poetics, time, body disruption and marginally queer solutions

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Appeals judges order lower court to reconsider transsexual's lawsuit
Associated Press

CINCINNATI - A federal appeals court ordered a court Tuesday to reconsider a lawsuit by a transsexual firefighter who said the city of Salem violated her rights by suspending her after she disclosed she was changing her gender to become a woman.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a federal judge in Youngstown erred last year by dismissing the claims of the fire lieutenant, known as Jimmie L. Smith. The appeals judges said Smith had presented evidence that supported her claims of gender discrimination and civil rights violations.

The appeals court on Tuesday reinstated the lawsuit and sent it back to U.S. District Judge Peter Economus.

Smith's lawyer, Randi Barnabee, said she was pleased with the ruling. She said the case isn't likely to go to trial before next year.


jurisprudence The law, lawyers, and the court.
Courting Trouble
A story of love, marriage, and litigation strategy.
By Richard Thompson Ford

The California Supreme Court appears poised to hold that the City and County of San Francisco exceeded its delegated authority when it issued more than 4,000 California marriage licenses to same-sex couples earlier this year. Supporters of same-sex marriage will be understandably disappointed, but given the poor timing and framing of the dispute, this is probably the best outcome we could have expected.

In a perfect world of Herculean judges, impervious to political fallout and immune to emotional appeals, it wouldn't matter how and when issues of social justice reached the courts; even unsympathetic litigants with bad timing would prevail if the abstract legal principle they sought to vindicate was just. But in the real world, timing and framing matter as much for civil rights as for garden variety political fights.

Case in point: In Massachusetts, same-sex couples are now receiving valid marriage licenses. That's because in Massachusetts, unlike in San Francisco, proponents of same-sex marriage took their time and did what the civil rights lawyers who win cases usually do: They identified a sympathetic court and political climate, carefully selected a compelling plaintiff, litigated the constitutional issue in court, and secured a judicial victory. Indeed, Mary Bonauto, the attorney who led the litigation team in Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Health, put her fingers to the political winds and waited for years until she felt the climate was right to argue that the commonwealth's constitution required Massachusetts to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.


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