Ohio

Gay Marriage Hits Major Bump in Federal Appeals Court

The National Organization for Marriage at the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2013. Creative Commons image by Elvert Barnes/RNS.

The same-sex marriage movement lost its first major case in a federal appeals court Thursday after a lengthy string of victories, creating a split among the nation’s circuit courts that virtually guarantees review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 2-1 ruling from the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed lower court rulings that had struck down gay marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

More important, it gives Supreme Court justices an appellate ruling that runs counter to four others from the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th circuits. Those rulings struck down same-sex marriage bans in Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah, Idaho and Nevada, leading to similar action in neighboring states.

Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton, one of the Republican Party’s most esteemed legal thinkers and writers, issued the 42-page decision precisely three months after hearing oral arguments in the cases, with fellow GOP nominee Deborah Cook concurring. He delivered a rare defeat for proponents of same-sex marriage, who had won nearly all the cases decided from Florida to Alaska since the Supreme Court ruled against the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013.

Sutton argued that appellate judges’ hands are tied by a one-sentence Supreme Court ruling from 1972, which “upheld the
right of the people of a state to define marriage as they see it.” Last year’s high court decision requiring the federal government to recognize legal same-sex marriages does not negate the earlier ruling as it applies to states where gay marriage is not legal, he said.

What Happens Next in the 20 States That Still Ban Gay Marriage?

Participants celebrate the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling in Kansas City, Mo. on June 26. Photo by Sally Morrow/RNS.

The Supreme Court’s decision to sit out the legal battle over same-sex marriage will — for now, at least — leave the future of laws prohibiting gays and lesbians from marrying in the hands of lower state and federal court judges. But it also almost certainly means the couples challenging those laws are more likely to win in the end.

The court said Oct. 6 that it would not hear appeals from five states whose same-sex marriage bans had been invalidated by lower federal courts. The decision, issued without explanation, will likely lead to recognition of gay marriages in 11 more states. It also allows an avalanche of legal challenges to the remaining bans to keep going forward in state and federal courts, where gay and lesbian couples have overwhelmingly prevailed.

The court’s decision leaves unchanged 20 state laws blocking same-sex unions. Each is already under legal attack, facing challenges in state or federal court, and sometimes both. Challenges to marriage bans already have reached a handful of state appeals courts and the federal appeals courts for the 5th, 6th, 9th and 11th circuits.

Some of those judges had been waiting to see what the Supreme Court would do. The court’s instruction Oct 6. was: Proceed.

Ohio’s Rob Portman Becomes First GOP Senator to Support Gay Marriage

Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman has reversed his opposition to same-sex marriage. Photo courtesy Religion News Service.

Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman on Thursday announced he has reversed his longtime opposition to same-sex marriage after reconsidering the issue because his 21-year-old son, Will, is gay.

 

“It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years,” Portman told reporters in an interview at his office. Portman said his son, a junior at Yale University, told his wife, Jane, and him that he’s gay and “it was not a choice, it was who he is and that he had been that way since he could remember.”

The conversation the Portmans had with their son two years ago led him to evolve on the issue after he consulted clergy members, friends — including former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter is gay — and the Bible.

The 'Racing Rev': 750-Horsepowered Faith

The 'Racing Rev' Dale Schaefer

The 'Racing Rev' Dale Schaefer

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio -- Until his recent retirement, the Rev. Dale Schaefer spent most Sunday mornings wearing vestments and leading worship services at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.

But whenever he had the time on his off days, the soft-spoken preacher would slip a helmet over his gray hair, don an asbestos racing suit, and climb into the cockpit of a 750-horsepower dragster he built from the ground up.

“There is kind of a rush when you launch this thing off the starting line,” Schaefer said, giving his customized 1980 Plymouth Arrow a loving slap. “Your eyes go back in their sockets and they don’t pop back until you’re about at the hot dog stand. Then you can see again. It’s a rush.”

Pastoring a church of 500 had kept him too busy to take the car to Norwalk, Ohio, where he often competes in the Super Gas and Super Pro divisions at Summit Motorsports Park.

Now in his second month of retirement, the 68-year-old minister got to race in the drag strip’s Halloween Classic, a weeklong event that draws 1,500 cars from around the country.

Schaefer usually tops 140 mph in the quarter mile, crossing the finish line in under 10 seconds.

That’s a Sunday stroll in the park compared to the top-level pro dragsters that can pack up to 8,000 horsepower and reach speeds of more than 340 mph on a 1,000-foot straightaway, he said.

But it’s plenty of speed for a “sportsman” or hobbyist like the Racing Rev.

Mosque in Toledo, Ohio Scorched by Arson

RNS photo by David Yonke

The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. RNS photo by David Yonke

TOLEDO, Ohio — Muslim worshippers are reeling from an arson fire at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, but are grateful for an outpouring of support from the local interfaith community.

“All the support we get is very welcome because if you are going through a tragedy and you have a friend who is holding your hand it means a lot,” said S. Zaheer Hasan, a spokesman for theUnited Muslim Association of Toledo.

Perrysburg Township police ruled that the Sept. 30 fire was arson. Surveillance footage from the mosque shows a “person of interest” — a white middle-aged male wearing a camouflage sweatshirt and hat  at the mosque’s entrance shortly before the fire, which was reported about 5 p.m.

Mahjabeen Islam, president of the Islamic Center, said the suspect poured gasoline in the center of the main floor where men worship at the mosque. Women pray on the same main floor, but in an area separated by a low divider.

“It was set in the men’s prayer area and the sprinklers turned out the fire. There is a lot of water damage from the sprinklers,” Islam said. “The Islamic Center is uninhabitable for easily three months.”

Amish beard-cutting Trial Attracts International Attention

RNS photo by Marvin Fong/The Plain Dealer

Amish women enter the federal courthouse in Cleveland today. RNS photo by Marvin Fong/The Plain Dealer

The law of God will collide with the law of man this week in a crowded federal courtroom in Cleveland, where 16 Amish defendants — 10 men with full beards, six women in white bonnets — will stand trial on charges related to a series of beard- and hair-cutting attacks against fellow Amish men and women last year.

The case has attracted national and international attention, in part because of public curiosity about the normally reclusive and peaceful Amish community, and because of the peculiar nature of the alleged crimes.

Interest also has been heightened by the fact that the federal government rather than a local prosecutor brought the charges. The case is the first in Ohio to make use of a landmark 2009 federal law that expanded government powers to prosecute hate crimes.

Hate Crimes Law Used to Prosecute Amish Beard Attacks

Metal scissors, Aaron Amat, Shutterstock.com

Metal scissors, Aaron Amat, Shutterstock.com

A pair of scissors transported across state lines has emerged as a controversial element in Ohio's first case under a landmark 2009 federal law that expanded government powers to prosecute hate crimes.

The case involves a dozen members of an Amish sect in central Ohio who are charged with using the shears -- made in New York and brought to Ohio -- to forcibly cut the hair and beards of fellow Amish to avenge a religious dispute.

The travel history of the shears may seem like a peculiar point in the peculiar case that has focused national attention on Ohio's Amish community. But the hate crimes law -- like many other federal statutes, including health-care reform legislation -- is rooted in Congress' far-reaching power to regulate interstate commerce.

Enacted in 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was named for a gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten and tortured to death by two men in 1998, and a black man who was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to death in Texas that same year.

The Morning News: Wednesday Nov. 9, 2011

The morning news

The morning news

New regulations increase accountability and boost quality in Head Start programs. Economic statements from the GOP presidential contenders. "Occupy" groups plan march from New York City to Washington, D.C. Our expensive, expanding nuclear weapons complex. Evangelicals call for nuclear cutbacks. Mississippi rejects abortion amendment. Ohio repeals anti-union law. And is Occupy Wall Street overshadowing itself?

Ohio Elections and Issue Three

I considered the passage of the Affordable Care Act as an indication of human moral evolution. For the first time in its history, the United States was going to set down a marker on health care and join the nations of the world that consider it a right not a privilege.

Now, those opposed to the law are in the process of taking it apart piece by piece through lawsuits in federal court and in a ballot initiative in Ohio next Tuesday.

Issue three in the Ohio ballot would allow the people of Ohio to opt out of the individual mandate to purchase health insurance in the Affordable Care Act. If this initiative passes, it would be unfortunate for the people of Ohio.

Family Research Council Attacks Evangelical and Catholic Leaders

In response to Sojourners' radio ads about the budget debates, the Family Research Council's political action committee has launched radio ads in Kentucky and Ohio arguing that deficit reduction should cut programs that serve poor and vulnerable people. The ads assert that it is the private individual, not government, who has a responsibility to the poor. The ads say, "Jesus didn't instruct the government of his day to take the rich young ruler's property and redistribute it to the poor. He asked the ruler to sell his possessions and help the poor. Charity is an individual choice, not a government mandate."

This could put the speaker of the House, a Catholic, in a difficult position. Catholic social teaching instructs that the government does have a direct responsibility to the poor and that private charity is only one of the ways that Christians express concern for "the least of these." This ad sets itself in direct opposition to that teaching and the values that it comes from. The speaker was already in a tough spot when the Catholic bishops came out with a strong critique of the House plan, but now he has a powerful political organization calling for him to ignore Catholic social teaching all together.

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