What You Should Know: Nov. 24

Attorney General Bill Schuette has asked the Supreme Court to uphold Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban.

Bill Schuette
Bill Schuette

Or, to put it in Schuette’s terms, he’s asked SCOTUS to “preserve traditional marriage.” More from the Detroit Free Press:

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today took his fight to preserve traditional marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court, telling the nation’s highest court that voters – not judges – should decide whether gay marriage is a good idea or not.

“This case comes down to two words: who decides,” Schuette wrote in his filing, in which he urged the U.S. Supreme Court to respect the will of Michigan’s voters, who decided in 2001 that marriage should only be defined as a union between one man and one woman.

“The history of our democracy demonstrates the wisdom of allowing the people to decide important issues at the ballot box, rather than ceding those decisions to unelected judges,” wrote Schuette, who also cited Justice Anthony Kennedy’s prior stance on affirmative action to bolster his argument.

Schuette noted in his filing that in deciding the affirmative action issue, Kennedy discussed the importance of trusting voters to decide significant issues and wrote: “‘It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds.'”

Schuette’s filing comes one week after two Michigan nurses took their fight to legalize same-sex marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Obama’s defense secretary is out.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is resigning from his post, and reports indicate that he’s leaving in part because he never really fit in with the Obama White House. More from Bloomberg Politics:

President Barack Obama called the 68-year-old Hagel a steady hand at the Defense Department during a time of change, with the U.S. winding down its presence in Afghanistan, confronting new threats from the terrorist Islamic State group, and dealing with a strained defense budget.

Obama said Hagel approached him last month to discuss his role in the final two years of the administration. The two came to agree “that having guided the department through this transition, it was an appropriate time for him to complete his service,” he said.

The president’s aides and defense officials close to Hagel described frustration on both sides stemming from differences over policies and tight White House control of how U.S. strategy is communicated.

“On paper, Hagel looked perfect for the job — a war hero, a former senator, a successful entrepreneur,” said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia. “But his confirmation hearings did not go well, and his temperament proved ill-suited to such a politically sensitive job.”

Hagel is a former Republican U.S. senator from Nebraska. He and Obama first got to know each other as senators, and Obama tapped him to replace former Secretary Leon Panetta last year.

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The House is blocking a police demilitarization bill.

More from the Huffington Post:

The only Congressional response to this summer’s brutal police crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri appears to be a non-starter, with the House GOP leadership blocking a vote on a bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Raul Labrador (R-Idaho).

The legislation seeks to curb controversial transfers of military weapons and equipment to local police forces. It would ban the Pentagon from granting local police free automatic weapons, armored vehicles, weaponized drones, combat helicopters, grenades, silencers, sound cannons and other equipment, although police could still purchase such gear with local budgets or through grants from the Department of Homeland Security.

It would also impose more stringent safeguards to account for the equipment that does get transferred. Collectively, more than $4 billion in military weaponry and equipment has been distributed to police forces across the U.S. since the inception of the initiative, known as the 1033 Program.

The bill is Johnson’s baby, crafted prior to the protests in Ferguson but introduced in September after Johnson courted backing from Labrador and other Republicans, including Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Tom McClintock (R-Calif.).

Colleges and universities shouldn’t handle rape cases — police should.

Following a graphic and disturbing account of an alleged gang rape and by fraternity members and the University of Virginia’s subsequent handling of the case in Rolling Stone magazine, Slate‘s courts and law reporter Dahlia Lithwick lays out the case for universities getting out of the business of investigating rape.

The question I have been asked a hundred times since the Rolling Stone piece appeared is: How is it possible that a crime as serious as an aggravated, premeditated gang rape can be funneled into an internal disciplinary process? How can a felony offense be kept out of the police’s hands, and how can victims be presented with a menu of choices that includes, and even encourages, doing nothing? In a February letter to the Obama administration, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, the nation’s leading anti-rape group, wrote: “It would never occur to anyone to leave the adjudication of a murder in the hands of a school’s internal judicial process. Why, then, is it not only common, but expected … when it comes to sexual assault?”

The simple answer is that the law requires it. Title IX mandates that universities use administrative conduct processes to address sexual harassment and sexual violence. Advocates of using school disciplinary mechanisms to replace or even supplement police systems argue that criminal justice is a blunt instrument; that criminal justice processes can be brutalizing, shaming, and ineffective in sexual assault cases. The notion that survivors should be given multiple options and support for whatever choices they make is rooted in the idea that the usual police prosecution will only re-victimize her. “Women have not complained to the police because they have had good reason to fear that the police would not believe their claims,” says Anne Couhglin, who teaches gender law at UVA. “And, in cases where the survivor had been drinking at the time of the assault, she was likely to be told that her intoxication amounted to consent.”

At UVA, that system appears to have resulted in a systematic process of deflecting cases out of the criminal justice system, leaving perpetrators undisciplined and the campus unaware of what looks to be a repeated pattern of vicious rapes. Victims were given so many options, and even a violent gang rape went unreported to the police. As Samantha Harris, director of policy research at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, wrote in the New York Times this fall, internal school investigations disserve both the victims and the accused in sexual misconduct cases. “Accused students are routinely denied the most basic elements of due process, such as the right to see the evidence against them and the right to confront, even indirectly, the accuser. Not only is this terribly unfair to students accused of serious wrongdoing, but it undermines the integrity of the process in a way that harms everyone involved.”


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