Sexual Orientation Discrimination

(Sioux Falls, SD)– On January 12, 2015, on behalf of six same-sex couples, Madia Law won a historic civil rights victory in a constitutional challenge to South Dakota’s ban on same-sex marriage. From the New York Times and the Associated Press:

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A federal judge on Monday declared South Dakota’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, but marriage licenses won’t be immediately issued because the ruling was put on hold pending a potential appeal.

U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier sided in favor of the six couples who filed the lawsuit in May in Sioux Falls. The lawsuit challenges a 1996 state law and a voter-approved 2006 constitutional amendment that ban gay marriage.

“Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to marry,” Schreier wrote. “South Dakota law deprives them of that right solely because they are same-sex couples and without sufficient justification.”

Attorney General Marty Jackley on Monday said the state will appeal the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a conservative-leaning federal appeals court that in 2006 affirmed Nebraska’s right to ban same-sex marriages.

“It remains the state’s position that the institution of marriage should be defined by the voters of South Dakota and not the federal courts,” Jackley said.

He said he’s obligated by law to defend both the state constitution and state statutes.

Two other states — Arkansas and Missouri — already have appealed similar federal district court rulings to the 8th Circuit. This court is generally considered more conservative than others, said Adam Romero, senior counsel in the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. However, Romero warned, judges “from all ideological perspectives” have tended to agree that state marriage bans are unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

“While it is impossible to predict what the court will ultimately do, given the large number of judges who have struck down same-sex marriage bans, we can assume that the 8th Circuit will give the marriage bans in this circuit a very, very close scrutiny,” Romero said.

The U.S. Supreme Court again is considering whether to hear a gay marriage case, and more appeals court rulings — especially if they conflict — could increase the likelihood the justices will do so.

In November, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Cincinnati became the first appellate court to recently uphold state bans on same-sex marriage. Plaintiffs from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are asking the Supreme Court to reverse that decision. Four other appeals courts — based in Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Richmond, Virginia — have ruled in favor of gay and lesbian couples. Arguments over bans in three Southern states were held last week before a New Orleans-based appellate court.

Romero said that the more cases that are pending at the 8th Circuit will only increase the pressure on that court to issue its ruling. But the court could put the cases on hold if the Supreme Court decides to take on the issue.

Presently, 36 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry, nearly twice as many as just three months ago.

The South Dakota couples’ attorney, Josh Newville, said Monday’s developments represent the last opportunity for the state’s “elected officials to be on the right side of history” by not appealing Schreier’s decision.

“I would say that Attorney General Jackley needs to consider very seriously the amount of money that he’s pouring into this lawsuit on behalf of the state to keep a discriminatory law in place,” Newville said.

Five of the couples have already married in either Iowa, Connecticut or Minnesota. Nancy Rosenbrahn, of Rapid City, married her longtime partner in April in Minneapolis.

“On one hand, this is like the best present ever,” Rosenbrahn said of the decision Monday. “On the other hand, you go back and you say ‘Well, yeah, it should be a yes,’ because we are no different than anybody else. There is no reason to say we can’t get married. There is no valid reason to do that anymore.”

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In a memo dated December 15, 2014 from United States Attorney General Eric Holder to United States Attorneys and other officials, the Attorney General has declared that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964‘s prohibition of sex discrimination encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.

Minneapolis Transgender Employment Attorneys

 

The Attorney General wrote,

“The most straightforward reading of Title VII is that discrimination ‘because of  . . . sex’ includes discrimination because an employee’s gender identification is as a member of a particular sex, or because the employee is transitioning, or has transitioned, to another sex.”

The memo comes after Congress failed to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide a Title VII-equivalent prohibition on discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. While the memo shows the federal government playing catchup with many courts’ interpretation (The Justice Department previously declared that Title VII per se didn’t prohibit discrimination based on gender identity), it is a sign of hope for those who have been discriminated against in the workplace based on their gender identification.

However, because courts have widely found that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, it will take passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to protect gay and lesbian individuals from discrimination at work that is not based on sex stereotyping.

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Madia Law 

CONTACT:
Attorney Joshua Newville
office: 612.349.2743
cell: 651.210.7135
joshuanewville@madialaw.com

–FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—

(Sioux Falls, SD, Nov. 14, 2014)—South Dakota’s marriage equality lawsuit is moving forward after United States Judge Karen Schreier rejected the State’s motion for the case to be dismissed on Friday.

The Court heard arguments in Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard on October 17 in Sioux Falls. The Attorney General’s Office argued that a 2006 8th Circuit Court of Appeals case required dismissal. Plaintiffs’ attorney Joshua Newville argued that case isn’t on point and that the controlling decision is United States v. Windsor, the 2013 Supreme Court case that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

In a 28-page opinion, issued Friday afternoon, Judge Schreier agreed with the plaintiffs, writing, “Given the subsequent developments recognized almost uniformly by federal courts following the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor, Baker is no longer binding authority. Although Bruning explained that sexual orientation is not a suspect class, it did not address whether marriage is a fundamental right. Thus, those cases do not foreclose relief on plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection claims.”

The Court will now consider the legitimacy of the marriage bans. Judge Schreier ordered state officials to respond to the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment within ten days. The State must explain why its refusal to wed same-sex couples and its refusal to recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples do not violate U.S. Constitution guarantees of due process and equal protection.

“Every reason the State offers to support these discriminatory laws has already been wholly rejected by the vast majority of courts to consider this issue,” said Newville. “The Supreme Court’s decision to let stand four recent appellate rulings striking down similar marriage bans also bolsters our case. The days of South Dakota proudly discriminating against these families are numbered,” he added.

The plaintiffs filed their motion for summary judgment in early July. Debra Voigt, one of the lawyers for the couples, said, “We are all very happy this case is moving forward and are encouraged by the Court’s ruling today. We are optimistic that this is one step closer to marriage equality here in South Dakota.”

The six plaintiff families are from across the state and include veterans, nurses, a stay-at-home mom, a truck driver, a couple who’s been together 30 years, and couples with children and grandchildren. “The law requires South Dakota to treat these families equally and with same dignity and respect it gives families with different-sex couples,” said Newville.

Plaintiff Clay Schweitzer of Rapid City said, “My husband Jeremy [Coller] and I were both born and raised in South Dakota. We love it here. South Dakota is where we met, were we have built our lives together, and where Jeremy accepted my proposal in the Black Hills. We look forward to the day when South Dakota treats our family equally to all others.”

While the Court dismissed Plaintiffs’ right-to-travel claim, Newville explained: “We believe that South Dakota’s discriminatory marriage scheme violates the law in a number of ways, including an unconstitutional infringement on the right to relocate within the United States. While the Court disagreed with our reasoning on that claim, the Judge did agree with the over 50 other courts that ultimately ruled in favor of marriage equality in the last 15 months that these couples’ have presented valid equal protection and due process claims.”

The couples are represented by four attorneys:

  • Lead counsel Joshua Newville of the Minneapolis firm Madia Law LLC. Newville is the civil rights attorney who filed the lawsuit on May 22, 2014. He also represents seven families in a similar challenge to North Dakota’s marriage equality bans, which he filed on June 6, 2014.
  • South Dakota attorney Debra Voigt of Burd and Voigt Law Offices in Sioux Falls. Voigt is an active member of her community and has practiced family law in South Dakota for nearly 20 years.
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights attorneys Shannon Minter and Christopher Stoll. NCLR, a LGBT advocacy organization based in San Francisco, has been instrumental in the national fight for marriage equality, including the 10th Circuit Idaho case that was the first in the country after Windsor to have marriage equality upheld by a federal appellate court. Minter and Stoll are also working with Newville on the North Dakota case.

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Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contains an interesting and nuanced option for civil defendants to settle a case. Rule 68 states in part, “At least 14 days before the date set for trial, a party defending against a claim may serve on an opposing party an offer to allow judgment on specified terms, with the costs then accrued.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 68(a). Essentially, the defendant may offer the plaintiff a settlement amount to try and end the case.

Here’s the catch for the defendant: if the plaintiff accepts the offer, judgment is entered against the defendant. Similar to a plea bargain in a criminal case, the defendant is admitting liability to avoid going to trial.

Minneapolis Discrimination Lawyers

 

Now, here’s the catch for the plaintiff: if the plaintiff does not accept the offer and takes the case to trial and the jury awards the plaintiff an amount in damages less than the defendant’s offer or no damages at all, the plaintiff must pay for all of the defendant’s costs that were incurred after the offer.

In other words, Fed.R.Civ.P. 68(d). Rule 68 seems to be a double-edged sword when not used strategically. [click to continue…]

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Today, the United States Supreme Court denied to review opinions issued by three appellate courts that declared bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The practical effect of the order denying review is that, after the dust settles, 11 additional states will have marriage equality — bringing the total to 30 within the next few months.

For couples living in states without marriage equality, today’s announcement is bittersweet. While the Supreme Court’s inaction is a positive in that it expands the number of states where discrimination in marriage based on sexual orientation is not legal, it means more waiting for those who live in other states.

KMSP-TV

Many of the states without marriage equality also lack legislation that protects gay people from discrimination (for example, in housing and employment). Similarly, many of those states do not provide make it a hate crime to violently target a gay person for no other reason than that person’s sexuality.

Until the Supreme Court (or, alternatively, every appellate court in the country) declares marriage equality to be the law of the land, litigation will continue.

Madia Law is proud to represent thirteen same-sex couples in historic challenges to marriage equality bans in both South Dakota and North Dakota. For those couples, today’s events are a source of optimism about the eventual outcome of their cases. Madia Law will continue to fight on behalf of them and all gay and lesbians who are denied their rights and equal protection under the laws.

KFGO: Attorney Joshua Newville on Supreme Court’s Decision on Same Sex Marriage

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Madia Law filed a motion for summary judgment Tuesday in the historic lawsuit challenging North Dakota’s ban on same-sex marriage. From the Guardian Newspaper:

A lawyer filed a motion late Tuesday calling on a judge to rule on the legality of gay marriage in North Dakota, the last US state to face a challenge to its constitutional ban on same-sex unions.

Attorney Joshua Newville, representing seven couples in the state, filed the motion for dismissal in the US district court in Fargo in a move that has been successfully used in other states wrestling with same-sex marriage bans. Other bans are currently being challenged in states including Colorado and Georgia.

Newville’s original suit, filed in June, argues that the ban subjects same-sex couples seeking to marry to “an irreparable denial of their constitutional rights” and the state “will incur little to no burden in allowing same-sex couples to marry and in recognizing the lawful marriages of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions on the same terms as different-sex couples”.

Earlier this month North Dakota solicitor general Doug Bahr called for Newville’s case to be dismissed arguing that states have the right to define and regulate marriage.

Newville, a lawyer with the Minneapolis-based firm Madia Law, said: “We are seeking an order from a district judge that declares marriage equality the law of the land in North Dakota.”

North Dakota is the final state to face a challenge to a same-sex marriage ban. The legal case comes after a series of local victories for marriage equality proponents across the US that is putting pressure on the US supreme court to rule once more on gay marriage.

“We all agree that North Dakota denies loving, committed same-sex couples recognition of their marriages. That is not in dispute,” said Newville. “This is a constitutional issue and North Dakota is in violation of the constitution by refusing to marry couples and to recognise marriages from other states and jurisdictions.”

Celeste Carlson Allebach who, with her wife Amber, is one of the plaintiffs in the case said: “We’re very excited with this filing. We’re optimistic and hope to get a ruling before the birth of our coming child so that our family will be recognized as equal under the eyes of North Dakota law and both of us can be listed as parents on our child’s birth certificate.”

Last June the highest US court ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits and effectively ended a ban on gay marriage in California that had been overturned by a lower court. In the wake of those decisions courts in more than a dozen states have invalidated bans on same-sex marriage while others have partially invalidated their rules to recognise marriages from outside the state.

Carl Tobias, Williams professor of law at the University of Richmond said it now looked inevitable that the supreme court would have to revisit same-sex marriage.

“Since the supreme court decision we have had a stream of rulings that have favoured plaintiffs and I think we are likely to see the same in North Dakota,” said Tobias.

In August the 6th circuit court of appeals will hear arguments from gay marriage cases in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. The 5th circuit court of appeals, one of the most conservative courts representing Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, is also expected to start hearing same-sex marriage cases soon, although no date has been set.

“In all likelihood one of the courts could vote against same-sex marriage,” said Tobias. He said he had been surprised that so far decisions had been “so uniform and so fast. The decisions are building on one another and finding earlier arguments persuasive.”

But he said a vote supporting a gay marriage ban was likely and that such a vote would likely lead to another supreme court hearing.

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In just a few short weeks, an amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) that will provide a right to a jury trial for claims arising under that law will go into effect.

Minnesota Jury Trial Attorneys

 

The MHRA  prohibits discrimination and retaliation for opposing such discrimination in a variety of contexts, including public and private employment, housing, education, public accommodation, and more. Protected classes under the MHRA include race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, status with regarding to public assistance, sexual orientation, and age. [click to continue…]

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On June 6, 2014, Attorney Joshua Newville of Madia Law filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven same-sex couples in North Dakota. The lawsuit, Ramsay, et al. v. Dalrymple, et al., 14-CV-57, was filed in United States District Court in Fargo, North Dakota.

Like Madia Law’s filing in South Dakota two weeks ago, the lawsuit against North Dakota officials is the first lawsuit in the state to challenge the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The lawsuit alleges the state’s ban on marrying same-sex couples and its refusal to recognize the marriages of other jurisdictions deprives gay and lesbians from their constitutionally-protected rights of equal protection, due process, and right to travel.

Advocacy group Freedom to Marry is tracking the progress of marriage equality litigation across the country.

 KFYRTV.COM – Bismarck, ND – News, Weather, Sports

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On May 22, 2014, on behalf of twelve South Dakota residents, Madia Law Attorney Joshua Newville filed a federal lawsuit in United States District Court in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of South Dakota’s statutory and constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Plaintiffs Jennie and Nancy Rosenbrahn, Jeremy Coller and Clay Schweitzer, Lynn and Monica Serling-Swank, Krystal Cosby and Kaitlynn Hoerner, Barbara and Ashley Wright, and Greg Kniffen and Mark Church. Defendants include Governor Dennis Daugaard, Attorney General Marty Jackley, Secretary of Health Doneen Hollingsworth, Secretary of Public Safety Trevor Jones, Pennington County Register of Deeds Donna Mayer, and Brown County Register of Deeds Carol Sherman. United States District Court Judge Karen Schreier is overseeing the matter in the Southern Division of the District of South Dakota. The Court file number is 14-4081.  The allegations contained in the Complaint are below: [click to continue…]

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Yesterday, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed into law an amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act that will ensure victims of discrimination and retaliation are entitled to a jury trial.  The bill, SF2322, was passed by the House and Senate in previous weeks and will go into effect on August 1, 2014.

Minnesota Jury Trial Attorneys

Previously, there was uncertainty over whether a victim of workplace discrimination, harassment, or retaliation would receive a jury trial, and to what level the jury’s verdict was entitled to deference.  Due to a legal intersection of federal, state, common, and statutory law, and depending on what claims were brought and in what venue, there were often instances were individuals who have been the target of illegal activity by their employer have only been allowed a trial by judge.   [click to continue…]

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May 2014: Newville to Speak on Employee Rights at “Argument of the Month Club”

April 29, 2014

The Argument of the Month Club describes itself as, “The Men’s Forum for Catholic Apologetics.”  Started 14 years ago, the wildly successful forum now attracts more than 500 men to its monthly discussions.  Tackling tough and wide-ranging topics, the group’s mission is to enlighten both Catholics and non-Catholics in order to better teach and defend the […]

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April 2014: Madia Law Retained to Challenge South Dakota Same-Sex Marriage Ban

April 24, 2014

–For Immediate Release– MAYOR HODGES TO MARRY SOUTH DAKOTA COUPLE WHO WILL CHALLENGE STATE’S SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BAN Minneapolis, April 24, 2014 – This Saturday, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges will welcome visitors Nancy Robrahn and Jennie Rosenkranz to The City of Lakes.  The Mayor will then marry the South Dakota couple, setting the stage for them […]

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Employment Law & “The Woman Question”

October 2, 2013

I’ll admit it.  When I first learned about “The Woman Question” during my first year of a law school, I wasn’t impressed.  I immediately equated this feminist approach to the world (and particularly, to the law) with what I felt was as an overly radicalized modern feminism. This week, I was reminded of The Woman Question. […]

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SCOTUS Kills DOMA and Prop 8; Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lives On

June 28, 2013

It’s been a busy week for employment law and civil rights.  The impact of the past week’s Supreme Court decisions on these two areas of law cannot be understated.  The Voting Rights Act was gutted, killing protections put in place to prevent discrimination at the ballot box.  The Civil Rights Act was substantially weakened, stripping […]

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Prediction: National Marriage Equality Within 9 Months

November 8, 2012

Prior to Tuesday, six states (New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa) and the District of Columbia had full marriage equality. As a result of Tuesday’s historic election, three additional states will now have marriage equality as well. Those states are Maine, Maryland, and Washington. (Technically, at the time of this post, Washington’s results […]

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Former Gov. Jesse Ventura is Voting No on the Anti-Marriage Amendment – and You Should Too

September 14, 2012

Quick post here:  The Minnesotans United for All Families Campaign put out a great video today featuring former Governor Ventura and his wife, Terry, speaking about the amendment on the ballot this November that seeks to prohibit gay and lesbian partners from marrying.  Ventura points out that one of the issues at stake — in […]

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Evidence Law & Spousal Privilege (or Lack Thereof) for Gay and Lesbian Couples

August 29, 2012

The rights, privileges, and responsibilities afforded to married individuals in the United States are vast and varied.  As a matter of clear public policy, federal, state, and local governments grant married individuals everything from tax breaks to survivorship rights.  Gay and lesbian couples across the country have sought to be included in these benefits and […]

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Employment Law Imbalance: How To Avoid Losing Before Trial

August 23, 2012

As published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review, Kevin M. Clermont & Stewart J. Schwab observed that from 1979-2006, plaintiffs bringing employment law matters (discrimination, wrongful termination, etc) in federal court won only 15% of the time. When paired with the observation that plaintiffs in non job-related matters won 51% of the time, that 15% figure is stunning. […]

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How Your Vote Affects Civil Rights Decisions

June 29, 2012

Andrew Cohen, contributing editor at The Atlantic, discusses in Supreme Court Review: The Tyranny of the Majority how four of this week’s controversial decisions from the nation’s highest Court were decided by one vote. Cohen’s piece is a solid reminder that, despite the complexity and nuance of constitutional law, it is the ballot box during […]

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Supreme Court to Review Prop 8 and Sexual Orientation Discrimination

June 7, 2012

Tuesday’s decision in Perry v. Brown (the “Prop 8” case) means that roughly one year from now, it is likely that the United States Supreme Court will be giving its opinion on the now infamous 2008 ballot proposition that resulted in barring Californian gay couples from joining in marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy will ultimately decide the fate of […]

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