Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A chat today about donation priorities: maybe asylum issue will get big for LGBT in 2016

Today, I got a call from HRC about my automated donation, which is from an account set up with a trust.  The call was because it was less than usual.
I had moved more donated funds around to causes more specifically connected to the Syrian refugee crisis.  I did explain this to the caller.  I also indicated that, although the asylum issue (for countries like Russia and Nigeria) gets covered only occasionally in the Blade, I think it is likely to grow in public exposure over the next sixth months, partly as a secondary result of the Syrian crisis. And surely many of the refugees crossing Europe are LGBT.
I don’t remain loyal to just one organization or one cause.  I’m “nobody’s tool”.  It’s still important to me to decide for myself which events going on are the most important, even strategically as well as immediately. As was said on Erin Burnett’s show on CNN tonight, people don’t need to be told what causes to support.
But that presumes some stability and resources that not everyone has.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

In Philadelphia Sunday morning, Pope hints at dualism on same-sex marriage, accepting that government cannot always regulate what is best for people's relationships

Pope Francis gave a very challenging sermon at mass in Philadelphia this morning.

He did not specifically mention gay marriage, but he did say that the temper of western civilization has changed in the past few decades.  Marriage used to be viewed as a community institution joining faith and civil society, and now it is more privatized.  He said he is not against changes in secular law if best for democracy. 

But the Pope later talked about the resistance of people to accept the risk and challenge of traditional marriage, in a society that has grown so individually competitive.  People seem to want less real intimacy than people did in past generations, he implied.

Proponents of traditional marriage are used to insisting that physical complementarity and openness to the responsibility of procreation are part of the self-discipline that makes people able to continue to remain in intimate marital relationships as they age and face inevitable hardships.  But practice shows that this experience is sometimes reflected in same-sex couples too – the ability to remain intimate as the partner age and face physical challenges.  The relevant concept may be “polarity” rather than just gender complementarity.

And the self-discipline inherent in institutional marriage has not prevented tribalism, war, group conflicts, or vulnerability to autocratic politicians.

And marriage – and emphasis on procreation – has not stopped overuse of the “survival of the fittest” theory in social relations.  Look at what happened to Nazi Germany.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

In Kentucky, and SC, gay marriage sequences continue to play out in the courts

The latest from Kentucky is that the marriage licenses performed in Kim Davis’s absence will stand up under Kentucky law, but Kim may have disobeyed the Federal court by even suggesting they were invalid, as if she had “altered” them with her own religion.

Marty Lederman explains on “Balkinization” here

And the South Carolina Supreme Court takes up a case involving dispersion of property between the Episcopal denomination and congregations splitting off over gay marriage, as in a story by John Mon here. The decision will have nothing to do with gay marriage itself. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Pride at Charlottesville, VA, 2015; Obama appoints openly gay man as Army secretary

After a quick visit to the Monticello slave tour, I did visit Charlottesville LGBT Pride 2015 today in Lee Park. 

This is a small festival. There was a performance stage, lots of organizations, and lots of dogs, especially huskies and shepherds. Drag was at a minimum. Comic book characters, like Superman, showed up.

Parking was possible right across the street ($3 an hour) in a very cramped lot, but there were many others around town.

While at the event, I saw the CNN story on my phone that President Obama had appointed the first openly gay man (or woman) to head a military branch – Eric F. Fanning as Secretary of the Army. Kristen Holmes has the CNN story here. The Senate will have to confirm the appointment.

Technically, this would have been legal even before the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011.  
But the idea might have been morally questionable.  I was in that kind of situation myself in the 1990s, as I have detailed elsewhere. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Next time at Rehoboth, look north

Practically every September I visit Rehoboth for a day, but this year, having been to P-town in August, I tried something different: the Lewes Ferry (homonym) to Cape May, from nearby Lewes.  I had last tried it in 1990.

Inside, there’s some luxury seating a bit like a wide-bodied airliner, a bar, and views all around. The crossing takes about 75 minutes, but you have to be in your car 15 minutes before departure.  Curiously, Verizon Internet did not connect in the terminal or on the ferry, but it had its own WiFi, which was a little slow but still worked. There is a view of the water behind the boat that reminds me of the movie “The Master” (2012) (Movies, Sept. 23, 2012).

Cape May is a spectacular place, with a World War II defense tower (with valuable history of civil defense), the lighthouse, and many channels and beachfronts with spectacular Victorian accommodations, glitzier than Provincetown or Rehoboth. But it’s not particularly “gay”, being 120 miles from NYC and 70 miles from Philadelphia, and hard to reach from DC and Baltimore.

For New York City residents, the biggest attraction is, of course, Fire Island (the Pines and the Grove – “Where the sea meets the sky”) but I haven’t gotten around to visiting it since 1978, when I last lived in Manhattan.

As for Rehoboth: Route 1 was crowded when I got there, even after Labor Day, and on a weekday, with the usual outlet mall (no sales tax) traffic.  How many same-sex couples go there to furnish new homes together?  The town itself was quiet, although it was a dry, sunny, “California-like” day.

There has been a minor attic fire in a small bar in Rehoboth, the Swell Tiki Bar and Grill, which is actually pretty near Route 1, just after the turnoff, on a strip mall, a mile from the beach, story here.  I had never visited it. The cause was electrical, but it demonstrates the practical problems property and business owners have in maintaining older buildings.  A much bigger incident happened at the end of July in Harpers Ferry. W Va, in the upstairs portion of a business.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Kentucky clerk allowing marriage licenses without her name; she's still on the wrong side of history, if right with her personal conscience

The latest news reports have Kim Davis not interfering Monday as clerk assistants reporting to her issue marriage licenses (apparently gay and straight) with wording concerning federal court orders  (link) but without her signature.  She claims that the licenses might prove to be invalid under state law.  That’s a bit up in the air, until the legislature convenes.  Right now, the governor doesn’t want to call a special session.

Jeffrey Toobin, CNN legal commentator, has an op-ed  Monday, expressing that Kim Davis is simply on the wrong side of history.  Whether she can remain in office and object to her name being used this way is a good question (and I faced a question a bit like this in the 90s in a private matter), but Toobin points out that few clerks around the country are trying to stop same-sex marriage licenses.

The remaining objection to same-sex marriage  seems to reflect the older cultural objections to accepting (or sometimes even tolerating) homosexuality, especially among men, in the increasingly distant past.  A lot of the objection had to do with family solidarity.  The “self-discipline” that it took for a man to restrict sexuality to the confines of traditional marriage (with openness to the responsibilities and risks of procreation) was a proxy for belonging to a community at all, to backing others up, for providing resilience.  In the past, this used to have a lot to do with gender (“free the men to fight”).  The idea still has more traction today in poor countries, theocratic (often Muslim) states, and authoritarian countries in general (Russia). 


Saturday, September 05, 2015

Legal arguments around Kentucky clerk seem surprisingly murky -- this sounds like my old "conflict of interest"

A few skewed legal authorities are claiming that marriage licenses issued in Rowan County Kentucky yesterday are worthless without Davis’s signature.

On the other hand, Davis’s attorney is saying that the legislature or governor could change the law so that a marriage license is treated like a deed, and that only the seal of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is required, not the personal signature of the Clerk.

While that change may sound innocuous and unobjectionable (and fall in line with my old theory “The Area of Mutual Agreement” in my DADT-1 book), many government jobs are predicated on the personal authority of someone who signs a document.  The same is true in many industries, like banking.

For example, note in the picture above how a local government treasurer uses his own name on documents.  This is like the Facebook “no double lives allowed” issue.

This case is roughly parallel to my own “conflict of interest” problem in the 1990s, when I was working for a company that specialized in serving members of the military, but wanted to fight the military ban in public with my book, as I detail on a Wordpress post here.  One idea very important to this narrative is that one should not have direct authority over others (as in the workplace) and the power to make decisions (personally) that can affect others, and still be active broadcasting one’s views in  public without the supervision of a “gatekeeper”.

Religious conservatives and some GOP pundits claim that the courts are “persecuting” Christians.  But there is no right to use one’s authority from a public office to impose one’s convictions on others.   That could pose a problem for someone’s whose implementation of religion requires him or her to “minister” to others in all areas of life.  Furthermore, not all Christians would agree with Davis’s invocation of scripture, and other religions besides Christianity object to gay marriage.
The Washington Post has an article by Robert Barnes and Katie Zezima, “Legally, ‘God’s authority’ is a tough issue”, link here. 

Update: September 8, 2015

Kim Davis has been released from jail today, but it is not yet clear what happens next. But she was told not to interfere with her office's issuing the marriage licenses by subordinates. 

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

KY clerk still refuses to issue same-sex marriage license after Supreme Court order, could face contempt-of-court citation

Kim Davis, a clerk in Rowan County KY, still refuses to issue a same-sex marriage license to a specific male couple, even after a Supreme Court ruling saying she must do so.  According to a story by Adrian Campo-Flores in the Wall Street Journal, she must appear before a federal judge Thursday over a motion to hold her in contempt of court, link here

NBC News has a story by Erin McClam and justice correspondent Pete Williams, showing a extended video of an angry confrontation between Davis and the male couple in a video, link here. One in the couple said, “I pay your salary to discriminate against me.”
She has refused to resign (which is normally what someone must do if unwilling to carry out a lawful order because of religious belief, or, as she cites, "God's law"). 

Update: September 2

Although she could face a contempt citation and personal fines, she cannot be "fired".  That requires impeachment and the involvement of the state legislature, as NBC explains here. The Washington Post has a detailed biography of Kim Davis today here (a "Heaven and Hell" issue).  Vox (German Lopez) explains further, and notes that for right now Davis has refused to issue all marriage licenses. Jonathan Adler of the Volokh Conspiracy explains a piece by Antonin Scalia which would show that Davis should resign if she cannot follow the law, here.

Update: September 3

Kim Davis has been held in contempt of court and is in custody of US Marshalls,  In her absence, her office can issue marriage licenses (ThinkProgress story). Curiously, Donald Trump sidestepped a question about this Thursday afternoon.

Update: September 4

There are reports that she had been offered a chance to "stay out of jail" if she would allow her subordinates to offer the licenses, and she refused.  The Post reports that the county is now offering marriage licenses again under federal court supervision, here.

Her attorney explained to CNN that her name would be on the license, and that is one of the problems.  To me, that says she should resign from the job immediately. Jail confinement under a contempt citation is ironically a "civil action" under the court.