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Posts for October, 2014

West Virginia now to issue marriage licenses – UPDATED

Timothy Kincaid

October 9th, 2014

marriage 2014

Dark purple – states which have marriage equality
Light purple – states in which the circuit court has ruled for equality but which have not yet been ordered to provide marriage equality

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey (R) has determined that as a result of the Supreme Court’s denial of Fourth Circuit certiorari, the state’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. The state will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Also in Nevada, the remaining supporters of the ban, the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage has pulled it’s request for a stay (it had joined with Idaho’s Butch Otter in calling for an en banc hearing). This would, I believe, clear the state to begin issuing marriage licenses as well.

UPDATE – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) of West Virginia has directed the state agencies to comply with marriage equality. In Nevada, word is that the first same-sex marriages will occur today.

UPDATE - county clerks in Nevada are waiting on the federal judge to issue the injunction.

The judge in the case, Robert C. Jones, decided that there was no way that he could possibly personally sign an order allowing same-sex marriage so he recused himself. Interestingly he did not disclose his strong bias when he heard the case nor admit that he could not possibly find for the plaintiffs and did not recuse himself at that time. Judge Jones’ choice to hear a case over which he could only find one conclusion is the most obvious example of judicial activism which I’ve ever observed.

The result is that the case had to be reassigned and now the state awaits the replacement judge’s signature. Legal advocates insist that this signature is not strictly needed, but the state appears to want it’s I’s dotted and T’s crossed.

UPDATE - the first marriage has occurred in West Virginia.

Couples are anxiously awaiting the signature of the judge in Nevada. No one knows what is taking so long.

The Most Momentous Supreme Court Non-Decision Ever Made

Jim Burroway

October 6th, 2014

EqualityChart

With today’s Supreme Court non-decision, about 53% of all Americans now live in jurisdictions with marriage equality. That’s twenty-four states and the District of Columbia. Indiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin and Utah will open their clerk offices to same-sex couples as soon as the various Federal District Courts go through their formalities. Those formalities are already out of the way in Colorado, Oklahoma, Virginia and Utah. Things are happening so fast I wouldn’t be surprised if Indiana gets the go-ahead before I finish writing this post. Meanwhile, you can expect that Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming will follow suit any day now, since they too are now bound by the decisions already handed down in the in the 4th Circuit, 7th Circuit, and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeals.

The biggest wild card remains the Sixth Circuit, which heard oral arguments last August in a Michigan challenge to that state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. That court also heard oral arguments from four other states — Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee — challenging those states’ bans on recognizing legal marriages from out of state. If the Sixth Circuit goes all contrarian and upholds any of those bans, then we could expect the issue to be dropped once again at the Supreme Court’s footsteps.

And to think that barely over a decade ago, our relationships were still criminalized in fourteen states.

Now, it’s possible that the three-judge panel in Cincinnati may rule against marriage equality. It’s also conceivable that a three-judge panel in the Fifth, Eighth and Eleventh Circuits could uphold a same-sex marriage ban in, say, Louisiana, for example.

But if one did, it seems much more likely that the entire circuit would step in for an en banc decision. But even if that didn’t happen, then sure, maybe an anti-equality decision could conceivably make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But by then, some two-thirds or more of all Americans are likely to be living in marriage equality states. Would the Supreme Court go back and overturn all of that? That now seems preposterous. Today’s non-decision is the new law of the land.

West Virginia Marriage Challenge Likely To Move Forward

Jim Burroway

January 7th, 2014

A lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Huntington, West Virginia appears likely to move forward, according to this report from the Huntington Herald-Dispatch.

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 1, argues county clerks in Kanawha and Cabell counties violated the 14th Amendment rights of three same-sex couples to due process and equal protection in denying their request for a marriage license. The clerks contend their staffs simply followed state law.

( U.S. District Judge Robert C.) Chambers announced Monday his inclination to deny the clerks’ motions to dismiss. Their arguments contend a judicial ruling would interfere with the legislative process.

The lawsuit also seeks to compel the state to recognize marriages from out of state. But because none of the plaintiffs are married, Judge Chambers warned that they lack standing to challenge West Virginia’s marriage law banning recognition of same-sex marriages from out of state.

Chambers’s ruling remains unofficial until a written ruling is released, which may take a couple of weeks. He will then establish deadlines for both sides to file briefs and counter-briefs. Both sides have already agreed that a full trial will not be necessary.

West Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is statutory only. Attempts to pass a constitutional amendment have stalled in the state legislature.

States Defy Pentagon Order Requiring Equal Treatment for Guard Members

Jim Burroway

November 4th, 2013

Several GOP-led states have vowed to resist Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s order requiring National Guard to issue ID cards to spouses of Guard members who are in same-sex marriages. Those ID cards are critical for accessing spousal benefits. According to Reuters:

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, the Republican head of the National Governors Association, called on President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to “stop using the National Guard as a pawn in a larger social agenda,” her spokesman, Alex Weintz, said in a statement on Friday.

“The president has made it clear he supports gay marriage. He has the legal authority to order federal agencies to recognize gay marriages. He does not have the legal authority to force state agencies to do so, or to unilaterally rewrite state laws or state constitutions,” Weintz said.

Josh Havens, a spokesman for Texas Governor Rick Perry, said, “Texas Military Forces is a state agency, and as such is obligated to adhere to the Texas Constitution and the laws of this state which clearly define marriage as between one man and one woman.”

Nine states were initially identified as refusing to issue identity cards to same-sex spouses: Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and West Virginia. Reuters reports, “Indiana notified the Pentagon on Friday it had begun issuing the cards after a month-long review, a move defense officials said they welcomed.”

Louisiana has also confirmed that they will also defy Sec. Hagel’s order, while Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she is exploring her legal options. Georgia’s National Guard has said it will ignore Hagel’s order.

Defense Secretary Orders State National Guards To Treat Gay Couples Equally

Jim Burroway

November 1st, 2013

Since the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last June, the Defense Department has been rushing to implement policies designed to treat legally wedded same-sex couples equally with married couples generally. But several states have refused to issue Defense Department ID cards to same-sex spouses of National Guard members. Those states include Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League, has announced that he is putting a stop to such discriminatory practices:

“Today, I directed the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation. At my direction, he will meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being denied. The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions.”

A senior defense official told the Washington Blade that the Pentagon has some critical leverage to deploy against recalcitrant states:

“These are federal ID cards paid for with federal funding to provide federally mandated benefits,” the official said. “I’m not going to speculate on our legal options.”

Civil Unions Bill Introduced In West Virginia

Jim Burroway

February 17th, 2012

Talk about a cry in the wilderness:

Del. John Doyle says he introduced the bill Thursday to start a conversation about family equality. The Jefferson County Democrat says that gay and lesbian couples should have the same safety net to deal with the death of a parent or the loss of a job as married couples.

Fairness WV, which advocates on behalf of the gay, lesbian and transgender community, says this is the first time a civil union bill has been introduced in the West Virginia Legislature.

I hope you’ll allow me to digress for a moment. I grew up in Portsmouth, Ohio. All three of our television stations came from West Virginia, along with one of the two most popular radio stations (the other was from across the Big Sandy river from Huntington, WV, in Ashland, KY). If we wanted to go to a concert or go shopping or do anything remotely big city-ish, we went to Huntington, about 45 miles away. It was closer and easier to get to than the next option, Columbus, which was 90 miles away. Growing up in the 1970s, contemporary Appalachian culture had far more relevance in our lives than anything that one might assume from the accidental fact that we lived on the north bank of the Ohio river, although I can safely say that neither I nor any of my friends were really much aware of it at the time.

And so having said that, I will now add this: West Virginia, I can confidently predict, will beat Alabama and Mississippi in providing some sort of partnership recognition, although I suspect they probably won’t beat them by much. Especially if the status quo remains unchallenged. Good for Doyle and Fairness WV for challenging the status quo.

WV Sen. Robert Byrd Dead at 92

Jim Burroway

June 28th, 2010

The senior statesman of the U.S. Senate, West Virginia’s Sen. Robert Byrd (D) has died at 3 a.m. this morning. The conservative Democrat was the longest serving member of Congress. He was elected to the Senate in 1958 for the first of nine terms. He had served six years in Congress before that.

Sen. Byrd was hospitalized last week for what was thought to be heat exhaustion, but his health continued to decline over the weekend.

According to the New York Times obituary:

But the post that gave him the most satisfaction was chairman of the Appropriations Committee, with its power of the purse — a post he gave up only last year as his health declined. A New Deal Democrat, Mr. Byrd used the position in large part to battle persistent poverty in West Virginia, which he called “one of the rock bottomest of states.”

He lived that poverty growing up in mining towns, and it fueled his ambition. As he wrote in his autobiography, “Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields” (West Virginia University Press, 2005), “it has been my constant desire to improve the lives of the people who have sent me to Washington time and time again.”

Byrd’s commitment to improve the lives of LGBT West Virginians, however, was considerably lower in priority. President Clinton wrote in his autobiography, “My Life, that Byrd’s 1993 opposition to gays in the military was stronger than that of Sen. Sam Nunn, the man who is credited for being the driving force behind institutionalizing the ban in federal law. In the 109th Congress, Byrd scored a 22% on the Human Rights Campaign scorecard. In the current 110th Congress, Byrd’s score increased to 60% with his votes for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and the his support for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

According to West Virginia law, Byrd’s successor will be appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin III (D). Ambiguities in the law make it unclear as to whether a special election will be required before Byrd’s term ends in 2012.

WV House Shoots Down Gay Marriage Ban

Jim Burroway

February 23rd, 2010

West Virginia House Democrats shot down a GOP attempt to force a vote on a state  constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The vote to force a discharge of the bill from committee to the floor of the House of Delegates failed 68-30. The vote was part of a larger effort by the Republican minority to force a vote on contentious issues. One Democrat, Delegate Tom Louisos (D-Fayette), joined the Republicans on the failed attempt to force a vote.

Family Policy Council of West Virginia is planning a rally at the Capital on Thursday to encourage the state Senate to pass a similar measure. Fifteen of thirty-four Senators have signed on as co-sponsors of the proposed amendment, but a spokesman for Fairness West Virginia believes the Senate will not pass the bill.

WV House GOP To Force Vote on Gay Marriage Ban

Jim Burroway

February 23rd, 2010

Republicans in the West Virginia House say that voting on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage is an “urgent” issue and should be voted on by the full 100-member House:

They also argue that the House leadership is keeping the issues away from a vote because it doesn’t want Democrats on record opposing measures that are appealing to conservative-leaning West Virginians or because conservative-leaning Democrats might break away. …Republicans admit the bills they want considered have little chance of passing the Legislature, but they say the issues are urgent enough that West Virginians deserve to see action on them, one way or another.

WV Couple Denied Apartment

Jim Burroway

February 23rd, 2010

Rayetta Darby and Erika Johnson, a lesbian couple in the Huntington, WV area, were denied an apartment by their prospective landlord because they are gay. The reporters investigating this story discover that West Virginia and 29 other states don’t have any laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination, and neither does the federal Fair Housing Act.

“It’s terrible. It’s terrible we even need such a law,” said Bill Dotson, executive director of Huntington Housing Authority. You can only prevent people from renting if they have a bad payment history or if they they’re bad neighbors or don’t take care of their property,” Dotson said. “If a landlord refuses to rent to them for any reason other than those, it’s heavily frowned upon.” But, the fact that there’s no law preventing such behavior in West Virginia is deeply disturbing to Darby.

West Virginia Supreme Court Awards Custody To Lesbian Couple

Jim Burroway

June 5th, 2009

The West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that an 18-month-old foster child should be allowed to remain with the only parents she has ever known.

In a unanimous opinion, the court turned back Fayette County Circuit Judge Paul Blake Jr.’s order that the girl should be taken away from Kathryn Kutil and Cheryl Hess and placed with a heterosexual couple who might adopt her. The court noted that there was no evidence that the girl’s placement with the lesbian couple was in any way harmful to her:

“As a matter of fact, the court was never presented with any actual evaluation of the home or evidence of the quality of the relationship” the girl had with Kutil and Hess, the justices said. “All indications thus far are that (the girl) has formed a close emotional bond and nurturing relationship with her foster parents, which can not be trivialized or ignored.”

The justices said Blake only ruled in favor of removing the child to promote placing her with a heterosexual couple.

“The conclusion itself represents a blurring of legal principles applicable to abuse and neglect and adoption,” the decision said. “Even if our current statutes, rules and regulations could somehow be read to support the adoption preference proposed by (Blake) such a newfound principle would need to be harmonized with established law.”

The court also said that Kutil and Hess should be considered “if not favored” in the selection of the girl’s eventual adoptive home. The girl has lived with Kutil and Hess her entire life, after having been born to a drug-addicted mother in 2007. The Department of Health and Human Resources placed the infant with Kutil and Hess, but later sought to remove the girl, even though Kutil and Hess were foster parents to six other children. DHHR claimed that they only wanted to alleviate what they saw as too many children in the Kutil-Hess household, but the Supreme Court didn’t buy it:

“It is more than apparent that the only reason why [Kutil and Hess] were being replaced as foster care providers was to promote the adoption of [the child] by what [Blake] called in his November 12, 2008, order a ‘traditionally defined family, that is, a family consisting of both a mother and a father,'” the opinion reads.

West Virginia law allows three types of parents to adopt: a single person; a married person with permission from his or her spouse; or a married couple. The court noted that West Virginia Law does not place a preference on the type of person who adopts. One of the two women hopes to adopt the child as a single parent.

State Marriage Equality Update

Timothy Kincaid

April 9th, 2009

There has been a lot of movement recently in various states on the issue of recognition for same-sex couples. Here is a brief synopsis (I apologize if I missed anything):

Arkansas – on March 27, a bill was killed that would have banned cities and counties from creating domestic partner registries.

California – the State Supreme Court is deliberating on whether Proposition 8 is constitutional and, if so, what impact it has on the 18,000 same-sex couples who married between June and November 2008.

Colorado – at least two initiative drives are underway to either change the constitution to allow for gay marriage or alternately to statutorily create civil unions. The legislature has just passed a Designated Beneficiary Agreement Act, which has been signed by the Governor.

Connecticut – last week codified – with bipartisan support – marriage equality in the state’s laws to agree with the decision of the state Supreme Court.

Delaware – proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage defeated in the Senate in the last week in March.

Hawaii – Civil Unions bill was tied up in committee. Although the bill has a strong majority of support in the Senate, they voted not to pull it from committee.

Illinois – a bill (HB 0178) has been introduced to legalize same-sex marriage along with a bill (HB 2234) to enact Civil Unions. The marriage bill is resting in the Rules Committee but the Civil Unions bill passed out of committee in March and now faces a House vote.

Iowa – last week the Supreme Court found that the state must recognize same-sex marriage. It will go into effect on April 27. The Governor, the Senate Majority Leader, and the Speaker of the House have all announced that they will oppose efforts to change the Constitution. Iowa has no initiative process so it would require a change in leadership and several years before it would be possible to revoke this right.

Maine – both a marriage bill and a civil unions bill are before the legislature. The Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on April 24. Gov. John Baldacci is “keeping an open mind”.

Maryland – on April 7, the State Senate upgraded benefits offered to same-sex couples in domestic partnership relationships but do not allow for official state recognition of those relationships.

Minnesota – there is a bill before the legislature to provide new marriage equality. It is unlikely to pass.

Nevada – a bill to provide Domestic Partnerships with all the rights and obligations of marriage has passed out of committee and is before the Senate.

New Hampshire – at the end of March the House passed a bill to allow for gay marriage. It will be considered by the Senate, where Democrats have a 14-9 advantage (a dozen Republicans in the House supported the bill). Governor John Lynch has not stated whether he will veto the legislation, should it pass.

New Jersey – a commission has found that civil unions are inadequate and polls have found that residents favor gay marriage but a bill before the legislature appears not to be moving.

New Mexico – in March the Senate defeated efforts to enact Domestic Partnerships.

New York – the Governor has announced that he will push for a vote in the Senate on gay marriage. Although marriage equality has passed in the House, without support from some Republicans, the votes do not appear to be there in the Senate.

Rhode Island – a gay marriage bill is unlikely to make it out of committee. A “reciprocal beneficiary agreements” bill, a darling of anti-gays who want to label gay couples as identical to roommates or cousins, has been proposed as a “compromise”.

Vermont – this week the legislature overrode the governor’s veto to pass marriage equality.

Washington - a bill to upgrade the state’s Domestic Partnerships to provide all the rights and obligations of marriage has passed the Senate and will come before the House soon.

West Virginia – last week the House of Delegates defeated a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage.

Wisconsin - the Supreme Court is being asked to review the constitutional ban on marriage. The Governor, in his budget, has proposed Domestic Partnership benefits.

Wyoming – in February the House defeated a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

District of Columbia – the Council voted unanimously to recognize out of state marriages. Same-sex marriage bill expected later this year.

Anti-Gay Activists Had WV In Crosshairs — But Misfired

Jim Burroway

March 30th, 2009

West Virginia’s House of Delegates voted today mostly along party lines to quash a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. All 29 House Republicans joined one Democrat to move the measure out of committee, where it had been stalled, but 67 other House Democrats defeated the effort.

Last week it was reported that the Family Policy Council of West Virginia was targeting House Judiciary Chairwoman Carrie Webster and Monongalia County Delegate Barbara Fleischa with harrassing phone calls:

“They call my staff idiots. They call my staff God-haters,” the Kanawha County Democrat [Delegate Webster] said. “I believe people should be able to exercise their free speech, but I do think it’s a manipulation.”

This isn’t the first time the Family Policy Council of West Virginia has deployed aggressive tactics. Last month, they garnered national attention with an ad comparing gays with snipers targeting families. The Family Policy Council of West Virginia is listed as an official fully-associated council of Focus On the Family.

Gay Snipers Stalking WV Families

Jim Burroway

February 16th, 2009

At least that’s the image being promoted in this wv4marriage.com video, by a group pushing for an anti-gay constitutional amendment for West Virginia. Over the course of five minutes, we learn that a married gay couple from California could move to West Virginia (no, seriously! That could totally happen!) and open up that state toward recognizing same sex marriages. Which is just a stones-throw away from having an unsuspecting bubble-blowing families sitting innocently on their all-American front porches being put in the crosshairs and blown away.

And to think that this irresponsible image went out right as Jim David Adkisson was sentenced for training his scope on a gay-friendly church. Images matter, especially in a well-armed state like West Virginia. This conjured image of a “homosexual threat” has clearly crossed the line.

By the way, we also learn that public schools no longer celebrate Father’s Day. Wait a minute. That couldn’t be because it’s celebrated on the third Sunday in June while school’s out, could it? Naah, it’s a much better story when it’s all the gays’ fault.

Heterosexual Menace: Shock Collars, Shootings, Incest — But No Gay Adoption

Jim Burroway

February 2nd, 2009

From Xenia, Ohio, we have a father who disciplined his children by using shock collars:

The Caesarscreek Twp. man who used a shock collar and water torture to discipline three of his four children was sentenced to 16 years in prison by Greene County Common Pleas Court Judge J. Timothy Campbell Monday. David O. Liskany, 39, of Hussey Road, was sentenced to six years each for two counts of second-degree felonious assault and to four years for one count of third-degree attempted felonious assault.

“The only thing you didn’t do was wrap their faces in cheesecloth. They basically were waterboarded,” Campbell said before handing down his sentence, which was far harsher than the 4 years in prison recommended by state probation authorities. According to Campbell, Liskany abused three of his four children — who were 13, 11 and four at the time of the abuse — by using a dog’s shock collar on them, holding them underwater, subjecting them to cold showers and spraying water up their noses.

Authorities found out when the older boy ran away from home, walking fifteen miles to a relative. Liskany’s ex-wife Wendy Liskany pleaded for the court to not jail her ex-husband. “I don’t feel that incarcerating him will help,” she said.

Maybe Liskany had to use such creative measures because they spoiled their children when they were younger. These parents from New York were determined not to make that mistake:

A 5-month-old child is in critical condition Saturday in what police suspect is a child abuse case. Police say they have charged the girl’s father, Scott Archbold, 41, with causing the injuries including multiple bone fractures, internal bleeding and signs of prior abuse. Christina Benjamin, (above right) the infant’s mother, has been charged with child endangerment for allegedly failing to get the child medical attention after the infant’s grandmother suspected the abuse.

But at least Liskany and the Archbold-Benjamins didn’t just kill their entire families outright.

Armed with a handgun, [Ervin Antonio] Lupoe evidently roamed room to room starting as early as Monday evening, fatally shooting his wife and five young children — including two sets of twins.

Early Tuesday, Lupoe faxed a bitter, rambling two-page letter to a local television station blaming his employer for his actions. Though his wife and children were already dead, he also called the station threatening to kill his family, investigators believe. He followed this up with an incongruous call to police saying that he had returned home and that “my whole family has been shot.”

Fortunately, not all heterosexuals are so violent. This father loved his daughter so much, he had four children by her. He didn’t care much for his grandchildren-children though:

The father, Danial Rinehart, 47, is scheduled to appear in court Thursday. Authorities say three of the four babies he fathered by the second-oldest daughter, who is now 19, are dead. A 3-year-old boy is alive and in state custody. Rinehart is charged with second-degree felony murder, child endangerment, two counts of incest and two counts of abandonment of a corpse. The remains of two infants were found in chest-type coolers.

His wife, Linda Rinehart, is charged with child endangerment. Authorities say she was jealous of the relationship between her husband and daughter but helped with the babies’ deliveries.

Obviously, we need to put a stop to this sort of abusive family dynamics. That’s why a Tennessee state legislator is introducing legislation to ban adoption by same-sex parents. It’s also why a West Virginia judge thinks a 2-year-old girl would be much better off if she were ripped from the only parents she has ever known. Her lesbian fostor parents have cared for her since birth and now want to adopt her.

You can read more about the misery and emptiness of the heterosexual lifestyle here and in our report, “The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing the Myths.”

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