The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, May 20

Jim Burroway

May 20th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Another Possible Ruling on a State’s Marriage Equality Ban: Harrisburg, PA. There are at least five separate lawsuits pending in federal courts challenging Pennsylvania’s law banning same-sex marriage. One of those lawsuits was brought by the ACLU on behalf of 21 Pennsylvanians in Harrisburg. Both the ACLU and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania agreed to forgo a trial and asked the judge to issue a summary judgment based solely on the submitted briefs. Federal District Judge Judge John E. Jones III is expected to issue his ruling sometime today. The ACLU has organized six Decision Day Rallies later today, which they hope will be in celebration for marriage equality. Those rallies are set to take place in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie and at the Capitol Steps in Harrisburg.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Blade (Washington), June 1976, page 9.

 
Three gay bars and a restaurant managed to squeeze themselves into a single building just off of Philly’s tony Rittenhouse Square. The main bar, 247, opened on the ground floor in 1971 and remained in business until 1996. The building today is the site of an Irish pub.

L-R: Luc Montagnier and Robert Gallo

TODAY IN HISTORY:
30 YEARS AGO: AIDS Virus Identified: 1983. In a paper published in the US journal Science, a team from France’s Pasteur Institute, led by Luc Montagnier, described a suspect virus which had been isolated in a patient who had died of AIDS. Montagnier’s groundbreaking work led to the determination by US researcher Robert Gallo in 1984 that the virus was indeed the cause of AIDS. Gallo named his virus HTLV-III, and promptly claimed credit for discovering the virus. But the rest of the world began calling it the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. A three year acrimonious spat between Gallo and Montagnier ensued over who was the first to discover it. The dispute was finally settled after intensive negotiations resulting in both parties being awarded credit, and everyone lived happily ever after. As it were.

Photo of an Amendment 2 Protest from the Nov. 11, 1992 issue of Out Front.

Romer v. Evans: 1996. On this date, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision striking down Colorado’s Amendment 2 to the state constitution which would have disenfranchised that state’s LGBT citizens from the right to petition their state and local governments for laws banning discrimination.  Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, rejected Amendment 2 supporter’s arguments that the ban on anti-discrimination laws were meant solely to deny LGBT people “special rights”:

[W]e cannot accept the view that Amendment 2’s prohibition on specific legal protections does no more than deprive homosexuals of special rights. To the contrary, the amendment imposes a special disability upon those persons alone. Homosexuals are forbidden the safeguards that others enjoy or may seek without constraint. They can obtain specific protection against discrimination only by enlisting the citizenry of Colorado to amend the State Constitution or perhaps, on the State’s view, by trying to pass helpful laws of general applicability. This is so no matter how local or discrete the harm, no matter how public and widespread the injury. We find nothing special in the protections Amendment 2 withholds. These are protections taken for granted by most people either because they already have them or do not need them; these are protections against exclusion from an almost limitless number of transactions and endeavors that constitute ordinary civic life in a free society.

…(Amendment 2) is at once too narrow and too broad. It identifies persons by a single trait and then denies them protection across the board. The resulting disqualification of a class of persons from the right to seek specific protection from the law is unprecedented in our jurisprudence. …We must conclude that Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else. This Colorado cannot do. A State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws. Amendment 2 violates the Equal Protection Clause, and the judgment of the Supreme Court of Colorado is affirmed.

Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer joined Kennedy in the majority opinion.

Dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas, considered Colorado’s attempt to disenfranchise an entire class of people “unimpeachable under any constitutional doctrine hitherto pronounced.” Pointing to the Bowers v Hardwick, the 1986 Supreme Court Decision which declared that sodomy laws were constitutional, Scalia wrote, “If it is rational to criminalize the conduct, surely it is rational to deny special favor and protection to those with a self-avowed tendency or desire to engage in the conduct.” Seven years later, the Court would correct that contradiction in Lawrence v Texas, which finally struck down anti-sodomy laws in the 13 states where such laws were still in effect.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Cher: 1946. She started out as one-half of the husband-and-wife singing duo Sonny & Cher with their 1965 hit, “I Got You Babe.” After a string of hits and a popular television series, their marriage ended and Cher’s solo singing career took off. She also became an Academy Award winning actress, winning a Best Actress award for her role in 1987’s Moonstruck. In 2002, Cher began her Farewell Tour, after which she said she would retire from show business. The tour lasted three years, and at some point she re-named it the “Never Can Say Goodbye” Tour. But in 2005, she finally retired the show and retired herself. Then she retired from retirement in February 2008 for a show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas which lasted until February 2011. A recent single from the 2010 Burlesque soundtrack is fitting: “You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me.” Last year, she released her 26th solo studio album after a twelve-year gap, Closer To The Truth.

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?

Eric Payne

May 20th, 2014

Robert Gallo. Damn, there’s a name I hadn’t heard in awhile.

I can’t find the cite right now, but I seem to recall a press release from the 1990s in which Gallo’s HTLV-III variant was found to be genetically identical to the HIV variant isolated and identified by the French, resulting in Gallo being stripped of “co-discovery” credit… even though his official bios in several on-line profiles still make that claim.

Colorado’s Amendment 2. I remember that one, as well. One of my best-selling pieces, in fact (as I was a free-lance newspaper reporter at the time), that appeared in gay and straight newspapers throughout the west was a piece on how to travel from the West to Washington, DC, for “The March on Washington” and avoiding Denver lay-overs, and how much money Denver-based airports would lose in per-ticket fees.

Dave H

May 20th, 2014

Here’s your trivia for the day: One of the attorneys who contributed pro bono work to prepare oral arguments for the plaintiffs (i.e. our side) was John Roberts – now the Chief Justice of SCOTUS.

Richard Rush

May 20th, 2014

As of about 2:00 PM EDT today, you can now ride on Amtrak’s entire Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston without ever experiencing the anxiety of passing through a state without marriage equality!

Mark F.

May 20th, 2014

It’s all just a matter of time before we have all 50 states. The question is how much time. 1 year or 30 years?

TomTallis

May 21st, 2014

Cher’s older than I am!! Happy dance! Nine days older is still older, dammit.

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