December 19, 2009
Meet the scholar/politico/activist who gives intellectual respectability to the right's demands for homophobic legal policy
The NYT Magazine has this profile of Princeton Professor Robby George, whose esoteric natural law theories are embraced by those who seek to deny equality of citizenship to gays and lesbians.
December 18, 2009
Webcast on "The Higher Cost of Being Gay: Life, Death, and Taxes"
Same-sex couples face higher costs than their heterosexual counterparts, largely because federal law either precludes or does not require equivalent treatment. In particular, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples as married. In this webcast from the Tax Policy Institute and the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School (based on a panel discussion held Thursday in Washington, DC), experts discuss issues affecting same-sex couples including their higher lifetime tax costs, how the estate tax affects them, and the difficulties older same-sex couples face in planning for retirement.
December 17, 2009
Jim DeMint, tea party poster boy, sounds off on gays, marriage, and federalism
Veteran Washington journalist Al Hunt profiles Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the darling of the "tea party" movement, and his all-far-right, all-the-time views. DeMint's views on gays reveal both a theocratic view of government and a dangerous ignorance of the constitutional scheme of federalism:
He takes a hard line on social issues — he’s passionately anti-abortion and pro-guns. He has been most outspoken as an opponent of any form of gay marriage.
“Marriage is a religious institution. The federal government has no business redefining what it is,” Mr. DeMint says.
This is one issue where he doesn’t support states’ rights; state government shouldn’t have the right to permit gay marriage.
“Governments should not be in the business of promoting a behavior that’s proven to be destructive to our society.”
He cringes at the notion of a gay or lesbian president: “It would be bothersome to me just personally because I consider it immoral.”
New York extends anti-discrimination protection to transgender state employees
New York Governor David Paterson has issued an executive order extending anti-discrimination policies to gender identity for state employees. Some background info from the Human Rights Campaign:
An executive order prohibiting discrimination in state employment is the furthest extent to which any governor is able to exercise his or her executive power. Extending protections to private employees must be accomplished by the state legislature. New York joins eight other states in which an executive order, administrative order, or personnel regulation prohibits discrimination against public employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity: Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
In addition, twelve states and the District of Columbia prohibit full employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity: California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Nine more states, including New York, prohibit employment discrimination based only on sexual orientation. For an electronic map showing where employment non-discrimination stands in the states, please visit: www.HRC.org/State_Laws.
December 16, 2009
NPR on Uganda's anti-gay law
NPR's Morning Edition had a particularly good -- and disturbing -- report on Uganda's proposed law to criminalize homosexuality. An excerpt:
Ugandans may soon have a choice to make. Homosexuality has been illegal there for more than 100 years. Now lawmakers are considering legislation that would go further. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 would jail consenting adults who engage in gay sex. It would give life sentences to people in same-sex marriages.
David Bahati, a first-term lawmaker, wrote the bill.
"This is a defining bill for our country, for our generation. You are either anti-homosexual or you're for homosexuals, because there's no middle point. Anybody who does not believe that homosexuality is a crime is a sympathizer," Bahati says.
It is the first bill Bahati has ever written, and he calls it a "very wonderful piece of legislation." His bill would impose the death penalty on adults who have gay sex with minors. And it would jail anyone who fails to report gay activity to police within 24 hours.
And what if his brother were engaging in homosexual activity?
"I'd arrest him myself and take him to the police," Bahati says.
Prof. David Richards on the larger meaning of the SCt's sodomy cases
Professor David A.J. Richards of NYU Law School examines the Supreme Court's journey from Bowers v. Hardwick to Lawrence v. Texas in his book The Sodomy Cases (University Press of Kansas 2009). From the publisher's description:
For America's gay community, the question of rights is often reduced to the issue of privacy. Until very recently, even though this right has been upheld by the Supreme Court in landmark cases relating to contraception and abortion, the issue of 'non procreational sex' continued to trigger a double standard for gay men. Now David Richards, a leading legal scholar who is himself gay, shows how two other landmark cases nearly twenty years apart shed light on America's evolving views of privacy. The Supreme Court's decision in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) stemmed from a 1982 gay-sex arrest in an Atlanta home under a Georgia law that criminalized sodomy - a case not originally prosecuted, but then pursued in court to challenge the statute's constitutionality. Lawrence v. Texas (2003) followed a similar arrest in 1998 in Houston, where Texas law also criminalized sodomy - but only when practiced by members of the same sex. Richards views these cases as the nadir and apogee of the gay community's efforts to fight discrimination through the courts. In Bowers, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no constitutional protection for sodomy and that states could outlaw those practices. But in Lawrence, the Court overturned the Texas law - and the Bowers decision as well - because it denied due process protection to consenting adults whose sexual practices were conducted in private. Justice Kennedy's majority opinion reaffirmed a constitutionally protected right to privacy that prevented the government from regulating intimate behavior. Tracing the Court's deliberations, Richards shows how Lawrence unambiguously establishes that the right to a private life is an innately human right and that our constitutional right to privacy rests on the moral bedrock of equal protection. He shifts gracefully from the law to literature, and from the Courts to the wider culture, to offer a brilliant analysis of the relevant arguments, going beneath their surface to link them to the emotional and moral foundations of the controversies raging around these decisions. Both of these cases show a Supreme Court ready to take seriously the idea that homosexuals have human rights - and that these rights are the basis of judicially enforceable constitutional rights. In describing these challenges to public prejudice, Richards' book offers students and general readers new insight into the practice and theory of constitutional law.
December 14, 2009
9th Circuit rules that Prop 8 group can keep its strategy emails secret
The 9th Circuit has ruled that forcing an anti-gay marriage group to turn over internal e-mails would violate the group's First Amendment rights. The interlocutory ruling stems out of federal litigation challenging California's Proposition 8. Lawyers for gay couples had sought discovery of internal campaign communications relating to campaign strategy and advertising by Prop 8 proponents in order to support their argument that “[t]he disadvantage Prop. 8 imposes on gays and lesbians is the result of disapproval or animus against a politically unpopular group” in violation of the Constitution's equal protection and due process clauses. The full 9th Circuit opinion is available here.
UCLA law professor and blogger Eugene Volokh questions whether the 9th Circuit got the law right.
December 13, 2009
White House condemns Uganda's proposed kill-the-gays lawThe Advocate reports:
In its strongest statement yet, the Obama administration condemned a homophobic Ugandan bill that would carry a death sentence for acts of homosexuality in some cases.
“The president strongly opposes efforts, such as the draft law pending in Uganda, that would criminalize homosexuality and move against the tide of history,” read the White House statement that came late Friday in response to an inquiry from The Advocate.
Meet the shadowy industry that gives muscle to the fight against marriage equality
The NYT reports:
As the political battle over same-sex marriage plays out in state capitals across the country, several California companies have emerged as the go-to players for opponents of the marriages.
One of the companies, Mar/Com Services Inc., lists its business address here in San Francisco, a city well known for its large and politically active gay population. When Maine residents opposed to a new law permitting same-sex marriage decided earlier this year to challenge it, they hired Mar/Com to do the production work for the television and radio advertisements.
Of the $2.7 million spent to pass the Maine measure, about 75 percent flowed to companies in California, according to campaign disclosure documents. And while large chunks of that money were subsequently paid out to television and radio stations in Maine, California companies billed hundreds of thousands of dollars for consulting work, phone lists, printing and other services.
The story goes on to describe how the companies prefer to keep their work quiet, hiding behind PO boxes and answering machines.
Houston becomes largest city to elect openly gay mayor
“Tonight the voters of Houston have opened the door to history,” said Annise Parker, the city's newly elected mayor, standing by her partner of 19 years, Kathy Hubbard, and their three adopted children. “I acknowledge that. I embrace that. I know what this win means to many of us who never thought we could achieve high office.”