Gay-marriage case comes to U.S. Supreme Court; Definition-of-marriage, right-to-marry arguments to be heard

Mar 26, 2013

LOS ANGELES – Southland supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage will focus their attention on the U.S. Supreme Court today as it hears arguments on Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved measure restricting marriages to unions between a man and a woman.

Proposition 8 was enacted by voters in 2008 but was deemed unconstitutional last year by a federal appeals court panel, which found the initiative was at odds with U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guaranteeing equal protection under the law.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the issue today, with a decision likely by June.

Dozens of same-sex marriage supporters held a candlelight vigil outside Los Angeles City Hall Sunday night in advance of the arguments.

The Rev. Susan Russell from All Saints Church in Pasadena, which helped organize the vigil, said the marriage issue is about “the power of God’s inclusive love.”

“And it is a deep honor to stand with those around the country who are stepping up and speaking out to end discrimination against LGBT people and their families and take another step closer to making liberty and justice for all really mean ‘all.”‘

More vigils are scheduled for Tuesday night outside Long Beach City Hall and at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana.

Opponents of same-sex marriage will also be watching the proceedings closely.

Randy Thomasson, president of and an opponent of same-sex marriage, said the U.S. Supreme Court’s review of Prop 8 goes beyond the issue of marriage.

“This case is as much about the survival of our Republic as it is about natural marriage between a man and a woman,” Thomasson said. “We are a constitutional government that abides by written laws and their original meanings. A republic under the thumb of judges who act like kings has ceased to be a republic.

“The unchanging laws of nature require two distinct sexes for humans — male and female,” he said. “… In contrast, homosexual behavior is neither natural nor healthy, and doesn’t qualify for marriage, which requires one man and one woman, no more, no less.”

In March 2000, California voters approved Prop. 22, which specified in state law that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid in California. But in May of 2008, the state Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutional because it discriminated against gays, and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples got married in the ensuing months.

Opponents of same-sex marriage quickly got Prop. 8 on the November 2008 ballot to amend the state constitution, and it was approved by a margin of 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent. The approval was followed by statewide protests and lawsuits challenging Prop. 8’s legality.

In May 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8, but also ruled that the unions of roughly 18,000 same-sex couples who were wed in 2008 prior to its passage would remain valid.

Same-sex marriage supporters took their case to federal court, and U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled in August 2010 that Proposition 8 “both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Backers of Proposition 8 — — appealed to the 9th Circuit, because then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Attorney General Jerry Brown declined to do so. The appellate court heard arguments in 2011, but put a decision on hold while it awaited the state Supreme Court’s ruling on the ability of Prop. 8 backers to press the case forward.

Once the state Supreme Court decided that Prop. 8 supporters had legal standing, the 9th Circuit moved ahead with its consideration of the case, hearing more arguments last December on a motion by Prop. 8 backers asking that Vaughn’s ruling be thrown out because the judge was in a long-term same-sex relationship that he had not disclosed.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the proposition’s primary impact was to “lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.”

“It stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously possessed to obtain and use the designation of ‘marriage’ to describe their relationships,” according to the court’s decision. “Nothing more, nothing less. Proposition 8 therefore could not have been enacted to advance California’s interests in child-rearing or responsible procreation, for it had no effect on the rights of same-sex couples to raise children or on the procreative practices of other couples.

“Nor did Proposition 8 have any effect on religious freedom or on parents’ rights to control their children’s education; it could not have been enacted to safeguard those liberties.”

In addition to Proposition 8, the U.S. Supreme Court this week will also hear arguments over the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted in 1996 and defined marriage solely as a union between opposite-sex couples.

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Columbia Pictures, Paramount, Disney win in federal appeals court against Canadian search engine

Mar 22, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – A federal appeals panel in Pasadena Thursday issued a unanimous decision against the Canadian search engine isoHunt for “inducing” users to illegally download and distribute copyrighted movies and TV programs.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that isoHunt owner Gary Fung is liable for contributing to violations of federal copyright law.

Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount and other Hollywood studios sued Fung in Los Angeles federal court in 2006, alleging that isoHunt and other sites Fung operated helped Internet users find and watch copyrighted material without charge.

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson granted the film companies summary judgment in 2009 and issued an injunction limiting Fung’s activities.

The appeals court affirmed Wilson’s ruling that Fung and isoHunt committed copyright infringement by helping users access copyrighted shows over the BitTorrent peer-to-peer network.

Further, the appellate court held that isoHunt and Fung were not protected by the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

“This ruling affirms a core principle of copyright law: Those who build businesses around encouraging, enabling, and helping others to commit copyright infringement are themselves infringers, and will be held accountable for their illegal actions,” said Henry Hoberman, senior executive vice president and global general counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America.

“It also strikes an important blow in the fight to preserve the jobs of millions of workers in the creative industries, whose hard work and investments are exploited by rogue websites for their own profit,” Hoberman said.

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9th Circuit Appeals Court rules against Universal Music Group in copyright lawsuit

Mar 15, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – A federal appellate panel today affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of copyright infringement claims brought by Universal Music Group against an online video-sharing site.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, for the second time, a 2009 Los Angeles federal judge’s finding that Santa Monica-based Veoh Networks is federally protected from liability claims.

District Judge Raymond C. Fisher, who also penned the panel’s 2011 ruling, wrote that Veoh was protected by “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which shields Internet service providers that unknowingly post copyrighted material and act expeditiously to remove it once alerted.

The San Francisco appellate panel previously found that it is up to copyright holders like UMG to “efficiently identify infringing copies” rather than leaving it to providers like Veoh, which “cannot readily ascertain what material is copyrighted and what is not.”

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9th Circuit Appeals Court overturns dismissal of disabilities lawsuit linked to Chase bank in El Monte

Mar 6, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – A federal appeals court ruled today that a Los Angeles judge erred when he dismissed a disability rights lawsuit brought against an El Monte bank by a quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair for mobility.

Plaintiff Ricardo Murillo alleged that the Chase bank branch violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and state law by not providing “full and equal” access to teller windows for those using wheelchairs when he tried to cash a check there in March 2011.

In granting Chase’s dismissal motion, U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real found that Murillo had not stated a claim for relief under the ADA because the complaint, which was filed in July 2011, did not allege that he was unable to cash the check or was an account holder at Chase.

A representative for Chase Bank said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

According to the ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Real was mistaken when he dismissed the claim.

The lawsuit “alleged that Murillo personally encountered the alleged ADA violation — a lack of wheelchair-accessible teller stations — while attempting to cash a check at the Chase branch,” according to the appeals panel.

“The complaint also connected the alleged violation to Murillo’s disability, quadriplegia,” the unanimous decision states. “This suffices to state a claim for relief under the ADA.”

The panel vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded the case back to Real for further proceedings.

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