Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Banks Win, Homeowners Lose

I haven’t been a fan of every part of Pres. Obama’s economic policies, but I was a big fan of his plan to stop the mortgage crisis.  One part of this plan was urging Congress to change bankruptcy laws to allow bankruptcy judges to “cramdown” and renegotiate mortgages.  This is already done with second homes, but is illegal for primary residences. This common sense reform would keep thousands of people out of foreclosure.  It would stop the bleeding in the mortgage industry which was one of the first dominoes to fall in the recession.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has led the battle in the Senate for the bankruptcy reform.  Yesterday, he expressed his frustration saying of Congress, “the banks own this place.”  Today, he was proven right.  The Senate, including 12 Democrats, sided with the banks over homeowners.  This is extremely discouraging because it shows that big money is so corrupting that progressive reform is difficult. It would be impossible to replace 12 bank-over-homeowners Democrats with 12 pro-cramdown Democrats in 2010–and ZERO Republican senators voted for reform.

By contrast, during the Great Depression, the federal government guaranteed home mortgages directly–and every dime was repaid with 90% of homes saved.

Thanks, Congress for making economic recovery harder and loving banks (whom we taxpayers are saving) over ordinary Americans.

This is why electoral politics must be supplemented with street protests and other forms of movement politics.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | economic justice | 12 Comments

Will Bush Torture Policies Hurt U.S. Military?

Brandon Friedman, Vice Chair of VoteVets.org, makes the argument that the torture policies of the Bush administration, even if never repeated, will harm the U.S. military for generations.  Now, as a former soldier turned Christian pacifist, I have complex loyalties here.  I’m hardly a promoter of any military, but I don’t want to see anyone put in greater danger, so I read on.  In brief, Friedman argues that in Gulf War I, thousands of Iraqi soldiers surrendered to American soldiers en masse because they knew they’d receive better treatment by American soldiers than from their own government.  She shows pictures of similar surrenders from numerous wars over the years and testimony about the expectations of good treatment by the enemy soldiers.  But the revelations of Bush-era torture of anyone they suspected of being an “enemy combatant” (an invented category to try to wiggle around the Geneva Conventions common article 3), she says, will lead many enemy soldiers, in whatever conflict, to fight to the death rather than surrender to U.S. troops.   This raises the danger level to U.S. troops. 

It’s an interesting argument and adds to the case that these policies made all Americans less safe by recruiting new terrorists and making American civilians fair game.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | torture, U.S. politics | 3 Comments

U. S. House Passes Bill Against Anti-Gay Hate Crimes

On 12 October 1998 in Laramie, Wyoming, Matthew Wayne Shepherd, a student at the University of Wyoming, died of head injuries.  These head injuries were sustained on 06 October when he was attacked, tortured, and murdered.  Although a later 20/20 report questioned this, at trial witnesses claimed that Shepherd was targetted because he was gay.  Ever since that time gay rights advocates have tried to get strong legislation passed that would combat anti-glbt violence as hate crimes, along with violence based on racism, sexism, bigotry against certain religions.  Some (not all) conservatives oppose the very idea of “hate crimes.”  Former Pres. George W. Bush used to say that all murders were “hate crimes” and therefore no special categories were needed.

I disagree.  By targetting crimes motivated by various forms of bigotry, law enforcement is pushed to treating them more seriously–and the law becomes a moral teacher that register’s society’s strong disapproval of both the hate-crime itself and of the bigotry that leads to such violence.

Yesterday, we made a stride in that direction for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered folk.  The House of Representatives passed the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Bill and sent it to the Senate.  President Obama supports the bill and urges its speedy passage so that he can sign it into law.  It is important to not that the bill would not criminalize anti-gay feelings or restrict free speech:  It targets violence motivated by bigotry, but only undirectly targets the bigotry itself.  It doesn’t criminalize bigotry, but by targetting the violence spawned by that bigotry registers strong disapproval–and calls hate for what it is.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | GLBT issues, human rights., U.S. politics, violence | 5 Comments

Brief Thoughts on Sen. Arlen Specter’s “Conversion”

International readers may be less interested in this posting, since it concerns yesterday’s surprise announcement by Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania that he is switching political parties from Republican to Democratic.  Strangers to these shores may be surprised to know that this is legal (without resigning your elected position, despite the fact that voters thought they were getting an official in a different party).  Partly, the legality has to do with the fact that political parties (or “factions” as they were first called) are not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. Nor are they mentioned in any state constitution.  The Framers of our Democratic Republic were generally against political parties and so, while not forbidding them, took no notice of them in designing our Constitutional framework.  Also, a Congressional/Presidential system like ours always involves at least some element of voting for a particular individual as an officeholder, rather than, as in most parliamentary systems, voting directly for a political party.

While not an everyday event, U.S. Senators have switched political parties more often than one might think.  The website of the U.S. Senate lists every party-switching senator (and parties, circumstances, years) since 1890.  The party switches while in office usually occur at a time when the nation is moving dramatically in one political direction (i.e., more  liberal or more conservative) while the party-switcher is in a political party moving in the opposite direction and the party-switcher feels out of touch with the nation and/or his/her party.  For example, after the 1994 mid-term Congressional elections (the “Gingrich revolution” or the “Conservative Resurgence”) in which the nation seemed to repudiate the direction set by Pres. Bill Clinton (D) and move sharply to the Right, Democrats lost badly in both the Senate and House–with the Republicans gaining the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in over 40 years! (I say “seemed to repudiate” because, to the shock of the Republicans, Clinton was resoundingly re-elected in 1996!) After that 1994 loss for Democrats, matters were worsened when several moderate-to-conservative Democratic politicians switched parties, including Sen. Richard Shelby of AL (D, 1987-1994; R, 1995-present) and Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of CO (D, 1993-1995; R, 1995-2005).  Thus, Specter’s switch yesterday could presage other party switches, although at the senate level the more likely pattern is retirement (already announced for Sens. Voinovich (R-OH), Martinez (R-FL),  Bond (R-MO), Brownback (R-KS), &  Gregg (R-NH); others to watch include Grassley (R-IA), Lugar (R-IN), Bunning (R-KY), & McCain (R-AZ) ).

An element of opportunism and self-seeking is almost always included.  Specter was remarkably honest about this aspect of his party-switching.  Already facing a tough re-election in a state that was rapidly becoming more Democratic, after Specter voted for the Obama economic recovery bill, Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele (former Lt. Gov. of Maryland) threatened to fund a primary opponent for Specter and for the 2 other Republican moderate senators who voted for the bill.  Soon, Club for Growth (a radically conservative group) president Pat Toomey, whom Specter had barely beaten in the PA Republican primary of ’04, announced his primary challenge to Specter in 2010.  PA has a closed primary, meaning that only Republicans could vote in it, and PA Republicans are now smaller in number and more conservative than ever before.  Polls soon showed Specter losing to Toomey by 20 or more points.  PA has a sore loser law so that Specter could not pull a Liebermann–lose in the primary and then re-register as an independent for the general election.  So, he chose to switch parties, now.

My reactions yesterday were like those of most Democrats I encountered or read online:  Surprise (shock, even), then elation that, when Norm Coleman’s never-ending court challenges to Al Franken’s narrow victory are finally over in Minnesota, Democrats will have 60 of 100 Senate seats–enough to shut down filibusters by the minority and pass the ambitious agenda they and Pres. Obama  campaigned on and were elected to pass.  I, like others, quickly became less enthused.  Specter will not be a reliable vote on many of our priorities.  He is now one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, maybe more conservative than Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Blanche Lincoln  and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. He has already said that he will vote against Labor’s big priority, the Employee Free Choice Act, even though he was a co-sponsor of a very similar bill in 2007 and 2008 and even though he must have the support of Labor to win reelection in PA–no matter which party he inhabits.  He also says he plans to vote against Pres. Obama’s nominee for Asst. Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, Dawn Johnsen. (Many Republicans who oppose Johnsen claim to do so because she is pro-choice on abortion, even though her job will have nothing to do with abortion, but since Specter is pro-choice, that cannot be his objection. He must oppose Johnsen because of her strong objections to torture and specifically the torture memos authored by the Bush lawyers of the OLC.  Nice, Arlen.)

So, I’m not sure that I’m too excited about Specter’s switch of parties.  Sure, he is better than Toomey, but I think PA can elect a much better Democrat than Specter.  Joe Torsella (D-PA), the Chair of the State Board of Education, is already in the race and has no plans to back out for Specter.  Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), are considering entering as Lynne Abraham (D-PA), the District Attorney for Philadelphia.  Although I would prefer that the progressive Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) be recruited, any of these fine Democrats would be more deserving  of the office than Specter.  However, I do not want ALL of them to run. A crowded Democratic field would favor Specter on sheer name recognition.  He will have enough advantages since both the PA and national Democratic establishments, including Pres. Obama, have pledged to support Specter.  (How far off the reservation would Arlen have to go before that would change and the establishement at least became neutral?)

Of course, this is the problem of having a governing party:  A minority party can be tightly disciplined, please its  base most of the time, and purge wayward members.  But a party large and diverse enough to win national elections and get the chance to govern, of necessity has to put up with a greater range of views and voting patterns.  And, with the Republicans so out of touch and increasingly talking only to giant echo chambers (the latest Wall Street Journal poll shows only 21% of Americans now consider themselves Republican–down from 30% in last November!), Democrats are being forced to carry out both parts of the responsible debates in the middle. (This is why I believe that if the GOP keeps going in its current direction, it will cease to be a national party at all and Democrats will split into progressive and centrist-conservative wings.  Because the nation needs AT LEAST two functioning, healthy, parties.)

So, Specter’s conversion (or re-conversion–he was a Democrat until 1966!) is more bad news for Republicans than it is great news for Democrats.  There are now only 40 Republican Senators–something that hasn’t been the case for decades.  The only 2 remaining self-declared moderate Republican senators are both from Maine–and they are the only remaining congressional Republicans in all of New England.  (This was the Republican stronghold when I was a child.) There are 24 Senators in Northeast (New England and Middle Atlantic) states: ME, VT, NY, NJ, MD, MA, PA, CT, DE, WV, RI) and only 23are Republicans and 1 of those (Gregg-R, NH) has announced his retirement in 201o.  There are 26 Senators in the Midwest & Plains states (IL, MN, MI, OH, WI, IA, MO, KS, IN, ND, SD, OK, NE)–and only 10 are Republicans (16 Democrats). 4 of those 10 Republicans are retiring in 2010 and 3 of those 4 are likely to be replaced by Democrats.   There are 26 Senators from the Western States, including Alaska and Hawai’i, (CA, NM, CO, OR, WA, AK, HI, MT, ID, UT, NV, AZ, WY) and only 10 are Republican (16 Democrats).  ONLY in the Southern states are Republican senators dominant, making up 17 of the 24 Senators from the South (FL, NC, SC, AL, GA, MS, VA, TN, KY, LA, AR, TX).  And it looks like those numbers will further erode in 2010, even in the South (good chances for Democratic pickups in FL, NC, KY, and, if Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) resigns to run for TX Gov., a fair chance at a TX pickup).

Yet, as I’ve said elsewhere, the Republicans are doing everything wrong to come out of the wilderness.  Look, they have a chance:  The economy is no longer in freefall, but we do not seem to have hit bottom and the road back will be long.  If unemployment remains high by June of 2010, the conditions would be right for Republicans to make large comebacks against Democrats–but they aren’t poised to take much advantage of those conditions as they pander to the right.  This is what Democrats did for most of the years between ’68 and ’92–moving well away from the American center and, thus, losing 5 of 6 presidential elections. Democrats never really got their act completely together until January 2005.  The Specter conversion suggests that the Republicans are in a similar point, now (and I still want a progressive to primary him).

April 29, 2009 Posted by | U.S. politics | 12 Comments

Breaking: Special Prosecutor on Torture Formally Requested

Between the swine flu and the surprise news of Sen. Arlen Specter switching political parties from Republican to Democratic, today, this important story will probably be missed.  So, here it is:

BREAKING:  House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today formally requested Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to probe and “where appropriate, prosecute” Bush administration officials responsible for the torture of detainees at Guantanemo Bay prison and Iraq. 

I hope the A.G. Holder complies quickly, but I also hope he doesn’t limit the investigation to Gitmo and Iraq, but includes rendition to third countries (C.I.A. “black sites” included), and to anything which might have happened at Baghram Airbase in Afghanistan or anywhere else.

On the eve of the invasion of Iraq (Youtube this for video), Pres. George W. Bush warned Iraqi soldiers that any war crimes would be prosecuted and that the Nuremberg excuse of “just following orders” would not save anyone.  And when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, Bush promised viewers of Al Aribya TV that, since this was a democracy, full investigation would be forthcoming (instead, a cover up that blamed it all on a “few bad apples” occured). So, we should definitely hold the  entire Bush admin., top to bottom, by standards Bush himself articulated.

Mr. Holder, the ball is in your court.  You took an oath to uphold the Constitution and it is your job to ensure that this is a nation that respects human rights and the rule of law.  Please appoint a special prosecutor known for independence and not connected with either political party–and then give full cooperation, but step out of the way.

UPDATE:  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just denied the Obama Admin.’s “state secrets” claim in terrorism cases.  Some left bloggers and legal experts believe that Obama has been deliberately pushing the Bush legal claims, but doing so badly in order to get the Courts to strike it down.  On the other hand, if that is the strategy, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) (whom Obama once described as a mentor in The Audacity of Hope), a true progressive, isn’t in the loop.  Today, he gave Obama a “D” on secrecy and civil liberties issues.  I don’t know who’s right about this, but I am glad that this is another move back to the rule of law.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | torture, U.S. politics | 5 Comments

Book Review: The Book Thief

the-book-thiefMarkus Zusak, The Book Thief (Knopf, 2007).  I must confess that my 13 year old daughter read this before I did.  I’m glad she introduced me to it.  I can’t say enough good things about this great book.

Imagine writing a book on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust that is morally serious without being depressing.  Imagine writing realistic fiction about the horrors of war that still has plenty of humor.  Imagine vivid, fantastic, heartbreaking characters, a plotline dominated by WWII and the Holocaust, and an uplifting book that is full of death, prejudice, ignorance, struggle, pain, and the reader’s constant feeling of “And here I thought MY family was crazy!” Imagine trying to portray ordinary Germans, including the pro-Nazi ones, during that era in a humane manner without downplaying the horror.  Now imagine trying to do all that in a book for older children and teens.

The Australian writer, Markus Zusak, pulls it off amazingly in The Book Thief.  He uses the technique of making Death the nearly-omniscient narrator.  But this Death is not a grim reaper or malevolent force, but a world weary bureaucrat doing his job and telling this story as a way to convince himself that humanity is actually worthwhile.  One of great passages has Death refute the old adage that War is Death’s friend.  Instead, he describes War as a nagging boss that gives one far too much to do and then looks constantly over one’s shoulder and complains about the quality and pace of the work!

The Book Thief tells of one orphaned German girl, daughter of parents who ran afoul of Hitler by being members of the Communist Party, who is sent as a foster child to a poor and dysfunctional married couple with grown children in the town of Molching, outside Munich.  It tells of her foul-mouthed foster mother who is good in a crisis, but who never learned any way to show love and affection except through heaping verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse on her husband and foster daughter. It tells of her mostly-silent, foster father, a house painter who can get little work because he is not a member of the Nazi Party and who must play the accordian in bars to try to enough to keep the small family from starving–and who takes time to teach his foster daughter to read. It tells of a boy befriending a pre-teen girl, a German boy who has Jesse Owens as a hero and once painted himself black before going to race around the track, mentally recreating the 1936 Olympics! It tells of a family hiding a Jew from the Nazis–of art and fist fights and hunger and cigarettes–and stolen books.

Warning to parents:  Although very humorously done, there is quite a bit of profanity in a book for older children and teens, much of it in German, but usually Death translates to English! There are no perfect characters as role models.  There are no saints in this work and plenty of sinners, but at least some are trying to become fully human.  And there are many moments of grace.  Yet here is a work that can help young people (and old folks like me, too!) grow.  The Book Thief entertains (I could hardly put it down) while peforming the indispensible act of all good literatue: illuminating our moral world.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | books, holocaust, young people | 1 Comment

Index of Posts on Moral Discernment

Here’s the index of the moral discernment series.  I’ll soon add this to the page on “popular series” in the upper right of this blog.

Critical Variables in Moral Discernment

Convictions and Moral Discernment 1

Convictions and Moral Discernment 2

Convictions and Moral Discernment 3

Moral Discernment: Loyalties, Interests, Passions

Perception and Moral Discernment

Styles of Moral Reasoning/Modes of Moral Discourse

April 27, 2009 Posted by | convictions, ethics, moral discernment | 4 Comments

Health Care Blues

The video of the salaries of healthcare CEOs is from James Pence of The Hillbilly Report, a great populist progressive blog here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  The song, “Health Care Blues” is by my friend, Paul Whitely, Jr., one half of the  folk duo, Down to Earth. (The other half is Paul’s lovely wife, Kate Sanders.) Paul and Kate double as the volunteer music ministers in our church.

To get rid of the health care blues, we need single-payer health care in this country, Medicare for everyone.  It would also solve the economic problems of Medicare and Medicaid, allow people to keep their own doctors (or switch), would save billions, cover everyone, and allow American businesses to compete on an even global playing field.  The House Bill for Medicare for all is H.R. 676.  Go to Physicians for National Healthcare Plan and write your Congressperson to co-sponsor H.R. 676 here.  (I’m pleased that my Rep., John Yarmuth (D-KY-03) is a co-sponsor.  The Senate version of H.R. 676 is S. 709, The American Health Security Act, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and is far more comprehensive (and ultimately cheaper) than the health reform package being worked on by Sens. Kennedy  (D-MA) and Baucus (D-MT) and championed by Pres. Obama.  Let’s try to see if, instead of tinkering with a broken system, we can’t get healthcare for people, rather than profits.

By the way, the U.S. almost got single-payer, universal healthcare after WWII, like most of Europe, Canada, and, eventually, the rest of the industrial world.  It was pushed by Pres. Harry S. Truman (D) in 1948 and he had large Democratic majorities in both houses. Do you know what stopped it? Costs? Fears of socialism? Worries about “not keeping my own doctor” (which lie conservatives use to scare seniors)? Nope. None of that. It was RACISM.  Southern Senators refused to vote for it because they feared (rightly) that they would have to de-segregate Southern hospitals. So, even though the impoverished post-War South would have benefitted the MOST from universal healthcare, racism killed it.  Got to love the way we constantly cut off our noses to spite our own faces, huh?

April 27, 2009 Posted by | economic justice, healthcare | 2 Comments

Visual: The Problem of “Only Looking Forward” on Torture

Daily Kos has a timeline as far as we now know, about the U.S. and  torture after 9/11.  The website of Foreign Policy now has a timeline, too.  I hope the mainstream media, special prosecutors, and the ICC are paying attention.to the timelines.

When you only look forward, things get you from behind!


April 27, 2009 Posted by | torture | 17 Comments

Connecticut: 4th U.S. State to Allow Same-Sex Marriage (updated)

Update:  CT’s Supreme Court actually struck down the ban on same-sex marriage last fall.  This month, the CT legislature enacted the enabling legislation to implement that ruling. On Thurs.  Gov. Jodi Rell signed into law the new marriage equality standards.

A timeline of the recent struggle for (civil) marriage equality in the United States.

  • 1992: The District of Columbia allows domestic partnerships of same-sex couples that qualify for a limited number of rights.  These rights are expanded in 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2008.
  • 1997:  Hawai’i passes a law allowing “reciprocal beneficiary relationships” to qualify for  many rights of marriage.
  • 2000: Vermont becomes the first state in the union to legalize same-sex civil unions which offer gay and lesbian couples many of the same legal rights as marriage.
  • 2000:  California passes a “domestic partnership law” which allows same-sex couples (and non-married heterosexual couples) to have many of the same rights as married persons.
  • 2004: The Massachusetts State Supreme Court rules that restricting civil marriage to heterosexual couples violates the equal protection clauses of the MA Constitution.  With that decision, MA becomes the first state in the U.S. where same-sex couples can marry. This leads to a storm of controversy that plays a major factor in the 2004 presidential election and several other elections, as many states (including, alas, my adopted home in the Commonwealth of Kentucky) rush to put ballot measures in place that will amend their state constitutions to rule out same-sex marriage. This increases conservative Republican turnout in several swing states, including OH (where many voting irregularities were reported) and is, at least, one factor in the narrow “re”-election of then-Pres. George W. Bush.
  • 2004:  Maine and New Jersey pass laws allowing for domestic partnerships with some of the rights and benefits of marriage.
  • 2005:  Connecticut allows for civil unions, but not marriage for same-sex couples.
  • 2007: New Jersey allows for same-sex civil unions with many of the rights and benefits of marriage.
  • 2007: Washington State  passes a Domestic Partnership law which is expanded in 2008.  In March 2009, Washington State updates its Domestic Partnership law to include all the legal rights and benefits of marriage, but the TERM “marriage” is left for heterosexual couples.
  • 2008: Domestic Partnerships are granted in Oregon and Maryland.
  • 2008: New Hampshire (which in 2004 saw the first openly gay Episcopal priest consecrated as Bishop) passed a civil union law that is nearly equivalent to heterosexual marriage.
  • 2008: California had been gradually expanding its Domestic Partnership law, but in May the CA Supreme Court ruled that the state ban on same-sex marriage was a violation of the state constitution.  Many gay couples rushed to get married, but opponents of same-sex marriage struck back with a ballot measure amending the state constitution to forbid same-sex marriage.  That ballot measure, Proposition 8, passed on 04 November.  Proposition 8 itself has been challenged in the CA Supreme Court (with attorneys claiming that this is not a simple amendment, but a radical revision, to the CA Constitution and, thus, needed to go through the legislature and not directly to ballot). The Court has not yet ruled on this question, but from comments during oral arguments seems inclined to uphold Prop. 8, but reluctant to nullify the thousands of same-sex marriages performed during the few months of legality.
  • 2008: New York’s legislature narrowly defeated a same-sex marriage law, but did vote to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
  • 2009: 03 April, the Iowa State Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriages violates the Iowa Constitution, thereby legalizing same-sex marriage. Iowa is the first “heartland” (e.g., not on either of the coasts; generally speaking the heartland  states are more conservative on social issues than states on either coast) state to legalize same-sex marriage.  It should be difficult to reverse:  In normal circumstances any amendment to the Iowa Constitution must pass in identical wording in both houses of the state legislature 2 years in a row and then be put on a ballot measure for voter approval.  The Democratic leaders of both houses have  said they will not let any such measure out of committee. But same-sex marriage opponents are pushing for a Constitutional Convention (and trying to make this a campaign issue for 2010 elections) which could radically alter the state constitution directly.
  • 2009: 07 April, the District of Columbia city council votes to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
  • 2009:  07 April, Vermont’s legislature overrides the governor’s veto to legalize same-sex marriage. VT, which passed civil unions in 2000, became the 3rd state (after Prop. 8 reversed things in CA) to legalize same-sex marriage and the first to do so legislatively.
  • 2009: 24 April, in a 4-3 decision, Connecticut’s Supreme Court strikes down its ban on same-sex marriage, thereby making it the 4th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

More on the way: 

  • A Bill legalizing same-sex marriage has been introduced into the New York state legislature.  Last year this bill passed the House but failed in the Senate. This year there is the chance that it could narrowly pass the Senate. Gov. Patterson (D-NY), who introduced this year’s version, has promised to sign the bill.  53% of New Yorkers support same-sex marriage.  If this year’s bill fails to pass the NY senate, it will be reintroduced in 2011 after the 2010 midterms–and will be a campaign issue in 2010.
  • A Bill legalizing same-sex marriage has passed the New Hampshire House, but is held up in the Senate.  The NH governor has not said whether he would sign or veto the measure.  Yet, a veto would merely delay, not stop the move to marriage equality in NH.  Much popular pressure is being placed on the NH governor to change his mind and sign the bill.  The bill goes to the Senate floor on Wednesday, but the vote will be very close. Everything depends on 3 very wobbly Democrats.
  • A Bill legalizing same-sex marriage has been introduced into the legislature of New Jersey.
  • A Bill legalizing same-sex marriage has been introduced to the Maine legislature which held hearings open to the public in early April. Although some spoke out against the measure, the reading of the bill was met with thunderous applause–something rare in legislative sessions anywhere.
  • I expect the 1996 “Defense of Marriage Act” which forbids national recognition of same-sex marriage to be either repealed or challenged in the courts before the end of  Obama’s first term as president. (Not this year, however, and probably not before 2011.)  Because of DOMA, same-sex couples in marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are denied the 1,138 rights  and benefits that heterosexual married couples have under federal law.

If the struggle continues on a state-by-state basis, FiveThirtyEight.com’s statistical genius, Nate Silver, predicts that by 2024 same-sex marriage will be legal in all 50 states (with Mississippi predictably being the last state to legalize same-sex marriage).  Here is his break-down.  Actually, after enough states legalize marriage equality, it is likely that a challenge will be raised in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), although I hope we have more progressive justices on the bench before then.  But Nate points out that this state-by-state move shows that this will not be able to be used as a wedge issue by conservatives for much longer, and soon it may actually benefit progressives–although this will be at different rates in different  regions of the country. (I predict FL to be the first Southeastern state to legalize same-sex marriage, although it just amended its state constitution to ban it in 2008.  I think that will be reversed by 2014 at the latest.  Colorado will probably be the first non-coastal Western state to legalize same-sex marriage, although the struggle will be titanic because of the Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs. )

There are also seven (7) nations that recognize same-sex marriages:  The Netherlands (2001); Belgium (2003); Canada (2005); Spain (2005); South Africa (2005); Norway (2008); Sweden (2009).

Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships are legal in 14 countries:

  • Denmark (1989)
  • Hungary (1995)
  • Iceland (1996) In 2009, Iceland became the first modern nation to elect an openly lesbian prime minister, but with a financial crisis many times that of the U.S., she has her hands full!
  • Portugal (n.d.)
  • Switzerland (n.d.)
  • Germany (n.d.)
  • France (1999)
  • Finland (2001)
  • Croatia (2003)
  • Luxembourg (2004)
  • New Zealand (2004)
  • United Kingdom (2005)
  • Mexico (2006)
  • Brazil (State of Rio Grande do Sul only–2006).

Congrats, LGBTQ folk!  This straight ally longs for the day when neither sexual orientation nor gender identity is a cause of discrimination anywhere in the world.  Marriage equality marches dances onward!

April 27, 2009 Posted by | civil liberties, GLBT issues, human rights. | 11 Comments