Thursday, May 28, 2009

Give Us Us Free

Bruce Paine wrote me an email all about how I should really be writing about this Prop 8 nonsense in California.  For those who don't know, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, which was on the ballot in November, and which defined marriage as between one man and one woman.  The same Supreme Court had called marriage an "inalienable civil right" one year ago, and legalized gay marriage in the process.  The 18,000 couples who were married between that ruling and the November election are still married, but the rest of us are currently out of luck.

Part of my hesitance to write thus far has been due to the fact that my friend Cate has been here visiting, and now Christine's aunt is visiting us, too.  So I've been hanging out, being the hostess and tour guide on the island.  But I also didn't know what to say after the ruling came down on Tuesday.  I was eating lunch in a cafe in Old San Juan, and Cate had her phone reloading the CNN website, while I went back and forth between and the Los Angeles NBC site. None of these sites were providing us with info quickly enough, so I went to the Los Angeles ABC website, and the breaking news at the top of the page read, "Supreme Court upholds Prop 8."  And that's when I ordered a drink.

Bruce Paine's email mentioned the legal rulings, and the way in which these things have been done in the past with other minority groups.  And I'm sure there are precedents to be cited and cases to be made.  I don't know a lot about the legal intricacies, and I suppose I could learn, but I just can't get over the fact that this has to be discussed at all.  I can't get past the human aspect of all of this, and the fact that it took thousands of motivated Mormons (and others) to convince voters that gays are evil and will molest children if allowed to marry.  I just can't get past all of these people spending so much time and money to work on something that doesn't affect their lives in the least.  I want them to look at these girls here...

...and tell me what it is that is so threatening about them being allowed to get married.  Is it my bandana?  Do you not like our sunglasses?  Do you see our lust for the private parts of children, as well as our desires to destroy heterosexual marriages the world over?  Please, TELL ME WHAT IT IS.

The whole thing seems so simple to me, and so obvious, that it's hard for me to think about anything other than the human angle.  I had a teacher who used to tell me all the time that man is inherently good, and I've always tried to believe that because I'm not interested in being a full-time pessimist.  But having people go on television and yell at me about how dangerous I am for society makes that faith in humanity all the more difficult to maintain.  And when they go to the polls en masse to actually take away my rights, that faith starts hanging off the window ledge by just one pinky finger.  It's almost gone, people.

But, I still have a little bit more to say, particularly about the specifics of the ruling.  This might actually be my favorite part:

Thus, except with respect to the designation of 'marriage,' any measure that treats individuals or couples differently on the basis of their sexual orientation continues to be constitutionally 'suspect' under the state equal protection clause and may be upheld only if the measure satisfies the very stringent strict-scrutiny standard of review that also applies to measures that discriminate on the basis of race, gender, or religion.

In other words, gay couples are exactly equal to everyone else, "except" in this one way.  The court will protect us in other ways, but not when it comes to marriage.  Last I checked, equal means completely equal.  No exceptions.  Someone once coined a term for what this is; "separate but equal" comes to mind.  Another part of the ruling fully solidifies the fact that the court is all about making sure things stay separate but equal:

All three branches of state government continue to have the eliminate the remaining important differences between marriage and domestic partnership, both in substance and perception. The measure puts one solution beyond reach by prohibiting the state from naming future same-sex unions 'marriages,' but it does not otherwise affect the state's obligation to enforce the equal protection clause by protecting the 'fundamental right...of same-sex couples to have their official family relationship accorded the same dignity, respect, and stature as that accorded to all other official recognized family relationships.' ... 

For the state to meet its obligations under the equal protection clause will now be more difficult, but the obligation remains.

Well, thanks for that.  "Let's get this separate but equal thing right, okay?  I mean, we've just made it really hard for gay people to get their fundamental rights, but you still have to do it, okay?"

Oh, and I'll tell you one of the most important differences between domestic partnerships and marriage.  On March 3, 2009, I was officially "domestic partnered" to Christine.  Guess when I'm allowed to be covered under her health insurance?  Not until September 3, 2009.  If she had married a man, he would have been covered as soon as the paperwork had been completed.  But I have to wait six months.  And the insurance company can do this because, as the representative told me when I called to bitch, "domestic partnership isn't real marriage."

But I digress.  The great part about the ruling is that the court seemingly has no problem calling a right inalienable one year, and then the very next year upholding a ballot measure that takes away that same right.  That seems odd, but I'm no constitutional scholar. 

Hey, but you know who is? One Mr. Barack Obama.  Guys, I don't know what to feel about our president right now.  I was all for him before the election, and I loved him, even while knowing that he didn't support gay marriages (just civil unions).  I guess I thought maybe he'd change his mind when he got into office.  He's all about change, right?  And, he claimed he was going to do something about the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, so he's at least somewhat supportive of the gays.

The CA Supreme Court had announced last week that it would be making this announcement on Tuesday at 10am Pacific time.  So an hour before, Obama decided to announce his pick of Sotomayor as his nomination to the Supreme Court.  Confirmation hearings don't start for at least a month, but it was that important for him to make sure the word was out there on Tuesday morning, shortly before 10am.  Seems a little weird, right?  Well, not when you consider what happened for the rest of the day.  Every time I logged on to, the huge front page story was Sotomayor.  It took effort to find the Prop 8 story, and a huge part of me believes that was exactly what Obama wanted.  He wanted to dominate the news cycle and avoid having to tell his base that he, too, believes in "separate but equal."

This is a little bit hard to deal with.  A while back, I posted a video featuring Lieutenant Dan Choi, who was discharged from the Army National Guard because he told The Rachel Maddow Show that he's gay.  People have circulated petitions, Choi has made televised appeals, and still there has been no word from Obama on what he will do about the policy.  The gay community is getting pretty riled up over this, as we should, since we helped elect this guy and now he's acting like a normal oily politician.

Last night, Obama spoke at a DNC fundraiser at the Beverly Hills Hilton.  As you probably know, there is a large gay population in the Los Angeles area, so there was a bit of a protest. Strangely, there isn't a lot of news coverage about this.  Why would there be?  The best I can find is this video on CNN about Lt. Choi, which has a few shots of the protest at the Hilton.  But that's it.  And no word from our president, either.  I can't quite give up on Obama, but I'm getting close.  And I don't think I'm the only one.

I posted this video once before, but I want to do it again.  

(bonus points if you know what the title of this post references)


Bruce Paine said...

Its from the movie Amistad, about a group of captive and frightened people who take over the boat.

I, for one, don't have a problem with chicks getting together. I think it H-O-T HOT! But seriously, folks, its time to get gunned up.

Bruce Paine said...

It is a little slow at work today so i will add a little more.

You make an excellent point about Obama. The GLBT community gave him sweeping support, but why? What expectation was there and why is there not more resentment at said expectation not being met? Was there any expectation at all or was the GLBT simply voting with the Democratic ticket? If that was the case, why? I have very little good to sy about Rachel Maddow, but she is clearly in a position to do or say SOMETHING and she will simply not call anyone to task for this. Is it because she is simply a shill, is it because the Obama Administration has so much media influence? Again, the GLBT community has to ask her WHY and they have to ask very loudly.

Cobra said...

On the Obama front....the guy can only do so much at one time. It's not like he's LeBron and he can do it all himself. I think he's done a pretty good job thus far of keeping his promises and working on the things he said he would work on. Everyone wants their issue to be handled first but it doesn't work that way. It's not like the guy is taking vacations and sitting around doing nothing.

Also to keep in mind, this is a state issue and Obama and the Supreme Court have always tried to tiptoe around the state/federal gov't boundries.

There is a chain of command in the government sector and while Obama could go and move on all issues himself(like Choi), they all don't make it to his desk. I would encourage you to contact your state lawmakers regarding this issue as I've surprisingly rec'd a lot of feedback from my local lawmakers on the issues I've written to them about, which is about once a week. Push them and they will push the people above them and it will get elevated.

As for the Prop's perplexing as you describe in all your points.

Bruce Paine said...

Jack, I love ya, but you are absolutely wrong here. The President's A, NUMBER ONE power in his bag of clubs is his (write this down) ability to set the agenda. Look at his news cycle over the last two weeks. It is almost empty. He is intentionally avoiding questions about Iraq because he made a U-turn on his campaign promises. He is intentionally keeping this issue off his agenda because he has no intention to spend any influence on it and he just doesn't want to tell a vast group of voting constituents he pulled the rug out from under them. The only other bit of news on his cycle that the media has covered is the SC nomination, and that is all smoke and mirrors, she will get confirmed by the Senate 90 to 5. It is a non story. But that is being pushed to the front to deflect attention from this, SPECIFICALLY because he does not intend to address it aggressively.

This is NOT a state issue in legal terms. The 14th Amendments Equal Protection clause clearly assigns all liberties guaranteed in the U.S. Constitutions to the states. The issue is why gays aren't considered a "protected class" while hate crime legislation is already on the books.

The President has not been faithful on his Middle East promises and not been faithful on his promise to transition government quickly and (more importantly to this thread) not set an agenda for social change that his constituents had so much HOPE for. I could go on, but I think even the most positive liberal who still maintains a sense of objectivity would say that things are not ideal, the President is avoiding issues he campaigned on, and wasting precious time his elected mandate gave him.

Cobra said...

I hate to disagree but this issue (prop 8) is a state issue and not a federal issue, at least currently. That's why each state votes on it seperately. The Supreme Court tries to stay out of those matters as much as possible and Obama tries to let the states do their own thing as much as possible.

From Obama himself:

"As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full
equality in their family and adoption laws. I personally believe that civil unions represent the best
way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not
stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and
lesbian couples — whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage."

N. Korea, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Pirates, Sotomeyer, Abbas, Afghanistan, Oil....there are a lot of things happening right now that are actually on his desk. Yes, he can put things on his desk if he wants to but this is a state issue. Contact your local representatives.

As Erin stated, Obama said he didn't support gay marriages and she hoped he would change his mind. My guess is that he hasn't. We each have reasons for voting/not voting for him. If you feel that he's not working for you then don't vote for him.

Look, I'm going to be fairly blunt here and don't take it as a personal attack because I'm for equality for everyone but if you had the votes, you would get what you want. If you have the numbers (people), you'll get some of the power. If you can't win the vote in California, why expect Obama to use any of his political equity? You have 82% of Republicans in your state voting against you. Knock that down to 70% and you win. You have 62% of gun owners voting against you, get that down to 50% and you are in business.

As for 'don't ask, don't tell', Gates stated on 3/30 that it didn't look like that was changing. Is that a campaign promise not kept? Yes.

There are things that I was extremely worried about before he took office. Some of the things are better, some worse. He'd still get my vote.

There is a site that tracks all of his promises and comments:

Erin said...

I'll have more to say later, but since I'm on my phone right now, I'll just stick to this:

State or federal, it shouldn't matter. This is not something that should be up for a public vote. In a democracy (or even a democratic republic) the majority should not be able I vote for or against the civil rights of a minority. We should be protected under the law without question, and without having to "get the votes" to make it possible.

Erin said...

Only one typo there, thanks to the iPhone auto correction. Not bad.

..."should not be able to vote...

Cobra said...

I agree as to me this is a human law. We all should have the same rights. Unfortunately, that's not how it is. If they had just put 'equal rights' in the Constitution it would be set in stone.

I don't know all the intricacies surrounding your Prop 8 strategy but historically civil rights movements have shown exactly how to win. Obviously there is movement in the situation as votes have been needed in order to bring Prop 8 to a vote. You need to find a way to turn people for your cause. I'm not sure the celebrities surrounding the issue are helping outside of the financial aspect because you struggle to get votes from the conservatives and you have to figure out how to turn that tide. That's just my opinion from way outside. This can be done.

The 'majority rule' is actually a main feature of democracy, that's just how it works. It's tough to prove tyranny of the majority as you've found out.

Cobra said...

"If they had just put 'equal rights' in the Constitution it would be set in stone."

That was said in jest. I re-read it and it didn't come across like that.

Bruce Paine said...

Make no mistake about it, the gay population of California is in a legal and political fight. You can dream of “human law” all you want and you can cry to the moon about how you want social change but it won’t mean shit. The minute Prop 8 showed up on the ballot, this was a legal and political fight and everybody in the GLBT community needs to edumacate themselves on law and politics. It doesn’t mean you have to fight their fight, but you have to know how their fight is fought. No excuses for legal ignorance can be tolerated, the voice against Prop 8 has to be better prepared legally.
Jack, you are wrong, the instant the Prop 8 came into existence it was a federal issue because it openly violates Free Association guaranteed by the 1st Amendment and Equal Protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Beyond that, the judicial hierarchy now made this a federal court issue when the Cal Supreme Court decided on it. I am Johnny States Rights. That is my bag, baby. That said, I am saying this is a federal issue because it’s a federal issue by the nature of the impediment on liberty and the mere function of the legal system.
There are two arguments to be made against Prop 8 in my humble legal mind. The first is the easiest. Jack, get a pen and paper and write this down, I am about to do some free edumacating. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution grants people the right to “peaceably assemble”. This has resulted in two Supreme Court cases that have expressly established a right to free association. One case even confirms the right of gays to free association. The NAACP v. Alabama (357 U.S. 449 (1958) for those of you with lexus-nexus) and more specifically Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (530 U.S. 640 (2000)) assert a right of free association. In addition, the Amendment guarantees that issues stemming from this conflict can seek governmental redress.
The second argument is the product of the Reconstruction era. The Fourteenth Amendment was designed to force the southern states to accept the law of the Union. As such, it applied all of the laws of the Constitution to the states and it included equal protection under the law. To overturn Prop 8, the litigant would have to prove that the federal government already views gays and lesbians as a “protected” or “suspect” class and that they are being treated unequally (Don’t be offended by the words, it is simply the words the courts use apply to classes whose status requires more judicial scrutiny. At times the same words have been applied to men, women, and everybody else.) . This is the very argument that Olson and Boies will use and Erin herself has already indicated that she is being treated unequally. As it stands now, the way the courts view homosexuality in terms of discrimination is often up in the air. That said, there are several instances where the federal court has overturned laws that discriminate against homosexuals. The two most commonly cited are Lawrence and Romer. Both overturned laws against homosexual conduct (Lawrence) and class (Romer). Adding to the legal weight, the U.S. government enacted hate crimes legislation under G.H.W. Bush in 1990 (28 U.S.C. 534) which was later made permanently binding in 1996. These actions very specifically indicate that the federal government views homosexuals as a suspect class, and thus indicates that they have legal recourse for discriminatory actions taken against them.

Bruce Paine said...

As for the other argument, it is nice to see that you like the flavor of that Kool-Aid, Jack. I don’t give a pinch of piss for what Politifact thinks, they have a political agenda, you can find the same information skewed the other direction on a dozen other sites. I care what reasonable people think, and I think a reasonable person can see that Obama’s foreign policy has mirrored Bush’s very closely despite his promise of “change”. I think a reasonable person would concur that his policy on Detroit and the banking system have very closely mirrored Bush’s. I think a reasonable person would now see that the government now owns 70% of GM with the manufacturer showing no signs of an upturn. I think they would see that Obama’s desire to improve fuel efficiency and his desire to save GM by having the government buy it are counterproductive and will cost us money without saving Chevy. Hey, isn’t that what Bush did? I think that Chevy will unveil the Volt next year as a car to rival foreign small cars, and that it will fail to do so because the Volt will retail at $40,000 or more. I think only dummies see Sotomayor as an issue. This is what is called a “non-shifting” appointment. She is replacing a liberal justice, so Obama’s appointment does not change the Court dynamic no matter what he does. In addition, Sotomayor is far more moderate and contextually oriented than any Senate republicans could have hoped for. The Senate Republicans are ecstatic with this. The only argument against her are smoke and mirrors arguments coming from shills like Limbaugh and Beck, who are just trying to stir up a fight for fightin’s sake. Early opinions see this confirmation hearing as an 80-12 vote AT LEAST. That is a slam dunk. (I think it will actually be higher, maybe a 90-5 or a 92-2 vote.) The cloture vote is 60 and they have it licked by 20 before the hearing even begins. Come on, this is not an issue on anyone’s plate.
What is the “bully pulpit”? As I have already mentioned, the President’s most powerful tool in his bag is his ability to set agenda. Any moderate amount of political knowledge will tell you this is exactly what the bully pulpit is. All he has to do is talk about it. All he has to do is say that California’s law is directly discriminatory. He does not have to use the word “marriage” or come off of his “platform”. He has a dozen avenues to do this, many of which would prevent him from having to answer follow up questions directly. Still, he makes no move of support and continues to dominate the news cycle with other non-issues. And that is what this is really about, the news cycle. Why make the nomination on May 26th? Why? The Associated Press had the story of his consideration leaked to them two weeks prior to his May 26th announcement. Why did he wait if he had already made up his mind? Because, the California Supreme Court waited until after Memorial Day to announce its decision on Prop 8. Obama held the SC announcement in his pocket so he could steal the news cycle from an ugly issue that had vast constituent ramifications. If it isn’t clear to you, Jack, that President Obama is not going to go to bat for gays and lesbians I hear they have some soft sand over by the lake you can go bury your head in.

Bruce Paine said...

Damn you all! Can you not see what you are up against? This is politics. People are out take something from you and all you want to do is lay back and think of England! Now is the time. Strike wall the fars hot! (Strike while the fire is hot in Southern Indiana slang.) Here I am, trying to incite a little civil action (unrest), and everybody wants to howl at the moon. Things must be seen as they really are, not as you would have them be. This is not about marriage, this is about folks who have traded on the law to garner the right to discriminate based on religious tomfoolery. Didn’t we totally call somebody else out on this site for that very thing? When they say that they are against homosexual marriage, but don’t care what else they do it is total horseshit. It is a way to try to alleviate the foul taste of discrimination in their mouth. This is about people who have steered the law to allow them to discriminate against folks and take away things that are not theirs. Damn you all! You must realize, right now, that you are in a fight for your very way of life and that the other side has made a critical mistake. They could have gone on, without Prop 8, and furthered an agenda that would institutionalize the discrimination in social contexts. They got greedy, though, and they saw a chance to put it on the books. In doing so, they exposed their ignorance to the criticism of the reasoned review on a much larger scale. They gave homosexuals a chance, a definitive chance, to enforce equal protection on a federal level with the magnificent weight of the United States Constitution. STRIKE! Take your emotions out of your chest and use them to fuel your minds! Allow them to steer you towards a case for reason! NOW!