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Posts for May, 2015

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.”

Marriage Equality Support Hits 60%

Jim Burroway

May 20th, 2015

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As trends go, that’s a the largest one-year jump since 2011, when a majority of Americans supported marriage equality for the first time. We are quickly closing in on the day when twice as many Americans will support marriage equality as those who don’t. When looking at the political affiliation cross-tabs, you can see a very sharp divergence based on party affiliation:

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Another trend worth watching this political season:

About a quarter of Americans (26%) say they vote for a political candidate solely based on his or her stance on gay marriage. Many others say it is but one of several important factors (43%). … Those who are opposed to gay marriage are a good deal more likely to say that a candidate’s stance on the issue can make or break whether that candidate receives their vote (37%) than those who are supportive of gay marriage (21%). And both are more likely to say the issue is a defining factor than they have been in the past.

The margin of sampling error is ±5% at the 95% confidence level. The surveys were done with a 50/50 split between landline contacts and cell phone contacts.

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.

Supreme Court Audio from Today’s Oral Arguments Now Available — Updated With Reactions

Jim Burroway

April 28th, 2015

The Supreme Court has posted audio of today’s marriage oral arguments. The first question investigates whether bans against same-sex marriage violate the Constitution of the United States. You can listen below, or click here to download the file as MP3, Windows Media, or RealAudio.

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The second argument pertains to whether states are obligated under the U.S. Constitution to recognize a same-sex marriage that was lawfully obtained in another state. You can listen below, or click here to download the file.

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UPDATES:

Transcripts for both questions have also been posted at the above links.

Buzzfeed’s resident self-described law dork Chris Geidner summarizes it all this way:

A 5-4 vote in favor of same-sex couples’ marriage rights appears to be the most likely outcome, although Chief Justice John Roberts’ vote shouldn’t be counted out.

But SCOTUSblog’s Kevin Russell weighs whether a compromise ruling might be in the works:

There is some reason to wonder whether the Chief might be angling for a compromise in which the states win the first question (i.e., they do not have to permit same-sex marriages to be performed in their states) but lose the second (i.e., they would have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states). It’s very hard to read the Chief, but he did ask questions in the second argument expressing some skepticism over the fact that states don’t, in fact, deny recognition to any marriage that does not conform with state law, except same-sex marriages. And, as I mentioned, Justice Scalia asked questions suggesting he might think there was a reason based in the text of Article 4 that would justify ruling for the couples on recognition but not the right to marry. So one could imagine a potential compromise that would effectively allow same sex couples to get married in states that allow it, have their marriages recognized elsewhere, but not have the Court issue a decision that has broad implications for other kinds of sexual orientation discrimination.

On the other hand, Justice Kennedy’s near silence in the second argument suggests that he did not think that the second question was likely all that important. The only significant question he asked was something like “if we assume states have a sufficiently strong interest that they do not have to allow same-sex marriages in their own state, doesn’t that necessarily mean the states have a strong enough interest to permit them to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states?”

Robert Barnes and Fred Barbash at the Washington Post wondered about the split-the-baby scenario as well:

If states are forced to recognize same sex marriages performed elsewhere, Roberts suggested, it would be “only a matter of time” before same sex marriage settled in as the national norm. It would effectively allow “one state” or a minority of states, to “set policy for the nation.”

At the same time, the Roberts’ line of questioning suggested he did not view that possibility with great alarm, at least as an alternative to a court decision holding that all states must permit same sex marriages within their borders.

But back to the possibility of striking the bans outright, we’ve often looked at Justice Kennedy as the critical swing vote. But is Chief Justice John Roberts another possible swinger? Greg Stoher and Mark Drajem at Bloomberg found his questioning worth noting:

Chief Justice John Roberts directed the bulk of his questions at same-sex marriage proponents during the argument. Although Roberts voted against gay rights two years ago, marriage advocates hold out hope of winning his vote this time.

“If you prevail here, there will be no more debate,” Roberts told Mary Bonauto, the lead lawyer arguing in favor of same-sex marriage rights. Shutting off debate “can close minds.”

He added, “people feel very differently about something if they have a chance to vote on it.” Roberts also said the “fundamental core of the institution is the opposite-sex relationship.”

The chief justice shifted course later, suggesting he was open to joining an opinion that didn’t focus on sexual orientation and instead struck gay-marriage bans as unconstitutional gender discrimination.

“If Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t,” Roberts said. “Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?”

Texas’ truly stupid anti-equality proposal

Timothy Kincaid

April 27th, 2015

Representative Cecil Bell Jr., one of Texas’ good ol’ boy Republicans, has a game plan as to how the Lone Star State is going to thwart the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States on same-sex marriage.

Passed by the House State Affairs committee on April 22, the bill would prohibit Texas from using state or local funds to license or recognize same-sex marriages. Even if a court issued “an order requiring the issuance or recognition of a same-sex marriage license,” the bill states, officials would be barred from spending any money to do so.

Now suppose that the state passes this bill and SCOTUS rules for equality, as expected. What would Bell’s bill do?

First, it would not keep things as usual in Texas. Or certainly not for long.

When confronted by an obligation to provide same-sex couples with equal access – but to do so without spending extra funds – I expect that clerks will respond differently. Some will laugh at Bell’s bill, noting that state legislation does not outrank the US Constitution.

Others, maybe most, will just shut down shop until the courts toss this nonsense. Yay, Bell, marriage for no one. That’ll show them.

And there will undoubtedly be some brave soul with little brains and lots of faith who will proudly wave their flag of bigotry and defy the courts. But this will be a violation of civil rights as determined by the US Supreme Court. Which means the active involvement of the Justice Department. And federal judges. And sanctions. And maybe even jail.

And sure Bell will “win” if winning means grandstanding, and “martyrs”, and causing a stink. And, yes, people will hate each other and dig in their heels, and life will be less comfortable for everyone.

But marriage equality is coming to Texas. And there is nothing that Cecil Bell Jr. can do to stop it.

Marriage bans disadvantage gay voters and candidates

Timothy Kincaid

April 27th, 2015

A compelling argument for equality focused on an erea that I hadn’t noticed: (NY Daily News)

Under federal law, it’s illegal to make a political contribution in the name of someone else or using someone else’s money. This anti-corruption law is specifically designed to preempt individuals who seek to dishonestly circumvent contribution maximums by making a donation under another name.

Married couples are the exception to this rule. Most states — including all four states with marriage bans before the Supreme Court — extend to a husband and wife their own contribution limits, even if only one spouse brings income into the marriage. But committed same-sex couples living in states where their marriage is not recognized do not enjoy the same spousal exemption.

It’s even more unbalanced when a gay candidate runs for office. Her spouse is limited to contributions, just as if she were a stranger, while her opponent can use his wife’s funds as if they were his own.

When marriage equality heads to the Supreme Court, we’ll hear arguments loudly advocating for the supposed states’ rights to settle the marriage debate outside of the courtroom.

This approach places faith in our political system without realizing that the existing same-sex marriage bans hampers the democratic process. In the absence of equal spousal exemptions to campaign finance laws, gay and lesbian men and women are less able to participate politically as donors and as candidates. And as a result, an already marginalized group is further disenfranchised.

This you must see

Timothy Kincaid

April 24th, 2015
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Civil Unions bill signed in Chile

Timothy Kincaid

April 13th, 2015

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From the Washington Blade

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Monday signed a bill into law that will allow gays and lesbians in the South American country to enter into civil unions. “The civil union law is a vindication in the struggle for sexual diversity rights,” said Bachelet during the signing ceremony that took place at the Presidential Palace in Santiago, the Chilean capital.

The bill passed the Chilean Congress in January and then went for review before the nation’s Constitutional Court.

Currently there are lawsuits for full marriage equality before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Bachelet’s administration is not opposing the lawsuits.

What the Bible says to Christian cake bakers

Timothy Kincaid

April 8th, 2015

wedding cake

Personally, I don’t think that bakers and photographers should be compelled to offer their services to anyone they don’t like. We’ve had that discussion many times here at Box Turtle Bulletin and though I understand the arguments of those who wish to compel discrimination out of existence, my libertarian streak just doesn’t let me get there.

Frankly, there are people who I prefer not associate with or provide with services. And I respect that they may feel the same.

That being said, these angry Christians who are furious about bakers having to serve gay couples seem not to have read their Bible or believe the words of Jesus. Because the recorded words of Jesus himself tell you what to do when you are sued to bake a cake.

Matthew 5:38-42:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

So what would Jesus say to Baronelle Stutzman and the other Christian bakers who fear that by baking a wedding cake for a gay couple they are then condoning immoral lifestyles? Even if they think gay people are evil? It’s not very ambiguous:

If anyone wants to sue you and force you to bake a wedding cake, bake them cupcakes as well.

But, of course, that only applies to followers of Jesus. So Stutzman and her ilk may not find it relevant.

Alabama marriage carnival goes on

Timothy Kincaid

March 19th, 2015

bama

Since our last update, the marriage situation in Alabama has continued to whirl and twirl to a wild caliope tune.

Mobile County Probate Judge Davis, having been told by the Alabama Supreme Court that he was not exempt from their order to discriminate against same-sex couples, turned back to Federal Judge Granade. He noted that the plaintiffs in the case have all gotten married now, and requested that she put a stay on her order so as to keep him from having to defy one court or the other.

Judge Granade didn’t let him off the hook. She said, no dear, it’s isn’t much good that you’ve issued the licenses if the state won’t recognize them. And really you haven’t given me any reason why my ruling shouldn’t be upheld, so go on now and do what you’ve been told.

So Davis is refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone.

But his problems didn’t stop there. Part of the marriage lawsuit was driven by Cari Searcy, one of the plaintiffs, desire to adopt the child that she and Kim McKeand had raised since birth. Alabama doesn’t allow second-parent adoption, but now that she’s married to the mother, she should be eligible.

But the state is refusing to recognize the marriage so Davis tried to enact partial compliance. He issued an interlocutory decree granting Searcy temporary parental rights but said he would not rule on the adoption itself until after the Supreme Court made it’s decision.

Searcy’s attorneys then sued Davis for failure to follow the order of the Federal Judge. But Davis used this to his advantage. He noted that he’s now a party to the suit and therefore no longer impartial and recused himself from the review of the adoption and asked the Alabama Supreme Court to give him a replacement for the case.

But, Searcy’s attorneys claim, a change in 2001 would have the replacement made by the presiding circuit judge. The matter is unclear because there is uncertainty whether the 2001 change applies to probate judges. This will undoubtedly delay the adoption further.

Meanwhile, Judge Granade has made her first ruling on the request by plaintiffs to add additional plaintiffs and to make the case class action. Attorney General Luther Strange had argued that too much time had passed, but Granade didn’t buy that.

She ruled that the case could be amended to allow additional plaintiffs and defendants.

There being no substantial reason to deny leave to amend, the court must allow the amendment. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ motion for leave to file a second amended complaint (Doc. 76) is hereby GRANTED.

However, she did not rule on whether the case would be made class action.

Thus, although the court may dismiss class allegations “[w]here it is facially apparent from the pleadings that there is no ascertainable class,” …, the court finds that the Plaintiffs in this case have alleged adequate facts to support a potential class claim and the court will not engage in a detailed and rigorous analysis of the class claims until all of the current parties have had the opportunity to oppose or support the motion for class certification.

Grenade has given Strange until March 23rd to tell her why “all persons in Alabama who wish to obtain a marriage license in order to marry a person of the same sex and to have that marriage recognized under Alabama law, and who are unable to do so because of the enforcement of Alabama’s laws prohibiting the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples and barring recognition of their marriages” is an ill-defined class definition.

It seems rather unlikely that Strange will convince Judge Granade that this class of people is vague and ill-defined. And it seems rather likely that Judge Granade will determine that her ruling applies to all such couples. This will eliminate all ambiguity about the extent and scope of the Federal ruling and may set the state on course for a showdown with the Federal government.

And then we will see what the Alabama Supreme Court has to say.

Presbyterians support marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

March 17th, 2015

presbyterian logoCongratulations to the members of the Presbyterian Church (USA). (NYTimes)

After three decades of debate over its stance on homosexuality, members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Tuesday to change the definition of marriage in the church’s constitution to include same-sex marriage.

The final approval by a majority of the church’s 171 regional bodies, known as presbyteries, enshrines a change recommended last year by the church’s General Assembly. The vote amends the church’s constitution to broaden marriage from being between “a man and a woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

Although not all presbyteries have voted, the lopsided two-thirds results to date are sufficient to ensure the endorsement of the change.

They join Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), the United Church of Christ (UCC), the Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as major denominations that now support marriage equality.

There are also a number of independent or smaller churches that value equality. The United Methodist Church does not allow for marriage equality primarily due to Asian and African voters in the international denomination, but the church body in the US is in open revolt and has mostly ceased trying to punish the growing number of ministers who flout the policy.

‘Bama Supremes er at it agin

Timothy Kincaid

March 11th, 2015

bama

Remember when the Supreme Court of the State of Alabama declared that they and they alone know what is in the US Constitution and ordered all counties in the state to stop issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples? Well, at the time, they made one tiny temporary exception.

They told Probate Judge Davis that he needed to get back to them about whether he thought that he was under any obligation to perform the tasks that Federal Judge Granade had ordered him to do.

And Davis, not being a complete lunatic nor wishing to be held in contempt, requested that he be exempted from the state court’s orders. Yeah, like that was going to happen! (WSFA)

The probate judge sought an 11-day extension to comply with the court’s order motion and on March 9 advised the court that he should not be included in the March 3 order because it would require him to violate a federal district court order.

The Alabama Supreme Court denied Davis’ request saying his concern was without merit.

“Davis has made no showing that he was, or is, the subject of any previously entered federal court order other than the one issued in Strawser,” the justices wrote, “and he makes no showing that that order has any continuing, binding effect on him as to any marriage-license applicants beyond the four couples who were the plaintiffs in that case and who already have received the relief they requested.”

I rather suspect that if Judge Granade was not pissed off already, this might have done it. And the ‘Baba Supremes may well discover that her idea of “without merit” is quite different from the one the good ol’ boys have.

Oklahoma may be getting out of the marriage business (Updated)

Timothy Kincaid

March 10th, 2015

Governments love control. That’s a given.

So while many people – right, left, or center – have exclaimed, “the government get out of the marriage business, anyway!”, I’ve mostly ignored those cries as impractical. But by a vote of 67 to 24, the Oklahoma House of Representatives has voted to do just that.

HB 1125 removes all references to issuing marriage licenses and instead allows a provision by which the officiant of a marriage files a certificate after the fact informing the state that a legal marriage has occurred (and those who don’t wish for an officiant can file a common-law marriage affidavit). In this way, such county clerks or other public employees as don’t wish to issue licenses that offend their faith won’t have to issue any licenses at all.

Currently the marriage certificate is the final step in the process. And that would remain the same. Except that the certificate, once recorded and certified, is returned to the couple as their legal proof of marriage.

It’s not completely clear why receiving and documenting the certificate is less offensive to a clerk than issuing a license, but perhaps it’s a matter of filing the record of an event rather than issuing a license which is a form of permission.

Or, though unlikely, perhaps this whole fight has caused the Republicans in Oklahoma to ponder on some of the supposed small-government positions that they like to spout and ask themselves why it is that a couple should have to ask the state for permission to marry in the first place.

Interestingly, the law omits any ‘male-female’ requirements and the certificate has signature spaces for “first spouse” and “second spouse”. It does continue restrictions on under-age marriage.

The bill now goes to the state Senate and, if passed, would go into effect November 1, 2015.

UPDATED: This bill appears to have been sent off to a committee to die in March.

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