Lawyers for the Washington State marriage case have asked the state supreme court to reconsider their 5-4 decision upholding state marriage laws, a move that seems to represent a last ditch, but not impossible, effort to snatch a victory from defeat.
In a well-written 22-page petition, Lambda and the Northwest Womenâs Law Center point out that the plurality opinion âarticulates and applies a standard of judicial review so deferential to the legislative branch that it renders the rights of all Washingtonians subject to infringement at the whim of the barest legislative majority.â Donât you love the way lawyers write? I do. Seriously!
The plurality, one of six commentaries to emerge from the fractured court, sought to explain why the state had a legitimate interest in supporting heterosexual marriages, but neglected to address the main question of whether the state had a legitimate interest in banning same-sex couples from the institution. Gay lawyers noted this lapse, and then proceeded, respectfully, to shred the courtâs rationales into teeny tiny little pieces.
But you know what? The nine justices spent nearly a year and a half mulling over the constitutional issues in this case, and their scattershot response was surely no accident. Three justices comprised the plurality, which became the main opinion in the case. Two others wrote their own, even nastier diatribe against gay marriage, while the Chief Justice (who also signed the plurality) added a concurring paragraph of his own. Three justices then wrote in dissent, with a fourth joining one of those opinions.
In other words, the justices were all over the frigging map. Although a bare majority managed to come down in favor of the status quo, their weakly reasoned justifications did not exactly hit the high water mark in the judicial history of the Starbucks State.
Interestingly, I gather from Lambda that the Washington court reheard a couple of cases in the last two years, and in both of those, they reversed their previous decisions. So you never know. It takes five justices to agree to rehear a case, and we obviously have four of those in our corner.
Hail Mary Martin
So whereâs New Jersey? The disaster of July is over, and weâve had an entire intervening month to lounge around in the stultifying torpor of the Cannicula and lick our wounds. Itâs time now to resume our pleasurable habit of speculating over the timing and outcome of our next marriage case, the Garden State lawsuit that we used to regard as a slam dunk. After our losses in New York and Washington, we have muted our optimism. But itâs still there, bubbling under the surface like an irrepressible melody that threatens to burst from our hearts in an explosion of a cappella exuberance.
Sing it, Mary!
âWhen the skies are a bright canary yellow, I forget every cloud Iâve ever seen. So they called me a cockeyed optimist! Immature and incurably greenâŠ.
âI hear the human race, is fallinâ on its face. And hasnât very faaaaar to go.
But every whippoorwill, is sellinâ me a bill. And tellinâ me it just ainât so!âŠâ
âI could say life is just a bowl of Jello, and appear more intelligent and smart. But Iâm stuck like a DOPE
With a thing called HOPE. And I caaaanât get it out of my heart!â
Letâs Get Sirius
I donât know about you, but I feel much better! Iâm also pleased to have inserted in this column my annual reference to the âCannicula,â a term for the Dog Star (Sirius) that gives its name to the âdog daysâ of August. I only learned it a few years ago and Iâm dying to use it more often in print. But I am disciplined. There are some expressions that have to be protected from indiscriminate bandying about and reserved for their precise position in the space time continuum of language.
Moving on, Alabamaâs soon to be first out lesbian state legislator, Patricia Todd, survived a coup attempt last week and has now been restored to her rightful position on the ballot as the Democratic nominee for a heavily Democratic district. Todd won the nomination by a couple dozen votes, and was promptly challenged by her opponentâs mother, who claimed Todd missed a deadline to disclose a donation from the (GLBT) Victory Fund.
Life then became very complicated. A five-member Democratic party committee voted to disqualify both Todd and her primary opponent, Gaynell Hendricks, based on the fact that neither candidate complied with a completely separate financial rule, a rule so arcane that no Democrat in the state had paid the slightest attention to it for years. Happily, the Alabama Democratic Party executive committee reinstated Todd by a 95-87 vote a few days later, so all is well.
Devil May Care
Before we move on to the impressive array of gay rights legislation that has flowed like milk and honey from the lawmaking chambers of Sacramento onto the sticky desk of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, letâs discuss a report from the British tabloid The Sun, claiming that American Marines have been forcing Saddam Hussein to watch repeated showings of a South Park episode that depicts him as a flamboyant gay man having an affair with Satan.
According to The Sun, South Park co-creator Matt Stone told people about the inventive torture at a recent television festival in Edinburgh. âI have it on pretty good information from the Marines,â he said. In one of the scenes, Hussein squeaks âThis is getting me so hot. Rub my nipples while I torture this little piggy.â Most of the rest of the dialogue is reportedly unprintable.
Hey, Iâd print it if I had it. You know that.
Itâs Raining Bills
So, California. Letâs see. On Tuesday, Carole Migden passed the bill that allows domestic partners to file joint state tax returns. John Lairdâs Civil Rights Housing Act of 2006 also emerged victorious, adding sexual orientation to various housing discrimination codes. Leland Yee again passed a seemingly innocuous proposal to add sexual orientation to a voluntary campaign anti-bias pledge that candidates make to voters. Last year, Schwarzenegger mysteriously vetoed the pledge bill for reasons that Iâm sure I would be able to explain were I still in the California political loop.
But Iâm not in the loop. Iâm just on the press list, where I also read that Schwarzegger signed one of Sheila Kuehlâs bills on Monday, a measure that adds sexual orientation to a list of categories protected against discrimination in state programs and activities. Focus on the Familyâs newsletter reacted in predictable horror, speculating insanely that a church that believes in the âbiblical view of homosexualityâ might âno longer be able to get police or fire protection from a city.â That would be nice, but I think it requires a separate piece of legislation.
Weâre also waiting for final concurrence in the state senate for Kuehlâs other major bill, a measure to ensure that teachers and textbooks do not express gay bias. And of course, weâre all curious to see whether the governor will sign these new laws, or consign them to oblivion for the year. (Cue: Theme from Final Jeopardy.)
Vive La Guerre
While weâre in the Golden State, I just read the latest Freedom To Marry newsletter, which includes a note from Evan Wolfson who calls Californiaâs long range campaign to win public support for marriage the key to winning equality.
âThink of it this way,â writes the veteran marriage advocate. âThe Civil War did not end with Gettysburg; there were battles and scary stretches that followed. But in retrospect, it became clear that Gettysburg had been the turning-point, the battle that won the war. In this human rights movement, California will be the Gettysburg for justice.â
According to Wolfsonâs letter, the California Equality Project âwill be an affirmative, sustained, and integrated grassroots, media, and public education campaign that for the first time in our movementâs history will be truly to scale, and conducted over a long enough period of time to engage non-gay people with the information they need and deserve: who gay people are, and why marriage matters.â What he doesnât say is that weâve messed around for years trying to fight off attacks on marriage by changing the subject, running away from our core arguments, and playing the victim card rather than our ace in the hole, namely our humanity.
California is also the one state where the legislature has actually passed marriage equality, only to see the bill vetoed by the governor. And it is also a behemoth of a state. One of the largest economies in the world, with a moderate political climate and a high court that has stood up for equal rights more than once.Â We have maybe a year and a half before that court rules on marriage equality, and that time must be used to win support for a marriage victory so that equality, once achieved, can thrive.
Plus, now that Seattleâs out of the picture, where would you rather get married? Trenton or Sonoma County? Hoboken or La Jolla? We need California.
Did you read about the woman in Mongolia who had an accident while teaching her dog to drive? According to the Associated Press, the woman said her dog âwas fond of crouching on the steering wheel and often watched her drive.â A report by the Xinhua News Agency said she thought sheâd let the animal âhave a tryâ while she operated the accelerator and the brake. âThey did not make it far before crashing into an oncoming car,â the agency said.
What was this woman thinking? I always keep one hand on the wheel when my pug Pando drives. Itâs common sense. Sheâs not agile enough to steer effectively, and she canât see the traffic or navigate the lanes. Sometimes I wonder if sheâs even aware of the potential for danger. Plus, her attention span is erratic and half the time sheâs looking out the side of the car, and I have to yell at her to keep her eyes on the road.
I do let her write my news column by herself from time to time while I take a nap on the floor or wander around the office looking at stuff and checking the trash cans. Found a bottle cap earlier today. And I found a mussel shell yesterday, and a golf tee. I wish someone would pet me. Also, thereâs something in my ear. GET IT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT. Pet me pet me pet me pet me. Hey! DID YOU HEAR THAT? Listen. Donât move. Listen. CANâT YOU HEAR THAT?
Move Over Voltaire
Sorry, just needed a little break and the pug was up for a few paragraphs. Earlier today I was reading a friend of the court brief by the Citizens for Community Values in the case that will determine whether Ohioâs domestic violence statute violates the stateâs 2004 anti-gay marriage amendment.
Wait. Stop the presses. Youâre in luck. I just went out for an errand and by the time I returned I lost my enthusiasm for the Ohio domestic violence case. Instead, letâs talk about the mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island, Stephen P Laffey, who is trying to win the GOP nomination for Senate from Lincoln Chafee.
Turns out Laffey wrote some anti-gay columns for his college paper back in 1983 and 1984 when he was one of the leaders of the conservatives on the Bowdoin College campus. The candidate now claims he was engaged in âsophomoric political satire.â At the time, he explains, âwe were just having fun. We thought it was funny.â
âI have never once seen a happy homosexual.â Laffey remarked in one knee slapper. âThis is not to say there arenât any; I simply havenât seen one in my lifetime. Maybe they are all in the closet. All the homosexuals Iâve seen are sickly and decrepit, their eyes devoid of life.â
In another particularly amusing article about pop culture, Laffey risibly describes Boy George, âthis humanoid (Iâd hesitate to say person and I would never use the word MAN).â
âIt wears girlâs clothes and puts on makeup,â Laffey muses. âWhen I hear it sing Do you really want to hurt me? Do you really want to make me cry? I say to myself âYES, I want to punch your lights out pal, and break your ribs.â
Even I canât help chuckling at that one. Sure itâs ânot funnyâ if you want to get all politically correct about it. But you have to laugh at the image of Laffey attacking an effeminate man for no reason, knocking him unconscious and sending him to the hospital with broken bones. Admit it, youâre laughing right now arenât you?