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DOMA Case Analysis And Arguments: A Lesbian Love-In Small Screen Celluloid Moment

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It was lesbian heaven on the small screen celluloid world last night when Rachel Maddow kicked off her show with a loving treatise to Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during a segment filled with and defined by  powerful women  who have changed our world for the better

Yesterday’s Defense of  Marriage Act (DOMA) arguments in United States v. Windsor were followed by a lovely lesbian evening which was kicked off by Rachel Maddow herself, at the top of her broadcast as she delivered an adoring ode to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, arguably the most incisive jurist at the Supreme Court during the Windsor arguments.

Indeed, Maddow was completely captivated by Ginsburg’s reference to same-sex marriages as “skim milk,” not “full,” or whole,  like heterosexual marriages, which benefit from approximately 1,100 different statutes, although effectively denied to gay couples by DOMA.  Her show plastered “Skim-Milk Marriage” at the bottom of the screen continuously throughout the DOMA segment.

I knew that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would love Windsor, because of its intricacies of benefits and taxes and because of the blatant discrimination; and while a reverse would be hugely significant, it could be decided with a jurisdictional state’s rights argument, or maybe on the constitutional merits. We all hope for the latter.

But of course  Maddow played tape from the arguments, and who could have not been inspired by the arguments posed by the charismatic litigator Roberta Kaplan, who fought brilliantly for Edie Windsor’s claims (the ACLU filed the lawsuit against the government on behalf of Windsor).

Let me just admit to The New Civil Rights Movement readers that I am in love with Kaplan’s rigorous and brave defense of Windsor and her tete de tete with Chief Justice Roberts which ends the argument on behalf of Windsor:

Roberta A. Kaplan: The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chief Justice, is that no other group in recent history has been subjected to popular referenda to take away rights that have already been given or exclude those rights, the way gay people have.

And only two of those referenda have ever lost.

One was in Arizona; it then passed a couple years later.

One was in Minnesota where they already have a statute on the books that prohibits marriages between gay people.

So I don’t think — and until 1990 gay people were not allowed to enter this country.

So I don’t think that the political power of gay people today could possibly be seen within that framework, and certainly is analogous — I think gay people are far weaker than the women were at the time of Frontiero.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Well, but you just referred to a sea change in people’s understandings and values from 1996, when DOMA was enacted, and I’m just trying to see where that comes from, if not from the political effectiveness of — of groups on your side of the case.

Roberta A. Kaplan: To flip the language of the House Report, Mr. Chief Justice, I think it comes from a moral understanding today that gay people are no different, and that gay married couples’ relationships are not significantly different from the relationships of straight married couples.

I don’t think–

Chief Justice John G. Roberts: I understand that.

I am just trying to see how — where that that moral understanding came from, if not the political effectiveness of a particular group.

Roberta A. Kaplan: –I — I think it came — is, again is very similar to the, what you saw between Bowers and Lawrence.

I think it came to a societal understanding.

I don’t believe that societal understanding came strictly through political power; and I don’t think that gay people today have political power as that — this Court has used that term with — in connection with the heightened scrutiny analysis.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, Ms. Kaplan.

In straining to listen to Kaplan’s articulation and prevented from watching, I got in touch with my ‘inner lesbian’. I was wowed by her. Not able to watch her, I hung onto to every word, imagining her before the Chief Justice, hammering on the reality of our lives and the suffering as a result of this terrible law.

But the chief lesbian on this night is Maddow, who is not done with her examination of DOMA yet, before she interviews none other than Mary Bonauto, an attorney (and lesbian) and GLAD‘s director of the civil rights project  who made history in America when she successfully argued in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that civil unions were not constitutional, laying the legal groundwork for the DOMA challenge at the US Supreme Court.

So now we have two open lesbians talking to each other on the small celluloid screen of a major network, which I believe is unprecedented.  This just does not happen everyday, or on any day…and I was just loving it.  It was wonderful. I feel like I had died and arrived to  lesbian celluloid heaven for a women’s only party.

I freely admit that I am taken with all these powerful women.  And because it happens so infrequently, when we see just one lesbian on television, as in Rachel Maddow, we rightly celebrate.  And now there was two.  I just wanted to jump up and down and cheer on all these lesbians, who are powerful women in the ways that attracts all of us to one another!

 

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But the two lesbians that matter the most right now are Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, who loved each other for 42 years and were married in Canada the last year before Thea died.  In Thea’s death, Edie was hit with a whopping $360,000 tax penalty on property inheritance because their marriage was not recognized by the IRS due to DOMA’s prohibitions. Edie chose to fight and it is because of her love for Thea and her compunction to fight back–that the oppressive walls of DOMA  may just come tumbling down in June.  All because of these two lovely lesbians. Who could not love and adore Edie Windsor?

So let me leave you with one more brilliant lesbian that people should follow, as we await the Prop 8 and DOMA decisions: Georgetown Law Professor Nan Hunter and the author of the engaging “Hunter of Justice blog  where she has analyzed the Prop 8 and DOMA cases (among many other issues).  Follow her regularly because of her trenchant legal analysis and know this about her as well:  Hunter has been a ground-breaking advocate for women and LGBT people throughout her storied and dedicated career of service to our community.

DomiheadshotTanya L. Domi is the Deputy Editor of the New Civil Rights Movement. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and teaches human rights in East Central Europe and former Yugoslavia. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi has also worked internationally in a dozen countries on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights and gender issues. She is chair of the board of directors for GetEQUAL. Domi is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.

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'ETHICS PROGRAM HAS BEEN RAZED TO THE GROUND'

Shady U.S. Department Trump official used his position to get his son-in-law an EPA job

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Douglas Domenech via Mediaite

An inspector general report published Friday found that Assistant Interior Secretary Douglas Domenech at the U.S. Department of the Interior used his position to help his son-in-law Eric Frandy get a job at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the report, Domenech reached out to a senior EPA official in person and via email in 2017 to persuade them to hire Frandy. He also encouraged the official to use another family member’s wedding-related business.

When asked about his pressuring the official to hire his son-in-law, Domenech admitted he was “trying to influence the process to move along.”

What’s troubling is that Domenech didn’t technically break the law because the law around this states you can’t use your political influence to benefit yourself, your wife, child or business… but shilling for in-laws is totally okay.

Regardless, Domenech will be forced to undergo ethics training. But House Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva, believes the training will be useless because Domenech already received two rounds of ethics training when first joining the Trump administration.

Instead, Grijalva wants Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to fire Domenech. “Firing Mr. Domenech is the only serious course of action at this point,” another round of ethics training is clearly just a waste of time, since it hasn’t sunk in by now,” Grijalva said.

This is just the Domenech’s second ethical violation that we know about so far.

“Investigators in December found that he broke federal ethics rules by twice meeting with his former employer, a conservative Texas-based policy group, to discuss legal disputes between the group and the agency in early 2017,” the Star Tribune reports.

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NORMALIZING DICTATORS

Trump threatens to use “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” on police brutality protestors

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President Donald Trump

A day after President Donald Trump urged people to shoot looters associated with the nationwide protests against police brutality, he threatened racial justice protestors in Washington D.C. with “the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons” should they dare try to breach the White House fence.

In a series of tweets published in the early morning hours of May 30, Trump wrote:

The professionally managed so-called “protesters” at the White House had little to do with the memory of George Floyd. They were just there to cause trouble. The @SecretService handled them easily. Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???

Great job last night at the White House by the U.S. @SecretService. They were not only totally professional, but very cool. I was inside, watched every move, and couldn’t have felt more safe. They let the “protesters” scream & rant as much as they wanted, but whenever someone….

….got too frisky or out of line, they would quickly come down on them, hard – didn’t know what hit them. The front line was replaced with fresh agents, like magic. Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence. If they had they would….

….have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least. Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action. “We put the young ones on the front line, sir, they love it, and….

….good practice.” As you saw last night, they were very cool & very professional. Never let it get out of hand. Thank you! On the bad side, the D.C. Mayor, @MurielBowser, who is always looking for money & help, wouldn’t let the D.C. Police get involved. “Not their job.” Nice!

The tweets are unsurprising considering Trump’s love of “strongman” leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. In 2017, Trump has long stoked racial tensions by referring to white supremacists and neo-Nazis as “very fine people,” calling former NFL-player and police brutality protestor Colin Kaepernick a “son of a bitch,” and also encouraged police to treat criminal suspects roughly.

To his meager credit, “Trump has ordered the FBI and Justice Department to expedite an investigation into Floyd’s death in addition to the local investigation into the incident,” according to The Hill.

Trump also called the family of George Floyd, the Black man whose May 25 death helped inspire the current nationwide protests. However, Floyd’s brother said Trump rushed the call and didn’t sound at all interested in what he had to say.

So now the fact that Trump is gleefully talking about attacking demonstrators who are protesting in Floyd’s name is disquieting to say the least.

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ANTI-GAY BIGOT

Anti-gay bigot Lou Sheldon, founder of Traditional Values Coalition, dead at 85

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Lou Sheldon, image via: Bilerico project

Reverend Lou Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), a conservative Christian anti-LGBTQ hate group that lasted from 1984 to 2018, died this week at age 85. Good riddance.

His cause of death hasn’t been revealed.

Sheldon served as the California executive director of Anita Bryant’s 1977 Save Our Children (SOC) campaign, the first-known anti-gay political organization. SOC successfully opposed municipal ordinances protecting gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens from discrimination in cities across America.

The SOC did this largely by painting gay people as godless sluts who wanted to cross-dress and rape children. The group’s public face, singer Anita Bryant, compared LGB people as prostitutes, thieves, murderers, and child molesters.

Gay activists at the time showed how the SOC’s rhetoric was similar to Nazis during the Holocaust — and once, members of the Ku Klux Klan even showed up at one of Bryan’ts public events to protect her. The anti-gay stigma being voiced by supporters of the SOC in print, TV and radio contributed to anti-LGBTQ sentiment, increased harassment and suicides of queer people.

As for the TVC, it opposed gay-straight alliances in schools; disseminated anti-gay “educational” videos to schools, churches and community groups across America; was pro-death penalty; anti-immigrant; anti-pornography; anti-abortion; pro-military; anti-taxes; anti-drug; supported Christians converting all non-Christians; and supported conversion therapy (the debunked form of psychological torture that seeks to change a queer person’s sexual orientation or gender identity).

Here’s just a taste of Sheldon’s anti-LGBTQ quotes, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center:

  • “The effort to push adult/child sex … is part of the overall homosexual movement.”

 

  • “As homosexuals continue to make inroads into public schools, more children will be molested and indoctrinated into the world of homosexuality. Many of them will die in that world.”

 

  • “Homosexuality is a behavior, not a fixed identity. It is similar to smoking or drug use, not an immutable characteristic like race or ethnicity. There are no ‘former’ Blacks, but there are ex-homosexuals. The existence of ex-homosexuals is clear evidence that homosexuality is behavior-based, not an unchangeable characteristic.”

 

  • “Americans should understand that their attitudes about homosexuality have been deliberately and deceitfully changed by a masterful propaganda/marketing campaign that rivals that of Adolph [sic] Hitler.”

Sheldon also helped lobby for a congressional hearing to support Senator Jesse Helms’ proposal to deny federal funds to public schools “encouraging or supporting homosexuality.” At the hearing, a speaker said gay activists use federal AIDS funds to host orgies.

When Congress introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2013, the TVC released campaign literature calling transgender people “psychologically unhealthy” and accusing them of wanting to introduce “gender confusion” into public schools.

In June 2014, the TVC released a flier comparing gay and lesbian people to those who have sexual fetishes for amputees and eating feces. Physical disgust, revulsion, and demonizing tactics like this are often used by anti-LGBTQ activists to appeal to fear over logic.

The TVC was also intensely Islamophobic, contributing to anti-Muslim sentiment following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The only upside to Sheldon’s existence is that it helped unite LGBTQ people in cities across America and gave the press a reason to focus on the day-to-day discrimination and violence queer people experience.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to Anita Bryant as SOC’s “pubic face.” We are very sorry for this typo.

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