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.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Give Us A Reason

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on the question of marriage equality:

While recognizing that “our history is marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians,” Rubio argued that “traditional marriage has such an extraordinary record of success at raising children” and must be perpetuated to the exclusion of same-sex unions.

“[T]oday, there is a growing intolerance on this issue, intolerance towards those who continue to support traditional marriage,” Rubio observed, citing the firing of the CEO of Mozilla, following revelations that he supported California’s campaign to ban same-sex marriage, and other instances where opponents of marriage equality suffered economic consequences. “And I promise you that even before this speech is over, I will be attacked as a hater, a bigot or someone who is anti-gay,” he added. “This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy.”

Rubio then sought to shield himself from accusations of homophobia, by linking his position on the issue to President Obama’s.” “Supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay, it is pro-traditional marriage,” the junior senator claimed.

It takes more than a little gall to shed crocodile tears over discrimination against gays and lesbians and then turn around and explain in detail why he does it.

I’ve heard the “traditional marriage” line so many times that I’m not going to bother to once again remind him that what he calls traditional marriage — i.e. one man and one woman — isn’t all that traditional.  It certainly isn’t that way in the bible, nor is the idea of two people falling in love and getting married as opposed to an arranged marriage between two fathers as a business deal.  Read some Shakespeare or download Fiddler on the Roof.

His claim is that “traditional marriage” must be preserved to the exclusion of all others because it of its “extraordinary record of success in raising children.”  This claim may be true; it’s nice to have a mom and a dad.  But there are a lot of single parents who do just as good a job with their kids as anybody else.  So they shouldn’t be allowed to raise kids because they’re not married?  What about straight people who for whatever reason choose not to have children?  If you’re going to exclude same-sex couples from marriage because they can’t reproduce the old-fashioned way, why not exclude the straight ones who don’t have kids?  Must all marriage licenses require proof of fertility?

Mr. Rubio implies that “traditional marriage” is under attack.  By whom?  Advocates for marriage equality don’t want to stop straight people from getting married.  It’s not some zero-sum game wherein one is traded out for the other.  How can advocating for committed unions between two people who happen to have the same form of genitalia threaten those marriages between two people who don’t?

That’s where the intolerance comes in.  Pro-”traditional” marriage people don’t want same-sex couples to have the benefits of marriage, whereas those of us who are pro-marriage equality want everybody to have the benefits.  So who is the intolerant one?  Saying that same-sex marriage somehow denigrates or mocks straight marriage is yet again another sign of intolerance because that’s saying that the people in that marriage are less than worthy of respect simply because of their orientation.  Again, who is the intolerant one?

And then there’s the church.  Mr. Rubio doesn’t say it, but the implication is that marriage equality violates religious freedom by forcing Christians to accept something they don’t approve of.  However, not all Christians accept the idea of banning same-sex marriage.  In fact, there are a number of Christian denominations, including mainline Protestants, who welcome and perform same-sex weddings, as do a number of Jewish synagogues.  Why do some Christians get to tell others who they can or cannot celebrate in the bonds of holy matrimony?

But let’s be fair.  If Sen. Rubio can give us a valid reason based in law as to why same-sex couples should not be joined in matrimony, let him speak now.  So far, though, more than twenty state and federal courts have heard arguments for and against marriage equality since the Supreme Court handed down their decision in United States v. Windsor which struck down DOMA, and not one court has ruled in favor of his position.  In fact, the prevailing opinion of all those courts with judges appointed by everyone from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama is that state bans on marriage equality are violations of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution, and some of the rulings have said that the bans are in place for no other reason than to deny those protections to same-sex couples and serve no valid state purpose other than to enshrine gay-bashing in the law.

Sen. Rubio says that he will be labeled as is “a hater, a bigot or someone who is anti-gay” because he opposes marriage equality.  So let us give him the benefit of the doubt.  He can prove he is not by giving us a reason to oppose marriage equality that isn’t based on bigotry, discrimination, and intolerance.  We are all anxious to hear it.

Colorado Marriage Equality Ban Struck Down

Time to get a little Rocky Mountain love.

A federal judge declared Colorado’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional but temporarily stayed his ruling pending the outcome of appeals to a higher court.

U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore issued the ruling Wednesday in a civil lawsuit. A state judge issued a similar ruling earlier this month in a separate case.

The federal lawsuit, filed by six gay couples on July 1, names Gov. John Hickenlooper, Attorney General John Suthers and clerks from Denver and Jefferson counties as defendants.

One day after the lawsuit was filed, Suthers’ office asked the judge to stop proceedings in the case, pending a final resolution of a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that found Utah’s ban on gay marriages unconstitutional. As part of the request, Suthers asked that a stay be put in place, ensuring that county clerks do not begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until a higher court makes a ruling.

Moore rejected Suthers’ argument that failing to issue a stay would be harmful to the state and cause legal confusion.

Still, Moore temporarily issued the stay, and gave Suthers’ office until 8 a.m. on Aug. 25 to appeal his ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In denying Suthers’ request for a stay Moore wrote that, “it is Plaintiffs who suffer irreparable harm if Colorado’s unconstitutional same-sex marriage ban is not enjoined.”

Yip-yah!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Anything But That

Florida Gov. Rick Scott would rather talk about anything other than marriage equality.  Via Marc Caputo:

“Nobody wants discrimination in our state,” Scott said in Bonita Springs, adding that he believes “in traditional marriage” and citizens’ access to the courts.

Gay-rights groups say the same-sex marriage ban discriminates against them, but the ban’s backers say their votes are being discriminated against by judicial activism.

So what discrimination is Scott against? Scott won’t say.

“Aren’t you trying to have it both ways?” WPLG’s Michael Putney asked Scott Friday in Miami.“People have different view about it our state,” Scott replied. “But in 2008, the voters decided that this state would be a traditional marriage state. It’s going through the court system. But what’s important to me is I don’t want anybody discriminated against.”

Putney: Aren’t gays being discriminated against?

Scott: “I’m against any discrimination. But in 2008, the voters decided this would be a traditional marriage state.”

Putney: “Are you…”

Scott (cutting him off): “Let’s talk about jobs – 37,000 jobs in a month! It’s the biggest jump! Michael! Michael! This is our biggest month since I got elected,” Scott said. “We’re over 620,000 jobs [created]. When I ran in 2010, I said seven steps to 700,000 jobs over seven years. And a lot of people questioned whether we could do that…. We’re at 620,000. What’s so exciting is 37,000 a month. I mean I just still think about my dad, watching his face when the only car we had got repossessed. That’s what I want to help with.”

That’s become his stock answer for everything.  Ask any question — what about climate change, redistricting, education funding, or the main ingredient in tomato soup — and you get “Jobs!  Look at all the jobs!”  It’s like he’s stuck in a feedback loop.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Short Takes

U.S.: All signs point to Russia’s involvement in Malaysian airliner shoot-down.

Iran nuke talks to be extended another four months.

President Obama will sign executive order banning LGBT discrimination without religious exemption.

Federal court overturns Oklahoma’s ban on marriage equality.

GM delayed recall in another ignition switch case.

The Tigers lost to Cleveland 9-3.

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.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Colorado Joins The Ranks

And another state strikes down their ban on marriage equality.

An Adams County District Court judge on Wednesday declared Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional, but he immediately stayed his ruling.

Judge C. Scott Crabtree pulled no punches in his 49-page ruling, saying the state’s voter-approved ban “bears no rational relationship to any conceivable government interest.”

The ruling makes Colorado the latest in a string of 16 states that have seen their bans on same-sex marriages tossed out by state and federal judges.

The ruling came as another judge in Boulder County considered a request by Attorney General John Suthers to stop a county clerk from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. And last week, attorneys filed a federal lawsuit seeking to challenge Colorado’s gay marriage ban.

Attorneys for 18 plaintiffs — nine couples — from Denver and Adams counties argued that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.

“We are ecstatic. There is much cheering in our house,” Sandra Abbott said after Crabtree’s ruling. She and her partner, Amy Smart, were one of the nine couples in the lawsuit. “We waited a long time for this ruling.”

What is not remarkable at all is that virtually every court has used the same legal reasoning that Judge Crabtree did: banning same-sex marriage serves no interest of the state and the only reason they’ve done it is because of the irrational fear ginned up by sex-obsessed busybodies and religious fanatics.  Okay, I paraphrased that, but you get the idea.

Colorado also joins New Mexico as a state I lived in when I had a partner.  We could have gotten married then if we had the right.  Hmm.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

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.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Very Good Year

One year ago today the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and ruled in favor of the plaintiff in Windsor, opening the door for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights on a scale that even the most optimistic dreamer could not imagine.

Yesterday, Indiana became the latest state to have its state law against marriage equality ruled unconstitutional, and literally ten minutes later a federal court in Denver ruled that Utah’s ban was also in violation of the Constitution.  That ruling by an appellate court pretty much guarantees that the case will be heard by the Supreme Court.  It’s anybody’s guess as to how the Court will rule on such a case, but at the rate things are going — twenty states now have full marriage equality, and in the states that don’t, their laws are being challenged in court — by the time the case gets to Washington, D.C., it could be all over but the last dying whimper of the sniveling bigots at the Family Research Council.

State of Same-Sex Marriage on 06-25-14

In a way, it was people like the Family Research Council and the hard-core Religious Reich that has made a lot of this progress possible.  Had it not been for them making such a big stink over what other people do in the privacy of their own home and forced a lot of people to examine their own lives, marriage equality would most likely have evolved slowly and ploddingly as states dealt with their own matters and not given a second thought to it.  But now many courageous people — straight as well as gay — stood up in the face of the tyranny of the shamers and defended the fundamental right as human beings to live their life with someone they love regardless of genitalia.  And the louder and more spittle-flecked the suppressed oppressors became, the more ludicrous and laughable their arguments grew until finally enough people, regardless of political or religious persuasion, said “At long last, enough.”

I have said all along that the case for marriage equality comes down to one simple fact: banning same-sex marriage — or any discrimination against the LGBT community, be it job discrimination, housing, or insurance benefits — violates the fundamental right we have as citizens to equal protection under the law.  Our rights cannot be taken away or curtailed simply for who we are or how we identify ourselves.  One freedom cannot apply to one person and not someone else without a good reason, and being black, Muslim, or gay is not a good enough reason.  We have already achieved — at least in the law — relief for the first two.  It is beyond time for the third.

In the ruling in the Utah case, the court noted the anniversary of the Windsor ruling and the swift progress of marriage equality:

In less than a year, every federal district court to consider the issue has reached the same conclusion in thoughtful and thorough opinions – laws prohibiting the celebration and recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. It is clear that the fundamental right to marry shall not be deprived to some individuals based solely on the person they choose to love. In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as Plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as a marriage – not a same-sex marriage. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.

One of the reasons the courts have reached the same conclusion is because when you get right down to it, it’s not that hard a decision to make.  Marriage is a right, regardless of the participants, and so far no respondent to the suits has been able come up with an argument based in the law or Constitution that justifies the state or federal government enforcing the ban on marriage equality.

Who knows where we will be a year from now.  By then even Florida will have joined the others.  And ten years from now we will all look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Map via Shakesville.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Indiana Same-Sex Marriage Ban Overturned

Wow.

A federal judge struck down Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday, ruling that gay couples have the same marriage rights as couples of opposing genders.

The ruling takes effect immediately, meaning same-sex couples can begin marrying Wednesday. The clerk in Marion County, home to Indianapolis, says the office will start issuing marriage licenses.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that the state’s ban was unconstitutional. The ruling involves lawsuits from several gay couples.

The Indiana attorney general’s office says it will appeal but had no other immediate comment.

It’s been almost exactly a year since the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and ruled for same-sex marriage in the Windsor case.  Since then the state and federal courts have been striking down the state laws and constitutional amendments on an almost monthly basis.  And yet I never get tired of hearing the news.

Okay, Florida, your turn.

Via Melissa.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday Reading

Impossible Choices — David Rohde, a former Taliban captive explains why we’re demonizing the wrong people.

I’m biased about Bergdahl. Five years ago, I was kidnapped by the same Afghan Taliban faction along with two Afghan colleagues while I was on leave from The New York Times, researching a book in Afghanistan. An offer for an interview from a Taliban commander who had previously met twice with European journalists proved to be a ruse. We were abducted at the meeting point and then transported to the tribal areas of Pakistan.

My decision to go to the interview thrust my family and editors into a world where there are no good choices. Kidnapping cases vary, but they all center on the same tortuous questions. Was the kidnap victim innocent or somehow at fault—and does it matter? Is it right to pay a ransom that could encourage kidnappings or fund future terrorist attacks? When is it morally acceptable to let a captive die?

One brave Afghan and one brave Pakistani allowed me to avoid answering those questions. While our guards slept, the Afghan journalist and I managed to escape and reach a nearby Pakistani military compound. After we were nearly shot by sentries, a Pakistani Army captain allowed us to enter the base and saved our lives. (The other Afghan kidnapped with me returned home safely six weeks later.)

Ten days after our escape, Bergdahl was captured by the same Taliban group. Over the last four years, I have talked regularly with Bergdahl’s family and those of other kidnapped Americans. One of them is the family of Warren Weinstein, an aid worker abducted in Pakistan nearly three years ago. His family fears he will die in captivity. In July, he will be 73.

The Bergdahls, the Weinsteins, and every other family I have spoken with express the same sense of desperation, isolation, and crushing responsibility. They incessantly ask themselves if they are doing enough. The sad truth hanging over every conversation is that they do not have the power to save them.

Five years later, the situation has gotten worse.

In every case I know of, the U.S. government has refused to pay ransom and, until Bergdahl, refused to release prisoners. Over the last three years, however, European governments have paid $100 million in ransom to various al-Qaeda splinter groups across the Middle East and North Africa, according to British officials. Israel released 1,000 prisoners in exchange for one Israel soldier.

[...]

During the Iraq war, security consultants began recommending that the abduction of journalists be kept secret. A media blackout, it was hoped, would reduce captors’ ransom demands. It would also, in theory, discourage would-be abductors from seeing kidnappings as a way to gain worldwide publicity for their cause.

When we were abducted in Afghanistan, my family and editors followed that advice. My captors also initially demanded that the case remain secret as well. As had occurred in a half-dozen previous instances, media outlets agreed not to report on our kidnapping.

We will never know the impact of the blackout on my captors, but throughout the seven months I was held captive, they remained convinced that I was a “big fish.” By the time we escaped, their price for my release included $7 million in cash and seven prisoners from Guantánamo—a drop from the $25 million and 15 Guantánamo prisoners they started with.

In the years since I’ve returned home, it’s become clear that one unintended consequence of this blackout strategy is that U.S. officials are under little pressure to address the problem. Anguished families say they regularly visit Washington only to be “patted on the head” by U.S. officials.

[...]

The outcry over the Bergdahl case could create the worst of both worlds. Jihadists will expect prisoner exchanges or large ransoms. U.S. officials will be ever more hesitant to act in kidnapping cases.

Both sides in the furor over the Bergdahl case offer simplistic answers to the growing problem of abductions. Those who say the release of the five prisoners sets no precedent are downplaying the scope of this propaganda coup for the Taliban. Other militants around the globe will likely emulate them.

[...]

The focus of our anger should be the kidnappers. They are the problem, not hostages, their families, or a government that meets a demand. We must unite in fighting the perpetrators of a craven crime—not each other.

A Simple Wedding — John Nichols at The Nation on why each marriage equality ruling is historic.

Shari Roll was clutching the marriage certificate. Renee Currie was clutching Shari Roll. And when their designated officiant, Mike Quieto, pronounced them married, they smiled so perfectly, so naturally, that it seemed as if this was just another wedding on the courthouse steps.

And, of course, it was.

The only distinction was that this was the first legally-recognized marriage of two women in Wisconsin, the first same-sex marriage in Madison, the one of the initial celebrations of the marriage equality ruling issued by a federal judge Friday afternoon. By the end of the night in Madison, 61 same-sex couples had been issued marriage licenses by Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, while 68 had been issued by Milwaukee County Joe Czarnezki.

Together for years and very much in love, Roll and Currie could easily have driven to the neighboring state of Iowa, which has since 2009 recognized marriage equality. Thousands of Wisconsin couples, including Congressman Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and his husband, Phil Frank, married outside the state after a ban on same-sex marriages was enacted in 2006. But Roll and Currie decided to wait for a future when the state could no longer restrict the most basic rights of loving couples.

“We wanted to get married where we live,” explained Shari Roll.

I understand that. A lot of us who choose to marry in the place where we live, embraced by the people we know, grounded in the values and the unique interactions of the very different communities and states that make up America.

Madison’s uniqueness was evident Friday night, as dozens of couples got their licenses and married on the steps of the downtown building that serves both as the Madison City Hall and the Dane County Courthouse. Judges in robes waited on the steps, meeting couples and performing the marriages as cheers went up from the ever-expanding crowd of well-wishers. Children showed up, brimming with bouquets. I asked who the wedding flowers were for and they replied, “For everyone who is getting married today.” Then they starting handing flowers out to couples who had rushed to the courthouse without much preparation but suddenly felt quite special and very loved.

Then the cops showed up with the wedding cakes. Several Madison Police officers who had been assigned to keep an eye on the proceedings raced off to a nearby grocery store and bought three large cakes. Everyone was eating cake and cheering as the Klezmer band arrived and a fiddler played “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” for a pair of women who waited 30 years to marry.

[...]

Today, polling shows Wisconsinites overwhelmingly support marriage equality – a May Marquette Law School poll found 55 percent of voters favor allowing same-sex marriage, while just 37 percent are opposed. Unfortunately, Governor Scott Walker and his Republican-controlled legislature have refused to allow the voters to revisit the issue. Walker was still backing efforts by Attorney General JB Van Hollen to block marriages, even as the clerks started issuing licenses.

So it was appropriate that a senior jurist with her own deep roots in Wisconsin, Federal Judge Barbara Crabb, would determine that, “Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality, the two cornerstones of the rights protected by the United States Constitution.” In an 88-page decision that was hailed as one of the most though yet produced by a federal jurist ruling on the issue, Crabb explained that states cannot trump federal guarantees of equality and equal protection with their own discriminatory amendments. And, while Walker and Van Hollen will continue to cling to a past that has been rejected by the courts and the great mass of Wisconsinites and Americans, the future is fast arriving.

And that future allows people to marry the people they love in the places they love.

In their rush to get to the courthouse Friday afternoon, Shari Roll and Renee Currie forgot to bring any cash for the license fee. Roll handed her credit card to friend who ran off to a nearby bank machine and returned with the cash. It was no problem. Shari and Renee were getting married where they live, and everyone was helping out.

The Day the Giants Walked — Lt. Col. Robert Bateman on one soldier’s landing on D-Day.

In the smoke and dust kicked up by the massive pre-landing naval bombardment, the markers leading the way into the beach were missed by the men piloting the landing craft. Sure, they were heading ashore, but unbeknownst to them they were heading for the wrong section of the shore. The place they were supposed to land was more than a mile, some 2,000 yards, to the north. With confusion created by smoke, dust, noise, and fear, the landing craft were well off-target. But time and tide wait for no man, and so when they grounded on the gently sloping sands and the ramps dropped, the men of the 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, and the diminutive general accompanying them, stepped ashore.

Even today Utah Beach is unremarkable. This stretch of the coast is at the base of the Cotentin Peninsula, and it is low, with just a single light sand dune abutting the beach. Go there off-season and you can walk these sands, alone, lost in the memories of 100,000 men. You can wander the beaches imagining the approach and the arrival all those decades ago, with not a single person in sight. If you have a vivid imagination, and know your history, it can border on the spiritual. There are no beachside cafes, nor bustling hotels or tourist shops selling kitschy D-Day schlock to interrupt you, as at some of the other landing sites. There is only the beach, where the first of the allies waded ashore, and the world started to change.

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. was the deputy division commander of the units that landed in the first wave. He had to pull strings to be allowed to land with the dogfaces, but when your cousin is the President of the United States, some of your “strings” can be quite substantial. Roosevelt only played that card, significantly, in order to get in to combat, not to avoid it. Eventually General Bradley caved, and so Roosevelt was there, in the first confusing moments. Confusing, of course, because the terrain did not match what the infantry was expecting. They had maps, but the ground did not match the maps they were issued. What to do?

Two battalions of American infantry were now ashore, and the battalion commanders were wondering, “what do we do now?” And this is the moment when that wizened little man who was not supposed to be there, using a walking stick, made his mark upon the history of the world.

[...]

Roosevelt was not long for this earth, and he probably knew it. I suspect that he did not care. What he cared about were the men, the mission, and the countless memories recorded by the men who served with or under him substantiate that. He was a worthy successor to his father, and might have left a mark known to more, had there been more time. He was not to have that time.

Less than 60 days later, having just been appointed as the commander of his own Division, he died of a heart attack. But on this day, this morning, 70 years ago, he made history. He gave an order, and the men followed, and the world began to change.

“We start…from here.”

Doonesbury — Pay attention.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

An Expert On Marriage

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi claims that same-sex marriage is equivalent to a plague.

The attorney general of Florida says in court documents that recognizing same sex marriages performed in other states would “impose significant public harm.”

Eight gay couples and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued the state in federal court. The lawsuit argues Florida is discriminating against the couples by not recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal.

Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a response that asks a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit.

Bondi’s office says the state has a legitimate interest in defining a marriage as between a man and woman because Florida’s voters adopted an amendment in 2008 that banned same-sex marriages.

I would be interested in hearing exactly why Ms. Bondi thinks a legal contract between two people represents “significant public harm.”  Based on the fact that she has been married three times, I assume she’s an expert on it.

HT to Riptide.

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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pennsylvania Piles On

First it was one or two a year, then it became every few months.  And now it seems like every other day there is a ruling from a state or federal court on marriage equality, and they’re all saying the same thing: banning same sex-marriage is unconstitutional.

Yesterday Pennsylvania joined the throng.

Continuing a rush of rulings that have struck down marriage limits across the country, a federal judge in Pennsylvania on Tuesday declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.

“We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” wrote Judge John E. Jones III of Federal District Court in a decision posted on Tuesday afternoon.

Pennsylvania is the last of the Northeast states with a ban on same-sex marriage, and if Tuesday’s ruling is not successfully challenged, it will become the 19th state to permit gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Judge Jones did not issue a stay, writing, “By virtue of this ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.”

Even as Gov. Tom Corbett said he was studying the decision and considering whether to appeal it, state officials began issuing marriage licenses on Tuesday afternoon to overjoyed gay couples.

It is now not just a matter of if the United States Supreme Court will take up the case, but when.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Whole West Coast

Oregon joins Washington and California to seal the West Coast for marriage equality.

Oregon cannot bar same-sex couples from marrying, a federal judge ruled Monday.

“Because Oregon’s marriage laws discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, the laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane wrote.

The ruling from McShane is the 12th federal trial court ruling since last summer’s Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act to find a state ban on same-sex couples’ marriages and/or on recognition of such marriages to be unconstitutional.

Two federal appeals courts, those in Denver and Richmond, already have heard appeals of challenges from three states, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

Unlike most of the other challenges, however, none of the government officials in Oregon plan to appeal McShane’s ruling. In McShane’s order, issued moments after his opinion was released shortly after noon PT, he stated that the order stopping enforcement of the ban is effective immediately. Although Oregon law has a three-day waiting period for issuing marriage licenses, there are exceptions to that waiting period that mean couples could marry on Monday.

From Judge McShane’s ruling:

I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families. Families who we would expect our Constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure. With discernment we see not shadows lurking in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed; rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the greater community.

What he said.

If you’re keeping score, that’s the thirteenth win in a row for marriage equality from the courts.  Not even the Tigers have a streak that good.  It also means that when the case finally gets to the Supreme Court, they’re going to have an overwhelming amount of evidence and rulings from a wide variety of courts, both state and federal, all supporting the precedent that banning same-sex marriage violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

Also, too:

A federal judge on Monday ordered Utah officials to recognize more than 1,000 same-sex marriages that took place in the state before the U.S. Supreme Court issued an emergency stay. If the rulings stands after a 21-day hold the judge placed on it, the state would be required to lift its freeze on benefits requested by gay couples.

And the hits just keep on coming.