Tuesday, March 31, 2015

1st Amendment Games in Indiana

Yes, indeed, we can be too clever for our own ends. We're seeing it now in Indiana, where the poorly drafted and worse defined Religious Freedom Restoration Act has blown up. The Republican legislature should be embarrassed but is not. The Republican Gov. Mike Pence (a POTUS hopeful) should claw back the openly discriminatory law, but won't.

On today's Left Ahead show, I went on about it all. Assuming it comes over, the player below should have the 19-minute show.

Foolish attempts at cleverness constantly backfire, and not only at dinner parties. The most common and to the worst effects must be politically. In this case, numerous major companies and non-profits are pulling back on investments there. I also predict that this debacle ends Pence's shot at being the GOP POTUS nominee. He has been pitching himself as the guy who can appeal to moderates, independents and conservative Dems as well as his own party. Forget it, Mikey.

I talked about the winger media lie that the IN law is the same as the Federal version and those in many other red states. I noted the major differences, and which made it unacceptable to so many people and businesses.

I also predicted that wingers in and beyond IN won't stop, even after what should be a most obvious failure. They did this with marriage equality and continue to do so, even with the wide, dark shadow of the pending SCOTUS ruling making all their anti-gay paranoia and lies moot. They shall continue until there is no legal option for deceit...and cleverness.

With same-sex marriage battle lost — waiting only for the SCOTUS cymbal clap in June, wingers are pig piling on a new ploy. In numerous states, legislatures are pretending to protect religious freedom from the inevitable and fearful persecution from dem damn gays.

I kicked around Indiana's worst-in-class blunders in trying this ruse.

POTUS hopeful, Gov. Mike Pence (R, of course) signed a bill into law that pretty much lets anyone for any reason discriminate against LGBT potential customers. Poorly disguised as protecting citizen's First Amendment rights to exercise religion, it instead is an atavistic license to ignore statutes, case law and morality.

Pence seemed to figure the Hoosier lawmakers were being oh, so clever in patterning the bill after the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Wrong there. The RFRA was yet another cowardly and ill-considered Pres. Bill Clinton effort to appease wingers.Yet Indiana's version is worse, even legislatively malignant.

I got into the concepts of balancing exercise of religion with both commerce and respect as required by federal law. We can be very sure Pence and his minions are having similar discussions following the nationwide blowback to Indiana's overreach.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I was wrong on gay marriage; thank heavens

With two common dumb comments we humans often make, one is from the jejune and the other from the lazy. The first is truly stupid and really inexcusable. That is to respond to a concept or fact in the air with, "I wasn't even born yet!" That, of course, is absolutely no excuse for ignorance, History does not start with your birth. When you discover an idea, event or technology you don't know, your job is to learn about that and be ready...and smarter than you were before.

The other even more of us succumb to using — "It's only common sense," or "Let's not reinvent the wheel." This is for when we are too lazy to think or analyze.

Almost invariably, when the words are, "It's only common sense," the real message is, "I have nothing. I'm making wild, unsupported assertions and don't want to be corrected or challenged."

The latest poll on same-sex marriage (NBC/Wall Street Journal) continues the findings of the seemingly inexorable trend toward national support for marriage equality. It also reminds me of the frailty of my judgment and forecasting on the whole matter.

The gist is that 59% of us favor same-sex marriage, 33% oppose and 8% waffle. Only Republicans who identify with the Tea Party are strongly opposed. The WSJ video heads discussing this reckoned that this has been the fastest, most decisive cultural shift ever, much more so than changing attitudes about interracial marriage.

The personal messages here for me are not in any shifting support. Long before MA's Goodridge decision, I was a champion for marriage equality. Instead, I had it dreadfully wrong — in two ways — about how fast we'd get there as a nation.

First, I fell into that common-sense trap. When VT allowed civil unions and then MA full marriage, it was patently obvious to me that the Chicken Little doomsayers would have to reverse themselves quickly. The anti-gay sillies went on about such unions "redefining marriage," a misinformed concept. With great confidence, many of them predicted chaos at city halls, draconian prosecution and persecution of the clergy, and wholesale abandonment of the institution by straight couples.

One would think when absolutely none of those occurred in the first two years, five years, decade of marriage equality here would first admit their errors, perhaps with relief and empathy. Second, we might suppose they would work with the new reality. After all, virtually all religions, including all flavors of Christianity, have a version of the golden rule. As the Talmud so perfectly puts it, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to another. That is all the law. The rest is commentary."

I can slap my forehead. I honestly believed that the success of MA and then this state or that with same-sex marriage would convert the haters or at the very least stifle them. Of course, that didn't happen. Even though their numbers dwindle, the anti-gay/anti-same-sex marriage minions snarl and howl. They have been reduced to saying, "Well, it hasn't happened yet, but just you wait." Claudicated reasoning.

On the other hand, after I finally accepted that the march toward marriage equality would be slow and fitful, I fell into a pit limbo. I said and wrote, here, at Left Ahead, and elsewhere that the U.S. was 10 or even 20 years away from equality.

Well, the obvious to me was wrong, very wrong, again. Progress has been extremely fast. I now expect a favorable SCOTUS ruling this spring or summer, wiping the legal restrictions if not cleansing the evil hearts of all Americans.

I don't have to get into how wong I was on both counts. My record is on the tubes. I simply revel in where we have arrived.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hillary Hovers and Hedges

Hillary Clinton will surely have a states-rights problem come the campaign for Prez. The clearest evidence of that is in — of all subjects — same-sex marriage.

This should certainly be a Dem gimme. Many GOP pols, including Presidental hopefuls, have chosen to admit defeat here. While the deft and delusional keep at it, half of Republican bigs accept it's  a done deal. On the other side, many Dems pushed for marriage equality and get to claim the high ground with the recent, very recent, sweeping victories. Plus, the SCOTUS seems poised to mandate nationwide marriage equality this summer.

So it's all too obvious that she should join the victory lap, even though she only stepped into the race in the last few yards. Instead, she stupidly clings to her adopted Southern heritage of states rights. That's a bad sign in several ways. Not only is that no longer relevant to this particular issue. It also puts her at odds with most Dem and independent voters, most notably those her daughter's age and younger. Moreover, it reflects poorly on what we might expect in policy should she become President.

You can check for yourself. Start with last June's interview by Terry Gross on NPR. While Gross fairly demanded that Clinton admit she'd been wrong on marriage equality, only changing for expedience, Clinton would have none of it. Much has been made of her continuing defensive posture

Yet lost in the personal here, Clinton's statements on states rights are astounding. Consider from that interview:
.... So for me, marriage had always been a matter left to the states. And in many of the conversations that I and my colleagues and supporters had I fully endorsed the efforts by activists to work state by state. And in fact that is what is working.... And then leaving that (Secretary of State) position I was able to very quickly announce that I was fully in support of gay marriage. And that it is now continuing to succeed state by state. I am very hopeful that we will make progress and see even more change and acceptance...

There you have it, politics fans. As late as the middle of last year, she wanted it all ways. Moreover, she based it on states rights. We know historically how incredibly poorly that works for civil rights.

There is, of course, the personal irony here of her upbringing. From Illinois and then to undergrad in MA and law in CT, she didn't get to the states-rights turf until she was nearly 30. While she and future husband Bill Clinton dates at Yale Law, she didn't agree to marry him until she moved with him to Arkansas when she was 28. 

States rights have been and continue to be big in AR. When her hubby was Gov. then President Clinton, he played the let-the-states-decide card many times. She has been in tune.

So there you have it. Come the SCOTUS decision, she'll be able to do the cliché of it's settled law. Yet I suspect she'll continue by adding unnecessarily that she would have preferred if the states individually could continue to legislate marriage to suit each.

We deserve a President with more courage and vision and, well, morality. The correct answer is, "I support this and we are doing this because it is right." If she feels the need to waffle on such important and fundamental issues, she should stifle it. 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Aw, do you need some attention, Roy Moore?

Looking for the dummies and crazies, we invariably find them in the same states — Idaho, Utah, and of course the likes of Mississippi and Alabama. The once and now again Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Stewart Moore is at it and as loony as ever.

Apparently unchasted at having been removed from office in 2003, he's doing pretty much the same. Back then, he had commissioned a Ten Commandments display at a court house and then refused to let it be removed when federal courts ruled it was unconstitutional. Now he's done the same with same-sex marriage.

He ordered judges not to issue licenses to gay couples, in defiance of federal court rulings.

[If you really can't believe his arrogance and stupidity, start with his Wikipedia article. It has about 50 footnotes and external links to let you check truth and knowledge.]]

This time though, in his late Sunday night ruling, Moore showed a glimmer of restraint. He ford not threaten direct punishment to any judges who do issue licenses. Instead, he orders them to obey Alabama one-man/one-woman law, despite the federal overrides, and writes that seeing they do so falls on the governor of the state.

To ensure the orderly administration of justice
within the State of Alabama, to alleviate a situation
adversely affecting the administration of justice within
the State, and to harmonize the administration of justice
between the Alabama judicial branch and the federal
courts in Alabama:
Effective immediately, no Probate Judge of the State
of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama
Probate Judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license
that is inconsistent with Article 1, Section 36.03, of
the Alabama Constitution or § 30-1-19, Ala. Code 1975.
Should any Probate Judge of this state fail to
follow the Constitution and statutes of Alabama as
stated, it would be the responsibility of the Chief
Executive Officer of the State of Alabama, Governor
Robert Bentley, in whom the Constitution vests "the
supreme executive power of this state," Art. V, § 113,
Ala. Const. 1901, to ensure the execution of the law.
"The Governor shall take care that the laws be faithfully

As has been his wont, he plays political cards. He's showing he will take a lowest-common-denominator position as he perceives it. He also shows he no respect for law or the legal process.

This has served him both poorly and well. He was removed from office for his previous shenanigans. Undeterred, he tried running for higher office. He failed in several attempts to become governor and once tried with no public interest in running for POTUS.

However, the people did re-elect him as head of the state's high court. That surely is proof we should judges for their experience, expertise and integrity, and not elect them.

We have the intertwined issues of anti-gay sentiment, anti-federalism and of course the rawer states rights ones. As in so many other states that passed one-man/one-woman laws or amendments, Alabama seems to enjoy the sentiment that outsiders can't tell them what to do.

While it's true that outsiders, even federal courts and Congress can't tell tell them what to think, what to do can be another matter.

Monday AM: MSNBC has been doing legwork here. It reports most probate judges will follow federal ruling, not Moore's caprice. Plus the anti-gay Liberty Counsel folk are stirring the pot, representing judges who follow Moore and claiming those judges don't have to follow federal rulings.

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.