Done and Done: Supreme Court invalidates DOMA, Effectively Ends Prop 8 in CA

Equality Smiley

Sometimes they get one right! And on this occasion, it’s a Double Rainbow all the way! ;-)

http://nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/26/19151971-supreme-court-strikes-down-defense-of-marriage-act-paves-way-for-gay-marriage-to-resume-in-california?lite

http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/26/politics/scotus-same-sex-main/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/06/26/195857796/supreme-court-strikes-down-defense-of-marriage-act

And the decision clears the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California.

This debate is certainly not over, but at least now people can enjoy the same marriage rights while we’re having the debate.

And I’ll certainly continue the discussion with those who have concerns about the religious arguments pertaining to same-sex marriage and what the Bible ACTUALLY SAYS about marriage.

Until then, I remain on record for Marriage Equality!

So for now, let us celebrate the fact that our nation has crept a little bit closer to equality.

And unfortunately, let the fear mongering, hatred, and bigotry from fundies in the name of Jesus begin!

And let us begin with Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who sounded more pissed than professional in his dissent. Seriously, I expect that kind of rhetoric from the Glenn Becks and Bryan Fischers of the world, but not from an Associate Justice toward a colleague.

Then again,

video from the 1-11-11 coptic prayer vigil in westwood village, ca

I have uploaded a short video from last night’s Coptic candlelight prayer vigil in Westwood Village, CA (corner of Wilshire and Veteran) near UCLA on Jan. 11, 2011. The vigil was to commemorate those Coptic Christians slain at a New Year’s Eve mass in Alexandria, Egypt.

Read the report on the terrorist suicide bombing here.

You should also read about the wonderful expression of solidarity and social justice exhibited by the Egyptian Muslim community, who gave themselves as human shields so that their Coptic Christian brothers and sisters could worship in peace.

It is essential that we promote expressions of support for all those who are victims of religious oppression, regardless of faith tradition. Likewise, it is imperative that we promote nonviolent expressions of resistance to all forms of religious and intellectual intolerance.

california online impersonation law goes into effect jan 1, 2011

California FlagA new California state law, SB 1411, goes into effect today, which makes it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate someone via a social media outlet or through e-mails. The bill is in response to a rise cybercrime that uses online anonymity on blogs, email, and other social networking sites to harm, intimidate, threaten, and defraud others, not unlike the seemingly never-ending saga of Dr. Golb and the Dead Sea Scrolls that played out in New York last year.

Here‘s the bill’s history. It is one of the few California bills to pass both the assembly and senate unanimously. Precedence is being set, and the laws are finally catching up with the crime and the criminals.

discovering new ‘life’ as we know it

It’s coming. In fact, it may already be here.

NASA has announced that it has discovered a new form of ‘life’. This is based upon NASA-funded research in Mono Lake, CA which has discovered that a microbe, GFAJ-1, can live on toxic chemicals, without one of the elements previously thought to be essential to all life. Ed Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, declared:

“The definition of life has just expanded…As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it.”

Science previously concluded that all forms of life required six essential elements: carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, sulfur. GFAJ-1 substitutes the otherwise toxic arsenic for phosphorus, redefining what we previously understood to be the necessary context for ‘life’ on Earth. Because arsenic has been shown to be a successful substitute for phosphorus in the organism’s DNA, the formula  understood to be needed for life on other planets also changes. This means that in theory, sulfur no longer needs to be present on other planets in order to sustain life, which greatly increases the number of candidates for life-bearing environments in space.

Now, before you wet your pants, stop thinking about flying saucers and Erich von Däniken, and start thinking about the chemical components and environment needed for simple, microbial life. NASA researchers didn’t find intelligent life at the bottom of Mono Lake, they found and engineered microbes. It’s not intelligent life, but life nonetheless. This means that potential microbial life and ultimately intelligent life may also be discovered on planets that we previously dismissed as candidates for life.

Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.

So, no, this discovery does not prove E.T. and it does not confirm what these nutjobs have been saying. It just means that a similar combination of elements needed for life on this planet may also be present elsewhere.

In fact, I seem to remember a guy on a show called Ancient Aliens refuting the nonsense that aliens gave us advanced weaponry, but adding in passing this prescient oracle (see the 5:38 mark):

“I think there is life – simple life, bacterial life, microbial life – on other planets. I think we’re going to find that. And who knows, maybe one day, we’ll find some other planet that is capable of sustaining life, that has evolved people over a long period of time that are also looking up at the stars wondering, “Is there anybody else out there? Are we the only ones?” – Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.

california bill would crack down on e-impersonators

Online Impersonation

Battling impostors: SB-1411 is designed to punish those who use fake identities online. Credit: Christopher T. Fong and Russell Yip / The Chronicle

An article in SF Gate (San Francisco Chronicle online) by Alejandro Martinez-Cabrera highlights California State Bill 1411 (SB-1411). If passed, the bill:

would make it unlawful to knowingly and without consent credibly impersonate another person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means with the intent to harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud another person.

Current law addressing false impersonation is outdated and was not drafted with the technologies of the 21st century in mind.  SB 1411 brings us up to date by making these forms of cyber impersonation a punishable offense.

State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) introduced a bill in June that would make it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate someone. SF Gate has previously reported on the bill here.

If Simitian’s bill passes, online impersonations with the purpose “of harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding” would be punishable with a maximum fine of $1,000 and one year in jail.

The article states:

Malicious online impersonation has often been brushed away as the complaints from overly sensitive people who can’t stand parody or criticism, but a range of recent incidents have really stressed the question of where to draw the line.

Recent incidents? I might know of one.

The bill unanimously passed both the California Assembly and Senate, and now awaits Governor Schwarzenegger’s signature.

I strongly urge the governor to sign the bill. As a victim of this kind of crime, I cannot underscore how important this kind of legislation is. The first amendment was designed to protect differences of opinion, dissenting views, and to promote new ideas, not as a shield to protect criminal impersonators, forgers, and identity thieves hiding behind electronic forms of anonymity in an effort to dodge accountability and civil remedies while they perpetrate well-orchestrated, premeditated campaigns of harassment, defamation, and libel against their victims.

The law is coming.

The Day After: Thoughts on the Response to the Overturn of Prop 8

It has begun. The response from those who supported California Proposition 8 is underway now that:

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker said Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, violated the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partners of their choice.

What I find fascinating is how similar the comments being made by all of the various talking heads are to one another. They don’t mention that Prop 8 barely passed with 52.2% of the vote, which was down from the 61.4% that the very same measure (Prop 22) passed with only 8 years earlier, they speak about how “over seven million voters voted for the measure.” They don’t speak about how certain groups regularly seek to bypass around our elected representatives (as we are, in fact, a democratically elected representative democracy), and use direct ballot initiatives to place what are now, in fact, unconstitutional measures on California ballots. Rather, we hear speak of how “activist judges” “disregarded the will of the people,” “set aside a democratic vote,” and “legislated from the bench,” as if the popular views of a voting public always produce fair and equitable laws. (Seriously, ask yourself: were the issue of slavery or the equal rights of African-Americans placed on the ballot in a southern state in 1860 – or 1960 for that matter – would the voting public abolished slavery? The fact that a war was fought to, among other things, defend the practice – with guns in the 1860s and water canons in the 1960s – may help answer that question.)

We are also hearing the “slippery slope” argument invoked at every opportunity: if now this, what’s next? Similarly, we are hearing form many Christians appeals to the Bible that Prop 8 supporters dared not make during the campaign for fear of revealing their obviously unconstitutional desire to influence the state with church directives.

Regarding the “illicitness” of homosexuality in the Bible, allow me to make a few brief observations. It is interesting that the other forms of what many refer to as illicit sexual behavior are actually condoned in the bible. Polygamy was all the rage until Paul encouraged Christians in 1 Cor. 7 to stop getting married altogether (unless, of course, you lacked self control, in which case he asked Christians to limit themselves to merely one wife). Marrying a bride-child under the age of 18 was the norm as long as her father agreed to the price he was paid for her. Incest wasn’t frowned upon because staying in the tribe was considered more important than staying out of your half-sister’s pants.

The point is, there are many things sanctioned in the Bible that are today considered criminal (slavery, suppression of women’s rights, etc.). Today we have remedied many of these things, despite what the biblical text says.

Likewise, there are sexual restrictions in the Bible that modern society has maintained because they are exploitative towards marginalized persons. You can no longer marry or have sex with a child, despite the fact it was done legally all the time in the Bible. It is exploitative of children and therefore forbidden. It is argued that many women in polygamous relationships are suppressed and exploited, so after much debate, the U.S. banished it. I am open to having the debate once again, as it is never wrong to revisit issues that were once decided long ago. But I think we’ll find that on both popular and civil rights grounds, polygamy will not pass muster.

The difference with homosexuality is that it is a decision made by two consenting adults with no victim. Because married couples no longer feel the pressure to produce children, and because few Americans no longer feel that sex is only for the “reproduction of children,” a childless relationship is no longer considered inappropriate. And, because there are no data showing that the presumed negative effect on children being raised outside of a relationship consisting of “one mother and one father” is any greater than children raised in families that have experienced divorce (and there is certainly no constitutional amendment barring divorce or barring divorced individuals from remarrying!) the “it’s bad for the children” argument also falls flat.

This generation has witnessed homosexuality depart the category of “illicit activity” (bestiality, polygamy, incest, etc.) and join the category of previously prohibited biblical activities that modern people (Christians and non-Christians alike) now find acceptable (like eating pork, mixing milk and meat in the same meal, planting different crops side by side, allowing divorced people to remarry, mowing the lawn on Saturday, allowing women authority over men, and, you know… not owning slaves!

“It’s icky” is no longer a good argument against gay marriage. Slippery slope arguments (like, “If we allow gay marriage, then what’s next? Polygamy? Marrying a goat?” etc.) also fall flat on a case-by-case basis because they exploit the civil rights of others (not to mention the goats). Appealing to biblical precedent is hypocritical (see slavery, genocide, etc.), and arguing that it’s “unnatural” casts aside hundreds of other human behaviors that are obviously unnatural and self-destructive like overeating, eating processed foods (what other animal does that?), smoking, drinking, and wearing makeup.

In the end, all that’s left is a simple appeal to the way it’s always been: “preserving traditional marriage.” And just like this same appeal to the status quo has time and again been defeated (slavery, women’s rights, etc.), so too has the restrictions on gay marriage. And this is a good thing. Of course, some will object and deny gay marriage, while others will speak out on the side of equal rights for all. But I believe in the end, many Americans will do as Jesus did and not mention the subject at all. Because most Christians and most Americans simply don’t care about what other people do in their bedrooms… unless a video of it can be accessed anonymously via the internet.

california court rightfully strikes down the bad law that was prop 8

No on Prop 8he struck it down. may it rest in peace (although we know there’s no chance of that).

the la times is reporting:

A federal judge in San Francisco decided today that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, striking down Proposition 8, the voter approved ballot measure that banned same-sex unions.

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker said Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, violated the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partners of their choice. His ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

cnn has the story here. yahoo is here.

kudos to chief u.s. district judge vaughn walker for doing the right thing. of course, this will be appealed to the u.s. 9th circuit court of appeals (good luck there ;-) and then on to the u.s. supreme court. at that point, the supreme court may take up the case and rule (which is what everyone wants, but will spell certain disaster for one political group – hint: believe it or not, it’s the group that wins), or the court may choose not to rule on a state’s matter.

of course, we will not stop hearing the mantra of how an ‘activist court’ ‘disregarded the will of the people’ and ‘legislated from the bench.’ we’re going to hear that until we’re sick of it. of course, we didn’t hear that from conservatives when the supreme court overturned gun bans in dc and chicago, but i digress. (remember: when we read ‘legislating from the bench,’ we should actually read ‘legislating form the bench against my point of view.’) i wonder how long it will take for prop 8 supporters to cry foul and complain about the fact that the judge was himself gay?

sometimes, or very rare occasions, certain groups (mostly religious groups) rally within a state (and sometimes from outside a state’s borders) to bypass the elected representative legislature (via direct ballot initiative) and fund, support, rally behind, and pass a bad, discriminatory law. that’s what some people in california (and utah) did with prop 8, the initiative to ban gay marriage in california.

the court reached the correct decision today. the pro-prop 8’ers intentionally bypassed the legislature to pass a bad law. the court rightfully overturned it.

page 135 of the judge’s ruling concludes:

“Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite- sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”

the comment from the remedies on p. 136 is also worthy of note:

“California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings.”

that is to say, they knew it was unconstitutional, and any lawmaker that supports prop 8 outside of an über-conservative district is finished. prop 8 supporters knew that playing on the fears and/or beliefs of the populace via direct ballot initiative was the only possible way to ram this initiative through into law. and now, that law is gone. (now, if we can only get rid of the ballot initiative process…)

now for the appeals.

i am wondering: the first time a gay marriage ban was placed on the california ballot (prop 22 of 2000), it passed with 61.4% of the vote. the second time (prop 8 of 2008) it passed with only 52.2% of the vote – a loss of over 9% in 8 years. i wonder when they put another gay marriage ban on the california ballot (and they most certainly will) if it will even pass? 2.2% more and it fails. given the current trends state-wide and nationally, the group that wants to discriminate against homosexuals is running out of bullets.

A Note to Christians Opposing Gay Marriage: Get Over It

Get Over ItRemember how the Bible used to say, “Slaves, obey your masters” (Col. 3:22; 1 Pet. 2:18; Eph. 6:5)? Remember that? Remember how it used to say, “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:12; cf. 1 Cor. 14:34; Col. 3:18; Eph. 5:22)? Remember when the Bible used to say that? Remember how the Bible used to instruct people not to divorce, and those who divorced not to remarry (1 Cor. 7:10-11)? Remember when the Bible used to say all of that?

Now, I know what you’re saying, and you’re right: it still does say that. And yet, we got over it! The Bible never stopped saying, “Slaves, obey your masters,” and yet, we got over it and rightfully abolished slavery. We got over it just like we rightfully conceded the equal rights of women. We got over it just like we rightfully allow people to divorce and allow divorced people to remarry. Simply put, we got over it.

In the same way, we will soon get over the way we treat homosexuals – Christians and non-Christians alike. Despite the Bible’s explicit moral injunctions to slaves, women, and divorcées, we have learned that these social injunctions were the product of the social environment in which the Bible was written. In the same manner, so too will we get over what we are doing to gay individuals today.

Just like the army got over the integration of black soldiers into white battalions, the army will get over the integration of openly gay soldiers into its combat forces. We got over the integration of women into traditionally “male” positions in the workplace. We got over the integration of African-American children into segregated schools. We got over insisting that abused women remain in their abusive relationships because “no unchastity had been committed” (Matt. 19:9), and we got over the stigmatization of divorced people trying to put their lives back together.

We got over it. And, we’ll get over using the Bible and ambiguous notions of “traditional marriage” to deny gay Americans the privilege of a state-recognized marriage. We’ll get over it and will one day look back and shake our heads at how we’ve treated gay Americans, just like we look back and shake our heads in disgust at how “those people” treated slaves, African-Americans, women, and divorcées.

We are “those people,” and we need to get over it.


For more by Dr. Cargill on this subject, see: “It’s OK for Christians to Vote No on Prop 8
and “Full Text of Dr. Cargill’s Remarks at the Pepperdine GSEP Panel Discussion on Racism and Homophobia.”
See also the classic West Wing segment on YouTube.


UPDATE: See also the news today that a U.S. Judge has ruled the Federal Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional.

perhaps one contributing reason why california is broke: gambling with welfare money

Gambling with California EBT cardsthis is both typical and representative of the welfare state california has become: the la times is reporting that california ebt cards (‘electronic benefits transfer’ – the new electronic form of food stamps) allow users to withdraw cash at casino atms.

california adopted the ebt cards because they were more convenient and less stigmatizing to those on california’s public food assistance program.

less of a stigma. sure. and using the tax-payers’ good will to gamble equally elevates that stigma right back where it was.

the mere fact that gambling is legal in some places in california, where gambling is supposedly illegal, and that these gambling areas are largely tax-exempt or tax-reduced is infuriating in its own right. the fact that you can use your food stamps to withdraw cash at a casino atm is icing on our very broken cake.

well, that explains it: fresno is nation’s drunkest city

well, that explains it.

sometimes in life, certain things are suspected long before some scientific research or statistical analysis confirms what we already know. texas votes republican. england likes tea. the vatican likes catholicism.

and such is the case with a new survey to be published in the march 2010 issue of men’s health ranking the drunkest cities in the nation.

the winner: my hometown of fresno, ca.

i’ve told many of my professional colleagues in southern california and across the nation that we do things differently in fresno. for instance, to save money on buying meat at the super market, we hunted. a lot. my family ate something my father shot four nights a week growing up. elk, venison, wild boar – you name it, we ate it, and it was delicious.

and we drink beer in fresno. a lot. in fact, beer plays a major role in many rites of passage in fresno. i can’t recall my father every crying in public (with the exception of his father’s funeral), but i distinctly remember my father shedding a tear on the day i tapped my first keg, which was quite an proud accomplishment for a fifth grader.

and so goes the story of fresno. a big town that still retains a small town attitude. my ‘uncle jerry’ carried a .44 with him when he went on walks around the block, just in case. both my parents have concealed weapons permits, which makes sense for my dad, who was a cop, but is peculiar for my mom, the school teacher. let’s just say i did what i was told growing up.

it’s that kind of town: you don’t mess with me and i won’t mess with you. fresno is an ag community where one can still make more money working on the family farm than in some desk job. there has been an effort to revitalize the downtown area with a more sophisticated clientele in recent years. the most common way of doing this: establishing microbreweries. it’s a vicious cycle.

so congratulations to my fellow fresnans on being named the nation’s drunkest city. on behalf of those of us in the academy, like notable scholars victor davis hanson and eric cline, thank you.

a few more noteworthy items in the list of 100 cities:

  • 3 of the top 12 drunkest cities are in the central san joaquin valley of california (fresno 1, bakersfield 10, modesto 12)
  • the home town of my bride-to-be, lubbock, tx, came in at #8 which is astonishing since lubbock is a dry county!! i’ve often told roslyn that lubbock and fresno are sister cities – both flat, both ridiculously hot in the summer and freezing in the winter, both have really, really nice people, both ag towns, and everyone drives a white pickup – but now i have hard data to confirm it.
  • the soberest/least drunk city in the nation: boston, ma. go figuah. while one might expect the center of red sox nation to be a bit more tipsy, all of those top notch college students studying for endless exams must outweigh the weekend baseball crazed sox lovers.

update: sources say that one of the prime factors used in determining these rankings is the number of drunk driving arrests made over the past year. fresno is in the middle of a city-wide drunk driving crackdown in an attempt to reduce the number of incidents of drunk driving in fresno, resulting in a high percentage of dui citations. on the flip side, the combination of excellent public transportation, the smaller, european style living accommodations, and the proximity of pubs to residential establishments in boston (read: pubs downstairs and on every corner) means very few people ever drive at all, much less when drinking. it’s no excuse, but these facts do contribute to the numbers in fresno where there is no public transportation (the fresno area rapid transit busses don’t count), where everything is big and spread out, and where restaurants and pubs are located in strip malls away from homes.

here is the list:

  1. Fresno, CA                      F
  2. Reno, NV                         F
  3. Billings, MT                    F
  4. Riverside, CA                   F
  5. Austin, TX                        F
  6. St. Louis, MO                  F
  7. San Antonio, TX             F
  8. Lubbock, TX                    F
  9. Tucson, AZ                      F
  10. Bakersfield, CA               F
  11. Las Vegas, NV                F
  12. Modesto, CA                    F
  13. Columbia, SC                   F
  14. Nashville, TN                  D-
  15. Madison, WI                    D-
  16. Colorado Springs, CO    D-
  17. Denver, CO                       D-
  18. Phoenix, AZ                      D-
  19. Cheyenne, WY                D-
  20. Sacramento, CA              D-
  21. New Orleans, LA             D-
  22. Toledo, OH                      D
  23. Aurora, CO                      D
  24. El Paso, TX                      D
  25. Corpus Christi, TX           D
  26. Fargo, ND                        D
  27. San Diego, CA                 D
  28. Lexington, KY                   D
  29. Tampa, FL                         D
  30. Albuquerque, NM             D
  31. Oklahoma City, OK         D+
  32. Tulsa, OK                            D+
  33. Jacksonville, FL               D+
  34. Detroit, MI                        D+
  35. Boise City, ID                   D+
  36. Kansas City, MO             D+
  37. Washington, DC              D+
  38. Montgomery, AL               D+
  39. Omaha, NE                      D+
  40. Portland, OR                    D+
  41. Anchorage, AK                 D+
  42. Birmingham, AL             D+
  43. Greensboro, NC               C-
  44. Wichita, KS                      C-
  45. St. Petersburg, FL           C-
  46. Burlington, VT                 C-
  47. Houston, TX                     C-
  48. Los Angeles, CA              C-
  49. Charleston, WV               C
  50. Orlando, FL                      C
  51. Spokane, WA                   C
  52. Lincoln, NE                      C
  53. Arlington, TX                    C
  54. Des Moines, IA                 C
  55. Fort Worth, TX                 C
  56. Providence, RI                 C
  57. Anaheim, CA                    C
  58. Milwaukee, WI                  C
  59. Pittsburgh, PA                  C
  60. Baltimore, MD                  C
  61. Indianapolis, IN               C
  62. Louisville, KY                   C
  63. Raleigh, NC                     C
  64. Seattle, WA                      C+
  65. Grand Rapids, MI           C+
  66. Buffalo, NY                       C+
  67. Wilmington, DE              C+
  68. Hartford, CT                     C+
  69. Sioux Falls, SD                C+
  70. Virginia Beach, VA          C+
  71. Memphis, TN                   C+
  72. Cincinnati, OH                 C+
  73. Cleveland, OH                 C+
  74. Charlotte, NC                   C+
  75. Oakland, CA                    C+
  76. Little Rock, AR                 B-
  77. Dallas, TX                        B-
  78. Richmond, VA                  B-
  79. San Jose, CA                   B-
  80. Minneapolis, MN            B-
  81. Jackson, MS                    B-
  82. Jersey City, NJ                 B-
  83. Columbus, OH                 B-
  84. Atlanta, GA                       B-
  85. Chicago, IL                       B
  86. San Francisco, CA          B
  87. St. Paul, MN                     B
  88. Honolulu, HI                     B
  89. Philadelphia, PA              B+
  90. Portland, ME                    B+
  91. Manchester, NH               B+
  92. Fort Wayne, IN                 A-
  93. New York, NY                   A-
  94. Durham, NC                    A
  95. Newark, NH                      A
  96. Miami, FL                         A
  97. Salt Lake City, UT            A
  98. Rochester, NY                 A+
  99. Yonkers, NY                    A+
  100. Boston, MA                      A+
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