holds DOMA Unconstitutional, Supreme Court Up Next: An Analysis| Gay News | Towleroad

During the proposition 8 case Baker v. Nelson concerning same-sex marriage came up. One question raised was whether that decision should matter. Ruth Bader Ginsburg doubts it:

MR. COOPER: The issues, the constitutional issues that have been presented to the Court, are not of first impression here. In Baker v. Nelson, this Court unanimously dismissed for want of a substantial Federal question.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Mr. Cooper, Baker v. Nelson was 1971. The Supreme Court hadn't even decided that gender-based classifications get any kind of heightened scrutiny.
MR. COOPER: That is -¬
JUSTICE GINSBURG: And the same-sex intimate conduct was considered criminal in many States in 1971, so I don't think we can extract much in Baker v. Nelson.
Finally “New York Law School Professor Art Leonard says:

“Many lower federal courts have cited Baker v. Nelson as precluding any federal constitutional challenge to the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage”. He goes on to say “This was before the modern gay rights movement really got going in the courts, before we won Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas, before the establishment of a growing body of case law protecting gay rights. Clearly, what was not a ‘substantial federal question’ in the 1970s is today a ‘substantial federal question.’” I would add: It is quite conceivable that the language of a majority opinion-in which the court said “in commonsense and in a constitutional sense, there is a clear distinction between a marital restriction based merely upon race and one based upon the fundamental difference in sex.” -today would be very different given rulings on subsequent cases

http://wordinedgewise.org/?tag=baker-v-nelson
So, if the first circuit chooses to uphold the Puerto Rico decision, so be it. I believe that SCOTUS will do the right thing. What do you think?
 

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The appeal process is already underway. The outcome is hard to predict because no other case involving gay rights, besides DOMA, has reached the first circuits The other four jurisdictions in the circuit have legal same sex marriage either by legislation, referendum, or, in the case of Massachusetts, by the state supreme court which was never challenged in federal court. The fact that we don’t know what their current thinking on Baker is further complicates any prediction. They may invoke it again in which case they will have to uphold the lower court setting up a circuit split that will be sure to land on SCOTUS doorstep. However, they are known to be a liberal court
Every other circuit has ruled the same way, I expect the First will too.
 
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Every other circuit has ruled the same way, I expect the First will too.
I hope so. It's a very interesting situation. However, if there is a circuit split and SCOTUS is compelled to take the case, it will be a real nail biter, but I have reason to think that they will do the right thing.
 
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