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Marriage Equality In New York: Treated Like A Bastard Orphan Child?

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Even Before David Paterson’s Downfall, New York State Had Lost All Its Leaders Fighting For Marriage Equality.

Snow has engulfed New York City with little end in sight. By tomorrow we should have two feet on the ground — for New York City, that’s a lot! It’s beautiful, it’s dangerous, it’s wonderful. And like the sudden crashing to the ground of ice from awnings, it hit me as I was walking my dog this morning — the realization, not the ice — that the state of marriage equality in New York is like a bastard, orphaned child, crying to be born. And our leaders aren’t fulfilling their parental obligations.

David Paterson, who has been Governor of New York three weeks short of one year, and who last weekend announced his decision to begin his campaign for election to his currently-held seat of Governor — which he inherited when Eliot Spitzer resigned after fourteen months in office when it became known he was the client of a prostitution ring — has just announced after less than one week of officially being a candidate, that he will not seek reelection. Seems he has a bit of a scandal of his own.

That was today.

Yesterday we learned that thirty-nine year veteran U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel, who for some strange reason Democrats saw fit to include at the table in Thursday’s historic Blair House Healthcare Summit with President Obama, and who represents New York’s 15th congressional district (Upper Manhattan and Queens) and is the Chairman of the very powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and who is being investigated for ethical violations, is being publicly rebuked by the House ethics committee for breaking House rules, and is being pressured to resign his Chairmanship. And this is just the initial finding — meaning more on the way for the Ways and Means Chair.

Last month, now-former New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate was the first in nearly a century to be expelled from the Senate, after being convicted of domestic abuse charges, which included dragging his girlfriend by the hair through his apartment building lobby and driving her miles out of the way to a hospital where he would not be recognized. (He was.) He not only has vowed to run for his now-former seat, but last week failed in his lawsuit to have his expulsion expunged.

Monserrate, New Yorkers and regular readers of this blog will know, was key in the overthrow of the New York State Senate last summer, shutting it down for a month, and using the issue of same-sex marriage as a political football. Monserrate may be the most-hated member of New York’s “Hate 38,” the group of Senators who voted in early December against marriage equality, causing it to die under a crushing 38-24 defeat. It seems the former-Senator took our money, claimed he would vote for marriage equality until the last moment, then voted against it.

Add to all this political drama and disaster the fact that both Governor Spitzer and Governor Paterson promised to midwife marriage equality into New York.

Spitzer, who campaigned on a promise to usher gay marriage into New York, at his first State of the State address promised only that he saw New York as a “state that understands that the civil rights movement still has chapters to be written.” That was January, 2007, and that was all we got from him. Two years later, Governor Paterson proclaimed he would take up the fight for gay marriage, proclaiming,

“For too long the gay and lesbian communities have been told that their rights and freedoms have to wait… The time has come to act, the time has come for leadership, the time has come to bring marriage equality to the State of New York.”

Bringing it all home, the Governor, in a televised address, surrounded by a dozen state leaders and politicians, cried, lack of marriage equality was “not a crisis of issues but a crisis of leadership.”

Now, it seems, the crisis still is a crisis of leadership.

Let’s not forget the recent resignation — albeit more than honorable — of Alan van Capelle, the now-former Executive Director of Empire State Pride Agenda, the leading marriage equality organization in New York. Monday he heads off to work for NYC’s new Comptroller John Liu.

My point to all this is simple. Marriage equality is the bastard, orphaned unborn child of New York because there’s no one leading the fight to bring it into this world. It’s the political football foster child being used and abused to by all camps to gain something else. By the politicians for votes and campaign cash. By anti-gay groups like NOM, for cash. Spitzer, Paterson, Monserrate (and his even more guilty buddy, state Senator Pedro Espada,) and the “Hate 38,” Gallagher, Brown, and their ilk, the list is long.

Every kid needs a parent. Every cause needs a leader, and in New York, there’s no one taking charge.

To mis-quote an old Carol Burnett skit, (or, perhaps, the original “Gone With The Wind,) there’s no one here who knows nothing about birthing no babies…

It’s no wonder people are taking measures into their own hands. It’s no wonder we have “Gays behaving badly.” It’s no wonder activists shout-down Senate candidates like Harold Ford (who deserved to be shouted down — but not during his speech. Wait til he’s done speaking, boys. His words would have garnered enough trouble for him. He didn’t need help looking bad. We didn’t need to look bad, either.)

But, can we really blame them? Those protesters were doing the same thing kids do when there’s no one in charge: acting out.

It’s no wonder New Yorkers are furious. Our politicians either don’t support marriage equality (see: the “Hate 38,”) or say they will, then they vote against it. Or, they say they will, then they leave in scandal. (See: Spitzer, Paterson.)

Our advocates, like van Capelle, get frustrated and move on to bigger things — understandably so.

So, New York state, which by rights should have joined with our New England neighbors when marriage equality was gaining momentum last year, and in which a majority of citizens support marriage equality, is left without leadership, without partnership, and without much hope.

Here’s what will happen.

Activist groups, angry, frustrated, feeling powerless and yet empowered by a lack of leadership, will continue to do things like chain themselves to New York City’s marriage bureau to draw attention to the cause, or shout down political candidates, or crash elected officials’ Christmas parties, or worse, “by any means necessary.”

All these acts will only get worse until the leadership void is filled and until New York gets marriage equality. Fortunately, that bastard, orphaned, unborn child that is marriage equality is going to be born, hopefully sooner rather than later, and when it is, it will be among the most beautiful babies ever to grace the earth.

The time has come. The time for leadership, for smart and sensible action, for equality, for New York.

Who will lead us? Who will follow? Who will fight? Who will win?

Yes, my friends, like the sudden crashing to the ground of ice from awnings, the birth of marriage equality is a natural law that will happen. It’s a matter of time, and it’s up to us.

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News

Trump’s Scheme for Absolute Immunity From State Prosecutions Forever: Report

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Having successfully obtained delays in his federal trials and his state trial in Georgia, possibly until after the November election, Donald Trump is now seeking an “insurance policy” to protect him from any future state prosecutions if he again becomes president.

The indicted ex-president who turns 78 next month “seems convinced that if he wins another four years in the White House, state prosecutors will still be waiting for him on the other side of his term — ready to put him on trial, or even in prison, just as they are now,” Rolling Stone reports.

“To avoid such risks, the former and perhaps future president of the United States wants Congress to create a very specific insurance policy that would help keep him out of prison forever, two sources familiar with the matter tell Rolling Stone. Trump vaguely alluded to this idea last week outside his New York criminal hush money trial, when he said he has urged Republican lawmakers to pass ‘laws to stop things like this.'”

Trump “has pressured” Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill to do so, describing it as imperative that he signs such a bill into law, if he again ascends to the Oval Office.”

READ MORE: Pence Defense of Alito’s Insurrectionist Flag Highlights Its Ties to Violent Government Overthrow

Rolling Stone also notes, “Trump appears fixated on the idea of passing a law to give former American presidents the option of moving state or local prosecutions into a federal court instead, the two sources add.”

Trump “has hinted at a legislative push to limit his exposure to such criminal charges. In an improvised press conference outside the Manhattan courthouse on Tuesday, Trump said he’s been telling the Republican lawmakers who want to attend his trial and show solidarity to focus on legislation instead.”

“We have a lot of ’em. They want to come. I say, ‘Just stay back and pass lots of laws to stop things like this.’”

In 1973, while still President but under the cloud of the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon said, “People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook.”

If Trump is elected in November, he can have his Attorney General drop any federal prosecutions he is currently facing. That may call into question, for some legal experts, the actions of the far-right justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who have delayed ruling on his immunity claim, and U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon.

On May 7, Judge Cannon indefinitely suspended the Espionage Act case, also known as the classified documents case, against Donald Trump.

READ MORE: ‘You Just Don’t Do It’: Federal Judge Denounces Alito’s Flags as ‘Stop the Steal’ Stickers

Foreign policy, national security, and political affairs analyst and commentator David Rothkopf this week blasted the judge:

“Judge Cannon is not, as commentators and cartoonists would have it, just working on behalf of Trump. She is actively working on behalf of the enemies of the US who have and would benefit from the national security breaches she is effectively defending and making more likely.”

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) earlier this month declared, “The courts are deliberately delaying justice — and effectively denying it.”

This coming week Americans may get a verdict in the New York criminal case against the ex-president. If it comes, it may be “guilty” or “not guilty,” but it could also be a hung jury, forcing another trial which also would not likely come before the election.

If Trump is elected in November, and can get his “insurance policy” legislation passed, he could possibly avoid all criminal trials for the rest of his life.

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OPINION

Pence Defense of Alito’s Insurrectionist Flag Highlights Its Ties to Violent Government Overthrow

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Mike Pence is defending far-right U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, whose ethics and ability to serve on the nation’s highest court are being questioned after The New York Times revealed he had been flying a highly-controversial flag used by the January 6 insurrectionists, neo-Nazis, and a far-right neo-fascist hate group. Democrats are demanding the justice recuse himself from all cases involving Donald Trump and the 2020 presidential election, and some are also demanding his resignation or impeachment.

The former Trump Vice President, in defending Alito, may have made the situation even worse for the 74-year old jurist by highlighting the flag’s ties to revolution and the overthrow of government. In his defense Pence also encourages all Americans to fly the flag: “The ‘Appeal to Heaven’ flag is part or our proud heritage of Faith and Freedom and every American should be proud to fly it,” he writes.

“The Appeal to Heaven Flag” dates back centuries, to the American Revolution, but in recent years was very clearly co-opted by the radical religious right and was seen being carried by the insurrectionists during the assault on the U.S. Capitol, some of whom who chanted, “hang Mike Pence,” as he and his family were being whisked away by Secret Service on January 6:

MSNBC columnist Sarah Posner, who for years has been writing about religion and politics, on Thursday noted, “the more one knows about the background of the flag, the more chilling its presence at [Alito’s] house becomes.”

READ MORE: ‘You Just Don’t Do It’: Federal Judge Denounces Alito’s Flags as ‘Stop the Steal’ Stickers

Posner says the flag is “an unmistakable emblem for an influential segment of Christian nationalists who claim the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, contrary to God’s will, and that believers’ spiritual warfare is essential to restoring God’s anointed leader to his rightful office.”

“It was one of numerous Christian nationalist flags and other iconography carried by Trump supporters Jan. 6 and at the Jericho March, a series of prayer rallies that were like jet fuel for the insurrection,” Posner explains. “The Jericho March featured right-wing evangelical and Catholic speakers alongside militants such as conspiracist Alex Jones, Trump’s disgraced national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Oathkeepers founder Stewart Rhodes, now serving an 18-year prison sentence for seditious conspiracy and other crimes.”

Posner adds the flag “originated in Revolutionary times as a call to take up arms against unjust rulers who ignored the pleas of their citizens.”

Pence also refers to the Revolutionary War in his defense of Justice Alito, ignoring that the Revolutionary War was won several hundred years ago, and ignoring that a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice promoting the very concept of taking up arms against rulers, unjust or otherwise, is, as constitutional scholar and University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, Laurence Tribe wrote, “close to treason.”

Pence calls the “controversy” of Justice Alito’s flag-flying “absurd and anti-historical.” He quotes English Enlightenment philosopher John Locke, promoting his idea of the right to revolution, to replace a government.

In its Bombshell report Wednesday announcing the existence of a second Alito flag tied to the insurrectionists, The New York Times explains the Locke tie to the “Appeal to Heaven” flag.

READ MORE: Trump Adviser Scanned and Saved Contents of Box That Had Classified Docs: Report

“Since its creation during the American Revolution, the flag has carried a message of defiance: The phrase ‘appeal to heaven’ comes from the 17th-century philosopher John Locke, who wrote of a responsibility to rebel, even use violence, to overthrow unjust rule. ‘It’s a paraphrase for trial by arms,’ Anthony Grafton, a historian at Princeton University, said in an interview. ‘The main point is that there’s no appeal, there’s no one else you can ask for help or a judgment.'”

Coincidentally or not, Grafton’s “trial by arms” seems to echo Trump acolyte Rudy Giuliani’s January 6 speech in which he specifically called for “trial by combat.”

Religious studies scholar Matthew Taylor, quoted in The New York Times’ report on Alito’s “Appeal to Heaven” flag, told CBS News (video below) Christian nationalist leader Dutch Sheets “was given one of these flags and he believed that he received a prophecy when he received this flag, that it was a symbol of a revolution that would take place in America, a spiritual revolution that would reconstitute the United States as a truly Christian nation.”

He adds the “Appeal to Heaven” flag has become a “very potent symbol of Christian nationalism, Christian Trumpism, opposition to abortion, opposition to gay marriage, and the desire for a more Christian America.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: Trump’s Bronx Rally Attendance Claim Fuels Mockery as Aerial Images Show a Different Story

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OPINION

‘You Just Don’t Do It’: Federal Judge Denounces Alito’s Flags as ‘Stop the Steal’ Stickers

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A senior U.S. district judge is denouncing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito‘s flying of two insurrection-related flags at his homes in Virginia and New Jersey, declaring the actions “improper. And dumb.”

Judge Michael Ponsor, 77, who has served on the federal bench since 1984, writes in a Friday New York Times op-ed that he has “known scores, possibly hundreds, of federal trial and appellate judges pretty well,” and “can’t think of a single one, no matter who appointed her or him, who has engaged or would engage in conduct like that.”

“You just don’t do that sort of thing, whether it may be considered over the line, or just edging up to the margin. Flying those flags was tantamount to sticking a ‘Stop the steal’ bumper sticker on your car. You just don’t do it.”

Justice Alito’s first flag scandal came late last week, when The New York Times reported an upside down U.S. flag had flown at his Virginia home jut days before Joe Biden was sworn in as President. That flag is associated with the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. As of January, more than 1200 who were there that day have been arrested and charged with crimes.

Alito blamed his wife, claiming she made the decision to fly the flag upside down, which according to the U.S. flag code should only be done to signal distress. Martha-Ann Alito, her husband claimed, had gotten into an argument with a neighbor and manifested her anger by flying the “Stop the Steal” flag.

READ MORE: ‘Investigate Now’: As Alito Scandal Grows Pressure Mounts on ‘MIA’ and ‘AWOL’ Judiciary Chair

The second flag scandal came on Wednesday, when The Times again revealed an Alito insurrection-related flag, this time at his New Jersey home, where the Alitos were flying the “Appeal to Heaven” flag which has ties both to the insurrectionists, and to extreme right Christian nationalists.

Justice Alito has not made any public comment defending his second flag.

Judge Ponsor offered up a hypothetical to counter Justice Alito’s claim his wife was to blame, in this case, an example of him presiding over a death penalty case.

“Let’s say my wife was strongly opposed to the death penalty and wished to speak out publicly against it. I’m not saying this is true, but let’s imagine it. The primary emotional current in our marriage is, of course, deep and passionate love, but right next to that is equally deep and passionate respect. We would have had a problem, and we would have needed to talk,” Ponsor explained.

“In this hypothetical situation, I hope that my wife would have held off making any public statements about capital punishment, and restrained herself from talking about the issue with me, while the trial unfolded. On the other hand, if my wife had felt strongly that she needed to espouse her viewpoint publicly, I would have had to recuse myself from presiding over the case, based on the appearance of partiality.”

READ MORE: ‘Going for the Jugular’: Legal Scholar Warns ‘Trumpers’ Want to End Major Civil Right

Note he mentions as a sitting federal judge he would have applied the same standards that jurors are expected to observe: to not discuss the case with anyone, including their spouses.

And should there have been a discussion, or if she were to air her views publicly, he would be forced to recuse himself from the case.

Justice Alito has not recused from any 2020 presidential election cases, any Trump-related cases, any insurrection-related cases.

That includes the Trump “absolute immunity” case the Supreme Court heard in April, for which they have yet to rule.

The Supreme Court “recently adopted an ethics code to ‘guide the conduct’ of the justices,” Ponsor observes. “One of its canons states that a justice should ‘act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.’ That’s all very well. But basic ethical behavior should not rely on laws or regulations. It should be folded into a judge’s DNA. That didn’t happen here.”

READ MORE: Trump Adviser Scanned and Saved Contents of Box That Had Classified Docs: Report

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