Nel's New Day

September 14, 2017

Edie Windsor: An Icon for the Ages

A great woman died this week. Thanks to Edie Windsor, my partner and I, along with hundreds of thousands of other same-gender couples, are able to have the same benefits of legal marriage that heterosexual couples have always had. Edie is even more special to me because I had the opportunity to talk with her on a cruise to Alaska before she became internationally famous. Every time I saw her on television or spotted her in a photograph, I remembered her energy, warmth, and kindness.

As Richard Socarides wrote, Edie is the Rosa Parks of the LGBT movement of the 21st century. Her legal claim to have the same rights as any other married couple personified courage as she openly declared her long-time relationship with another woman. United States v. Windsor wasn’t even specifically about marriage; it was about the rights that marriage confirms in state and federal law regarding taxes. Yet the Supreme Court case ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), barring federal recognition of legally valid same-gender marriages, was unconstitutional ended in the landmark decision granting marriage equality to all same-gender couples.

Married in her early twenties, Edie divorced her husband, Saul Windsor, in less than a year after she told him that she wanted to be with a woman. In 2013, Windsor told NPR:

“I told him the truth. I said, ‘Honey, you deserve a lot more. You deserve somebody who thinks you’re the best because you are. And I need something else.’”

She took a job with IBM in 1958 after she earned a master’s in applied mathematics from New York University and became a computer programmer ad executive. Like almost all LGBT people at that time, she stayed in the closet. Earlier this year, she told Metro Weekly:

“I worked for IBM for 16 years. I lied for 16 years to people I loved. We ate lunch together, we had drinks together, we spent weekends together. Today, you don’t have to do that at IBM. You don’t do that anywhere, almost. It’s unlikely that LGBT people in the United States would have to do such a thing again.”

Edie met her love, clinical psychologist Thea Spyer (left), at the Portofino restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village. A few years later, Thea gave Edie a diamond brooch instead of a ring for their engagement to keep their relationship secret. They loved to dance, and Edie kept dancing with Thea even after multiple sclerosis put Thea in a wheelchair (to right of Edie, above). Their remarkable relationship, which included Edie as Thea’s caregiver, is beautifully documented in the film, Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement. The title refers to the 44-year “engagement” before they could legally marry in 2007 after an arduous trip to Canada when Thea was a quadriplegic. Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir used almost five decades of slides for this poignant yet joyful view of this love story. [More views of Edie at her website.]

After Thea’s death two years later, Edie’s inheritance was taxed at $363,053 because DOMA prevented same-gender couples from the advantages of marital tax deductions for all heterosexual couples. She argued that existing law subjects people in same-sex marriages “to differential treatment compared to other similarly situated couples without justification in violation of the right of equal protection secured by the Fifth Amendment.” The taxes resulted from the decades-long appreciation on real estate that they had long owned. Edie found the taxes an affront to her marriage to Thea, and she sued to regain them.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 27: Edith Windsor, 83, acknowledges her supporters as she leaves the Supreme Court March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case ‘Edith Schlain Windsor, in Her Capacity as Executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, Petitioner v. United States,’ which challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the second case about same-sex marriage this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Finding a lawyer was difficult because of her age and fragile health—and the fact that her sexual orientation made her appear to some lawyers as less than a compelling plaintiff. Roberta Kaplan, partner with the firm Paul, Weiss, was joined by the ACLU, and Edie’s case went before the Supreme Court on March 27, 2013 when Edie was 83. Her openness and victory were signals to all of us in the LGBT community that we might also be out to the public. Edie stayed an LGBT rights activist after the court ruling, and met her second wife, Judith Kasen (right), at a benefit. They were married a year ago.

Even a Supreme Court case two years after Edie’s victory ruling for marriage equality has not  created equal rights for LGBTQ people across the nation. The judiciary continued to struggle with questions about marital rights, adoption, and other family law in states that kept opposing same-gender marriage. The future for these rights is dimming: Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), the officials in his administration, and many other Republican leaders are virulently anti-LGBT. The Supreme Court will argue a case next month about whether businesses need to serve LGBT people, specifically if a baker has the right to not bake cakes for LGBT couples. DDT’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is supporting the baker and also arguing that the Civil Rights Act does not protect LGBT people from employment discrimination. Kaplan is fighting DOJ in these cases from her new firm, Kaplan & Company. DDT has attempted to ban transgender service members in the military.

I would like to think that my marriage is like squeezing all the toothpaste out of the tube: it’s impossible to put it back in. And I would like to think that I can’t be refused service in a restaurant because a so-called “law” allows people to deny service to anyone they personally reject. Nowhere in history have rights been taken away from people once granted. People can skirt school desegregation, mandated by Brown v. Board of Education, but the ruling is still the law of the land. In a fit of pique, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his dissent to United States v. Windsor:

“By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition. Henceforth those challengers will lead with this Court’s declaration that there is ‘no legitimate purpose’ served by such a law, and will claim that the traditional definition [of marriage] has ‘the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure’ the ‘personhood and dignity’ of same-sex couples.”

A public memorial will be held Friday, September. 15 at 12:30 pm at Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City. In lieu of flowers, Windsor had requested that any donations in her memory be made to the NYC LGBT Center, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, and Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders, or SAGE.

President Obama made this touching statement after Edie’s death:

“America’s long journey towards equality has been guided by countless small acts of persistence, and fueled by the stubborn willingness of quiet heroes to speak out for what’s right. Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor – and few made as big a difference to America.

“I had the privilege to speak with Edie a few days ago, and to tell her one more time what a difference she made to this country we love. She was engaged to her partner, Thea, for forty years. After a wedding in Canada, they were married for less than two. But federal law didn’t recognize a marriage like theirs as valid – which meant that they were denied certain federal rights and benefits that other married couples enjoyed. And when Thea passed away, Edie spoke up – not for special treatment, but for equal treatment – so that other legally married same-sex couples could enjoy the same federal rights and benefits as anyone else.

“In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. And because people like Edie stood up, my administration stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in the courts. The day that the Supreme Court issued its 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor was a great day for Edie, and a great day for America – a victory for human decency, equality, freedom, and justice. And I called Edie that day to congratulate her.

“Two years later, to the day, we took another step forward on our journey as the Supreme Court recognized a Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality. It was a victory for families, and for the principle that all of us should be treated equally, regardless of who we are or who we love.

“I thought about Edie that day. I thought about all the millions of quiet heroes across the decades whose countless small acts of courage slowly made an entire country realize that love is love – and who, in the process, made us all more free. They deserve our gratitude. And so does Edie.

“Michelle and I offer our condolences to her wife, Judith, and to all who loved and looked up to Edie Windsor.”

Thank you, President Obama. And thank you, Edie. And thank you, all the people who fight for equal rights.

June 26, 2013

SCOTUS Awards LGBT Rights; Davis Fights for Women’s Rights

Forty years ago, homosexuals were mentally ill. Ten years ago gays and lesbians were criminals. Today LGBT people can legally marry the people they love. Yesterday was the day that my partner and I celebrate as our anniversary because marriage equality is illegal in Oregon. It was our 44th anniversary. Without the same Social Security benefits that legally married people receive, my partner has lost well over $100,000. We don’t know how much we have lost in other benefits because of the discrimination against same-sex couples.

The Stonewall riots, hailed as the dawning of the gay rights movement, started in New York’s Greenwich Village on June 29, 1963, also 44 years ago. But today is a new day because the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1996 federal statute defining marriage as between one woman and one man.

Listening to the U.S. Supreme Court as they dribbled out their rulings for the past session was exactly like riding a rollercoaster: yesterday, they destroyed the voting rights of almost half the people in the country, and today they gave federal rights to all married same-sex couples. They also refused to allow standing of those protesting marriage equality in California so that same-sex couples there might have the right to marry. If that is true, one-third of people in the U.S. will live in a jurisdiction that has legalized marriage equality.

In its traditional 5-4 vote, SCOTUS ruled that, for federal purposes, marriage as defined as being between one man and one woman is unconstitutional. This ruling was in response to a case about Edie Windsor, who was charged federal estate taxes after Thea Spyer, her partner of 44 years, died. Yet they let stand Section 2 of DOMA permitting each state its own definition of marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the 26-page opinion, and dissenters Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia, mostly joined by Clarence Thomas, wrote another 47 pages.

Kennedy wrote that DOMA “violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the federal government” and intrudes on the states’ traditional role in defining marriage. His opinion also stated that the law “instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others.”

Confusion will undoubtedly reign after the ruling because Kennedy also wrote, “This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages,” possibly just those authorized by the state of New York. Yet he also said, “The federal statute [DOMA] is invalid.” This is a very broad ruling, which is why Scalia, in particular, was apoplectic.

Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas opined that the court should not have taken the case because the House of Representatives had no right to appeal lower court decisions after President Obama stopped defending DOMA. Justice Samuel Alito disagreed, saying Congress did have that power. Whether or not it had any right to appeal, the House spent $2.3 of taxpayers’ money to support DOMA in the courts.

The majority did rule on the lack of standing in the case about California’s Prop. 8, stating that the private proponents of the measure, many of them living outside California, lacked the legal right to defend the proposition in federal courts. Supposedly, this ruling from SCOTUS did not change the district judge’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also declared Prop 8 unconstitutional. Dissenters in SCOTUS on the Prop 8 case were an odd mix: liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito in disagreeing with the majority that included the ultra-conservative Scalia.

Although there may be more litigation regarding Prop 8, the governor told clerks that they would start issuing marriage licenses after the 9th Circuit Court takes care of its paperwork by lifting a year-long order that stopped the ban from going into effect until the Supreme Court reviewed the case. There might be a question about whether District Court Judge Vaughn Walker had the right to overturn Prop 8 for the entire state or for just his jurisdiction. The only definite conclusion is that the two couples in the Prop 8 case before SCOTUS will receive marriage licenses from the Clerks of Alameda and Los Angeles Counties.

How people would vote today in California, no one knows, polls show a movement toward majority acceptance of marriage equality; many people voted in favor of Prop 8 because of the lies from supporters about effects of marriage equality; and the Mormon Church, that paid as much as 70 percent of the campaign funds to support Prop 8, may not be as generous another time around.

With California now considered to accept marriage equality, 13 states and a few other jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C. and Native American reservations, have legalized same-sex marriage. This is one of the best maps describing the different same-sex couple laws across the U.S.

The hope is that same-sex couples may now start having rights in the military and in immigration that were prevented before this ruling. As Kennedy said in his ruling, “Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways…from the mundane to the profound. He mentioned healthcare, tax preparation, Social Security, and other benefits—even a person’s child can legally be kidnapped by an unmarried spouse.

A New York City immigration judge immediately stopped the deportation proceedings of Steven, a Colombian man legally married to Sean Brooks. The Center for American Progress has 14 fact sheets showing federal benefits that legally married same-sex couples will now have.

One expects crackpot responses to SCOTUS, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) may have achieved the strangest one in a performance on the Glenn Beck when the presidential wannabe asked of marriage, “Does it have to be humans?” (I’ll have another batch of crazy comments in my upcoming Sunday “religion” blog.)

The DOMA and Prop 8 rulings overshadowed a mind-blowing event in Texas. State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-TX) filibustered an unbelievable vicious, evil woman-hating anti-abortion in the state’s Senate. The bill stops abortions at 20 weeks as well as closes 37 clinics, leaving only five clinics that provide abortions throughout a state that is 773 miles wide and 790 miles long. Some of the 26 million people would have to drive 600 miles in order to have the opportunity to comply with a federal law.

The term “filibuster” has gained a benign connotation because of the U.S. Senate rules that allows one senator to call from his comfortable couch to say “I filibuster” and then return to the sports channel. Filibuster in this case means that Davis stood–with no support, no leaning, no bathroom breaks, no food, no liquid, no nothing—for almost 12 hours and talked about the bill and nothing else. She even got one violation for talking about sonograms although that’s part of the anti-abortion game in Texas.

Davis had to last until midnight to keep the chamber from voting before the deadline of the special session. Her third “violation,” another being when a colleague touched her when fascinating her a back brace, came before midnight, but hundreds of protesters disrupted the vote, shouting “Let her speak,” so that the vote could not be started until after the deadline.

At this time, events become even more bizarre. The vote on the bill wasn’t finished until a few minutes after midnight. In their eagerness to terrorize women, however, Republican senators changed the time stamp to before midnight, thinking that this would pass the bill.

After images of both the before and after images of the stamp change were posted on the Texas Tribune’s live blog showing the accurate time stamp of 12:02 am, the Senate went into a closed-door caucus. At 3:00 am, they said that the bill did not pass because Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst didn’t have time to sign it before midnight. Nothing about changing the time stamp.

In an ironic twist, Davis could be redistricted from her Fort Worth area after SCOTUS ruled yesterday that Texas can do gerrymandering districts. The state failed earlier because of the now-overturned Voting Rights Act.

More than 150,000 people watched the livestreamed session. Even President Obama tweeted his support for Davis. Gov. Rick Perry has declared a 30-day special session starting on July 1 to “address” the anti-abortion bill because the legislature needs to maintain “decency.” Nothing about the “decency” of illegally changing the timestamp for the vote.

It’s the GOP strategy: vote; if it fails, cheat; if that fails, hold another vote. The House has done it 37 times on Obamacare.

March 28, 2013

DOMA = ‘Skim-Milk Marriage’

Exchanges during the Supreme Court during the last two days demonstrate the dinosaur opposition toward marriage equality of conservatives and the understanding regarding discrimination of  banning same-sex marriage with the middle ground between these two extremes.

No one is likely to know rulings on these two cases about allowing same-sex couples to marry in this country until June when SCOTUS contemplates recessing, but most people interested in the issue are guessing. I’m going with the majority of the media: couples in California will most likely be able to get married, and DOMA will be overturned. No more, no less. These decisions will result in a multitude of lawsuits while governments try to sort out this chaos.

Five justices–Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan—appeared to support the position that the group of citizens who sponsored and voted for Proposition 8 had no legal standing to bring the case to the Supreme Court. If the five agree to dismiss the case, Prop 8 would probably still be overturned in California, but there would be no precedent on the issue for the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, I love the statements, clueless or otherwise, made within the arguments. My absolute favorite came from Justice Ginsberg when she said that DOMA provided “two kinds of marriage; the full marriage, and then this sort of skim-milk marriage.”

Ginsberg said this to Paul Clement, the lawyer that my tax dollars are paying to enshrine discrimination against me personally as he argues the continuance of DOMA: “Mr. Clement, if we are totally for the States’ decision that there is a marriage between two people, for the federal government then to come in to say no joint return, no marital deduction, no Social Security benefits; your spouse is very sick but you can’t get leave; people—if that set of attributes, one might well ask, What kind of marriage is this?”

Clement tried to explain that DOMA was not intended to exclude same-sex couples but was just enacted to define marriage for federal purposes. Justice Kagan didn’t accept his argument, however, saying that Congress’s passing was “infected by dislike, by fear, by animus.”  She said, “Well, is what happened in 1996—and I’m going to quote from the House report here—is that ‘Congress decided to reflect an honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.”’

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli disagreed with Clement: “There are no genuine administrative benefits to DOMA. If anything, Section 3 of DOMA makes federal administration more difficult [because of a patchwork of state laws]. And the fundamental reality of it is, and I think the House report makes this glaringly clear, is that DOMA was not enacted for any purpose of uniformity, administration, caution, pausing, any of that.”

Justice Sotomayor said, “So they can create a class they don’t like—here, homosexuals—or a class that they consider is suspect in the marriage category, and they can create that class and decide benefits on that basis when they themselves have no interest in the actual institution of marriage as married?”

In the argument that SCOTUS should let the states decide a definition of marriage, lawyer Roberta Kaplan said, “You’re not taking it one step at a time, you’re not promoting caution, you’re putting a stop button on it, and you’re having discrimination for the first time in our country’s history against a class of married couples.”

The above statements were all made during the DOMA argument. Prop 8 arguments the day before sometimes got a bit saltier.

In an exchange with the pro-Prop 8, anti-marriage equality lawyer, Charles Cooper, Justice Kagan asked him how letting gay couples marry harmed traditional marriages. “How does this cause and effect work?”

Cooper answered, “It will refocus the purpose of marriage and the definition of marriage away from the raising of children and to the emotional needs and desires of adults, of adult couples.” According to Cooper, the key to marriage is procreation. [One-third of the Supreme Court’s sitting justices, married at one time, did not procreate. In fact, George and Martha Washington didn’t procreate.]

Justice Stephen Breyer responded, “I mean, there are lots of people who get married who can’t have children. To take a state that does allow adoption and say—there, what is the justification for saying no gay marriage? Certainly not the one you said, is it?” [Breyer’s statement was followed by Justice Samuel Alito awkwardly trying to make a joke about Strom Thurmond having a child in his seventies.]

Kagan agreed: “I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of fifty-five, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.”

In questioning discrimination against LGBT people , Chief Justice John Roberts tried to point out powerful the LGBT lobby: “As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case.” [Endorse maybe, but 31 states will have constitutional amendments declaring that marriage is “between one man and one woman,” and only nine states have legalized marriage equality.]

Justice Alito tried to point out that the court shouldn’t rule in favor of marriage equality because it is so new: “But you want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet? I mean we—we are not—we do not have the ability to see the future.” [The first same-sex couple came to SCOTUS over 40 years ago in Baker v. Nelson. Marriage equality is not an institution in the United States because the Supreme Court and Congress prevented it.]

“Same-sex marriage is very new,” Justice Alito complained. “It may turn out to be a good thing; it may turn out not to be a good thing.” [Maureen Dowd asked, “If the standard is that marriage always has to be ‘a good thing,’ would heterosexuals pass?]

“Same-sex couples have every other right,” Roberts said, “It’s just about the label in this case.” [This piece of wisdom came from the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court?!]

Verrilli reminded the justices that the argument by opponents of interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia was to delay because “the social science is still uncertain about how biracial children will fare in this world.” [The court’s rationale is exceptionally ironic when one considers that a biracial person born before Loving now sits in the White House.]

Justice Kennedy demonstrated that he understood the plight of many families: “There are some forty thousand children in California, according to the red brief, that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?”

Justices spent time during the Prop 8 trying to figure out how they got into the situation of arguing the case.  “I just wonder if the case was properly granted,” said Justice Kennedy.

Justice Sotomayor seemed to agree: “If the issue is letting the states experiment and letting the society have more time to figure out its direction, why is taking a case now the answer?”

Theodore B. Olson, lawyer for the two couples fighting for marriage equality, said about Prop 8, “It walls off gays and lesbians from marriage, the most important relation in life thus stigmatizing a class of Californians based upon their status and labeling their most cherished relationships as second-rate, different, unequal and not O.K.”

When Cooper rose to give his rebuttal at the end of the session, Justice Kennedy asked the first question. “You might address,” the justice said, “why you think we should take and decide this case.”

Justice Sotomayor said it all in her question for Prop 8’s lawyer, Cooper: “Outside of the marriage context, can you think of any other rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits?”

And Cooper responded, “Your Honor. I cannot.”

Justice Clarence Thomas said the same thing both days: nothing.

edie

The case challenging DOMA was brought by Edith Windsor, an 83-year-old New York widow who inherited a large estate when her spouse died. Because her spouse was a woman, she faced a federal estate tax of $363,000. Justice Ginsberg’s “skim-milk” argument came from Clement’s argument that DOMA prevents states from “opening up an additional class of beneficiaries,” i.e. married gay couples “that get additional federal benefits.” The 80-year-old justice took exception to the term “additional benefits” immediately following Kennedy’s statement that there are at least 1,100 federal statutes that affect married couples. Every same-sex couple prevented from a partner’s Social Security benefits, tax-free health benefits, freedom from estate tax, etc. etc.

[During your leisure time, check out these 60 best anti-DOMA signs.]

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October 18, 2012

Voter Fraud, Romney’s Lies, Plus Good News

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:50 PM
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In past years there have been reportings of people calling Democrats to give them the wrong date for the election. One of these was to tell voters that Republicans would vote on Tuesday and Democrats would vote on Wednesday. Most people reading this say, “Of course, everyone votes on Tuesday.” This year, it’s a county government agency in Arizona that tells Hispanics to go to the polls on the Thursday after the general election.

When Charlotte Walker of Sun City picked up her voter register card, November 6 was the date given in English. That’s the right date. In Spanish, however, people were told that they should vote on November 8, two days later.  The Maricopa County Elections Department said that they made the mistake only on cards that were handed out and that they may have handed out only about 50 cards—although they really don’t know.

Arizona isn’t the only state that’s still working on keeping people, many of them minorities, from voting. The good news in Ohio is that the Supreme Court rejected GOP attempts efforts to block early voting three days before Election Day. The bad news in Ohio is that Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted severely limited early voting hours on those crucial three days to 16 hours, none of them in the evening. Before this weekend, voters cannot cast ballots in-person on nights or weekends. Four years ago, with longer voting hours, and wait times were sometimes as long as two and a half hours. Minority voters who have less flexibility in getting time off from their jobs tend to vote in the evening; the GOP thinks that these same voters tend to vote Democratic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Pennsylvania, billboards in Spanish give the false image that people must have IDs in order to vote. A translation of this billboard is “If you want to vote, show it”–even though a court ruling last week blocked a requirement to produce an approved photo identification at polling places.

 

There’s an old saying, “follow the money.” That’s what Greg Palast did when he discovered that Mitt Romney has “concealed, until now, the fact that he and his wife, Ann, personally gained at least $15.3 million from the bailout—and a few of Romney’s most important Wall Street donors made more than $4 billion. Their gains, and those of the Romneys, were astronomical—more than 3,000 percent on their investment.”

A longtime aide to George W. Romney has accused Mitt Romney of shifting political positions in “erratic and startling ways.” Walter De Vries wrote, “It seems that Mitt would say and do anything to close a deal–or an election.”

When Katie Couric asked VP candidate Sarah Palin four years where she got her news, she didn’t have an answer. Romney does have answers. When Newsmax asked Romney the same question, the GOP presidential candidate said, “You know, increasingly, I’m getting news from electronic sources, whether Newsmax, Drudge, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal Online, even USA Today online, Fox online, CNN online.” There’s that token less-biased source of NYT, but the others are on the right, especially the Drudge, which even has a link to a site saying that black Americans will riot and kill and Romney if President Obama doesn’t win.

Kerry Healey, Mitt Romney’s Lieutenant Governor and a current surrogate for his campaign, called contraception a “peripheral” issue, and referred to women being denied contraception coverage because of religious objections a “hypothetical.” It’s no wonder that the polls show that women are returning to President Obama.

Yesterday I wrote about employers attempting an intimidation attempt to get thousands and thousands of their employees vote for Romney. They got the idea from Romney himself. An audio tape from June has recently been unearthed in which Romney addressed a group of self-described “small business owners,” probably including the Koch brothers. After he talked about how bad for business that President Obama is, he gave them their marching orders: “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees.”

In the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court ruled that employers can force their employees to contribute to candidates and threaten them if they don’t vote for the chosen candidates.

Each election seems to bring the United States closer to a theocracy operated by the far right. If this comes into fruition, women could possibly lose the minority representation that we have now. That’s what Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (AFA) wants. He stated on his radio show this week that political leadership should be in the hands of men. His position comes from Paul’s letter to the women of Ephesus in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 which states, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, not Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” Fischer will probably not agree with a scholarly approach that this passage—and many others in the Bible—have been mistranslated because it’s written by women.

Romney and Ryan are leading the country to disaster in many ways; here are ten that Jon Perr put together.

1. Economists warn the Romney-Ryan plan means huge job losses, possibly 2 million within the next couple of years.

2. Romney and Ryan both supported Social Security privatization although they may now deny it.

3. 98 percent of Congressional Republicans voted for Ryan’s plan to ration Medicare.

4. The Ryan budget takes $716 billion from Medicare to give tax cuts to the rich.

5. Romney and Ryan will cut benefits for today’s seniors by taking away free preventative care now part of Medicare and reopening the “donut hole” in its prescription drug program which saved 5.4 seniors over $4.1 billion last year.

6. Romney-Ryan plans leaves at least 44 million more without health insurance by 2020: earlier this month, the Commonwealth Fund estimated President Romney would preside over a staggering 72 million Americans without coverage.

7. GOP ticket adds trillions more than President Obama in new debt. Both Romney and Ryan dodge the facts that Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt and George W. Bush roughly doubled it again. Ryan also skips over the fact that he voted for the drivers of most of the debt–two wars, the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the Medicare prescription drug plan. The same Republicans leaders who held the debt ceiling hostage last summer voted to raise it seven times under President Bush.

8. Romney and Ryan won’t name a single loophole they’d close. Will the Romney-Ryan administration end the $63 billion Earned Income Tax Credit for working families that Ronald Reagan called “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress”? How about the $89 billion a year home mortgage tax deduction? Many of those breaks help explain the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income taxes, otherwise known as Mitt Romney’s “victims” and Paul Ryan’s “takers.”

9. Ryan supports GOP Platform’s ban on all abortions, and Romney changes his mind each day depending on how much he thinks that he needs the women’s vote.

10. Ryan voted for the defense sequestration he attacks President Obama for.

We’ll finish today, however, with a great achievement for the LGBT community and all others who believe that we should have freedom in this country. The ultra-conservative Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs of the 2nd Court of Appeals struck down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. In so doing, the George H.W. Bush nominee concluded that any law which discriminates against gay men and lesbians requires heightened scrutiny because this class of people “have historically endured persecution and discrimination”; “homosexuality has no relation to aptitude or ability to contribute to society”; “homosexuals are a discernible group with non-obvious distinguishing characteristics, especially in the subset of those who enter same-sex marriages”; and “the class remains a politically weakened minority.” Thus any attempt by government to discriminate against gay people must have an ‘exceedingly persuasive’ justification.”

The case was Edith Windsor v. New York State that I wrote about in more detail on September 29, 2012. Congratulations, Edi!

September 29, 2012

Edie Windsor Fights for LGBT Rights

Last week I had the opportunity to see Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement and meet one of the subjects of the film, Edith Windsor. Now 83, Edie met her beloved Thea Spyer in 1965. They got engaged in 1967 and lived together in Greenwich Village until Thea’s death in 2009. The film shows them through the best of times and the most difficult. Thea was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977, and Edie spent much of the next 30 years caring for her as her health deteriorated.

When Thea was told in 2007 that she might have only a year to live, the couple decided to stop waiting for legalized marriage in New York and settling on a Canadian civil ceremony. Filmmakers Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir directed this intimate documentary about two women who stayed in love and maintained their relationship despite legal, societal, and health barriers.

The film touched me even more, perhaps, because my partner and I have been together over 43 years, meeting and beginning our relationship just two years after Edie and Thea did. We experienced discrimination and struggles throughout the same four decades until the more liberal times of the 21st century that still refuses us legalized federal marriage benefits.

Receiving little attention from the world outside the LGBT community, the film might not have gained greater visibility if the U.S. government had not taxed Edie a whopping $363,000 in estate taxes after Thea’s death. The amount of taxes makes the couple sound wealthy; they weren’t. In the 1960s they bought a home in Manhattan and a cottage in the Hamptons, the latter for only $35,000. Inflation increased the value of Edie’s home, drastically increasing the “death tax.” The only reason that she had to pay this federal estate tax is that she and Thea weren’t married in the United States; they couldn’t get married because federal law didn’t allow them to marry. Legally married husbands and wives would not have to pay any of this money.

So Edie sued. In June, a federal district judge in New York decided in Edie’s favor, ruling that section three of DOMA unconstitutionally discriminates against married same-sex couples. Over 18 months ago, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder had determined that DOMA was unconstitutional and that they would no longer defend this misguided Congressional act in court. Yet Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) begs to differ; under his guidance, a House committee with a Republican majority has used tax-payer money to employed Paul Clement for a minimum of $1.5 million to defend DOMA and prevent marriage equality.

Two days ago the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case. In his opening statements, Clement admitted that he didn’t have a good argument: “There’s no way to preserve the definition of marriage [as one man and one woman] other than by preserving the definition. It becomes somewhat circular.”

Clement tried to support DOMA with 1972’s Baker v. Nelson, in which two men tried to strike down Minnesota’s ban on same-sex marriage. In this case, the Supreme Court let stand a state law that limited marriage to different sexes, and Clement argued that the appeals court should abide by that precedent in upholding DOMA. Baker was a summary decision without written briefs and oral argument and contained no explanation other than that the constitutional claim of Baker and McConnell did not raise a “substantial federal question.”

Clement acknowledged that times may have changed during the past 40 years but added, “The only thing that hasn’t changed is this court’s obligation to follow Supreme Court precedent.” There is precedent for overturning past Supreme Court decisions during that time. For example, during the 40 years since Baker, 1986’s Bowers v. Hardwick ruling that upheld laws against sodomy was overturned in 2003 by Lawrence v. Texas. Also the Roberts court does not have a reputation “to follow Supreme Court precedent.”

In his rebuttal at the end of the oral arguments, Clements said that saving money is a good reason to preserve DOMA and Congress was “preserving the scope of the benefits programs the way they’ve always been.” He also went back to 1885’s Murphy v. Ramsay that required Utah to declare marriage between a man and a woman as a provision of statehood.

In its 1885 ruling, the Supreme Court wrote that “no legislation can be supposed more wholesome and necessary in the founding of a free, self-governing commonwealth … than that which seeks to establish it on the basis of the idea of the family [is] consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony.” That definition of marriage is “the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization; the best guaranty of that reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement.”

Murphy relied on the Dred Scott case, that decided in 1857 that slaves are not citizens of the United States, to reference the “traditional understanding” of marriage.

To summarize Clement’s arguments to preserve DOMA:

  • Supreme Court rulings should not be overturned, no matter how times change;
  • The definition of marriage comes from rulings that prevented polygamy and ensured slavery;
  • All matrimony is “holy” and not civil;
  • Saving money is a good reason to deny rights to LGBT people.

Louisiana’s governor Bobby Jindal has an even stronger reason for opposing marriage equality. He thinks that legalizing same-sex marriage will overturn the Second Amendment: “The reality is today we’re talking about redefining marriage. If the court is allowed to impose and write their own laws and their own views, and overturn those that are done by our duly-elected representatives, what’s to stop today’s [indistinguishable]. Tomorrow it may be property rights, maybe it’s Second Amendment rights. We have got to take a stand against judicial activism.”

While the government can’t prove that it will lose money if marriage equality is legalized, LGBT people can prove that they lose money without it. After a gay, lesbian or bisexual senior dies, the surviving partner is denied Social Security survivor benefits, taxed heavily on any retirement plans inherited from their partners that legal husbands or wives don’t pay, and charged estate tax on inheriting a home even if it is jointly owned.

Surviving partners will probably be forced out of their homes if their names are not on the title, a situation that would not occur if they were legally married. The same thing happens if partners enter nursing homes: federal Medicaid law permits a married spouse to remain in the couple’s home when a husband or wife enters a nursing home but does not grant unmarried couples the same right. These are only a few of the 1000+ federal laws that discriminate against the LGBT community.

Despite a serious heart condition and her grief after the loss of Thea, Edie exudes a positive attitude, displaying an amazing joy for life and enthusiasm for people. Meeting her will continue to be one of the highlights of my life. Thank you for fighting for our rights, Edie!

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