Thursday, February 5, 2009

Best wishes to Justice Ginsburg, & more

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had surgery today for early-stage pancreatic cancer. She hopes to be back on the bench when the Court's current recess ends in three weeks. Ginsburg is often the strongest voice of justice and equality on the Court, and we should all hope for her speedy recovery. SCOTUSblogger Tom Goldstein warns that we shouldn't be rushing to predict her retirement (or worse).

In what appears to be a national first, two lawyers who work for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will get health insurance coverage for their same-sex spouses. This is the result of internal court orders by liberal lion Judge Stephen Reinhardt and conservative Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, both sitting as hearing officers on internal employment disputes. At a glance, it seems that Reinhardt concluded that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional as applied to employee benefits, while Kozinski avoided the constitutional question by interpreting the statute governing federal benefits to permit coverage for non-spouses. These decisions do not create judicial precedents, but Lambda Legal rightly told the press that "they will become part of our national conversation about fairness and equality for same-sex couples." Right-leaning prof Eugene Volokh summarizes the decisions, and is skeptical that they can be justified without overturned DOMA as a whole.

The Washington Post today discusses how Obama has been trying to work both sides of the fence on reproductive rights, so far drawing big praise and sharp criticism on both sides. His record so far: Rick Warren (boo); reversing the Global Gag Rule (yay); releasing a measured statement praising the anniversary of Roe v. Wade (small yay); pressing Dems to remove from the stimulus package a measure making it easier for states to cover contraception under Medicaid (boo); stating he hopes to reintroduce the Medicaid measure as part of a later bill (yay). As with his stances, and so far his inaction, LGBT equality issues, it will take some time to tell whether Obama is currently being wishy-washy or just laying the groundwork for bigger issues in a politically savvy way.

Oh, and the New York Times reported recently that "The Myth of Rampant Teen Promiscuity" is, well, a myth. So much for my next bestseller. Of course, the NYT has its own sexual issues.

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