Sunday, March 22, 2009
Thanks to all of you who wrote with concern and good wishes. You guys take care, catch up with ya a little further down the road.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Rex Wockner's take on the hearing: "not a happy day in San Francisco."
Disaster. They constantly interrupted the gay side with aggressive questions, but let Ken Starr go on and on and on. They were obsessed with the fact that theAnd an oblique reference by Andrew Sullivan:
domestic-partnership law gives the same rights as marriage, and they completely ignored the fact that they so eloquently argued that separate isn't equal in their previous ruling. They seemed enamored of the notion that the people can do almost whatever they want via the ballot-box amendment process -- including repealing freedom of speech, banning gay adoption, pretty much any damned thing they choose. We're not winning this one. It could even be unanimous. That leaves the gay side with two options: Return to the California ballot with a pro-active initiative to attempt to undo Prop 8. Or take it to the U.S. Supreme Court, using the U.S. Supreme Court's pro-gay ruling in the Colorado Amendment 2 case as a spot-on precedent.
A bill to turn the state's civil unions into civil marriages has been put on the fast track by the legislature. The main question seems to be whether the governor would veto the bill. The Senate has a veto-proof margin of support - but not the House. I have to say I prefer this legislative grind to a court diktat. The same process is slowly working in New York state. Very soon, we are likely to have marriage equality in Iowa as well - and another legislative and democratic fight to retain it. Those of us fighting for civil equality need to relish these battles rather than try to short-circuit them. Because we have the better arguments.
What I say: Boys and girls, does it really come as a great shock to you that your rights are subject to majority vote?
Welcome to reality. Everybody's rights are always subject to majority vote - and to the whim, the moral fashion of the times.
And ninety percent of what we call morality - right and wrong - is just that: a fashion. Something that changes, something that is not carved in stone.
I tend to agree with Sullivan: it would be nice to have some court magically whisk away all the discriminatory laws against us, and make everything pretty overnight, magically, without risk, without effort.
But that's a kind of cartoon way of thinking. Look back in your history books, you'll see that no minority, no oppressed group in this country or any other has ever gotten their wish that way. It takes a determined struggle, and changing the laws, which is often messy and not always easy.
But getting the majority to support a change in the laws is a far more secure position to be in, once we convince them of the need for change. Yes, a court ruling can overturn a law; but then a new law or new ruling can overturn that one.
So the struggle goes on, and it's a long one that requires patient, persistent effort. Are you up for it, guys?
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Tomorrow you can expect to hear all kinds of hooting and hollering regarding the California Supreme Court's hearing on whether Proposition 8 is valid - or not. Lots of high-powered legal arguments will be offered on both sides, and even though the Court may not issue a final ruling for another 90 days, observers will be quick to take the measure of the court's attitude by what is said or not said from the bench tomorrow.
It's a very sticky question. We know, of course, which way we would like the justices to rule. But although I'm not a lawyer, I realize this question is stirring up some very deep constitutional waters. It's not a cut and dried thing; the justices are walking through a minefield.
As I see it, the question is, which is the trump card: democracy (via a free election, such as was done in November), or the laws (which include the court's previous findings on the constitutional obligation to extend marriage rights to all). The vote of the people, or the rule of law?
Before you blurt out an answer, stop a minute and transpose the situation into another framework. Let's say the Supreme Court ruled that alcohol was a dangerous substance and outlawed its sale or consumption in the state; or that the right to bear arms must be extended to allow everyone to carry a handgun openly in all public places; or that children cannot be compelled to go to school against their will, at any age. Or any other issue, plausible or not, that you can think of.
Then suppose the voters pass an amendment overruling the Supreme Court's logic.
Who rules? The people? Or the courts? What are the limits of democracy, of rule by majority vote? Who gets to say where the limit is, and why? It's not enough to say, Well I don't like it. You have to justify by compelling reason why you override either the law or the vote. It's a very complex question, and I don't pretend to have the answer.
But what I do know is the the justices will be excoriated without mercy no matter which way they decide. God help them, I sure wouldn't want to be in their shoes right now.
FYI, from Wikipedia:
For those who voted Yes on Proposition 8 [against same-sex marriage]:
84% of weekly churchgoers – (32% of those polled);[note 1]
82% of Republicans – (29% of those polled);[note 2][note 3]
81% of white evangelicals – (17% of those polled);
70% of African Americans – (10% of those polled);[note 4][note 5]
68% of voters married with children (31% of those polled);
65% of all Protestants - (43% of those polled);
65% of white Protestants – (29% of those polled);
64% of voters with children in household – (40% of those polled);
64% of Catholics – (30% of electorate);
61% of age 65 and over – (15% of those polled);
60% of married people – (62% of those polled);[note 6]
59% of suburban dwellers – (51% of those polled);
58% of non-college graduates – (50% of those polled);
56% of union households - (25% of those polled);
53% of Latinos – (18% of those polled);
51% of white men – (31% of those polled).
For those who voted No on Proposition 8 [in favor of same-sex marriage]:
96% of gays and lesbians - (24% of those polled);
83% of those who never attend church – (21% of those polled);
79% of white Democrats – (21% of those polled);
78% of Liberals – (26% of those polled);
67% of whites age 18-29 – (9% of those polled);
64% of Democrats – (42% of those polled);
62% of singles – (38% of those polled);
61% of age 18-29 – (20% of those polled);
58% of those without children – (60% of those polled);
52% of white women – (32% of those polled);
51% of whites – (63% of those polled);
51% of Asians – (9% of those polled);
Polls showed that gender and income differences shared virtually no correlation with the vote.
Raw data from the poll is also available at http://www.sacbee.com/elections/story/1372009.html.
While the CNN election exit poll has sparked discussion concerning the widely discussed roll of the African American vote in the passage of proposition 8, another report indicates that African American influence was overestimated and that religiosity, party identification, and political ideology were more closely correlated to votes in favor of the proposition.
Consumer warning: May stick to your brain, requiring surgical removal.
If the house is in his name, you better start packing your bags pronto, buster. You don't own it; his snarky relatives do. Oh they may be nice as pie right now while he's alive, they may fawn over you and proclaim loudly every chance they get how much they love you; but watch out for the knives as soon as he's gone. Trust me, I know.
Even if the house is in both your names, you're still on very shaky ground: it's not the relatives you have to worry about in that case, it's the IRS. You will have to pay up to FIFTY PERCENT of his share of the value in taxes. Yup. Even though your name is on it too.
Why? Because you aren't his widower; you guys were never legally married in the eyes of the law. You have no more rights than a stranger. Even if he left his share to you in a will, you still have to pay.
The IRS is going to get what you owe them, of course; they can garnish your wages if need be. Or other financially devastating things.
That's why marriage matters. As it seems legendary photographer Annie Liebovitz has discovered. Granted, she's in a much higher financial bracket than most of us will ever be. But the principle is the same.
If you aren't married, then when one of you dies, the other one is crap in the eyes of the law. You have no rights to anything that was your partner's. Believe it.
Out Vanity Fair photographer Annie Leibovitz recently took out a loan against her prized photographs in order to pay off her outstanding mortgage debt. Miss Leibovitz is not alone in suffering from the global economic crisis, but what struck me about her story was that most of her financial woes stemmed from her inheritance of her long time partner, Susan Sontag’s, estate.
As Suze Orman pointed out in her Valentine’s Day wish for gay marriage, same-sex couples do not have the same privileges as straight married couples when it comes to inheritance. If your partner passes away and leaves her estate to you, you have to pay up to 50 percent of the value of your inheritance in taxes. However, if you and your partner were recognized as a married couple, you wouldn’t have to pay a dime. And it is precisely this unjust double standard that got Annie Leibovitz into financial trouble.
When Sontag died in 2004, she bequeathed several properties to Leibovitz, who was forced to pony up half of their value to keep them. Yes, she makes a nice chunk of change from Vanity Fair, and yes, she probably could have just sold the properties when the market was good in 2004, but that’s not really the point. The point is she should never have been in the position of paying or selling to not pay as much in the first place. Her wealth and poor decision-making are incidental.
Because, dummy, marriage is not about cake and ice cream and oodles of nifty gifts from your adoring friends and relatives. It's about money and property and insurance and pensions and houses and cars and life and death and the equal protection of the laws. It's about all those things that make it possible to have a safe, secure life together.
The legal advocacy group GLAD has just filed suit in federal court in Boston on behalf of 8 married same-sex couples and 3 surviving spouses - including Dean Hara, the widower of openly gay Congressman Garry Studds - challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies to same-sex married couples in any state the rights and benefits of 1,138 federal laws that refer to marital status. Among those rights and benefits are:
* Social Security spousal protections that ground a family’s economic security while living in old age, and upon disability and death;
* protections for one spouse’s essential monetary resources and the ability to stay in the family home when the other spouse needs Medicaid for nursing home care;
* the ability to be included in a family policy of health insurance, and if receiving that family health insurance, to be free of income tax on the value of that insurance;
* the ability to use the “Married Filing Jointly” status for federal income tax purposes that can save families money;
* family medical leave from a job to care for a seriously ill spouse;
* disability, dependency or death benefits for the spouses of veterans and public safety officers;
* employment benefits for federal employees, including access to family health insurance benefits, as well as retirement and death benefits for surviving spouses;
* estate/death protections that allow a spouse to leave assets to the other spouse – including the family home – without incurring any taxes; and
* the ability of a citizen to obtain a visa for a non-citizen spouse and sponsor that spouse for purposes of citizenship.
GLAD was successful in filing court cases that eventually brought about same-sex marriage in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. Let's keep our fingers crossed on this one.
Joe.My.God also has this horrible story of a double murder in a redneck corner of Spain, and the perp's acquital on a "gay panic" defense.
And still, we are the ones who are so awful, so sinful, so immoral? I don't think so.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Sometimes it gets to be a bit much to handle. Sometimes I just get a little overloaded with it all and have to retreat for a while to a nice quiet, peaceful spot in my mind where everything is tranquil and the world's noise isn't heard - can you relate?
A place like this:
I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
The Blue Truck hit counter just turned over 20,000. Appreciate ya buddies. 'Night, guys.
Seems it's really not ever too late to become a big star, even at 93. Maybe you guys who live closer to civilization have already heard about Clara's cooking videos, but we just got holt of 'em out here on the prairie.
Love you, Clara! You go, girl.
Got to browsing through YouTube videos of the band Heart, one of my old favorites, and was amazed to discover so many great songs I'd nearly forgotten. Here's another of their classic hits, with a more rocking attitude; the video is too silly to watch, but the sound is great:
I gave the roommate a copy of Mel's book, Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America, for Christmas. He's still working on it, says its a great read, he can relate to the whole thing.
You might also want to check out In the Life's online documentary "Ties That Bind," featuring interviews with White along with Bishop Gene Robinson, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, and Parvez Sharma, a gay Muslim filmmaker.