Saturday, July 26, 2014

One Step Closer

Florida edges closer to marriage equality.

Florida Rainbow Flag Mug 07-26-14For the second time in eight days, a South Florida circuit judge has declared the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional and ordered that same-sex couples be allowed to marry.

Late Friday afternoon, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel ordered that six same-sex couples who sued Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for marriage licenses in January should be allowed to wed.

There will be no weddings yet: In her ruling, Zabel ordered an immediate stay until after the case is appealed.

“To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the … classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law,” Zabel wrote in her order, citing a 1967 Supreme Court ruling that overturned a state ban on interracial marriage.

On July 17, Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia also ruled Florida’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional and ordered that two gay Key West men be allowed to marry. That decision has also been stayed and Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones have not yet been allowed to marry in Florida.

The six couples Miami-Dade couples who sued in Zabel’s court are Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello of Coconut Grove; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price of Davie; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier of Hollywood; Todd and Jeff Delmay of Hollywood; Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber of Plantation; and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz of Miami.

Both this case and the one in Monroe County are local; they have no impact outside of those counties.  But there is a case pending in Tallahassee that could overturn the ban statewide.  If it does, it will be stayed pending appeal.  That means no weddings just yet.

But we’re getting there.

Read the full ruling here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Reading

Friendly Help — J. Lester Feder at BuzzFeed has the story on Quakers helping gay Ugandans.

A group of American Quakers say they are offering a way out for some desperate Ugandans fleeing the country’s new Anti-Homosexuality Act.

This group, based in Olympia, Wash., calls its project the Friends New Underground Railroad (FNUR) because it sees itself as following in the footsteps of the Quakers who helped bring slaves out of the American South before the Civil War. Working with fewer than 10 Ugandan “conductors,” they report having funded passage out of the country for 107 people with grants ranging from $52-$185. The refugees mostly travel in small groups on back roads and make their way to safe houses in neighboring countries. FNUR says they know of at least 12 people who have gone on to third countries like South Africa and Sweden, and they have received unconfirmed reports that around 30 have reached Europe.

The security precautions they say they take makes their work impossible to verify. The identities and locations of the conductors are kept secret even from one another. FNUR won’t identify any of the people they’ve evacuated because they say they don’t yet feel secure in their new location, though they say they financed the escape of 22 students in a Catholic seminary accused of homosexuality in the eastern town of Jinja whose case made headlines abroad. They won’t say which countries people escape to, who aids them once they exit Uganda, or how those who have gone onto Europe have secured the visas that other refugees can spend years waiting for because they fear the escape routes being shut off. One of the three co-organizers — the only one of the group with experience in international relief work — won’t be publicly identified by his real name, saying “we don’t want to put anybody in danger.” Instead he goes by Levi Coffin II, adopting the name of one of the Quakers who was a leader in the original Underground Railroad.

“We got into this because we were asked,” Coffin said in a phone interview from Washington state. The person who became Conductor Number One was a Ugandan acquaintance who asked for support when a group of LGBT people asked him to help get them out of the country. “Quakers have a long tradition of this kind of work… This is work that we were both literally and figuratively called to do.”

If their account is accurate, it is a remarkable feat for a handful of individuals with very little experience in international aid. (Their project was adopted by their congregation, the Olympia Friends Meeting, and has since teamed up with another similar effort and other Quaker meetings. It also was just endorsed by the national Unitarian Universalist Association.) Most Ugandan activists and international human rights groups are discouraging LGBT Ugandans from fleeing, since they largely go to Kenya and wind up in enormous refugee camps that are often just as dangerous for LGBT people as Uganda itself. Those lucky enough to be identified as candidates for resettlement abroad can spend months or even years waiting for a plane ticket.

HT to Julie.

An Agenda for 2014 — John Nichols at The Nation looks at what Elizabeth Warren is telling Democrats to run on this year.

Elizabeth Warren says she is not running for president in 2016—despite the enthusiastic “Run, Liz, Run” chanting that erupted when the senator from Massachusetts took the stage at this year’s Netroots Nation conference. But Warren came to Detroit with the platform on which Democrats should be running in 2016.

And in 2014.

Warren is frequently described as a populist. And she can certainly frame her message in populist terms, as was well illustrated by the strongest statement of her Friday Netroots Nation address: “A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail, but a big bank launders drug money and no one gets arrested. The game is rigged.”

But as the Rev. William Barber, of North Carolina’s “Moral Mondays” movement, reminded the conference in a Thursday evening keynote address, populism is not an ideology or a program unto itself. Populism can go left or go right. Populism can be cogent or crude. What matters is the vision that underpins a populist appeal.

What Elizabeth Warren brought to the Netroots Nation gathering was a progressive vision that is of the moment—a vision rooted in the understandings that have been established in the years since the “Republican wave” election of 2010. As Republicans in Congress practiced obstructionism, and as an increasingly activist Supreme Court knocked down historic democratic protections, Republican governors aggressively attacked labor rights, voting rights and women’s rights. Citizens responded with rallies, marches and movements—in state capitals, on Wall Street, across the country. They developed a new progressive vision that is more aggressive and more precisely focused on economic and social justice demands, and on challenging the power of corporations and their political allies.

Warren’s Netroots Nation speech incorporated what has been learned, and what has been demanded. She made a connection between the movements and the political process that has tremendous significance for the coming election cycles.

Warren’s Democratic Party has not fully recognized that connection—not by a long shot—but Warren gets it. And the response of the thousands of activists, organizers and communicators gathered at the Netroots conference suggests that “the base” is ready to rally around it.

So what is it?

“This is a fight over economics, a fight over privilege, a fight over power,” says Warren. “But deep down it’s a fight over values. These are progressive ideas; these are progressive values. These are America’s values. And these are the values we are willing to fight for.”

Bonus: Charlie Pierce on Sen. Warren.

Rick Scott Rakes It In — Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones on the people buying the Florida governor’s re-election.

Florida Governor Rick Scott really knows how to pick a fundraiser. Last month, he was scheduled to attend a $10,000-a-plate event at the home of a real estate developer who’d done prison time on tax charges. Hours after Mother Jones disclosed the event, Scott canceled it. Now, on July 21, Scott will headline a $10,000 per person fundraiser at the Boca Raton home of another deep pocketed donor who is the CEO of a private prison company that’s profiting handsomely over the immigration crisis at the Mexican border.

George Zoley is one of the founders of the GEO Group, the second-largest private prison company in the country. Among the 98 facilities the company owns or manages are several detention centers for undocumented immigrants run through contracts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. One of those is a facility in Broward County, Florida, that’s been the site of at least one hunger strike and protests over allegedly poor treatment of the 700 immigrants held there, most of whom have no serious criminal histories.

In 2012, members of Congress demanded that ICE investigate the Broward facility after reports the center was holding people who should have been released and that it was not providing adequate medical care to the detainees. An investigation last year by Americans for Immigrant Justice also found credible reports of detainees suffering food poisoning from being served rotten food. The group noted instances of sexual assault among detainees and inadequate mental health care that may have contributed to at least three suicide attempts. Detainees also reported being forced to work for $1 a day and to pay $3 a minute for phone calls.

The Geo Group, which rakes in $1.5 billion in annual revenue, earns $20 million annually just from the Florida center.

The GEO Group also operates the Adelanto Detention Center that, with 1,300 beds for men, is the largest immigrant detention center in southern California. In 2012, a detainee there died from pneumonia. The US Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Detention Oversight concluded that the man’s death was preventable. Investigators determined that the medical staff had “provided an unacceptable level of care” and commit “several egregious errors” that led to the man’s death. Immigration reform advocates have reported various forms of abuse at the Adelanto facility: maggots in the food, inadequate medical treatment, mistreatment by the GEO staff, and the overuse of solitary confinement. These allegations landed the center on the nonprofit Detention Watch Network’s list of the worst detention facilities in the country.

The GEO Group is now expanding the Adelanto facility to add another 650 beds, which includes a women’s wing. The GEO Group expects the expansion to result in an additional $21 million a year in revenue. The GEO Group has also invested heavily in lobbying Congress, spending more than $3 million over the past decade to keep the money flowing to its detention centers.

Zoley netted $22 million in compensation from the GEO Group between 2008 and 2012. He’s donated a fair bit to the GOP and to Scott, who’s made privatizing Florida’s jails and prisons a priority of his administration. Zoley accompanied the governor to the UK in 2012 on a trade mission. The Geo Group donated $25,000 to Scott’s inauguration, and Zoley also personally donated $20,000 to help spiff up Scott’s living quarters in the governor’s mansion.

Zoley’s sponsorship of a fundraiser for Scott, who is in a tight race against former governor Charlie Crist, a Republican turned Democrat, isn’t surprising. (Scott’s office did not respond to a request for comment.) But the governor’s cozy relationship with the operator of some of the country’s biggest immigrant detention centers might not go over well with Latino constituents, who tend to oppose federal immigration detention policies.

Doonesbury — Fiction writing.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Any Day Now — Updated

Three judges are poised to rule on marriage equality in Florida.

Each case deals with different set of couples who want to get married in different counties, but the basic question is the same: Does Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage violate an individual’s right under the U.S. Constitution to equal protection?

“Literally any second now we could get rulings from the judges in one or more of those cases,” said Mary Meeks, an Orlando attorney helping represent six gay couples in the Miami-Dade County case.

Beyond those three lawsuits, two other legal challenges also are pending, but those rulings are not imminent.

All of the cases challenge the ban on gay marriage in Florida’s constitution, an amendment approved in 2008 with 62 percent of the vote.

But John Stemberger, president of Florida Family Policy Council, the Orlando group that championed the amendment, predicted Tuesday that Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel in Miami-Dade would soon overturn it.

He was in her courtroom July 2 listening to lawyers argue the case. That included his lawyer, Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel, who urged Zabel to uphold the ban.

“It was rather stunning,” Stemberger said of that hearing. “I don’t expect her to uphold the law.”

As is the case with most of the other states where courts have overturned bans on marriage equality, a ruling from the court in Miami-Dade County does not mean that happy couples can line up at the county clerk’s office all over the state to get licenses.  The ruling will be for the county alone and will most certainly be stayed pending appeal.  But there is a chance that one of the cases could have state-wide impact.

A more sweeping ruling could come from U.S. Circuit Court Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee. He’s presiding over the most complicated case: a consolidated pair of lawsuits asking him allow a same-sex couple to get married and force Florida to recognize the marital rights of 10 same-sex couples and a widow who got married in other states or Canada.

Daniel Tilley, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who represents eight of those couples, was optimistic Tuesday.

“We expect that could come any day now,” he said.

If one of the judges rules in favor of gay marriage, it’s also not clear whether the change would take effect immediately or whether the losing side would first be given time to file an appeal.

No matter the outcome, lawyers expect a series of appeals, something that would likely put the issue before the Florida Supreme Court or a federal appeals court, whose rulings would be binding statewide.

I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE: The court has ruled in the Monroe County case: The wedding is on, but not until Tuesday.

Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia overturned Florida’s 2008 constitutional gay-marriage ban on Thursday, and ordered that two Key West bartenders and other gay couples seeking to wed be allowed to marry.

The judge gave the Monroe County Clerk’s Office until Tuesday to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

“The court is aware that the majority of voters oppose same-sex marriage, but it is our country’s proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority,” Garcia wrote in his opinion, released about 1 p.m. Thursday.

The judge gave the clerk’s office several days to prepare “in consideration of… anticipated rise in activity.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Out of Uniform

Two Florida cops are out of work for being members of the KKK.

Fruitland Park police Chief Terry Isaacs said his department has been shaken by troubling but unproven allegations that a deputy chief and a former police corporal were associated with the Ku Klux Klan.

The allegations, contained in a confidential FBI report provided to Isaacs by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, led to the sudden resignation of Deputy Chief David Borst and Isaacs’ decision Friday to dismiss Officer George Hunnewell.

Isaacs would not confirm that the report linked the two officers to the KKK, instead describing the group as a “subversive organization.” He said he couldn’t be more exact in his description because he thought he was not authorized to release details of the report. Issacs said the document was given to him as chief to consider how the allegations might affect the officers’ credibility and the perception of the department in the community.

Chief Deputy State Attorney Ric Ridgway, from whom Isaacs sought advice, identified the KKK as the hate group.

“It’s not a crime to be a member of the KKK, even if you are the deputy chief. It’s not a crime to be stupid,” Ridgway said, in a previous interview. “It’s not a crime to hate people. It may be despicable, it may be immoral, but it’s not a crime.”

I suppose it’s a sign of progress.  It wasn’t that long ago that membership in the Klan was a requirement in some places to get a job in law enforcement.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Rising Tide

Chances are pretty good that within less than a hundred years, the place where I’m sitting right now will either be under water or right on the edge of the ocean.

I live about a quarter of a mile from the Atlantic Ocean in a suburb south of Miami.  According to overwhelming scientific evidence, this entire area will become submerged due the rising ocean because of climate change.  It’s not just speculation; it’s a fact and signs are already being seen in some of the more vulnerable coastal areas like Miami Beach.

The question isn’t just what can be done about it; it’s more fundamental than that.  It’s getting people to acknowledge that it’s happening.  The scary thing about that is that there are people who appear to be otherwise intelligent enough to grasp the reality but refuse to do so because of political pressure or sheer denialism.

Most of Florida’s senior politicians – in particular, Senator Marco Rubio, former governor Jeb Bush and current governor Rick Scott, all Republican climate-change deniers – have refused to act or respond to warnings of people like Wanless or Harlem or to give media interviews to explain their stance, though Rubio, a Republican party star and a possible 2016 presidential contender, has made his views clear in speeches. “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy,” he said recently. Miami is in denial in every sense, it would seem. Or as Wanless puts it: “People are simply sticking their heads in the sand. It is mind-boggling.”

Not surprisingly, Rubio’s insistence that his state is no danger from climate change has brought him into conflict with local people. Philip Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami, has a particularly succinct view of the man and his stance. “Rubio is an idiot,” says Stoddard. “He says he is not a scientist so he doesn’t have a view about climate change and sea-level rise and so won’t do anything about it. Yet Florida’s other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, is holding field hearings where scientists can tell people what the data means. Unfortunately, not enough people follow his example. And all the time, the waters are rising.”

Mayor Stoddard’s pithy statement regarding Mr. Rubio’s denial of climate change captured a few headlines, but it points out the most troubling aspect of this situation.  It’s not that Mr. Rubio has a disagreement with the evidence or the conclusions reached.  He’s already made it quite clear that he’s not a scientist.  His problem is that he doesn’t believe in the overall concept that the climate is actually changing in spite of overwhelming evidence.  He’s provided no proof to back up his claim; he’s just not a believer, and even if he did believe it, nothing we can do can stop it.

That is a view that is meant to end the discussion, not carry it forward or find remedy.  It’s the equivalent of slamming the door shut, and thereby proving Mayor Stoddard’s point.

Marco Rubio plans to run for president, either in 2016 or 2020.  The idea of having someone in a leadership role who simply refuses to acknowledge reality should be enough to put an end to that kind of ambition by voters who would rather not have to swim to the polls.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Florida’s Turn

As court after court rule in favor of marriage equality, we’ve all wondered when Florida would get its turn to step up to the bar.  In one case filed back in January, that turn is today.

On July 2, 2014, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel will hear arguments on a motion for summary judgment in this state lawsuit with federal claims filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Equality Florida Institute.

[...]

On January 21, 2014, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Equality Florida Institute filed a lawsuit in state court with federal claims on behalf of six same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in Florida. The lawsuit argues that laws in Florida that restrict marriage to different-sex couples violate the United States Constitution’s commitment to equal protection under the law.

The plaintiffs hail from Miami and the surrounding area. They include: Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello, together for 14 years and raising a young son; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price, together for 18 years and raising young twins; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier, together for 8 years and raising a child; Todd and Jeff Delmay, together for 11 years and raising a young son; Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber, grandparents who have been together for 25 years; and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz, who recently got engaged.

The track record for the marriage equality cases since the Supreme Court handed down Windsor last year is perfect: not one court has ruled against a same-sex couple.  Let’s hope that Florida keeps the streak alive.

HT to Freedom to Marry.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunday Reading

“Stop and Frisk on Steroids” — Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic on the shameful practice in a Miami suburb.

Last year, police in Miami Gardens, Florida briefly made headlines after surveillance video captured their harassment of a black clerk at a convenience store. They stopped and questioned the man, Earl Sampson, a ludicrous 258 times. On 62 occasions, they arrested him for trespassing at his place of employment, a pattern of abuse that confounded his employer, the store’s owner. After the Miami Heraldexposed this story, it made national headlines at numerous journalistic outlets, then quickly faded into obscurity at the end of one news cycle. The scope of the abuse taking place in the police department remained unknown. The vast majority of outlets that covered the story cared too little to follow up.

Now evidence of staggering citywide abuse has come to light.

After a 6-month investigation, the TV network Fusion has documented a racist, illegal policing strategy that a local public defender calls “stop and frisk on steroids.” One Miami Gardens police officer reports that his supervisor ordered him to stop all black males between the ages of 15 and 30. Just 110,754 people live in Miami Gardens, yet going back to 2008, police have stopped and questioned 56,922 people who were not arrested. There were 99,980 total stops that did not lead to arrests, and 250 individuals were stopped more than 20 times.

Fusion also documented multiple instances of police officers falsifying official field reports, claiming to stop and question people who were actually already in county jail.

This is stellar investigative journalism.

Denzel Flowers, who is 20, has been stopped by police 27 times and arrested 4 times, but has never been convicted of anything.

While teenage, twenty-something and thirty-something black males were subjected to the most intense police harassment, Fusion also found that even some of the youngest and oldest residents in the city were deemed “suspicious” by police:

Fusion’s analysis of more than 30,000 pages of field contact reports, shows how aggressive and far-reaching the police actions were. Some residents were stopped, questioned and written up multiple times within minutes of each other, by different officers. Children were stopped by police in playgrounds. Senior citizens were stopped and questioned near their retirement home, including a 99-year-old man deemed to be “suspicious.” Officers even wrote a report identifying a five-year-old child as a “suspicious person.”

A 99-year-old man!

One imagines that the septuagenarian crime rate in Miami Gardens is quite low, Florida or not. Yet police there conducted 982 stops of individuals aged 70 and above.

[...]

This is the reality of anti-racism in American public discourse. Maximum outrage and urgent demands to do something are marshaled against offensive words. A Princeton student who critiqued the concept of white privilege in the school newspaper made national headlines and inspired numerous essays picking apart his logic. But public employees with guns harassing, intimidating, and humiliating innocent black children, because they’re black, every day in their neighborhood? Fusion published that story Thursday morning and almost no one noticed.

One Angry Father v. The N.R.A. — Kate McDonough in Salon on the man who may blunt the gun lobby.

Richard Martinez’s son Christopher was among the six college students murdered this weekend in Isla Vista, California. It’s impossible to fathom the grief that Martinez must be experiencing right now, and the simple fact that he is upright and mobile is an act of tremendous courage. Which is precisely what makes everything else that he has done in the days since he lost his son all the more astounding.

From his first public statement — a blistering and emotional indictment of “craven” politicians who refuse to act on even moderate gun reform — to the tribute to Christopher he delivered Tuesday before a crowd of thousands, Martinez has been willing to show his raw and devastating grief to the world. He has made himself the gnarled and anguished face of our broken system — the lives that it takes and the lives that it ruins. His vulnerability and righteous, focused anger is unlike anything we’ve seen in response to a mass shooting.

And it should scare the shit out of the National Rifle Association, the gun lobby and the cowardly politicians who use these deadly weapons as literal and figurative political props.

It isn’t just the force of Martinez’s emotions or political conviction that make him powerful. He is currently shouldering the unimaginable grief of being yet another parent who has lost yet another child in yet another mass shooting. He has seen this happen before, he knows the political script that’s already playing out. He has listened as gun apologists — time and again — urge the nation not to “politicize” a national tragedy out of respect for the families, and then watched them turn on these same families in order to protect our deadly — and immensely profitable — culture of guns. And he’s using it. All of it.

Days after 26 people were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, Wayne LaPierre denounced gun reform advocates for “exploit[ing] the tragedy for political gain.” Months later, Sarah Palin echoed the sentiment. ”Leaders are in it for themselves, not for the American people,” she told a crowd that summer, before effectively declaring how proud she was that her son Trig would grow up in a country where men like Elliot Rodger and Adam Lanza can buy guns and hoard ammunition without authorities batting an eyelash.

Martinez may be the single most powerful force we have against this kind of slithering political cowardice. He’s already familiar with the political dirty tricks and knows where the conversation will eventually turn — that the pro-gun crowd is going to come out hard against him, just as they have turned on other parents and survivors. “Right now, there hasn’t been much blowback from the other side,” Martinez noted during a Tuesday interview with MSNBC. “But I anticipate that once my grieving period is over, the gloves will come off. I don’t think it’s going to be easy. They are going to try to do to me the same thing that they’ve done to all of these people. But I have a message for them: My son is dead. There is nothing you could do to me that is worse than that.”

I can’t imagine a more direct rebuttal to the LaPierres and the Palins in this country.

Losing Streak — Jeffry Toobin in The New Yorker introduces us to the lawyer defending bans on marriage equality.

You think you’ve got a tough job? Try opposing same-sex marriage in the federal courts these days. That’s what Austin Nimocks does for a living (among other things). Nimocks is senior counsel for a conservative public-interest group called the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is devoted to protecting religious liberty. In recent years, the organization has been a principal legal defender of what it calls “traditional marriage.” Things have not been going so well lately.

Since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last June, in United States v. Windsor, fourteen courts have considered challenges to same-sex-marriage bans and related laws—and all fourteen have ruled in favor of marriage equality. Two weeks ago, the Washington Post did a summary of the first thirteen. Then a federal court in Pennsylvania joined the list. (It’s hard to keep up!) To summarize: same-sex marriage is now legal in nineteen states, which contain roughly forty-four per cent of the U.S. population. Judges in eleven other states have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, but those decisions are stayed pending appeals.

All of this does not discourage Nimocks, who just published a report about the state of the law on marriage around the country, and a brief in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage should be reinstated. “We don’t worry too much about what the district courts say,” he told me. “All that matters is how the Supreme Court comes out in the end.”

[...]

The heart of Nimocks’s argument comes down to a single word: children. Over and over again in his sixty-page brief, he asserts that the government has a legitimate interest in favoring traditional marriage because only a man and a woman can produce children. “Marriage laws have been, and continue to be, about the pragmatic business of serving society’s child-centered purposes, like connecting children to their mother and father, and avoiding the negative outcomes often experienced by children raised outside a stable family unit led by their biological parents,” he writes. He attempts to elide the obvious response—that not all opposite-sex couples want or can have children—by saying that Virginia can presume that they will. The purpose of limiting marriage to men and women “is not to ensure that all marital unions produce children. Instead, it is to channel the presumptive procreative potential of man-woman relationships into enduring marital unions so that if any children are born, they are more likely to be raised in stable family units by both their mothers and fathers.” This, then, is Nimocks’s best response to the argument (raised by Justice Elena Kagan at the oral arguments) that marriage is about more than just having children, because lots of married people can’t or don’t have them.

There is a potentially fatal flaw in Nimocks’s child-centered argument. At the oral arguments of the Windsor case, and in the Court’s opinion, one of the Justices also seemed especially interested in children. It was Justice Kennedy, the indispensable swing vote on issues of gay rights. “There are some forty-thousand children in California that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status,” Kennedy said during the arguments related to Windsor’s companion case, on California’s Proposition 8. “The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?” In his opinion in Windsor, Kennedy wrote that the Defense of Marriage Act “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.” The laws that Nimocks is defending operate in much the same way—which means that his losing streak may not end when he reaches the Supreme Court.

Doonesbury — Pitch perfect.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This Won’t Help

There are a lot of homeless people here in South Florida.  The climate and the economy make it attractive for people down on their luck, and you see them in a lot of places where the tourists gather.  Some people are freaked out by them, so the city fathers of Fort Lauderdale decided to do something about the poor folks.

…the city of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is on the cusp of passing a new regulation that would make it illegal for anyone to store their personal things on public property. Specifically, it would empower police to confiscate any personal possessions stored on public property, provided they have given the homeless person 24-hours notice. If the homeless people wish to retrieve their items, they must pay the city “reasonable charges for storage and removal of the items,” though that fee is waived if the person is able to demonstrate he or she cannot afford to pay. The city may dispose of any possessions not retrieved within 30 days. One of the driving factors behind the measure, according to the legislation, is the city’s “interest in aesthetics.”

Last week, the City Commission gave unanimous preliminary approval to the measure, despite overwhelming opposition from local residents who testified.

For the amount of money the city is going to spend enforcing this Dickensian nightmare of social engineering, they could support the charities and community-based organizations that are making a genuine effort to help.  But they’d rather go for the aesthetics.  Sheesh.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

License to Kill

If you’re a white person in Florida and you kill a black person, the death penalty is off the table.

Florida has executed 84 people since the Supreme Court announced the modern death penalty regime in 1976. Zero of them are white people sentenced to death for killing an African American. Indeed, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, “no white person has ever been executed for killing an African American” in the state of Florida.

You might even get your own autograph booth at a gun show.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Reading

Righteous Indignation — Andrew Sullivan takes on the proposed law in Kansas that would allow anti-gay discrimination on religious grounds.  (Sounds like someone’s been reading my Facebook page.)

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. Someone will be denied a seat at a lunch counter. The next day, dozens of customers will replace him. The state will have to enforce the owner’s right to refuse service. You can imagine the scenes. Or someone will be fired for marrying the person they love. The next day, his neighbors and friends will rally around.

If you were devising a strategy to make the Republicans look like the Bull Connors of our time, you just stumbled across a winner. If you wanted a strategy to define gay couples as victims and fundamentalist Christians as oppressors, you’ve hit the jackpot. In a period when public opinion has shifted decisively in favor of gay equality and dignity, Kansas and the GOP have decided to go in precisely the opposite direction. The week that the first openly gay potential NFL player came out, the GOP approved a bill that would prevent him from eating in restaurants in the state, if he ever mentioned his intention to marry or just shack up with his boyfriend. Really, Republicans? That’s the party you want?

As for the allegedly Christian nature of this legislation, let’s not mince words. This is the inversion of Christianity.

Even if you believe that gay people are going to Hell, that they have chosen evil, or are somehow trying to subvert society by seeking to commit to one another for life, it does not follow that you should ostracize them. The entire message of the Gospels is about embracing those minorities despised by popular opinion. Jesus made a point to associate with the worst sinners – collaborating tax-collectors, prostitutes or lepers whose disease was often perceived as a sign of moral failing. The idea that Christianity approves of segregating any group is anathema to what Jesus actually preached and the way he actually lived. The current Pope has explicitly opposed such ostracism. Christians, far from seeking distance from “sinners”, should be engaging them, listening to them, ministering to them – not telling them to leave the store or denying them a hotel room or firing them from their job. But then, as I’ve tried to argue for some time now, Christianism is not Christianity. In some practical ways, it is Christianity’s most tenacious foe.

If I am confident that this law is, in fact, a huge miscalculation by the far right, I do not mean to discount the very real intimidation and fear that many gay Kansans and their friends and families are experiencing right now. It’s appalling that any government should seek to place itself institutionally hostile to an entire segment of society. But in civil rights movements, acts of intemperate backlash are also opportunities. If this bill becomes law, and gay couples are fired or turned away from hotels or shown the door at restaurants and denied any recourse to the courts, the setback to the anti-gay movement could be severe, even fatal. Yes, of course this bill should never have seen the light of day. But now it has, that light will only further discredit the discriminators. Even they know this, hence the unhinged rationale for the entire bill: “Discrimination is horrible. It’s hurtful … It has no place in civilized society.”

On the Killing of Jordan Davis — Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic.

I wish I had something more to say about the fact that Michael Dunn was not convicted for killing a black boy. Except I said it after George Zimmerman was not convicted of killing a black boy. Except the parents of black boys already know this. Except the parents of black boys have long said this, and they have been answered with mockery.

Jordan Davis had a mother and a father. It did not save him. Trayvon Martin had a mother and a father. They could not save him. My son has a father and mother. We cannot protect him from our country, which is our aegis and our assailant. We cannot protect our children because racism in America is not merely a belief system but a heritage, and the inability of black parents to protect their children is an ancient tradition.

Henry “Box” Brown, whose family was destroyed and whose children were trafficked, knew:

I stationed myself by the side of the road, along which the slaves, amounting to three hundred and fifty, were to pass. The purchaser of my wife was a Methodist minister, who was about starting for North Carolina. Pretty soon five wagon-loads of little children passed, and looking at the foremost one, what should I see but a little child, pointing its tiny hand towards me,  exclaiming, “There’s my father; I knew he would come and bid me good-bye…”

Spare us the invocations of “black on black crime.”  I will not respect the lie. I would rather be thought insane. The most mendacious phrase in the American language is “black on black crime,” which is uttered as though the same hands that drew red lines around the ghettoes of Chicago are not the same hands that drew red lines around the life of Jordan Davis,  as though black people authored North Lawndale and policy does not exist. That which mandates the murder of our Hadiya Pendletons necessarily mandates the murder of Jordan Davis. I will not respect any difference. I will not respect the lie. I would rather be thought crazy.

I insist that the irrelevance of black life has been drilled into this country since its infancy, and shall not be extricated through the latest innovations in Negro Finishing School. I insist that racism is our heritage, that Thomas Jefferson’s genius is no more important than his plundering of the body of Sally Hemmings, that George Washington’s abdication is no more significant than his wild pursuit of Oney Judge, that the G.I Bill’s accolades are somehow inseparable from its racist heritageI will not respect the lie. I insist that racism must be properly understood as an Intelligence, as a sentience, as a default setting which, likely to the end of our days, we shall unerringly return.

The Problem with the NFL — Eric Sollenberger at SB Nation.

The NFL has an asshole problem.

There is absolutely nothing that came out in the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin report from Ted Wells that can be taken to mean anything else. Enough about this “locker room culture” crap. There is no such thing as “locker room culture.” This is just a phrase used by people who are uncomfortable with good athletes being reasonably called out on deplorable behavior. What happened in the Miami Dolphins locker room can be described as nothing else but a group of man-children hiding behind a veneer of alpha male-ism in a society that excuses their stupid actions.

It’s time we stop searching for reasons to defend the indefensible. You don’t have to be an asshole. You’re well within your rights to act like a decent human being. I understand that NFL players have been told that they’re special for their entire lives, and this culture of making them a celebrity since high school has a way of inflating their ego. But there’s a way to be famous and not be a world-class dick to your coworkers. Trust me, it’s possible.

Not all NFL players are assholes. Most of them are perfectly nice, generous people around their family, friends and their communities. But when a coach lets the stupidest people speak the loudest, then you have an asshole problem.

Like anything else in life there’s a spectrum of being an asshole, understanding that is where people start to lose their minds when it comes to defending this type of behavior. Most of the people that I know who are fun to be around bust each other’s balls and joke around.

The problem is that you can slap the “busting balls” label on anything you want. It can mean that you’re making fun of the time your buddy got arrested for petting a police horse, or it can mean that you’re calling a teammate a “half-nigger piece of shit.” Not being understanding, or not caring, about the fundamental difference between something that cuts to the core of who someone is as a human and something that doesn’t makes you an “asshole” whether you’re comfortable with this term or not.

Doonesbury — Paved paradise…

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winter Storm Warning

This one is for coastal Florida.

… Winter Storm Warning remains in effect from 6 am Tuesday to
6 am CST Wednesday…

* timing… patchy light freezing rain and sleet will be possible
early Tuesday morning with precipitation increasing in coverage and
intensity late morning into the evening hours on Tuesday.
Precipitation will transition to mostly snow along and north of a
Greenville to Leakesville line in the afternoon… with freezing
rain and sleet expected further south toward the Interstate 10
corridor. As colder air becomes deeper late Tuesday afternoon and
evening… a transition to more sleet and snow is expected along
the Interstate 10 corridor… with freezing rain and sleet occurring
all the way to the coast. Precipitation should gradually come to an
end by late Tuesday night.

Not exactly tank-tops and flip-flops weather in Pensacola.  Stay warm, Bryan.

Florida To Vote on Medical Marijuana

Medicinal weed makes it onto the ballot in Florida.

Florida voters will decide whether to allow medical marijuana in the state after the Florida Supreme Court on Monday narrowly approved the wording of a ballot question.

The court’s 4-3 decision means the question on a proposed constitutional amendment can go on the ballot this November.

The citizen initiative already met the other threshold of getting more than 683,000 valid signatures.

Attorney General Pam Bondi and lawmakers had opposed the measure, saying the language was unclear and misleading in part because it did not make a difference between “diseases” and “debilitating medical conditions.”

Bondi’s brief to the court argued that by leaving “no condition off limits, physicians could authorize marijuana for anything, any time, to anyone, of any age.”

Medical marijuana is so 1996, which is when the first state — California, of course — legalized it.  Based on that timeline, if it passes in Florida — and you can bet that it will face a tough battle because Rick Scott’s medical corporation allies don’t have a corner on the market — that means it will be 2032 by the time it will be legalized for recreational use here in the Sunshine State.

Unless, of course, Big Sugar decides to go into the business and become Big Bong.  Then they’ll be giving it away at the rest stops on Florida’s Turnpike.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Six Couples Sue Florida For Marriage Equality

Via Steve Rothaus at the Miami Herald:

Six same-sex couples on Tuesday sued in Miami-Dade Circuit Court for the right to marry in Florida, once again thrusting the Sunshine State into the national gay-rights spotlight.

“We are proud to stand here on this historic day,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, the state’s leading gay-rights group. “We are proud to stand here with these brave couples who have stepped up to protect their families and challenge the law in our state. For everyone who stands here today, there are thousands whose families are denied the dignity and protections that marriage provides.

“We stand here for those who have applied for marriage licenses and face the humiliation of being denied. We stand here for the children of couples who want to know why their parents aren’t permitted to get married the way their classmates’ parents are.”

The South Florida couples suing to marry are Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier; Todd and Jeff Delmay; Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber; and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz. Equality Florida Institute is also a plaintiff.

This is the way the laws will change: state by state, step by step.

Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage.  That was in 2008, and it was done by a coalition of Jesus-shouters and fear mongers who had nothing but contempt for the people they were attacking and for the foundation of laws in this country.  Even though marriage equality was already against the law, they thought that by passing a constitutional amendment they would insulate it against repeal by some future legislature or governor that didn’t have their head buried in the 17th century.

But as we’ve learned in recent days in Utah and Oklahoma, a violation of the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution does not stand up even if it is embedded in the state constitution, any more than slavery does in states where it was once so enshrined.

I am sure the current administration of Gov. Rick Scott and his attorney general, Pam Biondi, will fight this suit, even as they face an uphill battle for re-election.  Wouldn’t it be great if the last battle they fight as they are voted out of office is a losing one?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dangerous Popcorn

What I wrote yesterday regarding the shooting of a texter in a movie theatre in Tampa by a retired police officer:

Five will get you ten that he uses the Stand Your Ground defense.

I thought I was being snarky.  Sadly, no.

Curtis Reeves, Jr., a retired police captain says he feared for his life after the victim ‘assaulted’ him with a bag of movie popcorn.

Reeves told Pasco County sheriff’s deputies Monday that Oulson stood up and struck him in the face with an unknown object when they were arguing inside a Wesley Chapel movie theater during previews. Reeves said he was “in fear of being attacked,” according to an arrest affidavit.

Right away, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office realized Stand Your Ground could come into play later in court.

Sheriff Chris Nocco said Tuesday his deputies investigated the issue and do not believe it is a viable defense in this case.

If there weren’t dead people as a result, this would be a Marx Brothers movie.