Equal rights for gay people imperiled by Arkansas judicial politics | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Equal rights for gay people imperiled by Arkansas judicial politics

Posted By on Sun, Jun 22, 2014 at 7:26 AM

JUSTICE COURTNEY GOODSON: Her expected candidacy for chief justice could figure in efforts to intimidate the court on marriage equality ruling.
  • JUSTICE COURTNEY GOODSON: Her expected candidacy for chief justice could figure in efforts to intimidate the court on marriage equality ruling.
John Lyonwriting for Stephens Media, makes clear what's afoot in Sen. Jason Rapert's little demagoguery at the Legislative Council last week with his resolution decrying Judge Chris Piazza's marriage equality ruling. It's all about intimidating the Arkansas Supreme Court, where an appeal of Piazza's ruling is pending.

Rapert and Jerry Cox, leader of the gay hate group known as the "Family" Council, make clear that a judicial recall law  will be their next ballot initiative if the Arkansas Supreme Court upholds Piazza. If it doesn't affirm Piazza, it will be the first court in the land that holds the U.S. Constitution provides equal rights and due process to everyone but gay people.

Given the growing politicization of the Arkansas Supreme Court, I'm not sanguine about the chances of Piazza being upheld.  It's all about the next election with some of the justices. Associate Justice Courtney Goodson is mounting a concerted effort to be elected chief justice in 2016 and has been wooing Justices Karen Baker and Jo Hart to form a ruling coalition on the court. Baker, I've been told reliably, put together a rump four votes while justices were out of town on a convention to force the staying of Piazza's ruling after 500 people had been legally married under it and dozens more were rushing to county clerks offices. It was a gloomy harbinger for the future decision.

If conservative social issue rulings are deemed necessary by members of this court for political reasons, aid can be predicted from Rhonda Wood, who'll join the court in January. She essentially ran as a Republican (anti-gay, in other words) and has relied throughout her political career on Mike Huckabee as a robocalling supporter. Huckabee is one of the strongest opponents of equal treatment of gay people on the American scene today, having depicted supporters of marriage equality as being on a par with Nazis. Huckabee has been flaying judges who've invoked the Constitution for gay rights. Would Wood dare cross her patron?

Here's the good news whatever happens in state court. The bigots like Rapert and Cox can't pass a law giving recall power to Arkansas voters over federal judges. A lawsuit over discrimination against gay people lodges there as well. (PS: I don't think there's a chance in hell Pulaski voters would recall Chris Piazza even if the law allowed it.)

Black people should be thankful that Rapert and Cox weren't around in the 1950s and 1960s, not that Arkansas state court judges did much for equal rights then. Rapert and Cox don't like to talk about it, but "we the people" overwhelmingly passed racial discrimination laws and a constitutional segregation amendment that stayed on the books until 1992. The bigots claimed Biblical ground for racial discrimination, too.

Only federal judges who cited the U.S. Constitution delivered equality to black people in the bad old days. And, in Arkansas, federal troops were required as well.

I've no doubt that Rapert and Cox can whip up fundamentalist church members to push to the ballot any number of oppressive attacks on people they don't like. They've oppressed women in restricting medical rights and oppressed people attempting to build adoptive and foster families. Courts have placed limits on these past efforts.

Also, it just might be the legislature isn't — yet — quite as bad as the Raperts and Coxes hope it someday will be.

Rapert, for example, fell far short of a majority of the entire legislature in lining up sponsors of his meaningless pro-hate resolution, which passed on a voice vote of a subgroup of the legislature. And there was this in Lyon's article:

Cox also said he would support impeaching Piazza, though he acknowledged that legislative support is currently lacking for that approach. 

That's something.

If Cox really cared about judicial activism, he might do something about Citizens United or other of the many recent legislating rulings by the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court. But, of course, legislating from the bench is objectionable only when you don't like the outcome.

JUDICIAL POLITICS PS: You can't really talk about Courtney Goodson's political ambitions without talking about her husband, political power player John Goodson, the class action lawyer and UA Board member. His allies poured money into Karen Baker's campaign as well as Rhonda Wood's campaign. Trial lawyers also came through with significant money to help pay off most of Jo Hart's campaign debt. The hottest rumor in judicial circles is that Goodson money — or friend-of-Goodson money — was behind the stealth campaigns that trashed Tim Cullen in his race against Robin Wynne for Arkansas Supreme Court. Why get into that race, besides potentially chumming up to Wynne? One theory is to send a message about how cheaply a Supreme Court campaign can be bought in Arkansas. $400,000 is chump change to a multi-millionaire like Goodson. But it shows a would-be challenger what he or she might be up against.

Tags: , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (27)

Showing 1-27 of 27

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-27 of 27

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • The assault weapon open line

    The open line. And report of the arrest of a man with an AR-15 who threatened to shoot people at a Springdale business.
    • Feb 17, 2018
  • A primary challenger for Rep. Laurie Rushing

    Blue Hog Report has some news on a Republican primary challenge of an incumbent legislator, Rep. Laurie Rushing, by Ernie Hinz of Hot Springs.
    • Feb 17, 2018
  • A common-sense gun measure draws no sponsors from Arkansas

    Republicans, including at least one from Arkansas, are talking about repealing the Dickey Amendment which prohibits gun research from a public health perspective. But none of them are yet willing to DO anything about it.
    • Feb 17, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Medical marijuana backers: Health Department opposition 'disingenuous' and 'cruel'

    Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group behind the first medical marijuana initiative to qualify for the ballot, has responded sharply to yesterday's statement by the Arkansas Health Department that it opposes legal medical use of marijuana.
    • Jul 13, 2016
  • Is Arkansas in or out on Kobach voter data effort?

    The Washington Post has published a map that counts Arkansas as among states that will "partially comply" with a sweeping request for voter data by the so-called election integrity commission set up by Donald Trump in an effort to cast doubt on Hillary Clinton's 3 million-vote popular defeat of him in 2016.
    • Jul 2, 2017
  • Deputy killed, police chief wounded in Sebastian County. Suspect in custody

    40/29 TV reports that two law officers were shot about 7 a.m. today near Hackett in Sebastian County and at mid-afternoon came word that one of them had died. Later in the day a suspect was taken into custody in the shooting.
    • Aug 10, 2016

Most Shared

  • A mayor stands up against freeway widening. No. Not in Little Rock.

    Another booming city, Indianapolis, fights ever wider urban freeways. Meanwhile, back in Little Rock .....
  • In the margins

    A rediscovered violin concerto brings an oft-forgotten composer into the limelight.
  • Donald Trump is historically unpopular — and not necessarily where you think

    My colleagues John Ray and Jesse Bacon and I estimate, in the first analysis of its kind for the 2018 election season, that the president's waning popularity isn't limited to coastal cities and states. The erosion of his electoral coalition has spread to The Natural State, extending far beyond the college towns and urban centers that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. From El Dorado to Sherwood, Fayetteville to Hot Springs, the president's approval rating is waning.
  • Arkansans join House vote to gut Americans with Disabilities Act

    Despite fierce protests from disabled people, the U.S. House voted today, mostly on party lines, to make it harder to sue businesses for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course Arkansas congressmen were on the wrong side.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The assault weapon open line

    • "Americans Mark Second Straight President's Day Without One."--Andy Borowitz "It is unfair that Trump has…

    • on February 17, 2018
  • Re: A common-sense gun measure draws no sponsors from Arkansas

    • If mental health problems were slaughtering everyone other countries would have the same problem but…

    • on February 17, 2018
  • Re: An open line to end the week

    • Mag--if you copied your post from and earlier thread, it doesn't contain the full link…

    • on February 17, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation