Tuesday, May 31, 2005

With Many One?

Just when it seemed the anti-same-sex-marriage folk had the oddest interpretations, along comes the polygamy people. One lenghty essay asserts that both pro and anti folk support multiple-partner marriages. It picks the parts it wants from the Supreme Judicial Court decision to make its case. Then it turns to the anti folk.

For a flavor the carefully chosen arguments, read the whole work. An abbreviated argument for the latter group includes.
First, polygamy creates an even more "favorable setting for procreation."

Second, polygamy empowers wives who want to stay home with the children, equally empowering other wives who want to work. It motivates men to profound maturity and responsibility. Children can be raised at home by family members who love them - rather than being raised by low-paid strangers at daycare. Unquestionably, that creates an "optimal setting for child rearing."

Third, polygamy can free abandoned single moms from the "work-just-to-pay-for-day-care" cycle, empowering them to leave or avoid the welfare trap. That helps to preserve "scarce State and private financial resources."
Where’s Joseph Smith when he’s needed?

Monday, May 30, 2005

Princess of Justice

"Respect for the rule of law is deeply embedded in our American experience, but it is not embedded in our DNA," Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall told the graduating class of Brandeis University in Waltham yesterday.

Of course, she was alluding to the attacks from our POTUS and from local crazies. The idea that judges are negatively activist when they do their jobs has led to the most irrational view of the judicial system. Anyone who took a civics class learned that legislators, executives branch members and judges each play their roles.

She had no problem with criticisms of judges or their decisions. However, "I worry when people of influence use vague, loaded terms like 'judicial activism' to skew public debate or to intimidate judges," she said. "I worry when judicial independence is seen as a problem to be solved and not a value to be cherished."

Marshall was a voice of reason in this otherwise emotional atmosphere following her court's interpretation of Massachusetts law allowing same-sex marriages starting a year ago. She noted that "Our courts function as a pressure valve to defuse political and social tension." She was calm considering recent threats against judges here and the murder of the family of a U.S. District Judge in Chicago.

Most tellingly and accurately, she concluded, "Individual rights and human dignity are vulnerable when they depend on protection on the will of the majority or the good faith of those in power."

Try, for just a moment, to imagine the current White House being as reasonable or fair.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

V State Spitting Contest

Vermont and Virginia are at it. Both claim jurisdiction on a child-custody case with all the trappings of a made-for-TV movie.

The short version is that
  1. a lesbian couple joined in a civil union in Vermont
  2. they returned to Virginia
  3. they had a child by artificial insemination there
  4. they returned to Vermont
  5. love waned and they dissolved their union in Vermont
  6. the biological mom took their kid to Virginia
  7. she sued for full custody
  8. Virginia courts granted that
Now the stew festers and all the rotten ingredients boil to the surface.

In this corner, the ex, the ACLU, Virginia Equity, and LAMBDA want visitation and shared custody. In the other corner, the ever flaming Liberty Counsel and the mom (who claims to have become both straight and born-again) nah nah nah nah nah. Vermont says it was already considering custody and therefore Virginia has no right to even discuss it. Virginia says it doesn't recognize same-sex marriage or even civil unions. Tough bananas, kiddies.

Both corners have filed briefs in the ex's appeal of custody. This will be a battle.

For Virginia, the home of Patrick Henry, the place where the majority of the Civil War was fought, the ideal of states' rights, this is actually a disgrace. To try to tramp on another state that way is a real disgrace.

Check out one side here, the news version here, and Liberty Counsel's version here.

The theater of the Liberty Counsel is always entertaining. Their fabulous Matt Staver paints this not as a custody case or as proof that the reactionaries are nasty, but his statement is, "Same-sex unions will inevitably cause havoc among the states when one state law collides with another. Since children are caught in the middle of this battle, Congress should move quickly to pass a bill to amend the United States Constitution to preserve traditional marriage. Let the people vote and put an end to this madness."

You'd hope for the mom's case that they don't let him argue anything.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Doyle Foiled

What was he thinking? The persistent-in-the-face-of-the-facts C. Joseph Doyle got the Massachusetts high-court rejection we all expected. Today, the Supreme Judicial court rejected his flimsy appeal of his failed effort to block all further same-sex marriages until maybe the issue gets to a commonwealth constitutional convention and just maybe again passes.

As executive director of the Catholic Action League, Doyle argued oddly that because his folks and others were fighting the marriages, that these activist judges (smirk) should halt the marriages...just in case.

Of course, their is no legal basis for his argument, just shots in the dark. However, Mr. Doyle was not put off by that. A single judge, Roderick Ireland, had already turned him down. He then had to fight on the even slimmer appeal that maybe something was wrong with that decision. The law had been fully explained to Doyle; he just didn't like the answer.

Doyle says he'll fight on, aiming for the amendment to the constitution. Ho hum.

Salem Solution?

Oregon is still trying to dance its way to a same-sex-marriage solution. The most recent effort, House Bill 3476 gets a hearing next week.

It would provide some important rights to couples, short of permitting marriage. The gist of it is that if you cannot legally marry, you can contract to agree to such rights as:

  • Make funeral arrangements
  • Inherit Property
  • Visit in emergency rooms
In operation, the resulting law would require the state to create a contract form and permit such agreements among those who meet the simple requirements:
  1. Each party must be at least 18 years of age;
  2. Each party may not be married or a party to another reciprocal beneficiary relationship;
  3. The parties must be prohibited from marrying each other under ORS chapter 106;
  4. Each party must consent to the reciprocal beneficiary relationship, and the consent of a party may not be obtained by force, duress or fraud; and
  5. Each party must sign a declaration of reciprocal beneficiary relationship as provided in section 5 of this 2005 Act.
While mostly for gay couples, the bill provides examples, "... such individuals (as) two individuals who are related to each other, such as a widowed mother and her unmarried son, or two unrelated adults of the same gender."

In a state like Massachusetts where marriage has always been a civil contract legally, this seems harmless enough. I'll watch the Oregon reaction though.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

New Boston Mugwump

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly is about out of chances. He made another effort to please everyone yesterday. As he runs for governor, he is likely to find that he just cannot accomplish that.

The subject yesterday was the 1913 law about marriage that Gov. Mitt Romney dusted off to attack same-sex marriage. (Shame on that cowardly man with the fancy hair.)

The law forbids marrying folk from other states here if the marriage would be illegal in their home state(s). It was written to prevent interracial marriages and keep the peace with discriminatory, anti-miscegenation states. Since that form of bigotry is not longer on the books, the law (Chapter 207:Section 12:CERTAIN MARRIAGES PROHIBITED) has not been enforced for decades.

Reilly tells Democrats, liberals and interest groups that he supports same-sex marriage as the law of the land, while telling Republicans and reactionaries that he supports the 1913 statute as the law of the land.

Republican Party Executive Director Tim O'Brien got Reilly to bite on that one yesterday. He had a letter delivered asking whether the AG would defend keeping 207:12 on the books. Gay-rights groups want it repealed.

Reilly wasted no time in having First Assistant Stephanie Lovell email a reply. According to the Boston Globe, the reply included:
It is our job to defend the laws of the Commonwealth. This is what we have done from the beginning of this case, and is what we will continue to do.
Of course, both as AG and gubernatorial candidate, the gutsy, visionary response would have been that following the implementation of same-sex marriages here, such laws that conflict need to be dropped or changed. Yet, Tommy wants it all ways.

Reilly's office has until June 24 to file its brief in the Cote-Whitacre case on this matter. In February 2006, the Supreme Judicial Court will hear GLAD's appeal of its loss at the Superior Court level in an effort to overturn 207:12.

The other announced candidate for governor, Deval Patrick, will unquestionably benefit from Reilly's failed gambit. Yesterday, his statement was strong and to the point, as a governor should speak. "It's a shame that we are spending any more time on the subject...This is old politics all over again. The court got it right. Let's move on."

The cochair of the Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, Arline Isaacson, was less kind. "I think it is deplorable that the highest-ranking elected official in the Democratic Party in this state would act this way. Tom Reilly has to decide what he really thinks and feels about this issue. Defending an obviously antigay application of this law is reprehensible."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Family Coming Out

One Massachusetts same-sex marriage that was good for all involved appears in Our family's values by Anne and Chad Gifford. The op-ed column appeared in the Boston Globe on May 17th.

One of their four kids is a gay man, who married his partner a year ago. The family is better off than most (dad is chairman emeritus of the Bank of America), but had the same hopes and expectations of most for their children.

The parents fess up that it took them some years to come to terms with their son's homosexuality. Now though a year after his marriage, they write:
Gay marriage conjures strong feelings on all sides. For many, religious beliefs simply prevent the acceptance that two individuals of the same sex should be legally married. We understand that change can be threatening, and in fact, we must respect differing opinions. However, we believe that same-sex or equal marriage is a right that must be supported and preserved. Why is this simple human desire, this simple human right, so difficult to accept?

Our initial period of concern and confusion and the subsequent learning has, at times, been tumultuous. But how could we as parents not do all we could to embrace our child? How could we not do all we could to strengthen our family? Many object to equal marriage because it represents an attack on family. This is tragic and wrong. Family means love and support for all, not the marginalization of one member of the family.
That certainly takes it out of the realm of self-rightenousness and disdain.

They note that when their son came out to them in 1993, they found their stereotypical hopes dashed. Yet a dozen years later they say those hopes have been fully realized. They conclude, "What more could we have wished for than to have our son find happiness and share his life with someone he loves?"

Monday, May 23, 2005

Shrinks Expand

Down in the annual conference in Atlanta, the American Psychiatric Association's advisory group urged support of same-sex marriages. If the APA's board approves this as expected in July, it will be a boost to the cause. It would become the first major medical association to do so.

[It was not that many years ago – until 1987 – that the APA classified homosexuality as a mental illness.]

The advisors are the 250 representatives in the APA's Assembly. Five years ago, they recommended and the board passed support for civil unions. The key idea behind both is that discrimination is bad for mental health.

This weekend's amplification was evolutionary, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
In the wake of Vermont's adoption of civil union and Massachusetts' same-sex marriage, it became clear that the two notions are not equal, said psychiatrists who voted for gay marriage.

Same-sex marriage supporters say a civil union is tailored by each state, comes with fewer benefits and is not recognized by other states with the same measure. Marriage, theoretically, is recognized universally even though states do not accept Massachusetts' approval of gay marriage at the moment.

"Civil unions are more restrictive to strengthening the couple and family. They're not transportable. Marriage is transportable from state to state, from country to country," said Jack Drescher, a New York City psychiatrist in charge of the assembly's committee on gay issues...
Yet while a sizable majority of the shrinks approve, some are gun-shy and not too eager to offend. The article quotes a West Virginia psychiatrist F. Joseph Whelan as saying, "Marriage has a lot of Judeo-Christian connotations" attached..."Many of us did not see it was appropriate for APA to be a vanguard to change that."

Those many were outvoted.

Chasing the Chaste

Now that same-sex marriage is permissible in Massachusetts, I think chicken hawks who want to wed their kiddies may fall under CHAPTER 272. CRIMES AGAINST CHASTITY, MORALITY, DECENCY AND GOOD ORDER. It reads:
Section 1 Enticing away person under 16 for marriage

Whoever fraudulently and deceitfully entices or takes away an unmarried person under sixteen from the house of such person's parents or elsewhere, without the consent of the parent or guardian, if any, under whose care and custody such person is living, for the purpose of effecting a clandestine marriage of such person without the consent of such parent or guardian, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or both.
If your pubescent love object is pregnant or has the parents' permission and a judge's approval, you may still be able to marry him or her. However, being a sneak and snatching a child for marriage is out of bounds here and has been for a long time.

The locals can laugh about the hillbillies and the Jerry Lee Lewises of the world, but that law is on the books for good reason — and based in experience here.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Burned Waffles

While I was in Seattle, Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi assessed the Massachusetts Democratic Party's formal incorporation of a same-sex-marriage plank in its new platform. (Unfortunately, you need to be a subscriber or pay to read the Globe archives...no link here.)

She mused on how badly John Kerry got burned in the last presidential election by seeming to change his opinions on major issues. In this case, the conviction shown by the Democrats raises such questions as:
  • Do voters really want a firm position or was that just an excuse?
  • Will the fear of same-sex marriages alienate more voters than the honesty and humanity of the plank?
  • Will stating a strong position attract voters who are undecided about the issue?
  • Is a controversial position a liability
Vennochi writes:
However, there is risk in this gay marriage resolution, in Massachusetts, too. Advocates argue same-sex marriage is a pressing civil rights issue. But is it really the most pressing issue in this state? Even people who support same-sex marriage may conclude that with this emphasis, the Democratic Party is losing its focus on economic issues that win elections. In that case, the party nomination could be worthless, especially if the nominee is viewed by the general electorate as a pawn of one special interest group.

For those who watch politics, it is an interesting laboratory test case of conviction versus expediency, of boldly pushing left rather than safely hugging the middle. In a party filled with equivocators on controversial social issues, the liberal Democrats who run the party here are taking a liberal position and sticking with it, without apology and without regard for those who call them out of touch and worse.
Then again, it may work in Massachusetts. That could be more from the obvious that it has become a less powerful issue. We've had same-sex marriages for a year. Thousands have benefited directly and no one has been harmed. What's the problem and why is it even an issue?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Ban Ban at Con Con?

Same-sex marriage supporters, particularly gay spouses, are not counting their friends until the votes are compiled. According to Can These Marriages Be Saved in the latest Bay Windows, the issue is far from settled.

I may be impatient, but I'm willing to call the defeat of the amendment that would put a ballot question reversing gay marriage in favor of civil unions a certain thing. Several recent articles in the Boston Globe also counted up the newly elected pro-same-sex legislators and noted that the Speaker of the House is pro.

Not so fast, reads the Bay Windows piece. Gay-rights politicians, organizers, and mostly married homosexual couples are actively engaging legislators, particularly those who voted for the amendment last year.

State Rep. Marty Walsh (Dorchester) says the left wing has become complacent. According to the article:
Walsh suggests that now is the time to ratchet up lobbying efforts. "It's very close," he says of the upcoming vote. "Seats have been picked up. And I think a lot of people took a vote against gay marriage last year that took a very bad vote. They feel very bad about the fact that they voted that way and they're on the cusp of realizing it."
Lord knows, the anti folk are certainly calling and visiting.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Grannies in the Aftermath

What rights do grandparents have when their children divorce? It is no concern, except for that small group who suddenly faces it.

The Massachusetts Bar Association has a nice piece on it here. Note that when last accessed, it referred to the law as Chapter 199, when it is actually 119.

The salient points are:
Since 1972, Massachusetts Law has provided for visitation rights to certain grandparents of unmarried children (who can visit their grandchildren):
–If the parents of the child are divorced, married but living apart, or under a temporary order or judgment of separate support.
–If either or both parents are deceased.
–If the child was born out of wedlock and the paternity of the child has been established by a court or the father has signed an acknowledgment of paternity.
They are out of luck if the minor grandchildren are adopted by someone other than a stepparent.

The full statute is available here. It is Massachusetts General Law Chapter 119, Section 39D. It includes the petition procedures for in and out-of-state grandparents.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Really, Reilly?

Get off the fence, Tommy, say both Democrats and Republicans in Massachusetts. Poor Attorney General and declared candidate for governor Thomas F. Reilly wants it all ways on same-sex marriage. Nobody wants to let his dissemble.

At last weekend's state Democratic convention, he still would not declare. He is in a strongly Roman Catholic state and understandably wants to please those voters (who have a wide range of opinion on the matter, regardless of the Pope's position). His party put a pro-gay-marriage plank in its platform.

Last year, when the court mandated legalization of the marriages came under his jurisdiction, he twitted Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, saying it was the law of the land and as chief law enforcement officer, he'd see it was obeyed.

Yet privately, he has told several people he favors civil unions.

Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Michael E. Capuano, a Democrat, took his shot at Reilly as quoted in the Boston Globe. "I'm not happy that the current front-runner doesn' know whether he's for or against (same-sex marriage)."

Capuano himself has declared. He's in favor. Also, he has not ruled out running for governor.

On the Republican side, they are having a good time drawing attention to Reilly's gutlessness, saying he runs from the issue like its "the plague."

By trying to please all, Reilly seems to have offended all.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Joy v. Spite

One year on, Massachusetts saw glad and mad demonstrations to mark the anniversary of legalized same-sex marriage. A big, happy group celebrated and a sad, strange, little one protested.

On the Boston Common, several hundred couples and their kids cheered, laughed and celebrated. A short distance away at the State House, about 16 protesters staged a bit of street theater. Led by the every dour and always self-righteous Brian Camenker, the anti forces included a woman parodying Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, ripping up a fake commonwealth constitution. The cons get the art points.

Camenker, executive director of the Article 8 Alliance, is dedicated to firing the four judges who declared same-sex marriage legal here. Despite any supporting evidence, he called the past year "frightening, illegal and despotic." His best trope may have been, "The people of Massachusetts are living under a reign of madness."

Of course, from where he was wailing, one could hear the cheers and joy of the happy families. Take your choice.

Maybe Married

For 611 couples who have married in Massachusetts, their marital status is pending. The out-of-state pairs await the results of a September Supreme Judicial Court hearing on whether Massachusetts will allow such marriages.

The question revolves about a 1913 law designed to keep the peace with anti-miscegenation states. It remains on the books as:
CERTAIN MARRIAGES PROHIBITED Chapter 207: Section 12: Legal ability of non-residents to marry; duty of licensing officer to ascertain

Before issuing a license to marry a person who resides and intends to continue to reside in another state, the officer having authority to issue the license shall satisfy himself, by requiring affidavits or otherwise, that such person is not prohibited from intermarrying by the laws of the jurisdiction where he or she resides.

This statute has prevented Massachusetts from recognizing out-of-state same-sex couples' marriages. This is true even for New Yorkers, whose attorney general has said he will recognize the marriages. Couples there are waiting for the Massachusetts ruling before filing state income taxes jointly in New York.

GLAD filed a suit on behalf of Connecticut couples denied licenses by Massachusetts town clerks adhering to the current law. See the complaint (in PDF) here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Marriage Amendment Mirage

Many anti-gay-marriage soldiers are now looking for a battle in 2008, it seems. The tiny majority that voted last year to roll back the law and replace it with civil unions is probably gone. The cons may have to try a ballot initiative now.

When John Adams led the commonwealth's constitution effort in 1780, he was wary of hotheaded legislators responding to more hotheaded constituents. So, he included a procedure that continues. A proposed amendment must get a majority in a joint House/Senate vote twice – exact proposal in two consecutive years.

Since the first vote, a few things have changed:
  • the new speaker of the House, Sal DiMasi, strongly supports same-sex marriage
  • interim elections have added four pro-same-sex-marriage legislators
  • three who had favored the amendment are rethinking their stances
  • the Roman Catholic Church has backed off and no longer supports the amendment
Game. Set.

On the other hand, the match cannot be declared until the ballot initiative runs its course. That is likely the last gasp of the desperate, but they have as much right to play out their serve as anyone.

A serious problem for the cons is the lack of problems. Voters are increasingly complacent. The year of the queer marriage has not produced any issues. Straight marriages are the same as ever. Increasing numbers of voters say, "So what?"

Of course, legislators are not immune to the new reality. The cons may be left like the peasant standing in the field in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Screaming, "Help. Help. I'm being oppressed," loses its edge pretty quickly.

Squeaky Plank

Over the weekend, the Massachusetts Democrats did in fact add a pro-same-sex-marriage plank to their platform. At their convention, they changed from the squishy rights-for-all stuff to saying what they mean.

Now we can see how it plays in the suburbs and exurbs. This is a state that has long elected Republican governors and has herds of moderate and conservative voters out there who call themselves Democrats and who send donkeys to the legislature.

One of the three (two announced) gubernatorial candidates there still tried to play all sides. As attorney general, Tom Reilly loved bucking Republican Gov. Mitt Romney. On gay marriage, he relished saying it was the law of the land after last May, and he'd enforce the law.

At the convention, he wouldn't say. However, he personally favors civil unions.

Another candidate, Deval Patrick came out strongly in favor of same-sex marriage. He also has law credentials, as former U.S. assistant attorney general.

The other likely candidate, Secretary of State William Galvin, didn't have to declare. He has not formally announced his run.

The plank vote was by voice and nearly unanimous. A few "no" pips here and there offered scant opposition.

Monday, May 16, 2005

“FRESH” FISH in Lexington

You know those store signs that make you ask what they were thinking or at least where did they go to school? Well, it shouldn'’t be funny, but the quotes and air-quotes types are at it with vigor. Do check out the current Mass Resistance blog entries, particularly David Parker'’s Civil Disobedience the Only Way He Could Be Heard.

There, you’ find quotes around marriage, news story, husband and wife. It's defamation by punctuation.

If you have the stomach, check out the Article 8 Alliance site entry on Parker. The guy wanted to be arrested, he pushed until he got the minimum, trespassing, and yet the A8A folk portray him as victim. They like to quote safety, marriage and most important trespassing.

The local weekly Minuteman is pretty conservative, particularly for Massachusetts. However, it gets the blame for a two week total of 25 against the mad dad and 4 in favor of him. We are apparently to think that the newspaper scrounged up negative comments and squelched positive ones, rather than think that Mr. Parker might be an outlier and not a leader, someone out of step with education, ethics, liberty, honesty and of course, law.

The people against handing control over the curriculum to individual, one-trick ponies of parents get the calumnies – fascists, lesbian radical activists –– in a piece that concludes:
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE BIRTHPLACE OF AMERICAN LIBERTY???
Indeed, perhaps we need only put the David Parker and Brian Camenker types in charge to feel free again.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

New Bully Pulpit

Not all the extremists in San Francisco wear tutus while rollerblading or sleep with their rifles. One just became the first American to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The recent past Prefect, the Pope formally known as Joseph Ratzinger, appointed him, the Vatican announced on Friday the 13th.

San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, 68, has long been in Benedict XVI's mold. Both are strongly anti-reproductive choice, anti-homosexual, and of course, anti-same-sex marriage. The office basically is the interpreter of doctrine for those who might have any ambiguity or doubt.

However, he can be very slick and diplomatic. While he angered many with his let-them-eat-wafers attitude during the clergy abuse allegations, he also defused a gay-rights issue in heavily left-wing and homosexual-friendly San Francisco. The city squeezed Catholic Charities there, which is not exempt from employment law, to offer benefits to domestic partners of city employees. The Archbishop was savvy enough to expand health care to all household members of a city employee, thus turning the issue from laws and rights to health.

No one can know yet what lead he will give from this powerful office when it comes to U.S. dioceses. He's a heavy hitter now. When he speaks, bishops will listen.

Friday, May 13, 2005

A Law Too Far in Lincoln

In Nebraska, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph F. Bataillon ruled the state's DoMA law unconstitutional. In a 43-page commentary, he shredded it thoroughly, so much so that Nebraska should forget trying to get it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It would be smarter to try to write a less restrictive and less anti-American law instead. It looks as though the law is so far out there that it was bound to fall.

The winners here were LAMBDA and civil-rights related groups, Citizens for Equal Protection Inc., Nebraska Advocates for Justice and Equality, Inc., and the ACLU Nebraska. Even though same-sex marriages are not against the law in Nebraska and the judge's rule permanently enjoins the state from enforcing its anti-same-sex marriage law, Attorney General Jon C. Bruning stated that he was not about to allow gay couples to wed.

The amendment in question came from Initiative 416, passed by 70% of voters in 2000. It looks like what happens when folks get too self-righteous and think they can get away with anything. The current D.C. culture seemed to have spread widely among cornhuskers.

According to ACLU's timeline on the initiative effort:
The amendment will ban same sex couples from being legally married in Nebraska as well as prohibit recognition of same sex relationships in any form. Organizers and donors to the initiative project include a coalition of Christian, Mormon and Catholic churches. Reports of the amount of money raised for their public campaign indicate they have nearly ten times the funds that opponents to the initiative have. The initiative's supporters launch a television, radio, newspaper, and direct mail campaign is launched across the state to promote the initiative.
The resulting amendment signed by the governor five years ago is:
Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in Nebraska. The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized in Nebraska.
The second part went way too far, according to Bataillon. He ruled that it punished the class of homosexuals and forbade free speech and rights given to all citizens of majority. It was so broad that "(a)mong the threatened relationships would be those of roommates, co-tenants, foster parents, and related people who share living arrangements, expenses, custody of children, or ownership of property. Many of these associational relationships are constitutionally protected at some point along the spectrum from the most hallowed and intimate to the most trivial."

He found that Nebraska law "...also effectively disenfranchises lesbian, gay and bisexual people and their supporters as they can no longer petition their representatives and city and local governments for legislative changes that would protect their relationships."

The gist of his findings was that Nebraska started out to have DoMA legislation. Instead it ended up punishing homosexuals in ways that clearly violate rights due all citizens.

Let us pause to bless those who would stay the very heavy hand of majority rule that does not respect the freedom and humanity of the minority.

Bobby Takes (Out) His Lumps

With the pivotal player having lymph nodes removed, the joint session of the Massachusetts legislature met only briefly and did not debate civil unions or anything. The Constitutional Convention folk recessed until August 24th. Then it will begin its agenda, including the ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage.

Senate President Robert Travaglini was in Mass Eye and Ear to have lymph nodes removed. His doctors said that was standard follow-up for thyroid cancer surgery he had four years ago. He expects to return to work next week. He will miss the Democratic Party convention this weekend.

In his absence Senate Majority Leader Frederick Berry chaired the joint session. Bobby watched the Sox, which must have been a welcome and much lower stress way to spend the afternoon.

Putting the Gee in Gay

Stunning the assembled crowds and onlookers, State Senator Jarrett Barrios proposed a bill that would ban both same-sex marriages and civil unions in Massachusetts. He is a long-term and prominent same-sex-marriage and gay-right supporter.

The anti forces are wondering what he's up to, as are the pro types. The president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, Kristian Mineau, is concerned that conservatives might be confused by this choice. There is presently a tenuous compromise heading to the vote for the 2006 Constitutional Convention. The hateful, the knee-jerk religious, and the addled joined last year to pass a civil union bill. The conservatives in the coalition have said that they'd do anything to reverse same-sex marriage, even support civil unions.

The same bill must pass a combined legislative session this term to get to the convention and thus have a shot at being on the ballot in 2006. Last year, it barely passed. Since then, several liberal legislators unlikely to vote for the bill have taken office. For now, it looks like a civil union bill would fail this time.

For the new ban-everything-queer-marriage bill, Barrios used only lawspeak. "My sponsoring this bill is to allow the elected legislators of the Commonwealth to once again review and I hope reject this effort to write discrimination into the Constitution," he said, refusing to elaborate. Perhaps it is simply brinkmanship.

Advice on Vice

I'm not sure what the effect in law is, if any, of Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 71: Section 30 Moral Education. It reads:
The president, professors and tutors of the university at Cambridge and of the several colleges, all preceptors and teachers of academies and all other instructors of youth shall exert their best endeavors to impress on the minds of children and youth committed to their care and instruction the principles of piety and justice and a sacred regard for truth, love of their country, humanity and universal benevolence, sobriety, industry and frugality, chastity, moderation and temperance, and those other virtues which are the ornament of human society and the basis upon which a republican constitution is founded; and they shall endeavor to lead their pupils, as their ages and capacities will admit, into a clear understanding of the tendency of the above mentioned virtues to preserve and perfect a republican constitution and secure the blessings of liberty as well as to promote their future happiness, and also to point out to them the evil tendency of the opposite vices.
The university in Cambridge is, of course, Harvard. Do you suppose that having something like Ethics 101 covers that?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

WA WA Everyone's a Winner in Washington

Like two puppies with a sock, the Seattle weekly that broke the Microsoft gay-rights-bill story won't stop tugging. The Stranger hit the street today carrying this flag around the stadium one more time.

After Microsoft reversed its reversal on support for gay rights legislation, everyone says he's a winner. The most outrageous was the Dr. Hutcherson, who told Fox News that MS' Ballmer called him to warn him before the public. "I've already won," he told The Stranger. "I can see why Microsoft gets sued so much when its CEO makes such dumb decisions."

Smart money will bet that Hutcherson's ploys raised the stakes and profile here, probably putting Washington State on course for gay rights and maybe civil unions. Some winner.

Property Rights in Black and White

Massachusetts atoned for it Colonial oppression of Africans and the whole cycle of importing, marketing, selling and buying people – just two centuries later. It seems long overdue, but Massachusetts overturned its laws against interracial marriage in 1843. As hard as that may seem to believe, that make it the first state in the country to do so.

There's a nice analysis of the history of such laws here. Info there includes:
Interracial romance has been a point of contention in America since the first English settlers established colonies in the seventeenth century. In 1664 Maryland banned interracial marriage due to questions over whether the offspring of a black slave and a white person would be considered a free person or property. In following years, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and South Carolina instituted antimiscegenation laws which banned interracial marriage.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Marriage for Kids

Minimum legal age for marriage is now 18 in Massachusetts. Anyone younger wanting to marry needs a court order. In most states, 16 and 17 year olds can marry with permission of their parents.

However, a century and one half ago, the Supreme Court of the Massachusetts had a different view, in Parton v. Hervey (1854). Basically, a man married a 13-year-old girl. Her mother found the girl and kidnapped her. Mom held daughter captive for her own good, in the mother’s opinion.

The husband sued. The majority opinion included:
…I was entirely satisfied by the testimony, that the marriage of the petitioner with the daughter of the respondent was not procured or solemnized clandestinely, or through fraud and deceit practised on the wife; but that she freely and willingly assented thereto, without undue influence or persuasion; that she was not of weak or impaired intellect, but of competent understanding, and of the ordinary degree of intelligence of persons of her age; and that the respondent had restrained her of her liberty against her will, and had prevented her by force from joining the petitioner and living with him as his wife.

Upon this state of facts, the only remaining question raised by the respondent is whether, under the laws of this commonwealth, a marriage by a female infant of the age of thirteen years is legal and valid, if had and solemnized with the free assent of such infant, but without the knowledge or consent of her parent and guardian…


Absent a state statute at the time that set a lower limit on marriage, the court decided to turn to common law, in Massachusetts and England. As the old standard was age 12 for a girl, that is what the court used.

Interestingly enough, the decision noted that the legistature had recently had the opportunity to set the age of consent for marriage. The recommendation was 17 for boys and 14 for girls. Other recommendations became law, but the state legislators struck the consent provision. This reinforced the court’s opinion that common law prevailed. The court ordered the girl’s release from her mother to her husband.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Belly of the Ballmer

I'm in Seattle, where, understandably, it very serious news that Microsoft switched teams again. The company will support gay-right legislation in Washington State next time.

CEO Steve Ballmer previously justified the company's dropping support for House Bill 1515, which lost by one vote afterwards. One would have to be naive indeed to suppose that the largest employer around didn't drive public and legislative opinion. Yet, that is Microsoft's contention.

Meanwhile in the two local dailies, many letters to the editor call MS cowardly and a few say that companies have no right having any political opinions or taking any stance on legislation. (Pause for hearty laughter.)

More to the point, the Seattle Times lead story today ran the head, Microsoft decides to back gay-right bill: Will it help? Fair question, to which legislators claimed MS didn't have influence.

From outside, it sure looks like MS is too late on this. Legislators already defeated it, surely due in part to Gates and folk dropping support. What was the downside for them? At this point, they are safe ignoring this hot coal.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Johnny No Nads

Showing the lack of courage and muddled convictions for which he is famous, John Kerry told the Boston Globe yesterday that the state Democratic Party shouldn't put support for gay marriage on its platform. It will and he'll be left behind again. Poor JK, never the leader.

Facts are:
  • The Dems here are differentiating themselves from rightwingers and reactionaries.
  • What may not play in Oklahoma works here.
  • The state Democrats are committed to diversity and inclusion, and they'll support same-sex marriage even if the national party does not.
  • Kerry is cowardly, again and still.
  • Republicans profit when Democrats waffle.
Kerry should have learned from his failed Presidential bid that marshmallow politicians get roasted not elected.

Wolfy, Wolfy

Where is the bad stuff? We here in Massachusetts read and heard a lot about the terrible things that would befall us if we let homosexual couples marry. We’re still waiting.

Some partnered couples have had to get married to keep their benefits when their private companies changed their plans. The IRS’ refusal to recognize the marriages in light of the Defense of Marriage Act means that a couple thousand couples have to fill out extra tax forms. These and similar issues so far are inconveniences that fall largely on the same-sex couples.

We are still waiting for what the anti-same-sex marriage folk promised would be awful cultural, financial and legal problems. They did have to stake out their positions. However, it certainly makes them harder to believe as a year goes by and there was been no crisis or panic.

Vermont has had its civil unions for five years. It is also still awaiting serious problems. They don’t seem to have had a single appearance of an angry diety either.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Itty-Boo, Mr. Parker

The Lexington Minuteman has two keen reports on our favorite self-made victim, David Parker. Read about the arrest he forced here and the account by the school officials here. What a bozo.

For nearly two and one half hours after his meeting with the teacher, principal and superintendent of schools, Parker would not leave the building. He denied any affiliation with groups like the Article 8 folk, but he apparently spent a lot of time of the phone with them and had them come with a camera in case there was something gory or glorious in a victim-y way. Even at 6:24 p.m., he refused to leave and let them close the school unless they arrested him. He refused bail and would not call an attorney.

Perhaps worse are the points of contention. He is furious about same-sex marriage specifically and homosexuality in general, as though either of those was any of his business or under his control. He chose to pick a fight over a kiddy's picture book, which contains two drawings that show a two-mom family with kids and a two-dad family with a child. This, he said repeatedly, was teaching about sexuality, thus forbidden by state statute if he did not give his specific permission.

Yet:
  1. There is no sex shown, implied, described or taught anywhere.
  2. He could have opted out of this take-home packet, but neither he nor his wife did.
  3. The packets were on display and available at the school any time before they came home, but neither Parker examined them
  4. He wants to claim that the school violated the law when he is the only lawbreaker in sight.
  5. While claiming homosexuals get all the special rights, he is the only one claiming special rights.
  6. Even though both school officials and police explained the legal issues of notification to him at length, he was too emotional or too thickheaded to get it.
Perhaps the best of all is that he asserts a right that he does not have. He wants to send his children to the taxpayer funded public school to be educated, to be exposed to ideas, abstracts and realities, and yet to have the school notify him of anything he might stipulate that may be discussed even in spontaneous conversation or questions from children in class. What a control freak and how ignorant of how education and life in general work.

Alas, David Parker. He has put himself in an untenable position. No good can come to him. We can hope for better experiences and more open minds for his children.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Donkey Guts

In a surprising display of courage or at least honesty, the Massachusetts Democratic Party is about to add support for same-sex marriage to its platform, according to the Boston Globe. The issue is still a hot one even here where it is legal. The efforts to overturn the decision and get a DoMA with civil unions amendment before the voters in 2006 continue.

Of course, Democrats elsewhere avoid the issue. Reactionaries and paranoics nationwide have successfully pushed through DoMA laws or amendments. The White House and state Republican parties have played this hand well. So here, this seems an odd time to announce a position formally. Outright support would contrast with the national party's spongy ''full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation."

The new platform plank should be ready for a vote on May 14th.

"I don't anticipate any serious debate about it," said the state party chair, Philip W. Johnston. The three likely 2006 gubernatorial candidates are supporters. Bill Galvin (current secretary of state) and Deval Patrick (ex-assistant U.S. attorney general) openly favor the plank. Tom Reilly hasn't said, but has supported the actual law as commonwealth attorney general and actively pushed back on Republican Gov. Mitt Romney on the issue.

Here, 24% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans oppose same-sex marriages in polls. There are many more Democrats in the state. Assuming migration on the issue, voter change would likely be a wash.

In Massachusetts, it was as Republicans feared but did not publicly predict, something bad happened, but not to the state, rather to the Republicans. They promised sure and swift disaster. Instead, they got an almost seamless transition and nothing but positive effects...except for all the screaming in the background.

Unwilled Unmarried

The host of a great classical-music radio show screwed up at death. In the no-common-law-marriage Massachusetts, he died without a will. His significant other, who would have been a common-law wife in many states, is having to fight his siblings for a piece of the estate.

Those who know WGBH-FM's Morning Pro Musica understand the maddeningly distracting speech patterns of Robert J. (two second pause) Lurtsema. He (three second pause) diedin2000 (two second pause) butleftno (four second pause) will.

His long-term partner and assistant, Betsy Northrup, fully expected the $536,000 Wellesley house and some cash. She and Lurtsema had been companions from 1982. He convinced her to move in with him full time in 1997, where she cared for him as his sight failed from macular degeneration and he sickened and eventually died from pulmonary fibrosis. She also edited his books for publication and transcribed his music.

While she and his siblings were buddies when he was alive, his intestate death -- and the related money it seems -- changed that. His mom died shortly after he did, and the siblings said all the leavings where theirs. So there.

The lawyer representing siblings Jacqueline MacLennan, David Lurtsema and Lorraine Nordlinger is Normal I. Jacobs. He claims the jury will give everything to them and tell Betsy tough luck. "The law in Massachusetts is very clear that the fact that you live with somebody 50 years doesn't give you legal rights. We don't have common-law marriage here, and our courts have never said that we do."

However, the commonwealth does recognize oral contracts. Northrup hopes to convince the jury that Robert J. promised her the house and that "he intended to provide for me for the rest of my life, and I had nothing to worry about." That was from her disposition.

She sued for her share in 2001, lost the initial action and had that overturned by the Appeals Court. The messy matter goes to a jury trial.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Same Old Song

Both the Globe and Herald covered the anti-same-sex-marriage testimony yesterday. They put the stories inside (B3 and 5 respectively), which is no surprise as the anti guys gave a predictable and pretty lame performance.

Apparently all that's left of this suit and appeal is awaiting its denial by the Supreme Judicial Court and to see whether they bother to comment. They probably won't and shouldn't, because the appeal was solely on whether Justice Roderick Ireland erred in November when he rejected the petition to stop same-sex marriages.

The Darling/Doyle (good name for a pub singer, eh?) appeal strained for argument yesterday. "It's the equivalent of going to the town hall to vote for whether or not we will have a new gymnasium or not, and all of a sudden, you drive by a brand new gymnasium before you've voted," said Chester Darling. Of course, that's not an apt analogy at all. Same-sex marriage was not taking tax-payer funds locally, something that would require a plebiscite.

The legislature, executive branch, independent agencies so empowered, local governments and the courts can create laws and regulations with the effect of law. What the anti folk want is to roll back one of those. It's going to have to work harder and have a much better basis in law and reason to do so.

Everyone seems to assume that this is the end of this particular geste. Perhaps the focus goes back on whether the anti people can gather enough votes in the joint legislative constitutional conference to pass that same amendment again and put it on the 2006 ballot.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Doyle Details

For those who have not reached information overload, you can see GLAD's opposition brief filed for today's appeal hearing on the eff0rt to halt same-sex marriages here.

Note: This is a PDF file and requires an Acrobat-compatible reader.

This also covers the Doyle/Darling arguments and the rebuttal. It serves as a preview for the oral arguments presented today.

I can't find the Doyle brief published. However, the other anti force giving oral argument was Robert Muise, trial counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan. There are press releases on the general content here and here.

Half-Hearted League

Lackaday, oh, Catholic Action League, can you not call in a celestial favor?

From the questioning today at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the appeal of the loss in the suit to halt same-sex marriages is a loser. As the plaintiff attorney, Chester Darling put it, " "I'm not too confident. We had an inference that it was a little negative from our point of view."

[Darling should have good judgment about such things. His very conservative Citizens for the Preservation of Constitutional Rights Inc. has lost some notable reactionary cases, like trying to keep a crèche on Lexington green over the town's objection. You can check out his scorecard and legal interests here.]

The justices grilled Darling, but didn't ask the GLAD attorney, Michele Granda, anything. For example, the gist of the suit and appeal is that ongoing same-sex marriages prevent debate on the subject. Justice Robert Cordy pressed Darling for some rational to support that crucial point. Then he remarked, "It seems to me, if anything, it's been enlivened on this subject."

Speaking after the hearing, Granda said it simply, ""They've had their day in court...(where the questions) " made clear they don't see how Mr. Doyle has been harmed in any way by the issuance of marriage licenses."

I guess the hard part of being a whiner is finding attentive listeners.

Make Merry in Massachusetts

What Jeff West thought would be a big yuck among buddies left him laughing alone. He put a civil-union announcement in a suburban Massachusetts MetroWest newspaper Sunday edition for him and long-term pal (maybe ex-pal) Matt Hunt. See the erratum coverage here.

The newspaper is being a sport about it, even if the real couple is not. It included a capture of the original item. The image is of two t-shirted guys sharing Santa’s lap.

One problem is that he didn’t ask Matt. Another seems to be that they aren’t getting married. They also aren’t gay and Matt will marry his rather female fiancée, Kelley Parker, this summer. Alert MetroWest readers may have noticed that the real announcement appeared in November. Parker and Hunt are both teachers and she particularly thinks the hoax could damage her reputation.

Of course, this only worked because there are Massachusetts and Vermont handy to lend credence to the fake announcement. By the bye, they would have had to go to Vermont for a civil union; it's marriages only in their state.

In addition, gay-rights groups may not be too happy. For example, The Freedom to Marry Coalition of Massachusetts’ advocacy director, Joshua Friedes, said, "I think many people don't understand how seriously gay and lesbian people take the institution of marriage...I've never heard of a couple sending in a fake wedding announcement to imitate a straight couple, I think this incident is a subtle form of gay-bashing."

“It was supposed to be a small goof,” said West.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Doyle's Day in Court

Tomorrow, the Catholic Action League's appeal on same-sex marriage goes before the entire Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts. This is the suit rejected last November by a single judge of the same court (Justice Roderick Ireland). The League's executive director, C.J. Doyle appealed.

The gist of it is that he claims his right for a fair discussion on same-sex marriage can't be held while same sex-marriages are going on. He wants them stopped until the proposed amendment to the commonwealth constitution gets on the ballot for 2006's constitutional convention.

As his lawyer, Chester Darling said today, "What we're saying is that the dialogue, the robust debate that should be taking place, is being affected and shaped by the continuing marriages." There are many complex legal issues surrounding this, but the ability to debate sure doesn't seem to be one of them.

Arguing that there is no basis for any sort of time-out or mulligan for the marriages, and that Doyle has no damages to claim, will be both the Attorney General Tom Riley and GLAD attorney Michele Granda. I'd give Doyle slim to no chance on this shot in the dark.

Poke at Parker

Get your fresh yucks from Eileen NcNamara in today's Boston Globe. Her Great minds don't think column takes off on the mad dad of Lexington. It starts:
I won't make the mistake that David Parker made. I am not going to sit around and wait for my child to come home with morally offensive material covertly planted in his backpack by some public school teacher promoting a political agenda.
Until his trespassing trial on June 1st, we have to make due with such wags. He can parody himself when the time comes.

The People's Puppet

"Duh," said Mass Marrier. Another glory of Massachusetts law reaching back to the beginning of the commonwealth burst forth. Not only can virtually any adult here conduct (solemnize) a wedding, but we can each submit bills to our representatives.

Of course, most of the time, we get the bum's rush, but they can run with them. Normally they do this for popular issues that may help them get votes. Sometimes (oh, the horror), they bet that some powerful contributors and machers will appreciate their submitting legislation. Massachusetts is one of a few states that allow this right of free petition. This is in the commonwealth constitution, Article XIX.

It turns out that Rep. Emile Goguen may have just been playing this game. He is anti-same-sex marriage, but the three bills he proposed seem to have come from that silly Article 8 Alliance and its reactionary director Brian Camenker.

I ran across that claim on the MassResistance site. Camenker and his folk take credit for proposing the bills that Goguen submitted. The Representative may be just the tool in this.

UpTweet