Sunday, April 13, 2014

America: A deeply moral country--when it's convenient


Credit: Carlos Latuff/wikimedia
http://reason.com/blog/2014/04/11/senate-committee-report-cia-torture
There has been much discussion in the last two weeks of the impending public disclosure of the Senate Intelligence Committee report detailing the alleged illegal use of torture by the CIA and other even more secret sections of our tax-funded government.  Former vice-president Dick Cheney has come out of his war cave to declare once again that water-boarding is not torture and is legal.  He also muttered under his breath that "moral" is a four-letter word. This inhumane action has taken place under administrations of both parties.

A digest version of the Committee report, California Senator Diane Feinstein, chair, has been leaked and is available at this link.  It reveals an active and knowing suborning of the facts and evidence to maintain inhumane actions against uncharged detainees in American-controlled facilities and foreign locations as well.

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1109052-senate-intelligence-report-list-of-cia-findings.html#storylink=relast

I've read that to compare a group of people or actions as "like the Nazis" is simplistic and indicates a lack of perspective from the one making the comparison.  I used to wonder how the SS, Fascists, Nazi--what have you--could have got their foot in the door in the 1920s.  Now I know, and I don't think I'm being simplistic.

I've had a nagging suspicion that 9/11 was allowed to happen if not actively planned in order to continue the high budget demands of the American war/banking industry.  As Napoleon allegedly said, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." This dictum is a two-way street.

America spends more on defense than the next 10 countries combined.  This is NOT a defense budget to protect the country from aggression.  Our presidents frequently brag on the strength of the American military. If defense were the true purpose of the large budget, wouldn't it make a better use of tax-money to have a defense budget that was at parity with the rest of the leading countries? It's rather an offensive budget to wage war on the rest of the world, to make the world bend to corporate/military supremacy demands.  
http://pgpf.org/Chart-Archive/0053_defense-comparison

Why do our elected officials think that returning to feudal atrocities is acceptable? 

Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show and who is unafraid to read between the lines of official media, said it best recently referring to reports of the leaked Senate report on CIA use of torture (paraphrasing):  The USA is a deeply moral country--after the fact, when the instigators get caught. 
 Senator Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, denounced the revelations in the new report, saying that "This is not what Americans do." Only, we did do it. "Like with your internment camps, or your, what do you call it, slavery, America has a history of doing a tremendous amount of stuff that we 'don't do.' We are a moral people ... in hindsight," Stewart said. http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2014/04/jon-stewart-explains-the-cia-torture-report-we-are-a-moral-people-in-hindsight/360316/

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dissipating the Phelps Storm Cloud



As Fred Phelps (do I really need to take time to remind readers which Fred Phelps I'm writing about?) makes his way on down to the dead end of his life's road, there are some people trying to gain some sort of succor from the publicity he brought to the equality struggle for America's gay and lesbian citizens--the silver lining to the storm cloud that rained vitriol on our gay parades.

Please excuse the simplicity but it's the nature of fame to be remembered for what made you famous.  Phelps made his name as a crack-pot twisted child-abusing man who vilely educated even straight people with vulgar signs and phrases degrading all us gay men.  Every appearance of the Phelps crew was like a verbal lynch mob.  His publicity gave encouragement to other homo-haters to keep the hell fires burning.

We are not targets for ridicule be it orchestrated by seriously sick psychotics like Phelps or elected officials and candidates who stir up trouble using us as magnets to get votes or to pass restrictive bills using religion as a pretext.to continue legal animus against our Constitutional civil rights.

This sick puppy also degraded innocent people such as American military personnel killed in action who had nothing to do with politics and civil rights but were unfortunate enough to come across Phelps's email screen or newspaper page.

I won't be sad to read of his death.  Nor will he come up in my memory to cloud my joy on that day when Don and I are legally married, without the religion that causes so much heartache. It will be a marriage in defiance of the Phelps legacy of vile superstition and ignorance that tried so hard to suppress us.

Rummaging around the Internet and FB I've read of some people who think the gay community should respect the Phelps family's request for privacy and respect at Phelps's funeral.  

I must remind all readers that Phelps and his church corporation deliberately used the American legal system to obtain a SCOTUS  8-1 ruling that their actions were entirely  in accordance with the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech regardless. of the objectionable nature of the speech. 

Therefore, it is also entirely legal for anyone to counter-protest at the funeral of Fred Phelps provided they act within the guidelines of local law where the funeral takes place.  I would encourage anyone who feels the need to express their feelings by protesting with their presence and with signs at the Phelps funeral.  

Only then, and only perhaps, will the Phelps family and associates understand the needless but deliberate harm the Phelps/Westboro Church has perpetrated on completely innocent people.

I reiterate the Phelps family and associates are far from being innocent as were all of their victims innocent.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Too Long Staring into the Dying Embers of the Mythological Campfire


Too Long Staring into the Dying Embers of the Mythological Campfire....
Brings on Blindness

http://regina-emmert.blogspot.com


Just as masturbation was at one time preached (probably still is, some of us never learned our lesson) to bring on blindness and other assorted public marks of the guilty pleasure, so have our enemies of gay and lesbian equality also been slow to learn their lesson and are indeed blind:  Religion and civil rights do not mix.

Various religious denominations have filed amicus briefs (friends of the court) trying to persuade the judges of the 10th Circuit Court in Denver to deny the civil right of marriage to America's gay and lesbian citizens.

The Court is hearing arguments in March on rulings coming from district courts in Utah and Oklahoma.

What will the judges hear from the blind?  The freedom to marry should be denied because same-gender couples can't procreate.  These homo-hating groups have failed to read the rulings from Judge Vaughn Walker of Prop 8 fame and other Federal district judges who have spelled out that the right to marry cannot be denied due to religious animus aimed at a hated minority.

The bible-blinded have been staring into the dying embers of their mythological campfires too long. No straight couple has EVER been asked by a civil authority who issues marriage licenses in any state if the couple intends to procreate or is even CAPABLE of procreation.

A different standard is being conjured out of thin air to justify continued scorn of gays and lesbians wanting to exercise their rights as citizens.  Indeed, same-gender couple can and do procreate the same way many straight couples do with the use of in-vitro fertilization and surrogate mothers.  As far as I know our enemies have made no mention of these scientific techniques used world-wide for many decades but we must remember that our enemies don't believe in science since it impinges on their deeply held religious beliefs.

Houses of worship may ask and require positive answers to these questions which is suitable for those couples who voluntarily agree to religious dogma being a part of their personal ceremony.

However, publicly elected leaders and civil law have NO BUSINESS intruding religious belief by proxy into a right of citizenship:  freedom FROM religion and the right of association.

Further details:

clip  They argue in a joint amicus brief that there is no constitutional guarantee of marriage and say the nation is harmed by marriages that do not include a husband and wife.

"The inescapable truth is that only male-female relationships can create children. Children need their mothers and fathers. And society needs mothers and fathers to raise their children," the groups say in the brief.

Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com

http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/gay-marriage-ruling-Utah-Oklahoma/2014/03/11/id/558877/

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

ACLU of Oklahoma 2013 Angie Debo Award Recipents

ACLU of Oklahoma 2013 Angie Debo Award Recipents
 Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, and Susan Barton and Gay Phillips

Photo courtesy of The Equality Network, http://theequalitynetwork.org
The ACLU of Oklahoma Board of Directors have named Mary Bishop, Sharon Baldwin, Susan Barton, Gay Phillips as recipients of the 2013 Angie Debo Award given for outstanding service to the principles embodied in the Bill of Rights.

The Angie Debo Award, presented annually by the ACLU of Oklahoma, to individuals who have demonstrated a public responsibility for righting the wrongs visited on them and others in violation of the American Constitution’s Bill of Rights are not known for shrinking-violet behavior; they are known for persistence in seeking legal remedy to cancel the discrimination directed at them as individuals and at any demographic they may represent. One could say that “Sure and steady wins the game” is their motto.

These four Oklahoma women have been at the  forefront of the legal fight to gain marriage equality for themselves and all of Oklahoma's citizens.
Ten years ago Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, married in their hearts and minds for fifteen years, and Susan Barton and Gay Phillips,  married in Canada in 2005 and California in 2008, all four living in the Tulsa, OK area, have been persistent in suing the state of Oklahoma for marriage equality. In Federal court their legal team of Don Holladay and James Warner filed suit for legal and financial recognition of their marriage commitment. These four women pay taxes like other American citizens but they receive only scorn in return and none of the more than 1,000 legal benefits of recognized marriage. The scorn was due to the passage of a narrow-mindedly written bill backed by animus-filled attitudes of homo-hatred, seasoned with religious spice.

In 2004 the Oklahoma Legislature passed with majorities from both political parties a referendum known as SQ 711 to go to the voters in November, passage of which would define marriage in Oklahoma as being between one man and one woman, any same-gender marriage performed in another state would be void in Oklahoma and impose a fine on any state official who would ignore the law and issue a marriage license. This bill was passed to reflect the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in September, 1996.

Unnerved by the growing audacity of America's gays and lesbians who were advocating for marriage equality many states (twelve states in 2004) passed laws and constitutional amendments in the 2000s to try and divorce citizens from their birthrights of equality under the law.

Under the direction of then Executive Director and Debo Award recipient, Joann Bell, a lawsuit was filled in August of 2004 by long-time ACLU co-operating attorney and former interim executive director Mark Henricksen, himself a Debo Award recipient, with the Oklahoma Supreme Court to have this state question struck from the ballot as it violates the equal protection clause of the Federal Constitution’s Thirteenth Amendment. The Oklahoma assistant attorney-general said the amendment was about the people's right to vote. I would add that it was about the people's right to stifle the rights of a hated minority. Civil rights can never be a bargaining chip or a raffle ticket to attract the largest number of voters to approve the diminution of the citizenship of others.

There were thirteen plaintiffs in that original lawsuit on which the Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to rule and subsequently the referendum passed by 76% of those who chose to vote in the election—NOT 76% of the population of Oklahoma, as so gleefully and erroneously pointed out by our enemies. My partner of 37 years, Don Chabot, and I were among those plaintiffs.

The violation of the equal protection clause of the Thirteenth Amendment is exactly the grounds used when the now-styled Bishop lawsuit was filed in Federal court on November 4, 2004.

On January 14, 2014 Federal District Court Judge Terence Kern ruled that the Oklahoma marriage ban was, in part, unconstitutional when applied towards same-gender couples wanting to marry in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, he wrote he was unable to rule on the question of the constitutionality of the Oklahoma law when applied to couples married in other states who were seeking recognition in Oklahoma.

Reading from the article by Lyle Denniston  of Scotusblog.com:

In ruling against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, the judge declared that it violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of legal equality.  He ruled that the Supreme Court’s ruling last Term in United States v. Windsor actually provided some support both for the challenging couple and for state officials defending the state ban.

The Windsor decision, the judge said, supports a plea for marriage equality because much of the reasoning of the Court majority about the purpose behind DOMA could also be applied to state bans on same-sex marriage.  It supports the state, the judge added, because of the lengthy commentary in the opinion about states’ primary power to define marriage.
In the end, however, the judge decided that Oklahoma’s ban was based on intentional discrimination, with a “stark” negative impact on gay and lesbian couples.  “This is not a case where the law has a small or incidental effect on the defined class; it is a total exclusion of only one group.”

The ban, he added, “was adopted, at least in part, for the purpose of excluding the class from marriage.”

Judge Kern took note of a string of decisions by the Supreme Court favoring gay rights, between 1996 and 2013, and said that, while “there is no precise legal label for what has occurred,” his court “knows a rhetorical shift when it sees one.”

No opposite-gendered couple is asked personal questions as to their intentions to have children, possibly obtain a divorce, or otherwise how they might abuse the alleged sanctity of marriage. Yet those are the arguments posed against our nominees and millions of other American gay and lesbian citizens seeking the stability and, hopefully, happiness of long term companionship. To Judge Kern's credit and other judges at the state and federal levels this personal animosity directed at gay people has been found to be inadmissible grounds for marriage discrimination.

Ten years of persistence in Oklahoma have paid off for Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, and Susan Barton and Gay Phillips, as well as their legal team of Don Holladay and James Warner of the Oklahoma City law firm Holladay & Chilton.

But there is more time ahead to be spent in courtrooms: The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to review Judge Kern's ruling along with a similar ruling from a Utah Federal District judge concerning Utah's nearly duplicate discriminatory marriage law. The Denver court has put its decision on an expedited track and the U.S Supreme Court has issued a unanimous stay blocking any marriages in Utah until appeals are fully utilized. Judge Kern in Tulsa also issued a stay in his own ruling as it goes to Denver. To paraphrase for an entirely different purpose than George Wallace intended but for a parallel civil rights infringement: Persistence yesterday, persistence today, and persistence tomorrow.

Best wishes to all from the ACLU of Oklahoma.


Links for further in-depth information---


1.) Wanda Jo Stapleton, letter in OK Gazette, April 3, 2013: House Bill 2259 was the measure that placed SQ 711 on the ballot. The seven state senators who opposed it were all Democrats: Bernest Cain, Oklahoma City; Cal Hobson, Lexington; Maxine Horner, Tulsa; Angela Monson, Oklahoma City; Ben Robinson, Muskogee; Dick Wilkerson, Atwood; and Penny Williams, Tulsa. In my opinion, these senators voted on the right side of history, given the present change of attitude regarding gay marriage. There were no Republicans in opposition.
Representatives opposing HB 2259 in the House were all Democrats: Darrell Gilbert, Tulsa; M.C. Leist, Okmulgee; Judy Eason McIntyre, Tulsa, and Opio Toure, Oklahoma City. Again, there were no Republicans opposed to the bill.










6.) ACLU board member Mike Redman, Tulsa World newspaper:
In 1967, the Supreme Court held in Loving v. Virginia that marriage is a fundamental right that cannot be restricted by invidious discrimination under state law. Thirty years later in Romer v. Evans, the Supreme Court struck down Colorado law that prohibited any protected status based upon homosexuality because it was born of a "bare ... desire to harm a politically unpopular group." Then, in 2003, the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas held that homosexuals' "moral and sexual choices" were entitled to constitutional protection, and that moral disapproval did not provide a legitimate justification for a Texas law criminalizing sodomy. Finally, last year, the Supreme Court held in USA v. Windsor that the federal government's disparate treatment of legally married same-sex couples violated the federal due process clause.

7.) 10th Circuit Expedites Review of Utah's Same-Sex Marriage Ban




11.) Quote from the 68-page opinion of Tulsa Judge Kern:
The “negative impact” argument is impermissibly tied to moral disapproval of same-sex
couples as a class of Oklahoma citizens. All of these perceived “threats” are to one view of the marriage institution – a view that is bound up in procreation, one morally “ideal” parenting model, and sexual fidelity. However, civil marriage in Oklahoma is not an institution with “moral” requirements for any other group of citizens.
..
As demonstrated above, same-sex couples do not possess any characteristic indicating they can or will “abuse” the institution of marriage any more or any differently than other included groups.”
pdf of Judge Kern's ruling in Bishop v. USA





Sunday, March 2, 2014

Begging at Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

courtesy of http://roarprawn.blogspot.com/2010/08/hubbards-cupboard-part-deux.html



Begging at Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

A-list + B-list = 0 Progress

Divide and conquer seems the rule as OKC gay politics hits the big league fan


(OKLAHOMA CITY)  With great political expertise the current mayor of Oklahoma City, Mick Cornett, not known for being gay-friendly except when it comes to receiving money and endorsements, is engaged in a rousing attempt at re-election and making great hay with some of this town's best-heeled gay and lesbian citizens who have endorsed Cornett for a fourth term as mayor.

Recently there was a story in The Gayly describing the endorsement of Cornett by some A-list gay men and women who I know to be able to support themselves quite admirably by milking their business associations with the straight homo-haters who wield power all across Oklahoma, not just Oklahoma City.

http://www.gayly.com/mick-cornett-gets-gay-and-lesbian-support

This is a sell-out on the part of these A-list enablers.  Has Cornett ever refuted or apologized for the positions he had in 2001 when he ran for Ward 1 OK City Council or the positions stated in his campaign video for 5th district congressman in 2007?  These positions included that marriage is a one-man-one-woman arrangement.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdwjNrb0Dt0

http://newsok.com/ward-1-candidate-offers-reward-over-anonymous-letter/article/2734245

There's nothing wrong with this typical log-rolling in elections.  However, in the case of the OKC mayoral election between three-time incumbent anti-gay Cornett and first-term Ward 2 pro-gay city council man Shadid we read of prominent gay men and women making deals with an unapologetic homo-hater.

We B-listers who live one paycheck from financial disaster, one job dismissal from health insurance, don't have the affluence to make expensive donations to Cornett's campaign of future favoritism.

The A-listers can afford to perform the legal and financial hokus-pokus with the laws that discriminate against the rest of us.  In short, A-listers can buy the equality that the rest of are dependent on the civil laws to provide.  Which in Oklahoma means we're begging at Mother Hubbard's cupboard.

In exchange for their endorsements and dollars are the A-listers going to hold Cornett up to public examination should he not follow through on a more supportive agenda for gay/lesbian equality in Oklahoma City?  Many of the A-listers in the Gayly story are astute lawyers and business people who do not sell themselves cheaply.

And there's also the inevitable situation of some of these Cornett supporters running for elected office in the future. How will they spin that to their advantage? And of course this endorsement plays into Cornett's further plans to divide and conquer what there is of a gay/lesbian community by making it official that there are two levels of being gay:  the A-list of wealth, position, contributors and connections, and the B-list of the working class living paycheck to paycheck.

The A-list will receive deference and shame-faced time with power and the B-list will get to live with a clean conscience. I'll take the B-list any time on any issue.

Cornett won't end his life as only the mayor of OKC.  Cornett will be glad to have these A-list doormats to walk on as he constructs his road to higher office.  Cornett is no friend of equality and never will be. As much of the rest of the country moves forward on equality, there'll always be Oklahoma to bring up the rear.

Cornett's acceptance of support from gay A-listers gives him cover to say he's not a homo-hater and another opportunity to stick his thumb in our equality. It truly queers our pitch.

The strategy behind Cornett's open acceptance of gay endorsement must be that he feels he's far enough ahead of Shadid that should Cornett lose some flat-earth votes it won't hurt his hoped-for victory. And in addition Cornett helps divide OKC's gay community.

The late Paul Thompson, long-time co-chair of OGLPC (Oklahoma Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus), a B-list leader if there ever was one as well as a first-class gentleman, always viewed with dismay the recurrent fracturing of our civic resolve to achieve equality. He said we can fight over the pie, but not until we get a pie and not just the crumbs.




Monday, February 24, 2014

Jim Crow Dressed in His Sunday Best

 

 
cartoon courtesy of Joe Quigley and www.capecodtoday.com
 
 
(OKLAHOMA CITY)  At least a dozen state legislatures across the country are trying to put some new clothes on a discredited character from America's post-Civil War history.  That character's name is Jim Crow.  By trying to mix civil law and religious prejudice they're showing poor fashion sense.
 
How do the religious apologists account for discrimination against people of color and gays who are seen as outside the tribe of the holy sooth-sayers?  We're seeing a renewed fondness in many states for Jim Crow laws directed at gays just as was used to keep the "colored" segregated in public facilities with religion used as the basis.
 
Jim Crow attitudes are being dressed up as religious freedom and are seeking protection with the police power of the state. These religious fundamentalists who sit around their mythological campfires telling old stories want freedom but will not stomach the responsibilities that are the other side of the coin of civilization. What a shameful understanding they have of religion and self-government.

http://www.capecodtoday.com/blogs/quigley/2014/02/24/24262-jim-crow-making-comeback

Friday, February 14, 2014

Virginia is for Lovers!



Virginia is for Lovers!

ALL 50 States Should be for Lovers 


Recently, a  Federal judge in Virginia ruled that the state's ban on same-gender marriage was unconstitutional.  This is another victory in what looks like a year for a tidal change (with more than a dozen pending lawsuits) for the equality of America's gay and lesbian taxpayers who since achieving adulthood have had to pay taxes to their state and federal governments as an obligation of citizenship.  However, we have not been receiving the full benefits and privileges we should expect from that responsibility.

I know that the constant talk of loving couples and families is meant as a legitimate representation of gay life as being little different from straight life.  I think most of us can handle our private lives, but that little difference between the lives of gays and straights is founded in the impediment of discriminatory laws.  I'm so heartened to read in the rulings from the various Federal judges in Oklahoma, Utah, Kentucky, and Virginia during the past three weeks phrases that outline the commonality of our citizenship in a civil society.  These rulings have highlighted that straights are not asked about their private lives or future decisions about things best left to the couples--as it should be.  The California Prop 8 trial with its very detailed ruling in favor of marriage equality from Federal Judge Vaughn Walker pulled out the footings from the dam of discrimination maintained by the homo-haters, based as it was on the ignorance and campfire mythology of religious views.  I welcome the flood of justice washing over our gay and lesbian colleagues.

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Federal-Judge-Rules-Va-Gay-Marriage-Ban-Unconstitutional-245473531.html

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I don't need a marriage license ....

I'm all for marriage-equality, but why is Holder talking to the SWEDES and not AMERICANS in the Congress and all 50 state legislatures? Is this an out-of-town theatrical tryout to work on the flow of the words?

I don't need a marriage license to "stabilize" my common-law marriage of 37 years. But such a license WOULD get me the tax benefits I'm entitled to as an American citizen.

I'm all for love and commitment but those qualities do NOT come from a government-issued certificate--they come from our own character. I think we activists don't talk enough about the tax benefits we gay people are loosing due to RELIGIOUS impediments in the law-making offices of our states and country. 

The flat-earthers say it themselves that images of our gay affection and the thought of our living together is "ick". Our privacy is none of their business anyway, but most people should be able to understand what's it like to be conned out of money that is legally yours.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/04/eric-holder-gay-marriage-_n_4723421.html

and a fuller account can be found here:
http://www.ontopmag.com/article.aspx?id=17704&MediaType=1&Category=26




Monday, January 27, 2014

Banning Marriage in Oklahoma -- Spiting Your Nose to Save Your Face

Banning Marriage in Oklahoma -- 
Spiting Your Nose to Save Your Face

I agree in part:  Ban Marriage in Oklahoma 

With Ministers Disallowed by the State

Rep. Mike Turner (R-Edmond) is toying with a bill in the Oklahoma legislature that if passed would ban all marriages, including opposite-gender marriage, in Oklahoma in order to disallow the real possibility of same-gender marriage happening in Oklahoma.  Such a bill also gets another chance for the Legislature to cast gay people as the villains of Oklahoma society.   He thinks this is clever, but it's another example of the religiously righteous spiting their nose to save their face.
As journalist Frosty Troy often says, no one is safe when the Oklahoma Legislature is in session.
Federal District Judge Terence Kern ruled earlier in January, 2014 that Oklahoma's mini-DOMA law, aka SQ 711 outlawing same-gender marriage, is unconstitutional and this ruling is now on the road to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.  Possibly it will be folded into a very similar ruling and appeal that occurred in Utah shortly before Judge Kern's opinion was issued.

A better solution to Turner's "marriage proposal" would be to disallow ministers as representatives of the state.
We've all heard ministers end their marriage services with "...by the power invested in me by the state of Oklahoma..." and this has confused many of them into thinking they are "officials" of the state as if they were appointed or elected. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Houses of worship should continue to conduct services according to their dogma but WITHOUT the state sanction currently in place.  Under a totally neutral marriage law couples, both straight and gay, would present themselves to the county clerk where they reside, pay the fee, present the required documents, sign the papers, and make themselves spouses under the law. Should the couple want a religious observance then that is still available to them under the First Amendment.  

No minister could then confuse him/herself as a state official with judicial power to interpret state law.  What better way to educate the religiously occluded that the state issues the marriage license, not their god.  Any subsequent blessing is optional.

Could anything be simpler?