NOW Calls on Supreme Court to Rule in Favor of Marriage Equality

From NOW:

Press Release
December 7, 2012

The National Organization for Women applauds the Supreme Court for taking up the issue of marriage equality. The justices announced today that they would hear arguments in two such cases, one involving California’s Proposition 8 and another addressing the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). NOW has taken strong stands against both laws, which restrict marriage to one man and one woman.

“Prop 8 and DOMA are blatantly unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has stated before that marriage is a fundamental right. The next logical step is for the court to recognize that this right applies equally to same-sex couples,” said NOW President Terry O’Neill. “Since Chief Justice John Roberts took his seat, the court’s record on politically-charged issues is not particularly promising; but the justices’ decision upholding the Affordable Care Act shows that the Roberts Court is capable of making the right call.”

Nearly two decades ago, NOW became one of the first progressive organizations to advocate for same-sex marriage rights. NOW remains dedicated to ensuring that lesbian and gay couples’ right to marry is legally recognized in all states and by the federal government.

Voters made history just last month by approving ballot measures in Maine, Maryland and Washington that advanced marriage equality, while rejecting a Minnesota referendum that would have limited the freedom to marry. This was the first time statewide votes upheld same-sex marriage and the first time an anti-LGBT marriage amendment was defeated in a statewide vote.

“Every day, DOMA denies committed same-sex couples more than 1,000 federal benefits that opposite-sex couples receive,” said NOW Executive Vice President Bonnie Grabenhofer. “This form of discrimination stems not from any rational concern for ‘traditional’ families, but from a misguided commitment to the status quo at best and from a place of fear, intolerance and hatred at worst. It is incumbent upon the Supreme Court to rule on the side of justice and equality.”

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in these cases in March, and decisions are likely to come in late June.

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Commentary on marriage grants: Marriage equality’s Cinderella moment

From SCOTUS Blog:

William Eskridge and Hans Johnson
Sun, December 9th, 2012

The blog is pleased to have commentary and analysis of Friday’s grants in the marriage cases from supporters of both sides.  This post has reactions from William N. Eskridge Jr., Professor of Law at Yale, and Hans P. Johnson, President of Progressive Victory. 

For almost two generations, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons have demanded equal treatment from the state for their committed relationships. For most of that period, American government has denied such claims, and leading politicians have disparaged them. In 1996, for example, Congress and President Clinton enacted the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the most sweeping governmental discrimination against gay people in American history. When state judges have recognized marriage equality under state constitutions, there has been a much-noted backlash against such rulings. One example was California’s Proposition 8, which in 2008 overrode marriage equality through a voter initiative amending the state constitution.

In the last month, marriage equality for LGBT persons has emerged as the Cinderella of American public law. Once dressed in rags and consigned to the shadows, marriage equality now dances in the ballroom, pursued by suitors who once spurned it without remorse. The Clinton and Bush presidencies exploited gay marriage in their politics of scapegoating – yet President Obama just won reelection as a supporter of marriage equality. In an increasing number of cases, federal and state judges, including several Republican judges, have ruled that DOMA’s central provision and discriminatory state marriage laws violate constitutional equality guarantees.

On December 7, the Supreme Court took review in one of the DOMA cases (United States v. Windsor) and in the case challenging Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry). The very institution that ruled in 1967 that “homosexuals” were, as a matter of law, “persons afflicted with psychopathic personality” could by June 2013 restore marriage equality in the nation’s largest state and could strike down the DOMA provision barring federal rights and benefits for lesbian and gay couples validly married under state law.

How did we get to this Cinderella moment?  What role did courts play? And what role should the U.S. Supreme Court play in the endgame?

The nation has arrived at this moment for marriage equality, essentially, because lesbian and gay couples came out of their closets. Once Americans got to know something about LGBT people and their relationships, the overwhelming anti-gay attitudes of thirty years ago have steadily eroded.   When we were growing up, in the small-town South and Midwest, almost everyone said that “homosexuals” were mentally ill and dangerous predators. Indeed, the central anti-gay stereotype was (and remains) the idea that “homosexuality” is anti-family.  This is the conceptual basis for the Clinton/Bush-era idea that marriage and family need “defending” against LGBT persons.

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On Being Witness to Extraordinary History

From Huffington Post:


We have few occasions in life to be witness to extraordinary history. This is one of those days. Today same-sex couples in Washington are getting married under a law approved by the voters. For the first time in the United States, their marriage is legal not because of actions by legislatures or courts but because their equal rights were affirmed by their peers across the state at the ballot box. That shift is momentous and one of which I am incredibly proud.

On election night I was overcome by emotion as I took the stage for a celebration of our state’s same-sex marriage efforts. I looked out over a crowd of several thousand who had fought so hard for this moment. They were young and old, families and couples, military members past and present, businesspeople and public servants, of all races and all backgrounds, and for the first time marriage equality was within their reach. It was the most memorable moments in my 20 years in elected office.

Like any journey, ours was one of a million steps by thousands of everyday people. Nearly 25 years ago Washington elected the first openly gay member of our legislature, Cal Anderson. Today, 17 years after his death, Cal’s dream has been realized. We stand on his shoulders and the shoulders of so many who brought us to this point.

In Seattle the first couple to receive their marriage license had been together for 35 years. Today, after a very long engagement, they are getting married. Across Washington similar stories abound. Hundreds stood in line overnight so that they would not have to wait a moment longer for the rights they deserve. Within the first 24 hours more than 800 same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses.

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Raiding Consciousness

From Tom Dispatch:

Why the War on Drugs Is a War on Human Nature 

By Lewis Lapham
December 9, 2012

The question that tempts mankind to the use of substances controlled and uncontrolled is next of kin to Hamlet’s: to be, or not to be, someone or somewhere else. Escape from a grievous circumstance or the shambles of an unwanted self, the hope of finding at a higher altitude a new beginning or a better deal. Fly me to the moon, and let me play among the stars; give me leave to drown my sorrow in a quart of gin; wine, dear boy, and truth.

That the consummations of the wish to shuffle off the mortal coil are as old as the world itself was the message brought by Abraham Lincoln to an Illinois temperance society in 1842. “I have not inquired at what period of time the use of intoxicating liquors commenced,” he said, “nor is it important to know.” It is sufficient to know that on first opening our eyes “upon the stage of existence,” we found “intoxicating liquor recognized by everybody, used by everybody, repudiated by nobody.”

The state of intoxication is a house with many mansions. Fourteen centuries before the birth of Christ, the Rigveda finds Hindu priests chanting hymns to a “drop of soma,” the wise and wisdom-loving plant from which was drawn juices distilled in sheep’s wool that “make us see far; make us richer, better.” Philosophers in ancient Greece rejoiced in the literal meaning of the word symposium, a “drinking together.” The Roman Stoic Seneca recommends the judicious embrace of Bacchus as a liberation of the mind “from its slavery to cares, emancipates it, invigorates it, and emboldens it for all its undertakings.”

Omar Khayyam, twelfth-century Persian mathematician and astronomer, drinks wine “because it is my solace,” allowing him to “divorce absolutely reason and religion.” Martin Luther, early father of the Protestant Reformation, in 1530 exhorts the faithful to “drink, and right freely,” because it is the devil who tells them not to. “One must always do what Satan forbids. What other cause do you think that I have for drinking so much strong drink, talking so freely, and making merry so often, except that I wish to mock and harass the devil who is wont to mock and harass me.”

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At ‘Urban Uprising’ Conference, Activists Reimagine the City Post-Sandy

From In These Times:

By Michelle Chen
Thursday Dec 6, 2012

Disaster has a way of concentrating the mind. And Gotham has always had its share of it: whether it’s a slow-burning disaster like the epidemic of income inequality, the endemic scourge of police brutality and racial profiling, or the chronic deprivation of healthy food in isolated neighborhoods. Superstorm Sandy churned all of these elements of urban chaos. But in its wake, the storm has laid bare new pathways for innovations, and new frontiers for struggles against inequality.

The undercurrent of these contradictions ran through a conference this weekend dedicated to “designing a city for the 99%,” a possibility made more real and urgent in the storm’s aftermath. Urban Uprising, held at the New School and the CUNY Graduate Center (where this reporter is also a graduate student), brought together academics, legal experts, organizers and urban ecologists to broach fresh questions about organizing communities: how to harness the energy of Occupy and channel it into direct, localized campaigns; how to balance environmental renewal with economic development; and how to reorient debates on food policy away from apolitical consumer interests and toward the connection between food justice and fighting poverty.

The post-Sandy recovery process colored discussions of one of the main themes: “reimagining the city,” which focused on cultivation, both literal and figurative, of a new urban landscape.

David Harvey, a City University anthropology and geography scholar, has long argued that the Left must learn to organize at the level of the city. His work on the links between urbanization and capitalism helped invigorate the “Right to the City” alliance, one of the groups that organized the conference. During the conference, Harvey noted the ways in which community initiatives like Occupy Sandy are reclaiming urban space for popular struggle. “In a way,” Harvey said in an interview with In These Times, Occupy Sandy is “spreading a political message by a different route. And therefore, Occupy has not gone away. It’s moved into the boroughs… It is therefore a commitment to a different kind of lifestyle, a different kind of on-the-ground politics which in the long run may be just as important as the symbolic politics of Zuccotti Park.”

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Community Response to Disaster

From Common Dreams:

by Susan Clark and Woden Teachout
Published on Sunday, December 9, 2012 by Common Dreams

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, one thing is striking: the extent to which many of the best and first responders have been local.

From Brooklyn down to the Jersey Shore, Sandy has left its mark. But now, stories abound of community groups shoveling sand out of living rooms, feeding and housing the homeless, and arranging online help through listservs and crowdfunding. Somehow, communities have married the best of old-fashioned neighborliness to 21st century networking — resulting in a steady flow of local energy against a sea of devastation.

Federal help is still critical. State and local governments can’t respond alone to disasters of this scale. As comedian Steven Colbert quipped sarcastically, “Who better to respond to what’s going on inside its own borders than the state whose infrastructure has just been swept out to sea?”

But when physical infrastructure is swept away, it reveals another layer of community: its civic infrastructure. And just as storms have a way of revealing deferred maintenance on bridges and levies, disasters also teach us the cost of neglecting civic participation, neighborly communication, and a strong citizen decision-making process — qualities that FEMA and the Red Cross simply cannot replace.

Given that our world is likely to be threatened by more Katrinas, Irenes, and Sandys, it’s time to appreciate not just our federal government agencies, but our local governance abilities.

This type of local governance can take its lead from the slow food movement, and is something we like to call slow democracy.

“Slow” is a nod to the priorities of slow food activists who argue that fast food is a symbol of centralization, top-down homogeneity, and much of what ails the world today. “Slow” embraces the local, rejects cookie-cutter solutions, and places an emphasis on relationships. And those relationships aren’t just a “feel-good” concept; in fact, a key recommendation in many U.S. cities’ emergency preparedness plans is that people get to know their neighbors. In short: Social capital saves lives.

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World To Exceed Pollution Budget To Avoid 2C Temperature Rise In 5 Years

From Counter Currents:

By Dr Gideon Polya
09 December, 2012

The world is badly running out of time to deal with man-made climate change and keep temperature rise to within 2 degrees Centigrade (2oC) – but how much time have we left? Answer: 5.3 years. The basis for this appalling conclusion is set out below.

The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as the Copenhagen Summit, included the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Most countries subsequently signed up to the Copenhagen Accord that recognised that climate change is one of the greatest challenges to Humanity and that actions should be taken to keep any temperature increases to below 2 °C (see “2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference”, Wikipedia: ).

In a 2009 report entitled “Solving the climate dilemma: a budget approach” the WBGU, that advises the German Government on climate change, estimated that for a 75% chance of avoiding a 2C (2oC, 2 degree Centigrade, 2 degree Celsius) temperature rise (EU policy and majority global policy since the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference) the world can emit no more than 600 billion tonnes CO2 (carbon dioxide) (600 Gt CO2) between 2010 and zero emissions in 2050 (see WBGU, “Solving the climate dilemma: the budget approach”: ). Since CO2 is the most important greenhouse gas (GHG) we could roughly set the world’s terminal GHG pollution budget at 600 Gt CO2-e (CO2-equivalent, this term including other GHGs). Relative to commencement in 2010, how many years have we left before we exceed this terminal CO2 pollution budget of 600 Gt CO2-e?

The US Energy Information Administration (US EIA) provides detailed statistics on CO2 pollution and has provided estimates of global energy-related CO2 pollution between 2005 (28.181 Gt CO2) and 2035 (43.220 Gt CO2) (see US EIA, “Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions”, Table A10: ). Using this expertly-determined , year-by-year estimate of global energy-related CO2 emissions one can estimate that the post-2009 total will reach 588 Gt by the end of 2026 and 628 Gt by the end of 2028 i.e. the terminalCO2 pollution budget will be exceeded in mid-2027 or in roughly 14.5 years from now.

However energy-related CO2 pollution is a major part of the general greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution problem, CO2 pollution also occurs in cement manufacture and other naturally-occurring as well as synthetic greenhouse gases contribute to GHG pollution that can be expressed as CO2-equivalent (CO2-e). A GHG is methane (CH4), which is a major component of natural gas, is produced by methanogenic livestock and anaerobic degradation of plant materials in swamps, and is increasingly being released from CH4-water clathrates from shallow Arctic Ocean sea beds and the melting of the Arctic tundra (se “Atmospheric methane”, Wikipedia: ).

The Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CH4 relative to that if CO2 (1.0) is 21 on a 100 year time frame but on a 20 year time frame and taking aerosol impacts into account, it is 105. This re-assessment of the GWP of CH4 becomes of great importance in assessing how many years we have left to tackle GHG pollution (see Drew T. Shindell , Greg Faluvegi, Dorothy M. Koch , Gavin A. Schmidt , Nadine Unger and Susanne E. Bauer , “Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions”, Science, 30 October 2009: Vol. 326 no. 5953 pp. 716-718: ).

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