Thursday, September 18, 2014

Who takes marriage most seriously?

A columnist at the HuffPo writes about her thoughts upon attending her gay brother's wedding.  And about what she learned about "the sanctity of marriage".
Weddings mark the start of a shared union -- a lifelong partnership between two people who have chosen to make binding promises to one another. Promises that often involve agreeing to work on the marriage when it needs to be worked on and to fight for it when it needs to be fought for. 
And if I had to guess which couples would be likely to work and fight the hardest for their marriages, I would predict it to be those who have already worked hard and fought to make marrying their partners a possibility in the first place. 
Marriage is, indeed, sacred. But if proponents of traditional marriage are truly worried about sanctity, doesn't taking marriage away from those who likely revere it the most -- the same-sex couples like my brother and his husband whose ceremonies are far more focused on the extreme gratitude over their ability to be legally recognized in marriage than the cosmetic details of the day -- seem to contradict what they are after?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's up to the supremes

From Scotusblog (Lyle Denniston)
With lawyers moving very rapidly, the number of appeals to the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage rose on Tuesday to seven, as state officials in Indiana and Wisconsin separately challenged a federal appeals court ruling against their bans, and lawyers for the couples planned to file immediate replies. The new cases landed at the Court five days after that decision; the states had the option of taking ninety days to file.
The Court has the option of taking on either or both issues, and it also has the option of putting off any consideration for the time being, despite the heavy pressure from virtually everyone involved in the cases, who contend that the Court should not wait any longer to decide. None of the cases is a mandatory appeal. It would be highly unusual, however, for the Court to pass up all of the cases, when everyone is championing review now. 
If the Court opts to take on the controversy anytime up to mid-January, a final ruling could be expected before the new Term is completed late next June.
And guess what?  The case may well rest not on constitutional law, not on fairness, but on religious freedom.  Mark Silk at Religion News Service on an amicus brief filed for Utah:
The religious organizations make clear in their amicus brief that, besides addressing all relevant Fourteenth Amendment issues, the Utah case uniquely addresses the burden placed on religious liberty by SSM. Quoting from a 2012 letter from a coalition of anti-SSM religious leaders, they write:
Judicially redefining marriage powerfully conflicts with religious liberty because, among other reasons, such a dramatic change in the law inevitably will lead to “forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations – throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies – to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct.”… 
Utah’s petition provides an opportunity to address whether avoiding religious conflicts and church-state entanglements is a sufficiently weighty reason, alone or combined with other interests, to warrant allowing States to retain the age-old definition of marriage. 
If the court did find such avoidance sufficiently weighty, I’ve no doubt that the next legal step would be to ask that all states be forbidden to permit SSM on religious liberty grounds. But the real significance of the brief, it seems to me, is that it represents an acknowledgment that SSM is becoming the law of the land, and that the battle has now moved to the securing of legal exemptions for religious objectors.
So, the logic here is that anti-gay archbishop Salvatore Cordileone's religions freedom demands that the state deny me my civil rights (not to mention any non-Catholic church's religious freedom to marry me).  The sad thing is, after Hobby Lobby, it's just what might appeal to the 5 Catholics on the bench in DC.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Because nothing says "Christian love" like wishing a child's parents dead

Honestly, can they sink any lower in inhumanity?  From Think Progress: 
In a new blog post by IFI’s Laurie Higgins this week, the group takes on a new target: the children of same-sex couples, who Higgins expects would find “joy” in imagining their parents dead. 
....Her primary concern is that children should not ever see books about same-sex families, deeming any portrayal of a same-sex couple as  “homoeroticism” and “sexual perversion.” Instead, she suggests that librarians consider adding the following kinds of books (granting the premise that such books even exist):....
  • Young adult (YA) novels about teens who feel sadness and resentment about being intentionally deprived of a mother or father and who seek to find their missing biological parents..... 
  • Picture books that show the joy a little birdie experiences when after the West Nile virus deaths of her two daddies, she’s finally adopted by a daddy and mommy.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Posnered: the 7th circuit speaks

In a unanimous decision, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal found that the marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana are unconstitutional.  What everyone is talking about is the scathing opinion by Judge Posner, a Reagan appointee who is widely considered to be one of the most influential living jurists.  From the opinion, summarizing the states' argument:
Heterosexuals get drunk and pregnant, producing unwanted children; their reward is to be allowed to marry. Homosexual couples do not produce unwanted children; their reward is to be denied the right to marry. Go figure.
From Slate,  an analysis,
There is simply no harm, Posner writes, “tangible, secular, material—physical or financial, or … focused and direct” done to anybody by permitting gay marriage. Conservative Christians may be offended, but “there is no way they are going to be hurt by it in a way that the law would take cognizance of.” A lot of people, after all, objected to interracial marriage in 1967—but that didn’t stop the court from invalidating anti-miscegenation laws inLoving v. Virginia.

In his opinion, Posner makes these points with trenchant humor. But beneath his droll wit lies a moral seriousness that gay marriage opponents, even those on the high court, will be unable to shrug off. The modern arguments against gay marriage may be breathtakingly silly—but by mocking them, we ignore the profound harms that marriage bans inflict on gay people and their families. By placing these families at the center of his analysis, Posner restores the equal protection clause to its rightful place as the safeguard for all whom the state seeks to harm unjustly. His message for those who hope to demean gay people and their children is clear: Not on my watch.

From Twitter, the neologism Posnered, meaning to reduce an argument to rubble.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Christian anti-gay activist apologizes? Voices of Faith....

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Voices of Faith
Former activist anti-gay Randy Thomas apologizes.   He writes,
To be clear, my view of marriage in a spiritual context has not changed. I believe the wedding union of husband and wife bears the image of God uniquely..... 
What I am also trying to learn is how I can state my beliefs without being a jerk about it. ...
I have also come to believe that trying to make our secular government impose my
spiritual beliefs in this matter is not helpful or appropriate.
So, he's not a supporter per se, but he seems to get the separation of faith and civil law. I'm perfectly okay with that. It's progress.  He goes on,
The night that Prop 8 in California and Amendment 2 in Florida (both banning gay marriage) passed I was jubilant. I truly believed what we had done was right and good. ....What I didn’t make widely known was how heart-broken I was when I saw the gay community in California take to the streets. Their protests that night and in the days afterwards tugged at me. When I saw their grief-stricken faces my heart twisted in my chest. It was the first time in a long time I remember thinking, “did we do something wrong?” ...Eventually the doubt over what we had done would get louder in my mind and change from a question to a conviction; a conviction that indeed we had done something terribly wrong.
 He concludes
Today, I can honestly say that I am glad that the courts are striking down all the marriage bans across the country. It is my hope that we (Christians) can learn from the past, make the appropriate amends, and rebuild dialog and relationships with the LGBT community.
There are a number of prominent evangelicals who are coming around to being pro-marriage equality -- Brian McClaren, Steve Chalke, Rob Bell, Ken Wilson....  Most of them get rejected by their communities as apostates.  But the tide is turning.   And I would remind my fellow members of the rainbow tribe that forgiveness is a virtue.  Life is too short to hold a grudge.  Let's move ahead for justice, together.

Streak ends, as it must

A federal judge in Louisiana finds rational basis in supporting that state's marriage ban because, well, incest.  From THink progress:
Political operatives seeking to cast aspersions on Feldman’s approach to gay rights will find a lot to work with in his opinion. At one point, he describes being gay as one of several “lifestyle choices” a person can make. At another point in his opinion, he compares same-sex marriage to marriage between “aunt and niece,” “aunt and nephew,” or “father and child.” He also likens marriage equality to polygamous marriages.
He also seems a little confused about the 14th amendment, which is not limited to issues of race.  This one will head up to the 5th circuit for appeal.

Meanwhile, in this first of --what, 30?-- decisions on our side, the fundies are rejoicing with their dehumanizing, hate-filled rhetoric.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

7th circuit arguments

Today the 7th Circuit court of appeal heard arguments from WI and IN challenging lower court decisions overturning their marriage bans.  From the A/P
Judge Richard Posner, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, was dismissive when Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson repeatedly pointed to 'tradition' as the underlying justification for barring gay marriage. 
"It was tradition to not allow blacks and whites to marry — a tradition that got swept away," Posner said. Prohibition of same sex marriage, he said, is "a tradition of hate ... and savage discrimination." 
Posner frequently cut off Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fischer, just moments into his presentation and chided him to answer his questions. 
At one point, Posner ran through a list of psychological strains of unmarried same-sex couples, including having to struggle to grasp why their schoolmates' parents were married and theirs weren't. 
"What horrible stuff," Posner said. What benefits to society in barring gay marriage, he asked, "outweighs that kind of damage to children?"
Court watchers think this one will go our way.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Being gay is rated "R"

There's a charming movie coming out called Love is Strange, where John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are partners of 40 years.  Upon marrying, Molina's character is fired from his job as a music teacher for a Catholic school and they lose their home.  They have to split, temporarily, and couch surf with family and friends.

It's by all accounts very charming, with no sex or nudity.  (See the trailer on Video Sunday on this blog, on Sunday 31st.)

But it's rated "R".

The MPAA movie ratings are supposed to provide information on a movie's content, so parents can decide whether or not it's suitable for their children. 
But what kind of information are they really providing? And what are they assuming we want to protect our children from? 
On Friday, "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" will be released in a wide number of theaters. It features nudity, sexual situations and substance abuse. Every woman in it is a stripper, a prostitute or a murderer. There is violence and graphic gore,...It is rated R. 
That day, "Jersey Shore Massacre" also reaches theaters. It features nudity, sexual situations, substance abuse and ethnic and racial slurs. There is violence and graphic gore....It is rated R. 
Also opening is "Love Is Strange." There is no nudity. There are no sexual situations. The drug or alcohol material mostly consists of adults having wine with dinner, or cocktails at a bar. There is no violence or gore. There are several scenes of men kissing, and two scenes of a gay couple sleeping together, fully clothed, in bed. It is rated R. 
If there's an equivalence among these three films, and their equal unsuitability for anyone under 17, it's lost on me — and, I suspect, on anyone but the censors at the MPAA. 
Not only is there nothing violent in "Love Is Strange," there's not even anything explicit. It is about as mild and mainstream a portrayal of gay life as you can imagine. Ben, played by John Lithgow, is a 71-year-old retiree. George, played by Alfred Molina, is a music teacher at a Catholic school. In the film, they have been together for nearly 40 years (until, in a unfair and sudden reversal of fortune, they lose their apartment).

It's a simple human story. And it is very hard to imagine that — if it starred, say, Robert Duvall and Jane Fonda as a similar long-time couple suddenly facing homelessness — it would be lumped in with movies crammed full of queasily stylish sexism and sickening torture porn.
This is a gentle, if often heartbreaking story about two loving men in a long-time committed relationship. What on earth is in it that so horrifies the MPAA?
I'm sorry. I think I just answered my own question.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What's the Supreme forecast?

We've seen a remarkable string of federal court decisions impacting marriage equality in states with anti-equality laws or constitutional amendments.  But for the majority of those cases, there is a stay in place that prevents people from getting married, until the appeals process plays out.  So there are a lot of cases percolating.

To remind you, and for our foreign readers (if there are any), state laws can be challenged in the state court system,which will only consider issues relevant to the state constitution, or in the  federal court system, under federal constitutional law.  For example, in California's case, the state supreme court reluctantly found that under the California Constitution, Prop8 was legal.  A separate suit was then brought in federal court arguing that it was illegal under the US constitution.  That was heard by the district court, and the 9th circuit court of appeal.

That's what finally went to the Supreme Court, where it was overturned on a technicality because the state declined to appeal, and the only  appellants (the opponents of marriage equality) were a private group that lacked standing. Incidentally, that situation has led to equality in Oregon and Pennsylvania, where the state declined to challenge the ruling and private parties were found to lack standing.  (It's worth reminding people that there is no legal obligation to appeal a court decision. )

The Supreme Court doesn't have to hear any case. Typically, one big driver of them choosing to hear a case is if there is a disagreement in the lower courts.  For example, if the 9th circuit finds for marriage equality, while the 6th does not.  That can only be remedied by the SCOTUS. And that may happen, as court-watchers are betting that the case before the more conservative 6th circuit will find against marriage equality.

Of course, regardless, the losing sides in any of these cases can appeal all the way up to the SCOTUS, as long as they have standing. Right now, the Utah case is closest to making a SCOTUS appeal, since they've been through the circuit. The Oklahoma case is also on track.  The Virginia case may also make an appeal.  Each of these is in a different circuit, and each provides a slightly different twist to the question.  From Equality on Trial,
In the Virginia case, the fervor of the ban is unmatched—not only does its ban deny marriage to same-sex couples, but it also seeks to deny them from acquiring any of the rights of marriage through other means, such as civil unions or domestic partnerships. The plaintiffs, two couples, each represent one aspect of the ban’s two-pronged scope: the denial of both in-state marriage licenses as well as out-of state marriage licenses. 
In the Utah case, the defendants’ case relies more heavily on the claim that the state is being deprived of its right to define marriage, “disenfranchising” millions of its voters. Because the Constitution doesn’t define marriage, and the Supreme Court only deems the “right to marry” as a fundamental right, Utah claims that it has been delegated the right to define what “marry” means. The defendants claim that the Tenth Circuit’s ruling undermines democracy, and the federal system. 
In the Oklahoma case, more emphasis is placed by the defendants on the suspect nature of same-sex parenting. They note the uneasiness of young adults who don’t know their biological parents, or are conceived through sperm donation, though arguments from the other side rebut these claims as largely unfounded, while conflict in the social science community over that issue has also provided little evidence for the claim.
But the court doesn't HAVE to take any of those cases, unless it sees a question it must answer.

 If it does decide to take a marriage case next term (which it probably will), it will be able to pick and choose which one.

Lyle Denniston tells us,
With a little more than five weeks until the Justices assemble in their first private Conference, in advance of the new Term starting October 6, it is by no means clear that any same-sex marriage case will be ready for the Justices to consider it on September 29. That depends, in part, on whether the Court will have cases before it one at a time, as each is ready, or in a group., when several are ready. 
The last scheduled day for distributing a case for consideration by the Justices at the September 29 meeting is September 10 — now, just three weeks away. The pending Utah case has a fair prospect of being ready then, but there is reason to doubt at this point that the pending Oklahoma and Virginia cases will be complete. The lawyers involved have said they were working diligently to push matters along, but the clock is against them for action by the Justices at the outset of the new Term. 
There will be plenty of time, though, to get a case before the Court for decision during the new Term. If a case is accepted for review by sometime next January, it is almost certain to be decided before the end of the Term, late next June.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Update: Waiting in Virginia

Never let it be said that state elections "don't matter". In Virginia, which has such a harsh anti-gay policy that I call it the State of Hate, there has been a complete change since the election of Democratic Governor and Attorney General. They are marriage equality supporters for one. However, the AG is defending the law as it stands. So far, the 4th Circuit has found against the marriage ban, and refused to stay their order further. The marriage opponents have appealed to SCOTUS for a stay. THe AG agrees, because he doesn't want the on-again off-again spectacle of Utah or other states.

The 4th circuit falls under the responsibilities of Chief Justice John Roberts. It's widely assumed that he will continue the stay, since the Supremes also stayed the marriages in Utah. We'll know today. In any case, we'll almost certainly be seeing the Court take up marriage equality in their next session (starts in October).

Update: and, as expected, the stay is granted. No marriages in Virginia this week.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Catholics protests latest firing of gay church employee

In an emotionally charged meeting Wednesday, parishioners of Holy Family Catholic Church in northwest suburban Inverness voiced opinions over the firing of their longtime music director, who lost his job after announcing his engagement to his male partner on social media. 
Many of the roughly 700 people who attended appeared to support Colin Collette, who received a standing ovation when he entered the sanctuary. ....
The church pastor, the Rev. Terry Keehan, organized Wednesday’s meeting “in light of the many and varied emotions that so many of you have expressed,” he wrote in Sunday’s church bulletin.
He called it a “Town Hall Meeting for Listening and Respect” and described it as an opportunity to voice emotions about Collette’s departure. ....
In the bulletin, Keehan also wrote that he was concerned how the various emotions affect “our larger community.” 
“It is truly a very complicated and complex situation,” his message read.
Not complicated in the least.  The church doesn't want to employ gay people who marry.  And, the law says they don't have to--this man was a music director, and that's a ministry.  End of story.   So this is a pointless exercise. I'm not sure what the priest hoped to accomplish.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Analysis of "the Streak"

Scotusblog's estimable Lyle Denniston takes on the concept of a winning streak in marriage equality cases:
What the occasional breaks in the “streak” illustrate, though, is that the outcome is not necessarily predictable as other courts take on the question, and an ultimate Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage is hardly inevitable. ....
The “streak” also has created a lower-court record that, even if it does not produce the same result each time, will surely impress the Supreme Court when it finally allows itself to be drawn into the fray. Some historians have said that they know of no instance when the Court has bucked a trend such as this one has become. 
But the very nature of that trend can also be an argument against the Supreme Court choosing to get involved itself. If the only breaks in the “streak” have been a handful of rulings by divorce-court judges, none of whom so far has gone deeply into the issue before ruling, the Court could conclude that the issue is working itself out sufficiently in lower courts..... 
But that may not happen.
A number of observers who listened to hearings held last week in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit came away with a clear impression that a majority of that three-judge panel might well uphold one or more of the state bans in effect in the four states involved in that hearing. 
That kind of a break in the current “streak” would certainly demonstrate that there is a real division of opinion on the question, one that it would take a Supreme Court decision to resolve.
And there are no guarantees from the Supremes.  Ever.

Monday, August 11, 2014

New "Study" from discredited Mark Regnerus

You remember Regnerus, the U. Texas sociologist who claimed kids of gay parents had bad outcomes, only to be censured by his professional society and scolded by his department because he didn't actually study kids with gay parents. NOM et al have tried to build a lot on this, only to have the study decisively thrown out by judges who can think. (Our prior coverage of Regnerus here.) 

He's done another one:  this one a "study" of views of sex.  You can clearly see the goal here is to tarnish anyone who supports equality with the idea that they support all sorts of sexual immorality too, including lack of fidelity and use of pornography.  From the New Civil Rights Movement:
Today, Regnerus has announced the completion of yet another anti-gay study.

It clearly is designed to make same-sex marriage supporters appear "immoral" .... 
"Churchgoing Christians who support same-sex marriage are more likely to think pornography, cohabitation, hook-ups, adultery, polyamory, and abortion are acceptable," Regnerus writes at the Witherspoon Institute -- his benefactor. "And it’s reasonable to expect continued change in more permissive directions."

And he displays his glaring ignorance on same-sex marriage and LGBT people -- as if there are some strange cultural differences married same-sex people exhibit.
Notice the logical fallacy "it's reasonable to expect...."

This has already been used for fund-raising by NOM.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hobby Lobby: A thumb on the scale

From the Advocate:
Of course churches, other houses of worship, and religious schools must have full control over their selection of clergy and those who teach religion and lead religious activities. But when an organization invites people of all faiths (and no faith) to apply for jobs doing nonreligious work (such as food service, janitorial, medical, and business functions), those workers need to be treated just as fairly as in any work setting. No child labor or cheating on wages. No toxic chemicals in the air. And no toxic discrimination either.

Once upon a time, Southern restaurants used religion to explain racial segregation. Businesses have cited the Bible to justify paying women less than men. Attitudes about race and sex discrimination have evolved through a powerful mix of advocacy and outrage. This past spring, bills to allow religiously motivated anti-LGBT discrimination appeared in too many states, including Kansas, Georgia, and Arizona. Because community advocates, corporate leadership, and elected officials stood together, fairness prevailed. Now, given Hobby Lobby’s thumb on the scale for religious interests, it is ever more important that civic, business, and affirming faith leaders create an urgent chorus of support for explicit, effective and equal legal protections for LGBT people at every level of government. Our extraordinarily talented, diverse American community deserves no less.