Jun 152009
 

It is time again for a letter. This time to the President. Printed on letterhead, signed with ink, and sent via the U.S. Postal Service.

June 15, 2009

Barack H. Obama, President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Recognizing you have a challenging workload, I will get straight to my point. As a gay man and a life-long and active progressive Democrat I could not be more disappointed with you and your administration, nor could I be any more ashamed of the positions you have recently taken.

I voted for you expecting an about face from the medieval policies of the Bush-Cheney Administration on the “unitary executive” and “war powers” theories. I expected new government respect for Constitutional protections concerning privacy and domestic surveillance. I expected a return to accountability for government officials and corporations when they violated the laws of our Country, and I expected your government to respect the right to habeas corpus for the people we imprison. I expected war criminals and those who ordered torture to be called to account. You promised to be a fierce advocate for Gay and Lesbian equal rights, and you and your team has cleared the agenda of any mention of those issues. (DOMA, DADT, ENDA, Hate Crimes)

Not only have you failed to deliver on these promises, you have sought to defend and continue many of the policies of your predecessor. You have provided little in the way of “change I can believe in.”

But I was finally prompted to write you after reviewing the Motion and Brief submitted by W. Scott Simpson, Chief Trial Counsel of your Department of Justice in the case of Smelt and Hammer v. United States.

First is the claim by The White House and DOJ spokespeople that the DOJ is required to defend all laws that are “on the books.” While not entirely true (your oath is defend the Constitution…not specific laws), let’s assume there is a legitimate need for the DOJ to enter this case. That does not mean the Government (my government, the one I help pay for) is required to sink to hateful and demeaning rhetoric, and trot out patently ridiculous arguments. I’m no attorney, but even a layman can determine bigoted and hateful reasoning when it rears its head. If this constitutes “fierce advocacy” for Gay Rights, please just stop.

The claim from line 32 of the brief is the most absurd of all. “DOMA does not discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of federal benefits.” This is a frequent claim made by religious fanatics in respect to all sorts of laws restricting gay rights based on a claim that all these laws, including DOMA, don’t discriminate against gays and lesbians because they are free to marry people of the opposite sex. No “homosexual” is denied marriage so homosexuals qua homosexuals suffer no hardship. Gay man? Marry a woman, says the DOJ. This is the same formulation used to argue for upholding the Texas homosexual-only sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas: a law banning only gay sex doesn’t discriminate against gays because it equally forbids homosexuals and heterosexuals to have homosexual sex and because it equally allows homosexuals and heterosexuals to have heterosexual sex.

Your DOJ goes on to compare, as the religious right so often does, gay marriages to incest and pedophilia. It is gratuitously insulting to lesbians and gay men, referring (unnecessarily) to same-sex marriage as a “form” of marriage, and arguing (with a straight face, I can only assume) that discrimination against same-sex couples is rational because it saves the federal government money. These arguments go beyond absurd, and merely prove the discriminatory and unfair nature of the law on its face. Really, your administration is determining whether or not to support civil rights based on whether or not those rights might have a financial cost? Seriously?

Your government (because it’s obviously no longer my government) continues to send me a tax bill every year to help pay for the benefits of married people. May I get a free pass from taxes?

Thinking, intelligent people just roll their eyes and laugh at such reasoning. I would laugh too, were this not my life you were talking about in such language. Do you believe that Loving v. Virginia should have been decided differently because it increased the burden on taxpayers to provide benefits to the spouse and family of mixed race couples?

Mr. President, I voted for you with high expectations that your administration would return this country to the principles of fairness, respect, and government of, by and for the people as set forth so eloquently by our founding fathers. The previous administration had created a credible and very real threat to this Republic, and you made a promise during the campaign to restore those founding ideals. During your inauguration, you took a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution. I have to admit that I am, thus far, gravely disappointed in the actions of your administration, and now…I’m just hurt and insulted.

I go about my life trying to earn a living, trying to respect my neighbors, adhering to spiritual and social principles of Methodism, my chosen religion. I work to maintain a home, and help my “significant other” (since I can’t call him my husband lest I offend your Justice Department and place an undue burden on us taxpayers) advance his education.

I expect that same respect from this government, and your administration has failed to provide that basic level of respect. I now ask and expect you to do better.

Sincerely yours

Thought Crimes? Oh Really

 Crime, Religion, Right Wingnuts, Society  Comments Off on Thought Crimes? Oh Really
May 252007
 

Hat Tip to Jim at Box Turtle Bulletin

There is a story making the rounds you can expect to see the religious right latch onto in their desperate attempts to paint the pending Hate Crimes Legislation as something that will make “thoughts” illegal. They’re even calling it the “Thought Crimes” Bill. This is about the case of a 16-year-old teen in Crystal Lake, Illinois who was arrested for passing out a flyer?:

A 16-year-old Crystal Lake girl facing a felony hate crime charge alleging she and a friend distributed anti-homosexual fliers at her high school must remain locked up until her case goes to trial, a McHenry County judge ruled Tuesday.

Whoa! Now even I would agree this is probably a bit overboard…if this was all there was to the story. But it’s not, so please don’t be fooled by the emails and blog posts that are bound to be circulated.

It seems this young lady has some troubles of her own, and doesn’t seem to get much real parenting.

Citing concerns over the girl’s home environment and her already lengthy juvenile record, Judge Michael Chmiel denied the girl’s request for home detention. Instead Chmiel ordered her held in the Kane County Juvenile Justice Center while the case is pending.

The girl’s record, Chmiel said, features 13 contacts with police, including an arrest for marijuana possession in August. McHenry County court records show that within the past year the girl also has been charged for driving without a license, consumption of alcohol by a minor, possession of tobacco by a minor, trespassing and three curfew violations.

And while we don’t know exactly what’s in the flier, school officials say it is actually directed at a specific individual…a classmate and neighbor with whom this young lady has had a running feud.

So, don’t let the krazy kristian kooks get you all fired up about this. There may be more to the story, and it will be appropriate to allow the juvenile justice system to run its course. As Paul Harvey used to say…”and now…you know the rest of the story.”

Mar 132007
 

By Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin

Slow learners, that bunch. Exodus Vice President Randy Thomas is at it again, spreading his total misunderstanding about how hate crimes legislation works. Well, near total anyway. He now acknowledges that hate crimes laws cannot infringe on speech in America, but he’s still worried about some sort of slippery slope effect. But his first two paragraphs are whoppers in cluelessness:

We have been saying that hate crimes laws are inherently unfair in that they punish some crimes more severely against gay people than they would against any other person. If I were attacked, my attacker would get more of a punishment 15 years ago when I identified as gay than they would now that I don’t.

Plus, if a gay identified man or woman attacked me (some have threatened to do just that), they would get less of a sentence than if a truly homophobic person attacked them along the exact same lines.

Rest assured Randy. If anyone were to attack you because of your sexual orientation – regardless of your sexual orientation – then that is a hate crime. When the law reads “regardless of sexual orientation”, it means exactly that. And if you think I’m wrong on this, then please explain why the FBI bothered to count twenty-three anti-heterosexual hate crime incidents in 2005? (2005 is the most recent year for which statistics are available.) I think it’s also important to note that there were 935 anti-White incidents and 58 anti-Protestant incidents during the same year.

These laws aren’t about special protections available only to a select few. They about recognizing that particular types of crimes based on motivation have particular impacts on society. We already distingush between capital murder and manslaughter. Our laws also distingush between ordinary assualt and aggrivated assault. Same with robbery. The law already takes into account the fact that some crimes have a more far-reaching impact than others.

Hate crime legislation simply says that crimes in which victims are singled out by race, sexual orientation, religion or national origin deserve special protection because there is a special history of people being singled out solely for those reasons. And the great thing about it, the proposed legislation recognizes that the tables can always be turned. Which means these protections are extended to your race, sexual orientation, religion or national origin, whatever they may be. Because everyone – yes, even you Randy – deserves to be protected whenever anyone lashes out against them based on their own self-righteous, misguided beliefs.