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Posts for May, 2015

Drip, Drip, Drip…

Jim Burroway

May 29th, 2015

Dennis HastertAs Anton Chekov one wrote, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” Yesterday’s indictment against former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL)  included allegations that he was paying $3.5 million to Individual A who “has known defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT most of Individual A’s life” as part of a cover-up of “past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.” It also began with this particular biographical detail: that Hastert had been a high school teacher and coach at Yorkville, Illinois, for sixteen years before entering politics in 1981. I was convinced yesterday that this detail would not have been included if it hadn’t been somehow relevant.

Well now that gun has now fired its first shot:

One of the officials, who would not speak publicly about the federal charges in Chicago, said “Individual A,” as the person is described in Thursday’s federal indictment, was a man and that the alleged misconduct was unrelated to Hastert’s tenure in Congress. The actions date to Hastert’s time as a Yorkville, Ill., high school wrestling coach and teacher, the official said

…Asked why Hastert was making the payments, the official said it was to conceal Hastert’s past relationship with the male. “It was sex,’’ the source said. The other official confirmed that the misconduct involved sexual abuse.

The New York Times adds:

The man – who was not identified in court papers — told the F.B.I. that he had been inappropriately touched by Mr. Hastert when Mr. Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach, the two people said on Friday. The people briefed on the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a federal investigation.

Also, this:

A source familiar with the investigation told BuzzFeed News that U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon considered but did not pursue additional charges against former Speaker Dennis Hastert, which would have included a reference to an Individual B, one of potentially several alleged victims of “prior misdeeds.”

The indictment didn’t include sexual abuse. Instead, Hastert is being charged with making a series of cash withdrawals designed to evade the currency transaction reporting requirements and lying to the FBI about it. This kind of behavior often gets law enforcement’s attention, either because the person is engaged in shady financial dealings or the individual is paying off a blackmailer. Either way, it’s a red flag that something illegal may be happening, hence the FBI investigation. Lying to the FBI doesn’t go over very well. The transactions, according to the affidavit, began in 2010.

Well, That’s Odd

Jim Burroway

May 28th, 2015

Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million in apparent hush money to a longtime acquaintance, then lied to the FBI when asked about suspicious cash withdrawals from several banks, federal prosecutors alleged Thursday.

The stunning indictment of the longtime Republican powerhouse alleged he gave about $1.7 million in cash to the acquaintance, identified only as Individual A in the charges, to “compensate for and conceal (Hastert’s) prior misconduct” against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.

So says the Chicago Tribune, which posted the indictment here. It’s an interesting read:

a. From approximately 1965 to 1981, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT was a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois. From approximately 1981 to 2007, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT was an elected public official, including eight years as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. From approximately 2008 to the present, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT has worked as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

b. Individual A has been a resident of Yorkville, Illinois and has known defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT most of Individual A’s life.

c. In or about 2010, Individual A met with defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT multiple times. During at least one of the meetings, Individual A and defendant discussed past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.

d. During the 2010 meetings and subsequent discussions, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT agreed to provide Individual A $3.5 million in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A. …

Australia marriage update

Timothy Kincaid

May 28th, 2015

Since writing about the increased impetus towards marriage equality in Australia, further signs of its inevitability have shown.

After Australian Opposition leader Bill Shorten filed his intent to present a marriage bill, Prime Minister Tony Abbott appears to have realized what a vote on such a bill might mean to his party. If the nation, which supports marriage equality by at least a two to one margin, were to perceive this to be a partisan identified issue (as, well, it is) that could be damaging. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has hinted that same-sex marriage should be brought before Parliament via a cross-party bill, in a major shift in his language on the reform.

“If our Parliament were to make a big decision on a matter such as this, it ought to be owned by the Parliament and not by any particular party.”

The general interpretation of this message is that Abbott will be giving a conscience vote to the Liberal MPs. He also seems to imply that any marriage bill would need to come from a coalition including members of his party so as to avoid the impression that when marriage comes, it will have been a Labor victory. To Shorten’s credit, he appears to be willing to achieve the goal irrespective of who gets the credit.

Abbott appears not to be the only conservative in Australia who is acknowledging that it is now time to bring about marriage equality in the Land Down Under. Rob Stott at BuzzFeed has an excellent compendium of comments by conservatives either endorsing equality or recognizing its immediate likelihood.

Just in: failed 2012 GOP candidate enters 2016 race

Timothy Kincaid

May 27th, 2015

We are proud to announce exclusively – here at Box Turtle Bulletin – that one of the more colorful candidates for the Republican Party nomination for President during the 2012 race is again pursuing the nation’s highest office.

“I am so delighted to be part of this challenging and thrilling competition”, said the Box of Rocks through his representative. “I considered not running this year, but now that I can be assured that I will never be the dumbest candidate nor the one likeliest to drive voters to select anyone-but-me, I am excited to participate. And I proudly proclaim that my good name is less sullied than at least one other candidate.”

In other news, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has also formally announced his candidacy.

Will Australia be next?

Timothy Kincaid

May 26th, 2015

tony_abbott2

There is no question but that Ireland is serving as inspiration around the globe. And one person feeling the pressure is Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Abbott is the head of the Liberal Party (which is considered the more conservative of significant parties) and is in a coalition government with the Liberal National Party, the National Party, and the Country Liberal Party. And though Abbott vehemently opposes marriage equality, he recognizes that a large majority of the country, most of the opposing parties, and a growing number of his own party are equality supporters.

And in this upcoming week, the process towards marriage will begin. (gaystarnews)

Australian Opposition leader Bill Shorten has become the first leader of a major political party to put forward legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Australia just days after more members of the conservative wing of his party announced they now would vote in favor of marriage equality.

Shorten, leader of the Australian Labor Party, put his intention in writing earlier today, giving notice to the Parliament that he will table such a bill when the House of Representatives meets on Monday.

The success of the bill may depend on the outcome of a conscience vote decision.

Australia, like many multi-party countries, employs block voting where all delegates of the same party cast identical votes. Unlike in the US where every legislator is always free to vote their conscience on any issue (though they may pay politically for bucking the party leaders), in Australia legislators can only veer from the party position with permission.

The success of the bill depends on how the parties approach the vote.

If the Liberals do not allow a conscience vote, all their votes go to oppose equality and the bill cannot pass. If the Liberal do allow a conscience vote and Labor votes as a block, the bill is expected to pass.

But if both sides allow a conscience vote, the numbers are quite close. There are enough Liberal supporters and enough uncertainty to make it too close to call. But Liberal Minister of Communications Malcolm Turnbull is bullish on the bills success. (skynews)

Cabinet minister Malcolm Turnbull expects parliament to legalise same-sex marriage before the end of the year.

‘I have never seen a social issue which has changed attitudes as rapidly as this one,’ he said, adding his feeling was that legislation was ‘very likely to pass’.

And in response to questions from media today, Prime Minister Abbott seems to be offering some hope.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says there will be a ‘very full, frank and candid and decent’ debate inside the Liberal partyroom about legalising same-sex marriage.

Mr Abbott was responding to a Labor move to introduce a private member’s bill to parliament next week with a likely vote later in the year.

‘It is an issue where decent people can differ,’ the prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

At some point, nearer to a vote, Liberal MPs would debate the issue in their party room.

The outcome of the party room decision will likely determine whether marriage equality comes to the Land Down Under this year.

World Marriage Map – May 2015

Timothy Kincaid

May 26th, 2015

World Marriage May 2015

Dark Green – marriage equality
Light Green – either sporadic marriage equality or a lesser form of recognition

Several locations have provided for equality but with a future enactment date:

Ireland – probably by September 2015
Greenland – October 2015
Slovenia – tied up in legal battles
Finland – March 2017

Click on the map to enlarge

Greenland enacts marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

May 26th, 2015

GreenlandIceberg

Following on the heels of Ireland is Greenland where the country’s legislature has just voted to allow same-sex couples to marry, with a wide margin. Greenland, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, is mostly a giant mass of ice and snow and most of the 56,000 residents are Inuit.

In 1996 Greenland adopted Denmark’s domestic partnership laws. However, when Denmark upgraded to marriage equality in 2012, Greenland did not go along. In February it was announced that a bill to do so would be brought this spring.

The bill which passed today also gives adoption rights and will go into effect on October 1, 2015.

NOM may have inadvertantly contributed to marriage equality in Ireland

Timothy Kincaid

May 26th, 2015

Irish no couple

The National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown is furious about the Irish vote for marriage equality and is childishly lashing out at Ireland’s citizens and political parties for not structuring their country’s laws in accordance with his wishes. But perhaps he should add himself to the list of whom to blame.

One of the stronger elements of the vote was the citizenry’s national identity. This was the Irish people voting in Ireland or Ireland’s laws. And there was a great deal of pride as a people that this was a collective and national decision absent foreign involvement.

But both sides of the debate accused the other as having been funded by outside sources, especially by American organizations. And while both sides denied the accusation, evidence against the No campaign was publicized shortly before the vote:

One of the no side’s strongest supporters in the US is the lavishly funded National Organisation for Marriage (NOM). In a letter to supporters around the world, it has urged evangelical Christians to visit keepmarriage.org, which is campaigning for a no vote.

“Just like in campaigns for marriage here in America,” the letter says, “slanted public opinion polls become fodder to influence and depress supporters of marriage. This is happening in Ireland. If [the no campaign] can manage to pull off a victory, it will be a tremendous boost to the cause of marriage worldwide. Please do what you can to bring awareness to their efforts.”

Foreign contributions to lobby groups during referendums in Ireland are banned. But the “please do what you can” language used by NOM hints at an effort to thwart the law.

Also hurting the No campaign’s image was the use of stock photos in their advertising, a tactic regularly employed by NOM. While the Yes campaign made a point of using real Irish supporters, the No side selected as their primary campaign image a photo of a young couple with a baby, who turned to the media to declare that not only do they not live in Ireland, they are both ardent marriage equality supporters.

The fact that NOM was associated with the No campaign served only to give that campaign some flavor as a non-Irish import. And to the extent that NOM advised the No side on it’s campaign and image, their efforts backfired.

Brian Brown Reacts

Jim Burroway

May 23rd, 2015

Marriage equality opponents have been almost uniformly graceful in their concession statements in the wake of today’s landslide in Ireland. David Quinn of the Iona Institute tweeted “Congratulations to the Yes side. Well Done.” The Iona Institute’s official statement congratulating the Yes campaigners described their win as “a handsome victory0.” Another group, Mothers and Fathers Matter offered their  “warm congratulations” as well. All the major groups expressed their typical concerns going forward, but you get the idea of the tenor of their reactions to today’s vote.

Brian BrownOn this side of the pond however, things are a bit different, with the usual suspects blowing a gasket over the Irish vote. NOM’s Brian Brown, for example, sent out a statement which blamed the loss on ” the utter abandonment of principle by every political party in the nation, all of whom endorsed the referendum” and what he claimed to be an “intense harassment of any group or individual who spoke out in opposition to the referendum.” Also —

“Despite this, millions of Irish citizens stood to vote to uphold the truth of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Millions? Try just 734,300. The “millions” were on the yes side, at 1,201,607. Idiot.

#Hometovote

Timothy Kincaid

May 22nd, 2015

Today Ireland votes on whether to amend their constitution to allow same-sex marriage. And while this is a simple matter, allowing gay people to avail themselves of full inclusion in society, it is seen as something larger: a chance for Ireland to do something no other nation has done, vote as a people for marriage equality.

For many young Irish this has become more than an issue about the rights of gay people, it has become a statement on how they view their ethnic heritage and their place in the world.

So much so, that many who are living abroad are making effort to get back to Ireland to vote in the referendum. Using the Twitter hashtag #hometovote, a good many young Irish are documenting their efforts to travel back from places as far away as Africa, Asia and the Americas to be part of this monumental change.

Alabama marriage equality expanded state wide

Timothy Kincaid

May 21st, 2015

bama

Through much of the spring, anti-gay politicians in Alabama have been trying to thwart Federal Judge Ginny Granade’s ruling that the state ban on same-sex marriage violates the US Constitution. And one of the ways they have sought to do so is to pretend to misunderstand the impact of the ruling. The elected officials, along with the state Supreme Court, decided that her ruling only applied to the specific plaintiffs in the case.

So marriage advocates have gone back to Judge Granade and requested that the case be expanded to a class action and that it apply to all couples in all counties of the state. Today Granade ruled. (AL.com)

A federal judge in Mobile on Thursday applied her ruling striking down Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban to all 68 probate judges in Alabama but delayed it from taking effect until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the gay marriage issue.

Although the judge did not make her ruling immediate, she did address the silliness of the Alabama Supreme Court.

“It is true that if this Court grants the preliminary injunction the probate judges will be faced with complying with either Alabama’s marriage laws that prohibit same-sex marriage as they have been directed by the Alabama Supreme Court or with complying with the United States Constitution as directed by this Court,” Granade wrote. “However, the choice should be simple. Under the Supremacy Clause, the laws of the United States are ‘the supreme Law of the Land.'”

She added, “Judge Davis and the other probate judges cannot be held liable for violating Alabama state law when their conduct was required by the United States Constitution.”

Minister sentenced and fined for stance on gay marriage

Timothy Kincaid

May 19th, 2015

DiPrizioA minister in Prattville, AL, has been fined and sentenced to jail time for trying to uphold religious beliefs about same-sex marriage. But neither the Alliance Defending Freedom nor the Family Research Counsel nor any other defender of religious freedom has come to her aid or spoke in her defense.

On February 9, 2015, marriage equality came to Alabama. And on that day Autauga Probate Judge Al Booth decided that he wasn’t going to allow marriages to be conducted in his office anymore.

Unitarian Universalists have a long history of social justice activism, and Anne Susan DiPrizio, as a Unitarian minister, believed it to be within the practice of her faith to offer matrimony services to two women who had just received a marriage license. When told that she could not conduct same-sex marriages in the Probate Office, DiPrizio refused to leave. So she was hauled to jail.

Yesterday she heard her sentence. (Montgomery Advertiser)

Anne Susan DiPrizio, 44, of the 300 block of Cambridge Street, entered the plea before Judge Ben Fuller, but not before some delays and judicial wrangling. He gave her 30 days in the Autauga Metro Jail, and then suspended the sentence in place of 6 months unsupervised probation. Fuller also ordered her to pay a $250 fine and other associated court costs.

I’m not suggesting that DiPrizio should have defied the probate judge or sought to perform religious services where they were not allowed or welcomed. But it’s worth noting that amidst all the hue and cry turning cake bakers into martyrs in the name of religious freedom, here is an actual ordained minister who was jailed and fined for seeking to practice her faith and support same-sex marriage.

French Protestants can bless same-sex marriages

Timothy Kincaid

May 17th, 2015

French ProtestantsDespite massive street protests by devout conservative Catholics, in May 2013 France legalized same-sex marriage.

As the battle for marriage equality in the US has progressed, it appears to me that increasingly the most significant opponent to equality has become the Catholic Church. Certainly other faith groups are in opposition and conservative politicians remain aggressive and hostile, but from an organizational perspective or visible force, groups like the Southern Baptist Church or the Assemblies of God have stepped away from the limelight on this issue, preferring to espouse their views in the pulpit rather than the newspaper.

With Catholic bishops headlining anti-equality rallies and with dioceses publicly firing teachers, it seems to me that an evolution of perception may be occurring.

At the beginning of the battle, it was often perceived that this was a matter of people of faith verses homosexuals and their secular advocates. However, after several mainline churches stepped up their advocacy, that picture changed.

The next image – driven largely by the Bush Campaign of 2004 – was that this was a fight between Republicans and Democrats. And, to an extent, this still remains true. But within the Republican Party there has been a great softening on the issue.

And as the battle has become an international struggle, US politics cannot define the combatants. Not even the right v. left accurately depicts the lines, with Conservatives in the UK and elsewhere siding with equality.

More and more the vocal opposition has narrowed until it appears that the single global voice consistently falling on the side of exclusion and rejection is the Catholic Church or, more accurately, the Catholic hierarchy and their conservative Catholic supporters (lay Catholics in the US and in “Catholic countries” are often largely supportive of equality).

I think that it is clear that there is a strong movement towards increasing acceptance of gay people – and their family units – within the community of faith both in the US and globally. But too often this is loudly and publicly rejected by Catholic leaders who see it as contrary to teachings of the Church.

For example, this week a Catholic PFLAG mom had organized a multi-denominational conference about welcoming gay people into the body of faith. But at the last minute, the Bishop of Charlotte, SC, refused to allow the meeting within Catholic space.

Myers Park Baptist church stepped in offering a last minute change of venue.

“We are a part of a network of other Baptist churches who have covenanted together to welcome and affirm all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. When the news broke about the bishop, members of our LGBT community reached out. If there’s any church in Charlotte that should be hosting this, it’s us,” said Chrissy Williamson with Myers Park Baptist Church.

The take-away is that irrespective of local parish support, the Catholic Church’s power structure remains hostile and rejecting.

But I wonder whether the Catholic Church’s increasingly leading role has not allowed for more acceptance in non-Catholic circles. As opposition to gay marriage becomes more and more a “Catholic thing”, perhaps this will free some Protestants to be more supportive than they might otherwise be.

As noted above, massive street protests in France were largely identified as Catholic. Joining them were prominent US Catholic anti-equality voices such as Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage. The struggle there was largely Conservative Catholics v. Everyone Else.

I wonder whether this, in some measure, played into the decision today of France’s main Protestant church to allow blessing of same-sex unions. (France24.com)

The United Protestant Church of France, which counts around 250,000 members across the country, adopted the reform during a national synod held in the Mediterranean city of Sète meant to coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Ninety-four representatives of the protestant group voted in favour of the measure, with only three voting against it, a church spokesman told the press on Sunday.

It may well be that by ratcheting up the argument that one must vote against equality because “this is our doctrine”, the Catholic Church may have caused others to recognize “but it may not be mine”.

I don’t think by any means that this means that the Southern Baptists or other conservative denominations in the US are going to change policy on gay unions any time soon.

But I do know that for many Protestants, “what the Catholics do” is reason enough to bring into question ideological or theological positions. And hardcore positions on contraception and divorce have been weakened rather than strengthened in Protestant circles by being so closely tied to Catholic dogma. Perhaps the obstinance of some like Bishop Cordileone may prove to be in our favor.

A very direct and touching story from the Irish Referendum

Timothy Kincaid

May 15th, 2015

One week from today, the people of Ireland will vote on whether to change their constitution so as to allow same sex couples to marry. The move has the backing of the Government and, though opposed by the Church, is polling favorably.

It is also starting conversations where they might not have otherwise arisen. One such discussion is the one that Ursula Halligan is having with the Irish people.

Halligan is the political editor of Ireland’s main independent television station, TV3. Ireland knows her well. But today Ireland knows her better. Today she told her story.

I was a good Catholic girl, growing up in 1970s Ireland where homosexuality was an evil perversion. It was never openly talked about but I knew it was the worst thing on the face of the earth.

So when I fell in love with a girl in my class in school, I was terrified. Rummaging around in the attic a few weeks ago, an old diary brought me right back to December 20th, 1977.

“These past few months must have been the darkest and gloomiest I have ever experienced in my entire life,” my 17-year-old self wrote.

So Halligan slammed the door on that closet and cowered inside for the next 37 years.

I’ll not repeat her testimony here. It’s very personal and very moving and you should read it all.

Nevada passes LGBT inclusive anti-bullying bill, and what that tells us

Timothy Kincaid

May 15th, 2015

It is the nature of social struggle that we tend to focus more on the next mile than on how far we have come.

As we approach the deadline for the Supreme Court’s ruling a lot of attention is given to the raving loons in Texas who are putting on a good show of defying the Court and the nation’s constitution (without quite actually doing so). We hear the absurd positions of some of the more extreme GOP presidential contenders ranting about constitutional amendments and executive powers. And we can be tempted to think that the nation remains polarized on gay issues, with Democrats in support and Republicans dead set on opposing anything and everything that would make the life of a gay person have more rights, dignity or respect.

But that isn’t how things are.

Yes, it is definitely true that Democrats are, as a whole, supportive of our community. And it is also true the Republicans are, as a whole, less supportive, especially relating to the legal parameters of marriage.

But though blowhards like Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz rant and spew invective, they do not represent all Republicans. And even within positions like marriage equality, there are subtleties and nuances that suggest that today’s GOP is far from the party that in 2004 seemed hell-bent on showing gay couples just how much they were despised.

One such shift is the way that Republicans now view policy differently from personal action when it comes to same-sex marriage. While the numbers are marching steadily towards equality, still only about 32% of Republicans say that same-sex marriages should be given the same legal status as heterosexual marriages. However, in a seeming contradiction, 56% would personally attend the wedding of a same-sex couple they knew. This double position is also reflected in some front running presidential nominees, with some not only saying they would hypothetically go but already have or are planning to.

This suggests that a significant portion of opposition to equality for gay people is rooted in identity rather than personal opposition. They support the traditional definition of marriage being opposite sex as a Republican or as a conservative or as a Christian, but not out of personal hostility.

And I believe that those who feel some identity-based obligation to support a position will find it easy to capitulate to equality once their obligation is lifted. And for many of them, this is the final hurdle to full acceptance and inclusion.

As an example, let’s look at Republican Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada.

Sandoval was a supporter of civil unions, but has never endorsed marriage equality. And he felt some obligation to support the state’s restriction on same-sex marriage.

Yet when the Ninth Circuit ruled the state’s marriage ban to be unconstitutional and determined that anti-gay legislation is to be subjected to an enhanced scrutiny, Sandoval found his obligation lifted. So the State of Nevada ceased its defense of the ban.

And unencumbered by some duty to be anti-gay, Sandoval and the Republicans in his state are now free to approach legislation based on what they believe to be good for the state rather than on obligation to anti-gay policy. As they have just demonstrated.

Governor Sandoval has been pushing the state to adopt anti-bullying legislation that would protect students in schools and hold principals and administrators liable for the well-being of students. The bill specifically includes protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Earlier this month the state Senate, which has a Republican majority of 11 to 10, voted 18 to 1 in favor of the bill. Yesterday the House, which holds a Republican majority of 25 to 17, voted 36 to 6 in favor of the bill.

This does not mean that opposition is dead. Or that politicians in places like Indiana or Arkansas or Texas will not go out of their way to show contempt for gay people. Nor does it suggest that Republicans are now somehow on par with Democrats when it comes to respect and inclusion.

But it does suggest that once the nation has crossed the great hurdle of marriage equality (and unless we find some foolish way to alienate the public), the changes in public policy, partisan posturing, and social inclusion will be significant.

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