Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Can Darwinism Rescue Dems?

Dems, Liberals and those left of both, head to American Prospect to consider whether Dems can grab the hearts and ballots of the new every-man-for-himself America. A fascinating Remapping the Culture Debate by Garance Franke-Ruta states, "Yes."

Among the key concepts are:
  • Dem appeals to workers and for helping the underclass are unappealing.
  • The vast majority makes enough that it does not qualify for government help and resents those who get it.
  • Since 1992, a nominally religious America has adopted a survivalist mentality.
  • To be successful, Dem programs must have "a coherent program that culturally reinforces what (voters) want their future to be."
Much of the evidence in the long piece come from American Environics' research and analysis. Dem and other lefty decision makers have already seen the results, which will be public in a few months.

Among the findings are some that could explain why Americans tell pollsters they want Democratic Party aims, like universal health care, yet elect George the Lesser and his minions who act in opposition to such goals. They suggest "a darker, more nuanced vision of what the nation actually believes."

As we have seen and repeated written, most Americans are increasingly authoritarian. They want simple answers from assured leaders and support those even when repeatedly proven wrong. The American Environics data from 1992 through 2004 led them to conclude that our nation is "feeling evermore adrift, isolated, and nihilistic." Together, those shifts would account for our backslide in social equity.

In the period, American went:
  • From 42% to 52% agreeing that "the father of the family must be the master in his own house."
  • From 30% to 40% agreeing that "men are naturally superior to women."
  • From 66% to 29% saying that they discussed local problems with friends, neighbors and coworkers.
  • Even before 9/11, doubling the attitude that "violence is a normal part of life."
Other pollsters found dovetailing trends. For example, Karl Agne and Stanley Greenberg found that "concerns about a stagnant economy, job security, health-care costs, and the war in Iraq were consistently trumped by questions of values." They compared concerns over economic issues with such cultural ones as same-sex marriage, religion in public life and abortion. They concluded, "Particularity among non-college educations voters, cultural issues not only superseded other concerns, they served as a proxy for many voters on those other issues."

That can all seem pretty discouraging to Dems. Consider that the traditional party voter would be a blue-collar union member. That fits only 8% of Americans now. Many of the other have the I-want-to-get-and-keep-mine attitude. Most say they will take the appearance over substance.

What's a Dem to do?

The answer may have manifested itself in Virginia in 2005. Tim Kaine won the Governor's office despite being 1) a Democrat is a right-leaning state, 2) a Roman Catholic in a state that had never had an RC governor, and 3) anti-death penalty in a hang-'em-high area.

He did it by presenting himself in ways that this new, more insular America could understand. He came off as a deeply religious man, whose God and Bible told him execution is wrong. Triple whammy! Suddenly, voters could transcend his alleged shortcomings and see him as a cultural ideal.

A wild card that Dems must take into account is the seeming incongruity of an America that favors simultaneously tradition/religion with consumption/xenophobia/hedonism. In American Backlash, the founder of Environics (Canadian HQ), Michael Adams wrote, "While American politics becomes increasingly committed to a brand of conservatism that favors traditionalism, religiosity, and authority, the culture at large [is] becoming ever more attached to hedonism, thrill-seeking, and a ruthless, Darwinist understanding of human competition."

That trend has coupled unfortunately for unobservant Dems in the past 15 years. A key factor is that financial one. With the huge majority being white-collar or comparable workers, enough do okay so that they don't let their Bible's commands to be charitable interfere with their self-interest. As Stephen Rose, former advisor to Labor Secretary Robert Reich, puts it "...the majority of people do not have basic economic interests to vote Democratic."

So even as Republican administration policies clearly favor the wealthy and connected, the GOP is hitting the chords for most Americans. In their current frame of mind, "voters have increasingly flocked to politicians who recognize the combination of relative affluence and relative isolation has created an opening for cultural appeals."

That may be both wrong-hearted and wrong-headed, but it's real, real enough to win national and state elections.

So, at first glance, one would suppose that the poor and near poor would be a Dem bloc. That doesn't happen for good reason, wrote Thomas Frank in What's the Matter with Kansas? He contends convincingly that "traditional values have become aspirational."

Those with less money and fewer prospects are stuck with the accessories of single-parent (mom) families, violent neighborhoods, more abortion and more divorce – more of what we don't want and less of what we do. Yet, as Franke-Ruta recaps it, "People in states like Massachusetts, for example, which has very high per capita incomes and the lowest divorce rate in the country, are relatively unconcerned about gay marriage, while those in Southern states with much higher poverty, divorce, and single-parenthood rates feel the family to be threatened because family life is, in fact, much less stable in their communities. In such environments, where there are few paths to social solidarity and a great deal of social disruption, the church frequently steps into the breach, further exacerbating the fight."

Dems clearly need to get over their pretense that they own the middle and lower class vote. They need to earn it. They also need to accept that appeals to what's good for society in general aren't going to cut it right now.

The great news is that Dems don't have to pander or pretend to package. They aren't the party of death, huge government, Big Brother, and corruption. Now they need to tell Americans what they are.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Depths of Olympia

People and careers that should not exist must include Washington State's Tim Eyman. As abused as ballot initiatives are in this country, it seems no one makes more money off the process and cares less about the effects on the public than he.

A Net search will depict him as initiative profiteer, evader of responsibility, and worse. Leaping onto the lastest opportunity, he intends to hijack the Dark Side effort to overturn the just passed gay-rights law. He said he'd file a ballot initiative today to do so. If he takes ownership, he can make the large fees.

We guess it's the American way. This is what he does for a living. Also, even with his sordid past and present, his association with the effort can hardly taint it more than the arch-conservative, anti-gay legislators who promised such an effort.

The article in The Olympian cites the legislature's leading nasty:
One of the top opponents to the bill was Sen. Dan Swecker, a Rochester Republican. Swecker said he had advance word that Eyman would try to attack the rights bill. Although Swecker said he had not seen the specifics of what Eyman was drafting — including language to bar the use of quotas or affirmative action — he said conservative Christian groups definitely will get behind Eyman’s effort.
On the other side are many, including Rep. Sam Hunt, who "expressed outrage over the proposal. 'Tim Eyman, have you no shame?' Hunt said. 'Eyman is stooping to a new low just to line his pockets and get a mailing list of bigots.'

"Hunt described himself as 'pissed but sober,' then added, referring to Eyman having dressed up as a prisoner during a legislative hearing last week: 'If Tim Eyman is fond of wearing costumes, I suggest his next one be a white sheet and a pointy white hat. I just think it is a sad day for Washington what he is doing.'"

You would think that that even those not comfortable with the idea of homosexuality must see through Swecker for his spiteful inequity and Eyman for his opportunism. Next we'll see whether such unAmerican forces can get the signatures to put yet another abusive pretext to voter choice on the ballot.

This is yet more strong evidence that the ballot-initiative process needs an overhaul.

Black and Maybe Blue

In a column worthy of a Scholastic junior-high newspaper, prolific Brit columnist Gary Younge writes this-but-that/that-but-this on African Americans and same-sex marriage. In the latest (Feb. 13th) The Nation, his column concludes, well really, nothing. Black Americans are against SSM, but that's not discriminatory or anti-gay. Huh?

Getting fresh views and new numbers out is goodness. Yet, his LITE approach is below The Nation's standard.

While his few vague conclusions base themselves on scant info, some background is worth reading. Although pointing out what sure looks like anti-gay sentiment and voting by African Americans, he does a pretty good job of repeating, "These are not the droids you seek."

He sited polls we had not seen from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES). One poll from JCPES included that "African Americans show greater opposition to both marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples than the general population (49 to 37 percent)." Yet, as Younge writes, of "the thousands of black people interviewed by David Bositis, an analyst at the JCPES, not one has volunteered it as a priority. "

Based on a Human Rights Campaign legislative scorecard (you can open a PDF from here), African-American U.S. legislators are more likely to vote for gay rights, including SSM, than their white counterparts. The difference isn't huge, but Younge is willing to dismiss Rev. Al Sharpton's claim at the recent Black Church Summit that SSM opposition drove African-American votes to elect George the Lesser in 2004. Younge points to the legislators' records and adds that "when black people have the power to protect gay rights in law, they are more likely to use it than other racial groups."

While that is a bland and comforting thought, that begs the question about how influential fundy Christianity in general and anti-gay, megachurch, Black ministers in particular are. No one really seems to know yet. All the pulpit bluster has not turned African Americans into an anti-gay voting bloc. It hasn't even driven the gay parishioners away, not all of them anyway.

A Younge's insight set was:
As one of the few autonomous institutions allowed under segregation and slavery, the church has long been the principal tool for political advancement in black America. Throughout, even as its influence has diminished, it has continued to play an ambivalent yet decisive role in liberation struggles--a socially conservative institution leading a community whose fight for equality necessitates radical change. This problem is not new--the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. eventually had to leave the National Baptist Convention because of its reluctance to support the civil rights movement. But on issues like gay rights the contradictions are particularly acute and ripe for exploitation by the Christian right.
In addition to 2004 voting, an example cited separately by the National Black Justice Coalition, a Georgia state rep, Sharon Beasley-Teague, just turned to vote in favor of a state anti-SSM bill. Previously, African-American legislators joined Democrats in a 30-1 bloc against the SSM ban. The Coalition reports that "Beasley-Teague said she does not accept the argument by some black lawmakers that gay marriage rises to the level of a civil rights issue. And she said she does not believe a constitutional same-sex marriage ban is discriminatory." (By the bye, she prayed first.)

What we can learn or reinforce is that everyone's polls, including these, show African-Americans are less in favor of SSM and gay rights than white Americans are. However, by some measures, including recent votes on big, national bills, African-American legislators seem to do more for and vote more in favor of both SSM and gay rights, by slim margins.

The loud set of big-church African-American preachers say. The lawmakers do. The latter is far more important to all of us.

Legislators should certainly be leaders. Those who follow by pandering to the stagnant majority of voters do no one a service, certainly not society in general.

As with ballot initiatives on rights, the majority tends to go with the status quo or even to jerk rights away from minorities. The Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms types made careers of lowest-common-denominator legislating. It was safe and they could always say, as they so frequently did, "That's what my constituents want." As well as easy, that is craven, amoral and sometimes immoral.

Come Up and See Flaherty

The Boston City Council reminded me of my maternal grandmother, Mable, again this morning. I doubt there is a great cook in her style there. However, they have the matriarchy thing down pat.

I took the T in today and accepted my very own free Metro. A Q&A with Council President Michael Flaherty droned right along until the last set.

There I saw what bedeviled previous mayors and agencies, particularly Mayor Ray Flynn. If you know what's good for you, make kissy face with council president. More important, when there's an issue or you want something you go to see them, and don't forget that!

The trigger Q&A runs:
Right now, the School Committee members are appointed by the mayor. Do you think they should be elected?

My frustration around the current School Committee is their reluctance to engage not only the Boston City Council but our constituents at large. It’s not just their unwillingness to be televised; it’s their unwillingness to engage parents and students; it’s their unwillingness to come down to the City Council and talk about things they are voting on. All of that leads me to believe that if that is going to continue to be the case maybe we should consider bringing back the elected School Committee because at the very least they can be accountable to the voters. ...I’m happy to say that I’ve had a discussion recently with (School Committee Chairwoman) Liz Reilinger and she informs me there is a willingness to now have a dialogue with the Council — there is a willingness for them to be televised...Moving forward, I’m hopeful she follows through on that.
That was Mable-esque. Come a holiday – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter – her kids, grandkids, greats, nieces and so forth came to Mable. No matter how many were inconvenience in what ways, she went to no one. She was the matriarch and that was the natural order.

Similarly Flaherty's attitude promises more drama and inefficiency. We perhaps saw this at the most extreme with Raybo Flynn. He had done his time in the Council and knew the rules of the game. Yet, when he took the elevator up one more flight to his new office, he suddenly tried to get his 13 grandmothers to come to him.

Nuh uh.

There was acrimony, inefficiency and calumny. Many decisions waited or went unmade.

Now Flaherty is telegraphing his M.O. and demands, at least to the school folk. Come bowing or expect to be replaced with an elected body. Next, we'll see whether he tries to play Mable to Da Mare.

Oh, Mable was a great cook, particularly a baker. She got a lot of latitude for that. Her hand to your mouth was her gift. It remains to be seen what sort of goodies Flaherty can and will offer.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Godly Amount of Cruelty

The Washington Post's editorial today, Gay Marriage Politics, tears the rag off the bush. It clearly notes that the Maryland and Virginia anti-SSM amendments in the works "could have cruel and discriminatory effects."

These are the type of hysterical anti-gay punishments that share both states and their legislators. They aim to make illegal SSM, civil unions and existing or any future form of domestic partnership.

Those in favor don't seem to mind hurting adults, kids, gays, straights, siblings, and even those trying to care for their enfeebled parents. As the WP puts it, "...their advocates (are) confident that the wind of popular opinion is at their backs (and thus they) assert a monopolistic claim on morality and God's law."

Such heavy-footed amendments can't stand the light of day, much less appeals to courts. It is particularly shameful that Virginia's politicians would bastardize its rights-based constitution to strip liberties. There is a history and philosophy to protect.

Far to Fall Out

Whither gay splinters? Massachusetts has permitted same-sex marriage and Vermont civil unions long enough that divorce and dissolution decrees and measurable.

There aren't many in numbers and the percentage is far, far below that of straight marriages, but there is proof that homosexual unions are, well, normal.

The Boston Globe today have a quick think piece that draws attention to some of the additional burden such splits mean in this transitional period.

Survey says -- only 91 of the 7,828 Vermont unions in the past 16 years have dissolved. Here, 35 to 45 of Massachusetts' 7,300-plus marriages have filed for divorce. Comparable figures for straights are over 20% divorce in the first five years of marriage.

Complications from a federal government with a DoMA and disparities from a single state allowing SSM include:
  • Another state will not divorce a Massachusetts couple because it won't risk recognizing the marriage.
  • Can a gay, married person who moved from here legally marry a straight person elsewhere?
  • If so, which spouse could claim the estate of a dead person?
  • What is the tax status of alimony that is taxable for straights but the feds don't recognize the marriage?
  • Adopted, co-raised in states that do not permit gay adoption children and those from artificial insemination produce other legal problems.

Other states could recognize such realities, as do those with domestic-partnership laws. However, simple meanness and schadenfreude make it as hard as possible in far too many places. Then once they have made same-sex unions as complex as they can, they say, "See how complicated gay marriage is?"

It goes on. Those complexities will be resolved over the objections of SSM and gay disparagers eventually. It may take court action or additional legislation, and considerable time. In the mid- and long-term, that may not be all bad. Our fairly socially conservative, stuffy nation does need time to adjust to the world that insists on changing.

It's not exactly apples and oranges, maybe more like peaches and nectarines, but there are distinctions. Perhaps most important, in Massachusetts, many of the same-sex marriages were of couples who had been together for years, for decades in many cases. They were simply legalizing the real. They did not subsequently discover the other's dark side, either. They knew the morning breath and hair, and the quirks.

The straight and the gay marriage I performed are both rock steady. They both fit that pattern of long-term companions.

Many anti-gay and anti-same-sex-marriage folk would surely love to point to high divorce rates among the allegedly profligate homosexuals. That would fit their stereotype of promiscuousness and hedonism.

Fact is, we won't know for a long time how many homosexuals will be as stupid as many straights. There are the Britney Spears style red-hot Vegas mistake marriages. Those are almost entirely in the het world so far.

Surely there are gay couples just as shallow and passion-driven as the straight ones that do that. The divorce rates for such pairs are bound to be high. Gays just don't have the history yet.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Coppertone? No, Airbrained!

Look, up in the sky...

Anyway, Uncle over at Scratches does a good quick hit on the inane MassNews airplane streamers. In case your blog reading does not cover the cuckoo, you may need to check it out to make sure it's real.


The short of it is that a small group of confused folk assert all manner of foolishness related to same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The weirdest is that the General Court will can the judges who decided that gay couples could wed here. No, amend that to, the weirdest is that by flying a couple of planes with related messages, they will force judges to resign for doing their jobs.

Uncle points out the wasted Dark Side money on this effort. He adds "Cab-top advertising on the airport tunnel routes is not quite as expensive but even less visible most of the time. Maybe they should try that next. If that doesn't work they could buy space on the P-town ferry."

Sweet, if you pardon the expression, honey.

On the other hand One Smoot.. isn't enjoying the theater as much. In her Grrrr... she reports on the planes as, "there's something really wrong with people spending millions of dollars to hire airplanes to protest something that doesn't affect them."

Olé, Olympia. Now What?

Many were the long-delayed parties in Washington State last night. By a single vote in the Senate, the Evergreen State finally, finally passed a gay-rights bill. As in Maine, this just offers protection to homosexuals against discrimination in basic areas – employment, housing, credit and insurance.

This makes Washington the 17th state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The governor was poised to sign it. The law will take effect in June, 90 days after the end of the legislative session. A referendum challenge would freeze implementation. The plug nasties are mean enough and poor sports enough to do that. Yet they dare speak of people being forced to do what they would rather not.

A key question now is what the schadenfreude set will do to try to punish homosexuals. The answer probably awaits the State Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. Their high court has heard and apparently decided on whether to uphold lower court rulings that SSM is legal there. If they support that position, you can be sure one or more drives will follow immediately to outlaw SSM.

Perhaps because of the largely liberal Western population centers, particularly Seattle, Washington feigns liberality. Yet it is pretty regressive in many areas, particularly in contrast to such pink areas as Boston. Yet, even in Massachusetts, we find large areas, both blue-collar and suburban snotty, who seem to fear or hate homosexuals.

The Olympia debate mirrored much of what we see throughout the U.S. on gay rights and SSM. One article cites a very moving speech by an anti-gay-rights senator, Bob Oke (R-Port Orchard). He has a gay daughter, but is clearly out of touch with both her and the issues related to the new law. In opposing the measure, he said:
Having a child who chooses to be homosexual is very painful. I know this because my daughter has chosen the life of a lesbian. From the very first day she shared with me what her lifestyle was, she has been trying to change me. And I, quite frankly, have been trying to change her.

(When she asked to bring her partner on a visit,) There was a long hesitation on my part and I said, '"I can't have that."

By passing a law that makes homosexuality a protected behavior, we are turning our backs on the people who need our love, guidance and understanding to become right in God's eyes.
Even Lynne and Dick Chaney are more flexible and insightful about their lesbian daughter than that. That must be very painful for Oke.

One must wonder as the evidence piles up that homosexuality is innate whether those who are so narrow will broaden at all. It suggests that the chasm between the equal-rights America and the we've-already-shared-enough-rights one will remain or even widen.

According to an AP report, rhetoric remained heated, with the losers acting like, well, soreheads. One senator, Republican Dan Swecker bwak-ed the Chicken Little bwak of gay rights would "trample unrelentingly" on clerics and fundamentalists railing against homosexuals. Regressive Bay Staters, Canadians, and Mainers all took the same position. When those proved unfounded, they continued their bwak.

Swecker's take was that "We, the state, are telling people to accept, actually to embrace, something that goes against their religious views." Oddly enough, even though many white and black anti-gay clerics and legislators contrast the civil-rights movement of the last century with gay rights, their actual positions make these struggles seem more and more alike. We can recall similar bwaks about letting (the then called) Negroes attend formerly white schools, eat in formerly white restaurants and vote as forcing whites to accept the into their lives, leading to intermarriages and all manner of societial degradation. Lots of remembered shame should not be lost on the anti folk.

The recap from the capital's daily, The Olympian, quoted Swecker as promising to try to nullify the law. "Referendum, big time," he said.

Friday, January 27, 2006

DoMA Clings to Clinton

Wee Willie Winkie may have run upstairs, downstairs in his nightgown. Our not-so-wee Bill Clinton left his presidency with a lasting legacy of discrimination in the Defense of Marriage Act.

Yes, it was a Bob Dole bill, a paper redolent of Republican fear-mongering, but Clinton made it happen. He supported it, got Democrats behind it, and signed it into law. Long after Americans have forgotten how lewd a cigar can be, Clinton's DoMA will still tap at our windows.

Seeking re-election and already gay-burned by his dull-witted don't-ask-don't-tell solution to homosexuals in the armed forces, the POTUS chose expediency over equality and equity. Then brazenly enough, he led off the signing with a self-serving, deeply dishonest statement:
Throughout my life I have strenuously opposed discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. I am signing into law H.R. 3396, a bill relating to same-gender marriage, but it is important to note what this legislation does and does not do.

I have long opposed governmental recognition of same-gender marriages and this legislation is consistent with that position. The Act confirms the right of each state to determine its own policy with respect to same gender marriage and clarifies for purposes of federal law the operative meaning of the terms "marriage" and "spouse".

This legislation does not reach beyond those two provisions. It has no effect on any current federal, state or local anti-discrimination law and does not constrain the right of Congress or any state or locality to enact anti-discrimination laws. I therefore would take this opportunity to urge Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, an act which would extend employment discrimination protections to gays and lesbians in the workplace. This year the Senate considered this legislation contemporaneously with the Act I sign today and failed to pass it by a single vote. I hope that in its next Session Congress will pass it expeditiously.

I also want to make clear to all that the enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination, violence or intimidation against any person on the basis of sexual orientation. Discrimination, violence and intimidation for that reason, as well as others, violate the principle of equal protection under the law and have no place in American society.
Of course, we knew then and have seen regularly that DoMA is more than an excuse to discriminate. It is a mandate to do so.

In law, what he did was turn the states into Big Daddy's creatures on this matter. After over 200 years of making their own marriage law freely and of honoring marriages legal in other states, they suddenly were at the command of the federal government. At first glance, saying that states do not have to honor the Full Faith and Credit Clause in marriage seems to expand their authority. Yet in practice, this means that Congress has taken authority for the Clause in this case, overreaching power in interstate relations.

In addition, DoMA violates the Equal Protection Clause so essential to all Americans. It may even violate due process in relation to marriage. It forbids citizens from arguing their cases before state courts.

The whole act is here, as introduced as H.R. 3396.

It defines, marriage as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." It takes its absurd liberties in the "effects of" section of U.S. Code Title 28 Chapter 115 by adding:
No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.
In short, to ensure short-term election gains, Clinton and the Senate (84 to 14) patted the states on the head. "We're taking these powers now. Go play, but not with any homosexuals.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Count 'em and Weep

The theme today is that Massachusetts' ballot initiatives have become dirty and a disservice to voters.

Evidence will re-appear today, as MassEquality presents proof of at least 2,000 fraudulent local signatures signed the petition to put an anti-SSM amendment on the 2008 ballot. These signatures were either forgeries or the voters were tricked into signing.

At a press conference, they will call for Attorney General Tom Reilly and Secretary of State Bill Galvin to investigate how the fraud occurred on the VoteOnMarriage drive. The Boston Globe quoted MassEquality's campaign director, Marc Solomon as saying, "In just our cursory examination, we found more than 2,000 people who stated that they were victims of fraud, forgery, trickery, or deception. I am confident that there are tens of thousands of additional fraudulent signatures."

In its typical style, the Boston Herald found two B-List names to drop.
  1. Channel 7 sports director, Joe Amorosino was "outraged to realize that my name had been used for such a cause."
  2. Lefty civil-rights lawyer Barbara Dougan was "just astounded and then I was very angry. How dare someone steal my signature and my professional credibility."
That double harrumph is good press. Similarly the VoteOnMarriage folk are even more amusing. Their Website opening page claims publicly revealing the public record of who signed the list makes their supporters victims. Unfortunately for them, that falls in the something is going on around here that surely, surely, surely won't stand the light of day class.

Of course, in the short term, none of the claims changes anything. The anti folk presented over 170,000 signatures. After town and city clerks did their best to weed out the obvious fraud, duplicates and errors, more than 123,000 went to Galvin's office for the sprinkling of approval. Even if 2,000 or 4,000 or 10,000 are scam sigs, the measure slithers its way to the General Court for action.

Why bother, many ask? The answers are obvious. The petition driver feigned morality and seemingly used or permitted paid-by-the-sign gatherers to do whatever they wanted to fill out the forms. That was illegal, immoral, undemocratic and an insult to the voters and the initiative process.

We are very much in favor of the public and legislature having a taste of how nasty this process was, as was the last failed initiative's. Running tallies of the crimes are useful in catalyzing the necessary improvements.

The resolution is that the General Court needs to show some wit and gumption. Examine the ballot-initiative process. Fine-tune it so that it serves the original, noble purposes, while precluding the abuses we have seen recently.

You Need R.I. for Grief

In the nothing-is-simple category, consider Rhode Island. Through laws, amendments or both, the vast majority of U.S. states clucked and squealed like Nellies getting their no-same-sex-marriage rules in place. In contrast, Rhode Island appears to be slowly, judiciously listing toward equality and freedom...but not yet, please.

Instead of an up-or-down vote in the Rhody legislature, sponsors of same-sex-marriage bills have been dancing, cajoling and otherwise waiting for the right moment. In what is often contentious, even in New England, the SSM battle there is more a pillow fight than a sword duel.

There are SSM proponents and DoMA sponsors in both houses of the General Assembly. Someone has filed SSM bills for nine previous years, repeating the process Tuesday. Yet, that is not that.

Instead, last year, pro-SSM forces in and out of the legislature felt the time was not right. So, they let the bills die in committee in House and Senate. This time, who knows? The Providence Journal's state house bureau predicts hard going (link requires free registration).

Last year, 21 of 75 House members co-sponsored the bill. This year, it's 23 and would have been 24, but for one member on extended sick leave. That's a hefty team, but the anti side has heavy-hitting Republican, including the governor, Senate president, and House speaker.

House chief sponsor, Rep. Arthur Handy, Democrat from Cranston, said, "I hope we get passage this year, but I'm realistic."

The state is nudging toward what the sponsor Sen. Rhoda Perry, Democrat from Providence, calls "a matter of simple fairness."

Apparently, as DoMA forces dwindle to a bitter few, the pro folk intend to keep at it until they win. It looks like they may have to have enough votes to override a reactionary governor's veto. They seem determined to do what they have to until they get it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bay and Ocean State Marriages

Ten times may be the charm. Into the polite, gentle maw of the Rhode Island General Assembly, a same-sex marriage bill travels its two streams —– House and Senate.

They didn't force the issue last year and it died quietly in committee. Meanwhile, DoMA support has dwindled as SSM sponsors have climbed. Normally a reactionary DoMA bill goes into the process as well. Whether they'll bother this time remains to be seen.

On the House side, Rep. Arthur Handy is leading. His counterpart is Sen. Rhoda Perry. In his remarks on the new bill, Handy commented:
The reality is that there are still many people in Rhode Island who don'’t agree with us on this issue. But there have also been people who wouldn'’t accept interracial marriage, and that didn't mean that banning it would be right for society either. It'’s rarely easy or quick to put an end to any kind of discrimination.
Rhode Island's marriage laws are similar to Massachusetts' in being defined as civil contracts, not religious rites. The key here is that the question in both states is who is entitled to get a license. That makes editing man/woman terms pretty simple.

Clearly, this is what the anti-SSM forces in those states with DoMA laws or amendments or both now have. Making the change will be much more difficult with institutionalized homophobia. As the years and battles stretch on, legislators and voters in those states are likely eventually to slap their foreheads and ask, "What were we thinking?" Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time to them, like segregated schools, like forbidding women from voting...

One difference with Rhode Island as opposed to Massachusetts is that its marriage laws actually have religion incorporated. However, in this case, it is to liberalize the laws in keeping with the state's historical links with Jews. The marriage sections of Domestic Relations (Title 15 laws; 15-1-4) permits Jews only to use their religion's definitions of affinity and consanguinity (incest).

The sparse laws on marriage there have been updated many times for minor refinements. Upgrading to the new, improved SSM model requires simplifying sections of 15-1 Persons Eligible to Marry. Last year's version is here.

It also entered a new conservative placater:
15-3-5.1. Protection of freedom of religion in marriage. — (a) Each religious institution has exclusive control over its own religious doctrine, policy, and teachings regarding who may marry within their faith, and on what terms. No court or other state or local governmental body,entity, agency or commission shall compel, prevent, or interfere in any way with any religious institution's decisions about marriage eligibility within that particular faith's tradition.
(b) Clergy persons as described in section 15-3-5 or 15-3-6 of the general laws or other persons otherwise authorized under law to officiate at a civil marriage shall not be obligated or otherwise required by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage.
That's the minister-or-priest-doesn't-have-to-solemnize-gay-marriage rule.

That's simple enough and very similar to the Massachusetts situation. How civilized it would be in the pols in Providence did this by law.

Baa Baa Blogging

Cleverness is such a trap. I noticed that again yesterday after a post here. Then a few hours later, Slate's feed came out with the same head (but with exclamation points, at least).

Then a quick hit on Technorati showed several others of us with the same, by now inane, idea.

I'm sure we were all doing a quick review of blog posts on the Conservative election and flashed on the 1970 WWII-movie title Tora! Tora! Tora! How lame that seems in retrospect.

We may avoid predictable lines about someone's height or the current weather or a last name that is easy to ridicule. But woe to us rapt in our blogging flurry.

By the bye, there were two long pages of Technorati results, many on British or English politics. One was from 309 days ago, on The First Ring blog.

Insert a semi-sincere apology here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Psst in Providence


Word from that other New England state, the tiny one, is that Massachusetts style same-sex marriage will be on the legislative docket in Rhode Island this session.

The gay community there may be in line for the Penelope award for patience. This will be the 10th time such a bill with enter the great sausage machine of the General Assembly.

Local news claims:
Rhode Island lawmakers are holding a news conference this afternoon to announce the introduction of a bill supporting same-sex marriage.

This is the tenth straight legislative session in which legalizing same-sex marriage has been raised at the Statehouse. Representative Art Handy and Senator Rhoda Perry will announce the Marriage Equality bill at a press conference at the Statehouse. Speakers are expected to discuss the impact of marriage discrimination on Rhode Island, as well, among other topics.


Generally, a DoMA-style bill appears at the same time, sort of LOVE/HATE bookends. Marriage Equality RI says it may have the votes this time around and the Dark Side has lost support:
...our bill to legalize same-sex marriage went from having 16 total bill sponsors in 2004 to 27 sponsors in 2005. Meanwhile, "Defense of Marriage Act" sponsors (wanting to limit marriage to one man and one woman) dwindled from 10 overall to only 3 in the Senate, and no DOMA bill was introduced in the House for 2005! This indicates a definitive tipping point in the campaign, and we can only hope that the support of our legislature will continue to grow as more folks get active in the fight.
That would be a sweet turn if RI joined its northern neighbor in legal SSM. They do seem patient, very, very patient though. As a piece in the July 24, 2005, Providence Journal put its description of the SSM drive:
They say they were close in the 2005 Assembly session to having the votes to get the measure out of the House Judiciary Committee. But at best it was iffy, and, even if they succeeded there, they still lacked the votes they'd need on the House floor. So they didn't ask for a committee vote.
There can certainly be such a thing as too nice and too cautious. Then again, all worked well for Penelope when Odysseus returned.

Tory, Tory, Tory

The implications are faint for us in Massachusetts and the rest of the United States. However, the Conservatives sort of won in Canada's election yesterday. They have the right to form a minority government, which is a real victory in a parliamentary system.

Right here, we can be like the Boston newspapers, hanging out the local angle like its critical. Well, there have been bozos and bozoettes here saying in effect, "Boy, oh, boy, just wait until that Harper fellow takes over in Canada. He'll overturn gay marriage. Then they'll do the same in Massachusetts and those other countries! Just wait."

Well, you can wait a long old time for those to happen. But if you are a reactionary, sit in your corner with your Christmas pie.

It is true that Stephen Harper played the anti-SSM card early in the election campaign. Then he backed off and let a few of his more vocal Tory candidates do that for him. He stayed away from SSM and abortion issues, which would have cost him votes in the socially liberal nation. He used those issues, as the conservative Conservatives knew that he personally was against SSM and abortion. So he got a lot of their votes.

Back to this planet, we find that:
  • Liberals in Canada aren't that liberal. They are left, but in the style of Oregon or Washington Democrats.
  • Out of 308 House of Common seats, the Tories have 124.
  • The Liberals have 103, Block Québécois (BQ) 51 and New Democrats (NDP) 29.
  • Of the popular vote, Tories got 36%, Liberals 30%, NDP 17% and BQ 10%.
So, the short of it is that the Tories are back on top after 12 years, but they'll have to cobble together a government with members of the three left-tilting parties. They'll have a good chance of passing only legislation that everyone agrees serves the voters. Also, in the parliamentary system, Harper will have to compromise enough to keep his support or it's off to another election.

He'd be an ass to try to touch abortion or SSM. Meanwhile, he has a tankard full of promises to fulfill. He can work on:
  • A new, huge, government financed child-care for all under six.
  • Middle-class and senior tax rollbacks.
  • A handgun ban (the holiday murder of a teen girl in Toronto was a big boost for Tories).
  • Lower sales taxes.
  • Mandatory prison for drug dealers.
  • The economy, the economy, the economy.
Harper is an economist and he promised first of all to better the national economy.

As for social issues, as the Washington Post put it, Tories "have in the past championed such positions as outlawing abortion and banning gay marriage, views that polls show are inconsistent with the more tolerant tilt of Canadians." So, Harper gets to play the moralist but not panic the freedom-loving majority.

Harper would have to attack and gut the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to go after same-sex marriage. He's not going to try. In fact even before the election, he set up his excuse, saying that there are too many liberal judges and civil servants to let his do what he wants.

He gets it both ways. Would you buy a used Canada from this man?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Magic Beans Planted

We love the press. We believe newspapers – ink and electron alike – are essential for freedom and democracy. The big ole but that follows is for this weekend's non-coverage a key civil-rights event.

Down in Atlanta, 200 preachers and rights activists planted and watered the seeds for a freedom campaign that is off immediate importance and that will becoming increasingly powerful. Both ministers and activists made it plain that they would call a halt to the lies. Organized by the National Black Justice Coalition, they spent three days testifying about the political realities and planning.

Here in Boston and wherever there are large African-American communities, the loudest and nastiest preachers have spoken openly and often against. They are against homosexuals. They are against same-sex marriage. They are against gay rights. They are even against admitting that gay-rights issues are civil-rights issues. In short, these characters are neither Christian in behavior nor freedom-loving in words.

So my beloved media largely buys into the music of the trumpets of deceit. The claim by some of these ministers and by right-wing politicians that all Black congregants, indeed, all Black Americans feel similarly. The press has long loved the sensational nature of bigoted preachers of any religion or skin tone. Strong words make for powerful headlines.

The only substantial story we could find was in the San Francisco Chronicle. They should have covered it. An area activist with formidable civil-rights credentials, Bishop Yvette Flunder, was a lead speaker at the conference.

In contrast, the major dailies ran short pieces saying the conference was starting and a wire story quoting Al Sharpon on the first day. In short, they were asleep at the wheel and robbed their readers on this one.

Oddly enough, the LeftyBlogs didn't seem to cover this. However, Black, gay activist Keith Boykin was there. He has a great comment set from Sharpton, one which we shall surely hear again:
There are those that are thermometers that read the temperature in the room. And then there are those that are thermostats that change the temperature in the room. I come to tell you to be thermostats. Turn the heat up in the black church. Make these people sweat until we open the doors of dialogue for everybody.
Head on over to the SFGate. There you can get the basics on this new network, aiming to encourage rights and equality minded Black congregants and preachers to make themselves and their views known. The Black Church Social Justice Community Action members "will work in churches throughout the country to promote a black, faith-based movement that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and opposes bans on same-sex marriage."

In her address, Flunder said it was "the oppression du jour" for Black ministers to play the anti-gay card. She added, "It's time for our church to have a nonpunitive discourse on human sexuality. It's time for Black folk to get together and have a conversation so we can eliminate the opportunity for others to defile and separate us."

A courageous minister spoke of the effects of bigotry on his own megachurch. Victory for the World Church Rev. Ken Samuels said that he had turned from his anti-gay feelings when childhood friend killed himself after being ostracized by his church because he was gay. That changed Samuels mind and sermons. When he began preaching the very New Testament doctrine of inclusion, his church lost about half its 5,000 members.

It would have been far easier, and far more dishonorable and dishonest, to preach exclusion and hatred. Showing such courage often comes with a measurable price. The penalty for living lives that harm others and deny freedom may be harder to measure but far more profound.

The Horrors of a GOP Vacation

2006 and 2008 are the fantasy v. reality test for America. Will we as a nation line up and bend over for another set of right-wing magic or finally say, "Okay, we tried it again. It doesn't work. Can be come back to the real world?"

Imagine for a long, long moment that it was not Walt Disney but Ronald Reagan designing the theme park. Go a bit farther and accept that he is not using Florida swampland, rather the whole country...and beyond.

In the past few days, we have seen and heard the Republican hucksters promising more of everything, virtually free. It's what they'll bring to the Congress, to the voting citizens, and to the world in thrall to a single superpower.

Let go to:
Reagan bastard child George the Lesser tells America "Only by giving up all your freedoms will you be free and safe. Trust me."
Dictator World
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and chief political advisor Karl Rove claim absolute authority of the POTUS to tap phones, intercept email, imprison anyone because he is commander and chief of the military. Warrants. We don't got no warrants. We don't need no stinking warrants.
Club the Queers Club
Rights are okay for you and me, but not for newcomers. No same-sex couples. No immigrants. Let's keep those rights to ourselves, okay?
Shoot First Adventures
This is your chance to take over other countries, because you're better and bigger. The thousands and lives and billions of dollars are just pretend. Fill out the multiple-choice card for invasion reasons and act out!

...or you could stay home and fix things. There are a lot of repairs overdue. There are many bills to pay. You could start living within your means. There are the sick to care for, the hungry to feed, the oppressed to free, children to educate.
Those are very rewarding, but they require hard work and some moral fiber. Think. Think. Think. Fantasy/reality. Short-term/long-term. Big brother/freedom. Think. Think. Think.

As absurd as it all is, that is the choice that Reagan and both Bushes, but particularly the Lesser, have offered and will again. Will Americans fail one or two more times, hoping, hoping, hoping that it will work this time? Will Democrats show some gumption and convince voters that enough is too much?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dope Slapping Pulpit Bigots

Waiting for a cold snap here, we just got our herb and flower seeds yesterday. In Atlanta, about 150 largely Black civil-rights activists and clerics and trying to get their own shoots sprouting. They would like to publicize and promote the culture of equality from Black church pulpits. Specifically, they want to make it plain that many Black ministers and congregants support quality for all, including same-sex couples.

The three-day conference itself grew from the efforts of the National Black Justice Coalition. It has a far more indicative and important group of supporters than the anti-SSM folk supported by the loudest of the charismatic Black ministers.

We can parade Boston's Jubilee Bishop Gilbert Thompson as an example of as low as it goes. Charismatic ministers have special obligations above those of us regular folk and of most other clerics. Their personal power lets them lead many for good or evil, lets them attract large congregations, and offers them perhaps too many temptations. When they pander to the basest emotions, when they select and twist from their religions' holy books, when they seek to block freedom for others that they enjoy, they have failed their gifts.

Instead, in Atlanta, the good guys are talking about how to let people know and how to enable the ministers and activists who accept homosexuals as equals and want fair rights for all Americans.

Ironically, another minister with a large load 0f his own baggage was one of the keynote speakers. Alfred Sharpton can't be wrong all the time, although for some years he appeared to be trying. As divisive as he has been racially, he seems an odd spokesman. Yet his message was pro-equality and anti-religious hate. To wit, "In 2004, the religious right was concerned about re-electing George W. Bush. They couldn't come to black churches to talk about the war, about health care, about poverty. So they did what they always do and reached for the bigotry against gay and lesbian people."

Today's keynote at the First Iconium Baptist Church is UCC Bishop Yvette Flunder. She has incredible credentials in her ministries. The hate minister say. She does.

Many in and out of Black churches express befuddlement at the homophobia they hear from preachers who support rights in other ways. Emory University Scholar, Alton Pollard III, director of Black Church Studies Program at the school f theology there, has an explanation — "I don't think that black people are more homophobic than anyone else, but Blacks have been stigmatized for so long as sexual beings that any discussion of homosexuality causes even greater discomfort."

The folk of the good hearts and minds at the Iconium seem to agree it's time to get over that and get on with equality.

Merry in Maryland

We waited until the Deane & Polyak was available (here as a 72KB PDF). A Maryland Circuit Court judge ruled similarly but more more narrowly than the Massachusetts Goodridge decision.

The short of it is that Judge M. Brooke Murdock ruled that the 1973 Maryland law banning same-sex marriage violated the state constitution's guarantee of equal rights. The case should go shortly before the Court of appeals, Maryland's highest.

We predict this conflict will play out around the nation, with challenges to both laws and amendments that seek to create separate classes of equality. More courts are likely to see such restrictions for what they are, akin to the old anti-miscegenation laws.

The ACLU brought the Maryland case on behalf of 19 homosexuals. It took two years to get to a decision. It will be more years before the legalized discrimination in various states eventually falls to respect for reason, law, equality and liberty.

A key finding by Judge Murdock was:
Defendants argue that promoting and preserving legislatively expressed societal values and the traditional institution of marriage are legitimate state interests served by a statute prohibiting same-sex marriage. Having concluded that preventing same-sex marriage has no rational relationship to any other legitimate state interest, this Court concludes that tradition and social values alone cannot support adequately a discriminatory statutory classification.
This claim is similar to the lame arguments of anti folk who state that marriage is for procreation. Yet many straight couples cannot or choose not to reproduce, without being forbidden to marry. The tradition argument is eventually indefensible. Here's hoping that Maryland's Court of Appeals chooses equal rights.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Uh Oh, Canada!

Come Monday night or sometime Tuesday, we should know whether the Conservatives up Ottawa way win enough seats to form a government. The Tory leader, Steven Harper, played and replayed his anti-SSM card. His reactionary supporters will expect some action, which he almost certainly will not be able to deliver, if he takes charge.

This has not stopped otherwise sensible people from acting out nervously. For example, a Winnipeg wedding planner, Rita Leonard at Bride Pride, reports a 40% increase in calls about SSM ceremonies.

"People are definitely concerned," she said. "Couples are calling and asking us what we think. They are saying if the Conservatives win, they want to get married right away."

The truth of it has several angles, in the light of which Harper's bluster looks like so much wind. First, note that the Bloc Québécois (BQ) and the New Democratic Party (NDP) will want influence and their own agenda if they join in forming a government. Neither seems to care a wit about the (to them) settled issue of SSM.

More to the point, Harper would have to trash the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which the Canadians love and respect even more than we do our Bill of Rights.

He's pretending that a free vote (free of restraints from the parties of record for MPs) will 1) rescind same-sex marriage, and 2) the Supreme Court justices will look away while talking about snowshoes or lumber instead of declaring the vote unconstitutional. Fat chance, Stevie!

Before he even starts, he is also looking at court decisions in eight provinces declaring that forbidding SSM is unconstitutional. He has also received an open letter from over 100 constitutional-law experts warning him that he'd better trot any proposed bill before the Supreme Court before trying to pass it. During this election, he has chosen to downplay or ignore a clear consensus against his legal position.

"Mr. Harper is suggesting legislation that legal experts agree is unconstitutional," said Laurie Arron, director of advocacy for Egale Canada, which represents gay and lesbian issues. "Ultimately, it won't hold up in court, but it will be messy, costly and pointless in the meantime."

So, let's assume that like nearly all politicians, Harper did what he needed to win the election. He's going to fail in trying to deliver on what became his major promise. He's going to end up with disgruntled folk right, center and of course left. Will that ensure Tory losses the next time and perhaps a short tenure this one?

Meanwhile, Harper is telegraphing his big excuse. If only the bureaucrats and judges were not appointed by Liberals, I could have delivered. As the Ottawa Sun quotes him:
“I'm not sure there's such a thing as a true Conservative majority. The reality is we will have, for some time to come, a Liberal Senate, a Liberal civil service – at least the senior levels have been appointed by the Liberals –— and the courts that have been appointed by the Liberals. So these are obviously checks on the power of a Conservative government ... and limits on our ability to operate that a Liberal government would not face.
That's pretty pathetic kvetching.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Connecticut Conjugal Conundrum

Massachusetts' marital mode show how simple same-sex marriage can be. Except for the inane federal tax quirks requiring extra, different filings, things go swimmingly. That's just the result of pettiness in D.C.

It's similar to the common 1970s question to a newly-wed woman about "Isn't it a lot of trouble to keep your name instead of changing it to your husband?" The answer should include a snort. It is zero problem to keep the name. If you choose to change it, you go to the motor-vehicle, banks, health, life, house and car insurance folk, and literally everyone who has records of you and fill out the form, show them your marriage license and so forth.

Adding same-sex couples to those who can wed is simple. Creating a whole class of civil unions, domestic partnerships or other halfway houses of quasi-marriage is hard, complex and confusing.

Thus, in Connecticut, few homosexual couples have registered civil union. Not only is it a pain, but they can peek over the border to see the honesty and simplicity of marriage in Massachusetts.

Other states that may face the same issue already have fretters. An excellent exposition of this in Washington State appears in an article by Eli Sanders in Seattle's The Stranger. The subhead to Wedding March is Should Washington's Gays Accept Civil Unions If Gay Marriage Fails?

That is an apt, timely query. The state's highest court has been dragging the issue of SSM up and down the judicial corridors on a cord of indecision. Two lower courts there have ruled that forbidding SSM is unconstitutional.

The justices were to deliver their decision in November, in December, and who knows? They let out the word that the ruling will be by the middle of March, before the legislative session ends. The law-making gods would not return to Olympia until January 2007.

This sked leak raises the strong possibility of confirming the lower courts. This would force the legislature to provide an appropriate legal remedy tout de suite.

According to Sanders, this makes local gay activists wonder, "Would legislators have the courage to endorse full equality——semantic, cultural, and legal——by approving same-sex marriage? Or would they, in an election year, opt for the less politically perilous solution of civil unions? And if Democrats in the legislature seem split, in which direction should the gay community push them?"

The legislature is Democratic, but there are Democrats, Democrats and Democrats. On the Dark Side, Republicans have managed to obstruct simple gay-rights legislation for three decades. Lead legislator on the SSM issue, Seattle Rep. Ed Murray, has an SSM law in-hand, but fears a long battle. As he put it, "Do we get caught in a situation, if it takes five or ten years, where the good becomes the enemy of the perfect?"

He sees SSM as perfect and civil unions as good. He sounds a bit too much like a waffler.

Other gay activists want Massachusetts' equality, legal simplicity and respect. Director of Freedom to Marry Evan Wolfson opposed a civil-union compromise. He says it "misunderstands how you end opposition. You don't end opposition by appeasing it, you end opposition by allowing fair-minded people to grow." He's willing to stick out a "many-year struggle."

Murray sort of concurs, adding, "I think if it takeyearsrs, we should be going after it in pieces."

Commonwealths Pro and Con Liberty

There are many Virginias within that U.S. commonwealth. I lived for years in two of them and have friends and relatives in a third. They are as different as Becket to Boston to Beverly.

To us in Massachusetts, another of the four commonwealths, it is shocking to see how much parts of the Mother of Presidents can be like our own hinterlands. Like Massachusetts, Virginia has a surprising number of pockets of social conservatism.

In elementary school, I dearly loved books and transferred that affection to the chief children's librarian at the Danville Public Library. In that city, three miles above North Carolina, the magnificent mansion had been the home of Confederate Major William Thomas Sutherlin. It was the last capital of the CSA for the final days of the war.

While we studied history -- U.S., world and state -- in school, in the children and then the adult areas, I studied first dinosaurs, and then Gods -- Norse, Greek, Roman, Hindu, and more.

In Virginia history classes, the stress was decidedly on the commonwealth's contributions to liberty, there and throughout the nation. The irony of Washington and Jefferson owning Black people, yet speaking and writing for human freedom is not buried there. In contrast, many New Englanders my age never learned that the slave trade started in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the vast majority of those engaged in collecting Black slaves and profiting off their sale were here, and largely the comparatively inefficient economics of small farms here inspired widespread abolition support.

drawing of Federal Street ChurchWe need look no farther than Boston's Federal Street Church to see how the economics and politics began to play out. It had been the Long Lane Church before the U.S. Constitution was ratified there, inspiring the name change of both the church and its street. Now that spot is home to a gigantic bank. The Federal Street Church moved to the new landfill that would become the Back Bay and its new building, the Arlington Street Church, became the first public edifice in the area in 1861.

In the decades before that (1803 through 1842), liberal minister William Ellery Channing headed the church. Not only was he the founder and definer of American Unitarianism, but he was famous with his Transcendentalist friends as an abolitionist.

Considering the anti-war/radical/pro-ame-sex marriage reputation of the Arlington Street Church since the Korean War, that all seems logical. However, there is a deep wrinkle. The Federal Street Church had quite a few wealthy congregants, including some involved in shipping and the slave trade. The board at the time forbade Channing from speaking against slavery in his own church. His writings and sermons on the topic were printed and delivered elsewhere.

Likewise (whew, finally back to it), Virginia had its Patrick Henry, its stalwart and costly Revolutionary War legacy, and its long history of schizophrenia on liberty.

Note: This is Robert E. Lee's 199th birthday.

Now, despite its pockets and few deep buckets of liberalism, it has come down as a commonwealth squarely on the site of restricting liberty, most recently for same-sex marriage. This week, a Senate committee voted 11 to 3 for a DoMA-style amendment. A few days before, the whole House voted 76 to 20 for it.

The legislature has rushed this amendment toward a November 2006 vote. Irony recurs in that this would amend Virginia's Bill of Rights to make sure that homosexuals do not get rights. It would write discrimination in its constitution.

To wit, to an otherwise very American document based on liberties, the amendment would add:

Section 15-A. Marriage.

That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.

This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.

The section of the existing Virginia Bill of Rights that it would bastardize reads:

Section 15. Qualities necessary to preservation of free government.

That no free government, nor the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles; and by the recognition by all citizens that they have duties as well as rights, and that such rights cannot be enjoyed save in a society where law is respected and due process is observed.

That free government rests, as does all progress, upon the broadest possible diffusion of knowledge, and that the Commonwealth should avail itself of those talents which nature has sown so liberally among its people by assuring the opportunity for their fullest development by an effective system of education throughout the Commonwealth.

The contrast is shocking. The changes are vicious and punitive -- also subject to challenge. The amendment appears to invalidate existing forms of civil contracts between unmarried people. Of course, it flies in the face of the well-established full-faith-and-credit clause. Virginians too seem terrified that married Massachusetts homosexuals will arrive demanding equality.

As in other DoMA-panicked states, this is a disgrace that will bring legal challenges and likely eventually require legislative or court action to remove or remedy. As my grandmother might have said, "It's a good thing Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson aren't around to see this!"

Quibbling with Romney

Three quick hits on everyone's favorite current Massachusetts governor:
  • Last night's state-of-the-commonwealth address was, of course, positioning himself for a POTUS run.
  • As that of most conservative's, Cap'n Brylcreem's education stand has been to suck fund from major cities and help maintain a two-tier (rich-and-white v. poor-and-diverse) school system.
  • He was utterly cowardly and sleazy about same-sex marriage.
Vintage Brylcreem ad=Prez Would Be

The Cap'n put up the résumé on which he will run — major economic accomplishments, major health and education programs, and traditional values.

He wasn't here or involved enough to take the blame or credit for economic changes. His education program is too damned late and he hasn't done the groundwork to make it meaningful. More important, his policies, particularly local aid, leeches 10 dollars from Boston for every one they return. Meanwhile, Beantown and other large cities have the burdens of overcrowded schools, many is disrepair, of being the staging grounds for immigrants and of teaching to kids from homes without the resources of educated parents, free time, computers and books. Fundamentally, the Bostons of Massachusetts fund the ease of the Belmonts and Westons.

Marriage, Who Me?

Our fleeing Cap'n tried, pretty lamely, to distance himself again from same-sex marriage. Tucked unobtrusively in his education prattle was:
Teachers can't do the job alone. Teachers need and deserve the support of involved parents and that will only happen if we take action.

Experience shows that kids have a far better chance of succeeding if they have a mother and a father at home. Of course, divorce or death means that there will always be many, many single parents; these single parents often make huge sacrifices and their kids can indeed succeed. But let's do everything we can to encourage our kids to have their kids after they've married, not while they're single and in school.

We have sex education in our schools. Let's also have abstinence education in our schools. Marriage and two parent families are fundamental to the development of children and to our success as a culture. We cannot afford to shrink from the timeless, priceless principles of human experience.

So, in one unspecific brushstroke, he got to:

  1. Imply, but not state, that he was a DoMA guy "far better chance of succeeding if they have a mother and a father at home."
  2. Confirm that he is really for the kids, while being really Christian, "Marriage and two-parent families are fundamental to the development of children and to the success of a culture."

So, the setup is to claim that he was always against gay marriage. Watch for that.

Of course, the reality was that years to deal with the issues related to SSM/civil union or something. He sat on his pointy butt instead.

Now he is suddenly for families and stability and all those things that help kids. How odd that he did nothing before now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wrong Side of Rights

The irony cannot be lost on historians or civil-rights activists. Here in Massachusetts, we have ministers, including African Americans, who called for overturning the rites and rights of same-sex marriage on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. In Washington and Oregon, other ministers, including African Americans, urge boycotts of companies who would give homosexuals health and other benefits. They would also pass laws ensuring that homosexuals would never have the rights enjoyed by straights.

Ken Hutcherson mugHere, we find the reactionaries in a dwindling party of kvetchers. They fantasize that the Supreme Judicial Court cannot legalize anything because they are not legislators (oops, back to Civics 101 with you). They swear they will reverse whatever court decisions, whatever laws protect gays and share rights. Meanwhile, tra la la la, life goes on. People see that their brothers, nieces and grandmothers marry their same-sex partners to nothing but good effect for all. Voters tire of Chicken Little who have screamed far too many times.

Now, what Washington State? The master of schadenfreude, the Rev. Ken Hutcherson (above), tries again to threaten some of the world's best-run, fairest, and largest corporations for their gay-friendly policies. He wants a boycott of Microsoft, Boeing, Nike and HP for promoting equality. Those dastards!

Ken may have taken too many hits on the gridiron. He lists among his close friends Rush Limbaugh. Also he regularly appears on James Dobson's Focus on the Family radio show, where he chose to announce formally his attempted boycott. In short, you shall be known by the company you keep has never been more revealing. Kenny keeps company with professional bigots, bullies and hater mongers.

So, there was this King fellow, also a minister, who called for boycotts five decades ago. Yet, MLK asked people to stop supporting those who would deny rights to others. Here, Hutcherson turns that on its head to ask people to stop supporting those who would give rights to others.

In his state, the issue is not yet same-sex marriage, rather a long overdue anti-discrimination bill, along the lines of the one Maine finally passed and upheld. Those boycott targets would have the state outlaw discrimination in housing, insurance and employment based simply on sexual orientation. Hmmm, just the type of cause MLK supported.

That is likely to pass this session and a similar measure would well become law in neighboring Oregon.

Hutcherson's bluster includes:
We're tired of sitting around thinking that morals can be ignored in our country. This is not a threat, this is a promise. Check out the past presidential election. We made the moral issue the No. 1 issue.
Boeing is much more Christian in its view. Like the other boycott targets, it has personnel policies that forbid all manner of discrimination. Boeing's spokesman Peter Conte said the company would support the proposed civil-rights protections. "The position that we have taken is one that we do feel strongly about," he said. "It is entirely consistent with our own internal practices and policies."

As for Hutcherson (and other such confused clerics whose egos have outpaced their intellects), we are willing to forgive him after he fails and when he admits his blunders.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Afro-American Animus

We needn't always reward courage. You can be a brave bigot, a cocksure fool, or a simple hothead. In contrast, gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick has put his neck and 'nads and mind on the line from the beginning. While other politicians left, center and right hide behind generalities, he has posted a solid reform platform for all the see, to copy, to criticize.

So, it's no surprise that the beefy feature in this Sunday's Boston Globe stresses those, particularly Black ministers taking shots at him and his positions. Hiding would have been safer, non-productive, cowardly, and a disservice to voters, but safer for him.

In this case, it is the usual suspects, the extremely socially conservative evangelical ministers, like Gilbert Thompson, re-quoted on Patrick's reform and equal-rights positions. That minister has called Patrick demonic for his support of same-sex marriage. The bilious bishop is one of a loud coterie of his ilk who love to rake in the adulation (and cash) but seem to do little to advance the welfare of the Black community, to address underlying issues that lead to violence, or to support the rights of minority groups and the underclass.

In short, they share Martin Luther King Jr.'s ministerial profession, but not his goals, passions and morality.

Patrick is offering better ways of government, politics, and advancing citizens of Massachusetts. The vocal, largely older, congregants of the socially conservative churches align with the Republican and DINO Roman Catholics. How many of the Boomer and younger congregants, including gay ones, who sit through sevices at their churches where the pulpit nasties show their hypocricy, will vote for Patrick remains to the primary.

We're betting that Deval Patrick appeals to the minds and hearts much more than such politically pale pansies as Healey and Reilly.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Schoolyard Taunts in Olympia

Democrats and elected judges had best turn right if they want to keep their jobs, according to the head of the Faith & Freedom Network in Washington State. FFN Chairman Joseph B. Fuiten commissioned a seven-question survey that he thinks will cow decision makers in his state as they consider same-sex marriage.

Puffiness Note: Fuiten refers to himself as Dr. Joseph B. Fuiten. He is neither physician nor academic. That is a ministerial doctorate from the Northwest Graduate School of Ministry, now the Bakke Graduate University of Ministry, with its classroom in Seattle's First Presbyterian Church. Don't look for serious scholarship in his analysis.

Note: This group marginalizes itself by sticking to the line that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, which can be cured. Even in largely conservative Washington State, it is not the political source of record.

In an interview with the Olympian, Fuiten said the poll by Elway Research proved that voters were anti-SSM. He claims 55% oppose SSM and 35% favor it.

"I think a person who is thinking about it would realize there is a political consequence to it," he remarked.

The State Supreme Court there is elected. It should consider a Defense of Marriage Act's constitutionality in March, according to Chief Justice Gerry Alexander. He didn't mind the implied threat from Fuiten, saying, "People try to do that all the time. It's a democracy and people can say anything they want. We make decisions in the case based on the facts of the case."

He also said that in his experience people vote a judge out for personal behavior and not for a single decision from the bench. "I haven't found the public takes revenge on a judge for their decisions," he added.

Equal Rights Washington Executive Director Frances Dunaway said the state's high court has a purpose "to protect the rights of minorities. She noted that in Massachusetts people adjusted to the Supreme Judicial Court's finding that SSM is the law of the commonwealth. "People saw their family members, neighbors and friends were getting married, and society was not harmed."

Meanwhile, Washington looks like it will do the Maine thing and outlaw discrimination in basic areas, such as housing, against homosexuals. That really ought to get Fuiten fulminating.

From our perspective, the FFN's tactic to push plebiscites on minority rights is typical of such groups that hide their bigotry behind a feigned democracy. This is that issue about muddling representative democracy with a vote when the laws don't fit your emotional needs. It diverts ballot initiatives far from their intended purpose.

Two questions and results in the poll of 405 people were:

Several other states and countries have decided the issue of gay marriage. Which of the following three methods - used in other states and countries - do you favor to decide the issue of gay marriage here in Washington State

  • A court order by the Supreme Court…14
  • A law passed by the legislature…16
  • A vote of the people…60
  • [Don't know or no answer}…11

Of these three which is the least acceptable to you?

  • A court order by the Supreme Court…49
  • A law passed by the legislature…21
  • A vote of the people…20
  • [Don't know or no answer}…11
In the family of nations, the U.S. remains right leaning. Massachusetts and Vermont though have been slowly changing minds. Each has a multi-year history of SSM or civil unions. Both have extremely low divorce rates.

If there is an argument and conclusion here, it would be that SSM strengthens marriage. At at time when the rest of the nation is seeing a long-term (far predating SSM) decline in marriage and increase in divorce, that should be welcome news to traditionalists.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Travis Trick Two

The initial raised eyebrows seem to be becoming upturned mouths, as locals look at the out-of-the-blue proposal by Massachusetts Rep. Phil Travis. The old gay-baiter/hater joined VoteOnMarriage.org in announcing he'd file a bill to offer a few domestic-partner benefits to couples who could not marry.

The Herald-affiliated Daily New Transcript followed up with quotes from a key player. The Benefits Fairness Act as proposed "doesn'’t pass the laugh test," according to Arline Isaacson, co-chairman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.

We agree and posted as much.

Isaacon elaborated, "They'’re suggesting that they want us to lose the (hundreds of) legal protections we get with a marriage license and replace that with a dozen they'’re willing to give us." By her reckoning Massachusetts same-sex marriage provide up to 450 legal rights; heterosexual marriage has a combined commonwealth and federal count of around 1,400.

Travis' bill would include a small subset of 12 rights, such as hospital visitation. To us, this still has all the markings of a setup, to aid in the pending arguments for the odious anti-same-sex-marriage ballot initiative the will come before the new session of the General Court.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Asbestos Trousers Warning

Flame Alert: Expect anti-same-sex-marriage flaming to flare immediately.

The Toronto Globe and Mail carries an item that the Rick Santorum and Bill O'Reilly types have eagerly awaited. They'll surely empty their I-told-you-so sacks on our heads.

A study for the Canadian federal government recommends legalizing polygamy. Feel the heat.

Currently, conviction can bring a five-year sentence.

As part of $150,000 project by the Justice Department and Status of Women Canada (a federal agency), the just-released study cites the problems women have in foreign legal polygamous marriages moving to Canada. The three professors involved are from Kingston, Ontario's (honest to punchline) Queen's University.

The paper "argues that Sec. 293 of the Criminal Code banning polygamy serves no useful purpose and in any case is rarely prosecuted. Instead, Canadian laws should be changed to better accommodate the problems of women in polygamous marriages, providing them clearer spousal support and inheritance rights."

So, what may be an effort to recognize the realities some immigrants face and make lives saner and easier for some women is going to fill the air ici, en les États Unis.

The Liberal Justice Minister, Irwin Cotler, has no intention of decriminalizing polygamy. "At this point, the practice of polygamy, bigamy and incest are criminal offences in Canada and will continue to be," he said. "These reports will become part of the knowledge base on this issue and will be taken into account."

I dread the flames though. How many times shall we hear slippery slope? Perhaps we can consider it just more theater.

Travis Trick

Illiberal Massachusetts Rep. Phillip Travis is closing out his legislative career, but not quietly. The anti-same-sex-marriage crusader has this year to make trouble and leave his name on more attempted legislation.

We have been waiting for the formal filing of his latest tricksy move, Precious. He led a press conference with the ever jolly VoteOnMarriage.org to announce that he intended to file the Benefits Fairness Act.

You don't need to be very cynical to question any bill at all that weaves fairness into its name. That is almost always evidence the bill will be very unfair, unreasonable and likely unconstitutional.

In this case, left, right and far right are all wondering not whether its a trick, but what kind of trick. The VOM.org folk list their take on its pending contents. It basically provides very limited next-of-kin status to the unmarried for such issues as hospital visitation and health-care decisions, all for those ineligible to wed.

Of course, in a state that has marriage for both heterosexual and homosexual couples, as well as powers of attorney by contractual law, the question is what gives?

The take from MassEquality is that Travis' bill is "a hoax," according to Marc Solomon, campaign director. "There are well over 1,500 benefits, protections and responsibilities that come with marriage. This is throwing in a few."

Travis claims he's just trying to help those left out of protections. That is surely odd, as that has never been an aim or practice of his.

The Lady in the Pew (a.k.a. Kelly Clark) is someone with whom we rarely agree and with whom we have great political differences. Yet on this, she blogs "It's a well-meaning but stupidly (in my opinion) conceived sop. It seems to me that the very people who have worked diligently to at least put the insane, court-mandated notion of same-sex 'marriage' to a vote are running scared...scared of seeming to (gasp!) 'lack compassion.'"

She's an anti in her own right, but she can smell this one way off.

Here, on yet another hand, expect the VOM.org folk and their dwindling party of legislative allies to use this as a wedge in the pending debates on the ballot initiative to stop same-sex marriage here. They will try the lame argument the anti folk in California did —– "Oh, we don't need marriage for gays. We have this nifty protection package."

As the Lady in the Pew so aptly put it, "Balderdash!"

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Browbeating Brownback

The notorious anti-gay, anti-same-sex-marriage, anti-anything liberal U.S. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas was his lickspittle best as a pro-something yesterday. He was pro-Alito, pro-hopes of taking back rights from others.

He got his chance at the other Sam, Alito, on the third day of hearings. Of course, as his peers, left and right, donkey and pachyderm, it was really, "Enough about me. What do you think of me?"

Well, Sammy #1, the Senator, don't care much for them hom-o-sexu-alls. The subject of same-sex marriage has caused him some distress. He is a big support of having the federal government get in the business of regulating marriage, something that has always been the states' purview. He sponsors DoMA legislation and speaks up when he can, for instance, last November.

He got his chance to make kissy-face with Sammy #2, the jurist, at the hearing. Basically, Brownback postured that he was against SSM and didn't mind dropping the full-faith-and-credit clause that forms the basis for our interstate legal structure to prove it.

He knew up front that Alito would no more stick his neck out on that than he had on all the previous morally, legally and intellectually demanding questions asked. Yet, Brownback was speaking to his constituents, using Alito as a prop.

Actually, the full exchange speaks volumes:
BROWNBACK: But the court said no. The issue of marriage is coming through the court system right now. As the court keeps getting involved in these areas, I think you’re going to see these sorts of constitutional issues being explored more and more. The marriage case I want to take you to, because that’s making its way through the federal court -- 45 of our 50 states have deemed marriage being between the union of a man and a woman. The state of Nebraska passes a state constitutional amendment, 70 percent of the people voting for it, saying that marriage is a union of a man and a woman. Yet a federal judge, in that case, threw out the state constitutional amendment on novel constitutional grounds, and it’s now making its way up through the system. The Congress has passed the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, passed overwhelmingly, signed into law by President Clinton. It basically did two things. First, it establishes for purposes of federal law, marriage would be defined as a union of a man and woman. And second it provided that no state would be forced to recognize a marriage entered into in another state. A number of legal scholars believe this second part violates the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution. Judge Alito, this case is coming forward and will probably be resolved in the federal courts, if it isn’t resolved by the Congress through a constitutional amendment. What is your understanding of the meaning of the full faith and credit clause, and does this apply to the institution of marriage, which has been traditionally an issue and an area left up to the states?

ALITO: Well, several constitutional doctrines seem to be implicated by the matters that you have discussed. The full faith and credit clause in general means that one state must honor judgments that are issued by a court of another state, and it’s an important part of the process. It is an important part of the federal system, so that we don’t have warring decisions in different states. I have not had cases involving this, but there are -- the doctrine has certain boundaries to it. There are exceptions and it covers certain areas and doesn’t cover other areas. And a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act under the full faith and credit clause would call into question the precise scope of the doctrine. And I believe that scholars have expressed differing views about how it would apply in that situation. And that’s an issue that may well come up within the federal courts, almost certain to do so.

So, in short, Sammy #1 says that we can't let a couple of centuries of legal precedence stand in the way of my anti-gay moralizing, can we? Sammy #2 says that he can't say.

We affirm that Sammy #1 is a bigot with no respect for our laws and that Sammy #2 will do anything to get a seat on the Supreme Court. We knew both of those.

Our surmise is that as in the above example, Sammy #2 will provide no substance for Congressional debate. He's in.