One of Donald Trump’s many replies to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against him this week.
Suggested official seal for the current president of the United States:
One of Donald Trump’s many replies to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against him this week.
Suggested official seal for the current president of the United States:
“We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the president is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need.”
– John Roberts, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, ruling against President Donald Trump in his ongoing effort to keep private his pre-presidential financial records.
Chief Justice John Roberts went on to state, “In our system, the public has a right to every man’s evidence,” and “since the founding of the Republic, every man has included the President of the United States.”
The 7-2 ruling is a staunch rebuke of Trump’s pathological arrogance in refusing to release all of his financial data; claiming an audit prevents it. Although it’s not law for presidential candidates to release financial documents, such as tax statements, it has been tradition for decades. Trump was the first presidential candidate in modern memory not only unwilling to release such records, but to flat out refuse to do so.
“In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”
– U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618, which outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.”
– U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black
“The hearings ripped open the subject of sexual harassment like some long-festering sore.”
The U.S. Senate hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court have gone from the mundane (replete with the standard and predictable inquiries into the candidate’s judiciary paper trail) to the hyper-dramatic. Not since Clarence Thomas’ 1991 confirmation has an otherwise routine and constitutionally required procedure descended into the chaos normally reserved for daytime melodramas.
The Thomas fiasco was a ready-made soap opera. Gossip columnists and entertainment industry executives all felt they’d died and gone to ‘Trash TV Heaven.’ In general, only the nerdiest of academic scholars viewed SCOTUS hearings with rapt attention. But the Thomas proceedings quickly devolved into a media event when the Senate discovered – among the slew of Thomas documents – a complaint by one of his former colleagues, Anita Hill, accusing the judge of sexual harassment on the job. Hill had worked for Thomas in the early 1980s, when he was head of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. The hearings had technically concluded, and a vote was about to take place. Then Nina Totenberg, a correspondent with National Public Radio (NPR), received a copy of an affidavit Hill had completed several weeks earlier in response to a Senate request for any and all information regarding her dealings with Thomas. Such requests are standard for Supreme Court nominations, as well as other high-level government positions. The vote on Thomas most likely would have taken place without further discussion had the Hill affidavit not appeared. (The source of the leak to Totenberg has never been revealed.)
The vote was delayed, and the soap opera commenced. Hill described in graphic detail how Thomas asked her out repeatedly during their time working together. She made it clear, however, that he never touched her and never threatened her. But his behavior made her uncomfortable, and she was concerned for her job. Apparently, he got the message and stopped. Hill wasn’t the only woman to file a formal complaint against Thomas, but she had been the first. And she was the only one called to testify before the Senate during Thomas’ hearing. Despite her testimony, Thomas was confirmed 52-48, in one of the narrowest Supreme Court votes in history.
The controversy – especially the sight of an all-male Senate committee questioning Hill – prompted a feminist backlash. Months later, 1992 was dubbed the “Year of the Woman”. It also happened to be an election year, which subsequently saw large numbers of women elected to public office across the nation. It also put Bill Clinton into the White House. As anyone of a certain age might recall, Clinton became the focus of his own sexual indiscretions. Ironically, many of the same people who demonized Clarence Thomas championed Bill Clinton and proclaimed accusations of his flirtatious peccadillos were simply good old-fashioned sludge politics. Or what Hilary Clinton deemed a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
Apparently, the New Feminist Order didn’t include the likes of Gennifer Flowers or Paula Jones. I recall plenty of women scoffing at the news that – in 1990 – Jones visited then-Governor Bill Clinton in his hotel room late at night on the promise of a job offer.
“What a dumb broad!” my mother told me one day. She, as well as some of my female friends and colleagues, laughed at the idea that Jones believed Clinton would invite her to his hotel room at 11:00 p.m. wanting to conduct a job interview. Right-wing sycophants portrayed Jones as a naïve 20-something who didn’t know any better. James Carville, Clinton’s campaign manager, remarked, “Drag a $100 bill through a trailer camp and there’s no telling what you will find.”
When Clinton’s sexual tryst with Monica Lewinsky came to light, self-righteous conservatives actually tried to impeach him for lying about it under oath. But again, no word came from the feminist camp. In fact, they were suspiciously silent throughout the entire ordeal. Clinton supported abortion, so I guess that’s all some women’s rights activists cared about.
Personally, I always liked Bill Clinton (Hilary not so much) and didn’t appreciate the news media focused so much attention on his hormonally-driven conquests. Yes, he likes women. He’s also one of the smartest and most verbally eloquent men ever to serve as Chief Executive. What a stark contrast to his immediate successor or the buffoon currently in the White House! But, if character counts – as so many social and religious conservatives proclaim – why are sexual indiscretions more important than, say, financial irregularities? Conservatives were quick to defend Thomas and just as quick to defend Trump. But they championed the ousting of Clinton because he got a blow-job from some unknown overweight intern. Conversely, liberals were quick to defend Clinton, but had no problems dragging Thomas through the mud. Character may be important for public officials, but politics keeps interfering.
All of that came back – like another “Rocky” sequel – recently with the Kavanaugh ordeal. This situation is different, however, but much more disturbing. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward about her traumatizing encounter with Kavanaugh in the summer of 1982, when both were high school students. Whereas Clarence Thomas allegedly asked Anita Hill out on dates repeatedly and made one too many off-color jokes, Blasey Ford claims Kavanaugh and another teenage boy ambushed her at a house, dragged her into a bedroom and tried to rape her. If true, Blasey Ford is recounting an incident that goes far beyond mere uncouth behavior. It’s a harrowing tale of a felonious assault; one where she literally felt she could die at the age of 15.
I know first-hand what both sexual harassment and general bullying-type harassment on the job can do to a person’s sense of self-worth. I know it happens. I’ve experienced it from men AND women. In the fall of 1985, I was a naïve 21-year-old working at a country club when my openly gay male supervisor admitted to me one night that he’d “really like to suck your dick off.” It startled me more than it offended, but I didn’t know what to do. Working at a retail store just a few years later, I got into a verbal altercation with my immediate supervisor who threatened to “bounce me right out of here.” We eventually made amends, realizing it was just a bad misunderstanding.
While working at a large bank in downtown Dallas a few years after that, a woman came up behind me as I stood at a copier and literally jabbed a well-manicured fingernail into my back. We’d had an ongoing dispute about some otherwise small business matter.
“Oh please tell me you didn’t just poke me in the back like that!” I said to her.
She promptly jabbed me in the chest with that same finger and said something like, “I’ll stick it up your ass…”
Whereupon I literally shoved her back and told her never to touch me again. She marched out of the room and had someone call security on me. When I relayed what all had happened, attention turned back to her; she had merely said I’d “physically accosted” her in the copier room for “no good reason.” I informed management that, if I lost my job because of that, she’d “better come out with me” or the bank will buy me a new vehicle and give me an early retirement.
In 2006, while laboring as a contractor at a government agency elsewhere in downtown Dallas, a woman with the security division deliberately ran into me, as I and a male colleague started to enter through a secure doorway. I didn’t see her approach; she’d moved in on me that quick. She then grabbed my upper left arm and demanded to see my badge. When I told her (shouted at her) never to touch me again, she threatened to walk me out of the building. My immediate supervisor was more upset with me for talking back to her than the fact she’d literally attacked me. Again, I threatened legal action.
“I can be a real asshole about this,” I told him, “and tell everyone she hit me and tried punch and scratch me.”
My constituent vouched for the veracity of what happened. I suppose if he hadn’t been with me, I might have lost that job. But I had no fear of that. I would have ensured the same happened to her. But the matter quietly (amazingly) went away. Still, my supervisor and a few others seemed to be more upset that I’d actually had the nerve to talk back to a woman and not that she grabbed my arm.
I’m aware that, in this politically correct society, gender politics has taken an ugly turn. And it seems, whenever men are accused of sexual abuse and harassment of females, they are presumed guilty until proven innocent and the burden of proof lies with them. In other words, the standard protocol of due process is undermined. But only in those cases where a female – especially an adult White female – is victimized. Or claims to be have been victimized.
It was with all of that in mind that I viewed the life story scuffles between Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. I compelled myself to view it all with an open mind and hear both sides of each tale. I noted that Anita Hill had been subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, but that Dr. Blasey Ford had written to her local congresswoman about a one-time incident with Kavanaugh five presidents ago. And, when the Senate asked Blasey Ford to testify under oath, she agreed (via her attorneys), but only after a long list of conditions were met.
Who is she, I asked myself. Why is JUST NOW coming forward with this? And how pertinent is it to Kavanugh’s confirmation? His judicial record opposing abortion and gay rights, while recklessly supporting large corporations is more critical.
Even after listening to Blasey Ford’s statement and all the vitriolic after-effects, I wondered where this would lead. Then I witnessed with some degree of amusement Kavanaugh literally lose it, as he tried to defend himself and rebut Blasey Ford’s claims. The once-stoic, almost bland, jurist melted into near hysteria. His loudly defensive behavior was telling. I’ve been around long enough to know that people who grow hostile in such a manner are most likely guilty of the accusations laid before them.
But then, I realized something even more important; something about Blasey Ford. She had stated repeatedly that, while her involuntary interaction with a teenage Kavanaugh was a “sexual assault,” it didn’t culminate (apparently) in an actual rape. Neither Kavanaugh nor his friend managed to penetrate any part of her body with some part of theirs. She credits much of that to the fact she fought so hard – terrified for her life – and that she had on a one-piece bathing suit, which would be more difficult to tear off.
Yet, if she had fabricated this entire story, or at least had embellished it, there would be no such ending. If the story was born from the mind of a bitter middle-age female, both boys would have penetrated her somehow or another. In fact, there probably would have been more assailants. She would have ended up bruised and bloodied; stumbling out of the house naked and screaming. But that’s not what she says happened. That’s what made me realize she can’t be lying about this.
It’s not that I doubted her altogether. I didn’t have an opinion either way about the alleged incident. I’ve become accustomed to seeing male public figures – politicians and sports stars alike – be targeted by supposedly scorned women. Almost every man who has entered public life (at least here in the U.S.) has fallen victim to a plethora of accusations from a gallery of victims. And, once again, understand that men accused of sexual violence in this country aren’t always accorded due process.
But now, I realize Blasey Ford can’t be lying. It’s still odd that she wrote to her local congresswoman about Kavanaugh just this past summer. Yet, I’m certainly glad she did. Now other stories about Kavanaugh are coming to light; stories of his alleged drunken binges in high school and college; of verbal slurs and physical attacks. The accusers are both women and men. It’s not that the men are more believable – at least not to me.
Kavanaugh had portrayed himself as a studious, virginal, choir boy-type puppy dog in his youth; a kid who volunteered to help old women cross the street and attended church as he was headed for the priesthood. He proclaimed as much before the Judiciary Committee. Under oath. In public. With his wife and daughters seated behind him. Now all of that’s in question.
If character really does count – and we know it does sometimes – then people like Kavanaugh don’t stand a chance. And it’s fair game to dredge up their past indiscretions the way archaeologists dredge up ancient coins.
Sadly, this fiasco is not quite over. It will continue into this coming week. Sometimes, true-life soap operas are just too overbearing. Stay tuned.
Image: Rob Rogers
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in his room at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a luxury resort in the Big Bend region of West Texas last weekend. The ranch is in such an isolated locale that it took hours for local officials to find a justice of the peace to make an official ruling on Scalia’s death. Finally, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara arrived on the scene and made the declaration without viewing Scalia’s body and without ordering an autopsy, both of which are permissible under Texas law.
Scalia is the 35th U.S. Supreme Court justice to die while still in office, and the fourth to die during a presidential election year. An icon to social and religious conservatives here in the U.S., Scalia was one of the most colorful characters to occupy the nation’s highest judicial bench. He was as brilliant as he was combative. His quirky sense of humor and brutal honesty illuminated the halls of what had always been considered a stodgy realm.
I recall, during the debate over the 2000 presidential elections, attorney Joseph Klock – arguing on behalf of the state of Florida – embarrassed himself by confusing some of the Supreme Court justice’s names. “For the record,” Scalia told Klock, before questioning him, “I’m Justice Scalia.”
I have to respect Scalia for his knowledge of the law and his willingness to take a stand for his own principles. People who rise to that level within the judiciary maze aren’t the same ones who handle traffic tickets. They are, instead, the most genuine of intellects; the folks who interpret the law when others can’t reach a mutual understanding. They are extraordinarily cerebral and steadfast in their beliefs; incredibly insightful and charming; and – in some cases – dangerous.
Aside from his wit and biting criticisms, Scalia is known for the concept of “originalism” or “textualism” regarding his view of the U.S. Constitution. He openly scoffed at the idea it was a malleable text; instead calling it a “dead document,” as if it had been dipped in amber – like a prehistoric butterfly – and encapsulated in its own perfection. It was not subject to interpretation from its authors’ descendants; lest its structural integrity be cracked and subsequently destroyed.
But, if the U.S. Constitution is a “dead document,” is it still relevant? Purposeful? Necessary? More importantly, if it’s dead, why has it been amended 27 times? I view the Constitution as either a dictionary, in that words are periodically added to it; or as a standard operating procedures manual (SOP), in that procedures are changed in accordance with technological advances. The term “Internet,” for example, didn’t exist a half-century ago, so a Merriam-Webster dictionary published in 1966 wouldn’t feature that word. Similarly, a SOP composed in 1966 for a bank wouldn’t describe the process of scanning paper documents into digital images because such a procedure hadn’t been devised yet. Someone somewhere may have thought of it, but that person was probably a nerdy type ensconced in a basement or a garage.
Aside from painting and writing, there were no audio or visual recording devices when the Constitution was written. Although the concept of photography was devised as early as the 11th century C.E., the first practical photograph was roughly a half-century and an ocean away from being taken by the time of the U.S. Revolution. The first sound recording was almost one hundred years in the future. Therefore, it’s difficult to infer what the Constitution’s framers meant exactly with their verbiage.
As devout Roman Catholics, Scalia and his wife, Maureen, didn’t believe in birth control and had nine children. One of them, Paul, decided to “take one for the team” – in his father’s words – and join the priesthood; thus becoming a conduit to one of the most violent and oppressive institutions on Earth. Like its conspirators, Judaism and Islam, Roman Catholicism (actually, all of Christianity) declared itself the model for humanity centuries ago and set out to conquer and annihilate people it deems heathens. Thus, it commands people to procreate (pollute) the world with their bodies and their toxic ideologies. Every time I think of that “go forth and multiply” biblical shit I think of the late Mother Teresa; the Romanian nun who infiltrated the starving masses of India and announced that she would care for any bitter soul and broken body who came her way; never realizing that the best way to prevent such misery is…oh, maybe teach women to be empowered by keeping their legs crossed, or telling men every erection doesn’t need to produce a child who ultimately can’t be fed and clothed.
Scalia often tried to force his ardent religiosity onto others; his personal beliefs rearing its ugly head in one of the most cumbersome issues of our time: abortion. In eight different opinions, he noted the U.S. Constitution doesn’t mention the term “abortion” and therefore, women had no right to it under constitutional concepts.
“You want a right to abortion?” he asked. “There’s nothing in the Constitution about that. But that doesn’t mean you cannot prohibit it.” His reference was that abortion laws should be left strictly up to individual states. He dubbed the legendary Roe v. Wade case an “absurdity,” adding that the Constitution’s 14th Amendment doesn’t guarantee equal protection for women when it comes to the subject of abortion. That’s congruent with the Christian biblical commandment of “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” which – if you read the entire passage – actually begins with “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house,” and everything in it; including said neighbor’s “manservant,” “ox” and “ass.” The Christian Bible, along with the Judaic Torah and the Islamic Quran, considers anyone with a vagina (and many with penises) property – akin to houses and donkeys. The U.S. Supreme Court itself was purportedly designed with Christian theology in mind.
Scalia possessed equal animosity towards homosexuality. In another landmark ruling, Lawrence v. Texas, denigrated the right to sexual relations between consenting adults of the same gender by comparing it to…flagpole-sitting.
“[S]uppose all the States had laws against flagpole sitting at one time, you know, there was a time when it was a popular thing and probably annoyed a lot of communities, and then almost all of them repealed those laws,” Scalia asked the attorney fighting the Texas law. “Does that make flagpole sitting a fundamental right?” His hate for gays and lesbians was so intense that he did something Supreme Court justices rarely do when they write their opinion: he stood and read it himself in the Lawrence case.
He also used the tired old right-wing mantra of comparing homosexuality to murder in Romer v Evans. “Of course it is our moral heritage that one should not hate any human being or class of human beings,” he wrote. “But I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible – murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals – and could exhibit even ‘animus’ toward such conduct. Surely that is the only sort of ‘animus’ at issue here: moral disapproval of homosexual conduct[.]”
But, despite his brilliance, Scalia proved how underhanded he could be in 2004, when he handled a case involving his old college buddy, then-Vice President Dick Cheney. In 2003, Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club sued Cheney for access to information regarding his clandestine energy task force meeting in 2001. A Washington, D.C., district judge ruled that the two groups had the right to know who was present at the meeting, in accordance with the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act. Cheney rebuffed the demand and took it to the Supreme Court; whereupon the matter ended up on Scalia’s docket. Shortly before that, however, Scalia and Cheney went on a duck hunting trip together in Kansas, with the jurist riding in the Vice-President’s plane. Such a close relationship smacked of impropriety and bias, but that certainly bothered neither Cheney nor Scalia.
“It did not involve a lawsuit against Dick Cheney as a private individual,” Scalia said. “This was a government issue. It’s acceptable practice to socialize with executive branch officials when there are not personal claims against them. That’s all I’m going to say for now. Quack, quack.” Yes, he really did say that, “Quack, quack,” which is essentially giving the middle finger to the concept of impartiality and judicial integrity.
Scalia’s innate bigotry glowed again in his opinion regarding a recent affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas-Austin. Referencing some obscure amicus brief, Scalia said that “it does not benefit African-Americans to – to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less – a slower-track school where they do well.” He argued that “most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas.” Talking like a psychic-medium, he declared, “They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re – that they’re being pushed ahead in – in classes that are too – too fast for them.”
Translation: niggers are too stupid to go to big-time universities. He might as well have said the same about Hispanics and Native Americans. It’s amazing, though, in the 21st century that some people still possess such idiotic views. But, then again, the Word War II generation and those who did everything they could to halt the advance of civil rights haven’t all died out yet. They lost one of their own in Scalia. Good riddance.
Scalia made history as the first Italian-American on the U.S. Supreme Court. Several years ago I read an editorial about jury selection in 1950s-era Dallas County, Texas, which bore this statement from then-Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander: “Do not take Jews, Negroes, Dagos, Mexicans or a member of any minority race on a jury, no matter how rich or how well educated. I may like these people, but they will not do on juries.” The term ‘dago’ refers to Italians.
I find it ironic that Scalia lied in state on the same day as author Harper Lee died. Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” remains a classic of American literature; a book that dealt brazenly and unapologetically with the subject of racial injustice. Regardless of what one thinks of him, Antonin Scalia carved a deep impact into the consciousness of American society.
Last week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, in Obergefell v. Hodges, legalizing same-gender marriage across the country has resulted in the usual mix of joy and condemnation. A little more than a decade ago the same court ruled, in Lawrence v. Texas, that anti-sodomy laws are not constitutionally enforceable. That decision came less than two decades after the High Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that states can declare same-gender sexual activity illegal.
Writing for the majority in the narrow 5 – 4 ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy stated that “couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and liberty,” according to the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. That amendment was designed initially to grant former Negro slaves the dignity of a human life; that is, they would be considered as equals to Whites. But, the nearly 150 years since, it has come to mean everyone in the United States is considered equal.
In the minority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the Court had taken an “extraordinary step” in deciding not to allow states to decide the issue for themselves, noting that the Constitution doesn’t define marriage. No, it doesn’t. And it shouldn’t. But that’s the curious thing about human rights: they’re not to be voted upon; hence the term “rights.”
Reading and listening to the plethora of responses from religious leaders and social conservatives is almost laughable. Even before the gavel fell, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee called on fellow Christians to engage in a “biblical disobedience” campaign against the “false god of judicial supremacy.” After the ruling, Huckabee told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, “I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”
East Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert warned that the Obergefell decision ensures God’s wrath upon the nation. “I will do all I can to prevent such harm,” he said, “but I am gravely fearful that the stage has now been set.” He went on to recommend fleeing the U.S., lest we all get obliterated by a massive hurricane or earthquake or a toenail fungus epidemic.
One of the best reactions came from Texas Senator Ted Cruz who bemoaned, “Today is some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history. Yesterday and today were both naked and shameless judicial activism.”
Aside from the fact Cruz doesn’t understand proper verb-subject agreement, I’d like to take this opportunity to point out some of the darkest periods in American history:
December 29, 1890 – Wounded Knee massacre;
October 28, 1929 – “Black Monday” stock market crash;
December 7, 1941 – Pearl Harbor attack;
November 22, 1963 – assassination of John F. Kennedy;
March 30, 1981 – attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan;
April 19, 1995 – Oklahoma City bombing;
September 11, 2001 – Al Qaeda terrorist attacks.
Of course, Cruz may not even be aware of these catastrophic events, since…you know, he’s not from this country and probably hasn’t studied American history too much.
In advance of the SCOTUS ruling, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the “Pastor Protection Act,” which would allow religious figures in the Lone Star State the right to refuse to conduct same-gender marriages, calling it a move to protect free speech. But, as soon as the decision was made public, same-sex couples in Texas began flocking to county offices to obtain marriage licenses. Many county officials wouldn’t issue them; claiming they had to await proper instructions from Abbott’s office. Others simply refused for obvious reasons: they don’t like queer folks and felt their religious beliefs were under attack. And we thought Ebola was scary!
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton proclaimed that “no court, no law, no rule and no words will change the simple truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.” He also falls in line with the right-wing mantra that traditional Christian family values are under attack – again – by stating, “This ruling will likely only embolden those who seek to punish people who take personal, moral stands based upon their conscience and the teachings of their religion.”
Hey, Ken! Take it easy, man! No one’s trying to circumvent your religion. But I know that religion – any religion – doesn’t trump human rights. Whenever they clash, human rights takes precedence – always and forever. Or, it should. Plenty of people feel differently. They equate the two; seeing them as symbiotic. Yet more than a few use their religion as a tool of obstruction and division.
Here’s something else though: for more than a thousand years both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches conducted and sanctified same-gender marriages. Yes, the very same people who burned Joan of Arc to death and blamed Jews for the 14th century’s “Black Plague” may not have had many qualms letting queer people get married. In his groundbreaking 1994 book, “Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe,” the late religious historian John Boswell found evidence that some clerics oversaw these types of ceremonies as far back as the 4th century A.D.
One manuscript preserved in the Vatican and dating to 1147 bears this prayer:
“Send down, most kind Lord, the grace of Thy Holy Spirit upon these Thy servants, whom Thou hast found worthy to be united not by nature but by faith and a holy spirit. Grant unto them Thy grace to love each other in joy without injury or hatred all the days of their lives.”
According to Boswell, it’s more than just a prayer; it’s an affirmation of marriage between two men. His extensive research produced more than 60 texts from Paris to St. Petersburg that talked of “spiritual brotherhood” or “adoptive brotherhood.” Boswell, of course, had to translate scores of documents written in antiquitous languages. And, given the difficulty in properly conveying what someone wrote, it’s not fully certain if same-sex marriages actually were allowed in the Byzantine Empire anywhere during the Middle Ages. Some scholars accused Boswell of rewriting history. These “ceremonies” were not rites of marriage, they say, but rather brotherhood-type bonds between men entering the cloistered life. But the thought is intriguing nonetheless.
Among North America’s indigenous peoples, homosexuality and bisexuality were widely accepted and, many cases, revered. Interpretations of various Indian languages have produced the term “two-spirit people.” While some communities clearly mocked such people, others viewed them as uniquely deserving of respect and consideration. There’s no verifiable documentation that actual same-sex marriage ceremonies were performed among Native Americans. But, with the intrusion of Christianity ideology, “two-spirit people” were relegated to obscurity and treated with disdain. Regardless, same-gender unions may not be a just a 20th century concept.
Right-wing claims that same-sex unions pose a danger to traditional marriage, but it’s a dubious argument. Divorce rates in the U.S. had reached near 50% by the 1980s, but then began dropping. Marriage rates, however, have also been dropping. Moreover the greatest threats to marriage should be obvious: poverty and other financial difficulties; unemployment and underemployment; domestic violence; and drug and alcohol abuse.
Once as taboo as homosexuality itself, divorce became more acceptable, beginning in 1969, when California became the first state to enact no-fault divorce. Ironically the law was signed by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan, an icon of conservative family values who became the nation’s first and – to date – only divorced president.
The late actress Elizabeth Taylor was married eight times. Former radio personality Larry King was also married eight times, twice to the same woman. Faux singer Britney Spears once married a childhood friend as a joke. Kim Kardashian’s 2010 marriage to Kris Humphries lasted 72 days.
Former Congressman Newt Gingrich (who tried to impeach President Bill Clinton in 1998 for lying about an affair with an intern) is married to his third wife. His first two marriages ended in divorced after he was caught having affairs with younger women. He delivered divorce papers to his second wife, while she was recuperating in a hospital from cancer surgery.
I want to point out something more personal. The day after the Obergefell decision, my parents marked their 56th wedding anniversary. They’ve lasted this long, not because they’ve just become stuck to each other, like parasites on a cow, but because they took their marriage vows seriously. They respect one another, have a great sense of humor, and occasionally spend quality time apart. It hasn’t always been easy. Like any married couple, they had their share of arguments and disagreements. But nothing was ever so bad that they had to separate. More importantly, they never felt threatened by any gay or lesbian person. The Obergefell case isn’t going to bring an end to their nearly 60-year union. In their twilight years, they’re more concerned with their own physical health and financial well-being.
In other words, they’re minding their own damn business. I recommend all the malcontents pissed off over the Obergefell case do the same.
“I don’t care what the Supreme Court does. This is now inevitable.”
It must be a good Friday! I actually agree with this fat, racist bastard who’s been married four times with no children. And, I haven’t had a mixed drink yet!
“Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the Act because of a lawsuit brought by Shelby County, Alabama. Attorneys for Shelby County claim that the Act has essentially worn out its welcome because the nation has a biracial president and plenty of non-Caucasians in positions of power. If it isn’t for the fact that the state of Alabama has a vitriolic history of voter suppression and intimidation, the lawsuit might have some validity. But, the images of White police officers beating Black people protesting for their right to vote keeps swinging through my mind. Despite the election of Obama, some Republican-dominated districts have made an attempt in recent years to reconfigure some areas that could ensure GOP wins. Many of these areas are in the Southeastern U.S. where – if anyone has done their research – racial discrimination was more entrenched just a half century ago. Selma, Alabama is the site of one of the most vicious attacks on unarmed citizens by police in U.S. history.
It doesn’t surprise me that Scalia would make such a statement. As far as I know, he’s never experienced firsthand the feeling of a water hose against his face just because he wanted to be treated as a human being. Then again, neither have I. But, the Voting Rights Act and its predecessor, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, were meant to ensure that. I guess Scalia – sitting up on his ivory throne – still hasn’t figured that out.