I haven’t the heart to download and read the July 31 opinion out of the UK that gives the Brits a green light to ignore the Canadian marriage of two lesbian college professors. I’ve been aware that this decision was pending. At one point, it held an important spot on my mental list of future marriage victories. And indeed, if the opinion had been released at any other time, I would have been most annoyed with Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division of the High Court.
But I’m too drained by American court defeats to extend my outrage to our brothers and sisters across the pond. No. Outrage. Left. Must. Rest.
I gather from the Times of London that Sir Mark’s view was that the civil partnerships available to same-sex couples in the UK are quite sufficient, thank you very much, and that courts are in no position to impose an expansion of the “longstanding definition” of marriage on an unwilling government.
“Parliament has not called partnerships between persons of the same sex marriage,” wrote Sir Mark, “not because they are considered inferior to the institution of marriage, but because as a matter of objective fact and common understanding, they are indeed different.”
Now, there’s a keen analytical mind at work. I have a sudden image of Sir Mark, along with the winning justices out of the New York and Washington high courts and that three-judge Eighth Circuit panel all on a brightly painted carousel going round and round and round and round.
Sir Mark has a powdered wig and rides a pretty red and white pony. Justice Barbara Madsen sits in a small sports car, now and then leaning back happily against the slight breeze. Judge Loken of the Eighth Circuit is mounted on a giraffe, the tip of his tongue pointing out of his mouth in concentration. Every time they come around, all 13 jurists wave wildly to a group of legislators and members of Parliament waiting in line for their turn.
Wait. I just had a little rush of outrage! It’s infuriating if you think about it, that this fool of a judge apparently ignored the main question of whether the UK must recognize a legal marriage from another country, which would be automatic in the case of any other couple. The fact that civil partnerships exist should be irrelevant to the inquiry. The women are not in a civil partnership. They’re married. I also gather that the couple was saddled with all the legal costs of their losing court battle, and might not have the cash to appeal.
And The Land We Belong To Is Grand!
I’d know more if I’d read the ruling. But I’m not going to. Nor am I going to read the federal court decision out of Oklahoma, where some certifiably crazy lesbians have challenged the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, along with the Sooner State’s anti-gay marriage amendment.
The Defense of Marriage Act, for those of you who have forgotten, defines marriage for federal purposes as the union of a man and a woman, and also allows each state to decide whether or not it will recognize a valid marriage from outside its borders.
According to NYU Law Professor Art Leonard, Judge Terence Kern dismissed part of the case for lack of standing. Two of the women were never married, and thus were in no position to challenge either the federal or state denial of marriage recognition. The other two were married in Canada. This gave them standing to challenge the part of DOMA that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, Kern said. But it did not give them standing to challenge the part of DOMA that allows Oklahoma to turn its back on their nuptials.
Why, you ask? The answer is interesting. According to Leonard, the judge interpreted DOMA to cover only the relationships between U.S. states. In other words, the question of whether or not a state must recognize a foreign marriage, as opposed to a Massachusetts marriage, may be outside of DOMA’s range. I never heard that suggested before.
All four women also won the right to challenge the part of Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment that forbids them from marrying in the first place. So the game is on, and what remains of the rogue case proceeds to a motion for summary judgment.
We don’t like these cases (that was the royal we) since we don’t like losing, which is what usually happens when people file lawsuits in the middle of red states. But it’s hard to condemn our Okie friends as vociferously as we’d like, since we haven’t been doing very well in the blue states ourselves.
Moving Right Along
By the way, speaking of the Eighth Circuit, it’s official. Lambda has asked the federal appellate court to set aside its recent ruling, which upheld Nebraska’s horrendously anti-gay constitutional amendment. Passed in 2000, Nebraska is the only state constitution to explicitly single out “same-sex relationships” for a flat ban on any kind of legal recognition. The federal challenge to this atrocity goes far beyond the issue of marriage rights, arguing that the amendment blocks gay men and women from access to the political process.
Anyway, the legal eagles have asked for a rehearing, or a review by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. If they don’t get their wish, or if they lose this challenge before the full court, the only avenue of redress would be a (possibly risky) appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Beyond July 2006
So, the past week has been characterized by an irritating set of reactions from both the far right and the far left, as both sides come to terms with the successive rulings against gay couples. The far right has been positively giddy with excitement, crowing about having “hit a grand slam” and just generally making my stomach turn.
On the other hand, one group has sounded the call for a new “strategy” in a manifesto titled Beyond Same Sex Marriage. The 20 authors outline four goals, specifically legal recognition of all relationships, households and families, access for everyone to all government programs regardless of marital status or citizenship, separation of church and state, and “freedom from state regulation of our sexual lives and gender choices, identities and expression.”
Hey, guys. I’ll be happy to think about going beyond same-sex marriage as soon as I get it in the first place. And I just love, absolutely LOVE, the part about separation of church and state. But shouldn’t you be in class?
Others are urging legislative work, as if gay organizations have not been lobbying politicians hard for the last 20 years. And some suggest taking it to the streets, which would be fine if there was an infectious surge of pan-community frustration. But I don’t feel that. Do you?
I feel as if we’ve hit, let’s call it, a low point in our inexorable march to equality.
More Marriage Machinations
Oh, speaking of the inexorable march to equality, the Maryland Supreme Court stepped in last week and took immediate review of the freedom to marry case in the Soft Shell Crab State. From what I understand, the high court has had the ability to grab the case at any time ever since a lower court ruled in our favor last January. But since they made no move to do so, marriage advocates have been prepping for the intermediate court. Now, they will cut right to the chase, although arguments are not scheduled until December.
I wonder why the justices made this move right now? Were they emboldened by their counterparts in New York and Washington? Or had they been leaning towards taking the case all along?
Had enough of the topic? Me too. I’m not even going to mention New Jersey.
But I do want a soft shell crab. On a grilled flour-covered bun with homemade tartar sauce and a squeeze of lemon. And a cold, very light white wine.
Here’s Buck in Your Eye
What else can we talk about? Now is usually the time when an entertaining email arrives in my box at the last minute, letting me coast to the finish line with minimal professional effort. It appears that this will not be the case this afternoon, forcing me to actually dig through my pile of stories for a few more nuggets of actual GLBT news.
How about the folks over at the Ohio Republican Party, who hired a “social conservative coordinator” named Gary Lankford to help them get out the holier than thou vote this November. Lankford promptly sent out a bulk email, titled “10 Things to Know About Ted Strickland,” the Democratic congressman who is running for governor.
Among the ten things was the suggestion that Strickland and his wife of 20 years are in fact both gay, because they married late, have no children and live apart. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) The GOP initially denied any connection with the email, but after a couple of days, the head of the party apologized to Strickland and fired Mr. Lankford.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, one Christian conservative, Rev. Russell Johnson of the Ohio Restoration Project, urged the Stricklands to file a lawsuit and prove their heterosexuality in court if they could.
What else. A lobbyist for the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus was arrested by University of Massachusetts police after asking an undercover cop for paid oral sex over Craigslist. According to the Boston Herald, William G Conley, 59, was willing to pay $50 to $150 for “oral relief” to a college student, who turned out to be an agent in disguise. Conley, who would have been fine had he kept his wallet closed, was charged with paying for sexual conduct.
Elsewhere on my list, I have two stories about service members drummed out of the force for being gay. I also see that Katherine Harris wants Howard Dean to apologize for saying that Florida Senator Bill Nelson is going “beat the pants off her” in November, and that Harris “didn’t understand that it is ethically improper to be the chairman of a campaign and count the votes at the same time. This is not Russia and she is not Stalin.”
Apparently, Harris objected to the Stalin reference. Honey. Get over it. One of the real highlights of this electoral season has been watching Katherine Harris become a laughingstock as she blunders through her self destructive senate campaign. It’s also fun to watch her pay for her dead on arrival senate bid with her own cash. I do believe that life catches up to mean people when all is said and done.
I’m back from vacation, for the record. I had a wonderful time, although I drove an inch long splinter deep into the ball of my foot. It was buried so far that my friends and I couldn’t even look at it without a touch of nausea. The next day I ran into a doctor at dinner who had a complete surgical kit, including novocaine and scalpels and gloves, and she took it out while I lay on a picnic table. I was very brave.