TIME nebraska

Federal Judge Blocks Nebraska’s Gay Marriage Ban

The decision will not take effect until March 9

(OMAHA, Neb.) — A federal judge has blocked Nebraska’s gay marriage ban, but the decision will not take effect until March 9.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon on Monday ordered the state to not enforce its ban.

Seven same-sex couples filed a lawsuit last year challenging the state’s voter-backed ban. Last week, Bataillon heard arguments for and against a motion for an injunction to block enforcement of the ban while the lawsuit is pending.

The Nebraska Attorney General’s office has said it will appeal any decision blocking or overturning the voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Jan. 17 that it would decide whether same-sex couples have a right to marry under the Constitution. A decision is expected by late June.

 

TIME 2016 Election

Conservatives Mostly Silent on Gay Marriage at CPAC

Ted Cruz CPAC
Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME Ted Cruz speaks on stage at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 26, 2015.

Don't ask, don't tell

It’s a momentous time for gay marriage. Every few weeks a federal judge orders a state — most recently, deep-red Alabama — to recognize same-sex unions, bringing the total to 37. The Supreme Court could expand that nationwide with a ruling sometime this summer. But you wouldn’t know that from the discussions at a gathering of conservative activists this week.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, talk of gay marriage was either brief or nonexistent. When prospective candidates brought up the issue, it was to quickly note their disapproval before moving onto another topic. Gone were the fiery speeches of just a few years ago.

“Marriage is a question for the states, and it is wrong for the federal government or unelected judges to tear down the marriage laws of the sates,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said in a brief response to a question by Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday.

Attendees at CPAC, many of them young libertarians, are unenthusiastic about the family values moralizing that pervaded much of the conservative discussion on gay marriage over the past decade. At a small breakout session on marriage, some CPAC attendees loudly booed a speaker who advocated continuing the fight against marriage equality.

“Any outright condemnation of gay people is not just a non-starter with general electorate, but also with the conservative base here at CPAC,” Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of the conservative gay-rights group Log Cabin Republicans, told TIME. “It’s something that doesn’t resonate.”

One reason for the change at CPAC is the broader changes in public opinion. According to a Gallup poll taken in May last year, 55% of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be legal, with just 42% opposing. That’s a complete reversal of public opinion from 2004, when just 42% supported gay marriage and 55% opposed.

Gay marriage was once a rallying cry for conservatives at CPAC, much as it was on the national stage. In 2006, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist vowed at CPAC to pass a constitutional ban of gay marriage.

Anti-gay marriage displays were much more common in previous years, such as one by the Traditional Values coalition in 2004, which featured a woman dressed as a bride serving wedding cake. Traditional Values’ chairman, a prominent conservative said at the conference that year, “Babylon is symbolic of promiscuity, hedonism and homosexuality,” according to a report in Salon at the time.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose emerging presidential campaign has attracted moderate voices on gay marriage, appeared reluctant to speak about the topic just days hiring as his director of communications the strategist Tim Miller, who is gay. Hannity asked Bush whether his views on the issue have changed.

“I believe in traditional marriage,” Bush said curtly, without elaborating.

It was a contrast even with CPAC in 2014, when former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum reached out to evangelicals, saying “I want to talk about reclaiming marriage as a good for society and celebrating how important it is for our economy.” This year, Santorum devoted his speech to ISIS and foreign policy.

Young attendees at CPAC largely expressed support for gay marriage.

One young attendee and activist, Drew Constable, was adamant. “Any two consenting adults should be able to marry,” Constable said.

TIME 2016 Election

Gay Rights Activists Fire Early Shot At GOP Field

Governor Chris Christie in NH
Rick Friedman—Corbis N.J. Governor Chris Christie speaks at the Concord and Merrimack County GOP's 3rd Annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in Concord, N.H. on Feb. 16, 2015.

The Human Rights Campaign is firing an early shot at the emerging presidential field, releasing polling and research highlighting their opposition to same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday, the group unveiled a micro-site highlighting GOP rhetoric on LGBT issues, including their positions on marriage, conversion therapy and bullying. The launch is pegged to this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which has blocked the sponsorship of the GOP gay group Log Cabin Republicans. (Although the group will participate in a panel discussion.)

The group is highlighting the results of a survey it commissioned of 1,000 self-identified LGBT voters showing that few would even consider supporting Republican candidates. Only 15 percent would consider New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; 12 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; 9 percent, Sen. Rand Paul; 9 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio; and 5 percent former Sen. Rick Santorum.

“For those committed to LGBT equality, actions speak louder than words,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that a field with so many Republican candidates is so united against basic LGBT rights, from marriage equality to protecting LGBT Americans from discrimination.”

Among a sub-sample of 120 self-identified Republicans a majority say they would not back either Paul or Santorum, while the remaining candidates poll within the margin of error.

The GOP’s autopsy into the 2012 election found that gay rights issues are a gateway subject for LGBT voters, but also for young voters of all stripes. “We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too,” the Growth and Opportunity Project report stated. But while a number of Republican governors have dropped opposition to same-sex marriage in their states after court rulings, none have personally said they are supportive of such unions. The issue is a litmus test for many conservative voters in Iowa, and is set to be injected into the political debate once again as the Supreme Court ways the issue nationally.

The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for the Human Rights Campaign by surveying 1,000 self-identifying lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals on Jan. 25-31. The full sample has a margin of error of ±3.1 percent, while the small sample of Republicans has a margin of error of ±8.28 percent.

Correction: The original version of this story mischaracterized the Log Cabin Republican’s involvement in CPAC. The group was invited to participate in the conference.

TIME Supreme Court

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Upends the Notion of the Silent Justice

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Supreme Court Justice Young Photos
Steve Petteway—Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States Official portrait of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice isn't just writing opinions, she's sharing them in interviews.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears to be on a book tour with no book. The oldest Supreme Court Justice has been on a media tear recently, making headlines with interviews about everything from feminism to her workout routine, even slyly revealing that she was “not 100 percent sober” during the State of the Union.

In the last year, Ginsburg has given interviews to Elle, the Associated Press, the National Journal, The New Republic, Yahoo! News, Bloomberg and MSNBC. She’s done a live event at the 92nd Street Y, performed a monologue in a D.C. play about the Civil War and given her blessing to the Notorious RBG Tumblr page, a fan website in her honor. Only Ginsburg’s opera-buddy Antonin Scalia, who gave a much-discussed 2013 interview to New York magazine, and Sonia Sotomayor, who made the rounds promoting her memoir, come close to rivaling Ginsburg’s recent publicity tour.

Some longtime court watchers think Ginsburg and her colleagues may be reshaping the way the traditionally cloistered justices interact with the public.

“That is a lot, and the frequency of it breaks the pattern,” says Lyle Denniston, a contributor to SCOTUSblog who has been covering the courts for 57 years. “This is a much more open age, with the Internet, and the justices are simply players in the modern drama of greater public exposure. It is pattern-setting, and it is unusual.”

Like many things at the Supreme Court, there may be an unspoken political angle too.

Leading up to the 2012 and 2014 elections, some liberals had argued that Ginsburg should retire, given her age (at 81, she’s the oldest sitting Justice), her history with pancreatic cancer and the possibility that Republicans could retake the White House and/or the Senate.

“If Ginsburg and Breyer abjure retirement and Obama wins, the justices’ subsequent departures will be relatively harmless,” wrote Harvard Law professor Randall Kennedy in the New Republic in 2011. “On the other hand, if Obama loses, they will have contributed to a disaster.”

A brief visit to the hospital over Thanksgiving renewed those fears for liberal court-watchers, giving Ginsburg all the more reason to dispel any concerns about her health. In all her interviews, she’s noted that she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

“I’ve said many times: once I sense that I am slipping, I will step down,” she told MSNBC earlier this week. “This is a very intense job. It’s the best and the hardest job I’ve ever had. It takes a lot of energy and staying power to do it right. I will step down when I feel I can no longer do the job full steam.”

Ginsburg’s interviews have touched on some other common themes. She discusses what it was like to be one of few women in law school, to have no job offers after graduating at the top of her class at Columbia Law and how her egalitarian relationship with her husband Martin Ginsburg shaped her career. She recalls her time working for the ACLU, fighting laws that discriminated against women. She notes that while Roe v. Wade is unlikely to be overturned, restrictions on abortion rights affect poor women far more than affluent ones. And, inevitably, she calls on the generation of young American women to avoid complacency.

One thing that concerns me is that today’s young women don’t seem to care that we have a fundamental instrument of government that makes no express statement about the equal citizenship stature of men and women,” she told The New Republic last year. “They know there are no closed doors anymore, and they may take for granted the rights that they have.”

Not everyone agrees that Ginsburg’s increased public exposure is a good thing, especially when Ginsburg discussed the upcoming gay marriage case, sparking calls from some conservatives for her to recuse herself.

“Justices are generally more cautious than Justice Ginsburg has been lately in discussing pending issues,” says Denniston. “If they were discussing a tax case or a labor case, nobody would notice, but if you’re discussing the most controversial issues, people do pay very close attention. And they do take offense when a member of the court seems to be forecasting where the court’s going to go.”

But Ginsburg seems secure in her decision to speak out about her opinions, whether in a written dissent or not. She told MSNBC that she’d like to be remembered as “someone who used whatever talents she had to do her work to the very best of her ability and to help repair tears in her society.”

For this Supreme Court Justice, that means more than just writing opinions in a quiet legal chamber. It also means getting out there before the public. And that decision may end up as much a part of her legacy as any of her legal ones.

Read next: Oregon’s Kate Brown Becomes First Openly Bisexual U.S. Governor

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of years that Lyle Denniston has covered courts.

TIME Civil Rights

How Marriage Equality in Alabama Is Not Like the Civil Rights Movement

Alabama's governor George Wallace (L) fa
OFF / AFP/Getty Images Alabama's governor George Wallace (L) faces General Henry Graham, in Tuscaloosa, on June 12, 1963, at the University of Alabama

"The fundamental difference is that accepting gays and lesbians and their rights is not nearly as painful," says one historian of the Civil Rights era

Here’s an SAT-level analogy question: Is Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court to the marriage equality movement what Alabama Governor George Wallace was to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s?

The comparison is an easy one to make, and numerous outlets drew the connection on Monday, in the aftermath of Moore’s attempt to halt same-sex marriages in his state. Facing integration of the University of Alabama in 1963, which had been mandated years earlier by Brown v. Board of Education, Wallace tried to block the change and was met by National Guard troops. This week, Moore defied a federal District Court ruling by ordering local probate judges not to license same-sex marriages, a bold challenge to the established principle of federal supremacy over state courts. In short, both Wallace and Moore relied on states’ rights claims to defy the federal government’s demand for social change.

Still, while some may see Moore’s last stand as a symbolic stand like Wallace’s, historians say the difference in context suggests that Moore is more likely to disappear with a whimper than a bang. Wallace was a martyr for a population heavily invested in the status quo. Moore is a martyr for a population resigned to change.

“Wallace was riding the segregation wave at its height,” says Dan Carter, author of George Wallace biography The Politics of Rage. “The fundamental difference is that accepting gays and lesbians and their rights is not nearly as painful. I think the gay issue, even in the deep South, in the most conservative areas, it’s kind of a resigned acceptance.”

An analysis of demographic and voting data by the New York Times suggests that two-thirds of state residents are likely opposed to the unions. But opposition today is not nearly as strong as white southerners’ opposition to civil rights for black Americans was in 1963, Carter says, pointing to Southern newspaper coverage. In the 1960s, few Alabama newspapers would dare publish anything sympathetic to civil rights, according to Carter. On Monday, when same-sex marriages began, the state’s largest newspaper said it was an “extraordinary day.”

And, though a conflict between the state and federal governments persists — probate judges in some Alabama counties aren’t issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing Moore’s guidance — it remains unclear how the federal government will respond. At this point, it seems unlikely that such a response would mirror what happened in the 1960s.

“Bobby Kennedy was willing to bring in federal marshals, willing to nationalize the National Guard in states,” says University of Alabama history professor Glenn Feldman, referring to the then-Attorney General’s response to Wallace in the 1960s. “I’m not sure if the federal government today has the political backbone or will to make people respect it.”

Whether or not the White House ultimately cracks down on wayward Alabama judges, it’s hard to imagine that the situation would escalate as it did in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy sent in the National Guard to force integration. That’s because, in all likelihood, such measures would probably be unnecessary. Some of the judges under Moore’s purview ignored his order, and others said they’re waiting for clarification. Furthermore, Moore only has authority over the state’s judicial employees, not the state troopers and others whom Wallace used to fight integration.

Today, conservative Alabama Governor Robert Bentley seems sympathetic to Moore and hasn’t tried to restrict him. (He’s said he doesn’t want to “further complicate this issue.”) But he also seems likely to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling. “The issue of same sex marriage will be finally decided by the U.S. Supreme Court later this year,” he said in a statement. “I have great respect for the legal process, and the protections that the law provides for our people.”

For his part, President Obama — who has addressed the comparison to Wallace — also seems to believe that the courts can take care of this issue on their own, without the kind of intervention that was necessitated five decades ago. “I think that the courts at the federal level will have something to say to him,” he told BuzzFeed News about Roy Moore this week.

So, the states’-rights justifications for Wallace and Moore may be the same, but historical distinctions mean the resolution to Moore’s defiance is likely to be far less dramatic than Wallace’s was.

There is one more difference between them, however, and it suggests that such a resolution may not be the end of Moore’s story: Moore may not be ready to give up, even when moving on makes political sense. Wallace’s opposition to integration was driven by a political desire to win over his constituents, Feldman and Carter note, so he changed his views when it was no longer advantageous for him to oppose civil rights. Looking at Moore, however, they see someone whose deeply-held religious beliefs may lead him to push his authority further, even as the opinions of those around him evolve.

“He actually believes this stuff,” says Feldman. “He actually believes in his heart of hearts that the federal government is not a position to tell states what to do.”

TIME White House

White House Avoids Talking About Obama’s Gay-Marriage Views

A textbook case of the White House all-but-confirming a story without actually doing so

What did the President believe and when did he believe it? That was the thrust of a tricky line of questioning on gay marriage for White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Tuesday.

The questions came after a new book by former political strategist David Axelrod revealed that President Obama misled the country about his true feelings on gay marriage during his 2008 campaign.

Earnest’s responses were a textbook case of the White House all but confirming a story without actually coming out and doing so.

MORE: Obama Adviser Says He Misled on Gay-Marriage Views

Instead of calling into question Axelrod’s accuracy, Earnest first praised him.

“I have not had an opportunity to read all 525 pages of Mr. Axelrod’s book,” he said. “The firsthand account that he provides in the book is not one that I would disagree with or quibble with. He obviously is sharing his views as he remembers them. Sometimes his perspective is informed by his up-close, front-row seat to history. That’s one of the reasons I’m interested in reading the book.”

Then he noted that voters had changed their views, too. (In 2008, 56% of Americans opposed it, while support was at 50% by the time Obama came out publicly in favor of it in 2012.)

“When the President made his first public comments regarding support for gay couples to marry, that was viewed as a pretty controversial political stance,” he said. “I think that’s an indication that the President was not the first person to articulate this position but certainly was at the beginning of a broader change we saw all across the country.”

And then he deflected the line of questioning by talking about Obama’s support for gay rights.

“That reflects the kind of record this President has amassed while in office when it comes to fighting for justice for all Americans including GLBT Americans,” he said. “From ending ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ to writing an Executive Order banning federal contractors from discriminating against their employees regardless of who they love or for speaking out so boldly in support of gay marriage.”

TIME White House

Axelrod: Obama Misled Nation When He Opposed Gay Marriage In 2008

Former White House advisor David Axelrod walks into the West Wing of the White House on Nov. 15, 2013 in Washington.
Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images Former White House advisor David Axelrod walks into the West Wing of the White House on Nov. 15, 2013 in Washington.

A striking admission of political dishonesty from the keeper of the Obama flame

Barack Obama misled Americans for his own political benefit when he claimed in the 2008 election to oppose same sex marriage for religious reasons, his former political strategist David Axelrod writes in a new book, Believer: My Forty Years in Politics.

“I’m just not very good at bullshitting,” Obama told Axelrod, after an event where he stated his opposition to same-sex marriage, according to the book.

Axelrod writes that he knew Obama was in favor of same-sex marriages during the first presidential campaign, even as Obama publicly said he only supported civil unions, not full marriages. Axelrod also admits to counseling Obama to conceal that position for political reasons. “Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union,’ ” Axelrod writes.

The insider’s account provides the clearest look yet at Obama’s long-established flip-flop, one of the blemishes on his record as a progressive. The admission of Obama’s embrace of deception also calls into question the President’s stated embrace of a new kind of politics in 2008, when he promised to be unlike other politicians who change their views to match the political winds. “Having prided himself on forthrightness, though, Obama never felt comfortable with his compromise and, no doubt, compromised position,” Axelrod writes. “He routinely stumbled over the question when it came up in debates or interviews.”

As a state senate candidate in 1996, Obama filled out a questionnaire saying “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” But 12 years later as a candidate for president, Obama told Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church that marriage could only extend to heterosexual couples. “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” Obama said at the time. “Now, for me as a Christian — for me — for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”

After two years in office, Obama began telling reporters he was “evolving” on the issue, and supported the repeal of the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act.

But Obama didn’t publicly support same-sex marriages as president until Vice President Joe Biden got out ahead of him in an interview with Meet the Press, saying he was “absolutely comfortable” with the unions.

In Axelrod’s account, Obama was “fully evolved” more than five months before, telling his aides to find a way for him to speak on the issue, even as campaign manager Jim Messina warned him it could cost the state of North Carolina.

Yet if Obama’s views were “evolving” publicly, they were fully evolved behind closed doors. The president was champing at the bit to announce his support for the right of gay and lesbian couples to wed—and having watched him struggle with this issue for years, I was ready, too.

Axelrod’s new book goes on sale February 10.

Read next: Three Big Questions About Obama’s Military Force Request

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TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Gay Marriages Go Ahead in Alabama

Despite a judge's order in defiance of federal ruling to allow gay marriage in the state.

Marriages between same-sex couples in Alabama began on Monday, despite an order by Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore not to issue marriage licenses, in defiance of a federal judge’s ruling.

TIME Courts

Justice Thomas Says Supreme Court Has Signaled Support for Gay Marriage

The decision not to take up Alabama's ruling in favor of gay marriage speaks volumes, the conservative Justice writes

Correction appended Feb. 12

Justice Clarence Thomas criticized the Supreme Court’s decision not to postpone the start of same-sex marriages in Alabama Monday, in a dissent that suggested his colleagues had already made up their mind on gay marriage ahead of a ruling later this term.

“This acquiescence may well be seen as a signal of the court’s intended resolution of that question,” Thomas wrote in his dissent to a decision not to review a lower court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. “This is not the proper way to discharge our [constitutional] responsibilities. And, it is indecorous for this Court to pretend that it is.”

Read More: Why the Supreme Court is Set to Make History on Gay Marriage

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade struck down Alabama’s ban of same-sex marriage in January, but stayed implementation of the decision so it could be appealed to the Supreme Court. On Sunday, the justices declined to hear an appeal by a vote of 7-2 and, by default, allowed same-sex marriage to begin there. Thomas was joined in his dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Supreme Court will hear challenges to same-sex marriage bans in four states in the coming months and is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June. The decision will likely apply to all 50 states.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the Supreme Court Justice who joined Clarence Thomas in his dissent. It was Antonin Scalia.

TIME Laws

Alabama’s ‘Ten Commandments Judge’ Defies the Feds Over Gay Marriage

Roy Moore
Rogelio V. Solis—AP Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court addresses a Pro-Life Mississippi and a Pastors for Life pastors luncheon in Jackson, Miss., Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Moore told the attendees that he cannot separate his faith from his job as chief justice and continues to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage.

Roy Moore has a history of defying federal orders

On Sunday, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore told the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, an order defying a ruling last month by a federal judge that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

A state judge refusing to follow federal orders is rare. But for Moore, it would’ve been more unusual if he went along with the decision quietly.

Judge Moore is often known as the “Ten Commandments Judge.” When Moore, a devout Christian who often relies on Biblical scripture in his rulings, began his judicial career as an Alabama circuit court judge in the 1990s, he placed a Ten Commandments tablet he had carved himself behind his courtroom bench and began instituting prayer before jury selection.

Soon enough, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Moore for violating the Constitution’s Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. In 1996, a Montgomery County circuit judge ruled that prayer in the courtroom was unconstitutional and later ordered that the Ten Commandments display either be removed or placed alongside secular documents like the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. To that, Moore responded: “I will not surround the Ten Commandments with other items to secularize them. That’s putting man above God.”

But Moore eventually won out. In 1998, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuits, and the commandments stayed. And Moore’s popularity, thanks to his conservative defiance, skyrocketed. Two years later, he was elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

In 2001, Moore again made national news when he issued an opinion in the case D.H. vs. H.H., a custody battle between a lesbian and her ex-husband who she said was abusive. In his concurring opinion, Judge Moore ruled for the ex-husband, saying that the woman’s sexual orientation was grounds enough to prevent her from taking custody of the children.

A year later, Moore resurrected the Ten Commandments debate when he had a 5,200-lb. granite Ten Commandments monument commissioned and placed inside the Alabama State Judicial Building. Two lawsuits were filed, and by August 2003, a federal judge ordered the monument removed. Again, Moore refused, forcing his fellow justices to remove it instead and sparking thousands of protesters to rally in support of Moore outside the state judicial building. But they weren’t able to save his job. Later that year, a state judicial panel removed Moore from his post as chief justice.

In the years following, Moore unsuccessfully ran for Alabama governor twice and in 2012 was re-elected chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court. “I have no doubt this is a vindication,” Moore said after his election. “Go home with the knowledge that we are going to stand for the acknowledgment of God.”

Moore’s latest tenure has been relatively quiet until this week. His latest attempts to ignore federal orders and block the state from handing out marriage licenses to gay couples, while extraordinary for other justices, is natural for a judge with a history of judicial defiance. But this time, Moore appears to be experiencing the kind of resistance he’s sown for years.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would allow same-sex marriages to move forward, and most judges appeared to be following suit — defying a state judge who has made judicial disobedience his defining characteristic.

 

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