Archive for the ‘New York state’ Tag

New Mexico abolishes death penalty

New Mexico has a great flag; it was rated #1 in the Union in a 2001 NAVA survey

New Mexico has a great flag; it was rated #1 in the Union in a 2001 NAVA survey

New Mexico’s governor, Bill Richardson, signed a bill that abolishes capital punishment in that state—at least henceforth; the two people currently on death row in the Land of Enchantment will stay there. For crimes committed after 1 July of this year the maximum penalty will be life in prison without the possibility of parole.

New Mexico is the second state to abolish capital punishment since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976.  New Jersey did so in 2007.  The state used the death penalty very sparringly, only executing one person since 1960.

Richardson said that over 12,000 people contacted his office by phone, e-mail, snail mail, or in person; over three-quarters supported repeal.  While he used to support capital punishment, he cites the possibility of executing an innocent person and the racial disparity in the penalty’s application as reasons for abolishing it.

There are now 15 states without the death penalty; two of them, Nebraska and New York, had existing statutes declared unconstitutional by their Supreme Courts and have yet to pass new laws.  About 22.25% of all Americans live in a state without the death penalty.  Many others, including Maryland, are considering abolishing it.

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Same-sex marriage now legal in Connecticut

The Flag of Connecticut, which isn't very good

The Flag of Connecticut, another "state seal on a field of blue." Yawn.

The Supreme Court of Connecticut released a 4-3 decision today that strikes down the state law that limited marriage to opposite-sex couples only, saying it violated the state constitution’s equal protection provisions.  As the decision in the case, Kerrigan v. Commissioner, is based on the state constitution, it is not reviewable by the United States Supreme Court.  The eight plaintiffs, headed up by Joanne Mock and Beth Kerrigan, first filed suit in 2004; the case had been working its way through the court system since then.

Connecticut passed a civil unions law in 2005 which extended all of the state benefits and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples.  However, this did not make such couples available for all the numerous federal benefits of marriage that they will now be eligible for.  The state’s governor, Republican Jodi Rell, said that

The Supreme Court has spoken. . . . I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut. However, I am also firmly convinced that attempts to reverse this decision, either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution, will not meet with success. I will therefore abide by the ruling.

Of course, courts should pay no attention to the popular will—that is for people who make and execute laws to do.  Courts simply rule on what the law is and requires.

The process to amend the Connecticut Constitution is rather involved, Nevertheless, some opponents have mentioned trying to get a question on the ballot next month, which in itself is a long shot.  Even if that happened, and the question on amending were answered in the affirmative, it would still require action by the legislature and subsequent approval by the voters, which couldn’t happen before 2010. Gay and lesbian couples would be free to marry in the interim.  In any event, such an effort does not appear likely at this point in time.

Connecticut is now the third state in which same-sex couples have the same marriage rights as opposite-sex couples, the other two being California and Massachusetts; in all three the right was granted not by law but by the respective state supreme court ruling that the state constitution prohibited discrimination based on gender in marriage laws.  Note that California voters may eliminate same-sex marriage rights this November if they pass Proposition 8, which I blogged about here.  Together, these three states contain about 15.21% of the Union’s population. 

Additionally, while New York (6.31% of U.S. population) does not perform same-sex marriages, it does recognize those done out of state; most of New York’s population lives fairly close to either New Jersey or Connecticut, so it should be fairly easy for interested couples to become married in one of those jurisdictions and then have their home state recognize it.  Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey have civil unions; Maine, Washington, Oregon, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii have domestic partnership laws that allow same-sex couples to receive some of the same benefits granted to those in civil unions.