Texas AG Paxton under the Microscope

It seems fair to say that statewide Texas politicians of the Republican variety are having some legal troubles.

Some of them have led to full-blown legal proceedings, like former Governor Rick Perry’s pending criminal charge, the civil fine against Attorney General Ken Paxton from the Texas State Securities Board (for an incident that occurred before he was elected), and the criminal securities fraud complaint filed against AG Paxton by Texans for Public Justice (which goes before a grand jury soon).

Some have remained in the realm of allegations and suspicions, like current Governor Greg Abbott’s alleged misconduct with regard to the Texas Enterprise Fund when he was Attorney General. I’m not sure if any formal complaints are currently pending against Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick—which is not to say he hasn’t had complaints (PDF file) before—but he sure does know how to stir people up.

"SCOTUS Marriage Equality 2015 (Obergefell v. Hodges) - 26 June 2015" by Ted Eytan from Washington, DC, USA (SCOTUS Marriage Equality 2015 58151) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Most recently notorious, I’d say, is AG Paxton’s official opinion (PDF file here or here), issued on June 28, 2015 in response to a request from LG Patrick, regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and the Fifth Circuit’s order affirming that ruling in De Leon v. Abbott. Continue reading


The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

Judge Leon M. Bazile (1965)
denying the motion of Richard and Mildred Loving to vacate their conviction for miscegenation

If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn the line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.

Rev. Jerry Falwell
“Segregation or Integration: Which?” (1958) Continue reading


The Cake Will Be Bone-Shaped, I Assume

Pat Robertson is worried. In other news, the sky is blue.

But seriously, Pat Robertson is concerned about same-sex marriage. Again.

After a Washington state judge found on Wednesday that a Christian florist had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to sell flower arrangements for a same-sex couple’s wedding, Robertson asserted that an “intelligent judge” would have ruled against the gay men.

“To say that some procedural anomaly in the statute overrides the fundamental religious freedoms of the people, it’s just crazy,” he insisted. “And I hope that the lawyers for this florist will appeal this thing to get into the federal courts.”

“But this is outrageous!” the conservative preacher continued. “To tell a florist that she’s got to provide flowers for a particular kind of wedding. What if somebody wanted to marry his dog? She’s got to have flowers for that? What if there’s a polygamous situation where a guy has five wives and he wants to have five ceremonies, and she’s going to be forced by the law to provide them flowers. I mean, this is crazy.”

[Emphasis added.] (h/t Alice)

My favorite part of this whole “marrying-your-dog” trope is that it gets the question backwards. If you really value liberty and freedom, the question should always be “why should this be illegal?”, not “Why should we as a society allow this?” (Yes, I’m paraphrasing Donna from “The West Wing.”) Continue reading


What I’m Reading, February 19, 2015

Blame the Muslims: how government and media stoke the fires of Islamophobia, Lindsey German, The Age of Blasphemy, February 12, 2015

Why are the approaches to different groups of terrorists so different? Part of the reason is racism: Muslims are portrayed as fanatics and extremists, caught in a clash of civilisations where the good guys are representatives of western civilisation while the bad guys are identified with backwardness, superstition and barbarity.

This dichotomy conveniently ignores western lack of civilisation, whether through two world wars and a holocaust or through the creation of empires which ruled over whole peoples – many of them the same who are being demonised here. It also ignores the record of Muslim culture historically.

There is one overwhelming reason why this happens however: the wars themselves. There is a refusal to link terrorism with the wars which have taken place over a decade and a half, and a refusal to see that one of their outcomes is a rise in Islamophobia.

There is a hideous symmetry in this: as the wars involving Britain and the US have become more mired in failure, so civil liberties have come under greater attack and the rise in Islamophobia has become more pronounced.

“The bills! The bills!”: A Japanese woman’s experience giving birth in the United States, Fran Wrigley, Rocket News 24, February 13, 2015 Continue reading


Who Is to Blame for this Lie?

I’m not in the habit of quoting the Daily Mail, but this headline caught my eye: “Former top presidential adviser says Obama LIED about his support for gay marriage for years so he could get elected.”

Gosh, the use of caps lock really drives the point home, doesn’t it?

Anyway, it’s an interesting allegation:

Longtime Barack Obama adviser David Axelrod writes in his new memoir that Barack Obama lied about his position on gay marriage so he could get elected president in 2008.

And documents reveal that Obama responded to a questionnaire in 1996 from the Chicago-based Outlines newspaper, as he was making his first run for the state Senate in Illinois, that he strongly favored legalizing same-sex unions.

‘I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages,’ Obama wrote then.

Two years later, though, as his political future began to take shape, he told the same newspaper that he was ‘undecided.’

In 2008, under the glare of a presidential campaign and the weight of history, his public rhetoric swung to a position that America’s Bible belt could embrace – support for only a traditional definition of marriage.

But as president in 2010 he returned publicly to his original position 14 years after he first articulated it.

Oh, and if you’re thinking this is some sort of smear job against the president, Axelrod also apparently says it was at least partly his idea: Continue reading


Social Media Synergy Leads to Awkward Results

A couple of friends shared a story on Facebook yesterday, about attorney Ted Olsen schooling right-wing legal dilettante Tony Perkins on marriage equality  In short, Perkins tried to pull out the tired old standby argument that allowing same-sex marriage would open the floodgates to all kinds of marriages.

Watch lawyer destroy Tony Perkins on Fox after he says gay marriage leads to girls marrying dads. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins argued on Sunday that girls would be allowed to marry their biological fathers if the U.S. Supreme Court legalized... RAWSTORY.COM
At least this time Perkins had an actual news story to cite, regarding a father and daughter who say they plan on getting married after two years of dating  which began after twelve years of separation (when the woman was ages 4 through 16). There is plenty to unpack and analyze in that story, beginning with the fact that it certainly appears to be an outlier, followed by the fact that so far no one else seems to be seriously advocating for legal recognition of their marriage.

If they want legal recognition for their marriage, though, I say let them make their case, either in court or in front of one or more state legislatures. This is not the point I want to make in this post, though.

Continue reading


Points for Effort in the Marriage Equality Cases?

The oral arguments in the Seventh Circuit case involving the marriage statutes in Indiana and Wisconsin sounds like they were extremely uncomfortable for those states’ attorneys general. In a way, I feel bad for the two attorneys who had to argue the case, but then again, they were trying to steer an obviously sinking ship. Ed Brayton posted some highlights from the hearing. This bit between the judges and Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher seems like the trial advocacy equivalent of being rapped on the hand with a ruler:

JUDGE POSNER: “You allow the homosexual couples to adopt. Why don’t you want their children to have the same advantages as children adopted by heterosexual couples?”

FISHER: “The question is what can we do to nudge heterosexual couples who may produce children, you know, unintentionally to plan for this—to plan for the consequences and appreciate the consequences of sexual behavior. Those consequences don’t arise with same-sex couples. It’s not in the context of adoption that marriage—”

JUDGE POSNER: “But you’re not answering my question. You’ve got millions of adopted children, and a lot of them—200,000 or more—are adopted by same-sex couples. Why don’t you want their children to be as well off as the adopted children of heterosexual couples?” Continue reading


Who Is the Intolerant One?

A blogger by the name of Mustang Bobby pretty much demolishes the claims of right-wingers, e.g. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, that advocates of marriage equality are really the intolerant ones, for expecting the “traditional marriage” crowd to share our society with others:

Mr. Rubio implies that “traditional marriage” is under attack. By whom? Advocates for marriage equality don’t want to stop straight people from getting married. It’s not some zero-sum game wherein one is traded out for the other. How can advocating for committed unions between two people who happen to have the same form of genitalia threaten those marriages between two people who don’t?

That’s where the intolerance comes in. Pro-“traditional” marriage people don’t want same-sex couples to have the benefits of marriage, whereas those of us who are pro-marriage equality want everybody to have the benefits. So who is the intolerant one? Saying that same-sex marriage somehow denigrates or mocks straight marriage is yet again another sign of intolerance because that’s saying that the people in that marriage are less than worthy of respect simply because of their orientation. Again, who is the intolerant one? [Emphasis added.]

In the society that proponents of marriage equality want (i.e. the society in which we almost already live), “traditional marriage” proponents are welcome to live as they see fit. They just don’t get to tell others how to live—or how to love.


The Pocahontas Argument

The following argument was actually made, out loud, during proceedings before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Bostic v. Schaefer, a same-sex marriage case (the context is a comparison between anti-same-sex marriage laws and anti-interracial marriage laws struck down in Loving v. Virginia):

There is a history, prior to the Jim Crow era laws, the anti-miscegenation laws. The idea of interracial marriage was not prohibited. It still fit within the fundamental right of marriage, the idea of a man-woman marriage. Before Virginia passed those affirmative anti-miscegenation laws, it might not have been the social norm, but people certainly could have married, and indeed did marry, across racial lines. Pocahontas married John Rolfe in the early 1600s and their marriage wasn’t declared unconstitutional

David S. Cohen at Slate deconstructs some of the problems with this argument, although I suspect one could write a book detailing just the legal or historical problems with it. As Cohen notes: Continue reading


There’s More to Marriage than Lust

Chris Sevier, whom you might remember as the guy who sued Apple for not stopping him from looking at porn, is really mad about the prospect of two dudes getting married. So mad, in fact, that he has decided to once again embarrass himself on the national stage in protest:

In Florida, James Domer Brenner and his partner are currently suing the state to recognize their marriage, which was legally performed in Canada. Florida does not currently allow same-sex marriage or recognize marriages performed legally elsewhere, so this is likely to be a pretty important case.

However, one man is really not happy about it. His name is Chris Savier, “a former Judge Advocate and combat veteran” who is really just a treasure. In order to protest the case before it even starts, he filed a motion to intervene in this case and demand the right to marry his “porn-filled Apple computer.” In the 24-page long document, Savier insists that if gay people “have the right to marry their object of sexual desire, even if they lack corresponding sexual parts, then I should have the right to marry my preferred sexual object.”

So instead of “girlfriend,” “fiancée,” or “wife,” should I be saying “preferred sexual object”? I don’t see that going over well. At all.

Continue reading