Nel's New Day

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

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.]

April 30, 2015

LGBT Community Waits for Marriage Equality Ruling

tevin“I’ve been given a great life,” Tevin Johnson-Campion told HuffPo‘s Josh Zepps. “My parents have always been there for me, and just for someone to sit there and say that we’re less deserving, I definitely feel like that’s offensive,” Johnson-Campion continued about his two fathers, plaintiffs in the marriage equality law suit, Obergefell v. Hodges, that the Supreme Court heard on April 28. (Follow Johnson-Campion’s journey toward marriage quality with his two fathers at his blog.)

The marriage equality case is named after the lead plaintiff, James Obergefell, who was not allowed to have his name listed on his husband’s Ohio death certificate. The court’s job in this case is to answer two questions: do states have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and do states have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state?

Opponents to same-sex marriages need to maintain that they have no ill will toward LGBT people to avoid heightened scrutiny. John Bursch, lawyer against marriage equality, failed that test when he said that heterosexual parents would more likely abandon their children if society felt that marriage is just about love. He ignored the four special-needs children of the Michigan plaintiffs who cannot be adopted by both their parents because the women cannot be married. Anthony Kennedy told Bursch, “I think the argument cuts quite against you.”

john_j_bursch_0When Bursch claimed that the banning marriage equality doesn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation, Elena Kagan answered, “If you prevent people from wearing yarmulkes, you know, that’s discrimination against Jews.”

Bursch got into deeper trouble with the swing justices, Kennedy and John Roberts, when he tried the argument that allowing marriage between two people who cannot procreate together leads to more children born out of wedlock and the “reasonable voter” to ban same-sex marriage. “The state doesn’t have an interest in love and emotion at all,” Bursch said. “It’s about binding children to their biological moms and dads.” He went so far as to say that marriage was never intended to be “dignitary [sic] bestowing.” Kennedy disagreed in amazement, saying that he thought this was the entire point of marriage.

same sex marriage drawingAfter a debate on whether couples should be asked if they wanted children before they were permitted to marry, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 82, told Bursch, “Suppose a couple, 70-year-old couple, comes in and they want to get married? You don’t have to ask [the 70-year-old couple] any questions. You know they are not going to have any children.”

To the absurd argument that marriage equality would weaken the institution, Ginsberg responded:

“All of the incentives, all of the benefits that marriage affords would still be available. So you’re not taking away anything from heterosexual couples. They would have the very same incentive to marry, all the benefits that come with marriage that they do now.”

As Roberts and Kennedy fretted about rushing into marriage equality, Ginsburg gave a great tutorial:

“Marriage today is not what it was under the common law tradition, under the civil law tradition. Marriage was a relationship of a dominant male to a subordinate female. That ended as a result of this court’s decision in 1982 when Louisiana’s Head and Master Rule was struck down … Would that be a choice that state should [still] be allowed to have? To cling to marriage the way it once was?”

Bursch said, “No.”

Roberts suggested that LGBT people should keep on persuading people to accept marriage equality and not bother the court. He said:

“I mean, closing of debate can close minds, and it will have a consequence on how this new institution is, is accepted.  People feel very differently about something if they have a chance to vote on it than if it’s imposed on them by the courts.”

By now, over 60 percent of the people have accepted same-sex marriage compared to the mere 20 percent who approved of interracial marriages when Loving v. Virginia made interracial marriage the law of the land.

Defending the nonrecognition laws was Tennessee Associate Solicitor General Joseph Whalen who rapidly found himself in trouble when he tried to defend the practice of not accepting marriages of same-sex couples who wed in other states. Stephen Breyer noted that Washington, D.C., allows federal judges to marry people but New York does not. He asked, “So if I marry two people in Washington, D.C., and they happen to move to New York, you are saying that New York doesn’t have to recognize that marriage?” When Whalen said yes, Breyer replied, “I think there are a few people going to get nervous about this.”

Whalen dug his hole deeper by trying to draw a difference between a judgment and a law after Sonia Sotomayor said that a divorce is a legal judgment. Ginsburg added, “It is odd, isn’t it, that a divorce does become the decree for the nation … but not the act of marriage.”

Samuel Alito asked about a compromise that would allow states to ban gay marriages while at the same time recognizing such marriages performed out of state. One might wonder if he is considering this position.

Roberts appears to search for a way to control his court if Kennedy votes with the progressive justices. He said:

“I’m not sure it’s necessary to get into sexual orientation to revolve this case. I mean, if Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t. And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?”

Using this rationale wins the battle for marriage equality because the enemy retreats. That decision gives LGBT people no constitutional protections beyond those connected with marriage. It’s also dishonest because the discrimination has been based on sexual orientation and gender identity, not the person’s sex.

Why now? And why are we the ones who should make the decision? That seemed to be the position of the four conservative justices and sometimes Kennedy. Lawyer Donald Verrilli gave the justices the legal reason to the questions why now and why them.

“What these gay and lesbian couples are doing is laying claim to the promise of the Fourteenth Amendment now, and it is emphatically the duty of this Court, in this case … to decide what the Fourteenth Amendment requires.”

The time is now because the plaintiffs came to court, asking for rights for themselves and their children, and the Supreme Court justices are the ones because they represent the law.

The people who think there is no discrimination against LGBT people need to consider the difficulties that just the plaintiffs—only a few same-sex couples—have endured because they cannot be married: no death certificate, no ability to adopt partner’s children, limited parental rights (health care, visitation, etc., etc.), no “interstate travel” with partner’s adopted children, no family health care, no co-ownership of their home without costs for legal contortions, social stigma for children, no adoption for foster children, higher income and estate taxes, more restrict time off work for family care, no medical power of attorney, no Social Security benefits or inheritance rights, and no divorce. It’s more than a yarmulke.

How could the court rule?

It could require states to recognize marriage equality without affirming equal protection by not listing LGBT people among classes of people granted legal protection from discrimination.

It could water down the legal standard necessary to prove discrimination in court.

It could take a state’s rights position and leave everything up to the states.

It could take the Alito compromise by requiring states to recognize same-sex marriage without performing them within the states.

Until the court delivers its decision, probably at the end of June, people will continue to protest—like these people.

April 27, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage = Equal Rights

Forty years ago, a young clerk in Boulder (CO) gave marriage licenses to six same-sex couples before the state attorney general discontinued the practice. Clela Rorex made history, and one couple, Anthony Corbett Sullivan and Richard Frank Adams, made more history when they sued the government after the U.S. government denied an application for Sullivan, an Australian, to stay in the United States although he was married to a citizen. The response on the denial read, “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”

The 9th Circuit Court ruled against Adams’ suit to obtain an immigrant visa for Sullivan, stating that Colorado might recognize the marriage but the federal government would not. The couple did not quit: Sullivan filed a new suit, arguing that his deportation constituted an extreme hardship because ending his relationship with Adams would “cause him personal anguish and hurt.” He also wrote that his deportation to Australia would be an undue hardship “because homosexuals are not accepted in that society and because the members of his own family who live in Australia have turned against him.”

The author of the opinion against Sullivan in the same court was Anthony Kennedy, the same Kennedy who is one of nine U.S. Supreme Court justices to hear tomorrow’s arguments on legalizing marriage equality. Kennedy justified his rejection of Sullivan’s arguments:

“Even if all of Sullivan’s arguments are accepted at face value, they do not necessarily constitute a showing of extreme hardship as the term is defined in the immigration laws. Deportation rarely occurs without personal distress and emotional hurt.”

A dissenting judge explained that this case was different: “Most deported aliens can return to their native lands with their closest companions. But Sullivan would be precluded from doing so because Adams allegedly would not be permitted to emigrate to Australia.” That judge, however, was in the minority.

The story of Adams and Sullivan is the subject of a documentary, Limited Partnership, that airs on public television’s program Independent Lens on June 15, 2015.

The U.S. Supreme Court avoided hearing any same-sex marriage cases until two of them appeared in 2013, one about California’s Prop 8 and the other connected to declaring that New York’s Edie Windsor is legally a widow after her female partner died. Although SCOTUS accepted the 1972 Baker v. Nelson case in 1975 about two Minnesota men suing to be married, it dismissed the suit “for want of a substantial federal question.”

Rorex wasn’t the first clerk to permit a marriage license for a same-sex couple when she started doing this in March 1975. The first recognized marriage license for a same-sex couple was in Maricopa County (AZ) two months earlier when the person behind the counter issued the license because Arizona had no law banning same-sex couples. An Arizona judge declared the license invalid by citing the book of Genesis, and the gay couple did not pursue it further. The Arizona legislature than banned marriage equality.

Adams and Sullivan, however, were the first same-sex couple who took the matter to the courts after their marriage was declared invalid.

Until 1973, when Maryland passed the first ban on marriage equality, no state had any restriction on gender in a marriage statute.

After Rorex started handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a man showed up with his horse, Dolly, and asked for a marriage license for the two of them. Rorex asked the horse’s age and then denied the application because, at 8 years old, Dolly was too young to marry without her parents’ written consent.

Talking about giving same-sex couples marriage licenses, Rorex said:

“If I had the opportunity to do it over again, I would do it with more conviction this time. Then I knew nothing about gay and lesbian relationships. I only knew one gay man. But I knew it was the right thing to do. My only regret in this is that people with long-term loving relationships still can’t get married. I now know several gay and lesbian couples who have been together for years. They reaffirm to me that this is an issue of human rights, civil rights. All the fanatical hatemongering about it is frightening and infuriating.”

A 2011 interview with Rorex, 70, is available here.

Adams leftThe couple denied marriage rights because of Kennedy’s ruling stayed together until Adams (left) died in 2012. Sullivan, 73, still has the license and the “faggot letter.” He tells about pursuing the lawsuit until Kennedy ruled in 1985 that Sullivan could be deported, a decision that led the couple to fly to London and move to Northern Ireland. About their 41-year relationship, Sullivan said, “Not to get sloppy, but he meant everything to me, and I meant everything to him.” This statement resonates with millions of same-sex couples.

An ironic part of Kennedy’s opinion against the couple is that Kennedy went on to author the protection of LGBT citizens in Romer v. Evans (1996); the abolition of anti-homosexual sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas (2003); and the striking down of a vital piece of the federal DOMA in United States v. Windsor (2013).

After trying other methods of keeping Adams in the United States, the couple had gone to Rorex after the Advocate published an article about her giving a marriage license to a gay couple. The newly-hired clerk found nothing in the law to stop her, and a county attorney agreed. She said that she didn’t know anyone from the LGBT community, but she sensed the same discrimination as against women.

At their first news conference after getting married, a reporter asked Sullivan, “Oh, and what is it that either of you do in bed?” He answered, “If you tell me what you and your wife do in bed, I’ll be happy to tell you what we do in bed.”

Lonely for their home in the United States and Adams’ family, the couple moved back to the states where Sullivan lived in what he calls the “immigration closet.” He worked as the building manager and paid his taxes. Sullivan’s immigration status is still unsettled because he refused to marry Adams—again. He maintains that “Richard and I have never budged on the concept that the Boulder marriage was legitimate—it’s still in the books.” Friends persuaded the reluctant couple to go to Washington state for a wedding in December 2012, but Adams died of lung cancer the next day.

Since then, Sullivan received a work permit and later a letter from the government after he wrote President Obama. “I requested, basically for Richard, an apology for the faggot letter, because I felt that as an American citizen, he didn’t deserve to have that on his record,” Sullivan said. “Because he loved his country.” León Rodriguez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the successor to the INS, responded:

“This agency should never treat any individual with the disrespect shown toward you and Mr. Adams. You have my sincerest apology for the years of hurt caused by the deeply offensive and hateful language used in the November 24, 1975, decision and my deepest condolences on your loss.”

Sullivan now has a widower’s petition pending before the agency. He will be in Washington, D.C. tomorrow for the Supreme Court’s marriage equality argument in a case that will decide the fate of millions of people in the United States–same-sex couples and their children. Adams and Sullivan’s story is just one that shows the inequities in marriage.

marriagemap

A patchwork collection of laws from courts, legislatures, and popular vote give rights to some same-sex couples but not all. Today, same-sex couples can be married in 37 states and Washington, D.C. with full state rights and many federal benefits. Some of the other 13 states allow them marital and federal rights if they were married in another states with marriage equality; some of them don’t. The Supreme Court will decide whether all people in same-sex marriages deserve the same rights as those given opposite-sex couples.

Clela Rorex said: “My toes and fingers are crossed,” Rorex says. “It just has to go forward. We cannot have piecemeal civil rights in our country. And to me, marriage equality is a civil rights issue. It’s a human rights issue.”

It’s time for LGBT people to get one of their constitutional rights—legal marriage.

March 27, 2015

Indiana Legalizes Discrimination

For most of my life, Indiana was just the state between Illinois and Ohio, fairly innocuous when compared to the corrupt one on the left with four of the last seven governors going to prison and the occasional scandals in the one on the right. Indiana’s one president, Benjamin Harrison, barely made a splash, and most people don’t know that Vice-president Dan Quayle, is a native. Current governor, Mike Pence, is a possible GOP presidential candidate. He’ll just have to decide whether to make another gubernatorial run because he can’t run for both offices. Little noticed when he accepted a form of expanded Medicaid last January, his latest law has put him on the map like New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Texas’ Rick Perry.

Yesterday he signed state Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law. Religious belief can now be used for legalized discrimination in Indiana starting on July 1:

“A governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability…. A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding.”

“Person” is defined as an individual, organization, religious society, church, corporation, company, “unincorporated association or another entity,” but the law fails to define “substantial burden.” Individuals can find legal protection in the bill “regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” The exception enables discrimination because people cannot file complaints against businesses for discrimination.

Although other states have proposed the same law, even Jan Brewer was smart enough to not sign a similar bill when she was governor in Arizona. The signing was a private ceremony with only invited fundamentalist Christians and Jews, news of the event crossed the country like a wildfire.

Businesses and organizations that complained about the discrimination, but Pence told them that their concerns were only a “misunderstanding.” When signing the bill, he said, “This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it.” He blamed the media for the national outrage and said his primary concern was for religious believers who feel their liberty is endangered.

Major businesses, activists, and organizations speaking out against the bill included the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Indiana’s Republican mayor Greg Ballard. The chief executive of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Kevin Brinegar, assailed the law as “entirely unnecessary.”

CEO Marc Benioff of Salesforce, purchaser of Indianopolis-based Exact Tartet, was joined by other cloud computer companies in protest. Benioff tweeted, “Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert said the Indianapolis-based group would examine “how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.” The Final Four men’s basketball tournament is in Indianapolis next week. Arn Tellem, a prominent sports agent whose clients include the basketball players Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Jason Collins, wrote:

“The measure codifies hatred under the smoke screen of freedom and jeopardizes all that has been recently accomplished. It legalizes discrimination against L.G.B.T. individuals and will cause significant harm to many people.”

Tellem urged the Indiana Pacers and the entire NCAA “to not only condemn this blatantly unconstitutional legislation, but to take forceful action against it by re-evaluating their short- and long-term plans in the state.”

Indianopolis’ largest convention, Gen Con, has threatened to take its 56,000 attendees and $50 million in revenue elsewhere when its contract with the Indiana Convention Center expires in 2020.

Todd Adams, associate general minister and vice-president of the Indianapolis-based Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) said, “Our perspective is that hate and bigotry wrapped in religious freedom is still hate and bigotry.” With 659,000 members in North America, the denomination has been headquartered in Indianapolis for almost 100 years. The group may look for another location for its 2017 convention that draws about 6,000 attendees.

CEO Jeremy Stoppelman of Yelp, which publishes online reviews of businesses, wrote a blog opposing laws that legalize discrimination. “It is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large.”

Eli Lilly, employer of over 11,700 people in the state, wrote, “Simply put, we believe discriminatory legislation is bad for Indiana and for business.” It added, “As we recruit, we are searching for top talent all over the world. We need people who will help find cures for such devastating diseases as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Many of those individuals won’t want to come to a state with laws that discriminate.”

George Takei, actor in Star Trek, promised a boycott. “If it goes into effect, Indiana will be marked as a state where certain people are not welcome,” he posted on Facebook. “We will not spend. And we will not attend events, including GenCon, the world’s largest gaming convention, held in Indianapolis each year. Many fans here are gamers, Governor Pence, and we will demand the convention move out of your state.”

Broadway actress Audra McDonald threatened to drop an upcoming Indiana performance but decided instead to donate proceeds to LGBT rights groups. She tweeted, “On the phone w/@united so long I forgot what year it was, then saw the law Indiana Gov.Pence just signed & remembered…It’s 1950.”

San Francisco is the first city to take action since the bill was signed into law. Mayor Ed Lee announced that the city will not use taxpayer money to fund any city employees’ trips to Indiana.

The law’s target is the LGBT community after the state was forced to legalize marriage equality across the nation. Eric Miller, executive director of the group Advance America, said the law protects Christian bakers, florists and photographers who don’t want “to participate in a homosexual marriage,” Christian businesses that refuse “to allow a man to use the women’s restroom,” and churches that refuse to allow their premises to be used for same-sex weddings.

Yet the discrimination can be against anyone. An employer can refuse to hire Jewish employees, a landlord can refuse to rent to Muslims, or a business can refuse to serve atheists. Pharmacists can refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control or drugs dealing with HIV. Restaurants can refuse to serve African-Americans, and people can be exempted from compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Anyone violating a biblical passage is at risk for discrimination.

Indiana has problems more serious than a same-sex couple wanting to buy a wedding cake. With 79 newly confirmed HIV cases within the past three months in Scott County, Pence declared an epidemic and lifted the state law preventing needle exchange in the county. The number is up from an annual average of five cases, and all the new cases are linked to needle sharing among drug users. Pence said, “despite my reservations,” that he is permitting drug users to exchange used hypodermic needles for sterile ones and only in that county for 30 days. Doctors disagree with Pence that this will fix the problem. Poverty has led to an outbreak of hepatitis, a precursor to HIV epidemics, and the county has no addition treatment center. They expect the problem to grow worse across the state.

 

Complaints of over-pricing have forced Coventry Health Care to lower the cost of HIV and AIDS drugs of more than $1,000 per month to $5 to $100 per month for most treatments starting in June. The AIDS Foundation of Chicago had warned Coventry that its high prices might violate federal protections against discrimination. In February, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a rule for 2016 that prohibits plan designs that place “most or all drugs that treat a specific condition on the highest cost tiers” and that charge more for single-tablet regimens than for treatments that require patients to take multiple pills.

 

Mike Pence plans to call the businesses and organizations that think his new law is discrimination. He may have difficulty persuading them, but he could use the approach that a Democratic state representative in Oklahoma developed. Emily Virgin proposed that businesses who wish to discriminate “shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites.” The amendment adds that the notice “may refer to the person’s religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race.” People should know whether businesses plan to discriminate.

March 21, 2015

‘We Didn’t Know They Were Gay’

When two LGBT groups marched in Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, people hoped that bigotry and discrimination were dissipating. LGBT groups have been permitted in the parade, first organized in 1901, only during 1992 and 1993 because of a state court mandate. Outrage caused the parade to be cancelled in 1994 to keep LGBT groups from marching until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the LGBT groups could be excluded for a parade on Boston’s public streets.

The Allied War Veterans Council controls the St. Patrick’s Day Parade; that group is the sole authority for participants—and non-participants—in the celebration. The ruling of Hurley vs Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (1995) upheld the right of the Allied War Veterans Council to keep selected groups from marching.

After national headlines proclaimed that “Boston Parade Welcomes Two Gay Groups,” Brian R. Mahoney, commander of the Allied War Veterans, announced that they had been deceived and not really permitted LGBT groups to march. He published an op-ed in South Boston Today, a newspaper for which he is editor-in-chief, stating that the council “innocently believed” that the group Boston Pride was “an off-shoot of Boston Strong,” a slogan used after the Boston Marathon Bombing. Mahoney wrote:

“Any report that the Council voted on or even saw the application is either a misquote or complete fabrication.”

He also wrote:

“It was shocking and unauthorized … when they appeared at G (Street) and Broadway carrying 10-12 multicolored umbrellas that I would describe as rainbow even though I have been told they ‘technically’ were not rainbows…. I spoke again with this unit on the Kelly Bridge, inspected their banner, flags and two rainbow banners with a pot of gold and leprechauns and found no violation.”

Yet he claims that he had no idea that it was an LGBT group.

Chester Darling, the Andover attorney who won the landmark 9-0 Supreme Court decision that gave the council the right to exclude marchers who display gay rights banners, said he thought it was “unfortunate that this had to come up” because “now we’ve got another controversy going for next year.”

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch called Mahoney’s opinion piece “unfortunate.” The South Bostonian said of Boston Pride and the OutVets who marched for the first time this year:

“I participated in the parade and we were happy to have them. I think they were warmly received, I think that they were gracious in their own way, and I think it was a completely positive event and I don’t want anything now to take away from that.”

After someone pointed out that other marchers not associated with the two groups also carried umbrellas, Mahoney said:

“Well, how’s this — umbrellas of any sort are not allowed.

Although the LGBT veterans’ group managed to march, the group Veterans for Peace was barred from participation in the Boston parade. About Veterans for Peace, Mahoney said, “They’re a bunch of American weasels. A bunch of American phonies.”

Although Mahoney claimed that he knew nothing about an LGBT group marching in the Boston parade, Huffington Post reported in February that a Roman Catholic grammar school pulled out of the parade in protest of the decision to allow an LGBT veterans’ group to march. The article reported that Boston parade organizers said they would admit the OutVets group because its members were veterans.

Over a month before the event, Huffington Post announced the participation of OutVets in the Boston parade:

“The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which has long resisted the inclusion of gay groups and won a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1995 upholding their right to ban them from the annual parade that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators, voted 5-4 on Monday night to allow the group OutVets to march in the parade scheduled for March 15….

“’Mayor Walsh has been advocating for an inclusive parade for quite some time,’ spokeswoman Kate Norton said in a statement Tuesday. ‘We’re thrilled to hear that the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council has decided to make the 2015 parade an inclusive event.’

“’OutVets is being allowed to participate because of their members’ military service, and sexual orientation was irrelevant in the vote,’ said Brian Mahoney, commander of the veterans council. ‘The parade is meant to honor veterans and Irish-American heritage, and OutVets met the criteria,’ he said.

“Lead organizer Philip Wuschke Jr. said the vote was illegal because there was no quorum. ‘I’m sending a letter to the commander saying he held an illegal meeting and an illegal vote,’ Wuschke said. “He did not follow the bylaws of the council.’

“Mahoney disputed that. ‘I feel safe in saying that last night’s vote was legal,’ he said.”

Mahoney has also been quoted as saying “who am I to judge?” when asked about the issue of sexual orientation.

Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants, refused to attend last year because the Allied War Veterans refused to let the LGBT group MassEquality march. Other top Massachusetts politicians have for decades refused to participate in the parade because the exclusion of gay groups.

new york st patrickIn New York, Mayor Bill Blasio continued to boycott the St. Patrick’s Day parade because of its discrimination. Although one LGBT group, Out@NBCUniversal, was allowed to march, others were not. NBC is one of the biggest sponsors of the parade and “was prepared to drop its coverage unless a compromise that resulted in the inclusion of a gay group was brokered” with parade organizers, according to the Irish Voice. The LGBT group had no rainbows, just green sashes and a green banner. This year is the first time since the parade’s inception in 1762 that an LGBT group openly marched

Irish Queers, banned from the parade, protested the event at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 56th Street. Allen Roskoff, a prominent gay rights activist president of the city’s Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, criticized both parade organizers and OUT@NBCUniversal saying that members “take care of their own within the corporation” and their participation is “totally disrespectful” of other LGBT persons.

irish queers 2015: The year that two LGBT groups marched in the Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade before being told it was a mistake, and one LGBT group marched in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade because their employee threatened to pull its coverage for the event. Not even a baby step—just a crawl.

February 10, 2015

Study on Children of Same-Sex Couples Flawed

A major argument for banning marriage equality is that children do not thrive with same-sex parents as they do with parents in a heterosexual relationship. The same issue will most likely appear in April when the Supreme Court hears more cases about same-sex marriage. Conservatives who oppose marriage equality use the false argument that children are damaged in a home with same-sex parents because bigots don’t want to seem hateful. Because no valid studies shows that children with same-sex parents are worse off, conservatives decided to create one before arguments before SCOTUS.

Father Donald Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest and sociology professor at Catholic University of America, has done exactly that. His credentials show him to be fully prepared to oppose LGBT rights in any way that he can. A fellow of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute from the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, Sullins is also a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus that has given millions of dollars to the first against marriage equality. In a 2010 study, Sullins connected female homosexuality to growing up in a broken home, and his writings about married same-sex couples always use quotations around “marriage” to delegitimize it.

In his newest study, Sullins’ analysis of data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) from 1997-2013 concluded that children of 512 same-sex parents have more emotional problems that children raised by their biological different-sex couples. He concludes that this finding “justifies social and policy concerns about differences between family structures, including between opposite-sex and same-sex families.”

Examining the study reveals that Sullins has no information about whether the same-sex couples were married. He noted, “Almost all opposite-sex parents who are raising joint biological offspring are in intact marriages, but very few, if any, same-sex parents were married during the period under observation.” Instead, he used couples as “those persons whose reported spouse or cohabiting partner was of the same sex as themselves.”

Sullins provided no information about whether the children with same-sex couples had a biological connection to one of the parents.

An earlier study from Mark Regnerus from two years ago with similar findings was similarly flawed and biased. Only two of the children in his study were reared from birth by same-sex couples. Regnerus admitted that these children did not exhibit the same negative outcomes as children with parents who separated before having the same-sex relationships. In another analysis of a study from the same NHIS data, Regnerus refuted the finding “that children in same-sex families are quite similar to children in married couple families” by arguing that what matters is “how scholars present and interpret the data.” As he admitted, one of the ways to make children “appear to fare fine (if not better)” with same-sex parents is to control for factors like relationship instability and residential instability. Obviously neither he nor Sullins did that. The only way to get negative results is to not control for any relationship instability before a parent enters a same-sex relationship.

Regernus studied children raised during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s who were raised in “failed heterosexual unions” where one parent had a “romantic relationship with someone of the same sex.” Half of the children in the study with a same-sex mother had never lived with that parent. Sullins’ data ended at 2013, meaning that most of the same-sex couples would not have been married.

“Biology matters,” Regnerus asserts, and Sullins emphasizes that his study identifies “the importance of common biological parentage for optimum child well-being.” Their conclusions omit any connection with adoption or foster care with different-sex couples. (Sullins has two adopted children.)

Regnerus was a star witness in Michigan when officials were defending the state’s bans on same-sex couples either marrying or adopting. His New Family Structures Study (NFSS) continues to be used as evidence although the American Sociological Association debunked it two years ago before the Supreme Court. Even his own sociology department at the University of Texas at Austin distanced itself from what they called his “fundamentally flawed” testimony.

In his testimony, Regernus identified three core components of marriage: “permanence, exclusivity, and an expectation of producing children.” Yet he doesn’t oppose marriages in groups that have higher rates of divorce or might have poorer outcomes for their children.

According to Sullins, children with same-sex couples are better off than children in single-parent families. “Child emotional problems in opposite-sex families are highest for single parent families and lowest with married joint biological parents. Compared to single parents, children with same-sex parents have less than twice the risk of emotional problems, but they are at almost four times the risk of emotional problems when compared to children residing with married biological parents.” Yet neither Sullins nor Regnerus is opposed to single parents or adoption. Not one state prohibits single people from adopting, but 11 states prohibit joint adoption by same-sex couples at least in parts of the state.

Regnerus and Sullins will want to avoid the largest study of its kind about children of same-sex couples recently released in Australia. It found that children raised with same-sex couples do better “than the general population on measures of general health and family cohesion.” In a survey of 325 same-sex parents and 500 children, the children scored about six percent higher than children in the general population. Lead researcher, Dr. Simon Crouch, noted that same-sex couple parents have to “take on roles that are suited to their skill sets rather than falling into those gender stereotypes.” This leads to a “more harmonious family unit and therefore feeding on to better health and well being.” The study is in accord with “existing international research undertaken with smaller sample sizes.”

Rock-bottom, however, banning same-sex marriage doesn’t stop children from living with same-sex couples; it just blocks them from the stability of married parents.

The religious right has grabbed Sullins’ study like a drowning person. They need to be told who Sullins skewed and misrepresented his data.

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