Friday, August 13, 2010

A Couple of Items to Rant About

On August 4, 2010 US Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California's Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.  Judge Walker a Republican appointee to the bench was systematic and methodical in his taking apart the "defense" of Proposition 8.  The net-net of this decision is that couples are couples, whether gay or straight and denying one set of couples the right to marry is discriminatory.  As Judge Walker says below in his conclusion summary:

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.?

This is excellent news. Although the judge granted a stay of resuming same sex marriages for the time being, the decision is now one of the best arguments for challenges of same sex marriage bans across the other states in the United States.  There are over 30 states with laws on the books banning same sex marriage.  This decision, while it will most certainly be appealed, looks likely to withstand such an appeal and may be the final nail in the "anti-gay" marriage coffin.  Let's hope so.  It's shameful that the United States of America can't get united on this issue.  We had a chance to lead the world on resolving and healing one more area of inequality and discrimination.  Instead, we've pussy-footed around the issue and bleated about the "sanctity" of marriage.  The lunatic fringe on the right has gone so far to say it will be the end of civilization if John and Steve can get married. 

It's embarrassing that right now 10 nations across the world have legalized same sex marriage.  For a listing of those countries, click here.  Additionally over 20 have legalized "civil unions and domestic partnerships" that carry some level of recognition for same sex couples.  The United States has legalized civil unions or same sex marriage in 6 states at this point in time.  A poor showing of course.  We have no national policy on this other than the odious Defense of Marriage Act that recognizes marriage as an act between a man and a woman.

Why are we so afraid to deal with this issue in a timely manner?  It's evident, that state after state is eventually coming into the light and realizing this continued discrimination against gays and lesbians is just wrong.  But, we are woefully slow.  How can South Africa, whose recent history includes legalized apartheid be ahead of us on this issue?   

We are an intelligent country by and large.  We are also a compassionate country by and large.  We also seem to be one of the most frightened countries out there.  When heavily Roman Catholic countries such as Spain, Portugal, Argentina, etc can have the courage to discard the old cloth of bigotry on this matter what is stopping us?  I simply don't get it. 

Read Judge Walker's decision. It was brilliantly written and deserves to be read and discussed more.


The lunatic fringe on the Right has spun up a fake issue around whether or not a mosque/Islamic community center should be built close to "Ground Zero", or the site of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11.  Newt Gingrich has gone so far to say that mosques are training grounds for terrorists and they shouldn't be built in the United States.  That bastion of conservative intelligence Sarah Palin says "just build it somewhere else".

Jon Stewart's Daily show did a classic bit on this issue.  For the link,  click here.  If you watch this you will see the absurdity of the whole problem.  First of all, some news networks like Fox lead into the story by saying there is a desire to build a mosque a the site of Ground Zero.  This is incorrect.  The building to be used is at 45 Park place, where the Burlington Coat Factory once operated.  Not "hallowed ground" unless you are in the garment business and your name is Burlington.  The site is two blocks away from Ground Zero.   But, as usual, the loonies are bleating that this is an affront to the people who died and it should not be built.  By the way, it's not technically a mosque.  It's an Islamic cultural center that will have among other things,  an art museum, a swimming pool, and yes a mosque. 

The righties (Gingrich, O'Reilly, Buchannan, et al) have decided this is the new lever to pull in order to spin up some more anger.  Why is this an issue?  I get some of the families of those who died in the attacks may have an issue.  Let's not forget several people working in those buildings were Muslims as well.  How do you think they feel about the issue.  Quite honestly, the people who lost family in the attacks are really the only voices worth listening to.  At any rate, I don't see a problem with building an Islamic cultural center nearby, especially since there has been a mosque in lower Manhattan since 1970.   

Look, we were attacked by a fundamentalist, insane group of radical terrorists that happened to be Muslim.  Somehow we keep forgetting this.  We weren't attacked by Islam, we were attacked by terrorists. 

When the IRA was blowing up members of the British Parliament in the late 1970's, Britain didn't declare war on Catholicism, they went after the terrorists that performed the killings.  We need to keep this in mind. 

I'm not a religious person, and believe we'd all be much better off without Islam, Judaism, Christianity and all the other religious dogma that has been developed over the centuries.  However,  it is foolish and shameful that a country as advanced as ours, that has codified the right to freedom of religion, that has been welcoming of other cultures into the fabric of our story will now cower behind the bogeyman that is Al Qaeda. 

The mosque may have a valuable purpose and provide an opportunity for cultural exchange and understanding.  It's only by understanding each other that we reduce our fear.  And that is a good thing.