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What do banning sex toys, being fired for an off-hours affair, or losing custody of a child because of sexual orientation have in common?
They’re all the result of legal rulings, thanks in part to narrow interpretations of a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that eliminated criminal prohibitions against sodomy according to Laura Rosenbury, JD, professor of law, at Washington University in St. Louis.
In the landmark case Lawrence v. Texas, the high court ruled 6-3 that Texas’ criminal ban on sodomy between consenting adults was unconstitutional. The decision, which overturned similar laws in other states, was expected to broaden, not restrict, sexual rights.
The petitioners in Lawrence, two men who had been arrested for engaging in sodomy in a private home, were not in a committed, romantic relationship with each other. (It was a jealous partner who called police.) But since the ruling was handed down, scores of lower court cases have held that the case applies only to sexual activity involving emotional intimacy.
These subsequent rulings stem from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s wording of the decision, according to Rosenbury, who co-authored “Sex In and Out of Intimacy,” published in July in the Emory Law Journal.
“Justice Kennedy actually overlooked the actual facts of the case and instead reasoned that consensual sexual activity should be constitutionally protected because it’s an important part of relationships,” Rosenbury says. “And the lower courts have used that language, not the facts of the case, to protect sex only when it’s in this relationship context.”
LONG HISTORY OF CORRALLING SEX, RELATIONSHIPS
States have long protected sexual activity only when it serves the states’ own interests, typically marriage and procreation. While Lawrence has reined in that effort in some cases, the ruling has reinforced the link between sex and relationships in others by suggesting the protection of sexual activity should occur only in long-lasting, intimate associations.
“States used to be much more coercive, punishing sex outside of marriage, and have gradually become less coercive but they still maintain this idea that sex is only valuable in relationships,” Rosenbury says. “We’re trying to highlight how such practices remain to this day, and to provide arguments for really letting go of the channeling of sex into marriage or other relationships that have the potential of long-term intimacy.”
States’ constant linking of sex and intimacy diminishes not only sex outside of relationships but also intimate relationships that are not sexual. Rosenbury’s article asks: Why shouldn’t states allow people to divide the rights and obligations currently attached to marriage among a variety of others: spouses, friends, siblings and sexual partners.
The sex-intimacy connection also reinforces gender stereotypes, assuming that that men achieve intimacy primarily through sex and that women desire intimacy over sex, according to Rosenbury.
“There have long been sexual double standards, and protecting sex only when it is in the service of intimacy does nothing to change those standards,” Rosenbury says. “Although Lawrence acknowledged that emotional intimacy need not involve women, it did nothing to disrupt the idea that sexual pleasure is a male domain.”
Rosenbury, whose research and teaching focuses on sex, family, work and other everyday issues, is committed to examining ways that the law influences seemingly private relationships and conduct. “Sex In and Out of Intimacy” is her most recent examination of that phenomenon.
Newswise — Should the sexual orientation of prospective adoptive parents be considered when placing children in adoptive homes?
According to the results of a new University of Virginia study, the answer may be “no.”
In a sample of 106 adoptive children living in different parts of the United States, youngsters were developing well regardless of whether they were living with lesbian, gay or heterosexual parenting couples. The study found that whether or not adoptive children were developing in positive ways was unrelated to the sexual orientation of their adoptive parents.
The finding appears in the August issue of the journal Applied Developmental Science.
“We found that children adopted by lesbian and gay couples are thriving,” said U.Va. psychology professor Charlotte J. Patterson, who led the study. “Our results provide no justification for denying lesbian or gay prospective adoptive parents the opportunity to adopt children. With thousands of children in need of permanent homes in the United States alone, our findings suggest that outreach to lesbian and gay prospective adoptive parents might benefit children who are in need.”
The research assessed adjustment and development among preschool-aged children adopted at birth by lesbian, gay or heterosexual couples. Using standardized assessment procedures, researchers found that parents and teachers agreed, on average, that the children were developing in typical ways. Measures of children’s adjustment, as well as parenting practices and stress, were found to be unassociated with the parents’ sexual orientation. And, regardless of their parents’ sexual orientation, how well children were adjusted was significantly associated with how warmly their parents were oriented to them.
Adoption of minor children by same-sex couples has been a controversial topic. Same-sex couples are prohibited by law from adopting children in Florida, Mississippi and Utah. Voters in Arkansas passed a ban on adoptions by same- and opposite-sex unmarried couples in 2008, only to have it overturned by the courts. That case is currently on appeal.
In the last few years, legislatures in a number of other states have also debated proposals to prohibit adoptions by same-sex couples. On the other hand, joint adoptions by same-sex couples are permitted in many states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.
The study was authored by Patterson, who also is a faculty member and research scientist at the Fenway Institute’s Center for Population Research in LGBT Health in Boston; Rachel H. Farr, a U.Va. doctoral candidate; and Stephen L. Forssell, a faculty member in psychology at George Washington University. It was funded by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Two steps forward, one step back and then waiting in the wings may best describe the next moves for Proposition 8.
U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled Aug. 4 that Prop 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional. That led to hasty predictions that the issue was fast closing in on the U.S. Supreme Court.
But both sides may have to wait years for a final decision on the matter, according to Susan Frelich Appleton, JD, the Lemma Barkeloo and Phoebe Couzins Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis.
Supporters of the ban already have requested a stay, pending the outcome of another round of arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. After a panel of three 9th Circuit judges decides the case, it could get reheard “en banc,” or by a larger group in the same circuit.
The next step after the 9th Circuit is the U.S. Supreme Court, and both sides have vowed to take Perry v. Schwarzenegger to the nation’s top judges.
But the U.S. Supreme Court may not agree to address the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage until the issue has been decided by one or more additional federal courts of law — which may produce different outcomes — Appleton says.
“Sometimes a division among the courts will occur, and such splits make an issue more likely to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Appleton says.
STRATEGIC SCENARIO COULD MEAN QUICKER DECISION
On the other hand, it’s possible that the high court could take the case immediately after the 9th Circuit ruling. While Gregory Magarian, JD, Professor of Law at WUSTL, agrees that the U.S. Supreme Court may very well postpone a decision until further rulings are made, he says the justices could also proceed quickly as a strategic move.
“If we assume that the justices know their minds on this issue, then the justices who believe they will prevail may vote to take the case in order to resolve the issue now, while the numbers favor their preferred outcome,” Magarian says. “Supreme Court rules require only four votes to take a case.”
Whether it comes sooner or later, the issue warrants the U.S. Supreme Court’s attention, Magarian says.
Opponents of Walker’s ruling complain his decision amounts to “judicial activism” because it overturned an action approved by the democratic process. But Magarian points out that this argument dodges the substance of the issue.
He compares the voters’ opposition to same-sex marriage to the white majority “democratically” keeping black children in segregated schools, and the male majority “democratically” denying women equal treatment under the law.
“Often, the people ‘democratically’ deny dissidents and rabble-rousers the right to express themselves,” Magarian says. “In all of those circumstances, we welcome the courts’ intervention — at least in hindsight. “
RULING BOOSTS EQUALITY IN ALL MARRIAGES
In his decision, Walker called Prop 8 “unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses” of the 14th Amendment.
While it was two same-sex couples who filed the lawsuit, arguments against it invoked gender equality as well as gay and lesbian rights.
In his opinion, Walker made more than a dozen references to changes over time regarding gender roles in marriage. Noting that marriage once served to uphold strict gender roles such as women raising children and running a household, and men providing for the family, he pointed out that the state of California has abolished marital obligations based on gender — with no harm to the institution.
“One way to analyze Proposition 8 treats it as sexual-orientation discrimination; another way considers it as gender discrimination,” Appleton says. “Under Proposition 8, a man can marry only a woman but not a man, for example, so access to marriage turns on the combined genders of the would-be spouses.
“Judge Walker’s approach promotes marriage equality and equality in marriage, for all women and men, of any sexual orientation,” she says.
LENGTHY RULING EXPLORES SINGLE SENTENCE
Proposition 8 is only 14 words long: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
The measure landed on the ballot after the California Supreme Court decided in May 2008 that same-sex couples had a right to marry. Fifty-two percent of California voters voted for the proposition in November 2008.
Its approval prompted two couples to file a lawsuit, alleging Prop 8 violates their right to due process and equal protection guaranteed under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Previous victories for same-sex marriage were decided under state constitutional provisions.
Walker’s 138-page ruling provides a comprehensive look at the federal constitutional issues involved, and is sure to be cited in cases even beyond the 9th Circuit.
“Judge Walker’s thorough review of the evidence and meticulous findings of fact leave Proposition 8 without a constitutionally permissible or legally justifiable foundation,” Appleton says.
Appleton is a nationally known expert on family law, and has written extensively about non-traditional families. Magarian has a primary focus on constitutional law in his research and teaching .
“I’m 63 and I’m Tired”
by Robert A. Hall
I’m 63. Except for one semester in college when jobs were scarce and a six-month period when I was between jobs, but job-hunting every day, I’ve worked, hard, since I was 18. Despite some health challenges, I still put in 50-hour weeks, and haven’t called in sick in seven or eight years. I make a good salary, but I didn’t inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, there’s no retirement in sight, and I’m tired. Very tired.
I’m tired of being told that I have to “spread the wealth” to people who don’t have my work ethic. I’m tired of being told the government will take the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy to earn it.
I’m tired of being told that I have to pay more taxes to “keep people in their homes.” Sure, if they lost their jobs or got sick, I’m willing to help. But if they bought McMansions at three times the price of our paid-off, $250,000 condo, on one-third of my salary, then let the left-wing Congress-critters who passed Fannie and Freddie and the Community Reinvestment Act that created the bubble help them with their own money.
I’m tired of being told how bad America is by left-wing millionaires like Michael Moore, George Soros and Hollywood Entertainers who live in luxury because of the opportunities America offers. In thirty years, if they get their way, the United States will have the economy of Zimbabwe , the freedom of the press of China , the crime and violence of Mexico , the tolerance for Christian people of Iran , and the freedom of speech of Venezuela .
I’m tired of being told that Islam is a “Religion of Peace,” when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family “honor”; of Muslims rioting over some slight offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren’t “believers”; of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for “adultery”; of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur’an and Shari’a law tells them to.
I’m tired of being told that “race doesn’t matter” in the post-racial world of Obama, when it’s all that matters in affirmative action jobs, lower college admission and graduation standards for minorities (harming them the most), government contract set-asides, tolerance for the ghetto culture of violence and fatherless children that hurts minorities more than anyone, and in the appointment of U.S. Senators from Illinois.
I think it’s very cool that we have a black president and that a black child is doing her homework at the desk where Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. I just wish the black president was Condi Rice, or someone who believes more in freedom and the individual and less arrogantly of an all-knowing government.
I’m tired of a news media that thinks Bush’s fundraising and inaugural expenses were obscene, but that think Obama’s, at triple the cost, were wonderful; that thinks Bush exercising daily was a waste of presidential time, but Obama exercising is a great example for the public to control weight and stress; that picked over every line of Bush’s military records, but never demanded that Kerry release his; that slammed Palin, with two years as governor, for being too inexperienced for VP, but touted Obama with three years as senator as potentially the best president ever. Wonder why people are dropping their subscriptions or switching to Fox News? Get a clue. I didn’t vote for Bush in 2000, but the media and Kerry drove me to his camp in 2004.
I’m tired of being told that out of “tolerance for other cultures” we must let Saudi Arabia use our oil money to fund mosques and mandrassa Islamic schools to preach hate in America , while no American group is allowed to fund a church, synagogue or religious school in Saudi Arabia to teach love and tolerance.
I’m tired of being told I must lower my living standard to fight global warming, which no one is allowed to debate. My wife and I live in a two-bedroom apartment and carpool together five miles to our jobs. We also own a three-bedroom condo where our daughter and granddaughter live. Our carbon footprint is about 5% of Al Gore’s, and if you’re greener than Gore, you’re green enough.
I’m tired of being told that drug addicts have a disease, and I must help support and treat them, and pay for the damage they do. Did a giant germ rush out of a dark alley, grab them, and stuff white powder up their noses while they tried to fight it off? I don’t think Gay people choose to be Gay, but I damn sure think druggies chose to take drugs. And I’m tired of harassment from cool people treating me like a freak when I tell them I never tried marijuana.
I’m tired of illegal aliens being called “undocumented workers,” especially the ones who aren’t working, but are living on welfare or crime. What’s next? Calling drug dealers, “Undocumented Pharmacists”? And, no, I’m not against Hispanics. Most of them are Catholic, and it’s been a few hundred years since Catholics wanted to kill me for my religion. I’m willing to fast track for citizenship any Hispanic person, who can speak English, doesn’t have a criminal record and who is self-supporting without family on welfare, or who serves honorably for three years in our military…. Those are the citizens we need.
I’m tired of latte liberals and journalists, who would never wear the uniform of the Republic themselves, or let their entitlement- handicapped kids near a recruiting station, trashing our military. They and their kids can sit at home, never having to make split-second decisions under life and death circumstances, and bad mouth better people than themselves. Do bad things happen in war? You bet. Do our troops sometimes misbehave? Sure. Does this compare with the atrocities that were the policy of our enemies for the last fifty years and still are? Not even close. So here’s the deal. I’ll let myself be subjected to all the humiliation and abuse that was heaped on terrorists at Abu Ghraib or Gitmo, and the critics can let themselves be subject to captivity by the Muslims, who tortured and beheaded Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, or the Muslims who tortured and murdered Marine Lt. Col. William Higgins in Lebanon, or the Muslims who ran the blood-spattered Al Qaeda torture rooms our troops found in Iraq, or the Muslims who cut off the heads of schoolgirls in Indonesia, because the girls were Christian. Then we’ll compare notes. British and American soldiers are the only troops in history that civilians came to for help and handouts, instead of hiding from in fear.
I’m tired of people telling me that their party has a corner on virtue and the other party has a corner on corruption. Read the papers; bums are bipartisan. And I’m tired of people telling me we need bipartisanship. I live in Illinois , where the “Illinois Combine” of Democrats has worked to loot the public for years. Not to mention the tax cheats in Obama’s cabinet.
I’m tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and politicians of both parties talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting caught. I’m tired of people with a sense of entitlement, rich or poor.
Speaking of poor, I’m tired of hearing people with air-conditioned homes, color TVs and two cars called poor. The majority of Americans didn’t have that in 1970, but we didn’t know we were “poor.” The poverty pimps have to keep changing the definition of poor to keep the dollars flowing.
I’m real tired of people who don’t take responsibility for their lives and actions. I’m tired of hearing them blame the government, or discrimination or big-whatever for their problems.
Yes, I’m damn tired. But I’m also glad to be 63. Because, mostly, I’m not going to have to see the world these people are making. I’m just sorry for my granddaughter.
Robert A. Hall is a Marine Vietnam veteran who served five terms in the Massachusetts State Senate.
Are you the product of your own making, or is your way of thinking created for you by the mass media? Does it really matter? The folks at Vigilant Citizen has posted a new article that says:
Mass media is the most powerful tool used by the ruling class to manipulate the masses. It shapes and molds opinions and attitudes and defines what is normal and acceptable. This article looks at the workings of mass media through the theories of its major thinkers, its power structure and the techniques it uses, in order to understand its true role in society.
From The Vigilant Citizen:
The merger of media companies in the last decades generated a small oligarchy of media conglomerates. The TV shows we follow, the music we listen to, the movies we watch and the newspapers we read are all produced by FIVE corporations. The owners of those conglomerates have close ties with the world’s elite and, in many ways, they ARE the elite. By owning all of the possible outlets having the potential to reach the masses, these conglomerates have the power to create in the minds of the people a single and cohesive world view, engendering a “standardization of human thought”.
Even movements or styles that are considered marginal are, in fact, extensions of mainstream thinking. Mass medias produce their own rebels who definitely look the part but are still part of the establishment and do not question any of it. Artists, creations and ideas that do not fit the mainstream way of thinking are mercilessly rejected and forgotten by the conglomerates, which in turn makes them virtually disappear from society itself. However, ideas that are deemed to be valid and desirable to be accepted by society are skillfully marketed to the masses in order to make them become self-evident norm.
In 1928, Edward Bernays already saw the immense potential of motion pictures to standardize thought:
“The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today. It is a great distributor for ideas and opinions. The motion picture can standardize the ideas and habits of a nation. Because pictures are made to meet market demands, they reflect, emphasize and even exaggerate broad popular tendencies, rather than stimulate new ideas and opinions. The motion picture avails itself only of ideas and facts which are in vogue. As the newspaper seeks to purvey news, it seeks to purvey entertainment.”
– Edward Bernays, Propaganda
These facts were flagged as dangers to human freedom in the 1930’s by thinkers of the school of Frankfurt such as Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse. They identified three main problems with the cultural industry. The industry can:
- reduce human beings to the state of mass by hindering the development of emancipated individuals, who are capable of making rational decisions;
- replace the legitimate drive for autonomy and self-awareness by the safe laziness of conformism and passivity; and
- validate the idea that men actually seek to escape the absurd and cruel world in which they live by losing themselves in a hypnotic state self-satisfaction.
The notion of escapism is even more relevant today with advent of online video games, 3D movies and home theaters. The masses, constantly seeking state-of-the-art entertainment, will resort to high-budget products that can only be produced by the biggest media corporations of the world. These products contain carefully calculated messages and symbols which are nothing more and nothing less than entertaining propaganda. The public have been trained to LOVE its propaganda to the extent that it spends its hard-earned money to be exposed to it. Propaganda (used in both political, cultural and commercial sense) is no longer the coercive or authoritative communication form found in dictatorships: it has become the synonym of entertainment and pleasure.
“In regard to propaganda the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or it might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies — the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”
– Aldous Huxley, Preface to A Brave New World
A single piece of media often does not have a lasting effect on the human psyche. Mass media, however, by its omnipresent nature, creates a living environment we evolve in on a daily basis. It defines the norm and excludes the undesirable. The same way carriage horses wear blinders so they can only see what is right in front of them, the masses can only see where they are supposed to go.
Read the rest at The Vigilant Citizen.
Gay members of the Armed Forces have had to live with an extra layer of discretion and professionalism. Here are stories of men and women who served their country while balancing the need to keep their private lives private.
By Brian Feist
First Arizona legislators passed a law that requires local law enforcement agencies to verify the citizenship of anyone they feel may be in the United States illegally. That’s a polite way of saying if you’re in Arizona and look or sound Hispanic, you’d better have your papers with you if you don’t want to get arrested. (Sounds a little bit Nazi to me, but hey, that’s just me.) “Breathing While Brown” is the new “Driving While Black,” a “crime” with which many, particularly southern, African-Americans are well acquainted. Now Arizona legislators have added insult to injury and have passed a law banning so-called cultural studies classes, or classes designed for students of a particular ethnicity, in Arizona schools.
These laws, the basis of which supporters claim is frustration on the part of predominantly white Americans at the Federal Government’s inability to control our borders, are further evidence that racism in America is alive and thriving. I can understand the frustration, especially when you consider that “terrorists” can cross our borders with impunity while law-abiding citizens can’t take a tube of toothpaste on an airplane. But an even stronger motivation for this misdirected nationalism is fear.
White Americans of European descent have comfortably dominated the culture on this continent for over 300 years, routing out the Native Americans and Hispanics and anyone else who got in the way. But as Bob Dylan wrote, the times, they are a-changin’. The natives are getting restless, so to speak, and the “minorities” are growing in numbers and political clout. Whites are on the verge of losing their edge, and they’re scared. And anyone with a lick of sense knows that a scared animal is a dangerous animal.
The Arizona laws are not new–they’re just the latest, most visible attempts being made to promote some sense of white nationalism (supremacy?) in America. For years “language purists” have been fighting the inclusion (tolerance?) of the Spanish language in the United States. (It’s the same in some parts of Canada, albeit with French vs. English.) Some people want to pass laws declaring English as the “official” language of the United States. Some municipalities have passed ordinances banning bi-lingual signage, hiding their ethnic intolerance behind claims of “budget concerns.” Their mantra is, if you’re going to live in America, learn speak English. These language purists seem to forget that if they are of anything other than Native American descent, they are the descendents of immigrants.
They also fail to grasp that few immigrants managed to learn more than rudimentary English upon arrival to America. For most it has taken at least a couple of generations for their families to become fully integrated into a “mainstream” American existence. Indeed, in some larger cities there still remain neighborhoods where citizens continue to speak their native language and retain their native cultural identities, even generations after immigrating. Further, many of our “charming” regional American dialects and accents are directly related to the ethnic backgrounds of the immigrants who settled in those regions 150-200 years ago or more.
Some of these jackasses who are demanding that every new arrival in this country immediately start speaking English ought to take their own advice and learn the language, themselves. Read the posts some of these people put online and you’ll see my point. It’s the height of hypocrisy when some idiot who clearly wouldn’t know a participle from an integer writes, “them f**king mexicans [sic] need to learn to talk f**king english [sic] or go home.” Seriously!
Which brings me back to Arizona’s new law. Banning ethnic studies courses is not only blatantly racist, it’s just plain stupid! If anything, we should be promoting broader inclusion in minority studies courses. By teaching the contributions of women, blacks, Latinos, etc. in American history, these courses not only engender pride in one’s ethnicity or self-identity, they also round out what we all traditionally learn from typical history books.
Let me give an example. When I was a child I learned that George Washington Carver was a black man who developed hundreds of uses for peanuts, and that this was a significant contribution to the agricultural economy of the South, after years of over-production of cotton had depleted the soil. End of story.
Had there been a Black Studies program I may have learned that his work with peanuts was just the tip of the iceberg for this brilliant scientist, botanist, educator and inventor who was born into slavery and rose to international renown. Had we had a Gay Studies program I may have learned that Carver was also very likely homosexual. Now maybe, whether you’re gay or black or not, you don’t care, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to know that George Washington Carver’s life was more than just peanuts. And just maybe, knowing the whole story could give someone a little different perspective on black or gay people, in general. But that might promote tolerance, and we can’t have any of that, now, can we?
Too many people are too comfortable with a one-sided view of history, and don’t want to have their perceptions challenged with the facts. If you don’t know Pancho Villa from Sancho Panza, or Angela Davis from Zora Neale Hurston, maybe your education could be a little bit more well-rounded. Mainstream history books don’t provide the full story of the Bayard Rustins and Susan B. Anthonys of the world. Minority Studies courses shouldn’t be banned, they should be required–for ALL students, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. Anything else is just bowing to fear.
In this video, restaurant patrons tested with a faked discrimination against a gay family.
What would you do if you saw a waiter evicting a table just for being gay? Watch this video to learn more about reactions to this legal prejudice.