Thursday, April 30, 2009


Catalyzed by Sen. Arlen Specter's probably running and maybe winning in 2010 after switching parties, the big what-if looms.

What if every DINO and every RINO in Congress switched parties?

Here in Massachusetts, we have a severe DINO infestation, at the state but not national level. While nominally, the flaccid GOP has only 10% of the House and 12.5% of the Senate, that's deceptive. Roughly half the voters are unenrolled (called independents in most other states). Moreover, many lawmakers enrolled as Democrats are very socially and fiscally conservative (called Republicans in other states).

As a microcosm, the Bay State experience shows much about the misnomer phenomenon. First, here the perception is that the power is in the Democratic Party. Any politician who wants a safe seat in the General Court (called legislature in other states) registers early as a Dem and stays one, at least in name. They may grouse about, vote against and campaign in opposition to the party platform.

Then depending on the district, DINOs can be as secure as a progressive in Boston in getting elected and re-elected. As a general rule, the wealthy and exurban or rural areas are likely to send fairly conservative lawmakers of either party to the State House.

The other little joke is Republican governors. Massachusetts is not the only New England state to play this game.

We even have our own pet ex-governor, Mitt Romney. Our Cap'n Brylcreem has made a career out of repeatedly shouting that he was the reddest of governors in the bluest of states. In reality, of course, he was yet another wishy-washy liberal, who changed his politics like curtains fluttering in the wind. He was also a carpetbagger who stayed only as long as the commonwealth was useful to him politically.

Ours and other New England states with solidly Dem or at least DINO legislatures often elect a Republican governor. That is a pretense that soothes the savage breast. The underlying irrationality is that if both houses of the legislature as well as the governor's office are controlled by Democrats, despotic and profligate policies and laws will flow like a deadly molasses flood.

Of course, there are Dems and Dems as well as Republicans and Republicans. Installing a governor from an opposing party as a check against the legislative majority means little in most cases. It's just a feel-good thing.

Yet in Congress, the in-name-only angle could restructure the legislative world. Clearly, Specter is typical of the mindset there. He switched when he figured, at 79, his best chance at staying in office was to switch parties. He could well continue to vote in his same only RINO way if returned to office for a sixth six-year term, regardless of party. It's not like the electorate doesn't know what he's about after all these years.

So, that brings up the big question of how many DINOs and RINOs would have the incentive or courage to switch, for honesty's sake if no other reason.

The links at the top to the Wikipedia DINO/RINO entries are only two of many similar ones. Some have their own lists of misnamed Congress folk, plus Blue Dog Democrats and such. Consider for one, the recent list of Senate RINOs from Human Events (the self-defined headquarters of the conservative underground) in order from the most liberal voting record:
  1. Olympia Snowe (Maine)
  2. Susan Collins (Maine)
  3. Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania)
  4. George Voinovich (Ohio)
  5. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
  6. Mel Martinez (Florida)
  7. John McCain (Arizona)
  8. Richard Lugar (Indiana)
  9. Robert Bennett (Utah)
  10. Thad Cochran (Mississippi)
An en masse switch would certainly and suddenly impact legislative power at a national level. It's likely that the conservative DINOs in Congress would not make such a big splash. Many already defected, many as early as 1948 when President Harry Truman wanted greater racial integration. The trend became a Southern stampede in the 1960s Civil Rights Era.

Inertia and the fear of losing their highly lucrative sinecure-like posts will keep too many DINOs and RINOs in their particular cages. Yet what a wonderful thought it would be for a big switch to occur. How easy it would make it for voters to know what they were getting. How simple it would be in Congress to predict bill outcomes. How liberating it would be for lawmakers who vote in a party bloc because they are supposed to, even when their minds and hearts are elsewhere.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NH Muddles Marriage...Again

For crying out loud in a bucket, as my mother used to say when she was disgusted. The New Hampshire Senate roiled the still murky marriage-equality waters up there.

The Senate followed a three to two judiciary committee vote not to advance the same-sex marriage bill that narrowly passed the House. Instead in a compromise certain to please not one except for cowardly legislators, they would create a two-tier civil marriage for anyone and religious marriage for those so inclined.

I have already ranted about the unnecessary and addle-headed efforts to make religious marriages into civilly enforceable institutions for the first time. From colonial times, marriage has been a civil institution for any couple who qualifies for a marriage license. Now, they are trying to muddle the two varieties and in effect let the state meddle in church business. Dumb, guys.

This mess now has to go back to the House to see if it has any purchase at all. If somehow the two chambers and steam press this wrinkled travesty into a bill they both pass, it goes to the Gov. John Lynch. He's a religious parrot who has learned to say, "Awk. Marriage is one man and one woman. Awk." The Senate blunder is both marriage equality and DOMA in one stinking document. Who knows what he'll do with it.

In theory, the House could return with, "No. Pass our simple bill," and the compromise could end up with an SSM bill that passes by next to nothing. (Today's bill passed 13 to 11 with a solid Republican bloc against it.)

This is really not hard. Why do they struggle so?

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Axe Ex-Gay at Park Street

It was a win-win-win at Park Street today. The ex-gay, reparative sorts finished their training, apparently of gullible ministers, at the church. The LGBT and friends protesters had their say on the other side of the soon-to-be-shuttered windows. The lone Boston cop got to say he restored order to the Granary Burying Ground when he showed up as the protesters were leaving.

Personally, I learned some crucial background about Exodus International, the big gorilla in the ex-gay business. One of the protest rally speakers, Wayne Besen, has written a book (Anything But Straight) on his research on and experience with them.

Mild Aggression

Many of the usual suspects showed at the rally by the south side of the Brewer Fountain. That's where main sponsor Join the Impact MA could get its permit for its sound systems. Locals will note that this was a good 100 yards from the training, taking place on the north side of the Park Street Church.

Perhaps the city thought that might keep the rabble-rousers separate from the anti-gay sorts. At one point, a fellow showed up hoping to find a fight between gay and anti-gay contingents.

The speakers at the fountain were focused, terse and cool on a hot day. For example:
  • Join The Impact's Don Gorton noted a key reason for the need to protest, "The social stigma attached to homosexuality is what they (anti-gay groups) depend on to do their recruiting." He said that unfortunately, homosexuals have been "trapped by the lie that heterosexuality is an option." In reality, Exodus and their ilk are indifferent to converting homosexuals though; they really "want gays and lesbians to live in misery" without legal protections, so they turn to reparative therapy and "attempt the impossible."
  • The Mass. Department of Public Health's Stewart Landers detailed some of the considerable evidence that "you cannot change sexual orientation through this type of therapy." He added that Exodus and similar groups "admit they can't change gays. They just want to stop homosexual behavior." He said passage of the House bill 1728 to protect transgender persons was crucial now. "Tell your legislator!" He also urged Christians to speak with their ministers and congregants about the deceit of reparative therapy.
  • Know Thy Neighbor's Tom Lang joined in with a call that "LGBT people must remain vigilant to expose these lies and deceptions."
The talker was relative celebrity Besen. With specifics and a lot of good humor, he detailed the shenanigans — organizational and personal — of Exodus and its notables. For example, the allegedly ex-gay men they used in advertising somehow reverted to gay bars. "Repaired" gay men who were inspired to marry as part of their therapy ended up divorcing their wives and leaving them in tragic states. Besen said that Exodus loved to show the wedding pictures to bolster their success stories, but somehow left out the divorce papers and other aftermath.

The founder of National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day, Michael Johnston, had what he called a "moral fall" and found male lovers on the internet. Perhaps the crowd favorite was the tale of Gary Cooper and Michael Bussee, Exodus co-founders. They divorced their wives to live together and have a commitment ceremony.

Besen said that the Exodus staff (13 in headquarters with $1 million annual budget and 200 affiliated ministries) know the therapy does not and cannot work. He said that was fine with them because they don't want to change anyone. Rather they want to change the laws that prohibit discrimination against homosexuals. If they can convince enough voters and legislators that homosexuality is a casual choice, the conclusion should be that gays and lesbians can change if they want to. Therefore, there's no need to protect them.

He told me that Exodus and similar groups get their funding from Focus on the Family and other rich anti-gay organizations. I thought they might profit from the gays and lesbians in therapy, but he iterated that this is not Exodus' business.

He said management at Exodus fares well economically. The individual ministries are generally quite badly served financially by it. Instead, the aim is to influence legislation and public opinion, not gather funds from individual contributors, even those who say they want salvation from their gender orientation. To such aims, Besen says, "They spend more on an ad in a newspaper than on their ministry."

Waking the Dead

The rally behind us, it was time for a protest. Isolated beyond the fountain, the group of maybe 30 to 50 depending on the moment made for the church and its trainers and trainees. The signs and bullhorn traveled with chanting protesters north on Tremont into the Granary Burying Ground.

The training room was visible through the tall ground floor windows of the Park Street Church. ...not for long though. Protesters chanted from "Ex-gay. No way!" and beyond. The bullhorn has a particularly annoying siren effect that punctuated some of the series of chants. Pretty quickly, the windows were shuttered from the inside.

After about 15 minutes of protesting, people were in a good mood and also chanted out. As we made our way on the sidewalk between the tombstones, a lone Boston cop and pale little guy showed up at the cemetery gate.

John Hosty-Grinnell clearly had been in this situation before and jumped right in to intercept the constabulary. Rather than tell the cop to buzz off because we were already leaving, he flashed ID and calmed him. The little fellow identified himself as Chris Sherwood, whom is listed by the church as an associate minister. He must have been sent out the handle the situation. He did say a rather ignorant, "They (Exodus folk) are pretty nice people," but he wasn't looking for a brawl either.

Hosty-Grinnell noted that there was a permit for the fountain area and didn't push the free-speech aspect at all. Everyone chilled and as we left, he commented, "Nobody's getting arrested today."

Perhaps after Besen gives his speech tonight at MIT, coupled with the rally, there'll be some media coverage. It won't hurt for more people here to know that the Exodus is a failure at what it says it can do. It should also fail at what it really intends to do.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Slap Some Sense Into the Mass. Legislature

Morning note: Oops...too late. They passed the sales tax by a big margin. I posted the below for automatic publication last night. Now the call is to tell them it's not enough. That's a little harder sell, but look at the two BMG posts for your approach. Don't let those clown think they've done enough!

Today's the day or tomorrow at the latest to call your lawmakers. I don't ask that often, but they are on the lip of a deeper hole than we are already in, and the debate is on.

Call your people on the Hill (plug in your voting address here to get the info). The short message is that you want Gov. Patrick's revenue and reform approach. You don't want a sales-tax bump to get us maybe a third of the way to what we need.

Over at BMG is a clear line of reasoning and some talking points.

These poor, addled folk in both houses up there need some reassurance. They are terrified of every aspect of new or elevated taxes. Yet these are extraordinary times and we suffer under decades of delayed action. Call today.

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Revenue Clucking on Beacon Hill

Lackaday, the poor, terrified little critters in the Massachusetts General Court run from the necessary. As the newish Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo clucks about raising the sales tax, we are back to the cowardly measures of yore.

Certainly our current economic catastrophe exacerbated our local woes. While it led to demands for an alternative to a budget slashed by $1.8 billion, the pattern of avoidance is long and profound. The chicks on the Hill are making us stew in their juices again.

For one example, look at our collapsing bridge and road infrastructure. Had the legislature raised the revenue decades ago and a decade ago to fix them, the solutions were relatively easy and inexpensive. Since then, the problems have worsened and the cost soared. It's not so manageable now.

For another, look to the MBTA. The same cluckers cut a deal years ago, forcing the T to tie its debt reduction to the state sales tax. For that, the lawmakers demanded level funding, that is, operating at breakeven or better. When the sale taxes fell dramatically and stayed low, they refused to acknowledge their mistake or adjust anything. As a direct result, the T is consumed by debt and slashing services just to function.

Both of those are only two in a long list of cowardly moves by the General Court. Up there, they operate under two deadly premises:
  1. Do not raise taxes if you want to stay in office and power.
  2. Do the minimal and say the job is done.
For the first, we pay big time and long-term. Avoiding the necessary simply delays it and makes it more expensive. These chickens are like a homeowner who won't pay $1,000 for a simple roof patch job and then ends up paying $7,000 to replace the whole thing as a result. This robs us.

The second is like the old Lone Ranger shows. The masked man captures the bad guy, turns to his faithful Indian companion and says, "Our work is done here, Tonto." They ride off to praise and expressions of wonder.

In this case, our chickens want to do a half or third measure by raising the sales tax from 5% to 6.25%. They want to forestall Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal of a 19¢ gas-tax hike. Despite the Boston Globe's muddled editorial today, the sales-tax bump is not the best solution.

What it emerges as is another of those Long Ranger fantasies. Do the simple and easy with the smallest number and their work is done.

Not by a long shot. Patrick's plan gives workable amounts of revenue. The legislature's barnyard clucking provides just a start. They'll be back in the fall with another fantasy — that casino gambling and/or slots wills provide the needed money.

Both of those legislature ploys will end up taxing the poor and middle class citizens the most. The gas tax is by far a fairer way to fund transportation and infrastructure needs...from transportation-related activities.

The other side is what the chickens in the hilltop coop have run from so many times. We need a progressive income tax. We need to bring our tax rates up above the bottom third to half of the nation. Yes, times are tough, but we need to do this now as we should have a long time ago.

The chickens are afraid of cries of Taxachusetts! Playing cheap, cheap, cheap on taxes has ended up costing us billions in increased costs instead. Surely there are adults among the chickens up there, adults who know about false economies of not spending for the essentials.

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Ex-Gay Protest Tuesday in Boston

High noon at Park Street is the time and place to demonstrate against the malicious, fallacious ex-gay training by Exodus International.

See John Hosty-Grinnell's recap and video here detailing the reasons for outrage. Also, click over to:
  • A full discussion of Exodus' aims and techniques is at Join the Impact MA.
  • A flier to print and distribute at work, church, bars and elsewhere is here.
  • Keep aware of details and show your support through an RSVP at the Facebook announcement.
Tuesday should be sunny and warm, just right for gathering together to declaim this group. Do it at lunch or stay for several hours. See ya there.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cultural Throttle on SSM

The Dark Side remains determined to hold off marriage equality in the form of same-sex marriage. It seems increasingly to come down to because they can.

Here in New England, we have seen just recently the two sides of this. In Vermont, the elected representatives of the citizens overwhelmingly approved SSM. Then they circled around to override the regressive governor's veto.

There was a much slimmer margin in the New Hampshire House. Then a single Democratic senator jumped with the Republicans on their judiciary committee to halt SSM there by a three to two vote.

Sen. Deb Reynolds and neighboring state Gov. Jim Douglas had pretty much the same justification. Those ol' homosexuals already had civil unions, wasn't that enough and what else could they possibly want?

In states like Virginia and Texas, overturning amendments and laws forbidding SSM may take a decade or two. They are among the dozens where there is a heavy load of emotional baggage. Up here, where fairness and equity have been blossoming, I honestly expected better.

Yet, I have been pleasantly surprised by the suddenness of the blooms. Connecticut for full SSM. ...New York and maybe New Jersey this year. Maine could even go for full equality this year or next.

We know that beleaguered Rhode Island has a governor and two legislative leaders who won't let SSM advance, at least until Gov. Donald Carcieri has to leave office next year. Then I would expect quick passage. Even though his state recognizes Massachusetts SS marriages and has extended benefits to SS couples, he tromps on this form of civil rights, again apparently because he can.

The future is for marriage equality, in both Europe and the United States. The many on the anti side who try to conflate their particular religion's ritual with the established norm of civil marriage used in the whole country won't stop their two screams — God's law! and Let the people vote! They won't stop after their states do the proper things either. As their numbers dwindle both their volume and influence will decrease as well.

I wish I could respect the intentions of those who want to harm, hamper and hinder homosexual couples. I can't and their nasty deeds can't come undone fast enough to suit me.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Live Free for Some

Oh, sigh. A Dem. New Hampshire state senator, Deb Reynolds, seemed to wet her Depend diaper during the vote on same-sex marriage. She switched to the Republican and conservative side, making the note three to two against advancing the measure this year.

According to the Concord Monitor's piece, she squeaked, "I think we're just not there yet. I do think New Hampshire is different from Vermont."

Even after the prolonged hearings in the Senate and previous passage by the House, this likely delays SSM there for a year.

Tip of the toupee to John at Live, Love and Learn. I was gone today and returned to find he had been up Maine and also covered New Hampshire here.

Maybe she should rent On the Waterfront. There's the critical scene with Terry and his brother Charlie in the back of the limo:
Terry: Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, "Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson." You remember that? "This ain't your night"! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charlie, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money.
Charlie: Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.
Terry: You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charlie.
So there is was, Debby-poo. It was marriage equality's moment and you didn't look out for what's fair and right. Fortunately, SSM will get another chance, but Deb's lack of courage will make it hard on a lot of people and hold off on this civil right for thousands of her citizens.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ripping the Mask Off

The horns of evil have landed squarely on skulls of the anti-marriage equality forces. Up in Maine today, the Judiciary Committee has a long, packed (about 2500) hearing in the Augusta Civic Center.

Little gangs of pro and con same-sex marriage citizens have taken turns testifying in 3-minute-per flurries on LD 1020. That bill would legalize SSM.

While a current poll finds Mainers about split on support of SSM, a large majority favors either SSM or civil unions. Only 23% oppose any legal recognition for homosexual couples.

From the looks of the civic-center crowd, 1020 supporters have the day. Many are wearing red to indicate that, and the audience is very red.

I've been listening to the testimony and find it as moving as that in New Hampshire. The pro side has mixed emotional pulls, researched positions, philosophy and legal reasoning. Some of the speakers could make a statue cry. One spoke of her dying partner of many decades fretting and working with her to protect their daughter by enabling an adoption before death came from cancer. They were able to jet into California in that small span when they could legally marry. For 24 hours, they lived their decades old dream.

Dr. Daniel Summers of the Maine Chapter of the American Pediatric Association debunked anti-1020 claims of the damage to families of SSM. He also concluded, "No good comes to children by denying their parents the right to marry."

Attorney General Janet T. Mills noted that some call for civil unions instead of SSM. She said that "civil unions are unnecessarily complicated (and) inherently unfair.

A heterosexual man typified his groups support by saying that we and his wife "..don't measure the sanctity of our marriage against the relationships of others."

Our own Sen. Marian Walsh spoke for SSM. As well as being a Roman Catholic, she has a masters in theology, by the bye. She listed the many sources she sought after the Goodridge decision and said she turned around. Among her conclusions were, "To objectify any American by their sexuality is immoral."

Ugliness Under Public Masks

In contrast, the anti folk were either dishonest or purely emotional in the main. They even heard from the border-jumping Mad Dad from Lexington, Massachusetts, who retold his blatant lies about his civil-disobedience arrest. An attorney couldn't let that stand and noted that he insisted on being arrested and then paraded about as victim.

Similarly, several anti-1020 folk dragged the red herring of religious persecution if SSM passes. Despite reams of evidence of Massachusetts, Canada and other countries to the contrary, they used the old just-wait-and-see emotive appeal. One of their group extended the call by saying the bill did not protect non-clerical Mainers, who he said should have the right to act on their religious beliefs. Another attorney could not let that stand, noting that existing laws as well as 1020 protect clerics and that what he was asking was relief from having to obey the anti-discrimination laws in accommodation and elsewhere.

As the afternoon wore on the mic stayed hot, some anti-1020 types said that SSM would give homosexuals unfettered access to children leading to molestation. The most crackpot Biblical references were followed by discredited statistics, even the wheezer about gay men living as much as 20 fewer years and other Americans.

Unlike New Hampshire's testimony, Maine's had more abject lying by commission and omission. I suddenly realized that this dovetailed tightly with the Salon forum on SSM comment that the Republicans who try to use this as a wedge issue lose voters' hearts. Consider pollster Anna Greenberg's "And there is a real danger that this sort of further marginalizes and typecasts Republicans as the mean party."

Hasn't it come to that in much of America already and likely nationwide? Listening to the intellectually and emotionally moving pro-SSM testimony today, I wondered about the cruel eagerness to harm others by imposing their particular and peculiar religious ideas and feelings.

It appears more Americans see the meanness and that cruelty. We've noted the surprisingly vigorous movements toward SSM in Iowa, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Maine just recently. We've seen the dwindling power and seemingly membership of anti-equality groups such as Maine Family Policy Council (formerly CCL of Maine) and Massachusetts Family Institute. This almost certainly results from even self-proclaimed traditionalists recognizing the deceit and nastiness of those opposing marriage equality.

This must surely fall in the pathetic class. Some SSM opponents may well be sincere in believing that their churches require them to oppose homosexuality in various forms. Others make a living by rabble rousing and getting donations from those responding to their lies and emotional calls. The first seem to be falling away after the displays of lack of compassion and illogic. The latter organizations hang in and keep up their dirty tricks. They are increasingly seen for the ugliness beneath their public masks.

Early PM Follow-Up: The Portland Press Herald highlighted and illustrated a few of those testifying this morning. The Bangor Daily News recap is here.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Marriage Molehill

Alas, we expect crazy attempts to be provocative from Alan Dershowitz. Just recently though Gene Robinson figuratively slid into bed with him.

The manufactured issue is one that should have died amid laughter and disdain. However, with more such marginal showmen talking it up, we may find this minor distraction revisiting the same-sex marriage drives and debates.

This time, these tired old men are wheezing about as they put it "getting the state out of the marriage business." In reality, what Dershowitz propose is giving the authority of government for clean and clear regulation of civil marriage to a grab bag of clerics. This shows both a profound ignorance of the nature of marriage in Western culture and an eagerness to vastly complicate a social mechanism that's worked just fine from colonial times.

Dershowitz is quite the dramatist and an excellent self-promoter. He snags talk show appearances and gets his legal think pieces published readily. Good on him. Bishop Robinson is gutsy and good for the GLBT movements by speaking out for gay rights and marriage equality. Yet, he also does not need any self-esteem classes. Unfortunately, the many in the media and public who aren't paying attention will lump these ideas together.

The law professor loves his tiny idea about making people go through religious institutions to marry in the U.S. He has been talking it up for years, as in this paper from 2004. It's a bone he should have chewed on and buried long ago.

The plain facts include that despite such religious sorts as Alan and Gene (and the fundy anti-marriage equality groupies), clerics perform religious rituals of union only for marriage. If they legally marry anyone, they do it through sleight of hand — they sign the state marriage license after the church rite. It remains the state that authorizes who meets the legal requirements of marriage, keeps the records for reference and proof, and is the source of authority at divorce or child custody times.

Ceding those responsibilities to imams, ministers, priests, rabbis and others is cute but only cute. Otherwise:
  • It is unworkable logistically with no central source for verification by anyone needing it.
  • It practically forces the unchurched majority into some religious ritual when apparently half or more of couples have civil ceremonies only.
  • It thoroughly muddies who can wed and divorce.
Robinson has a moderately different take from Dershowitz. He proposes to let the SSM issue focus on civil rights instead of religion. Hence, he proposes removing the solemnization authority from clerics. Many religious figures believe they truly marry people legally when they are only one of many groups authoirzed to solemnize unions and sign the papers. Robinson seems to conflate the ritual and civil event, as so many anti-SSM types do on the other side.

If you pardon the expression, honest to God, this is not difficult. People marry under the rules and authority of the government. Only if they choose to also have a religious ceremony, they arrange for that ritual. Generally, the cleric can serve as a one-stop shop by doing both proximately.

You'd think Dershowitz would get the legal aspect. He seems so pleased with the little idea that is his that he would like to seriously complicate this process that millions of living Americans have navigated quite easily.

As simplemindedly pleasing as it might be to defuse SSM debates by letting the religious sorts have new power here, it wouldn't work at all well. This is a teratological growth that needs a quick and deep burial.
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Rally Against Exodus Overlords

Sweeping from the South, Exodus International will be here in a week. That gives you a grand opportunity to stand for LGBT folk.

Rally to protest the of locals for reparative therapy. Gather at noon, Tuesday, April 28th, at the Park Street Station in enlightened Boston.

While you're getting ready:
Quite simply, these fundy folk earn their living by tricking LGBT people and their families into thinking they can switch their sexual preferences on and off. The psychological associations say that's crazy talk and very harmful to the targets.

That's worth protesting.
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Monday, April 20, 2009

The Dull Wedge of Gay Marriage

We're going to hear and talk a lot about marriage equality in the next couple of years. That's not just because the news from the News — Hampshire, Jersey and York — may legalize same-sex marriage.

The philosophical and political issues abound. Foremost is whether Republican at the national and state levels will be able to use SSM as a winning ploy in 2010 and 2012 elections. They have been looking, panting and hoping, particularly after their huge success with it in 2004. They received some adrenalin last year when California voters narrowly overturned legalized SSM there by a plebiscite.

To the most literal among us, there is no hope for SSM here, the four states that currently authorize it aside. After all, the vast majority of other states forbid it by law, constitution or both.

That overly simplistic view disregards the states that have legal civil unions and domestic partnerships. More important, it downplays those which are likely or possibly going to enact SSM this year or next. In the end, it may take 20 years for the most regressive states to get with the program, but nearly are surely will.

Today's Salon runs a panel focused on whether Republicans and anti-marriage equality groups will be able to use SSM in the next couple elections. I'll highlight a few points below, but I recommend clicking through the large Will gay marriage still work as a Republican wedge issue?

I sincerely hope that the anti-SSM folk throw their time, cash and emotions in to trying to run up as many the-queers-are-coming flags as they can. Prop. 8 aside, that game played out for the nation five years ago. That's spitting in the wind and they are welcome to do so.

Who Talked

The Salon panel only had a single SSM advocate, gay journalist Jonathan Rauch. The others were Hendrix College Associate Professor Jay Barth, poll expert Anna Greenberg, and moderator Thomas Schaller, University of Maryland associate professor. Links to info about them is in that post.

The short of it is that the panel figures this issue has played out. They expect it to be a decider in the GOP candidate scrambles for party nominations in the next two elections, but a loser overall.

Among salient points are:
  • Rauch: SSM attitudes are "party generational, but the young are not as different from the rest of the country as people think. They're only 10 percentage points more in favor of gay marriage. And the result is that I think we're in for a long process of 10 or 20 years of debating and discussing the meaning of marriage in this country, where different states will do different things."
  • Barth: The replacement of the older, strongly opposed to any legal recognition of SS couple will be more profound. In general I would agree with Jonathan, except for one thing. "I do think there will be continued change, and I think it's hard to see anything that would turn those trends around, because it is so driven by generational replacement and secondly by increasing personal contact with gays and lesbians."
  • Rauch: "I don't see in my lifetime getting to a point where same-sex marriage is completely uncontroversial. I do think we stand a pretty good shot of getting to a point where it's at least consensus uncontroversial."
  • Barth: He figures that the consensus will come more quickly the more SSM becomes legal through legislatures or citizen votes instead of court rulings.
  • Greenberg: She says that "...there needs to be a lot more work done in the LGBT community with the African-American community." She point for an example how candidate Barack Obama's timid opposition to Prop. 8 in California was twisted into claims he favored it.
  • Rauch: "(SSM is) a wedge issue, but it's a rapidly dulling wedge issue. And the surprise for Republicans has been that you can point a wedge in two directions. Turns out using this issue turns off a lot of people, too. Those include people who don't want to be having this type of discussion about social issues, and it includes people who increasingly think that same-sex marriage belongs in the category of rights and that using this as a wedge issue is itself immoral."
  • Barth: "I think it's not accidental that 2004 was a cycle where that really did seem to have its greatest impact for a variety of reasons -- obviously, the court rulings, etc." Now people are much more concerned with economic issues.
  • Schaller: "(I)s the GOP in a bind here, that if they try to raise the salience of anti-gay measures, they're going to lose many of these swing voters they need to become a majority party again, but if they put it too much on the shelf, they're going to have an uprising among the core conservatives who vote on issues like this?"
  • Greenberg: "And there is a real danger that this sort of further marginalizes and typecasts Republicans as the mean party."
  • Greenberg: "(It) actually isn't knowing someone that is a predictor of supporting a gay marriage. Liking and feeling close to someone who is gay is a predictor."
  • Rauch: In a recent piece that I just worked on, knowing a same-sex couple is also a stronger predictor than knowing any individual gay or lesbian person. And so, that's also an important part of this story is the increasing presence and visibility of sustained relationships among same-sex couples.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Forward to SSM Sunbeams

As usual, Frank Rich types too much and doesn't edit himself in today's NY Times column, The Bigots' Last Hurrah. Nonetheless, I recommend plugging through.

This is on the diminished status and possibilities for the anti-marriage equality types. As always with Rich, this blends his dour cynicism with optimistic conclusions. Perhaps I can borrow a bit of his view of sunbeams rising over the horizon.

While ripping the heavy-handed and blatantly dishonest National Organization for Marriage and its failed The Gathering Storm ad, he leaps ahead. "Yet easy to mock as 'Gathering Storm' may be, it nonetheless bookmarks a historic turning point in the demise of America’s anti-gay movement," he writes.

I often follow Rich's reasoning, but not to the end of his road. Here, he points to the numerous anti-gay and anti-SSM folk who have backpedaled after recent legalization in Iowa and Vermont. Fewer and fewer of the deceitful and melodramatic sorts keep up their irrational and emotional tirades. It seems more of the larger public just knows better. The anti-SSM wagon seems destined to drive off into some political swamp.

Frank figures that the ad is a touchstone. "If it advances any message, it’s mainly that homophobic activism is ever more depopulated and isolated as well as brain-dead. " He points to such former anti-SSM leaders as Rick Warren and even Fox News as dropping objections to civil unions and even rubbing against SSM as the future. "As the case against equal rights for gay families gets harder and harder to argue on any nonreligious or legal grounds, no wonder so many conservatives are dropping the cause," he writes.

Moreover, he seems this unwelcome act being performed only by the extreme end of the Republicans, such as Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney. These sure losers in a 2012 Republican race may just further plunge the hate wagon into the mire.

I am impatient — Vermont, Maine and New York this year, please! Rich sees marriage equality as "haltingly but inexorably" spreading. Here's hoping his analysis of the anti-equality movement is spot on.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Revivifying Cuba

Listen up, Barack. You've only started with Cuba. Despite the desperation of Democrats and a larger group of voters to compare you to John Kennedy, you have a shot to leapfrog his legacy here.

Kennedy was cute, snazzy and charismatic. He was also a foreign-policy abomination and klutz. He was a cowboy, gunslinger President long before George the Lesser Bush.

Consider three of his abject failures with Cuba:
  • He did not piggyback on the populist revolt that installed Fidel Castro, sticking with the corrupt, exploitative and criminal Fulgencio Batista dictatorship.
  • He ordered a disgraceful, lawless and incompetent invasion and assassination of Castro.
  • He set up an embargo that hobbled, hampered and harmed the Cuban people for the past half century.

Selective History

In our national fantasy revisionism, we prefer to remember only the missile crisis. He pushed us to nuclear war to prove his manhood was more powerful than Soviet leader Khrushchev's. We can indeed chalk that up as a win, but it was a situation Kennedy should have seen coming and avoided instead. He fixed what he allowed to break.

Now, a less impulsive and probably much brighter President is patching the Cuba wounds. His first one-eighth measures aren't going to heal much if anything. Moreover, as the Financial Times' Christopher Caldwell states today, allowing U.S. second cousins and closer unlimited visits to the island and the right to send non-military goods to family sends mixed and wrong messages to Cuban and U.S. citizens.
Mr Obama’s plan has some bizarre elements, such as the granting of travel rights on ethnic grounds. We know why Americans of Cuban ethnicity would want to go to Cuba more than other Americans. That they should be allowed to go to Cuba more than other Americans is an outrage against republican principles...It is another sign (along with affirmative action and the widespread use of undocumented labour) that Americans are now quite comfortable having different classes of citizenship.
Our Kennedy-established embargo has been both a failure and a perennial embarrassment. This allegedly greatest nation we are could not crush Castro's government economically. First, the Soviets provided subsidies. Then Cuba eked out cash with its agricultural output (including cigars the rest of the world can buy). Moreover, Kennedy's fantasy that the embargo would catalyze a citizen revolt was just that. Our stupidest Senators, including Jesse Helms, clung to that, egged on by the vitriolic Cuban Americans of the WWII generation.

The most unfortunate aspect of this is how it exposed the United States' motives. Our banks and other corporations whose Cuban assets were nationalized, have insisted on payment half a century later. Yet, as a nation, we pretend that this was never about money. We were saving this corner of the world for democracy and challenging a dictator.

Our white horse we like to ride is covered in blood and mud. In Cuba, as in Vietnam and so many African and South American nations, we install or support dictators, brutal tyrants. Castro and now his brother were not of our choosing and we can't seem to get over it.

Schmucks and Schlemiels

We have had many chances to lead a communist, socialist or dictatorial nation and its leader toward democracy and capitalism. Our tools though have not been those of saviors and inspirations. As with Cuba, we went with force, military and economic.

We conveniently forgot that our colonies farmed Cuba for slaves and we maintained an exploitative relationship with it until Castro took power in 1959. We encourage rapacious U.S. corporations and organized crime to bleed the nation's resources and abuse its people.

What we remember is that Castro took power and seized our company and Mafia assets. As Caldwell wrote:
In its first quarter-century, the embargo against Cuba was a powerful means of expressing America’s enmity, at a time when Cuba had done plenty to earn it. It was a way of satisfying voters’ sense of justice, showing the high price of crossing the US and demonstrating that, for Washington, profits took a back seat to strategy. It provided a useful example to countries choosing sides in the cold war.
Instead, we could have dealt with the dictator not of our choosing. We could have shown by example and lesson the virtues of behaving like the United States, of looking to us for trade and philosophy alike, and of gradually rejecting the quasi-communist path.

That is harder, but no less prone to failure than say a Bay of Pigs invasion or decades of impotent embargo that hurt only Cuban citizens. Understandably, they don't hate the Castros for our embargo of their nation.

It's past time, Obama. End the embargo and pull a Dick Nixon in normalizing relations with this little enemy. The WWII legislators are retiring or dying. Their replacements don't have to look very far to see the failure of our Cuban policy. Right now, we look like schmucks for our viciousness and schlemiels who who can't beat down a poor island nation in 50 years of trying. Also, the new generations of Cuban Americans are not invested in their grandparents' grievances of lost property.

Beyond this, the big lesson here is one we should have learned in Chile, Vietnam and elsewhere as well as Cuba. If we want people elsewhere to want to be like us, we need to act like saviors and not oppressors. We can turn others by our good example, but we need to live the good example first.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Mr. Graffito Slaps Back

Boston cops have turned me into a real Shepard Fairey fan. Now the Associated Press is marching in the fools parade as well.

Tip of the Toupee to Sanford Law's Fair Use Project for posting the Fairey answer to AP's absurd and hypocritical claims.

Clumsy Persecution

Locally, Municipal Court Judge Eleanor Coe Sinnott seemed to bow to pressure from our cops to upgrade the tagging charges against the artist to felony ones. Showing again why comedians and the nation at large ridicules Boston so easily and so often, the pig piling of increasingly outsized charged makes us look like, well, hicks. It's back to Mooninites that everyone but Boston cops and Da Mare saw the humor in two years ago.

First, note that the prosecutors, cops and judges are waving General Laws Chapter 266, Section 126-A at the ditzy artiste. This is Defacement of real or personal property; penalties; suspension of driver’s license and designed for vicious, malicious destruction of walls and more specifically desecration of tombstones.

This same set of municipal clowns ignore the hundreds of thousands of stickers, posters, flyers and post-no-bills bills on walls, telephone polls and more. Businesses, lost-pet seekers, rock bands and t'ai chi class advertisers alike routinely and with impunity plaster our city with easily identifiable advertisement, art and social commentary.

The rules-are-rules mob has joined in calling for Fairey to do hard time. They don't have intellectual framework of a first grader nor the sense God gave lettuce.

Clumsy Persecution

Enter the AP. It sued Fairey for adapting one of its photographs of President-to-be Barack Obama and totally changing it to produce the iconic HOPE poster.

As a former newspaper reporter and editor, I laughed. The AP has long been famous for robbing writers and photographers worldwide. In the guise of providing content for its paid media subscribers, it has long demanded full rights to what it's members publish -- to redistribute. That means that millions, maybe billions of articles and photos have been lifted and shipped around without additional compensation.

In this case though, Fairey's counterclaims post a big stop-the-bullshit sign in front of the AP. They note that the AP routinely, daily, photographs and otherwise reproduces art without compensating the artists. Basically, if you want to talk about violating copyright and outright stealing, the AP is the pro at it. Check pages 22 through 29 of his counterclaims for piles of examples of art stealing by the AP.

Fairey, on the other hand, as many have noted, radically transformed the original AP pic. It's unquestionably fair use. The AP is going down hard on this one and anyone hanging around should push them as they go.

As for our drama-queen prosecutors and judge here, they'll likely continue to claim how noble they were after Fairey cuts a deal, gets acquitted or pays a fine. The rest of us and the larger world will be mumbling, "Mooninites...again."

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Colbert Colors NOM Ad

Please pardon the link and embedded file. You may well be a Colbert Nation regular and have seen this, but it is laugh-out-loud funny.

The show skewered the inane National Organization for Marriage ad against same-sex marriage. Then, Steven carries it around on a pole. He doesn't have to say it's all lies for the stupid. Watch and giggle.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Colbert Coalition's Anti-Gay Marriage Ad
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Little Legislative Lessons Learned

I did show at the State House hearing that included my tiny bicycle bill. I was wrong that it was probably going to waste my time. This bill (House 2190) may go nowhere, but I ended up with some insights for my next passion and the one after that.

You Too

A big take-away is that our commonwealth makes it very easy for citizens to propose laws. Long before we joined the rush of half the states to add ballot initiatives during the Progressive movements (1890s through 1920s), our constitution provided the right of free petition.

See the commonwealth's primer on how to write bills and get them considered. While your rep or senator doesn't have to submit your bill, they almost always do. It's great voter relations for them and they can even add code phrases, particularly By Request, after their name to ensure the bill goes nowhere.

Sometimes crackpot groups, like MassResistance, work through a lawmaker to pimp political causes. For many years, that group has promised legislation that would remove any Supreme Judicial Court judge who voted for Goodridge (marriage equality), or strip funding for school counseling for gay teens, or mention that same-sex marriage is legal here in any school lesson and blah blah blah. They have a current list they like or have a dirty foot in the mix.

Virtually everything they've done has either failed totally or ended up so watered down it was meaningless. For all their bluster, the tiny organization really only managed to get one bill through, Ch. 71 Sec. 32A, a.k.a. parent notification of sex-ed classes. This copies similar statutes elsewhere that ensures that schools let parents opt out of a curriculum devoted entirely to sex ed. It certainly does not let a parents pick and choose what kids will read or hear in regular classes.

In contrast, a 12-year-old from Hingham seems poised to make a big difference with a requirement for seat belts on school buses. Michaela Brickley testified today with Rep. Garrett Bradley, her sponsor of House 2199 at the hearing of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Requiring seat belts in school buses has been posed, sometimes annually, by other legislators for decades. This is a redo and Brickley may be just the necessary catalyst.

She's slight and squeaky voiced, but dreadfully sincere. She has a simple story of seeing real video of a bus rollover, with unrestrained kids tossed about the bus. It's not great insight or scientific research, but she is compelling as a citizen, if not yet a voter, and as a representative of the intended beneficiary class — twice daily yellow-bus riders.

Where's My Garrett?

I ended up testifying today, rather unintentionally. I had not been to one of these omnibus hearings where tons o' bills would be considered. They announced that if anyone wanted to speak for or against a bill, there were sign-up sheets. Rather like how I ended up on my high-school wrestling team after hearing an end-of-day PA announcement, I signed up. I did not see either of my bill sponsors, Rep. Willie Mae Allen (my district) or Rep. Martin Walsh, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to have someone say something.

I noticed several big differences between Michaela and Michael:
  • Her sponsor was there and the committee let him jump the queue, which resulted alert attention to the bill. My sponsors were absent and likely passive.
  • Her bill was familiar in that it had gone through hearings in one form or another numerous times. Mine was new.
  • Hers had financial impact in costing school districts. Mine was revenue neutral.
  • Hers has compelling beneficiaries, everyone's kids. Mine asked for an advantage for a group half the commonwealth seems to despise irrationally, cyclists.
Similarly, the bill with the greatest number of sponsors...and people testifying for it...had a committee insider. Co-Chair Sen. James Timilty clearly favored it. He rounded up another dozen from his chamber to sponsor Senate 998, An Act regulating the sport of mixed martial arts.

While that sounds punitive, it actually promotes this newish blood sport. It seems 37 states regulate mixed martial arts, much as they do boxing. That legitimizes the business and makes it easier to stage events. Timilty is a fan, which he made plain in the hearing. Moreover, a lawyer, a promotion company head and several fighters showed to pitch such aspects as it is safer than boxing (fewer deaths), brings money where it occurs, and is eager for standards of testing, medical care at the bouts and such.

This one looks even more sure to get from committee to chambers' votes this session than even the girl's safety bill.

What Can We Learn?

Easy does it is the rule of this process, even if your bill goes no farther than a committee hearing. At today's session, for example, I walked in, signed up and gave my brief testimony within an hour.

Line up sponsors. I did have two sponsors for mine, but neither appeared, much less spoke up. The committee members were attentive to my remarks about why it made sense to let cyclists roll through and out of intersections with stop signs to clear the way. They didn't ask questions though. I have no doubt having a sponsor present the bill makes more of an impression and likely advances the bill farther.

Looking at Timilty's cohort, I am pretty sure working with your legislator to sign up numerous co-sponsors would be savvy.

Finally, asking your lawmaker and any other co-sponsor to appear at the committee hearing has to be key to advancement.

Be persistent. The seat-belt for buses bill and another one later about letting doctors and others rat out adults who were no longer fit to drive were up for repeats. Apparently out of the thousands of bills filed a session, a relatively small percentage advance beyond committee study. Fewer get an actual floor vote in either chamber. Many that get out of committee languish to the end of the session.

The passionate petitioner apparently views that as part of the hunt and challenge. It may mean more or updated research. It may be chatting up the sponsors to keep them on the list and involved for the next session. It may means tracking down yet more co-sponsors. It may mean practicing your pitch to hit the right emotional and intellectual chords with the legislators.

Apparently some very good bills may have to return for consideration for numerous sessions before becoming law.

I've seen laws debated on the floor of quite a few state and Congressional bodies. I haven't been to many committee hearings. Those I have tended to be on a single, highly controversial bill.

After seeing the benign and non-committal expressions of the committee members today, I have less hope for my bill this session than I did going into A1 of the State House. Yet, I have a clearer sense of the real rules and process, far beyond the primer the commonwealth site offers.

Perhaps each progressive in the state should make it an avocation to define, refine and petition for a law. There's a much higher chance of getting one passed than, say, winning Mega Millions.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Willie Mae, Bikes and Right of Free Petition

I don't know how long it's been since Rep. Willie Mae Allen has been on a bike. However, for a very modest bill about to have a hearing, she has been cycle friendly.

In January, I exercised my right of free petition to request that my rep and senator (Marian Walsh) file which may be the first of several small bills to advance bicycle safety here. Rep. Allen called me back to say that she'd defer to Sen. Walsh and would advance it if the senator did not.

Walsh must have been busy planning her latest temporary resignation. She didn't act, but Willie Mae did.

It is a wee bill making a small tweak to state law to give cyclists slight breathing room in a crowded, potentially crunching, set of roads. Designed after a Montana law I found, it lets cyclists pass a stop sign after slowing down, so long as the way is clear. The idea is that they are safer and drivers less nervous if the bicycle gets a little head start and any motor vehicles overtake the cyclist rather than find themselves starting from the intersection simultaneously. In the latter way lies madness, anxiety and swerving.

My rep is in the 6th Suffolk. She found a co-sponsor, Martin J. Walsh in the 13th Suffolk. From the looks of him, Rep. Walsh may well be a cyclist, someone who groks the reasoning behind the bill.

They cleverly phrased House Bill 2190 as "An Act to Reduce Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Collisions at Intersections." That seems more likely to pass than "An Act Giving Those Crazy Bicyclists an Unfair Advantage."

Today, her legislative aide, Natalie Carithers, called to say there'd be a hearing on the bill Thursday, April 16th at 1 p.m. in room A1 of the State House. I'll drag my healing leg and cane down there.

Yet, this one-paragraph bill will probably not get a reading and maybe a 45-second consideration before being assigned to some committee. It surely is a practical waste of time to attend this, but this is my first bill and I savor the process like so many shards of a great piece of chocolate.

Those Funky Laws

The basis of this blog five years ago was the unusual Massachusetts laws. That was not only same-sex marriage, but such gems as one-day designated solemnization one. I have performed two marriage under our law allowing any adult of good character to perform one per year for one couple on one day in one chosen location. (You can also search in the box at the top for solemnize for numerous posts around this.)

Far more powerfully, our right to free petition, which I exercised with this bike bill, lets us propose any law we feel strongly about. This may be unique to Massachusetts and came with our original 1780 constitution.

Long before there was a ballot-initiative procedure, petitioning the legislature was standard here. Consider two commonwealth constitutional articles:
Article XIX. The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble to consult upon the common good; give instructions to their representatives, and to request of the legislative body, by the way of addresses, petitions, or remonstrances, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.

Article XXII. The legislature ought frequently to assemble for the redress of grievances, for correcting, strengthening and confirming the laws, and for making new laws, as the common good may require.
The commonwealth explains the process. It fundamentally involves:
  1. A citizen drafting the concept and ideally words of a law.
  2. When the legislator gets this from someone in the district, the response can be to let the citizen know something similar is in the works, to advance the bill, or less likely to blow it off. Lawmakers don't absolutely have to file citizen bills, but nearly all are smart enough to do so.
  3. If the bill gets put in the works, the legislator can pretty much guarantee it dies by appending "by request" after the lawmaker's name. That's code for disagreeing with the content.
  4. Otherwise, the bill gets a hearing and may be assigned to a committee. The hearing can result in an ought-to-pass or ought-not-to-pass or study decision (conducted in private after a brief public hearing. Only the favorable report (ought-to-pass) bills realistically have a chance.
For odds, the commonwealth notes that the House submits about 6,000 bills a session and the Senate about 2,000. Clearly the vast majority of those will be pro forma, placate the voter.

Mine is an okay bill, which will have a mildly positive effect if passed. I shall watch and report on its progress with considerable interest though. It could be the first and smallest of these. I'll save my emotions and efforts.

Followup: Over at UniversalHub, Adam cited this post and has a bunch of comments, largely predictable. Give cyclists a break; same roads/same rules; bikers almost kill me regularly....

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Where Good Governors Are Heading

In Vermont, the lawmakers speaking for same-sex marriage revealed compassion and reason in equal measure. In New York on Thursday morning at 10, Gov. David Paterson will announce the reincarnation of a two-year-old SSM bill. His great comments on this nervy move likely reflects the trend toward marriage equality nationwide.

He noted that homosexual couples in civil unions may lack up to 1,350 civil protections. That includes pension and health-care benefits.

There is no guarantee that the conflicted, yet Democratic dominated legislature will act on the bill in weeks or months or even this year.

Paterson put the issues to them as plainly as the Vermont lawmakers did when he said:
The timing was always right. It's just who is willing to take that step, and I am.I think it is, as other states are showing, the only ethical way to treat people who want to live together in peace under the civil law. So my general feeling about all these issues is the right ethical decision will inevitably be the right political decision.

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NH Equality Possibilities

Tomorrow at 9 a.m., the New Hampshire Senate convenes its hearing on same-sex marriage. For various reasons, the outcome this session is much less clear than it was in neighboring Vermont.

  • The House passed this bill (HB436) by only a few votes 186 to 179 on March 27.
  • It passed it only after reconsidering it following a one-vote loss.
  • The Senate is not as strong on marriage equality as Vermont's is.
  • Gov. John Lynch signed the civil-unions law two years ago, but hesitates here.
Lynch has seen both benign and salutary effects of SSM in nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut. He is also away of Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas' public vilification during and after his incredibly clumsy veto bluster and action.

Likely Lynch's wisest course would be to say what he apparently believes — civil unions are good enough and marriage has long been one man/one woman — and then let the bill become law by his inaction. Surely if he makes the legislature come back with this again in the next session, it will be in a much stronger majority and he'll in the reactionary camp. I'm betting he has a safe, high-status job he wants to keep.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Tuesday Winger Challenge

Expect either a strong message or a stronger exchange on Tuesday, April 14. LGBT and marriage-equality activist John Hosty-Grinnell joins us at for the weekly Left Ahead! podcast.

He wants to invite one or more right-wing callers to explain themselves. We've put out the call on several blogs, including those where he has regular trolls.

He’s the guest for the 2:30 podcast. If you want to listen or join in, click over to the show then. The call-in number is on that site. Be sure to press 1 on your keypad to let us know you’re ready.

John is beyond tired of the lies and irrationality of the anti-gay and anti-equality types. He says it’s past time to call them out on the craziness and have them take responsibility for what they say.

Whether wingers call in or not, this promises to be an intense show.

If you can’t get to a computer or phone at show time, check back at Left Ahead! or the show URL to listen later.

Until then, you can find John’s posts on Know Thy Neighbor as well as Live, Love, and Learn.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

1 Vote, 100 Votes Lie

The anti-equality sophists were ready when the Vermont legislature overrode Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of same-sex marriage. In a tribute to how simple-minded and emotional their followers are, the National Organization for Marriage led the way painting the rights victory as a single-vote aberration.

That is a fascinating, spurious and delusional way of describing a two-thirds override. The count in the Vermont House was 100 of 149 reps in attendance.

Lead news on the NOM website reads, "By only one vote, the Vermont House just voted to override Governor Douglas's veto, overturning the common sense definition of marriage shared by people of diverse faiths, backgrounds, nations, and political parties. Today is truly a sad day for Vermont and this nation." Likewise, their executive director, Brian Brown, was a this-but-that interviewee in the Washington Post yesterday. His spin included:
The Vermont House voted by only a single vote to override Governor Douglas's veto, a single vote. This vote clearly goes against the peoples understanding of marriage. Common sense and basic democratic norms dictate that such an important question should have gone directly to the voters of Vermont. Instead, the Legislature refused to allow the people a direct say in the future of our most important social institution--marriage.
Let's concentrate on this group of the numerous anti-SSM ones. It has all the coarseness and duplicity that comes with the position. (Do read all of the WP dialog. Brown repeats numerous lies, such as Massachusetts Catholic Charities being forced to halt adoptions instead of choosing to do so instead of complying with non-discrimination laws.)

The anti folk fall back to their last, best hope, ballot initiatives. Hell, that recently worked in California, overturning SSM in a state where the legislature legalized it twice (and the governor vetoes that, crying out for a court decision), and the high court mandated it.

There were numerous calls from inside and outside Vermont for a plebiscite when it was clear that the majority of the elected senators and representatives were in favor of SSM. Unfortunately for the bad guys, that state is in the half of those in the nation that do not have ballot initiatives to allow a tyranny of the majority of change-resistant voters.

So, in Vermont, the anti-SSM folk called out for a non-binding referendum before the SSM bill passed. That simply was a ruse to give them two years to figure out a way to turn a one-third minority into at least a simple majority. Right.

Even our beleaguered Globe loves the one-vote-margin story. Today, it runs a piece on one of the House members who switched his vote. This is myth enabling and perpetuation, including downplaying the two-thirds vote as well as the 6 Republicans who voted for the law and the 7 Democrats who voted against it. One guy claiming to be afraid for his political future makes a better story.

The fact is that Vermont's legislature, both houses, went for SSM. They went heavily for SSM. In a get-along state, they dared an extremely rare override to do the right thing.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

D.C. Recognizes Same-Sex Couples

It's a growl from the belly of the beast. In our nation's capital, the D.C. City Council voted today to recognize legally solemnized same-sex marriages from other states, as in Massachusetts, Connecticut, probably those from California before Prop. 8, and soon Iowa and Vermont.

Our timid President hasn't looked up from the huge issues to address that shameful monument to inequality, the Defense of Marriage Act. Even though the same town is home to that disgrace, the district council did not shy from fairness and equality.

In a 12 to 0 vote, the council agreed to recognize out-of-district SSMs. Councilors said this was long overdue and a matter of basic fairness. (Hear that, Barack?)

There is a subtext too. D.C. has domestic partnerships and is headed to SSM itself. As the Washington Post article put it:
Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), who is also gay, predicted it was only a matter of time before the council also takes up a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the District. "It's no secret that I have been working on legislation that would take us further," he said. "This is the march toward human rights and equality. This is not the march toward special rights. This is the equality march and that march is coming here."
That could be a fun fight. Even worse than the despotic Home Rule machinations of the Massachusetts legislator, the version for the district is severe. City laws must pass Congressional approval.

The council should finish its SSM legislation next month. Let's watch and listen.

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