Sunday, July 31, 2005

Research Awry

An unusually complete and well written piece on anti-gay-everything research quoted locally, nationally and even in the White House appeared above the fold on page one of today's Boston Globe. The Michael Kranish article should be available free online through Tuesday. We strongly recommend reading the whole long piece.

Unbelievable
is the term most of us would use for the Family Research Institute's Dr. Paul Cameron. On the other hand, the anti-gay-rights, anti-same-sex-marriage, anti-gay-adoption folk would probably use credible scientific proof.

The gist of the article is that Cameron's self-published (on his Website in pay-per-page journals) claims are the basis for much of the most reactionary right's justification for their positions. Despite his being tossed out of state and the national psychologists' professional groups for shoddy research and outright lies, Cameron has a loyal following and is widely cited.

Note: Cameron will even split hairs when he is called on his actions. Test your credibility here.

This has even crept into President Bush's pronouncements, as ''Studies have shown that the ideal is where a child is raised in a married family with a man and a woman." That simply is untrue. In fact, evidence strongly supports that having two stable parents is best for a kid. But if you hate the idea of homosexuality, that is not what you want to say or accept.

Cameron is savvy enough to know that the phrase "peer-reviewed" is powerful to those of us not in the scientific community. To publish his skewed pseudo-research as such, he chooses a marginal journal, Psychological Reports, in Montana. It claims to be reviewed by shrinks. However, reviewers do not have veto power as they do in serious journals, and this one prints what it gets, so long as you pay $27.50 per page.

The slimiest sleaze though in not that Cameron makes up research and conclusions to match his admitted hatred of homosexuals. It is that his research's distribution and PR is done by Gary L. McCullough.

And for McCullough's credentials, think:
  • Anti-abortion activist with Operation Rescue
  • Press agent for Terri Schiavo's parents
  • Force behind releasing the staged videotape of Terri
  • PR wiz who initiated false claims that Michael Schiavo beat his wife
If you are a situation-ethics guy who thinks ends justify means, McCullough may be your guy. He really puts the frayed in fringe.

For Cameron, check out his news releases here. As Cameron's flack, he has announced:
  • Gays 6X More Expensive Than Smokers says Family Research Institute
  • Gays Twice as Apt to Drive Under the Influence says Family Research Institute
  • Gay Foster Parents More Apt to Molest
  • Weird Behavior Among Gays Due to Mental Illness? Asks Family Research Institute
  • Family Research Institute: Discrimination Does Not Cause Gays to Abuse Drugs
  • Family Research Institute: CDC Study -- Gays More Criminal
  • Family Research Institute: New Study Shows that Gays Live 20 Fewer Years
Such studies almost always contradict numerous long-term and detailed academic research. No matter to McCullough and Cameron. They would rather kids go unadopted than go to a stable gay family, even in the dreaded Massachusetts, where such a couple can be married.

For motivation, Kranish notes:
In several interviews and e-mail exchanges, Cameron made no effort to hide his view of gays and lesbians.

He said his research is meant to warn that gays and lesbians and those sympathetic to them are people he calls ''death marketers." ''I am not sure how long they will take to destroy the US from within, but sufficiently weakened, the US will probably fall to another state before that occurs," Cameron wrote via e-mail.

''Those of us at FRI are determined to do our best to oppose these death activists. As you see, the Internet has given us far more clout than our limited budget and efforts could otherwise hope for."
Cameron claims much, proves nothing, but remains influential. From what we see, he fills an emotional need. We understand how people would like justification for their raw, destructive feelings of distaste, disdain, disrespect, distrust, and detestation. Otherwise, they might have to look within and see what needs fixing.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Ballot Initiatives, Now What?

We hold that except for the self-interested and the benighted, folk who think at all about ballot initiatives realize that some fine-tuning is required. Not many would dump them entirely. On the other hand, abuses over the past several decades call for reform.

One short list of such reforms came in a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures' Initiative and Referendum Task Force. These include:
  • Increase the requirements for disclosure of money spent on initiatives
  • Adopt an indirect initiative process and create incentives to encourage its use
  • Provide incentives for using volunteer signature-gatherers, such as requiring fewer signatures
  • Improve voter education on initiatives, including ballot pamphlets and public hearings
  • Impose a single subject requirement for initiative proposals
The indirect initiative is in place in eight states, including Massachusetts. It provides that initiatives that get enough signatures go the legislature for putting on the ballot as is, amending, or discarding. From recent experience here, when the last option is used, there is weeping, wailing, cursing and teeth gnashing.

As for educated voters, what can we expect from a majority who do not vote and who get their news not from newspapers and magazines but from snippets on TV and the Net? We doubt many could or would analyze a petition put before them at Stop & Shop, much less enter the voting booth with an understanding of the ramifications of a special-interest amendment.

On the other hand, restricting petition signature gathering is promising. Getting the ballot initiative groups to train and use volunteers would provide several benefits. First, it would help insure that actual citizens, not hired clipboards, folk who know and care about the subject do the work. This means that it becomes a citizens' initiative as intended. Perhaps as important, this will distribute the knowledge of the topic, perhaps to the point that voters can make an informed decision.

While corporations and narrowly focused interest groups do not like that, it is what this form of pure democracy is supposed to be. Truth be told, most voters are most comfortable with the status quo. They is why some reactionary initiatives successfully rescind progressive legislation.

Yet it is the role of the three branches of government at both state and federal levels to lead (but not too fast mind you). One way or another, we ended up with manumission, suffrage for the poor, for women and for black Americans, public education, guaranteed civil rights for various sets of the public and any number of other improvements.

Very few of these bubbled up from the public. More often, ballot initiatives try to slow down progress, particularly if it costs money.

Resources:
  • For more detail, see Ballot Initiative Strategy Center on the role of Populism on initiatives here.
  • Also, the Institute for Humane Studies has a multi-page history of and perspective on the process here.



This is last of part five. Part one is here.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Ballot Initiatives, Best You Can Buy

In what should be a pure form of democracy —– on par with town meeting —– has been repeatedly abused. Ballot initiatives are now a muddle of real citizen drives and hijacked versions by corporations and political extremistmasqueradingng as local groups. Even those who favor the concept are rapidly becoming gun-shy.

One analysis, by the Freedom Forum, states:
...In practice, voter initiatives are provoking complaints from a growing number of skeptics.

In some states, including initiative hotbed California, activist citizens say special interest groups and politically ambitious millionaires have hijacked the process. In others, legislators who resent being circumvented are erecting ever-higher hurdles for signature-gatherers, or, as in the case of Massachusetts, simply ignoring proposals that win public approval...
We can look to 1976 for the catalyst, based in the U.S. Supreme Court's Buckley v. Valeo decision. This declared that money spent to affect elections is free speech. Basically, it instantly became okay for companies or wealthy individuals to flood a market with advertising, contributions and other efforts to buy an election.

The effects are widespread. For example, in 2003, Wal-Mart hired professional signature gatherers to put an initiative on a California ballot to permit its big boxes where local regulations forbade them. An article on this type of campaign appears here.

Note: Jeff Milchen's Reclaim Democracy group has a lot of information and reform ideas. Search the Net for him or his group, or start directly at reclaimDemocrary.org.

Here in Massachusetts, we have had everyone accusing the other of unfair practices. Legislators have used procedural tricks for not putting a question on the ballot. On the other hand, special interest groups failed in efforts using professional petition circulators. There was widespread fraud, both in manufactured signatures and in bait-and-switch techniques of lying to voters about what they were signing.

In the states with ballot initiatives, few want to throw them out. However, many would like to reform them.

For example, a recent effort by legislators to reveal the top-ten contributors and those putting over $5,000 into an initiative campaign met with swift, cynical resistance. The ruse was that if you signed a petition, your name, address and phone number would be posted on the Net. You'd be flooded with harassing calls from the other side. While clearly lies, these were effective.

Such defeats are not likely to dampen the fires of those who want to modulate ballot initiatives. On the other hand, there is little question that there is a lot of emotion tied up and that all sides are not afraid to tap into it.


This is part four of five. The last part is here. Part one is here.

Coming up, reform options.

Maine-ly Deceptive

As most Mainers anticipated, the ballot question to strip sexual orientation from anti-discrimination laws will appear on the November ballot. The state certified the petition drive's numbers yesterday.

As they did during the petition drive, the anti forces are going extreme and emotional. While the law they want to tweak forbids discrimination, they frame it as leading directly to Massachusetts-style same-sex marriage.

The actual ballot question is pretty plain:
DO YOU WANT to reject the new law that would protect people from discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and credit based on the their sexual orientation?
It asks whether you want to return to the dark days of yesteryear (or the present) when everyone can openly discriminate against gays for being gay.

The affected law is here.

The pro-rights folk, as well as the governor and the majority of the legislature, are more rational and honest about it. Their state had a history and reputation for discrimination, à la Mississippi or the like, and it was overdue for change. It didn't hurt that polls showed the majority of the voters, even those opposed to same-sex marriage, said it was unfair to discriminate by sexual orientation.

So the battle is met and is likely to be nasty. Maine Won't Discriminate and Equality Maine and likely to have a tough time countering the lies, half-truths, and emotional appeals in the next four months.

For example, one of the chief haters was happy to show his hand yesterday in interviews:
"This law will help secure the right to marry (for gay people)," asserted Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic league of Maine and one of the leading opponents of the measure. "It is establishing the idea that sexual orientation is a legitimate orientation when it comes to individual rights . . . (and) when it comes to your sexual expression, the state is going to come to your aid."
In contrast, Maine Won't Discriminate's Jesse Connolly said simply, "This is about discrimination in those five areas of the law, nothing more, nothing less."

She betting reason and honesty will prevail. She and the other pro folk will have to repeat their message many thousands of times all over the state for that to happen.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Maine: The Game is Afoot

The Maine Secretary of State certified that the effort to rescind gay rights will go to the voters in November. This maintains the hold on the law that added sexual orientation to anti-discrimination laws.

The anti-gay folk needed 50,519 voter signatures. Late this afternoon, Secretary Matt Dunlap said that 56,650 signatures have been accepted. Only 6,826 were rejected. In the past 30 days, his office has reviewed 5,869 petitions in the effort.

There is a 5-day period to challenge this ruling, but there is virtually no chance of this not going to voters.

Maine Won't Discriminate
will spearhead the pro side in efforts to keep the law on the books. It will be joined by Equality Maine. The usual suspects — Christian Civic League, its Maine Grassroots Coalition, and Maine Coalition for Marriage will try to repeal gay-rights for the third time.

On paper, the anti folk should lose this time. Polls of voters show a majority favor gay rights of this type, while still opposed to civil unions and same-sex marriage. You can join Maine Won't Discriminate and contribute to its efforts on its site, or Equality Maine on its site.

Dueling in Sacramento

So what if you gave two un-parties? Would people come to both?

Two sets of petitions will circulate in California for possible amendments to the state constitution. Both aim to cut off any chance of same-sex marriages. One is more punitive, in eliminating current domestic-partnerships.

So, will there be enough people who hate, fear or are confused by homosexuals that 598,105 will sign either or both to get them on the 2006 ballot? Will the pettiness and nastiness of the worst one taint both?

Both got the go-ahead yesterday for signature gathering from Attorney General Bill Lockyer. Their supporters have until about Christmas to collect their totals. What a present for baby Jesus, eh?

The main supporting group for the DoMA with anti-domestic-partnership one, VoteYesMarriage, does not like Lockyer's summary that appears with the petition and details the areas that straights as well as gays would suffer from if it becomes law. VYTM (ironically, nearly pronounceable as vitamin) threatens to sue for less precise lingo.

This brings to mind lyrics from the CSN&Y Long Time Gone:
You know there's something that's goin' on around here,
That surely, surely, surely won't stand the light of day.
The summaries of both follow. Click on the associated links to see PDF versions of the amendments and proposers.

SA2005RF0077

Marriage. Invalidation of Domestic Partnerships.
Amends the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in California, whether contracted in this state or elsewhere. Voids and restricts registered domestic partner rights and obligations, for certain same-sex and heterosexual couples, in areas such as: ownership and transfer of property, inheritance, adoption, medical decisions, child custody and child support, health and death benefits, insurance benefits, hospital visitation, employment benefits, and recovery for wrongful death and other tort remedies. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: Unknown, but probably not significant, fiscal effect on state and local governments. The impact would depend in large part on future court interpretations.
SA2005RF0083

Marriage. Exclusive Legal Status for Married Spouses.
Amends the California Constitution to provide that only a man and a woman in a lawful marriage shall have the legal status of married spouses in California. Makes same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: Unknown, but probably not significant, fiscal effect on state and local governments. The impact would depend in large part on future court interpretations.

Ballot Initiatives, Too Many?

So, who dislikes ballot initiatives?

The top of the list seems to be legislators. That can cut two ways. First and from the same emotional basis that fosters most initiatives, a petition that forces the legislators to act takes away their power. Interest groups that want an initiative often decry this as the real reason legislators oppose a ballot question.

On the other hand, the lawmakers are the ones in for the long-term. They know what it takes to adhere to a budget and weigh the effect of one law against others. They answer to more than a one-issue group.

A detailed study of initiatives appeared three years ago. It was conducted for an interested party, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). While some may argue that this taints the largely negative conclusions, the report is balanced and empirical. It also includes views of those who favor initiatives.

Note:
You can read the NCSL magazine article on the report. On the same site, you can look at annual reports of ballot initiatives, such as the 2004 one.

Rhetorical question 2: So, do Americans, who have worldwide notoriety for low voter turnout, really like the reactionary ballot initiative?

You betchem, Red Ryder.

So far, the peak was in the last decade, but the trend had been up since the 1970s. Nationwide, the trend was:
  • 183 in the 1970s
  • 253 in the 1980s
  • 383 in the 1990s
Not only had the number more than doubled in that period. Oregon and California together accounted for almost 30% of all ballot initiatives.

According to the NCSL report, the Populist and Progressive movements fostered rapid increases in the number of states permitting ballot initiatives. By 1918, the number had grown to 19. Since then, five more have added the process, the last being Mississippi in 1992.

Of the politicians in favor, New York State Senator Michael Nozzolio captures their thoughts best. "Initiative and referendum represents the very core of democracy. It ensures that all people have a voice in the democratic process. It is an idea grounded in the belief that power ultimately rests in the hands of the people."

That's powerful stuff and hard to counter, expect in states where initiatives may cripple the government.

Americans model the human desire for simple answers. That's just what makes some ballot initiatives so destructive. They reduce complex choices to overly simplified, out-of-context, often emotionally based yes/no voting.

"Voters don't have to make the same kinds of tough decisions legislators face in balancing competition needs for limited resources," said NCLS I&R Reform Task Force member, Oregon Rep. Lance Shetterly. "The legislature may acknowledge an issue as a priority, but, in the face of an upcoming revenue shortfall and with existing programs and services to fund, it just isn't always possible to fund a new program. Then the initiative comes along and does it anyway. It puts the legislature in a box, having to meet newly mandated needs as well as existing ones."

Coming up, who benefits from initiatives, and then are there ways to improve ballot initiatives?

This is part three of five. Part four is here. Part one is here.

Numerical Afterthought: By the bye, as of this week, California alone has these initiatives and propositions on tap:
  • 1 Superseded by court order
  • 7 Qualified for 11/8/5 special election
  • 1 Qualified for 6/6/6 primary election
  • 1 Qualified for 11/7/6 general election
  • 65 Circulating (yes, 65)
  • 9 Pending action by the Attorney General
You can get the particulars here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Scattershot Misses Once In California

The anti-gay-rights folk lost one of their many fronted attacks in California yesterday. The state Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to domestic-partner law.

Showing his true spite and intentions, Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families commented on his loss. "Thankfully, the voters of California don't need to accept this. They can override the judges and protect marriage once and for all in the state Constitution."

His group and a few other homophobic ones also sponsor or support the two initiatives circulating that intend to limit marriage to one man and one woman. These simultaneously would void domestic partnerships. Even though straight couples and relatives can also register for domestic partnerships, the Thomassan types are willing to sacrifice them just to get at the gays.

An article
in the San Francisco Chronicle on the issue, quotes executive director of Equality California, Geoff Kors, as saying the attacks that include the domestic-partnership law are poison pills.
"We believe we have a very good opportunity to become the first state to defeat one of these ballot measures," Kors said. He said Wednesday's court order was "a major victory for the lesbian and gay community" and would affect tens of thousands of couples and their children.
From here, it looks like there a good chance on both coasts that the haters have overestimated public acquiescence to their anti-gay efforts. When you are willing to hurt an elderly straight couple in a partnership to keep health benefits just to get at the gays, you can be seen for what you are.

Ballot Initiatives, California Caution

We confess that ballot iniatives are enticing. If something is important, let the voters decide, right? Didn't we learn that in elementary school and our first civics classes?

In various forms, 24 states permit citizen ballot initiatives leading to referenda or amendments to state constitutions. You can see specifics at the Initiative and Referendum Institute.

At its worst, we can look at what this has meant in California. The short of it is that citizens first limited their property taxes and then mandated that 40% of the budget go to education. That kind of worked when the state had a $3 billion surplus and does not work at all now.

The governor and legislature, as well as various agencies and school districts try to figure out how to align such goals. It is much like the fantasy of Reaganomics, guns AND butter. We want more and we want it to cost less. It is a wonderful hope, but alas, this is not a Disney or Dreamworks production.

The desire is too often emotionally based.

This type of situation is where representative democracy is supposed to work for citizens. Interest groups, citizens alliances and so forth make their wants known – lower taxes, smaller classes and so forth. Then the lawmakers are supposed to hammer out the relief of what is possible. There will be fine-tuning and enabling legislation appears.

This takes more time than an initiative, but far less than trying to fix a crippled state budget after a series of incompatible and irrationally conflicting laws have been voted referendum.

This is part two of five. The next part is here. Part one is here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Devil in DoMA 2

The summary of the California DoMA initiative appears at the bottom. Also, the anti folk, VoteYesMarriage, says it will sue to get a summary more to its liking.

The only error the group could find in the Attorney General's summary was that hospital visitation may not be affected. However, it is unhappy that Lockyer stresses the collateral damage.

Lockyer's summary:
MARRIAGE. ELIMINATION OF DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP RIGHTS. INITIATIVE
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

Amends the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in California, whether contracted in this state or elsewhere. Voids and restricts registered domestic partner rights and obligations, for certain same-sex and heterosexual couples, in areas such as: ownership and transfer of property, inheritance, adoption, medical decisions, child custody and child support, health and death benefits, insurance benefits, hospital visitation, employment benefits, and recovery for wrongful death and other tort remedies. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: Unknown, but probably not significant, fiscal effect on state and local governments. The impact would depend in large part on future court interpretations.

Devil in DoMA Details

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer released the official summary of the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. While this triggers signature gathering, the anti folk are not happy. It seems the summary is a bit too plain spoken for them.

"True to his liberal bias, but untrue to his constitutional duty, Bill Lockyer has dumped on us an inaccurate and prejudicial paragraph that is anything but impartial and fair as the law requires," carped one of the amendment's official sponsors. Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for Children and Families particularly objected to the summary noting that the amendment would strip rights from registered domestic partners of any type.

We have not seen the whole 100-word summary yet and shall post it when it is available.

The news report is mostly the whining from the proposers. It is true that the differences start at the title – Marriage. Elimination of Domestic Partnership Rights, instead of The Voters' Right to Protect Marriage Initiative. It the issue was less serious, that form of PR bluster would be amusing.

The summary does note that the amendment for the 2006 election would restrict marriage to one man and one woman in the state. However, it also notes that the amendment would void and restrict registered domestic partner rights and obligations, including inheritance, adoption, hospital visitation and insurance benefits.

The anti folk have 598,105 signatures to gather. They would very much like voters to think DoMA and ignore the man behind the curtain.

Ballot Initiatives, or Not

Who could possibly be against voters voting? Isn’t that democracy in action?

That seems to be the crux of the argument in favor of ballot initiatives. Yet as so many simple ideas, it has pluses and minuses, supporters and detractors, and most of all caveats.

Whether the subject is marriage laws or any other important issue, saying that the registered voters should decide is obvious and tempting. Occasionally it has worked well and often poorly, very poorly.

The principle entered into the United States formally in 1777 in Georgia’s constitution and similarly into Massachusetts law. Even our revered John Adams those centuries ago saw both the importance of a citizen check on legislative excess and that of making an override referendum difficult.

From the beginning, citizens had to get voter signatures on petitions, and then get the legislature to support the ballot question in two successive sessions for an amendment. The idea was that passion and petulence would wane, leaving the resulting vote more sensible.

Perhaps it is not at all odd that extremists on all fronts are wont to scream, “Let the voters decide!” when their issues are at stake.

Living in a country that prides itself as the model of democracy and populism, we should not be surprised when one interest group after another demands a vote on a particular law. Yet, caution should be the guide here, as some of the next few posts will claim.

Among the key considerations are:
  • Representative democracy. We have legislatures for reasons, not the least of which is that we expect them to consider long-term and interrelated effects of each law.
  • Checks and Balances. Loonies can blather about activist judges or excessive lawmakers, but we have learned that they mean they want their way on a given issue regardless of consequences or fairness.
  • Ratholes. At their worst, hotheaded referendum drives can bankrupt states, cripple education and social programs, and strip classes of Americans of civil rights.
  • Unenlightened Self-Interest. A dangerous trend is for corporate groups and special interest groups to drive initiative that benefit them.
  • Bait and Switch. Unscrupulous professional signature gathering firms in Massachusetts and elsewhere have filled their petitions by lying to voters about what the referendum means, short-circuiting the intent of citizen overrides.
This is one of five parts of ballot initiatives (LITE). Part two is here.

Canadians, Don't Go There

Well, we haven't heard it from the U.S. State Department to Massachusetts gay marrieds. However, Foreign Affairs Canada warned same-sex married couples about traveling where their status is frowned upon or illegal.

According to The Globe and Mail, Foreign Affairs Minister Communications Director Sébastien Théberge said that part of his ministry's job is t "tell Canadians what we can't do for them."

The brief statement
featuring Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew does detail countries. However, it points to the consular affairs Website for laws and rights in particular countries. One example was Qatar, where "homosexuality is illegal. Convicted offenders may face lengthy jail sentences, lashing and/or deportation."

More probably, according to Pettigrew, a couple would be turned away at customs and not allowed to enter. His statement continued:
"We cannot take for granted that rights that are recognized in Canada will be recognized or accepted abroad," added Minister Pettigrew. "Whether visiting or moving to another country, Canadians should always take the time to learn about the laws of the country for which they are destined before leaving home."

Monday, July 25, 2005

Dittohead Jacoby on Initiatives

We need to kick around ballot initiatives leading to voter referenda. Liberals seem split on the idea, and not only in Massachusetts. Extremists on both left and right absolutely love citizens being able to put any law to a plebiscite.

Predictably, yesterday the Boston Globe's token staff conservative columnist, Jeff Jacoby, mouthed the sensational half-truths of others on the issue. It is certain that he is as lazy as a preacher taking every sermon idea from published homilies. Column after column parrot distortions or outright lies of the likes of Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT) and MassResistance.

In his case, there is the obvious question about whether he is so ignorant and dull witted that he does not know that he is publishing lies and distortions. More likely, he can just lift sensationalist lies, being inflammatory and getting paid for little work. Of course, like Rush Limbaugh, his lack of respect for his readers' intellects is evident –– twice a week is this case.

For one example, Jacoby's column and the originals he took from claim that if the new limits on ballot initiatives pass, anyone signing or donating would have name, address and phone published on the Net for all to see and for opponents toharasss. Instead, the proposed changes would have identified contributors giving over $5,000, in other words, those with seriously vested interests.

A bit different, no? Why would CLT and Jacoby assume their publics are too dumb to understand? Could it be that they simply take the cheap shot with an emotional appeal, intellect be damned?

You can also check others who note Jacoby's laziness and inaccuracy. For example, Jeff Jacoby Gets It Wrong (Again) by MassResistance Watch.

Posts here in the next few days will muse on the benefits and drawbacks of ballot initiatives.

Meanwhile, re-read Jacoby's column. These are arguments and lies you have seen and will see again. You can also check out the actual proposal. Start with a posting from this blog, which links to the bill.

Many letters to the Globe ask whether the paper can't find a conservative voice that is not so malicious or dishonest. Lord knows it makes an obvious effort to fill the op-ed pages with as much conservative and reactionary material in the name of balance as it can. Among those writers, surely there must be one who could and would turn out one or two thought-provoking, honest columns a week.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Marriage Share

As part of its public-relations/lobbying efforts, MassEquality is seeking tales of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. Through the end of this month, Field Organizer Jon Marker is collecting such stories into a book One Year of Marriage Equality.

If you are part of a gay married couple interested in telling your story, go to MassEquality's sharing page. It lets you write up to 250 words and upload up to three digital pictures.

Contributors do it for the greater good. They receive no compensation, but joyful bragging is surely priceless.

MassEquality will not sell the book, but they will distribute a copy to the commonwealth legislators as they consider same-sex marriage issues.

As Marker says in an In Newsweekly article, "We'll make sure they have the books long before the Constitutional Convention starts."

By the bye, there is a long, sweet example story in the article.

Friday, July 22, 2005

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Birth Certificates

In a display of incompetence and unprofessionalism, Governor Mitt Romney has refused to have the commonwealth update birth certificates to reflect the same-sex marriage laws. The Quincy Patriot Ledger broke the story and the Boston Globe has the followup.

The short of it is that Romney intentionally forces hospitals to scratch out FATHER and write in OTHER PARENT. While this reads like the Monty Python routine of the cat license, the 61 kids already born to lesbian spouses and future ones will end up with altered certificates that may not be acceptable to passport offices and other government or even corporate uses.

The likely outcome is that Romney will force an expensive program of reissuing all of these. His pettiness certainly does not suit someone with national political ambitions.

This is not just an I-forgot case. The Massachusetts Town Clerks Association has repeatedly requested new certificates. As the commonwealth has adjusted marriage licenses to the same-sex reality over the past year, this is a simple matter and a pressing one, according to Plymouth Town Clerk Laurence Pizer. "It's unacceptable to have cross-outs on a vital record. It would be impossible to ensure that the cross-out was authentic. Who's to say someone else didn't alter the birth certificate?''

The Globe reports that as early as February Romney made it plain that he was willing to let the children and their parents suffer on this one. (Insert your own, "Nyah, nyah," here.)
(O)n a political trip to South Carolina, (Romney) told a Republican group that he was dismayed by the clerks' effort to have birth certificates revised for the children of gay couples. ''Some [same-sex couples] are actually having children born to them," Romney said.

''It's not right on paper; it's not right in fact," he said. ''Every child has a right to a mother and a father."

That's a wonderful fantasy, Old Ironhair, but for over a year and for the future that is not the law here. Also in a world of unmarried and single parents, widowed parents, divorced and separated parents and on and on, save the Norman Rockwell paintings for those who will not see the challenges and beauties of real life.

It may be a good time to quote Lenny Bruce here. "Reality is what is. What should be is a dirty lie."

Note: Romney has also tried the ploy of having to change state law to permit this. Not only have other states and nations not had any difficulty tweaking their legal wording in this and related issues, but our own Chapter 45: Section 1 is pretty clean as is. For example: In the record of births, date of birth, place of birth, name and sex of child; names, places of birth, and dates of birth of both parents; and residence and birth surname of the child's mother.

Turnabout: No Fair

Ironically (and from a distance somewhat amusing) is the refusal of the Oregon Republicans to let the voters decide civil unions. In Massachusetts and Maine, the conservatives are screaming that it is only (lowercase) democratic to let voters have their say on important issues.

In Salem, House Speaker (and Republican) Karen Minnis is refusing to risk legalizing civil unions by letting voters vote. Citing a same-sex-marriage ban vote last fall, she imperiously holds now, "This issue has been greatly discussed; it's been voted on."

Catch all the latest hypocrisy here.

Democrats, other liberals and gay-right advocates are calling, writing, holding rallies and telling everyone they want the voters to decide. Governor Ted Kulongoski agrees that Minnis is blocking the letter and spirit of democracy.

Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown is one of many who pointed out that Massachusetts/Canada style marriage is one thing and civil unions quite another. She and other civil-union supporters point to a voter poll after the Measure 36 ban on marriages that found 49% favor civil unions, 30% oppose them, and 21 are undecided.

Hmmm. Sounds like a vote is needed eh?

Not to Minnis. She retorts, "When you amend every marriage statute we have on the books, that is a clear violation" of the same-sex-marriage ban.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Tsk Tsk from Vatican

It took only a day, but the Vatican has condemned Canada's legalization of same-sex marriage. In today's L'Osservatore Romano, the word is that with the law, "(t)he distortion of God's plan for the family continues."

The actual newspaper in Italian is not on-line yet, but the wire services carry that snippet.

Steamroller of Tolerance

The inexorable march to gay rights and same-sex marriage gets a broad historical view in today's The Globe and Mail. The piece by Allan Levin (writer and historian from Winnipeg) says the cascading forces of modernism made the latter inevitable.

Note: The article requires free registration to access.

He goes back over a century to trace the key steps that brought his nation here. He writes:
Whereas a hundred years ago, even the most liberal of Canadians preached that non-Anglo-Saxon Protestant immigrants must adapt, conform or leave; we now live in a multicultural environment that, while far from perfect, has deemed as unacceptable and illegal property restrictions, ethnic quota systems, and discrimination based on race, colour or sex. The extension of gay rights must be understood as part of this historic transformation.
He notes that the bluster about attacking same-sex marriage by Tory leaders is partly due to our president. "With his conservative bent, evocation of the Lord at every opportunity, and oppposition to same-sex marriage, abortion and stem-cell research, he has given the traditonalists an authority they have not had for years." He adds that with Bush leaving town in 2008, "the more moderate and progressive (by U.S. standards, at any rate) Democrats" can return and bring their own flavor of modernism.

He contrasts U.S. political trends in sodomy, fornication, obscenity and church/state separation with Canada's. Basically, he says that they've done it. Catch up.
Wide acceptance of same-sex marriage in the U.S. has a way to go - it's legal only in Massachusetts - and more liberal Canadians continue to lead Americans on this and other moral issues. Nevertheless, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has declared that he will make his opposition to same-sex marriage a key point of his platform in the next federal election. That would be ignoring more than a century of history that suggests we will look back on the great same-sex-marriage upheaval of 2005 and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Hope for Benny XVI?

Might the new Pope have potential to surprise – like a conservative judge suddenly facing the gravity of being a Supreme Court Justice? We had not thought so, but that is just the tease held out by Anthony Grafton in the July 25th New Yorker.

Note: This article, "Reading Ratzinger," is not available online.

For 25 years, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the Roman Inquisition, renamed several times from 1542, and currently the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He has been intractable in condemning homosexual acts and just as starkly anti same-sex marriage or civil unions. Now that he is Benedict XVI, we had not expected any change at all in the attitude of the Pope we like to call Benny the Rat.

However, Princeton professor of European History Grafton informs us that in his youth, Benny was liberal and loving. His mentor was Cologne, Germany's liberal Archbishop Joseph Frings. He suggests that the new Pope may draw on that background and not be so severe in the long run.

The leftist politics of the late 1960s turned Benny around and led him to transfer to a very conservative German university (Regensburg). From there, he went into the sometimes nasty and often reactionary world of doctrinal enforcement.

He describes the horrors of 1960s thought in The Ratzinger Report, a lengthy 1984 interview. According to Grafton:
"(M)any Catholics moved from a narrow, inward-fixed Christianity to an uncritical openness to the world." He saw this as a dangerous development, a result largely of the expansion of the European universities, which had produced a "new tertiary-educated bourgeoisie with its liberal-radical ideology of individualistic hedonistic character..."

To Ratzinger, the world of the sixties looked rather like a vast and frightening engraving in the manner of Gustave Doré, in which fanged demons of sensuality and "liberal-radical libertarian culture" attacked the few angels who still tried to defined God's Gothic, pinnacled towers..."
With that background, it is easy to see how he has come down so hard on gays. He doesn't even think married straights should have fun in bed.

In light of his new position, it is scary to reflect on his writings and oral comments over the past quarter century. For example, in The Ratzinger Report, he seems to close off any idea of an evolving, expanding theology:
The problem in the sixties was to take on the best values that two hundred years of "liberal" culture had produced. For there are values that, though they appeared outside the Church, yet, suitably purified and corrected have their place in its world-view. And that has taken place.
Of course, that would not expand to gay rights or ordination of women. He seems to be saying what you see is what is going to be.

Yet, Grafton concludes that the papacy may produce growth for Benny. "The Pope's job demands things that Ratzinger's old position as censor did not, and he a man of duty, who does what he is called to do."

Grafton seems appalled that the Pope endorsed a German critic's judgment that the Harry Potter books were "subtle seductions" of youth. The glimmer Grafton sees is "if the young scholar with his passion for learning from the dissidents, sometimes reappears in the imperious prelate whose mission now requires him not only to judge the city and the world from inside the walls of the Curia but also to confront and try to save them."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Disappearing Liberty...One Chunk at a Time

Note: This post has nothing to do with marriage or Massachusetts per se.

As the U.S. Senate holds its hearing on shield laws for journalists, the Administration already took its ball off the court and in effect said, "We won't play by the rules. Do it our way or the terrorists have won."

Deputy Attorney General James Comey was to represent the Justice Department. Shortly before he was to appear, he withdrew and instead testified publicly with prepared remarks. As George Bush's puppet, he then didn't have to be logical or defend the President's position. Puerile.

A Federal law giving reporters limited rights to withhold sources from legal and legislative probers is very unlikely. Even so, the Bush folk are trying to torpedo such an effort. Comey immediately waved the terrorist card, saying, "The bill is bad public policy primarily because it would bar the government from obtaining information about media sources – even in the most urgent of circumstances affecting the public's health or safety or national security."

Don't expect Justice to do its job. Use reporters as police agents. Oh, and if that means the public is less informed, that far less investigative reporting occurs, and that we end up nodding to the talking heads of TV instead of getting real news, that's okay by George.

In two ironies, first, the bill that would protect reporters from being imprisoned by Federal courts for refusing to reveal sources, is sponsored by two heartland Republicans, Richard Lugar and Mike Pence of Indiana. Second, bill co-sponsor Connecticut Democrat Christopher Dodd, referred to the 31 states and District of Columbia, which have limited local shield laws. "(T)hen wouldn't we expect to see great threats to public safety in those states that have shield laws which are at least as protective as the shield laws that we propose?" he asked.

Oddly enough, numerous leftists, including local bloggers here have bought into the Administration's position that journalists should quickly and passively cough up sources. That's like unquestioning obedience to a doctor because "if you don't take this drug and endure this test, you'll rob us of the only treatment and diagnostic tools we have." Both are coded language for obedience to authority without fully considering the consequences.

A wiser view is by The Nation's Victor Navasky in the August 1st issue's "The Rights of Journalists".

Plug: The full article is available online only to subscribers. If you don't get The Nation, you should.

Even he does not believe in absolute privilege, but he also has the wider, longer view of the issue. In part, he sees the media/entertainment conglomerates control over most of the press as eroding meaningful journalism. He admits this is an interlaced set of complex issues.
In the absence of a federal shield law, these controversies can be decided only case by case and conscience by conscience. But that is different from leaving it up to the corporate conscience...

Be that as it may, if I am right, the matter of a reporter's relationship to his/her sources won't be resolved until we break up the media behemoths; transform the judiciary into one that shares the views of Justices Hugo Black, William O. Douglas and William Brennan about the primacy of the First Amendment; repeal the Intelligence Identities Protection Act; and recognize that criminalizing journalists' conversations has only contributed to the confusions of the present situation.

But in case not all (or none) of the above happens, there are a few slender threads of hope on the legislative front: Republicans and Democrats have introduced several different bills for a federal shield law in both houses, claiming to offer journalists absolute protection but allowing the government to determine who is and is not a journalist, putting at risk independent journalists, not to mention bloggers. Conceivably the plight of Judith Miller will invite constructive legislation.
That's the matter with us pinkos. We are forever looking for fundamental changes that really fix problems.

Canada Off the Podium

An early leader in same-sex marriage, Canada came in fourth yesterday. No, erase that.

Canada legalized same-sex marriage yesterday when its Senate voted 47 to 21 in favor. Three of the 95 senators abstained; 10 seats are vacant. That concludes three years of debate, both emotional and rational.

The last step is the formality of Royal Assent, given by the Governor-General, likely today.

Full coverage, with background is widely available in the Canadian press, such as Canoe here.

Churches can still refuse to marry same-sex couples, but public officials are technically obligated to do so. However, after the years of acrimony, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler has announced that he'll let some of the old coot marriage commissioners slide, so long as there is another public official handy who doesn't let religion get in the way of duty.

Shivaree in Madrid

While not really a mock wedding celebration, it sort of was. At least tens of thousands of Spaniards hit the streets on July 2nd "banding drums, dancing toe booming techno music and crying victory over discrimination."

Read all the details in Macleans. or Yahoo News.

Mean and women walking or on flatbed trucks processed behind Culture Minister Carmen Calvo and Socialist party members, which sponsored the same-sex-marriage law. The parade took four hours to cover a kilometer. Estimates of the crowd ranged, in apparently typical Spanish style, from 100,000 to several million.

The quote of the day from a 26-year-old pharmacist, Ivan Sanchez, was, "This is infinitely gay."

Get Over It Up North

While the Canadian legal approval of C-38 approving same-sex marriage nationwide dribbles on, polled Canadians want to get on with their lives. They seem to accept that this is a done deal. As the managing partner of pollster Strategic Counsel Tim Woolstencroft commented, "The Liberals have been successful in defining same-sex as an issue of rights, not a moral issue."

The Globe and Mail and CTV surveyed 1,000 Canadians between July 5th and 10th. Highlights include:
  • 55% want the next government to keep its hands off and 39% want a repeal effort
  • 51% did not support homosexual couples being allowed to adopt children and 46% do
  • From a list of the current Liberal government's accomplishments, same-sex marriage (19%) ranked second only to a massive health-care cash infusion (28%)
Conservatives are increasingly hard-pressed to back up their bluster than the vast majority of Canadians oppose same-sex marriage. That appears to be a vast majority of Conservatives.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Goin' Down Muttering in Regina

A 69-year-old Canadian marriage commissioner (like our JPs) risks being canned instead of obeying the law requiring him to marry same-sex couples. In doing so, he is also stranding 30 straight couples who have arranged weddings with him this year.

...and the Globe and Mail are there.

In a scene that may replicate, particularly in the more rural Western and farther Eastern areas, Orville Nichols is claiming his beliefs prevent him from uniting homosexuals. He also said that if he is relieved of duty, he'll fight in court.

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler is willing coddle the crotchety in the short term. Recalcitrant solemnizers may be able to find other commissioners to perform their duty in such cases. "One should be able to find a way of accommodating those who for reasons of conscience feel they don't want to perform a same-sex marriage.

Several commissioners have filed complaints about being required to perform same-sex marriages. As with justices of the peace here, theirs is a civil function, legalizing contracts, with no religious duties. Ceremonies may include religious wording, but that is not relevant to the legality of the event. Some Conservatives in the province are huffing and puffing, asking why the government would "trample on the conscience and religious beliefs of Saskatchewan marriage commissioners."

Nichols is in Regina, Saskatchewan (population about 180,000). One of the six commissioners there is willing to solemnize gay marriages. There are also two commissioner vacancies, likely to be filled with candidates willing to obey the law.

Nichols refused to marry a gay couple, who complained to the Human Rights Commission.

Ballot Bill Puts Hiss in Hysteria

Senate Bill No. 459, AN ACT EXPANDING FINANCIAL REPORTING REQUIREMENTS AND INFORMATION AVAILABLE FOR VOTERS REGARDING BALLOT INITIATIVES is suddenly hot in the same-sex-marriage circle of friends and foes.

On the face of it, the aims are simple and fair. In fact, much like the bottle bill, this is a reaction to long-term abuse. This time, it's not the litterbugs, rather unscrupulous professional petition signature gathers. For example, an effort to ban same-sex marriages by constitutional amendment in 2001, failed by a small number, even though hired-guns seemed to have pulled in more than they needed. Widespread reports included such fraud as telling signers that the petition prohibited local horses from being sent to out-of-state abattoirs. Who wants to murder Trigger?

The bill requires obvious identification of paid gatherers. It limits the number of ballot questions one firm can handle by time. It charges the Secretary of State with governing the conduct of paid gatherers. It would also list the name, address and employer of each $5,000-and-up contributor.

The reactions of the most irrational and emotional groups, such as the Citizens for Limited Taxation, are predictable and amusing. We recommend reading every lurid word. Meanwhile, get a sense from:
They've always detested the constitutional ability of the unwashed masses, from time to time when nothing else worked, to end-run the hoi-polloi and powers-that-be; for us peons to make our own laws, repeal bad ones imposed upon us, on our own...

This insidious attack instead will simply need a majority in the Legislature to kill the right of the people -- by making the rules and requirements to comply impossible to ever meet..

Can you imagine the chilling effect on signing a petition -- if you know your name and address will be immediately posted, that wild-eyed opponents will begin harassment of you as soon as they get their corrupt hands on The List, publicly disclosed by this proposed law?..
Forgetting the misuse of hoi polloi, one must wonder whether these screamers have any respect for the intellect of the public. Their arguments are much like the bait-and-switch of the horse slaughtering.

This bill may come out of the Joint Committee on Election Laws this week, favorably.

If it becomes law, it would decidedly mean that the present sloppy and unethical options in signature gathering would change. We suspect that interest groups of all stripes would have to attract and train volunteers. This would largely remove the financial incentive for petition fraud. On the other hand, until such organizations are in place, getting issues before the legislature and the voters would be tougher.

It looks like a good trade-off, affecting everyone equally and improving the honesty of the process. A short-term negative for a large long-term benefit.

Now the question comes whether these precious voter initiatives are so good after all.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Bucks to Chuck Maine Law

The anti-gay nasties in Maine will have to orchestrate another miracle to keep their not-here! train on track. The wire services and Boston papers picked up on the fund-raising for the gay-rights law rollback. The best coverage was in the Portland Press-Herald.

The short of it is that to date the key players in the effort to strip sexual orientation from the state's equal-rights law have spent their hate war chest. The anti folk are largely the Christian Civic League of Main and its spinoff Maine Grassroots Coalition. Through July 5, they raised $117,826 and only have $3,800 left. Much of its money went to collecting signatures to put the rollback on the November ballot.

Meanwhile, Maine Won't Discriminate and Equality Maine only collected $83,071, but have $32,000 to use.

Of course, both sides will get more cash. Some of the anti forces include industrialists who have already written big checks to beat homosexuals back down below legal protection. One who will surely pony up more is Douglas Sukeforth, who used to own and be president of Mid-State Machine Products. He seems convinced that Massachusetts-style gay marriage will follow if Maine offers homosexuals protection against discrimination. "The gay-rights part is just a cover-up," he really did say.

Both sides are busy raising money for the campaign. Meanwhile, there are those of us who hope that the petition people overplayed their cards as similar types did a few years ago in Massachusetts. If they don't have enough real voters on the petitions, Maine won't even have to face the issue in the fall.

Non-Fomenting Remarks

"Rhetorical hysteria" was one legal expert on Cardinal Marc Ouelett's anti-same-sex-marriage-bill remarks. While the cleric was testifying to the Canadian Senate that priests could go to jail for even discussing homosexuality, he didn't find support in the legal community.

The Globe and Mail (requires free registration) report went to academicians who study hate-crime prosecution. A key point is that "...the hate-crimes law does not apply in cases where the statements made are proved to be true or in cases where they are expressed in good faith or in an attempt to voice an opinion on a religious subject." Few such prosecutions have occurred and those only for cases where the speakers were trying to foment hatred.

University of Toronto political science professor David Rayside called remarks like the Cardinal's "rhetorical hysteria." He noted that the Roman Catholic Church has not been prosecuted for refusing to marry divorces people or ordain women priests. For non-religious organizations, the latter type of discrimination would clearly violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The kindest spin on the Cardinal's bluster came from Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. (By the bye, he is in Israel at the Maccabiah Games, representing Canada in ping pong masters division play. Keen.) He commented, "when people speak out of a sense apprehension, if not anguish, then they may overstate their case.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Suffer the Children to Come

Well, I guess the infants can go to hell with the parents in Canada. Another aspect of the Cardinal Ouelett crying Victim! in Senate testimony yesterday is that the Roman Catholic church won't baptize a child if two dads or two moms are to be the signators on the certificate.

The Ottawa Citizen reports this absurd aspect. The article quotes the mitered one:
"If I take the example of the ceremony of baptism, according to our canon law, we cannot accept the signatures of two fathers or two mothers as parents of an infant," Cardinal Ouellet told the committee. "With a law that makes these unions official, situations of this will multiply and this threatens to disturb not just the use of our territory, but also our archives and other aspects of the life of our communities."
Senator Marcel Prud'homme (a Catholic) objected to punishing the children this way. Later in the day, a Conference of Catholic Bishops official hedged a bit and said that if one of the parents did not insist on signing the certificate the priest had the option of performing the baptism. (Do we call that marginalization?)

The Senate committee, with the Conservatives objecting, reported C-38 to the whole Senate for passage with no amendments. It should pass before the Tour de France is over and become law the same day.

Red-Eyed Cardinal

There was a weird and ugly symmetry in testimony by a Canadian Cardinal. He sounds remarkably like the most extreme sensationalists in Maine trying to overturn the gay-rights law.

Quebec City's Cardinal Marc Ouelett has flushed out the bugbear of a muffled clergy, terrified of speaking from the pulpit. That's much like what the Christian Civic League and its spinoff group has been threatening in Maine – quite illogical and baseless, but with a powerful emotional pull. Both sets claim that if homosexuals get rights, even ordinary speech must be censored or they will face hate-crimes prosecution.

Well, la de da, cut me a real thin slice of that balogna.

The Canadian press covered the Cardinal's remarks thoroughly. A good piece is in Canoe.

Of course, the Cardinal must be mindful of his international reputation. He was considered to replace Pop John Paul II.

Concerning his opposition to same-sex marriage, he tried to divert the discussion to, "There's a climate taking shape where we don't dare say what we think anymore or we don't dare teach," before a Senate committee.

Another well-known Christian went even farther. "Christians are going to inhabit the closet so recently vacated by gays," said the policy director for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Janet Epp Buckingham. "There's a tremendous amount of concern and fear in our community - feelings that we're being targeted and marginalized. Feelings that we're being considered un-Canadian."

At some level that must be funny to gay Canadians. Yes, it's fine to marginalize homosexuals, but the mere idea of not being able to say the nastiest things you can think of targets you. Hardy har.

Even though U.S. gay-rights laws invariably make stronger exceptions for bigots in the pulpit and those managing church-based organizations, the Canadians have been lenient in letting religious groups discriminate as we do. There though, questions remain whether clergy will be able to refuse to marry homosexual couples. Here, we have been careful to institutionalize that discrimination too.

Even though the Canadian rights charter is more severe about limiting free speech when it is hateful, playing the victim card so freely and so early is amusing from here.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Nodding Monarchs

A chum asked for some clarification about the glib remarks on Queen Elizabeth II's role in effectively vetoing legislation. It came up in the posting on the ex-televangelist's drive to get her to do that with Canada's same-sex-marriage bill C-38.

It's a little out of our ken down here. You can get enough detailed background from Wikipedia's article on Royal Assent.

The gist of it is that for Commonwealth countries, including Australia and Canada, the ruling monarch is the titular head of government. In theory, the Queen could keep a law from taking effect by withholding her approval. This is part of the monarch's Reserve Powers, which are very rarely exercised.

Notably in 1937, two bills giving Alberta provincial, non-federal banking authority, and one bill requiring newspapers to print government rebuttals fell afoul and did not receive assent. It's possible too that if Quebec tries to separate, such a bill would not become law.

There is a bifurcation here though. In the U.K. (England and Northern Ireland), legislation comes directly to her. In places like Canada, the Governor-General is her representative and almost always takes the advice of the ministers. In practice, unless she tells him otherwise, he assents to the bill and it is the law of the land.

There are also some delightful rituals, passing of papers, separate notification of the houses of Parliament and so forth. It's a lot better theater than our Congressional snuff boxes.

Busy in California

Maybe California should change its animal from the bear to the beaver. Despite recent and pending same-sex-marriage decisions (and in some cases because of these), there's much agitation and action on the We(s)t Coast. To wit:
  • A pushy bunch wants the state to bypass the Court of Appeals and hand gay marriages directly to the state's Supreme Court. The wrinkle is that both sides want this. Attorney General Bill Lockyer is defending the DoMA-style restrictions. The city of San Francisco and a dozen homosexual couples have joined in the request, with the aim of Massachusetts-style full marriage.
  • As of July 12th, Sacramento is still at work too. Gay marriage is swimming with the fishes since the Senate Judciary Committee slipped a measure legalizing same-sex marriage into a fisheries research bill. Last month, such a bill (gays, not guppies) barely failed in the Assembly. Three votes the other way will make the difference this time.
  • Downstate, the Los Angeles City Council seized on that vote to pass unanimously a resolution supporting same-sex marriage in the state. This is a symbolic gesture, and two anti folk on the Council walked before the vote to permit the unanimous count.

Connecticut Civil How-To

A booklet on how to set up a civil union in Connecticut is available here from GLAD. It covers planning, preparation, rights and limits, and even dissolution.

Note: This is a 38-page/19 spreads, 105KB PDF file. You need an Adobe Acrobat browser plug-in or reader to view or print it. You can save the file directly to disk from the main page. Right click on Read the Publication link.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

God-TV Guy Begs Queen


Let us not make jokes about the Queen being asked to say no to queens. This is serious stuff.

An anti-same-sex-marriage talking head is pleading with Queen Elizabeth II to withhold Crown approval for Canadian gay marriage when the law crosses her secretary's secretary for signature. We'll have our ocean-beach cabanas in Indiana before that happens, but, hey, David Mainse is a showman first. Reality is somewhere over yonder.

Mainse, recently retired host of a long-running Christian TV program, leads an email-writing campaign to ask ER to queer, if you pardon, the law.

For those unfamiliar with Canadian evangelical broadcasting. Mainse founded and hosted 100 Huntley Street. He had about 7,000 broadcasts and subsequently has devoted his efforts to a anti-same-sex marriage group with Website.

Now before you think he is just courting traffic and engineering his next career, look at his image above or here. Could this man ever be insincere?

If you are Canadian, you can hie to his email link to the Queen. Warning: You are supposed to cut and paste your own negative comments into the box.

You can also read his own letter, which pleads:
I ask you to consider stepping in to withhold Royal Consent by instructing our Governor General, your representative to do the same. This is a non-partisan issue because some Members of Parliament of all four parties in the House voted against C-38.
In addition to noting the lack of unanimous voting, he carefully selects some wispy reasons before adding:
Our beloved Queen Elizabeth II, I know that the refusal of the Governor General to give Royal Consent would precipitate a crisis. Millions have nowhere else to turn but you. Queen Esther was encouraged by the words, "“Who knows but that you are come to the Kingdom for such a time as this."”
He'd surely get a bad mark if this had been Logic 101. However, it's show biz.

Alberta as Uncle-berta

Alberta, Canada, cried "Uncle" yesterday. Premier Ralph Klein genuflected begrudgingly to reality, saying his province will recognize same-sex marriages.

The Senate is poised to sign off of C-38. The pro-forma acknowledgement of the Queen is the last step to making Canada the fourth nation with countrywide same-sex marriage.

Klein was a bit puerile in his announcement, saying, "We will proceed to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, much to our chagrin, following proclamation of the federal Civil Marriage Act." More meaningful than his because-we-have-to angle was ensuring that the objectors have an out.

"We will develop legislative options to ensure the rights of religious officials and those Albertans who hold social or cultural beliefs or values, whether religious or non-religious," he said at his new conference on the matter. He wants to make sure that ministers and marriage commissioners (much like our justices of the peace) will not be compelled to join two homosexually in wedded bliss.

Same-sex couples will likely have to ask first before arranging for their ceremony.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Gay Couple's Spanish Wedding

With 20 family and friends, plus 50 media folk, Emilio Menendez and Carlos Baturim married in Tres Cantos, north of Madrid, Spain, yesterday. It was the nation's first same-sex marriage.

You can see them here. A better picture and Spanish coverage is here. The latter report, in Spanish of course, gives nice color missing in the English press, such as the wedding ended with a reading of Pablo Neruda.

As typical of Massachusetts same-sex marriage, this was no whim. They had been partners for over 30 years.

Numbers from Spain include:
  • the Justice Ministry estimates 10% of the population is gay
  • 50 homosexual couples may have already filed for licenses
  • the BBC reports that over 5,000 such couples intend to wed
So the question arises again, as in the Netherlands, Belgium and Massachusetts, where's the harm? Also, Satan has not risen in glee to swallow these sinner locales, nor has Jehovah smitten them. Think. Think. Think. What can this mean?

Canadian Express Rolls

As the Senate in Ottawa gets to bill C-38 formally legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, they heard from Justice Minister Irwin Cotler yesterday. He testified to the Senate committee considering the bill that it was moot.

If they reject the bill (extremely unlikely), it remains the law of the land for two reasons:
  1. the nation's highest court has declared discrimination by gender in marriage unconstitutional
  2. a large majority of provinces and territories have already legalized such marriages
The option would be for the legislature to override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by using the nonwithstanding clause. Of course, Canadians are loath to go that route, with its implications for their other cherished rights. It would be similar to us putting in exceptions to our Bill of Rights for a narrow political purpose. The Canadian government has never used the nonwithstanding clause.

A full report of yesterday's action is in the Globe and Mail (free registration required) or the wires.

The Conservative Senators are still petulant about losing the C-38 vote in Commons. Yesterday:

"You seem to worship at the altar of the Charter. I do not," Tory Senator Anne Cools said.

The former Liberal described herself as an admirer of the Charter's founding figure, the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau. But she added: "The Charter has gone places that Pierre Trudeau never would have intended."

The party's lack of grace in accepting defeat that they saw coming over six months ago is quaint and amusing. However, they still are making noises about somehow generating a majority or coalition and overturning the pending law.

Slow Export of Mass. Marriage

This afternoon, my wife and I were literally in the clichéd position of being in the neighborhood, this time of the two men whose marriage I solemnized late last year. When we stopped by, we found that they had just returned yesterday from a long trip to a huge family reunion in South Carolina.

The one who grew up there is the eldest of a large family and has been out to them for decades. Most of his hundreds of relatives remain relatively close to home. They are black, Protestant, and almost all straight. His partner has always been welcome, but the particulars of their personal life together has not been a matter for confrontation, scolding or other negative conversation.

Yet raised as a Southerner myself, I understand that it is considered very rude to figuratively peek into another's bedroom, gay or straight. Your mother may be the only person with the right to ask direct questions.

I had to ask before we left whether they discussed or even mentioned their marriage. They did not.

They referred to each other as my partner. In such a conventional and largely rural environment, that message alone packs a wallop. They guy figured that the relatives would have been quite uncomfortable with the knowledge. It's likely that many don't even know it's possible here for two men to marry.

Anyway, a good time was had by all and each of them has the family-reunion t-shirt.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Glum Gays in Garden State

A year after homosexuals had the right to register for domestic partnerships in New Jersey, they had a muted celebration. They want full rights, Massachusetts-style marriage.

At yesterday's rally in Maplewood (led by Garden State Equality), attendants who had registered or not expressed disappointment at the subset of rights they have. According to the Newark Star-Ledger,

Under the Domestic Partnership Act, same-sex couples who register as domestic partners gain some of the benefits of marriage, including the right to give medical consent, joint insurance coverage and income tax exemptions. (It also allows unmarried heterosexual couples over 62 to register so they can get benefits and preserve retirement income they could lose if they wed.)

But the law does not include hundreds of other rights and obligations that go with being married, such as the right to sue over a spouse's death or the law's protection for the secrets spouses tell each other.

Over 700 couples registered on the first day. In the past year, the total is 3,211.

Our U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, probably the most out of the outed Congressional gays, was at the rally. He noted that like Massachusetts, New Jersey strengthens its case for full marriage by people seeing only positive effects of granting equal rights. Another Star-Ledger article quotes him as, "But we have had the measure for well over a year now and there has been no negative effect. It doesn't affect anyone who is not themselves in a same-sex marriage."

Meanwhile, New Jersey residents wait and stew. The state attorney general agreed with anti folk, who claim only the legislature should make such a change. The state Supreme Court will hear arguments to allow same-sex marriage.

Holy Cross Holy Flame War To Be

Sodomy v. Love might be the subtitle of the Sunday Boston Globe op-ed piece by Loyola Professor of Roman Catholic Studies at the College of the Holy Cross is Worcester David O'Brien. Does love matter? is unlikely to change any minds of the fundamental Christians of any stripe.

Note: The link is probably only free for about a week.

Dr. O'Brien asks very pointed questions as well as giving definitive background on Massachusetts same-sex marriage. For example, he points to then Worcester Bishop Daniel Reilly testifying to the legislature that the church did not approve of such marriage but would discuss legal rights of all couples. He also skewers the state's bishops for their DoMA position without "...the slightest effort to consult their pastors, their most respected couples, or any lay leaders before pronouncing against gay marriage. By acting without reference to pastoral experience, unfortunately, they not only weakened their case on gay marriage but further damaged their genuinely helpful efforts to support family life in other areas of social policy, such as income support, full employment, and affordable housing."

Perhaps from his years in Holy Cross' ethics school or his wide and deep research for his numerous theological books, he seems to lack patience with hypocrisy and duplicity. He notes the inanity of pretending that a heterosexual couple that can and will produce children in a closed environment is the only real marriage. Of course, most marriages are childless at any given time. This brings him to the point of his lengthy analysis —– "Should love be considered? Marriage, after all, is not just about sex; it is also about love."

He is, if your pardon the expression, straight about the church hierarchy being flat out against what they call sodomy, which to them includes any form of homosexual sexual contact. O'Brien concludes:
So one moral question is sodomy, another is love. And you don't have to be a Christian to understand that love is good. We are all better off when we and our friends and neighbors and coworkers and children love and are loved. What happened in those towers and those captured airplanes on 9/11? Hundreds of people called people they loved to speak at the end of love.

So try an experiment. The next time an argument starts about gay marriage, see what happens if you ask: Does love matter, or doesn't it?

I suspect that would lead to a lot of subject changing or rephrasing to avoid the issue. Maybe O'Brien's clearheadness will pick off a few confused minds and set them right.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Soft Shoe in Maine

Jim Brunelle, the Portland (Maine) Post-Herald columnist doesn't have much patience with the anti-gay soldiers of the Christian Civic League, Coalition for Marriage, and other plug nasties. His Independence Day column details their latest theater.

Note: This will be free online only through July 10th. Then it's $2.95.

Already the CCL is crying foul, which shows how well he nailed it. The gist is that these groups followed the same script last time they fought a gay-rights law. They hold back a lot of petitions. Then they bring them out in the final hours, cheapening the term miracle to claim blessed victory. If there were a Biblical, retributive God up to his punishment, you'd do well to stand clear of these folks or wear your rubber-soled boots.

In Brunelle's words:
It was the same old show, complete with manufactured suspense, familiar dialogue, victory snatched from the jaws of near defeat and a jubilant closing scene assuring the leading actors one more curtain call, despite the weariness of both players and audience.

The theatrical metaphor is apt, politics being a form of show biz. And the rule is, if a good punch line, an unusual prop or an attention-getting bit of stage business works, use it over and over again.
He traces both the duplicity of the anti folk in claiming that the petition prevented same-sex marriage rather than forbade discrimination. He also does a good recap of the related votes on previous measures, the close and not close ones.

Maine hasn't settled this. The haters still want the right to say dreadful things as well as discriminate against homosexuals...and not be called, God forbid, bigots for doing so.

Assuming they weren't too, if you pardon the expression, liberal in their signature gathering, we'll hear more of this as we come to a November vote.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Warning to Moralists

Late last month, Deval Patrick got rave reviews for a snappy new routine to counter the anti-same-sex-marriage folks. In fairness, his fund-raiser audience of South Enders, at an art gallery no less, was strongly for him before he tried his patter.

You can see a full report in Bay Windows here.

As an announced candidate for Massachusetts governor, Patrick has been fustigated by anti-gay black clergy. In particular, because of his pro-same-sex-marriage position, he has been the object of tirades by Bishop Gilbert "Andy" Thompson, president of the Black Ministerial Alliance. Thompson, of the Mattapan neighborhood's Jubilee Christian Church (formerly the New Covenant Christian Church), is a buddy of Gov. Mitt Romney and a leader in the effort to roll back same-sex marriage here.

I don't accept the meanness and the hate that is preached from some pulpits in some places about the rightness of equality when it comes to marriage.



Patrick is not much for hate or for stripping groups of existing rights. According to the Bay Windows coverage:
"We learned about community there on the South Side (of Chicago). We also learned in our church that justice was an element - that equality was an element - of social justice and that social justice was an act of worship. It was an act of worship. So I don't accept," he said, raising his voice and sounding a bit like a preacher himself, "the meanness and the hate that is preached from some pulpits in some places about the rightness of equality when it comes to marriage. I don't accept it, you shouldn't accept it, we are not going to retreat on that, we are not going to surrender on that. Let's be absolutely clear."
The fire-with-fire approach should be a good one. Calling bigots on their pronouncements has a good success rate. Patrick is not likely to convert the anti folk, but the undecided ones should appreciate someone with both guts and constructive values.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Partial Faith and Credit in Spain

Already the newly legalized same-sex marriage procedure in Spain faces a legal hiccough. Two male Spaniards filed to wed, but one still holds his passport from India, where same-sex marriage is illegal.

Much like a big-kid'’s version of the Massachusetts law forbidding marriages illegal in other states of the United States, the Catalonian Supreme Court of Justice slammed the guys. Like our states, nearly all nations like to respect each other'’s laws, in the full-faith-and-credit posture. The problems come when something, like polygamy, is illegal in one country.

In the case of the informal Spanish ruling, the men can appeal to the Justice Minister. From here it looks like the one fellow can turn in his Indian passport, get a local one, and then pony up for a license.

There is a certain elegance to pinheaded bureaucracy. It's like playing Simon Says.

UCC Head in Own Words

The whole speech the head of the United Church of Christ gave before the synod, endorsing same-sex marriage, is available online. Get the speech here. Read the context here.

Note: The speech in a PDF file and requires an Adobe Acrobat-compatible reader to view or print. It's eight pages and 66KB.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

More Big-Tent Church

Head over to Blue Mass. Group for details on his refreshing discovery. The moderate (not Southern) American Baptist Churches just received the charge to deal with gays rather than pushing them away and damning them.

At their biennial meeting last week, the 1.5 million member group heard their General Secretary The Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley tell them that using selected scripture to separate from others produced small souls in efforts to be comfortable (I read cowardly).

His speech is long, but well focused, both rational and loving. He does not approve of homosexuality, but neither is he afraid. As he charged the group, "The issue of homosexuality has brought us as a denomination to a cross-road in our life together. One road will lead to separation. The other path will lead us to shared ministry and mission in all the theological and ethnic richness that has come to make us the unique denomination we are. What will you choose? Which road will you take?"

For those into exegesis or even sword drills, he cites a lot of scripture. However, he chooses those that challenge Christians to live the good works, not to claim superiority over others. It's a great read.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

UUs Been There

A commenter on the UCC initial post notes that this same-sex-marriage stuff is old news to UUs. You can check out Unitarian Universalist-related gay rights (including marriage-equality) history here.

The UCC is a lot bigger and many people pay attention to self-identified Christians. While Garrison Keillor, Doonesbury, Kudzu and even UUs have a lot of fun joking about the denomination, folks tend to take even liberal mainline Protestents more seriously.

Truth is, UUs are almost always out there first on justice and equality issues. They did the same-sex marriage resolution nine years ago. However, that surprised almost no one.

Now if the United Methodists or Southern Baptists could see the light, that would be newsworthy

Fair Disclosure: I'm a UU.

Skunk in the Garden

Like a dog with a sock, the Biblical Witness Fellowship folk are not about to let the UCC support for marriage equality stay still. Frederick Clarkson's blog covers their immediate reaction. It remains to be seen (and heard) whether they will take their Good Books and go home, lonely.

We can assume they expected the vote and prepared the answering shot, including, "This resolution does not validate same sex relationships but only invalidates and de-legitimizes the UCC as a religious body."

So there you have it. Godless anti-Christians daring to include folk we want excluded. A pox on their filthy house!

Perhaps they should now change their name to the Biblical Witness Club, a name with several apt meanings.

Don't Rest Easy in Atlanta

I regret not tuning into the United Church of Christ's Sunday evening sermon simulcast. Read-ware is available here.

The Rev. Kenneth L. Samuel did what real ministers should. He charged the worshippers to listen and act instead of turning inward to comfortable piety. He built on the powerful UCC Still Speaking program.

In contrast to the ambiguity adverse, as well as the haters, Samuel shredded the attitude of hiding behind this Bible verse or that. When exegesis becomes the basis for bigotry, folks won't step up and do the right thing.

Samuel started with Isaiah 1:7-18, in which Israel whines to God about abandoning them. Samuel put the answers plainly:
“But God is not impressed with sanctimonious displays of piety. What good is one nation under God when that nation is beset with classism, bigotry and prejudice? What good are the Ten Commandments on the walls of the courthouse when we canÂ’t insure justice in the halls of the courthouse? What good is a nation that delivers democracy in Iraq but can'’t deliver it at home?”
Without question, hiding behind a verse here or there that seems to justify not acting or acting terribly is not unusual. Samuel just doesn't buy it and told the synod attendants not to either.

"As long as God is speaking, it behooves us to keep listening," he said. As one can see from both Jewish and Christian history, the concepts and practices of religion and social justice keep evolving as they have for thousands of years.

Samuel also noted some transcended Biblical citations:At each, Samuel emphasized the flow of the ongoing dialog to those capable of hearing it. "Those of you who look like me (he's black) should be glad God is still speaking —– and someone'’s listening!...All my sisters in here tonight should be glad God is still speaking —– especially the single sisters...Somebody ought to be glad that the law of Jesus supercedes the law of Leviticus. Somebody ought to be glad! And thank God that the United Church of Christ is listening!"

Powerful stuff. It won't change any of the sanctimonious or bigoted, but for many, the call to reflect, then act, may make a difference.

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