Connect with us

Law, Unwrapped: Gay Marriage – Why Chris Christie Is Wrong On All Counts



“Take it to the people!”

That’s the rallying cry du jour of those who oppose marriage equality. And it has a certain, superficial appeal: Given the importance of the issue, doesn’t it make sense to let the whole population decide rather than the legislature?

So argues New Jersey  Governor Chris Christie, who wasted little time delivering his promised veto of a marriage equality bill that the legislature comfortably passed. Most readers will recall his infamous statement that African-Americans would have liked to have avoided those pesky civil rights struggles by having their legal status put to a popular vote. Well, a few folks not-quite politely suggested that approach might not have gone so well. So Christie did a clumsy, two-step back pedal (first claiming that blacks would have liked the option of having their rights placed on the ballot, and then caving completely and taking it all back).

But the whole dust-up pinpoints the problem with his approach: We don’t put civil rights on the ballot, because the majority has its own interests and prejudices, and can’t be counted on to do what in hindsight is obviously the right thing. That’s sometimes true of legislatures, too – after all, they voted in the Jim Crow laws – but at least there’s reason to hope that our democratically elected representatives will take the longer view. I could go into some political theory about representative democracy here, but it’s not my job to educate the good governor. One lesson from New Jersey itself suffices: In 1915, Garden State voters were asked whether women should be allowed to join the men in the exercise of the franchise.

Their answer?  No.

The Nineteenth Amendment, which finally gave women the right to vote, and ratified by state legislatures just five years later, was needed to fix what New Jersey voters would not. Really, need any more be said?

Except for rare slip-ups like Christie’s, you won’t hear the anti-equality brigade mentioning these inconvenient historical facts, though. The “let the people decide” narrative is compelling – except when it isn’t. Thus, in New Hampshire they’re pressuring the legislature to roll back marriage equality because they know the voters aren’t likely to turn back time. (A Republican-sponsored measure to send the voters a constitutional amendment stealing gay couples’ right to marry was quietly shelved.) And let’s not forget that, just a few years ago, the cry was that marriage equality was being foisted on a helpless populace by evil, anti-democratic courts. So democracy was OK until they stopped getting the results they wanted. Now it’s all about direct democracy. It’s really all about opportunism.

So far, this is working – notably, with Proposition 8. And that was followed by the Maine voters’ decision in 2009 to roll back the marriage equality bill approved by that state’s legislature. The same efforts are likely in Maryland and Washington this year: the anti-equality forces should be able to gather enough signatures to place referenda on the ballot that would repeal marriage equality laws that have already passed (Washington) or soon will (Maryland).

Polls in both states suggest the strategy will fail, and that voters will decide to retain the marriage equality laws. I’m not so sure. The recent history of these measures suggests that favorable poll numbers don’t always translate into victory in these cases. Some think that people are reluctant to tell pollsters their plan to vote down their fellow citizens’ equality. They should be.

I hope I’m wrong, and my guess is that we’ll win at least one of these two fights. If we do, or when we win a popular vote in some other state, the last argument about how marriage equality is being rammed through by a group of elite activists will have been defeated. I’m sure the National Organization for Marriage and like-minded groups are already working on the next set of talking points.

Christie, though, isn’t NOM. He wants to be seen as a reasonable, moderate Republican (which, on some issues, he is). So his veto message was very chatty: Change this to civil unions and then I’ll create an ombudsman to solve the many problems that same-sex couples have encountered in trying to get public and private actors to treat their relationships the same as marriage.

Got all that? I might suggest, instead, that the simplest solution would be to call the relationships marriages. No other relationship will ever carry the same status. Why do you think they created civil unions in the first place?

A quick bit of recent historical context: In the 2006 case, Lewis v. Harris, the New Jersey Supreme Court instructed the legislature to find a way of granting same-sex couples legal equality. But the court, following the example set by the Vermont Supreme Court in 1999, gave the lawmakers an easy out by saying that, well, they didn’t have to call this equality “marriage.” Both state legislatures took the life raft and crafted the civil union compromise – a doomed effort to give same-sex couples all the rights, obligations, and responsibilities of marriage while withholding the name.

By 2009, a decade of experimenting with the civil union had convinced the Vermont legislature that only full marriage equality would suffice, and they passed the bill into law – over the governor’s veto. It’s time for the New Jersey lawmakers to do the same. Whatever individual legislators think about marriage equality, it’s by now clear that they haven’t created the equality that the court was (naively) hoping they would. The only way to carry out the court’s mandate is by defying Gov. Christie’s obfuscating call for an ombudsman and doing what equality demands. If they won’t do it, there’s a case working its way through the state courts that will order them to.

Why not do the right thing now?


Image: Chris Christie by Bob Jagendorf

Were he born 10,000 years ago, John Culhane would not have survived to adulthood; he has no useful, practical skills. He is a law professor who writes about various and sundry topics, including: disaster compensation; tort law; public health law; literature; science; sports; his own personal life (when he can bear the humanity); and, especially, LGBT rights and issues. He teaches at the Widener University School of Law and is a Senior Fellow at the Thomas Jefferson School of Population Health.

He is also a contributor to Slate Magazine, and writes his own eclectic blog. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you’re blessed with lots of time.

John Culhane lives in the Powelton Village area of Philadelphia with his partner David and their twin daughters, Courtnee and Alexa. Each month, he awaits the third Saturday evening for the neighborhood Wine Club gathering.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. The New Civil Rights Movement depends on readers like you to meet our ongoing expenses and continue producing quality progressive journalism. Three Silicon Valley giants consume 70 percent of all online advertising dollars, so we need your help to continue doing what we do.

NCRM is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. From unflinching coverage of religious extremism, to spotlighting efforts to roll back our rights, NCRM continues to speak truth to power. America needs independent voices like NCRM to be sure no one is forgotten.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure NCRM remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to NCRM, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.


Kremlin Using GOP in Plot to ‘Tear Down’ Biden is ‘Scandal of Historic Proportions’: Miller



Special Counsel David Weiss’ allegation that a former FBI informant was fed anti-Biden propaganda from the Kremlin and laundered it to congressional Republicans who then used it to launch an impeachment investigation into President Joe Biden is a “scandal of historic proportions” says former Republican political strategist Tim Miller.

Reminding MSNBC viewers that the bombshell news is really a story about election interference, Alicia Menendez on Wednesday’s “Deadline: White House” turned to Miller.

“This is now coming from inside the House of Representatives, inside the Republican conference within the House of Representatives,” said Miller, a former Jeb Bush communications director who now writes for The Bulwark.

Calling it “an unprecedented and really historic kind of moment,” Miller explained, “what we have here is an impeachment inquiry – we’ve not had that many of those, an impeachment investigation going against the President of the United States, premised on totally false information that allegedly was sourced from Russian intelligence, that was sourced from our foe.”

READ MORE: MAGA Is a ‘Russian Intel Op’: Experts Respond to Allegation GOP Using Kremlin Propaganda

The premise of the House Republicans’ impeachment investigation was based on “frankly, kind of preposterous information,” Miller observed, “like this notion that Joe Biden took $5 million and had some web of bank accounts that were, that was so complex that it would take 10 years to unravel, that was one of Smirnov’s claims.”

Alexander Smirnov, Politico reported Tuesday evening, is the “former FBI informant charged with making up a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and a Ukrainian energy company.” Smirnov “had contacts with officials affiliated with Russian intelligence, prosecutors said in a court paper Tuesday.”

“Like it’s kind of laughable at the face,” Miller continued, “right, like this notion that the American CIA could not have uncovered this but that [Republican U.S. Reps.] Elise Stefanik and Byron Donalds could. you know, it was a preposterous accusation.”

READ MORE: Kremlin Infiltration of Congress Alleged by Ex-Trump Prosecutor: Republicans ‘Duped or in on It’

Miller blasted “Republicans in the House” for pushing “this false information about the sitting president, and become tools in a foreign power, in a foe’s effort to interfere in our elections, to tear down the sitting President of the United States, to prop up his rival, and it is you know … this is a scandal of historic proportions.”

“I’d just like to put it in context: It’s akin to, you know, imagine if during the Cold War in the 80s, the Soviets had trumped up some fake information about Ronald Reagan being on the take and [Democratic Speaker] Tip O’Neill and the Democratic House had opened up an inquiry and investigation into it, that would be something that would be echoing and, you know, it would be talked about in conservative media 40, 50 years later. And so the fact that this is happening now, that there’s one party that is complicit in this, I don’t think the significance can be understated.”

Watch below or at this link (segment starts at 14:25).


Continue Reading


Nikki Haley: Frozen Embryos Are ‘Babies’



Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley is siding with a first-of-its-kind ruling that decrees frozen embryos are human beings.

On Tuesday the Alabama Supreme Court decreed that frozen embryos, used for in-vitro fertilization (IVF), are people.

“‘Unborn children are ‘children’ … without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics,’ Justice Jay Mitchell wrote in Friday’s majority ruling by the all-Republican court,” The Associated Press reported. “Justices, citing anti-abortion language in the Alabama Constitution, ruled that an 1872 state law allowing parents to sue over the death of a minor child ‘applies to all unborn children, regardless of their location.'”

Haley, the former Trump administration UN Ambassador and former Governor of South Carolina, made her remarks ahead of the South Carolina presidential primary, where she is behind in a recent poll by about 28 points.

“I mean, embryos to me are babies,” Haley told NBC News.

READ MORE: MAGA Is a ‘Russian Intel Op’: Experts Respond to Allegation GOP Using Kremlin Propaganda

Asked if that includes “those created through IVF,” Haley replied, “I mean, I had artificial insemination. That’s how I had my son. So when you look at you know, one thing is to save sperm or to save eggs. But when you talk about an embryo you are talking about, to me, that’s a life, and so I do see where that’s coming from.”

When asked about the practical implications of declaring embryos human beings, Haley appeared to not want to go into the legal aspects, or discuss how it would affect women who need the embryos to conceive. She instead focused her remarks on her own artificial insemination experience, saying these decisions are very personal.

When pressed by NBC News’ Ali Vitali (video below), Haley said she had not seen any legislation on the topic.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruling quickly threw into question the right and ability of women and couples to use IVF to conceive.

One Alabama university quickly paused its IVF program. The Guardian reports it “says [the] state’s supreme court ruling could expose doctors and patients to criminal charges.”

READ MORE: ‘Handmaid’s Tale’: Biden Campaign Blasts Trump Christian Nationalism Plans

“On Wednesday, spokesperson Savannah Koplon told the Guardian on behalf of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a research university and academic medical center that is also the largest healthcare provider in the state, that the institution was ‘saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through IVF, but we must evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments.'”

The Biden campaign immediately jumped on Ambassador Haley’s remarks, posting a short clip to social media, and writing: “Haley says she supports the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling threatening IVF access for women, made possible by Trump ending Roe: Embryos, to me, are babies.”

Watch the full NBC News video below or at this link.


Continue Reading


MAGA Is a ‘Russian Intel Op’: Experts Respond to Allegation GOP Using Kremlin Propaganda



Legal and political experts are responding to Special Counsel David Weiss’ allegations that a former top FBI informant, now under federal indictment, had, as one reporter explained, “high-level contact with Russian intelligence operatives,” and fed Republicans falsehoods from the Kremlin which they used to attack the Biden family and to try to build a case to impeach President Joe Biden.

“How many intel and legal findings and counter-espionage cases before people are willing to accept that the entire MAGA movement is a Russian intel op?” asks David Rothkopf, the noted foreign policy, national security, and political affairs analyst and author.

The bombshell allegations from the Special Counsel, a U.S. Attorney nominated by then-President Donald Trump, were published in his legal memo asking a judge to detain Alexander Smirnov, the defendant and former FBI confidential human source.

“Russia has fully infiltrated the Republican party. Nice going traitors,” alleged Richard Signorelli, a former Asst. U.S. Attorney at the Southern District of New York office. He added: “Trump & @SpeakerJohnson et al are Putin’s ‘useful idiots.'”

READ MORE: ‘Handmaid’s Tale’: Biden Campaign Blasts Trump Christian Nationalism Plans

U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY), an attorney who served as the lead counsel for the first Trump impeachment, wrote: “The Comer/Jordan impeachment sham appears to have been a Russian intelligence operation from the start. The only remaining question is whether Rs were witting or unwitting agents of Putin in their desperate quest to get Trump reelected. Will the GOP continue to work for Putin?”

Former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman, a frequent MSNBC commentator, points to a passage from the DOJ’s memo: “More from DOJ motion re Smirnov: ‘the misinformation he is spreading is not confined to 2020 …He is actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in Nov.'”

“This guy made be the sole reason for R’s Burisma obsessions,” Litman says.

Litman continues: “DOJ to court: ‘Smirnov transformed his routine & unextraordinary business contacts with Burisma in 2017 and later into bribery allegations against [Joe Biden] and [Hunter Biden], after expressing bias against Joe Biden.’ Was the entire R Burisma obsession based on phony intel?”

He adds: “And the big plot point to the Smirnov revelations from [Special Counsel David Weiss] is that the misinformation that Republicans have gone running — in fact galloping with –originates with, you guessed it, Russian intelligence. i.e part of overall Putin misinformation campaign that so distorted 2016.”

Attorney Blake Rutherford, in a social media post “retweeted” by attorney George Conway, wrote: “At what point will the broader American press, and I mean producers, editors, and publishers, wake up to very real fact that Russian propaganda is being normalized in today’s @GOP. They are all useful idiots. Putin knows it.”

Republican turned independent Tim Miller, a political strategist and author at The Bulwark, takes a look at recent events:

“To sum up: RUS/Putin have invaded their neighbor, assassinated the biggest domestic political threat, coopted one of the right’s biggest media stars, and seeded a fabricated story about the US President that was echoed by GOP congressional leadership & rightwing media en masse.”

But even before the Special Counsel’s allegations against the indicted former FBI informant, some were growning increasingly aware of Russia’s alleged penetration into the GOP.

RELATED: Kremlin Infiltration of Congress Alleged by Ex-Trump Prosecutor: Republicans ‘Duped or in on It’

Former Trump White House Director of Strategic Communications Alyssa Farah Griffin, now a co-host on “The View,” last week wrote: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that Russia is winning the information war within the US. GOP politicians – who know better – are amplifying Kremlin garbage. We are in deep, deep trouble.”

Watch the video above or at this link.

Image via Mike Johnson/X

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2020 AlterNet Media.