Showing posts with label equal rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label equal rights. Show all posts

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Observations, Pride 2014

Presidential proclamation declaring June LGBT Pride month ....

"I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people."

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 30, 2014

Presidential Proclamation -- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, 2014

As progress spreads from State to State, as justice is delivered in the courtroom, and as more of our fellow Americans are treated with dignity and respect -- our Nation becomes not only more accepting, but more equal as well. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, we celebrate victories that have affirmed freedom and fairness, and we recommit ourselves to completing the work that remains.

Last year, supporters of equality celebrated the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, a ruling which, at long last, gave loving, committed families the respect and legal protections they deserve. In keeping with this decision, my Administration is extending family and spousal benefits -- from immigration benefits to military family benefits -- to legally married same-sex couples.

My Administration proudly stands alongside all those who fight for LGBT rights. Here at home, we have strengthened laws against violence toward LGBT Americans, taken action to prevent bullying and harassment, and prohibited discrimination in housing and hospitals. Despite this progress, LGBT workers in too many States can be fired just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; I continue to call on the Congress to correct this injustice by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And in the years ahead, we will remain dedicated to addressing health disparities within the LGBT community by implementing the Affordable Care Act and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy -- which focuses on improving care while decreasing HIV transmission rates among communities most at risk.

Our commitment to advancing equality for the LGBT community extends far beyond our borders. In many places around the globe, LGBT people face persecution, arrest, or even state-sponsored execution. This is unacceptable. The United States calls on every nation to join us in defending the universal human rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

This month, as we mark 45 years since the patrons of the Stonewall Inn defied an unjust policy and awakened a nascent movement, let us honor every brave leader who stood up, sat in, and came out, as well as the allies who supported them along the way. Following their example, let each of us speak for tolerance, justice, and dignity -- because if hearts and minds continue to change over time, laws will too.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2014 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

Barack Obama

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Observations 5.20

So a day after a judge ruled Oregon's same sex marriage ban was unconstitutional Judge John Jones ruled the same in a case against Pennsylvania's ban. This one was fascinating for a number of reasons but it was special too because I still consider Pennsylvania my home state. I'll try to get to the fascinating later but for now I want to post a quote from Judge Jones' ruling. It should be noted that Jones was appointed by President George W. Bush.

"In the sixty years since Brown (vs the Board of Education) was decided, 'separate' has thankfully faded into history, and only 'equal' remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned to be replaced by simply marriage.

We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it's time to discard them into the ash heap of history."

United States District Judge John E. Jones III

Monday, May 19, 2014

Observations 5.19

"With discernment we see not shadows lurking in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed; rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the greater community.

Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other ... and rise."

United States District Judge Michael J. McShane at the conclusion of his ruling today which declared Oregon's ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Observations from the Window 12.12

This is just an update to my post on International Human Rights Day which you can read here. On Wednesday, the day after International Human Rights Day, the Supreme Court of India threw out a four year old ruling by a lower court, the Delhi High Court, which had decriminalized gay sex. Section 377 of India's penal code bans "sex against the order of nature" and dates to the 19th century. The Supreme Court said the lower court had no authority in the matter and that only the Indian government could change the law.

The ruling stunned even the federal government. Several ministers openly criticized the court's verdict and the home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said they would propose a new law that would negate the court ruling. Also the United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said today that the ruling violates international law.

After the ruling was announced protests erupted in various cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore. Activists have threatened to continue the protests until the judgment is overrules either by further court review or through a new law in parliament.

But for now my list of countries in which homosexuality is crime now includes India.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Observations from the Window 12.10.2

Today was International Human Rights Day which marks the 1948 signing of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A sign of how far we have come is the little noted use of three words in President Obama's remarks at today's memorial for Nelson Mandela:

"Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love."

"It always seems impossible until it is done," Nelson Mandela.

Observations from the Window 12.10.1

Today was International Human Rights Day which marks the 1948 signing of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A measure of how far the world has to go in one category is the fact that homosexuality is still illegal in 76 countries:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Dominica, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Iran, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, São Tomé and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tanzania, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

In addition to that, in five countries, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, being queer can get you executed.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 11.19

Last week I started a post about our broken political system, which turned into a vent about Obamacare, and I wanted to get back to that. Yes the system is broken, it's not really a question open to debate, but what is startling is how much of it has nothing to do with the times or the economy but is by pure Republican design. There is a very good article in the latest issue of Rolling Stone that explains it all very clearly and is worth reading. Rather than get into it I'm posting some highlights of "How Republicans Rig the Game" and hoping that's enough to get you to read the entire article.

Illustration by Victor Juhasz for Rolling Stone
Something to keep in mind, yes gerrymandering  has gone on forever but not in the nationally planned, calculated, well funded, and computerized way it was after the last census.

"National Republicans have waged an unrelenting campaign to exploit every weakness and anachronism in our electoral system. Through a combination of hyperpartisan redistricting of the House, unprecedented obstructionism in the Senate and racist voter suppression in the states, today's GOP has locked in political power that it could never have secured on a level playing field.

"Explicit racial gerrymandering is illegal under the 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act. So Hofeller used a proxy for race, redrawing boundaries by identifying the wards where President Obama received the highest returns in 2008. According to court documents, this approach 'allowed black voters to be carved apart from their white neighbors and friends, on a block-by-block basis.'

"Pennsylvanians cast 83,000 more votes for Democratic U.S. House candidates but elected a 13-5 Republican majority to represent them in Washington; Michiganders cast over 240,000 more votes for Democratic congressional candidates than Republicans, but still elected a 9-5 Republican delegation to Congress. In Wisconsin Republicans prevailed by a five-to-three margin in House seats despite losing the popular vote by more than 43,000. In Ohio, only 52 percent of voters cast ballots for Republicans, but thanks to maps drawn in a Columbus-area Doubletree Hotel, referred to by GOP operatives in court documents as "the bunker," John Boehner's home-state delegation swings 12-4 for the GOP.

But gerrymandering only effects the House, the problems of the Senate are Republican made with the aid of the founding fathers. When the Constitution was written the largest state, Virginia, had 10 times the population of the smallest, Delaware, while today California has 65 times the population of Wyoming.

"Half of the U.S. population now resides in just nine states. Which is to say that the other 50 percent of Americans control 82 votes in the U.S. Senate.

"In today's Senate, 41 small-state Republicans can mount a filibuster on behalf of 28 percent of the country. And the departure from historical practice is shocking: LBJ faced one filibuster as Senate majority leader. Harry Reid, the current majority leader, has faced more than 430. Nearly half the filibusters of executive-branch nominations in the nation's history – 16 of 36 – have occurred under Obama."

The scariest idea of all may be the Republican one that would restructure the electoral system which decides presidential elections. Personally I think the entire system is outdated in the extreme and should just go but the Republicans have an idea of their own. Electoral votes would be divided among a state's congressional districts instead of on a state by state winner take all basis. Due to the above mentioned extreme gerrymandering under that system we would have a President Romney today.

But, frustrating as this rigged political system has become, there is always hope as the final lines of the article show.

"The GOP may have postponed its day of reckoning at the hands of a younger, browner, queerer electorate, 'They're holding back the tides,' says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, but sooner or later, they're going to get swamped."

Read the article than vote whenever you can.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 11.9

I thought I would take a minute to update some of my recent posts.

On Tuesday Illinois became the 15th to legalize same sex marriage. Governor Pat Quinn has announced that he will sign the bill on November 20 at the University of Illinois with marriages beginning June 1, 2014.

As was expected when I posted Thursday morning the U.S. Senate passed ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, later that afternoon by a vote of 64-32. Ten Republican Senators voted for the bill. ENDA has now passed the Senate for the first time and is supported by President Obama along with a majority of Americans. However ENDA is not supported by House Speaker John Boehner and it's unlikely the House will ever vote on it. In calling for a House vote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he thought Republicans would have to allow a vote "if they have any hope of having a president candidate that can be a viable candidate or they think they can elect some Republicans and they want to hang onto the House."

Meanwhile the Aloha State of Hawaii is on the verge of becoming the 16th state with same sex marriage after the Hawaiian legislature passed it's bill 30-19 early Saturday morning east coast time. The Hawaiian Senate will vote and likely pass the House's amended bill on Tuesday and Governor Abercrombie will sign it. Maybe because of the time difference, or because it came after the celebration of Illinois, the vote in Hawaii just doesn't feel as good as some of the others. I try to follow these state debates as much as possible, the Hawaiian special session has been downright exhausting and at times hateful.

At other times the session became a farce as over 5,000 witnesses testified and 30 amendments were proposed by same sex marriage opponents, most simply to slow the inevitable passage as long as possible. One amendment would have created a task force to further discuss the impact of marriage equality. Further discussion twenty years after the Hawaiian Supreme Court first ruled on same sex marriage, a ruling that started the marriage equality movement, and after 57 hours of testimony this week. Other 'highlights' included an out lesbian representative voting against marriage equality, more recesses than a first grade class in summer school, and the argument that marriage equality would scare away Asian tourists. My favorite quote came from Republican Representative Bob McDermott who argued, "people of religion are now the minority, they're the ones we never take care of."

As I said the Hawaiian Senate will pass the bill next week, the Governor will sign it, and Hawaii will become one of the sweet sixteen. You just have to smile and say mahalo to the Hawaiian Legislature.

Current betting is on New Mexico becoming number 17.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 11.7

Later today, possibly early afternoon, the full U.S. Senate will vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. First proposed in 1974 ENDA has been submitted to every Congress since Senator Edward Kennedy introduced it to the Senate in 1994. It has failed to pass both Houses of Congress every year and this year probably won't be any different. ENDA should pass the Senate with a clear majority but I don't see it getting a vote in the House where Republican Speaker John Boehner is once again scared of his own shadow. Boehner, whose office likes to tweet with the hashtag #FairnessForAll, said Monday he wouldn't bring the bill up for a vote.

In a poll taken in May 73% of those polled favored some kind of job protection while only 22% were against it. In a recent poll, which I can't seem to find, 80% of those asked actually thought it was already illegal to fire someone for being gay. It should be noted that even in Mississippi, the state with the lowest level of support, 63% support protection. Boehner's usual claim that a bill will cost jobs is mute because most large corporations have rules against such discrimination and 21 states ban it.

I just wanted to take a moment this morning to honor the 29 states where it is still legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation. It is legal to fire someone for simply being born.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Well done.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Observations 11.5

Today Illinois became the fifteenth state to legalize same sex marriage and couples may begin applying for marriage licences on June 1, 2014. I'm sure I could write more but I think champagne is called for so I'll leave it to President Obama.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release November 05, 2013

Statement by the President on Marriage Equality in Illinois

Tonight, I applaud the men and women of the Illinois General Assembly, a body in which I was proud to serve, for voting to legalize marriage equality in my home state.

As President, I have always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally under the law.  Over time, I also came to believe that same-sex couples should be able to get married like anyone else.  So tonight, Michelle and I are overjoyed for all the committed couples in Illinois whose love will now be as legal as ours – and for their friends and family who have long wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and equally under the law.

I also commend the members of the General Assembly for approaching this issue in a fair and open way, and for recognizing the importance of our commitment to religious freedom by engaging the religious community in this conversation.  Throughout this debate, they've made it clear that this is about civil marriages and civil laws, and made sure that churches and other institutions of faith are still free to make their own decisions that conform to their own teachings.

As I said in my Inaugural Address last January, our journey as a nation is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.  And tonight, I’m so proud that the men and women elected to serve the people of the great state of Illinois have chosen to take us one step further on that journey to perfect our union.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 8.29

If you are anything like me you're probably confused by what is going on with same sex marriage in New Mexico. I didn't understand why when one county in Pennsylvania began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples all hell broke loose yet in New Mexico it seemed the opposite happened. One county followed another in issuing licenses or was ordered to do so. I didn't realize that not only doesn't New Mexico have a law banning same sex marriage it has no laws regulating marriage at all. I found this opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times that does a good job of explaining what is happening in New Mexico and because the Times is sometimes behind a paywall I thought I would post the entire article. Quirky indeed but whatever works.

New Mexico's quirky path on gay marriage
By Karin Klein
2:05 PM PDT, August 27, 2013

"Welcome, New Mexico, to the roster of states where same-sex marriage is performed and recognized. Sort of.

It has been a bumpy ride on the way to marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. Some states have come to that point through the courts, sometimes though their legislatures, sometimes by the voters themselves. Not counting New Mexico, 13 states and the District of Columbia now recognize such marriages.

Why leave out New Mexico? Same-sex marriage hasn't exactly been legalized there because of some unusual factors particular to the sometimes quirky state. For one thing, New Mexico doesn't have any laws that ban same-sex marriage. It in fact doesn't have laws regulating marriage, period. As a result, a clerk in one southern county recently began issuing marriage licenses and, unlike in other states where municipal governments took it upon themselves to make marriage law, it’s OK. There is no state law to override the clerk’s decision.

Meanwhile, the New Mexico Supreme Court has made clear that it’s in no rush to make a decision about same-sex marriage. In fact, the court suggested that lower courts just see if they couldn't handle this on their own. And that just happened twice over the last week in separate court victories that institute same-sex weddings in New Mexico’s two most populous counties.

How this affects the other counties in the state is unknown for now; the rulings aren't binding on them yet. Republican politicians are talking about a lawsuit to stop the weddings, saying that the governance of marriage is up to states. That’s true, but in the case of New Mexico, the state’s governance up to now could best be described as “Hey, whatever.” Gay marriage foes might try legislating against the marriages, but it’s late in the game and any such attempt might be viewed skeptically by courts that see it for what it is: An attempt to take away a civil right that a group already has.

It’s a messy way to go about achieving the admirable goal of full recognition for same-sex couples. But then, California’s  struggle over marriage rights involved a much more twisted tale. As Shakespeare might put it, the course to true civil rights never did run smooth."

8/30 update - Just after I posted last night I saw some news that throws a new twist into this story. All of New mexico's county clerks (21 Democrats and 12 Republicans) have joined the ACLU of New Mexico's lawsuit as defendants. New Mexico is the only state that has not explicitly allowed or banned same-sex marriage in law and the clerks are seeking a definitive answer.

This is from an article in the Albuquerque Journal News. "During a Wednesday conference call, county clerks voted 31-0 to have their attorney seek a state Supreme Court ruling to address their concerns and determine whether the constitution’s equal-rights protection allows for same-sex marriage," said Daniel Ivey-Soto, executive director of the New Mexico County Clerks Affiliate.

And here is a statement issued by the ACLU of New Mexico.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Observations 7.13

On Tuesday the ACLU filed a lawsuit in Harrisburg challenging Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban on behalf of 23 plaintiffs. On Thursday Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced that her office would not defend Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act. Since 1980 Pennsylvania's Attorney General has been an elected office and Kane, a Democrat, is the first woman or Democrat to ever hold the position. Kane's decision may well doom Governor Tom Corbett's reelection bid next year. Corbett, an unpopular (30% approval rating) Republican in his first term, will most likely defend the law with his general counsel but that will give him almost no chance of winning in suburban Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. If he doesn't defend it his own wingnut base will destroy him.

Pennsylvania state law and politics will make this so interesting to watch as it plays out. As I said Attorney General is an elected office in Pennsylvania unlike most states where the AG is appointed by the Governor. You have a Democrat AG with aspirations of higher office, Kane, and a Republican Governor up for reelection, Corbett. The whole episode is like a political chess match in which Kane has just smiled and said "your move Governor."

I couldn't find Kane's complete statement anywhere but below are the highlights and here is a link to the Pennsylvania Attorney Generals Office website which has more information. I'm sure I'll have more to say about this story.

"I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's version of DOMA where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional. It is my duty under the Commonwealth Attorneys Act whenever I determine it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth to authorize the Office of General Counsel to defend the state in litigation. Additionally, it is a lawyer's ethical obligation under Pennsylvania's Rules of Professional Conduct to withdraw from a case in which the lawyer has a fundamental disagreement with the client.

"I know that in this state there are people who don't believe in what we are doing, and I'm not asking them to believe in it. I'm asking them to believe in the constitution.

"The issue of same-sex marriage is squarely in the tradition of the struggle for civil rights in the United States. We have always stood strong in the face of discrimination, which in its various forms has never withstood the test of time. It is our duty, each and every one of us, to protect the constitutionality, to protect the rights and dignity of others, and to protect the equality of all men and women in this Commonwealth.

"Today, the attorney general chooses to protect all those without high-priced lawyers, all those who suffer discrimination and inequality, those thousands of families who have been denied of the dignity and respect that the constitution protects and guarantees in marriage equality. Today we represent everyone who does not have representation."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July

So it's the 4th of July, Independence Day. Enjoy the day, just try not to blow anything up in the process. A short history lesson ....

On June 24, 1826 Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to Roger Weightman discussing the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. In the letter he wrote the following paragraph which still has meaning today given the recent Supreme Court decisions, both the good and the bad decisions.

"All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view. The palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them."

On July 4, 1826, 50 years to the day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson passed away at his home in Monticello, Virginia. Five hours later John Adams passed away in Boston, Massachusetts.

Supposedly John Adams’ last words were, "Thomas Jefferson still survives."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Observations 7.2.1

I want to briefly take you back to last Wednesday.

And a call was heard from on high that the lord god almighty himself was pissed the hell off and willed his holy minions to stamp out the pestilence of queer marriage wherever it be found in his land of all lands.

Okay, so maybe it didn't go quite like that but that's what some holy Republicans heard. Just three days after the Supreme Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional GOP Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, a man who has been in Congress all of two years, submitted House Resolution H.J.Res.51 which proposes an amendment to the Constitution of The United States banning same sex marriage.

"Article: Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."

So much for states' rights. The bill has 28 co-sponsors, all of whom happen to be men and all of whom happen to be Republican. I'm not going to waste my time typing all there names but follow this link for the full text than click on the co-sponsor link for a complete list. I would however like to send special kudos to Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland who co-sponsored the bill even though his state voted for same-sex marriage in a referendum last November.

In order to send a constitutional amendment to the states it must a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. Currently 54 Senators and 185 Representatives are on record as supporting marriage equality making that impossible.

Now that they have this out of the way maybe Congress can get back to important work like voting to repeal Obamacare for the 39th time.

Observations 7.2

From Huffington Post Gay Voices; "Whether "Same Love" hits number one as a result of the Supreme Court rulings and the general feelings towards gay marriage in the United States remains to be seen, but if its leaps up the charts is any indication, "Same Love" may be a gay marriage wedding present from the unlikeliest of places: the hip hop world."

I can honestly say I've never been much of a hip-hop fan but I suppose I can evolve too. Just watch.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 6.27

Yesterday was a historic day, a word that doesn't quite do it justice but is true nonetheless. At the moment I can't seem to put in words how I felt at 10:01 AM when I saw this simple tweet; "@SCOTUSblog: DOMA is unconstitutional." Maybe in a couple days I can describe the day better but for now I'm not going to try.

As expected Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote The Supreme Court's decision that ruled DOMA unconstitutional. The official legal wording of the tweet is this; "DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment." You can read the full decision and the dissenting opinions here

Yesterday's other major decision for all practical purposes made same sex marriage once again legal in California. In the Prop 8 decision Chief Justice John Roberts said the "petitioners did not have standing to appeal the District Court’s order." That leaves the lower court ruling that Prop 8 violated both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution stand and re-instates equal marriage. You can read that SCOTUS opinion here and the original Ninth Circuit Court ruling here.

Yes it was quite a historic day. Finally this statement from President Obama who got the news on Air Force One as he flew to Africa:

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 26, 2013

I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.  This was discrimination enshrined in law.  It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people.  The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.  We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. 

This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents’ marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better. 

So we welcome today’s decision, and I’ve directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.

On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital.  How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions.  Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.  

The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts:  when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.

6/29 update - "At the President’s direction, the Department of Justice will work expeditiously with other Executive Branch agencies to implement the Court’s decision." From Attorney General Eric Holder's statement on the Wednesday's DOMA ruling. Read the full statement here.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 5.3

It's probably a bit too early for champagne but after last night's vent on the Jason Collins story I thought a small celebration was called for.

Yesterday afternoon the Rhode Island House voted 56-12 to approve the state's same sex marriage bill and it was almost immediately signed into law by Governor Lincoln Chafee. Rhode Island becomes the tenth state to allow same sex marriage and completes a continuous block of states in New England where marriage is now legal. Now it's up to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware to link that block with Maryland where marriages began this year. Delaware's house narrowly passed a same sex marriage bill this week and a vote in the Delaware Senate could take place as early as next Tuesday. If the bill passes the state senate Governor Jack Markell has said he will sign it.

The Rhode Island law will take effect on August 1st and one of the first weddings could be between Rhode Island Rep. Frank Ferri and his partner who will be celebrating their 32nd anniversary that same day,

In a sign of the quickly changing times when the Rhode Island Senate voted on the bill it marked the first time a party caucus had voted as a unanimous block in any of the ten states.

The Republican Party caucus.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Observations 4.14

Last Thursday the Republican National Committee held another in its series of "rebranding" retreats. It released a resolution that had passed unanimously and without any debate whatsoever. "The Resolution for Marriage and Children 2013" included the following paragraphs which I'm not even going to comment on, I think they speak for themselves. It makes me wonder what it feels like to be a political party that is about to be swept aside by history. You can read the full resolution here.

"WHEREAS, the institution of marriage is the solid foundation upon which our society is built and in which children thrive; it is based in the conjugal relationship that only a man and a woman can form;

WHEREAS, no Act of human government can change the reality that marriage is a natural and most desirable union; especially when procreation is a goal;

RESOLVED, the Republican national Committee affirms its support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and as the optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of America."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 4.4

Over the past few weeks I may have read more about same sex marriage than I ever did before. Whether for marriage or against it everybody has an opinion now and they want it to be known so in no particular order here are a few odds and ends that stand out.

I'm putting this one first because I enjoyed reading it. I know, I said no particular order, but I really did enjoy it. In "The county where no one's gay" CNN's John D. Sutter went to Franklin County, Mississippi because the last census said that, well, there were no gays. My favorite part is this; "When I brought up the topic with a gray-haired woman I met in front of the grocery store in Meadville, she basically told me gay people don't exist, like, at all. "I don't believe in them kind of people. I don't believe in it," she said. "We don't need that same-sex marriage. That is wrong!'" A few paragraphs later Sutter adds, "I didn't even get a chance to tell her she was talking with a real, live gay person." The short version is that yes there are gays in Franklin County, it's just very few people want to admit it. The article is a good follow up to the Harvey Milk quote I used in a previous post.

For possibly the first, and hopefully the last, time I found myself agreeing with Bill O'Reilly; "The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals. That's where the compelling argument is. 'We're Americans, we just want to be treated like everybody else.' That’s a compelling argument. And to deny that, you've got to have a very strong argument on the other side. And the other side hasn't been able to do anything but thump the Bible." Watch the video here.

I've never paid much attention to reddit and now I think I know why. Rules, I can't stand rules, and I'm thinking that until I finished reading reddit's rules and FAQs I'd forget what I had wanted to post. Here is a sample from the reddit LGBT page; "Rule 1: No homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, racism, serophobia, or misogyny. If you are unclear about what may constitute any of the above, please see the LGBT FAQ. If you are using triggering language in an educational or demonstrative capacity, we ask that you please wrap it in a trigger warning, e.g. [](/tw "problematic text"). If you are submitting a post that contains hateful remarks or triggering language, please precede your post's title with [TW]. For example: "[TW] Title of Post."

Matt Taibbi wrote a scathing column in Rolling Stone about a David Brooks column in The New York Times in which Brooks argues that gays are losing their 'freedom' by winning marriage. Taibbi finished with this; "The whole world seems rapidly to be coming to an understanding that this discrimination against gays and lesbians has to end, and the fact that this change is coming is a beautiful thing. You have to be a very unhappy person indeed to feel anything but joy about it, much less this sarcastic depression."

And that line is a fine one to finish this post with.

update - It seems David Brooks has struck a nerve. Here is another column about his thoughts, "David Brooks's Gay Marriage Delusion," by Amy Davidson in The New Yorker. "Brooks’s argument is that it is right and proper that they were (some earlier gay rights goals put aside): now, at last, gays can and should stop worrying about anything but whether their wedding announcement will make it into the Times. They can stop challenging things. They can be smug, too. Brooks, apparently, would consider that only polite."

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Observations, Why Now?

Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer
The SCOTUS arguments made for an interesting week, interesting and thought provoking. I did a lot of reading, talking, and thinking about the subject because there was just so many opinions and articles out there. Everybody seems to have an opinion on same sex marriage now, it's an amazing thing to watch. One thing I know, you simply can not hear the forty year love story of Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer without tearing up. I suppose you can but than you probably don't understand what these arguments are all about. If you want to read about them this BuzzFeed article is a good place to start, "Meet The Hero Of The Marriage Equality Movement."

I have to be honest and say some of what I read has me stepping slightly back from what I said a couple days ago. While I still think Bill Clinton signing DOMA when it went against everything he stood for is political cowardice I can see where people have been evolving. One thing in particular has me saying that now and it's something I didn't realize before or I should say something I just learned. During the original 2008 Prop 8 vote the Mormon Church and it's members donated an estimated $20 million to help pass the measure. During the 'four state' campaign last year, that resulted in the first four same sex marriage wins at the ballot box, the church gave nothing. On one of its websites the church now says that homosexuality is not a choice. There is a good article on Reuters and if you dare the Mormon website is here.

The question quickly becomes why now? What suddenly changed over the past few years? The obvious first answer is demographics or, as someone said this week, everyday there are more of us and less of them. But demographics alone isn't an answer. What makes people, or a entire church, suddenly change it's mind about gays and same sex marriage?

There is another obvious answer but one I didn't think about until this week, one I didn't really hear discussed much until this week. Every day more and more gays come out of the closet. When I was in high school I sometimes felt like I was alone because I was the only out queer in my class. Not that many years later I know of a handful of others out in that very same class. Being the rebellious outsider sort I relished it at times but at other times I have to admit it did hurt so I'll always say having supportive parents made all the difference in the world. Just ten years later my sister's experiences were so very different than mine.

No matter what your moral, religious, or political thoughts on same sex marriage it's very hard to look a friend, family member, or co-worker in the eye and tell them that they shouldn't have the same rights as anybody else. That they shouldn't fall in love, shouldn't be allowed to have a family, that they shouldn't be allowed to marry. A perfect example is Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio who happens to be a GOP presidential hopeful and whose son is gay. On March 14 he announced that he now supported same sex marriage saying that his son was entitled to the same happiness that he and his wife share.

In 1978 Harvey Milk first gave what became known as his 'Hope Speech' at San Francisco's Gay Freedom Day Parade. "On this anniversary of Stonewall, I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. For themselves, for their freedom, for their country. We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets. We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I'm going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out."

Makes so much more sense today.