May 26th, 2009
04:33 PM ET

Why you should keep an eye on June 7

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Joe Von kanel
CNN Writer/Editor

You may have noticed that Vice President Joe Biden was in Lebanon last Friday. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a visit last month. What's the sudden attraction of going to Lebanon? An upcoming election there could be very interesting!

Lebanon's Parliament is up for grabs and unlike any legislative body in the U.S., all 128 seats in the Lebanese Parliament are determined by religion: Christians and Muslims each get 64 seats – exactly half. Since Christians haven't been united for centuries, various Christian denominations are guaranteed a certain number of seats. The largest single bloc, 34 seats, goes to the Maronite Christians.

Of course, Muslims aren't united either. The two major sects - the Sunni and Shia– get 27 seats each. Lebanon's Shiite political party Hezbollah - yes, the same Hezbollah that the U.S. has labeled a "terrorist organization - has brokered a coalition of Shiite parties that has thrown-in with the Maronite Christians. The groups are running on a "reform" agenda, promising to clean-up corruption. Guess who could win? And guess who the U.S. really doesn't want to win? The U.S. is backing a Sunni-dominated counter-alliance.

The election is on June 7th. We'll be watching!

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Global 360° • Hezbollah • Joe Biden
May 26th, 2009
04:22 PM ET

Why Obama picked a judge

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Michael C. Dorf
Special to CNN

With the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, President Obama has hit the trifecta: As a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton and an editor of the Yale Law Journal, Judge Sotomayor clearly has the intellectual chops to handle the work of the high court.

Born and raised in a Puerto Rican family in the South Bronx, Sotomayor's personal story is an inspiring tale of personal achievement. And as someone originally appointed to the federal district court by the first President Bush, she will be perceived as, and in fact is, a moderate liberal who should easily win confirmation by a Democratic Senate.

The nomination will nonetheless disappoint some critics who worry that every justice, including Sotomayor, if confirmed, will have come directly from the federal appellate bench. None of the current justices has ever held any major elective office.

Yet former politicians have served with distinction on the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O'Connor was a state legislator. Hugo Black was a U.S. senator. Earl Warren and Charles Evans Hughes were governors. And William Howard Taft was president before becoming chief justice.

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May 26th, 2009
02:36 PM ET

The Prop 8 decision – and dissent

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more on the ruling on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/05/04/samesex.marriage.poll/art.samesex.marriage.gi.jpg caption="A recent poll shows that those who have a gay friend or relative are more likely to support gay marriage."]

Barclay Palmer
AC360° Senior Producer

The California Supreme Court's 6-1 ruling was 135 pages, but its key rationale that Prop 8 was a "permissible" amendment to California's constitution was summed up in a few lines.

The dissent, summed up in two paragraphs, joined same-sex marriage proponents in arguing that Prop 8 violates the "equal protection" clause of the California constitution and federal civil rights law.

Many believe that the ruling will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, or that there will be another voter referendum on it.

Here are key quotes from the ruling - and the dissent.

From the ruling by Chief Justice George:

In summary, we conclude that Proposition 8 constitutes a permissible constitutional amendment (rather than an impermissible constitutional revision), does not violate the separation of powers doctrine, and is not invalid under the “inalienable rights” theory proffered by the Attorney General. We further conclude that Proposition 8 does not apply retroactively and therefore that the marriages of same-sex couples performed prior to the effective date of Proposition 8 remain valid.

Having determined that none of the constitutional challenges to the adoption of Proposition 8 have merit, we observe that if there is to be a change to the state constitutional rule embodied in that measure, it must “find its expression at the ballot box.”

From the dissent by Justice Moreno:

Proposition 8 represents an unprecedented instance of a majority of voters altering the meaning of the equal protection clause by modifying the California Constitution to require deprivation of a fundamental right on the basis of a suspect classification. The majority’s holding is not just a defeat for same-sex couples, but for any minority group that seeks the protection of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.

This could not have been the intent of those who devised and enacted the initiative process. In my view, the aim of Proposition 8 and all similar initiative measures that seek to alter the California Constitution to deny a fundamental right to a group that has historically been subject to discrimination on the basis of a suspect classification, violates the essence of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and fundamentally alters its scope and meaning. Such a change cannot be accomplished through the initiative process by a simple amendment to our Constitution enacted by a bare majority of the voters; it must be accomplished, if at all, by a constitutional revision to modify the equal protection clause to protect some, rather than all, similarly situated persons. I would therefore hold that Proposition 8 is not a lawful amendment of the California Constitution.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Barclay Palmer • Proposition 8
May 26th, 2009
02:21 PM ET

Sotomayor: A Policy Maker or a Jurist?

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Tony Perkins
AC360° Contributor
President, Family Research Council

This morning President Obama announced his nominee to the nation’s highest court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins released the following statement:

“President Obama has chosen a nominee with a compelling personal story over a judicial pick with a solid constitutional judicial philosophy. A compelling personal story is no substitute for allegiance to the Constitution and its sound application to public life.

“Judge Sotomayor’s failure to premise her decisions on the text of the Constitution has resulted in an extremely high rate of reversal before the high court to which she has been nominated.

“With that fact in mind Judge Sotomayor appears to subscribe to a very liberal judicial philosophy that considers it appropriate for judges to impose their personal views from the bench. President Obama promised us a jurist committed to the ‘rule of law,’ but, instead, he appears to have nominated a legislator to the Supreme Court.

“For example, in 2001 when delivering the Judge Mario G. Olmos Law and Cultural Diversity Lecture at the University of California-Berkeley Law School, Sotomayor stated: ‘I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.’

“Needless to say, that statement is troubling – if not offensive – on many levels. As the distinguished legal reporter Stuart Taylor of the National Journal observed about that speech and of Sotomayor, ‘her thinking is representative of the Democratic Party’s powerful identity-politics wing.’


Filed under: 360° Radar • Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
May 26th, 2009
02:20 PM ET

Remembering what it's about

Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor and In Session anchor

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Another Memorial Day has come and gone: Cookouts, baseball games and parades. And that’s okay; but let’s not forget the real purpose of the day: To remember the men and women of our armed services who have died at war.

At Arlington National Cemetery, soldiers, sailors and marines from the U.S. Army Old Guard placed flags at the grave stones there. It took thirteen hundred soldiers three hours to place a flag at each of the more than 300,000 gravestones.

Thousands of visitors paid their respects, not only at Arlington, but at the Long Island National Cemetery, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, in Honolulu, and of course at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., and all across the country.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Jami Floyd • Memorial Day
May 26th, 2009
01:49 PM ET

California high court upholds same-sex marriage ban

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California's Supreme Court upheld Tuesday a ban on same-sex marriages that state voters passed in November, but it allowed about 18,000 same-sex marriages performed before the ban to remain valid.

The ruling was met with chants of "shame on you" from a crowd of about 1,000 people who gathered outside the court building in San Francisco.

The court made the ruling on the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Opponents wanted the amendment nullified. They said the proposition alters California's Constitution and, therefore, under state law, was a revision that requires a constitutional convention.

Attorneys for the opponents also said the proposition, which removed the "marriage" label from same-sex unions, effectively deprived same-sex couples of a fundamental right guaranteed them under the equal-protection clause in the U.S. Constitution.

Justices asked many questions when they heard arguments in the case in March but didn't indicate which way they leaned, instead focusing on winnowing out each attorney's individual argument on the issue.

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May 26th, 2009
01:36 PM ET

Lt. Dan Choi embraces a life of activism

Editor's Note: Lt. Daniel Cho is a founding member of Knights Out, an organization of out Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) West Point Alumni. He is a client of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which provides free legal services to those affected by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. An estimated 65,000 LGBT Americans serve in the armed forces.

Army National Guard Lt. Dan Choi, who is challenging the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, speaks before a group of more than 100 opposed to California's ban against same-sex marriages.

Lt. Dan Choi, an Iraqi war veteran challenging the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, is greeted at Los Angeles International Airport by his sister Grace Choi, who made him a "Don't Hide" t-shirt.


May 26th, 2009
01:20 PM ET

American Diabetes Association applauds Sotomayor nomination

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The American Diabetes Association

President Obama's nomination of Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States affirms that people with diabetes should not be discriminated against and each person with diabetes should be judged based on his or her merits, not on stereotypes or misinformation about diabetes.

"In the days leading up to this nomination, there were several media reports suggesting that Judge Sotomayor should not be considered for this position simply because she has type 1 diabetes," said R. Paul Robertson, MD, President, Medicine & Science, American Diabetes Association. "The advancements in the management of type 1 diabetes have been just amazing over the last two decades and the ability of people to manage their diabetes successfully has been proven. People with diabetes can function and live a long and healthy life."

As this process moves forward, the diabetes community expects that Judge Sotomayor's nomination will be evaluated based on her qualifications and years of experience – and not her diabetes. To evaluate her in any other way would be a disservice to the United States.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Sonia Sotomayor
May 26th, 2009
01:15 PM ET

Video: Perry Mason influenced Judge Sotomayor

Watch this Perry Mason clip of "The Case of the Deadly Verdict." During her childhood, Judge Sotomayor apparently watched a lot of Perry mason and is said to have been inspired into law by the series.

May 26th, 2009
01:06 PM ET

Tears of joy for justice

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/05/26/supreme.court/art.scotus.soto.02.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama on Tuesday introduces Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his choice for the U.S. Supreme Court."]

Michael Olivas
Special to CNN

I recently saw an old episode of "West Wing," where Edward James Olmos, playing a fictional Puerto Rican federal judge, was nominated to become the first Latino on the U.S. Supreme Court. I cried, thinking how remote this possibility seemed, yet how close.

Now that Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been nominated by President Barack Obama to the Court, that episode finally rings true. When I heard the news, I wept, for the long-overdue acknowledgement that Latinos matter.

Judge Sotomayor's life and legal career are arcs possible only in this country: a hardscrabble life in a south Bronx housing project, educational opportunities made possible by her own intelligence and hard work, and a legal career devoted to public service. When she assumes her position on the bench in October, no other justice will have had the depth of legal experience she holds, and none will have served as a trial judge.

The sum of her life is exactly what we should look for on this court: excellent academic credentials, an accomplished legal career in private and government practice, and appointments to federal benches by Republican and Democrat presidents. Her decisions have been well-reasoned and well-written, and she will ably take her place on the Supreme Court bench.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
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