Tagged: civil rights

Florida ruling for same-sex marriage adds to list of victories for civil rights

A state judge struck down Florida’s gay marriage ban on Friday in the latest in a string of legal gay-rights victories that have nonetheless been put on hold for resolution by higher courts.

Circuit court judge Sarah Zabel in Miami-Dade county said Florida’s ban violated the constitutional rights to due process and equal protection, and offended “basic human decency“.

Florida’s attorney general quickly appealed against the ruling. But Zabel said the slew of recent verdicts showed it was “increasingly obvious” it was impermissible to deny couples the right to marry solely on the basis of their sexual orientation, and that doing so served no governmental purpose.

“It serves only to hurt, to discriminate, to deprive same-sex couples and their families of equal dignity, to label and treat them as second-class citizens, and to deem them unworthy of participation in one of the fundamental institutions of our society,” she wrote.

Now, you can see ever more clearly why the Republican Party and their nutball acolytes are blocking affirmation of federal judgeships throughout Obama’s terms in the White House. No one expects him to appoint anyone other than moderate to traditionally-conservative judges; but, even that is too scary for right-wingers and theocrats.

Anyone with an understanding of law beyond 19th Century blood-and-thunder oratory is going to rule favorably upon all the issues Congress is too cowardly to advance.

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Inequality is not inevitable

An insidious trend has developed over this past third of a century. A country that experienced shared growth after World War II began to tear apart, so much so that when the Great Recession hit in late 2007, one could no longer ignore the fissures that had come to define the American economic landscape. How did this “shining city on a hill” become the advanced country with the greatest level of inequality?

One stream of the extraordinary discussion set in motion by Thomas Piketty’s timely, important book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” has settled on the idea that violent extremes of wealth and income are inherent to capitalism. In this scheme, we should view the decades after World War II — a period of rapidly falling inequality — as an aberration.

This is actually a superficial reading of Mr. Piketty’s work, which provides an institutional context for understanding the deepening of inequality over time. Unfortunately, that part of his analysis received somewhat less attention than the more fatalistic-seeming aspects…

…The dynamics of the imperial capitalism of the 19th century needn’t apply in the democracies of the 21st. We don’t need to have this much inequality in America.

Our current brand of capitalism is an ersatz capitalism. For proof of this go back to our response to the Great Recession, where we socialized losses, even as we privatized gains. Perfect competition should drive profits to zero, at least theoretically, but we have monopolies and oligopolies making persistently high profits. C.E.O.s enjoy incomes that are on average 295 times that of the typical worker, a much higher ratio than in the past, without any evidence of a proportionate increase in productivity.

If it is not the inexorable laws of economics that have led to America’s great divide, what is it? The straightforward answer: our policies and our politics. People get tired of hearing about Scandinavian success stories, but the fact of the matter is that Sweden, Finland and Norway have all succeeded in having about as much or faster growth in per capita incomes than the United States and with far greater equality…

Ideology and interests combined nefariously…Corporate interests argued for getting rid of regulations, even when those regulations had done so much to protect and improve our environment, our safety, our health and the economy itself.

But this ideology was hypocritical. The bankers, among the strongest advocates of laissez-faire economics, were only too willing to accept hundreds of billions of dollars from the government in the bailouts that have been a recurring feature of the global economy since the beginning of the Thatcher-Reagan era of “free” markets and deregulation…

The American political system is overrun by money. Economic inequality translates into political inequality, and political inequality yields increasing economic inequality. In fact, as he recognizes, Mr. Piketty’s argument rests on the ability of wealth-holders to keep their after-tax rate of return high relative to economic growth. How do they do this? By designing the rules of the game to ensure this outcome; that is, through politics…

We have located the underlying source of the problem: political inequities and policies that have commodified and corrupted our democracy. It is only engaged citizens who can fight to restore a fairer America, and they can do so only if they understand the depths and dimensions of the challenge. It is not too late to restore our position in the world and recapture our sense of who we are as a nation. Widening and deepening inequality is not driven by immutable economic laws, but by laws we have written ourselves.

Our corrupt Congress hasn’t happened by accident, you know. The design is neither new nor patented. But, the only correction – the historic cure remains unchanged. Throw the bums out of office.

That doesn’t mean replacing them with a new crop of self-seeking liars – whether they call themselves neo-conservatives, libertarians or tea party patriots. People who care not for the welfare of individuals care equally less for the welfare of this whole nation. The canary in the coal mine is still bigotry and hatred. If politicians can’t be brought to care for the civil rights of all Americans then they don’t deserve to represent any Americans.

A little more civil rights comes to Arkansas


Kristin Seaton (L) and Jennifer Rambo first out with a marriage license

Gay marriage arrived in the Bible Belt on Saturday, beginning with two women who had traveled overnight to ensure they’d be first in line.

“Thank God,” Jennifer Rambo said after Carroll County Deputy Clerk Jane Osborn issued a marriage license to her and Kristin Seaton, a former volleyball player at the University of Arkansas. The Fort Smith couple wed moments later on a sidewalk near the courthouse; the officiant wore a rainbow-colored dress…

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza paved the way Friday with a ruling that removed a 10-year-old barrier, saying a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2004 banning gay marriage was “an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality.” Piazza’s ruling also overturned a 1997 state law banning gay marriage.

But because Piazza didn’t issue a stay, Arkansas’ 75 county clerks were left to decide for themselves whether to grant marriage licenses.

Rambo, 26, and Seaton, 27, were the first gay couple to be legally married. They arrived about 2 a.m., slept in a Ford Focus and awoke every half-hour to make sure no one else would take a spot at the head of the line.

As dawn came, no one was certain any clerk would issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Initially, deputy clerk Lana Gordon said she wasn’t sure she had the authority and shooed people from her office.

“We just walked out of here crying,” Rambo said.

When Osborn intervened, other same-sex couples let Rambo and Seaton return to their place in line.

Piazza’s lack of a stay caused confusion among county clerks, Association of Arkansas Counties executive director Chris Villines said.

“Confusion” is journalistic politeness for behaving like the bigots who have ruled grassroots Bible Belt politics for decades. When we dealt with the first similar ruling in New Mexico county clerks rushed to be among the first to issue marriage licenses. There wasn’t even a need to poll clerks statewide till the wave of freedom hit the Texas side of the state. And after the state body of county clerks voted resoundingly to go ahead there were only a couple of backwards clerks who said their god wouldn’t let them participate – and resigned.

Never did hear who paid for the phone call from their “personal god” – but, the earth did not rend asunder nor did any firstborn children end up struck dead except by the usual means in New Mexico.

RTFA for more anecdotal tales of happiness in spite of intransigent homophobia.

Justice Department will defend same-sex marriage nationwide

dominos topple

In an assertion of same-sex marriage rights the US attorney general, Eric Holder, announced on Saturday that he will apply a landmark supreme court ruling to the Justice Department.

In prepared remarks delivered in New York to the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group which works on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, Holder said same-sex spouses could not now be compelled to testify against each other, should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly and are entitled to the same rights and privileges as federal prison inmates in opposite-sex marriages.

The Justice Department runs a number of benefits programmes, and Holder said same-sex couples will now qualify for them. They include the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and benefits to surviving spouses of public safety officers who suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries in the line of duty.

“In every courthouse, in every proceeding and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States, they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law,” Holder said.

Just as in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, Holder said, the stakes in the current generation over same-sex marriage rights “could not be higher”.

“The Justice Department’s role in confronting discrimination must be as aggressive today as it was in Robert Kennedy’s time,” Holder said of the attorney general who played a leadership role in advancing civil rights.

Right on!

Our nation confronts exactly the same kind of ignorance and bigotry we did with the civil rights advances of the 1960’s. Nice to see official Washington ready to join in, again. Excepting Congress and the Confederates, of course.

MLKjr

I think I’ll write a little bit about this photo. You see, I’m standing just to the right of the field of vision – politely nudged aside by the news photographer who wanted to get a good close-up of Dr. King speaking in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Black Chicago. Out in front of the Robert Taylor Projects.

Looking around for a photo and a news piece to reflect upon on this holiday, I bumped into this news photo from the summer of 1965 in Chicago. I spent that summer as a community activist working with other like-minded folks from the then fairly-new W.E.B.DuBois Clubs. Radicals, communist and non-communist, religious and atheist, all colors and creeds; but, convinced that it would take more than band-aids to patch up the effect of centuries of racism in America.

I met some wonderful people that summer. Not the least of whom was Dr. King. Though he wasn’t the biggest influence on my feelings, understanding of what the movement needed to do, where to go next. Most influential was Ismael Flory, founder of the African American Heritage Association, editor and stalwart in his dedication to producing an encyclopedia of African American studies. Ish could turn traffic directions into a discussion of history, turn lunch into the science of gastronomy – could make you laugh or cry over silly humanity.

I opened for Dr. King, that day in Chicago’s South Side. Back in the day, there wasn’t anyplace I sang and performed that didn’t have at least a core of the call for change in it. Newspaper articles and historic documents say this was the first time that Dr. King was booed by a Black audience. It was much, much less than that.

There were two truly tiny efforts birthing in Chicago at that time joining the early call for Black Power within the civil rights movement – and ready to exit the larger effort at the drop of a dollar bill. That day the noisiest boos came from members of the Blackstone Rangers already devolving into hustlers taking money from the Feds and using the funds to build one of the largest drug gangs in Chicago. The other silliest group was comprised of one well-known young Black man – an early advocate of separatist activism – who trotted out a line of a half-dozen or so schoolchildren, none over 6 or 7 years old, who carried anti-King signs. Dr. King chided him for his opportunism and guile.

For me, the day is remembered as the first time I met Martin Luther King, Jr.. I remember the summer sun and heat. I remember one Black teenager who liked one particular song I wrote – something I rarely did. I never wanted to be a songwriter. It was one more step away from America’s bigoted history. One more step towards a future still unrealized; but – believe me – better than it ever was.

I wrote this a few years ago. Worth reposting.

UKIP suspends councillor who blames floods on gay marriage

bigots

UKIP has suspended an Oxfordshire councillor after he blamed recent flooding on the government’s decision to legalise gay marriage.

In a letter to his local paper, David Silvester said he had warned the PM the legislation would result in “disaster”.

He said David Cameron had acted “arrogantly against the Gospel”…

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said he was entitled to his “strong Baptist view of the world”, but had defied a request not to do further media interviews.

Mr Farage said: “So we suspended him, quite rightly.”

“He’s not a spokesman for the party,” Mr Farage continued, adding: “I’ve never even met him.”

Conservative Business Minister Michael Fallon said UKIP was “the only big protest party at the moment” and still counted “one or two fruitcakes” among its members…

Mr Silvester, from Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, defected to UKIP from the Conservatives in protest at David Cameron’s support for same-sex unions.

In the letter to the Henley Standard he wrote: “The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war.”

He added: “I wrote to David Cameron in April 2012 to warn him that disasters would accompany the passage of his same-sex marriage bill.

Mr. Silvester should probably emigrate to the Confederate wing of the former colonies where he could join the range of nutballs that infest the Republican Party under the Tea Party umbrella. The family values hypocrites, the constitutionalist hypocrites, libertarian hypocrites or straight-up bigot hypocrites would welcome him with open arms.

Pope welcomes Atheists in his Christmas call of peace

Pope Francis used the first Christmas address of his papacy on Wednesday to make a broad call for global peace and an end to violence in Syria and parts of Africa, urging atheists and followers of other religions to join together in this common cause…

“True peace is not a balance of opposing forces,” Francis said. “It is not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment…”

Francis has regularly attracted huge crowds in Vatican City, and almost overnight he has emerged as a major figure on the global stage, surprising many Catholics with his nonjudgmental tone on issues like homosexuality and divorce, and his focus on the plight of the world’s poor. He has also been unpredictable, telephoning ordinary people who have written him letters, embracing a badly disfigured man at St. Peter’s and making unannounced visits in Rome.

He proved unpredictable again on Wednesday, when he went off script to include atheists in his call for peace, rare for a Catholic leader.

“I invite even nonbelievers to desire peace,” he said. “Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace…”

A bit disingenuous. I find more often that atheists and particularly those who’ve moved on to studies in science, humanist philosophy, secular views on progress – generally not only support efforts for peace; but, work at it.

Francis broadened his peace message to call for an end to violence in Syria, as well as in the Central African Republic, where Christians and Muslims have clashed in a country that he described as “often forgotten and overlooked.” He cited the rising tensions and violence in South Sudan, calling for “social harmony,” and he asked for a “favorable outcome” to peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis. He also renewed his focus on the plight of migrants, some the victims of human trafficking, others fleeing war and poverty to try to reach Europe.

Francis called attention to victims of natural disasters, especially Philippine typhoon victims, while renewing his call to protect the environment, which he said was “frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity.”

Maybe I shouldn’t be so cynical; but, I still recall the too-brief reign of Pope John, the peoples’ Pope. His epistle for Pacem en Terris sparked much of the participation of priests, nuns and their parishioners in peace movements, the civil rights movement, opposition to the scumbags who have always profited from exploitation.

It’s been more than a couple of decades since I could wake up in a jail cell after confronting economic thugs like the Koch Brothers and their private blue-clad army – and found I was sharing a cell with a priest. Cripes, I haven’t had a deep discussion behind bars about that Essene rebel named Jesus since 1965.

The Pope needn’t be concerned about inviting atheists into the battle for peace. We’re waiting for his own brothers and sisters to rejoin the struggle on the same scale as a half-century ago.

Pic of the Day


REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Natalie Dicou (L) and her partner Nicole Christensen, and James Goodman (2nd R) and his partner Jeffrey Gomez (R), wait to get married at the Salt Lake County Clerks office in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 20, 2013.

As much as folks here in New Mexico celebrated Thursday’s ruling by our state Supreme Court validating the civil rights of same-sex couples – the victory in Utah the next day is even more meaningful. That ruling was delivered by a federal court superseding the Utah state constitution. As it should do.

The stage is set for another era of civil rights rolling out over this federal union of American states.

Illinois is Sweet 16

It’s official: Illinois on Wednesday joined 15 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing same-sex marriage.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, accompanied by state Rep. Greg Harris, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and several other dignitaries, signed into law a measure allowing gay couples to begin marrying on June 1. “It’s a triumph of democracy, a triumph of government by the people,” said the governor, shortly before signing. “We want to have a new birth of freedom across America, and love is not relegated to second-class citizen status.”

The historic nature of Wednesday’s ceremony was underscored by the desk Quinn used to sign the legislation, which once belonged to another Prairie State lawmaker: Abraham Lincoln. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Lincoln used the desk to pen his first inaugural address, delivered on March 4, 1861.

Thousands flooded the University of Illinois at Chicago Forum to watch the signing ceremony, which came two weeks after the legislature passed SB10, also known as the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. Quinn legalized civil union legislation in 2011 and announced his support for full marriage equality a year later.

Since January, the LGBT movement has seen unprecedented gains, including two U.S. Supreme Court rulings strengthening same-sex unions, a Senate vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the addition of seven states (including Illinois) to the U.S.’s marriage equality column. Hawaii legalized same-sex marriage just last week…

One of the most special moments of the ceremony came when Jim Darby, a Korean War veteran, and his partner, Patrick Bova, shared a kiss on stage.

“We’ve been together for over 50 years,” said Bova to thunderous applause. “I can remember so many times when I was celebrating families’ and friends’ anniversaries, and thinking how wonderful it would be to celebrate my marriage to Jim. Finally, that day has come.”

Regardless of imprecations from leading True Believers, the Earth did not falter on its axis nor did Satan rise from the cleft soil of Illinois to strike humankind dead.

10-point victory for Women’s Rights over anti-abortion forces in Albuquerque special election

The anti-science, anti-civil rights coalition of religious true believers and right-wing organizers from around the country have failed. Their attempt to kickoff a shutdown battle against pro-choice women’s rights came down to failure by 10 percentage points. A spread that is at least as great as national averages – perhaps foreshadowing another step forward in the whole range of civil rights changes happening in the United States.

Nutballs from Operation Rescue moved to Albuquerque, setting up a field headquarters away from their bastion in Kansas here in New Mexico. Fortunately, though we have our own native crew of religious crazies, we also have a much larger number of religious folks, atheists, ordinary who-gives-a-damn citizens who resent attempts to shut down civil liberties in the name of superstition over science.

No need to refresh the realities of the issue. Just a chance to congratulate the citizens of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who turned out more voters in this special election than came out to re-elect a popular Republican mayor a few weeks ago.

With 49 of 50 polling places reporting, AGAINST 55% – 45% FOR limiting the right to choose an abortion.