Saturday, August 03, 2013

"Dinner is Served" - Mediterranean Pool Party "Tiaras & Togas" - Today August 3, 2013

The boyfriend and I helped begin the set up last night for today's "Dinner is Served" party in Virginia Beach to benefit Access Aids Care, a local AIDS/HIV assistance organization.  Tickets can be purchased at the door and are well worth the price to support this worthy charity.  The boyfriend has put the finishing touches on our Classical Greek themed costumes - costumes are NOT required - and he will be headed out soon to start preparation of the ante-pastas dishes.  I hope local readers will turn out this evening.  The weather should be perfect.  And many thanks again to Olive Garden for providing a great deal of the food.  Here are details:

We invite you to a Mediterranean Pool Party - "Tiaras & Togas". Please join us for dinner, cocktails and volleyball and many other friends at The Country Club  - Saturday, August 3, 2013 to benefit ACCESS Aids Care.

You can purchase your ticket's to the Dinner is Served Mediterranean Pool Party online with your credit card. Click on this link:

http://www.accessaids.org/index.php/special-events/dinner-is-served/tiaras-togas-dis-party

Can't attend? Purchase tickets anyway and it will be a donation to ACCESS!

Your hosts are Steve Kavanaugh, Rob Economu, Rodger Hall, Tony Wagerman, Perry Edmundson, Harley Handy and Barry Menser

6:09PM until 9:00PM

1425 RYLANDS ROAD, VIRGINIA BEACH, VA 23455

Music by DJ Airrick from the Rainbow Cactus • $100 Prize for Best Dressed Star/Starlet • Lots of Olive Garden Food, Snacks, Beer, Wine, and the Infamous Madras Punch!

Tickets $30 in Advance |  $40 at the Door 
$50 VIP Tickets • VIP: Open Bar (Premium Liquor)


•100% of  All proceeds benefit ACCESS AIDS Care Center for Education & Support Services
• Advance Donation Tickets ay be obtained from any of your hosts (Cash, Credit Card or Checks payable to ACCESS AIDS Care).

Please feel free to bring guests and remember to bring your towel! Also, please be respectful of neighbors and park only on the odd number side of the road.

 As a thank you to hosts and guests who make a donation you will receive a ticket to the Champagne and Dessert Gala on October 26, 2013. There we will raise our glasses and celebrate each other and our pledge to assist those suffering from HIV/AIDS in our community.


Saturday Morning Male Beauty


The Real Threats to Traditional Marriage


The far right Christofascists would have one believe that it is gays and gay marriage that are threatening the institution of marriage.  A column in the New York Times makes a very clear case that the real threats lie elsewhere, especially for non-white minorities.  The Christofascists, of course, utterly ignore these exceedingly real threats preferring to raise money by shrieking about the threat of the "gay agenda."  If these folks were truly concerned about marriage rather than simply motivated by anti-gay animus, they would be working to address the problems identified in the column.  That they are not doing so speaks volumes both about the homophobia and racism of white Christofascists and their willing prostitutes in the Republican Party.  Here are column highlights:

We often hear that marriage is a panacea for our problems — as a nation as a whole, and especially for the black community, in which more than 70 percent of children are now born to unmarried women.

Less discussed are the societal factors contributing to this phenomenon.  . . . . most Americans — both whites and minorities — still believe in marriage, but there are factors working against marriage for many, factors that need to be acknowledged. One is mass incarceration. 

In the two decades preceding the Great Recession, the American prison population nearly tripled, according to the Pew Center on the States. And make no mistake: mass incarceration rips at the fabric of families and whole communities. 

According to the 2011 book “A Plague of Prisons” by Ernest Drucker, a public health expert:
■ “The risk of divorce is high among men going to prison, reaching 50 percent within a few years after incarceration.”
■ “The marriage rate for men incarcerated in prisons and jails is lower than the American average. For blacks and Hispanics, it is lower still.”
■ “Unmarried couples in which the father has been incarcerated are 37 percent less likely to be married one year after the child’s birth than similar couples in which the father has never been incarcerated.” 

Related to mass incarceration is the disastrous drug war, which essentially has become a war on marijuana waged primarily against young black men, even though they use the drug at nearly the same rate as whites.

Then there’s the Aid Elimination Provision of the Higher Education Act, a provision that took effect in 2000. It denied financial aid to students with drug convictions. A couple of years after it took effect, the American Civil Liberties Union called the law “unjust and counterproductive” and “both morally wrong and unconstitutional.” 

Researchers at Cornell found last year that the provision “had a large negative impact on the college attendance of students with drug convictions” — that students who were affected delayed college enrollment or were made “less likely to ever enroll in college,” among other things.

The [student] debt burden is having a significant impact on marriage. A survey published in May by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants showed that 15 percent of respondents delayed marriage because of student loan debt. 

Furthermore, for the poorest Americans, there are marriage penalties built into many of our welfare programs. As the Heritage Foundation has pointed out: “Marriage penalties occur in many means-tested programs, such as food stamps, public housing, Medicaid, day care and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. The welfare system should be overhauled to reduce such counterproductive incentives.”

In a report financed by the Department of Justice a decade ago, Donald Braman, a George Washington University law professor, argued, “For generations, social institutions from slavery and segregation to broadly punitive criminal sanctions have borne down unremittingly on poor and minority families and communities.” 

One can’t bemoan the breakdown of the family — particularly the black family — without at least acknowledging the structural and systematic forces working against its cohesion.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Maggie Gallagher, Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer and the rest of the anti-gay hate merchants to say a word about any of these very real problems that should be addressed if one really is concerned about the "sanctity of marriage."

Former Texas GOP Chair: Immigration Reform Will Lead To A Biometric Mark Of The Beast

I get a lot of grief at times for my unrelenting effort to display the insanity of today's GOP and the fact that I blame much of the party's descent into crazy land on the Christofascists.   I would argue that, if anything, I go too easy on the spittle flecked nutcases of the Christofascist base of the GOP.  A case in point comes from the former chair of the Texas Republican Party who has obviously drunk way too much Kool-Aid.  Cathie Adams (pictured at left), the former chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party and not surprisingly the current president of the Texas Eagle Forum, maintains that immigration reform would lead to biometric scanning which, as everyone knows, is a tool of Satan. WTF is going on with the GOP that would allow someone this unhinged to have been state party chair?  Right Wing Watch has details.  Here are excerpts:
Yesterday, End Times radio host Rick Wiles interviewed Cathie Adams, the former head of the Texas Republican Party and current president of the Texas Eagle Forum, in a wide-ranging discussion which included a warning that immigration reform would lead to biometric scanning which, as everyone knows, is a tool of Satan.

Adams warned that the problem is not just that Hispanics are crossing the border illegally, but so are people from Muslim nations and so if immigration reform passes, we'll be giving amnesty "to people who are not here with the best intentions for America."

After Adams said that the Department for Homeland Security is unable to account for more than a million foreigners who have overstayed their visas, Wiles predicted that immigration reform advocates would call for biometric scanning as a solution to this problem, which Adams declared would be an unmistakable sign of the End Times.

Then, for good measure, Adams returned to the issue of all those sneaky Muslims who are entering the United States as refugees "from Moozlum, Hindu, and Buddhist cultures [who] are not here because they love America but because they are fleeing countries, and yet, what kind of culture are they bringing here? They want sharia law, just like what they left that was causing them to be persecuted."

Adams: I do understand that. I've seen it. I've heard it. And, of course, we know in biblical prophecy that that is the End Times. That is going to be the brand either on our foreheads or on the back of our hands.  That is demonic through and through.  That is End Times prophecy.  There is no question about that.
 Ms. Adams needs a brand on her forehead alright: "BC" for batshit crazy.  I increasingly believe that far right Christians are mentally ill.  Nothing else explains the level of insanity.

 
Yesterday, End Times radio host Rick Wiles interviewed Cathie Adams, the former head of the Texas Republican Party and current president of the Texas Eagle Forum, in a wide-ranging discussion which included a warning that immigration reform would lead to biometric scanning which, as everyone knows, is a tool of Satan.
Adams warned that the problem is not just that Hispanics are crossing the border illegally, but so are people from Muslim nations and so if immigration reform passes, we'll be giving amnesty "to people who are not here with the best intentions for America."
After Adams said that the Department for Homeland Security is unable to account for more than a million foreigners who have overstayed their visas, Wiles predicted that immigration reform advocates would call for biometric scanning as a solution to this problem, which Adams declared would be an unmistakable sign of the End Times.
Then, for good measure, Adams returned to the issue of all those sneaky Muslims who are entering the United States as refugees "from Moozlum, Hindu, and Buddhist cultures [who] are not here because they love America but because they are fleeing countries, and yet, what kind of culture are they bringing here? They want sharia law, just like what they left that was causing them to be persecuted."
- See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/adams-immigration-reform-will-lead-biometric-mark-beast#sthash.n927fz5o.dpuf

Cathie Adams, the former head of the Texas Republican Party and current president of the Texas Eagle Forum, - See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/adams-immigration-reform-will-lead-biometric-mark-beast#sthash.nBl4YhJn.dpuf
Cathie Adams, the former head of the Texas Republican Party and current president of the Texas Eagle Forum, - See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/adams-immigration-reform-will-lead-biometric-mark-beast#sthash.nBl4YhJn.dpuf

Visas Are Now Available For Same-Sex Couples




Among the clear winners in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor are bi-national same sex couples who had heretofore been unable to get visas for the non-U.S. spouse and often faced having to move abroad to stay together.  Yesterday, the State Department announced that effective immediately same sex spouses would be treated equally and have the same visa rights as heterosexual couples.  We can expect flying spittle and hyperventilating among the Christofascists in reaction to this development.  Metro Weekly has details:


In a policy change announced Friday by Secretary of State John Kerry, the United States will begin processing visa applications for same-sex couples effective immediately. 

"If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. And if you are in a country that doesn’t recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 222 visa processing centers around the world," Kerry said during an appearance at the U.S. embassy in London.

The announcement is the latest repercussion following the Supreme Court's June decision striking down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

"Now, as long as a marriage has been performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes it so that it is legal, then that marriage is valid under U.S. immigration laws, and every married couple will be treated exactly the same, and that is what we believe is appropriate," Kerry added.

According to Freedom to Marry, sixteen countries permit same-sex marriage — Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, France, Brazil, New Zealand, Uruguay and Britain — while certain regions of the U.S. and Mexico also allow same-sex couples the right to marry.

The new State Department policy will also impact the children of the foreign national spouse by considering them "step-children" of the parent who is a U.S. citizen.

"Today, the State Department, which has always been at the forefront of equality in the federal government, I'm proud to say, is tearing down an unjust and an unfair barrier that for too long stood in the way of same-sex families being able to travel as a family to the United States."

Study: Single-Payer Healthcare System Would Save Billions

.
Republicans talk about wanting to cut government spending and and disingenuously pretend to care about average Americans yet oppose basically any meaningful change to the nation's sadly deficient healthcare system, preferring instead to allow hospital systems, pharmaceutical companies and other sectors of the medical field to rake in billions of dollars.  Meanwhile, millions of Americans go without medical care and millions more forgo  preventive care because of the cost.  Now, a new study confirms that a single payer system would save billions of dollars every year and provide a huge cut in government spending.  Will the Republicans support it?  Of course not - that would be the opposite of their reverse Gospel message agenda of taking from the poor to give to the rich.  The Hill has details on the study findings:

Expanding the nation’s Medicare program to cover people of all ages would save the government billions of dollars, according to a new study released Wednesday.

The study found that a single-payer health care system based on the principles of legislation by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, would save the federal government about $592 billion in one year.

That’s more than enough to pay for comprehensive benefits for all Americans at a lower cost to the public, according to Physicians for a National Health Program, which circulated the study. The extra money would go to paying down the national debt.

The savings would come from slashing administrative waste and negotiating drug prices.
The study was conducted by Gerald Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“Paradoxically, by expanding Medicare to everyone we’d end up saving billions of dollars annually,” Friedman said. “We’d be safeguarding Medicare’s fiscal integrity while enhancing the nation’s health for the long term.

The study comes as Republicans in Congress are pulling out all the stops to repeal President Obama’s health care overhaul. Tea Party Republicans have in recent weeks vowed to oppose any measures to keep the government running after the current funding bill runs out on Sept. 30 if it also means funding ObamaCare.

Here are some excerpts from the study on our broken system:

For decades, health care costs have risen much faster than income in the United States. As a result, total health care spending has risen from 5% of Gross Domestic Product in 1960 to nearly 18% today. While some of the increase in costs in the United States is due, as in other countries, to improvements incare , innovative technologies and greater longevity, costs have risen much faster in the United States than elsewhere because of the growing administrative burden of our private health
insurance system.
 
Because of the large number of separate insurance programs and the fragmented billing system, American physicians and hospitals incur much greater costs for billing and insurance-related activities than do their foreign counterparts. Compared with doctors in Ontario, Canada, for example, Americans spend nearly four times as much on billing and insurance related
activities ($83,000 per physician versus $22,000 in Ontario), and nursing staff, including medical assistants, spent 20.6 hours per physician per week interacting with health plans – nearly ten times that of their Ontario counterparts.
 
In addition to the administrative savings within provider offices, a single payer system could lead to dramatic savings by negotiating reduced prices for pharmaceuticals which cost approximately 60% more in the U.S. than in Europe.
 
A single-payer system would eliminate most of these costs, raising the share of spending going to providers up to the 98% rate for Medicare. With almost a trillion dollars in premiums paid into private health insurance, lowering the administrative ratio to the Medicare rate would save over $197 billion.
There's much, much more, but the foregoing gives the tone of the findings, all of which are common sense.
 

Friday, August 02, 2013

Russia, Vladimir Putin and The Road To Fascism


As noted in a post on July 10, 2013, over my Florida vacation last month I read the book "In the Garden of Evil" by Erik Larson which recounted the experiences of William E. Dodd, America’s Ambassador to Germany and his family in Third Reich Germany over the four years from 1933 to 1937.  As I said previously, it was both an interesting and disturbing read.  And, given what is happening to gays in Russia currently, the way in which unpopular minorities can be scapegoated and used as a distraction from much more serious issues, the parallels with Putin's Russia are chilling.    That's not to say, however, that some - i.e., American Christofascists - are not exulting the persecution of gays in Russia.  First, a video I came across on Andrew Sullivan's blog concerning the abuse of gays in Russia is all too reminiscent of what was done to Jews under the Nazi regime in the 1930's.  Here is excerpt from Andrew's post and a translation of events in the video above:

Marina Galperina flags the above video, shot today in Russia. It’s a scene reminiscent of fascist states in the early 1930s:
If anyone has any confusion about what Russia’s recently-adopted anti-gay laws do to its public, let me translate some of the audible dialogue in the video above[:] A young man [Gay rights activist Kirill Kalugin] decides to picket in Palace Square. He stands there alone with a rainbow flag, knowingly breaking this summer’s new anti-”gay propaganda” bill. Then, a large group of Airborne service members (striped-tank tops) circle around him and their leader starts the guerilla interrogation.
“What are you doing here on Airborne Army Day?”
“I am picketing,” he says, trying to keep on his feet while being manhandled by the group.

“Well, we do not agree with this and ask you to stop this sort of action and your one-man picket.” They begin to push him around. He falls.

“Oh, look he slipped and fell. Don’t do that,” the soldier says, performatively at the journalists trying to get closer. The man is visibly frightened as the soldiers form a chain around him and began to chant, smacking their fists into their palms.

“CALL THE POLICE ON HIM,” someone jeer. “STAND RIGHT THERE,” a few yell. The police arrive (blue shirts, police hats) and attempt to drag the man out of the circle, so the soldiers move closer, block their access and pushing the cops.

“What the fuck were you thinking, showing up at the Palace Square, faggot?” the leader yells.

“You guys are animals,” the protestor rasps, while another soldier chokes him and shakes him by his neck. As the cops try to remove the illegally protesting young man, the soldiers start shoving them and throwing punches. In the next shot, they encircle the police vehicle — “We’re not going to let them fucking move anywhere.” — after their leader tries to get into the cruiser and drag the protestor out, yelling, “Why are you defending him?!”
Any decent person ought to find the video and what is occurring in Russia deeply disturbing.  But as On Top Magazine notes, many American Christofascists - including elements in the Catholic Church -  are thrilled by the abuse and bigotry being piled on to Russian LGBT individuals with the assistance of the full power of the state:

Scott Lively is among the social conservatives applauding passage of a Russian law which prohibits “gay propaganda” to minors.

Lively held up the legislation as a model for the West: “Victory is still theoretically possible for the pro-family movement in the West if we are willing to pay the price.”

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, told the AP that he “admired” the law. “We want to let them know they do in fact have support among American NGOs (non-governmental organizations) on social issues,” he said.  

And as Back2Stonewall reports,Peter "Porno Pete" LaBarbera also has jumped onto the bandwagon of   Christofascists praising Russia anti-gay law and the abuse of gays:
“Among others commending Russia’s anti-gay efforts was Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality. “Russians do not want to follow America’s reckless and decadent promotion of gender confusion, sexual perversion, and anti-biblical ideologies to youth,” LaBarbera said on his website.  
 As noted before, I find it more difficult every day to define myself as a Christian.  If Lively, La Barbera and Ruse are examples of what being Christian means, I want NOTHING to do with Christianity.  NOTHING at all.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Eric Cantor and House GOP Seek More Cuts in Food Stamps





One of the things that always strikes me about the House Republicans is that they constantly prostitute themselves to the Christofascists and proclaim their worship of Judeo-Christian morality, yet then push policies and positions that are 180 degrees opposite of what the Gospel message would have one do.  Instead of feeding the hungry, aiding the sick, etc., the GOP seeks to demolish the social safety net and throw millions of Americans on the trash heap.  The hypocrisy is amazing.  Equally stunning is the fact that the mainstream media never calls them on this hypocrisy.  Now, in keeping with its war on the poor and needy, the GOP House is seeking further slashing of the food stamp program.  Politico has high lights:


House Republicans are proposing to double their food stamp savings to nearly $40 billion by rolling back waivers for able-bodied adults and targeting funds to states that are willing to impose greater work requirements on the parents of young children.

The prime mover is Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) who helped jettison the nutrition title from the House farm bill last month and is now trying to write his own version before the House goes to conference with the Senate.
The prime target appears to be able-bodied beneficiaries under 50 years old and without dependents — a population that has grown significantly since 2008 because of the bad economy and increased state waivers of a 20-hour-a-week work requirement.

By rolling back these waivers, large savings are possible, essentially by forcing millions off the rolls if they don’t find work after three months. Unless approached with some care, the impact could be severe in areas of chronically high-unemployment, such as the Rio Grande Valley, poor urban areas and Indian reservations, for example. And the final details of the bill have not been made public.

A second area of more modest but still controversial savings would come from using federal funds to pressure states to take a more aggressive welfare reform-like approach imposing work requirements on able-bodied parents with young children.

Currently Washington provides a 50 percent match for states that spend their own funds for employment and training programs for food stamp recipients. As proposed now, the bill would only provide this aid if the state is willing to operate welfare reform-like work activities for mothers with children over 1- years-old.

This is a significant expansion of the current food stamps work rules, which exempt mothers with children under 6.
Peterson said his great fear is that the Cantor effort will only raise the stakes on the food stamp cuts to the point where any compromise with be unacceptable to conservatives and make it harder for Democrats to step back in and help pass the final report from the House-Senate conference.

Cantor is a vile individual and an embarrassment to Virginia. 

Krauthammer: GOP Shut Down the Government over Obamacare is Nuts

I don't often agree with Charles Krauthammer on many things - he drinks too much of the GOP Kool-Aid typically - but in a Washington Post editorial he assails the GOP threat to shut down the national government as a means to sabotage Obamacare.  As is now the norm for the GOP on almost every issue, the far right faction in the party has no proposed alternative to the Affordable Health Care Act - or the Senate immigration reform bill either.  They'd rather throw millions of Americans on the trash heap with no insurance coverage and keep America with the highest priced, least effectively delivered health care in the world.  Here are excerpts from the editorial:

A combination of early presidential maneuvering and internal policy debate is feeding yet another iteration of that media perennial: the great Republican crackup. This time it’s tea party insurgents vs. get-along establishment fogies fighting principally over two things: (a) national security and (b) Obamacare.

(a) National security

The more fundamental GOP divide is over foreign aid and other manifestations of our role as the world’s leading power. The Paulites, pining for the splendid isolation of the 19th century, want to leave the world alone on the assumption that it will then leave us alone. 

Which rests on the further assumption that international stability — open sea lanes, free commerce, relative tranquillity — comes naturally, like the air we breathe. If only that were true. Unfortunately, stability is not a matter of grace. It comes about only by Great Power exertion. 

In the 19th century, that meant the British navy, behind whose protection the United States thrived. Today, alas, Britannia rules no waves. World order is maintained by American power and American will. Take that away and you don’t get tranquillity. You get chaos.

(b) Obamacare
 
The other battle is about defunding Obamacare. Led by Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, the GOP insurgents are threatening to shut down the government on Oct. 1 if the stopgap funding bill contains money for Obamacare.

This is nuts. The president will never sign a bill defunding the singular achievement of his presidency. Especially when he has control of the Senate. Especially when, though a narrow 51 percent majority of Americans disapproves of Obamacare, only 36 percent favors repeal. President Obama so knows he’ll win any shutdown showdown that he’s practically goading the Republicans into trying.

Never make a threat on which you are not prepared to deliver. Every fiscal showdown has redounded against the Republicans.

Those who fancy themselves tea party patriots fighting a sold-out cocktail-swilling establishment are demanding yet another cliff dive as a show of principle and manliness. 

But there’s no principle at stake here. This is about tactics. If I thought this would work, I would support it. But I don’t fancy suicide. It has a tendency to be fatal.

As for manliness, the real question here is sanity. Nothing could better revive the fortunes of a failing, flailing, fading Democratic administration than a government shutdown where the president is portrayed as standing up to the GOP on honoring our debts and paying our soldiers in the field.

How many times must we learn the lesson? You can’t govern from one house of Congress. You need to win back the Senate and then the presidency. Shutting down the government is the worst possible way to get there. Indeed, it’s Obama’s fondest hope for a Democratic recovery.

Note how he touches on the issue of sanity.  Sanity is what the GOP has lost thanks to the Christofascists and Tea Party which now control the party base like a metastasizing cancer. 


Russian Sports Minister: Olympic Athletes Will Be Subject To Anti-Gay Laws

I continue to argue that rather than have people and nations boycott the 2014 Winter Games, the International Olympic Committee needs to find a backbone and simply announce that the venue for the games will be moved in light of anti-gay Russian laws that violate both the Olympic ideal of non-discrimination, but also international conventions to which Russia is a member.  The IOC has tried to dodge facing the reality that it is acting like it did in 1936 by not forcefully telling Russia to repeal the laws or the games will not be held in Russia.  New statements by the Russian Sports Minister (pictured at left) underscore that athletes and tourists will likely be arrested if they attend the games in Sochi.  Here are highlights from AFP:

MOSCOW — Gay athletes are welcome to participate in Russia's 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi but must obey a new law banning "homosexual propaganda", the country's sports minister said Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in June signed into law legislation that punishes the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors but which activists say can be used for a broad crackdown against gays.

The comments by Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko appear to contradict assurances from the International Olympic Committee last week that no athlete attending the games would be targeted by the law.

"The law talks not about banning a non-traditional orientation but about other things, about propaganda and implicating minors," Mutko told the R-Sport news agency.

"No one is banning a sportsman with a non-traditional sexual orientation from going to Sochi. But if he goes out onto the street and starts to make propaganda, then of course he will be brought to responsibility.

Foreigners found guilty of violating the law can not only be fined up to 5,000 rubles ($156, 114 euros) but face administrative arrest of up to 15 days and eventual deportation.

Russian officials rarely use words like "gay" and "homosexual" and prefer to use the phrase "non-traditional sexuality" to describe same-sex love.

The law has aroused concerns among activists about whether Russia is fit to host the Games, the biggest sporting event it has held in its post-Soviet history, and even calls for a Cold War-style boycott.

Mutko's comments infuriated activists, coming after the IOC said last week it had received assurances at the "highest level" within the Russian government that the legislation would not affect those attending the games.

"Russian sports minister confirmed gay propaganda law WILL be applied at Olympics in Sochi! As I said Russian guarantees to IOC are b(expletive)!" leading Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev fumed on Twitter.

Russia last week banned four Dutch nationals from entering the country for three years after accusing them under the controversial new law of spreading of "gay propaganda" to minors,
The solution again is easy: move the games.  Putin wants a self-congratulatory display via the games.  Give him a major humiliation instead. Moving the games might be complicated, but it could be done by returning to a past venue that has many of the needed facilities already in place.


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Lambda Legal and ACLU File Federal Class Action Challenging Virginia's Gay Marriage Ban

Following up on their previously announced intention to challenge Virginia's anti-gay marriage ban, Lambda Legal and the ACLU filed a class action suit this morning in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Harrisonburg Division.  This comes in the wake of a suit filed last month in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division, filed by a Norfolk couple.  The new lawsuit, as noted is a class action suit, and the plaintiffs are  Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester, and seeks to represent all same-sex couples in Virginia who wish to marry there or who have married in other jurisdictions.  Here are excerpts from Lambda Legal's blog that discusses the lawsuit:

“Virginia is home for us. Our families are here, our jobs are here, and our community is a great support for us, but it makes us sad that we cannot get married where we live,” said Joanne Harris, a lifelong Virginian and the daughter of Bedford, Va., farmers. “It hits me in the gut that two hours from our house same-sex couples in Maryland and D.C. can marry. I have a serious medical condition and we’ve had to spend lots of money to try to make sure that Jessi can make decisions for me if there were ever a crisis.”

"I’m an Air Force veteran, and if Virginia would just respect our marriage from D.C., it would ensure that my spouse and family could access all the benefits I’ve earned," said Christy Berghoff, from Winchester. "I’ve been with Victoria for almost a decade now; and it hurts to have our home state say we are not married when it recognizes marriages entered into by different-sex couples who may have only recently met.”

“More than half of the people of Virginia believe all Virginians should have the freedom to marry the person they love, said Claire Guthrie GastaƱaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia. “Every day that same-sex couples in Virginia are denied the freedom to marry, the government sends a message that they are second class citizens and their families are not worthy of equal dignity and respect.”

The press release on the filing of the suit is here.  The complaint itself can be found here.  The following are some excerpts from the complaint:




The Named Plaintiffs bring this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on behalf of themselves and the Plaintiff Class, seeking declaratory and injunction relief for the violation of Plaintiffs’ rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution caused by the exclusion of same-sex couples from the freedom to marry and from recognition of the marriages some Plaintiffs have entered into in other jurisdictions under the law of the Commonwealth of Virginia (“Commonwealth” or “Virginia”).

Marriage plays a unique role in society as the universally recognized and celebrated hallmark of a couple’s commitment to build family life together.   It confers upon couples a dignity and status of immense import.  Plaintiffs have formed committed, enduring bonds equally worthy of the respect afforded by the Commonwealth to different - sex couples through marriage. Yet, the Commonwealth, without any adequate justification, has enacted an unprecedented series of statutory and constitutional amendments to single out lesbian and gay Virginians by excluding them from the freedom to marry, or by refusing to recognize their existing marriages from other jurisdictions, based solely on their sexual orientation and their sex.

The marriage ban inflicts serious and irreparable harms upon same sex couples and their children.   Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff are unmarried, and wish to marry for the same reasons as different - sex couples to publicly declare their love and commitment before their family, friends, and community, and to give one another and their son J. H. D. the security and protections that only marriage provides.   Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd have married in another jurisdiction, but are treated as legal strangers in the state they call home a painful invalidation of their relationship that also deprives them and their daughter L. B. K. of  the protections that a legally recognized marriage most securely provides.

[T]he Commonwealth’s exclusion of  same - sex couples from marriage and refusal to recognize their valid marriages from other jurisdictions and Defendants’ enforcement of the marriage ban violate the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

As the Supreme Court has made clear, the law cannot, directly or indirectly, give effect to private biases.   Liberty and equality, not moral disapproval, must be the guiding framework for a state’s treatment of its citizens.

Excluding same - sex couples from marriage does nothing to protect or enhance the rights of different - sex couples. Different - sex spouses will continue to enjoy the same rights and status conferred by marriage regardless of whether same - sex couples may marry, unimpaired by the acknowledgment that this freedom belongs equally to lesbians and gay men.

The Commonwealth’s interest in child welfare is affirmatively harmed rather than furthered by the exclusion of same - sex couples from marriage. That exclusion injures same - sex couples’ children without offering any conceivable benefit to other children.  . . . Other courts have found, after trials involving expert testimony, that there is no rational basis for favoring parenting by heterosexual couples over gay and lesbian couples.