New Cases of Ebola Cause for Concern, Islamic State Continues To Capture New Territory and Same Sex Marriage in the United States Gains Momentum

https://i0.wp.com/media.cagle.com/46/2014/10/02/154482_600.jpg https://i0.wp.com/thefederalistpapers.integratedmarket.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/mrz082114dAPC.jpgSack cartoon: Gay marriage

On Monday, a nurse in Spain was the first person to be diagnosed outside the outbreak zone in West Africa, raising further concerns across the globe, according to the Associate Press, New concern worldwide as nurse in Spain gets Ebola. In the U.S., President Barack Obama said the government is weighing an order for more careful screening of airline passengers arriving from he region. In dealing with potential Ebola cases, Obama said, “we don’t have a lot of margin for error.” Already hospitalized in the U.S., a critically ill Liberian man, Thomas Duncan, has received an experimental drug in Dallas as another American video journalist who returned from Liberia arrived Monday at the Nebraska Medical Center for treatment has shown signs of improvement. Ashoka Mukpo, 33, was able to walk off the plane before being loaded on a stretcher and taken to an ambulance, and his father said his symptoms of fever and nausea appeared mild. The Spanish nurse had been part of a team that treated two missionaries flown home to Span after contracting Ebola in West Africa. The nurse only showed signs of fever, but the infection was confirmed by two tests, according to Spanish health officials. She was being treated in isolation, while authorities drew up a list of people she had had contact with. Medical workers in Texas were among Americans waiting to find out whether they had been infected by Duncan, the African traveler. In Washington, the White House continued to rule out any blanket ban on travel from West Africa. People leaving the outbreak zone are checked for fevers before they’re allowed to board airplanes, but the disease’s incubation period is 21 days and symptoms could arise later. Nancy Castles, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles International Airport, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had employees on site at more than a dozen major international airports in the U.S. like LAX for many years. Screening of passengers starts with Customs and Border Protection agents, who work with CDC when they have a case they are concerned about. Obama said the U.S. will be “working on protocols to do additional passenger screening both at the source and here in the United States.” The Obama administration maintains that the best way to protect Americans is to end the outbreak in Africa. To that end, the U.S. military was working Monday on the first of 17 promised medical centers in Liberia and training up to 4,000 soldiers this week to help with the Ebola crisis. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “The tragedy of this situation is that Ebola is rapidly spreading among populations in West African who don’t have that kind of medical infrastructure.” The virus has taken a heavy toll on health care workers in a region where shortages of doctors and nurses before Ebola were rampant and so far the disease has killed or sickened more than 370 in the hardest hit countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Airlines have dealt with previous epidemics, such as the 2003 outbreak in Asia of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. The U.S. didn’t ban flights or impose extra screening on passengers during the SARS outbreak or the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Both of those were airborne diseases that spread more easily than the Ebola virus, which is spread by contact with bodily fluids. The SARS death rate was about 10 percent, higher for older patients. Its new relative MERS, now spreading in the Middle East, appears to be more deadly, about 40 percent. About half of people infected with Ebola have died in this outbreak. The Ebola outbreak this year has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa, the World Health Organization estimates, and it has become an escalating concern to the rest of the world. Mukpo is the fifth American sick with Ebola brought back from West Africa for medical care. The others were aid workers – three have recovered and one remains hospitalized. On Tuesday, Reuters reports, More cases of Ebola in Europe unavoidable: WHO, the World Health Organization believes more cases Ebola will likely occur in Europe but the continent is well prepared to control the disease. Speaking to Reuters just hours after Europe’s first local case of Ebola infection was confirmed in a nurse in Spain, the WHO’s European director, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said further such events were “unavoidable”. Spanish health officials said four people had been hospitalized to try and stem any further spread of Ebola there after the nurse became the first person in the world known to have contracted the virus outside of Africa. Jakab told Reuters via phone interview for her Copenhagen office: “Such imported cases and similar events as have happened in Spain will happen also in the future, most likely. It is quite unavoidable … that such incidents will happen in the future because of the extensive travel both from Europe to the affected countries and the other way around.” Several countries in the WHO’s European region, including France, Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Norway and Spain, have treated patients repatriated after contracting the disease in West Africa, where Ebola has been raging through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since March. Cases have also been imported into Nigeria, Senegal and the United States. Jakab said that within Europe, health workers caring for repatriated Ebola patients, as well as their families and close contacts, were most at risk of becoming infected. With case numbers in the West Africa rising exponentially, experts say it is only a matter of time before Ebola spreads internationally, but they stress the chances of sporadic cases leading to an outbreak in Europe, the United States or elsewhere beyond Africa are extremely low. Jakab added, “If they see any need for support or advice, we are always behind them. We are well prepared. I really don’t think that at this stage we should be worried about these particular cases. This was to be expected. We expected it in other parts of the region – and it came in Spain, but it did not come totally as surprise.”

While it seems the threat of Ebola can be controlled through a coordinated effort, the threat of ISIS seems far from under anyone’s control as the group captures new territory raising concerns for Turkey. On Monday Daren Butler reports, Islamic State raises flag in eastern Kobani, Kurds say town has not fallen, the Islamic State after a three week assault has raised its flag on a building on the outskirts of the Syrian frontier town of Kobani, but the town’s Kurdish defenders said its fighters had not reached the city center. A black flag was visible from across the Turkish border atop a four story building close to the scene of some of the most intense fighting in recent days. American and Gulf State warplane air strikes have failed to halt the assault on Kobani which it has surrounded on three sides and pounded with heavy artillery. Local sources inside Kobani confirmed that the group had plants its flag, but Kurdish forced had repelled further advances. Ismail Eskin, a journalist in the town, said, “ISIL have only planted a flag on one building. That is not inside the city, it’s on the eastern side. They are not inside the city. Intense clashes are continuing. The bodies of 25 (Islamic State) fighters are there.” Despite the presence of Turkish tanks along the border and within sight of the town, Kurdish please for more effective military help have gone unanswered. Islamic State also fought intense battles over the weekend for control of Mistanour, a strategic hill overlooking Kobani. Beheadings, mass killings and torture have spread fear of the group across the region, with villages emptying at their approach and an estimated 180,000 people fleeing into Turkey from the Kobani region. Turkish hospitals have been treating a steady stream of wounded Kurdish fighters being brought across the frontier. Esmat al-Sheikh, head of the Kobani Defense Authority, said via phone early Monday: “If they enter Kobani, it will be a graveyard for us and for them. We will not let them enter Kobani as long as we live. We either win or die. We will resist to the end.” Last Week, the co-chair of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) told Reuters that Islamic State had a large arsenal from its de facto capital Raqqa to assault Kobani. Asya Abdullah said, “If (Islamic State) is defeated here in Kobani, it will be defeated in Raqqa and throughout Syria. We are happy about the U.S. air strikes. But really, this is not enough. We need more air strikes to be effective against (Islamic State) weapons, to eradicate and destroy (them).” On Monday, Kurdish politicians confirmed that the PYD’s other co-chair, Saleh Muslim, had met Turkish officials to urge them to allow weapons into Kobani from Turkey, although no further details were available. Over the weekend, President Tayyip Erdogan vowed to retaliate if Islamic State attacked Turkish forces, and on Monday Turkish tanks deployed along the border for the second time in a week, some with guns pointing towards Syria, apparently in response to stray fire. Last month, the Islamic State group released 46 Turkish hostages and a parliamentary motion last week renewed a mandate to allow Turkish troops to cross into Syria and Iraq leasing many to believe Ankara may be planning a more active role. According to Butler: “For three decades, Ankara has fought an armed insurgency by its own Kurdish PKK militants demanding greater autonomy in Turkey’s southeast. Analysts say it is now wary of helping Syrian Kurdish forces near Kobani as they have strong links with the PKK and have maintained ambiguous relations with Assad, to whom Turkey is implacably opposed. Against that are warnings from the leaders of Turkey’s Kurds that allowing Syria’s Kurds to be driven from Kobani would spell the end of Erdogan’s delicately poised drive to negotiate an end to his own Kurdish insurgency and permanently disarm the PKK.” Ryan Gorman reports, ‘Boots in the air’: US combat troops engage ISIS rebels as Canada deploys soldiers to Iraq, the U.S. military has begun to fight ISIS in Iraq despite Obama’s promise to not put boots on the ground as Canada sends reinforcements to help in the fight. On Sunday, Army attack helicopters began an assault on insurgent positions outside Baghdad, according to Central Command announced. Early Monday, Canadian officials announces that an advanced team of hundreds of soldiers is also on its way to Iraq. This strike changes the U.S. strategy in Iraq from one of using drones and fighter jets for targeted air strikes to combat troops directly engaging the militants. News of the escalation by the Army came shortly before Canada announced plans to send an advance team of 600 soldiers to Iraq, according to the CBC. Previous reports suggested the Canadian military would not send ground combat troops abroad. But it was also previously reported the U.S. would not engage ISIS in ground combat. Turkey’s president on Tuesday said the Islamic State is about to capture the Syrian border town of Kobani where the Kurdish forces are outgunned and struggle to repel the extremists with limited aid from U.S. led coalition airstrikes, the Associate Press reports, Turkey: Syrian border town about to fall to IS. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the coalition air campaign launched last month would not be enough to halt the Islamic State advance and called for greater cooperation with the Syrian opposition, which is fighting both the Islamic State and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Erdogan told Syrian refugees in the Turkish town of Gaziantep, near the border: “Kobani is about to fall. We asked for three things: one, for a no-fly zone to be created; two, for a secure zone parallel to the region to be declared; and for the moderate opposition in Syria and Iraq to be trained and equipped.” Erdogan said more than 200,000 people have fled the fighting in and around Kobani in recent weeks. Their flight is among the largest single exoduses of the three-year Syrian conflict. The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists across Syria, said Tuesday that 412 people have been killed since the Kobani fighting began.

As disease, war and famine are running rampant in much of the world and little justice can be found, the Supreme Court of the United States have finally done the best thing it could of possibly done…absolutely nothing. By the Supreme Court declining to review petitions from lower courts whose jurisdiction covers nearly a dozen states, the highest court in the land has made same sex marriage legal Monday in 11 additional states. Even though the decision was announced quietly, the resulting shock waves have reverberated across the nation, according to Ryan Gorman, Supreme Court effectively legalizes same-sex marriage in 11 more states. The court validated three federal appeals covering Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to Bloomberg. By declining to hear the petitions brought forth from the jurisdictions, the Supreme Court left intact appeals courts decisions to strike down same-sex marriage bans in the locales. Couples in those states should soon be able to obtain marriage licenses and be legally wed. The announcement led a large group of same-sex marriage supporters gathered outside the court to celebrate. They cheered, waved flags, hugged each other and embraced the landmark decision. Supreme Court and #SSM (a same-sex marriage hashtag) immediately shot to the top of trending topics in the United States on Twitter. A case can only be reviewed it at least four of the nine sitting justices want to hear it. The justices also did not signal if they would be willing to hear a same-sex marriage case in the future. No reason was given for the decision. The court has previously showed support for gay marriage when it struck down a federal law last year denying benefits to same-sex married couples. Refusing to hear an appeals on lower court decisions to strike down same-sex marriage bans sets a precedent. The remaining 20 states banning gay marriage will likely also be bound to appeals courts decisions should their bans be overturned. The unions are now legal in a total of 30 states, plus the District of Columbia. Same-sex couples in multiple states across America are getting married after Monday morning’s landmark Supreme Court decision to not hear same-sex marriage cases. Wyoming’s justification for not recognizing the marriage license applications is on the grounds it’s state constitution clearly defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The stipulation was originally made during the state’s founding in order to prevent polygamy. Legal experts believe an injunction will have to be granted by a federal court in order for same-sex marriages in the state to proceed. Monday’s non-decision came 16 years to the day that Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student, was tortured in Wyoming for being gay. He died six days later. It is not clear when marriage licenses will be issued to couples in the other states, while the remaining 20 states have constitutional bans on the unions. The Associate Press reports, Status of gay marriage in all 50 states, the number of states where the practice is legal has skyrocketed from 19 to 30, in addition to Washington, D.C. Here’s the legal status of gay marriage in all 50 states:

WHERE GAY MARRIAGE IS LEGAL (And when it was legalized):

– CALIFORNIA (2013)

– COLORADO (Oct. 6, 2014) – Pueblo and Larimer counties began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples Monday, although official guidance from state Attorney General John Suthers is still pending.

– CONNECTICUT (2008)

– DELAWARE (2013)

– HAWAII (2013) – The state Legislature legalized gay marriage last year. Meanwhile, an appeal is pending of a federal court ruling that upheld Hawaii’s previous ban.

– ILLINOIS (June 2014)

– INDIANA (Oct. 6, 2014) – Gov. Mike Pence reaffirmed his commitment to traditional marriage but said people are not free to disobey the Supreme Court decision to reject an appeal of a ruling striking down Indiana’s gay marriage ban. County clerks issued a few licenses to same-sex couples.

– IOWA (2009)

– KANSAS (Oct. 6, 2014) – The American Civil Liberties Union says the Supreme Court decision in the 10th Circuit cases affects Kansas because it’s in that circuit; the group plans to seek a federal court ruling to block Kansas’ constitutional ban on gay marriage. Gov. Sam Brownback was defiant, saying he swore to uphold the constitution, and some same-sex couples who applied for marriage licenses were turned away.

– MAINE (2012)

– MARYLAND (2013)

– MASSACHUSETTS (2004) – The first state to legalize gay marriage.

– MINNESOTA (2013)

– NEW HAMPSHIRE (2010)

– NEW JERSEY (2013)

– NEW MEXICO (2013)

– NEW YORK (2011)

– NORTH CAROLINA (Oct. 6, 2014) – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina says it will seek an immediate ruling in federal court overturning the state’s ban. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has previously said he wouldn’t challenge such a ruling.

– OKLAHOMA (Oct. 6, 2014) – The Tulsa County Court Clerk’s Office issued a marriage license Monday to Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, the couple who successfully challenged the state’s ban on gay marriage. Several other Oklahoma counties also issued same-sex marriage licenses.

– OREGON (May 2014)

– PENNSYLVANIA (May 2014)

– RHODE ISLAND (2013)

– SOUTH CAROLINA (Oct. 6, 2014) – A lawyer for a gay couple seeking to overturn the state’s ban on gay marriage said she will ask a federal judge to immediately rule in their favor. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said he will continue to fight to uphold the ban.

– UTAH (Oct. 6, 2014) – Gay couples in Utah began applying for marriage licenses, and a handful of same-sex weddings occurred in Salt Lake County after Gov. Gary Herbert directed state agencies to recognize the marriages Monday.

– VERMONT (2009) – The first state to offer civil unions, in 2001.

– VIRGINIA (Oct. 6, 2014) – Gay couples started marrying in Virginia. Thirty-year-old Lindsey Oliver and 42-year-old Nicole Pries received the first same-sex marriage license issued from the Richmond Circuit Court Clerk’s office then were married by gay-rights advocate The Rev. Robin Gorsline.

– WASHINGTON, D.C. (2010)

– WASHINGTON STATE (2012)

– WEST VIRGINIA (Oct. 6, 2014) – Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was studying the implications for the state in light of the Supreme Court decision.

– WISCONSIN (Oct. 6, 2014) – County clerks began accepting applications from gay couples for marriage licenses which, by Wisconsin law, can’t be issued until after a five-day waiting period. In Milwaukee and Dane counties, where most of the roughly 500 same-sex weddings took place this summer before a federal judge’s decision was put on hold, a few couples applied for licenses.

– WYOMING (Oct. 6, 2014) – A state case, scheduled for a court hearing Dec. 15, is similar to gay marriage cases in federal court but Wyoming supporters weren’t ready Monday to declare unconditional victory. They say same-sex marriage could be legal in the state by year’s end.

_____________________________

WHERE GAY MARRIAGE IS NOT LEGAL AND CASES ARE PENDING:

– ALABAMA

– ALASKA

– ARIZONA – In a ruling that called into question Arizona’s gay marriage ban, a U.S. District Court judge handed a victory Sept. 12 to a gay man denied death benefits after losing his spouse to cancer.

– ARKANSAS – A state judge in May struck down the state’s ban. The state Supreme Court brought marriages to a halt and is weighing state officials’ appeal. Same-sex couples are also suing the state in federal court. The attorney general’s office has asked that proceedings in both cases be put on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to take up a case from Utah.

– FLORIDA – A federal judge declared the state’s ban unconstitutional in mid-August, joining state judges in four counties. He issued a stay delaying the effect of his order, meaning no marriage licenses would be issued immediately issued for gay couples.

– GEORGIA

– IDAHO – State officials are appealing a federal judge’s decision to overturn the state’s ban. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in San Francisco heard arguments Sept. 8 along with appeals from Hawaii and Nevada.

– KENTUCKY – Two Kentucky cases were among six from four states heard in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Aug. 6. Rulings are pending on recognition of out-of-state marriages, as well as the ban on marriages within the state.

– LOUISIANA – A parish judge ruled Sept. 22 that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional; the attorney general has appealed to the state’s Supreme Court.

– MICHIGAN – The state’s ban was overturned by a federal judge in March following a rare trial that mostly focused on the impact on children. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati heard arguments Aug. 6, and a ruling is pending.

– MISSISSIPPI

– MISSOURI – Attorney General Chris Koster announced Monday he wouldn’t appeal a state court order that Missouri recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. But two other same-sex marriage cases are pending in Missouri. One is a federal challenge in Kansas City; the other is a St. Louis case that focuses on city officials who issued marriage licenses to four same-sex couples to trigger a legal test of the ban.

– MONTANA

– NEBRASKA

– NEVADA – Eight couples are challenging Nevada’s voter-approved 2002 ban, which a federal judge upheld a decade later. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel heard arguments Sept. 8, along with appeals from Hawaii and Idaho.

– NORTH DAKOTA

– OHIO – Two Ohio cases were argued Aug. 6 in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and a ruling is pending. In one, two gay men whose spouses were dying sued to have their out-of-state marriages recognized on their spouses’ death certificates. In the other, four couples sued to have both spouses listed on their children’s birth certificates.

– SOUTH DAKOTA

– TENNESSEE – The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Aug. 6 on an appeal of a federal judge’s order to recognize three same-sex couples’ marriages while their lawsuit against the state works through the courts. A ruling is pending.

– TEXAS – A federal judge declared the state’s ban unconstitutional, issuing a preliminary injunction. The state is appealing to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which is soon expected to set a date for arguments.

The History of Gay Religious Activism in the U.S.

LGBT RELIGIOUS HISTORY

Not unlike the thousands of public parties held this past June during Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, hundreds of gay San Franciscans gathered on New Year’s Day 1965 for the much anticipated Mardi Gras Ball held at 625 Polk Street in the Tenderloin District. The most interesting aspect of the San Francisco ball was the fact it was held as a fundraiser for pro-gay clergy, according to Jaweed Kaleem’s article Unearthing The Surprising Religious History Of American Gay Rights Activism. Although today Americans for (homophiles or gay right activists) and against gay rights typically use their religious beliefs as the reasons, those who oppose same sex marriage and other rights for LGBT individuals have continued to declare that God is on their side. However, in the mid 1960s, LGBT activists often looked to men of the cloth as allies in the fight for justice and human rights, according to historians. Just months before the event, two dozen Bay Area Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal and United Church of Christ clergy and gay activists joined together to form the Council on Religion and and Homosexual in order to promote “need for a better understanding of human sexuality” and its “broad variations and manifestations.” Clergy and lawyers had negotiate with the police on behalf of the group to let the dance happen, but according to contemporary new articles, police showed up to take pictures of those attending the ball in order to intimidate them. When cops wanted to come inside, the lawyers blocked them causing six people to end up in jail for interfering with police and disorderly conduct. The clergy fought back with a press conference the next day and mobilized the city’s gay community and the pastors. In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit over the arrest making it the first time the ACLU had joined in the fight for gay rights, according to the LGBT Religious Archives Network.

According to Kaleem’s article: “‘That was years before the 1969 Stonewall riots, which is popularly considered the beginning of the gay rights movement,’ said Heather White, a visiting assistant professor of religion at the New College of Florida who has spent years combing through LGBT archives for an upcoming book, tentatively titled Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights. ‘And that’s just one of the best-known stories. There were Councils on Religion and Homosexuality and similar groups in D.C., Pennsylvania, Ottawa, Hawaii.””

The LGBT Religious Network along with a growing group of scholars such as White have documented hundreds of stories like the San Francisco clergy since it was found 13 years ago at the United Church of Christ-affiliated Chicago Theological Seminary based now in Berkely, California, at the Pacific School of Religion’s Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry. The organization’s website offers a series of profiles of and oral history interviews with Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Pagan LGBT clergy and religious activists, living and dead, Kaleem reports.White, part of the network advisory committee, explains that the expectations about how religion would view gay rights changed after the 1960s.

White explains, “What we know of the face of religion and gay rights has been shaped by a shift that occurred in the 1970s with the rise of conservative Christianity. It’s a consolidated political force that wasn’t in place before then. There were certainly conservative people and religious people who were involved in politics, but in the 1950s and 1960s, homophile organizations saw religious leaders as likely allies. That is less of the case today, though things are changing.”

A Pew Research Center survey released last Thursday reported that 62 percent of American believe homosexuality should be accepted rather than frowned upon by society, but there is still a clear division between religious Americans as far as gay rights are concerned especially same sex marriages. Recent polls show that white evangelicals strongly oppose gay marriage, while the nation’s largest churches do not support same sex marriage e.g. the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, Catholic American individuals tend to support gay marriage with several additional denomintaions allowing clergy to perform same sex marriages or blessings e.g.  the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and both Reform and Conservative Jews. According to Bernard Schlager, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry and an associate professor of cultural and historical studies at the Pacific School of Religion, “Some of the biggest gay rights activists and organizations started their work in churches.” Additionally, Schalger believes the inaccurate and widespread perception of religion firmly opposing gay right has changed as well, Kaleem reports. He explains, “It’s come to the point that sometimes people today say it’s more difficult to come out as a person of faith than it is to come out as LGBT in religious circles.” Melissa Wilcox, who also sits on the LGBT Religious Archives Network’s advisory committee and is an associate professor of religion and gender studies at Whitman College, has this to say: “With the increasing visibility of the marriage rights movement, we have started to see LGBT-supportive groups [within religious communities] being able to get their message out more clearly. That’s a battle for them, but many have been there all along.”

After decades of church activism, the Presbyterian Church General Assembly in the Unites States last week voted to allow pastors to officiate gay marriages in states where it is legal. An additional vote will take place to determine if the definition of marriage should be changed to cover two people not just a man and woman. Wilcox sums it up best by saying,”A lot of people are still wary of anything you’d call religion. A lot of people have been burned. But there’s a rich history out there of gay religious activism for us to appreciate and uphold.”

Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth (INFOGRAPHIC)

For you pocket protecting, tapped glasses and bow tie wearing fun loving video game nerds out there here is some advice on how to propose to your lady and for those who do not care for the nerdy variety here are some things to consider. For that matter, all men out there here is a guide to the proposal from Neomam Infographic Studios breaking down the essentials of your big day before you reach the big day. Even if you are married or not quite there, this infographic will make your day.
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Equality in America: Ding, Dong, DOMA’s Dead? Maybe…

gay couplesBill Clinton Doma

While the debate inside the High Court continues, things heated up outside the court and across the nation. Of course no event would be complete without the Westboro Baptist Church. The Supreme Court is considering the constitutional challenge to the Federal Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday and the debate has drawn protestors for the second day in a row even members of the fringe anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church who flanked two couples with their offensive, homophobic signs but kudos to couples for not letting their hate filled rants effect their public display of affection. Bravo! The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today on whether Congress can withhold federal benefits from legally wed gay couples by defining marriage as a man and woman. Even former President Bill Clinton has called for the Supreme Court to overturn the law he signed as he believes that the Defense of Marriage Act is incompatible with the Constitution according to the Associated Press. He signed the law in 1996 to avoid legislation that would have been worse. In a Washington Post op-ed, Clinton writes society has changed and realizes that the law discriminates against gays and provides an excuse for other to do so too. The Obama administration stopped defending it as well as the Supreme Court will be the final say on what happens to the bill as well as California’s ban on gay marriage.

As the tensions rise outside the High Court, the U.S. Supreme Court justices on Wednesday morning questioned the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between a man and woman. and whether the decision is really up to them or not. This is the second day the High Court heard arguments with the main issue on Wednesday dealing with the United States v. Windsor and whether it was constitutional for the government not to recognize same sex marriages that have been recognized by the states. Justice Antohony Kennedy said Tuesday that children of same sex coupes “want their parents to have full recognition and legal status” had a hard time accepting that DOMA refuses to recognize those same sex unions recognized by the state according to Huff Post. Kennedy believes that DOMA does cause injury to these couples whose marriages are not recognized by the federal government but the state. Seciton 3 of DOMA, at issue on Wednesday reports Huff Post states “the word marriage means only a legal union between a man and woman as husband and wife” for the purpose of “any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States.”

The Plaintiff, Edie Windsor, 83, brought suit against the federal government after the IRS cited DOMA to deny her a refund for the $363,000 in federal estate taxes paid following the death of Thea Spyer in 2009 who was her partner for 40 years reports Huff Post. Windsor and Spyer married in 2007 in Canada and lived in New York. Windsor argues that she would have been eligible for the estate tax exemption had Spyer been a man therefore DOMA’s Section 3 violates her equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment. Two of the justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Kennedy, seem to side with Windsor with Ginsburg stating that DOMA creates two types of marriages likening same sex marriage to the skim milk version of straight marriage while Kennedy struggled to determine whether or not the federal government can regulate marriage. Solicitor Genral Donald Verrilli, representing the Obama administration ont he merits of the case chose to emphasize COngress’ discriminatory purposes in 1996 stating the law “is not called Federal Uniform Definition of Marriage Act. It’s called the Defense of Marriage Act.” Justice Elena Kegan shared simliar sentiments as she told Clement, defending DOMA on behalf of the House of Representatives’ Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, “that maybe Congress had something different in mind than uniformity” in the definition of marriage reading from the House Report which said DOMA was a reflection of Congress’ “collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.”

Therefore, the key to this case may lie in whether the law singles out gays and lesbians through “heightened scrutiny” where a measure singles out politically disfavored and less powerful groups. Chief Justice Roberts along this line focused on the change in public opinion regarding gay marriage and how it happened unless gay and lesbian Americans had significant political power as it seems politicians are falling over themselves to support it. The main question on his mind was why did President Barack Obama enforce it for so long if he thought it was unconstitutional. Clement commented that 10 years from now the nine states don’t have gay marriage will be force by federal government to recognize these unions. According to Huff Post, after Wednesday’s oral arguments the case may be about whether or not the justices have the power to hear the case at all. In United States v. Windsor, the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit declared DOMA unconstitutional while the Obama administration agree Roberts asked Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan, arguing for the Obama administration, whether there was any cases where all parties agreed with the decision below, but the court upheld its ability to hear it. Clement on Wednesday faced some serious questioned from the Supreme Court’s liberal wing on why the House had any legal interest in represent the position that has been abandoned by everyone involved with DOMA especially the executive branch. As Justice Stephen Breyer commented, ” How is this case any different from enforcing general powers of the United States.” The fight will continue as so many things remain uncertain.

The Calm before the Storm: Same Sex Marriage Uncharted Waters for the Supreme Court

prop8girl

For photos and updates on the latest controversy click here.

The U.S. Supreme Court has begun to hear oral arguments on both sides of the Prop 8 ban after the proposition passed in November of 2008 thereby reversing by popular vote the state Supreme Court’s decision to recognize marriage equality just months earlier. As Justice Anthony Kennedy on Tuesday commented, the prospect of same sex marriage is “uncharted waters.” According to Huff Post, Kennedy commented, “And you can play with that metaphor,” and  continuing that in that consideration, “There’s a wonderful destination” or “a cliff.” Kennedy acknowledged that the issue of same sex marriage is fairly new, but the immediate legal harm to those same sex couples who cannot marry is apparent as the voices of thousands of children of same sex couples is an important aspect of the case. Kennedy went so far as to tell Charles J. Cooper, representing supporters of Prop 8, that: “They [the children] want their parents to have full recognition and legal status.  The voice of those children is considerable in this case, don’t you think?” Kennedy also casts doubts on Prop 8 and same sex marriage bans in general believing that it discriminates against gays and lesbians. Before the justices can discuss the merits of the constitutional case, Chief Justice John Robers told both advocates to argue whether the parties had legal standing to defend Prop 8 as the liberal bloc — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan –believe Prop 8 supporters could not represent the state of California after the Governor and Attorney General refused to defense the law where the Republican appointed  members — Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito — agree with the California Supreme Court which ruled Cooper’s clients could represent the state’s interest.

When the arguments reached the constitutional merits, the ideological alliances switched according to Huff Post. As Sotomayor asked Cooper, “Can you think of any other rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits or imposing burdens on them? Is there any other rational decision-making that the government could make? Denying them a job, not granting them benefits of some sort, any other decision?” And when Cooper responded with “responsible procreation”, Kagan commented, “If you are over the age of 55, you don’t help us serve the government’s interest in regulating procreation through marriage. So why is that different?” The debate became interesting when Scalia asked Ted Olson, the lawyer for the two same sex couples challenging Prop 8, “When did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage? 1791 [when the Bill of Rights was ratified]? 1868, when the 14th Amendment was adopted?” Olson responded with, “When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit interracial marriages?” Scalia responded with, “At the time that the Equal Protection Clause was adopted. That’s absolutely true. But don’t give me a question to my question.” Olson untimaly answeres that the argument of same sex marriage is on an evolutionary cycle. Alito’s issue with Olson’s argument was, “You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet,” Alito said. “On a question like that, of such fundamental importance, why should it not be left for the people, either acting through initiatives and referendums or through their elected public officials?” Ginsburg has issues with Coopers argument which relies on a case from 1971, Baker v. Nelson, where the Supreme Court dismissed a Minnesota man’s attempt to marry his male partner lacking a substantial federal question at a time when same sex intimate conduct was considered criminal.

Kennedy, who is consider the tie breaker vote on the panel, was trying to determine whether a same sex marriage ban could be viewed as gender based and determined by the end of the arguments that both sides had legitimate reasons to sue. On one hand Kennedy sees that Prop 8 supporters have standing to sue, but the right to marry especially the federal constitutional right that would extend to all states compelled him to dig a little deeper. Kennedy asked Cooper, “Why [do] you think we should take and decide this case?” After hearing the answer, Kennedy sided with his conservative colleagues that Cooper’s clients had the right to be in court, while siding with his four liberal colleagues who believe the Constitution mandates marriage equality. That leaves Kennedy who is the fifth vote in the case to man these uncharted waters and according to Huff Post if his history is any indication he just might take the plunge. The final decision is expected by July in the case, Hollingsworth v. Perry.

A New Era in the Catholic Church?

Pope Francis Civil Unions

With the approach of holy week and the inaugural Mass of Pope Francis fast approaching, let’s watch the highlight and low-light reels for this week as big decision are coming for the Catholic church.

Pope Francis and GLAAD: Oh you knew it was coming. The surprising fact many may not be aware of is the fact the pope at one point supported civil unions for gay couples. The focus though for the LGBT communities had been his public stance on gay marriage, mainly that it’s a “destructive attack on God’s plan”, and his opposition to gay adoption that it discriminates against children. However according to Huff Post as recently as 2010 then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio suggested the church support civil unions as a compromise of sorts as at the time they were legal in parts before the gay marriage bill was passed in his home of Argentina. Although the bishops rejected his suggestion, Argentina passed the law making it the first South American country to do so. While some are optimistic about the new pope, some who knew him before are less. As Esteban Paulon, president of the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transexuals, told the Times, “The reality, beyond what he may have said in private meetings, was that he said some terrible things in public…He took a role, in public, that was determinedly combative.” GLAAD President Herndon Gradick shared the same sentiment in a statement to Huff Post, explaining, “For decades the Catholic hierarchy has been in need of desperate reform. In his life, Jesus condemned gays zero times. In Pope Benedict’s short time in the papacy, he made a priority of condemning gay people routinely.” Oh by the way GLAAD the Pope does not only answer to God he has to answer to his congregation and the Curia so anyone in his position has an uphill battle ahead…give him some time cut the man some slack he has been pope for 2 minutes.

Pope Francis and Mislead Flock: As we all know or have seen, the pope traditionally holds Mass of the Lord’s Supper in St. Peter’s Basilica or the Basilica of St. John Latern reports Catholic News Service. This year, Pope Francis decided to do things his way and break with tradition by celebrating Holy Thursday of next week washing and kissing the feet of juvenile prisoners in Rome’s Casal del Marmo. The service typically includes washing and kissing the feet of 12 people commemorating Jesus’ humility towards his twelve apostles. The service is not atypical for the pope as in his former life as Argentine’s Cardinal Bergoglio he often held Holy Thursday ceremony in jails, hospitals or other locations associated with the poor and infirm according to Huff Post. According to Agence France-Presse, Pope Francis wants to narrow the gap between the laypeople and the Church.

Pope Francis and The Incredibly Shrinking Priesthood: As the congregation around the world becomes bigger even in the U.S., the problem of no one to lead these congregation has become increasingly apparent. In order to deal with the priest shortage, the Catholic Church has decided to look to former Anglican leaders to fill the void reports Huff Post. The number of men entering the priesthood in the U.S. has dropped about 20,000 since 1975 while the number of the faithful has increased by 17 million according to CBS. Allowing Anglican priests to convert was a way to solve the problem as seen by former Pope Benedict XVI who issued an edict in 2009 to create “a new structure to welcome some disenchanted Anglicans into the Roman Catholic fold,” Time notes. At a Vatican news conference last October, Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect for the Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith, according to the New York Times, commented that Anglicans who wish to convert would now be able “to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.” The New York Times of course in an article about married Catholic priests raised some interesting questions as married priest were banned in 1123 by the First Lateran Council however married converts have been allowed since 1980:

First, are they doing as good a job as other priests? If the church has decided that celibacy confers certain gifts on priests, does it follow that married priests are worse at serving their congregations? Second, wouldn’t celibate priests be a little resentful of colleagues who get to serve the church and have sex too? And third, if the married priests are doing a good job and not provoking envy, why keep the celibacy rule for priests in general?

Still the transition has been smooth for many of the priest and even entire congregations to convert to Catholicism. Lewis, a converted Catholic priest who leads St. luke’s now Cathloci pareish in Bladensburg, MD., told PBS: “We left the Episcopal Church not because we were running away from the issues of the Episcopal Church. We left the Episcopal Church because we were running to the Catholic Church … The theology of Rome, the authority of Rome, the unity in the Holy See and in the bishops: that was appealing to us.”

Human Rights Campaign: Hillary Clinton Announces Her Support for Marriage Equality for All

Hillary Clinton Announces Support For Gay Marriage.

According to the Associated Press, Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodhan VClinton announced Monday her suppirt for gay marriage in an online video by the gay rights advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign explaining that gays and lesbians are “full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship.” She continued to explain in the six minute video, “That includes marriage” both “personally and as a matter of policy and law.” Clinton’s announcement is sure to get people’s attention as people are already speculating another run for president in 2016 with other potential Democratic contenders being Vice President Joe Biden, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley who all back the right of same-sex couples to marry. The poll of public opinion has changed dramatically on this issue in recent times as Gallup polling last November showed 53 percent of adults approve of gay marriage while in 1996 only 27 percent did. The shift has also take place in political parties as Clinton and Obama in the 2008 presidential election backed civil unions not marriage, but in the 2012 election Obama announced his support of gay marriage so did Democrats who added it to their party’s official platform. The White House spokesman Jay Carney had this to say about Clinton’s announcement: “The president believes that anytime a public official of stature steps forward to embrace a commitment that he shares to equality, he thinks it’s a good thing.”

The GOP opposes gay marriage even though a several Republican stand outs have backed same sex marriages. On Friday, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman became the first Republican senator to announce his support saying he had a change of heart after finding out his son is gay, the Associated Press reports. More than a 100 Republicans submitted “friends of the court” briefs to the Supreme Court to overturn California’s Prop 8 law on same sex marriage ban as the court will discuss it next week. Also up for discussion is the Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as between a man and woman which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996 who now believes the act to be unconstitutional and should be overturned. Hilary Clinton is a strong supports of gay rights not only in the U.S., but abroad as well despite keeping a tight lip during her tenure at the State Department however under her watch the U.S. government made it officially policy to promote gay rights around the world. For many citizens of the United States and abroad this has only been a dream up until now and the fight will continue on, but someday will end…one can dream right.