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Posts for April, 2015

Gold Tinsel Jesus does NOT love all

Timothy Kincaid

April 6th, 2015

Tinsel Jesus

Eureka Springs is a little corner of color and decency in Arkansas. Over the years it has developed a gay community and even managed to pass a local domestic partnership registry.

This did not sit well with the religious conservatives. After all, this tourist town was mostly known for it’s Passion Play and it’s giant Jesus statue. This was, in fact, so horrifying that in 2008 the American Family Association whipped up a video warning the world that the radical militant homosexuals had taken over the little town.

And the conservative Christians decided to fight back, taking a page out of the gay community’s playbook. In 2013, they organized a parade, the Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade.

Now I have nothing against Christians celebrating Jesus at the time of the most holy day in the Christian calendar. After all, it must be frustrating that during the Spring Equinox, bunnies and eggs and symbols of fertility seem to give more honor to Ēostre than to the Christian festival that borrowed her name.

So for the past three years, Christians have march and waved flags and driven floats, all for this stated purpose:

The focus of this family friendly event is simply to celebrate Jesus, bring unity to the body of Christ and be a visible expression of God’s love in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

And all went just fine for a couple years.

But this year there was a little problem. You see, the local United Methodist Church wanted to join the Parade. And they wanted to carry a banner with a very controversial message: Jesus loves all.

Of course every Christian knows – and often announces – that Jesus loves all. But what the conservatives mean and what the Methodists mean by that are very different things.

The First United Methodist Church of Eureka Springs has recently become a Reconciling Congregation, meaning that gay people were welcome to full inclusion in the church and further that the congregation was committing to civil and religious equality for the LGBT community. So when they say “Jesus loves all”, they mean it without asterisks.

And that was quite the opposite message from what the Celebrate Jesus people wanted to say. They don’t really want to celebrate Jesus – or not, at least, the one who kept droning on and on about treating people the way you want to be treated, and who hung out with sinners, and who blew off tradition and argued with the religious exclusionists. Nope, wrong Jesus.

They want to celebrate Gold Tinsel Jesus. He’s the one who had the decency to shut up and die and not talk about feeding the hungry and caring for those in need. And he most certainly is NOT welcoming of the Homosexuals! Especially not into churches.

So they banned the Methodists from participating. Because the Eureka Springs conservative Christians want you to know that Gold Tinsel Jesus most definitely does not love all.

So why all the corporate support?

Timothy Kincaid

April 2nd, 2015

Lately in our efforts to live in a nation in which our lives are treated and valued equally, we have come to rely on certain corporate advocates on our behalf.

For many years allies such as Wells Fargo and Levi Struass have made it clear that they welcomed gay customers and employees. Over time they were willing to help finance our causes and put their corporate name on the line. Then some tech world giants such as HP and Apple joined them, followed by Wall Street.

But no one, not on our side nor that of those who oppose equality, expected the loud, immediate, and very unanimous voice of Corporate America who demanded that Indiana and Arkansas not enact pro-discrimination provisions of their newly passed Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. This wasn’t just the usual somewhat-liberal companies, but CEO’s who had long Republican ties.

And not only did they demand change, they personally met with Republican leaders to be certain that the changes were adequate.

And let’s not fool ourselves. No progressive alliance, nor media demands, nor twitter storm changed these laws. They helped, of course. They created impetus. They undoubtedly put pressure on the Governors.

But only those who had connections and a history of contributions could walk in the door and tell the Republicans in the state legislatures that they were going to change their votes and do it now.

But why did they do it?

Some within Corporate America have very strong personal reasons for supporting the community – family, friends, those they care about. Others live in a world where diversity is respected. And undoubtedly, some were concerned about the impact that a negative image would have on the business in the states.

But I think it comes down to this: discrimination is a huge colossal pain in the ass for large businesses.

Most have gay employees who they value and need and they long ago got over the notion that it’s better moralize than make money. And anything that causes consternation in the workforce is bad for human resources. And unhappy human resources makes everyone tense. Which loses money and causes ulcers.

Frank Gilbreth proved decades ago that the single biggest contributor to productivity is the attitude of the employee. If employers show that they care about their employees, turn-over drops, production goes up and profits rise. So employers know that they have show that they are looking out for their gay employees – not just for their sake but for the other employees who are watching to see how committed they are.

And then there’s logistics.

It’s hard enough planning travel and accommodations for employees without worrying that Sanctimonious Joe’s Bed and Breakfast is going to make your keynote speaker at tomorrow’s conference sleep in her car. Or deciding where to order lunch if the Holy Memories Pizza is going to cancel on you because you have gay employees and they don’t support the homosexual lifestyle.

And what do you do with employee benefits like a gym membership or health discounts or even trivial things like winning the office raffle for a spa trip if you don’t know whether the businesses around you are going to hassle your employees because the gender of their spouse offends someone’s self-righteousness?

It’s one thing to have religious objections. Business people can work around the personal needs of others.

You need to be home by sundown on Fridays? We can do that. You need to be free Sunday mornings? Not a problem. You need a few minutes to face Mecca every day? Sure.

But it’s quite something else to pass a law whose unstated but unmissable intention is to invite discrimination. Because that’s going to cost time, energy, frustration, and money. That’s going to hurt some employees and cause hassle for others. That’s going to involve late night phone calls and interruption of golf games.

And that just won’t do.

Arkansas U-Turn: Gov Calls for Changes to License-To-Discriminate Bill

Jim Burroway

April 1st, 2015

Supporters of the Arkansas License-to-Discriminate bill have argued that their state version of RFRA “mirrors” the federal law signed by President Bill clinton in 1993 — which it clearly doesn’t. Arkansas Gov Asa Hutchison (R) had promised to sign the law as soon as it reaches his desk. It reached his desk yesterday, but Hutchison announced in a news conference today that he is instead calling for changes in the bill. In a statement that acknowledges that the state RFRA’s supporters had been much less than honest in claiming that it mirrored the federal law, Hutchison called on the General Assembly to either recall the bill or amend it to bring it in line with federal law:

Hutchinson said he is asking that HB1228 be recalled so amendments can be added that bring it closer to the federal law. Or, he said, the changes could be made by new legislation. “The bill that is on my desk at the present time does not precisely mirror the federal law,” he said.

Senate President Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) and House Speaker Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia) stood alongside Hutchison when he made the announcement. Hutchison didn’t say whether he would veto the bill if changes weren’t made, but he did suggest another option of issuing an executive order “to make it clear that Arkansas wants to be a place of tolerance.” He acknowledged however that an order “would not be the same as a legislative fix.” As with Indiana, caution is in order. Without concrete proposals and specific language changes available, we will still have to wait to see whether this represents a true backtrack or another try at a pig’s makeover.

Hutchison also acknowledged that the controversy has deeply divided ths state — and his own family: his son signed an online petition calling on the Governor to veto the bill. Walmart, the state’s largest employer, along with several state chambers of commerce and mayors had earlier called for a veto.

Meanwhile In Arkansas

Jim Burroway

April 1st, 2015

The Arkansas legislature yesterday sent a License-To-Discriminate bill to Gov. Asa Hutchison (R), who has promised to sign the bill into law, but not before calling a news conference for later this morning. As in Indiana, supporters of the Arkansas RFIA have striven to minimize both its intent and intended effects, claiming that all it is is a state version of the federal RFIA signed into law in 1993. In fact, Arkansas’ (and Indiana’s) go way beyond federal legislation in several respects:

  • The Federal law was narrowly written to protect religious worship, observations and related practices which may be “substantially burdened” by governmental intrusion. The I laws were written specifically to provide expansive protections for all claims which simply “burden” — without qualification — someone’s claimed religious belief, regardless of how peripheral or incidental those claimed beliefs may be to a claimant’s religion — and regardless of whether the claimant’s denomination espouses those beliefs or not. (The Indiana law is worse in this regard; it specifies “burden or is likely to burden.”)  This dramatically lowers the bar and will tie courts’ hands when these lawsuits come to trial.
  • The Federal law protects against governmental intrusion. The state laws are designed to provide a nearly carte-blanch right to discriminate regardless of whether governmental action is involved or not.
  • The Federal law applies to individuals and religious institutions. The state laws apply to everyone and anyone, including corporations, limited partnerships, private companies, non-profits, and individuals employed by them or the government. This expansion goes far beyond the federal RFIA, and it even goes beyond the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which limited the federal expansion to “closely held corporations.”
  • But the most significant difference between the Federal and state laws is that the Federal law was designed with the goal that neither party is significantly harmed by the law’s outcome. But the state RFIAs have been designed with the specific goal to inflict harm on anyone who gets on someone else’s bad side and can claim a religious reason to retaliate.

These license-to-discriminate bills represent a massive attack against all anti-discirmination protections, not just the LGBT community. Members of the Little Rock Nine, who endured death threats and assaults to desegregate Little Rock High School in 1957, have denounced the Arkansas bill:

“’Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told us, and those words are as true today as they were half a century ago. In our home state of Arkansas, legislators are attempting to enshrine their own hatred into law,” said (Ernie) Green and (Carlotta) Walls. “Once again, opponents of equality are giving credence to those who would refuse to serve their own neighbors under the guise of ‘religious liberty,’ telling us that our freedom of religion, cemented into law by the Constitution and by state law, is under attack. But we stand with our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters, as well as religious minorities and others who could fall victim to discrimination under HB 1228, and we stand against this dangerous and derogatory legislation in its current form. This bill must be amended to protect civil rights or abandoned entirely.”

Eighth Circuit expedites marriage cases

Timothy Kincaid

February 3rd, 2015

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to combine the marriage ban cases from Arkansas, Missouri, and South Dakota. The court will also expedite the case, with the first round of briefs due on February 27, 2015. Oral arguments will be heard during the week of May 11-15, 2015 in Omaha, NE.

Fed judge tosses Arkansas marriage ban

Timothy Kincaid

November 25th, 2014

In May, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Piazza ruled that Arkansas’ laws and constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution. Now a federal judge has concurred.

Specifically, U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker ruled that Arkansas’ ban violates the Constitution in two ways: by violating the fundamental right to marriage and by unconstitutionally discriminating on the basis of sex.

Baker ruled against the plaintiffs in the case on their claim that the ban unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, citing a 2006 ruling from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals — where federal appeals out of Arkansas are heard — as limiting her consideration of that claim.

The ruling is stayed pending appeal. Also stayed pending circuit court appeal are Texas and Florida.

Judge Piazza will be re-elected tomorrow

Timothy Kincaid

May 19th, 2014

Tomorrow is election day in Arkansas and the judge who found the marriage ban to be unconstitutional will be on the ballot. But not to worry, he’s going to be reelected. (Houston Chronicle)

A Pulaski County circuit judge recently tossed out Arkansas’ 10-year-old ban on gay marriage, and the state Supreme Court subsequently put the judge’s ruling on hold, but there’s no way for voters to take out their frustrations at the polls this year. Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, who made the ruling, didn’t draw an opponent this year and will be re-elected to a 6-year term Tuesday.

The National Organization for Marriage is calling demanding “Governor Mike Beebe to call a special legislative session so that lawmakers can impeach Piazza and remove him from office”. Beebe has already dismissed that notion.

Arkansas Supreme Court Halts Marriages

Jim Burroway

May 16th, 2014

In a simple one-sentence order, the Arkansas State Supreme Court has brought same-sex marriages in the state to a halt:

State Defendants-Appelants’ petition for emergency stay and separate White, Washington, Lonoke and Conway County appellants’ expedited motion for stay are granted.

The Arkansas Time blog describes what lies ahead:

Piazza’s decision will now go through the appeal process. A record of the lower court case must be prepared. A briefing schedule must be set and probably oral arguments. The court takes a two-month recess each summer. Even with an expedited schedule, it’s uncertain if the case can be decided this calendar year, when two of the current justices — Cliff Hoofman and Donald Corbin — will be replaced by Rhonda Wood and the winner of a race between Judge Robin Wynne and Tim Cullen. Typical there’s about 2.5 months for briefing after a record and transcript is completed. Part of this record has already been completed and it’s not an extensive record.  It conceivably could be completed by fall.

In other words, this may kick things down the road to 2015 or so.

Arkansas marriages resume

Timothy Kincaid

May 15th, 2014

Yesterday the Arkansas Supreme Court chose not to stay the decision by Judge Chris Piazza in which he found that the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was in contradiction with other provisions of the state constitution. However, then noted that his temporary order only addressed the amendment and not the legislator-passed state law.

Today Judge Piazza clarified that when he found anti-gay marriage bans unconstitutional, he really did mean all of them. (AP)

A day after the state Supreme Court effectively halted gay marriages in the state, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza expanded his ruling striking down a constitutional ban to also include the prohibition on clerks issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Justices had ruled Wednesday that Piazza’s decision on the gay marriage ban did not change that license law.

Piazza also rejected a request to suspend his ruling, saying there’s no evidence the state would be harmed by allowing gay marriages to continue.

So marriages in certain counties in Arkansas will resume.

Of course, now that he has issued his final ruling, the state Supremes may decide to place a stay on the ruling until they consider the appeal. Frankly, I’ll be surprised if they don’t; but should they choose not to, it will basically mean that the marriage question is over in that state.

Arkansas Supremes Deny Stay, Dismiss Marriage Appeal for Now

Jim Burroway

May 14th, 2014

But it looks like same-sex marriages in Arkansas will come to an end anyway, at least temporarily. From the Arkansas Times blog:

The Arkansas Supreme Court has denied an request for an emergency stay of Judge Chris Piazza’s order overturning the ban on same-sex marriage. The court also dismissed as premature an appeal of Piazza’s ruling because it wasn’t a final order.

Marriage equality remains the law of the land in Arkansas, but the court injected a wrinkle that will give counties cover to continue to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples. And that wrinkle has prompted Pulaski Clerk Larry Crane to say that, for the time being, his office likely will cease issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

The court noted that Piazza’s ruling didn’t mention a statute that prohibits clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. It remains in effect. Action will now shift to Piazza’s court to pursue final orders, injunctive relief and a cleanup on the omitted statute.

Said Jack Wagoner, attorney for the plaintffs:

We’ll fix that tomorrow and be back here again…. How can you  find something unconstitutional but not affect a statute that would require the clerks to do something unconstitutional?

Right now, this is throwing everything into chaos. The Carroll County (Eureka Springs) Clerk, which issued fifteen same-sex marriage licenses last Saturday, had already stopped issuing licenses by Monday after the local prosecutor issued a statement saying, “there was a law left on the books prohibiting a county clerk from issuing a marriage license to persons of the same gender. This  law was not addressed by Judge Piazza, and because of this, we advised the county clerk to stop  selling marriage licenses to persons of the same gender.” Marion and Saline Counties reversed course and stopped issuing licenses yesterday. Washington County  has indicated that it may also halt the issuing of licenses to same-sex couples.

Once the trial court fixes its order and enters a final judgment, I think you can expect that some counties will honor the ruling and some won’t, and the state will be back again before the Arkansas Supreme Court for another go at a stay and appeal.

You can read the Arkansas Supreme Court’s statement here (PDF: 237KB/7 pages).

Same-Sex Couples Marry In Little Rock

Jim Burroway

May 12th, 2014

Last Saturday, the court house in Eureka Springs was the only place in Arkansas where same-sex couples could marry following Friday’s decision by an Arkansas judge declaring the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. This morning, marriages are taking place at the Pulaski County Court House in Little Rock:

The first Little Rock license went to Shelly Butler, 51, and Susan Barr, 48, of Dallas, who have been together since they met at Southern Arkansas University in 1985.

“When we heard the news in Arkansas, we had to jump in the car to get here,” Butler said shortly before receiving the license. “I’m just excited to marry my best friend of almost 30 years, finally.”

The second couple to receive a license was Thomas Baldwin, 37, and Devin Rudeseal, 24. The Bryant couple quickly married in the courthouse, and Rudeseal planned to take a final at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock later Monday morning.

The Arkansas Times adds:

Most counties in Arkansas will not be issuing licenses, relying on legal guidance that — if the counties were not defendants in the case (only six were) — and absent a direct order to cease discriminatory practices, the state ban remains in place in those counties. At least one county that IS a defendant — Lonoke — apparently has announced it will not issue licenses.

Washington County, one of the defendants, also began issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Justice of the Peace Eva Madison posted a Facebook photo after she signed the first such license in Washington County.

Washington County’s seat is in Fayetteville, in the northwest corner of the state and not far from Eureka Springs. It’s the state’s third largest city and home to the University of Arkansas. Conversely, Benton County (Bentonville), which is immediately to the north of Washington County and is home to Wal-Mart’s headquarters, has announced that it would not be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The same goes for Faulkner County (Conway), just north of Little Rock.

The First Same-Sex Marriages In the Former Confederacy

Jim Burroway

May 10th, 2014

They took place in scenic Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which is both a gay-friendly enclave (it’s “the Gay Capital of the Ozarks“) and a popular wedding destination. From Freedom to Marry:

The first couple to receive a marriage license was Kristin Seaton and Jennifer Rambo (right, photo by Kendall Wright), who have been together for more than four years. The couple’s witness was Cheryl Maples (center), who filed the Wright v. Arkansas challenge last summer and has worked tirelessly to win marriage in the state.

The couple drove up to Eureka Springs from Little Rock when they learned the Pulaski County courthouse wouldn’t be open today. The AP has more:

Seaton and Rambo slept in their Ford Focus after arriving at 2 a.m. Saturday, waking up every 30 minutes to make sure they were at the head of the line. The moment they saw another couple pull up, Seaton and Rambo bolted to the courthouse.

“I don’t think I ran that fast,” Rambo said.

The Carroll County Courthouse was the only one scheduled to open today for regular hours, and it’s due to close at 1:00 p.m. CDT. Here’s the scene when it opened:

As for the other counties in Arkansas:

The executive director of the Association of Arkansas Counties says county clerks are scrambling to prepare for same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses after the state’s ban on gay marriages was overturned.

Chris Villines says he and his staff will spend Saturday talking with county clerks and attorneys about the ramifications of Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling Friday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

…Villines says he expects most clerks to be able to issue same-sex marriage licenses starting Monday.

That’s if the decision isn’t stayed before then.

Arkansas State Judge Strikes Down Marriage Ban

Jim Burroway

May 9th, 2014

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Piazza has ruled that Arkansas’ laws and constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution. In reaching his conclusion, Judge Piazza found that “same-sex couples fulfill all four factors to be considered a suspect or quasi-suspect classification,” but ultimately he decided it didn’t matter:

Regardless of the level of review required, Arkansas’s marriage laws discriminate against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause because they do not advance any conceivable legitimate state interest necessary to support even a rational basis review. Under this standard, the laws must proscribe conduct in a manner that is rationally related to the achievement of a legitimate governmental purpose. See Vance v. Bradley,440 U.S. 93,97 (L979). “[S]ome objectives … are not legitimate state interests” and, even when a law is justified by an ostensibly legitimate purpose, “[t]he State may not rely on a classification whose relationship to an asserted goal is so attenuated as to render the distinction arbitrary or irrational .” Cleburne,473 U.S. at 44647.

At the most basic level, by requiring that classifications be justified by an independent and legitimate purpose, the Equal Protection Clause prohibits classifications from being drawn for “the purpose of disadvantaging the group burdened by the law.” Romer, 517 U.S. at 633; see also United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. —, 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013); Cleburne, 473 U.S. at 450; Rational basis review is a deferential standard, but it “is not a toothless one”. Mathews v. Lucas, 427 U.5.495,510 (1976).

The Supreme Court invoked this principle most recently in Windsor when it held that the principal provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) violated equal protection guarantees because the “purpose and practical effect of the law … [was] to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages.” Windsor,570 U.S. —, 133 S.Ct. at 2693. The case at bar and many around the country have since challenged state laws that ban same-sex marriage as a result of that decision.

As you can see, last year’s Windsor v. U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act continues to reverberate through the many challenges of state marriage bans across the country. This case is no different, as Judge Piazza quoted extensively from the Windsor opinion. He also quotes from a statement Mildred Loving made for the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision which struck down anti-miscegenation laws throughout the country.

Judge Piazza also pointed out that the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which Arkansas voters passed in 2004 with 75% of the vote, is inconsistent with the rest of the state constitution, which he called “a dangerous precedent”:

Article 2, § 2 of the Arkansas Constitution guarantees Arkansans certain inherent and inalienable rights, including the enjoyment of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

All men are created equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights, amongst which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and reputation; and of pursuing their own happiness, To secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

ARK. Const., art 2, § 2.

In this case, Article 2 § 2 was left intact by the voters, but in Amendment 83 they singled out sarne-sex couples for the purpose of disparate treatment. This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equalrty. The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent.

Furthermore, the fact that Amendment 83 was popular with voters does not protect it from constitutional scrutiny as to federal rights. “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts.” W.Va. State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624,638 (1943). The Constitution guarantees that all citizens have certain fundamental rights. These rights vest in every person over whom the Constitution has authority and, because they are so important, an individual’s fundamental rights “may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” Id. at 638.

Judge Piazza turned away the state’s arguments against same-sex marriage: that the ban is necessary to promote procreation, that it is a federalism issue, that the voters have a right to uphold tradition. And he also anticipated the complaints about activist judges: “The court is not unmindful of the criticism that judges should not be super legislators. However, the issue at hand is the fundamental right to marry being denied to an unpopular minority. Our judiciary has failed such groups in the past.” He then went into the 110-year history from the 1856 Dredd Scott decision, which held that even a former slave had “no rights or priveleges” of citizenship, to the 1967 Loving decision which recognized that, regardless of racial differences, “the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” Drawing on the Loving example, Judge Piazza concluded:

THEREFORE, THIS COURT HEREBY FINDS the Arkansas constitutional and legislative ban on s{Lme-sex marriage through Act 144 of 1997 and Amendment 83 is unconstitutional.

It has been over forty years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice. The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples. It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.

Judge Piazza’s order came without a stay. But with it coming down after clerk offices around the state closed for the weekend, marriages may not be available until Monday. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office has announced that they will ask for a stay and they intend to appeal. McDaniel said last week that he supports marriage equality, becoming the first state-wide office holder to do so. He also said however that his office would continue defending the state’s marriage ban in court.

Arkansas school bans kids suspected of being HIV positive

Timothy Kincaid

September 15th, 2013

Pea Ridge School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin or disability in any of its policies, practice or procedures… unless we get all suspiciousy that a child might have the HIV

Oh Noes!!! The hiv!!!

Turns out that some idiot school superintendent in some podunk town in Arkansas seems to think it’s mid-80’s all over again and has banned three siblings from attending the local school until that take an HIV test and give him the results.

The Disability Rights Center of Arkansas, Inc. (DRC) claims the Pea Ridge Public School District has removed three siblings from school, two of whom have disabilities.

The group claims the students have been denied the right to attend school until documentation is provided that they are not HIV positive.

“The actions taken by the Superintendent of Pea Ridge School District are appalling and is reminiscent of times past and the case of Ryan White,” says Tom Masseau, Executive Director of DRC. “The fact that the foster families have to provide documentation that the children are HIV negative before entering the school is unlawful and immoral. Further, the fact the school’s attorney authorized this unlawful act is at best appalling. It stigmatizes individuals with disabilities or their “perceived” disabilities as there is no indication these individuals have HIV. There is only an unlawful fear that they do.

Other than that being likely illegal, it’s colossally stupid.

Not only is HIV a fragile virus that cannot exist outside the body and cannot be transmitted through casual contact, today’s medications make most infections so low in viral count as to be theoretically non-transmittable through high-risk sex*. There’s a greater danger of school children of being trampled by a buffalo stampede than there is from these children.

But stupidity and petty authority will always give us gems like this decision by Superintendent Rick Neal.

* – NOTE: The notion of non-transmissible viral loads is controversial and the science is not fully conclusive. There are documented cases in which HIV was transmitted even with a low plasma viral count and the CDC recommends condom use even when both the plasma and genital fluid viral loads are low.

ACLU Announces Three Marriage Lawsuits

Jim Burroway

July 9th, 2013

Fresh off its victory in Windsor v. U.S. which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the ACLU’s is filing three more lawsuits, in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia. In Whitewood v. Corbett, the ACLU is challenging Pennsylvania’s statute which bans same-sex marriage. In Fisher-Borne v. Smith, the ACLU will amend its lawsuit seeking adoption rights to include the right to marriage. In the Virginia case, the ACLU and Lambda Legal are still in the planning stages, with plaintiffs and precise details of the case still being worked out. They expect to file that lawsuit later this summer.

Meanwhile, the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have filed a motion with the New Mexico Supreme Court, asking it to order state officials to allow same-sex couples to marry. State law is currently silent on the question. Other lawsuits are working their way through Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and Michigan.

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