Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘marriage equality

U.S. Supreme Court Rules that KY Court Clerk Must Issue Marriage Licenses to All

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The Supreme Court of the United States tonight ruled that county clerks must give marriage licenses to all, regardless of their own personal religious convictions.

As the Associated Press article (by way of Yahoo News) states:

(Kim) Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses in the days after the landmark decision. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her, arguing that she must fulfill her duties as an elected official despite her personal religious faith. A federal judge ordered her to issue the licenses, and an appeals court upheld that decision. Her lawyers with the Liberty Counsel filed a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court on Friday, asking that they grant her “asylum for her conscience.”

Justice Elena Kagan, who oversees the 6th district, referred Davis’ request to the full court, which denied the stay without comment. Kagan joined the majority in June when the court legalized gay marriage across the nation.

Meanwhile, a couple that had been turned away went to Rowan County Attorney Cecil Watkins to ask that she be charged with official misconduct, a misdemeanor defined by state law as a public official who “refrains from performing a duty imposed upon him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.” The crime is punishable by up to a year in jail.

I’m not at all surprised that the Supreme Court upheld its own, earlier ruling. But apparently, Kim Davis, County Clerk of Rowan County in Kentucky, did not think that was going to happen — else, she’d not have taken the position she has thus far.

See, there’s a fundamental issue going on here — but it’s not the issue Ms. Davis thinks.

If you are a duly elected clerk of a county, you are being paid to do your job. And part of your job is to give out marriage licenses.

You can’t refuse to give out marriage licenses, citing religious convictions, after the Supreme Court has already ruled that civil courts must allow GLBT couples to marry.

I realize Ms. Davis is not the only court clerk in the United States who’s thus far refused to do her duty. And I also realize she may well have legitimate religious convictions that don’t allow her to perform this part of her job. And refusing to give out any licenses — as Ms. Davis did — is not the right answer.

Not if she wants to keep her job.

That said, she had two other choices she never considered.

One was to allow someone else to give out these marriage licenses. There are a number of court clerks here in Wisconsin who’ve done that; they quietly allow someone else to do that part of the job. No one gets upset at this, either — so long as the licenses are given out, and the job is getting done, everyone seems fine with this.

(To my friends in the GLBT community: We can’t change everyone overnight. This ethical side-step is far, far better than what Ms. Davis did, because no one is being denied the right to marry. End aside.)

The second is very simple: Resign.

If Ms. Davis truly does not believe she can give out marriage licenses any more because of her religious convictions, and refuses to give them out to anyone — well, she should leave her job. Because she’s obviously unfit to perform it.

And, I must add, that lawsuit that’s been floated saying she’s not been performing her job seems like a slam dunk from here. (Which is yet another reason she should resign. Because these suits are just going to keep on coming, if she insists on being intransigent.)

Look. The Supreme Court has said that all loving couples, regardless of gender, should be allowed to legally marry. I personally agree with this stance. I think it makes legal, moral, and ethical sense.

Ms. Davis obviously does not. Which would not be a problem in a private individual. We believe in dissent in this country.

In this case, however, Ms. Davis is a county official.

So her choices are very simple. She must either do her job, or resign.

Anything else is completely nonsensical.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 31, 2015 at 9:53 pm

Figure Skater Johnny Weir and Victor Voronov Separate, on the Road to Divorce

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Folks, a few years ago I was proud to congratulate figure skater Johnny Weir on the event of his marriage to Victor Voronov.

Now, I am saddened to hear of their impending divorce.

Media reports thus far have said that Victor Voronov feels blindsided by what’s happened (the link I cited above from US Weekly had a headline of “shocked by the abrupt ending of his marriage, dealing with trauma endured”), which saddens me even further.

Look. Divorce is no picnic. (I should know; before I finally found Michael, I was divorced.) It can come out of the blue, or a lot of little things can lead up to a dissolution that at the time seems abrupt . . . but after a healing distance seems inevitable.

I don’t know what happened in Johnny Weir and Victor Voronov’s marriage, mind you. But I can tell you that historically, in some marriages between two people who are otherwise well-suited — such as English mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers and Scottish journalist Atherton Fleming — when one person succeeds more than the other, as Sayers did in a resounding fashion with her successful series of mysteries featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and his eventual wife, Harriet Vane, it can cause fissures that are nearly impossible to heal.

Granted, Ms. Sayers lived during a time where divorce for an observant Christian was not always the “done thing,” which is possibly why she did not divorce Mr. Fleming. (Divorce was possible, sure. But unless there were overpowering reasons for it, usually couples would suffer in silence.) But in most of the biographies I’ve read about Ms. Sayers, the reason for her marriage having enormous difficulty was given over and over again as one, simple thing: She was successful. And he wasn’t successful to the same degree.

Now, that doesn’t mean Atherton Fleming resented his wife or her success. But her overwhelming success still hurt the marriage, because he wanted to be equal to his wife, was a good writer in his own way, and just didn’t find the same success no matter what he did or how hard he tried.

Worse yet, it’s harder for a man sociologically in Western society when a male spouse in a partnership isn’t equal to his spouse. (Just because both spouses are male in the case of the Johnny Weir/Victor Voronov marriage doesn’t change that sociological fact.) It doesn’t seem to matter how much love there is, or how much empathy, or how much understanding if one spouse is more successful than the other — under those circumstances, unless both people are fully present in their marriage and are willing to see themselves as flawed people who need and love each other and see success as a relative thing as opposed to simply a status thing — and will throw one hundred percent of themselves into their marriage — their marriage ultimately has little chance of success.

Now, what do I mean by success being relative? Well, in this case, Victor Voronov is successful because he’s always fully supported his husband Johnny Weir. That isn’t always easy to do even for the most loving of spouses, especially when one person is in the public eye all the time and the other just isn’t.

Whereas Johnny Weir is successful for other reasons.

And both of them need to see each other as a success in his own way and on his own terms, or the marriage just hasn’t a prayer of working.

In this particular case, looking in from the outside, Johnny Weir has obviously been on an upswing in his professional life over the past year-plus. He’s just come off a well-received stint at the Sochi Olympics as a figure skating commentator, where he received largely favorable publicity. He and his figure skating commentator partner, Tara Lipinski, were both signed by Access Hollywood to provide coverage for all sorts of things, including the Oscars. And his own personal, rather flamboyant sense of style has been plastered across society pages from one end of the Internet to the other.

Whereas Victor Voronov has apparently been settling into a career as a lawyer. His job is full of stress and long hours for much lower pay than Weir has been receiving for Weir’s various duties. Voronov is trying to establish himself, which is incredibly stressful in its own right.

Having a globe-trotting husband who’s plastered across society pages is possibly not what Voronov had expected his marriage to look like, especially as he married an athlete, not a celebrity icon (though to be fair, Weir was already both things when he married Voronov in December of 2011).

This sets up a lot of inequality that would be tough for any couple to deal with. One member of the marriage — Weir — is often gone and away from the other. Even with all the love in the world and complete and utter fidelity to one another, that one thing has been the death of more marriages than almost anything else.

At any rate, Weir has announced his separation from Voronov on Twitter and apparently has filed for divorce. Weir will be talking with Access Hollywood (one of his employers) later today (Thursday, March 20, 2014) by most media accounts, so perhaps at that time more will come out about the dissolution of his marriage.

That being said, while I can see from the outside why there would be extra stress on the Weir-Voronov marriage, I still had hoped it would endure. Weir seemed to settle down quite a bit after his marriage, and had shown himself to be a more mature and sensible individual — perhaps he always was that way, granted, and the media just didn’t portray it overmuch because being colorful is always “good copy” — and by every account I’ve ever read, Voronov was deeply in love with Johnny and was an extremely supportive spouse.

That’s why I find this particular divorce between two men I have never met and don’t know to be incredibly sad.

* * * * *

Edited to add:

Since I first wrote about this, a number of particularly nasty things have come out regarding the split between Weir and Voronov, most particularly via the gossip magazines.

I feel badly for both of these men. Divorce is hard.

But divorcing in public in the age of Twitter and non-stop communication seems to be the height of insanity.

I don’t know what to make of some of the things that have come out, to be honest. But I still believe that people have the right to make their own choices, as well as their own mistakes; because of this, sometimes marriages don’t work no matter how much love there is between the two parties.

I wish both men well as they do their best to move forward from what all accounts have shown thus far to be an incredibly traumatic experience.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 20, 2014 at 3:41 pm

U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA, California’s Prop. 8, in Historic Rulings

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Today, the United States Supreme Court struck down two laws, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) and California’s controversial Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in that state.   With two different 5-4 rulings, the Supreme Court has affirmed that discrimination on the basis of whom people love is illegal — at least, if you are in one of the twelve states where gay marriage is legal already, the District of Columbia (where it’s also legal), or in California, where it’s soon to be legal again.

Here’s a link to a story on Yahoo regarding the overall historical impact of these two different decisions, what the groups on both sides plan to do next, and so forth and so on.

As for what I think?  Well, I’m very pleased that the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and threw out California’s Prop. 8 (albeit on a technicality), because I believe everyone who’s above the age of consent and is in love with a supportive and loving partner should be allowed to marry that partner.  Whether it’s a man and a woman marrying, two women, two men, or two transgendered individuals, what matters is the love — not the form of that love.

The only thing that bothers me about these particular decisions is the limitations placed upon them by the Supreme Court.  In striking down DOMA, the Supremes basically said that if you legally married a same-sex partner in the various states where it either is legal now or has been legal in the past (and was legal at the time, such as in California until Proposition 8 was voted for by that state’s voters), the federal government must treat you as married.  And that way, you have all the rights and privileges of a married couple — which is exactly as it should be.

However, if you’re in a state like Wisconsin, where we have a state-specific version of DOMA on the books, if you are a same-sex couple you still cannot marry under the law.  You are still allowed to be legally discrimination against in taxation, adoption, and other issues, under the law.  And unless and until we get a Democratic Assembly and/or a Democratic Governor, things are unlikely to change due to the bunch of radical Republicans we have right now in Wisconsin, as in addition to these radical Rs running the state into the ground, they also oppose same-sex marriage on reactionary terms — not on realistic ones.

In other words, the Rs in Wisconsin see marriage as a religious ceremony first, with statehood recognition of that ceremony coming second.  (This does not really make much sense because many non-religious people or those who are religious but want to save on money go and get married before the judge in a courthouse in a non-religious ceremony.  But it’s how they seem to believe.)  The rights and privileges a married couple gets in Wisconsin cannot go to a same-sex couple — not even in Madison, which has had domestic partnership benefits for many years — because that’s what the radical Rs want.

I have news for these Rs.  Marriage is for everyone.  That’s basically what the Supreme Court said today, even though they stopped short of striking down other statehood bans like Wisconsin’s in their narrowly targeted rulings.  If you are in love, and you want to get married, and if you want to raise a family, you should be allowed to get married and raise that family.  Period.

This is one of the few cultural issues where the Rs have largely been out of step with the mainstream of Wisconsin and the rest of the country.   For example, there are now three Republican U.S. Senators who are for gay marriage — Rob Portman of Ohio, who has a gay son, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.  There are a few others, like John McCain, who’ve said before that they have no problem with gay couples, per se, but they don’t think these couples should be allowed to marry.  Then the rest of the Rs basically want to take the country back to the 1950s, if not earlier, on cultural issues — which isn’t likely to happen, fortunately for the rest of us.

In Wisconsin, I don’t know of any single one Republican Senator or Assemblyman who believes that same-sex marriage should be legal in all 50 states.  (Or even just in Wisconsin.)  All eighteen Senators oppose same-sex marriage; all sixty Republicans in the Assembly oppose it.

And, of course, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker also adamantly opposes same-sex marriage, mostly on religious grounds.

Look.  For the most part, I’m for most religions, providing they help people and give meaning and value to their lives.  But when a religion insists that some people are better than others — in this case, a heterosexual married couple matters more than a same-sex married couple — that’s where I start to get upset.

And when a politician can’t even be bothered to say, “Look.  I haven’t really studied the issues yet, but my religion has always said that gay people are sinful.  That’s why I really cannot support marriage equality,” but stands behind the religious fig-leaf as if the religion is doing his or her thinking for him, that really bothers me.

My thought right now is that this issue, along with the new legislation that Scott Walker said he’ll sign that mandates that all women get trans-vaginal ultrasounds before having a medically necessary abortion (unless you’ve been raped or a victim of incest and have gone to report the same), is the most likely one to defeat the Wisconsin Rs.

So those of us who worked so hard to recall Scott Walker (myself included) may still have hope.  This is an obstinate man we’re talking about, someone who firmly believes everyone in the state is behind him despite the recall evidence to the contrary.  And he’s leading a radical party that’s done a lot of things that voters disagree with, to boot — so when he’s up for re-election in 2014, if we have a Democrat with statewide recognition to run against him (please, not Tom Barrett again — I like him, but he has proven he can’t win against Walker), we should be able to get him out.

As for me, I voted against Walker, signed the recall, voted to replace him, and will vote against Walker again in 2014.  (I’m on the record as saying I’d rather vote for an empty paper bag rather than Walker, as that empty paper bag will do far less harm.)  But I’m a realist.  I know Walker hasn’t done what he said he would do — not with regards to jobs, not with regards to honesty and transparency, not with regards to anything, except for one (he kept his promise to turn down the money for light rail, as he found it unnecessary; however, in so doing, he also eliminated at least three hundred prospective new jobs) — and I want him out of there before he manages to harm the state even further.

My advice for the Wisconsin Rs is this — get with the program regarding same-sex marriage.  This issue is not going to go away any time too soon, and most younger voters disagree with you and your stated beliefs on this issue.  And if you are unwilling to change with the times, and admit that all marriages should be equal under the law, you will be voted out.

Maybe not in 2014.  Maybe not even in 2016.

But you will be voted out.

And I, for one, will be very happy once you are, as you’ve done more than enough damage already.

Hillary Clinton, Rob Portman Latest Pols In Support of Same-Sex Marriage

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In the last week, two prominent politicians have come out in favor of same-sex marriage — one, of course, being far more prominent than the other.

The latter person is former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady, Hillary R. Clinton, who today endorsed same-sex marriage with a video put out by the Human Rights Campaign, while the former is Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.  Portman said his main reason for changing his stance from firm opposition to firm support is his son — who has told him he’s gay, and wants full rights to marry any partner he may take in the future.

This article from PennLive points out how difficult it’s been for Portman, the only Republican Senator in open support of gay marriage, since he’s made his stance public last week.  And despite such well-known Republicans as former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Sec. of State Colin Powell also being in support of same-sex marriage, it’s far more easy for a Democrat like Mrs. Clinton or sitting President Obama to admit that he or she supports same-sex marriage than it is for any active Republican officeholder.

Why is this?

PennLive points out that Portman said:

Portman said his previous views on marriage were rooted in his Methodist faith. However, he wrote, “Ultimately, for me, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.”

Yet most Republican leaders apparently met this with either stony silence or, as PennLive’s article put it, “a shrug,” while Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner actually told ABC’s This Week that he’d oppose gay marriage even if his own son was gay.

It’s hard to see this particular comment as anything except a slam against Senator Portman.

Fortunately, it’s not as difficult for a well-known Democrat to let it be known she is in favor of marriage equality.

Mrs. Clinton said that her work at the State Department, including the signing of measures meant to protect long-term same-sex couples, made her reconsider her beliefs (best paraphrase from her video for the HRC, which is available via PennLive).  That’s why she, too, has now come out in full support of same-sex marriage.

And, thus far, the Democratic (or democratic-leaning) talking heads on both MSNBC and CNN seem in full support of Mrs. Clinton’s stance, which is not a surprise.  The titular head of the party is the President, who is also in support of same-sex marriage (though perhaps less wholeheartedly than Mrs. Clinton).

So, on the one hand we have the Republican Party, which doesn’t seem to want to budge except for a few brave individuals like Senator Portman and several retired Republicans like Cheney and Powell.  And on the other, we have the Democratic Party, which has an openly lesbian sitting Senator (Wisconsin’s own Tammy Baldwin), and has embraced advocacy of same-sex marriage as a human rights issue.

Which, to my mind, it is.

Look.  This is an issue that everyone should get behind, but it may be impossible for some older Americans to fully understand.  Nevertheless, if two people want to marry, and both are consenting adults, the state should allow them to marry.  Not stand in their way.

And as far as the religious objections go, we have separation of church and state in our Constitution for a reason — which is why individual churches may still say no to same-sex marriage without penalty.

But it’s also why our country, as a whole, should say yes.

On a personal note, I’m very pleased that Senator Portman has been willing to publicly admit that his stance has changed.  This makes me believe there’s at least some hope for the Republican Party to stop making marriage equality a partisan issue — despite well-known obstructionists such as Speaker Boehner.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm

President Obama Comes Out In Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

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Folks, today was a historic day in United States politics.  It was the first time, ever, that a sitting U.S. President, Barack H. Obama, said that he is in favor of same-sex marriage.  (Before this, he’d only said that his beliefs were “evolving.”)

Here’s a link (which includes a link to the video interview with ABC News reporter Robin Roberts):

http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/president-obama-affirms-his-support-for-same-sex-marriage.html

Here’s a few words from the President as to why he’s changed his position:

“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told Roberts in an interview to appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday.

While I’m glad the President has come out in favor of same-sex marriage, the timing of this announcement seems a bit odd.  Earlier in the week, Vice President Joe Biden was castigated because he said he was in favor of same-sex marriage (here’s a link to an excellent article at the Christian Science Monitor if you don’t believe me), and actually had to backtrack.  Yet now, on Wednesday — a day after the President was embarrassed in West Virginia as a convicted felon who didn’t even live in the state garnered 41% of the vote in the Democratic primary — the President has admitted that, just as Biden said last week on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Obama indeed is in favor of marriage equality (marriage for all people regardless of sexual orientation, which obviously includes same-sex marriage).

Still, it’s great that Obama has come out in favor of marriage equality regardless of the timing.  It is historic, and it should give my friends in the GLBT community hope that, sooner rather than later, they will be able to marry the person of their choice.  That is the right message to be sending in the 21st Century, even if Obama’s Republican opponent, Willard “Mitt” Romney, strongly disagrees.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Former Bush Advisor Ken Mehlman Now for Marriage Equality

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Sometimes, life throws you a curveball.

This is the only way to possibly describe Ken Mehlman’s change of heart regarding marriage equality.  Mehlman, as you may now, was a former advisor to President George W. Bush, and was instrumental in getting many “defense of marriage act” initiatives on the ballot in 2004.  These initiatives, rather than defending marriage, were an attempt by the Right to shut gay people out of the process entirely; what they did was encourage many voters who felt scared of the possibility that gay people might want to get married to vote for these initiatives.  Those people, perhaps not so incidentally, ended up voting for George W. Bush en masse.

Mehlman, who came out in 2010 as gay (something I somehow missed), now regrets what he’s done.  Here’s a link to the story at the Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/02/ken-mehlman-i-am-sorry-fo_n_1316199.html

And here’s a relevant quote:

“At a personal level, I wish I had spoken out against the effort,” he told Salon in an interview published Friday, referring to the campaign’s attempt to draw out the conservative base by attacking same-sex marriage.

“As I’ve been involved in the fight for marriage equality, one of the things I’ve learned is how many people were harmed by the campaigns in which I was involved,” he continued. “I apologize to them and tell them I am sorry. While there have been recent victories, this could still be a long struggle in which there will be setbacks, and I’ll do my part to be helpful.”

You see, Mehlman’s role was far from incidental.  He was a key advisor and helped Bush immensely.  Eleven states passed the “defense of marriage acts” in 2004 (Wisconsin passed it in 2006), so this was not a minor thing.  But the only thing Mehlman can do now to make up for the damage that his advice may have caused is to work on behalf of marriage equality — which, to his credit, he is now doing.

This past week, Maryland became the eighth state to legalize gay marriage in the United States; the law won’t take effect until January 1, 2013, but it’s still a major step forward.  In New Jersey, both houses in the Legislature passed bills in 2012 legalizing gay marriage — making marriage equal for everyone, regardless of sexual preference — but Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill.  Before that, New York legalized gay marriage in late 2011, which allowed my favorite figure skater, Johnny Weir, to legally marry his husband, Victor Voronov, this past New Year’s Eve.

In addition, the initiative that reversed California’s stance on gay marriage, Proposition 8, has been struck down by a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; gay activists have asked the Ninth Circuit not to take the case up again, because if the full Court declines to take it up, the hope is that marriages for everyone — including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people — will start to take place later this year.  Of course, the people who put the initiative on the ballot in the first place — a number of conservative groups — want the Ninth Circuit Court to take it up, but even if the Ninth Circuit does take it up, that does not mean that they will allow Proposition 8 to stand.  So there’s still hope that GLBT Californians, in the near future, will again be able to legally marry their partners.

Here’s the deal, folks: marriage should be legal for any two consenting adults over the age of eighteen who aren’t already married, or for two consenting adults who are adjudged to be legally adult (meaning emancipated minors should be allowed to contract marriages on the same basis as everyone else).  It shouldn’t matter what your sexuality is, how it’s expressed, or anything other than the fact that two consenting adults who aren’t already married want to get married; the government should not interfere with anyone’s plans to marry.

I applaud Ken Mehlman for the reversal of his stance regarding marriage equality, and for making that reversal public.  Better yet, he’s now working on behalf of marriage equality, which means he’s put his money where his mouth is; that’s an encouraging sign, and it’s one I hope long continues.

So hat’s off to Maryland for doing the right thing, and hat’s off to Mehlman, too.  Now, let’s hope that New Jersey’s legislature somehow comes up with enough votes to override Christie’s veto, or that Christie decides to reverse himself; truly, it’s in the state’s best interest to stop discriminating against people merely because of their sexual preference.

———–

To my conservative friends: you don’t have to like it that GLBT individuals want to marry, but you need to respect it.  Some of you may have brothers, sisters, or good friends who are GLBT, and they should have the same rights and responsibilities that I have as a straight American, including the right to marry the partner of their choice. Anything less is plain, flat wrong.