Saturday, February 15, 2014

Kansas Senate May Sink GOP Gay Segregation Bill

Recently, I reported on a sweeping special rights bill that passed Kansas' lower house which would have allowed Christofascists to ignore non-discrimination laws and refuse to serve or deal with gays even when performing governmental roles as employees of the State of Kansas.  Apparently concern over the extremism of the bill - not to mention the unconstitutionality of discrimination by state employees performing official duties - the leadership of the Kansas Senate has signaled that the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate in anything remotely resembling its current form.  The Wichita Eagle has details.  Here are excerpts:

Senate leadership torpedoed a controversial House bill that would have allowed private and public employees to refuse service based on religious views of marriage, leaving House Republicans scrambling Friday.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, said the current bill probably would not pass the House again if put to another vote. It cleared the House 72-49 on Wednesday, triggering national attention and a flood of protest calls to lawmakers.

If House Bill 2453 is considered by the Senate, it will look dramatically different, Senate leaders said Friday.

For starters, the provision allowing government employees to refuse service is out.  “I believe that when you hire police officers or a fireman that they have no choice in who they serve. They serve anyone who’s vulnerable, any age, any race, any sexual orientation,” said Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita.

Concerns from the business community also contributed to the hesitation to move forward with the bill in its current form, said Wagle, who was joined at a news conference Friday morning by Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, and Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson.

The bill, as written, would hurt large and small businesses, she said.   She cited the bill’s stipulation that if an employee refuses service to a same-sex couple, the employer must provide another employee to perform the service. She said that would increase the cost of doing business.

She noted that Kansas businesses are prevented by law from asking about a prospective employee’s religious beliefs, and so an employer would have no way of knowing if a job candidate would refuse service to same-sex couples.

Several Senate Republicans approached Wagle on Thursday to voice concerns about the bill, her spokeswoman confirmed. She issued a statement Thursday night saying a majority of Republican senators would not support the bill in its current form.

Proponents have repeatedly said the bill applies only to services related to the wedding ceremony. But critics, such as the Kansas Bar Association and ACLU, have said the bill’s wording allows it to have a much broader impact.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here:
The legislation is the result of an ongoing conversation by Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, and Tim Schultz, state legislative policy director at the American Religious Freedom Program in Washington, over the possibility that federal courts could overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. 
The truth is that Christofascist are this day and age's segregationist who view themselves above the civil laws.  This bill embodies concepts that the Christofascists will likely seek to push through other state legislatures.  As for what it means for the sickness of the GOP, Andrew Sullivan summed it up well:
If the Republican Party wanted to demonstrate that it wants no votes from anyone under 40, it couldn’t have found a better way to do it. Some critics have reacted to this law with the view that it is an outrageous new version of Jim Crow and a terrifying portent of the future for gays in some red states. It is both of those. It’s the kind of law that Vladimir Putin would enthusiastically support. But it is also, to my mind, a fatal mis-step for the movement to keep gay citizens in a marginalized, stigmatized place. 

It’s a misstep because it so clearly casts the anti-gay movement as the heirs to Jim Crow. If you want to taint the Republican right as nasty bigots who would do to gays today what Southerners did to segregated African-Americans in the past, you’ve now got a text-book case. The incidents of discrimination will surely follow, and, under the law, be seen to have impunity.
This whole affair underscores why the Christofascists need to be driven from the GOP - and polite society in general.

The Next Step For Marriage Equality in Virginia

While it is uncertain whether or not Norfolk Clerk of Court George Schaefer will appeal the U. S. District Court ruling in Bostic v. Rainey, it is a pretty safe assumption that Prince William County Clerk of Court Michele McQuigg will do so inasmuch as she is represented by the Christoascist Alliance Defending Freedom, formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund ("ADF").  The good news is that to date, ADF hasn't won any of the lawsuits in which it has been involved and on occasion, the group's extremism and insane witnesses have probably motivated courts to rule against whatever ADF is advocating for.  If an appeal is forthcoming, the next stop in the litigation will be the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia (see photo above) which sits across from the Virginia Capitol.  Historically, the 4th Circuit has been one of the more conservative Courts of Appeal.  However, more recent appointments to the Court may make it more receptive to affirming the District Court ruling.  Here are some highlights from a Virginian Pilot piece on the Court:

With Virginia's gay marriage ban overturned, the legal fight over same-sex unions in that state goes to a court that has shifted to the left since President Barack Obama's election.

It's no accident that the state has become a key testing ground for federal judges' willingness to embrace same-sex marriage after last year's strongly worded pro-gay rights ruling by the Supreme Court. Judges appointed by Democratic presidents have a 10-5 edge over Republicans on the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, formerly among the nation's most conservative appeals courts.

Nationally, three other federal appeals courts will soon take up the right of same-sex couples to marry, too, in Ohio, Colorado and California. The San Francisco-based 9th circuit is dominated by judges appointed by Democratic presidents. The Denver-based court, home of the 10th circuit, has shifted from a Republican advantage to an even split between the parties, while the 6th circuit, based in Cincinnati, remains relatively unchanged in favor of Republicans during Obama's tenure.

Jon Davidson of the gay rights group Lambda Legal said the "very dramatic" shift in the 4th circuit under Obama was an important reason behind the decision to sue for marriage rights in Virginia, which also twice voted for Obama.

Five federal district judges have issued pro-gay marriage rulings since the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. U.S. in June that struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law. Three of those judges are Obama appointees, one was named by Democratic President Bill Clinton and the other by Republican President George H.W. Bush.

Nancy Leong, a University of Denver law professor who is closely following the gay marriage issue at the 10th circuit, said the lineup of judges who have ruled so far conforms to general expectations.

Theodore Olson, half of the high-powered legal team representing two Virginia couples in the case decided Thursday, said he is confident about the outcome in the appeals courts "irrespective of the composition of any court. These arguments are so compelling...and the arguments presented against marriage equality are so weak."

The issue ultimately is headed to the Supreme Court. When and from which state are not clear.

The justices are more likely to step into a case when a federal court has struck down a state constitutional provision, as has happened in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia. The Kentucky case involves only the state's recognition of legal same-sex weddings from elsewhere.
 Obviously, it will be interesting to watch how things proceed.  In some ways it is appropriate that religious extremists from ADF will be defending the Marshall-Newman Amendment which was designed and deceptively marketed by religious extremists and hate merchants at The Family Foundation and their allies in the Virginia GOP.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Edilson Nascimento

New Study: "Gay gene" Plays a Role in Determining Sexuality

Once again science and modern knowledge are proving to be the worse enemy of the Christofascists who not only maintain that the earth is only 6,000 years old, but who also maintain that being gay is a "choice" and that homosexuality can be "cured."  Ask anyone gay if they chose to be attracted to members of the same sex and they will tell you no and that it's no more of a choice than being right handed or left handed or having blue eyes.  It merely is a part of you.  Now a new study has found DNA strands that influence male homosexuality and which, teamed with other factors prove that being gay is not a choice.  The bottom line: another Christofascist myth - like the claim that Adam and Eve were historic persons - bites the dust.  Here are highlights from a piece in The Independent:

In the most comprehensive study of its kind, Dr Michael Bailey, of Northwestern University, has been studying 400 sets of twins to determine if some men are genetically pre-disposed to being gay.
The study found that gay men shared genetic signatures on part of the X chromosome.

Dr Bailey said: "Sexual orientation has nothing to do with choice. Our findings suggest there may be genes at play – we found evidence for two sets that affect whether a man is gay or straight.
"But it is not completely determinative; there are certainly other environmental factors involved. The study shows that there are genes involved in male sexual orientation.

Dr Alan Sanders, associate Professor of Psychiatry at Northwestern University, who led the study, said, "We don't think genetics is the whole story. It's not. We have a gene that contributes to homosexuality but you could say it is linked to heterosexuality. It is the variation."

Last year Canadian scientists found that the more older male siblings a man has, the greater chance he will be gay.    They believe that the immune response produced by a pregnant mother increases with each son, increasing the odds of producing more feminine traits in the developing brain of the foetus. Each older brother raised the odds that a man was gay by one-third. Interestingly, no similar genes have been discovered which influence female homosexuality.

Richard Lane, of Stonewall, said that while studies into the origins of homosexuality have yet to produce firm evidence, they do indicate a biological root.

He said: "The thing that's consistent across all of them is that they all point to sexual orientation being something fundamental to a person rather than the lifestyle choice some opponents of equality repeatedly suggest."

It goes without saying that the ignorance embracing Christofascists and their political whores in the GOP will continue to ignore scientific knowledge.   It is frightening that these people wear ignorance on their sleeves as a badge of honor.  They have no place in decent society.

Is the GOP's Civil War Heating Up?

I've said many times that the so-called Republican establishment created a Frankenstein Monster when it allowed the Christofascists and their thinly disguised first cousins in the Tea Party to infiltrate the party base.  Having been on the Virginia Beach GOP City Committee for eight years, I know first hand that these crazy people had to be voted onto local city and county committees.  While one can attend meetings, one does not become a voting member simply by showing up at meetings.  All across America, lunatics were voted onto the grass roots organizations.  I saw the early stages of this process which directly correlates to the extremism that we now see in the GOP.  It also directly correlates to the GOP becoming a sectarian party.  Yet none of this had to happen.  It was allowed to happen.  Now, the dwindling number of sane people left in the GOP are trying to kill the monster that was created.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the growing civil war.  Here are excerpts:

W]e have all seen the sabre rattling between the Republican factions—especially between the Tea Party and establishment wings of the Party.  In December, House Speaker Boehner seemed to reach a breaking point when he called conservative groups like The Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks “ridiculous” and exclaimed that they had  “lost all credibility.” And certainly conservative groups have been seething over the recent budget deal and the passage of the farm bill because it didn’t include the wholesale cuts they sought.

But it wasn’t until this past week that we saw leaders of certain GOP groups in essence lay out a specific battle plan.  First, former Representative Steve LaTourette announced last Friday the formation of a new Republican PAC whose goal is “beat the snot out of” Tea Party Congressional candidates.  LaTourette, a moderate, boasted that he hoped to beat Tea Party candidates in eight to ten races in the 2014 midterm election.

Then on Monday, president of The Tea Party aligned FreedomWorks, Matt Kibbe, ratcheted up the war talk by pledging to unseat the 28 Republicans who recently voted to raise the debt ceiling. Their “hit list” includes House Majority leader Eric Cantor and Speaker Boehner, whom Kibbe bluntly stated had, "failed in his duty to represent the people and as a result, it is time for him to go.”

It truly appears that we are on the verge of a reckoning within the GOP beyond simply the targeting of a few seats. Who will win is anyone’s guess, in part, because there are so many Republican factions fighting each other.  Indeed, the three day Battle of Gettysburg was easier to follow because there were only two sides, the North led by General George Meade and the Confederates headed up by General Robert E. Lee.

We have establishment Republicans led by people like Peter King. There are the Tea Party Republicans featuring Ted Cruz and his cohorts. Then there’s the libertarian wing headed by Rand Paul.  And arguably, there’s a fourth group seeking control of the GOP: the religious social conservatives such as Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. Although this GOP faction seems less focused on fighting with fellow Republicans and more concerned about “women’s libidos.”

In time we will know if this was nothing more than sabre rattling or an all out war for control of the GOP. But keep in mind that even after the Battle of Gettysburg which was seen as the turning point of the Civil War, the hostilities continued for two more years.

One thing is certain: every resource that the Republican Party expends fighting each other is one less they have to do battle with Democrats in the general elections.  Bottom line is that the real winner in this civil war may not be any faction of the GOP—but actually the Democrats.

The Dramatic Chnages Brought by United States v. Windsor

A piece in Slate looks at the legal developments in LGBT equality since the United States Supreme Court handed down its historic ruling in United States v. Windsor.  While hate merchants such as Victoria Cobb and Brian Brown would depict individual judges and Attorney General Mark Herring as acting in a lawless manner, the truth is that it is the Christofascists who now seek to overthrow the rule of law.  They are the ones who would subvert the U.S. Constitution and the civil rights of others solely to impose their beliefs on all. They are the ones outside the mainstream. Here are some highlights from the Slate piece:
Last night, only days after hearing oral arguments in the case, a Virginia federal judge struck down the state ban on same-sex marriage, writing unequivocally that “[t]radition is revered in the Commonwealth, and often rightly so. However, tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more than it could justify Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage.” The judge opened her opinion with the quote, above, from Mildred Loving, the plaintiff in the 1967 challenge to Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. She thus joined a unanimous and ever-expanding collection of federal judges who have chosen to answer the question left up in the air by the Supreme Court last Spring: Did the Windsor decision—striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act—pretty much strike down gay-marriage bans as well?

This hasn’t all been about marriage. Twelve decisions have addressed a substantive aspect of marriage equality since Windsor, and equality has won in all 12—with the Virginia decision now joining decisions from Kentucky, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia, and two decisions each in Illinois, New Jersey, and Ohio. But six other cases since Windsor have addressed different aspects of discrimination based on sexual orientation, such as discrimination on juries and employment benefits, and the side of equality has won in all six of those cases as well.
The tally is even starker when you look at the number of judges who have considered the issue.  Since Windsor, in these 18 decisions, 32 different judges have considered whether Windsor is merely about the relationship between the state and federal governments or whether it is about equality. And all 32 of them have found for equality. In other words, 32 accomplished, intelligent lawyers, appointed by Democrats and Republicans, whose job it is to read precedent, have ruled for equality. Not a single one has disagreed.

One other phenomenon has occurred post Windsor that bears mentioning here. In Virginia and Pennsylvania, state attorneys general tasked with defending their state’s same-sex marriage bans have also read Windsor to mean that the ban is unconstitutional. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie abandoned the state’s appeal of a decision striking down the New Jersey marriage ban.  And now this week, Nevada’s attorney general, a Democrat, and its Republican governor, announced that they too, could not defend the state’s gay-marriage ban anymore. Why? Windsor. As the Nevada officials explained to the 9th Circuit, the Windsor decision “signifies that discrimination against same-sex couples is unconstitutional,” and thus the arguments that the state had made previously in support of its ban “cannot withstand legal scrutiny.” That means that not just courts, but also, increasingly, high state officials read the Windsor decision just the way Justice Scalia does: to prohibit inequality in marriage. As we witnessed this month in Virginia, the historic refusal to defend a same-sex marriage ban, followed by the judicial recognition that such a ban is unconstitutional, can unfold over a matter of mere weeks.
The power of the Christofascists is slowly being broken and all Americans will benefit.  Let's hope the trend continues or even accelerates.

Hampton Roads Celebrates Fall of Gay Marriage Ban

Tim Bostic and Tony London
Yesterday evening before heading to dinner with my husband to be I attended a gathering of members of the Hampton Roads LGBT community and its straight allies to celebrate the striking down of Virginia's ban on same sex marriage.  While the City of Norfolk had offered use of the Half Moon Cruise terminal free of charge if the venue was not in use, the event ended up being held at Decorum Furniture's Norfolk location just down the street from my office.  The turn out was huge and I was struck that the crowd included a mix of young and old, black, white, Asian and Hispanic - many of whom I had never seen at an LGBT event before. To say that the atmosphere was joyous would be an understatement.  As icing on the cake, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam was in attendance as were my friends Tim Bostic and Tony London.  Some photos from the event are included in this post.

Lt. Governor Ralph Northam
Two things struck me.  First, that the crowd which represented a cross section of the LGBT community was filed with hope on an amazing level.  While the case of Bostic v. Rainey will go on to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, the District Court ruling fostered a real sense of optimism that gays in Virginia are perhaps finally moving out of a scorned second class citizenship.  Moreover, for those who are married there will be real tangible benefits from state recognition of same sex marriage in terms of inheritance rights, qualification for spousal benefits and health care under a spouse's policies, and the elimination of a daily message that one is inferior because the state will not recognize one's relationship with a life partner.

The second thing that struck me is the in my view immoral character of the Christofascists who are bemoaning the Court's ruling.  Nothing has been taken from them in terms of their daily lives other than the ability to make others inferior citizens.  Their ability to worship as they wish and believe as they wish is utterly unchanged.  The only thing they have lost is an ability to punish and demean through the civil laws those who do not subscribe to their hate and fear based religious beliefs.   To me, this demonstrates a real moral sickness and the need to be able to demean and look down on others is very much akin to the behavior of poor whites who supported segregation because they needed to be able to subordinate blacks in order to feel superior about themselves.  In one article I read a statement by a hate merchant that the ruling was making conservative Christians into the modern day segregationist.  Unknowingly, the individual was right: the Christofascists display the same sickness and moral bankruptcy that was displayed by segregationist that refused to see the equal humanity of blacks.  And then, as now, the Bible was used to justify hate and bigotry.

Is Virginia changing?  I truly believe so - at least outside of the rural areas and Christofascist circles that remain stuck in a 1950's, Deliverance mind set.  After the event in Norfolk, the boyfriend and I joined friends at the Hampton Yacht Club for a festive dinner event which included another gay couple who are now club members.  Total acceptance and congratulations on the marriage case victory were the consistent experience.  There was a time when such would not have been the case.  Thankfully, Hampton and much of Virginia are ready for a new day.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Family Foundation Spews Vemom at Virginia Marriage Ruling

Victoria Cobb - Virginia's Queen of Mean
UPDATED: Victoria Cobb at The Family Foundation is not the only heir of yesteryear's segregationist engaging in spittle flecked rants over yesterday's ruling in Bostic v. Rainey.  The Virginian Pilot provides more examples:
“The natural design for the continuance of the human race is dependent upon the different and complementary natural attributes of males and females to have children,” said [Del. Bob] Marshall, who co-sponsored the 2006 constitutional amendment – approved by 57 percent of voters in a statewide referendum – proclaiming that only a marriage between a man and a woman can be a valid union.

Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford County, said the judge displayed “animus” toward Virginia’s lawmakers and citizens “who simply believe that marriage between a man and a woman is best for our children and has served for thousands of years as the basis for Western civilization.”  Byron also faulted Allen for releasing her decision “in the dark of the night the evening before Valentine’s Day, a transparently political decision.”

Del. Tommy Wright, R-Lunenburg County, said marriage “is a holy institution ordained by God for the purpose of procreation. … Legislatures can pass what laws they want to, judges can make what rulings they want to, but the law of God will stand.”
Like Cobb, these individuals ignore the fact that today a majority of Virginians support same sex marriage and that it is only the obstructionist in the GOP controlled House of Delegates that stops the repeal process from beginning.  Similarly, their positions all boil down to their religious beliefs which they would impose on all Virginians.

 For those living outside of Virginia, with the possible exception of Neo-Nazi, white supremacy, and anti-Semitic groups, there is no more foul group in Virginia than The Family Foundation ("TFF"), the Virginia affiliate of Focus on the Family and Family Research Council.  TFF's agenda is simple: force its brand of fear and hate based Christianity on all Virginians and trample on the rights of anyone who disagrees.  All of this bigotry is disguised under the disingenuous smoke screen of "family values."  In the TFF universe, only white, heterosexual headed, conservative Christian families matter.  The rest of us can go to hell both literally and figuratively.  Predictably, TFF is most unhappy with yesterday's ruling in Bostic v. Rainey.  In these comments made by TFF President, Victoria Cobb, to the Richmond Times Dispatch note how she advocates for tyranny by the majority even as she ignores the fact that now polls indicate that a majority of Virginians support marriage equality:
"Regardless of one's stance on marriage, the people of Virginia were disenfranchised by this ruling as our voice and our vote that amended our Constitution have been rendered meaningless by a judge with the aid and assistance of our own Attorney General," said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia.
“Protecting a timeless institution for the well-being of children was the will of the overwhelming majority of Virginians and the ruling denies this important state interest as it places the desires of adults over the outcomes of children."
Cobb also charged that the decision's timing call's the judge's objectivity into question. “This rushed release just prior to Valentine's reeks of political show. While we appreciate the stay on the ruling, the timing tempts lawlessness as each year on Valentine's Day, same-sex couples line up at the courthouse hoping a clerk will ignore the law and grant them a marriage license.”
May a majority of Virginians increasing ignore the voice of hate and bigotry that are TFF's stock in trade.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Anti-Gay Segregation Laws - The Christofascists' New Strategy

With state level same sex marriage bans falling literally weekly, the Christofascists are in hysterics that their ability to persecute gays and keep us inferior under the law so as to punish us for rejecting their foul religious beliefs may be about to end.  What to do?  Claim anti-Christian persecution and demand that political whores in the Republican Party pass laws that would in effect exempt the Christofascists from non-discrimination laws and allow them to refuse to deal with or even treat gays medically.  As events in Kansas demonstrate, Republicans are only too willing to debase themselves and put forth such legislation.  I have long maintained that Christofascists view themselves as above the civil laws and these bills would make their special rights a reality.  These people and their enablers in the GOP are a clear and present danger to the rule of law.  A piece in Slate looks at this type of foul legislation which we will see being introduced in more and more red states.  Here are excerpts:
On Tuesday, the Kansas House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a measure designed to bring anti-gay segregation—under the guise of “religious liberty”—to the already deep-red state. The bill, written out of fear that the state may soon face an Oklahoma-style gay marriage ruling, will now easily pass the Republican Senate and be signed into law by the Republican governor. The result will mark Kansas as the first state, though certainly not the last, to legalize segregation of gay and straight people in virtually every arena of life.

If that sounds overblown, consider the bill itself. When passed, the new law will allow any individual, group, or private business to refuse to serve gay couples if “it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.” Private employers can continue to fire gay employees on account of their sexuality. Stores may deny gay couples goods and services because they are gay. Hotels can eject gay couples or deny them entry in the first place. Businesses that provide public accommodations—movie theaters, restaurants—can turn away gay couples at the door. And if a gay couple sues for discrimination, they won’t just lose; they’ll be forced to pay their opponent’s attorney’s fees. As I’ve noted before, anti-gay businesses might as well put out signs alerting gay people that their business isn’t welcome.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to barring all anti-discrimination lawsuits against private employers, the new law permits government employees to deny service to gays in the name of “religious liberty.” This is nothing new, but the sweep of Kansas’ statute is breathtaking.

Any government employee is given explicit permission to discriminate against gay couples—not just county clerks and DMV employees, but literally anyone who works for the state of Kansas. If a gay couple calls the police, an officer may refuse to help them if interacting with a gay couple violates his religious principles. State hospitals can turn away gay couples at the door and deny them treatment with impunity. Gay couples can be banned from public parks, public pools, anything that operates under the aegis of the Kansas state government.

Discrimination is hurtful and horrible, and it will also soon be codified into Kansas law, as other red states look on (and follow suit). Homophobes are nothing if not savvy, and while the judiciary dukes out the gay marriage issue, the shrewdest bigots have already moved on to the next battle. There might still be time to prevent such discrimination in bluer states. But in dark-red places like Kansas, anti-gay segregation is the new reality.
As I continue to maintain, these "godly Christians" are not nice and decent people.  They are horrid people and they need to become pariahs to the general public.  

Some Republicans Say It is Time for Bob Marshall to Disappear

Bob Marshall - A Virginia Embarrassment
As noted in the last post, GOP Del. Bob Marshall had nothing good to say about yesterday's ruling in Bostic v. Rainey.  But then again, the man has stated in interviews that he'd like to drive all gays from Virginia.  The crazier a bill in the Virginia General Assembly is and the more focused it is on forcing far right religious views on all, the more one can be assured that Bob Marshall's fingerprints will be all over it. Finally some Republicans have had enough of Marshall's demagoguery and the bad image he gives to both Virginia and the the Republican Party of Virginia.  A piece in Bearing Drift makes the case of why Marshall needs to simply disappear from the Virginia political scene.  I would make the case that the same holds true for The Family Foundation.  Here are column excerpts:

It’s time for Bob Marshall to go away.  To finally retire from public life and allow the Republican Party in Virginia to heal the damage he and his terminal foot-in-mouth disease have done to the Party.  He turns 70 years old this year and has spent 11 terms in the Virginia House of Delegates.  It’s time for fresh blood in Prince William.  Anybody who cares about their constituents and about their party would be ready to hand off the reins to the next generation.

So that’s why Bob Marshall is, instead, throwing his hat into the ring in the 10th Congressional District race.

Did anybody expect anything less of him?  I know I didn’t.  This is a man who is a pariah in Richmond, who his own colleagues shun, who routinely skips hearings (he’s been to almost no Counties committee meetings, and almost no Science and Tech meetings) and party meetings so he doesn’t have to talk to the rest of the Republican delegation who are trying to actually accomplish things in Richmond.  I guess that gives him more time to work on the ridiculous pieces of legislation he introduces, like creating a Virginia currency, creating our own incandescent light bulb regime (that even AG Cuccinelli opposed), and refighting the Civil War with his incessant anti-Obamacare bills relying on the discredited and unconstitutional doctrines of nullification (which has the blood of hundreds of thousands of Americans on it) and interposition (which has the blood of Civil Rights heroes on it).  Or this little gem from this session, HB 90, a worthless bill designed to ensure that federal employees don’t have their power shut off in the event of a Federal Government shutdown.  Great work, Bob.  That’s going to really help with job creation in Prince William.

Bob Marshall’s political career has been one long, self-aggrandizing ego trip.  He’s never satisfied with simply being the Delegate from the 13th District, and has spent the last 6 years trying desperately to find a way to Washington.  None of those attempts have been successful.

That’s what Bob is, folks.  A Virginia embarrassment.  This is a man who, while claiming to be pro-life, said that disabled children were punishment from God for the sins of their parents.  Ignoring the fact that most of these disabled kids are born to pro-life parents, it was one of the most fundamentally demeaning and idiotic statements made by a man whose entire career has been bouncing from one demeaning and idiotic statement to the next.   The man makes Todd Akin look reasonable.
It's stunning that this was written by a dyed in the wool Republican.  One has to wonder when the Virginia GOP as a whole will wake up to the poisonous nature of the Christofascists and the hate and division that is all they bring to the public arena. 

LGBT Euphoria and Hate Merchant Angst Follow Ruling Against Virginia Marriage Ban

Euphoria is the best way to describe the emotion among the LGBT friends and allies with whom I have communicated since the release of Judge Wright Allen's opinion last night declaring Virginia's ban on same sex marriage to be unconstitutional under the United States Constitution.  Among the hate merchant crowd at The Family Foundation and the National Organization for Marriage one would think the world had just ended since one of their bulwarks for keeping LGBT Virginians inferior just fell.  Ironically, Judge Wright Allen rebuffed the criticism of black pastors who have allowed themselves to be used as tools to further hatred by beginning her ruling with a quote from the late Mildred Loving of Loving v. Virginia fame who supported same sex marriage:

We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn 't that what marriage is? . . . I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's  fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry. Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person"for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. . . . I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.
I have long argued that Virginia's anti-gay laws had only one real purpose: to impose Christofascist religious beliefs on all Virginians and to punish those of us who refused to accept their fear and hate based beliefs.  No matter how much the Christofascists - and the Mormon and Catholic Churches - have of late tried to claim that they are not motivated by anti-gay animus, their actions for decades, if not centuries tell the real tale.  Likewise, more recent arguments that marriage is for procreation and/or for the sake of children is a recent invention to serve as a smoke screen for the real motivations behind same sex marriage bans.  Thankfully, Judge Wright Allen saw through these disingenuous lies.  Here are some highlights from the Washington Blade's coverage (not Brian Brown's spittle flecked rant and his shots at a black woman judge - besides being a homophobe, Brown is a racist in my view):
“This decision is a victory for the Constitution and for treating everyone equally under the law,” said [Virginia Attorney General Mark] Herring in a statement after Allen issued her ruling in the Bostic case.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, who successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court with David Boies, joined the lawsuit last September with the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Olson said in an AFER press release that Allen’s decision has “upheld the principles of equality upon which this nation was founded.”

“Virginia’s prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples relegates gay and lesbian Virginians to second-class status,” he said. “Laws excluding gay men and lesbians from marriage violate personal freedom, are an unnecessary government intrusion, and cause serious harm. That type of law cannot stand.”

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said Wright’s ruling “finally puts Virginia on the path toward allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry the person they love here in the place they call home.”  “This is an historic day in Virginia,” added Parrish.

National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown blasted Allen.  “This is another example of an Obama-appointed judge twisting the constitution and the rule of law to impose her own views of marriage in defiance of the people of Virginia,” said Brown in a statement.

Brown also again sharply criticized Herring for not defending the commonwealth’s marriage amendment.  “This case also leaves a particular stench because of the unconscionable decision of Attorney General Mark Herring to not only abandon his sworn duty to defend the laws of the state, but to actually join the case against the very people he is duty-bound to represent,” said Brown.
Brown, of course ignores the fact that the judge who earlier this week struck down Kentucky's same sex marriage ban was a Republican appointee recommended for the bench by GOP Senator Mitch McConnell.  As always, Brown spews hate, animus and constant lies.  As the Virginian Pilot reports, Del. Bob Marshall, an author of the anti-gay Marshall Newman Amendment and a gay hater of the highest order had similar spittle flecked comments on the ruling:
Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William County, is one of the most conservative members of the House and was an architect of the 2006 marriage amendment. Still digesting the opinion as Thursday turned to Friday, Marshall took exception to its legal reasoning and its late arrival.  “It comes out in the middle of the night, just like a thief. This is how a thief would act,” he said of Allen’s decision, which became public after 9 p.m.
As for the late release of the opinion, from past experience, when matters are filed in the federal court electronic case system, it always takes a few hours for them to appear publicly on the site.   I suspect that Judge Wright Allen filed her ruling late in the day and it mere took the usual time period for the system to update.  But with Bob Marshall, one should never expect a truthful or honest statement.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Virginia Same Sex Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional!

Some time after 5:10 PM today - the last time I logged in to Pacer, the website that allows registered subscribers to access federal court case files - Judge Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia filed her opinion in Bostic v. Rainey and  ruled that Virginia’s marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution.  While the Order enjoined the Commonwealth of Virginia from enforcing Virginia's marriage ban, the injunction was stayed pending a likely appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.   The next shoe to drop in Virginia will be when the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia rules in Harris v. Rainey.  As noted before, that ruling could potentially come at any time.  Having read all the briefs and the case law cited, I frankly do not know how Judge Wright Allen could have ruled in any other way.  Here are some highlights from the order portion of her opinion:
The Court finds Va. Const. Art. I, § 15-A, Va. Code §§ 20-45.2, 20-45.3, and any other Virginia law that bars same-sex marriage or prohibits Virginia's recognition of lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions unconstitutional. These laws deny Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 25),
GRANTS Plaintiffs Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 27) and DENIES Defendant Schaefer's and Intervenor-Defendant's Motions for Summary Judgment (ECF Nos. 38 and 40).

The Court ENJOINS the Commonwealth from enforcing Sections 20-45.2 and 20-45.3 of the Virginia Code and Article I, § 15-A of the Virginia Constitution to the extent these laws prohibit a person from marrying another person of the same gender.

In accordance with the Supreme Court's issuance of a stay in Herbert v. Kitchen, and
consistent with the reasoning provided in Bishop, this Court stays execution of this injunction pending the final disposition of any appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
As for Judge Wright Allen's analysis as to why Virginia's same sex marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution, here are some excerpts:
The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that no state shall "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws." U.S. Const, amend. XIV, § 1. Just as the analysis regarding the claims involving substantive due process began, the evaluation of whether certain legislation violates the Equal Protection Clause commences with determining whether the challenged law interferes significantly with a fundamental right. If so, the legislation "cannot be upheld unless it is supported by sufficiently important state interests and is closely tailored to effectuate only those interests."

[E]ven without a finding that a fundamental right is implicated, the Marriage Laws fail under this Clause. The Equal Protection Clause "commands that no State shall 'deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,' which is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike."

This recent embrace of "natural" procreation as the primary inspiration and purpose for Virginia's Marriage Laws is inconsistent with prior rationalizations for the laws. This purpose was effectively disavowed by the legislation itself, which declared that marriage should be limited to opposite-sex couples "whether or not they are reproductive in effect or motivation." Affirmation of Marriage Act, HB 751 (2004) (enacted).

A more just evaluation of the scope of Virginia's Marriage Laws at issue establishes that these laws impact Virginia's adult citizens who are in loving and committed relationships and want to be married under the laws of Virginia. The laws at issue target a subset (gay and lesbian individuals) who are similarly situated to Virginia's heterosexual individuals, and deprive that subset of the opportunity to marry.

Deference to Virginia's judgment on this question is unwarranted, because there are reasonable grounds to suspect "prejudice against discrete and insular minorities . . . which tends seriously to curtail the operation of those political processes ordinarily to be relied upon to protect minorities[.]"

This moral condemnation continues to manifest in Virginia in state-sanctioned activities.  The Virginia legislature has passed a law permitting adoption agencies to refuse adoptions based on the sexual orientation of the prospective parents. See Va. Code § 63.2-1709.3 (2014). Virginia's former Attorney General directed colleges and universities in the Commonwealth to eliminate protections that had been in place regarding '"sexual orientation,' 'gender identity,' 'gender expression,' or like classification" from the institutions' non-discrimination policies. Lustig Decl. Ex. J, at 1, ECF No. 26-15. This record alone gives rise to suspicions of prejudice
sufficient to decline to defer to the state on this matter. 

Virginia's Marriage Laws fail to display a rational relationship to a legitimate purpose, and so must be viewed as constitutionally infirm under even the least onerous level of scrutiny. Accordingly, this Court need not address Plaintiffs' compelling arguments that the Laws should be subjected to heightened scrutiny.
Although steeped in a rich, tradition- and faith-based legacy, Virginia's Marriage Laws are an exercise of governmental power. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, Virginia's laws ensures that marriage provides profound legal, financial, and social benefits, and exacts serious legal, financial, and social obligations. The government's involvement in defining marriage, and in attaching benefits that accompany the institution, must withstand constitutional scrutiny. Laws that fail that scrutiny must fall despite the depth and legitimacy of the laws' religious heritage.

The Court is compelled to conclude that Virginia's Marriage Laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia's gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry.  Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country's cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family.
There is more, all of which calls out the motivation behind Virginia's marriage ban for what it is: anti-gay animus and religious based hatred towards gays.  Neither are enough to make a law or a state constitutional provision constitutional under the U. S. Constitution.  What makes the Court's ruling all the sweeter is that some of the hate and animus demonstrated by then state senator (and later Attorney General) Ken Cuccinelli and Del. Bob Marshall helped convince the court that impermissible animus was the true motivation behind Virginia's same sex marriage ban.  Karma can be a bitch - at least to those who are cruel and bigoted towards others.

Southern Poverty Law Center Sues for Marriage Equality in Alabama

Alabama Capitol - in Montgomery, Alabama, in the Middle District of Alabama
One fellow blogger noted that out of all the states that have same sex marriage bans, as of today only nine (9) do no not have pending court cases challenging such base as violations of the United States Constitution.  Joining the list today of states where anti-gay animus motivated bans are under challenge is Alabama.  As noted before, I lived in Alabama 30+ years ago and the state is far more insane now that it was even when George Wallace was governor (I met Wallace once and he was a moderate on many issues compared to today's GOP).  The Bilerico Project looks at today's filing and has these  highlights:

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a venerable civil rights organization, announced that it's suing for marriage equality in Alabama. The group filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama today.

From the SPLC website:
The lawsuit... seeks to overturn the state's Marriage Protection Act, a 1998 law that bans the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states, and the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, which enshrined this ban in the constitution in 2005.

SPLC is filing the suit on behalf of Paul Hard, an Alabama man whose husband David was in a car wreck in 2011. Because their legal Massachusetts marriage isn't recognized by the state, the receptionist wouldn't tell him anything about his husband's condition. It took him half an hour to find out that David had died.

Later, the funeral director insisted that David's death certificate list him as unmarried because he and Paul were legal strangers in the eyes of the state. Paul has since sued over the wrongful death of his husband, but the non-recognition of his marriage to David presents substantial legal obstacles.

The SPLC writes:

The suit also demands that Hard receive his rightful share of the proceeds from a pending wrongful death suit, and that Alabama issue a corrected death certificate for Fancher that lists Hard as the surviving spouse.

"Alabama has created two classes of marriages within its borders and deemed one of those classes - marriages between people of the same sex - to be inferior to the other," said David C. Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. "This is unconstitutional."
Thankfully, as decisions are being handed down by federal courts striking down same sax marriage bans more and more courts are recognizing that state level marriage bans are based on anti-gay animus and/or religious based discrimination, neither of which are sufficient to make discriminatory laws constitutional.

P.S. I still am a member of the Alabama State Bar.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a venerable civil rights organization, announced that it's suing for marriage equality in Alabama. The group filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama today.
From the SPLC website:
The lawsuit... seeks to overturn the state's Marriage Protection Act, a 1998 law that bans the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states, and the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, which enshrined this ban in the constitution in 2005.
SPLC is filing the suit on behalf of Paul Hard, an Alabama man whose husband David was in a car wreck in 2011. Because their legal Massachusetts marriage isn't recognized by the state, the receptionist wouldn't tell him anything about his husband's condition. It took him half an hour to find out that David had died.
Later, the funeral director insisted that David's death certificate list him as unmarried because he and Paul were legal strangers in the eyes of the state. Paul has since sued over the wrongful death of his husband, but the non-recognition of his marriage to David presents substantial legal obstacles.
The SPLC writes:
The suit also demands that Hard receive his rightful share of the proceeds from a pending wrongful death suit, and that Alabama issue a corrected death certificate for Fancher that lists Hard as the surviving spouse.
"Alabama has created two classes of marriages within its borders and deemed one of those classes - marriages between people of the same sex - to be inferior to the other," said David C. Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. "This is unconstitutional."


Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Ending "Gay Conversion" Therapy for Good

As noted yesterday, a former prominent "ex-gay" leader has joined the ranks of those former "ex-gays for pay" who have belatedly admitted that the claims of "curing" homosexuality are untrue and nothing more than a myth that the far right hate groups seek to keep alive for profit and political purposes.  Several states have pending legislation which would ban the practice for those under age 18.  Such a bill was introduced even here in Virginia only to be killed in the GOP controlled House of Delegates that is in some ways little more than an arm of the heinous theocrats at The Family Foundation.  An op-ed in the New York Times looks at additional methods beyond legislation to work towards completely ending this fraudulent and harmful type of "therapy."  Here are column excerpts:

THERAPY programs that purport to “convert” lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender kids have caused immeasurable harm since they became prominent in the 1970s. Rigorous studies have shown again and again that efforts to change young people’s sexual orientation not only fail, but are also linked to suicidal behavior, depression, anxiety, drug use and risky sexual behavior. 

So it’s tempting to support the model of California and New Jersey, the first states to ban conversion therapy. Under their bans, a licensed therapist who tries to subject minors to such “treatment” can lose his license and face other penalties. Similar bills have been introduced in Massachusetts, New York and Ohio. 

Legislative condemnation is a powerful public statement. But if the goal is shutting down as many practitioners as possible, this strategy has its limitations. For one thing, it’s unlikely that conservative states, where conversion therapists are most active, will follow suit. More important, such bans are likely to lead to costly and time-consuming legal battles.

There is a more promising way to put pressure on, or even shut down, conversion programs: existing state laws that forbid businesses and professionals to engage in deceptive practices. 

Despite the nearly universal consensus — including the professional associations that represent America’s pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, school counselors, social workers and marriage and family therapists — that “conversion” or “reparative” therapy is ineffective, harmful or both, its practitioners, many of them affiliated with religious groups, continue to advertise messages like “change is possible.” 

Under commercial law, this is the very definition of a deceptive trade practice. Victims could sue practitioners for damages in state courts. With support from the Southern Poverty Law Center, several former patients did just that in 2012, seeking damages under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act from an “ex-gay” group called Jonah (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing). The plaintiffs cited Jonah’s false promise that it could “cure” their homosexuality — for which it charged $100 per individual therapy session. Last July, a state judge refused Jonah’s request to throw out the case, which could soon go to trial. 

Litigation isn’t the only recourse for victims. State regulators are responsible for ensuring that therapists and other mental health professionals abide by standards of professional conduct. States like New York, Minnesota and California have laws that forbid state-licensed professionals from using deceptive practices; in New York, for example, such professionals may not use “advertising or soliciting that is false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading” or make claims that cannot be “substantiated by the licensee.” Violations can result in fines and the loss or suspension of one’s license.

While conversion therapists would have to be targeted one at a time, the cumulative effect could be powerful. Many of the remaining practitioners are affiliated with “ex-gay” organizations that provide training and educational materials. A handful of successful suits and regulatory crackdowns could destabilize this network by bankrupting these organizations, raising malpractice insurance rates for individual conversion therapists, and leaving practitioners to reconsider the value of persisting in practices that are deceptive under the law.

Parents confused or distressed about their children’s sexual orientation will continue to fall prey to counselors who either promise what they cannot deliver (turning kids straight) or, without scruples, try to profit from these families’ anxieties. Their practices are despicable, but litigation and regulatory action have more potential than new legislation, in the long run, to put these snake-oil salesmen out of business.

Wayne Besen and I have talked about this strategy for some years.  The big issue is getting plaintiffs to come forward who are willing to launch such lawsuits.  A few big verdicts and insurers will cease insuring these charlatans.