News Round-Up: December 13, 2019

Three bearded police officers from Norfolk Police Dept
Three bearded police officers from Norfolk Police Dept
(image via Norfolk Police Department)

Some news items you might have missed:

WSET: The Norfolk Police Department has updated its uniform policy to allow officers to grow a beard and openly display tattoos while on-duty. So, if you see me speeding through Norfolk, you know why 🙂

The Verge: YouTube announced an expansion of its anti-harassment policy that will ban video creators from insulting individuals or inciting violence against people on the basis of their race, gender expression, or sexual orientation. But will YouTube enforce the new rules?

Bloomberg News: The share of credit card borrowers who are at least 90 days past due on their accounts will probably tick up to 2.01% next year, the highest level since 2010.

KIT212: Kenneth has the low-down on the what’s what happening the gay rags across the country.

Gaily Grind: The Senate voted to confirm homophobic nominee Lawrence VanDyke to serve as a Ninth Circuit appeals court judge, despite being rated as “not qualified” by the American Bar Association (ABA) over concerns of anti-LGBTQ past. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the only GOP ‘no’ in a 51-44 vote.

Washington Blade: The Screen Actors Guild has announced the nominees for its 2019 awards presentation, and like the Golden Globes nominations earlier this week, there are multiple nods for projects with LGBTQ-relevant content and performers.

ESPN: Marijuana will be removed from the list of drugs of abuse and will be treated the same as alcohol as part of changes announced Thursday to the joint drug agreement between MLB and the players’ association.

• Tweet of the Day: After Donald Trump trolled 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg, saying she need to “work on her anger management” and should “chill,” former First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted her encouragement. #GodILoveHer

Trump Court Pick Sobs When Confronted With Anti-LGBTQ Record

Lawrence VanDyke (screen capture)

Donald Trump’s judicial nominee for a post on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was reduced to sobbing during a confirmation hearing on Wednesday when he was questioned about his past positions regarding LGBTQ people.

Lawrence VanDyke, who currently serves as a deputy assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice, turned red in the face as a letter from the American Bar Association was read which concluded he was “not qualified” for the bench, according to CNN.

Based on interviews with 60 judges and lawyers who had worked with VanDyke, the ABA’s letter concluded he could not treat LGBTQ litigants fairly.

“Some interviewees raised concerns about whether Mr. VanDyke would be fair to persons who are gay, lesbian, or otherwise part of the LGBTQ community,” the letter read. “Mr. VanDyke would not say affirmatively that he would be fair to any litigant before him, notably members of the LGBTQ community.”

VanDyke rejected the notion that he wouldn’t treat LGBTQ people fairly.

“I do not believe that,” VanDyke told the Senate Judiciary Committee members. “It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God,” adding, “they should all be treated with dignity and respect.”

The ABA also wrote that VanDyke was found to be “arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice including procedural rules.”

Although VanDyke is a former solicitor general of both Nevada and Montana, the ABA felt he “lacks humility, has an ‘entitlement’ temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful.”

VanDyke told the Senate committee he was “disappointed, shocked and hurt” when he read the ABA letter on Tuesday evening, adding that he was “still processing” it.

He also made mention that the lead evaluator of the ABA’s committee had donated to one of his political opponents in the past. What he didn’t include was that the $150 donation occurred five years ago, and the evaluator recused themselves from the vote that found him to be unqualified for the bench.

It’s important to note that VanDyke does have a 15-year history with the virulently anti-LGBTQ legal organization, Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF has spent years attempting to link homosexuality with pedophilia, has advocated for sterilizing transgender people, and has represented individuals like anti-LGBTQ Colorado baker Jack Phillips and Washington state homophobic florist Baronelle Stutzman.

In 2004, he penned a strident essay opposing same-sex marriage and argued against same-sex couples raising children.

He wrote a ‘friend of the court’ brief in 2010 which argued college student groups were allowed via the First Amendment to bar LGBTQ students from membership.

As Solicitor General for Montana, he joined an amicus brief in Hollingsworth v. Perry which defended his state’s ban on marriage equality in 2013.

In another brief in U.S. v. Windsor, VanDyke defended the Defense of Marriage Act which blocked the federal government from recognizing any legally performed same-sex marriages.

He wrote, “Opposite-sex couples are the only procreative relationships that exist, which means that such couples are the only ones the government has a need to encourage.”

(source: CNN)

Appeals Court Rules Against Trump’s Withholding of Federal Funds For Sanctuary Cities

Donald Trump

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled Donald Trump’s executive order to withhold funds from so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ to be unconstitutional.

The ruling notes that federal funds can only be withheld by Congressional authorization.

Via Politico:

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that federal funding could be withheld only with congressional authorization. The appeals court also noted that the U.S. District Court went too far by blocking the policy nationwide, and sent back the case for “reconsideration and further findings.”

“We conclude that, under the principle of Separation of Powers and in consideration of the Spending Clause, which vests exclusive power to Congress to impose conditions on federal grants, the Executive Branch may not refuse to disperse the federal grants in question without congressional authorization,” a three-member panel of the 9th Circuit said in its 2-to-1 ruling.

Trump signed an executive order in January 2017 that dealt with interior immigration enforcement. The 9th Circuit on Wednesday ruled against a provision that limited funding to jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement — also known as sanctuary cities.

The executive order focused on a federal statute that prohibits federal, state and local officials from restricting the sharing of information related to an individual’s immigration or citizenship status. While the appeals court didn’t rule on that statute, U.S.C. 1373, a Chicago-based federal judge in late July found it unconstitutional in separate lawsuit over withholding of federal grants over immigration enforcement. That ruling was limited to the city of Chicago, the plaintiff in the case.

The Justice Department issued a statement Wednesday condemning the ruling as a “victory for criminal aliens in California” and said the department will continue to be committed to “keeping criminal aliens off the streets.”

9th Circuit Court Of Appeals Rules Against Trump’s Travel Ban

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with the 4th Circuit Court that President Trump’s travel ban is unconstitutional.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel basically affirmed a March decision by Judge Derrick K. Watson, of the Federal District Court in Hawaii.

From the New York Times:

Like the Fourth Circuit, Judge Watson blocked major parts of the revised order on the ground that they violated the Constitution’s ban on a government establishment of religion. Judge Watson wrote that the statements of Mr. Trump and his advisers made clear that his executive order amounted to an attempt to disfavor Muslims.

“A reasonable, objective observer — enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance — would conclude that the executive order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion,” Judge Watson wrote.

The 9th Circuit Court determined that President Trump exceeded the scope of his authority, writing in part, “The Immigration and Nationality Act … gives the President broad powers to control the entry of aliens, and to take actions to protect the American public. But immigration, even for the President, is not a one-person show.”

Additionally, the panel of judges cite Donald Trump’s travel ban tweet, and White House spokesman Sean Spicer’s answer that Trump’s tweets are official statements. Yet another reason the Trumpster should pause before tweeting.

The ban now heads to the U.S. Supreme Court.

9th Circuit Court Of Appeals Rules Against Trump Administration On Immigration Policy

Bad news as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rules against the Trump administration’s immigration policy.

From the Washington Post:

A federal appeals court has maintained the freeze on President Trump’s controversial immigration order, meaning previously barred refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries can continue entering the U.S.

A panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the ruling of U.S. District Judge James Robart, who had decided Friday that Trump’s temporary travel ban should be put on hold. The Department of Homeland Security soon suspended all enforcement of Trump’s controversial directive.

The Justice Department, representing the Trump administration, could now ask the Supreme Court — which often defers to the president on matters of immigration and national security — to intervene. The Supreme Court, though, remains one justice short, and many see it as ideologically split 4-4. A tie would keep in place whatever the appeals court decides.

Judge Michelle Taryn Friedland, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, asked a Justice Department lawyer if the government had “pointed to any evidence connecting these countries with terrorism.”

Judge Richard Clifton, a President George W. Bush appointee, noted that the government already had processes in place to screen people coming from those countries and asked, “Is there any reason for us to think that there’s a real risk or that circumstances have changed such that there’s a real risk?”

While most expect Trump to head to the Supreme Court (his ego couldn’t handled anything less), lots of legal experts say Trump should take the time to rewrite the policy in a way that passes legal muster.

I should add that the ban was intended to be temporary – only 90 and 120 days. So, while this takes time to be worked out, I’m assuming Team Trump is still going about the business of evaluating immigration processes, yes? If the point was to hit ‘pause’ temporarily to figure out how to vet immigrants more precisely, then that work should still be going on.

UPDATE – Trump took little time rushing to Twitter:

9th Circuit Court Of Appeals Denies Trump Stay On Immigration Ruling

(image via Instagram)

Does this mean the 9th Circuit  is now a “so-called” appeals court?

Instead of staying U.S. Federal Judge Robart’s temporary restraining order on Trump’s immigration EO, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals requested arguments from both sides by Monday to fully consider the motion.

From the New York Times:

A federal appeals court early Sunday rejected a request by the Justice Department to immediately restore President Trump’s targeted travel ban, deepening a legal showdown over his authority to tighten the nation’s borders in the name of protecting Americans from terrorism.

In the legal back and forth over the travel ban, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco said a reply from the Trump administration was now due on Monday.

The ruling meant that refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — who were barred by an executive order signed by the president on Jan. 27 would, for now, continue to be able to enter the country.

President Bannon Trump won’t be pleased.

Justice Department Files Appeal To 9th Circuit Court Regarding Trump Immigration Policy

The Department of Justice has filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to lift a temporary restraining order by U.S. Federal Judge James Robart concerning President Trump’s executive order on immigration policy.

The EO, issued a week ago, banned travel to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries and suspending refugee entry to the US. The Washington state Attorney General filed suit in his state saying the travel ban was unconstitutional. Judge Robart, a Bush appointee, agreed.

Considering how quickly the Trump administration has been moving, I’m surprised it took almost 24 hours to file the appeal.

The Department of Homeland Security announced it had suspended all actions to implement the immigration order and would resume standard inspections of travelers as it did prior to the signing of the travel ban.

First Same-Sex Marriages Take Place In Guam

Last week, a federal judge in Guam ruled that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on same-sex marriage applied to the U.S. Territory making marriage equality the law of land in the U.S. Territory.

Today, the first same-sex marriages took place.

From ABC News:

“It’s my privilege to officiate at this. Do you take each other to share your lives, to promise to take good care of one another for as long as you live?” Public Health Director James Gillan asked.

“I do,” said Deasia Johnson of Killeen, Texas.

“I do,” answered her bride, Nikki Dismuke of New Orleans.

“By the power vested in me by the laws of Guam, I pronounce you married,” Gillan said before the two military members kissed to solemnize their vows.

With those words, in a ceremony that lasted less than a minute in Gillan’s office, Johnson and Dismuke became the first gay couple to be legally married in a U.S. territory.

Loretta M. Pangelinan, 28, and Kathleen M. Aguero, 29, sued to overturn the territory’s law after being denied a marriage application in April. They based their lawsuit on the prevailing opinion from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had approved gay marriage in western U.S. states. Guam falls under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit Court.

Marriage Equality Comes To Guam

It took just about an hour and a half for Guam’s chief federal judge to rule the territory’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

In doing so, Guam becomes the first U.S. territory to legalize same-sex marriage.

The ruling is expected to take effect on Tuesday.

From Pacific Daily News:

In her ruling, Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood said the laws denying marriage rights to same-sex couples were unconstitutional, citing a previous decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Guam.

Following her ruling, the courtroom erupted into applause for Loretta M. Pangelinan and Kathleen M. Aguero, the couple who filed the case.

Pangelinan and Aguero filed the case in April after they were denied a marriage license application at the Department of Public Health and Social Services. Their attorneys argued that the case had already been decided by the 9th Circuit in 2014 and, as a result, Guam had no choice but to follow suit.