Caleb Brown interviews me for this new Cato podcast on a knotty question: when should a state attorney general decline to argue in court in defense of a law he thinks unconstitutional? On the one hand, the legal profession’s norms strongly favor giving every client and cause its day in court, and practical dysfunction might result were cases routinely handed over to others to defend or dropped entirely. On the other hand, attorneys general like other officials take an oath of office to the constitution, which calls in doubt whether they should (or even may) use their skills on behalf of unconstitutional measures. Complicating matters: how should unconstitutionality be assessed, by way of the AG’s own judgment, by way of predicting how the highest relevant court would rule, or by some other method? What kind of difference should it make whether the assessment appears certain, very probable, or more ambiguous than that?
In recent weeks about a half-dozen Democratic AGs around the country have declined to defend their states’ bans on same-sex marriage, on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision of last year, while other AGs both Republican and Democratic have argued in defense of those laws. (Today, Kentucky’s attorney general announced that he will not appeal a federal court ruling requiring the state to recognize out-of-state marriages, although the state’s governor is stepping in to do so.) Finding either liberals or conservatives who have preserved entirely consistent positions on the issue, though, is not always easy. Former attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, a strong conservative, declined to defend a state education reform law last year, while in 2011 Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen declined to defend a state domestic partnership registry they deemed unconstitutional. In a case like the latter it was liberals who tended to criticize the refusal to defend a law, and conservatives who applauded — patterns that to some extent have been reversed this time around.
Legislature’s back in session and no citizen’s liberties are safe:
- SB 65 (Benson) would require gas station dealers to maintain operational video cameras and retain footage for 45 days [Maryland Legislative Watch]
- HB 20 (GOP Del. Cluster) would require all public schools to hire cops [Gazette, MLW]
- SB 28 (Frosh) would lower burden of proof for final domestic protective orders from “clear and convincing” to “preponderance of the evidence” [MLW, ABA] One problem with that is that orders already tag family members as presumed abusers in the absence of real evidence, are routinely used as a “tactical leverage device” in divorces, and trip up unwary targets with serious criminal penalties for trying to do things like see their kids;
- Driving while suspected of gun ownership: what unarmed Florida motorist went through at hands of Maryland law enforcement [Tampa Bay Online] 2014 session in Annapolis can hardly be worse for gun rights than 2013, so it stands to reason it’ll be better [Hendershot's]
- State begins very aggressive experiment in hospital cost controls: “I am glad there is an experiment, but I’m also glad I live in Virginia.” [Tyler Cowen]
- Scenes from inside the failed Maryland Obamacare exchange [Baltimore Sun] Lt. Gov.: now’s not the time to audit or investigate the failed launch because that’d just distract us from it [WBAL]
- Corridors run pink as Montgomery County school cafeterias battle scourge of strawberry milk [Brian Griffiths, Baltimore Sun]
- Plus: A left-right alliance on surveillance and privacy in the legislature [my new Cato at Liberty post]
- How did Maryland same-sex marriage advocates win last year against seemingly long odds? [Stephen Richer, Purple Elephant Republicans citing Carrie Evans, Cardozo JLG; thanks to @ToddEberly as well as Carrie and Stephen for kind words]
I’ve got a new post at Cato asking how that could have come to be. Earlier on Elane Photography v. Willock here, here, etc.
Reacting to my Cato post, a couple of readers have responded, in effect: Isn’t the ACLU just a doctrinaire Left-liberal organization these days, rather than a bulwark of civil liberties? To which my answer is: I’d describe it as an organization with lively internal divisions, some factions of which push it in a doctrinaire Left direction, others of which want it to be more of a robust civil liberties organization. (As witness last year’s “Mayors vs. Chick-Fil-A” controversy, in which the ACLU of Illinois took a strong and clear civil libertarian stand while the ACLU of Massachusetts seemed to lean more toward a doctrinaire-Left position.) Some speak ironically of the “civil liberties caucus” that soldiers on thanklessly within the ACLU. I want to encourage that caucus and let it know it is appreciated. (& Stephen Richer/Purple Elephant, Coyote).
Caleb Brown interviews me for Cato on the politics and policy of employment discrimination laws. I’ve also done interviews with Voice of America (updated: article with video here, at 1:45; higher-def video here), St. Louis’s KMOX, Mark Reardon show and Bay Area public radio station KQED with Michael Krasny (includes audio link), where I had a chance to promote my much-missed friend Joan Kennedy Taylor’s excellent Cato book on workplace harassment. My Cato post on the subject of Friday is here and reactions here. More press coverage: Naureen Khan, Al Jazeera America (symbolism a poor reason for or against bill); Nick O’Malley, Sydney Morning Herald (my views contrasted with Andrew Sullivan’s), Robin Shea, Employment and Labor Insider, Deseret News (opinion roundup including USA Today’s), Tim Carney/Washington Examiner.
[bumped from original Friday posting due to interest in the issue and many new links] I’ve got a new post on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) just up at Cato. More: Stephen Miller; similar takes on the issue, Stephen Richer, Purple Elephant and Daily Caller, Libertarian Jew, Coyote, David Bernstein.
More, all citing my post: Andrew Sullivan, who is now tepidly in favor of the bill; Peter Weber, The Week; Scott Shackford, Reason; Paul Mirengoff, PowerLine; Doug Mataconis, Outside the Beltway; Ray Hennessey, Entrepreneur and also at Reuters; Hans Bader, CEI; Jordan Weissman, The Atlantic, Jon Hyman/Ohio Employment Law, and USA Today editorial (contra).
I don’t think everyone who supports same-sex marriage is logically obliged to support polygamy, and say so in this post taking issue with columnist Mona Charen. She responds here.
P.S. More thoughts from Eli Lehrer at Huffington Post (“Gay marriage is increasingly accepted precisely because its results, to date, have been good for society. Polyamory on a large scale would have negative short-term results and that’s a good reason to think it’s just not going to happen.”).
I’ve got a letter in the WSJ:
In claiming that “Gay Marriage Collides With Religious Liberty” (Houses of Worship, Sept. 20), Mollie Ziegler Hemingway conflates the effects of antidiscrimination law with the effects of recognizing same-sex marriage. Many of the conscience cases she cites involving private businesses arose in jurisdictions that don’t recognize gay marriage, and most would reach the same legal result so long as local antidiscrimination laws remain in place, whether or not the law on marriage has changed….
I go on to note that anti-discrimination law for years now has been obliging some small businesspeople to enter business dealings inconsistent with their private conscience, as when bed and breakfasts are obliged to accommodate unmarried cohabitants, or owners of print or video-duplication shops are obliged to duplicate literature promoting causes they abhor, whether religious or secular. So far as I can tell, we libertarians are the only group that has consistently raised alarms over the years about this coercive effect; most social conservatives have tended to ignore the area until quite recently, and of course the typical position of modern progressives is to see few if any real issues of concern here. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, I should note, says I wrongly assumed that she writes from outside the libertarian tradition; Twitter exchange on that here.
Some recent links on these controversies: Elane Photography (New Mexico) and followup; Oregon cake bakers; Arlington, Va. video-duplication shop, first, second, and third posts. I wrote about the relations between religious liberty, libertarianism, and social conservatism here (more, and yet more on Twitter with columnist Tim Carney). More: Bainbridge, Stephen Miller/Independent Gay Forum.
In Gresham, Oregon, it’s anti-discrimination law 1, free association 0 as a family business that cited religious beliefs in declining to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, and was hit by an enforcement action as a result, shutters its retail shop in favor of baking from home. Oregon does not recognize same-sex marriage, which (as in the parallel New Mexico wedding photographer case) makes clear that the intrusion on individual liberty here arises from anti-discrimination law as applied to so-called public accommodations, not from marriage law. [Shackford, Reason] Related: “Religious liberty depends on right-of-center gay marriage advocates” [Stephen Richer, Daily Caller]
I talk with Caleb Brown about the legal implications of the Windsor and Perry decisions in this new Cato video, which also features an appearance by Ilya Shapiro.
P.S. A bit more detail in this Cato blog post (& SCOTUSblog).
Cato’s Caleb Brown interviews me on the immediate legal implications of this week’s same-sex marriage cases. Because we spoke the day after the ruling, some of my comments have already been outrun by events; for example, it took only a day or two, not weeks, to overturn the Ninth Circuit stay and begin holding marriages. And the Obama administration has now declared that it will extend federal recognition to all lawfully issued marriage licenses even if not recognized in the state of a couple’s domicile, which had been one of the two biggest immediate practical uncertainties. (The other is the question of retroactive effect: will taxpayers, for example, be allowed to amend filings for past years?) Given the recognition of marriage licenses obtained outside a state of domicile, “States like Texas and Florida will begin noticing — or perhaps they won’t notice — that some of their citizens are getting some federal benefits that somewhat foil their state policy.”
A link to the podcast is here.
I’m going to liveblog some reactions to today’s expected marriage rulings, below the line. To see more recent comments, refresh (it won’t auto-refresh, unlike the liveblogs at places like SCOTUSBlog).
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The University of Minnesota law professor and Volokh Conspiracy contributor sorts out claims that the pending bill in his state threatens religious liberty. [St. Paul Pioneer Press]
Okay, “get the government out of marriage” makes a nice slogan, with a libertarian-sounding ring to it. But what happens on contact with legal reality, where countless existing legal relations are predicated on marriage’s functional role as an on/off switch as opposed to a sliding continuum of statuses customized by private contract? [Scott Shackford, Reason]
Also on the marriage question, I have a new blog post at Cato recapitulating why social conservatives are deluding themselves if they imagine the GOP can use the issue to harvest many new black votes.
Yet more: video of a Friday Cato panel in which I join Mary Bonauto of GLAD, Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute, and Kathryn Lehman of Holland & Knight; I talk about how public opinion on same-sex marriage is increasingly boxing in the national Republican Party, and how it might bid to get out of the box.