Nel's New Day

June 12, 2017

Remembrance, Celebration

Two anniversaries make this a bitter-sweet day.

Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court made interracial marriage the law of the United States in its ruling in Loving v. Virginia. The 1967 unanimous decision came nine years after Mildred Jeter, a black woman who later identified as Native American, married Richard Loving, a white man, and the couple was threatened with prison if they didn’t leave Virginia. Justice Anthony Kennedy cited Loving v. Virginia in the Supreme Court ruling that legalized marriage equality, a case in which four of the nine justices—John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas—supported bigotry.

On the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, one year before Mildred Loving died in 2008, she talked about her support for marriage equality:

“I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights. I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

One year ago, 49 LGBT people were slain in a hate crime at the Orlando (FL) club, Pulse. Those deaths brought the total of murdered LGBT people in the United States to 77 last year, making 2016 the deadliest year ever for that community. Even without the 49 people killed at Pulse, the number of LGBT homicides rose from 24 in 2015 to 28 in 2016, a 17 percent increase. Of the 28, 19 were transgender and gender non-conforming people—68 percent—and 17 were transgender women of color. Joining those commemorating the horrific event at the location at Pulse were 49 “angels” who formed a protective circle like they did after the slaughter.

With LGBT rights under attack from the current administration, over 50 LGBT Pride Parades in the nation came full circle last weekend back to resistance and equality marches , designed to urge politicians to support LGBT rights. It was the 54th “pride” parade since gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny organized the first one on the Fourth of July in Philadelphia. Yesterday, people gathered for the Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington, D.C.

For pure joy, watch Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) dancing through the streets in a parade.

June is Pride Month. I would like to extend thanks to the governor of Oregon who sent this message about the tragedy in Orlando and marriage equality:

“Every year in June, the LGBTQ community and allies come together to celebrate Pride. It is a month-long public celebration of love and embracing each other for who we are — inside and out. That has been the LGBTQ community’s message from the very first Pride celebrations: love and equality.

“One year ago today, we woke up to a heartbreaking reminder that our values are not shared by everyone. As details unfolded about the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, we were painfully reminded not only of senseless gun violence in our country, but the countless hate crimes that have targeted LGBTQ people for generations.

“What happened in Orlando was an attempt to make people afraid and ashamed of who they are. This should not happen anywhere, or for any reason. Every one of us has the right to live openly, safely, and with dignity.

“As governor, I will not tolerate acts of hatred and discrimination in the state of Oregon. We are still mourning the loss of two brave men who stood up to hate on a train in Portland. As a state, we must embrace a culture of inclusion — and celebrate our diversity — because when we open the doors of opportunity to everyone, we thrive together.

“I’m proud that Oregon continues to be a leader in policies that protect LGBTQ individuals. Our state prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Since I became governor, we’ve banned gay conversion therapy, and just a few weeks ago, expanded rights for transgender Oregonians.

“The LGBTQ community is stronger and more resilient today than ever before. As we remember the 49 lives cut short one year ago today in Orlando, we recommit ourselves to marching forward. We stand together, stronger than ever, with our message of love and equality.

“Be who you are. Love whom you wish. Together, we won’t let hate win.

On this day, during this month, and all through the year, I give thanks to people like the Lovings, the Supreme Court, Kate Brown, and millions of others who have paved the way for me to marry my love as we look forward to our 48th anniversary on June 25, 2017.

May 2, 2017

DDT’s Licence to Discriminate

Filed under: LGBT Issues — trp2011 @ 9:39 PM
Tags: , , , ,

“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.” That’s what Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said at the Republican National Convention almost a year ago. Immediately after DDT’s inauguration, his press secretary said:

“President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election.”

In his 15th week in office, DDT plans to sign another executive order, this one removing all rights that he can from LGBTQ people. It is labeled “religious liberty,” the term that allows anyone to discriminate against not only LGBTQ people but also anyone else based on what people call their “religious beliefs.” DDT waited until after his first 100 days in office to make this move. Supposedly his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, talked DDT out of signing the hateful order in early February, but super-“religions” VP Mike Pence worked with administration officials to “rewrite” the order. New verbiage is very little different from the original, according to people who have seen it. With Pence involved, discrimination is not surprising: when he was governor of Indiana, he signed a “religious freedom” bill that had to be redone because of millions in lost revenue to the state.

The grand signing is scheduled for Thursday, National Prayer Day, in front of a proud Pence and other conservative leaders. The original draft order, leaked on February 1, was highly criticized as government-licensed discrimination and quietly disappeared. Thursday is also the day that Leonard Leo, DDT’s adviser to select Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court, receives the annual Canterbury Medal from the Becket Fund—a “religious freedom” activist group.

DDT has already shown animosity toward the LGBTQ population through his selection of Cabinet members and other administration leaders. AG Jeff Sessions consistently opposes legal protections for LGBT people and voted against the 2009 Hate Crimes Prevention Act, protections for LGBT survivors of sexual violence under the Violence Against Women Act, and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He led the support for the amendment to a constitutional amendment that would have kept same-gender couples from marrying. Sessions’ Hate Crime Subcommittee protects people only on the basis of “religious beliefs or background.” Sessions also withdrew the lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2 that included discrimination regarding which bathrooms could be used by transgender people. At the same time, he “persuaded” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to revoke early guidance on equal access to facilities for transgender students, stopping lawsuits regarding the rights of transgender students.

Other DDT discrimination against LGBT people:

  • LGBTQ content was removed from White House and Department of State websites on the very first day of Trump’s presidency at the same time that other federal websites kept its content.
  • DDT’s Muslim and refugee ban is a death sentence for many LGBTQ people seeking safety in the United States.
  • DDT’s State Department sent two anti-LGBTQ organizations as the only civil society representatives to the UN annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This UN commission is important to LGBT rights because of its recommendations. Both DDT delegations rely on fake science and fabricated data to support their views.
  •  DDT’s appointment to lead the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, Roger Severino, has said that transgender equality is “the radical left using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology.”
  • DDT revoked the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act that removed mandates from companies receiving labor contracts that included the removal of LGBTQ rights. Less than two months earlier, the White House had declared that “the executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.”
  • LGBTQ questions measuring sexual orientation and gender identity disappeared from the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census because, according to the Department of Commerce, there was “no federal data need” to measure numbers of LGBTQ people.
  • DDT nominated for Army Secretary a LGBTQ-hater, Mark Green, who referred to being transgender as a “disease.” If confirmed, Green would replace, Eric Fanning, the first openly gay may to be the Secretary.
  • DDT’s recently hired Department of Agriculture employee James Renne helped orchestrate an anti-LGBT purge of longtime LGBTQ government employees during the George W. Bush presidency.

A leaked copy of an earlier draft executive order, “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” may be similar—if not as bad as—the order to be revealed later this week. The four-page draft covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.” It creates wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity as well as curtailing women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.

Language specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.” To summarize, the February order said that “Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their conscience.”

The definition of “religious exercise” extends to “any act or refusal to act that is motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the act is required or compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” It lists specific beliefs and gives governmental protection to those who have those beliefs. The language seems similar to last year’s law from Mississippi, declared in violation of both the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. The original draft exempted people or organizations from complying with the Affordable Care Act’s preventative-care mandate that includes contraceptive coverage and require insurance not be required to cover abortion or “subsidize[s] plans that do provide such coverage.” The government could also not take action against federally funded child-welfare organizations, such as those providing foster, adoption, or family support services, if they deny services based on “the organization’s religious beliefs.” The order would allow federally-funded organizations to refuse services to LGBTQ people to the point of removing children from their homes.

The ACLU is prepared to sue whenever DDT signs the order. His mandate violates federal law and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution as well as licensing individuals and private parties to violate federal law. In addition, it could violate the 1st Amendment regarding religion and state. Such an order uses a set of beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity to control everyone.

As Nico Lang wrote about the upcoming order:

“LGBT people, for lack of a better word, would be screwed. This order, if it were to be signed, would allow employers to fire workers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, permit doctors to deny life-saving services to trans people, and enable landlords to refuse housing to same-sex couples. It would realize the worst fears of the LGBT community by relegating us to second-class citizens.”

Conclusions: DDT never keeps his promise unless it gets him money or good press, and one of his basic goals is to overturn anything that President Obama did. Fourteen percent of LGBTQ people—mostly gay white men—voted for DDT because they love guns and hate minorities. We’ll see if DDT keeps their loyalty after he signs the order.

October 11, 2016

Out of the Closet

National Coming Out Day has been commemorated every October 11 for the past 28 years. It began in 1988 by marking the one-year anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington Lesbian and Gay Rights and continues to invite LGBT people to come out of the “closet” and proudly announce their sexual orientation and gender identity. The “closet” has been more and more associated with the LGBT community because, as Judy Grahn wrote in 1984:

“At present the term ‘closet’ implies a scandalous personal secret, or skeleton, in the family closet. In the case of a Gay person, it refers more precisely to being the skeleton in the family’s closet. That skeleton is the reality of Gayness itself. The sometimes violent and always frightening suppression of Gay culture often forces Gay people to live in the closet, in a secret world….”

The past few decades have marked a time when LGBT people have openly declared their true selves in vastly increasing numbers, a process that has helped increase the extent of legal LGBT rights despite its danger. Because some people suffer from homophobia because of their fear, being openly LGBT is not always safe. San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, who was assassinated on November 27, 1978, knew that he lived in danger because he refused to hide his sexual orientation.

The conservative environment fostered during the two terms of George W. Bush and solidified in many states by the Tea Party legislators elected in 2010 continue to create peril for many LGBT people. Over half the states in the nation—29 in all—discriminate against LGBT people, many of them worse than others. For example, trans people can be arrested in North Carolina if they use the bathroom that the state thinks is not correct. Same-gender couples can legally marry, but they are still struggling with punitive laws about divorce, adoption, Social Security rights, etc. In those 29 states, people can be fired if they’re merely considered LGBT. This map shows which states continue to discriminate.

Although “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts,” like the one supported and signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, GOP vice-presidential candidate, don’t always identify LGBT people, that community is the focus of these laws.

At one time, it seemed that the LGBT people were the major scapegoats, but the election campaign for 2016, an event that started 16 months ago and still has another four weeks, has pushed far more people into the closet. Many Muslims are forced to hide their religion to avoid hate crimes against them. Homeless people are at risk because Donald Trump encourages violence against them. Others are afraid to openly explain their preference in a presidential candidate because of fear. I have a sign supporting Hillary Clinton that I am concerned about posting because it may encourage damage to my property. Hiding our religion and political beliefs because of fear is just one example of the movement toward fascism in the United States.

This year, National Coming Out Day coincides with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement when people go forward and leave transgressions behind. As Max Antman writes about Yom Kippur and coming out of the closet:

“Coming out is often one of the most challenging, terrifying, and life-altering experiences an LGBTQ person faces in their lifetime. Regardless of whether the process is one of pain or ease, to come out is to surrender the privilege of a heterosexual life, and for many people, that is not only difficult – it’s impossible.

“Move forward into a space of opportunity and growth or remain trapped within perils of the past and fears of the future? The choice seems obvious enough, but the path to renewal is far from easy. Choosing ‘life and prosperity’ requires us to recognize our previous misgivings, but it also challenges us to accept whatever consequences lie ahead. Deciding to move into the new Jewish year through repentance and coming out of the closet are both very difficult choices, for they rely upon our faith in God and in ourselves.”

“As Yom Kippur and National Coming Out Day approach, we are challenged to take advantage of the opportunities they hold. We look at our past both individually and communally, and are given the chance to craft a better way. Even as we acknowledge the challenges and complexities of some of our less inclusive texts, these holidays give us the opportunity to look back at how far we have come in our journey towards acceptance and inclusion – not just as individuals, but as communities and a broader society.”

As more and more people know at least one LGBT person—frequently a relative—the acceptance grows. Two days ago, Anderson Cooper was the first openly gay person to moderate a presidential candidate, an historic occurrence. There were sneers, including from Donald Trump, but Cooper’s ability makes the job easier for the next LGBT person. As people know more open members of the LGBT people, the more accepting they have become. In the 22 years between 1993 and 2015, the percentage of people who were aware that they knew someone LGBT went from 61 to 88 while the level of acceptance ratcheted upward.

Not all LGBT people are safe coming out. I waited until I retired and left the state where I had worked because I would have lost my job. Staying closeted is something that shouldn’t cause guilt. But we all need to work for a world in which declaring a sexual orientation or gender identity or religion or political preference doesn’t put a person into jeopardy. People need to think about this factor in voting on November 8.

rainbow-flag

Meanwhile, LGBT people and our allies can take pride in the latest location of a rainbow flag. Planting Peace, a socially active group, sent a flag into outer space with a high-altitude balloon where it stayed 21.1 miles about Earth for over three hours. The universe is now an LGBT-friendly space; we can work to create the same atmosphere here on Earth.

For more joy, check out these top 20 tweets including one great message from President Barack Obama.

August 18, 2016

Couples Forced to Annul Adoption before Marrying

Twenty years ago, I met a lesbian couple who managed to get the same rights of married couples when the mother of one of them adopted the other one. As “sisters,” they were able to have the same rights that married couples have, i.e., visiting each other in the hospital. Since then, I discovered that other same-gender couples took a different route by one of them adopting the other one.

Another route for same-gender couples to have the same rights as married couples is for one of them to adopt the other. Two gay couples talked about what happened after they followed this route and then wanted to marry each other after marriage equality became the law of the land. Typically, adoption cannot be overturned; they are parent and child in perpetuity. But two Pennsylvania couples tried to have their adoptions annulled because getting married while the adoption is still legal would violate state incest laws that exist in 25 states.

couple 1

With Couple 1 (above left), Bill Novak adopted Norman MacArthur in 2000 after they had been partners for more than three decades. They persuaded a judge to annul their adoption in 2015 and then married in Bucks County where they had retired from Brooklyn (NY). Bill said that he adopted Norman because they would be legally considered strangers if one of them was hospitalized. In 2000, they were told that “hell would freeze over” because Pennsylvania would allow the gay couple to marry. When Norm had heart surgery in 2002, two years after the adoption, the sign on the door to the Cardiac-Intensive Care Unit stated “immediate family only.”

Twelve years later, the lawyer who finalized the adoption said that it couldn’t be undone. But some judges in the county understood the importance of adoption annulment so that the couple could marry. In the court proceedings, the judge said, “The times have changed and the laws must change with them,” and vacated the adoption. They immediately got their marriage license, and Bill said, “After 52 years together, it was already the world’s longest engagement.” This year the couple is celebrating their first wedding anniversary.

When Judge Gary B. Gilman of Bucks County vacated Novak’s adoption decree last year, the couple’s lawyer, Terry Clemons said, “It removes the hurdle for other people who may be in the same position as Bill and Norm.” He was wrong, as shown by another Pennsylvania couple who tried to get an annulment.

Couple 2 (above right), Nino Esposito and Roland “Drew” Bosee, spent another Father’s Day this year as an adoptive couple, however, because another judge refused to annul their adoption. Retired teacher Esposito adopted former freelance writer Bosee in 2012 after they had lived together more than 40 years as a same-gender couple and only ten states had marriage equality laws. The judge accused the couple of trying to get tax advantages and refused to annul the adoption. He said that the annulment can be granted only in cases of fraud and reversing it could put all adoptions in jeopardy.

After the couple was denied the annulment to their adoption, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to issue guidance to courts so that same-gender couples could easily annul their adoption in order to marry. It appears that this has not been done.

Whether this kind of adoption is common is hard to know. Angela Giampolo, a Philadelphia lawyer specializing in LGT law, said that there are no statistics. Yet there are stories of other couples, some of them famous, in which one adopts the other.

bayard rustin

Black activist Bayard Rustin (above left) helped set up the famous 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1982, Rustin decided to adopt Walter Naegle after they had been together for five years so that Naegle could inherit his estate. For the gay couple to do this, Naegle’s biological mother had to legally disown him, and then a social worker came to the couple’s home to ensure that it was suitable for a child. The adoption gave Naegle visiting privileges when Rustin was hospitalized for a perforated appendix. Rustin died in 1987 before anyone dreamed that the United States would legalize marriage equality.

Sergio Cervetti and Kenneth Rinker, choreographer of Murphy’s Law, also considered adoption when they moved to Pennsylvania from New York City. Issues were health insurance and inheritance tax as well as their wanting to be a couple. Their adoption was vacated after 15 years in the same county where Novak and MacArthur succeeded in having the adoption annulled. Novak and MacArthur were among the witnesses to Cervetti and Rinker’s wedding vows.

faderman

Famous lesbian author and scholar Lillian Faderman (above right) and Phyllis Irwin, chair of the English department at California State University where Faderman was on the faculty, decided on adult adoption after Faderman gave birth to her son, Avrom, in 1975. They completed the legality in 1983 after the fame of Faderman’s book, Surpassing the Love of Men, and she had to travel. If Irwin had not gone through the adoption of her partner, she couldn’t have even taken their son to a doctor. The adoption made Irwin the grandmother of Avrom. At that time, Irwin could not adopt Avrom because no state recognized adoptions of a second, same-gender parent.

Irwin and Faderman got married in June 2008 before the court reversed marriage equality during California’s Proposition 8 debacle. They didn’t vacate the adoption, however, because legal advice told them that undoing the adoption was unnecessary of there was no blood connection. Since then, hey have discovered that their lawyer’s advice was wrong, and they are working to annul the adoption. Faderman said in 2015, “We’ve always felt married. We’ve been married in our hearts for 44 years.”

Trump Watch: New York City has fined Donald Trump $10,000 for violating his agreement to preserve the Trump Tower atrium as public space. Trump has repeatedly closed the atrium and used it for campaign events. He was also fined $10,000 in June for failing to show up for a court hearing, again violating part of the public space agreement with the city.

Photos of full-sized statues of Trump in the nude have popped up all over the internet after the anarchist group INDECLINE put them up in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Seattle. The statue that mysteriously appeared in New York City’s Union Square today is gone with the declaration from NYC Parks that it “stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small.” The project is called “The Emperor Has No B—s.” Checking out the gross image shows parts of the “junk” missing and the rest very small.

Ivanka Trump, who is off vacationing with Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend (no, I’m not joking), received this note after she ordered an ear cuff online.

Invanka's note

Trump supporters responded with thousands of threats. At a rally featuring GOP vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence, supporters also promised “civil war” no matter who is elected president of the United States in November.

Eighty-one more days.

 

June 26, 2016

Marriage Equality Celebrates First Birthday

Happy First Anniversary

One year ago today, the Supreme Court declared marriage equality the law of the land. The last year has not seen an easy transition everywhere.  Chaos continued the day after the Supreme Court ruling:

  • Mississippi said the decision was not “effective immediately”; the state AG said that they were waiting for a lower court ruling.
  • The Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, Roy Moore, said that “the U.S. Supreme Court [has] no legal authority to redefine marriage” and that the decision may be invalid because two of the SCOTUS  justices voting for the majority opinion didn’t recuse themselves.
  • Louisiana AG said that the state would not be issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples because there was no “mandate or order making [the] decision final and effective.”
  • Utah tried to stop the state from issuing any marriage licenses.
  • Texas AG Ken Paxton described the ruling as “a judge-based edict that is not based in the law.” He told clerks that they didn’t have to issue licenses to same-gender couples and judges didn’t have to marry them.
  • The Kentucky governor ordered marriage licenses to be immediately changed to implement the new ruling, but that didn’t stop county clerk Kim Davis to refuse to issue them to same-gender couples. Confusion reigned after the state changed from a Democratic to a Republican governor midway through the process.
  • South Dakota AG Marty Jackley ordered the state to honor the ruling “absent further direction,” but it might take a “reasonable period of time” to implement it.
  • Tennessee legislature attempted to “nullify” the Supreme Court ruling in their state.

Freedom for same-gender couples to marry has stoked the GOP presidential campaigns this year. Current “presumptive” candidate Donald Trump, who brags about how he’s the best candidate for LGBT people, has promised to overturn the Supreme Court ruling. Trump knows that without the evangelical vote, he has no chance of being elected president. His most recent pandering came from a gathering of 1,000 evangelicals where he talked about how much more religious he is than Hillary Clinton.

 “We don’t know anything about Hillary in terms of religion. Now, she’s been in the public eye for years and years, and yet there’s no – there’s nothing out there.”

Trump’s accusation demonstrates that he knows as little about Hillary Clinton as he does about foreign policy, successful business practices, and universities. Clinton has spoken about her Methodist faith many times, including speeches about her views on Christianity and the Bible in Iowa. As a senator, she was also part of a Christian prayer group with several Republicans. Trump’s inaccurate statements match the comments he made about the president’s birth in Kenya and being a Muslim.

At the same meeting, Trump urged people not to pray for their leaders because they are “selling Christianity down the tubes.” Instead they should “pray to get everybody out to vote for one specific person.” This statement comes close to violating federal tax law because tax-exempt places of worship and ministries cannot legally intervene in political elections.

Trump also claims that he’s more Christian than other people. Yet he couldn’t think of a scripture important to him, saying that this is “private.” When asked whether he prefers the New or Old Testament, he said, “Both.” For several weeks, he was ridiculed for saying “Two Corinthians” instead of “Second Corinthians.”

James Dobson is trying to build Trump’s reputation among evangelicals by claiming that he is now a “born again” Christian, but Trump’s new campaign manager, Paul Manafort, refuses to talk about the recent “conversion.”

To prove his evangelical cred, Trump announced his new “executive board convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America.” At the top of the list is Michele Bachmann; the other 20 on the board are men. This was one week after Trump announced that he was the LGBT community’s new best friend. Those two categories mix together like oil and water. He’s also promised to require department store employees to say “Merry Christmas” and fight restrictions against public employees, such as school coaches, against leading Christian prayers on the field. He has no control over either of these areas, but evangelicals may not know this. Nor can he erase marriage equality unless he gets enough Supreme Court justices to do what he tells them.

clela rorex 1974There are many touching stories about same-gender marriages, but my favorite may be the one about the couple who waited 41 years before their Colorado marriage was declared legal by the federal government. In 1975, a young, relatively new county clerk, Clela Rorex (right), issued a marriage license to Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan in Colorado after checking with District Attorney Alex Hunter.

 

sullivan adams met in 1971Adams and Sullivan (left) had met four years earlier when Sullivan was traveling around the world. Falling in love, Adams wanted permanent residency for Sullivan, an Australian, so they could stay together.  Colorado had no laws against same-gender marriage, but the state AG declared their marriage invalid. Nearly 40 years later, Rorex insisted that the six licenses she issued to same-gender couples in 1975 are valid despite the continued statements from the state AG that they were not. “We never felt that those licenses were invalidated,” she said. “They were never taken to court or challenged on any validity issues.” The licenses were never rescinded.

Yet the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) denying Sullivan’s appeal in a letter that stated: “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.” A second letter stated that the green card petition was denied because neither party was able to perform female functions in a marriage. After the 9th Circuit Court refused to hear the couple’s case, they left everything behind and moved to Europe because the U.S. intended to deport Sullivan.

Fed up with living as paupers, they quietly moved to Los Angeles eleven months later, and Sullivan hid. After Adams was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010, their lawyer advised them to go to Washington state and get married there in case the government refused to recognize the 35-year-old Colorado license. The day before they were scheduled to go to Washington in 2012, Adams died at the age of 65.

Tony Sulllivan (right)Adams and Sullivan (right) were the first gay couple to sue the government for recognition of their marriage. After DOMA was overturned, 40,000 binational same-gender couples were eligible for immigration rights. Sullivan kept fighting for recognition of their marriage so that he could receive a green card. After DOMA was struck down two years ago today, it was too late for the couple.

Yet Sullivan sees their story as a victory. “They never managed to separate us,” he said. Their story has been made immortal in the documentary, Limited Partnership: A Love Story That Defined a Movement. Anthony Sullivan received his green card as a widower on April 21, 2016—exactly 41 years after his marriage to Richard Adams. The White House also “asked” the Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to issue a written apology to the couple.

clela 2Clela Rorex was at Out Boulder’s annual garden party to hear the announcement. At 74, Sullivan could not attend. He wrote that it was never about the green card.

“I was after being able to stay with the person I loved. It was quite a journey. Together, we made something of it rather than it just being an aberration in history. The government acknowledged we were right. It meant our lives hadn’t been wasted. We had lives that changed the world.”

Three awards were announced at the Out Boulder event.

  • The Clela Rorex “Allies in Action” award to lawyer Jean Dubofsky, who successfully argued against Colorado’s Amendment 2.
  • The Jack and Jean Hodges “Allies in Action” award to John Hoffman for his work with schools, including sharing his story with students as a “Speaking Out” panel member. Hoffman’s principal had silenced him in the 1990s for telling his students that he was gay.
  • The inaugural “Ignite and Inspire” youth award to Boulder High student Gabriela Bell—member of the Boulder Valley Safe Schools Coalition, president of Boulder High’s Gay Straight Alliance, and member of the Boulder Youth Advisory Board.

We can only hope that with people like this, we can fight the Donald Trumps and have many more anniversaries of marriage equality in the United States.

June 18, 2016

Orlando Shooting, Not the First Hate Crime

Last night Bill Maher talked about the Orlando killing being the only act of violence against LGBT people. I’m always amazed at the ignorance of self-proclaimed liberals about the subject of homophobia.

We expect this behavior from conservatives. They refuse to mention anything about the LGBT community since the Orlando shooting as they cry crocodile tears about the deaths of 50 people. They send “thoughts and prayers” and hold a “moment of silence” before voting down rights for LGBT people. Two days after the Orlando shooting, Rep. Pete Sessions blocked a bill that would have permanently banned discrimination against workers by federal contractors, President Obama’s executive order that covered 20 percent of the nation’s workers. This is the third time that the House has stopped the LGBT protections bill. Sessions also even insisted that Pulse was not a gay nightclub; he called it “a young person’s nightclub” with “some [LGBT people], but it was mostly Latinos.”

Most people don’t try to persuade conservatives to vote for equal LGBT rights in employment, housing, lodging, and other issues that greatly impact everyone’s lives. But liberals and independents who think that the shooting in Orlando is the first time and place that LGBT people have faced violence need some education.

LGBT people suffer from more hate crimes than any other minority group in the United States. Almost one-fifth of the 5,462 so-called single-bias hate crimes reported to the F.B.I. in 2014 occurred because of the target’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Hate crimes against LGBT people in the U.S. Americans are 8.3 times the expected rate based on the size of LGBT population—higher than the rate for Jews (at 3.5) and black people (at 3.2). Crimes against LGBT people increased after same-gender people gained marriage rights.

These statistics may be the tip of the iceberg because most hate crimes are not reported to the police and local jurisdictions frequently fail to classify those reported as hate crimes. Thousands of city police and county sheriff’s departments filed not one hate crime to the FBI between 2009 and 2014. Mississippi reported only one hate crime throughout the state in 2014. Data in just 12 states shows 88 homicides of LGBT people from 2012 to 2015, and homicides are almost surely much higher for the entire country.

Early reports from the Orlando shooting stated that the Orlando killer called 911 and claimed his crime supported ISIS. Since then, the investigation thinks that this might have been for attention, but conservatives cannot let go of what makes them the most comfortable. South Florida criminal defense attorney Khurrum Wahid, who has represented several defendants accused of terrorist-related activities such as supporting Islamic radicals, said, “It’s a lot easier to call it Islamic terrorism because we’re all united against that. But it’s not as easy to call it homophobia because we’re not all united against that.” The conservative belief also allows them to continue their hateful rhetoric toward the president. For example, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said on the campaign trail that “Barack Obama is directly responsible” for the deaths of 50 people last Sunday morning.

Investigations into the crime reveal that the killer was a mentally unstable, self-loathing, bigoted, violent man who abused his first wife and hated himself for being gay. Southern Poverty Law Center Mark Potok describes three strands:  “he hates gays, … he doesn’t like his life at all, … [and] Islamist ideology, which is the weakest of the three. It’s almost like an afterthought.”

The motivations behind attacks against LGBT people “have always been, and continue to be, [about] seemingly religious rhetoric,” says Kaila Story, a professor of women’s and gender studies at University of Louisville. Like politicians, conservative religion avoids mentioning that most, if not all, the people killed in Orlando are LGBT. The Vatican’s statement referred only to “innocent victims, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution read, “We regard those affected by this tragedy as fellow image-bearers of God and our neighbors.” The religious group then passed Resolution 3 that supports the overturn of marriage equality, enables religion-based discrimination against LGBT people, and opposes inclusion and respect for transgender people.

Conservative religious leaders who openly recognize that LGBT people were killed in the gay bar are gleeful about their deaths. Television evangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson responded toward the tragedy in which a Muslim “gentleman” killed 49 LGBT people: “The best thing to do is to sit on the sidelines and let them kill themselves.”

Sacramento pastor Roger Jimenez went farther than Robertson in his sermon to the members of the Verity Baptist Church, posted the day after the horrific event:

“I think that’s great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job—because these people are predators. They are abusers….

“I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put the firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out.”

YouTube removed the video the day after Jimenez posted it.

Pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church (Tempe, AZ) released this venom, again in a video uploaded to YouTube:

“The good news is that there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world, because, you know, these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles. That’s who was a victim here, are a bunch of, just, disgusting homosexuals at a gay bar, okay?”

The acceleration of hate toward LGBT people in the past year is shown by the 200 bills introduced in state legislatures and localities that would strip LGBT people of equal rights. These bills are accompanied by lies such as the danger of washing hands in a bathroom next to a transgender person. In the conservative tradition of controlling through fear, Republican lawmakers are claiming that they can protect LGBT people because of the falsehood that Muslims want to kill all “homosexuals.” Those who make that claim haven’t looked at their own Christian religion. Most Christians don’t want to “kill homosexuals,” but there are enough that LGBT people are in danger. You might want to do a little reading in that department, Bill Maher.

Donald Trump calls himself the only candidate who will protect LGBT people from Muslims—who are not a serious problem for LGBT people considering all the other issues faced in that community, including violence from so-called Christians. Although some of the 20 percent of the LGBT community who vote Republican have said that they will support Trump, the conservative gay group Log Cabin Republicans has not yet endorsed Trump for president. As with all other Trump statements, he changes his mind frequently on LGBT rights but did announce that he would select Supreme Court justices who would overturn marriage equality.

Dominique Hernandez holds up her fist painted in the colors of a rainbow, with a heart on her pulse, attends a vigil in memory of victims one day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Dominique Hernandez holds up her fist painted in the colors of a rainbow, with a heart on her pulse, attends a vigil in memory of victims one day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

What does homophobia feel like? James Michael Nichols writes that homophobia means that he is “living in constant fear of violence.” In this piece he describes his feelings as he arrives in his “home state of North Carolina”:

“But what does it mean to feel unsafe as you walk down the street, through the airport, on the subway, at the grocery store? How do you communicate that feeling to people who have never had to feel uncomfortable and regulated because of their gender presentation or self-expressions of queerness?”

He wrote about always having to assess the level of threat no matter where he is, being careful of where he goes and how he dresses, checking out places before travel, not getting a job because of being “too gay,” watching older people return to the closet to survive in nursing homes where they may die alone because families have already declared them dead, and being unable to show any affection for a loved one in public. Bill Maher should not declare that LGBT people when he has no idea that we go through in our daily lives.

Hopefully, some people can change. As a young adult, Jeremy Todd Addawy was a part of the racist skinhead movement who hated everyone except white straight people. According to an interview with Erin Nanasi, he decided that he could not live in a life “filled with rage and bigotry. This video shows his belief—in a comedic way—about his belief that “marriage is not a religious issue, it’s a freedom issue.” If he can learn, maybe others can too.

June 12, 2016

LGBT Hate Crime in Orlando Kills At Least 50, Injures More Than Another 50

Filed under: Guns,LGBT Issues — trp2011 @ 8:09 PM
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Over 100 people were shot and at least 50 of them are dead in a mass shooting early this morning at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (FLA), a popular gay bar. Omar Mateen, the man responsible for the largest mass shooting in the United States, was killed after three hours when a SWAT team swarmed into the bar. Mateen was armed with ammunition, a handgun, and an AR-15-type assault-style rifle, the civilian variant of the military M-16 rifle, according to Orlando Police Chief John Mina. The firearms were legally purchased, and the killer had active security officer and firearm licenses. His family said he worked as a private security officer.

Mateen’s father said that “this had nothing to do with religion,” but his son became very angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami. The man’s ex-wife said that he was unstable and had violent tendencies. She said that he was abusive and beat her repeatedly during their marriage. He had given her no indications that he was devoted to radical Islam.

Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, issued this statement in response:

“Last night, the worst domestic terror attack since 911 has tragically hit American LGBT families head on—children, moms, dads, neighbors, friends—lives that are changed forever. In the days ahead we will come to know the latest victims of hatred—mostly young men and women who were simply out for a night of dancing and enjoyment of our community during LGBT Pride month. These victims of a hate crime targeting an LGBT club had their futures stolen, had their dreams stolen, their potential contributions stolen from us all.

“The LGBT Orlando community and our allies in Central Florida are both strong and unified. We send a world of love and prayers to all who are grieving today and to all who will begin the hard journey to recover from untold wounds, both physical and emotional. But our love and prayers are simply not enough. Hate and separation continue to bring forth too much grief, too many stolen lives across the whole world.

“As we reach out to comfort the Orlando families, and as we support the courage for the injured to heal, may we also have the strength to address and deal with the roots of hatred and separation that target any minority community with violence, anywhere in the world. May we find a way forward to make this act of horrendous violence a commitment to come together and so honor the memories of those who were killed today.”

Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson stated:

“Spaces like Pulse aren’t just bars and clubs. They are a lifeline to many LGBTQ people —a place to be free and open. Falling almost exactly one year after the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, this tragedy is a reminder of all the ways that hate, intolerance and violence show up. As we seek to make sense of this tragedy and so many others, we do so focused on building a culture of inclusion, respect, liberation and love.”

Barbara Poma, co-owner of Pulse, founded the club to honor her brother who died of AIDS in 1991 and to support the LGBT community. She and her business partner, Ron Legler, survived the shooting. The night before this horrific killing, a St. Petersburg man shot and killed 22-year-old Christina Gimmie, while she was signing autographs after her show at The Plaza Live theater. She had won third place on NBC’s The Voice on Season 6.

President Obama called this “an act of terror and an act of hate.” He said:

“This is an especially heartbreaking day for all of our friends, our fellow Americans, who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The shooter targeted a night club where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a night club, it is a place of solidarity and empowerment, where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights. So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us, and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.”

Calls have gone out for blood donors, but men who have had sex with other men in the past year are prevented from donating, according to FDA guidelines. This policy is greatly softened since the first policy banning gay donors was adopted in 1983, but Orlando clinics are still following the 23-year-old protocols. Current tests can sense antibodies that develop within two weeks of infection, reducing the risk of receiving HIV to about 1 in 2 million, but rules for donating blood ignore this science. Other high-risk populations such as illegal drug users and prostitutes have no limits in donating blood.

In its typical hate-filled rhetoric, Fox network hosts blamed President Obama because he had made the country less safe. Donald Trump tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” Immediately after blaming “the immigrants” for the massacre, Trump said, “I am going to be a President for all Americans.” (Mateen was a U.S. citizen.) Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick posted Galatians 6:7 on Twitter: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Other Republicans who voted for unlimited ownership of guns and against LGBT rights are sending the customary “thoughts and prayers” to the victims.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “Anyone who attacks our LGBT community will be gone after with the fullest extent of the law.” In Florida, that usually means the law is only for straight white men. If Mateen were still alive, he might be able to use the defense that LGBT people threaten him.

The report that Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS has received more attention than the fact that this tragedy is a hate crime. If one self-identified Muslim kills, it’s an act that conservatives call radical Islamic terrorism so that they can push their narrow, bigoted agenda. If one self-identified Christian kills, as in the murder of three people at a Colorado abortion clinic, they think that it has nothing to do with Christianity. To conservatives, it is the act of a mentally unbalanced person. Nowhere has the mainstream media published the fact that people in the United States are much more likely to be killed by right-wing extremists, many of them self-identified Christians, than by Muslims.

Some Christian leaders call for killing all “homosexuals”; three GOP presidential candidates attended a conference this past year where the leader called for these “executions.” A Christian lawyer in California has proposed killing LGBT people with bullets to the head. More than that, he proposes that citizens should not have to face any charges if they LGBT people.  Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, calls gay Christians “the enemy.” As hate crime rates against all other segments of the population go down, hate crimes against LGBT people increase. And until this morning, these crimes were not by Muslims.

Conservative leaders, such as Ted Cruz, call for an end to “political correctness” and the restriction of “immigrants.” They are enraged because the 9th Circuit Court has ruled in favor of the California law banning concealed weapons outside the home and the 2nd Circuit Court ruled in favor of a Connecticut law that bans assault-type weapons and large magazines of weapons. Blame ISIS, they cry, while ignoring the two other largest gun massacres, one in Newton (CT) where 29 people were left dead and the other at Virginia Tech University that left 33 dead.

This Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court may hear an appeal to the decision from the 2nd Circuit Court about whether to hear Shew v. Malloy or put off that determination for another week or two. The 2nd Circuit Court had upheld a law that bans assault-type weapons and large ammunition magazines. In his decision that the Connecticut law does not violate the constitution’s Second Amendment, U.S. Circuit Judge José A. Cabranes wrote:

“New York and Connecticut have adequately established a substantial relationship between the prohibition of both semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity magazines and the important — indeed compelling — state interest in controlling crime.”

I want two things. The next time a self-identified Christian kills someone, I want it announced that a Christian performed the crime. And I want controls on gun ownership. And yes, I’m not going to get either wish.

[Update: Florida Gov. Rick Snyder has refused to recognize that killing and injuring over 100 people in a gay bar is a hate crime.

Statement from Terry O’Neill, NOW president:

We cannot say that we live in a free society when LGBTQIA people have to always wonder if horrific violence is just around the corner, or creeping up in the rearview mirror. Hate crimes against this community haven’t disappeared just because courts, political leaders and businesses now support expanded rights. We must remain vigilant against the threat of violence, but we must also speak out against a climate of bigotry and hatred that rejects or devalues LGBTQIA rights.

 

 

March 14, 2016

GOP Platform—Not My Problem, No

Conservatives tend to care only for themselves. Asked about the importance of health care for all, they respond, “But then I can’t find a doctor.” According to conservatives, suffering for anyone else is “not my problem (NMP).” Questions showing how conservatives take no responsibility for anyone except for their personal, selfish needs with conservatives’ responses:

Birth Control: Do you know that birth control keeps women from having unwanted pregnancies? “NMP.”

Abortions: Do you understand that more unwanted pregnancies mean more abortions? “I’m pro-life.” What about women who have children they can’t afford? “NMP.”

Food Stamps: Do you realize that forcing women to have children they can’t afford means they need food stamps and Medicaid? “I cut spending on those because I’m fiscally responsible.” But that means children have no medical care and go hungry. “NMP.”

Crime: What about children growing up in poverty who turn to crime? “I live in a gated community so NMP.”

Minimum Wage: What about millions of people forced to live in poverty because of low wages even if they work 60 hours or more each week? “NMP.”

Food Stamps Again: What about people who have to rely on food stamps because of low wages? “I cut spending on those because I’m fiscally responsible–NMP.”

Immigration: Do you know that building a wall along the entire border would such up taxpayer money and not even work? “NMP.”

Families: Don’t you understand that deporting parents away from their children is cruel and inhumane. “NMP.”

Racism: What about the anti-Latino rhetoric increasing racial tensions and violence against innocent people? “NMP.”

“War on Drugs”: Do you understand that the so-called “war on drugs” does no good while it puts millions of people in prison for smoking a plant? “NMP.”

Racism Again: What about the effect of these laws to put Blacks in jail more often and for longer times than Whites? “NMP.”

Gang Violence: And what about the devastation of black communities that contributes to poverty and gang violence? “NMP.”

Health Care: Do you care that repealing Obamacare would talk health care away from over 20 million people? “NMP.”

Pre-existing Conditions: Are you aware that Obamacare stops insurance companies from denying health care to sick people? “NMP.” And kicking people off insurance if they get sick? “NMP.”

Pro-Life: How can you be pro-life and not care about people dying from lack of insurance. “NMP.”

Heroin: Do you realize that the white communities will have the same experiences because millions of Whites are using heroin? “That can’t be true. We need to change the laws (ala Koch brothers)! They aren’t criminals—they victims and deserve our compassion and help! Spare no expense!”

When the conservatives took over both congressional chambers 14 and a half months ago, they bragged that they were going to move the country forward. Instead, they’ve created more gridlock.  The policy of”not my problem” is accompanied by “hell, no!”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) promised a “Year of Ideas,” with legislation aimed at poverty and health care. The chamber has been in session for 154 of the 431 days since the GOP Congress took over. As in the past few years, legislation previously dominated by name changes for buildings can’t even manage that any more: nine GOP members fought naming a post office after national treasure and poet Maya Angelou, calling her a “communist sympathizer.” The House did manage to delay regulations for brick kilns.

The GOP Senate has 298 House-passed bills awaiting action while it spent four weeks on an energy efficiency bill that isn’t finished. Opioid legislation was passed with no funding, and individuals stalled bills for criminal justice reform and Flint’s water crisis—in this case GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz.  It also made the policy of NO quite clear by rejecting the constitutional directive to consider any nominee for the Supreme Court. President Obama came out with six possible appointments, three of them women. That number has been cut in half as conservatives trash professional careers.

One of those who disappeared is Jane Kelly, heartily endorsed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for the 8th Circuit Court. Grassley described Kelly, unanimously confirmed for her present position in 2013, as “a forthright woman of high integrity and honest character” with an “exceptionally keen intellect.” That was before an ad funded by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) smeared her for defending constitutional rights guaranteeing all people accused of a crime “the assistance of counsel for his defense.” A public defender in 2005, Kelly represented Casey Frederiksen, on child pornographer who was later convicted of killing a five-year-old girl. Although Kelly did not defend Frederiksen for this murder, the ad uses this murder to inflame people.

JCN began a Judicial Confirmation Network during the Bush administration to help confirm George W.’s nominees. The name changed in 2010 to prevent President Obama’s nominees after the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. It has a seven-figure advertising budget to keep Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and vulnerable senators up for election from allowing a nominee to be considered as well as a six-figure campaign targeting Democrats. JCN has also hired a team of ten researchers from America Rising to locate information keeping any nominees from going to the Senate.

Not satisfied with its continuation of congressional malfunction and trying to wreak the same for the Supreme Court, Congress has decided to ignore the country’s budget—the first time since the system began in 1974. This after bitterly complaining about Democratic inaction several years ago. Both the House and the Senate have decided that they will not have hearings on the president’s budget or allow administration officials to testify about it. This decision came before they even saw any budget. This stupidity follows the 14-month refusal to act on a nominee to head up the Treasury Department’s terrorism section. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), chair of the Banking Committee, explained the reason for the wait: he faced a primary challenge and couldn’t approve any Obama nominee.

The NMP and NO economic stagnation policies for 99 percent of people in the U.S. have led to widespread poverty and misery. It’s the conservative “me me me” philosophy that trashes long term greater good for short term personal profit. Now the establishment Republicans can’t understand why Donald Trump is in the lead. The word “demagogue” is freely tossed around—even applied to President Obama. Users of this term need to consult their dictionaries: it refers to “a political leader who tries to get support by making false claims and promises and using arguments based on emotion rather than reason, a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.”

GOP consultant Alex Castellanos may have said it best:

“If our self-indulgent Republican party establishment had really wanted to prevent a takeover of the GOP, they should not have gorged on political power while they failed to do anything to prevent the decline of the country. Our leaders could have led. They could have done more than say ‘no’ to Democrats while offering no alternative.”

President Obama followed up this analysis when by connecting the Trump phenomenon to “a notion that everything I do is to be opposed; that cooperation or compromise somehow is a betrayal.” This, he said, made “an environment where somebody like a Donald Trump can thrive.” Tomorrow will show how much Trump is thriving when five states hold their primaries. If he does, the GOP will be—well deservedly—suffering.

trumpprotest-missouri2This is what happens to a non-violent protester at a Trump rally. And it may get much worse. Trump supporters have called for a “militia” supposedly to protect voters against so-called “violent far-left agitators.” “The Lion’s Guard” calls on people to “provide security protection to innocent people who are subject to harassment and assault by Far-left agitators “ and be “willing to forcefully protect people if need be.” Members are already asking for “uniform suggestions.”

While Trump invites violence, he calls for pledges.  As Saturday, he told his audience to repeat after him:

“I do solemnly swear that I, no matter how I feel, no matter what the conditions, if there are hurricanes or whatever, will vote on or before the 12thfor Donald J. Trump for president.”

He then promised that “bad things” would happen to them if they broke their pledge.

GettyImages-513910372

Donald Trump’s campaign is reminiscent of Germany in the 1930s as he asks for violence and demands people to swear that they willl vote for him. All this came from the GOP that decided on a platform of NMP and NO.

 

November 20, 2015

LGBT Equality Only Partial

Many same-gender couples will spend their first Thanksgiving as married couples after the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. Yet Obergefell v. Hodges has not made LGBT families secure throughout the nation because of a myriad of roadblocks in many states.

An early obstruction came in Rowan County (KY) last summer when the county clerk, Kim Davis, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. After her contempt of court kept her in jail for a few days, she said that the county deputy clerks could issue the licenses but only after she changed the wording of the license forms and removed her name and that of Rowan County. She also ordered her deputies to sign the forms as “notary publics” instead of deputy county clerks.

Although Gov. Steven L. Beshear declared last month that the marriage licenses were valid, he has now submitted a brief with the U.S. District Court that states his office does not have the authority to determine whether these licenses are valid. Couples have filed a brief in U.S. District Court supporting their prior assertion that the Rowan County clerk’s office failed to comply with orders directing deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses without interference by Clerk Kim Davis.

ScaliaSupreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia angrily spoke about losing Obergefell during a speech to first-year law students at Georgetown last week. Scalia said that determining which minorities deserve protection should be made through the democratic process rather than a court decision. According to Scalia, only political and religious minorities are protected by the constitution.

Last summer’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges may have changed the perception of due process. According to Kenji Yoshino, the case may displace five decades of the high court’s substantive due process decisions. For a half century, the Court used tradition, specific definition rather than general abstraction, and the willingness to protect negative “freedom from” rights rather than positive “freedom to” rights to determine due process. Almost two decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Washington v. Glucksberg that due process did not cover the right to assistance in committing suicide. In Obergefell’s dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts, who declared that the majority “effectively overrule[d] Glucksberg, the leading modern case setting the bounds of substantive due process.”

The marriage equality ruling has replaced a rigid ruling on due process, according to Yoshino, with the common-law approach voiced in Justice John Harlan’s dissent for Poe v. Ullman (1961). He supported a balance of individual liberties against government interests without being “shackled to the past.” Tradition, to Harlan, was a “living thing,” a concept that Scalia despises. Instead of opposing marriage equality because of the long historical tradition against same-gender marriage, the Court majority considered the “right to marry.” The question for the future is whether Obergefell will be used to make future decisions about due process or whether the Court will revert to the past as it has many times since Roberts became chief justice.

For now, some courts and legislatures are giving same-gender couples a “partial equalty”—really an inequality—that will require the Supreme Court to take up more litigation. Custody, adoptions, fostering children, and couples’ rights after separation are most likely the next fights for same-gender couples.

Hoagland.PeirceIn Utah, Judge Scott N. Johansen ordered a nine-months-old child removed from a lesbian couple because it was “not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex couples.” Public outcry led to his rescinding the order, but the judge left open the possibility of removal at a December 4 hearing. Fortunately for the child, the judge has now recused himself “and refers all pending matters to be assigned by the presiding judge.”

Utah began placing children with same-gender couples after the Supreme Court decision last summer, and an infant girl was placed with married couple Rebecca A. Peirce, 34, and April M. Hoagland (above left), 38, and their two biological children in August. On November 10, 2015, the two women attended what they thought was a regular hearing, but Johansen ordered that the baby be removed within a week and given to a heterosexual couple. The Division of Child and Family Services said that it was “in the child’s best interest” to stay with the two women. Even the GOP governor joined in the protest for the judge’s decision. Gary R. Herbert said, “He may not like the law, but he should follow the law.”

As in Kentucky, the current obstacle is not necessarily the law but the attitude of government employees who discriminate against LGBT people. In the hearing, the judge said “that research has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home,” but he refused to cite any sources. At this time, research is on the side of the same-gender couple with no current credible study supporting the judge’s bias.

Justice Anthony Kennedy clearly listed adoption among the rights associated with marriage, but he didn’t mention foster parenting. Until recently, most states prevented child placement with same-gender couples who were not married, and the law prevented many of these couples from being married. Several states permit private placement agencies to discriminate against same-gender couples, but Mississippi is the only state that flagrantly enforces a state law banning adoptions by same-gender couples.

smith and Phillips adoptionFour couples are challenging the Mississippi ban on adoptions by same-gender couples, including Janet Smith and her wife, Donna Phillips (right). The state is blocking Smith’s adoption of Donna’s eight-year-old daughter, Hannah Marie. The two married women are raising Hannah together, but Smith has no legal status in regards to their daughter. Phillips, a captain in the Mississippi Air National Guard, is “concerned about legal aspects for Jan” if she is called or activated. This lack of legal recognition puts children at risk of losing both their parents and ending up in foster care if something happens to their birth parent and their other parent is not legally recognized.

Last year, 29 percent of Mississippi’s same-gender couples were raising children younger than 18, the highest percentage of any state. A year ago, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves found the adoption ban to be unconstitutional, but the decision was stayed pending action by the Fifth Circuit and then the Supreme Court. Ronnie Musgrove, the governor who signed the ban into law 15 years ago, has written that he regrets his action. “As I have gotten older, I came to understand that a person’s sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with their ability to be a good parent.”

Another Mississippi couple, Kathryn Garner and Susan Hrostowski, has waited 15 years for a second-parent adoption of the child they raised together since he was born just six weeks before the ban went into effect. Two other couples, also plaintiffs in the case, want to adopt children from foster care. Kari Lunsford and Tinora Sweeten-Lunsford wanted to take a child with special needs who could not be matched with other foster parents. They were told that they would have to live apart for at least six months during a home study, and only one of them could adopt the child.

The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review an Alabama case in which judges refuse to recognize an adoption granted in another state. A lesbian known in court filings by her initials V.L. helped raise the children, now ages 10 to 12, but has no visitation rights since the couple separated. During their 16-year relationship, the two women had three children from sperm donors, and a Georgia court approved V.L.’s adoption of the children in 2007. In September 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court struck down the woman’s visitation rights and ruled the adoption invalid, saying the Georgia court was wrong under that state’s adoption laws to grant it. Earlier this year, the same court directed probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to same-gender couples even after a federal judge ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

The case involves a constitutional provision requiring one state to respect court orders of other states: Article IV’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. Lawyers for V.L. wrote that the decision “would create a massive loophole in the Full Faith and Credit Clause.”  They added, “There is no legal or practical basis for singling out adoptions as uniquely unworthy of full faith and credit.” If states don’t recognize adoptions from other states, LGBT parents can lose their parental rights when they travel, for example the inability to make medical decisions for their children if they are in an accident. V.L.’s attorneys have also applied to the Supreme Court for a stay of the Alabama’s ruling so that she can visit the children during the appeal. Justice Clarence Thomas, the justice with jurisdiction in Alabama for emergency actions, has called for E. L., the biological mother, to respond to the stay applications by November 30.

LGBT discrimination

Despite last summer’s ruling that same-gender couples can marry, 61 percent of the LGBT population “will continue to live in states with medium or low legal protections—or that have outright hostile laws,” according to the report Mapping LGBT Equality in America, released earlier this year. Since this map was released in early October, all of Houston (TX) LGBT people lost their rights in the November election.

June 26, 2015

I’m Really Married!

A couple of days ago, I ran into a friend while shopping for groceries—one of the perks of living in a small town—and the conversation moved to an imminent Supreme Court ruling about marriage equality. I commented that it feels odd to have to wait for a court ruling to find out if I’m legally married, something that heterosexual couples don’t have to consider. She replied that she thought the ruling was only for the four states in the current SCOTUS lawsuit. Remembering how Citizens United dealt only with one film and was expanded by a highly conservative court to allow hidden donations of unlimited amounts for elections, I pointed out that the Supreme Court can do anything it wants—and frequently does.

Luckily my doubts about a Supreme Court decision rescinding marriage rights in some of the 36 states because of “states rights” or “popular vote” or some other beliefs that create uneven rights across the nation did not come to fruition. In 11 years, the number of states where same-sex couples can legally marry has gone from one to 50. I encourage you to click on this link to revel in the changes within just a little over a decade.

As most of you have heard, today, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. This ruling is exactly two years after the Supreme Court struck down the badly named Defense of Marriage Act and twelve years after the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws. On the right side of history, sometimes conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote of the majority and author in all three of these cases. In today’s 34-page opinion, Kennedy wrote that “no union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.” He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Jose Diaz-Balart wrote:

“The Supreme Court ruled Friday that the U.S. Constitution requires states to license and recognize same-sex marriages, making marriage equality officially the law of the land.

“Two questions stood before the high court: Does the 14th Amendment require states to license a marriage between two people of the same sex, and does that same amendment require a state to recognize legally valid same-sex marriages performed elsewhere?

“The court ruled that the answer to both questions is ‘yes,’ clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to marry in all 50 states.”

This Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges, was named after Jim Obergefell, who sued to have his name placed on the death certificate of his late spouse, John Arthur. Marriage equality in his state of Ohio and the other three states of the 6th Circuit Court—Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee—had been blocked by that court’s ruling against same-sex marriage. It was the only appellate court to rule against marriage equality in the past nine years.

Thanks to today’s ruling, LGBT military families have access to full federal veterans benefits denied to them because of the patchwork laws granting legalized marriage equality across the nation. Even after the partial demise of DOMA, the VA determined the validity of marriages for benefits  by the state of residence, not the state of celebration. Veterans could even be denied full rights to VA home loans. Off the bases where military members were stationed, many married same-sex couples lost their marital rights, and the military could re-locate them to non-equality states where a lesbian or gay could lose the ability to make healthcare decisions for a spouse or enroll a child in school.

Justice Antonin Scalia, roundly ridiculed for his ridiculous and pretentious language in this and other dissents, aptly described the problem of the current court when he wrote that the court is “strikingly unrepresentative” of the country as a whole.

“To allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.”

The “unrepresentative panel” didn’t bother Scalia when the court turned elections over to the wealthy in the cases of Citizens United and American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock. Nor was it a concern of Scalia when the court disenfranchised millions of voters two years ago in Shelby County v. Holder. Scalia had no problem with District of Columbia v. Heller that took states’ rights away from sensible gun laws. Of course, Scalia never criticized the court ruling in Bush v. Gore that put Bush in the presidency although both the popular vote and the electoral vote (proved when the Florida count was completed) were in favor of Al Gore.

The dissenters—Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and John Roberts—each wrote his own dissenting opinion. For the first time since he joined the court over ten years ago, Roberts read his dissent from the bench. Thomas’ dissent may have been the most bizarre: he claimed that same-sex couples don’t lose their dignity without marriage just as slaves didn’t lose their dignity in slavery. Roberts said the majority decision was “an act of will, not legal judgment.” He also expressed concern about transforming a social institution forming “the basis of human society for … the Carthaginians and the Aztecs.” I’m still scratching my head about that logic. You can find more mind-boggling dissents here.

The ruling gives the losing side about three weeks to ask for reconsideration. What the 14 states fighting marriage equality at this time will probably compare to the fight against school integration in the 1960s. Rick Scarborough, a former Texas Baptist pastor, told right-wing Virginian E.W. Jackson that he will set himself on fire if the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage. There’s been no record thus far that he has carried out his threat.

GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is on the front line of the fight with his statement that “the Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than it can the law of gravity.” In addition to imposing his personal beliefs on everyone in the United States, he describes himself as being persecuted and advocates for overturning the constitution. Huckabee wants free speech for the Confederate flag but not for accepting same-sex marriage. Other candidates indicated different levels of distress about the ruling.

Scalia is enraged at Kennedy because Scalia claims to know exactly what the authors of the constitution intended and fits his interpretation to his rulings. Kennedy wrote:

“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,” he wrote on Friday. “The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”

Future LGBT rights may come from Kennedy’s use of the word “immutable”—twice—in his opinion. The Supreme Court has now declared that sexual orientation is not a choice because it is of an “immutable nature.”

Kennedy also wrote:

“The challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and they abridge central precepts of equality. The marriage laws at issue are in essence unequal: Same-sex couples are denied benefits afforded opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right. Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial works a grave and continuing harm, serving to disrespect and subordinate gays and lesbians.”

 

i dough i doughThe “sweetest” thing I read about the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality is Ben and Jerry’s decision to change one of its ice cream flavors to “I Dough, I Dough.” The company selected my favorite flavor, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, for the change. Unfortunately, it’s only temporary, but the sleeve for the pint of ice cream is available from the Human Rights campaign with proceeds going to HRC. According to its website, Ben & Jerry’s 1989 decision made it “the first major employer in Vermont to offer health insurance to domestic partners of employees, including same sex couples, and we haven’t spent one minute regretting it.” The company also celebrated Vermont’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2009 with “Chubby Hubby” replaced by “Hubby Hubby.”

Facebook will also “rainbowify” profile photos.

Kennedy also wrote that the petitioners’ “hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” My spouse is almost 82, and I turned 74 this year. We celebrated our 46th anniversary yesterday. Equal dignity to us means that neither geographical location nor new court rulings can determine the legality of our marriage of one year, eight months, two weeks, and six days. At least for now.

[Note: George Stephanopoulos has asked Family Research Council’s Ken Blackwell to be on Sunday’s ABC This Week. Blackwell has said that marriage equality leads to mass shootings, and the FRC has lied about LGBT people including the claim that gay men molest children. Other mainstream networks no longer feature FRC spokespeople. Tell ABC to do the same.]

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