Kansas, What the Fuck?

Work has been kicking my ass (and still is) so I don’t have time to get into this, but I wanted to get a WTF post out there, in case people aware of this bullshit.

The Kansas state legislature is on the verge of approving—and Kansas’s Republican governor has pledged to sign—a bill that legalizes discrimination against gay couples. Businesses, individuals, government employees—anyone will be able to discriminate against gay couples once the law is signed. Under the law firefighters could refuse to put out a fire if the house was owned by a gay couple.

What in all the fucks are they thinking?

The piece this quote is taken from is definitely worth a read, and a share.

I just… I can’t even right now.

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Big Win

Last Wednesday, starting at 10am Eastern, I was participating in a remote training session at work. This was also about the time that the Supreme Court announced their rulings on the two big same-sex marriage cases they had heard earlier in the year. Needless to say, I wasn’t paying much attention to the training.

The rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 were momentous. The highest court in the land declaring (even if by a shamefully thin margin) that gays are people too, and deserving of equal protection under the law is probably the biggest single step forward I’ve witnessed so far in my life. And I think everyone felt it.

I ventured out that night, in New York City, and the street was blocked off in front of the Stonewall Inn, the place where the gay rights movement began. And the street was full of people, celebrating! There were some news crews around, and every once in awhile you’d hear the sound of a bottle of champagne being uncorked and a spontaneous cheer would rise up from the crowd. The Stonewall itself was packed and the atmosphere was festive. I overheard a bar back tell some people they were running low on vodka!

The war for full equality rages on, and the enemies of progress and equality are going to be digging themselves some deep trenches. But we won a major battle with these rulings–particularly on DOMA. The winds of change are blowing in the right direction. But we can’t get complacent and assume everything will work itself out. It hasn’t been that long since a number of gay men were attacked right in Manhattan–including one who was shot to death. Many states do still not allow same-sex marriage and in some, people can still lose their jobs for being gay. We should absolutely celebrate this win and enjoy the feeling, but we must also stay vigilant.

Tax Day

Sing it with me:

I am proud to be an American, where it takes me a full day to do my taxes, but at least I know I’m free to marry who I want–in a handful of states!

Speaking of marriage and taxes, it is actually a bit of a blessing at tax time to not be married, as married couples tend to pay more in tax than non-married couples. Some friends who are married in NY had to do a fake federal return as if they were married. Fake, because the federal government doesn’t recognize their marriage. And they had to do it because most states tax forms are dependent on the federal form. Anyway, had they been married their tax burden would have been $6000 higher! Talk about a marriage penalty!

So I’m not in any rush to get a ring on my finger, but I still believe I should have that right, and the ability to choose for myself if the tax penalty is worth it.

Anyway, hope all my fellow Yanks got their taxes done on time. I still have to go mail a couple of mine in (two states–I had to complete 3!). The good news is, thanks to my long period of being unemployed last year, I’m getting a lot back. Might be good to use for a vacation!

Happy Tax Day!

Addendum

Within hours of clicking “Publish” on my last entry, SCOTUS + Marriage, in which I refer to only one GOP senator supporting marriage equality, this happened:

When I climbed the Capitol steps in January, I promised myself that I would return to the Senate with an open mind and greater respect for others.

Same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage. Our time on this Earth is limited, I know that better than most.  Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back– government has no place in the middle.

Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL)

For those who don’t know the context, Senator Kirk had a serious stroke, went through a grueling rehab and returned to work. It’s an inspiring story. Until I moved last year, Kirk was one of my senators.

He seems to be saying “Life’s too short to be a dick. Let’s live and let live.” A sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree.

With that short blog post, the number of Republican senators openly supporting marriage equality has doubled! To two. Progress is progress. I’ll take it.

I’ll also toss out this Onion piece, which I could only wish was real news. I particularly like this part:

Moreover, when Attorney Cooper said that gay marriage could harm the moral fabric of the country and hurt the institution of marriage, Associate Justice Sotomayor asked, “What are you even talking about?” while Justice Anthony Kennedy reportedly muttered, “You got to be fucking kidding me,” under his breath.

 

 

SCOTUS + Marriage

Well, it’s finally here! Marriage equality is getting its day(s) in court! Of course it’s had those days before, but not in the Supreme Court (SCOTUS), the highest court in the land, the one with the final say. The one with the power to help or harm the cause for a long time to come.

What’s going to happen? I wish I knew. From what I’ve read, the Prop 8 ruling is looking shaky. It will almost assuredly come down to Justice Kennedy. And based on his questions and comments thus far, at least one theorist thinks he’s leaning toward upholding it. DOMA is looking a little better though. Probably because it allows the Justices to strike it down in whole or in part based on the idea of States’ Rights, without needing to weigh in on same sex-marriage itself in any substantive way.

And then there’s this analysis, which is a bit hard to follow. I am not a lawyer, but I think both the author and some of the Justices are full of shit, in different ways.

Justice Alito looked for “data” on this “institution which is newer than cell phones.”   Same-sex marriage, he said, might turn out to a “good thing”, or “not”, as Proposition 8 supporters “apparently believe.”  Justice Scalia said that there is no “scientific answer” to the decisive “harm” question at this time.”…

These worries about inadequate “data” might lead the Court to decide one or both of the cases on jurisdictional grounds, including (in Windsor) federalism bases.

What “data”? What “harm question”? A “scientific answer”? What?! If you’re going to insist on data proving that something causes no harm, shouldn’t you have some hypothesis as to what that harm might be? At least some rational idea of what harm it could potentially cause? Oh, hold on.

 [Cooper] succeeded in putting on offer (in my words) the following proposition: gendered marriage laws are justified by the fact – the moral reality – that marriage is gendered.  Redefining marriage as genderless obviously changes the meaning of marriage across our society.  The “harm” of doing that is just the harm that it does to people’s opportunities to know, understand, and to participate in marriage as the gendered relationship that it truly is.

Oh that harm! How did I miss that? [Insert eye roll here]. Fortunately “Cooper’s invitation to consider the moral reality of marriage had no takers.” But that leads me back to my original question. If the Justices didn’t buy this nonsense, what do they think the harm could possibly be? And why are they trying to use that basis in this case? For example, what data did they have telling them that considering corporations as people would not be harmful in Citizens United?

Justice Scalia jumped to a discussion about possible harms to children adopted by same-sex couples.  The Chief Justice took over the theme.

I knew that was coming. Look, child rearing is a red herring, a straw man, a distraction. There is some room for a reasonable person to suspect that a child might be better off with a father and a mother than with two fathers or two mothers. The evidence I’ve seen suggests that isn’t the case, but I can’t say that it’s definitive. But it doesn’t matter either way! Same sex couples have kids now, even in states where they can’t marry or enter civil unions. And many opposite sex couples get married without procreating (and sometimes without any intention or even the possibility of doing so) or adopting. Single people have kids. Child-rearing and marriage are related, sure, but they are distinct issues and should be dealt with as such. Tying them so closely together now does nothing but appeal to the “Won’t someone please think of the children?!” set. This is one of the most pernicious arguments against same sex-marriage, because it’s both fallacious and effective.

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Meet the new pope, same as the old pope

As you’ve no doubt already heard, the Catholic Church has elected a new pope, the former Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina. He’s taken the name Francis, which is apparently a big deal to those who pay attention to papal names.

What will be different? It seems like this guy has been focused a lot on the poor, and eschews many of the trappings and perks of his office (unlike the last guy, for sure). So that’s different. And the world would probably benefit if the Church really put a top-down priority on helping the poor for a change.

But in other areas? Well, not much good news there. He takes the same old very conservative stances on homosexuality and contraception. He has spoken out against gay adoption and same-sex marriage, calling the later “a real and dire anthropological throwback”, which oddly enough is how I would describe the Catholic Church.

Straws and Windmills

They feel the change in the air. And they’re scared! The opponents of marriage equality sense that the tide is changing against them and they are growing increasingly desperate in their myopic efforts to thwart an enemy that isn’t really there.

First, let’s look to the antics of the oddly named Family Research Council (it’s not clear to me what–if any–actual research they conduct), which brings forth an argument that is old and tired. Now an old argument isn’t necessarily a bad argument, but in this case it’s so preposterous that I didn’t expect to see it voiced again in any serious way. The group has filed amicus briefs related to DOMA and Prop 8 that Zack Ford on ThinkProgress summarizes thus:

FRC claims that gays and lesbians do not deserve nondiscrimination protections because of their sexual orientation, but adds that even if they did, the Court could still rule against them in these cases. The group explains this by pointing out that gay people can enter opposite-sex couples, and thus laws like DOMA and Prop 8 do not discriminate specifically against gay people, just same-sex couples.

FRC states, in part:

…the right to enter into a marriage that would be recognized under § 3 of DOMA “is not restricted to (self-identified) heterosexual couples,” but extends to all adults without regard to “their sexual orientation.” … a law that restricts marriage (or the benefits thereof) to opposite-sex couples does not, on its face, discriminate between heterosexuals and homosexuals.  The classification in the statute is not between men and women, or between heterosexuals and homosexuals, but between opposite-sex (married) couples and same-sex (married) couples.

This is of course just a long-winded way of saying that if gay people want to get married, they are free to marry an opposite-sex partner just like straight people are. Therefore, this is clearly not a matter of discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. Case closed, thank you very much.

Except, well, that’s stupid. First, they are really letting their homophobia shine through here. These people who are self-appointed protectors of marriage think that it’s less of a threat to the institution for (let’s say) a gay man and a lesbian to get married to each other for the rights and privileges that come with the title than it is for two men or two women to get married to each other. They hate and fear the gays that much! Second, the implication of this argument is that marriage under the law is about nothing more than said rights and privileges. But if that’s the case, why does it have to be between and man a woman? There is no logical reason that it would have to be. Of course, it is about more than that. This is obviously an attempt to spin the situation so that no protected class is being harmed. But no matter how you try to spin it, it is discrimination. There are people who are free to marry the consenting adult whom they love and wish to spend the rest of their life with, and those who are not. It’s pretty damn clear cut.

As Mr. Ford puts it, the same (il)logic could have been used in 1967: “The classification in the statute is not between white people and colored people, but between same-race couples and mixed-race couples, differentiated for the purposes of racial integrity.”

But let’s keep going further down the rabbit hole, shall we? Paul Clement, the attorney hired by the House GOP to defend DOMA, presents this argument:

It is no exaggeration to say that the institution of marriage was a direct response to the unique tendency of opposite-sex relationships to produce unplanned and unintended offspring. Although much has changed over the years, the biological fact that opposite-sex relationships have a unique tendency to produce unplanned and unintended offspring has not.  While medical advances, and the amendment of adoption laws through the democratic process, have made it possible for same-sex couples to raise children, substantial advance planning is required. Only opposite-sex relationships have the tendency to produce children without such advance planning (indeed, especially without advance planning).

I’m no scholar on the origins of the institution of marriage, so I won’t weigh in on that opening claim. His claim that “opposite-sex relationships have a unique tendency to produce unplanned and unintended offspring” is more or less accurate, but irrelevant. No state in the union outlaws marriage between two opposite-sex people on the basis that they are incapable of producing “unplanned and unintended offspring”. Men who are sterile (through nature, disease or vasectomy) get married all the time, as do women who are incapable of conceiving (due to nature, menopause, surgery or disease). If marriage is substantially about whoopsie pregnancies then why give all these people access to it? Also, it’s not so much opposite-sex relationships that cause accidental kids as it is opposite-sex relations (i.e. sex). By this “logic” polygamy should be legal, so that a man can marry his mistress or an already-married woman can also marry the coworker with whom she had a one-night stand at the office party (who himself is married). At best this gives a rationale for encouraging heterosexuals to marry, but not for preventing homosexuals from doing the same. It’s not like marriage is a non-renewable resource; there’s an infinite supply of it!

It’s rather refreshing to see that this is the best they’ve got. Those who would stand in the way of marriage equality are not only tilting at windmills, but they’re also grasping at straws.

Further Reading:

There’s Absolutely No Logical Argument Against Gay Marriage – Business Insider

Gays Can’t Marry Because … They Plan Babies? – NY Magazine

Chicken and Free Speech

I am pissed off. At whom, you ask? Well I’m about to tell you. I’m pissed off at the mayors of Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. It’s not because they support equal rights for LGBT citizens; obviously, I do as well. It’s because they opened their mouths and finally gave those gay-fearing right winger so-called Christians a legitimate complaint! Saying that Chick-fil-A is unwelcome in their cities and/or should be banned sounds like a clear violation of free speech to me (and to Jon Stewart).

I’ve been telling people about Chick-fil-A’s issues with gays for a long time, well before Dan Cathy opened his mouth and confirmed his bigotry. I won’t patronize them. I never have and likely never will, unless something big changes. It’s not because of the opinion of the founders/owners, it’s because they put their money where their mouth (finally) is. According to Equality Matters, WinShape Foundation–a charity funded mostly by profits from Chick-fil-A–donated “$1.1M to anti-gay groups from 2003-2008, the last year for which public records are available”. There have also been allegations of employment discrimination against unmarried employees or those who engage in “sinful behavior”.

Needless to say, I don’t much like Chick-fil-A, or the Cathy family. However, for an elected official to say that Mr. Cathy’s statements are grounds for banning the restaurant is completely inappropriate. For once, the anti-equality crowd saying their free speech is being infringed upon have a leg to stand on. And I hate that.

Let’s take a moment to talk about what free speech, in the U.S., is and is not. Many people–on the left and the right–get this wrong. What the First Amendment tells us, in essence, is this: the government shall not prevent someone from expressing an opinion or punish someone for expressing an opinion. It does not say you can shout “FIRE!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. It does not say you can knowingly make false negative statements about someone else (see “defamation“) or make false claims about a product or service, or lie under oath. It also does not guarantee freedom from repercussions or criticism based on your speech. It doesn’t apply to non-government entities. This is where most of the confusion seems to come in.

If Bob goes on TV and says “I think widgets are terrible and should not be used for anything!” and then widget lovers criticize Bob, the widget haters may decry that Bob’s free speech is somehow being threatened by the widget lovers. But it’s not. In fact, both sides are exercising free speech, and the system is working as intended. Suppose that Bob works for ACME Widgets, Inc., a company that manufactures widgets (duh) who finds out about Bob’s statement. Bob’s boss pulls him aside and says “Hey, Bob, we can’t have a representative of ACME saying things like that. If you do that again, we’re going to have to let you go.” Now are his free speech rights being violated? Nope. ACME is a company, not the government. Without taking possible employment laws into account (that’s another whole can of worms), ACME could let him go on the spot. From a First Amendment standpoint, they’d be free and clear. If Bob owned…oh, let’s say a restaurant (Bob’s Burgers), and widget lovers called for a boycott of Bob’s, they would also not be violating Bob’s First Amendment rights. I’ll say it again: freedom of speech does not mean freedom from repercussions. Such regulation would be ridiculous, not to mention impossible to enforce. What if the mayor of Bob’s town (or the governor of his state) was pro-widget and tried to get Bob’s Burgers shut down because of his statements? Now we have a First Amendment issue! Not until the government gets involved does it become a threat to free speech.

And that’s what happened, in a limited but real way, with Chick-fil-A. Those mayors would have been free to express their own opinions, that Cathy was wrong and marriage equality is important. But to try to impose legal restrictions against the chain is going too far. Note that the thousands of private citizens criticizing Mr. Cathy and Chick-fil-A are not in any way violating anyone’s free speech rights; they are in fact, merely exercising their own.

Now the people who “flocked” (in the words of the New York Post) on their so-called “Appreciation Day” are being called “free speech supporters” by the Post and the HBIC (Head Bigot In Charge) of the movement, Mike Huckabee. And I’d love to believe that’s what they are. I’d love to believe those people are just–like me–pissed at the Mayors Three who overstepped their bounds. But come on, I’m not an idiot. Even if we assume most of those people don’t really understand free speech (and I’m pretty sure Huckabee at least does, he’s actually a pretty smart guy) I just know that many of them went because they heard “Gays shouldn’t be getting married!” and thought “AMEN!” And that makes me sad. But as Jon Stewart said, we’re going to win in the end. It’s inevitable that we will eventually get gay marriage, and they will “get Type II diabetes”.

I have more to say on this topic, but I’ll save it for another post another day in the near future. In the meantime, happy Friday and enjoy your weekend.

Amendment One

An Open Letter to the People of North Carolina

Dear North Carolinians,

I realize there are hundreds of thousands of you that voted against Amendment 1 this week, and many who campaigned or donated it against it. I’ll start by addressing you, and saying thank you! You’re probably hearing a lot of negative stuff about your state, lumping everyone together. Please understand that most of us are pissed off and hurt and just letting off steam. Don’t take this stuff personally; we know there are some good people in your state. While you didn’t succeed, we appreciate your support. The deck was stacked against you anyway. Rest assured that you, not your opponents, will be on the right side of history on this.

And now on to those opponents. It’s time for me to address you (or should I say “y’all”?). Shame. On. You. What were you thinking?! Do you subscribe to the Pat Robertson philosophy that two dudes (or chicks, but let’s face it you’re more worried about dudes) getting it on pisses God off so much that he punishes everyone around for it? If that’s the case, I can kind of understand. I mean, I think you’re an idiot for buying into that claptrap, but at least there’s a dollop of good in your motives. But I hope you realize this isn’t going to stop gay people from having sex. Not a one (nor two, which would be the minimum required number). So what have you really accomplished here?

But the rest of you Yes voters, what’s your excuse? Don’t tell me, I’ve heard them all and they’re all nonsense. Complete garbage. How does it in any way hurt any hetero marriages if two guys or girls get married in the eyes of the law? We’re talking civil marriage here, folks. No one (except maybe a very small number on the fringe) is talking about forcing your precious Church, whatever it may be, to perform or recognize same-sex marriages. We don’t care about that. We want equal rights (and protection) under the law. And if marriage wasn’t bad enough, your nefarious amendment had to go and include civil unions and domestic partnerships, too.  Why? What possible interest does that serve? Nothing good, that’s for sure.  Let go of the hate and fear! I promise, you’ll feel better.

I am not religious but I hope there is a God. I almost wish I could be there to see the expressions on your  faces, you self-righteous so-called “Christians”, when you die and go to Hell. Meanwhile, those of us–gay or straight–who lived our lives according to the Golden Rule, helping our fellow man and generally minding our own business as long as no one was getting hurt, zip through the Pearly Gates into Heaven. I can’t believe hate and oppression will put anyone on the path to Paradise. No god worth worshiping would allow that to happen. You know, it’s not too late to change.

Finally, for those who didn’t vote at all. I’m glad you didn’t vote FOR it, but why sit on the sidelines? When there’s an injustice you can fight just by taking a trip to the voting booth, why not do it? Are you conflicted? I get it. I do. But remember we’re talking about some pretty basic rights here. You don’t have to to like (or even be comfortable with) gays to give us the rights we deserve.

In closing, North Carolina, thank you, fuck you, and come on!

Regards,

Josh