Equal Protection

A Memo to Mike Huckabee (Civic Leadership)

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee waits backstage before speaking during the Freedom Summit Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

MEMORANDUM

To: Mike Huckabee

re: Civic leadership

So … Mike―

The two-time Republican presidential also-ran lashed out Erickson, again on Fox News, accusing the conservative of attempting “to blow up the Republican Party.”

“The message that’s coming across is the voters are stupid so we’ll figure out a way to make the decision for you because we don’t trust your decision,” Huckabee complained of Erickson’s anti-Trump effort.

(Tesfaye)

―you do realize, do you not, that sometimes that’s exactly what civic leaders are expected to do?

In our own American heritage we say the Constitution is not a suicide pact. In our human endeavor, we might simply say that civilized society is not a suicide pact. Observably, the Donald Trump phenomenon disdains either expression.

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What Law Enforcement Calls Justice

Seal of the Philadelphia Police Department.

This is what it gets us:

Currently, the Defender Association of Philadelphia is seeking to have more than 500 convictions involving Officer Christopher Hulmes reopened and tossed out. In 2011, Hulmes admitted to lying in open court in a drug-and-gun case against two black men who claim they were framed. He did so in front of a judge and prosecutor. But he was not charged with perjury until this April ....

Reporter Daniel Denvir brings to Salon reporting he has been working on all year, including an April article for the Philadelphia City Paper explaining:

Last Thursday, District At­torney Seth Williams an­nounced that Phil­adel­phia Police Officer Christopher Hulmes, a narcotics cop who admitted in open court to lying under oath, had been charged with perjury and other offenses.

It only took more than three years.

During that lapse, Hulmes continued to patrol the city’s bustling drug markets and to testify in criminal trials that likely sent many defendants to prison. Some of those convictions could end up being overturned and costing the city in civil settlements.

That Hulmes admitted in 2011 to lying multiple times in a drug-and-gun case is without question. But precisely what he intended to cover up, and why it took an August 2014 City Paper investigation to prompt prosecutors to file charges, is much more complicated.

It always is.

More complicated, that is.

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Another Obvious Question (House Divided Hot Mess Mix)

Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens to Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz as they speak with her at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. (Photo: Ty Wright/Getty Images)

Let us start here:

Importantly, Davis is not claiming a substantial burden on her religious freedom or free speech rights if someone else authorizes and approves a SSM license devoid of her name.

(Mihet and Christman [Liberty Counsel], 28 August 2015; accents per source)

Follow the bouncing ball:

“The stay request offers several options such as removing Davis’s name from the marriage license, thus removing the personal nature of the authorization,” Staver pointed out. “Another accommodation would be to allow licenses to be issued by the chief executive of Rowan County or developing a statewide, online marriage license process,” Staver suggested. “There is absolutely no reason that this case has gone so far without reasonable people respecting and accommodating Kim Davis’s First Amendment rights,” Staver concluded.

(Liberty Counsel, 31 August 2015; boldface accent added)

And then came Friday:

Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel which represents Davis, said he believes Friday’s licenses are invalid because they were not issued with her approval. Davis’ name does not appear on the licenses.

“They are not worth the paper they are printed on,” Staver said, standing in front of the Grayson, Kentucky, detention center where Davis is being held. He added she had no intention of resigning as clerk.

(Bittenbender; boldface accent added)

Would any among Ms. Davis’ defenders care to attempt reconciling, or at least merely explaining that sleight? This much is true: We don’t expect Mr. Staver, nor his colleagues, Messrs. Christman and Himet, to do so. Indeed, we might wonder if they would find demands for such an explanation offensive to their religious freedom.

To be clear, because some need it so expressed:

If Kim Davis’ name was not on the marriage licenses, then the “personal nature of the authorization” would be removed. (Liberty Counsel, 28-31 August)

If the licenses were issued without Ms. Davis’ name on them, then they are “not worth the paper they are printed on” because Ms. Davis has not given authorization of a personal nature.

In the end, Mark Joseph Stern’s question of whether Kim Davis is “getting taken for a ride by her lawyers”, as the headline put it, asserts itself more insistently.

More and more, it’s beginning to look like the Liberty Counsel is taking Davis for a ride, using her doomed case to promote itself and its extremist principles. Davis has certainly humiliated and degraded the gay couples whom she turned away. But I wonder if, on some level, she isn’t a victim, too.

(Boldface accent added)

I mean, really.

This is a sick joke playing out before our eyes.

____________________

Image note: Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens to Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz as they speak with her at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. (Photo: Ty Wright/Getty Images)

(Tip o’ the hat I don’t actually wear: JoeMyGod)

Mihet, Horatio G. and Jonathan D. Christman. “Emergency Application to Stay Preliminary Injunction Pending Appeal”. Davis v. Miller et al. Supreme Court of the United States. 28 August 2015.

Liberty Counsel. “Accommodations Would End Rowan County Dispute”. Press Release. 31 August 2015.

Bittenbender, Steve. “Kentucky clerk’s office ends ban on same-sex marriage licenses”. Reuters. 4 September 2015.

Stern, Mark Joseph. “Is Kentucky’s Infamous Anti-Gay Clerk Getting Taken for a Ride by Her Lawyers?”. Slate. 31 August 2015.

The Not-So-Gay Divorceé

VIII. Adjustment.

The question of a divorceé has long plagued Christian supremacists who denounce marriage equality and gay rights, but, you know, really? Not only has Kim Davis already licensed transgender man and his pansexual wife, and most likely also issued plenty of marriage licenses to divorceés, but it also turns out that Ms. Davis is herself a serial adulterer.

On this point, Travis Gettys of Raw Story considers an appearance by Dan Savage on msnbc; the author, advice columnist, and editor of The Stranger, Mr. Savage spared no punches:

“I think Kim Davis is waiting to cash in,” Savage told MSNBC. “I predicted from the beginning that she would defy all the court orders, defy the Supreme Court, she would ultimately be held in contempt of court, lose her job, perhaps go to prison for a short amount of time. And then she will have written for her, ghost written books. She will go on the right-wing lecture circuit and she’ll never have to do an honest day’s work ever again in her life.”

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, in a mugshot, 3 September 2015, after being held in contempt of court by U.S. District Judge David Bunning, after she refused to comply with the law and issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples.“This is about someone hypocritically cashing in, and she is a hypocrite,” he added.

Savage referred to the defiant clerk’s statement complaining that courts were asking her to “violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage” — which the columnist dismissed as ridiculous.

“This is a woman who’s been divorced three times and married four times,” he said, reading from the US News & World Report article that pointed out Davis “gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband, (and) they were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second husband.”

“She’s now onto her fourth husband,” Savage said. “Jesus Christ himself in scripture condemned divorce, called it adultery and forbids it. Jesus Christ himself in scripture says not one word about same-sex marriage.”

Savage said the U.S. Supreme Court had already decided the issue of same-sex marriage, and he said Davis clearly should have followed the law all along.

“She’s not being asked to perform a sacrament, she is tasked with ascertaining that the people in front of her, the couple in front of her, have a legal right to get married and to provide them with that license,” he said. “She is not a minister. She actually thinks she works for God there in the county courthouse, when she actually works for Caesar — and someone needs to acquaint her with that fact.”

Or we might attend Mr. Savage himself, who recently blogged, among other notes:

I would say I can’t wait for a Muslim county clerk in, say, Dearborn, Michigan (which has a huge Muslim community), to refuse to issue a marriage license to a Christian couple on the grounds that the this kafir couple hasn’t been paying jizya… but that’s not going to happen. Religious minorities in this country intuitively understand that to empower religious bigots like Davis is to paint bullseyes on their own backs. So the Jesus-freak goons at the Liberty Counsel work to frame discrimination as a “religious freedom” because they’re confident that American Christians will be the ones doing the discriminating, not suffering from it.

This is an important point. Something about functional reality goes here.

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Justice (Northern Flicker)

Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand, with son Khaya, in court at Mobile, Alabama, 24 July 2015, after Visiting Judge James Reid approved an intrafamily adoption petition.  Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange protested the Searcy-McKeand marriage all the way to the United States Supreme Court.  (Detail of photo from Let Love Define Family)

This is why:

Imagine sitting at your critically ill son’s bedside with your wife, watching the life ebb from the infant’s tiny body. Your baby is losing weight and desperately needs a feeding tube to sustain him until he receives an open-heart surgery, his only hope for survival, that is still two weeks away.

Your wife, upset and emotional, is unable to learn how to insert the tube. She is bullied by nurses and becomes hysterical so you step in and volunteer to take her place. But, because you are also a woman and living in a state with arcane marriage and adoption laws, you are denied. You are told, “You are not his mother.”

Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand of Mobile, Alabama, didn’t have to imagine this nightmare, because they had to live it. First they were stunned, then they were furious. And then they waged war against those arcane laws and changed history when they won.

(Hallstrom and Nichols)

And last month, on 24 July, Cari Searcy, whose name might ring a bell, and her wife Kim McKeand, went before Visiting Judge James Reid―sitting in for the infamous Probate Judge Don Davis―to receive approval for an intrafamily adoption. Khaya’s mothers are now both legally his mothers.

And this is why. Stand, speak, fight, win. Love. Live.

For all these years of fighting, Cari and Kim and Khaya now begin their adventure anew. It is our honor to bear witness, that this family should triumph over harmful and hateful Alabama “values”.

This is what Attorney General Luther Strange sued to stop. This is what even Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas could see when he conceded the inevitability of marriage equalityα. This is why Chief Justice Roy Moore would refuse the U.S. Constitution, and Probate Judge Don Davis choose derelection. This is why Alabama would disgrace itself.

This family.

____________________

Image note: Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand, with son Khaya, in court at Mobile, Alabama, 24 July 2015, after Visiting Judge James Reid approved an intrafamily adoption petition. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange protested the Searcy-McKeand marriage all the way to the United States Supreme Court. (Detail of photo from Let Love Define Family)

α From Justice Thomas’ dissent in Strange v. Searcy, in which the Court majority denied the State of Alabama stay against recognizing the same-sex marriage of Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand: “In this case, the Court refuses even to grant a temporary stay when it will resolve the issue at hand in several months.”

Hallstrom, Beth. “Here’s How Two Women Changed The Lives Of LGBT Families In Alabama Forever”. Ed. JamesMichael Nichols. The Huffington Post. 8 August 2015.

Thomas, Clarence. “On Application for Stay”. Strange v. Searcy. Supreme Court of the United States. 9 February 2015.

Why Three Is the Loneliest Number (and Pat Robertson Is Dangerous)

VIII.  Adjustment.

To the one, Curtis M. Wong of Huffington Post brings us the least surprising lede of the day:

The increasingly predictable Pat Robertson has no time for Christians who are accepting of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

To the other, before we complain about taking the new out of news, it is worth pausing to appreciate the detail:

Pat Robertson, of the 700 Club.“Watch what happens, love affairs between men and animals are going to be absolutely permitted,” he said. “Polygamy, without question, is going to be permitted, and it will be called a right.”

See, here’s the thing about polygamy: Equal protection does not specifically apply to questions of numbers. To this end, marriage equality ends sex discrimination for individuals entering a certain legal arrangement. Polygamy is a fundamentally different assertion of that legal arrangement; the same legal arguments do not necessarily apply.

Thus we would remind Mr. Robertson that the quickest road to legalized polygamy is in the context of religious freedom.

And, you know, we can only reiterate our dismay, vis à vis bestiality, that Pat Robertson would seem to disregard the question of consent in such relations. This is a problem: We should not be surprised.

____________________

Wong, Curtis M. “Pat Robertson Has No Time For Christians Who Accept Gays”. The Huffington Post. 10 August 2015.

Spiritual Warfare, Among Other Things

Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd speaks to the faithful in Columbus, Ohio, June 16, 2015. Floyd exhorted members to stand united against same-sex marriage and vows that he will never officiate a same-sex union. (Eric Albrecht/Columbus Dispatch via AP)

We may or may not have mentioned before something about bigots, victimhood, and insurrection.α

If I told you we could add the Southern Baptist Convention to the list, would you really be surprised?

Or, as Craig Schneider of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains:

Declaring “spiritual warfare” on gay marriage, thousands gathered here Tuesday for the annual Southern Baptist Convention and vowed that, no matter what the Supreme Court rules this month, they will never yield on the issue.

The Baptists acknowledged that the court seems likely to legalize same-sex marriage when it rules in the next two weeks, but leaders urged the faithful to stand fast and, indeed, lead the nation in opposition.

“We are in spiritual warfare,” said convention president Rev. Ronnie Floyd. “This is not a time for Southern Baptists to stand back.”

Floyd echoed a generally defiant tone among attendees, many of them pastors, who have faced increasing criticism for their belief that the Bible declares homosexuality a sin and limits marriage to a man and a woman. At a time when society is increasingly tolerant of same-sex unions, he said, Southern Baptists must stand by their views.

“This is not the time to retreat,” said Floyd, who leads Cross Church in Arkansas. “The alarm clock is going off around the world. Now is not the time to hit the snooze button.”

And it goes on. Fuel to the “wildfire of sexual revolution” that would “move it beyond all control”. At least Dr. Floyd is honest about the connection between sexuality and control. But this is also an attempt by Southern Baptists to paint themselves as victims of gross injustice:

Many of their congregants, sensing the shifting cultural climate on gay marriage, feel defensive and afraid to publicly state their views, wary of being cast as bigots or hate-mongers.

“We understand how fully unpopular our view is, and where the culture is on this issue,” said the Rev. Bryant Wright of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in East Cobb and a former convention president. “But we must stay true to God’s word.”

Wright acknowledged the difficulty of communicating that church members are not hateful or discriminatory against gays and lesbians, though Baptists do believe they are sinners. He noted that he preaches to teens who have sex outside of marriage, people who divorce, and those who commit adultery. He loves them and hopes they find their way, he said.

Let us be clear: When you are calling for warfare of any kind, spiritual or otherwise, in response to the fact that other people have human rights, there is not really any useful way to slip the question of bigotry; nor do people believe the claim that you are not hateful or discriminatory.

Really, that part seems pretty self-evident.

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A Matter of Ceremony and Circumstance

LGBT advocate and civil rights attorney Mary Bonauto in her office, 2014.  (Photo via MacArthur Foundation)

A rite of honor:

Lawyers advocating for a right to gay marriage at the U.S. Supreme Court announced on Tuesday they had chosen Mary Bonauto, a longtime champion of gay legal rights, to argue the landmark case on April 28.

(Biskupic)

Do the job, madam. You’ve got this one.

____________________

Biskupic, Joan. “Prominent gay rights advocate to argue landmark U.S. marriage case”. Reuters. 31 March 2015.

Yellowhammer Pride

Justice is blind ... just kidding. No, really, did you read the Sixth Circuit ruling? Jaded eyes, jaded eyes ....

“Probate Judge Don Davis is hereby ENJOINED from refusing to issue marriage licenses to plaintiffs due to the Alabama laws which prohibit same-sex marriage. If Plaintiffs take all the steps that are required in the normal course of business as a prerequisite to issuing a marriage license to opposite-sex couples, Judge Davis may not deny them a license on the ground that Plaintiffs constitute same-sex couples or because it is prohibited by the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act or by any other Alabama law or Order pertaining to same-sex marriage. This injunction binds Judge Don Davis and all his officers, agents, servants and employees, and others active in concert or participation with any of them, who would seek to enforce the marriage laws of Alabama which prohibit or fail to recognize same-sex marriage.”

Judge Callie V. S. Granade

So it begins.

As some Alabama judges continue to refuse the United States Constitution, to which they had hitherto sworn, federal Judge Callie Granade of the Southern District of Alabama―indeed, the very judge Chief Justice Roy Moore and others are refusing to recognize―has issued a straightforward response in ordering a Mobile County Probate Judge, Don Davis, to do his damn job.

Amanda Terkel of Huffington Post tries to explain:

A federal judge ordered a county official in Alabama to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples Thursday, saying they can no longer ignore her earlier ruling that struck down the state’s marriage equality ban.

Human Rights Campaign table showing which Alabama counties continue to hold out against marriage equality and the federal courts, as of 12 February 2015, 12:00 PM, EST.Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban began crumbling in January, when U.S. District Judge Callie Granade found it unconstitutional. At the request of the state attorney general, Granade put a two-week stay on her ruling so the state could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and delay it even longer. On Monday morning, however, the Supreme Court declined to get involved, and Alabama became the 37th state where gay marriage is legal.

Despite the ruling, dozens of probate judges around the state have refused to comply with Granade’s ruling. According to the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, as of Thursday afternoon, only 23 of the state’s 67 counties were issuing marriage licenses to all couples.

Their defiance is due to instructions from Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R), who sent an order to the state’s probate judges Sunday night not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He argued that they were not bound to follow the federal ruling.

The South might hope to rise again, but this romp is pretty flaccid. Even Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas knows the anti-gay day is over. But, you know, this is how it goes. Alabama really needs to fight this fight, and lose, so it can feel further injured by the fact of being American.

____________________

Granade, Callie V. S. “Order”. Strawser, et al., v. Strange and Davis. United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama Southern Division. 12 February 2015.

Terkel, Amanda. “Federal Judge Orders Alabama Official To Stop Denying Marriage Licenses To Same-Sex Couples”. The Huffington Post. 12 February 2015.

Offensive, Maybe, In Which Case Just Deal With It

Detail of 'This Modern World' by Tom Tomorrow, 1 December 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.I would like, if I may, to ask that you imagine a simple scene. Everyday Americana. A parking lot, for instance.

There is nothing unusual about parking lots in these United States. Indeed, we hear of them here, there, and everywhere, along roadsides and outside of stores. Even gun stores, like this one. And in this particular parking lot there is a car. And in this car is a seven year-old boy.

At least, he was a seven year-old boy.

Until his father shot him to death, allegedly by accident through negiligence, with a handgun illegally in his possession.

And you know, we’re not going to charge that guy with any crime. He’s suffered enough.

Yes, really. Same country as the one where they shoot black men to death for looking like black men scary, a word that here means “not white enough”.

It’s the best criminal defense in the history of America: I swear in good faith I thought he’s a dirty nigger come’a kill me! And, you know, dead guy’s black, so what spiked grand jury is going to indict?

____________________

Tomorrow, Tom. “Black and White”. This Modern World. Daily Kos Comics. 1 December 2014.

“What Happened in Ferguson?” The New York Times. 25 November 2014.