Friday, May 27, 2011

Recess? Who needs a recess?

There is growing support for Elizabeth Warren to be the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She is very much supporting the rights of consumers against any kind of chicanery by banks and financial institutions. She was the person that came up with the idea of consolidating consumer protections into one agency, rather than having regulations spread throughout government offices. The job she has now is to set up the agency and for that she was appointed by Obama. But to actually run it she must have Senate confirmation.

Of course, the GOP and their Wall Street backers can't stand the idea of her in the job. They also can't stand the idea of an agency with enough power to force them to be honest (at least when dealing with consumers). The way the law was written a year ago, Congress can't meddle in the agency's affairs. They have vowed to refuse appointing anyone to the job (not just Warren) until the agency is essentially gutted.

That leaves Obama with the option of using a recess appointment -- make the appointment when the Senate is not in session. In seeing the amount of support Warren has, the GOP responded by not taking the Senate out of session, which they would normally do starting today for Memorial Day.

Yeah, Dems pulled that trick under Bush. But the Dems had the public on their side.
You can help by getting on the White House website and sending a note to Obama. I just did.

Electoral death disputed

It was in a special election in 2009 that GOP candidate Dede Scozzafava lost a seat in the House. Now that the marriage equality is before the state legislature NOM is working hard to scare senators into voting their way. They claim that gay friendly = electoral death. They use Dede as an example as she had voted for marriage equality when it came up in NY state Assembly in 2009.

As with a lot of what NOM says, the truth is at least stretched and perhaps actually broken. There were a lot of reasons why Dede was defeated and most of them were her progressive views that made her a poor fit with the Fundie driven GOP. Then there was her inept campaigning.

Another bit of stretched truth is that there were five GOP members of the Assembly who voted for gay marriage -- and the other four were reelected. And attitudes towards gays have changed a lot since 2009.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gay a stirring speech yesterday in support of gay marriage, which is currently before the NY state legislature. Thanks, mayor. The link will take you to the text.

Bloomberg's speech is quite welcome because of a shift in the debate on NY. Just a couple weeks ago the support for gay marriage seemed overwhelming, in spite of a few (well, enough) stubborn GOP senators. But NOM has funneled in $1.5 million and the area Catholic Archbishop gave a speech and the support has softened a bit.

It is just under 18 months until the prez. election and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has already made its endorsement. Of course, it is for Obama, and they have some nice things to say about the man. But that has left a lot of people puzzled. Why now? Why so early? What if the GOP candidate is Fred Karger, who is gay? Some respond by saying it proves HRC is simply a tool of the Democratic Party. Others say it implies the entire gay community is in step, which it isn't. More say HRC has given up any bargaining power -- we'll endorse you if you …. And that lets Obama off the hook for making a public declaration in support of gay marriage.

I've written before about how the anti-gay forces in Calif. got their knickers in a twist over confirmation that the judge in the gay marriage case is gay. Timothy Kincaid suggests the real issue behind their noise (and lawsuits) is the belief that straight people should not be subjected to the ruling of a gay judge. The reasoning is simple -- homosexuality, they say, should be illegal, so if someone is doing illegal things he should not be a judge except for others doing the same illegal things.

Fortunately, it is no longer acceptable in polite society to actually say that. Instead we get a bizarre legal filing filled with twisted logic.

We're everywhere!

Gallup asked adults, "Just your best guess, what percent of Americans today would you say are gay or lesbian?" An astonishing (to me, anyway) 35% of responders said that at least 25% of Americans are gay. Another 17% said at least 20% are gay. Yup, half of the responders said there are at least 1 gay in 5 people or over 60 million, perhaps over 75 million, gays in the country. Surveys asking if you are gay put the total number of gays at about 10 million.

My obvious question is, Why the huge discrepancy between perception and the best scientific survey? The report poses some possible reasons. A majority of Americans know someone who is gay or lesbian and that may color perception. That increased exposure lead many to feel they have enough info to offer an estimate (no opinion was only 8%). In addition, we have difficulty estimating the size of groups whose numbers are not widely known.

My guess is the estimate is high because gay rights are so much in the news and many Fundies are making a big deal about us -- if they must put in that much effort there must be a lot of us. Which makes it ironic that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) claims there is no problem discriminating against us because there are so few of us.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just do what you say you're going to do

Tim Pawlenty has officially announced his candidacy for prez. Most of the others running (or thinking of doing so) appear to be a joke to all but their strident base. But Pawlenty produced a slick announcement ad that has a simple message with broad appeal to the masses. It can be boiled down to "Obama's policies aren't working and he isn't telling you the truth. He's so focused on the next election he won't risk anything."

Yes, Pawlenty is toeing the GOP line (especially about gays), so that simple message is actually quite deceiving -- he's not going to tell the truth either.

RJ Eskow of the Campaign for America's Future says that (contrary to the other contenders) Pawlenty is a threat to Obama.

The message the prez. puts out is frequently muddled. During his recent deficit reduction speech Obama put forth a rousing defense of government and taxes, but his solutions were pre-compromised and undercut what he just said. In unemployment, the housing crisis, and Wall Street reform, Obama doesn't come out with bold solutions that might be lessened through negotiation, he starts from a position where his words don't match his actions.

Pawlenty attacks that succinctly: "In Washington they call that 'smart politics.' But I'm not from Washington."

The way Obama can win against that is to offer simple, straightforward, honest solutions that match what he says. And start doing that promptly.

Essential public purpose

In testimony before the approval of the Minn. marriage protection amendment Jennifer Roback of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) said:

The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another.

Rob Tish takes a moment to pull it apart. NOM, of course, doesn't define the words it uses, trusting to take their implied meaning.

What is the purpose of something? Whatever we want it to be. But many people want our thinking restricted to whatever was designated by the owner or designer. So, if sex is designed by God, we must restrict ourselves to the purpose God declares for sex. (That NOM may have misinterpreted God's purpose for sex is not explored.)

On to the "public" purpose. The definition of this term by the citizenry is too varied, so that can't be it. Government's definition? That can be inferred from the Declaration of Independence. The purpose of government is to secure the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for the citizens. So government is to support whatever kind of marriage makes me happy.

Essential? Meaning if you didn't have some important ingredient some thing would not exist. NOM says that kids are essential to a marriage, without the little ones marriage doesn't exist.

So many lies in so few words.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Buying the deficit charade

Isaiah Poole, commenting in the Campaign for America's Future on an article by Ruy Teixeira, says the current fixation on the deficit and debt doesn't make sense economically or politically (as in doing what constituents want to get elected again).

The GOP has decided cutting the deficit (thereby shrinking government) is their top priority. That goal is wanted by their corporate backers.

But the American people want jobs. They do not see deficit cutting as a way of creating jobs.

So the GOP constantly goes into hysterics over the budget in hopes of moving public opinion. Sadly, much of mainstream media (including NPR), now take the budget problem as their baseline. The GOP wants so much media coverage of the budget there is a news vacuum on everything else so that the public will blame the lack of jobs on the prez.

It seems the public isn't buying this charade. Alas, there is one group that is buying -- Democrats in Washington. The GOP has convinced them that the budget problem is so severe that foreign investors are about to lose confidence, reducing America to an impoverished country. Therefore the deficit is a bigger problem to these Dems than jobs.

And in 2012 voters will look at the job situation and vote for the party that is fighting for them. If they decide it is neither (the way it looks now), they'll stay home, handing the election to the party with the most tenacious voters.

Economist Kash Mansouri, writing in his blog The Street Light, takes a look at what happens when austerity is imposed in an attempt to reduce the government budget deficit. It has some math in it (which I'll let my friend and debate partner enjoy) so I won't go into specifics. In general, as the government spends less, citizens supported by the government also spend less. In addition, the gov't gets less tax revenue. This is a multiplier effect. The deficit actually increases. To reduce a $5 deficit (the example uses nice small numbers) the government must actually cut $9 and the economy takes a $14 hit. Both Britain and Greece are attempting austerity budgets and keep missing their targets.

Solution -- don't rely on confidence fairies. The gov't must boost spending to boost the economy. Only in prosperous times can the deficit be trimmed.

There are several comments to this article, but I can't tell if the arguments are genuine or the disputers are GOP sympathizers trying to discredit the post.

Brad DeLong, professor of Economics writing in his personal blog, says Mansouri left out a term in his equation. Reducing spending may also cause a permanent reduction potential output. That makes the situation even worse. on the flip side, we are in an ideal position (low interest rates) to stimulate the economy to great benefit.

Some of DeLong's commenters predict how the politics will play out. The GOP enacts at least some level of austerity. The deficit (according to the math here) increases. The GOP makes sure Obama gets blamed for increasing the deficit.

Quaint, irrelevant, and silly

Late on a Saturday evening, when fewer observers would be around (and we know that's not a good sign), the Minnesota Senate approved a state marriage protection amendment. Both houses of the legislature are controlled by the GOP, though the Senate vote wasn't quite along party lines. The bill has already passed the House and will go before voters in 2012. One commenter noted the GOP priorities: 5 months on discrimination, 2 days on the budget.

A couple days ago I wrote about various corporations on the board of TNCC which is pushing to roll back gay rights. It didn't take Alcoa long to contact the governor of Tennessee and ask him not to sign the bill. FedEx, AT&T, and Nissan have also responded to the news. Alas, their official comments ring hollow. There are several other corporations keeping silent.

This one is disappointing. Consider the case where police smell marijuana (still illegal in many states and at the federal level). They knock on the door and hear sounds they interpret as the residents scurrying around to hide evidence. What to do?

The Supremes ruled the police do not have to get a search warrant. They may enter the residence, search wherever they want and seize whatever they find. We expected Alito to have a hand in this ruling. What is most disappointing is that only one justice disagreed. With that the Fourth Amendment has been declared quaint, irrelevant, and silly. That's another way of saying dead.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Messiness of diversity

I've written about the Koch brothers and how their billions are behind many of the anti-democracy initiatives around the country. Something about $30 billion (for both of them) simply isn't enough money. Their efforts are getting attention and a few people got together to make a little video (under 2 minutes), taking advantage that the brother's last name is pronounced the same way as the soft drink.

Singapore is a country that doesn't want the messiness of diversity get in the way of making money, so being gay there can be difficult. The Pink Dot organization has a sweet video (under 3 minutes) suggesting a way that allies can show their support.

Several months ago Nashville passed an equal rights ordinance for the city. This one included gays. The Tennessee legislature got into a tizzy over it and passed a law saying cities aren't allowed to pass their own equal rights ordinances. It is now waiting the governor's signature. News is now out that there was a big push by the TN Chamber of Commerce to get the law passed. The board members of the TNCC represent some pretty big companies -- Nissan, FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer, Alcoa, and United HealthCare. Yup, we're naming names now.

The Human Rights Campaign issues an annual Equality Index to show how well various corporations treat their gay employees. Of this bunch, Nissan had the lowest score of 50 and half of them have a score of 100. The question of why these companies feel the need to bash gay people hasn't been answered yet. When asked the spokespeople get real defensive, as in "We can't control what the TNCC does." Well, yeah, you can -- you sit on the TNCC board. Do you really want your name associated with bashing gays?

If they succeed here, they will try again on other blue oases in red states, such as Austin, TX.

Alas, it isn't easy for me to separate myself from Blue Shield and Comcast.

A marriage protection amendment is about to pass the Minnesota Senate to be placed on the 2012 ballot. Speaking of naming names, the Minnesota Independent has an article listing the various legislators who voted for it and who have been divorced. You want to protect gay marriage and you can't protect your own? A similar amendment is working its way through the North Carolina legislature and the pro-gay forces are compiling a similar list, ready to play hardball.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mr. Sulu to the rescue

There is a bill working its way through the Tennessee legislature that will prohibit any public school teacher from saying anything about homosexuality. It has been dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill. George Takei (Star Trek's Mr. Sulu and a gay activist) offers a wonderful way around the law if it ever goes into effect. The video is less than 2 minutes.

I'm not going to buy one, though others feel this is a masterstroke of marketing. Obama is now offering t-shirts to benefit his campaign fund that play off his recent disclosure of his long-form birth certificate. On the front is a picture of himself and the words "Made in the USA" and on the back is a reproduction of the birth certificate.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Preventing the next war

Essayist Terrence Heath has a couple posts about the death of bin Laden. In the first he poses the question, Did Osama bin Laden actually win? That of course, depends what he was attempting to do. Heath suggests that his goal was to bankrupt the USA in the same manner he bankrupted the USSR through the Afghan war in the 1980s. The bet was the USSR would pour lots of money into a war they couldn't quite win rather than admit defeat.

We cannot lay much of the blame for our current economic mess on bin Laden. But he dangled the bait which the GOP swallowed with gusto, making many bad choices while doing so.

In the second essay Heath looks at what has happened in America since the Towers fell. We haven't asked for justice. We want vengeance. And that was quickly confused with patriotism and baked into our foreign policy. And vengeance has caused a lot of death and destruction in Afghanistan and Iraq. And those people want vengeance against us. Those attacks of nearly 10 years ago has wounded the American psyche and we haven't yet recovered (and there are some who are working to make sure we don't). Yes, bin Laden was a monster. But in the eyes of many we are too.

What are you doing to prevent the next war? How are you treating those around you? Treating others with kindness will do a bit to make America a seeker of justice, not of vengeance.

Heath has a third post on the source of our economic mess. I'll try to simplify the reasoning.

* As long as people are hugely compensated for risking other peoples money and then suffer none of the consequences they will continue to take those risks and profit at another's expense.

* One of the mantras lately is that self-interest will regulate markets. That means everyone will behave themselves because that system works only when everyone is good.

* Those two ideas conflict. The huckster will make the attempt every time.

* Expand the second idea and we get fundamentalism. If you would only believe the way I do you would behave the way I think you should and you would play fair. This depends of purity of belief and proper action on all players.

* The Fundie claims the system didn't fail because my beliefs are wrong. The system failed because you didn't believe them as fervently as I do.

Don't worry about the next life, improve this one

Essayist Terrence Heath is troubled by a story in which a church-going person commits a nasty deed. That prompted him to extensively quote the WikiHow page on How to Determine Moral Principles Without Religion. This is to counter the claim that all morals come from God and if you aren't a believer you are without morals. That is contradicted first by the supposed believer who committed the nasty deed.

The second contradiction is from noting that nobody insists that every last Biblical law must be followed. We actually find many of those "laws" repugnant. Therefore there is some method outside of (or in addition to) divine revelation to determine what is moral.

Other thoughts from the WikiHow article.

* Morals should be based on improving this life, not in getting into the next.

* Consider what moral principles you never violate. One example for most people is aggressive violence.

* Make your moral code consistent by examining principles that you sometimes violate. Will you lie when your partner asks, "Does this make me look fat?"

* Do your principles promote happiness and lessen suffering?

* Developing a personal moral code does not lead to moral relativism, in which all moral codes are equal. There are objective criteria to allow ranking one set of principles as better or worse than another.

My own moral principles are based on two questions. Does an action harm or improve mental health in myself or another? Does an action build or tear down community?


The governor of this little state has signed a civil unions bill! It goes into effect at the start of next year.

When I was at the last Reconciling Ministries Network Convo (in 2009, the next one is this summer) there was a big introduction to the Believe Out Loud campaign. If you believe that gays should be included in the church, make your position known. You don't have to make a big deal out of it, but others need to know you are an ally.

Similar to the It Gets Better project there is a YouTube channel with statements from various people of why the campaign is important. I was led to it through this ad. The Up Next feature showed Troy Plummer, head of Reconciling Ministries Network. It is good to see this effort.

The various branches of the military have said that once their gay ban is lifted, in states where gay marriage is permitted same-sex couples would be allowed to use base chapels for marriages. Fundies, of course, squawked. And the Navy chief chaplain has reversed the Navy's position (at least for now). His note was to fellow chaplains about what a chaplain might do.

This means the Navy is telling chaplains they must discriminate. That includes chaplains from denominations that permit (or soon will) gay marriage. Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin says this amounts to infringement of religious liberty. So these liberal denominations are being discriminated against and they should be fighting for their freedom.

About a week ago I wrote about the law firm King & Spaulding who dropped the contract to defend the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of the House. Lots of conservative people claimed it was because of the scary gays putting pressure on (bullying) K&S. The news now is a bit more mundane. The rules at K&S are that a partner, in this case Paul Clement, must submit a contract with the firm's business review committee before signing it. Clement didn't do that. Instead he signed the contract on behalf of the company. Only then did the business review committee learn about it. It took them only a day to decide the case was not a good business decision. Clement took the case with him and now works at another law firm.

Some unusual and welcome news of the New York gay marriage battle. Two thirds of the money donated to the pro-gay organizations came from Republicans. These are mostly business leaders who have determined marriage equality is good for their business. It is embarrassing they contributed more money than progressive sources. Then again, they do have the money to give. Some of these GOP givers are even following up with visits to Albany to sway a few votes.

A couple weeks ago these same business leaders sent a letter to NY Governor Andrew Cuomo asking him to support marriage equality. The letter says essentially the same thing -- to remain competitive the state must attract top talent. Top talent includes gay people and those who want to work in an inclusive environment. It was signed by some pretty big names, including the heads of Goldman Sachs, Con Edison, JP Morgan's Investment Bank, Thompson Reuters, Morgan Stanley, and Bloomberg.

Commenters wonder why gay marriage is a competitive advantage and well funded education available to all isn't.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


A few years ago (summer of 2008?) the Presbyterian Church (USA) held a General Assembly and as part of their work voted to allow gay clergy. The change had to then be approved by each of the 173 Presbyteries (regions) of the denomination. The majority of the regions did not approve it.

In 2010 the national General Assembly tried again. The regions began voting earlier this year. This time 19 of them who had voted no last time changed their vote. Yesterday, The region including Minneapolis and St. Paul approved (by a wide 205 to 56!) allowing gay clergy. They became the 87th region to do so. The proposal passed and the ban will disappear.

Back at the end of March I wrote about Murray Richmond, a Presbyterian pastor who, over his pastorial career of 17 years changed his mind about homosexuality. To mark yesterday's vote Richmond told his tale on the NPR program The Story. His segment is the last 20 minutes of the show. There is a listening link at the bottom of the show's page.

The denomination's work isn't done. They don't yet allow officiating at gay marriages.

Monday, May 9, 2011

An advocate for the rational

Ron Hill was an Army (?) captain fighting the Taliban in Afghansitan. He's home now and has realized that fundamentalism is destroying America. That isn't enough to make him a liberal, but is enough to start prodding his fellow GOP. He has created the website Republicans 4 Freedom to do that prodding, calling himself an advocate for the rational wing of the Republican Party. He has reminded the GOP we live in a republic -- a representative democracy -- and there must be safeguards to protect minority from the tyranny of the majority.

Hill's biggest effort is aimed at the cozy relationship between the GOP and the professional anti-gay leaders. He pointed out the leaders, one being Bryan Fisher of National Organization for Marriage, don't have academic or scientific credentials and don't have training in human behavior. They make up statistics and distort research. Their goal is to demonize fellow Americans. Yet the media treats them as "experts." Even worse, GOP candidates seek the endorsement of these guys. And the party encourages it.

Another post notes that the Fundies are not conservative, they are authoritarian. That favors imposed order over freedom. Imposing your views of gays (and abortion and teaching creation) on the rest of the country is not "less government."

Hill's most recent essay is to give a brief history of social conservatism in America. Slavery was supported by the Bible. They predicted race wars. That didn't happen. Social conservatives lost. They pushed for prohibition, which resulted in violence and alcohol poisoning. The violence and death lessened with repeal. Conservatives lost. The used the Bible to justify not allowing women to vote. Society didn't fall apart when conservatives lost. They justified Jim Crow, tried to ban Elvis. Society didn't fall apart. They push "abstinence or marriage" and the South leads the nation in unwed mothers, sexually transmitted diseases, and abortions. They are now using the Bible to justify demonization of gay people, claiming society will fall apart. That claim is getting moldy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

But a billion isn't enough

Let's see, if you were really rich, as in having a billion dollars, what could you spend it on?

A Maybach Landaulet car (I hadn't heard of it either) can be yours for a cool million.

A stay at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai is under $30,000 a night. Stay 17 nights and you've spent just over a half million.

A big yacht could set you back $200 million.

A Gulfstream G550 private jet is only $40 million.

A private island (complete with castle) is for sale for $24.5 million.

A mansion can be had for a piddling $8 million.

It is possible to splurge on a really wonderful watch for $5 million.

Add up all that and the total is $279 million. From your initial billion you've got about $721 million left. That's plenty to pay for staff and upkeep and fatten your retirement account. One billion dollars is enough to really live it up. The really rich (the ones whose income has grown the most over the last few decades) have several billion. They don't pay taxes on it and their using their wealth to harm the rest of us.

Dave Johnson of Campaign for America's Future lists a few ways this extreme income disparity harms us.

People who would normally think of themselves as rich see those at the very top accumulating even more and think they aren't doing well at all. In an attempt to catch up they indulge in risky behavior. That leads to financial collapse (and one of those is enough, thank you).

Those who are at the top need to justify to themselves why they have so much when others have so little. They develop bizarre and cruel explanations, such as they are rich because they are morally better than the poor. Therefore they have a moral right to tell us how to live. Their mental health takes a hit.

The society begins to see that obtaining wealth is a lofty goal of its own.

The rich are using their wealth to buy Congress (several years ago I found out Congress could be bought for $27 million). And that purchase allows them to gut environmental protection, middle class institutions, and assistance to the poor. They become anti-democracy.

Gary Rivlin, in Newsweek, comments on several of the super rich -- Gates, Buffet, Zuckerberg and more -- offering to pay higher income taxes. It's an empty gesture. They don't pay much in income taxes. All their wealth comes through capital gains and that tax rate for that is quite low. And nobody has been talking about raising that tax rate.

Allowing bad behavior

The GOP held the government hostage over unemployment insurance last December and won tax cuts for the rich. They did the same using a threat of government shutdown over a budget deal and won spending cuts. They threaten to hold American solvency hostage over the debt ceiling. Allow bad behavior you get more bad behavior. If Obama doesn't demand a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling (one with no budget cuts or corporate giveaways) he is going to have a real hard time convincing the GOP he really means it when the tax cuts for the rich expire in two year. Obama says he won't allow those tax breaks to continue. Mean it? Start stiffening that spine now.

Yes, I really submitted the following letter to the White House. A similar letter went to both Michigan senators. I didn't bother with my representative because he is GOP.

Dear Mr. President,
In your recent, much praised, speech on the economy you said that you would not allow the Bush era tax cuts for the rich to be continued when they expire at the end of 2012. I agree with you.

But recent history doesn't look so good. The GOP essentially held unemployment benefits hostage last December, which prompted you to renew those cuts (to last until 2012). The GOP essentially held the budget hostage, demanding spending cuts to programs that help the neediest people, which they got. The GOP is threatening to hold the debt ceiling hostage, demanding more spending cuts.

Permit hostage taking, or show the GOP that hostage taking pays, and they'll do it again. Come the end of 2012 and the GOP will surely find something else to take hostage to get their tax cuts for the rich renewed (or made permanent).

You can stop that bad behavior now, so that by the end of 2012 the GOP knows you mean it. Demand a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling. Demand there are no spending cuts or corporate giveaways. Let the GOP blink first. Yes, the debt ceiling is serious. The GOP knows it too. Demand a clean bill, and hold to that demand, and the GOP's corporate backers will bring the House into line.

A voter

This won't harm you a bit

One of the claims in the Calif. marriage case was that it is fine to prevent gays from getting married because there is no harm. They had to claim something to avoid the accusation they did it simply because they don't like gays (even if true).

The judge in the case is now retired and has publicly declared he is gay (there were rumors during the trial). He has been in a partnership for 10 years, though didn't marry when he could. The anti-gay side demands the ruling that the gay marriage ban is unconstitutional be thrown out because, obviously, the judge was biased. Meaning he had a stake in the outcome. Meaning he would be harmed by one outcome. Meaning there is harm. This posting has a couple other examples of anti-gay craziness.

Also meaning because a straight judge would not be biased, not be affected by the decision, then gay marriage does not affect straight marriages. This was the sentiment in a letter to the editor of the SF Chronicle.

Lots of sources, such as this one (which gives lots of detail), comment about how ridiculous the claim is. If it were taken seriously a lot of judges would be prevented from taking a lot of cases. Even so, it is to go before a judge.

In related gay marriage news, the House hired law firm King and Spaulding to handle the defense of DOMA (federal marriage act). Within a couple days K&S backed out, though the particular lawyer kept the case and took it to a more conservative law firm. The actions of K & S prompted lots of snarking from the anti-gay crowd that those powerful gays bullied the law firm to do their bidding. See! Gays are powerful enough not to need housing and hate crime protections!

That has left some wondering about the difference between bullying and boycotting. It seems, "We boycott, they bully," even when the same kinds of actions are taken.

K&S withdrew for several reasons. (1) Boehner required all K&S employees refrain from any action related to DOMA or its repeal (infringement of free speech), (2) K&S employees didn't like taking a case that conflicted with K&S diversity policies and goals, (3) Coca-Cola (!) applied a bit of pressure because the case conflicted with their diversity policies, (4) Human Rights Campaign applied a bit of pressure.

Keep in mind that the big law firm sided with gays. That would not have happened just a few years ago. We won this round.

K&S did suffer consequences. Both the NRA and State of Virginia (more precisely, the homophobic Attorney General) have dropped the law firm.

Because of DOMA, gay couples in which one is not an American citizen live on shaky ground. The non-citizen must continually come up with student or tourist visas or face deportation. Many couples, if they can, move to a country that will accept them as a couple.

This week has seen a lot of turmoil around the couple Henry and Josh. Henry faced a deportation hearing on Friday. He is from Venezuela, a country that would not look kindly on Josh joining him there. The legal standing became more confusing when, a few months ago, Attorney General Eric Holder and Obama said they would no longer defend DOMA, but would certainly enforce it until it is repealed.

On this past Wednesday came speculation that Henry would have to pack his bags soon because of what was called Super DOMA. Obama wanted to be seen enforcing the law so cases that really didn't pertain to DOMA were slapped with that issue, making it harder for gay couples. In Henry's case, the deportation judge said that since Josh couldn't sponsor Henry for a Green Card because of DOMA, then Henry must be deported. That was in conflict with Obama's priorities in deportation, which are to get rid of criminals and terrorists. Since Henry contributes to his community and is legally married to Josh (but not in the eyes of the federal government) the judge should exercise his available leniency.

Ari Ezra Waldman, a blogger about gay legal issues, responded by saying that too much of the situation is left to the whims of the judge. We are a nation of laws and the law should provide clear guidance for the judge.

On Thursday Holder provided some guidance when he issued a statement on another gay binational case. He overturned the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals and issued instructions to judges on how the (hopefully) impending demise of DOMA should affect future cases. He essentially said that the judge should treat the case as if DOMA were not there.

On Friday, at Henry's hearing, the judge essentially said that he'll take another look at the case in December. In the meantime, Henry is allowed to stay with Josh.

Support because of beliefs

Today in the Detroit area the weather is definitely spring. It was sunny and the high was in the mid 60s. I was on my bike for nearly two hours this afternoon. Lots of trees, shrubs, and gardens are in bloom. I probably overdid it, but it was a great afternoon.

I went to see Prairie Home Companion last evening in Detroit's Fox Theater. Yes, I've enjoyed this radio show for a couple decades and it was a treat to see it live, especially in such an enthusiastic crowd. The place has more than 5000 seats and all of them were filled. When something pro-Detroit was mentioned (which Garrison Keillor does in each city he visits) the audience could get loud. I usually wouldn't mention this but for one important part of the show -- this is the first time (that I know of) in which the News from Lake Wobegon featured a lesbian couple. One of them was a daughter of the town café owner and was described as "the only lesbian Republican in Montana." The audio is up on the show's website. If the 5/7 show is no longer in the Audio Highlights in the middle of the first page, check the archives.

In My Shoes is a half hour video in which kids with gay, lesbian, and transgender parents tell their stories. These are pretty articulate kids. They are raised by pretty cool parents.

Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin has an easily understood essay about Catholic Charities in Illinois threatening to be defiant. Now that the state allows civil unions these Catholic adoption providers are claiming they will have to stop offering their services. The Massachusetts branch has already done so. Kincaid responds by saying if Catholic Charities want to place Catholic babies in the hands of Catholic families and do so using Catholic funding that's perfectly fine with him. But use state money? Kincaid refuses to allow his tax dollars to contribute to his own discrimination.

Kincaid has a second thoughtful essay about the Presbyterian Church USA. That denomination revised their rules on who may be ordained and serve in a church, essentially allowing a gay pastor who has a partner. The rule change is now before regional affiliations. There must be 87 regions that approve the change, 80 have done so already and 30 more are yet to vote (he doesn't say how many voted to not approve).

Kincaid says churches are in a tough spot. Those who push for gay acceptance in the denomination don't want to push the bigots out. How to include all people? Those denominations that succeed in this puzzle and change their rules have made a change that is real and permanent. They support us not despite their beliefs, but because of their beliefs.

How old is straight, one man-one woman, marriage? Claims range from 2000 to 6000 years. If the Bible is to be taken literally, why can't these various claimants agree?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

We agree God wants gay people around

Steve Simon is a Democratic Representative in the Minnesota House. He is on a committee debating whether a ban on same sex marriage should be placed in the state constitution. He gives a great 3 minute speech to his colleagues about why he is voting no. A paraphrase of his remarks: If homosexuality is innate instead of learned, and is a gift from God, how many more gay people does God have to create before we agree God wants them around? I'm comfortable with a society that bends towards justice, fairness, wholeness, openness, and compassion.

The bill passed out of committee on a party-line vote. The Minnesota legislature is controlled by the GOP.

Steve and Roger Ham, a gay couple, have adopted 12 children. They adopted one and then found the boy had 4 siblings in the foster care system. So they adopted them. They also served, for a while, as foster parents and every so often they encountered another case with siblings. However, 12 is enough. The adoption agency thinks Steve and Roger are fantastic parents. The state of Arizona doesn't like the idea of gay couples adopting, so Steve is the only legal parent. This is a wonderful (and long) story in the Arizona Republic.

Ricky Santorum, formers senator and wannabe prez. candidate (just Google the name and see what pops up), was asked why he is working so hard to deny adoption by gay people. His answer was that adoption is a privilege, not a right.

Sorry, Ricky, the 14th Amendment covers privileges too, or anything in which you say I'm better than you are and I get to decide what you are allowed to do.

Google's guiding principle is "Don't be evil." They topped that by doing quite a bit of good recently. They bought a 90 second ad on the hit show Glee (topping $800K) a show that has several prominent gay characters. The ad features their Chrome web browser. The cool part is the browser is showcasing the It Gets Better project of Dan Savage and his husband. Thank you, Google.

I wrote a while back about Pam's House Blend being whacked with a lawsuit by an organization whose income is from shakedowns of blogs for posting copyright material even though the blog follows fair use guidelines. That prompted Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin to declare he will no longer quote or link to any newspaper that has joined that organization. I'll let you read the whole list, I'll only note it includes the Detroit News, the conservative of Detroit's two newspapers.

Barbara Lenk has just been approved to join the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. It is news because Lenk is an open lesbian with a wife. The two were married when the state allowed gay marriage (wow -- that was seven years ago this month!).

Friendfactor is a new gay rights organization. We need another? This one is different. We may not do something if a big organization asks, but we would if a friend asks. So this group and accompanying website runs campaigns to influence legislation by guiding people to ask their friends to call legislators. Their first big effort is for marriage equality in New York.