Category: U.S. Supreme Court

Three-judge federal panel orders Wisconsin state legislative maps redrawn. What happens now?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The author of this blog post is not an attorney and is not a Wisconsin resident.


Yesterday, a three-judge federal appellate court panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of the 7th Circuit ordered the Wisconsin State Legislature redraw the Wisconsin State Assembly map because the current state assembly map is deemed by the 7th Circuit panel to be such an extreme partisan gerrymander that it violates the U.S. Constitution. It’s not immediately clear if the Wisconsin State Senate map will have to be redrawn as well, although Article IV, Section 5 of the Wisconsin Constitution states, in part, “…no assembly district shall be divided in the formation of a senate district….”, although Katelyn Ferral of the Madison-based newspaper The Cap Times has interpreted the ruling as meaning that the state senate map would have to be redrawn as well:

The order is specific to Wisconsin’s Assembly map but essentially invalidates both the Assembly and Senate district maps because the Senate district map is based on the Assembly’s map. In November 2016, the court ruled that the state’s Assembly district maps were an unconstitutional gerrymander, a ruling that has gotten national attention. Wisconsin’s case is the first gerrymandering case of its kind to go to trial in 30 years, according to the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that has worked with the plaintiffs.

For the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to consider the possibility of state senate maps being redrawn as uncertain until and unless there is some kind of specific ruling from a federal court regarding that matter.

With the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature about to redraw Wisconsin’s state legislative maps, you may be asking yourself…what happens next?

One thing is for certain…the Republicans are going to try to get the U.S. Supreme Court, with or without a Donald Trump appointee on the bench, to overturn the federal appellate court’s ruling, which would result in the current maps being upheld and used for the 2018 and 2020 Wisconsin State Legislature elections.

Possibility #1: Legislature takes redistricting out of its own control and puts it in the hands of an independent process

While a number of Wisconsin Democrats have publicly called for making the redistricting process independent of the state legislature (see here and here for examples), and I think that it would be an awesome idea, I seriously doubt that Republicans would support this for two reasons. One, the court order directs the state legislature, not a governmental entity that has not (yet) been created, to redraw Wisconsin’s state legislative maps, and it’s not clear if a court would allow an independent redistricting body to redraw Wisconsin’s state legislative maps between federal Censuses instead of the state legislature. Two, the Republicans don’t want to draw any more Democratic-leaning districts than what currently exist, and they are probably going to completely disregard the rationale for the court ruling altogether.

Possibility #2: Legislature tries to draw an even stronger GOP gerrymander

As I stated above, I fear that the Republicans that control the state legislature are going to completely disregard the rationale for the court ruling altogether and attempt to draw an even stronger gerrymander. Regardless of whether or not the state senate map has to be redrawn, State Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) is one state assembly member that could have her district, Assembly District 71, redrawn in such a manner to make it more favorable for a Republican challenger. Daily Kos Elections (DKE), the election analysis arm of the progressive website DailyKos, calculated that Hillary Clinton got a narrow majority of the vote in the presidential race in Shankland’s district (Shankland was unopposed in her state assembly race last year). It would not be unthinkable for the GOP to try to redraw Shankland’s district in such a manner that it becomes a Republican-leaning district, making it harder for Shankland to win re-election. State Reps. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh), who represents Assembly District 54, and Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton), who represents Assembly District 57, could also find their districts redrawn to include more Republican-leaning areas, and a few other Assembly Democrats could find themselves in Republican-leaning districts as well if the GOP tries to draw an even stronger gerrymander.  Of course, doing that would be completely against the rationale of the court ruling.

If the state senate map is redrawn as well, the GOP could decide to…you guessed it, completely disregard the rationale for the court ruling altogether and try to draw multiple districts that are currently held by Democrats and make them Republican-leaning. State Senate districts 25 (held by State Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland)), 30 (held by State Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay)), 31 (held by State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma)), and 32 (held by State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse)) could all be drawn to be made more Republican-leaning, and redrawing the state senate map to make it a stronger GOP gerrymander could open up Republican opportunities to draw even more Assembly Democrats into Republican-leaning districts.

Any attempt by the GOP to draw an even stronger gerrymander would probably be struck down by federal courts since they struck down the current state legislative districts, which are strongly gerrymandered.

Possibility #3: Legislature tries to reduce the size of the State Senate

There is a big wild card that the Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature could attempt to play, and that would be in the form of reduction of the size of the state senate. Article IV, Section 2 of the Wisconsin Constitution governs what sizes of each house of the state legislature are permissible:

The number of the members of the assembly shall never be less than fifty-four nor more than one hundred. The senate shall consist of a number not more than one-third nor less than one-fourth of the number of the members of the assembly.

Given the requirement that assembly districts be nested within senate districts (this is the part of Article IV, Section 5 of the Wisconsin Constitution that I mentioned earlier), it would be permissible for the Republicans to reduce the currently 33-seat state senate (with a 99-seat state assembly) to as low as 14 seats (with a state assembly of 56 seats), although the Republicans could end up with a higher percentage of state senate seats with a 25-seat state senate (with a state assembly of either 75 seats or 100 seats). With a 25-seat state senate, it would not be unthinkable for Republicans to draw a map in such a manner that Republicans could have the same number of seats they currently hold in the state senate, 20, while reducing Democratic-leaning seats to only five: a district in the most densely-populated parts of Dane County, a Rock County/southern Dane County district, and three districts including the most Democratic-leaning parts of Milwaukee County. This would give Republicans 80% of the state senate seats in a state that gave Donald Trump a plurality of the vote.

However, there is a multitude of reasons of why the Republicans may not try such a plan. First off, it’s possible that federal courts may not permit the number of seats in either house of the legislature to be changed between federal Censuses. Secondly, federal courts are probably not going to permit anything resembling a stronger Republican gerrymander. Additionally, it’s not clear if federal courts would approve of a state senate redraw of any kind. Furthermore, Republican legislators don’t want their own district eliminated: for example, if the Republicans were to attempt a 25-seat state senate gerrymander, State Sens. Stephen Nass and Van Wanggaard, both Republicans from the southeastern part of Wisconsin, would probably be drawn into the same district in order to make the district of State Sen. Janet Bewley, a Democrat from the opposite end of the state, more favorable to a Republican opponent. This is because Southeastern Wisconsin would probably lose two or three state senate districts if the state senate is reduced from 33 seats to 25 seats.

Possibility #4: Legislature’s GOP majority actually abides by the rationale of the federal court ruling

Of course, it’s possible, although probably wishful thinking on my part, that the Republicans who control the state legislature actually decide to abide by the rationale of the federal court ruling and draws a state assembly map that is less gerrymandered than the current state assembly map. If the state senate map is not redrawn, one district that would likely be made more favorable to Democrats is the 26th Assembly District, which could be redrawn to include all of the City of Sheboygan and as many of the voting wards of Sheboygan County where, in the 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial election, Mary Burke got at least 35% of the vote as possible. Currently, the district includes the southern five-eighths or so of the City of Sheboygan and heavily-Republican areas south of the city. Another district that could be redrawn to be made more favorable to Democrats is the Wausau-based 85th Assembly District, which currently extends from Wausau to the heavily-Republican eastern end of Marathon County. The district could be redrawn to make the district more compact and replace the areas along the eastern border of Marathon County with parts of north-central Marathon County, making the district slightly more Democratic-leaning. If the state senate map has to be redrawn as well, then there’s going to be at least 2 or 3 state senate districts that would be made more favorable to Democrats and several, if not a dozen or more, state assembly districts which would be drawn to make it more favorable to Democrats.

Possibility #5: A federal court redraws the map(s)

There is one scenario in which the feds would step in and redraw Wisconsin’s state assembly map, and, if a federal court deems it to be necessary, state senate map. If the state legislature and Republican Governor Scott Walker cannot agree on a new map or new maps by November 1, 2017, then it would be likely that a federal court would take over redrawing the map(s). Of course, there’s one last possibility.

Possibility #6: The U.S. Supreme Court overturns the 7th Circuit’s ruling and upholds the existing GOP gerrymander

The Republicans that control Wisconsin’s state government are currently trying to get the three-judge federal panel’s ruling overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), which will be either with or without a Donald Trump appointee on the bench by the time SCOTUS hears the Wisconsin redistricting case, along with a similar case regarding North Carolina’s Republican-gerrymandered state legislative maps. If SCOTUS overturns the lower court’s ruling in the Wisconsin case, the current, Republican-gerrymandered state legislative districts in Wisconsin would be upheld. If there’s still a single vacancy on the SCOTUS bench, and the justices split 4-4 in regards to the Wisconsin case, then the lower court’s ruling is upheld, meaning that the state assembly, and possibly the state senate, maps would have to be redrawn, although no major precedent would be set. However, the four liberal justices and one of the conservative justices (probably Anthony Kennedy or, much less likely, a Donald Trump appointee to the bench who turns out to be less conservative than originally thought to be) could rule 5-4 or 5-3 in favor of the lower court’s ruling, which would require a new Wisconsin State Assembly, and possibly a new Wisconsin State Senate, map to be drawn with precedent set for future redistricting cases before the federal judiciary.

How to fix America’s antiquated electoral process

Granted, it would require amendment(s) to the U.S. Constitution and massive changes in federal and state laws, but America needs a massive overhaul of its election system.

Below are some of my own ideas for fixing America’s antiquated electoral system:

  • Drastically increase the size of the U.S. House – There should be one U.S. Representative for every 100,000 residents of the fifty states, rounded up, plus one U.S. Representative with full voting rights each for the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. This would result in a U.S. House size of 3,086, but it would be more representative of the country than a 435-member House.
  • Give the District of Columbia and each U.S. territory one Senator with full voting rights each – This would result in a U.S. Senate size of 106.
  • Implement a national popular vote system for electing the President, the Vice President, and major-party presidential and vice-presidential nominees – The Electoral College is an antiquated relic of the 19th century, when it wasn’t easy to report election results for a nationwide race. Ideally, an instant-runoff voting system should be used, in which voters can cast first, second, and third preferences, and second and third preferences can decide an election if no candidate gets a majority of first preferences. For party nominations for president and vice-president, a nationwide semi-partisan primary should be conducted, in which those registered with a political party would be able to choose between candidates running for their party’s nomination and unaffiliated candidates, but those not registered with a party can vote for candidates of any party affiliation, as well as unaffiliated candidates. Political parties that get 1% of the total primary vote send their top vote-getter (instant-runoff would be conducted within each party) to the general election, and any independent candidate who receives 1% of the total primary vote makes the general election ballot. Furthermore, presidential and vice-presidential candidates run as a ticket in both the primary and the general election. In the event that a presidential candidate or a vice-presidential candidate seeking a party nomination lacked a running mate, but won his or her primary, he or she would be paired with the candidate for the other office whose ticket got more votes within the party than any other ticket with a candidate for said other office
  • Standardize the electoral calendar nationwide – Here’s how I’d set up the election calendar for regularly-scheduled elections in a two-year electoral cycle:
    • Tuesday after first Monday in May of odd-numbered year – Political party leadership elections (closed to party members) and some judicial elections (open to all voters, officially non-partisan)
    • Tuesday after the first Monday in November of odd-numbered year – County, municipal, and other local elections for the entire country (open to all voters, officially non-partisan)
    • Tuesday after the first Monday in May of even-numbered year – Some judicial elections (open to all votes, officially non-partisan)
    • Tuesday after the first Monday in September of even-numbered year – Partisan primaries for, depending on the year, President, Vice President, U.S. Congress, state executive positions, and/or state legislature (semi-partisan primary system in place)
    • Tuesday after the first Monday of November of even-numbered year – General elections for offices in which nominees were selected in the September primaries
  • Use hand-counted paper ballots for all elections, everywhere – Even when an online system is used for some absentee ballots (see below), a printout of the online absentee ballot would be hand-counted at the precinct after the polls close.
  • Speed up the absentee and military voting process with an ad hoc, closed-circuit internet system not part of the World Wide Web – If it’s not possible for an absentee or military absentee ballot to be physically sent to the voter’s home polling place on Election Day, set up an ad hoc, closed-circuit internet system not connected to the World Wide Web or any other existing infrastructure in order to allow the ballots to be scanned, uploaded to the electronic system, and printed out at the polling place so that it can be hand-counted on Election Night.
  • There should never be more than 1,000 people per polling place – It is absolutely unacceptable to cram several thousand voters into a single voting place, forcing them to wait in line for several hours.
  • Make federal judicial posts directly-elected – For federal district court judgeships, each federal district court would have at least four judgeships, with at least one seat being up for election every year. For federal circuit court appellate judgeships, a similar model to the district courts would be followed. For the U.S. Supreme Court, three associate judgeships would be up for election in years ending in “2”, two associate judgeships in years ending in “5”, three associate judgeships in years ending in “8”, and the Chief Justice’s seat in years ending in “0”.

These are just a few of my own suggestions for making America’s electoral process more efficient.

Why I’m demanding a no vote on SCOTUS appointee Merrick Garland

Earlier today, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, who currently holds the most powerful federal judgeship below the Supreme Court, the office of Chief Judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Cir.), to the Associate Justice seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that became vacant upon the death of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

While Garland would be a significant improvement over Scalia and a left-leaning swing vote on SCOTUS if confirmed, I strongly encourage Democratic U.S. Senators to demand that the Senate do its constitutional duty of conducting a confirmation process on the Garland appointment, but vote against Garland if given the opportunity to do so.

There is one primary reason why I oppose the nomination of Garland to our nation’s highest bench, and that is Garland’s deferral to the executive branch of the federal government, even if it blatantly goes against the constitutional rights of people. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Garland deferred similarly to federal agencies during the presidency of George W. Bush, irking many liberals with a 2003 ruling that denied Guantanamo detainees judicial review (later overturned by the Supreme Court) and with a string of pro-police rulings under Presidents Bill Clinton, Bush and Obama.

The job of a U.S. Supreme Court justice is not to build political consensus or issue rulings based on the current political climate at the time the ruling is issued. The job of a U.S. Supreme Court justice is to interpret the U.S. Constitution and federal laws, with the Constitution being the supreme law of the land. Garland’s complete disregard for the constitutional rights of the accused shows that Garland’s own interpretation of the Constitution is flawed, and that he should not be a SCOTUS justice.

While I strongly oppose Senate Republicans who won’t even schedule a confirmation hearing for Garland, I call for Senate Democrats to demand an opportunity to vote against Garland, in committee and, if he were to make it out of committee, the full Senate.

Joni Ernst sends virtually blank response to constituent’s request not to block SCOTUS appointment

Sometime in the immediate future, President Barack Obama will appoint someone to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) created by the death of Antonin Scalia.

One of the many Republican U.S. Senators who support obstructing anyone that the president appoints to the Supreme Court is Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). Many of Ernst’s constituents in Iowa are not happy at all that Ernst wants the U.S. Senate to neglect its duty to either confirm or reject whoever the president appoints to SCOTUS, and one of them is Maggie White, who is a civil rights attorney from Iowa’s largest city, Des Moines. When White emailed Ernst’s office about Ernst and her fellow Senate Republicans wanting to do absolutely nothing in regards to the president’s SCOTUS pick, White did a very important civic duty by contacting Ernst’s office about the matter. Here’s how Ernst responded to White:

Joni Ernst sent one of her constituents a virtually blank response to a message that one of her constituents sent to her! By “virtually blank response”, I mean that Ernst’s response to Maggie White’s message contained a letterhead, a salutation, and a closing, not a body. The body of the email, which there is none in this particular email, is where Ernst’s response to White’s message would have been.

The U.S. Constitution is clear. The president must appoint a new SCOTUS justice, the Senate must either confirm or reject that appointment. For the Senate to not even conduct a confirmation process amounts to the Senate neglecting its Constitutional duty of advice and consent. It doesn’t take a lawyer to figure that out.

Senate Republicans evade their constitutional duty

Earlier today, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died. Even though I strongly disagreed with the vast majority of Scalia’s opinions, I offer my condolences to Justice Scalia’s family.

However, Republicans who hold the majority in the U.S. Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and presidential candidates Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), couldn’t wait for Scalia to be cremated before showing that they are more than willing to evade their constitutional duty, with McConnell flatly saying that the Senate should wait until a new president is in the White House before confirming a new Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

This stands in sharp contrast with President Barack Obama, who intends to fulfill his constitutional duty by appointing a new associate justice to this country’s highest bench, even if Republicans obstruct his nomination.

By fulfilling one’s constitutional duty, I’m referring to, in this specific instance, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(emphasis mine; in Article II of the Constitution, “he” refers to the president, regardless of the president’s gender)

The President has the power and constitutional duty to nominate an individual to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, however, the Senate has the power and constitutional duty to either affirm or reject the president’s appointment. It’s clear to me that one party to the process to appoint Supreme Court justices intends to do his constitutional duty (the President), whereas the other party does not (the Republicans who control the U.S. Senate).

The Senate is not required to approve of the president’s pick for the Supreme Court vacancy. The Senate can, if they wish to, establish a process to determine whether or not to approve or reject the president’s pick, and can opt to vote the president’s pick down, either in committee or in the full Senate. However, for the Senate to not establish any kind of process for accepting or rejecting the president’s pick amounts to completely evading the constitutional duty of the Senate.

From an electoral standpoint, it would be absolutely foolish for Republicans to obstruct the president’s pick to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. If the Republicans go through with their threat to obstruct the president’s pick until, at the earliest, a new president is sworn into office, that would, in effect, put control of both the White House and the Supreme Court on the line in the 2016 presidential and senatorial elections. That is the poker equivalent of going all in with a likely losing hand. This strategy could very easily backfire on Republicans, and they would not like the nominees that either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders (I’m a Bernie supporter) would pick. Hillary would likely nominate Obama to the Supreme Court, and Bernie would probably appoint someone who is ideologically similar to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the most progressive of the current Supreme Court justices, if not even more progressive than Ginsburg. If Democrats were to retain control of the White House and regain control of the Senate, stalling on filling the Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court could end up resulting in a more progressive justice than someone that Obama will pick being seated on our nation’s highest bench (I’m guessing that Obama will pick someone to his ideological right for Supreme Court). Furthermore, U.S. Senate races where Republicans are thought to be safe or favored, such as Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri, would become more competitive for Democrats, and U.S. Senate races that are either competitive or where Democrats are favored, such as Illinois and Wisconsin, would become even more favorable for Democrats.

Westville, Illinois Catholic parish “welcomes” LGBT people with bigotry

St. Mary’s Church, the local Catholic parish in my hometown of Westville, Illinois, is very desperate for membership these days. They’re now sending out postcards asking people from the LGBT community in Westville (which is a very small target audience, and possibly a non-existent one, since I don’t know of any LGBT people in my hometown), and welcoming LGBT people…with a ton of bigotry. I have received one of their postcards containing the statement in question, even though I am an atheist who does not attend any place of worship.

Here’s the full, unproofreaded (except for line spacing between the header and the body that doesn’t exist on the actual postcard), statement from St. Mary’s regarding the recent Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court decision, which made marriage equality the law of the land across the entire country:

A PUBLIC NOTICE

I am Fr. Sauppé, pastor of St Mary’s Catholic Church & the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!  The US Supreme Court has issued a new “civil right” recognizing same-sexed “marriages”.  However, Justice Kennedy, writing for the 5-4 majority, also states that citizens & institutions holding religious and/or philosophical beliefs do not have to condone this new “civil right”.  (It seems this is also a Constitutional civil right not to condone!) The Catholic Church does not condone for both religious & philosophical reasons.  The Biblical condemnations are too many to list, but Romans 1 is based on the Natural Law i.e. two men or two women cannot produce, naturally, any children.  We also hold that children have a natural right to a mother & a father at the same time (if at all possible) and are not to be used as pawns in the homosexual culture war.  While we are all affected by Original Sin, the Grace of Jesus Christ can help anyone and everyone to live a holy life–regardless of orientation!  I invite all to repent and to live a holy life and worship God on Sunday–either at St. Mary’s or at a church of your choice!  If you have no church or want to learn more about defending your children, your family, and your faith please call 267-3334 & may God Bless!

(In case you’re wondering, Westville is in the 217 area code, so the phone number for St. Mary’s Church is (217) 267-3334.)

I have a ton of issues with this postcard and the statement on it:

  • The heading of the statement stated that it was a “public notice” from the church. The only time an entity of any kind should be sending out anything with “public notice” on it is if said entity is a government agency or other type of government entity, which is not the case in this instance.
  • There are a ton of grammar errors in the body of the statement, most notably double spacing between most of the sentences, although there are quite a few other grammar errors.
  • The statement, while asking for LGBT people to attend their church, included a ton of LGBT bigotry. Examples of this include:
    • Putting “civil right” and “marriage” in quotation marks in a manner that would imply that the church thinks that civil rights for LGBT people and same-sex marriages are somehow fraudulent in their view, which, sadly, is in line with Catholic teachings and right-wing bigotry towards LGBT people.
    • While organizations of worship, such as the Catholic Church, don’t have to recognize marriages that violate their religious beliefs, the statement implied that individual people have a “civil right” to discriminate against LGBT people, which is in line with the right-wing mindset that has also produced religious discrimination laws in states like Indiana.
    • While it is scientific fact that two people of the same gender cannot conceive children through normal means, same-sex couples can have children though other means. Additionally, marriages are not only for those who want to have children, but for any two loving people.
    • The statement claims that children “are not to be used as pawns in the homosexual culture war” and asks people to “learn more about defending your children, your faith, and your family”, which are textbook talking points used by right-wing bigots opposing LGBT rights.
  • Amidst all of the bigotry that was directed towards LGBT people in that statement, St. Mary’s called for people, “regardless of orientation”, to attend their church. This amounts to trying to welcome LGBT people to their church while, at the same time, spewing a ton of hateful remarks towards them.

To their credit, St. Mary’s does some good in the Westville community, such as serving as a polling place for much of the Westville area (although elections are administered by local election officials, not by the church) and having a Red Cross-certified disaster shelter on-site. However, St. Mary’s, like a lot of Catholic parishes across the country and around the world, has repeatedly advocated for right-wing political views on social issues.

If you want to call St. Mary’s Church in order to tell them that you’d never attend their church and complain about their statement on the recent U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality case, call them at (217) 267-3334.

U.S. Supreme Court lists marriage equality cases for consideration at its next conference

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), which has five Republican-appointed judges and four Democratic-appointed judges, has formally listed seven marriage equality cases with cert petitions pending from five different states (three from Virginia and one each from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin) for consideration at its upcoming conference on September 29, the first such conference after SCOTUS’s summer recess began:

The U.S. Supreme Court has formally listed all marriage cases with cert petitions pending — Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Indiana — for consideration on September 29, at its very first conference after coming back from summer recess.

Kathleen Perrin, the legal eagle behind Equality Case Files, adds: “While this is an encouraging move, if the Court follows the pattern it followed last term, no case will be granted cert without being relisted at least once… For comparison, the (California) Prop 8 case was distributed to four conferences and (United States v.) Windsor to three before the Court granted cert in those cases.”

Indeed, the AP reports that the justices could put off deciding to take up a case until as late as January and still be able to hear arguments and issue a decision by the end of June.

The marriage equality cases that have been formally listed by SCOTUS are as follows: Herbert v. Kitchen (Utah), Smith v. Bishop (Oklahoma), Rainey v. Bostic (Virginia), Schaefer v. Bostic (Virginia), McQuigg v. Bostic (Virginia), Bogan v. Baskin (Indiana), and Walker v. Wolf (Wisconsin). SCOTUS could decide to take up the marriage equality cases at its next convention or at a later date.

I hope that the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling in favor of marriage equality for the entire country because same-sex couples deserve the same right to marry that heterosexual couples currently enjoy. Given that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) for violating the U.S. Constitution last year with Republican-appointed justice Anthony Kennedy joining Democratic-appointed justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer, those same five justices forming a majority opinion in favor of marriage equality is certainly a possible outcome.

U.S. Senate votes 79-18 for proposed constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics

The U.S. Senate has voted to advance a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would effectively repeal the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision and explicitly allow Congress and state legislatures to prohibit corporations, labor unions, and other types of organizations from spending money to directly or indirectly influence the outcome of elections, allows Congress and state legislatures to legally distinguish between corporations and actual people, and enact “reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections”.

The vote was 79 for the amendment and 18 against the amendment. The 18 Senators, all of which are Republicans, who voted against the amendment are, in alphabetical order by last name, John Barasso of Wyoming, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Roberts of Kansas, James Risch of Idaho, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Richard Shelby of Alabama, John Thune of South Dakota, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. The 3 Senators who did not vote on the amendment are Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, and Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski. At least 67 total votes were required to advance the proposed amendment, due to the U.S. Constitution requiring any constitutional amendment proposed by Congress to be approved by 2/3 majorities of both houses of Congress in order for it to be referred to either state legislatures or state ratifying conventions.

Here’s the text of the proposed amendment:

Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.

Section 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.

Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.

While the Republican-controlled U.S. House, more than likely, won’t even bring this proposed amendment to a vote there, this is a big victory for people who, like me, would love nothing more than to see the corrupting influence of big money in our country’s political system gone.