Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pride 2013 - A historic year

A few thoughts about what makes Pride in 2013 so particularly special, even historic.

In this last week leading up to what is Pride Weekend in so many cities across the nation, we have seen two historic rulings from the Supreme Court of the United State that dramatically affect members of the LGBT community across the United States.

The two cases, buttressed today by a third decision from a Federal District Court in Michigan today, serve not only to remind us of how far we have come as a nation, but we need only look to St. Petersburg to see how swiftly we may fall.

In the finest tradition of tyrants and socialists everywhere (and their more honest cousins, the actual communists) Putin and his cronies have found a relatively defenseless minority to demonize as the latest bogeyman and threat to his nations morality and children - thus making them fair game for violent oppression. First they must be silenced (lest they raise effective objections) and then the camps can be re-opened complete with "special showers".

We celebrate our gain even as we mourn the coming darkness in other lands, as Russia is far from alone in descending into this mire of tragedy and (impending) bloodshed. 38 of 53 African nations criminalize LGBT relationships, and the number seems to be rising.

In Western Europe, the United States, and in some Asian lands sanity is making advances but the forces of ignorance and violence stalk the land openly elsewhere. Even as we celebrate Pride this weekend, it is far from time to become complacent.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pride Weekend post

A few thoughts on Pride Parades & History

I first wrote this in 2008 in this blog, and have written similar articles five or six times since 1996. I'm re-editing this a bit, and cutting out some dated material not relevant to the present...(this post is becoming a personal tradition for Pride weekend along with my Pride Eve stroll through the bars, a practice I began back in the dawn of time when I was co-Chair of Pride... - ed., 2013)


However, having staggered across a post in a blog I read fairly regularly (a now-vanished post) gently deriding Pride as counterproductive and continuing with the "why can't they just keep it in their bedrooms" meme, I figured it was time for another meander down History Lane.

Yeargh. Over the years, I've written this post in different words, at different times, and in different places at least five separate times, and I'm really not eager for round VI. However....

Pride didn't happen spontaneously, and it didn't originate in a grandly festive party in a world that celebrated folks of LGBT persuasion. It didn't originate among a bunch of buttoned-down straight-laced LGBT folks campaigning for incremental change - it originated in a decidedly run-down bar in New York, the Stonewall Inn - frequented by drag queens, escorts, and sundry down on their luck gay folks, and was anything but a celebration.

Things were different then. It was 1969 and the times were tumultuous - anti-war protests, the civil rights movement, race riots combined with a hot summer to leave far too many neighborhoods a roiling incendiary stew merely waiting for a spark to detonate it.

It was still common for police to raid LGBT bars and events, beating up patrons and staff before hauling them off on "infamous charges" that ended careers and destroyed lives. It was not especially uncommon for bar owners and event sponsors to pay protection to police in order to ensure they and their patrons would be either not harassed, or harassed less often.

Bashing, though it still occurs today, was far more common and more frequently lethal in those times.

Those who by their very nature ("born outside the closet with the door locked behind them") stood little chance of hiding successfully, were particularly vulnerable - and such were the patrons of the Stonewall Inn. The very existence of gay bars in New York had only been legal since 1965, prior to which the gathering of three or more gay folks in a bar was grounds for that bar to lose its' license.

Reparative therapy ("We can De-GAY you or your offspring!") had not yet been shown to be the cruel fraud that we know it today, and its' regimen of aversion therapy (or torture, if you care to be honest) still stalked the land unchallenged, with uncounted victims - suicides, nervous breakdowns, and a wide varity of otherwise damaged folks - still being abused by that abhorrent cottage industry from Hades.

Debateably relevant was the death of gay icon Judy Garland the day before, contributing to the emotional ferment in the streets. Certainly, in latter day accounts, this has been considered a factor in events.

In the midst of this flammable emotional concoction, nine officers of the NYPD (one uniformed, 8 not) began a raid of the Stonewall Inn at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning - June 28, 1969.

It did not go well. Debate continues on when and how precisely the fun began, but in almost all accounts, a flashpoint was hit inside the bar, and for the first time, the gays fought back. First, with drag queens heating pennies with lighters before flinging them at officers, and proceeding rapidly to thrown bottles and full-out brawling. Before the evening was out, the officers were barricaded inside the Stonewall Inn as it was being set alight by its patrons. Four days of rioting followed.

The LGBT community had, quite simply, had enough. The Mattachine Society, an early body of polite gay activists, was soon done and the "Gay Liberation Force" was born. The time for asking nicely was over.

Soon, in more and more cities, Pride Celebrations sprang up to commemorate Stonewall - first in protests, and then in celebration as things got better over a period of decades - there was less to protest, and more to celebrate...and it was safer to celebrate.

The theme might be said to be shifting, even today, from Twisted Sisters anthem "We're not going to take it" to "Wasn't that a Party" by the Irish Rovers, and more than once the argument for one thing or another between the LGBT community and various governmental sorts has boiled down to "Would you rather the party, or the protest?".

Many of the pioneers of the Stonewall era are still with us, rebels and protesters slightly ameliorated by age, but as a result of the AIDS epidemic blowing the guts out of an entire generation of potential community leaders, only now barely beginning to step away from the leadership roles in the community in favor of younger folks, and still possessed of a grim determination that as a community, we never want to return to the dark days of the pre-Stonewall era.

That's the history. The present reality is increasingly the community "letting it's hair down", not dissimilar to Mardi Gras or Seafair (before the bluenoses got hold of it), in a vast and mighty party of increasingly commercial nature. That it *can* is a good thing, as that means the tense protests of yore are less necessary. That it could revert to its' roots of angry protest is part of our protection as a minority community.

To address those who claim that we choose our sexuality, I'd ask - "Um, when did you choose to be heterosexual?" And continue with inquiries about what person in their right mind would choose to self-select to be harassed, discriminated against, and generally get a bonus ration of crud in far too many places in the world and our nation...

As far as I can tell, some folks are born rigidly hetero; some rigidly LGBT; and most, depending on their environment, circumstances, and dumb luck fall someplace on a Bell Curve between those two extremes, coming at some point to a self-definition that "feels right/truthful" to them (or a mighty deep closet in which to wallow in guilt, self-hatred, and assorted drama).

For me, the first Pride I attended in about '90 or so was a revelation - my god, there were "other people like me", and I was not the "only one", and not everyone was "living the stereotype" - there were lots of just regular folks having a good time in a positive environment. Surely, there are excesses, but no more so than at Mardi Gras. It was as if a gorilla had climbed off my shoulders, and it was "ok to be me".

And finally, Pride isn't a collection of saints, either. It's a whole bunch of folks, almost all of whom have spent some portion of their lives hiding their identity from themselves and others, letting their hair down and celebrating in what, for a day or two, is a space we feel as our own, and safe - not surprisingly, some folks get a little harm (no blood), no foul.

I have my issues with certain pride organizers, but not with Pride. It combines celebration, community safety, and the role of the canary in the proverbial coal mine (and makes for one major fundraiser for community organizations, if done right) into a single joyous package.

I continue to hope that in Seattle we again see Pride Events that support the core LGBT business community on Capitol Hill. A parade on Broadway, and a festival in Volunteer Park. But to the attendees of Pride? Enjoy...and remember.

The missing Prop 8 comments...

Once a post gets to a certain size, mercy requires that it be ended before the readers head explodes. The DOMA post hit that limit well before any discussion of Prop 8 could take place.

California Proposition 8 and same sex marriage in California generally have a fairly convoluted history as such things go - so to a large extent I'll just skip that and leave the reader to explore the mind-bending twists of that voyage on their own. The holding in Hollingsworth v. Perry is sufficiently straightforward, technical and narrow that both the history and possibly even the subject matter of the case are largely irrelevant to the ruling - though very important to Californians wishing to legally marry their same-sex spouse.

Rather than addressing the merits of the Proposition 8 case, the Court addressed the issue of standing - whether or not a particular person or group of persons had the right, having suffered some identifiable wrong, to bring a case before the federal courts. Simply put, the Court ruled that the intervening plaintiffs in this case did not have standing to bring the case and, as a result, the Court was not required to render a decision upon the merits of the case and so would not.

 A key quote in the Prop 8 decision regarding standing "In other words, for a federal court to have authority under the Constitution to settle a dispute, the party before it must seek a remedy for a personal and tangible harm" lays the ground for the final order finding the intervening plaintiffs lack standing as they cannot formulate a particular personal and tangible harm they suffer. 

In terms of any enduring legal principle being set, the Prop 8 case breaks no new ground and only re-plows long-tilled judicial earth best summarized as "no standing, no case."

In terms of a practical effect on the rights of LGBT residents of the State of California, the effect is immense as a malicious initiative designed for no other purpose than to select them out from the general populace and ensure that they are reduced to a lesser "separate but equal" status when it comes to marriage rights is now decisively overturned, even if on a relatively technical point rather than the merits of the case as they might have been argued before the Court.

Summarized? A tremendous, but local, victory that does not set any sort of national precedent in terms of a Supreme Court ruling.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A briefer analysis - A 30-second guide to how the DOMA decision affects YOU!

Go. Read. Here.

DOMA & Prop 8 - Victories for Civil Rights

In handing down a decision on U.S. v. Windsor (better known as the DOMA decision), the U.S. Supreme Court today hands down a historic decision in the nearly traditional format of a 5-4 majority opinion. Not surprisingly, I believe the majority was not merely morally correct in their analysis, but legally and logically as well. I strongly urge reading, with a quad mocha venti in hand to fend off jargon induced snoozing, the original opinion linked above rather than relying on second hand analysis.

That said, I'm going to do some of that analysis and a bit of opining. But first...


With that out of my system, equality before the law is a consistent thread that has long run through my advocacy for both LGBT rights and Second Amendment rights - with some of the most personally challenging moments in my activist adventure being dealing with individuals in either camp that fail to see that freedom is one size fits all, and doesn't just apply to folks we like or agree with or whose lifestyles (or, when it comes to LGBT issues, drawing an especially interesting hand in the poker game of the fates).

Moving to todays decision on DOMA, however, we see five justices adhering to the settled principles laid out in Loving v. Virginia and Lawrence v. Texas. In Loving v. Virginia we saw the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously hand down a decision invalidating restrictions on interracial marriages nation wide, holding such regulation as unconstitutional under the provisions of the first section of the 14th Amendment.

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Probably the best summary of the decision is found in this quote

"Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942). See also Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888). To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State." 

Race is an inborn (if largely irrelevant in most instances) characteristic, and the evidence increasingly supports that orientation is an equally inborn (and largely equally irrelevant) characteristic outside of a very narrow band of activities. In each instance, outside of very narrow fact sets, we see the expression of the individuals possessed of these inborn characteristics as primarily a series of acts motivated by personal history and acculturation.

The Warren Court found race an impermissible classification upon which to deny the right to marry, finding that such a bar was odious to the Fourteenth Amendment.

In Lawrence v. Hardwick, the Court referenced a long line of cases reaching as far back as 1925 that developed the "right of privacy" as we know it today before reaching - again, under the Fourteenth Amendment - a decision ruling sodomy laws in Texas specifically (and by implication, throughout the United States) to be unconstitutional.

Feel free to skip ahead, but I think a quick review of the Courts line of cases will make clear why I associate these cases. Much like Miranda v. Arizona, the DOMA decision did not spring like a newborn unicorn in full flight leaving rainbow contrails behind it from the collective foreheads of five Justices - in each instance, the later decisions are built on a long list of prior decisions rather than originating in more fanciful realms.

In Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 the Court invalidated a state law prohibiting the use of drugs or devices of contraception and counseling or aiding and abetting the use of contraceptives describing the protected interest as a right to privacy and placed emphasis on the marriage relation and the protected space of the marital bedroom. 

In Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972), the Court invalidated a law prohibiting the distribution of contraceptives to unmarried persons, stating “It is true that in Griswold the right of privacy in question inhered in the marital relationship… . If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.” Id., at 453.

Griswold and Eisenstadt provided intellectual underpinning for Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 11(1973), the well known case that challenged the Texas law prohibiting abortions, but the laws of other States were affected as well.  Roe recognized the right of a woman to make certain fundamental decisions affecting her destiny and confirmed once more that the protection of liberty under the Due Process Clause has a substantive dimension of fundamental significance in defining the rights of the person.
In Carey v. Population Services Int’l, 431 U.S. 678 (1977), the Court confronted a New York law forbidding sale or distribution of contraceptive devices to persons under 16 years of age. Although there was no single opinion for the Court, the law was invalidated. Both Eisenstadt and Carey, as well as the holding and rationale in Roe, confirmed that the reasoning of Griswold could not be confined to the protection of rights of married adults. This was the state of the law with respect to some of the most relevant cases when the Court considered Bowers v. Hardwick.

Bowers, later ruled as decided in error, had some similarities to Lawrence v. Texas. A police officer observed Hardwick, in his own bedroom, engaging in intimate sexual conduct with another adult male in violation of the Georgia sodomy statute. Hardwick alleged the criminal prohibition violated rights guaranteed to him by the Constitution. The Court sustained the Georgia law. 1

Lawrence v. Texas rotates (again) around police finding two gay men rather enthusiastically in flagrante delicto in the home of one of the men, a presumptively private space. In Lawrence  the court over-ruled their prior decision in Bowers and cited  Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996) in a lengthy dissection in detail of the errors of Bowers. In Romer the Court struck down class-based legislation directed at homosexuals as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Romer invalidated an amendment to Colorado’s constitution set forth homosexuals, lesbians, or bisexual either by “orientation, conduct, practices or relationships,” id., as a special class  anddeprived them of protection under state anti-discrimination laws. In Lawrence, the Court held "Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled."
Concurrent to the later decisions in the chain above we saw early and abortive attempts to legalize same sex marriage in some states and subsequent to Lawrence, the successful passage of a variety of domestic partnership and marriage statutes accommodating same sex marriage in a number of states.

During this era we also saw the passage of DOMA and several other state and federal statutes emerge with the stated goal of ensuring that LGBT persons would be continued in a state of second class citizenship, denied a broad range of rights and privileges based upon their membership in the broad class "homosexual" in the sense of the word used in Romer.

It was in this contradictory environment that the Court found United States v. Windsor (Defense of Marriage Act challenge, Section 3 - ed.) hurled at it, not unlike a stink bomb at a cotillion. Section 3 of  DOMA specifically defined for all federal purposes marriage as  being exclusively the union of one man with one woman with no other permissible definition - in turn modifying the meaning of over 1,000 federal statutes including such wide-ranging subjects as burial next to a spouse in a veterans cemetery, immigration, tax law and far beyond. Further, the legislative and subsequent practical history made abundantly clear that the purpose of DOMA was to set forth a class of persons to be systematically deprived of rights that would otherwise be available to them in those instances where their resident states allowed same sex marriage in a broad new assertion of federal law as superseding the historic regulation of marriage standards by the states (while not exclusive, as shown in Loving, it in the greatest part has been a state issue and could likely be argued under the Tenth Amendment even more effectively).

The decision of the court should, in light of prior decisions, not have been a surprise to anyone. While it is a dissapointment that several justices chose to cling to the reasoning of Bowers, today we celebrate a triumph for civil rights and, perhaps, the beginning of an era where the response to the announcement of ones orientation is "So?"

Much of DOMA remains standing. The provision that allegedly relieves states of the onerous burden of recognizing same sex marriages performed in other states remains active, and in my understanding similarly relieves states of the burden of recognizing same sex marriages performed in other nations.

No case has yet appeared to examine how DOMA holds up to the Full Faith & Credit clause of the Constitution, which would seem to compel states to recognize marriages performed in accordance with the laws of other states. This, however, would seem to only be a matter of time.

Windsor is a step forward, a battle won. It is not the end, and as with most decisions raises more questions that future Courts must resolve. It is, however, a major step forward in the ongoing battle against legislated bigotry and for individual rights.

Without the legalese, which consenting adults get naked with other consenting adults is increasingly simply not the business of governmental nannyism.

1This section is largely a summarized quote from Lawrence v. Texas 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New "Background Check" Gun Control Initiative in WA

Micro-Summary:Universal Background Checks, end of private sales, gun registration, unlimited dealer transfer fees, criminalization of exchange of firearms between friends on informal ranges, lengthens waiting period to 10 days, removes CPL exemption from waiting period, eliminates eligibility of holder of "temporary emergency CPL" to purchase or receive a firearm...

            - Lay review, not legal opinion. For legal analysis, talk to an attorney...

Ok, the nimrods from the elitist Seattle anti-gun crowd have, having founded a bright shiny new anti-gun group (Washingtonians for Gun Responsibility) and already managed to raise a million bucks, are setting forth to try and buy a shiny new law by way of a peculiar Washington institution known as a "Initiative to the Legislature."

It seems Washington doesn't have just one way to do an initiative, but instead has two - the "Initiative to the People" (what all of us peons think of when the word "initiative" comes up) and the "Initiative to the Legislature." The second one is far less common and works a bit differently.

With the Initiative to the people you pay your $250, submit your proposal, get a title approved and an initiative number assigned, and then go steaming off to try for enough qualified signatures to get your dream on the ballot. No muss, no fuss.

The Initiative to the Legislature takes a detour. Initiatives to the Legislature , if certified, are submitted to the Legislature at its regular session each January. Once submitted, the Legislature must take one of the following three actions:

• The Legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people;

• The Legislature can reject or refuse to act on the pro - posed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election; or

• The Legislature can propose a different measure dealing with the same subject, in which case both measures must be placed on the next state General Election ballot.

We face an Initiative to the Legislature. What follows is a lay persons breakdown of what this thing would do if it gets enough signatures (and with Bloomberg messing with his billions at the state level, it seems a fair bet that enough petition gatherers - and thus, likely signatures - can be bought to at least get this thing on the ballot).

Micro-Summary:Universal Background Checks, end of private sales, gun registration, unlimited dealer transfer fees, criminalization of exchange of firearms between friends on informal ranges, lengthens waiting period to 10 days, removes CPL exemption from waiting period, eliminates eligibility of holder of "temporary emergency CPL" to purchase or receive a firearm...

Longer Summary (yet likely still incomplete)...

1) Requires a background check all sales or transfers, including but not limited to sales and transfers through a licensed dealer, at gun shows, online, and between unlicensed persons outside of specific exemptions.

 2) Requires all sales or transfers of firearms to be processed through an FFL. No limit on fee for such service is created. In person to person transactions, FFL must log firearm in and out as if it were a purchase from a wholesaler and sale to a consumer - creating a transaction  record (registration). 

3) NICS checks for all private sales or transfers, including gifts or loans (however transitory) - i.e., liability is created when handing a gun to a friend at the range for them to try out.

4) Carves out narrow exemptions for:

         a. Transfers to spouses, domestic partners, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, 
             grandchildren, nieces, nephews, first cousins, aunts, and uncles, that is a bona fide gift.

         b. The sale or transfer of an antique firearm;

         c. A temporary transfer of possession of a firearm if such transfer is necessary to prevent  
             imminent death or great bodily harm to the person to whom the firearm is transferred if
             (i) The temporary transfer only lasts as long as immediately necessary to prevent such
                  imminent death or great bodily harm; and
            (ii) The person to whom the firearm is transferred is not prohibited from possessing firearms
                   under state or federal law.
         d. Law Enforcement
         e. Federally Licensed gunsmiths
         f.     The temporary transfer of a firearm
                (i) between spouses or domestic partners;
              (ii)  if the temporary transfer occurs, and the firearm is kept at all times, at an established    
                     shooting range authorized by the governing body of the jurisdiction in which such range
                    is located;
             (iii) if the temporary transfer occurs and the transferee’s possession of the firearm is
                    exclusively at a lawful organized competition involving the use of a firearm, or while
                    participating in or practicing for a performance by an organized group that uses firearms
                    as a part of the performance;
             (iv) to a person who is under eighteen years of age for lawful hunting, sporting, or
                    educational purposes while under the direct supervision and control of a responsible
                    adult who is not prohibited from possessing firearms; or
              (v) while hunting if the hunting is legal in all places where the person to whom the firearm is
                    transferred possesses the firearm and the person to whom the firearm is transferred has
                    completed all training and holds all licenses or permits required for such hunting. 
                    Provided that any temporary transfer allowed by this subsection is permitted only if the
                    person to whom the firearm is transferred is not prohibited from possessing firearms    
                    under state or federal law; or
        g.    A person who (i) acquired a firearm other than a pistol by operation of law upon the death
              of the former owner of the firearm or (ii) acquired a pistol by operation of law upon the
              death of the former owner of the pistol within the preceding 60 days. At the end of the
              60-day period, the person must either have lawfully transferred the pistol or must have
              contacted the Department of Licensing to notify the Department that he or she has
              possession of the pistol and intends to retain possession of the pistol, in compliance with all
              federal and state laws.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Gun Blogger Rendezvous - 94 Days and Counting....

Maybe this?
In 94 days gun bloggers and their readers will gather with gun rights enthusiasts and the occasional legal genius at the Eighth Annual Gun Blogger Rendezvous. They'll shoot the s#$^, shoot some targets, make new friends and connections and share a few resources.Shooting events include long range rifle, steel shooting, Cowboy Fast Draw and, for the first time ever, fire the (a surprise courtesy of GBR's friends at Gun Auction, local conditions permitting).

Or this?
Gun Blogger Rendezvous supports Project Valor IT - a division of Soldiers Angels that provides voice actuated computers and other support technologies to injured service men and women. These tools allow them to communicate with their friends and family (even from their hospital beds, shown to significantly increase their rate of recovery), build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges, and increase motivation - speeding recovery .

All GBR funds beyond immediate event expenses go to support Project Valor IT, and all GBR organizers are unpaid volunteers.  GBR raised roughly $6,000 for Project Valour-IT in 2012 and hopes to do even better this year.
Or maybe...

Courtesy of GBRs generous sponsors, attendees  go home with door prizes ranging from firearms to books and more.  Past sponsors include Ruger,, Cabelas, MKSSupply/HiPoint, Crimson Trace, Comp-Tac, Springfield Armory, Dillon Precision, Brownells, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the NRA, the Second Amendment Foundation...

Depending on those local conditions, the GunAuction surprise will be announced in a few days or weeks....

Sign up now to find out for sure - hope to see you there!! 

It's a heck of a deal for $30....