Apollo as god

In mythology, Apollo is one of the most important and many-sided of the Olympian deities. Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of light and the sun; truth and prophecy; archery; medicine and healing; music, poetry, and the arts. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo )

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

1 comment:

  1. http://www.freedomtomarry.org/blog/entry/oral-history-ok-marriage-case-plaintiffs-recount-9-years-of-working-toward-