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.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What it comes down to: Is same sex marriage a new right, or equal access to an existing right?

Excellent analysis by Lyle Denniston:
When judges have ruled that gays and lesbians must be allowed, constitutionally, to marry, they have done so on the premise that this would not be the creation of a new right – that is, not a new-found right special to same-sex couples, but a right to join in equally in the existing, traditional right to marry. Those judges have accepted the argument of the same-sex couples that they want nothing more than equal access to the legal opportunity to wed. That, in essence, is the marriage equality argument. 
When judges have resisted (most often, these days, in dissenting opinions) the idea that same-sex couples’ choice to marry must be constitutionally protected, they have argued that this would be creating a new and special right, and they have noted that the Supreme Court has actively discouraged the crafting of new rights by constitutional fiat, rather than by constitutional amendment or by the acts of legislatures. That, in essence, is the argument against minting a new right. 
Both sides in this exchange can enlist some Supreme Court decisions on their side. After all, the Supreme Court has been working on its interpretation of just what marriage rights encompass for decades – indeed,at least since the late 19th Century. Little by little, the Justices have moved steadily toward the conclusion that, constitutionally speaking, the right to marry is fundamental to the civic order, a right of the highest constitutional rank. 
But yet to be decided, at least for gays and lesbians, is this: just what is the nature of that fundamental right? Is it a sweeping right to choose one’s life mate without interference by government? Or is it a right that is fundamental only because it has deep roots in the traditional definition of one-man, one-woman marriage?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Anti equality arguments just get sillier and sillier

From Slate:

Judge Vaughn Walker raised [a] point with a lawyer defending California’s Proposition 8, demanding to know “how permitting same-sex marriage impairs or adversely affects” straight people’s marriages. The lawyer had this response: “Your honor, my answer is: I don’t know. I don’t know.” 
The problem here, of course, is that an honest answer—“your honor, we believe gay people will destroy the marital institution altogether”—would undermine the supposedly secular, animus-free nature of these arguments. In developing them, anti-gay activists began with a conclusion—gay people don’t deserve the rights that we straight people have—then worked backward, camouflaging each prejudiced premise with a supposedly neutral talking point. Under any kind of scrutiny, these theories instantly fall apart, revealing their bigoted, constitutionally impermissible core.
And yet the inanity continues full-throttle, because gay marriage opponents have backed themselves into the corner they’ve always dreaded. They can’t give up their quest now—but they’re barred from citing the explanations that they truly believe, deep down, to be correct. The result is the current tailspin of idiocy, a shifting argument with rootless standards roaming from rationale from rationale in a desperate attempt to find shelter from the storm of progress swirling around it. It’s a pathetic display, but not an unpleasant one to witness. Stripped of all logic and reason, the argument against gay marriage has been reduced to gibberish. Enjoy the babbling while it lasts.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Video Sunday: Pride (Trailer)

It's Thatcher's Britain.  What happens when a group of gays try to help some Welsh miners on strike?


Friday, July 25, 2014

Voices of Faith: It's not discrimination if you can't discriminate

Click image for more
Voices of Faith
I wonder if the increasingly hysterical anti-gay right wing ever listens to themselves.  They are claiming that if they are not allowed to discriminate against LGBT people, that is discrimination against THEM.

From Patheos,

So yeah, apparently we’re being “bullied” because in exchange for accepting government funds we have to agree not to fire people for being gay. 
Poor us.
So listen– I think we as Christians need to set something straight before we go any further:
It’s not discrimination when we are prevented from doing the discriminating. It’s not persecution when we are prevented from doing the persecuting. It’s not bullying when we’re told that we can’t bully others. 
It’s not any of those things. 
In fact, we should actually be embarrassed that we even have to be told that it’s wrong to fire someone for these reasons. Your place of business is NOT the same thing as your church– if you want to accept government funds, you’ll have to play by a set of rules that keeps it fair for everyone. Both for you, and everyone else

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Making us go away

John Corvino reviews an essay by Michael Hannon.

Hannon argues that religious conservatives should embrace queer theorists’ view that sexual orientation is a social construction, rather than a natural and inevitable feature of persons. Furthermore, they should stop categorizing anyone as gay, because doing so organizes that person’s sexual identity around a particular temptation to sin, leading him to believe that he needs that sin in order to be fulfilled. Finally, and most important, they should stop categorizing anyone as heterosexual, because doing so lets people off the hook as “normal,” thus blinding them to their own sin. The general idea is that shedding these labels will enable people better to focus on the proper Christian grounding for sex and marriage.....

Hannon makes clear exactly what these social conservatives ultimately want. It’s not merely to deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry. It’s not merely to refuse to do our wedding photography or to bake our cakes. It’s not even merely to push gay-identified people back into the closet, although that’s an essential—and sufficiently frightening—first step in Hannon’s dismantling fantasy. 
What they want is nothing less than to dismantle the very vocabulary by which we express and realize our inchoate longings for intimacy. They want to push us back to a time when homosexuality was not merely the “love that dare not speak its name,” but the love that could not speak it. They want to restore a regime where the boy with the funny feeling might—if he’s lucky—grow up to have a good-enough heterosexual marriage, but he might just as easily grow up to have a lonely life of furtive, dangerous same-sex encounters. 
The old regime died because it was cruel and inhumane. Hannon seems to hope that, by not naming our reality, he can make it go away. He’s badly wrong about that, and thankfully so.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Video Sunday: The Proud Whopper

Burger King has introduced the Proud Whopper.  (Fundie heads, predictably, are exploding.  Well, they can eat at Chik-Fil-ay).

What is a Proud Whopper, you ask?