Saturday, January 26, 2013

More Saturday Male Beauty

Catholic Hospital Wrongful Death Defense: Fetuses Are Not People

The disingenuousness of the Roman Catholic Church and its controlled institutions seems to know few bounds.  For instance, the Catholic Church vehemently opposes abortion claiming that life begins at conception and that nothing justifies an abortion that would end that unborn life.  From the moment of conception, an embryo and fetus are "people" - except apparently when that argument is inconvenient and might lead to a monetary pay out.  Faced with a wrongful death lawsuit involving a woman and her unborn twins, St. Thomas More Hospital's legal defense to the portion of the lawsuit involving the death of the twins - which has been successful so far - is that the twins were fetuses and not people, and that, therefore, this can't legally be viewed as a wrongful-death situation.  Maddow Blog looks at this amazing case of hypocrisy.  Here are highlights:

First up from the God Machine this week is a terribly sad story about a woman named Lori Stodghill, who's brought a lawsuit against a Catholic hospital, which has taken an unexpected legal/political turn.

On New Year's Day 2006, Stodghill, aged 31, was seven-months pregnant with twins, when she started to feel ill. She went to the emergency room at St. Thomas More hospital in Canon City, Colorado, and suffered a massive heart attack. Stodghill's obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who was on call for emergencies that night at the hospital, never answered a page, and an hour after arriving, Stodghill died and the twins did not survive.

Jeremy Stodghill, Lori's husband, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, arguing that the doctor should have answered the page, should have instructed hospital staff to perform an emergency C-section, and could have tried to save the twins. And as Amanda Marcotte noted, that's where the story takes a politically charged turn.
The hospital's defense, so far successful, is to claim that because the twins were fetuses and not people, this can't legally be viewed as a wrongful-death situation.

Of course, the problem is that the hospital is run by Catholic Health Initiatives—Catholic, as in that religion whose leadership routinely claims that not only are fetuses people, but so are embryos, zygotes, and fertilized eggs. That claim is used to turn women into sacrificial lambs for the faith, denying them not just elective abortions but telling them that it's not OK to terminate pregnancies where there's no chance of producing a live baby. Women who go to Catholic hospitals in these situations have been denied procedures to save their fertility or even their lives. But, as this lawsuit shows, the passionate belief that anything post-fertilization is a "person" evaporates the second it stops being useful as a way to oppress women (and the second it starts possibly costing the Catholic hospital money).
St. Thomas More hospital is now facing criticism from the right for maintaining malleable principles. "There's a difference between being legal and being right," Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said. "Either a fetus is a person or it's not." Local Roman Catholic Bishops have promised to review the case.

In this meantime, the Catholic hospital and its lawyers maintain that the twins were not yet people, and so far, courts have agreed -- a state district court and an appeals court have sided with the hospital. The case is currently pending at the Colorado Supreme Court.

This blog seeks to expose hypocrisy and few institutions provide such a never ending stream of hypocrisy as does the Roman Catholic Church and the bitter old men in dresses in the Vatican and bishopric around the world.  And as we all know all too well, ruthless control over the lives of others and money are the only true God of the Catholic Church hierarchy. 

NBA Star Comes Out in Support of Gay Marriage - With His Two Moms

The Christofascists and hate groups like Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage and, here in Virginia, The Family Foundation, constantly strive to depict LGBT individuals as sick, disturbed, promiscuous, and a threat to children.  Its an insidious campaign and has nothing to do with "protecting the sanctity of marriage" and everything to do with inciting anti-gay animus.  The truth, of course, is very different from the picture our enemies like to portray.  Many of us in the LGBT community have children - children who are doing well and have not suffered in any way from having gay parents.  Children who often become strong advocated for gay rights and marriage equality.  The last such individual to come out and speak up in favor of marriage equality is Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried (pictured above with his two mothers) who is starring in a moving new video endorsing civil unions legislation that is before the Colorado legislature.  Salon looks at Faried's support for equality.  Here are excerpts:

Kenneth “the Manimal” Faried is a Denver Nuggets power forward whose high-energy play and extravagant dreadlocks have made him a darling of the basketball intelligentsia. He’s also the star of a moving new video endorsing civil unions for One Colorado, a statewide advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the rights of the LGBT community.

Faried appears with his two mothers, Carol and Waudda (both of whom are painfully, adorably shy), and offers a few stories about how they met and the kinds of adversities they’ve had to overcome as a family. Fairly or not, the NBA’s players have earned something of a reputation in recent years for homophobia, which makes the video’s message that much more refreshing. “Nobody can ever tell me that I can’t have two mothers,” says Faried. “Because I really do.”
When the Christofascists attack gay and lesbian parents, they attack our children as well.  Mt three children haven't let that reality go unnoticed and all three of them are militantly in favor of gay rights.  And like so many others in their age group, they have largely walked away from institutional religion motivated in large part with the the term "Christian" too often being synonymous with homophobe and anti- bigot.   The all too typical silence of the "good Christians" in opposition to the Christofascist hate merchants is, in my view, slowly killing Christianity as a whole in this country. 

The GOP Plan to Steal Elections

In an earlier post today I made reference to the Republican Party effort to steal elections even where the GOP candidate(s) receive significantly fewer votes than their Democrat opponents.  Having successfully gerrymandered congressional districts to guaranty a GOP majority in the House of Representatives, the GOP now wants to trash the Electoral College as it has operated for many decades.  Under the GOP plan, Mitt Romney would have won the 2012 election even though he failed to receive a majority of votes while Obama DID win a majority of the vote.  It is nothing short of an attempt to mount a coup d'état and it illustrates just how extreme, dangerous and anti-democracy the GOP has become.   Fortunately, here in Virginia it appears that the GOP attempt may fail due to opposition from two GOP state senators and Governor Bob McDonnell who likely sees passage of the bill as a nail in his political future's coffin.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at this disturbing effort which makes one wonder when the GOP brown-shirts are going to begin appearing and attacking liberals and anyone who opposes the GOP's increasingly fascist agenda.  Here are column highlights:

When the subject is today’s GOP and the conservative movement, things can always get worse. Having attempted virtually every dishonest and cynical trick in the book under existing rules, they have decided now that the problem is not their dishonesty or cynicism, but the existing rules, so the new task is to change them.

You’re familiar by now with the broad contours of how the GOP wants to change the Electoral College. OK, in case you’re not: They seek in six states to apportion the electoral vote according to congressional districts won instead of to the presidential candidate who won the state overall. For example, Pennsylvania has 18 congressional districts. Mitt Romney won 12 of them, and Barack Obama six. So even though Obama won the state overall by around five points, Romney would “carry” Pennsylvania, 12 electoral votes (EVs) to six (actually, 12 to eight—every state has two more EVs representing its two Senate seats, and Obama, as the overall winner, would get those; so nice of them!).

The six states, as you might guess, are not Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, and the Dakotas. They are the aforementioned Keystone State along with Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Virginia. The Virginia plan adds the clever wrinkle of giving those extra EVs not to the overall winner, but to the candidate who won the most congressional districts.

[T]his is just vote-rigging. Open cheating. It is astonishing, I mean absolutely jaw-dropping, that a major party chairman should openly endorse such an openly crooked scheme, as Reince Priebus has. It’s so Third World 1950s, like something Sukarno might have done, probably did do, in Indonesia to make sure the competing ethnic group didn’t win elections. He sure better be asked, the next time he goes on a Sunday show, how he purports to defend a plan that would have made someone president while receiving 5 million fewer votes than the other guy.

Rule-changing, as Donovan Leitch might have put it, is bound to be the very next phase, and not just on this front. The nullification craziness, mostly talk during the first Obama term, is inching toward codification. State legislators in Mississippi are pushing a bill to establish a (get this name) Joint Committee on the Neutralization of Federal Law to review federal statutes for their “constitutionality.” We don’t know how far this effort will get. But it is Mississippi, so who knows? But if not Ole Miss, then South Carolina or some other state will almost surely attempt to nullify some federal law in the next four years.

We could toss all this information onto the ever-growing “Oh, those crazy Republicans” slag heap, have a laugh, and let it go. But this is concerted and serious. Rules, laws, customs, and norms that we have all abided by for centuries (the Electoral College and the primacy of federal law) or decades (recess appointments) have simply been producing too many outcomes conservatives don’t like. Most people, and movements, would try to change themselves so that they could maybe win under the long-agreed-upon rules. But conservatives have a cleverer way. Just make new rules. You better believe things can get worse.
 Sentient Americans who care about the rule of law need to be afraid - very afraid, in fact - and strike back by voting against every GOP candidate  every opportunity that they get, starting with the Virginia 2013 elections in November.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Christofascists: Feminists Are Family-Destroying Whores; Minorities Are Leaving "Normal Marriage"

Even as the GOP potentates are struggling to find a improved message and "Moses like messenger," the Christofacists elements of the GOP base are hard at work ramping up their efforts to alienate women and minorities.  How else to explain two batshitery eruptions from the far right.  As Right Wing Watch reports, Christian radio hosts Pastor Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner went on a rant describing feminists as ugly, narcissistic, family-destroying whores who refuse to submit to a man. And then we have Joseph Goebbels look alike, Gary Bauer (pictured above) attacking minorities for their growing acceptance of same sex marriage.  The dripping hate and venom that these "godly Christians" and good Republicans is more than enough o send sane voters running away screaming.  First, here are highlights from Right Wing Watch:

Christian conservative radio hosts Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner are not exactly big fans of feminism in any of its forms. So far this month, they have opined that a woman fired for being too attractive shouldn’t have been working for a man who wasn’t her husband in the first place; that “socialist” single women are taking over America; and that Sandra Fluke isn’t “ladylike” enough to be considered for Woman of the Year.

There are “two forms of feminism,” Buehner argued. There are “cute” feminists like Sarah Palin who will find jobs in the “marketplace” and “get themselves a husband” but will “never submit to the husband, in fact they will use their power probably to make their husband submit to them.” Then, there are the “ugly” feminists whose “lack of attractiveness has not given them access to power that they wanted in the marketplace.” These “attractively challenged” feminists will only find careers in academia and in government agencies, for instance, “you can run the EPA.”

What all these feminists have in common, Swanson argues, is that “all of them want to be free from the family” and together with “the homosexuals” are “destroying society.” Buehner speculates that in the future, feminism will be remembered as “a time in which women lost the love of their children” and “decided to become selfish, narcissistic, family-destroying whores.”

Truly, this batshitery is NOT a winning message for attracting women voters, yet people as insane as these crackpots drafted the GOP 2012 party platform.  But women are not the only targets of far right venom.  As The Advocate reports, failed GOP presidential candidate and Family Research Council founder Gary Bauer has been ranting against minorities and accusing them of abandoning "normal marriage."  Here are highlights:  

Immediately after Republicans failed to take the White House or the Senate and lost seats in the House, religious right mouthpiece Gary Bauer claimed in interviews that the party just wasn't antigay enough to win.

But now he seems to be revising his post-election analysis ever so slightly.  .  .  .  . now ThinkProgress points out that Bauer claims President Obama has so drastically reshaped the political landscape with his own support for marriage equality that it might not be a winning issue.

"The coalition in favor of normal marriage has been made up of political conservatives and American minority groups, including Hispanics and blacks," Bauer told LifeSiteNews. "But the president’s so-called ‘evolution’ on this issue has resulted in what appears to be a major shift among blacks and Hispanics toward favoring same-sex marriage."

But Bauer isn't calling for his party to change. Just the opposite: he predicts the GOP will remain opposed to marriage equality come 2016 and that the platform will continue its staunch antigay language.
If one wants to see active cases of untreated mental illness, look no farther than the GOP base.  These people are frightening.

GOP Pines for New Messenger

Further confirming the GOP's denial of reality is a piece in the Washington Post that looks at the recent gathering of Republicans at the Republican National Committee’s three-day winter meeting.  The focus of the meeting was on finding a new messenger, especially for the 2016 presidential ticket.  No matter how good a candidate may be in terms of personal qualities, if her or she is peddling crap and pushing policies that are alienating voters, hello, they are going to be unsuccessful.  This is the fallacy of the GOP's quest for future success.  The fact that Tony Perkins, the president of the hate group Family Research Council - who by the way has past white supremacist ties - played a major role in drafting the GOP's "social issues" 2012 party platform underscores the clueless nature of these people.  Younger voters are leaving religion in droves and minorities clearly see the racist policies of the GOP, yet someone who is like a combination KKK Imperial Wizard/Grand Inquisitor drafted significant portions of the GOP platform.  And they wonder why they lost?  Here are some article highlights:

CHARLOTTE — The official slogan for the Republican National Committee’s three-day winter meeting here was “Renew Grow Win.” But it did little to resolve the bigger issue for the battered party, which could have been summed in one word: How?

If there was an undercurrent of hope at the gathering, which was the first of the party’s central committee since the election, it was in the fact that there is a rising generation of GOP leaders, some of whom are getting buzz as possible presidential candidates in 2016.

Somewhere from this diverse group, Republicans say, could emerge a Moses-like figure — maybe several of them — to lead the party out of its wilderness.

Many here pointed to the 30 Republican governors as having the potential both to set the party on a new course and produce from their ranks a successful 2016 presidential candidate.  One of them, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, gave a keynote address here where he warned: “We must stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults.”

Clinton did more than sharpen the Democratic Party’s talking points. He also helped reorient its philosophy, taking it in a more centrist direction on issues from crime to trade to welfare.

That sort of ideological shift is something that few Republicans are willing to advocate at this point. They still insist that the problem is not what they believe, but how they express it. 

“We do not need to change what we believe as conservatives — our principles are timeless,” Jindal said. “But we do need to reorient our focus to the place where conservatism thrives — in the real world beyond the Washington Beltway.”

Much of that work centers on addressing the GOP deficiencies that were laid bare by the 2012 election. They include a message that turned off swing voters, women and minorities; weak candidates who in some cases repelled those groups; and voter-turnout machinery that seemed decades behind that of Obama’s operation.

All of those things combined to limit the Republicans’ reach and their appeal. Rather than broadening their base, they deepened the perception that they are a party that stands on the side of wealth and privilege.

The GOP's real problem is that voters are not as stupid as they think them to be.  Policies and programs are what decides hoe votes are ultimately casts.  As long as the GOP's policies favor the wealthy, right wing evangelical Christians, and Tea Party extremists, voters will still see right through "improved messaging."

West Continues to Drift into Democrats' Column

While the GOP continues to try to gerrymander districts and subvert the Electoral College to insure future electoral wins rather than face the fact that its policies favoring the wealthy, white supremacists and religious fanatics, not its "messaging" are the root of its problems, more and more formerly dependable states in the West are slipping from its column.  As noted before, one can only hope that the GOP is committing a slow suicide since I do not see how it can free its county and city committees from the grasp of the Christofacists and Tea Party lunatics who have taken them over.   These people are a form of political cancer that has metastasized and the only cure may be the death of the GOP.  A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at the growing strength of the Democrats.  Here are some excerpts:
A political generation ago, the West signaled the nation's rightward swing - from the emergence of Ronald Reagan to the success of tax-limitation ballot measures in California and Colorado. But now the fabled expanse of jagged peaks, arid deserts and emerald coastlines is trending in a different direction.

From Washington state - where voters in November legalized marijuana and upheld the legality of gay marriage - to New Mexico, once a hotly contested swing state that Republicans ceded to Democrats in the presidential campaign, the West has become largely Democratic terrain.  There are, as always, exceptions. Lightly populated Idaho and Wyoming remain strongly Republican, as does Utah. 

"It's just a different world," said Bill Carrick, a veteran Democratic strategist in Los Angeles who has worked widely in the region. "Nevada became the next California and now Arizona looks like it will become the next Nevada. ... It's just pushing the West further and further from Republicans."

The shift is due to a combination of factors: the fusion of the region's libertarian spirit with both an influx of transplants from more liberal states seeking a better quality of life, and a growing immigrant population alienated by increasingly hardline Republican immigration proposals.

There are prominent Republicans who demonstrate that the party can still win the region. Brian Sandoval in Nevada and Susana Martinez in New Mexico are popular Republican governors, but their relatively moderate stances often put them at odds with the national party. Both, for example, just agreed to the Medicaid expansion under President Barack Obama's health care plan, something that is anathema to many conservative Republicans.

In 2002, Ruy Teixeira, a Washington, D.C.-based Democratic strategist, co-wrote "The Emerging Democratic Majority," which predicted that demographic and social trends would turn parts of the country that were deep red, like the interior Mountain West, into Democratic-leaning states.  .  .  .  . 
he argued in an interview that what's happened to the West is not very different from what's taking place across the country. Surveys for his book last year found it only slightly more libertarian on social issues and holding similar views toward government and taxation as other parts of the country. That, he said, is bad news for Republicans - their problem is national, not regional.

"It's not like there's something in the water in state X that's making them harder for Republicans," Teixeira said. "It's just the same series of changes that are working themselves out in all states."  "Look at the migration patterns," said Sig Rogich, a Republican consultant in Las Vegas who worked on Reagan's presidential campaigns. "You're seeing the aftermath of a new generation of young men and women whose parents moved westward."

As I said, I don't see how the GOP can readily change given that its grassroots committees and organizations have been taken over by the inmates of the asylum - individuals who live in some bizarre alternate universe driven by greed, racism and religious extremism.  The GOP leadership is reaping what it cynically sowed.   I for one have no sympathy for them whatsoever.

Snowy Saturday Morning

It doesn't snow often in Hampton Roads, and when it does chaos generally ensues.  Yesterday's snow coincided with evening rush hour and created a traffic nightmare (i) because so many locals have no idea of how to drive in snow, (ii) the local cities have totally inadequate crews and trucks to deal with it, and (iii) the temperatures guaranteed that a thin layer off ice underlay the snow on the roads.  You know it's bad when you can feel your car sliding sideways when not even moving.  My drive home which normally takes 25-30 minutes max took about an hour and 15 minutes.  Fortunately, I left the office three hours early.  The boyfriend and I had a relaxing evening watching Downton Abbey season two in our effort to catch up with the third season.  This morning is clear and beautiful as the photo above looking across the backyard and Robinson Creek reveals.

After blogging this morning I have to make up for the three hours of work I did not get done yesterday due to leaving early.   This evening we are doing dinner with friends to celebrate a friend's birthday, so at least I have "reward" to look forward to if I am diligent today.

Friday, January 25, 2013

More Friday Male Beauty

Virginia Senate Approves LGBT Non-Discrimination Protections

In a move that will enrage the hate merchants and Christofascist extremist at The Family Foundation ("TFF", the Virginia affiliate of Focus on the Family and the hate group Family Research Council), theVirginia Senate passed Senate Bill 701, a measure to protect Virginia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state employees from workplace discrimination.  Among those voting for passage was Virginia Beach Senator Frank Wagner who I have known since the early 1990's.  The Bill will now go to the much more deranged and delusional House of Delegates which seems much more under the thumb of sadist/dominatrix like TFF president Victoria Cobb.  Should the Bill make it through the House of Delegates, conjecture is that Governor Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell will sign it so as to avoid the negative national media coverage he received at the outset of his term.  Here are excerpts from an Equality Virginia press release:

Richmond, VA – Senate Bill 701, a measure to protect Virginia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state employees from workplace discrimination, passed today with a 24-16 vote in the Senate. Now, the bill moves forward to the House of Delegates.
"We're going to press forward with this momentum," said Senator Adam Ebbin, a chief patron of the bill. "No state employee should ever doubt Virginia's commitment to equal opportunity employment for all. This assures state employees that they will be judged solely on their merits and that discrimination has no place in Virginia."
The bill, introduced by Senator Donald McEachin and Senator Ebbin extends protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
The bill has received support from 46 co-patrons in both in the House and Senate. Equality Virginia has recorded over 11,000 messages being sent in the past two months to the General Assembly in support of SB701 from citizens across the Commonwealth.
“SB701 is about fairness and all Virginians deserve equal opportunity, justice and fairness,” McEachin said. “The people must continue to lead the legislature and remind the House that Virginia is an open state and welcoming to all folks as we move this bill ahead.”
Of Virginia’s top 25 private employers, 80 percent have policies protecting at least sexual orientation and 60 percent also protect gender identity and expression.
“In Virginia, LGBT protections will not pass without bi-partisan support. We are pleased that four Republican senators joined their Democratic colleagues in passing SB701 to protect LGBT state employees,” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said. “In the private sector, workplace protections are shown to decrease legal vulnerability while enhancing the employer’s reputation, increasing job satisfaction and boosting employee morale and productivity.”
YEAS: A. Donald McEachin, Adam P. Ebbin, Kenneth C. Alexander, George L. Barker, R. Creigh Deeds, John S. Edwards, Barbara A. Favola, Mark R. Herring, Janet D. Howell, Mamie E. Locke, David W. Marsden, Henry L. Marsh III, John C. Miller, Ralph S. Northam, Phillip P. Puckett, Linda T. Puller, Richard L. Saslaw, Charles Colgan, Jill Holtzman Vogel, Chap Petersen, Louise L. Lucas, John Watkins, Thomas Norment, Frank Wagner
NAYS: Frank Ruff, Richard Black, Thomas Garrett, Stephen Martin, Bryce Reeves, Walter Stosch, Richard Stuart, Harry B. Blevins, Charles W. Carrico, Emmett W. Hanger, Jr., Ryan McDougle, Jeffrey McWaters, Stephen D. Newman, Jr., Ralph Smith, William M. Stanley, Mark D. Obenshain

SpecialDOMA Amicus Brief: Supreme Court Lacks Jurisdiction; GOP House Members Lack Standing

In previous posts this blog has looked at the issue of "standing" - i.e., who is a proper party in interest to take an appeal of lower court rulings - as well as the Supreme Court's engagement of Harvard Law professor Vicki C. Jackson to brief the issue of standing in both the Proposition 8 appeal and in the DOMA appeal brought by the GOP members of the House of Representatives.  The issue of standing is important in both cases since, if the appellants lack standing, the U. S. Supreme Court could side step both cases and leave the lower court rulings striking down Prop 8 and DOMA in place.  The result of this would be that (i) Prop 8 is dead and gay marriage is legal once again in California and arguable in the other states in the 9th Circuit, and in the DOMA appeal centering on Edie Windsor (pictured at left) brought by the House GOP, the result would be that DOMA is unconstitutional in the 1st and 2nd Circuits.   

Today, professor Jackson filed her amicus brief in the DOMA appeal and, not surprisingly, found (a) that the Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction given the posture of the case and (b) the the House GOP lacked standing to defend a rulint in which the executive branch has acquiesced.  In short, if the justices on the Supreme Court desire to duck making a ruling, Prof. Jackson has given them a road map of how to do so.  Should the Court take this avenue, the good news is that Barack Obama will likely have the opportunity to appoint new liberal justices before the next gay marriage and/or DOMA appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court.  The other irony would be that the GOP House members just squander $3 million in legal fees for absolutely nothing.  The bad news is that many of us will definitively remain second class citizens for the near future.   Here are details from SCOTUS Blog:

The Supreme Court does not have the power to rule on the case the Justices have agreed to review on the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, a Harvard law professor argued in a brief filed Thursday evening. The professor, Vicki C. Jackson, also argued against letting the Republican members of the House of Representatives’ leadership defend DOMA’s validity, saying they do not speak for Congress, or even for the House.

If the Court accepts this advice, it probably would miss its chance to rule during the current Term on DOMA’s Section 3, which defines marriage for all federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman. It has been challenged by same-sex couples who are legally married, as they seek the federal benefits at issue. There is not time, in the remaining months of the Term (unless the Court would really rush things), for review of another DOMA case, even though others are pending.

The Court on December 7 agreed to review the constitutionality of Section 3 in the case of United States v. Windsor (docket 12-307). At the same time, however, it added questions about its authority to do so and then invited Professor Jackson to argue two points: One, whether the Obama administration can appeal a case that it won in a lower court (it believes DOMA is unconstitutional, and the lower court ruled that way). And, two, whether the House’s three GOP leaders could satisfy the Constitution’s Article III requirement that they have a legal right to be DOMA’s defenders in court.

The question about the administration’s stance is one of judicial power: if the Court lacks that basic power to decide, it cannot resolve the constitutional question in response to the government’s appeal. The question about the House GOP is one of “standing,” in a constitutional sense, to appeal: if those legislators cannot show they had real legal interests at stake, they could not be in court.

While the Court has also agreed to review the constitutionality of California’s “Proposition 8,” a statewide ban on same-sex marriage, the Court also raised a question of whether it could rule on that case. It posed the question of whether the sponsors of the “Proposition 8″ ballot measure had “standing” to appeal, under Article III. (That will be debated between those proponents and the two same-sex couples who successfully challenged that measure in lower courts. That was not within the assignment the Court gave to Professor Jackson, which was limited to the DOMA case.)

If it turns out that the California proponents are found to lack the right to pursue their appeal, that case, too, could be ended without a ruling by the Justices on the validity of that state’s marriage ban.
If the GOP House members are found to lack standing, they ought to be required to reimburse the wasted $3 million.  A plain reading of Article III of the Constitution  clearly suggests the the GOP House members never had the right to appeal the 1st and 2nd Circuit DOMA rulings.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Click image to enclarge

Will President Obama Deliver on Gay Rights?

Less than 24 hours after his inaugural speech which gave the impression that he supported nationwide marriage rights for same sex couples, Barack Obama was backtracking and reiterating that marriage is a matter which needs to be left to the states.  Of, course, in states like Virginia dominated at the state legislative level by knuckle dragging Christofascists, that means LGBT couples will have zero marriage rights for the foreseeable future.  But then again, Obama had secured the money and LGBT votes needed to carry Virginia on November 6th, so why should he worry about our fate after that?  A column in The Daily Beast looks at the issue of whether or not Obama will actually try to deliver on gay rights, or if the inaugural speech was simply pretty words that in the grander scheme meant nothing.  Here are excerpts:

When Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to the March on Washington in 1963, he used an interesting metaphor. He called “the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence ... a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” King said he and the hundreds of thousands gathered on the Mall were there “to cash a check.”

In his second inaugural address, on the day we honor Dr. King, President Obama issued a promissory note of his own. “Our journey is not complete,” he declared without equivocation or reservation, “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.”

But almost before his words had finished resonating across the National Mall, his press secretary was walking them back. The president, he told reporters, personally supports gay marriage. But the legality of gay marriage itself? “That’s something that should be addressed by the states.” Of course, states determined the legality of interracial marriage for decades, and so the marriage of the president’s parents was illegal in 19 states. We rightly look back at that time with horror, just as our children will look back on today, when 30 states have enshrined discrimination against gays into their constitutions.

But gay-rights activists are looking for quick movement on many fronts, for there is much our president must do to honor his new promissory note:
Join the lawsuit against Proposition 8. The voters of California amended their constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. A remarkable and brave young gay activist, Chad Griffin, who now leads the Human Rights Campaign, has spearheaded an effort to overturn the action as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws.” Longtime gay-rights activist and former Clinton White House official Richard Socarides is optimistic that the Obama administration will join the lawsuit. “My own view,” he says, “is that the Justice Department and the White House press office are just catching up with the rhetoric of the speech and that the government will in the end enter the Proposition 8 case on the side of gay-rights advocates. They certainly should.”
Use his power to order federal contractors not to discriminate against their gay employees. In 1941 FDR signed an executive order prohibiting any defense contractor from discriminating based on race, creed, color, or national origin. It took 23 years for Congress to enshrine this principle in the Civil Rights Act. President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but instead of waiting for Congress to act he should use his constitutional power to end taxpayer-subsidized discrimination against gays.
Make sure gay military spouses have the same rights and privileges as straight military spouses. This president and our remarkable first lady have done admirable work shining a light on the service and sacrifice of our nation’s true top 1 percent—the 1 percent of Americans who serve in the military—and their families. Being a military spouse is tough enough; gay spouses should not be denied benefits earned by their loved one’s service.

This president has evolved significantly on gay rights, but he has a distance to go still. If he does not move quickly and decisively, the White House mailroom may soon be filled with stones, to remind him of the promise of Stonewall.

I for one will not be holding my breath.  Every time Obama manages to make me feel like he truly cares about gay Americans,  he then quickly does something to show me that he's actually a cynical politician.  It would be nice to be proven wrong on this assessment this time around.

Pastor Involved in Lesbian Kidnapping Case Sent to Jail for Contempt

Kenneth Miller, right, walks with his wife to federal court on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013
In follow up to the last post and the pervasive mind set of Christianists that they are above the law that applies to everyone else, Kenneth Miller, the wingnut pastor who aided Lisa Miller kidnap her daughter in defiance of court orders (most likely with the help of religious extremists at Liberty University) has been ordered to jail for his contempt of court and refusal to answer questions in federal court.  Miller said that his religious beliefs trumped his duty to testify.  Sadly, Miller's attitude is symptomatic of a growing trend in Christofascist circles where they believe they can openly ignore the law.  Personally, I hope they leave Miller's sorry ass in jail indefinitely until he testifies.  I cannot help but suspect that Miller is protecting virulently anti-gay individuals like Matt Staver.  Here are story highlights on this continuing saga of Christianist contempt for the civil laws:

A pastor at the center of a dramatic and acrimonious custody and kidnapping case has been jailed for refusing to testify in court.

Kenneth Miller, a 47-year-old Mennonite pastor, told U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions on Thursday that he could not answer questions from a grand jury regarding the flight of Lisa Miller and her daughter to Nicaragua to avoid a custody transfer, reports the Associated Press. Lisa Miller (who is not related to Kenneth Miller) took the child overseas in 2009 so she would not have to comply with a court order allowing her former lesbian partner, Janet Jenkins, to see their daughter, reports NBC News.

In August, Kenneth Miller was convicted of helping the mother flee the country. His sentencing begins in March, and he faces a maximum jail time of three years.

The pastor apologized to the court on Thursday and said his "religious beliefs" prevented him from testifying, according to the AP. Miller said that he, and possibly others who may or may not have helped Lisa Miller violate the custody order, were motivated by their conviction in "God's Law," the AP reports.

The reluctant judge replied that while he appreciated the pastor's "faithfulness to your religion and your moral beliefs," the criminal justice system could not function without the grand jury, according to the AP.

The battle between Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins, as well as the trial of Kenneth Miller has snowballed into a widely publicized debate that pits religious conservatives against LGBT advocates. In August, conservative firebrand Bryan Fischer, who has grabbed headlines in the past for inflammatory comments about Newtown and the LGBT community, said Lisa Miller had a responsibility "to obey God rather than man" and kidnap her daughter, reports Right Wing Watch.

Jenkins has also filed a civil suit in which she alleges that Miller, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and the Lynchburg-based Thomas Road Baptist Church all conspired to help conceal the whereabouts of her daughter. The suit is asking for unspecified monetary damages. 

As I have noted before, these folks are a threat to civil law authority and if they had their way would overthrow the U. S. Constitution.

Christianists' Double Standard on "Religious Freedom"

I have long argued that the Christofascists talk out of both sides of their mouths when it comes to the theme "religious freedom."  They want religious freedom - but only if they can inflict their religious beliefs on all citizens.  And as a new Barna poll indicates, gays are enemy No. 1 in the minds of the Christofascists, something that comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed the endless stream of lies and anti-gay animus that comes out of the Catholic Church hierarchy and the professional Christian crowd.  The Huffington Post looks at the poll findings and the rank hypocrisy of the Christofascists.  Here are article excerpts:

Half of Americans worry that religious freedom in the U.S. is at risk, and many say activist groups -- particularly gays and lesbians -- are trying to remove "traditional Christian values" from the public square.

The findings of a poll published Wednesday (Jan. 23), reveal a "double standard" among a significant portion of evangelicals on the question of religious liberty, said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, a California think tank that studies American religion and culture.

While these Christians are particularly concerned that religious freedoms are being eroded in this country, "they also want Judeo-Christians to dominate the culture," said Kinnamon.

"They cannot have it both ways," he said. "This does not mean putting Judeo-Christian values aside, but it will require a renegotiation of those values in the public square as America increasingly becomes a multi-faith nation."

29 percent of respondents were "very" concerned that religious liberties are under threat, and 22 percent "somewhat" concerned. Evangelicals were the religious group most likely to be concerned, at 71 percent.

Asked for their opinion as to why religious freedom is threatened, 97 percent of evangelicals agreed that "some groups have actively tried to move society away from traditional Christian values."

And 72 percent of evangelicals also agreed that gays and lesbians were the group "most active in trying to remove Christian values from the country." That compares to 31 percent of all adults who held this belief.

[W]hite evangelical Protestants were the most worried about religious liberty. It found them to be the only religious group in which a majority (61 percent) considered it under threat.

Let's be candid - these Christianists want special rights and seek to ride rough shod over the rights of other citizens.  They hold the rights of others in open contempt and in their view, it's all about themselves.  

GOP Fiddles As Rome Burns: Navy Orders Cuts; Thousands to be Fired

While Congressional Republicans pander to extremists and continue to focus on protecting the wealthy for any further tax increases, draconian cuts are about to begin in the U. S. Navy.  Yes, the Navy wastes a lot of money, but the negative economic impact is going to hit areas like Hampton Roads which have foolishly relied on federal spending very hard.  An article in the Virginian Pilot looks at the Navy's planned cost saving measures that are "starting now" which will leave thousands unemployed or under employed.  The cretins and Neanderthals in the GOP never seem to grasp that the biggest expense in government spending is salaries to workers - workers who support families and help stimulate consumer spending that keeps the larger economy afloat.  Here are some story highlights:

Navy flag officers and top executives were told Thursday to begin cutting expenses - laying off thousands of temporary civilian workers, reducing base operations and preparing to cancel maintenance work on more than two dozen ships and hundreds of aircraft.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, directed the reductions in a memorandum sent to senior Navy officials. The cuts are driven by uncertainty over how much a divided Congress and the White House might approve for the Pentagon's 2013 budget.

"We are making the following reductions, starting now, to ensure we can fund ongoing deployments and other mission-critical activities," the memo said.

The reductions do not specifically mention Navy operations in Hampton Roads, but they are expected to affect numerous private and military facilities in the region - as well as ships and aircraft. Southeast Virginia is home to multiple bases, including the Navy's largest, Norfolk Naval Station, and Norfolk Naval Shipyard, a government-owned facility in Portsmouth where thousands of civilians work on Navy vessels.

The cuts include:

• Plans to cancel maintenance for about 30 Navy ships at private shipyards between April and September.
• Plans to cancel depot maintenance for about 250 aircraft between April and September.
Terminations of temporary civilian employees and a civilian hiring freeze. This will reduce the shipyards' workforce by more than 3,000 people.
• Reductions in base spending and plans to cancel most repairs and upgrades of piers, runways, buildings and other facilities.

"This is a big deal for all those yards here that have been hiring," said Craig Quigley, executive director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance. "They have been investing.... They have been doing advance purchases. This completely pulls the rug out from under them."

Those not happy with this looming economic disaster need to blow up the phone lines of GOP extremists like Congressmen Scott Rigell, Randy Forbes, Rob Wittman and in the Richmond area, Eric Cantor.  Truth be told, they don't give a flying f*ck about Average Americans and their families.  Only the wealthy and religious extremists count.  Ditto for the Virginia GOP which continues to strive to make the Commonwealth less competitive by allowing all social policy in Virginia to be set my the hate merchants and extremists at The Family Foundation.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

More Thursday Male Beauty

How the Vatican Built a Secret Real Estate Empire With Mussolini's Millions

Personally, I view the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy as among the most corrupt and morally bankrupt institutions in the world.  But, as a story in The Guardian reveals, a world wide conspiracy to protect and cover up for sexual predators who molested thousands and thousands of children and minors and past charges of money laundering aren't the Church's only dirty laundry.  Now, we find out that the Vatican has used millions in Fascist money to build a secret real estate empire.  As I have frequently maintained, tawdry whore are more virtuous that the leadership of the Catholic Church.  Here are story highlights:

Few passing London tourists would ever guess that the premises of Bulgari, the upmarket jewellers in New Bond Street, had anything to do with the pope. Nor indeed the nearby headquarters of the wealthy investment bank Altium Capital, on the corner of St James's Square and Pall Mall.

But these office blocks in one of London's most expensive districts are part of a surprising secret commercial property empire owned by the Vatican.

Behind a disguised offshore company structure, the church's international portfolio has been built up over the years, using cash originally handed over by Mussolini in return for papal recognition of the Italian fascist regime in 1929.

Since then the international value of Mussolini's nest-egg has mounted until it now exceeds £500m. In 2006, at the height of the recent property bubble, the Vatican spent £15m of those funds to buy 30 St James's Square. Other UK properties are at 168 New Bond Street and in the city of Coventry. It also owns blocks of flats in Paris and Switzerland.

The surprising aspect for some will be the lengths to which the Vatican has gone to preserve secrecy about the Mussolini millions. The St James's Square office block was bought by a company called British Grolux Investments Ltd, which also holds the other UK properties. Published registers at Companies House do not disclose the company's true ownership, nor make any mention of the Vatican.  Instead, they list two nominee shareholders, both prominent Catholic bankers.

Ultimate control is recorded as being exercised by a Swiss company, Profima SA.  British wartime records from the National Archives in Kew complete the picture. They confirm Profima SA as the Vatican's own holding company, accused at the time of "engaging in activities contrary to Allied interests". Files from officials at Britain's Ministry of Economic Warfare at the end of the war criticised the pope's financier, Bernardino Nogara, who controlled the investment of more than £50m cash from the Mussolini windfall.

Nogara's "shady activities" were detailed in intercepted 1945 cable traffic from the Vatican to a contact in Geneva, according to the British, who discussed whether to blacklist Profima as a result.

The Mussolini money was dramatically important to the Vatican's finances. John Pollard, a Cambridge historian, says in Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: "The papacy was now financially secure. It would never be poor again."

The Mussolini investments in Britain are currently controlled, along with its other European holdings and a currency trading arm, by a papal official in Rome, Paolo Mennini, who is in effect the pope's merchant banker. Mennini heads a special unit inside the Vatican called the extraordinary division of APSA – Amministrazione del Patrimonio della Sede Apostolica – which handles the so-called "patrimony of the Holy See".

While secrecy about the Fascist origins of the papacy's wealth might have been understandable in wartime, what is less clear is why the Vatican subsequently continued to maintain secrecy about its holdings in Britain  .  .  .  .  True to its tradition of silence on the subject, the Roman Catholic church's spokesman said that the nuncio had no comment.

For those unfamiliar with Mussolini, here are some highlights from Wikipedia:

Following the March on Rome in October 1922 he became the 27th Prime Minister of Italy and began using the title Il Duce by 1925, within five years he had established dictatorial authority by both legal and extraordinary means, aspiring to create a totalitarian state. After 1936, his official title was Sua Eccellenza Benito Mussolini, Capo del Governo, Duce del Fascismo e Fondatore dell'Impero ("His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire").

Mussolini argued that Italy was right to follow an imperalist policy in Africa because all black people were "inferior" to whites.  Mussolini claimed that the world was divided into a hierarchy of races (stirpe), though this was justified more on cultural than on biological grounds, and that history was nothing more than a Darwinian struggle for power and territory between various "racial masses"

after 1922, Mussolini personally took over the ministries of the interior, foreign affairs, colonies, corporations, defense, and public works. Sometimes he held as many as seven departments simultaneously, as well as the premiership. He was also head of the all-powerful Fascist Party and the armed local fascist militia, the MVSN or "Blackshirts", who terrorised incipient resistances in the cities and provinces. He would later form the OVRA, an institutionalised secret police that carried official state support. In this way he succeeded in keeping power in his own hands and preventing the emergence of any rival.

Between 1925 and 1927, Mussolini progressively dismantled virtually all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power,

He did not hesitate laying siege to towns, using torture, and holding women and children as hostages to oblige suspects to give themselves up.

Mussolini pushed for government control of business: by 1935, Mussolini claimed that three-quarters of Italian businesses were under state control. That same year, he issued several edicts to further control the economy, including forcing all banks, businesses, and private citizens to give up all their foreign-issued stocks and bonds to the Bank of Italy.

All teachers in schools and universities had to swear an oath to defend the fascist regime. Newspaper editors were all personally chosen by Mussolini and no one who did not possess a certificate of approval from the fascist party could practice journalism.

By 1938, the enormous influence Hitler now had over Mussolini became clear with the introduction of the Manifesto of Race. The Manifesto, which was closely modeled on the Nazi Nuremberg laws, stripped Jews of their Italian citizenship and with it any position in the government or professions.

On 11 February 1929, he signed a concordat and treaty with the Roman Catholic Church Under the Lateran Pact, Vatican City was granted independent statehood and placed under Church law—rather than Italian law—and the Catholic religion was recognized as Italy's state religion. The Church also regained authority over marriage, Catholicism could be taught in all secondary schools, birth control and freemasonry were banned, and the clergy received subsidies from the state, and was exempted from taxation. Pope Pius XI praised Mussolini, and the official Catholic newspaper pronounced "Italy has been given back to God and God to Italy."

And there you have it - a little bit of background on the man who was the source of the Vatican's new found wealth following the Lateran Pact.  Wealth that allowed the Vatican to build its secret real estate empire.   Ill gotten money financing an ill gotten institution.  How appropriate that the current Pope is literally a former Nazi - or at minimum, a Hitler Youth.

USA is Increasingly Behind the Curve on Marriage Equality

As noted a number of times, the United States of America advertises that it is the land of liberty that grants religious freedom to all.  But the reality is that the USA's advertised promise is increasingly hollow and being shown as such by neighbors both north and south of the USA's borders in the Western Hemisphere.  A piece in Foreign Policy looks at the United State's increasingly embarrassing behind the curve position compared to countries in Latin America.  Countries that many Americans once sneered at as "backwards."   Who is backwards now?  Here are highlights from the Foreign Policy article:

In his second inaugural address, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to make the United States a beacon for the world by recommitting the country to its ideals of equality. He also made history by saying those ideals demand marriage rights for same-sex couples just as they have demanded equal citizenship for women and African Americans.

But even if the Supreme Court or lawmakers soon agree with Obama's words -- "for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well" -- the United States will be a latecomer to advancing marriage rights. The world's leaders on this issue are not just from places Americans might expect -- Western Europe or Canada -- but many countries in our own hemisphere; places not usually known for progressivism on social issues. While Obama was undergoing his "evolution" on marriage rights, there has been a gay rights revolution that has stretched from Tierra del Fuego to the Rio Grande.

One dramatic illustration: When a broad coalition of human-rights activists brought a gay rights charter to the United Nations in 2007, the push was led not by the likes of Sweden or the Netherlands, but by Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.

In 2010, Argentina's congress approved an "Equal Marriage" law, the same year same-sex marriage also became legal in Mexico City. A year later, Brazil's supreme court ruled same-sex couples were entitled to partnership rights through a kind of domestic partnership status, and some states -- including the largest, São Paulo -- are now performing full marriages for same-sex couples. The lower house of Uruguay's legislature voted in December 2012 to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, and its senate is widely expected to pass the law when it votes in April.

There were also several LGBT rights victories on issues beyond marriage. Though Bolivia's 2009 constitution bans same-sex marriage, it also bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Chile, one of South America's most conservative countries, passed a non-discrimination bill in 2012 and elected its first openly gay politician. And the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner built on its passage of the marriage law to enact the world's broadest legal protections for transgender people last year.

This is not to say that all of Latin America is a gay-rights paradise. Laws throughout Central America, where there is an especially strong evangelical movement, remain particularly hostile, as they do in Peru. . . .

The specific reasons these gains have been possible differ in each country. But a major factor in all of them is that LGBT activists have managed to link their cause to broader efforts to shore up human-rights protections in countries still coping with the legacies of anti-democratic regimes that fell in the late 20th century. Additionally, the courts have embraced their role as defenders of human rights and measure themselves against international standards.

Take the case of Colombia. In 2011, the Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples must be considered a "family" under the law. It ordered the congress to pass a law equalizing the rights of same-sex couples within two years.  .  .  .  .  The ruling came despite strong pressure from the Catholic Church, which is continuing to lobby against same-sex marriage in the Colombian congress.

Benedetti told me in a November interview in his Bogotá office. "That is the [influence of] the Catholic religion, which always puts its principles above the rights of minorities." 

Latin America's marriage movement has been helped by the fact that most countries' courts take international jurisprudence far more seriously than do courts in the United States. Human rights law takes an especially international perspective, since almost every country in Latin America is under the jurisdiction of two human rights bodies within the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, charged with investigating violations of the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which adjudicates violations on the recommendation of the Commission. Though the United States, Canada, and a handful of Caribbean nations do not recognize the court's jurisdiction, most of Latin America does.

On Dec. 5, Mexico's high court sided with the three couples and said that marriage could not be restricted to heterosexual couples. Technicalities of Mexico's legal system mean that more lawsuits are still required before same-sex couples can easily marry in every state, but this ruling means that it will soon be possible.

This year, the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing exactly the same questions that Mexico's court has already resolved. But the U.S. justice system is fiercely resistant to considering legal decisions from abroad.

When the justices take up the gay marriage cases in March, there will be more at stake than the status of American gay and lesbian couples. They will be deciding whether the United States will fall behind as its neighbors establish a new standard of human rights, or whether it will join a revolution that is well underway.
That's right, the U. S. Supreme Court will ultimately be deciding whether the promises of the U. S. Constitution are a lie or whether it is time that religious based anti-gay discrimination is thrown on the trash heap of history where it belongs.  The Christofascists may revel in their hate, bigotry and ignorance, but the rest of us ought to be concerned about the USA's declining position in the world as a beacon of of freedom.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Olympic diver Chris Mears joined other celebrities and athletes in participating in Gay TimesThe Naked Issue, the proceeds of which will go towards the Terrence Higgins Trust, a British charity that campaigns on various issues related to AIDS and HIV.  Mears is among 37 men, including actors, athletes and musicians, who stripped down in support of the charity. 

DOMA Supporters' Brief Claims Gays Too Powerful to Need Court Protection

Paul Clement (pictured above) -- the a former United States solicitor general and current partner with the Washington law firm Bancroft P.L.L.C, who is ripping off American taxpayers to the tune of $3 million so far - is apparently drinking Christofascist Kool-Aid.  How else to explain his argument in the brief filed on behalf of the GOP Congressional Conference in support of DOMA that says gays have become so powerful that  "There is absolutely no reason to think that gays and lesbians are shut out of the political process to a degree that would justify judicial intervention on an issue as divisive and fastmoving as same-sex marriage."  Clement needs to come across the Potomac to Virginia where we "powerful" gays have ZERO employment non-discrimination protections, have no non-discrimination protections in housing, and receive ZERO recognition of our committed life relationships.  In Virginia, we have about as much power politically as the slaves did in the Confederacy.  A piece in Huffington Post looks at this utter batshitery that all taxpayers are being forced to subsidize.  Here are excerpts:

A conservative attorney working on behalf of the GOP bolstered his argument to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) with the rationale that gay Americans have become so powerful they do not need special judicial protection as a minority. 

House Republicans have enlisted the services of Paul Clement -- a former United States solicitor general and current partner with the Washington law firm Bancroft P.L.L.C -- to fight their $3 million DOMA battle after President Barack Obama decided his administration will no longer defend the anti-gay legislation. 

On Tuesday, Clement's 60-page brief in United States v. Windsor was filed with the Supreme Court, revealing his arguments for the court to uphold DOMA, according to Think Progress.  Via United States v. Windsor:
In short, gays and lesbians are one of the most influential, best-connected, best-funded, and best-organized interest groups in modern politics, and have attained more legislative victories, political power, and popular favor in less time than virtually any other group in American history ... There is absolutely no reason to think that gays and lesbians are shut out of the political process to a degree that would justify judicial intervention on an issue as divisive and fastmoving as same-sex marriage.
United States v. Windsor is the Supreme Court version of Windsor v. United States, in which a New York federal court found that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional and violates the Fifth Amendment. Section 3 defines marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife" and spouse as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife," thus providing unequal protection under the law. 

Think Progress blogger Ian Millhiser disputes Clement's argument, writing:
Political victories do not cancel out Americans’ constitutional rights, they augment them, and Clement is simply wrong to suggest otherwise. Ultimately, the sheer absurdity of Clement’s argument exposes why his claims must not prevail at the Supreme Court. The Constitution of Seneca Falls and Selma is also the Constitution of Stonewall. Clement’s argument would deny all three.
Clement is a liar and arguable mentally ill if he seriously believes his own argument.


GOP Redistricting Push in Virginia Aims at Hurting Blacks

The twin pillars of GOP policy: racism and religious based bigotry
Proving yet again that it is a modern day incarnation of the Klux Klux Klan, the Virginia GOP's effort to radically alter state legislative districts to favor GOP candidates - gerrymander the districts is perhaps too kind of a description - would further dilute the already weak voting strength of black Virginians.  It goes hand in glove with GOP voter ID efforts aimed at removing as many blacks and non-white minorities from voter lists as possible and is symptomatic of the GOP agenda to keep both Virginia and America as a whole "white and Christian" - or at least keep political control and privilege in the hands of white conservatives.   A piece in the New York Times looks at this racist and anti-democratic effort.. 

On Monday, one of Virginia’s state senators attended the inauguration: Henry L. Marsh III, a longtime civil rights lawyer, who played hooky to witness a milestone for an African-American president. 

The same day, Republicans back in the state capital, Richmond, took advantage of his absence to win a party-line vote, 20 to 19, to redraw electoral maps in a way that Democrats say dilute African-Americans’ voting strength. 

The move not only has Democrats howling about a power grab, it has also been criticized by Virginia’s Republican governor and lieutenant governor. 

Democrats are furious that the map also dilutes the party’s power by removing blacks from as many as a dozen districts; and under the guise of bowing to the Voting Rights Act, they say, it would pack blacks in fewer districts over all.  “This was nothing more than what I call plantation politics,” said Senator Donald McEachin, the chairman of the Democratic caucus. 

One displeased official is Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, who needs Democratic support as he seeks to enact ambitious proposals on transportation and education in his last year in office. “This is not an issue that I advocated,” Mr. McDonnell told reporters on Tuesday. “I certainly don’t think that’s a good way to do business.” 

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling also opposed his party’s move. “He is concerned that it could create a hyperpartisan atmosphere,” said Mr. Bolling’s spokeswoman, Ibbie Hedrick.

Senator Richard L. Saslaw, the Democratic minority leader, used an expletive to describe Republican concerns for black voters. He said Republicans blocked efforts in 2011 to create a new Congressional district with a high percentage of blacks. 

Democrats say the extensive changes passed by Republicans, which are now before the legislature’s lower chamber, the House of Delegates, where Republicans hold a supermajority, violate the state’s Constitution. They foresee a lengthy court fight if the map is adopted. Before then, however, it must get past the governor, not a sure bet at all. 

As for Mr. Marsh, who missed the vote, he rejected any notion that Republicans were acting in African-Americans’ interests. He called the plan “shameful.” 

As a former GOP city committee member myself some years ago, I now wonder when city and county GOP committees will begin handing out white robes and hoods prior to starting their meetings.  The GOP has truly become something disgusting and openly racist.

Pentagon to Remove Ban on Women in Combat

In recognition of the roles that women have already been playing in the fool's errand armed conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan launched by Chimperator George W. Bush and Emperor Palpatine Cheney, the Pentagon is poised to remove the ban in women in combat positions.  The ban is a recognition of reality and will remove the barrier that has barred women from full recognition for their valor and kept many from advancing up the ranks of the military.  One can just imagine the shrieks of Phyllis Schlafly and Christofascists who want women kept as subordinate chattel in the home - bare foot and pregnant if you will.  Obviously, I do not believe that all women should be required to go into combat positions, but those who want them should not be held back.  The Washington Post looks at the policy change:

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta plans to announce Thursday a lifting of the ban on female service members in combat roles, a watershed policy change that was informed by women’s valor in Iraq and Afghanistan and that removes the remaining barrier to a fully inclusive military, defense officials said.

Panetta made the decision “upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” a senior defense official said Wednesday, an assertion that stunned female veteran activists who said they assumed that the brass was still uneasy about opening the most physically arduous positions to women. The Army and the Marines, which make up the bulk of the military’s ground combat force, will present plans to open most jobs to women by May 15.

“The onus is going to be on them to justify why a woman can’t serve in a particular role,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the plan before the official announcement.

The decision comes after a decade of counterinsurgency missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, where women demonstrated heroism on battlefields with no front lines. It dovetails with another seismic policy change in the military that has been implemented relatively smoothly: the repeal of the ban on openly gay service members.

Lawmakers and female veterans applauded Wednesday’s news, saying the ban on women in combat roles is obsolete.  “This is monumental,” said Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine captain and executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, which has advocated for the full inclusion of women. “Every time equality is recognized and meritocracy is enforced, it helps everyone, and it will help professionalize the force.”

Advocates and experts say women are unlikely to flock to those positions, such as roles in light infantry and tank units and Special Forces — although some may. More substantively, they say, lifting the ban will go a long way toward changing the culture of a male-dominated institution in which women have long complained about discrimination and a high incidence of sexual assault.

“The reality is that so many women have been, in effect, in combat or quasi-combat,” he said. “This is catching up with reality.”

In a statement, Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.), the leading Republican on the Armed Services Committee, voiced a measure of concern, saying last year’s study raised “serious practical barriers” that, if ignored, could jeopardize the “safety and privacy” of service members.

James Inhofe - a Christianist who never can separate his bigoted religious views from public policy - not surprisingly raised to bogus issue of  service member "privacy" as a reason to keep women inferior.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

High School Senior Comes Out as Gay to His Entire Class, Gets Standing Ovation

I will concede that there are many times that I get very depressed at the current state of LGBT rights.  Yes, huge advances have been made in some ways, but here in Virginia progress seems to have passed us by and LGBT individuals remain third or fourth class citizens.  Indeed, over the last 10 years in Virginia, the only advance has been that we can no longer be charged with a felony for consensual sex in the privacy of our own homes thanks to the 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.   But then I see something like the brave coming out of New Jersey high school senior Jacob Rudolph (see the video above) and I realize that things have indeed changed for the better.  Rudolph exhibits a courage and bravery that I could never have exhibited decades ago when I was his age.  Here's a portion of the high schooler's statement as he received his school's best actor award:

Sure I've been in a few plays and musicals, but more importantly, I've been acting every single day of my life. You see, I've been acting as someone I'm not. Most of you see me every day. You see me acting the part of 'straight' Jacob, when I am in fact LGBT. Unlike millions of other LGBT teens who have had to act every day to avoid verbal harassment and physical violence, I'm not going to do it anymore. It's time to end the hate in our society and accept the people for who they are regardless of their sex, race, orientation, or whatever else may be holding back love and friendship. So take me leave me or move me out of the way. Because I am what I am, and that's how I'm going to act from now on."

His remarks about living his life as an actor hit home with me.  I did it for 37 years and know how soul killing it is.  Kudos to Jacob Rudolph.