Same-sex weddings in the UK begin in March

The first same-sex weddings in England and Wales will be able to take place from 29 March 2014, Equalities Minister Maria Miller says.

Initially it was thought the first marriages would not take place until next summer…

The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaderships all backed the proposals. [Try that one in Congress]

MPs approved the principle of same-sex marriage despite opposition from many Conservatives, which caused tensions in the party. Most Lib Dem and Labour MPs supported the move…

Ms Miller said: “Marriage is one of our most important institutions, and from 29 March 2014 it will be open to everyone, irrespective of whether they fall in love with someone of the same sex or opposite sex.”

She said it was “just another step in the evolution of marriage“.

And she said she was “working hard” to ensure that couples who wanted to convert civil partnerships into marriages – and married people wanting to change their legal gender while remaining married – would be able to do so before the end of next year.

From June, people will also be able to take part in same-sex weddings in some British consulates and armed forces bases overseas or in military chapels.

Going to be lots of happy couples in the UK starting with the end of March. No, that doesn’t include the opposition who, of course, don’t believe in everyone having a right to fall in love and enjoy the rights of citizenship.

So what? On sum, I’m confident the increase in happy folks outweighs unhappy homophobes.

Gay marriage a reality in New Jersey – Republican governor surrenders as state Supreme Court backs civil rights

Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey celebrate, first same-sex couple married in NJ

Gov. Chris Christie dropped his legal challenge to same-sex marriages on Monday, removing the possibility that the vows of couples who began getting married hours earlier could be undone by a court.

New Jersey became the 14th state to allow gay marriages Monday, three days after the state Supreme Court unanimously rejected Christie’s request to delay the start of the nuptials…

…The announcement came from a Republican governor who is a possible 2016 presidential candidate and has for years opposed gay marriage while supporting the state’s previous civil union law.

It was met with jubilation from gay rights advocates including Steven Goldstein, the founder and former leader of Garden State Equality, who asked “How much happiness can I stand..?”

The decision caught some by surprise, but not Larry Lustberg, one of the lawyers on the case on behalf of gay couples and Garden State Equality. “The handwriting was on the wall as clearly as it could possibly be. The governor had always said he would fight this all the way up to the Supreme Court, but he didn’t say he was going to fight it in the Supreme Court twice,” he said in a conference call. “This was inevitable.”

The letter detailing Christie’s decision, from the Acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman to the Supreme Court, was just two sentences and didn’t get into detail…

Last year, the state Legislature passed a law to allow gay marriage and deal with those issues, but Christie vetoed it.

And at 12:01 a.m., couples in a handful of communities wed.

In Newark, Mayor Cory Booker, in one of his last acts before joining the U.S. Senate in coming weeks, led a ceremony for seven gay couples and two heterosexual couples.

“Tonight we have crossed a barrier, and now, while you all have fallen into love, I want to say that the truth is, that the state of New Jersey has risen to love,” he said. “This state now is resonant now with the core values of our county, with the idea that there is no second class citizenship in America, that we’re all equal under the law.”

Like pretty much every case involving civil rights in America – long overdue.

Christie deserves little credit for recognizing the foolishness of continuing the suppression of equal opportunity for folks in the LGBT community. He recognizes the need to behave like a moderate if he ever intends to attract independent votes in a national campaign – like for president. He recognizes that living in one of the literate, educated, modern enclaves within the United States – instead of neo-Confederate backwardness – he needed to act like someone with a reasonable understanding of constitutional law.

Even though he stands damned near alone among potential candidates on the national stage of Republican office-holders.

Stephen Hawking supports assisted suicide

British cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking has publicly expressed support for allowing people with terminal illnesses the option of assisted suicide.

“We don’t let animals suffer, so why humans?”

Hawking, one of the world’s most famous scientists, is also one of the world’s most famous cases of a rare progressive motor neuron disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Just 5 percent of those with ALS live more than a decade after diagnosis.

When he was diagnosed in 1964, Hawking was given just two years to live. Known for saying “while there’s life, there’s hope,” the 71-year-old learned to adapt to living with his condition.

“Theoretical physics is one field where being disabled is not a handicap. It is all in the mind,” the Cambridge scientist said.

But he still believes other terminally ill people should have choices.

“I think those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their lives, and those who help them should be free from prosecution,” Hawking said in an interview with the BBC.

“There must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and are not being pressurised into it or have it done without their knowledge and consent as would have been the case with me.”

Hawking was once put on life support after a bout of pneumonia, and his wife was given the option of turning it off, but that was not something Hawking wanted for himself.

The right-to-die with dignity, the right to make the choice about ending your own life – preferably with the assistance of a concerned and capable physician – is the sort of option all civilized societies will eventually come to. Until then, it’s only playacting at being civilized. Like a lot of “immutable” rights, actually.

Uruguay Parliament gives initial OK to legal marijuana


Uruguay is poised to create a state-licensed marijuana industry, as its legislature takes steps to approve a controversial bill detailing how the government would regulate marijuana, from its production and import to marketing and distribution. The move would be a first.

NPR’s South America correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro tells NPR’s Newscast unit that the landmark bill has made it through the lower house. It is expected to sail through the Senate, she says.

“Uruguay is set to become the first nation to produce and distribute marijuana. The measure specifies that the government will control marijuana imports, planting, cultivation, harvesting, production, storage, marketing and distribution. And taxation I imagine.

“The plan has the backing of the left-leaning president, who says it’s vital to find new ways to fight drug trafficking.

“Users will be able to cultivate up to six plants or buy the drug from a dispensary or marijuana growing club. The opposition says marijuana is blah, blah, blah.

“The law will not allow foreigners visiting the country to have access to the crop…

President Mujica backed a similar bill last summer, prompting the Drugs Peace Institute to launch a campaign to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“Buyers would have to be registered on a database and be over the age of 18,” the BBC reports. “They would be able to buy up to 1.4 oz per month in specially licensed pharmacies or grow up to six plants at home.”

Fortunately, the mellowing effects of cannabis aren’t especially diminished by baking instead of smoking. I’m already pretty well mellowed out; but, I imagine I could find a circumstance or two when I might wish to aid relaxation with a little Ganja. I haven’t any interest in smoking anything.

I would probably bake some brownies or a savory focaccia to keep at hand in the freezer for the rare occasion. If this was legal in my neck of the prairie.

Germans loved Obama. Now we don’t trust him

Malte Spitz is a member of the German Green Party

In May 2010, I received a brown envelope. In it was a CD with an encrypted file containing six months of my life. Six months of metadata, stored by my cellphone provider, T-Mobile. This list of metadata contained 35,830 records. That’s 35,830 times my phone company knew if, where and when I was surfing the Web, calling or texting.

The truth is that phone companies have this data on every customer. I got mine because, in 2009, I filed a suit against T-Mobile for the release of all the data on me that had been gathered and stored. The reason this information had been preserved for six months was because of Germany’s implementation of a 2006 European Union directive…

This “preventive measure” was met with huge opposition in Germany. Lawyers, journalists, doctors, unions and civil liberties activists started to protest. In 2008, almost 35,000 people signed on to a constitutional challenge to the law. In Berlin, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest data retention. In the end, the Constitutional Court ruled that the implementation of the European Union directive was, in fact, unconstitutional.

In Germany, whenever the government begins to infringe on individual freedom, society stands up. Given our history, we Germans are not willing to trade in our liberty for potentially better security. Germans have experienced firsthand what happens when the government knows too much about someone. In the past 80 years, Germans have felt the betrayal of neighbors who informed for the Gestapo and the fear that best friends might be potential informants for the Stasi. Homes were tapped. Millions were monitored…

With Edward J. Snowden’s important revelations fresh in our minds, Germans were eager to hear President Obama’s recent speech in Berlin. But the Barack Obama who spoke in front of the Brandenburg Gate to a few thousand people on June 19 looked a lot different from the one who spoke in front of the Siegessäule in July 2008 in front of more than 200,000 people, who had gathered in the heart of Berlin to listen to Mr. Obama, then running for president. His political agenda as a candidate was a breath of fresh air compared with that of George W. Bush. Mr. Obama aimed to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, end mass surveillance in the so-called war on terror and defend individual freedom.

But the senator who promised to shut Guantánamo is now a second-term president who is still fighting for its closure. And the events of the past few weeks concerning the collection of metadata and private e-mail and social-media content have made many Germans further question Mr. Obama’s proclaimed commitment to the individual freedoms we hold dear.

We ended up with a Harvard lawyer trained to distort freedoms to fit into a legalese framework that our Constitution allows – and somehow that aligns with the spirit of that document. But, the Bill of Rights was added because of the shortcoming within that first document penned by a group of consensus-laden politicians.

The tradition has been carried forward by political hacks from the two parties we’re allowed. Diminishing the freedom of individual citizens is considered fair game by the same category of lawyers who made corporations into people. Our difference in economic standing notwithstanding.

Obama’s ethics are nothing but the same old crap centrism, a middle-of-the-road litany designed to save reactionary economics and limited freedom.

Deaf twin brothers helped to die together after losing sight

Marc and Eddy Verbessem

Identical Belgian twin brothers, born deaf, becoming blind and unable to bear not being able to see and hear each other, had their wish to die granted in a case testing the boundaries of legal euthanasia.

Doctors gave the 45-year-old twins lethal injections after they had had a cup of coffee together and said goodbye to each other, a spokesman at the UZ Brussel hospital said on Monday.

“It’s not simply that they were deaf and blind that they were granted the right to euthanasia. It is that they could no longer bear being unable to hear or see the other,” he said.

Belgium is one of few countries where euthanasia is legal.

A patient must be an adult, capable of making a judgment, and the wish to die must be voluntary, overwhelming and repeated. The patient must also be suffering persistent and unbearable mental or physical pain beyond medical help.

In addition, the condition must be serious and incurable, and have been brought on by illness or injury.

“Unbearable suffering can be mental as well as physical,” the hospital spokesman said. “The brothers were inseparable. They lived together and had the same job.”

He said the brothers died on December 14 and that their family supported their wishes.

Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002 and the number of cases has risen every year since…The Netherlands and Luxembourg have both decriminalized euthanasia. Switzerland allows assisted suicide if the person concerned takes an active role.

Sensible, compassionate system of law, allowing individuals an informed choice of life or death. Light-years ahead of nations still relying on papier mache morality writ into a book in the 14th Century.

New Zealand’s parliament takes first step legalizing gay marriage

The New Zealand parliament has voted 80 votes to 40 in favour of the first step towards legalising gay marriage in the country.

The vote on Wednesday took place in front of a full public gallery, and is the first vote of three New Zealand’s parliament must take, before the bill can become law…

Polls show that around two-thirds of New Zealanders support gay marriage…

New Zealand already accords many legal rights to same-sex couples under same-sex civil union laws, however activists argue this does not give them equal social status…

The movement towards the law was prompted by President Barack Obama in May, who stated his support of gay marriage.

Such a public declaration is credited with prompting John Key, New Zealand’s centre-right prime minister, to say he was “not personally opposed to the idea”.

Bob McCoskrie, founder of the conservative lobby group Family First, said…blah, blah, blah.

Yes, I noticed that I left out the bullshit statement from the rightwing nutball who would deny civil rights to LGBT couples. Why shouldn’t I?

This is not a pantywaist forum open to spreading garbage from the minds of people who would keep this planet locked into the ideology of hatred and bigotry. There is no shortage of sources to provide such crappola. McCoskrie has his own homophobe blog. TV talking heads, newspapers dedicated to being one or another flavor of corporate mouthpiece, “official” spokespeople dedicated to accomplishing nary a single change to life on this Earth – in their lifetime.

I’ve fought against backwards ideology, philosophy, politics and humbug for over a half-century. I haven’t time left to waste on being beloved and acceptable to dimwits.

Court rules that prostitution website doesn’t break state law

A website operated by a former University of New Mexico president and a part-time Santa Fe resident that authorities say was used for prostitution is legal, a state district judge has ruled…The decision highlights the difficulties that prosecutors face in using decades-old laws to combat a modern phenomenon.

The ruling comes as prosecutors were scheduled to present to a grand jury their case against former UNM President F. Chris Garcia, who is accused of helping oversee a prostitution website called Southwest Companions.

State District Judge Stan Whitaker ruled that the website, an online message board and Garcia’s computer account did not constitute a “house of prostitution”…Whitaker also said the website wasn’t “a place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed.”

The ruling means that prosecutors will now have to decide how to proceed with a case involving Garcia, retired Fairleigh Dickinson University physics professor David C. Flory and others…

Garcia’s attorney, Robert Gorence, said Garcia was satisfied with the judge’s decision and felt vindicated. A woman who answered the phone at Flory’s Santa Fe residence said he had no comment.

Investigators said the prostitution ring had a membership of 14,000, including 200 prostitutes. Members paid anywhere from $200 for a sex act to $1,000 for a full hour. Prostitutes were paid with cash, not through the website…

For example, Cunningham said, Craigslist withstood lawsuits and challenges by law-enforcement agencies and district attorneys’ offices to shut down its erotic services section and only closed them later for publicity reason…

Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Drebing…said no decisions have been made about how prosecutors intend to move forward with their case.

Legalizing the sex trade hasn’t occurred to anyone, yet. Probably, there will be one or two brave souls who will suggest tiptoeing into the 21st Century – if and when this comes up before the Roundhouse, our state legislature. They will need body armor.

Like most states with a significant “religious” population, New Mexico is big on moralizing. Doesn’t affect crime rates in the least.

$500 billion managed to sneak out of India to foreign tax havens

The chief of India’s federal investigation agency says Indians have illegally deposited an estimated $500bn in overseas tax havens.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director AP Singh said Indians were the largest depositors in foreign banks. Funds were being sent to tax havens such as Mauritius, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and the British Virgin Islands among others, he said…

Mr Singh was speaking at the opening on Monday of the first Interpol global programme on anti-corruption and asset recovery in the Indian capital, Delhi…

Mr Singh said getting information about such illegal transactions was a time-consuming and expensive process as each country where money had been sent had to be approached for help with investigations.

He said there was a lack of political will in the tax havens to part with any information because they were aware of the extent to which their economies had become “geared to this flow of illegal capitals from the poorer countries”…

In a report in November 2010 the US-based group, Global Financial Integrity…India’s underground economy accounted for 50% of the country’s gross domestic product, it said. The report said the illicit outflows of money had increased after economic reforms began in 1991.

I know it ain’t ever easy to get nations to cooperate when a significant portion of their economy is designed to aid criminal activities. But, that is exactly the context which should make penalties easy to establish in the home country.

India can pass laws restricting a nation from doing any business at all, lock-up the possibility of hidden funds being repatriated, as a consequence of criminal behavior. That might be easier than the straight-up economic pressure our DOJ put on Switzerland recently to accomplish the same thing.

Gee, all you need is honest politicians in your own government to pass the laws. 🙂

Barney Frank and Ron Paul introduce “Joint” legislation

A bipartisan team of Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, will introduce federal legislation that would permit states to legalize, regulate, tax and control marijuana without federal interference.

The legislation will be unveiled Thursday by Frank, an outspoken liberal Democrat, and the libertarian Paul, who is running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

The bill would limit the U.S. government role in marijuana enforcement to interdiction of cross-border or inter-state smuggling. Citizens would be able to legally grow, use or sell cannabis in states which have legalized the forbidden weed.

The legislation is the first bill to be introduced in Congress that would end federal marijuana prohibition…

The legislation follows a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, released early this month, that pronounced the War on Drugs a failure and advocated legal regulation of marijuana.

Certainly overdue.

A breath of fresh air in Congress. Maybe a little smoke, too.