Political Parties And Loyalty Oaths


  • Secretary of State Denise Merrill is pressing for repeal of Connecticut’s longstanding “party loyalty” law, which allows party leaders to expel a person from the party if he or she displays a lack of fidelity to the party’s core principles.  She argues, with broad support, that the party loyalty law is outdated and offensive to basic democratic principles.
  • Donald Trump—a man demagogue who shows contempt for many of the platform principles that the modern Republican party holds dear —is the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Party leaders are desperately looking for a way to prevent his nomination.

Do these two situations have anything in common? I think so.  Both raise the question, “What are political parties?”  Are they private, voluntary associations of people who come together based on a shared set of beliefs and who, therefore, should be able to exclude as members persons who do not demonstrate that they adhere to the same beliefs?  Or are parties public organizations?  A mixture of both?

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Connecticut Is Not Indiana

Last week Indiana enacted a controversial law that many believe is intended to allow individuals, particularly for-profit business owners, to discriminate against persons who identify as LGBT, on the ground that providing services to such persons may burden the provider’s religious convictions.  Today, Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that he will sign an executive order banning state-funded travel to Indiana.  The governor stated, “When new laws turn back the clock on progress, we can’t sit idly by. We are sending a message that discrimination won’t be tolerated.”

In response to the governor’s announcement, some are arguing that Connecticut is being hypocritical because it has its own law, enacted in 1993, that is (allegedly) no different from, or is even worse than, the new Indiana law.  (Click here and here for examples of such arguments.)

Are those arguments correct?  I think not.  Nothing in the text or history of the Connecticut law suggests that the General Assembly intended to allow individuals or business owners to discriminate against members of the LGBT community based on religious beliefs.

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What Happens When A Jewish Man Won’t Give His Wife A Get?


Under Jewish law, a “Get” is a document that a husband must give his wife to effect a divorce.  Without a Get, a woman who has obtained a civil divorce is still considered married under Jewish law and may not remarry.

The biblical requirement (Deuteronomy 24:1) that the husband give his wife a Get in order to formally end their marriage under Jewish law means that a recalcitrant husband can use the Get as leverage in a civil divorce.  Or he can simply be cruel and refuse to give the Get out of spite.  And in Israel, where there is no distinction between civil and religious marriage, and in very orthodox communities outside of Israel, a husband who won’t give his wife a Get effectively enslaves her to him.

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Talking About Prior Restraints On “The Wheelhouse”

WNPR’s John Dankosky invited me to join him yesterday for a segment of his weekly political roundtable, The Wheelhouse, with Colin McEnroe and other guests.  The subject: a Superior Court judge’s issuance of an injunction against the Connecticut Law Tribune to bar it from publishing a story about a child protection case in Juvenile Court.  (Disclosure: I represent the Law Trib in the case.)

Click here to listen to the show.  (My segment starts at 19:48 into the program.)

Thanks for having me on The Wheelhouse for two consecutive weeks John!




This coming June, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven will present a unique theatrical experience, Arguendo:

In this “wittily inventive” (The New York Times) and “boisterously entertaining” (Entertainment Weekly) show, acclaimed theater ensemble Elevator Repair Service explores the drama emerging from Supreme Court oral arguments in Barnes v. Glen Theatre, a 1991 First Amendment case brought by a group of erotic dancers and the proprietors of the Kitty Kat Lounge in Indiana.

Arguendo is a staging of the case’s entire oral argument verbatim, interspersed with bits of real interviews with the justices, the lawyers and an exotic dancer who traveled all the way from the Déja Vu Club in Saginaw, Michigan to listen to the argument at The Supreme Court.

Each performance will be followed by a post-performance discussion with First Amendment experts. Someone thought I fit that category and invited me to participate in the discussion after the performance on June 21.  Check out this preview of the show!

Supreme Court Rules On Town Meeting Prayers

A divided (5-4) United States Supreme Court ruled today that a small town in New York that opened virtually every single town meeting since 1999 with a prayer expressly invoking Jesus as lord and savior did not run afoul of the First Amendment prohibition against government establishment of religion.

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The Real-World Impact Of The Supreme Court’s Campaign Finance Ruling

What is the likely impact, in the real world of politics, of yesterday’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Comm’n, which struck down a federal law that limited the total or “aggregate” amount of money an individual could contribute to candidates and PACs in a federal election cycle? 

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The Public’s Right To Record Police Activities

Last Tuesday, April 23, the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (“CFOG“) sponsored a panel discussion on the public’s right to record police activities.  It was my honor, as the president of CFOG, to moderate the panel discussion, which featured Chief States Attorney Kevin Kane, South Windsor Chief of Police Matthew Reed, Mickey Osterreicher (General Counsel for the National Press Photographer’s Association), Ben Solnit of the ACLU of Connecticut (sitting in for Sandy Staub, ACLU legal director), and Mario Cerame, creator of www.righttorecord.com, a blog that covers this issue. We had a great discussion.  For anyone interested in this topic, video of the discussion is available here on CT-N. Read the rest of this entry »