Nel's New Day

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.]

November 23, 2014

Some Christians Move Forward

While some religious fundamentalists try to move the world back to an earlier millennium, others are working to create diversity for all, whether inside a religion or beside it:

Twenty years ago, women could be deacons in the Church of England, ten years later they could be priests, and now they can become bishops. Canon 33 now states, “A man or a woman may be consecrated to the office of bishop.” At this time, about 15 percent of the priests are female. The Catholic Church has had about 50,000 women deacons, but that practice stopped about the year 1000.

The Vatican has recently unveiled newly restored frescoes in an ancient catacomb that show the Catholic Church had female priestesses. Both Snostic and Montanist sects of Christianity depicted the godhead as androgynous, both male and female. Women served the Eucharist and would speak as prophets.

catholic women priest fresco

Bishop Allyson Abrams, 43, left her husband and the Zion Progress Baptist Church in Detroit because she married another woman, Diana Williams. She said, “I was open to love in whatever way the Lord would bless me.” According to Abrams, same-sex marriage is in accord with Christian teachings: “The Bible teaches that ANYONE who believes in Jesus Christ will be accepted into God’s realm. You can be a child of God and living in loving committed relationships with persons of the same sex.”

Jessica Fitzwater refused to put her hand on the bible during her swearing in on the Frederick County Council (MD). The Jewish strong supporter of separation of church and state plans to take her oath on a non-religious document such as the county’s charter or the U.S. Constitution.

Seven years after officiating at the wedding of his gay son, the Rev. Frank Schaefer has been reinstated as a clergyman in the United Methodist Church.The denomination’s top court upheld last June’s decision to return his ministerial credentials after a trial court removed them. His reinstatement includes back-pay and benefits but doesn’t sanction same-sex marriage within his church. Only a vote at the General Conference could take that step. In response to Schaefer’s punishment, some pastors married same-sex couples while progressive bishops refused to participate in trials against Methodist ministers who perform these marriages.

Seven years ago, Barry Hazle was forced to spend 100 days in prison because he refused to enter a religion-based rehab program operated by the Fresno-based WestCare California. Because Hazle complained about the requirement that he acknowledge the existence of a higher power, the California Department of Corrections put him back in jail. After seven years of court cases, culminating in the 9th Circuit Court, California has changed its policy that parolees must participate into religious treatment programs and is required to pay $1 million to Hazle. Westcare owes Hazle $925,000, according to the court’s ruling.

Last week Judge Nina Pillard used the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby to limit employers’ abilities to deny birth control coverage to their employees. In Priests for Life v. Department of Health and Human Services, Pillard used the Hobby Lobby’s permission for the government to accommodate religious objectors through alternative methods and still provide women with free contraceptives. She also pointed out that the burden on Priests for Life could not be more insignificant. The law used by the Supreme Court applies only when laws “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” Pillard explained:

“All Plaintiffs must do to opt out is express what they believe and seek what they want via a letter or two-page form. That bit of paperwork is more straightforward and minimal than many that are staples of nonprofit organizations’ compliance with law in the modern administrative state.”

Her position might not pass muster with the conservative Supreme Court justices because Samuel Alito pretty much deleted the term “burden” out of the law. He stated that the Hobby Lobby plaintiffs’ “sincerely believe that providing the insurance coverage demanded by the HHS regulations lies on the forbidden side of the line, and it is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial.” The majority of justices also changed the language of alternatives just days after Hobby Lobby in Wheaton College v. Burwell. Justice Sotomayor said:

“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today.”

After the Supreme Court’s ruling that businesses don’t have to follow the law in providing contraception to women, others have decided that they can avoid all laws. Such is the case of a Christian pastor who used the Hobby Lobby ruling to avoid paying $1.1 million in back taxes that he and his wife owed for 20 years. Ronald and Dorothea Joling had stopped paying taxes because they considered the 16th Amendment, added to the U.S. Constitution in 2013, invalid. The Jolings’ attorney, Mark Weintraub, agreed with the rest of us that his clients are “totally wrong and unreasonable” but tried to persuade the court that what they did was acceptable because of their own Christian beliefs.

The Jolings had also declared that they are no longer U.S. citizens and that their Oregon property is no longer part of the United States. They also tried to hide their money, filed false tax returns, and attempted to harass the IRS with “nonsensical paperwork.” They skipped the part in the bible where Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

Mitchell Moore, owner of Campbell’s Bakery in Jackson (MS), has a campaign, “If You’re Buying, I’m Selling,” to fight the state’s “turn away the gays” bill” that passed earlier this year. He handed out stickers for other businesses to post, showing that they did not turn away any customers for their beliefs. After the American Family Association claimed businesses with the stickers were discriminating against the religious freedoms of Mississippians and potential customers, he posted the following questionnaire on his Facebook page. The more serious readers need to know that it’s a spoof.

surveyMany Christians, according to the media, are incensed because the government now forces them to pay for medications against their belief, such as contraception. To all the enraged Christians, there is good news. They can participate instead in health care sharing ministries which are exempt from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Believers pool their money for health care work like insurance with premiums, co-pays, claims, insurance cards, and deductibles. The three largest of them have 242,000 members.

They do have a few differences. Health care sharing ministries don’t pay for routine medical services such as annual physicals. In fact, the companies can decide what each one will cover. There is no guarantee for payment, and they aren’t required to cover people for pre-existing conditions. With no requirement for solvency, they can go bankrupt. Members cannot smoke, do drugs, and have sex except with a legally-married spouse. Permission to use alcohol is very limited. They also don’t pay for “immoral” substances such as contraception.

People who want to live by these rules with less medical coverage are welcome to participate in this type of insurance. They’re what insurance was before the Affordable Care Act—no guarantee that insurance payments will cover what a person needs and the ability to cancel the person with no reason. It’s all the disadvantages of small government.

To those people whining about Obamacare, just join a health care sharing ministry. You can have the same kind of insurance as before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. For those of you who want more, watch out for what the GOP members of the House are doing because this is the kind of insurance that they want to bring back—for all people, not just those who want to return to another century.

October 11, 2014

Marriage Equality on Coming Out Day 2014

October is LGBT History Month, and today is the 26th anniversary of Coming Out Day, the internationally recognized day of awareness and celebration of people coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer. Thanks to all the brave people willing to openly declare their sexual preference and gender identity, LGBT rights has progressed more rapidly in the past decade than any other social issue. This past week, marriage equality rights have exploded throughout the nation after the Supreme Court refused to take any of the marriage equality cases brought to them from Indiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Utah. That brought the total of states with legalized same-sex marriage to 24. Below are judicial decisions as of midday on October 11. Legalized same-sex marriage changes hour-by-hour, and some of this information can be outdated.

Because each circuit court can set a precedent for all the states within its jurisdiction, all the other states within the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuit Courts benefit from the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the five cases from these courts. Those six states are Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming. That action would bring the total to 30 states recognized same-sex marriage.

The 9th Circuit Court legalized marriage in Nevada and Idaho after the Supreme Court’s decision. Idaho’s administration plans to file briefs with the 9th Circuit to ask for a full hearing from the 10 panel court. The Supreme Court turned down the state’s appeal after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy briefly blocked same-sex marriage in Idaho until he changed his mind a day later. Yesterday’s 9th Circuit Court ruling about Hawaii ended a pending appeal on same-sex marriage by declaring it moot. That would make the grand total of states where same-sex couples might get legally get married to 35. Lawsuits are pending in the district’s states of Alaska, Arizona, and Montana.

In Arizona, U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick ordered the parties in the Arizona same-sex marriage cases before him in the U.S. District Court for Arizona to submit their briefs by October 16. He has issued an order stating that the 9th Circuit Court ruling on Nevada and Idaho also applies to Arizona.

The 6th Circuit Court has not ruled after early August arguments although two of the three judges were leaning against marriage equality. Federal judges in this circuit court region struck down bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

The conservative 5th Circuit will hear a case later this year after a federal judge in New Orleans upheld the ban in Louisiana although a state judge ruled against the state law. In the same district, Mississippi had refused to divorce a lesbian couple because the state does not recognize their marriage. In Texas, on the other hand, a federal judge invalidated the state’s ban in February. The couple wants the case settled before their second child is born so that they can get married. If either the 5th or 6th Circuit Court rules in favor of banning marriage equality, the Supreme Court may feel it has to step in.

In the 8th Circuit, a state court judge invalidated the Arkansas ban, and one in Missouri overturned part of the ban, requiring state officials to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Nebraska’s Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the state’s ban on procedural reason. Cases from North and South Dakota are pending in federal courts.

In the 11th Circuit, both Alabama and Georgia have cases pending in federal court, and a Florida appeals court was asked to delay a ruling until after the Supreme Court had decided.

400px-US_Court_of_Appeals_and_District_Court_map.svg

As with other Supreme Court rulings, some states tend to drag their heels and refuse to change state laws to conform to these decisions. Colorado is already issuing marriage licenses, and Virginia is speedily preparing to do the same. On the other hand, Utah has claimed that it cannot implement same-sex marriage until the state’s marriage laws are re-written.

South Carolina, impacted by the 4th Circuit’s ruling against bans in its district, said that it will keep the bans in force until the courts rule specifically on South Carolina’s law. The 4th Circuit is expected to soon issue a mandate. In the meantime, a clerk in Charleston (SC) accepted a marriage license application by Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley, making the state’s only out lawmaker and her partner among the first to receive a marriage license in the Palmetto State.

GOP Govs. Sam Brownback (Kansas) and Matt Meade (Wyoming) agree with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in refusing to allow same-sex weddings. A Kansas state judge, however, ordered the Johnson County Clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Judge Kevin Moriarty’s order on Wednesday was to “provide guidance and prevent confusion” and said that “any case from Kansas … would be bound by the Tenth Circuit decision.” Kansas law also sanctions clerks and judges who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and Moriarty declared that “our district court clerks and judges are entitled to protection from laws that are unconstitutional.” Citizens should be free, he wrote, “to exercise their constitutional rights” and officials should likewise be “free of any ambiguity or inconsistency in the administration of justice, including the issuance of marriage licenses.” Confusion still reigns, thanks to the state Supreme Court, which stopped marriage licenses for same-sex couples after one couple was able to obtain one. A hearing in that court is set for Nov. 6.

In North Carolina, U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen Jr. gave Attorney General Roy Cooper and attorneys representing same-sex couples until 3 p.m. Monday to respond to requests by state legislative leaders to intervene. Earlier this year, Cooper, a Democrat, announced that his office would no longer defend North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriages after a federal circuit court found a similar ban in Virginia was unconstitutional. In North Carolina’s Western District, however, U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. issued an order late Friday afternoon striking down the state’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment, and Wake County offices stayed open late last night. Same-sex couples are marrying in North Carolina, and more county clerks will issue marriage license to same-sex couples—unless, of course, another ruling comes along.

As of today, the number of marriage equality states officially reached 29 after same-sex couples began marrying in both Nevada and West Virginia. On Thursday afternoon, WV Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) said he would no longer defend the ban, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) in turn told state agencies to start the marriage process, using existing marriage license forms until there are variations. Procedural requirements in Nevada needed an injunction from a district court judge, also issued Thursday after a Mormon judge recused himself and was replaced by another judge who issued the injunction.

same sex map better The current status of marriage equality in the United States according to Freedom to Marry:

In 29 states – CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, ID, IA, IL, IN, ME, MD, MA, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OK, OR, PA, RI, UT, VA, VT, WA, WV, and WI, plus Washington, D.C. – same-sex couples have the freedom to marry.

In an additional six states – AK, AZ, KS, MT, SC, and WY – federal appellate rulings have set a binding precedent in favor of the freedom to marry, meaning the path is cleared for the freedom to marry there.

In an additional 8 states, judges have issued rulings in favor of the freedom to marry, with many of these rulings now stayed as they proceed to appellate courts: In AR, FL, KY, MI, and TX, judges have struck down marriage bans, and in LA, OH, and TN, judges have issued more limited pro-marriage rulings.

In MO, the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states are respected.

Much more information for each state is available here.

In his ruling striking down marriage equality bans in Idaho and Nevada, Judge Stephen Reinhardt referred to decisions mandating racial integrations, women on juries, and gays’ serving in the military when he wrote:

 “The lessons of our constitutional history are clear: inclusion strengthens, rather than weakens, our most important institutions. When same-sex couples are married, just as when opposite-sex couples are married, they serve as models of loving commitment to all.”

The latest argument against banning marriage equality will certainly have the far-right further gnashing their teeth. In an additional concurring opinion to the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling, Judge Marsha Berzon argues that same-sex-marriage bans also constitute sex discrimination and therefore violate Equal Protection on additional grounds. Although this argument has failed in the past, Berzon posits that laws against same-sex couples are based on sex stereotypes of a “real man” and a “real woman.” As ​Alexander Brodsky and Elizabeth Deutsch wrote, “Long before marriage equality was hip, Adrienne Rich spoke of “compulsory heterosexuality”—part of being a good woman is loving men. If courts accept this argument, LGBT rights will go far beyond marriage without the laborious wait for Congress to move into the 21st century. It refuses to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), but Title VII could end job discrimination. The same goes for housing, business services, and the over 1,000 laws discriminating against LGBT people.

All the changes during the past week bode well for the progress of LGBT rights in the United States unless the five conservative Supreme Court judges reverse this forward thinking.

September 14, 2014

If Christians Controlled the United States

ISIL’s control of Iraq has been top in the news this past week, especially after President Obama’s speech, partly because many people are afraid of having a government controlled by religion. Here are some attempts to have that control in the United States.

Rick Santorum: “I think we should start calling secularism (which is defined as ‘without religion) a religion,” Santorum told a grinning Fischer. “Because if we did, then we could ban that, too, because that’s what they’ve done: they’ve hidden behind the fact that the absence of religion is not a religion of itself.” “We always need a Jesus candidate.”

Steve Williams, mayor of Huntington (WV):  The only “silver bullet” to stop drug use is prayer. His prayer beam was on September 7. The next day the police department arrested a local man on drug charges after organizing a massive anti-drug offensive codenamed “Operation: River to Jail” to eliminate drug trafficking.

U.S. Air Force: An airman cannot reenlist because he won’t say “so help me God.” Until last October, enlistees could omit the God phrase, but an update dropped that option. The Air Force says it can’t make any changes unless Congress changes the statute mandating the oath. The Department of Justice has been asked for an opinion in the case. The other branches of the military don’t require the God oath.

Bryan Fischer, American Family Association spokesman: Atheists should be banned in the military because they won’t die for God like true Americans will.

“This is an absolutely foundational, non-negotiable, bed-rock American principle: there is a Creator – with a capital “C” (you could look it up) – and he and he alone is the source of the very rights the military exists to protect and defend. Military service should rightly be reserved for those who believe in and are willing to die for what America stands for – and what America stands for is a belief in God as the source of our rights.”

Paul Wieland, Missouri Republican State Representative: Providing birth control for his daughters violates his religious beliefs so he’s suing President Obama. A judge originally dismissed the case because the family has no legal standing to file the lawsuit, but five Supreme Court justices permitted discrimination in the Hobby Lobby decision. Now Wieland’s lawyer, Timothy Belz, declares that the man’s daughters are like “employees” who have to listen to their father, the “boss.” He should be able to police the sexual lives of his adult daughters. A suggestion was to drop the insurance for the daughters, but providing health insurance is also one of Wieland’s religious beliefs.

Russell Pearce, Arizona GOP vice-chair:  Women on government aid such as Medicaid and food stamps should be sterilized as well as tested for drugs and alcohol. Food stamps should also be restricted to such items as 15-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese, and powdered milk—no fruits or vegetables. They should also be required to live in military barracks-style housing and endure spot inspections with punishment for not keeping everything spotless. Possessions will be inventoried to restrict the women from having unapproved items—such as televisions. Pearce didn’t say anything about men on government aid.

Barrie Goettsche, store owner of the Christian-based Chick-fil-A: Employee Daphne Richards was demoted without insurance after medical leave for a double mastectomy because of cancer in both breasts. Her workweek was cut from 40 hours to 10-15 hours and her hourly wage dropped from $14 per hour to $10 per hour. Goettsche said that she had been written up before her leave, but Richards has a letter from Goettsche that praises her work. “Daphne is a very sensitive, loving and compassionate person. I know she will continue to be a valuable asset and resource to the restaurant as she gains more experience, responsibility and time under her belt.” Richards was attracted to Chick-fil-A because of their Christian standards, but she has filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission regarding about the company’s treatment of her.

Dr. George Visnich, a Pennsylvania oral surgeon: His prayers went with the employee of 12 years after he fired her. The letter to her stated, “You are currently engaged in a battle against cancer that will be demanding physically, mentally, and emotionally. You will not be able to function in my office at the level required while battling for your life. Because of this, I am laying you off without pay as of August 11, 2014.”

Fran Millar, Georgia state senator: Voting on Sunday would be a violation of separation of church and state in DeKalb County, according to the GOP legislator. On his Facebook page, Millar gave another reason: “If you don’t believe this is an efort [SIC] to maximize Democratic votes pure and simple, then you are not a realist.”

Love in the Name of Christ, Church Everett (PA): A teenager may go to prison for two years because he allegedly took a photo of himself simulating oral sex with a statue of Jesus. The 14-year-old was charged with desecrating a venerated object. A vandalism charge carries only a maximum penalty of one year in jail. The church did not press any charges.

Cardinal Francis George, head of the Archdiocese in Chicago: In his column in Catholic New World he complained that his church members are forced to live under a pro-gay, pro-choice “state religion” similar to those living in nations “governed by Sharia law.” George has a history of LGBT hatred: in 2011, he compared LGBT rights advocates to the Ku Klux Klan.

Marian (Catholic) High School, Bloomfield Hills (MI): Barbara Webb has been fired for getting pregnant from artificial insemination. The school has known for five years that she is in a same-sex relationship, but administration declared that a “nontraditional” pregnancy broke her contract’s “morality clause.”

fred and georgeFred McQuire and George Martinez: The marriage of these two men is one that Francis George bitterly protests. Together for over 45 years, they legally married in California. An Arizona judge recognized their marriage in Arizona after Martinez died last month of pancreatic cancer. McQuire can now get his partner’s death certificate to settle Martinez’s affairs.

What McQuire won’t get are spousal Social Security and veterans benefits. Federal law requires him to have been married to Martinez for at least nine months to qualify for his Social Security benefits and one year to qualify for veteran benefits. With Martinez’s benefits, McQuire would have had a monthly income of $4,000. Without it, his benefits alone total $1,300. Martinez’s pancreatic cancer was blamed on exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam where both men served in the military. In this country, thanks to religious law from people like Francis George, a male and female married for one year are eligible for spousal benefits, but a gay couple together for 45 years has no rights.

In their craving for a “Christian nation,” these people want to deny LGBT people and poor women any rights, eliminate voting for blacks, ban non-Christians from public office and serving in the military, allow employees to fire people for illness, and put imprison youth for a long period of time for foolish pranks.

Those U.S. Christians—including the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute—who claimed the U.S. should be like Russia’s totalitarian regime because of its persecution of LGBT people might want to reconsider their support of Vladimir Putin. Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine are now killing people to purge Slovyansk of rival Christian denominations in a return to control by the Russian Holy Orthodox Church.

Meanwhile, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and former Sen. John Breaux (L-LA) are lobbying to lift President Obama’s sanctions on Gazprombank GPB (OJSC), controlled by Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom, the country’s largest gas producer that supplies about a third of Europe’s natural gas.

In a bit of good news for people who believe in religious freedom, Allegheny County has voted against posting “In God We Trust” in its council chambers.

March 2, 2014

Hateful Religion Drives Young People Away

Top on my list of religious groups today is the new Trail Life, a boys’ group formed after the Boy Scouts decided to accept gays for the troops. The Boy Scouts still exclude gays as leaders, but that isn’t good enough for the “Christians” who formed Trail Life. Yesterday Daily Kos published a brief article about the group with a comment about their special “salute” and a link to show the photo. I filed the link and then returned it today. Lo and behold, the photo has been changed to this sweet photo.

new trail life

Unfortunately for Trail Life, the computer never forgets. This is the photo that ran with the article yesterday before the news source changed it.

trail life

As fundamentalists try to train these young people, many others are changing their attitudes about religion. Last year, for the first time, more people in the United States between the ages of 18 and 30 now identify as having no religion that those who identify as either Protestant or Catholic. The younger the group, the larger the percentage. For example, 32 percent of those 18-24 have no religion as compared to 29 percent ages 25-34.

GSS_2012_religion

This poll is not alone in its findings: both Pew and Gallup have identified a trend away from organized religion.

Organized religion’s bigotry is turning these young people away. Public Religion Research Institute determined that 31 percent of these people identified churches’ negative perspectives and treatment of homosexuality as an “important” factor in their decision. They don’t identify as LGBT; they just don’t believe in religion’s institutionalized intolerance. They are more likely to support adoption by LGBT families and legalized marriage equality. Older people understand the problem: 58 percent of people in the United States of all ages agree that religion has “alienat[ed] young adults by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues.”

In the past decade, the percentage of people supporting marriage equality has gone from 32 percent to over 50 percent. The most astonishing change is the increase within white fundamental evangelicals from 12 percent to 27 percent. And those Millenials, ages 18-33? Sixty-nine percent of them support marriage equality, compared to 37 percent of those ages 68 and older.

As has been suspected for quite a while, there’s a big difference between people who know someone who is LGBT and those who think that they don’t. With the number of people coming out of the closet, 65 percent of people in the United States today know someone who is LGBT, compared to just 22 percent 20 years ago.

People arguing against same-sex marriage claim that it doesn’t fit the bible’s traditional view of marriage. Here are some examples of biblical marriage:

 

  • Solomon had 300 concubines or sex slaves in addition to his 700 wives of royal birth. God only minded because “his wives led him astray.” (1 Kings 11:3)
  • Masters in he bible had sexual rights, including cruelty, over slaves if they weren’t betrothed to another. (1 Peter 2:18)
  • Abraham got his wife’s slave pregnant with the wife’s permission but then let his wife mistreat the slave got pregnant and the wife got upset. (Genesis 16:1-6)
  • The bible required men to marry a widowed sister-in-law even if the man is married. (Mark 12:19)
  • According to the bible, if a wife defends her husband, the man must cut her hand off. (Deuteronomy 25:11-12:11)
  • Technically, no one should marry, according to the bible. “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do.” (1 Corinthians 7:8)

 

The literal view of biblical stories, as preferred by fundamental Christians, show a hateful, murdering god:

 

  •  God sent bears to kill children after they made fun of Eliseus. (4 Kings 2:23-24).
  • God turned Lot’s wife into salt although she wasn’t warned about turning back to look at her home. (Genesis 19:26)
  • God hates the blind, lame, dwarves, blemished, bad skin, etc. (Leviticus 21:17-24)
  • God tried to kill Moses with no explanation. (Exodus 4:24-26)
  • God killed a lot of people when he drowned everyone except Noah and his family, helped the Israelites kill everyone in Jericho, and even helped Israelites kill 500,000 other Isrealites.
  • God told his followers to kill their children, for example Abraham and Jephthah who burned his daughter alive to make God happy. (Genesis 22:1-12)
  • God killed Egyptian babies.  (Numbers 16:41-49)
  • God killed someone because he wouldn’t have more children by having sex with his sister-in-law. (Genesis 38:1-10)
  • God helped Samson kill 30 people to get their clothes because the two of them had a bet. (Judges 14:1-19)
  • God wrestled a man all night, cheated by wrenching the man’s out of its socket, and still lost.  (Genesis 32: 22-31)
  • God killed people because they complained about God killing people, some of them by setting fire to them. (Numbers 16:1-49)
  • When God wasn’t killing people, he tortured them, for example Job. According to the bible, God was having a conversation with Satan and started bragging about what a great guy Job was. After God takes everything away from Job and makes his life a hell, Job apologizes, and God gives him new animals and children. All because of bet with Satan. (Job 1)

 

William “Jerry” Boykin, deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence for most of the Bush/Cheney era, was part of the failed search for Osama bin Laden and wore his uniform when he frequently spoke in churches to explain to his listeners that the Iraq was part of the End Times. He goes beyond a literal reading of the bible, telling his listeners that Jesus will arrive with an AR-15 assault rifle at the Second Coming. According to Boykin, Jesus was responsible for the “the whole concept” of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

Even Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin agrees with the young people when he claims that homophobia is “insulting to God.” He added: “We all belong to one another and there is no way we can build up a society in which people are excluded or insulted.” Ireland is considering legalized same-sex marriage.

The archbishop’s attitude is opposite to that of some Catholic leaders in the United States.  When a family sued the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis because a former pastor at Blessed Sacrament Parish in St. Paul, Curtis Wehmeyer, abused their two boys, ages 12 and 14, lawyers blamed the mother in court for leaving the children alone with Wehmeyer. He pled guilty to luring the boys into his home, giving them drugs and alcohol, and telling them to touch themselves and other boys. Archdiocese officials knew about Wehmeyer’s “risky sexual behavior” when he was appointed pastor.

According to many fundamentalist lawmakers, God wrote not only the bible but also the U.S. Constitution—like former House Speaker Tom DeLay (R-TX).  These are the people who are making our laws and training children in Trail Life, teaching them to give a salute identical to the one taught children in Nazi Germany. With the current trends, however, hopefully some of them won’t be giving the salute in a few years. 

February 27, 2014

LGBT Rights v. Religion

For an entire week, the nation’s media was obsessed about Arizona’s bill that would let everyone in the state do anything they wanted as long as they said it was because of religion. The bill went to Gov. Jan Brewer on Monday, and many Republicans—including three legislators who voted in favor of it—asked her to veto it. Last night she did. According to her speech about the veto, she didn’t want to divide the state so she denied the right-wing groups their wish.

Using political-speak rather than reason, she said her veto was to stop a divide. And of course, the wacko right got very divided–against Brewer:

Fox network Tucker Carlson maintained that requiring people to provide service to everyone is “fascism.” [For those lacking a dictionary, fascism is an authoritarian nationalism that has a veneration of the state and devotion to a strong leader and invokes the primacy of the state.]

Another Fox network host, Todd Starnes, tweeted: “AZ Gov. Jan Brewer makes Christians in her state second-class citizens.”

 A tweet from Rich Lowry of the National Review: “The Brewer veto shows that poorly informed hysteria works.” He skipped the fact that the loudest protests against the bill came from the business community, usually allied with conservatives.

President of Tea Party Nation, Judson Phillips: “Tyranny is on the march!” And my favorite, the veto means that bakers will be forced to sell cakes with “a giant phallic symbol on it” or cakes with another “shape of genitalia.”

Michele Bachmann claimed that Brewer “eviscerated free speech.”

According to Brewer’s speech, she is comfortable that Arizona law protects religious people from discrimination. There was no mention of the state’s discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing, hospital visitation, education, health care, marriage. While claiming that people in her state didn’t suffer from religious discrimination, she still managed to figuratively shake her finger at President Obama by blaming him for the concerns in the state.

Logic tells us that protecting LGBT people had no relationship to Brewer’s decision: it was purely business.

brewersuperbowlap-638x461

 

The NFL threatened to pull the 2015 Super Bowl in Glendale (AZ), and a number of large companies had said that they would either not expand or even come to the state with SB1062. Even now, Arizona may take a hit as Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton suggested. He said, “The negative national and international publicity that our state has already received — it sends a message that our state is not a warm, welcoming place.” The Hispanic National Bar Assocation has already pulled its 2015 national convention.

Another reason for Brewer to veto the bill is highly personal. She became governor after then-governor Janet Napolitano was tapped for the director of the Department of Homeland Security. Her win a year later seemed unlikely until she signed into law the discriminatory anti-immigrant profiling bill. Her GOP opposition dissipated, and she defeated long-time Democratic icon AG Terry Goddard. The state constitution limits governors to two terms, but Brewer has always maintained that she has served only one term. Thus far, eight GOP gubernatorial candidates have signed up for the primary. Some believe that her vetoing the bill indicates she won’t be running, yet her action has gained her support from some of the most powerful GOP leaders both inside and outside Arizona.

Although Arizona got massive publicity from passing its bill in the legislature,  a similar bill was already passed in the Mississippi Senate—with no hoop-la. After the Arizona debacle, Democrats are backing off, such as Sen. David Blount who said he didn’t know that the bill to change the state seal included discrimination. The 2.5-page bill clearly stated that the religious right would discriminate; the following one-page provision added “In God We Trust” to the state seal. Blount added that no one else knew the bill was discriminatory. The debate on the floor did concern issues such as people “praying facing Mecca” and religious liberty for “devil worshipping” and “voodoo.”

The bill has moved to the Judiciary B Committee. Its chair, Rep. Andy Gipson, once invoked a biblical passage asking for the death penalty for gays. If the bill passes the House, it moves to the governor, Phil Bryant, who has violated a federal order by denying spousal benefits to same-sex National Guard spouses.

Then there’s Georgia, another state that wants to get in on the discrimination action with a similar bill. The Preservation of Religious Freedoms Act would erase a law in Atlanta that protects LGBT people in lodging, housing, and employment. The shotgun approach is like that of the Arizona bill: any person or business can discriminate against anyone. Based in Atlanta, Delta Airlines is one company that has spoken out against the bill.

Georgia has tabled its “freedom act,” taking it off the calendar. Mississippi is considering a re-wording of its “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” perhaps because the state’s chamber of commerce, the Mississippi Economic Council, has issued a statement against discrimination by businesses.

The lead author of a similar bill in Oklahoma said he will re-write it, and Ohio has withdrawn its anti-LGBT legislation. Idaho Deputy AG Brian Kane told legislators that their proposed “religious freedom” bills would have constitutional problems. Kansas withdrew its bill after it passed the state House but before the Arizona bill was passed. In Maine, both legislative chambers voted down a bill similar to that in Arizona. Tennessee’s bill suffered serious backlash from the business community and disappeared, as did one in South Dakota. A state representative has filed an Arizona bill in Missouri. In all, 13 states have introduced so-called religious anti-LGBT bills in less than two months.

Oregon is unique in the discrimination game. Instead of a legislative bill, the proposed measure for the 2014 ballot comes from a religious group that claims it only wants to protect businesses from having to provide services at a same-sex wedding or commitment ceremony. In order for the initiative to be on the ballot, the group must collect 116,284 valid signatures by July 5, and signature-gatherers can’t begin until the state AG determines a 15-word title for the ballot. A measure to overturn the constitutional ban on marriage equality in Oregon has already obtained over 160,000 signatures.

Many people in Oregon think that the initiatives attempting to discriminate against LGBT people in the state actually benefited the community. Threatened by the far-right in the 1990s, lesbians and gays came out of the closet to fight the measures, created alliances, and increased support by becoming visible. One of the men who pushed anti-LGBT laws in Oregon, Scott Lively, left the state and moved his mission to other countries, including Russia and Uganda where LGBT people can be physically abused and sent to prison with the sanction of the government.

The large number of big businesses that opposed the Arizona bill is also a positive affirmation of LGBT people. A solar company fired Jack Burkman as its lobbyist after he said he would push for legislation to stop the NFL from having gay players. Meanwhile, federal courts continue to rule in favor of marriage equality, the most recent Texas. This map shows the status of marriage equality in separate states—at least today! 

map of states marriage equalityUsing religion to justify bigotry is not new. Segregationists used the same argument, often in the U.S. Congress. As late as the 1970s, Bob Jones University excluded blacks and then let them enroll if they were married. When they allowed unmarried blacks to attend the religious school, they prohibited interracial relationships, trying to keep federal subsidies by claiming that their racism came from religious beliefs. The Supreme Court finally struck down the argument of using religious beliefs for racial discrimination. As the court decided, religious liberty is important, but it should not be allowed to eradicate the rights of others. 

KKK-Church-e1393466113529-972x454

March 23, 2012

Anti-Choice People Get Crazier

How crazy can anti-choice people become? Just when you think you’ve seen it all ….

Members of an anti-choice group performed an exorcism outside a women’s clinic in Ohio last Sunday. Priests got permission from the Rev. Steve J. Angi, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, to perform the “exorcism of locality,” designed to drive evil out of a place, rather than out of a person. Participants read the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, written by Pope Leo XIII in 1886, that states, “Seize the dragon, the ancient serpent, which is the devil and Satan, bind him and cast him into the bottomless pit, that he may no longer seduce the nations.”

While the Catholics are exorcising “locality,” Republican legislators are becoming more and more outrageous. In Arizona Rep. Terri Proud wants a bill to force women witness an abortion before they can have the procedure. An Alaskan bill requires women who opt for abortions to prove in writing that the fetuses’ fathers approve of the procedures.

To keep women from having abortions, both Arizona and Kansas are considering bills giving women’s doctors the legal right to lie about health issues regarding both the pregnant women’s and the fetuses’ health. In a 20-9 vote, the Arizona Senate approved a bill, sponsored by Nancy Barto, that prevents lawsuits if doctors fail to inform women of prenatal problems. The Kansas bill goes further, permitting doctors to outright lie outright if they discover a medical condition that could affect a pregnant women or fetus. Nine other states already have “wrongful birth” laws on their books allowing doctors to withhold information from pregnant women.

Idaho State Sen. Chuck Winder clearly states the arrogant attitude that many Republican legislators have toward women. While discussing his mandatory ultrasound bill, he said, “Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this. I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.”

Gov. Rick Perry (TX) stated that he can take money from Planned Parenthood because the Tenth Amendment allows him to do anything with federal money that he wants. Between the withdrawal of state and federal funds from Planned Parenthood, over 300,000 Texas women in poverty can no longer receive health care. Texas also has a 24-hour waiting period and ultrasound requirements for abortions. The Texas Observer has published a story about the pain that these laws cause for women carrying fetuses with irreversible medical conditions, an article that every Republican should be required to read.

Utah’s governor signed the bill that demands a 72-hour waiting period before women can get abortions. The rationale behind lengthy waits seems to be that women will change their minds if given enough time … or perhaps not meet the short window of time during which women can get abortions.

The trend against women, however, seems to be slightly reversing. Tennessee is thinking about not requiring the publication of the names of doctors’ who perform abortions although the women’s identity could still be obvious. The change comes from the only physician in the legislature, a Republican who wants to protect at least doctors if not women.

The Idaho House is backing off forced ultrasounds after the Senate passed the bill 23-12 with five Republicans voting against it. The cancellation of a House committee hearing gives the impression that the bill may have died. After the New Hampshire House passed a bill that would force doctors to lie to their patients by telling them legislature-specified statements that abortions give higher risks for breast cancer, legislators decided to take the bill back to committee so that it could be reconsidered. Abortions do NOT give a higher risk of breast cancer.

Arizona’s bill requiring women to tell their employees why they want contraception has already passed the House, but it’s being amended by its sponsor, Rep. Debbie Lesko, who pulled it from the Senate Rules Committee. The intent to return to committee is to work on amendments—what kind wasn’t disclosed. Gov. Jan Brewer said she was concerned that women might be “uncomfortable” with the bill.

Utah governor Gary Herbert vetoed a bill banning public schools from teaching about contraception in health education classes.

Women are still fighting back. Project TMI is still posting on legislators’ Facebook pages across the nation.

The National Organization for Women (NOW), which has been almost invisible in the past few years, has tackled the bust of Rush Limbaugh being sculpted for the Missouri state capitol. The state chapter’s program, “Flush Rush,” has sent hundreds of rolls of toilet paper to Steven Tilley, the state House Speaker responsible for inducting Limbaugh in the Hall of Famous Missourians. Tilley’s justification for keeping Limbaugh in the capitol is that the Hall is “not called the Hall of Universally Loved Missourians. We’ve inducted people like John Ashcroft, Warren Hearnes, and Harry Truman. They certainly had their detractors.” Apparently at least one Missouri Republican compares Limbaugh to Harry Truman.

Because of its opposition to Planned Parenthood, the Susan G. Komen Foundation is losing affiliate officers and events. Another group—one that’s pro-choice and spends more of its funding helping women prevent breast cancer—would better suited to take its place.

Conservative legislators are also more reluctant to fight in other areas such as same-sex marriage. Two-thirds of the New Hampshire House voted to keep its 2007 same-sex marriage law in a 211 to 116 vote. Republicans hold 189 seats in the House; they could easily have passed the bill.

Even with this trend, the country trends farther and farther to the right. There must a tipping point somewhere!

February 19, 2012

Marriage Equality ‘Inevitable’

What is the reason for banning same-sex marriage? One man used the excuse,  “How am I supposed to explain to my kid that two men are getting married?” So how does he handle the non-stop news of the past few weeks regarding same-sex marriage across the country!? I’ll give him a clue. When I toasted the anniversary of two lesbian friends at Thanksgiving one year, I told my two grand-nieces, ages 5 and 7, “These are two people who want to share their lives together like your mother and father did when they got married. This is their anniversary.” It’s not rocket science!

But back to all the same-sex marriage talk this year. Washington and New Jersey legislators passed bills that legalized marriage for gays and lesbians in their respective states. Gov. Christine Gregoire signed the Washington bill; Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the New Jersey one because he wants people to vote for civil rights that should be provided by the Constitution. The Maryland House of Delegates passed marriage equality legislation with a vote of 71-67; the bill is on the way to the Senate.

North Carolina and Minnesota have referenda this year on constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage; Maine will probably have one to legalize it. Rhode Island is also considering a marriage equality law, and an Illinois lawmaker has proposed upgrading its civil union law to marriage equality.

Meanwhile the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of gay and lesbian marriage. It was a very narrow ruling, stating that California could not take away a right that they had given—the people who married in California before the passage of no gay/lesbian marriage Proposition 8 are still married in California. But it’s still a ruling.

A civil unions bill escaped the Senate Judiciary Committee in Colorado by a 5-2 vote. Obviously civil unions are not the same as marriage, but they are a start, if only to have a state supreme court say that it’s unequal and then legalize marriage. At this time, 11 states have either a civil union or domestic partnership law that gives same-sex couples the same state rights as married couples have. West Virginia plans to join these states.

With over one-third of the people in the nation living in states that either legalize same-sex marriage or give couples the same rights, the Democratic Party is moving toward adding a marriage equality plank to their national platform, a move toward erasing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (banning marriage equality) with the Respect for Marriage Act. Meanwhile, federal courts will hear three DOMA lawsuits in Massachusetts this year.

When Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriages eight years ago, people in this country opposed them by a 2-1 ratio. Now a slender majority supports them. Since gay/lesbian marriage in Massachusetts, state supreme courts in California, Connecticut, and Iowa have ruled in favor of them, and legislatures in another five states have legalized same-sex marriage. New Hampshire has also decided not to repeal its marriage equality law.

Michael J. Klarman, Harvard Law School professor and author of Same-Sex Marriage Litigation and Political Backlash, thinks that marriage equality is “inevitable.” According to Klarman, more and more gays and lesbians are becoming open about their sexual identity because the country is becoming more accepting. A factor that strongly predicts support for gay/lesbian equality is knowing a gay or lesbian. Most people don’t want to discriminate against those they know and love. The more people who come out, the more others know open gays and lesbians.

Young people are another reason that same-sex marriage is inevitable, Klarman said. One study showed a 44-percent gap between the youngest and the oldest survey respondents regarding gay/lesbian marriage. In 2011, 70 percent of those between ages 18 and 34 supported same-sex marriage.

Even conservatives see the legalization of same-sex marriage as inevitable. Less than a year ago, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on a Christian radio program that “it is clear that something like same-sex marriage … is going to become normalized, legalized, and recognized in the culture.” He continued, “It’s time for Christians to start thinking about how we’re going to deal with that.”

Klarman agrees with many others that there will still be a great deal of fighting about the issue, but let’s hope that he is right, that same-sex marriage is “inevitable.”

February 15, 2012

Loving Gives Hope to Same-Sex Marriage

When Richard and Mildred Loving married over a half-century ago, they were arrested in their home state of Virginia and sent to jail. After a trial, the judge released them on a suspended sentence under the condition that they leave the state for 25 years and not return together. He did this because Richard was designated “white” by the state because he was over 99 percent Anglo and Mildred was classified as “Nigra” because she was half black and half Native American.

After five years of miserable exile in Washington, D.C., Mildred wrote Robert Kennedy asking whether the civil rights legislation might help them. He said it would not and that they should contact the ACLU. This action led to five years of court battles, resulting in the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimously ruling in Loving v.Virginia that interracial couples could legally marry any place in this nation, overturning the law in 16 states. Alabama didn’t remove its anti-miscegenation law from the books until 2000.

Yesterday, on Valentine’s Day, HBO showed director Nancy Buirski’s 78-minute documentary, The Loving Story, about the couple’s journey from banishment in Virginia to legalized interracial marriage across the country.  The story of their nine years’ together between the marriage and the court ruling is made even more compelling because of the rare photographs by Life photographer Grey Villet and archival footage by filmmaker Hope Ryden which were stored in a closet for almost 40 years. These show such simple activities as the couple holding hands and Mildred putting socks and patent leather shoes on their daughter, Peggy, while Richard loads the fireplace with wood. At the same time, they are forced to live their lives in secret, but their love shines in the photographs and films.

What struck me most about this documentary is the parallel to the nation’s fight over same-sex marriage. The Lovings were arrested at 2:00 am when the sheriff broke into their home, something that some older gays and lesbians have experienced. The couple was legally married in Washington, D.C., but in Virginia they went to jail because they were married in another U.S. jurisdiction. They had no rights such as receiving each other’s Social Security and inheriting the other’s property without a will if one of them died.

The court and the state law used God and the Bible to justify making the Lovings’  marriage illegal. According to the judge, God showed that he didn’t want interracial marriage because he put each race on a different planet. In the Supreme Court argument against Loving, the Virginia attorney general said the reason for preventing interracial marriage was the children. They deserved a stable home, and interracial couples could not provide this because of the stresses on them. They weren’t allowed to marry because society didn’t want them to be together. Audiotapes of the Supreme Court arguments show that the attorney general also justified the state’s anti-miscegenation statutes in the same way that they have the right to prohibit incest, polygamy, and underage marriage.

The two young ACLU lawyers who took on the Lovings’ case, Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop, were very young. Cohen had been out of law school only three years, and Hischkkop only two—not even long enough to argue in front of the Supreme Court without partnership with another qualified lawyer. Their arguments came from the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments—rights “retained by the people” that do not expressly appear in the Bill of Rights (Ninth Amendment) and due process and equal protection under the law (Fourteenth Amendment). As one of the Justices pointed out,Virginia refused to give a class of people their equal rights. In the same way the United States refuses rights for another class of people, gays and lesbians.

The oral arguments included the question of how the state would be damaged by interracial marriage and what the couple would lose without the opportunity to be married inVirginia. The state could provide no compelling reason, whereas the Lovings’ losses included their inability to be near their family.

Gays and lesbians have much more to lose if they cannot be married, such as potential loss of couple’s home from medical expenses of one partner caring for another gravely ill one; costs of supporting two households, travel, or emigration out of the U.S. for an American citizen unable to legally marry a non-U.S. citizen; higher cost of purchasing private insurance for partner and children if the employer is not one of 18 percent that offer domestic partner benefits; payment of higher taxes because domestic partner benefits are taxed as additional compensation; legal costs associated with obtaining domestic partner documents to gain some of the power of attorney, health care decision-making, and inheritance rights granted through legal marriage; higher health costs associated with lack of insurance and preventative care because 20 percent of same-sex couples have a member who is uninsured compared to 10 percent of married opposite-sex couples; inheritance taxes because unmarried couples cannot inherit an unlimited amount from the deceased without incurring an estate tax; and over 1000 other issues.

The Lovings did not want to hear the oral arguments before the Supreme Court. Cohen asked Richard if he had anything to tell the court. All he said was “Tell the court that I love my wife, and it is unfair that I can’t live with her inVirginia.” People in same-sex relationships agree. They love their partners and restrictive laws that prevent their legal marriage in the United States are unfair.

The bottom line is that the Constitution was written, in part, to protect the minority. It does not allow the majority to vote away the rights of the minority, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to do by vetoing the same-sex marriage bill passed by the legislation and sending it to voters to decide. As the Rev. Al Sharpton said on The Bill Maher Show, if people are allowed to vote on human rights, he’ll be sitting at the back of the bus again. Symbolically, the LGBT community is still there.

In its ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote, “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

A year before she died, on the fortieth anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision, Mildred Loving said, “Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the ‘wrong kind of person’ for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights. I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

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