Saturday, February 01, 2014

More Saturday Male Beauty

American Culture Warriors Exporting Homophobia

This blog has frequently noted the hatred and homophobia that is being exported abroad by American Christofascists who are slowly but steadily losing the culture wars in America.  As always, their favorite targets for their exported hate and bigotry is focused largely on backward and ignorant regions, especially in Africa, since ignorance and low levels of education are essential for the embrace of the American Christofascists' version of fundamentalist Christianity.  A piece in Religion Dispatches recaps the efforts of American Christofascists to export homophobia.  Note the blood on the hands of both Catholic and Anglican clerics in Africa.  The real message, of course, is that the "godly Christians" are NOT nice and decent people.  They are horrid people and the "good Christians" who sit on their hands silently are little better than the "good Germans" who were complicit in Hitler's rise to power. Here are selected article excerpts:

A couple articles this past week look at the work of anti-gay religious groups overseas.  The National Journal’s Alex Seitz-Wald gives an overview of American evangelicals’ efforts to encourage passage of anti-gay laws around the world. Among the items mentioned is the work of Scott Lively and others to launch an anti-gay group in Latvia that believes “there is a war between Christians and homosexuals.”

At the Religion News Service, Gay Clark Jennings, an Episcopal priest, examines “Homophobia in Christian Africa.” Jennings notes that many political and diplomatic leaders have criticized passage of anti-gay bills in Uganda and Nigeria, but says, “Many Christian leaders around the world, regrettably, have been largely unwilling to criticize Christian leaders in Africa who cheered the passage of these punitive laws.” She notes with sadness that Anglican leaders in Uganda and Nigeria “enthusiastically support” anti-gay legislation.
Western Christians cannot ignore the homophobia of these church officials or the peril in which they place Ugandan and Nigerian LGBT people. The legacy of colonial-era Christian missionaries and infusions of cash from modern-day American conservatives have helped to create it.
She quotes Zimbabwean biblical scholar Masiiwa Ragies Gunda saying that it is “far-fetched to look beyond the activities of Western missionaries” when considering the role of the Bible in Africa. Jennings says missionaries promoted a particular literalist approach to reading the Bible.

The Toronto Star also considers rising homophobia and anti-gay violence in Africa, suggesting that it reflects, in addition to the work of American evangelicals, a backlash by conservative forces against increasingly open advocacy for LGBT equality.

As we reported last week, Catholic officials in Nigeria, including a Cardinal, have praised the draconian anti-gay law that is generating persecution and violence against gay people in that country.  In India, in contrast, Cardinal Oswald Gracias has opposed the Supreme Court ruling that recriminalized homosexuality.

Catholics and others have also protested remarks by a newly-named cardinal, Fernando Sebastián of Spain. Colegas, an LGBT rights group, has filed a complaint charging that Sebastián’s comments violate Spanish law against acts that provoke discrimination, hate or violence against groups based on their sexual orientation.
In Washington, D.C. this week, Katrina Lantos Swett, Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, mentioned the infamous anti-gay “propaganda” law as one of many repressive, anti-democratic laws that have been adopted in Putin’s Russia. She said that laws on “religious freedom” and “extremism” grant special favor to the Orthodox Church while giving the government wide latitude to discriminate against minority religions. That favored status is evident in the construction of new high-profile Russian Orthodox churches around the world whose construction costs are being paid by the Russian government.

The propaganda law has most recently been used to fine the editor of a newspaper in Khabarovsk in northeastern Russia for printing an interview with a local geography teacher who is gay; the court ruled that the teacher’s assertion that homosexuality is normal violated the law.

 We reported last week on the surge in arrests and trials in Shariah courts in the wake of [Nigerian] President Goodluck Jonathan’s January 7 signing of a draconian anti-gay law there. Last Thursday, Associated Press reported, “Thousands of protesters threw stones into the Shariah court in a north Nigerian city Wednesday, urging the speedy convictions and executions of 11 men arrested for belonging to gay organizations.” This week, Agence French Press reports that two Islamic courts “have been forced to suspend the trials of 10 men accused of homosexuality because of fears of mob violence.”

There is much more in the article.  The overall take away?  Religion is a pervasive evil that deserves no deference and certainly no favored status - or tax exemption - under the civil laws. 

Social Mobility Is Lowest in the South/Bible Belt

Click image to enlarge
I often mark the argument that backwardness and bigotry are impediments to economic progress.  A new study reported on by the New York Times would seem to corroborate this premise in significant part.  Where is social mobility the lowest?  In the South and Bible Belt, of course.  Where is it higher?  Except for some surprising exceptions in the sparsely settled mid-west, in the Northeast and in the far west.  In short, progressive areas where racism and homophobia are less prevalent provide a better opportunity for those born into the bottom economic classes of society to move up.  In Virginia, the highest social mobility is not surprisingly found in Northern Virginia.  The lowest social mobility is found across Virginia's largely reactionary south side - and area where the "godly Christians" hold sway.  As for Hampton Roads, it does not fare too well either, something that ought to send a warning bell to area leaders.  Here are article highlights:
The study — based on millions of anonymous earnings records and being released this week by a team of top academic economists — is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas. These comparisons provide some of the most powerful evidence so far about the factors that seem to drive people’s chances of rising beyond the station of their birth, including education, family structure and the economic layout of metropolitan areas. 

Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest, the data shows, with the odds notably low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. By contrast, some of the highest rates occur in the Northeast, Great Plains and West, including in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and large swaths of California and Minnesota. 

“Where you grow up matters,” said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the study’s authors. “There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.” 

That variation does not stem simply from the fact that some areas have higher average incomes: upward mobility rates, Mr. Hendren added, often differ sharply in areas where average income is similar, like Atlanta and Seattle. 

The gaps can be stark. On average, fairly poor children in Seattle — those who grew up in the 25th percentile of the national income distribution — do as well financially when they grow up as middle-class children — those who grew up at the 50th percentile — from Atlanta. 

[T]he researchers identified four broad factors that appeared to affect income mobility, including the size and dispersion of the local middle class. All else being equal, upward mobility tended to be higher in metropolitan areas where poor families were more dispersed among mixed-income neighborhoods.

Income mobility was also higher in areas with more two-parent households, better elementary schools and high schools, and more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups. 

Regions with larger black populations had lower upward-mobility rates. But the researchers’ analysis suggested that this was not primarily because of their race. Both white and black residents of Atlanta have low upward mobility, for instance. 

In previous studies of mobility, economists have found that a smaller percentage of people escape childhood poverty in the United States than in several other rich countries, including Canada, Australia, France, Germany and Japan. The latest study is consistent with those findings. 

That pattern makes economists more confident that the characteristics of different regions — as opposed to something inherent and unchangeable in the local residents — are helping cause the varying mobility rates. 

Is Chris Christie's Goose Cooked?

Wildstein with his lawyer
Throughout the New Jersey "Bridgegate" scandal, Governor Chris Christie has claimed that he knew nothing about the contrived plan to cause traffic chaos at the George Washington Bridge.  Now, a former Christie sycophant, David Wildstein who formerly served at the Port Authority is alleging that Christie knew all about it and that the lane closures were the result of a “the Christie administration’s order.”  A copy of the letter from Wildstein's lawyer is here.   If the allegation is true, it proves that ne should never lie about something when others may talk to save their own skin.   Did Christie expect Wildstein to simply quietly fall on his sword?  The New York Times looks at the new information.  Here are excerpts:

The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, central to the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, said on Friday that “evidence exists” that the governor knew about the closings when they were happening.

A lawyer for the former official, David Wildstein, wrote a letter describing the move to shut the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” and said “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference” three weeks ago.
During his news conference, Mr. Christie specifically said he had no knowledge that traffic lanes leading to the bridge had been closed until after they were reopened. “I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it — and that I first found out about it after it was over,” he said. “And even then, what I was told was that it was a traffic study.”

The letter, which was sent as part of a dispute over Mr. Wildstein’s legal fees, does not specify what the evidence is. Nonetheless, it marks a striking break with a previous ally. Mr. Wildstein was a high school classmate of Mr. Christie’s who was hired with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge.

Mr. Christie’s office responded late in the day with a statement that backed away somewhat from the governor’s previous assertions that he had not known about the closings in September, which appeared to have been carried out as political retaliation against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, until they were reported in the news media. Instead, it focused on what the letter did not suggest — that Mr. Christie knew of the closings before they occurred.

The letter was sent from Mr. Wildstein’s lawyer, Alan L. Zegas, to the Port Authority’s general counsel. It contested the agency’s decision not to pay Mr. Wildstein’s legal fees related to investigations into the lane closings by the United States attorney’s office and the State Legislature. 

The Legislature has sent subpoenas to Mr. Wildstein and 17 other people as well as the governor’s campaign and administration seeking information about the lane closings. That information is due back on Monday.

But the documents from Mr. Wildstein were heavily redacted, leaving clues but no answers as to who else might have been involved. The documents included, for example, texts between Mr. Wildstein and Ms. Kelly trying to set up a meeting with the governor around the time the plan for the lane closings was hatched. It is unclear, however, what the meeting was about.

Mr. Wildstein’s lawyer has promised to turn over full versions of those emails to the committee investigating the matter, but as of Friday evening, a spokesman for the committee said they had not been received.

His lawyer’s letter suggests that Mr. Wildstein was irritated, if not provoked, by Mr. Christie’s dismissiveness.  “Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him, and he can prove the inaccuracy of some,” the letter added.

Also on Friday, the lawyer for another aide to Mr. Christie sent a 19-page letter to Reid J. Schar, the special counsel leading the legislative committee’s investigation into the lane closures, asking him to withdraw a subpoena seeking a wide range of documents and other materials from the aide, saying it violated his Fifth Amendment rights.

It will be interesting to see how things continue to unfold.  Obviously, if the allegations prove true, Christie's goose may be cooked in terms of any presidential aspirations.

Saturday Morning Male beauty

GOP House of Delegates Kills "Ex-Gay" Conversion Ban

Brenda Pogge with now indicted Bob McDonnell
Proving once again that they are the tawdry political whores of the hate merchants at The Family Foundation ("TFF"), the Republicans in the House of Delegates killed a bill that would have banned therapists from inflicting fraudulent and dangerous "ex-gay" therapy on minors.  To these members of the GOP, the position of every legitimate medical and mental health organization in America means nothing.  All that matters is that they follow their orders from Victoria Cobb and the Christofascists at TFF.  Damaged lives and potential suicides just do not matter to these foul individuals.  The Daily Press has coverage on this disappointing development.  Here are highlights:

A House panel killed off legislation Thursday that would have outlawed controversial therapies meant to turn gay children straight.

House Bill 1135 only dealt with licensed therapists treating people under 18. Adults seeking the treatment still would have been free to do so.

These therapies, often called conversion or restoration therapy, don't work and have a long-lasting damaging effect on children who are taught that being gay is a bad thing, and if it can't be cured it might be their fault, or their parents', bill advocates argued.

The bill brought passionate testimony from both sides. Gail Dickert of Alexandria told House members that the therapy convinced her that her father molested her as a young child, turning her gay. He had not, she said. He died before she could tell him this was just a false memory planted by a therapist, she said.

In the end, members of a House Health, Welfare and Institutions subcommittee killed the bill on a 4-1 party line vote, much as supporters expected.  Del. Robert Krupicka, D-Alexandria, was the only yes vote. Del. Brenda Pogge, R-James City, said the issue wasn't ripe for change.
 Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, the bill sponsor, said he believes the therapy will eventually be banned for children in Virginia, as it is in California and New Jersey.  "Hearts and minds are changing on this sexual orientation issue every day," he said. "One day this will be the law in Virginia.… It's time we had this conversation."

Brenda Pogge is an embarrassment to thinking Virginians.  She certainly makes the voters in James City County look like cretins.

GOP Controlled Virginia House of Delegates Backs Bill to Let Lawmakers Defend Laws

Homophobe Del. Todd Gilbert
The Christofascists at The Family Foundation are not the only ones becoming hysterical that same sex marriage might become legal in Virginia and that Virginia might just be dragged into the 21st century.  In the GOP controlled House of Delegates - which might as well be a branch of The Family Foundation - GOP extremist have passed a bill that would allow any member of the General Assembly to institute lawsuits or defend lawsuits challenging any Virginia statute of constitutional provision whenever the Attorney General refuses to defend an unconstitutional law.  One can only imagine the batshitery that folks like Del. Bob Marshall would usher in if such a bill were passed into law.  Hopefully, the measure will be killed in the Virginia Senate or, in the last instance, vetoed by Governor McAuliffe.  Here are highlights from the Richmond Times Dispatch:  
The House of Delegates on Friday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would let any member of the General Assembly defend a law in federal court if the attorney general refuses.

Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, drafted House Bill 706 in anticipation of Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s announcement that he would not defend Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban in federal suits seeking to overturn it.
Herring said last week that after “thorough review,” he found the ban to be in violation of the equal protection clause under the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

“When we pass a law we expect our attorney will defend it and that the Constitution will be upheld,” Gilbert said.

Herring spokesman Michael Kelly said that Gilbert has acknowledged his bill “is about opposing marriage equality at all costs, even if it raises obvious constitutional concerns about separation of powers, not to mention the limitless range of negative consequences it could have in practice.”

The Virginia Constitution empowers legislators to pass laws and the attorney general to represent the state in legal proceedings, Kelly said. “That’s the way it should stay.”

Gilbert’s measure, which will be on the House floor for a final vote Monday, includes an amendment by Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William. The amendment would also give the House of Delegates, the state Senate or the entire General Assembly the standing to file suit in federal court.

Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, D-Henrico, questioned the proposal’s constitutionality.
“No state legislature can give itself such standing,” Morrissey said. “This bill cannot under any circumstance withstand a challenge in federal court.
Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, believes that even if the proposal passed in both houses, Gov. Terry McAuliffe would likely veto it. “The General Assembly can prescribe standing for state courts, but it cannot create standing for purposes of federal law,” Tobias said.
As an aside,  I am often struck by the fact that it is generally - but not always - unattractive men like Gilbert who would be hard put to pick up a cute guy under any circumstance that are the most hyserically against same sex marriage and gay rights in general?  By my tastes, Gilbert would make celibacy look attractive.

Virginia's Other Gay Marriage Case Given Class-Action Status

Lately, I have given a lot of focus to the pending case of Bostic v. Rainey pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in part because I know the plaintiffs and because of the recent change in position of the Attorney General's office spearheaded by Mark Herring who the boyfriend and I worked hard to get elected.   But there is another same sex marriage case pending in Virginia that likewise challenges the heinous Marshall-Newman Amendment.  This case, Harris v. Rainey, is pending in the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia and the defendants are again Janet Rainey and also Thomas Roberts, Clerk of the Staunton Circuit Court.  Yesterday the case was given class action status which means that the plaintiffs have been certified to represent (i) all same sex couples who have been barred from marrying in Virginia and (ii) all same sex couples who have married in other jurisdictions who have had recognition of the lawful marriage barred in Virginia.  The approved class excepts out the four plaintiffs in Bostic v. Rainey so that no conflict exists between the two cases continuing on their separate paths through the courts.  The courts ruling can be found here.  The following is a press release from Lambda Legal:
Harrisonburg, Va. - Today, a federal district court in Virginia certified as a class action a lawsuit challenging that state's ban on marriage for same-sex couples, extending the scope of those represented in the lawsuit to all same-sex couples in the state who cannot legally marry or whose legal marriages performed elsewhere are not recognized by the Commonwealth.

The case was initially filed on behalf of two couples by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Virginia, Lambda Legal, and the law firm Jenner and Block.

"We want to be clear that we're fighting for families across the state," said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. "This marriage ban affects families in a number of different ways by denying them the many protections that come with marriage. It's important that our case address the many ways that families are hurt by our discriminatory laws."

The lawsuit was originally filed on August 1, and argued that, through the marriage bans, Virginia sent a purposeful message that lesbians, gay men, and their children are viewed as second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that heterosexuals and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.

"We are pleased that the Court has certified this case as a class action. With this certification, all the same-sex couples in Virginia seeking the freedom to marry and those who want Virginia to recognize their marriages have officially become part of the fight against the State's discriminatory constitutional and statutory marriage bans," said Greg Nevins, Counsel in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta.

The couples named originally in the class action case are: Joanne Harris, 38, and Jessica Duff, 33, of Staunton, who have been together since 2006 and have a four-year-old son, Jabari. Christy Berghoff, 34, and Victoria Kidd, 35, who are from Winchester and have been together almost ten years. They have a one year old daughter, Lydia. They married legally in Washington, DC, but their home state does not recognize their marriage.

"The stories of our clients are just a small representation of the thousands of stories across the country in states like Virginia that deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry," said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "We're glad that this case will apply to all Virginians who wish to make a lifelong commitment to each other, and hope that Virginia will follow the 17 other states that have preceded it in granting marriage equality."
As in Bostic v. Rainey, Attorney General Mark Herring  has indicated that he will cease to defend Virginia's unconstitutional same sex marriage bans.  As of yesterday, the Court in Harris v. Rainey has ordered a status conference to determine where the case goes from here given the changed position of the Office of the Attorney General.  This order can be found here.  Interestingly, the order states:
On January 29, 2014, Roberts filed a supplemental response to plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment (Dkt No. 113).  Roberts states that he takes no position on the constitutionality of Virginia's marriage laws, but notes that he is constrained to abide by them until otherwise directed by an appropriate authority.
Unlike the situation in Bostic v. Rainey with the Prince William Clerk of Court, who is represented by the religious extremists of the Alliance Defending Freedom, Roberts is represented by a private law firm.  Moreover, The Family Foundation has not filed an amicus brief nor have the delusional five professors who challenge the truth of the APA position on gay parenting.   One can only assume that the Christofascists must be scrambling in terror that Harris v. Rainey has the potential to suddenly leap ahead of Bostic v. Rainey in striking down Virginia's same sex marriage bans.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Hearing In Virginia Marriage Case Reset for February 4, 2014 at 10:00AM

Due to the snow storm that hit the Hampton Roads area on Tuesday and Wednesday of the week, the hearing on oral arguments in Bostic v. Rainey, which challenges the constitutionality of Virginia's anti-gay Marshall Newman-Amendment originally set for yesterday had to be rescheduled due to road conditions (the City of Norfolk seemingly did little or nothing to city roads outside of clearing the Interstates).  The hearing has been rescheduled to Tuesday, February 4, 2014, at 10:00 AM.   Among those expected are Ted Olson and David Boies and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (whom I spoke with on Tuesday about the brief his office filed).  Here are details from the American Foundation for Equal Rights:  
Federal District Court of Eastern Virginia will hold its first hearing in the Bostic case for marriage equality on Tuesday, February 4 at 10 a.m EST.  Oral argument was originally scheduled for Thursday, but was canceled due to inclement weather conditions.

The hearing is expected to  last two and a half hours. AFER’s attorneys will make the case that bans on marriage for gay and lesbian couples, like that in Virginia, violate the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The plaintiffs are two couples: Tim and Tony, who have been together for nearly 25 years, and Carol and Mary, who have been together for nearly 30 years.

This is the first time the plaintiffs are appearing in court.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP's Second Class Non-Citizen Immigration Reform Principles

Some things don't change with conservatives and the godly set

The House of Representatives has finally unveiled supposed immigration reform principles.  Like everything else the GOP does nowadays, the "reform" would leave some in a permanent non-citizen status and still panders to the white supremacists within the GOP base that frankly doesn't want anyone who doesn't have white skin to become an American citizen.  Not ever.   Because only white Christians are "real Americans."  It is a consistent theme with the GOP: some have rights and privileges and others do not.  This "do not" category includes non-whites, particularly blacks and Hispanics, non-Christians, gays, and in many instances, even white women.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the GOP House vision of "reform."  Here are excerpts:

The Republican proposal predicates legalization for the undocumented on stringent requirements and border enforcement. The House speaker, John A. Boehner, ruled out any “special path to citizenship” for undocumented migrants, but seemed to leave open the possibility that they could eventually be naturalized. Even that stance, however, is likely to raise hackles among conservatives.
Those who take this ultraconservative position (including many aligned with the Tea Party) are blind to the lessons of history. The United States has a long track record not only of legalizing illegal immigrants, by legislative or administrative action, but also of pairing legalization with a grant of permanent residency, the prerequisite for naturalization. 

Even the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952, known mostly as a conservative immigration measure, included provisions for suspending deportation orders in cases in which deportation would separate families or otherwise result in hardship. These provisions also included adjustment to permanent resident status. The most recent legalization program, under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, granted permanent residency, or green cards, to 2.7 million people.

The rationale for the linking of legalization and permanent residency is straightforward. Legalization recognizes that the undocumented have become part of our society — by working, paying taxes, raising families, owning property and the like. In other words, we recognize their de facto inclusion and we adjust their status to align with that reality.

[S]ince the nation’s founding, we have always recognized that access to citizenship is the best way to promote social and economic integration, democratic participation and political equality. 

The alternative now envisioned by some House members — legal status without access to citizenship — would effectively create a new stratum of society, a permanent second class of Americans.

We have been down that road before, with grim results. The Asiatic exclusion laws, in force from the 1880s to the World War II era, were openly racist attempts to protect America from the “yellow peril” and “unassimilables.” These laws not only prohibited most prospective immigrants from China and other Asian countries from entering; they also excluded all Asians from naturalized citizenship, including merchants and professionals who were otherwise legal residents. In most Western states exclusion from citizenship also meant exclusion from owning agricultural property and from a range of occupations, from teaching to commercial fishing. 

Congress repealed the Chinese exclusion law in 1943, when China had become an American war ally. By 1952 all the other Asian exclusion laws had fallen. 

Today’s political opposition to a path to citizenship is out of sync with democratic principles, historical practice and the vast majority of public opinion. It is punitive in spirit. It also suggests an unease with the prospect of more Latino voters. Republicans seem divided between those who recognize the need to appeal to the growing Latino electorate and those who would rather shut out prospective Latino voters than try to win their support.

Citizenship is precious. That is precisely why it shouldn’t be held hostage to narrow, defeatist and racially discriminatory partisan interests.

The Brutal, Bloody Horror of Gay Life in Putin’s Russia

With the 2014 Winter Games set to start in less than a week in a repressive dictatorship in all but name known as Russia, Slate provides a good look at the brutality of life for gays in Vladimir Putin's Russia.  A horror to which the International Olympic Committee has closed its eyes just as it did to the Nazi's treatment of Jews in the 1930's. Sadly, companies like Coca-Cola have joined in this reprehensible behavior as previously noted on this blog.  Bad things happen when good people sit on their hands and fail to act.  Here are highlights from the Slate piece that give a view of the bad things now happening in Russia:

Ever since virulently homophobic Russian President Vladimir Putin pushed through a law effectively outlawing openly gay people, the country’s LGBTQ community has, predictably, been plagued by violence. Now a study published in Harvard University’s Health and Human Rights journal confirms what myriad horrific anecdotes suggest: Gay people in Russia are being beaten, raped, and murdered at record rates—and the government is doing little to stop it.

The issue of violence against gays in Russia is, of course, nothing new. Before the passage of the new federal measure, several regional governments passed identical laws, stripping gay citizens of legal rights and human dignity. More than one-half of Russian gays reported psychological abuse, while 16 percent experienced physical assault, and 7 percent were raped. Yet 77 percent also reported complete distrust of the police, leaving most anti-gay crimes unreported.

By putting the government’s stamp of approval on rampant Russian homophobia, Putin effectively declared open season on gay people. As the Harvard study notes, violence against gays in Russia isn’t considered violence at all; rather, it’s thought of as a way for young males to prove their own heterosexuality—while simultaneously cleansing society of an aberrant, pedophilic community. That’s the motivation behind groups like Occupy Pedophilia, which lure in gay teens through social media in order to publicly humiliate them by beating them with sex toys or forcing them to drink urine.

In fact, much anti-gay violence comes from law enforcement officers themselves, who have brutally suppressed any public showing of gay tolerance. (That’s the law, after all.)

A strong and confident leader could have helped the country move beyond its antediluvian conceptions of sexuality and gender. Instead, the paranoid Putin has used gays as a common enemy and a scapegoat. He might have scored political points with this stunt, both in his own country and in the West. But the toll of his intolerance is currently being paid in human lives.

The boyfriend and I will not be tuning in to watch the Olympics.  Nor will we be by products of its sponsors like Coke.  In fact, the boyfriend's salon is switching the soft drinks it offers to clients to avoid Coke products.  

Virginia GOP "Pro-Family" Legislators Kill Bill Protecting Same-Sex Families

The blatant hypocrisy of today's Republican Party of Virginia truly knows no limits.  The party has become a coven of homophobic white supremacists who time and time again seek to make Virginia's laws conform to the radical and hate-filled religious beliefs of extremists at The Family Foundation and similar Christofascists organizations in the state.  A case in point is the killing of legislation that would have protected Same Sex couple headed families.  In the world of the Virginia GOP only some families and only some Virginians merit legal protection and civil rights.  And those Virginians who matter to the Virginia GOP are white conservative Protestant heterosexuals.  Everyone else, if the Virginia GOP could have its way, need to leave Virginia. Leading the charge, of course, is The Family Foundation, a group that deserves a hate group designation from the Southern Poverty Law Center.   Think Progress looks at this latest vicious hypocrisy.  Here are highlights:
On an unrecorded 5 to 4 vote vote, a subcommittee in Virginia’s House of Delegates killed a bill to allow second-parent adoption for children whose parents are not legally married. The bils opponents have taken pains to identify themselves as “pro-family.”

In the heavily-GOP House of Delegates, House Bill 1113 was offered by Delegate Joseph Yost (who earlier this week became the first Republican legislator in the state to endorse marriage equality). It would have allowed for a “a person other than the spouse of a parent” to adopt a child “if the child has only one parent, the adoption would not terminate the parental rights of the parent, and the parent joins in the petition for the purpose of indicating his consent.” This would have given legal protections to thousands of children being raised by same-sex couples in Virginia — a state with a constitutional prohibition on marriages, civil unions, or any other legal status for same-sex couples. 

“You can measure the strength of a democracy by the way it treats its children,” Yost told his House colleagues who serve on the Courts of Justice Civil Law Subcommittee. “This vote before you today is not about Democrats, Republicans, gay couples, straight couples. It’s about kids.” But despite his pleas — and those of two Virginia parents whose co-parents are legally strangers to their children, the majority of the subcommittee was unswayed. They instead sided with the bogus claims of a representative from the anti-LGBT Family Foundation, who warned that the bill would represent “sea change” in policy and would open the door “to a lot of situations that are, in social science, proven very, very unstable.” The group claims its aim is to “strengthen families in Virginia.”

With no debate, the committee voted to table the bill without even a recorded vote. Chairman Greg Habeeb (R), voted to kill the bill despite his campaign slogan of “fighting for Roanoke Valley Families” and his boasts of a “pro-family record.” Delegate Ben Chafin (R) joined him, despite his claims of being “a dedicated family man” who “will fight for family values in Richmond,” as did Jeff Campbell (R), whose parents, he claims, “believed in the value of hard work” and instilled in him “the importance of family and community.” Terry Kilgore (R) and family-law attorney Jay Leftwich (R) took the total to five. None of the five responded immediately to ThinkProgress inquiries as to their rationales.

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, told ThinkProgress, “By denying passage of the second-parent adoption bill, Delegates Habeeb, Kilgore, Leftwich, Chafin, and Campbell are simply denying children across Virginia who are being raised by loving lesbian or gay parents the protection and security that having two legal parents would offer.” He noted that the state “already recognizes both parents in those families that have completed second-parent adoptions in other states,” so the bill simply “would have allowed children in Virginia to establish these same legal ties to their own parents.” 

Hate, racism, homophobia, and hypocrisy are the hallmarks of today's Republican Party of Virginia.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

United Nations Challenges Vatican on Magdalene Asylums and Forced Adoptions

Virtual slaves at a Magdalene Asylum

As I have noted before, the Oscar nominated movie Philomena is a must see.  Not only is the acting superb but the movie is based on a true story and in the end is a staggering indictment of the Roman Catholic Church.  Now, the United Nations is demanding accountability and more importantly records on the Church's Magdalene Asylums or Laundries and the manner in which young women were forced to relinquish their babies to adoption - often for a fee paid to the religious order running the horrid institutions.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, the Vatican is trying to claim that it had and still has no control over these orders and institutions located outside of the Vatican.  It's the same disingenuous approach that has been taken by the Vatican in seeking to shirk blame for the worldwide sex abuse scandal.  Here are highlights from Religion Dispatches:

In addition to calling Archbishop Silvano Tomasi and Bishop Charles J. Scicluna to account for a decades-long, worldwide epidemic of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee conducting this historic proceeding in Geneva last week also demanded responses to questions concerning the church’s trampling on girls’ reproductive health and rights.

Chairwoman Kirsten Sandberg and others wanted to know what the church was doing about uncovering the whereabouts of the children born to young, unmarried women who were essentially enslaved in Ireland’s Magdalene Asylums or Laundries and forced to relinquish their babies to adoption, a situation brilliantly dramatized in the film Philomena, with Oscar-nominated Judi Dench playing the real Philomena Lee.

“The position of the Holy See,” pronounced Tomasi, the Vatican’s Geneva representative to the UN, “is that the state has already taken its responsibility and is proceeding…through the courts….It is the responsibility of local institutions.” In other words, it’s not our job— the same position the Vatican officials took, repeatedly and disingenuously, on their refusal to act on local clergy sex abuse crimes.

Charging that the policy of the church institutions that ran the Laundries has not been to turn over their records, a blunt Sandberg issued a challenge: “I trust that you will ask the local churches to do that.” Neither Tomasi nor Scicluna, formerly the Vatican’s top sex abuse prosecutor, said that they would.

The chairwoman also brought up the story from Brazil of “the nine-year-old girl who had an emergency life-saving abortion after rape by her stepfather,” followed by the excommunication of mother and doctor, “with no measure taken against the father,” aka, the rapist. “Explain this,” Sandberg said. In that case, regional archbishops Jose Cardoso Sobrinho astonishingly admitted that the rapist had “committed an extremely serious crime,” but that “abortion is even more serious.”

Soon after, another committee member, Hungary’s Maria Herczog, brought up a situation from Nicaragua, where the Catholic Church vigorously supports a ban on all abortions. The situation involved “a ten-year-old girl forced to give birth after being raped, with the full support of the Catholic Church and the local community.

The church’s recent history worldwide is replete with stories of priests forcing the women they impregnated to have abortions; of nuns impregnated by priests being thrown out of their convents while the men remain priests in good standing; of mothers of priests’ children being forced to sign confidentiality agreements to get any support at all.

These issues—forcing children to bear children, forced child relinquishment, abandonment of children by Catholic priests—were not the main subjects of this hearing, but that they were mentioned is noteworthy because the church’s history of child abuse has taken many forms. And that history is tied intimately to the hierarchy’s history of secrecy, hypocrisy on the sexuality of its own clerics, misogyny which denies women’s moral authority, and gender apartheid, which relegates women to second-class status and surely enabled those all-male power brokers in clerical collars to callously dismiss the desperate mothers of molested children who came to them for action.
There is more to the piece that deserves a full read.  The bottom line is that as an institution the Roman Catholic Church - and most certainly its hierarchy from the Pope on down - is morally bankrupt and unworthy of any respect, at least by decent moral people.  Those who continue to attend mass and contribute to the Church monetarily are complicit in the horrors done by the hierarchy and the predators that it protects.   Catholics need to open their eyes to the truth and walk away.  The Vatican and the hierarchy will only change if and when the Church's survival is seriously threatened by a mass exodus of members and a shutting off of the money spigot

Republicans Admit Racism Is Big Obstacle To Immigration Reform

I have long maintained that racism is one of the primary motivators for today's GOP base which is increasingly comprised of angry white men and their subservient women who are enraged that their white privilege is being eroded by "those people."  Now, the GOP has finally had the honesty to tacitly admit that it is a racist party and that racism is behind the GOP opposition to immigration reform.  If one isn't a white preferably conservative Christian, today's GOP base doesn't want you in America,  End of discussion.  Think Progress looks at recent GOP acknowledgment of the party's racism.  Here are excerpts:
House Republicans have used a variety of excuses — citing Obamacare, sequestration, Syria, or the drug war — to explain their reasons for not passing a comprehensive immigration bill. But a Republican congressman cited one reason for the stalemate the GOP won’t admit publicly. The Southern congressman told BuzzFeed it is a matter of race. 

“Part of it, I think — and I hate to say this, because these are my people — but I hate to say it, but it’s racial,” said the lawmaker, who remained anonymous. “If you go to town halls people say things like, ‘These people have different cultural customs than we do.’ And that’s code for race.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) noted that race and demagoguery has always been a factor when it’s come to U.S. immigration policy, and it certainly is one now. “There’s nothing new going on today that’s gone on before,” Graham said. “This isn’t the first time that there’s been some ugliness around the issue of immigration.”

Ever since President Obama’s second-term push to pass immigration reform, the anti-reform caucus has used coded language and even racial insults to make a case against a path to citizenship for the undocumented. The GOP’s attempt to appear as a more welcoming party is still undermined by its nativists. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has spoken about young immigrants being “drug mules” with “cantaloupe-sized caves,” as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach continues the drum-beat for self-deportation. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) made a case against multiculturalism, saying, “there’s only one race here, it’s the American race.”

The opposition puts Republicans at odds with Americans’ overwhelming support for immigration reform and a path to citizenship.

Hillary Clinton: Biggest Presidential Nominee FFrontrunner Ever; Will the GOP Self-Immolate?

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll reveals that Hillary Clinton has a 61 point lead over the next closest potential Democratic nominee for the 2016 presidential contest.  While things can always happen in politics, if Hillary is in fact running for president and wins the nomination, expect the GOP - especially the Christofascists and conspiracy theorists to go utterly berserk.  The downside, of course, is that if she runs and the GOP does nothing but attempts at character assignation and bashing, the likelihood is increased that many women will defect from whoever the GOP nominee may be out of disgust over the woman bashing and what may come to look like an insane anti-Hillary obsession.   First some details from the Washington Post on the poll findings:
Hillary Rodham Clinton's 61-point edge over Joe Biden in new Washington Post-ABC News polling makes her the single biggest frontrunner for a Democratic presidential nomination in the history of the poll, an affirmation of the conventional wisdom that the nomination is hers for the taking.

 Clinton stands at an eye-popping 73 percent in a  hypothetical 2016 primary race with Biden, the sitting vice president, who is the only other candidate in double digits at 12 percent. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has signed a letter along with a handful of other Democratic senators urging Clinton to run, is at 8 percent. And that's it.

On its face, these numbers are a massive boon for Clinton -- indicative of her status as the unquestioned and, at this point, unchallenged frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. It also proves a point we -- and many others -- have been making for quite some time now: Clinton is a much larger favorite to be the nominee at this point in the 2016 process than she was at this same time (or ever) in the 2008 contest. And, while the hypothetical 2008 matchup showed three candidates -- Obama, Edwards and Gore -- with real followings immune from Clinton's frontrunner status, there is no one out there in 2016 that can make the same claim.

If you are looking for a dark cloud in these numbers  -- and, to be honest, you really have to look -- it's that Clinton has nowhere to go but down.  Assuming some candidate -- Howard Dean? Martin O'Malley? -- decides to damn the torpedoes and challenge her, it's hard to imagine that Clinton wins every primary by 60 points (although she could). Given that the prospect of a serious challenge seems, at this point, laughable, any sort of decent showing by a challenger to Clinton will receive wall-to-wall coverage -- "Is it deja vu all over again for Hillary????" and so on and so forth -- that makes the race look a lot closer than it actually is.
So what does a Hillary presidential run mean for the GOP?  Andrew Sullivan engages in some speculation.  Here are excerpts from a post here:
And whom do the Republicans have? Their centrists are pedestrian, Pawlenty-style Midwesterners with little of the personality and star power that a presidential campaign demands. I mean: Walker? Kasich? They’re solid governors, but … it’s hard to see them in the White House. The base faves – a Ted Cruz or a Rand Paul – could get the nomination pretty quickly, given the new primary calendar and rules. But it would be very hard to frame a race between Clinton and, say, Cruz, as anything but a Johnson-Goldwater moment.
And then there is this from American Prospect on the GOP's irrational hatred of Hillary:
[T]here's an impulse when it comes to Hillary Clinton that presents a real danger for Republicans. There are so many things they hate about her and her husband that they barely know where to start. And that hatred could well be their undoing.

Even after all this time, and after the Clinton impeachment turned out to be such a disaster for them, so many conservatives still can't wrap their heads around the idea that other Americans don't think about that episode in the same way they do. For them, it's a tale of crime and injustice, the injustice being the fact that Bill Clinton got away with it. It goes right to the heart of what they hated so much about him. It wasn't that they had policy differences with him, though they did. What angered them so much about Bill Clinton was that he was better at politics than they were. 

[M]ost Americans don't have the same reaction. First of all, they aren't that angry about it anymore. It was a decade and a half ago. And second, their memories of the whole sordid affair are as much about Republicans going too far—an impeachment that never should have happened, Ken Starr's salacious and obsessive pursuit of Clinton, an opposition party that grew more desperate and deranged the clearer it became that they'd never take down their white whale—as they are about the President's misdeeds.

As for Hillary, well as far as they're concerned she's complicit in everything Bill did, and then you can add to that the contempt they have for her as a powerful woman. You just cannot overestimate the degree to which Hillary Clinton brings out the ugliest misogynistic feelings and sexual insecurities in so many people (not all of them conservatives, I would add). This is something I've written about before, and I'm sure I'll be writing about it again, because it's going to be a central part of any campaign in which she's involved.

There are few things more fundamental to smart political strategy than the understanding that other people may not share your beliefs, and may not have the same emotional reactions you do to certain people and events. That understanding is what allows you to make thoughtful decisions about how to persuade the number of people you need to achieve your political goals, whether it's passing a piece of legislation or winning an election. This is something Republicans often struggle with, but when it comes to the Clintons, they're absolutely blinded by hate.
 [T]he more they talk about it, the more voters will become convinced that they've taken leave of their senses.  And that, more than anything else, may be what gives Hillary Clinton such a good chance of winning in 2016. When they're looking at her, her opponents just can't see straight.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Ninth Circuit Upholds Californai Ban on "Ex-Gay" Therapy for Minors

The forces of evil - i.e., the Christofascists and other supporters of "ex-gay" therapy - suffered another major loss yesterday when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California's ban on "ex-gay" therapy for minors.  As noted many times on this blog, perpetuating the myth that being gay is a "choice" and subject to "cure" is a critical element of the Christofascist agenda to deprive LGBT individuals of legal protections and equal civil rights.  New Jersey has passed a similar ban and bills that would impose similar bans on the dangerous and fraudulent therapy are pending in at least three states (including Virginia).  The National Center for Lesbian Rights has details on this welcomed action by the Ninth Circuit.  Here are highlights from a press release on the ruling:

(San Francisco, CA, January 29, 2014)—Today, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit let stand an earlier decision by a three-judge panel of the same court upholding Senate Bill 1172, a California statute enacted in 2012 that protects minors from dangerous and ineffective mental health treatments that falsely claim to be able to change a young person’s sexual orientation.

The California Legislature enacted the law to prevent state-licensed mental health professionals from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender expression of minor patients. The Legislature based the law on the unanimous consensus of the nation’s leading medical and mental health associations that such purported treatments have no scientific basis and put children at risk of serious harms, including depression and suicide.

In the lawsuit that the Ninth Circuit ruled in today, the statute was challenged by therapists who wish to engage in these practices on minor patients and who argued that the law violated their right to freedom of speech.  In August 2013, a panel of the Ninth Circuit held that California’s law was a permissible regulation of medical treatment to protect public health and safety and did not violate the free speech rights of therapists. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling today allows that decision to stand, thereby ensuring that California’s law will remain in effect.

New Jersey enacted a similar law in 2013. A federal district court upheld New Jersey’s law on November 8, 2013, and that law is currently the subject of an appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In that litigation, NCLR represents Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s largest LGBT rights organization.
As stated before, these bans need to be enacted nationwide and to the extent quacks hiding behind religious based "ministries" that continue to subject minors to such "therapy" needs to be sued for the harm that they do.   As for parents forcing their children into such voodoo like therapy, they need to be prosecuted for child abuse.

Unpopularity of the House House Republicans Could Turn U.S. Senate Races

Few Republican elected officials are more insane and backward thinking than those in the Virginia House of Delegates - except for those in the U.S. House of Representatives where the GOP is the "party of No" and batshitery is the norm.  Now, some are predicting that the obstructionism and willingness of the House GOP to throw millions of Americans under the bus may be about to come back and bite the GOP in U.S. Senate races.  If this happens, it obviously would be a sweet pay back that would help insure that the most insane and draconian legislation flowing from the House could be killed in the Senate.  A column in the New York Times looks at this possible political pay back.  Here are excerpts:

To Representative Steve Daines, Republican of Montana, his vote this month against a 1,582-page, $1.1 trillion spending bill was at once a stand for fiscal sanity and a protest against spending cuts to rural communities, a “constructive no,” as he put it last week.

His opponents in the race for Montana’s open Senate seat quickly labeled it a vote against increased funding for the Indian Health Service, Pell Grants for low-income college students, mental health benefits for veterans and traumatic brain injury assistance for those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as an effort to dry up the clean water supplies of rural Montanans.

The attacks on that one vote from Montana Democrats, including a possible challenger in Lt. Gov. John Walsh, highlighted a vulnerability to the Republicans’ quest for control of the Senate: They draw heavily from the unpopular House for candidates.
“They’re just trying to remind you these guys are members of a very unpopular body,” said Jennifer Duffy, the Senate analyst at Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election newsletter. “It’s something that worked well for them in 2012.”

[T]o take control of the Senate, Republicans need to net six seats, and they will probably need to do it with candidates currently serving in House seats in Montana, Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia and Georgia.

In 2012, Republicans fielded House members or former House members in Senate contests in North Dakota, Montana, Missouri, Florida, Michigan, New Mexico and Arizona. Six of them lost . . . .  In contrast, five of the six House Democrats seeking a seat in the upper chamber in 2012 won.

The effort to sully House Republicans has already begun. An advertisement funded by the Senate Majority PAC intones, “In Louisiana, we expect leaders to solve problems,” with an aerial shot of the countryside. The voice-over continues, “not become part of the problem,” as the image switches to the House floor and Representative Bill Cassidy, the Republican hoping to challenge the re-election of Senator Mary L. Landrieu, a Democrat. The ad then hangs the October government shutdown and House-approved budget cuts to Medicare around the neck of Mr. Cassidy, a three-term House veteran.

Republicans cannot get complacent, rerunning the 2010 playbook and simply attacking Mr. Obama and the health care law as they did in 2012, said Rob Jesmer, who led the Republican senatorial campaign that year. Rather, they will need a positive agenda to explain why they should take the Senate.
I for one hope that the GOP stumbles again and that the Democrats hold the Senate.

Virginia Senate Democrats to Use New Majority to Revive Bills Killed by GOP

Virginia Capitol
As noted on Tuesday, Virginia Senate Democrats have used GOP enacted rules to take over control of Senate committees and now plan to revive bills previously killed by Republicans earlier in the 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly.  While revived bills will still have to clear the House of Delegates which is controlled by some of the most insane Republicans in Virginia, with Senate control with the Democrats, to pass anything into law, the Virginia GOP will now have to compromise - among some of the bills to be revived are gay friendly bills.  This, of course will drive the Christofascists and Tea Party loons of the GOP base into hysterics.  It ought to make for interesting entertainment.  Here are excerpts from a piece in the Roanoke Times:

There was a lot of political theater on the floor of the Virginia Senate on Tuesday when Democrats used the lieutenant governor’s tie-breaking vote to wrestle control of the evenly divided chamber from Republicans.

Democrats — now installed as chairs on all 11 Senate committees, nine of which feature majorities — are expected to try to revive some legislation that was defeated earlier in the session when Republicans were in control.

Among the bills that could be given new life is a measure to codify the inclusion of gay and transgender Virginians as part of the state’s nondiscrimination hiring policy. SB 248 failed in the General Laws Committee last week on a 7-7 vote. The committee now has eight Democrats and seven Republicans.

Likewise, a bill to provide in-state tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants, the so-called “Dream Act,” is also expected to be revived in the Democrat-fattened Senate Education and Health Committee, where it was defeated last week on a 7-6 party-line vote.

And gun control bills like SB 520, which was defeated Monday in the Courts of Justice Committee, could also be resurrected with a new, 9-6 Democratic majority on the panel.

With 20 members in the 40-member Senate and the vote of Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, Democrats could also defeat bills on the Senate floor that have already advanced thanks to earlier GOP committee majorities.

In most cases, the Democrats’ successes could be short-lived, given the GOP-dominant House of Delegates. But passage in the Senate would provide material for Democratic campaign brochures in the upcoming 2015 Senate elections, when the GOP is expected to mount a significant campaign to again shift the balance of power.

First Virginia Republican Lawmaker Backs Gay Marriage

Up until now, I cannot think of a single Republican member of the Virginia General Assembly who has supported same sex marriage - something that would be heresy to the Christofascists at The Family Foundation - a ruthless hate group in all but formal designation - which rules the Virginia GOP with an iron hand.  Yet now, somewhat amazingly, Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) who is pictured above not only attended the Equality Virginia legislative reception on Tuesday evening - most Republicans regularly boycott the event - but also said he supports same sex marriage.  Victoria Cobb at The Family Foundation must be still writhing in convulsions!  Note, Yost is younger than the typical member of the General Assembly and perhaps is representative of the under 30 generations who support same sex marriage by a significant majority.  The Washington Blade has exclusive details.  Here are highlights:

A member of the Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday became the first Republican state lawmaker to back marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“As far as same-sex marriage goes, it does not bother me,” state Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) told the Washington Blade during an interview at an Equality Virginia reception that took place at the Library of Virginia in downtown Richmond. “Why not?”

Yost, who represents the 12th Senate District that includes Radford, Giles County and portions of Montgomery and Pulaski Counties in southwestern Virginia, spoke with the Blade less than a week after Attorney General Mark Herring announced he would not defend the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Yost, 27, also discussed the Republican Party of Virginia’s blistering criticisms of Herring over his announcement.

“It boils down to tradition; it’s just a generational gap,” said Yost. “I don’t think the government should be involved in marriage period — straight or gay. I feel like we have bigger things to worry about.”

The House of Delegates Civil Law Committee later on Wednesday is scheduled to vote on Yost’s bill that seeks to extend adoption rights to same-sex couples in Virginia. A state Senate committee on Jan. 24 killed an identical measure that state Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County) introduced earlier this month.

Yost earlier this month introduced a bill that sought to extend adoption rights to same-sex couples in Virginia. “It’s pretty much a no-brainer issue,” Yost told the Blade. “It’s not about Democrats; it’s not about Republicans; it’s not about gay couples; it’s not about straight couples. It’s about the kids.”

Yost further discussed the issue.  “If there are two loving individuals out there who want to raise a child together, I see no reason why they can’t,” he said. “Quite frankly it’s about fairness.”

State Del. Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) earlier this month introduced a bill that sought to ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in Virginia. State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Winchester) last week voted for a bill that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees, while state Dels. Gordon Helsel (R-Poquoson) and Tom Rust (R-Fairfax County) have co-sponsored Yost’s second-parent adoption measure.

“I come from a younger generation,” he said. “I don’t get wrapped around the axle on these issues like some of my other colleagues. I think the more young people you see coming into politics, that’s what’s going to happen.”
I have long argued that the Virginia GOP is committing long term suicide if it doesn't cease being a tool of the backward thinking closet white supremacists and raging homophobes at The Family Foundation.  Perhaps a few Republicans are finally waking up to this reality.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ken Cuccinell and the Christofascists v Mark Herring in the Virgina Marriage Case

As noted in the prior post, even though the hearing in Bostic v. Rainey is being rescheduled, it is worthwhile to revisit the competing arguments before the Court.  One interesting aspect of the case is that the briefs on file basically will pit the arguments set forth by former Virginia General Ken Cuccinelli (which have been adopted by Michele McQuigg the Clerk of the Prince Willaim County Circuit Court) against those now made by Virginia's new Attorney General, Mark Herring.  Another interesting wrinkle is that George Schaefer, Clerk of the Norfolk Circuit Court, is represented by the firm in which former Governor Bob McDonnell was a member until he was elected Attorney General.  Both Cuccinelli and McDonnell have a documented history of anti-gay bigotry.  In addition to the plaintiffs and the defendants, the other parties filing briefs are (i) The Family Foundation, a vitriolically anti-gay "family values" organization and (ii) five professors, most holding positions with religious affiliated universities with strong anti-gay dogmas. 

Plaintiffs: The arguments of the plaintiffs and, now Attorney General Mark Herring, can be summarized as (a) Marriage is a fundamental that does not exclude same sex couples, (B) the 43 year old ruling of the Minnesota Supreme Court in Baker v. Nelson is not controlling given subsequent court decisions, (B) Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution applies to ALL citizens, (D) religious based belief and/or animus towards a group does not constitute a constitutional rational basis for discriminatory laws, (E) anti-gay laws are subject to heightened scrutiny by the courts, and (D) the defendants' proffered evidence of "tradition" and alleged preferred child rearing views do not justify anti-gay discriminatory bans on same sex marriage.  In making this argument, the plaintiffs' memorandum of laws laid out the anti-gay animus underlying the Marshall-Newman Amendment.  Here are excerpts from the Plaintiffs' memorandum of law:
12. House Bill Number 751 also included in its “legislative findings” that there are “life shortening and health compromising consequences of homosexual behavior” that inure “to the detriment of all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation or inclination.” Id.

13. In 2004, Richard Black, one of the co-sponsors of House Bill Number 751, publicly stated, “The whole agenda of the homosexual movement is to entice children to submit to sex practices.  Those groups lead children to experiment with potentially fatal sex practices that spread AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.” Lustig Decl. Ex. A (The Washington Times, “Gay-Straight” Clubs in Schools Anger Foes, Nov. 17, 2004).

14. In 2004, Robert Marshall, one of the co-sponsors of House Bill Number 751, authored an article in The Washington Post in which he referred to marriage between gay and lesbian individuals as “counterfeit marriage” and stated that the Affirmation of Marriage Act was “needed to resist the agenda of activist homosexuals” because the “danger” they posed was “real.” Lustig Decl. Ex. B (The Washington Post, No “New Jim Crow” in Virginia, July 3, 2004).-
20. Before the Marshall/Newman Amendment was adopted, Virginia Delegate Kathy J. Byron advocated in its favor stating, “By changing the definition of marriage, the family, too, would be redefined, ultimately destroying the traditional family.” Lustig Decl. Ex. D (The Washington Post, Gay Marriage Ban Advances in Va., Jan. 14, 2006).

21. Then-Virginia Senator (now-Attorney General) Kenneth Cuccinelli urged his colleagues to adopt the Marshall/Newman Amendment by claiming “[t]he homosexual left has been on the attack against marriage and family for 40 years,” and that the amendment was necessary for “regaining lost ground.” Lustig Decl. Ex. E (The Washington Post, Va. Senate Backs Ban on Gay Marriage, Feb. 8, 2005).

22. More recently, Attorney General Cuccinelli publicly stated that homosexuality “brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul.” Lustig Decl. Ex. F (The Washington Post, Cuccinelli Basks in Richmond’s Warmer Climate, Feb. 5, 2008).

23. Similarly, Attorney General Cuccinelli has stated that homosexual acts are “intrinsically wrong” and “don’t comport with natural law”; and that homosexual behavior “is not healthy to an individual and in aggregate is not healthy to society.” Lustig Decl. Ex. G (The Virginia Pilot, Steve Shannon for Attorney General, Oct. 26, 2009); Ex. H (Huffington Post, Ken Cuccinelli Loses Petition to Uphold Anti-Sodomy Law, Apr. 10, 2013).

26. Neither Virginia’s Human Rights Act nor its Fair Housing Law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Va. Code §§ 2.2-3901, 36-96.3.

27. Virginia’s hate crime law does not punish violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation. Va. Code § 18.2-57(B).

28. From 2004, when the Affirmation of Marriage Act was adopted, to today, there have been at least 270 hate crimes in Virginia targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation.  Lustig Decl. ¶ 17 (attesting to tabulation of statistics available at
The plaintiffs the argued that under the ruling in United States v Windsor, such anti-gay animus rendered the alleged rational basis for Virginia's gay marriage ban unconstitutional.  This was followed up in the memorandum of law filed by the Attorney General's Office which stated in part as follows:
The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that marriage is a fundamental right protected by the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. It is among the rights "'of basic importance in our society,' rights sheltered by the Fourteenth Amendment against the State's unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect." It is no exaggeration to say that marriage is "the most important relation in life." Because marriage is a fundamental right, a state law that "significantly interferes" with that right is subject to "critical examination," not review for whether a mere "rational basis" supports it.
Virginia's law denying the right to marry to same-sex couples cannot escape strict scrutiny on the theory that only "traditional" marriage is "fundamental." The nearly identical argument was rejected in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967) . . . Loving teaches that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry even if the way in which it is practiced would have surprised the framers or made them uncomfortable.
Loving cannot be distinguished on the ground, advanced by prior government counsel, that the "core purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to guarantee to African Americans equal fundamental rights," a purpose not implicated by Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage. (Doc. 65, Def.'s Reply Mem. at 4.) The Supreme Court rejected such limiting constructions in Zablocki:
The Court's opinion [in Loving] could have rested solely on the ground that the statutes discriminated on the basis of race in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. But the Court went on to hold that the laws arbitrarily deprived the couple of a fundamental liberty protected by the Due Process Clause, the freedom to marry...
Although Loving arose in the context of racial discrimination, prior and subsequent decisions of this Court confirm that the right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals. 434 U.S. at 383-84 (emphasis added) (internal citations omitted).
 Loving rejected the same arguments offered in support of the marriage ban here. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana, The Life of Reason: or the Phases of Human Progress 284 (1920). It is worth observing, therefore, that the arguments raised in Virginia's brief in Loving to defend Virginia's ban on interracial marriage are almost identical to the arguments that have been offered to support Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage... The injustice of Virginia's position in Loving will not be repeated this time.
The arguments for applying heightened scrutiny are compelling, as the United States correctly explained at length in its merits brief in Windsor. For example, "[g]ay and lesbian people have suffered a significant history of discrimination in this country. No court to consider the question has concluded otherwise, and any other conclusion would be insupportable."26 We also note that the claim that a same-sex-marriage ban does not discriminate on the basis of gender, on the theory that it applies "equally" to men and women, sounds disturbingly like Virginia's theory in Loving that its interracial marriage ban did not discriminate on the basis of race, "because its miscegenation statutes punish equally both the white and the Negro participants in an interracial marriage," 388 U.S. at 7-8.
Defendants: The arguments of the defendants and homophobic former AG Ken Cuccinelli basically boil down to (A) there is no fundamental right to "homosexual" marriage, (B) the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is not applicable to homosexuals and was intended for the protection of African Americans, (C) legislation specifically targeting gays is not subject to heightened scrutiny, and (D) the court must uphold the legislative/voter determination that heterosexual marriage is the "optimal social structure for educating, socializing, and preparing its future citizens to become productive participants in civil society."  The Cucinnelli memorandum of law in defense of Virginia's gay marriage ban states in part as follows (I am at a loss as to why Cuccinelli tied the origins of civil law marriage in Virginia to religious beliefs, but he did):

Marriage in Virginia Has Always Been Defined As Between One Man and One Woman. The Act of Uniformity of 1559, 1 Eliz., c.2, required the use of the Book of Common Prayer of 1559 in the Church of England, the church established by law. An Act for the Uniformitie of Common Praier, and Service in the Church, and the Admistracion of the Sacramentes, Both the rubrics and the liturgy of marriage required a man and a woman. 

In Baker v. Nelson, 191 N.W.2d 185 (Minn. 1971), the Minnesota Supreme Court held that Minnesota's law defining marriage as an institution for opposite-sex couples violated neither due process nor equal protection. Id. at 187. The United States Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for want of a substantial federal question. Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972). This resolution is dispositive. Hicks v. Miranda, 422 U.S. 332, 344-45 (1975).

Neither the United States Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has held that homosexuality constitutes a suspect class entitled to heightened scrutiny. Instead they have said the opposite.

And same-sex marriage cannot be a fundamental right because by definition a "right" that was first recognized in this country a decade ago is not deeply rooted in our history and traditions. . . . . The traditional definition of marriage must be upheld "'if there is any reasonably conceivable state of facts that could provide a rational basis for the classification.'" Id
Therein lies a fundamental difference between this case and Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). There can be no question that a core purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to guarantee to African Americans equal fundamental rights, including the right of marriage. . . . . When Plaintiffs claim that Virginia's law "is also subject to heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause because it discriminates against Plaintiffs on the basis of sexual orientation," (Doc. 60, 9 of 24), the proposition is simply counterfactual. Marriage is defined in terms of a man and woman, husband and wife, and not in terms of sexual orientation.
Amicus Curiae: In addition to the briefs filed by the plaintiffs and the defendants there are two other briefs filed by supposed amicus curiae, The Family Foundation and five right wing professors.   Not surprisingly given the racists undercurrents of its activities,  The Family Foundation's brief basically makes a states' rights argument that would have done the pre Civil War Southern states proud.  Under its argument, states should be able to do whatever they want when it comes to marriage and, by extension, the the argument suggests that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in correctly in Loving v. Virginia.  Here's a samplingly:
For this court to rule that the United States Constitution mandates that the State redefine marriage would unnecessarily federalize a question that is undoubtedly within the “residuum” of power reserved to the states. As the Supreme Court has noted: “One of the principal areas in which this Court has customarily declined to intervene is the real of domestic relations.” Elk Grove Unified Sch. Dist. v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1, 12 (2004). To intervene in state regulation of marriage would “thrust the Federal Judiciary into an area previously left to state courts and legislatures.” . . . . There is no reason for this court to depart from this “long established precept” by holding that the federal courts now have the authority to superintend the domestic relations laws of the states.
Beyond the importance of safeguarding local self-government, federalism also advances interstate pluralism. “Interstate pluralism is the feature of our federal system that reflects the ability of each state to establish itself as a distinct community. It entails the ability to make and enforce choices on foundational matters such as fundamental ordering of . . . family relations” and “seeks to protect each state’s ability to create and enforce these fundamental orderings and thereby define its society.”

Interstate pluralism allows states to experiment with various social and legal policies free from interference and to reflect the unique preference and attributes of the state.
The brief filed by the five far right professors is no less bizarre and basically strives to accuse the American Pychological Association and every other legitimate medical/mental health association which has supported same sex-marriage and gay parenting of being patently wrong.  Not surprisingly, the professors' brief cites the now thoroughly discredited Regnerus study (which was financed by - surprise, surprise - right wing anti-gay organizations).  Here are samples of the brief:
A persistent claim by supporters of same-sex marriage is that there is “no difference” in
the outcomes of children raised by a biological mother and father and those who have been raised by two women or two men. That claim has also been advanced by associations like the American Psychological Association (APA). But as recent scholarship indicates, the claim is difficult to support because nearly all of the studies upon which the “no difference” assertion is based are rather limited, involving non-random, non-representative samples, often with relatively few participants. . . . .These and other methodological limitations make the APA’s confident “no difference” conclusion suspect.

With so many significant unanswered questions about whether children develop as well in same-sex households as in opposite-sex households, it remains prudent for government to continue to recognize marriage as a union of a man and a woman, thereby promoting what is known to be an ideal environment for raising children.
Frankly, from all that I have read, the professors' brief is a big, deliberate lie that is being foisted on the Court.  In a perfect world, Judge Wright Allen would hit the professors' counsel from the misnamed Alliance Defending Freedom with sanctions if not contempt charges.

Time will tell how the Court will rule, but the better - and more honest - legal analysis in my view after 36 years of legal experience is on the side of the plaintiffs and Attorney General Mark Herring.