Friday, January 16, 2015

At long last, the Supremes will speak

Okay, kiddies, the SCOTUS seems to be tired of hiding. It shall hear arguments in multiple cases simultaneously to settle the right to same-sex marriage, in April. A months later, likely the end of June, their decision will emerge.

There are many, many new stories on this. The NYT has a good and not too long recap here.

The gist is that as we have noted here before and many others have commented on, one rogue US District court (the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit) bucked their many peers. The other courts found bans on marriage equality unconstitutional. The Sixth's judge pulled ye olde states' rights routine, ruling it was up to state legislatures and voters to decide.

All the observers I've read immediately state that one can never predict the SCOTUS rulings. So, I'll ignore that. I say here and now that the four SCOTUS justices who lean anti-gay rights will listen carefully to arguments, interspersing their disdain for marriage equality during questioning. Afterward by a five-to-four or six-to-three vote, they'll declare marriage as a fundamental right and that denying it to a class of citizen is unconstitutional.

The SCOTUS has proven too many times in recent decades that when public sentiment finally is undeniable, they'll go with it, despite their preference to avoid controversy.

There will be weeping, gnashing of teeth and prophesies of doom for the nation in and out of court. The dissenting opinions will be vile and illogical. The dwindling parties of anti-gay groups will swear vengeance through the magical thinking that they will totally flip public opinion. Ho hum

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gone with the obituary

Cross-post note: This appears at my non-political blog, Harrumph! As it is marriage related, it seems apt here too.

A college chum made his family vanish in his self-written obit. A wife and four daughters vanished in his detailed recap of life and kin.
I feel a double connection. I introduced, really connected, him and the woman he’d marry….first Then over 20 years later, he’d ask me to be a witness in the bizarre and hypocritical Roman Catholic annulment tribunal.
It’s not my thought to demean any religion’s dogma or processes. Yet from a post written at the time of the declaration-of-nullity proceeding, I clearly was stunned at the acrobatics involved. Likewise, reading the obit he wrote, I marvel at the duplicity.
His second wife, also Roman Catholic, insisted on an annulment, so they could marry in their church. Her will be done. Meanwhile, while he pressured em to fill in the complex tribunal questionnaire from the Savannah diocese, I was and remain uneasy.
As requested in the cover material, I did check the papers and answers with a local priest. He heads one of the region’s largest parishes and certainly understands his church’s rules, if not MA history.  He nimbly clarified the how and why of the process. To this UU, he was an animated FAQ on nullity. While I still see it very much as a game and a fund raiser, annulment is not otherwise part of my life and that is not my church.
The puzzlement comes when the theater extended to my friend’s death statements. The RC Church is careful to claim a nullified marriage did in fact exist when it occurred and that any children resulting did not become illegitimate as a result of the declaration. With his heart conditions and knowing his end was at hand, he could not drop the ruse.
The longest paragraph in his obit lists his relatives, sort of. His second wife’s folk abound. She is s”the great love of his life.” Her parents, children, grandchildren, siblings and appendices all appear. On his side, his late father appears in the previous résumé-style paragraph. At the very bottom of the survivors he mentions his late brother.
Invisible are his aged mother, his very alive sister, his first wife and his four daughters. I can surmise that he was estranged from his family, perhaps as a result of his leaving, divorcing and getting that annulment from wife #1. I can imaging wife #2 insisting he drop contact with his birth and previous family.
I’ll likely track down and call his first wife. That will mean confessing my role in the nullity process. That would probably be good for my psyche.
My erstwhile chum seems to prove the idea in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon that “There are no second acts in American Lives.” He avoided the complications and development of personal play, going directly to the resolution, comfortable if delusional.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Alarm! Designated Solemnizing in Peril!

Lackaday, my blogger name is massmarrier and I've been at the designated solemnization biz since July 2004. Today though, the harsh news is that the long-standing MA means of plain folk performing marriages is on hold.

Allegedly having friends and relatives do the honors at the ceremony might start again next month. Given a ponderous bureaucracy and a new governor, who's to say for sure?

You can catch my various early posts from the thrilling yester-decade from the archives, like here and here and here. Also the image is of the old-style wax seal from my first solemnization. Not only is the new version just a peel-off seal embossed with a squeeze, but the application process is pretty much online (except for providing a character-reference letter).

The Globe piece on the hiatus for the process cites failure by success. The designations have become more popular. Even so, they are talking 14 a day. Maybe the governor and secretary of the commonwealth should go to a fast-food joint or the RMV to see how to process.

I have performed five marriages as a designated solemnizer and one as a Universal Life Monastery minister. I prefer the theater and elegance of petitioning the governor. In my heart of hearts, I'm sure the governor per se does not approve anything, that someone on the staff eyeballs the application to get a sense you're not trying to pull an immigration or other scam, and then a functionary in the secretary of the commonwealth's office records and mails out the form. Still, it's the idea.

By the bye, CA copied us a few years ago and improved the process. You can go to a local registrar for approval, do not have to wait the nominal three weeks (I never waited more than 10 days), and can perform multiple marriages per calendar year. We are supposedly limited to one per year, although they make an exception for me once.

In short, if we can't handle 14 of these a day, we need to tweak our process and maybe our law. We can return the favor to CA who copied our law and copy their (new, improved) version.

Truly, performing the marriage friends and in my case, a son, is more meaningful than a hired gun JP.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Warming in Scandinavia

Finland doesn't seem to be in any hurry. It did get around to legislating marriage equality at last, today.

Over 10,000 years ago, it was the last place to get ready for the Stone Age as the last ice sheets receded. Then nomads began settling. It has since nudged its way to over five million residents (about the same as Houston or Madrid). With its empty spaces and sparse population, it has a high percentage of internet and cellphone use, but no leading modernity. Even in its atavism, it is not very political and so low key in that way it doesn't even have a national motto.

Let it be written though that on 28 November 2014, its unicameral parliament approved same-sex marriage 105 to 92. They had registered partnerships of homosexual couples for 12 years and were the only Scandinavian country without marriage equality.

So, the deal is done but not the details. Finland is never rushed. The Grand Committee of parliament gets the decision for a pro forma approval and then the whole parliament reapproves it also pro forma. Then as in other backwaters like Massachusetts many forms, regulations and enabling lawn need tweaking. Couples there may have to wait though next year or as long as March 2017 for everything to be in place after all the approval. Finland is not to be rushed.

Another oddity is that the head of the official church is on board. It's good for the country and in line with the church's values said Archbishop Kari Mäkinen of the Evangelical Lutheran church, About three quarters of Finns belong.

However, Finland became a focal point for anti-gay/anti-equality types there and even our own MassResistance bozos. In Finland, audible complaining came from the likes of Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen. It remains to be seen whether she'll be obstructionist n helping implement parliament's marriage decision. However she promises to be a sore loser, saying, "I believe that in the future a large group of Finns will continue to consider marriage to be a bond between a man and a woman, and that they will not consider relationships between people of the same gender to be marriages."

Regardless, she can sit in a corner and spew. Like New England, Scandinavia is now a marriage-equality bloc. Happy holidays.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Marc Solomon on the long battles for SSM

Marc Solomon mug, from his websiteMarc Solomon is justifiably flogging his newly published Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of how Same-Sex Couples took on the Politicians and Pundits — and Won. He is national campaign director for Freedom to Marry and has been a key player in several rights groups for 13 years.

Eager-Reader Note: You can order his book through his website. Click on the title above to go there.

In fundamentally another stop on his book tour, Solomon came on to answer past, present and future questions about marriage equality in the U.S., as well as describing what's in WMTISOHSSCTOTPAPAW. We're not huge on promoting books. That's for the likes of The Daily Show. However, I think this is one is really timely, very important, and with a strong local angle.

Solomon admits we aren't quite to full marriage equality yet, but expects it soon. He figures that with or without Chief Justice John Roberts' vote, the Supreme Court will expand it to the nation, likely this term, by the end of June 2015.

Getting there has not been easy nor linear. Click the player below to hear some of the road blocks and struggles. He recounts the anguish of California's Prop 8, which stripped legislated equality away, only to have it restored in another initiative. There, then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger "punted" as Solomon put it, after vetoing SSM twice and claiming the courts should decide. In the end though, Schwarzenegger aided the cause by not fighting the result.

Solomon also recalled the struggle to keep marriage equality alive in MA, the first state to legalize it, with the Goodridge decision of our Supreme Judicial Court. Efforts to overturn that pivoted on a ballot initiative that would require only 25% of the combined bicameral legislature to put to a risky vote. Listen in as Solomon describes what worked in MA and later elsewhere. Convincing lawmakers to support equality required gay couples, many with children, to visit their Reps and Senators to simultaneously present themselves and plead the case. That made the difference here and elsewhere.

While that campaign went on, Solomon said the pro-marriage-equality forces often felt the whole world opposed them — leadership in the Vatican, the commonwealth's Republican party, local pols like Sen. John Kerry, and national ones like Karl Rove. He talks about how their strategy won the day, even with legislators from rural and more conservative urban areas.

Now, Solomon says, the anti- forces have pretty much lost their strength. The Catholic Church has shifted its position, the Mormon Church has backed away, and the professional anti-gay groups have much less support as the nation favors SSM by 60% or more.

For one point, Solomon is much kinder to President Barack Obama than I on the issue. Many political insiders hold that Obama was always pro-SSM but cynically held off saying so before his first election. I am incredulous that he and his wife, both lawyers with him also a former law professor, certainly knew the distinction between religious ritual and civil marriage.Solomon, who was privy to White House thinking, phrases the process leading to Obama's support for equality differently. Solomon sees a very narrow range where politicians feel comfortable making definitive statement on controversial issues. "It's simply the way the political process works," he said.

Cross-post note: This appears at Left Ahead.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Marriage Fight on a Platter to the Supremes

No more hiding from marriage-equality for the US Supreme Court, as the 6th Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 to uphold same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. This stands alone after the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Courts rejected the bans and upheld lower-court rulings.

Despite the jive rhetoric of right wingers, has seldom been "activist" or "legislators from the bench." That's what wingers have called it when the Supremes or state high courts do their jobs but don't find as conservatives want.

Instead, the Supremes have largely waited until pushed hard and often enough. Every so rarely, they do something wacky, illogical and spitting in precedence, such as Citizen's United. Normally our highest court only goes into huge battles when there is a direct conflict between Courts of Appeal.

Ta da.

Observers figured this was eventually going to happen, even after a long, thick string of victories for equality. The 6th Circuit is very conservative and was the likely catalyst. Simply put, come out, come out. You guys have to decide. Suddenly equal protection is up against states' rights.

Today's ruling was about more than just marriage of homosexual couples. Among the cases the three-judge panel considered were whether same-sex couples could adopt, whether they had such rights as being on each other's death certificates (with all those ramifications), and whether states had to offer comity — recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states where they are legal (i.e. most of the nation).

There is no legal option for the Supremes. They likely won't rush into this one, but will have to decide it.

Friday Update: LGBTQNation reports that the lesbian couple who sued Michigan for the right to jointly adopt their three kids are preparing an appeal to the SCOTUS. This likely will hasten the schedule for taking up the big question at the top.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

MA Election Choices. Fret Not on 11/4.

Yes indeed we'll have two-page, double-sided ballots next week. Be aware most of that is the four ballot questions...and that this is a simpler set of choices than the recent Dem primary.

I happily play scout and point the trail. I read the literature, go to the stump speeches, watch the debates, and drill down into the campaign sites so others don't have to. People do ask and I do say.

Do all of us elections officials and your fellow voters a big favor. Show up knowing which ovals you'll smear. You can do the essential research in two minutes through the secretary of the commonwealth's site. Go here to view or print your precinct's ballot.

Count 'em 4 Questions

This includes the four ballot questions, with all of their explanatory text. Please come with your choices. We have to account for every page of every ballot all day long. If you don't vote on the front and back of the second page, the scanner will reject it and an official will have to trot over to manually override that.

I have strong thoughts on these four. If you don't or are undecided on any, feel free to use my brain. The short of it No on 1 and Yes on 2, 3, and 4. My reasoning is in my Left Ahead podcast, which you can access here.

Mostly Obvious Choices

Sometimes I mix it up, but this cycle, the picks are Dems, as in:

  • US Sen. Re-elect Ed Markey over a weak GOP Brian Herr (no real vision or any other virtues)
  • Gov./Lt. Gov. Martha Coakley/Steve Kerrigan over Charlie Baker/Karyn Polito. Reject the baseless, even puerile, fantasy that putting a Republican in the titular head office somehow balances anything. The nominally heavily Dem legislature is not very liberal putting a GOP Gov. in is silly. Baker has toxic history from his roles running HHS and the Big Dig finance, and in his inhumane approach to fixing Harvard Pilgrim. Don't trust him.
  • AG. No contest between the brilliant and experiened Maura Healeyk and the ho-hum John Miller.
  • Secretary of State. Bill Galvin is stagnant and is a Luddite whose technology foot-dragging makes it hard to access "his" data (it should be ours). Alas, neither D'Archangelo nor Factor has made a convincing argument to unseat him. Too bad. Last time, Jim Henderson did, but as an indy, he didn't have the recognition. Begrudgingly, Galvin yet again.
  • Treasurer. Deb Goldberg is the one, over GOP Mike Heffernan and Indy Ian Jackson. She has the experience and smarts.
  • Auditor. Re-elect Suzanne Bump over GOP Patricia Saint Aubin and Indy MK Merelice. In a fit on inexplicable asininity, The Globe endorsed Saint Aubin. who is an anti-gay, anti-marriage-equality bigot. Moreoer, she got a basic accounting degree 34 years ago and briefly practiced as an auditor; too little, too long ago to qualify her for anything. She is abrasive. Bump has found terrific waste in the system and saved us tons of money. Let her keep at it.
  • Congress. Incumbents are OK and in the one meaningful race for an open slot, the Sixth US House District, go with Seth Moulton over Richard Tisei. I generally like Bay Windows picks, but they are wrong picking the latter. Sure, he's openly gay and wants to push ENDA, but he's a Republican first and not in a good way. He promises to be John Boehner's puppy. Tisei has been a MA state senator and there's nothing he knows that Moulton can't outdo in a few days of study and conversation. Moulton has better politics and planks.

More of my reasoning on most of these choices are in another Left Ahead show here.

So, if for some reason you don't totally agree with all my choices, still vote next Tuesday. For all of our sake, come prepared with your picks.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Huck Has Hissy...Yawn

Après moi,...

In the case of Mike Huckabee, the threat is le déluge. But far more realistically, it would be just sans moi.

It was big yucks from Huck last Tuesday on winger radio, American Family Radio's Today's Issues. He was on with a couple of other loonies, including Rick Santorum. Huckabee's false prophesy starts around 22:18.

The short of it is that he said that if Republicans accept same-sex marriage, the GOP will lose all elections going forward. Setting aside that the opposite has been the case and getting more so, bigotry and discrimination don't cut it.

Moreover, the Huck says obey him, GOP, or see a wholesale desertion.
I am utterly exasperated with Republicans and the so-called leadership of the Republicans, who have abdicated on this issue, If the Republicans want to lose guys like me and a whole bunch of still God-fearing and Bible-believing people just go ahead and abdicate on this issue. And while you are at it, go ahead and say abortion doesn't matter either because at that point you lose me.
I'll become an independent and I'll start finding people that have guts to stand," he said. "I am tired of this.
He's going to take his Bible and go away, but not go home. He seems to figure he'll call out, "Over here, y'all true Christians," and millions will do it.

Alas, his record of leading and harvesting voters suggests, very strongly, otherwise.

Vanity and ego, behold yourself in Mike Huckabee.

Monday, October 06, 2014

SCOTUS turns back on marriage bans

SCOTUS shocks must be good for me, at least keeping me alert and flexible. They did it again today, refusing without comment the requests by five states to review federal courts overturning their gay-marriage bans.

WaPo has its usual thorough coverage of this here. Also, The NYTimes has deeper history here.

Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin are in this batch. In Virginia, for example, that commonwealth will begin issuing licenses this afternoon and will recognize the same-sex marriages from other states where they are legal already.

It is almost certain that this will quickly expand to six more states — Colorado,  Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia — where federal appeals courts have ruled such bans unconstitutional. That would bring to 30 the number of states with marriage equality.

States that has piled on both constitutional amendments and laws banning marriage equality are the legal equivalent of oldsters whose Depend diapers fail them, with lots of soiled clothing involved.

How now what they manage to hurt, harm, hamper and hinder homosexuals? We can be sure the plug nasties will keep at it. They've done that with abortion and contraception rights, voting laws and more. When they hate a group, they plug away.

Meanwhile, this morning's SCOTUS announcement hints strongly that the high court will duck nationwide case this term to settle this. Despite the crazy conservative decisions of late, it seems the justices can't deny that marriage is a fundamental right, hence worthy of legal protection.

A clear case or set of cases would almost certainly come down favoring marriage equality. The justices are particularly loath to mandate where individual states have traditionally set their rules. Of course, they did just that in Loving v. Virginia, but that was 57 years ago.

I say it's time to do it again.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Lively Deadly at Mic

Many other nations have their own public loonies. As in the U.S., those have voice as politicians or actors or business owners. Our most local, current version certainly includes Scott Lively.

He is one of five who will appear on the MA ballot for governor on Nov. 4th. I'd write "God help us," but that is largely a figure of speech. Lively seems to think he has that market cornered,

Pix note: Above are two screen caps (fair use claimed) from WGBY's recent broadcast of a gubernatorial debate with the five candidates. The wide-eyed one at left was his finest, funniest moment when he answered a question about medical marijuana by shouting that he "inhaled...A LOT!" While ID'ing himself as a pastor, he admits to 16 years of alcohol and other drug abuse. The image on the right is of his more usual, studied expression.

Lively is plain about his ideas. They are on his campaign site, as well as his personal one. The latter includes PDF files of chapters of his widely debunked co-authored The Pink Swastika. The book postulates that the Holocaust in particular and Nazism more generally were direct products of a group of German homosexuals.

A hallmark of ingrained, intense bigotry is that its being like a tarp that can cover everything. You can take Lively's words to verify that. If you did not catch the debate, check the video on the link above in the Pix note. Scroll to the bottom of the article to play it.

In the spirit of religiosity, I confess. I have not contacted Lively to ask him to do a Left Ahead show. The Dems and independents have all been on (see archives). The Republican won't even return my calls or emails, likely terrified of "Left" in the show title. For Lively, I'm not at all confident I could be civil enough to let him express himself. I could end up doing a show in the style of Bill O'Reilly or Chis Matthews for him.

Square One, Square One

Lively is a good entertainer, as befits a self-described pastor. For example, near the end of the debate, he had the best shtick of the hour, riffing on what he said was his 16 years of drug abuse. Unfortunately, he plays the dour scold nearly always.

You can read his positions on his campaign site. They are extreme and very much out of sync with MA voters' views. While his team managed to get 10,000-plus registered voters to sign his ballot petitions, they'd be hard pressed to find 10,000 people here that really agree with his positions, which include:

  • Abortion is the intentional killing of a living human being and should be criminalized...Since abortion is a form of homicide, it should bear similar punishment, depending on the severity of the particular crime.
  • (W)e should abolish public-employee unions and return to the earlier model in which public service was a civic duty and privilege shared by the citizens.
  • Since they (LGBT people) cannot prove that homosexuality, bisexuality and transgender is innate and unchangeable, we must assume for the sake of the children that these behavior-based lifestyles are acquired, and can be overcome. 
  • Rather than rewarding those who gained (or gamed) their entry to the United States by cheating (I'm speaking now of the adults who have been here for a long time), it is time to ask the illegal immigrants to take all that they have learned about living in an orderly democratic society back to their homelands so they can recreate there what they have enjoyed here.
  • We should dismantle the destructive feminist system of emasculating boys with pharmaceuticals and gender-blending social engineering tactics in public schools and the popular culture, and restore key elements of what feminists derisively call the “patriarchal society,” but which in reality is just respect for authentic male leadership.

Those are just samples from his positions. In the full context, those and such planks as the death penalty are more extreme.

During the debate, nearly every comment returned to what he termed his Biblical world view. That, of course, meant his particular take on carefully chosen verses to support his starting positions.

For example, he disdained LGBT rights and any mention of homosexuality during classes. Nothing else illustrated this so clearly as his off-the-road detour from the question about MA infrastructure. Consider:
I think there's a corrupt system we have right now and frankly I thank when we're talking corruption, we really need to be looking at the moral infrastructure of Massachusetts as well. We're killing unborn babies every single day in this state. We are promoting sexual perversion to the children in the public schools. Those kinds of things are corrupting us from the inside much worse than what's happening with our road system and our bridges.
He had started out touching on a bit of the infrastructure problem, suggesting that state contractors pay for bonds to cover cost overruns on bids. Yet he did not really address the infrastructure question the other four did. He brought in all manner of unrelated subjects, thoroughly muddying the waters and likely confusing listeners. He again also brought in his personal bugbear, homosexuals.

To his credit, Baker answered the next question and ended by taking Lively to task for his anti-gay allusion. Baker noted that his gay and married brother informed his views and feelings here, that he found the remarks somewhat offensive. Lively tossed out afterward, "I believe in the Bible, Charlie. I'm sorry that you don't."

Other oddments

I suggest listening to the debate, even if you just fast forward to Lively's answers. You'll hear that what was an idyllic agrarian MA has deviated from our Judeo-Christian to a Marxist perspective. Lively would aim to severely limit state government. "I would reverse that process. I would go back to localism," he said.

He would not increase funding for education, and in fact opposes universal pre-K. He believes that public schools, even before first grade are turning children over to government. He'd set up a voucher system that would include paying home-schooling parents.

He called climate change and global warming concerns "a scam." "The nonsense called global warming is a scheme of transnational elitists to institute a global taxation system," he said. He figures climate change can largely be blamed on the sun.

Those are glimpses of Lively's shadow world. Do listen to the whole debate and ponder his sites if you need more.

Back in the U.S.A.

Despite frequent victimization claims of repression by wingers and religious extremists, the U.S. is damned (that word again) loose in free speech. We let citizens and visitors make all manner of wild, unsupported, unsupportable claims. We don't have hate-speech laws like many European nations and Canada.

As states began enabling marriage equality, anti-gay sorts often claimed that it would mean preachers would be pulled from their pulpits and sent to prison for homophobic rhetoric. It hasn't, can't and won't happen here, but that does not stop the canard.

Instead haters like Lively can and do get on ballots. They almost always lose, but they can run, speak, and attract the votes and donations of like-minded loons. I think this is where we're supposed to agree it's a great country.