Time to Move On

The Garden State has become the latest state to legalize marriage equality, bringing the total number of U.S. states where equality is the law of the land up to 14, plus Washington D.C. While it is not surprising that the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex couples – given the recent court and legislative victories for equality – it is quite surprising that Governor Chris Christie has decided to drop his appeal of the court’s decision.

Had he gone through with his appeal, same-sex couples would still have been allowed to wed up until early next year, at which point they would possibly have their rights revoked. But, as one of Gov. Christie’s aids told the New York Times, the appeal was a “fool’s errand,” especially since the court’s decision was unanimous and included a justice he considered an ally. Even though he disagreed with the ruling, the governor realized that the tide of history and public opinion was against him. Continuing his irrelevant fight was pointless.

Kudos to the Christie Administration!

Nationally, conservatives could learn an important lesson from Christie’s decision to drop his appeal. Once a legal issue has been resolved either through a court decision or legislative action (or both), that’s the end of the story. It’s done. When one factors public opinion into the equation, it becomes even clearer; you may not like the outcome but it’s here to stay. Time to move on.

We recently went through an unnecessary, sixteen-day government shutdown and near-default on the nation’s credit because House Republicans refused to accept the fact that the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) was law. The signature achievement of the president’s first term passed both houses of Congress in 2010 and was upheld by the Supreme Court last year, not to mention the fact that the president won a second term with both the popular vote and a large majority of the electoral college. Despite the technical glitches on the federal website (as a result of high traffic), “Obamacare” is not only working but it’s becoming popular.

Apparently, all of that didn’t matter. The GOP, hijacked by the fringe Tea Party, ignored the constitution and democracy itself by bringing the country to its knees because they didn’t like that the ACA was law. They repeatedly refused to meet with Democrats to iron out a budget deal (until the polls started to sour against them) and voted over 40 times to overturn the ACA. Speaker Boehner’s caucus waged a one-house war on the nation and paid the price with a shattered public image and probably the 2014 midterm election.

Christie’s acceptance of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision should remind the far-right that it is pointless to drag out an issue that has already been resolved. Instead of acting like spoiled children – throwing national tantrums, putting hundreds of thousands of federal workers on furlough, dragging down the economy and international markets, trashing the nation’s international credibility – the GOP should take the advice it gave itself after the 2012 election and re-think its strategy. My advice – relegate the extremists back to the fringe and far away from party control. Grow up.

marriage equality - the law of the land in New Jersey

 

California Ballot Initiatives/Propositions 2012 Edition

It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love…..with excercising their right and civic duty to vote. With less than two weeks until Election Day, I figured I should write a post about how I’ll voting on the damned propositions here in California.

I say “damned” because, as I’ve said countless times before, the ballot initiative is a horrible way to make law; the whole point of having a republic and legislature is that we vote for people to represent us and make our laws, people who are (supposed to be) educated and spend numerous hours debating policy at the Capitol. It shouldn’t be a newsflash to anyone that the average Joe or Jane don’t exactly make the best lawmakers.

But until California either gets a new constitution, makes the process of placing an initiative on the ballot much more difficult, or does away with it altogether, I will faithfully be voting in every election I’m able to vote in for the rest of my life. 🙂

Here’s a short ‘n sweet summary of how and why I’m voting on Propositions 30 through 40. I strongly urge you to do your own research yourself, cutting through the political junk mail and making your own decisions. But seeing how this is my blog, you have the privilege of reading how I’m voting. Enjoy 😉

 

Proposition 30: “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment” This is big fat YES. California’s education system is in shambles (thanks in large part to 1978’s Prop 13) and is in dire need of more funding. Prop 30 temporarily (seven years) increases the income tax of wealthy individuals ($250,000 and above) and raises the sales tax by 1/4 of a cent for four years. This translates to $6 billion ANNUALLY over the next seven years for the state’s public school system. It should be noted that none of this revenue will go toward administrative costs but completely to schools, 89 percent to K-12 and 11 percent to community colleges. If Prop 30 fails, tuition at colleges will go up and the amount of classes available will go down. Vote Yes!

Proposition 31: “State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.” Definitely NO. This creates a two-year budget cycle that is much more complicated and devastating to state services; expenditures over $25 million must be met with cuts to programs that effect several million people in the most populous state in the US. Prop 31 would result in an even more broken state incapable of funding programs effectively (think of how it is now….times 10). Vote No!

Proposition 32: “Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute.” Here’s a big fat NO. This initiative sounds appealing and fair – it bans all corporate and union donations to political campaigns. Sounds good, right? Get money out of politics! HOWEVER, millionaires and billionaires can still give unlimited amounts of cash to candidates of their choice. This proposition is a huge win for rich conservatives and a huge loss not only for liberals but people who work for a living because unions pretty much always donate to Democratic and populist campaigns. Don’t be fooled. Vote No!

Proposition 33: “Auto Insurance Companies. Prices Based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute.” No, No, NO. Given how Corporations crashed the economy in 2008 and do everything they can to undermine reform, how many people think they should have even more power to over charge you for something like car insurance? Anyone? Prop 33 penalizes those who have never had car insurance before by charging them more. Vote No!

Proposition 34: “Death Penalty. Initiative Statute.” YES. I, like most industrialized, liberal democracies in the world, am against the death penalty. This issue is too controversial to write about in a single paragraph. For now, I’ll simply say that the government should not remove violent criminals from society only to kill them after they no longer pose a threat to anyone out of revenge and adherence to a barbaric tradition.

Proposition 35: “Human Trafficking. Penalties. Initiative Statute.” YES. I’ll admit I was torn on this issue at first, mainly because the federal government already handles human trafficking cases. But, given how horrible and unimaginable human trafficking is (and thankfully it is rare), I definitely support increasing the penalty on sex and labor trafficking. Current law gives traffickers who force minors into prostitution only eight years. Prop 35 brings that up to a life sentence. Those same traffickers are currently fined only $100,000. Under Prop 35, that goes up to $1.5 million. Prop 35 requires sex traffickers to register as sex offenders and provide all law enforcement with information on their Internet access and online identities. Prop 35 is a definite Yes. Both the California Democratic Party and the California Republican Party support Prop 35.

Proposition 36: “Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute.” YES! If there’s one thing that has led to a gargantuan increase in California’s prison population and budget, it has been the infamous Three Strikes Law. The fatal flaw: If someone committed two felonies and then a third, they were sentenced to life imprisonment even if the third felony conviction was not violent. California has the largest prison population of any state in the country and more and more of the state’s budget is sunk into building and maintaining new prisons. Prop 36 changes the current law of life imprisonment convictions only to VIOLENT offenses, including rape, murder and child molestation. It also authorizes re-convictions of previous life imprisonment convictions if those convictions weren’t violent or involved rape, child molestation, possession of drugs or illegal use of firearms. California would save anywhere from $7o-$90 million annually.

Proposition 37: “Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. Initiative Statute.” YES! This seems like common sense, but actually, food producers aren’t required to show which of their foods are genetically modified. It is estimated that this law would cost, at most, $1 million annually (it is expected to only add a few hundred thousand dollars to the state budget). The biggest opposing force to this statute: Monsanto. Enough said. Vote No!

Proposition 38: “Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute.” Surprisingly, this is getting a NO vote from me. Increasing our historically low taxes slightly to exclusively fund education programs is an excellent idea, especially considering Prop 13 (1978) drastically reduced state revenues. However, this statute conflicts with the desperately needed Prop 30, and under California law, when two propositions conflict, which ever has more votes trumps the other proposition. THAT’S why I’m voting No.

Proposition 39: “Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute.” YES! This would raise state revenues by $1 billion annually, and that number is expected to grow. It does this by requiring multistate corporations that do business in California to calculate their income tax liability based on the percentage of their sales in California. Common sense, right? Current law essentially allows them to choose the plan that works best for them. Just a little FYI, corporate taxes, state and federal, are at historic lows. The billions of dollars gained to the Golden state would fund the future: new clean, renewable energy projects and community colleges. Vote Yes, Yes, YES!

Proposition 40: “Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum.” YES, but only because this is simply annoying. I was against this “citizen’s commission” when it was on the ballot years ago and I’m still opposed to it now. My view: leave redistricting of state senate districts to the legislature where it has always been. But since we have this law, let’s allow it to work. The commission made a decision following the census. Let’s not waste more money and tie more hands by rejecting the plan from the very commission we supposedly love so much. Vote Yes. Both the California Democratic Party and the California Republican Party support Prop 40.

It’s A Non-Issue

Gallup now reports that 70 percent of young people (18-34) and a majority (53 percent) of Americans in general support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. However, only 39 percent of people aged 55 and older are in support.

Most young people personally know or are friends with gays and lesbians. As opposed to the older generation, we see who “the homosexual” really is: a doctor, lawyer, parent, sibling, writer, elected official, police officer, business owner or artist.

Even young Evangelicals increasingly consider same-sex marriage a non-issue, according to a 2008 study  conducted by the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

Just because someone accepts the legality of an issue or law does not necessarily mean they approve/affirm that issue or law on moral grounds. That’s the beauty of Separation of Church and State.

Rather than seeing negative stereotypes or misconceptions (perverts, mentally ill, etc.), young people understand that gays and lesbians are every bit as human as their straight counterparts.

Modern stereotypes of gays and lesbians are rather complimentary, in my opinion; Gay men are clean-cut, artistic Apple computer owners and lesbians are eclectic, charismatic coffee shop owners (the stereotype appears to be confirmed in independent coffee shops with gay men on their on MacBooks or iPhones…).

It is only a matter of time before same-sex marriage is legal throughout the nation. The only obstacle to equal rights is dogmatic adherence to outdated, discriminatory values (only 28% of self-identified conservatives support legal same-sex marriage).

Young people get it. When will Capitol Hill and 45 state legislatures?

Gallup results by age group

 

Walker, Legal Ranger

Federal Judge Vaughn Walker – who has the distinction of being the judge to make the monumental and historic decision that overturned California’s Proposition 8 – wrote a well-thought out and articulated analysis explaining why not allowing two people of the same sex to legally marry is unconstitutional and regressive.

From the anthropological and evolutionary roots of marriage to the discriminatory laws and attitudes that hold back human progress, Judge Walker left no holds barred in his stunning and precise analysis. One of the many notable sections include the following:

The evidence shows that the movement of marriage away from a gendered institution and toward an institution free from state-mandated gender roles reflects an evolution in the understanding of gender rather than a change in marriage. The evidence did not show any historical purpose for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, as states have never required spouses to have an ability or willingness to procreate in order to marry. FF 21. Rather, the exclusion exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed.

The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household. FF 19-20, 34-35. Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage. FF 33. Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses’ obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage under California law. FF 48. Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.

Whether social conservatives admit it or not, human society is always evolving and changing with new ideas and breakthroughs as well as through human evolution itself. To ignore this simple fact in favor of antiquated views and prejudice is ignorant and contrary to the American ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thankfully, we’re closer to equality for all in this country.