Archive for the 'Laws' CategoryPage 2 of 31

Supreme Court to Decide If States Can Ban Same-Sex Marriage

It’s happening, whether you like it or not. In 2013, Justice Scalia predicted that the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the federal law banning recognition of same-sex marriage would inevitably lead to a Court decision invalidating state laws banning same-sex marriage. Two years later, Scalia’s prophecy has come true.

EP-141009361The Supreme Court has agreed to hear four cases that would decide if states can ban same-sex marriage. The decision will be announced in June. If the Court finds against the state bans, then same-sex marriage will be legal everywhere in the United States.

The cases themselves are a mixed bag of issues. One couple was wed in New York in 2011 and went to Ohio in 2013 to adopt a child. Ohio refused to list both men on the birth certificate, citing a state law that limited parentage to one father because Ohio only recognized marriages between one man and one woman. In Michigan, a lesbian couple sued to have their relationship recognized so that they could adopt each other’s children if one of them passed away. The third couple met and was married in New York, but Tennessee refused to recognize their marriage when they moved to the state for work. The last couple was married in California, but the men moved to Kentucky to adopt children.

The Court has combined the four cases to address two questions:

  1. Does the 14th Amendment require states to recognize marriages between two men or two women?
  2. Does it require states to recognize a same-sex marriage that was lawfully performed in another state where such marriages were legal? The four cases come from the Sixth Circuit, which decided 2-1 that the authority to legalize same-sex marriage comes from voters, not the courts.

The Path to Recognition

Most commentators (including yours truly) would be shocked if the Court found against same-sex marriage. It is possible that the Court would rule against same-sex marriages, but precedent makes that unlikely. The Court only recently announced that the federal government cannot distinguish between same-sex and heterosexual marriages. The main question is how the Court will make the decision. Here are a few ideas on how the Court could go about doing that:

  • Discrimination based on sexual orientation – this is the main argument being pushed, but sexual orientation has not officially been recognized by the Court as a protected class.
  • Discrimination based on sex – Old fashioned sexism is an idea the Court has dealt with before. The logic is a little flawed though because states that ban same-sex marriage prohibit both men and women from entering into a same-sex marriage.
  • Right to Marriage – This right has been well established from interracial marriage cases. However, recognition of same-sex marriage based purely on a right to marriage would limit other rights that homosexuals could have.
  • Full Faith and Credit – This clause in the Constitution is suppose to require that states recognize contracts, including marriages, formed in other states. If the Court fails to legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country, states that ban same-sex marriage may still be required to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

The details of how the Court recognizes same-sex marriage is important. As mentioned, if the Court only recognizes a right to marriage without equal protection, then states can enact other laws restricting same-sex couples. Many businesses, such as wedding photographers and bakeries, are already refusing to serve same-sex couples.

It’s also important to realize that even if the Court rules that same-sex marriage is legal throughout the United States, states will still resist. Many states are preparing laws in anticipation of such a decision. Oklahoma has proposed a law that would allow parents to take their children to gay conversion therapy. Similarly, South Carolina has proposed a bill that would allow government employees, including judges and court clerks, to opt out of issuing marriage licenses if issuing such licenses would violate their religious beliefs.

The battle over same-sex marriage might soon be over, but the war over homosexuality may yet continue in conservative states.

Revenge Porn – Is It Legal?

Scorned ex-lovers have taken to the Internet to shame and expose the women who have broken their hearts. In this century’s version of blackmail, revenge porn has become rampant across the country. The perpetrators (mostly men) submit explicit images of the ones who used to trust them to websites dedicated to revenge porn. The images often times link to the victim’s social media pages and include personal information such as address, phone number, and email. Disgusting and offensive? Absolutely. But is it illegal?

revenge pornThe website,, launched in December of 2012. The website developer is a 28 year old from San Diego named Kevin Bollaert. Since its launch about two years ago, the site has accumulated over 10,000 nude photos of mostly women. If victims want their photos to be taken down, they have to go through Bollaert’s second website, They must pay $300 to $350 for the photos to be removed. He has made tens of thousands of dollars through this horrific website.

The two sites have since been shut down.

Bollaert was arrested December 2013 after a new law passed in California prohibiting the distribution of nude photos without the person’s consent. The law was passed in October 2013. The law makes posting identifiable nude photos without consent a misdemeanor. A person will also be convicted if they are guilty of intent to cause emotional distress or humiliation to the victim.

Bollaert was found guilty of 27 counts, which included identity theft and extortion. The San Diego County Superior Court jury was not able to reach verdicts on two of the counts, including identity theft and conspiracy, and the judge pronounced a mistrial on them. Either way, Bollaert is now facing up to 20 years in prison.

Bollaert’s lawyer, Emily Rose-Weber, attempted to defend his actions by claiming he is just a web developer. Because he did not post the photos himself, he is in no way guilty of breaking the new law. She also added that although he took advantage of “human weakness,” developing an outlet for angry ex’s is not illegal. The statute states that charges can be held only against the person who actually took the photo. But, he was still convicted of identity theft and six counts of extortion.

At the moment, only 16 states have enacted laws to protect victims of revenge porn. Florida is in the process of legitimizing a similar law.

Why the Controlled Substances Act Should Be Repealed

Courts have rarely questioned the validity of the Controlled Substances Act‘s classification system, even though the CSA has been law since 1970. Astoundingly, almost all judicial inquiry into the CSA classification system has been confined to footnotes. Judge Mueller herself relied on a Supreme Court footnote in justifying her desire to hear evidence on whether marijuana has any medical value. The branch of government charged with interpreting the law has neglected to interpret whether the CSA scheduling system makes any logical sense.

marijuanaA cursory glance at the drugs classified indicates that the CSA is deeply flawed. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse, no medical value, and lacks safe use even under medical supervision.

Today, the claim that marijuana lacks any medical value or safe use borders on lunacy. As defense attorneys argued, federal prosecutors must essentially “convince the court that the earth is flat when the rest of society appropriately has concluded that the earth is round.” 23 states have legalized medical marijuana and every year that list of states grows. Doctors have testified that marijuana can be used to treat certain illnesses and many patients have come forward to testify that marijuana has helped them when no other treatments could.

Marijuana is just the tip of the iceberg. Peyote is also classified as Schedule I, but Congress granted the Native American Church an exemption if they used Peyote for religious purposes. If Peyote has a high potential for abuse, it shouldn’t be possible for an entire religion to use Peyote without widespread addiction. And yet, the few members of the church who were adversely affected by peyote were able to walk away without any further health problems.

Cocaine is popularly considered more dangerous than marijuana, but cocaine is classified as Schedule II. According to the CSA, Schedule II substances have accepted medical use. It is absolutely silly that the federal government believes cocaine has medical value while marijuana does not. Medical marijuana is recognized in twenty-three states while medical cocaine cannot be legalized in even a single state.

Wait, it gets better. During Judge Mueller’s hearing, prosecutors presented President Bush’s drug czar, Dr. Bertha Madras, as their sole witness. Madras claimed there was “no such thing as medical marijuana” because “it contains significant amounts of toxic chemicals.” One of those toxic chemicals is THC, the chemical compound responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects. THC is the chemical that police look for when they drug test people suspected of using marijuana.

Curiously, the CSA classifies THC as Schedule III. According to the CSA, Schedule III drugs have less potential for abuse than Schedule I or Schedule II drugs. THC was classified lower than marijuana because Congress gave one research company its blessings to produce “marijuana pills” out of THC. However, the only way to get THC is to extract it from marijuana plants. It is mind-bending that a Schedule III substance has less potential for abuse when it is the main hallucinatory in a Schedule I drug.

I suspect that federal drug agencies realize that the CSA schedule system is completely irrational. Courts have rarely questioned the CSA classifications and what little probing exists is in footnotes. However, those rare footnotes are very disturbing. A footnote in one case concluded that the CSA classification system “cannot logically be read as cumulative in all situations.” Another footnote contains statements from a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) expert who testified that “marijuana could be rescheduled to Schedule II without a currently accepted medical use.”These footnotes, together with the fact that THC is a Schedule III drug, indicate that the DEA knows that marijuana could safely be removed from the Schedule I list.

The war on drugs is the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. Thousands of Americans are denied medication and millions of Americans are incarcerated because of that hoax. It must end.

California Introduces Assisted Suicide Bill

California lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would legalize assisted suicide. The proposed bill is Senate Bill 128, “End of Life Option Act.” The bill, which is similar to Oregon’s assisted suicide law, was proposed by two Democratic California senators:

brittany maynard assisted suicide bill in California“This bill would enact the End of Life Option Act authorizing an adult who meets certain qualifications, and who has been determined by his or her attending physician to be suffering from a terminal illness, as defined, to make a request for medication prescribed pursuant to these provisions for the purpose of ending his or her life. The bill would establish the procedures for making these requests. The bill would also establish the forms to request aid-in-dying medication and under specified circumstances an interpreter declaration to be signed subject to penalty of perjury, thereby imposing a crime and state-mandated local program.”

The bill doesn’t come without criticism. For example, opponents say the act will convince patients to use assisted suicide if insurance claims get denied or if medical costs become too high. America’s health care system is purely profit driven. Insurance agencies may deny a lifesaving treatment, but will cover the low one-time cost of assisted suicide.

Also, illnesses can change suddenly and many people have outlived their expected life span. Ending a life prematurely promotes a wider acceptance of suicide.

Reasons to Support the End of Life Option Act

Brittney Maynard became famous in 2014 for choosing to end her own life in Oregon after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Although her case is tragic and controversial, no one could possibly claim that she didn’t die with dignity. Rather than suffering for months, dying painfully in a hospital room, she died peacefully in her own bed surrounded by her loved ones.

If any human is suffering without hope of recovery, they should have every right to end their own life on their own terms. Even if a person chooses assisted suicide purely based on medical costs, who are we to judge? Would we rather a person undergo immense stress from a massive medical bill they have no way of paying? Or do we want them to be at peace?

No one chooses to be inflicted with a terminal illness that will bring about hopeless suffering. However, when a condition of this nature strikes, people should be able to choose how to confront their condition.

Will Other States Follow?

If this act passes, what does it mean for the rest of the country? Since Brittany Maynard decided to end her own life in 2014, proposals have been made to implement Oregon’s same laws throughout the country.

Just as same-sex marriage has been widely accepted and legalized, I believe assisted suicide will do the same. Both have ethical, moral, and religious aspects and viewpoints attached to them. But after Brittney Maynard made such a huge impact with her inspiring story, it looks like more assisted suicide laws will be proposed.

Obama Proposes Free Tuition for Community College

President Obama just announced his proposal for free tuition for the first two years of community college. The program is America’s College Promise, and individual states can choose to implement or opt out of the proposed program. Any student who has a minimum 2.5 GPA and is enrolled at least part time, will have access to the program.

Obama Proposes Free TuitionIt’s estimated that 9 million students could benefit from this program, saving an average of $3,800 per year. The government will cover 75% percent of the cost and the states will cover the rest.

Along with America’s College Promise, Obama is also proposing the American Technical Training Fund. This will teach vocational skills to students and put them on track to better paying jobs. The classes can either be held in community colleges, or training institutions. This program stems from the previously implemented program, Tennessee Tech Centers. This programs offers low income employees training in energy, IT, and advanced manufacturing.

If states do decide to implement America’s College Promise, they will have to do one of two things. Either offer classes that will either directly transfer to a four year local public school, or offer occupational training programs that are insured with high success rates in the job market.

Obama must receive approval from Congress before the program is implemented. His goal is to make college “the norm in the same way high school is the norm” for students in America.

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