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Legal news from Thursday, June 4, 2009




State secrets privilege reform urged in House committee hearing
Andrew Morgan on June 4, 2009 4:23 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties [official website] on Thursday heard testimony [materials] on the state secrets privilege [JURIST news archive] in advance of consideration of the State Secret Protection Act [HR 984 text] that would reform the assertion of the privilege. Asa Hutchinson [JURIST op-ed], formerly a Republican member of Congress from Arkansas, director of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and undersecretary for the Department of Homeland Security [official websites] under president George W. Bush, and Patricia Wald, former Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website], both representing the Constitution Project's Liberty and Security Committee [advocacy website] testified in favor of the bill's passage. Arguing that Congress has the responsibility to reform the privilege through legislation, Hutchinson said [testimony, PDF]:


[t]he state secrets privilege ... has evolved from an evidentiary privilege into an immunity doctrine, which has blocked any litigation of cases involving national security programs. Over the past twenty years, courts have dismissed at least a dozen lawsuits on state secrets grounds without any independent review of the underlying evidence that purportedly would be subject to this privilege. Not only does this create an incentive for overreaching claims of secrecy by the executive branch, but it has prevented too many plaintiffs from having their day in court.

National Security Project Staff Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] Ben Wizner also testified [text, PDF] in support of the bill, pointing to the government's disparate treatment of state secrets in Mohammed v. Jeppesen Dataplan [complaint, PDF] and in testimony regarding the use of enhanced interrogation techniques [JURIST news archive]. Senior Legal Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation [advocacy website] Andrew Grossman [professional profile] testified that the bill unconstitutionally interferes with executive powers, that the current means of determining when to assert the privilege provided adequate safeguards, and that the assertion of the privilege has remained consistent throughout modern presidencies.

In April, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] rejected a state secrets claim [JURIST report] by the government in a suit alleging that Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan [corporate websites] supported direct flights to secret CIA prisons, facilitating the torture and mistreatment of US detainees. In February, the Ninth Circuit also denied a government appeal [JURIST report], seeking to assert the privilege in a lawsuit [JURIST report] brought by an Islamic charity alleging it was the subject of an illegal wiretap by the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website]. US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] in February ordered a review [JURIST report] of all government claims invoking the state secrets privilege, saying that each state secrets claim will be reviewed to make sure the privilege was invoked only in lawful situations. The Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] advanced similar legislation [JURIST report] last year that will need to be reconsidered this session.





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Rights groups urge Russia to enforce ECHR Chechnya judgments
Christian Ehret on June 4, 2009 2:43 PM ET

[JURIST] Rights groups on Thursday called for [HRW report] Russia to enforce European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] judgments regarding human rights violations in Chechnya [JURIST news archive]. Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Memorial Human Rights Center and Russian Justice Initiative [advocacy websites] expressed concerns that the Russian government is not acknowledging the 104 ECHR judgments condemning their refusal to properly investigate violations and their failure to hold wrong-doers accountable. The violations [chart, PDF] include extrajudicial executions, bombings, torture, and disappearances. In the court's most recent judgments [text], Russia was found to have violated the European Convention on Human Rights [text] provisions regarding the right to life, required effective investigations, illegal detainment, ill-treatment and others.

The ECHR has repeatedly ruled against Russia in human-rights cases involving Chechnya. In April, the ECHR ordered [JURIST report] Russia to pay a total of €282,000 to compensate the families of Chechen abduction victims. In March, the court ordered Russia [JURIST report] to pay €37,000 to a Russian national for the death of her husband, who was chopping wood when Russian troops killed him in 2000. In December, the court determined [JURIST report] Russia had violated the human rights of six other Chechens who disappeared between 2001 and 2003, and ordered Russia [ECHR news release] to pay the victims' families €320,000. Also in December, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile; JURIST news archive] proposed [transcript, in Russian] that Russian courts become more transparent [JURIST report] in order to restore faith in the justice system and prevent people from turning to the ECHR.






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UN rights expert calls for world court of human rights
Christian Ehret on June 4, 2009 12:58 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism [official website] has laid out plans to establish a global tribunal to prosecute private companies accused of human rights abuses. In an interview [text] last week with the Commonwealth Secretariat [advocacy website], Dr. Martin Scheinin [academic profile] said that his proposed "World Court of Human Rights" would enforce judgments on multinational companies to demand compensation for victims. Calling other options to hold companies and organizations responsible for human rights violations insufficient, Scheinin stressed the need for a formal procedure to do so. The Finnish international law expert proposed the idea for the world court because he remains unconvinced about whether international disputes can be properly dealt with in national courts. His full proposal, due to be released later this month, is to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text]. Scheinin addressed his concerns with globalization, stating:


To me, globalisation is a huge process of de-regulation, where the protective shield of national legislation falls away and exposes societies and individuals within them to the direct effect of multinationals and other international agents. Because of this phenomenon called globalisation, multinational corporations are now exercising powers that only states possessed previously.

Stating that human rights concerns are often focused on the rights of terrorist suspects, Scheinin highlighted the importance of addressing the human rights of victims.

US courts have statutory authority to hear human rights cases brought against US companies by foreign citizens under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) [28 USC § 1350 text]. In January, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] reversed [JURIST report] a district court opinion, reviving two lawsuits brought by Nigerian families against Pfizer under the ATCA. Last year, a class of plaintiffs from South Africa brought a suit [JURIST report] against US companies under the ATCA based on alleged complicity in perpetuating the oppression of the South African black majority.





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North Korea begins trial of captured US journalists
Andrew Morgan on June 4, 2009 12:49 PM ET

[JURIST] North Korean state media outlet Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) [media website, in Korean] announced Thursday that the Pyongyang Central Court has begun the trial of two US journalists [KCNA report, in Korean]. Laura Ling [professional website] and Euna Lee were arrested [JURIST report] in March for allegedly crossing into North Korea [Yonhap report] while reporting on North Korean refugees in China for Current TV [media website]. Ling and Lee are charged with unspecified "hostile acts," which the South Korea Ministry of Unification [official website] says may include espionage charges that carry a minimum sentence of five years in a labor camp. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] called the charges "baseless," and Phillip Crowley [official profile], Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, said [transcript] that "there is no higher priority that we have than protection of American civilians abroad. And we ... hope that North Korea will forego this legal process and return them to the United States." Free press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) [official website, in French] said that the women were arrested while conducting "solely journalistic" work, and called on the court to show lenience [press release, in French] by acquitting them on all charges.

The trial comes at a sensitive time for US-North Korean relations. Last week, North Korea conducted a second nuclear test [NYT report] in defiance of 2006 UN Security Council [official website] ban on nuclear or missile tests [Resolution 1718 text; JURIST report] by the country. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] and other world leaders condemned [statement text] the test. In April, North Korea also violated the resolution when it fired a rocket [NYT report] in an attempt to put a satellite into space and test its missile technology, after ordering UN nuclear inspectors out [press release] of the country. In October 2008, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [official website] head Mohamed ElBaradei [BBC profile] said he wants North Korea to return [JURIST report] to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [text, PDF; IAEA backgrounder] after a five-year absence. In 2007, North Korea agreed that it would end its nuclear weapons program [JURIST report] in exchange for aid as part of a multi-stage initiative by the Six Party Talks [CFR backgrounder].






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EU council agrees on policies for accepting Guantanamo detainees
Christian Ehret on June 4, 2009 11:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The Council of the European Union [official website] agreed [press release] Thursday on parameters for the acceptance of released Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees by European Union (EU) [official website] member states. The council concluded that those member states that are willing to receive released detainees should only accept those who are cleared for release, do not face prosecution in the US, and have compelling reasons to not return to their home countries. After the meeting in Luxembourg, an EU official stated that member states are likely to take in several dozen [AP report] former detainees. Taking note of a US request for assistance in finding residences for released prisoners, the council found that acceptance of these people by member states or Schengen associated countries [European Navigator backgrounder] will be relevant for other countries "in regard to internal security." Noting this concern, the council stated the importance of consultation and information sharing amongst the member states before and after making decisions regarding receiving former detainees. The council called upon member states to:


take into account the public order and security concerns including those of other Member States so as to avoid former detainees compromising the public order or internal security of the Member States and Schengen associated countries and also call upon the receiving Member States, without prejudice to possible support from United States, to promote integration of the persons concerned through appropriate measures , while fully respecting their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Although the council welcomed US President Barack Obama's decision to close the detention facility [JURIST news archive], they reaffirmed that the primary responsibility for finding residence for former detainees lies with the US. Additionally, the council made it clear that their conclusions should not be interpreted as a request for unwilling countries to receive former detainees.

In May, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith confirmed [JURIST report] that Australia is considering an Obama administration request to accept six of the Uighur Guantanamo detainees. Tunisia recently stated that they are prepared to accept [JURIST report] the return of 10 Tunisians currently detained at Guantanamo. Also in May, the US released [JURIST report] Algerian detainee Lakhar Boumediene to France after the French government expressed their interest in accepting one prisoner as part of a symbolic measure [JURIST report] to assist in the closing of the facility. In March, US officials met with leaders from the EU to discuss plans [JURIST report] to transfer detainees to European countries. Individual member states have also indicated their openness to accepting detainees, including Lithuania, Ireland, and Portugal [JURIST reports]. Other states have expressed reservations about accepting detainees, including Poland and Spain, while Italy [JURIST reports] and the Netherlands [AFP report] have said they will not accept detainees.





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Rights advocates urge reform on 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square uprising
Andrew Morgan on June 4, 2009 10:24 AM ET

[JURIST] Human rights and democracy advocates on Thursday called on the Chinese government to investigate the 1989 uprising in Beijing's Tiananmen Square [BBC backgrounder], to release people imprisoned in connection with the uprising and human rights advocacy, to provide an accurate count of those killed in the governments response to the uprising, and to accept the reforms outlined in the Charter 08 [text] proposal. Writing in the Los Angeles Times [media website] Wang Dan, formerly the "most wanted" student leader of the uprising, said [op-ed] that while the economic progress in China since the uprising has benefited many Chinese, "economic growth has not led to liberty, a free press or democracy." Wang said that China's economic success has been used to "justify one-party rule" and resulted in a political system "riddled with corruption" that must be adapted to accommodate the rule of law and basic human rights. Wang and eight other exiled student leaders called on the Chinese people [AFP report] during a press conference in Washington to push for political reforms which they said are "currently turning in the direction of the people." Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the government to publish verifiable casualty figures [press release], saying that "20 years of denial and repression have only caused the wounds of Tiananmen to fester, not heal." US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] released a statement [text] Wednesday saying that China's new-found role as a global leader means that it should "examine openly the darker events of its past and provide a public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, both to learn and to heal." On Tuesday the US House of Representatives [official website] passed a resolution [text] commemorating the 20th anniversary of the uprising, calling for an investigation into the violent response, and calling for the release of political prisoners. Chinese police restricted access [AP report] to Tiananmen Square and arrested or restricted the movement [AI report] of activists to prevent public commemoration of the anniversary.

The Tiananmen protests began in April of 1989 with mainly students and laborers protesting the Communist Party of China. The Chinese government declared martial law in May, and initiated the violent dispersal of protesters by the People's Liberation Army on June 4. The Chinese government has never publicized official figures, but the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy [advocacy website] reported last year that unnamed sources had estimated 600 people were killed [ICHR report, in Chinese]. In August 2008, Chinese authorities released [JURIST report] activist Hu Shigen [profile], sentenced to 20 years in prison for carrying out counterrevolutionary propaganda, including organizing events commemorating the uprising. Last June, HRW urged Chinese authorities [JURIST report] to release remaining political prisoners in advance of the 2008 Summer Olympics, and to reverse its "counterrevolutionary rebellion" classification of the 1989 protests, which the government has consistently refused to do [AFP report].






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Netherlands high court head proposes code of conduct for critical lawmakers
Andrew Morgan on June 4, 2009 8:38 AM ET

[JURIST] The president of the Hoge Raad der Nederlanden [official website, in Dutch], the highest court in the Netherlands, on Thursday called for a code of conduct for politicians limiting their public statements on court rulings, after comments he says have undermined the judiciary's role. Geert Corstens [HiiL profile] said in a television interview [Juridisch Dagblad report, in Dutch] that increasingly open criticism of judicial rulings by politicians undermines the courts' work and shows a lack of respect for the role of the court as an equal branch of the Dutch government. Dutch MP's have rejected [Expatica report] the proposal, saying that public discourse on public issues was not improper.

Last month, Dutch MPs were publicly critical of the court's decision not to automatically double the penalty for people convicted of violence towards police officers, reasoning that violence was part of police work [Dutch News report; Telegraaf report, in Dutch]. MPs also criticized [Dutch News report] the decision by the Amsterdam Appeals Court [official website] to move forward with the prosecution of Party for Freedom (PVV) [party website, in Dutch] MP Geert Wilders [personal website] for hate crimes related to his anti-immigration film Fitna and public comments about the "islamification" of Dutch society.






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Federal judge dismisses suits against telecom industry for wiretapping assistance
Christian Ehret on June 4, 2009 8:24 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge on Wednesday upheld [opinion, PDF] a federal statute that gave immunity to telecom companies from liability associated with assisting the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] with eavesdropping, dismissing 46 lawsuits [opinion, PDF] against the telecom industry. Additionally, the judge granted an injunction against five states, ordering state officials to cease their investigations into wiretapping activities. The injunctions were originally sought by the government in 2006 under the Supremacy Clause [text] but were denied by the court on the grounds that the states' investigations "did not violate the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity, were not preempted by federal statutes and did not infringe on the government's power over foreign affairs to a constitutionally impermissible degree." Congress then passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FISAAA) [text, PDF], amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) [materials text], which contains provisions prohibiting state investigations into a telecom provider's assistance to government intelligence among other provisions. Additionally, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] remanded a class action suit brought by AT&T customers whose private communications records were handed over to the NSA "in light of the FISA Amendments Act." District judge Vaughn Walker ruled Wednesday that these "two important developments have altered the posture of these cases," holding that the state investigations are now prohibited and, as a result, dismissed the consolidated lawsuits against the telecom companies. Because the grant of immunity contained in the FISAAA only applies to disputes over eavesdropping activities authorized between September 11, 2001 and January 7, 2007, Walker dismissed the suits without prejudice, allowing the petitioners to tailor their complaints to include allegations arising after January, 2007. Addressing federal preemption, the court held that:

The United States invokes the concepts of field and conflict preemption in arguing that Congress intended to “cover the field,” leaving no supplemental role for the states.

The court agrees with the United States: section 803 does not violate the Tenth amendment because it does not “commandeer” state officials; rather, it prohibits them from investigating certain activities initiated by federal agencies that are “element[s] of the intelligence community.” Because intelligence activities in furtherance of national security goals are primarily the province of the federal government, Congressional action preempting state activities in this context is especially uncontroversial from the standpoint of federalism.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy websites] plan to appeal [press release] the ruling, saying that it is now up to the appeals court to stand up for the Constitution and reverse the decision.

The FISAAA was signed by former president Bush in 2008. In May, the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] reported to Congress [JURIST report] that 2,083 wiretap and search requests for investigating terrorism suspects were granted in 2008 through FISA, a decline from 2,370 in 2007. In January, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review made public [JURIST report] a ruling [opinion, PDF] from August 2008 that upheld the Protect America Act [text], a 2007 amendment to FISA that allows warrantless wiretaps of international phone and e-mail communications. After the amendment, warrants are still required to monitor purely domestic communications.





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US shifting focus of immigration enforcement from raids to employers
Brian Jackson on June 4, 2009 7:47 AM ET

[JURIST] US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] Secretary Janet Napolitano [official profile] said Wednesday that the US government will begin to enforce immigration policy more strictly by targeting employers directly [transcript], rather than through continued use of controversial workplace raids. While attending a roundtable discussion [materials] at the Aspen Institute [organization website], a public policy think tank, Napolitano added that she was asking Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] for assistance with prosecutions. Napolitano said:

There has been a lot of controversy about so-called work-site raids, whether those were effective, whether they were separating families, whether they were placing fear into people and the like. And we really have looked at that issue and said, look, we need to do work site enforcement. You can't just do immigration enforcement at the border.

You have to have interior enforcement to go along with it, and the primary driver of illegal immigration is the labor market, so you have to go after the pull that that market is creating. That means you have to go after employers who are hiring illegal labor. But we really weren't going after employers and we weren't really focused on the time and effort it takes to develop a case, to show that a particular employer was intentionally hiring illegal labor and the law requires us to be able to prove that knowing is knowledge and intent. ...

I work with the U.S. Attorney's offices to bring those cases. I've talked a lot with Eric Holder, the AG, about opening the door for the U.S. Attorneys' offices for those cases; and so that is kind of, as we turn this big boat with different emphases, that is one emphasis that we do have.
Napolitano's suggestion is in line withthe current administration's proposed overhaul [release] of US immigration policy. Also on Wednesday, Holder vacated [order, PDF; JURIST report] an order [text, PDF] by former attorney general Michael Mukasey [JURIST news archive] that had denied those facing deportation the right to challenge immigration decisions based on ineffective assistance of counsel claims. In February, Napolitano called for a review [JURIST report] of workplace raids conducted by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] officers. ICE has arrested [JURIST report] many non-criminal illegal immigrants in the past year, many of whom were imprisoned [JURIST report]. In April 2008, Seton Hall Law School's Center for Social Justice filed a lawsuit [Star-Ledger report] claiming that warrantless immigration raids violate the US Constitution.





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US AG Holder reverses order denying deportees ineffective counsel claim
Devin Montgomery on June 4, 2009 7:40 AM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] on Wednesday vacated [order, PDF; press release] an order [text, PDF] by former attorney general Michael Mukasey [JURIST news archive] that had denied those facing deportation the right to challenge immigration decisions based on ineffective assistance of counsel claims. Mukasey's order had held that the Fifth Amendment [LII backgrounder] right to effective assistance of counsel did not extend to those facing deportation. Holder vacated the order without specifically addressing the constitutional points, saying that such a decision should be made only after a period of public comment and a more formal rule-making procedure. Holder ordered the Executive Office of Immigration Review [official website] to consider the issue, solicit comment, and make a rule on the matter if appropriate:


The integrity of immigration proceedings depends in part on the ability to assert claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, and the Department of Justice’s rulemaking in this area will be fair, it will be transparent, and it will be guided by our commitment to the rule of law... It is important that the American people have the opportunity to participate in formulating our procedures in this area, and this new process will ensure they do.

Both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) [press releases] voiced support for Holder's decision.

The administration of US President Barack Obama has taken several recent steps to distance itself from immigration policies of the previous George W. Bush administration. In May, Obama proposed a budget that would cut funding [JURIST report] for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) [program website], a program which provides for the incarceration of illegal immigrants. In April, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appointed former federal prosecutor Alan Bersin [JURIST report] as assistant secretary for international affairs and special representative for border affairs to oversee illegal immigration and anti-crime efforts along US borders. In February, the Cardozo School of Law summarized the Bush administration immigration policies as ineffective [JURIST report].





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Ninth Circuit upholds resolution urging Catholics to permit same-sex adoptions
Brian Jackson on June 4, 2009 6:52 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday held [opinion, PDF] that a San Francisco resolution [text, PDF] urging the Vatican to withdraw a directive against same-sex adoptions does not violate the Establishment Clause. The resolution was passed in response to the Vatican's directive that Catholic social service agencies should not place children in same-sex households. The court, in an opinion by Judge Richard Paez, affirmed a lower court's dismissal of the suit brought by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights [advocacy website]. While the Board of Supervisors for the City and County of San Francisco [official website] asserted that the resolution was passed for secular reasons, the Catholic League argued that the resolution was designed to attack Catholic beliefs. The Court agreed with the Board's analysis, saying:


the objective observer would conclude that the Board’s purpose in adopting the Resolution was to respond to a public action that would affect both its gay and lesbian constituents, as well as the children in the City and County’s jurisdiction. The Board’s focus was on same-sex couples, not Catholics.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Marsha Berzon wrote that while the result is in line with current Establishment Clause jurisprudence, she was troubled by how close the San Francisco resolution came to the establishment of an anti-Catholic stance.

Adoption by same-sex couples has recently become a controversial issue. In November, a Florida court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that a ban on adopting children for same-sex couples was unconstitutional, allowing a couple to adopt two children. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] upheld [opinion, PDF] the same Florida statute in 2005 as being rationally related to protecting the interests of children, and the US Supreme Court declined to review [WP report] that decision. In November, Arkansas voters approved [JURIST report] a ballot measure [JURIST report] prohibiting gays, lesbians, and other unmarried cohabiting couples from becoming either foster or adoptive parents.





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New Hampshire governor signs same-sex marriage bill into law
Devin Montgomery on June 4, 2009 6:16 AM ET

[JURIST] New Hampshire Governor John Lynch [official website] on Wednesday signed into law [press release] legislation [text] allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in the state, provided that religious clergy and organizations and their employees will not be required to participate in the services or recognize the unions. The New Hampshire Senate and House of Representatives passed [roll call] the bill earlier in the day. Earlier versions of the bill had separately failed to be approved by either the governor or House of Representatives [JURIST reports], based on disagreements over exemptions for religious groups and people. Signing the bill, Lynch said that its final version protected the rights of both same-sex couples and religious objectors to the marriages:

New Hampshire’s great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections. That tradition continues today.

Two years ago in this room, I signed civil unions into law. That law gave same-sex couples in New Hampshire the rights and protections of marriage. And while civil unions was recognized as a step forward, many same-sex couples made compelling arguments that a separate system is not an equal system. They argued that what might appear to be a minor difference in wording to some, lessened the dignity and legitimacy of their families.At the same time, the word “marriage” has significant and religious connotations to many of our citizens. They had concerns that this legislation would interfere with the ability of religious groups to freely practice their faiths.

Today, we are standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear that they will receive the same rights, responsibilities - and respect - under New Hampshire law. Today, we are also standing up for religious liberties. This legislation makes clear that we understand that certain faiths do not recognize same-sex marriage, and it protects them from having to participate in marriage-related activities that violate their fundamental religious principles.
Gay rights advocacy group Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) [advocacy website] applauded [press release] the passage of the bill, but opponents said it should have also exempted [NYT report] other professions frequently involved in wedding ceremonies from participating in the services. The law will take effect on January 1, 2010.

The law makes New Hampshire the sixth state to provide for same-sex marriage. Earlier this week, the Nevada Assembly passed [JURIST report] a same-sex partnership bill over a gubernatorial veto. Last month, the New York State Assembly [official website] passed a bill [JURIST report] that would allow same-sex marriages to be performed in the state. That bill will now go before the state senate. Earlier last month, Maine became the fifth state to allow same-sex marriage [JURIST report] when Governor John Baldacci [official website] signed a same-sex marriage bill into law. In April, Vermont became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through a vote of the legislature, joining Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa [JURIST reports] as the other states that allow same-sex marriage.





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