News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.
Friday, March 05, 2004
Law: Backlash against gay unions begins in Oregon
I anticipated a backlash when officials in Multnomah Country, Oregon, which encompasses Portland, began marrying same sex couples this week. Broadcast media had the late-breaking story first.
The form of attack most likely to occur is on the language in the statute.
Lawyers opposing gay marriage will argue that language saying marriage is between a man and a woman is not present because it doesn't need to be. In the vernacular, 'everyone knows marriage is between two people of the two genders, so the drafters did not need to say so.' To resolve this issue, the courts will look at the legislative history of the statute to determine whether legislators considered the law as limiting matrimony to a man and a woman. A finding that the statute is meant to include only male-female unions will not be the end of the inquiry, however. Courts could find that limiting marriages to heterosexuals violates the state's equal protection guarantee in its constitution. That is the result reached in Massachusetts.
Maneuvering to prevent licenses beyond the reported 786 Thursday from being issued is the plate du jour.
Multnomah County denies that its commissioners violated the open meetings law. It also rejects the defenders' of heterosexual marriage claim that Chairperson Diane Linn lacks the authority to grant marriage licenses to gays.
At least one person is annoyed by how Wednesday's decision was made.
To get injunctive relief, the defenders of traditional unions will have to establish that harm will occur if the county continues to issue marriage licenses to gays. The only tangible 'harm' I can think of is that, eventually, costs will accrue to the polity as a result of extending benefits to homosexual married couples. That does not strike me as sufficient to pass the test for an injunction.
The legal battles occurring in Oregon are likely the vanguard of similar fights that will occur accross the nation.posted by J. | 4:32 PM
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
The blogosphere: That old double standard
Sometimes, people of color are treated as if they exist only to be criticized. I happened across an example of that tendency at Michael F. Totten's weblog recently. He posted this entry about a legislator from Florida.
So, in a nutshell. Brown, apparently distracted by strong feelings, undermined the point she intended to make during that meeting. What point, you ask. True, you would never guess it from Totten's entry, but the representative did have something substantive to say.
In light of current crisis in Haiti, Brown's observation is prescient. But for the Bush administration's withholding of much needed aid, there would be fewer starving people there and political change might have occurred without bloodshed.
How and why did Totten miss the point of this story? I believe he did so because like many white people, he simply doesn't see African-Americans as having anything to say unless they are echoing whites. Brown did not bow to Bush or preface her remarks with approval from some other white authority figure, so the substance of what she had to say simply did not register with Totten.
On the other hand, the remarks of Noriega, who is echoing a white authority figure, are treated as if they are manna fallen from Heaven. But, if one actually examines his comments, there is nothing substantive there. Furthermore, he is just as guilty of dragging race into the discussion as Brown.
Neither Rice nor Powell serve in capacities that have any impact on foreign aid to Haiti, so why bring them up at all? Do all African-Americans 'look alike' to him?
Commenters at Totten's blog called for removal of Brown from office. Based on the tenor of their remarks, I suspect many of them would support repealing the Voting Rights Act, too. Whatever it takes not to be reminded there are people of color who don't know their place, I guess.
I haven't examined Totten's weblog closely enough to have a grasp of where he is coming from in a broad sense. My first impression of it was influenced by the fact his picture is facing the wrong direction. I thought: Did this guy flunk Layout 101 or something? Not wanting to be like Totten, I will not jump to conclusions about his blogging until I have read more of it. However, from where I sit, Michael J. Totten has dug himself into a hole by being so eager to criticize an African-American leader he missed the substantive part of what she was saying. I wonder if he has enough decency to try to dig himself out.posted by J. | 9:30 PM
Sunday, February 29, 2004
Religion: "The Passion" appeals to the unwary
Spirited discusssion of Mel Gibson's new movie, The Passion of the Christ, is increasing in the blogosphere. The loudest and most uncompromising voices tend to be those of those on the Right, who, while not necessarily members of the reactionary arm of Catholicism, are sympathetic to its embrace of "traditional values." Another type of defender hails from the 'it is just a movie' school of thought. The following are typical are of the comments I've read by them.
I do not expect anti-Jewish riots in Pasadena and Des Moines as a result of The Passion, but I think the film could be harmful. The reason is: Art can reflect and exacerbate preexisting social problems in a society.
Before scoffing at the idea, I recommend considering two films that reflected and exacerbated bigotry toward African-Americans, Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind. Obviously, neither movie, nor the books they were based on, can be held responsible for the our nation's 400-year-old romance with racism. But, what they did was support the notion that slavery, segregation and dehumanization of human beings in general is a romance, not an evil. Along with other cultural encouragement, they gave both the developing bigot and the confirmed bigot confirmation of his beliefs. I believe a movie that revives the myth of the Jews being solely, or mainly, responsible for the death of Christ could have the same impact.
For me, the genesis of The Passion of the Christ in adherents to the reactionary wing of Catholicism makes the intent behind the movie dubious. The Catholic Traditionalist Movement and Opus Dei both wish to return us to a time when issues of social justice were ignored and a rigid adherence to authoritarian doctrine was demanded. The movement also wishes to grow. The easiest way to do that is to attract like-minded persons from Protestant denominations to Catholicism. Since the reactionaries believe the Reformation should never have occurred, there is additional grounds for seeking out 'lost' Catholics. The Passion could easily become a method of recruitment for CTM and OD, as well as a way to reassure anti-Semites they have been right all along.posted by J. | 9:30 PM