Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Historic US Trial has repercussions for all of us.

From the great guys at Gay Family Values

"O.k....Brace Yourself...the mother of all Gay marriage trials has just begun. This is the first trial to bring marriage equality to the Federal court system and the first step to bring it to the U.S. supreme court. We are playing for all the marbles this time! Cross your fingers and say your prayers!"

The Prop 8 trial currently taking place is an extremely important and historic event in US civil rights. Although there are many who argue that the fight for gay rights is not a civil rights issue as compared to the black rights movement, this court challenge to the Proposition 8 referendum has repercussions that will affect American society almost as profoundly as the Supreme Court ruling on Brown vs Board of Education in 1954.

This ruling stated "that the segregation of white and Negro children in the public schools of a State solely on the basis of race pursuant to state laws permitting or requiring such segregation, denies to Negro children the equal protection of the laws."

Even more significant, let's take the Loving vs Virginia ruling of 1967 that struck down state laws that made inter-racial marriage a felony. In 1958, two residents of Virginia — Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man married in the District of Columbia and when they returned to Virginia (where time seems to have stopped), they were arrested and charged with interracial marriage:

"...On January 6, 1959, they pleaded guilty and were sentenced to one year in jail. Their sentence, however, was suspended for a 25 year period on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return together for 25 years. According to the trial judge:
    Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

Frightened and unaware of their rights, they moved to Washington, D.C., where they lived in financial difficulty for 5 years. When they returned to Virginia to visit Mildred's parents, they were arrested again. While released on bail they wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, asking for help.

In 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the Loving decision, Mildred Loving released a statement dealing with the denial of the right to marry to persons because of their race and/or sexual orientation. She wrote:

"My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God's plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry."

Let's hope that Mrs Loving is right and fear and prejudice will give way to a willingness to treat everyone with respect and equality.

The lines in this battle have been clearly drawn. The vast majority of those opposed to same sex marriage rights are those that argue and fund the case from the position of family values, a thinly veiled aphorism for religious intolerance. That this is clearly an affront to the enshrined constitutional separation of church and state matters little to these hypocrites who would hide their bigotry behind the words of the bible just as Muslim fundamentalists justify all sorts of atrocities by citing the Koran.

There is much concern that the battle for same sex marriage is moving too fast. That by rushing this to the Supreme Court, especially the current one which is decidedly conservative, risks setting the movement irrevocably back. It's a huge gamble that can only be won if the court actually makes its decision based on the 14th amendment as it did in the aforementioned "Brown vs Board of Education" and "Loving vs Virginia" cases.

A lot rides on this fight, and not just for Americans. As a beacon for freedom, the United States of America shines its light of democracy across the world and espouses its constitution as a model for other nations to strive for.

I'll take our Charter of Rights anytime. However, if the most powerful nation on the earth officially sanctions civil discrimination against gays and lesbians, what hope is there for those living in countries where they can be imprisoned or hanged for being gay? This would tell all those young gays out there that:
"You are inferior and sinners and although we'll take your tax money and benefit from your community service, you will never be one of us; oh, and stay away from our kids."

The fight against Proposition 8 isn't just about gay marriage, it's about whether a democracy should protect it's minorities against the tyranny of the majority. It's about the separation of church and state. And it's about the right to life, liberty, economic freedom, and the "Pursuit of happiness" as being a basic American truth or a faded mythology.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Clement says 'elites' making prorogation an issue

(From CBC)

I can't believe the arrogance of this government. I take that back, yes I can. As I mentioned before, the Mike Harris team has moved into 24 Sussex Drive and is having their way with us.

(The least they could do is give me a tax break so that I could afford dinner and drinks.)

So Tony Clement says that the only people making a fuss of this whole prorogation thing is the elite and the chattering class; that he has only gotten "maybe three dozen emails". How insulting is that?

How so "Reform Party". But should we be surprised. Whatever Harper does is done to strengthen his power and weaken public discourse.

This issue isn't just about taking a three month vacation, this is about our paid representatives
not being able to follow through on legislation that is currently before the Commons. Let's not mention the Afghan inquiry.

Here's the CBC article, please read and make your voice heard even at the risk of being elitist.

Academics slam suspension of Parliament

MP Tony Clement says criticism from 'elites' doesn't reflect Canadians' views

Parliament is set to resume on March 3 following an extended break over the holidays and the Vancouver 2010 Games.Parliament is set to resume on March 3 following an extended break over the holidays and the Vancouver 2010 Games. (Kerry Wall/CBC)

A group of university professors is condemning the federal government's decision to suspend Parliament, but the ruling Conservatives appear unmoved by the latest criticism.

Over 100 professors have signed a letter written by University of Montreal philosophy Prof. Daniel Weinstock that accuses Prime Minister Stephen Harper of violating "the trust of the Canadian people [and] thus acting anti-democratically."

The letter, to be sent to major newspapers in Eastern Canada, is the latest criticism of Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament until March 3.

The Liberal Party released two English-language ads and one French-language ad on the internet on Sunday describing the prorogation as Harper's "holiday gift to himself." A group on the online social network Facebook called Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament also has over 150,000 members.

And an EKOS poll, released exclusively to CBC News last week, suggested 58 per cent of Canadians aware of the decision opposed the move, compared to 31 per cent who supported it. Opposition to the decision was highest among Liberal and NDP supporters and those with a university education.

Weinstock told CBC News that the structure of powers in Canada gives the prime minister more sway to make decisions than a U.S. president, requiring Harper to exercise discretion before using powers like prorogation.

"It really does require that the holder of the office exercise some self-restraint in the use of the powers that are vested in him, and that he use them for the public good rather than for narrowly partisan reasons or to evade accountability as we feel the prime minister has in this case," he said.

Clement says 'elites' making prorogation an issue

The Conservatives appear unfazed by the criticism, however, with Industry Minister Tony Clement saying Monday that ordinary Canadians don't consider prorogation to be a big issue.

"I know it's a big issue with the Ottawa media elite and some of the elites in our country, but I got to tell you if reaction in my constituency is any indication, I've had maybe three dozen emails," he said.

Clement said the government was focused on the economy and the next session of Parliament.

"It may not be what the chattering classes want, but we're not here to govern on behalf of the chattering classes," he said.

Opposition parties suggested Harper's move to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament was an attempt to muzzle parliamentarians and avoid the controversy sparked by hearings into Canada's role in Afghanistan — specifically, the treatment of detainees transferred to Afghan authorities by the Canadian Forces.

The Conservative government said it sought the suspension to have time to consult with Canadians, stakeholders and businesses as it moved into the "next phase" of its economic action plan amid signs of economic recovery.

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