marriage

Of Jurisprudence + Ash Heaps

Yesterday, Pennsylvania became the 19th state to win marriage equality. Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA last June, there have been more than a dozen federal court rulings that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. These rulings have been handed down in courts all over the country – from Idaho to Oklahoma to Michigan to Virginia – and by judges all along the political spectrum. The latest is by John E. Jones III… a Republican who was appointed by George W. Bush.

“The issue we resolve today is a divisive one,” he wrote. “Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of ‘separate but equal.’”

He noted that in the 60 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for integration in Brown v. Board of Education, “’separate’ marmont.trashhas thankfully faded into history, and only ‘equal’ remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.” Of discriminatory laws, he concluded, “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.

from Advocate.com

Right-wingers predictably gripe about “activist judges” who are “thwarting the will of the people” when they overturn these discriminatory laws. It’s always the people who wrap themselves in the flag and the Constitution who complain the loudest. That’s sad. Because they obviously don’t understand the first thing about our Constitution. It is the highest law in the land, and it applies to everyone. Sometimes in this country’s history, the will of the people has needed thwarting. Voters can pass referenda (e.g. Prop 8) and politicians can enact whatever laws they like (e.g. DOMA) – and discriminatory laws will always be challenged. Those laws which fail to meet the Constitutional standards of due process and equal treatment… those laws will be struck down. As they should be. As they must be… if we are to be a better people.

The End (so far)

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Acme Anti-Gay-Marriage Kit

For more than thirty years, the Republican Party in America has had only one mission: the reduction of taxes. Local taxes. State taxes. Federal taxes. Income taxes. Property taxes. Corporate taxes. Inheritance taxes. Capital gains taxes. Reduce ’em all. Eliminate them, if possible. Nevermind the necessary things that taxes fund, such as schools, highways, research, bank bailouts, etc. Just move whatever money is left into the military. So what if there’s nothing left to defend?

But that produces terrible results for most people. How do you get them to vote for you while you’re cutting them off at the knees? Simple: the Republican Party aligned itself with right-wing passions. It became the Scourge of Communism. The Defender of the Unborn. The Keeper of Traditional (i.e., Christian) Values. The Foe of Gun Control. The Slayer of Regulations. And the Last Line of Defense Against the Homosexual Menace. Wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross – just as Sinclair Lewis warned us.

The GOP has been fairly successful with this strategy. The top marginal federal income tax rate was 70% when Reagan was elected in 1980. When he left office eight years later, it was 28%. Of course, the GOP forgets that St. Ronnie Raygun paid for these massive tax cuts with equally massive federal borrowing. Debt. Same playbook used by W in the first decade of this century. That took $5 trillion out of government revenue, conveniently replaced by (Shhhhhh!) the sale of T-bills (federal debt). “The GOP base” remained loyal – even as their bridges collapsed and their schools crumbled and their drinking water became undrinkable and oil gushed in their waterways and down their streets – because of all those bright shiny objects flashing in front of their eyes: God, guns and gays. 

Funny thing though: here we are, almost 40 years on – and the GOP is losing its touch. Maybe more to the point, its base is succumbing to that age old problem: death. The newest American generations aren’t much interested in singing from the same old Republican hymnal. Communism? What’s that? Young women feel quite capable of making their own reproductive choices. Organized religion (Christian and otherwise) has an ever decreasing hold on Americans under 40. Twenty percent of us now check “none of the above” in answer to the polls about faith. There are more guns in America, but they are held by a shrinking number of gun owners (–only 1/3 of us now). And then there’s the whole gay thing.

There is probably no greater measure of failure than the GOP’s near total defeat vs teh gay. How bad is it? Well, I’m guessing that if you are an anti-gay bigot these days, it probably feels something like this:

DE6F5804D

Not that they didn’t have their glory days. If you trace the rainbow’s arc back twenty years, it was a real shitstorm. In 1994, Bill Clinton (yes, that Bill Clinton) signed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) into law – shamefully, in the middle of the night. In 1996, DOMA (the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’) was passed. No state was even contemplating marriage equality at that point. But DOMA made sure that if any gay or lesbian couple managed to get themselves legally hitched in these United States (or anywhere else), then at least the federal government wouldn’t have to recognize that sort of abomination. Morally and ethically, not gay lunchthat’s a problem. But legally, too: there are 1,138 federal benefits and rights bestowed on people who are legally married in this country. DOMA denied all of those rights to gay couples – even if any of the states decided that gay was OK. Which they started to do, early in the next millennium.

In 2004, Massachusetts made history as the first state to sanction same-sex marriage. It was followed in 2008 by Connecticut and California. Uh-oh. California. You know what that means… the slippery slope… 15% of the American population lives there. And it’s the place where all the most popular trends start. Like hula hoops and Valley girls and convertibles and dirty dancing. Better nip that in the bud. So the right wing flapped mightily, with massive funding and organization and fear campaigns about the children! from the Catholic Church (seriously?!) and the Mormons (the irony!), and they mustered 52% to pass Prop 8 – amending the California constitution to restrict civil marriage to one-man-and-one-woman.

That began a five-year-long cascade of court decisions and appeals. At the same time, a number of anti-DOMA cases and decisions and appeals were working their way through the judiciary. Prop 8 and the Windsor challenge to DOMA both reached the U.S. Supreme Court in late 2012, and the Court indicated in taking both cases that it would consider them together.

Meanwhile, over in Congress… a fierce political battle was waged throughout 2010 – and after at least 14,000 service members were forced out of the military for the ‘crime’ of being gay – an act repealing DADT was passed and signed into law by President Obama on 22 December 2010. The law was fully implemented and DADT finally received a dishonorable discharge on 30 September 2011.

Then… on 26 June 2013 – on the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that are commemorated each year by Gay Pride celebrations all over the country –  the United States Supreme Court handed down two momentous decisions. It swatted away the Prop 8 appellants, leaving in place Judge Vaughan Walker’s historic 2010 ruling that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. Two ediewindsor days later, marriage equality was once again the law of the land in California. And in a 5-4 ruling, the Court handed the indefatigable Edie Windsor her long-fought victory over the so called Defense of Marriage Act. In the process, the Court eviscerated DOMA and required the federal government of the United States to give full recognition (and all of those 1,138 rights) to all legally married couples in this country. (Click on Edie’s photo > links to amazing Time slideshow of Edie & Thea by Paul Moakley.)

Civil marriage is administered by each state. Whether you do a religious ceremony or not, you need to secure a marriage license from the state. Just as you need a driver’s license to drive, or a hunting license to hunt. The words are so familiar, whether uttered by a priest or a minister, rabbi, imam or a justice of the peace: “By the power vested in me by the State of (insert state name here), I now pronounce you spouse and spouse.” And this is why the Windsor decision did not instantly make same-sex marriage legal nationwide. It told the federal government to recognize all marriages legally performed in any state. And so, the battles shifted back to the states.

On 26 June 2013 there were 9 American states and the District of Columbia with marriage equality. Less than one year later, there are now 18 states (shaded dark on map, below) plus DC with marriage equality. Just today, we welcomed Oregon to the wedding party. And those numbers may be changing even more dramatically in the very near future. Here’s why:

us.marriage.051914

The 18 dark shaded states plus DC have marriage equality as of today (19 May 2014). The medium shading shows 7 states where a court has found the ban to be unconstitutional, and those cases are now in the appeals process. These are seven of the reddest (most conservative) states in the country: Idaho, Utah, Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Virginia and Arkansas (which isn’t correctly shaded on this map). Some of these cases (UT, OK and VA) have already been heard by the various Courts of Appeal, and a ruling could come down at any time. Oddly, the three states in yellow have bans in place that have not yet been challenged. Montana, North & South Dakota are home collectively to 2.5 million people; about eight-tenths of one percent of the American population. Just sayin’…
***UPDATE: Challenges were filed in MT and SD on 5/22, and ND on 6/6. No state bans remain unchallenged.***

So, 18 + 7 + 3 = 28. That leaves 22 states with the lightest shading on the map (see updates*, below). And in every one of those states, lawsuits have been filed to challenge the bans on same-sex marriage and these are working their way through the judicial system. It is only a matter of time before each one of those cases produces a ruling… the likely appeal… and a final decision. But what is no longer in doubt is the final outcome: marriage equality will be the law of the land in all fifty states, and it will happen sooner rather than later. I predict before 2017 – which will be the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision which swept away all the remaining state laws criminalizing interracial marriage.

Updates – Bans now struck down in: (5/20) Pennsylvania; (6/6) Wisconsin (stayed); (6/25) Indiana (stayed); (7/1) Kentucky (stayed); (7/9) Colorado

***MAJOR MILESTONE: On 6/25, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver issued its ruling in Utah’s appeal of the federal court finding its ban unconstitutional. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the lower court ruling. This is the most significant judicial action since last year’s Supreme Court invalidation of DOMA and Prop 8, as it is the first time one of the Appeals Courts have ruled on a marriage equality case. The Tenth Circuit issued a stay pending Utah’s expected appeal to the Supreme Court. However, its ruling applies to all of the states in its jurisdiction: UT (stayed on appeal), NM (which already had marriage equality), WY, KS, CO and OK. The Tenth Circuit has already heard arguments in the appeal by OK (virtually identical to the UT case) and may issue its ruling at any time. In CO, a state judge struck down the ban on 7/9; county clerks in Boulder and Denver are issuing marriage licenses and a judge today refused to stop them. The confusion stems from the fact that the Tenth Circuit ruling found Utah’s anti-gay discrimination in marriage to be unconstitutional, which does apply to all six states in its jurisdiction. Does the stay apply only to UT or to the other five states too? The Tenth hasn’t said, and only county clerks in Colorado have tested it (successfully) by issuing marriage licenses. Don’t hold your breath for that to happen in WY, KS or OK. What is also interesting is that UT has elected to skip requesting an en banc review by the Tenth Circuit, and says it will soon ask the Supreme Court to hear its appeal. The next shoes to drop are the other Appeals Court rulings that are in various stages of the process. Idaho has appealed to the Ninth Circuit, and that’s a no-brainer. The Fourth Circuit (MD, VA, WV, SC) heard arguments in VA’s case in May and can rule any time now. The Sixth Circuit will hear arguments on 8/6 in six marriage cases from the four states in its jurisdiction (MI, OH, KY, TN) and can issue its ruling any time afterwards. The Fifth Circuit (TX, LA, MS) now has a case on appeal from TX. The Seventh Circuit (WI, IL, IN) has an appeal from IN, and maybe WI. Stay tuned! For up-to-the-minute info on all the cases in all the states and courts, go to FreedomToMarry.org.

02v-coyote-falling-1-gif

But in the meantime, we can count on the Republicans and their “Grand Old Party” with their teabaggers and teavangelicals to hang on to their institutional bigotry until the bitter end. And that’s probably a good thing for the country, really. Because the more out-of-step the GOP is with the majority of Americans, the more marginalized it will become… the less power it will wield… and this country may one day soon be able to shake off the last effects of this infection that has raged in our body politic for decades. That would be a very good thing, for this nation and our world. (Witness the Republican primary contests being waged right now across the country… especially that clusterfuck in Idaho. Oh myyyyyhere’s a link. And here.) You know, before Antarctica melts and ExxonMobilShellGazpromWalmart acquires nuclear weapons.

And you wonder why I call this blog: The End (so far)

Feeling moreish? Here are some related posts from the archives:

This Is Why We Fight The Hate

Act Up! Fight Back! 

Loving v. Virginia – Again

Continuum

Thank You, Edie Windsor

Homomentum

Semper Fi – Finally

It Was A Tres Gay Day In The USA

It Was A Très Gay Day In The USA

The National Football League is the biggest, baddest sports league in the galaxy America. Everything about the NFL is over-the-top. Teams of massive, muscle-bound multi-millionaires clash on billion-dollar battlefields, annihilating each other until only two armies are left standing. And then, Armageddon. The ultimate battle for WORLD* SUPREMACY. The Super Bowl.

* If you live in any of the other 195 countries (out of 196) where American football is not played, please forgive the slight exaggeration. You know how we are.

Baseball may be our national pastime, but football is the last redoubt of hyper-masculinity in USA! USA! If you’re not familiar with American sport (as the rest of the world – plus Mitt Romney – clips it), the ultimate primer on baseball vs football was given to us by the great George Carlin:

So, it was big news today when an NFL team drafted its first openly gay player. Michael Sam was a star player for the University of Missouri Tigers. He came out to his teammates at the start of his senior year season in 2013. They took the news in stride, the Mizzou Tigers went on to win the 2014 Cotton Bowl and Michael Sam was named a Defensive Player of the Year.

Michael Sam

Then in February, he came out to the rest of the world, taking a huge risk with his anticipated career in the NFL – which has never had, and certainly never drafted, an openly gay player. A handful of cowards anonymously expressed some negative comments, but the response from the NFL, its teams, players and fans was overwhelmingly positive and supportive. When the “god hates fags” pestilence descended on Missouri’s celebration of its Cotton Bowl win, a thousand students lined the roadway with signs of support and t-shirts that read “STAND WITH SAM” to shield Michael from the haters. The hashtag #standwithsam trended for @mikesamfootball.

Stand_With_Sam_WBC_counterprotestors

The St Louis Rams drafted Mike Sam today, and there’s a certain symmetry to that. It means he’ll have a built-in fan base in Missouri cheering him on. Congrats to Mike Sam, the Rams and the NFL. Everyone wins.

That news alone would make May 10th a banner day for the gay. But wait – there’s more. The state just south of Missouri (by pure coincidence) is Arkansas. In an America divided into conservative “red” and progressive “blue” states, Arkansas runs blood red in the former (-ish) Confederacy of the American South. It is the buckle of the “Bible belt”. Got the picture?

Well, imagine the surprise yesterday when an Arkansas judge ruled that his state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the Constitution. BOOM! And he didn’t stay his ruling (in spite of the likely appeal), which meant that county clerks began issuing marriage licenses today to gay couples. First in line: Kristin Seaton and Jennifer Rambo received their marriage license and wasted no time at all. They married in an impromptu ceremony on the sidewalk outside the courthouse in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

arkansas.first couple marriage license

 

Congratulations to Kristen & Jennifer! And to Michael Sam – and his boyfriend (who probably also made history today as the first gay liplock on ESPN? Trey Wingo – can you confirm this stat?)

NFL drafts Sam

So, 10 May 2014. Big day all around. You know, this country often takes two steps forward and one step back. Sometimes we take one step forward and two steps back. But in the end, what we remember… what history records… what defines us… are the steps forward.

The End (so far)

P.S. Meanwhile, over in Europe…

[051] Homomentum

Today was another terrible, horrible, no good day for “religious” bigots in America. I put that word in quotes, because they only feign religiosity. All they really are is grotesquely ignorant, small-minded, bitter, sniveling imbeciles. The breaking news, as I write this, is that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed SB 1062 – the bill passed by both houses of the Arizona legislature which would have permitted anti-gay (and other forms of) discrimination by people and businesses… as long as the discrimination was said to come from “deeply held religious beliefs.” Oh, bite me!

from the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University

Jim Crow Museum, Ferris State Univ

Governor Brewer’s veto should not be construed as support for the notion of equal civil rights for all Arizonans. There are hundreds of millions of other reasons for her veto – in the form of a guaranteed financial hit to Arizona’s economy and state tax revenues. Most of the major companies headquartered or doing business in Arizona came out publicly against this bigoted law. The real coup de grace was a thinly veiled warning from the National Football League that Phoenix would lose next year’s Super Bowl if this abominable license to discriminate were to become law. Remember that Arizona has unique experience losing a Super Bowl to state-sanctioned bigotry. In 1993, Super Bowl XXVII was moved from Phoenix to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena because Arizona refused to recognize the federal holiday honoring Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The ghosts of 1993’s debacle apparently still haunt the AZ governor’s chambers in 2014.

This veto is not a surprise. Nor is the failure of other such bills in the states which have recently attempted to enact anti-gay discrimination under the guise of so-called “religious freedom”. Kansas, South Dakota, restrooms.whiteonlyTennessee, Oregon, Idaho, Maine and Georgia have all gone down this rutted road recently. Arizona was just the first state to get a bill on its governor’s desk. It may not be the last. So, good news that Arizona today rejected a law that would have permitted businesses to turn away customers they don’t like. Fifty years later, and the bigots are still trying to serve up steaming piles of Jim Crow – this time aimed at LGBT Americans. And of course, it’s the same thing in all the states attempting to restrict voting access for people of color, students and the elderly. What a proud chapter in America’s ongoing fight for social justice! The Republicans are behind these noxious attempts at legislative discrimination, and they should hang their heads in shame. We already know how history will view them and their supporters: with the same revulsion that civilized people reserve for the Jim Crow signage displayed on this page. And that is exactly how offensive these fraudulent excuses for hatred are.

Texas Court Ruling

But wait! For most of the day, Arizona wasn’t even the biggest story on the bigot-busting beat. No! That spotlight belonged to Texas – where a federal judge ruled its ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia issued the ruling which struck down Texas’ 2003 law banning same-sex marriage as well as its 2005 state constitutional ban. In his opinion, Judge Garcia wrote:

Today’s court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent. Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution.

Frankly, it’s getting difficult to keep up with all the action in the courts. In the last two months alone, there have been at least six federal court rulings declaring anti-gay marriage bans to be unconstitutional, in the reddest of states: Texas, Kentucky, Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah and Ohio. And with more than a dozen active cases being pursued in other states, this list will inevitably grow. Some of these cases will be not gay lunchappealed to the Circuit Courts, others will not – and that is a Red State / Blue State divide. Given the Supreme Court’s ruling last June invalidating DOMA (the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act”), it is virtually a foregone conclusion that federal judges will find state laws restricting marriage to heterosexuals to be unconstitutional. And as it did with all the district court rulings striking down DOMA, the Supreme Court will likely consolidate whatever cases rise through the Courts of Appeal in the various circuits – and decide the question of marriage equality in this country, once and for all.

It has been ten years since Massachusetts became the first state in the country to endorse marriage equality. Since then, the following states have joined that growing list: California, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, District of Columbia, New York, Washington State, Maryland, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Delaware, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico. We are rapidly approaching half of the population of the country living in marriage equality states, with the federal government now automatically recognizing all legal marriages. The remaining state bans will continue to be challenged until they all fall. Unless the Supreme Court expedites that result with a ruling echoing Loving v. Virginia which struck down the interracial marriage bans in this country. If you’re keeping score at home, the Washington Post has a terrific interactive map of marriage equality status in the states. Check back often, as they say.

Day 051 #100happydays

[038] Loving v. Virginia – Again

For a state whose marketing slogan has long been “Virginia Is For Lovers”, it sure does like to make laws preventing many of those lovers from marrying each other. Fortunately, federal courts exist to remind Virginia of the Constitution of the United States. (Which is ironic since one of Virginia’s greatest sons, James Madison, is remembered as “the Father of the Constitution” and had a hand in writing much of it. You’d think they’d pay a little more attention to it, huh?)

In 1958, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving traveled from Virginia to Washington DC to get married, and then returned home to Virginia. Police raided their home in the middle of the night and arrested them for the crime of miscegenation (interracial marriage). They were each given a sentence of one year in prison – suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia immediately.

So the Lovings moved to DC, where they were legally married, to live their lives. Nine years later, on 12 June 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in Loving v. Virginia. It struck down all of the country’s remaining miscegenation laws (throughout the South, of course) and forever removed race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.

Mildred + Richard Loving

Mildred + Richard Loving


Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

Nearly 50 years later, a new legal challenge to another Virginia marriage law is making its way through the federal courts. Today’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen struck down as unconstitutional Virginia’s prohibitions against same-sex marriage, or the recognition of legal same-sex marriages performed in other states. As a preface to the 41-page ruling, Judge Allen incorporated these comments made by Mildred Loving in 2007 on the 40th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia ruling:

Mildred Loving statement

marriage-equality“Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others.” Words to live by. Today’s ruling has been stayed pending the inevitable appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and will almost certainly then be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. There are similar legal cases moving through the federal judiciary all across the country. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia already provide for marriage equality, and the federal government has moved swiftly to recognize these legal marriages since the Supreme Court struck down the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” last year. So, America is in a remarkably similar position with regard to “gay marriage” as it was in 1967 with “interracial marriage”. And the day is coming when the Supreme Court will decide the case which puts an end, once and for all, to anti-gay bias in marriage laws in the United States. That won’t put an end to ignorant or hateful people… but it will make their ignorance and hatred legally irrelevant to the rest of us.

And that makes me so very gay… you know, happy.
Day 038 #100happydays

[029] Scots Rock!

Scottish parliament votes to legalise gay marriage

The Guardian, Tuesday 4 February 2014

We have always maintained at the heart of this issue there is one simple fact: a marriage is about love. All couples in Scotland in a loving relationship must know that they have the same rights and responsibilities and, regardless of their gender, the same opportunity to get married.  – Alex Neil, Scottish health secretary

Those crazy Scots, eh? A marriage is about love! Who knew?! Apparently, the only folks in Scotland who don’t understand this simple truth are the Catholics, Baptists, Muslims and Presbyterians who opposed this landmark legislation because… well, I’m sorry, but as you can see, I just don’t give a fuck.

give-a-fuck-o-meter

Scotland now joins England and Wales in the 21st century. Speaking of national legislatures, it must be said that the lawmakers of Holyrood are now light years ahead of their colleagues on Capitol Hill, where Boehner’s Bunch are still trying to repeal Obamacare, abortion rights and gays. (Note to American readers: if you are not registered to vote, will you please click on the link at the top right column on this page? It’s important. Thanks.) Northern Ireland is now the only corner of the U.K. still dragging its heels on marriage equality. C’mon Belfast. You can do it.

To celebrate today’s news, here are some other gifts Scotland has given the world.

Men in kilts

dress to kilt

Scotch

scotchontherocks

Sean Connery

sean_connery_intro

Loch Ness

LochNessUrquhart

Gingers

redddd

Plaid

burberry-camel-check-woven-boxers-beige-product-3-287379-160071101_large_flex

And the soulful wailing of bagpipes

scot flag 2

Scotland makes me happy – especially today.
Day 029 #100happydays

Who’d You Rather?

Which one of these straight men would you rather marry? Or see your daughter or your sister or your friend marry?

2straightguys

I just thought that was a nicer way to pose the question than:

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THE DOUCHENOZZLE ON THE RIGHT?!

Mahalo Hawai’i! Aloha Equality!

Mahalo Hawai'i! Aloha Equality!

Hawai’i became the 15th state for marriage equality today – 13 November 2013.