John M. Becker

Today in Court: AR, OK, Becker v. UCF Decision Day

Filed By John M. Becker | April 17, 2014 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Arkansas, Becker v. UCF, Florida, gay marriage, JMark Regnerus, junk science, lawsuit, marriage discrimination, marriage equality, Oklahoma, Regnerus study, same-sex marriage, same-sex parenting, Social Science Research, UCF, University of Central Florida

scales_justice.jpgToday's another big day in LGBT-related court cases.

1.) Arkansas

A circuit court judge in Pulaski County, the largest county in the state, will hear arguments today in a case challenging Arkansas's 2004 voter-approved constitutional marriage discrimination amendment. The Houston Chronicle reports:

More than three dozen people are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging Arkansas' voter-approved ban on gay marriage. Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is to preside over the hearing at 1 p.m. Thursday in Little Rock.

Late last year, Piazza refused to grant a motion by the state that sought to dismiss the lawsuit, but he also refused to grant a motion by the couples suing, who asked him to block enforcement of the ban.

The plaintiffs include 21 same-sex couples and a woman who wants to dissolve her New York marriage to another woman.

Meet me after the jump for details about the other LGBT cases on the docket today.

2.) Oklahoma

Just one week after hearing a challenge to Utah's marriage discrimination amendment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver, Colorado will today hear arguments in Bishop v. Smith, a case challenging the constitutional marriage ban in Oklahoma. In January a federal district judge found the state's amendment unconstitutional; his ruling is stayed pending appeal.

The Associated Press reports on the two cases:

Lawyers for two Oklahoma women and the county clerk who would not give them a marriage license go before a federal appeals court with a familiar question for the judges: Did the state's voters single out gay people for unfair treatment when they defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman?

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard similar issues in a Utah case last week, giving Oklahoma lawyers a preview of what questions they might face.

"Essentially, (the cases) are not that different," said Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Byron Babione, who is representing Tulsa County Clerk Sally Howe Smith. "Both of them involve challenges to state marriage amendments that were passed by an overwhelming majority of the people..."

But lawyers for Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin might look to questions posed by U.S. Circuit Judge Jerome A. Holmes, who asked whether Utah's same-sex marriage ban was similar to Virginia's former ban on interracial marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down that ban 47 years ago.

The same panel that heard the Utah case last week will hear the Oklahoma case today, and just like in last week, audio of today's oral arguments will be posted on the Tenth Circuit's website.


3.) Becker v. UCF: Decision Day

Today is the day that Florida Circuit Court Judge John Marshall Kest must issue his ruling in Becker v. University of Central Florida, my open-records lawsuit seeking public documents relating to and providing context about the peer review and publication of the discredited anti-LGBT Regnerus "study," which was published by the UCF-housed journal Social Science Research.

Sean Lavin of Orlando CBS affiliate WKMG reports:

An Orlando judge must rule today on whether the University of Central Florida needs to release a professor's emails regarding his role in editing a controversial study cited by opponents of gay marriage at the U.S. Supreme Court.

LGBT activist John Becker said he filed a public records lawsuit against UCF last year to get access to UCF Professor James Wright's emails to "discover the truth" over alleged conflicts of interests in the review process. Since Becker's lawsuit was filed, the New Family Structures Study has come under fire in other courtrooms...

During closing arguments, [UCF attorney Rick] Mitchell likened Becker's arguments that the journal emails are public records to someone standing on white beach and picking up a few kernels of black sand, holding them up and declaring, "This is a black beach."

Mogensen countered by suggesting UCF resorted to talking about black grains of sands on a beach rather than producing the records for Ninth Circuit Judge John Marshall Kest to review behind closed doors to decide for himself whether the requested emails are indeed public records.

Mogensen said she supposed UCF declined to produce the record to Judge Kest for a secret inspection because when UCF did so for the previous judge assigned to the case it resulted in him issuing a ruling "overwhelmingly against them."

UCF appealed that ruling, arguing it was premature for Ninth Circuit Court Judge Donald Grincewicz to decide the whole case before a full trial. The 5th District Court of Appeal set the April 17 deadline for the new judge to sort that issue out and rule.

My reports about the oral arguments in this case -- which even involved me taking the witness stand -- are here and here.

Needless to say, we'll keep you posted on all three cases and post a copy of Judge Kest's ruling in Becker v. UCF as soon as it becomes available.

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