The Daily Agenda for Monday, September 24

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2012

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Supreme Court May Consider Hearing Prop 8, DOMA Appeals: Washington, DC. The U.S. Supreme Court had been scheduled to decide today whether they will hear the appeal of Hollingsworth v. Perry — the new name for the Perry v. Brown, which was previously Perry v. Schwarzenegger — which challenges the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8. That state ban on same-sex marriage was declared unconstitutional in Federal District Court, and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld that ban. If the Supreme Court declines to take the case, then Prop 8 would be overturned and Californian same-sex couples would be allowed to marry again. But if the Court decides to take the case, the earlier rulings will almost certainly be stayed until the court can settle the matter once and for all.

Also scheduled for consideration is Windsor v. USA, which challenges the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. As things stand right now, Section 3 of DOMA has been declared unconstitutional, and that decision has been upheld by the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

That said, there is some uncertainty as to whether the court will actually decided today whether to take up those cases. If they don’t decide today, the next conference to consider these challenges (and perhaps as many as four other DOMA challenges making their way to the Supreme Court) is scheduled for October 5. Some believe that the court may wait until then to consider all of the challenges related to same-sex marriage in one conference. If the Supreme Court decides to take either of the two cases under consideration today, then we will likely know about it tomorrow. But if the court decides to either reject the cases or hold them for later consideration, we won’t learn about their decision until October 1.

Supreme Court to Consider National Organization for Marriage’s Financial Disclosure Appeal: Washington, DC. The US Supreme Court has a fairly busy docket for today’s conference. In addition to the marriage cases above, another case of interest is NOM v. McKee, in which the lower courts have ruled  that NOM is required to comply with Maine law, which requires that groups which raise and spend money in state election campaigns must organize as a political action committee for that activity and disclose those who donate more than $100 to those campaigns. The Court refused to consider an appeal earlier this year, but NOM is back with a slightly different approach to whether they must comply with Main’s law. If the Court refuses again, then NOM is back where it started from. If the court decides to take the case, we may know as early as tomorrow.

Supreme Court to Consider Appeal of Arizona’s Revocation of Domestic Partnership Benefits: Washington, D.C. When Republican Gov. Jan Brewer took over from Democrat Janet Napolitano, she wasted no time whatsoever in taking steps to revoke domestic partnership benefits for state employees which had been instituted by her predecessor. Equality advocates sued, and the lower courts have determined so far that the Governor’s actions, backed by a reactionary GOP-dominated legislature, violates the equal protection of same-sex couples. Arizona is appealing, and now the U.S. Supreme Court will decide today whether to take up the case.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Your Elongated Protruberance”: 1826. In May of 1826, Jeffrey Withers, a twenty-two year old law student at South Carolina College, wrote to his dear friend, James Hammond, 18, a letter which is both playful and quite frank about the physical nature of their relationship (see May 15). Hammond responded on June 3, but that letter appears to have been lost. Instead, what we do have is a follow-up letter from Withers which allude to that letter, which Withers praised for having “too much honesty of purpose” and in which Hammond, apparently, weighed the pros and cons of marriage. Withers’s reply to Hammond on September 24 went like this:

Your excellent Letter of 13 June arrived … a few weeks since … Here, where anything like a systematic course of thought, or of reading, is quite out of the question — such system as leaves no vacant, idle moments of painful vacuity, which invites a whole Kennel of treacherous passions to prey upon one’s vitals … the renovation of spirit which follows the appearance of a friend’s Letter — the diagram of his soul — is like a grateful shower from the cooling fountains of Heaven to reanimate drooping Nature. Whilst your letters are Transcripts of real–existing feeling, and are on that account peculiarly welcome — they at the same time betray too much honesty of purpose not to strike an harmonious chord in my mind. I have only to regret that, honesty of intention and even assiduity in excition [?] are far from being the uniform agents of our destiny here– However it must, at best, be only an a priori argument for us to settle the condemnation of the world, before we come in actual contact with it. This task is peculiarly appropriate to the acrimony of old age — and perhaps we had as well defer it, under the hope that we may reach a point, when ’twill be all that we can do–

l fancy, Jim, that your elongated protruberance –your fleshen pole — your [two Latin words; indecipherable] — has captured complete mastery over you — and I really believe, that you are charging over the pine barrens of your locality, braying, like an ass, at every she-male you can discover. I am afraid that you are thus prostituting the “image of God” and suggest that if you thus blasphemously essay to put on the form of a Jack — in this stead of that noble image — you will share the fate of Nebuchadnezzar of old. I should lament to hear of you feeding upon the dross of the pasture and alarming the country with your vociferations. The day of miracles may not be past, and the flaming excess of your lustful appetite may drag down the vengeance of supernal power. — And you’ll “be dam-d if you don’t marry “? — and felt a disposition to set down and gravely detail me the reasons of early marriage. But two favourable ones strike me now — the first is, that Time may grasp love so furiously as totally [?] to disfigure his Phiz. The second is, that, like George McDuffie, he may have the hap-hazzard of a broken backbone befal him, which will relieve him from the performance of affectual family-duty — & throw over the brow of his wife, should he chance to get one, a most foreboding glooming — As to the first, you will find many a modest good girl subject to the same inconvenience — and as to the second, it will only superinduce such domestic whirlwinds, as will call into frequent exercise rhetorical displays of impassioned Eloquence, accompanied by appropriate and perfect specimens of those gestures which Nature and feeling suggest. To get children, it is true, fulfills a department of social & natural duty — but to let them starve, or subject them to the alarming hazard of it, violates another of a most important character. This is the dilemma to which I reduce you — choose you this day which you will do …

Hammond, the young man of “flaming excess” and “lustful appetites” would, in his later years, become one of the South’s most prominent moralists and defenders of slavery. Hammond would indeed choose to marry, and through his wife he became the owner of a 10,000 acre plantation and 220 slave. Hammond’s arguments in support of that “peculiar institution” of slavery were highly influential, and led ultimately to his state becoming the first state in the South to secede at the start of the Civil War. He was, over the course of his career, Governor, Congressman and Senator from South Carolina. Withers also reached a measure of prominence as a journalist and “nullifier,” a lawyer and as a judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

[From Martin Duberman, “‘Writhing Bedfellows’: 1826.” Journal of Homosexuality 6, no. 1 (1981): 85-101. Also available online here.]

A candlelight vigil at the Backstreet Cafe following the shooting.

Mass Shooting in Gay Bar Kills One, Injures Six: 2000. Ronald Edward Gay spent his entire life hearing jokes about his surname. A former Vietnam vet, he become an alcohol and drug abuser, and had just been divorced for the sixth time. His children changed their last names, he claimed, to escape the jokes. So when he finally had had enough, he decided to turn it around and take it out not on his tormentors, but on those who he believed had ruined his name. On September 24, 2000, the fifty-three-year-old drifter walked into the Backstreet Cafe in Roanoke, Virginia, pulled a 9mm handgun from his black trench coat and opened fire. One of the bar’s patrons, Anna Sparks, described the terror. “The guy was standing there with a trench coat on, and the gun was going pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, and people were falling over everywhere, trying to get behind booths. He just stood there for a couple of seconds, then lowered the gun and walked out like nothing had happened.” When the shooting spree ended, Danny Lee Overstreet, 43, was dead in a pool of blood and six others were injured, one critically.

Danny Lee Overstreet (left), Ronald Edward Gay (right)

Gay had been at a different bar earlier that night asking where the city’s nearest gay bar was, telling patrons he wanted to shoot some gay people. One person gave him directions and then called the police, who arrived  at the Backstreet Cafe shortly after the shooting. They found Gay about two blocks away.  “He said he was shooting people to get rid of, in his term, ‘faggots,'” Lieutenant William Althoff of the Roanoke police was quoted as saying.  He told authorities that he became obsessed with fulfilling four “missions”: to stop corruption, to stop communism, the bring all Vietnam vets “out of the mountains”, and to stop the spread of AIDS by forcing all gay people to move to San Francisco. Gay pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and six malicious wounding charges and on July 23, 2001 was given to four life sentences.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

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