Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Big Business Celebrates Marriage Equality

One phenomenon that has been amazing has is the embrace of marriage equality and gay rights in general by big business.  For businesses, not only is equality the right thing to do, but it is also good for the bottom line.  What is interesting is that this trend has driven a wedge between big business and the Republican Party as was witnessed in the Indiana "religious freedom law" debacle and elsewhere.  Above and below are images from the Internet of corporate America celebrating yesterday's marriage ruling.

GOP Candidates Rush to Prostitute Themselves to Gay Haters

The hysteria on the far right over yesterday's ruling has been off the charts and in some cases so insane as to be almost comical.  I continue to wonder how individuals become so insane and unhinged from objective reality and at times believe that clinging to fundamentalist religious beliefs, not homosexuality, is the true clinical mental illness.  Equally remarkable has been the rush by Republican candidates - especially at the presidential level - to utterly prostitute themselves to Christofascists elements of the GOP base - a group that I increasingly see as the forces of evil.  With the 2016 general election still over 16 months away and thus time for people to become more accustomed to nationwide gay marriage, some of this political whores may be screwing themselves over in the longer term.  Right Wing Watch has a collection of the both the batshit crazy Christofascist comments and of the pandering political whores.  Here are highlights:

[T]the Supreme Court ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, effectively legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states.

Needless to say, anti-gay Religious Right activists and Republican politicians who have repeatedly warned that such a ruling would literally destroy America have not reacted well, as exemplified by Bryan Fischer, who fired off a series of tweets declaring that Satan is now dancing in the streets of America.

Anti-gay Republican presidential hopefuls were quick to weigh in:

Mike Fuckabee Huckabee:  "The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do-redefine marriage. I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat. . . . the court cannot write a law, even though some cowardly politicians will wave the white flag and accept it without realizing that they are failing their sworn duty to reject abuses from the court. If accepted by Congress and this President, this decision will be a serious blow to religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment."

Bobby Jindal:  Governor Jindal said, “The Supreme Court decision today conveniently and not surprisingly follows public opinion polls, and tramples on states’ rights that were once protected by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that. . . . . This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty. 

Rick Santorum: Today, five unelected justices decided to redefine the foundational unit that binds together our society without public debate or input. Now is the people’s opportunity respond because the future of the institution of marriage is too important to not have a public debate.  I will stand for the preservation of religious liberty and conscience, to believe what you are called to believe free from persecution. And I will ensure that the people will have a voice in decisions that impact the rock upon which our civilization is built.”

Scott Walker: I believe this Supreme Court decision is a grave mistake. Five unelected judges have taken it upon themselves to redefine the institution of marriage, an institution that the author of this decision acknowledges “has been with us for millennia.” . . . . the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage.

Anti-gay Religious Right organizations, like the Family Research Council, likewise vowed never to accept this ruling.

“We will not lapse into silence but will continue to speak uncompromisingly for the truth about what marriage is, always has been, and always will be: the union of one man and one woman,” concluded [white supremacist] Tony Perkins.

Concerned Bitches Women For America:  Today goes down in history as the day nine unelected judges kicked the Constitution to the curb — overturning traditional marriage — and put your religious freedom dangerously at risk.  The decision is in. The justices have ruled. Marriage will be redefined to conform to the pro-LGBT view of marriage.  In one appalling decision, the Supreme Court has effectively opened the door to the criminalization of Christianity when it comes to the marriage issue ... and not just Christianity, but every major religion that supports God’s model for marriage and family.

The Single Most Important Word In the Marriage Equality Opinion

Justice Anthony Kennedy who authored yesterday's historic ruling
Tucked into yesterday's historic marriage ruling is a single word that may in time auger the ultimate total legal defeat of the Christofascists' war on LGBT Americans.  The word?   Immutable.  Why is this so single word so important?  Because it is the basis for non-discrimination protections based on other immutable characteristics such as race, gender, age, and national origin (unfortunately, religion is included in such statutory protections even though religion is totally voluntary and a choice).  If sexual orientation or gender identity is immutable, it sets the stage for the expansion of non-discrimination laws and the Christofascist claims that sexual orientation is a "choice" or strictly voluntary "conduct."   Think Progress looks at how this single word may have huge impact in the years to come.  Here are excerpts:
[W]hile Friday’s decision is not a perfect victory for gay rights, it is still a massive one. And it likely clears the path for a follow up decision establishing that the rights of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals extend far beyond the marital context.

The single most important word in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion for the Court is “immutable.” He uses this word twice, once in an off-hand statement that sexual orientation is an “immutable nature,” and again in a more pointed statement that “psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.”

Kennedy’s declaration that sexual orientation is immutable has obvious political significance. It puts to bed, at least for legal purposes, what remains of the debate over whether people can choose not to be gay. But this word also carries particular significance in a case such as this one, where a discrete group of Americans allege that they are victims of discrimination. Though the Court’s cases have, at times, been murky on this point, they often refer to immutably as one of several factors that, when combined, can trigger heightened scrutiny. Kennedy’s decision to use this loaded word is a sign that he — and a majority of the Supreme Court — is willing to hold that all anti-gay discrimination by government should be treated skeptically.

Obergefell drops other hints that such a holding is coming. The primary factor in determining whether discrimination against a particular group should be subject to heightened scrutiny is whether that group has historically faced discrimination that bears “no relation to ability to perform or contribute to society.” Kennedy leaves little doubt that gay people meet this standard.

A close runner-up in the competition for the single most important word in Kennedy’s opinion is “fundamental.” Obergefell holds that marriage is a fundamental right, and that this right extends to same sex couples.

This holding is significant for two reasons. For one, it normalizes the Supreme Court’s gay rights jurisprudence. . . . . When a right is recognized as fundamental, any law that abridges it must be treated as preemptively unconstitutional.

Another noteworthy aspect of the ruling is recognized:
Justice Anthony Kennedy is a conservative Republican. The irony of Obergefell v. Hodges is that it is also a socially conservative opinion. The men and women behind this lawsuit, Kennedy writes, seek admission into one of the most profound and most conservative institutions in our society. According to Kennedy’s opinion, “marriage is a keystone of our social order.” It is “the foundation of the family and of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.” It gives “character to our whole civil polity.” And it “remains a building block of our national community.”

And when Kennedy looks at men and women such as DeKoe, Kostura, Obergefell, Arthur, DeBoer and Rowse, and he does not see people trying to disrupt the social order. He sees people who served their country, who take in children that others cast aside. He sees the life he has enjoyed with his own wife, and he understands how soul-crushing it would be if the state treated his wife as if she were a stranger to him.

Yesterday was a huge victory for LGBT Americans.  It may prove to be an even bigger defeat for the Christofascists and the hate dispensing "family values" groups who as a further aside may have just lost one of their biggest fundraising schemes. 

HR Pride Block Party - Gays Have Come a Long Way

A thorn between two roses

Last night's HR Pride  Block Party which was moved to Scope - Norfolk's concert and sports arena - because of threatening weather.  The event was so over the top compared to anything ever seen before outside of the actual PrideFest event in Town Point Park.  Perhaps because of yesterday's historic marriage ruling, people may have been in an extra celebratory mood.  Whatever the reason, the place was packed with thousands of people, a huge dance floor, great music, a wonderful decor - including a full moon and "moonlit" seating areas for those not wanting to dance - and, of course, adult refreshments.  One thing that was amazing is how the city of Norfolk stepped up and made Scope available on basically a day's notice.  The entire event was something that no one in the LGBT community would have imagined ever being held in Norfolk just five to ten years ago, especially with massive cooperation with the city.     While there, I had the opportunity to speak with the Grand Marshal for today's event, MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts (who was a local reporter years ago) and his husband, Patrick.

The weather forecast today is less than wonderful but the husband and I will be aboard the American Rover for the PrideFest boat parade - the only one in America - with friends before spending the afternoon at PrideFest.  I encourage local readers to attend.  More details can be found here

This year's Pride celebration has truly turned into a Pride week with events virtually every day all week.  Just 12 years ago when I attended my first Hampton Roads Pride, the event was tucked back out of sight in a Norfolk city park with the number of attendees being in the hundreds.  Now, we are celebrating in Norfolk's premier waterfront venue and the attendees number in the many thousands.  We have truly come a long way in Norfolk and across the nation.

On a side note, one of my daughters posted this on her Facebook page and really touched me:
This is probably not the most mature thing but....if you don't agree with today's ruling please either go ahead and unfriend yourself, or comment so I can unfriend you. Today's ruling was just the first step of many needed to provide our LGBTQ brothers and sisters with the rights they are due.
The Christofascists and Republican Party are truly alienating the Millennials with their anti-gay animus and bigotry. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Gay Marriage and an End to Stigma

The Husband and I with my late father-in-law at our wedding
Today's landmark ruling striking down all same sex marriage bans across America is something I never thought I'd live to see.  Here in Virginia, engaging in same sex relations could expose you to a felony prosecution until as recently as 2013.  Anti-gay laws have ALWAYS been about punishing gays for not conforming to Christofascist religious beliefs and the goal has been to dehumanize us and stigmatize us so that the modern day Pharisee crowd could feel superior and falsely pious.  In the process, so many lives of LGBT individuals were damaged or ruined.  And our enemies sadly cared nothing about the harm they did - and still seek to do. There is still much work to be done - Virginia still allows gays to be fired at will - but the pain and stigma that younger generations will encounter will have to be better than what mine experienced.  Andrew Sullivan sums up much of what I am thinking and feeling today.  Here are highlights:
For many years, it felt like one step forward, two steps back. History is a miasma of contingency, and courage, and conviction, and chance.

But some things you know deep in your heart: that all human beings are made in the image of God; that their loves and lives are equally precious; that the pursuit of happiness promised in the Declaration of Independence has no meaning if it does not include the right to marry the person you love; and has no force if it denies that fundamental human freedom to a portion of its citizens.

This core truth is what Justice Kennedy affirmed today, for the majority: that gay people are human. I wrote the following in 1996:
Homosexuality, at its core, is about the emotional connection between two adult human beings. And what public institution is more central—more definitive—of that connection than marriage? The denial of marriage to gay people is therefore not a minor issue. It is the entire issue. It is the most profound statement our society can make that homosexual love is simply not as good as heterosexual love; that gay lives and commitments and hopes are simply worth less.
We are not disordered or sick or defective or evil – at least no more than our fellow humans in this vale of tears. We are born into family; we love; we marry; we take care of our children; we die. No civil institution is related to these deep human experiences more than civil marriage and the exclusion of gay people from this institution was a statement of our core inferiority not just as citizens but as human beings. It took courage to embrace this fact the way the Supreme Court did today. 

I think of the gay kids in the future who, when they figure out they are different, will never know the deep psychic wound my generation – and every one before mine – lived through: the pain of knowing they could never be fully part of their own family, never be fully a citizen of their own country. I think, more acutely, of the decades and centuries of human shame and darkness and waste and terror that defined gay people’s lives for so long. And I think of all those who supported this movement who never lived to see this day, . . .

I never believed this would happen in my lifetime . . .
What is so sad is that the Christofascists still care nothing about the harm they do.  Nor do their political whores in the Republican Party who are falling all over themselves condemning today's ruling and promising to work to make our lives less equal.  Some on the right have said the ruling was Satanic.  If there is anything Satanic , it is the Christofascists and their sycophants.  They and other religious fundamentalists are a face of evil in the world.

Supreme Court Strikes Down All Gay Marriage Bans

It is a very emotional day - in a 5-4 ruling, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing the opinion, the United States Supreme Court ruled today that the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.  It is a dream come true for same sex couples who until just 12 years ago had to fear felony prosecutions in 13 states (including Virginia) for same sex relations. It is also a nightmare come true for Christofascists who see their ability to inject their toxic and ignorance worshiping beliefs crumbling before their eyes.    As a bit of irony, its was on June 26, 2013, that the ruling in Lawrence v. Texas struck down the remaining sodomy statutes. Then, on June 26, 2013 the ruling in United States v. Windsor struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act as applicable to the federal government.  Here are some initial highlights from the ruling (see the opinion here):

The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity. The petitioners in these cases seek to find that liberty by marrying someone of the same sex and having their marriages deemed lawful on the same terms and conditions as marriages between persons of the opposite sex.

With the exception of the opinion here under review and one other,  . . . . the Courts of Appeals have held that excluding same-sex couples from marriage violates the Constitution.

Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The fundamental liberties protected by this Clause include most of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. See Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 147–149 (1968). In addition these liberties extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs.

The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.

[T]he Court has long held the right to marry is protected by the Constitution. In Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1, 12 (1967), which invalidated bans on interracial unions, a unanimous Court held marriage is “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” The Court reaffirmed that holding in Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U. S. 374, 384 (1978), which held the right to marry was burdened by a law prohibiting fathers who were behind on child support from marrying. The Court again applied this principle in Turner v. Safley, 482 U. S. 78, 95 (1987), which held the right to marry was abridged by regulations limiting the privilege of prison inmates to marry. Over time and in other contexts, the Court has reiterated that the right to marry is fundamental under the Due Process Clause.

[A]nalysis compels the conclusion that same-sex couples may exercise the right to marry. The four principles and traditions to be discussed demonstrate that the reasons marriage is fundamental under the Constitution apply with equal force to same-sex couples.

A first premise of the Court’s relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. This abiding connection between marriage and liberty is why Loving invalidated interracial marriage bans under the Due Process Clause.

A second principle in this Court’s jurisprudence is that the right to marry is fundamental because it supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals. . . . As this Court held in Lawrence, same-sex couples havethe same right as opposite-sex couples to enjoy intimate association.

Under the laws of the several States, some of marriage’s protections for children and families are material. But marriage also confers more profound benefits. By giving recognition and legal structure to their parents’ relationship, marriage allows children “to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.” . . . As all parties agree, many same-sex couples provide loving and nurturing homes to their children, whether biological or adopted. And hundreds of thousands of children are presently being raised by such couples.

Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents,relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.

[W]hile the States are in general free to vary the benefits they confer on all married couples, they have throughout our history made marriage the basis for an expanding list of governmental rights, benefits, and responsibilities. These aspects of marital status include: taxation; inheritance and property rights; rules of intestate succession; spousal privilege in the law of evidence; hospital access; medical decision making authority;adoption rights; the rights and benefits of survivors; birth and death certificates; professional ethics rules; campaign finance restrictions; workers’ compensation benefits; health insurance; and child custody, support, and visitation rules.

There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle. Yet by virtue of their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just material burdens. Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriage all the more precious by the significance it attaches to it,exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching that gays and lesbians are unequal in important respects. It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation’s society. Same-sex couples, too, may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage and seek fulfillment in its highest meaning.

The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest.

The right to marry is fundamental as a matter of history and tradition, but rights come not from ancient sources alone. They rise, too, from a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives define a liberty that remains urgent in our own era. Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises,and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes en- acted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied. Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their person hood to deny them this right. 

The right of same-sex couples to marry that is part of the liberty promised by the Fourteenth Amendment is derived, too, from that Amendment’s guarantee of the equal protection of the laws.

The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex.

More reflections will follow in subsequent posts - as will thoughts on the spittle flecked hysteria that will no doubt be sweeping through Christofascists circles.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

It is Time for "Conservatives" to End Climate Change Denial

Michael Gerson is a conservative op-ed writer for the Washington Post and former Bush administration official.  I don't always agree with his views, but increasingly he is a voice of sanity in the otherwise rabid dog world of today's Republican Party where objective reality simply does not matter.  For today's GOP, all that counts is insanity based most often on extremist religious beliefs and a desire to return America to the worse abuses of the Gilded Age.  In a column today in the Washington Post, Gerson makes the case that it is time for the lunatics conservatives to end their climate change denial.  Here are column highlights:
Reducing Pope Francis’s encyclical “Laudato Si” to a white paper on global warming is, in George Weigel’s fitting analogy, “akin to reading ‘Moby Dick’ as if it were a treatise on the 19th-century New England whaling industry.” The whole spirit and story of the thing are missed.

The pope’s sprawling, ambitious statement —  the pope is making a frontal assault on a technological and utilitarian worldview that treats creation as “raw material to be hammered into useful shape,” reduces humans to mere consumers and treats inconvenient people as so much refuse.

In the pope’s vision, both nature and human nature are gifts to be appreciated and accepted, not despoiled or redefined.

Francis is offended — infuriated, really — by how humans have treated their home and one another. And he has particularly harsh words for habits of consumption and exploitation in rich countries.

[T]here is no getting around the fact that Francis regards potentially catastrophic, human-caused global warming as a fact. “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. . . . [a] number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases . . . released mainly as a result of human activity.” 

In American politics, the pope’s encyclical has not made legislative action on climate change inevitable, but it has made the issue unavoidable. The politician’s shrug — “I’m no scientist” — is no longer acceptable. If climate change is a global threat, then addressing it, as the pope argues, is both a moral and public requirement.

But the dysfunctional American debate on climate change illustrates a broader challenge. Ten or 15 years ago, this issue was less divisive. But it got pulled into the polarization vortex. And now the two sides do not merely hold different policy views; they have different versions of reality. 

Many conservative Republicans now deny the existence or danger of human-caused warming and routinely question the motives of scientists who speak up on the issue. For a conservative to stray from skepticism is regarded as ideological betrayal.

In a recent National Affairs essay, Jim Manzi and Peter Wehner provide an explanation: “The Republican position — either avowed ignorance or conspiracy theorizing — is ultimately unsustainable,  . . . .

The pope’s views on climate change are shared by every national academy of science in the world, including our own. . . . . Conservatives can choose their policy reaction but not their own reality.

SCOTUS Saves Obamacare and the Fair Housing Act

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down two stunning defeats for Republicans and the far right yesterday by (i) upholding the Affordable Health Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare, in a 6-3 decision, and (ii) the Fair Housing Act.   No doubt the plotting and scheming to attack the health care coverage of millions of Americans and protections against housing discrimination will persist among Republicans who preach a reverse Robin Hood agenda and show an utter contempt for the Gospel message notwithstanding their hypocrisy filled claims to revere "Christian values."  An editorial in the New York Times looks at the Court's ruling on Obamacare.  Here are excerpts:
On Thursday morning, for the second time in three years, a majority of the Supreme Court rightly rejected a blatantly political effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act. The case challenging the law, King v. Burwell, was always an ideological farce dressed in a specious legal argument, and the court should never have taken review of it to begin with.

Its core claim — that an ambiguous four-word phrase buried deep in the 900-page law eliminates health insurance for millions of lower-income Americans — was preposterous.

Writing for a six-member majority, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. agreed that this clear, overriding purpose was the guiding principle. “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.”

In all the years leading up to the law’s passage, no one questioned that purpose. Not a single person involved in passing or interpreting the law — including members of Congress, health-care journalists, and Supreme Court justices themselves — ever expressed a belief that subsidies would not be available on federally-operated exchanges. But the current challenge, brought to you by some of the same tireless conservative and libertarian activists who tried and failed to kill the health reform law in 2012, fabricated an alternate history out of thin air.

It was a grandly orchestrated charade sold to people who were already furious about the law and just needed a legal rationale, however far-fetched, to try to gut it.

And it worked on the three justices whose disdain for the law has always been clear: Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas. In a dissent laced with outrage and mockery, Justice Scalia called the court’s decision “quite absurd,” and quipped, “We should start calling this law Scotus-care.” 

But as Chief Justice Roberts explained in detail, the health reform law depends on tax-credit subsidies to make health care affordable for more than six million Americans. Eliminating subsidies “could well push a state’s individual insurance market into a death spiral,” he wrote, since fewer people would enroll and premiums for everyone would shoot up — the very result Congress designed the reform law to avoid.

Thursday’s decision was a powerful defense of the law, stronger than observers might have expected from this court. . . . . the court focused on the broader structure of the law itself, preserving the proper reading of it regardless of the politics of the next administration.

This is one of the things government was built to do: provide all Americans with access to quality, affordable and often-lifesaving health care. And this is what those who are determined to gut the law have been trying to dismantle. It is to the Supreme Court’s credit that in this case, the majority of justices managed to stay above the politics of this issue and do their job — which is to interpret the law Congress wrote in its entirety, not to rewrite it.

Jury Finds "Ex-Gay" Ministry Guilty of Consumer Fraud

Just recently Christopher Doyle, an "ex-gay" who has makes a living peddling the "ex-gay" myth authored an article that appeared in the Christian Post that would have readers to have believed that the lawsuit against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) was going down in flames.  Like everything else that comes out of Doyle, the picture he depicted was utterly false and deliberately so.  To the contrary, JONAH lost the case and the jury found that it was guilty of fraud.  The same charge, of course, in reality equally applies to every other "ex-gay" ministry in America.  A piece in details the historic win by the plaintiffs and counsel from the Southern Poverty Law Center.   Here are highlights:
A New Jersey jury on Thursday found a non-profit group that provides gay-to-straight conversion therapy guilty of consumer fraud for promising clients they could overcome their sexual urges by undressing in front of other men, pummeling an effigy of their mothers, and re-enacting traumatic childhood experiences.

In the first case in the nation to put the controversial practice on trial, the jury concluded that Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berk, the founders of Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing in Jersey City and life coach Alan Downing to whom JONAH referred patients, "engaged in unconscionable commercial practices" and misrepresented their services.

The verdict requires JONAH and Downing to refund thousands of dollars paid by former clients Michael Ferguson, Benjamin Unger, Sheldon Bruck, Chaim Levin, and parents Jo Bruck and Bella Levin for the individual and group counseling sessions and the "journey into manhood" weekends in the woods. Downing charged $60 to $100 for group and individual sessions but shared 20 percent with JONAH to help defray its administrative costs.

After three hours of deliberations, the jury found Unger was entitled to $17,950; Chaim Levin was entitled to $650; his mother, Bella, $4,000; and Bruck's mother, Jo, $500.

But the victory has broader implications. The national civil rights legal advocacy group Southern Poverty Law Center filed the case to take a stand against conversion therapy — a frequent target of public criticism since the passage of same-sex marriage laws and other LGBT legal protections.
"This is a momentous event in the history of the LGBT rights movement," said David Dinielli, deputy director for the law center and lead attorney for the plaintiffs. "The jury agreed not only is this based on lies, but it is an unconscionable business practice."

The legal battle is not over, Dinielli said they would be asking the court for an injunction to stop JONAH from operating. They will also seek the payment of their attorneys fees, which is permitted under the consumer fraud act.

"This is something brutal based on lies, and it needs to stop," he said.

James Bromley, one of the plaintiff's attorneys, accused Goldberg of lying to his clients - three orthodox Jews and a Mormon- who were desperate to conform to the expectations of their religious communities to marry and have children. They were lured by Goldberg's false promise of the program's two-thirds success rate, but Bromley reminded jurors Goldberg testified that estimate was based on counselors' opinions. 

He [Bromley] asked the jury to recall the testimony of Carol Bernstein, former president of the American Psychiatric Association, who compared conversion therapy counselors "to amateur surgeons operating on the minds of young gay men."  "You never want to go under the knife with an amateur surgeon," he said.
These "ministries" need to be shut down nationwide  and therapists who engage in the voodoo like practices need to lose their licenses.  Let's hope that this is the first of many such lawsuits.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thursday Male Beauty

How America Can Free Itself from Guns

The recent horrific murders in Charleston have revived debate and posturing on America's insane gun ownership policies that help make gun violence off the charts compared to the rest of the developed world.  Advocates for unrestricted gun ownership cite the 2nd Amendment and believe their rights - much like the Christofascists do on religious belief - trump the rights of everyone else.  It is no surprise that both groups are core constituencies for the Republican Party that places the rights of the extremist few above the rights of the majority.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at strategies to end the gun insanity that plagues the nation.  Here are highlights:

Advocates of a saner approach to guns need a new strategy. We cannot go on like this, wringing our hands in frustration after every tragedy involving firearms. We said “enough” after Sandy Hook. We thought the moment for action had come. Yet nothing happened. We are saying “enough” after Charleston. But this time, we don’t even expect anything to happen.

What’s needed is a long-term national effort to change popular attitudes toward handgun ownership. And we need to insist on protecting the rights of Americans who do not want to be anywhere near guns.

None of this should mean letting Congress off the hook or giving up on what might be done now. So kudos to Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) for saying on Tuesday that they are looking for ways to bring back their proposal that would require background checks for gun sales. 

Lest anyone doubt that gun control measures can work, a study released this month by the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University found that a 1995 Connecticut law requiring a permit or license contingent on passing a background check was associated with a 40 percent drop in gun homicides.

But as long as gun control is linked to ideology and party — and as long as the National Rifle Association and its allies claim a monopoly on arguments about individual rights — reasonable steps of this sort will be ground to death by the Washington Obstruction Machine.

That’s why the nation needs a public service offensive on behalf of the health and safety of us all. It could build on Sandy Hook Promise and other civic endeavors. If you doubt it could succeed, consider how quickly opinion changed on the Confederate battle flag.

My friend Guy Molyneux, a progressive pollster, laid out how it could happen. “We need to build a social movement devoted to the simple proposition that owning handguns makes us less safe, not more,” he told me. “The evidence is overwhelming that having a gun in your home increases the risks of suicide, domestic violence and fatal accidents, and yet the number one reason given for gun purchases is ‘personal safety.’ We need a public health campaign on the dangers of gun ownership, similar to the successful efforts against smoking and drunk driving.”

When we talk about guns, we don’t focus enough on the reality, reported in the 2015 Annual Review of Public Health, that nearly two-thirds of the deaths from firearm violence are suicides. Yes, people can try to kill themselves with pills, but there’s no coming back from a gunshot to the head. Those in the throes of depression who have a gun nearby are more likely to act on their darkest impulses.

Nor do we talk enough about accidental deaths when children get their hands on guns, or what happens when a domestic argument escalates and a firearm is readily available. The message is plain and simple: Households that voluntarily say no to guns are safer.

“This is not about the government saying you cannot own a handgun. This is about society saying you should not have a gun, especially in a home with children.”

“Those of us who want to live, shop, go to school and worship in gun-free spaces also have rights,” Molyneux said. “In what way is ‘freedom’ advanced by telling the owner of a bar or restaurant they cannot ban handguns in their own place of business, as many states now do? Today, it is the NRA that is the enemy of freedom, by seeking to impose its values on everyone else.”

The nation could ring out with the new slogans of liberty: “Not in my house.” “Not in our school.” “Not in my bar.” “Not in our church.” We’d be defending one of our most sacred rights: The right not to bear arms.

Jindal Joins GOP Clown Car and Attacks Jeb Bush

Bobby Jindal has run Louisiana into the ground and after stating that the Republican Party needed to stop being the "stupid party" has proceeded to do everything possible to label himself as exhibit 1 of what the GOP should not be doing.  He has utterly prostituted himself to the Christofascist elements of the GOP base and in the process outraged big business in Louisiana.  Now, Jindal has joined the list of declared occupants of the GOP clown car and will take his batshitery to an even wider stage.  In his announcement of his candidacy, he launched into an attack on Jeb Bush that likely has Hillary Clinton smiling broadly.  Politico looks at the launch of Jindal's delusional campaign.  Here are highlights:

Bobby Jindal went there. As the 13th Republican candidate to enter the presidential race, the Louisiana governor tried to grab attention by going negative with his announcement speech Wednesday, smacking down his rivals as “selfish” politicians who are nothing more than “talkers,” and calling out Jeb Bush as a mushy conservative.

“You’ve heard Jeb Bush saying we need to be able to lose the primary to win the general election. We’re going to help him do that,” Jindal said, kicking off his long-shot bid for the GOP presidential nomination.

Presenting himself as an unapologetically religious, small-government conservative, Jindal told several hundred supporters inside a musty event hall here that his rivals may talk a good game but that he plans to punch his way back into the race by telling the truth.

“Here’s the truth about most politicians: They are selfish, and they are followers, not leaders,” said Jindal, who promised to cut spending and wear his religious beliefs on his sleeve, even if he runs afoul of Washington’s “in crowd” by doing so.

Polling at just under 1 percent nationally, Jindal has little choice but to run as an insurgent, anti-establishment firebrand.

[H]e reserved his most vicious firepower for Bush, the current GOP front-runner.  Jindal warned that Bush is putting the whole Republican Party in danger by appeasing the left and masking conservative views.

“He is saying that we need to hide our conservative ideals,” he said. “But the truth is, if we go down that road again, we will lose again.”

[D]uring his speech Wednesday, Jindal focused less on policy points, playing up the politics of grievance that he hopes will fire up social conservatives.

“I know that some believe that I talk too much about my faith,” said Jindal, who was born Hindu but converted to Catholicism. “But I will not be silenced in order to meet their expectations of political correctness. They don’t accept the idea that you can be both intellectual and Christian.

I beg to differ, but conservative Christian beliefs and being intellectual and reality based are mutually exclusive.  Jindal conveniently forgets that he converted to a church that took hundreds of years to formally admit that it was wrong about Galileo.