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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 11, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 10
National News
Section One
ALL STORIES
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National News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Supreme Court OKs Phelps funeral pickets
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 on March 2 that Kansas' Westboro Baptist Church has a constitutional right to picket military funerals carrying signs that say such things as 'God hates fags.'

The court said the church's 'speech' is 'certainly hurtful and its contribution to public discourse may be negligible,' but the pickets are nonetheless protected by the First Amendment.

'Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and - as it did here - inflict great pain,' the court said. 'On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a nation we have chosen a different course - to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate. That choice requires that we shield Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case.'

The church had been sued by the family of a fallen soldier whose funeral its members picketed.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. disagreed with the court's majority, saying, 'Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.'

Most national Gay organizations did not respond to the decision. Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, was the exception.

'What is striking about today's decision is not the court's legal analysis, which does not break new ground, but the spotlight this case shines on the despicable character and hatefulness of anti-Gay bigotry,' Kendell said. 'Can you imagine fighting for the right to spew hatred at a funeral? What an appalling indictment of those who oppose our humanity and equality.'

Immigration Equality to sue federal government
The LGBT group Immigration Equality is planning to sue the federal government over the Defense of Marriage Act because it prevents married U.S. citizens from bringing their foreign same-sex spouses to live with them in U.S. states that allow same-sex marriage or recognize same-sex marriages from elsewhere.

The planned lawsuit follows President Barack Obama's recent instruction to the Justice Department that it stop defending in court the section of DOMA that bans the federal government from recognizing states' same-sex marriages.

Immigration Equality said it believes there is a good chance the lawsuit will succeed, at least for legally married same-sex couples in states that allow or recognize same-sex marriages.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. In addition, same-sex marriages from anywhere in the world are recognized as marriages in Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and California (if the marriage took place before Proposition 8 passed), even though those states do not let same-sex couples marry.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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