Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP's Continued War on Minorities

he hypocrisy of Republicans and others on the far right on the issue of minority rights is off the charts.  They claim in one breath that they are not anti-black or anti-minority even as they use "dog whistle" sound bites to rally the white supremacists and outright racists and do all in their power to disenfranchise minorities and whittle away at non-discrimination protections and affirmative action programs.  Sadly, it is all to typical of those who claim to honor Christian values yet lie through their teeth and view others as something less than fully human.  A piece in Slate looks at the double speak being used by the right to disguise their effort to roll back protections and make voting increasingly difficult for non-whites.  Here are article highlights:

The right has always been against race-conscious remedies to racial discrimination, touting “colorblindness” as the “constitutional” approach to making policy.

Led by figures like Hans von Spakovsky—a former Bush official who once accused the Obama Justice Department of anti-white racism—and boosted by conservatives on the Supreme Court, the right has chipped away at affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act, while using their state-level clout to limit voting with strict ID requirements and attacks on early and weekend voting.

But there’s still more to do. Von Spakovsky—and his frequent collaborator, Roger Clegg of the misnamed Center for Equal Opportunity—have gone after congressional remedies to the court ruling, calling it a “ ‘get out of jail free’ card to black elected officials in the South, where they can discriminate all they want against white voters.” They are prepping an assault on Section 2 of the VRA, which bars actions that cause racial discrimination in voting, even if that’s not the intent. They’ve also opened a new front in the war against civil rights laws, with an attack on the Civil Rights Act itself.

Von Spakovsky, Clegg, and Slattery focus their fire on the doctrine of “disparate impact,” which treats neutral actions with racially disproportionate outcomes as illegal, if—for example—a business or institution can’t justify a practice as necessary to the job. For them, “Eliminating such claims is therefore another way to help curb the use of racial and ethnic preferences.”

But this is ahistorical nonsense. “Disparate impact” exists because discrimination was often achieved by neutral means.

During Jim Crow, for instance, explicitly discriminatory voting was illegal. White Southerners could block blacks from using public facilities or mandate segregated businesses, but they couldn’t bar blacks from voting. Hence the poll tax and the literacy test. In theory, they were universal requirements—everyone was vulnerable to failing the test or lacking the funds to pay a tax. In practice, of course, extreme poverty and deprivation meant that ex-slaves and their descendants were most likely to fail the test or lack the funds.  

It’s for this reason that lawmakers built disparate impact into the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Title VII) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Even today, disparate impact is critical to fairness in employment, housing, and other fields. The Obama administration has used disparate impact claims to win settlements from banks accused of predatory lending toward minorities. The simple fact is that racial bias is still alive in vast areas of American life, and most people who discriminate are too smart to broadcast their prejudice.

To von Spakovsky, Clegg, and Slattery, however, these measures are as bad, if not worse, than racism against minorities. It doesn’t matter that racial inequities move from generation to generation, propelled by the force of past and present discrimination; for these conservatives, any acknowledgment of race is racism, and anti-racist policies—like federal civil rights laws—are a zero-sum game, with whites as the losers.

Circumstances change and ideologies shift, but the message from conservatives stays the same: What happens on the ground doesn’t matter; equality under the law is sufficient for civil rights. This has never been (and isn’t) true, but then, this isn’t a matter of truth as much as it’s a question of belief.

[I]f, in other words, you think the facts matter—then you’ll reject this “colorblindness” for what it is: a reactionary excuse for doing nothing.

Christofascist - Positions on Social Issues Are Alienating the Public

As noted before on this blog, members of the Millennial generation are leaving organized religion in record numbers and the exodus shows no signs of relenting.  Among the main reasons cited are (i) the hypocrisy and meanness of conservative Christians and (ii) the anti-gay agenda of the "godly folk."  Amazingly, living as they do in their alternate universe, the Christofascists seem incapable of recognizing the fact that is they themselves who are killing the Christian brand.  As a result, they go on repeating the same tired lies and demonstrating for all who will watch and listen that today's conservative Christians are at best a reincarnation of the biblical Pharisees whom Christ condemned without mercy.  Yesterday on ABC's This Week, Franklin Graham - who would be a nobody but for his famous father - and Ralph Reed - who set my gaydar off when we met years ago - engaged in the usual Christofascist denunciation of gays, gay parenting and gay adoption.  Thankfully, as Mediate reports Cokie Roberts let them have it:
A comment by Reverend Franklin Graham, in which he alleged gay parents are “recruiting” when they adopt children and that Russian President Vladimir Putin was right to prohibit same-sex adoption, sent a panel on This Week with George Stephanopoulos going, with Cokie Roberts asking Ralph Reed whether he thought leaving children in orphanages was better than moving them into same-sex households.

" . . .the social science is also irrefutable that a child raised in an orphanage is in much worse shape than a child raised in a home,” Roberts objected. “And the fact that people are willing to take these children and raise them, and raise them in a loving way, is clearly better for these children.”

“Would you agree with that?” host Martha Raddatz asked. “Would you rather have a child sitting in an orphanage than have gay parents?”

[N]obody on the panel agreed with Graham’s assessment of Putin.
I believe that it is telling when the Christofascists are aligning themselves with a corrupt and brutal Russian dictator.  It shows their true colors and underscores their desire to force their beliefs on others and to trample on the rights of other Americans.  There are few people more self-centered and selfish than today's "godly Christians."

Profile - Virginia Beach Attorney Who Launched Bostic v. Rainey

Bob Ruloff and Tom Shuttleworth
I've known Robert Ruloff since 1986 when we were both partners in a Virginia Beach law firm.  Career wise, we both left that firm and went our separate ways but have reconnected with Bob's involvement in the lawsuit filed by friends Tim Bostic and Tony London to challenge Virginia's animus based Marshall-Newman Amendment. Indeed, Bob's firm not only spearheaded filing the lawsuit, but has now become a member of HRBOR and will be hosting HRBOR's May Third Thursday.  The Virginian Pilot has a profile on Bob and his firm in today's paper.  Here are excerpts:

At first glance, you'd likely never see Bob Ruloff as someone who initiated what could become a landmark gay marriage court case.

A West Virginia coal miner's son, Ruloff has spent most of his career working as a real estate attorney, seldom setting foot in a courtroom. But the case he launched on behalf of a Norfolk gay couple challenging Virginia's constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage has the potential to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

The result could be a decision as momentous for gay unions as the high court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling was for racially integrated schools.

Take a closer look, and Ruloff's key role in the Bostic v. Schaefer case is more understandable.
Ruloff long ago felt an affinity for social causes, but his idealistic impulses yielded to the necessities of making a living.

"I went to law school to be a labor lawyer for the coal miners," Ruloff said recently. "That was my dream. But I ended up being a real estate lawyer so I could make some money."

Now, after four decades of presiding over property closings, he finds himself in the vanguard of a burgeoning national movement for marriage equality. He considers it the pinnacle of his career.

Ruloff, a Virginia Beach resident, had just closed on a sale with real estate agent Tony London. London has been with his partner, Tim Bostic, an assistant professor of English at Old Dominion University, for 25 years.

The two began discussing the implications of two recent Supreme Court decisions on marriage equality - one allowing same-sex marriages to resume in California, the other ordering federal recognition of such unions.

London said the rulings had inspired him and Bostic to consider what they had long thought impossible: getting married. Maybe they would go to Maryland, London said . . . "I don't think you should go to Maryland," Ruloff told him. "You're from Virginia. You should get married here."

"He said, 'Are you serious about that?' " Ruloff recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, but it'll take courage on your part, because a lot of people in the community may criticize you for it.' "

London went home and talked it over with Bostic. Ruloff, meanwhile, discussed it with his law partner Tom Shuttleworth, head of the litigation department at their Virginia Beach firm, Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecock.  Moved by Ruloff's passion, Shuttleworth agreed to take it on.

Ruloff and Shuttleworth accompanied Bostic and London to the office of Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer, where they applied for a marriage license. Employees there turned them down, citing state law and a 2006 constitutional amendment declaring that only a union between a man and a woman can be a valid marriage.  Days later, Ruloff and Shuttleworth filed suit in federal court.

Though neither Ruloff nor Shuttleworth is gay, both are quick to say that doesn't matter.  Scientific consensus is clear that sexual orientation is determined before birth, Ruloff said, and gays are entitled to the same emotional and material benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy.

"It's sad to go through life and have to not be who you are - to go through life and feel like there's a shadow over you," Ruloff said. "No one should have to live that way."

In February, the plaintiffs won the first round of their legal fight when U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen ruled that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution. The judge delayed implementation of her order pending an appeal now under way in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Ruloff thinks the case could make it to the Supreme Court.  "Our objective is to finish the job and get a sweeping decision for all states, not just Virginia," he said.

Public acceptance of gay unions is on the rise, Ruloff said, and gays, in turn, are feeling more comfortable about coming out.  Since he and Shuttleworth filed the Norfolk lawsuit, several of their firm's other clients have come out to them, he said.

Kudos to Tim and Tony and to Bob and Tom Shuttleworth.  Sometimes a few individuals can change society and history.   It is long past time that religious belief based on ignorance, fear and hatred toward others cease to have any place in the nation's civil laws. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

How to Make GOP Pay for its Medicaid Expansion Opposition

Today is Easter Sunday and the "godly folk" are out in force going to church and in many cases feigning loyalty to the Gospel message even as far too many of them are supporting the GOP and its policies that are the antithesis of Christ's message of love and compassion for others, especially the poor, the sick and the less fortunate.  Indeed, at times I think the dictionary needs to have a photo of the GOP logo and a photo of far right Christians next to the words "Hypocrite" and "Hypocrisy."  These people simply are not nice or decent people.  Their sole focus is on greed, hate and mistreatment of others.  A piece in Salon looks at the evilness of the GOP's blocking of Medicaid expansion and the otherwise preventable deaths that will result.  Here are some highlights:
Liberal backers of Obamacare have increased their fury in recent weeks over how 24 states, controlled in part or in whole by Republicans, have rejected the law’s Medicaid expansion, which the Supreme Court ruled they could do without consequences back in 2012. This has denied 5 million Americans health insurance coverage. “It really is just almost awesome in its evilness,” said Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of healthcare reform. “It appears to be motivated by pure spite,” added Paul Krugman. “I am burying my best friend because of the policies of the Republican Party,” remarked one anguished woman in a viral story about Charlene Dill, a 32-year-old from Florida who would have been covered by Medicaid under the expansion, but instead went without the care she needed, and collapsed while working.

People are right to be outraged. These states are turning down full funding for the expansion for three years, and 90 percent thereafter, declining the economic stimulus from the flow of that Medicaid money. And this will lead to somewhere between 7,000 and 17,000 preventable deaths due to a lack of coverage, according to public health researchers.
The fact that these red states sued to overturn all of Obamacare should have been a tipoff that they wouldn’t exactly jump at the chance to expand coverage under the law, if they could opt out instead. Liberals mistakenly performed a cost-benefit analysis, thinking rationally, what state would turn down free money from the federal government to cover their poorest citizens? (In fact, that’s exactly what Jon Gruber admitted he thought initially.) But there’s nothing logical about knee-jerk opposition to anything proposed by the president, which has been the status quo in the Republican Party since Inauguration Day 2009. 

I can only think of one political campaign where the Medicaid expansion actually rose to the surface as an issue: last year’s governor’s race in Virginia. And Terry McAuliffe, running on a platform of expanding Medicaid, won (because the Legislature remained in Republican hands, that expansion has not yet gone through). The issue has real potential for Obamacare backers: New polling shows that even Republican voters support expanding Medicaid for their states.

Some progressive candidates do want to finally pull this out as a hammer for the fall campaign.  . . . .  There must be consequences for this practice of cruelly leaving poor Americans without health coverage in a proxy fight against Obamacare. Democrats cannot will Medicaid expansion into existence in red states by sitting on the sidelines, tut-tutting that Republicans “would be crazy not to take such a good deal,” or hoping that things will simply work out. They have to actually fight. The delay in coming around to this reality was inexcusable; now there’s at least a chance to build the movement necessary to accomplish this.
Personally, I want to see Republicans attacked for their policies that will lead to otherwise avoidable deaths.   And the warfare needs to extend beyond the GOP itself to members of the GOP base, especially the Christofascists.  They need to be made to be synonymous with hypocrisy, greed and general nastiness.  They need to become shunned in decent society and treated as the monsters that they are rapidly becoming.   Being a GOP supporting conservative Christian needs to make one a social pariah.  Is this harsh?  Yes, it is.  But for too long these people have been given undeserved deference and respect. 

We Are Married - Wedding Reflections Pt. 1

This weekend was a bit of a whirlwind.  We drove to Washington, D.C., yesterday morning - we did not actually arrive until 1:30PM due to horrific traffic, an everyday Washington phenomenon - and settled into out hotel before going out for a light lunch at the Daily Grill on Connecticut Avenue.   The real partying, however, began later at Oceanaire on F Street east of the White House.  We purposely kept the group small and intimate knowing that a much larger reception would take place later in the year when my children can attend. The company was great and the dinner over the top.  My father-in-law had a great time as did the rest of us.  A few of us had a "nightcap" at our hotel afterwards before turning in.

Dinner at Oceanaire
The main event, of course, was today at the Kennedy Center where a District of Columbia marriage commissioner married us.  My father-in-law participated in the ceremony.  We wrote the ceremony based on the theme in notes from the wedding of friends who likewise married later in life and who, like me have children.  The marriage commissioner added some nice flourishes and overall, it was moving and emotional.  The irony is that in many of the pictures you can see Virginia - where we still cannot legally marry - in the background across the Potomac.

Following the ceremony, we had a great time at the Terrace Restaurant on the top level of the Kennedy Center which has an amazing view on two sides.  All in all, it was a wonderful and needless to say memorable weekend.  As for a honeymoon, in September we are flying to Venice and taking a seven day cruise of the Greek Islands.

While in the restaurant, we had many of the staff and numerous other dinners give us words of congratulations.  The times are changing and religious based discrimination needs to end now.

Easter Morning Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

The Forgotten History of Gay Marriage

Today is Easter Sunday.  It is also the day on which I will marry my boyfriend/partner/best friend (thoughts and reflections and photos will be posted later).  Some asked if we picked Easter Sunday to make a statement, but the reality is that it was the day that worked best to have those we wanted included to be present.  Given the animus toward gays held by many of the "godly folk" its worth looking at some of the forgotten history of same sex marriage in the early Christian church before the Church fathers rewrote history to fit their own agenda.  A piece in Care2 looks at this history.  Here are excerpts:

Republicans and other opponents of gay marriage often speak of marriage as being a 2,000 year old tradition (or even older). Quite apart from the fact that the definition of marriage has changed from when it was a business transaction, usually between men, there is ample evidence that within just Christian tradition, it has changed from the point where same-sex relationships were not just tolerated but celebrated.

In the famous St. Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai, there is an icon which shows two robed Christian saints getting married. Their ‘pronubus’ (official witness, or “best man”) is none other than Jesus Christ.

The happy couple are 4th Century Christian martyrs, Saint Serge and Saint Bacchus — both men.

Severus of Antioch in the sixth century explained that “we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were joined in life.” More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek account of their lives, Saint Serge is described as the “sweet companion and lover (erastai)” of St. Bacchus.

Yale historian John Richard Boswell discovered this early Christian history and wrote about it nearly 20 years ago in “Same Sex Unions In Pre-Modern Europe“ (1994).

In ancient church liturgical documents, he found the existence of an “Office of Same Sex Union” (10th and 11th century Greek) and the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century Slavonic).

He found many examples of:
  • A community gathered in a church
  • A blessing of the couple before the altar
  • Their right hands joined as at heterosexual marriages
  • The participation of a priest
  • The taking of the Eucharist
  • A wedding banquet afterwards
  • A 14th century Serbian Slavonic “Office of the Same Sex Union,” uniting two men or two women, had the couple having their right hands laid on the Gospel while having a cross placed in their left hands. Having kissed the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

    In late medieval France, a contract of “enbrotherment” (affrèrement) existed for men who pledged to live together sharing ‘un pain, un vin, et une bourse’ – one bread, one wine, and one purse.

    Other religions, such as Hinduism and some native American religions, have respect for same-sex couples weaved into their history.

    When right-wing evangelical Christians talk about “traditional marriage,” there is no such thing.

    Saturday, April 19, 2014

    More Saturday Male Beauty

    Will the 10th Circuit Dismiss Utah's Appeal of Marriage Ruling?

    As most readers will recall, last December a federal district court struck down Utah's ban on same sex marriages.  The posture of the case was that the plaintiffs sued the Governor, Attorney General and the Salt Lake County Clerk - who was responsible for issuing marriage licenses as the defendants.  On appeal, the County Clerk did not appeal the district court ruling.  Now, based on questions raised during oral argument before the 10th Circuit, anti-gay forces in Utah are worried that the 10th Circuit may dismiss the appeal for lack of standing - i.e., the absence of the County Clerk as an appellant.  Obviously, the irony would be ever so sweet if the appeal was dismissed and the lower court ruling was left standing.  Here are highlights from the Salt Lake Tribune:

    There’s a small concern lurking beneath the surface in Utah’s same-sex marriage case, a quiet question that some experts say could derail the state’s push to permanently ban gay and lesbian unions.

    Although few believe it poses a serious threat to the case’s trajectory — likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court by summer — the question persists:   Could Kitchen v. Herbert be thrown out on a technicality? 

    On Tuesday, Utah’s lead counsel Gene C. Schaerr drew attention to a question posed to both sides by a three-judge panel at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals last week regarding whether the lawsuit targeted the appropriate state and county officials. 

    In the Utah lawsuit, the three couple plaintiffs represented by Peggy A. Tomsic and James E. Magleby named the governor, the attorney general and the Salt Lake County clerk in the case.
    They allege these three officials are responsible for same-sex couples being denied marriage licenses and for out-of-state marriages remaining unrecognized in Utah.

     Why would Utah’s lead attorney be volunteering to the court that the governor and attorney general are, in fact, the proper people to sue?   If the court finds that they’re not, the appellate judges may decline to rule in the case, leaving Judge Robert J. Shelby’s ruling to stand as law in Utah. 

    During Utah’s arguments last week, Judge Jerome A. Holmes — widely considered to be the "vote to get" in the case — asked Tomsic to explain why the defendants her plaintiffs had singled out were appropriate. 

    Further, he asked whether the state continued to have the right to appeal the case, given that Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen declined to appeal Judge Shelby’s Dec. 20 decision to overturn Utah’s same-sex marriage ban.

    "You sued the clerk of court," Holmes said, referring to Swensen. "But the clerk of court is not on the appeal, and, it would seem to me that creates a fundamental basis for concern about where jurisdiction lies in this case. "
    It is not known when this decision may be issued, though experts estimate it could take anywhere from one to three months.

    Should the court rule on the merits of the case and side with — or oppose —the lower court’s decision, its ruling would effectually extend to all states in the 10th Circuit, including Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.