1/31/2009

Gino Meriano Actively Discourages Full Marriage Equality!



If there were any doubts that Gino Meriano is in this for self promotion and is carrying along a starry eyed wannabe leader named Philip Cotton with him, you need look no further than this document on his Pink Weddings website.

Meriano trumpets that people should vote "No" for full equality while voting "Yes" for enshrining second class status for LGBT people!

From the website Pinkweddings.com:
Philip Cotton Founder of UnifiedVoice says “I’m not someone that promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in Civil Partnerships. I don’t think this should inhibit your core beliefs about what marriage is. I think that most Americans’ marriage and faith are strong enough to afford every American these basic civil rights.”
Meriano, completely ignorant of American law and Cotton leading a non-existent "group," continue with their assault on the ability of LGBT people to be afforded equal rights by falsely claiming that a "private contract" they package as a "Civil Partnership" will have any effect in actual law or legal dealings with government agencies, private business, or even long standing common law and probate matters. As any LGBT couple can tell you these "contracts" already exist and often are overturned when litigated in court against blood relatives or powerful corporations and special interests.
Gino Meriano, Founder of the Pink Weddings™ Group and gay rights campaigner for samesex couples says “A Civil Partnership is a legally binding contract between two people and one that should not be taken lightly. This allows our community the same rights as oppositesex couples without the need for us to call it a marriage”.
Who does this clueless duo cite as their final authority on how we should act here in the United States? Non other than another British Citizen, Elton John, who stated in 2005 that he was perfectly happy with a "Civil Partnership" in the UK. Yes, the same Elton John who couldn't figure out his own orientation for decades and whose knowledge of law is only slightly superior than a second grader's.

There is no doubt that Civil Partnerships work well in European nations with far different laws than ours as well as far different structures to their government agencies. However, what works in England will not work in the USA as every legal expert has stated and every major study has shown.

Friends of the community? Absolutely not! Tools of the right wing? Looks that way. These two men who fail to listen to reason and expertise must be made pariahs in the LGBT community before they destroy every bit of progress we have made by urging both our own members and our allies to vote against full rights and settle for second class status!

Please respond with your opposition to this demented campaign to vote "no" on full equality by commenting on blogs who have not discovered their calumny and responding to press coverage with the facts of what they are up to in our wonderful state!

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Delicious Tidbits

Here are today's Delicious Tidbits from around the Interwebs....

My Bonus is My Bailout Rebate...

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21:  A businessmen walks p...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

In the convoluted "I don't live in your universe" world of high finance the proposal that Wall Street businesses who are being bailed out forgo multi-million dollar "bonuses" for companies that their employees and directors have run into the ground is meeting opposition.

As we mentioned the millionaire bankers' wives holding weekly "support groups" because their allowances have been cut for Prada shoes and bags, the bankers themselves are calling us all socialists for being peeved they get bonuses for screwing up:

"I think President Obama painted everyone with a broad stroke," said Brian McCaffrey, 55, a Wall Street lawyer who was on his way to see a client. "The way we pay our taxes is bonuses. The only way that we’ll get any of our bailout money back is from taxes on bonuses. I think bonuses should be looked at on a case by case basis, or you turn into a socialist."

That, indeed, was a recurring equation: Broad strokes + bonuses = socialist.

"It’s a very slippery slope to go down," said another insurance broker as he waited to be seated for lunch at Cipriani Downtown. "A blanket statement like that borders on" — you guessed it — "socialism." (NY Times)

Oh, for pity's sake, cry me a river. You're eating lunch at Cipriani while you still are managing to destroy our economy with profligate spending. You sit there and have the nerve to tell us that your multi-million dollar bonus is your "Bailout rebate" because, hey, it's YOUR tax money? You know, folks, GITMO is going to be empty soon. Anyone for sending these guys on vacation for 20 to 30 years?

Another reason not to have a Quixotic "Civil Union" ballot measure in 2010...

According to the National Review the Arizona Republicans are considering running someone against McCain in the primaries.
But now that (McCain) has lost the presidency, there are some Republicans in Arizona who would like to see him lose his Senate office, too. "I’ll do anything I can to support his Republican opponent, whoever that might be," Rob Haney — who until last week was chairman of the Republican party in Arizona’s District 11 — told me recently. Haney has been a loud and vocal critic of McCain for years, arguing that McCain is "not a conservative in any way, shape, or form."
So, what if McCain loses the primary? It means that in his own state where he nearly lost the presidential vote his party will be running a virtual neophyte for his seat. Could this be an opening for a Democratic Senator from Arizona? As Sarah Palin would say, "You Becha!"

Another good reason to not give the ultra right a reason to show up at the polls in droves.

Faking it for sympathy

All us know of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arapaio faking death plots to make himself seem the

Norm Coleman, Senator from Minnesota.Image via Wikipedia

victim of a vast conspiracy. But now, Norm Coleman is getting into the act. Well, not quite as dramatically but still he's faking it.

"THOUSANDS OF HITS CRASH COLEMAN WEBSITE"

ST PAUL – Information recently added to the Coleman for Senate website, whereby people can find out which Minnesota voters the Franken campaign is trying to disenfranchise, has resulted in the website being inundated by tens of thousands of hits today – temporarily crashing the website.

But wait. Was their really a flood of visitors to the site? Turns out the answer is no. As Aaron Landry of MNpublius documents, the crash was faked, all part of a desperate bid to make Norm Coleman seem popular.

Military Junta Forming?

President Obama issued an order halting prosecutions at GITMO for 120 days until they review how to best dismantle Bush's Gulag. However, Col. James Pohl, a judge on the military commissions has defied the order and proceeded with a case against one person accused in the plot to blow up the U.S.S. Cole.

The decision throws into some disarray the administration's plan to buy time as it reviews individual detainee cases as part of its plan to close the U.S. military prison at the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba. The Pentagon may now be forced to withdraw the charges against Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi citizen of Yemeni descent.

Aerial view of Guantanamo Bay, collected from ...Image via Wikipedia

In one of its first actions, the Obama administration instructed military prosecutors to seek 120-day suspensions of legal proceedings in the cases of 21 detainees who have been charged. There are approximately 245 prisoners held at Guantanamo.

The request was quickly granted in other cases when prosecutors told military judges that a suspension was in the "interests of justice" so that the "president and his administration [can] review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently pending before military commissions, specifically."

But Judge James Pohl, an Army colonel, said he found the government's reasoning "unpersuasive."

"The Commission is unaware of how conducting an arraignment would preclude any option by the administration," said Pohl in a written opinion, portions of which were read to The Post. "Congress passed the military commissions act, which remains in effect. The Commission is bound by the law as it currently exists, not as it may change in the future."

The Daily Kos has analysis of the defiance and how the Washington Post story has gotten it wrong. Does this bode ill for a civilian controlled military?

The children are our future...

Westboro Baptist Church member Benjamin Phelps...Image via Wikipedia

Pam's House Blend relates that Fred Phelp's merry band of nutjobs payed a visit to her old high school. Unfortunately, for Phelp's crazies these kids aren't any more disposed to put up with their bullshit as the last group who ran them off. According to Pam:
This has made my day. It was very gratifying to see so many kids and adults from my neighborhood and also from the neighboring high school (the one I graduated from) take time off from their busy schedules to be there, with signs in hand, to let these people know that their homophobia and hatred will not be tolerated in our community. And it didn't take the Phelps clan long to get the message either, they sure didn't hang around very long.
Good for you guys! And the kids shall lead us!

But they're not allowed to in North Carolina...

A school's Gay-Straight Alliance organized an assembly that has gotten them and teachers at their school in hot water with the homophobes and their puppet school administrators.

George Spencer, whose child attends East Chapel High School and attended the assembly, immediately raised a ruckus declaring that the point of the assembly was to get other kids to "accept" gay and lesbian lifestyles practiced by other students.
"I think the point is, these teachers did this without the approval of the school system," Spencer said in an interview. "If it were math, there is a way the state of North Carolina wants math taught, and the teachers have to teach it that way, whether they want to or not. [The students aren't] mature enough to discuss it without adult moderation -- and there weren't any adults involved.
Pam's has full details including a story of a girl in that community who faced a gay bashing. I suppose Mr. Spencer and the principal thought that was just fine, though and an appropriate use of the students' time.

Oh Yeah, more proof "Separate but Equal" is just great...

As recently reported, the Domestic Partnership Enhancement Bill of 2009 was filed this week in Olympia, Washington. The bill is touted as making Registered Domestic Partnerships equal to civil marriage in all but name.

But there's a catch. Numerous sections of the bill that involve retirement benefits for civil servants, taxes and other items won't go into effect until January, 2012 or August 2012. (See the last page of the bill for the list of sections of concern, and cross reference with this website to understand to which statutes they refer.)

According to the Seattle PI, the delay in the effective date of these sections is in response to the bad economic situation in the State of Washington. But doesn't encoding a delay set a bad precedent that it's ok to continue to withhold civil rights from minorities if the state is hard up? Presumably, any heterosexual couple getting married today or on the day the DP legislation is signed would be eligible for these benefits immediately. And there are a lot more married heteros than there ever will be DP'd LGBTs burdening the system. (Pam's House Blend)

Pam's "Boltgirl" Drops the ball...

Over at Pam's, boltgirl posted a simplistic take on the Gino Meriano/Philp Cotton debacle without bothering to check it out. Listen to what she says:

A gay commitment ceremony planner in Phoenix has filed a proposal to create "civil partnerships" in Arizona that would entail all the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage but leave the magic word "marriage" to the straights.

Uh, no, sweetie. Their "low" wouldn't even come close. As we've noted ad nauseum over the past several days. The pair is cluesless about legislation, federal law, legal terminology, and life in general. Boltgirl seems to think like so many that if Cathi Herrod hate's it she should jump on board and support it without bothering to do any homework.


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No Answers from Philip Cotton

John Allard of Marriage Equality Arizona spent almost two hours recently emailing Phillip Cotton of "Unified Voice" about the claims he makes about the "Civil Partnership" initiative he and Gino Meriano are pushing.

Mr. Cotton was unable to give any concrete answers to the question at the time and pleaded an early appointment and promised to respond fully to Mr. Allard's questions no later than Friday afternoon. As of 3:30 on Saturday afternoon, Mr. Cotton has yet to provide any response to Allard's concerns and questions.

Here are the questions John Allard proposed and that Phillip Cotton was unable to respond to without further consideration and/or research:
What is the difference between a civil union and a civil partnership?

What makes one legally superior to the other?
How can one offer rights that the other one does not, if the only difference is the name?

Will this only work in Arizona, or why is it not being tried first in states that have already taken the first step, like New Jersey where they have found that Civil Unions do not work? Wouldn’t that be the perfect test state for this?

Is there something in the language of this initiative which will prevent private companies from using federal laws to keep from offering rights, like has happened in every state with Civil Unions?

You say that no established national organization operating in Arizona will answer or return your calls or emails, which I must admit scares me a little. Have you asked those organizations if their objection is just about this State at this time?

Is it possible that the lawyer you are working with may be able to craft a similar proposition for another State which they feel is more ready, and that they may support this during an election cycle when there is not so much at stake?

The GLBT community in Arizona really needs a win. We got one in 2006, but then we suffered a horrible loss in 2008. When we suffered the loss in 2008 Democrats were mobilized in such large numbers that Barack Obama almost beat John McCain in this state, and yet we lost.

The Democrats have already said that they will not support your initiative and risk losing statewide elections. CAP has said that they will fight any “Marriage Substitute.” Major GLBT organizations are coming out against your initiative. I was actually advised, “Just ignore them and they will go away. They are only trying to promote a gay wedding business. They know that they will not win even if they make it to the ballot. They are just in it for the publicity.”

If I should not just ignore you and let you go away, what is the plan to keep everyone else from ignoring you?
It appears the Phillip Cotton and Gino Meriano are disinclined to answer John Allard because he represents a legitimate LGBT rights organization in the state. Therefore, I have proposed that those of us who are concerned about the direction of this initiative and its potential to devastate our community at a time when we are trying to recover from a major loss, email Mr. Cotton and ask him to resond to not only Mr. Allard's excellent questions but others as well.

Here are the questions, I personally have put to Phillip Cotton by email:
1. How will your initiative guarantee full rights in light of the fact that the recent New Jersey Commission report has shown them to be detrimental when used as a "substitute" for actual Civil Marriage?

2. You state that your initiative will allow LGBT couples and families to receive equal tax benefits. How will your initiative skirt the federal DOMA to insure this will happen?

3. You say your initiative will insure equal employee benefits such as healhcare. How will your initiative require employers to give such benefits when it has been shown they almost always use the federal ERISA statutes to say that "Civil Unions" or "Civil Partnerships" are not marriage and therefore not required to be extended benefits?

4. You state that your initiative will insure equal status in regards to immigration policies such as being able to sponsor a partner. However, this is a federal law. How will your initiative if passed in Arizona change federal statutes or insure this right?

5. Why do donations for your organization go to Gino Meriano's "Pink Weddings, LLC" business account on PayPal?

6. You claim that LGBT couples and families would be exempt from the inheritance tax. Since this is a federal tax, how will your state initiative change this law?

7. Who drafted your initiative and has it been vetted by legal experts familiar with LGBT issues as well as authorship of legislation.

8. What legal firms are backing your initiative and prepared to file on behalf of LGBT families if faced with discrimination should the law pass?

9. Why are all major LGBT rights groups and the Democratic Party opposing this initiative at this time?
Please join me in demanding that Cotton and Meriano do more to explain themselves to our community than promoting their business interests and grabbing their 15 minutes of fame on television and in print by claiming to speak for all of us who have worked so long and hard on full marriage equality.

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Bush shoe sculpture taken down

The shoe sculpture honoring the journalist who threw a shoe at George W. Bush to express his contempt of Bush's policies in Iraq has been removed by local officials.

The monument was reportedly taken down just a day after being unveiled in the late Saddam Hussein's home town.
The head of the Childhood organisation, which owns the orphanage, said she had been told to remove the monument immediately by the Salaheddin Provincial Joint Coordination Centre.

"I did take the shoe down immediately and destroyed it, and I did not ask why," Shahah Daham told the German news agency DPA. (BBC News)
Oh well, at least it's good to see that the whole "democracy" thing and "freedom" thing that Bush kept patting himself on the back about establishing in Iraq has taken hold.

Oh wait, that IS the Republican idea of freedom and democracy... you get to do or say anything you want as long as you're praising them or promoting an agenda of exclusion and personal profit.
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"They're always griping about me!"

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arapaio arrested critics of his policies at a meeting of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meeting in December.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested four activists from ACORN Wednesday for allegedly disrupting a Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Protesters from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now were at the meeting to criticize Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s policies, including his focus on illegal immigration. ACORN and other critics say the immigration focus takes away from other priorities.

Arpaio said the four were warned by deputies not to disrupt the meeting and that Wednesday’s disorderly conduct charges follow the arrest four ACORN protesters Monday.

“They’re always griping about me,” said Arpaio.

ACORN political coordinator Teresa Castro said the group has been petitioning the county board to have formal, public discussions about Arpaio, but members only get to talk during public comment sessions. Castro said ACORN and other groups have been making such requests since June and just want to have their concerns heard.

Arpaio said his deputies were keeping order and protecting the supervisors during the Wednesday meeting. About 10 deputies were at the board meeting and between 30 and 40 protesters attended.

One observer of the arrests — with ties to neither ACORN or the MCSO — said deputies appeared ready to act quickly to quell any disturbances.

Board Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox questioned the arrests. "I believe that the actions of law enforcement at today’s meeting, particularly the arrest of citizens, were excessive and unwarranted," she said.

It appears that Arpaio has now stepped up his efforts to consolidate power and destroy the rule of law in Central Arizona by trying to silence anyone daring to criticize his massively ineffective, expensive, and possibly illegal actions.

It is hard to understand how the citizens of the county can continue to re-elect this man to office. It apears much of his support comes from rural areas of the county. These are the same places hardest hit by his obsession with playing FBI Agent and ICE agent instead of sheriff. In many places crimes go uninvestigated or take days or months to even receive a response by law enforcement. Yet, the great unwashed in the countryside worship this man because he puts prisoners in pink underwear as though that is some incredible crime deterrent rather than a stupid publicity stunt.

Recently, Arapaio determined that he would "save money" by having convicts transported on public transportation rather than using police vans or cars. Now, if you're riding the Light Rail system in Phoenix, AZ you are likely to have to share your ride with convicted criminals being transferred around the city with an armed guard. Obviously, public safety has never been Joe Arpaio's main concern. He has even claimed that having prisoners on the trains will "increase security" because they'll have a guard who can provide extra security for passengers! Ironically, he was told that the plan would actually cost MORE than transporting using jail vans or police cars but he has refused to back down.

Oh well, if you're in Maricopa county, make sure you give proper deference to Der Furher Joe lest you find yourself in jail wearing pink underwear.


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Does outside.in Have a Problem with Gays?



Please see update following for Outside.In's response.

I've been using outside.in for quite awhile now. It's a web service that looks for geotags in posts and then assembles neighborhood pages on their site with news and information from your local area.

It's a neat service and other than the major mainstream news outlets most of the stuff they get from bloggers are stuff about what they had at a restaurant or a rant about the dry cleaners. Boring stuff, really.

I seem to be one of the few more, uh... serious bloggers using the service. My posts, of course cover all sorts of stuff.

However, I've noticed that at certain times posts touching on LGBT issues that are geotagged get mysteriously "deleted" from their service. Most of those posts deal with things like talking about LGBT people in a positive light and South Carolina (my home state).

For example the post in the photo is about the night I met my partner Michael. It mentions places in Charleston, SC that were important to us including Sullivan's Island and a restaurant we ate at the night we made a commitment to each other.

At first the story, which was geotagged, appeared on outside.in, however, as I looked at my feed on the site today I realized the post had been deleted.

As I looked around more, I found other stories about South Carolina and LGBT issues that were deleted by the service.

I sent this message to outside.in asking for an explanation:
Why do I find that posts about things like LGBT matters get "accepted" when they are geotagged but then you go in and "delete" them later?

It's strange but it only seems to happen if I mention something in relations to certain areas, such as South Carolina.

Does Outside.In have some policy about not accepting stories or allowing stories about gay and lesbian matters in areas that are vehemently anti-gay?
We'll see what the response is, but I'm not holding my breath for an honest one.

UPDATE: I received the following response from Chrysanthe at Outside.in. Hopefully, what she has outlined is the case and this was a technical glitch. I'll keep an eye on it and see what happens from here on out.
Thanks for writing in! I'm happy to clear up our editorial policy for you. We embrace locals discussing matters that they care about. As far as content goes, if it's local, we want it!

We use an automated system to grab stories and to autotag posts with location information (which is why we ask bloggers to use proper place names, which works most of the time, but also to geotag when you are talking about neighborhods or cities in general as described here).

There are several factors that may be causing your stories to be deleted after detected from the feed. One, we had some hiccups in our system that grabs posts from feeds last week and have just been catching up. Two, we do not accept content generally about a state or county as a whole. We'd need zip codes for an area, or an exact location. We don't have blogs that cover a state in general. We focus on local: places, that park on the corner, your city, etc. Third, it looks like your blog is associated with regions in Arizona, which is possibly why we weren't getting stories about South Carolina. Fourth, there is a known bug in GeoToolkit that we're trying to fix. If you ever see an error message when using the feed editor, please don't click the back button, but retype the URL outside.in/geotoolkit into your browser bar to avoid posts being permanently skipped.

Remember that if there are specific stories relating to exact places that our system is not picking up, we have this great tool that gives you the power to correct it, GeoToolkit: outside.in/geotoolkit/feed. You can add in places that we missed and associate posts with cities and neighbohroods. It takes the guess work out of it!

Hope this clears things up.

Chrysanthe
Community Coordinator


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1/30/2009

A Dose of Reality

About ten years ago I declared, in my naivete, that "I don't care what you call it as long as I have the same rights as married people!"

Like so many I thought that as long as we had laws on the books I would be protected, regardless of the terminology used for my relationship. I took the advice found in various books about wills, contracts, and the ubiquitous "Healthcare Power of Attorney" thinking that if I did all those things my partner and I would be protected.

Then I got a dose of reality. We purchased a home. My partner's name was on the mortgage because I did not qualify for the loan. No problem, we thought. We would just add my name to the deed at a later point and all would be well. Then we were told that if we did that the "full value" clause of the mortgage would kick in and we'd have to pay off the entire loan in order to add my name. Otherwise, I was just a tenant of my partner despite helping to pay the mortgage each month.

Whether this was true or not, it was what our mortgage company asserted. We did not have the funds to hire a lawyer to litigate the matter so for almost 10 years I remained a "tenant" in my own home instead of a part owner.

When we both faced serious and life threatening illnesses in the same year I found out just how shaky a "Healthcare Power of Attorney" could be when you are faced with doctors and nurses who are not lawyers and whose own prejudices can come into play.

Luckily, while I dealt with a transplant I had a great team who treated us with respect and dignity. Still, I was often forced to put my sister's name on paperwork as my "next of kin" rather than listing my partner, Michael.

When we began dealing with his cancer things became even more convoluted. We dealt with practices that were superficially supportive but privately opposed to gay relationships. I produced the Healthcare Power of Attorney to have office staff question me at length as to the legitimacy of the document. I was told at times that because we were not related that the POA was invalid because my partner had blood relatives whose desires automatically superceded our own right to determine care.

Luckily, it never came down to having to invoke the POA, but if that had happened we would have been at the mercy of others. We could not afford an attorney to litigate such matters if pressed.

I came to realize then that anything less than full marriage equality would be a sham. People naturally understand the rights of married couples but do not understand a "civil partnership," a "domestic partnership," or "civil union." Even if I had a "Civil Union" I would be subjected to explaining my rights constantly and even having to keep a lawyer on retainer to assert those rights if necessary. In other words, regardless of the individual rights bestowed within such a patchwork approach, the cultural perception would be one of less than equal. Because of that perception I would constantly be called upon to educate people on legal issues. Something no one should have to do in an emergency.

The word "marriage" carries weight. If we are forced to litigate our rights every step of the way because others want to make religious people who are ignorant of the separation between a marriage license and a pretty church wedding feel better, then we in effect do not have those rights.

Sure, if we can afford a lawyer we might eventually win in court. In the meantime, we do not possess the right immediately to make medical decisions for each other. We do not have the right immediately to transfer our property. We do not have the right to even take possession of our partner's body should they die and make funeral arrangements. In the intervening time between the emergency and final disposition there is no remedy for having others step in and decide, possibly, contrary to our wishes.

Civil Unions and Civil Partnerships have been shown to be inferior to true Civil Marriage. Yes, the word "marriage" makes the Religious Right cringe. Yes, the word "marriage" can make even our own radical fringes squirm because they want to be different from heterosexuals. However, in the eyes of the law and in the minds of the public the word marriage and its attendant rights and responsibilities can have no substitute.

All heterosexual couples are affored Civil Marriage. It is the issuance of the license and the signing of that license that confers the rights and responsibilities of marriage. It is not the words of a priest or minister. Religious marriage is completely separate and conveys no legal status. One can have a marriage performed by the Pope himself but absent the Marriage License it means nothing legally. It is the paper document called a "Marriage License" that conveys status, not the act of saying "I do" in front of a priest or minister.

Why do you think that all the words used by different religious people have no value in a court of law? The legal status is defined in the statutes, not in the religion. Some women are forced to repeat the words "I promise to love and obey" others just say "I promise to love." Still others might say "I promise to love and cherish." Does repeating different words by different religions change the law? No. Can a court punish a woman who said "obey" in the church because her husband told her to stick her hand in the fire and she didn't? Absolutely not. Because the words in the ceremony are just words. They are just lines in a play. The LAW is what is important, the paper, the word "marriage" and all that comes with it. Religion has nothing to do with marriage legally.

Perhaps all the billboards for "Bridal Fests" obfuscates this point for heterosexuals. Perhaps it is the Hollywood and pop culture notion that it is the act of dressing up and going to church or having a minister read pretty phrases on a beach is "marriage" but the reality is different. The pretty clothes, the candles, the minister, the flower girl and all the rest are just show. They are simply window dressing. The marriage is created at the moment the couple and a legally recognized representative of the government be it a minister in good standing, a notary public, a judge, or a ship's captain, put their signatures on the license. THAT is marriage. The rest simply ceremony and religious theater.

I've no desire for a minister or priest. Indeed, I would never step foot in a church for a ceremony of that type. What I do desire is the piece of paper that is given to every heterosexual couple regardless of whether they will marry in God's house, the courthouse, or the outhouse - the Civil Marriage License. I desire the right to say "I, too, am married and I assert my full and equal rights as a citizen of the United States of America."

I shall settle for nothing less.


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Why Civil Unions are Bad for Us

IMG_3061Image by jessebucksc via Flickr

A post at Bilerico Project this morning sums up some wonderful hard evidence on why "Civil Unions" or "Civil Partnerships" rather than Civil Marriage is an idea that holds the potential to devastate our community and our collective psyche.

While people like Phillip Cotton and Gino Meriano prattle on and line their pockets using a "Civil Partnership" idea as a front, the people who actually know a little something about American law and politics have released a report studying the New Jersey Civil Union law that concludes Civil Unions (or as Mr. Meriano likes to say being from the UK - Civil Partnerships) are really bad things and very damaging to those who partake of this "sloppy seconds" idea.

Marla Stevens has a wonderful recap of just why people like Mr. Meriano and Mr. Cotton are utterly clueless - here are the highlights of her post at Bilerico.com:
Of course, for some time now a few of us have been crying in the wilderness about things like portability, nonredundancy, separate ain't equal and never will be, that Brown vs Board of Education was built on some mighty powerful research about the severe harm that faux equality does to people's heads and that self-imposing more of it would be just plain shoot-yerself-in-the-foot dumb.

I give you the New Jersey Civil Union Commission tasked with exploring the issue of whether civil unions sucked enough to warrant going to the trouble of changing the law to permit civil marriage for same-sex couples. They entered an interim report on it last February because their initial findings were so striking about the actual harm being done by their civil union law as opposed to using the marriage standard and their subsequent findings were equally as compelling enough to cause them to issue their final report both early and unanimously, on my birthday, December 10, 2008...

For instance, the final report states: "In a number of cases, the negative effect of the Civil Union Act on the physical and mental health of same-sex couples and their children is striking, largely because a number of employers and hospitals do not recognize the rights and benefits of marriage for civil union couples." This is despite ample press coverage and official state notification, including to all healthcare providers, of the new law and what it covered.

The report says that the fiscal/job- and insurance-related suffering and harm are not limited to isolated cases. In contrast, "In fact, the word 'marriage' can and does make a difference to employers [and, consequently, to health insurance coverage], even within the constraints of federal law."

Noting the near-absence of ERISA-based discrimination against civilly married same-sex couples in Massachusetts, one union organizer stated, "It is not that ERISA-covered employers in Massachusetts don't understand that federal law allows them to refrain from providing benefits to same-sex married couples. It's that employers also understand that without the term 'civil union' or 'domestic partner' to hide behind, if they don't give equal benefits to employees in same-sex marriages, these employers would have to come forth with the real excuse for discrimination. Employers would have to acknowledge that they are discriminating against their employees because they are lesbian or gay" -- something that employers are increasingly unwilling to do, understanding that the public increasingly understands benefits to be a part of one's job compensation package and are increasingly unwilling to tolerate such blatant examples of unequal pay for equal work.

Further, as the civil union status makes both partners co-liable for their debts but simultaneously can be used to prevent them being both covered by insurance, some couples have faced the necessity to dissolve their civil unions rather than put their entire family financial well-being at risk.

They found that "denying same-sex couples access to the widely recognized civil institution of marriage while conferring the legal benefits under a parallel system using different nomenclature, imposes a second-class status on same-sex couples and sends the message that it is permissible to discriminate against them."

The report states that civil unions institutionalize second-class status with predictable negative effects that, according to a Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor, "contributes to increased rates of anxiety, depression and substance-use disorders" due to being "branded with an inferior label."

As the report notes, civil marriage, in contrast, has positive benefits in this regard, "The socially sanctioned right of gay marriage which is qualitatively different than civil unions, the right to choose one's spouse, has a positive impact on self-esteem, sense of being validated in the eyes of the community, and on the internalization of ideas of commitment and responsibility to others, something that is sorely needed in our society currently.

"Nothing is more basic from a mental health perspective to happiness and liberty than the right to love another human being with the same privileges and responsibilities as everyone else."

found the testimony of the observations of schoolteachers of the behavior of even very young students particularly enlightening as well as the psychiatric testimony regarding that, although children born to parents in civil union contracted relationships are legally legitimate, they are often not viewed as such by their peers due to the perception that only marriage conveys legitimacy and that this is a strong source of stimatization of these children, forty-three percent of whom face, at minimum, "verbal harassment" by peers in school.

The civil union status of their parents also affects children's perception of the stability and safety of their families: "youth ... report that hearing that their family can't have the same rights as other families leads them to feeling scared or confused ... They say that they think somebody is going to come and break up their family."

In contrast, children of the civilly married psychologically benefit from their parents being in a relationship defined by a word that is universally understood. For them, "It's a big deal." They have a "sense of validation of being part of a real family" -- something particularly profound for adopted children and children of divorce.

The report also dashes the seemingly reasonable hope most typically given for taking the civil union shortcut -- that civil unions will provide protection in times of medical crisis: "Civil unions create challenges to equal health care access."

Civil unions are not infrequently considered suspect or fraudulent, documentation is demanded of civil union couples in New Jersey at far higher rates than for civilly married couples in Massachusetts, for instance, and, even when provided, testimony in case after case showed that proper access was unduly postponed until authorities could be made to understand the rights involved -- with enough near-tragedies that actual tragedies are reasonably predicted should the law not be changed.

Reporting that time does not fix the problem, using Vermont as evidence, the Commission states, "even eight years after enactment, Vermont's Civil Union Law has not resulted in true equality although it purports to provide protections equal to marriage. ... [Quoting from the April, 2008, State of Vermont report,] 'Time cannot and does not mend the inequality inherent in the two separate institutions.'"

The Connecticut court also found, according to the New Jersey Final Report, that civil unions "discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation". Why would any of us ever actively promote that, especially merely to avoid what is, in reality, an unavoidable conflict and one we are getting ever closer to resolving in our favor? Are we so banal, so self-absorbedly short attention spanned, so short-sighted, and so childishly impatient to give in so soon? In light of the New Jersey and Vermont commission findings, the notion is, simply, obscene.

I strongly urge you to read Mary's full article and continue on to the full report of the New Jersey Commission and read it for yourself. It's damning stuff for people like Gino Meriano whose own business interests and self agrandizement are taking precendence over the well being of the LGBT community. If there is one man who seems to be attempting to do as much harm in our community under the guise "helping" I would be hard pressed to know who it is.

Mr. Meriano and Mr. Cotton must be stopped as these reports show. Nothing less than Civil Marriage can be accepted or acceptable and we must, must stop applauding places that grant us second class status as though they are doing something positive for our community! The only places and people deserving of our thanks and our support are those who truly believe we are equal and who are willing not to harm us with "gestures" and grants of secondary status.


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And Now a Word from Dethmama

Dethmama Chronicles follows the professional exploits of a hospice nurse. It also happens to be one of my favorite non-political blogs. Stories are recounted with humor and heart but she also covers items of informational interest including frequent posts by the "Insurance Guru" who talks about life as a claims processor for a major health insurance company.

Dethmama has also become a frequent visitor and commenter here as well. This morning I opened my email to find the following hilarious photo but also a wonderful statement of support for full marriage rights for LGBT Americans by Dethmama. Remember, a "Civil Union" is not a Civil Marriage it is a pale imitation of real and equal rights designed to make us feel better while codifying permanent second class citizen status!

Here's what Dethmama had to say:
"The gay/lesbian community deserves nothing less than civil marriage. This community is no less law-abiding, productive and taxpaying than "the straights". For the love of God, even incarcerated murderers are allowed a legally recognized marriage ceremony. Does the "religious right" address that?"
Pretty good, eh? Thanks Dethmama. It's folks like this who really help keep you courage up when you find yourself not only fighting the religious right for equality but also having to fight misguided people in your own community who are willing to settle for anything to feel included.

CIVIL MARRIAGE ONLY!!


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1/29/2009

Woody's Bar Wins Court Fight!!

This is a bit of good news. I'd hoped to get to the hearing today and report it first hand but other things intervened (mainly untangling the web that is the Civil Partnerships business). Here's a report from the Tucson Weekly Blog:
This morning about 20 people filed out of Judge Jeffrey Zlatow’s courtroom in Tucson City Court hugging and shaking Dave Huff’s hand to congratulate him on his win today against the city to remove the red tag placed on his business in mid-October.

The red tag was the result of a series of complaints made by the manager of the Laurence Court apartments next door to the LGBT bar at the corner of Oracle and Prince roads. Arguments between Huff’s attorney and the city attorney went back and forth on definitions of unruly behavior and specifics regarding the red tag ordinance.

Zlatow told those in his courtroom that he wasn’t able to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the red tag - that would have to be heard in a federal or state court. He had to go by the current law which defines that unruly behavior can be made by a group of five people or more pestering one or more people; and only one person has to make a complaint for a citation to be considered.

Testimony from Woody’s bartender Jeffrey Branch conflicts with any definition of unruly behaviors. That October night the bar was hosting a wine tasting, and Branch says they had a keyboardist doing jazz, soul and oldies standards. He described the crowd as traditionally older that night - average age 50.

“We pride ourselves in that we don’t have typical bar problems,” Branch says.

Besides testimony from Linda Howeth, the apartment manager and her husband, the city relied on a report from a TPD officer that said he heard noise coming from the bar that necessitated the need for the red tag. Problem for the state was that the officer never showed up.

Zlatow told the courtroom crowd: “Remove the tag. The city has not carried its burden.”

Outside, just as Huff was asked to describe the red tag fight he was moved to tears.

“It’s been an ordeal,” he says.

“It’s taken a personal toll on my lover and me. I hope nobody has to go through this.”
Huff says his case is a good example of why these ordinances don’t work and why they are unconstitutional by allowing one person to make statements that can potentially ruin someone’s business or life.

When asked how he might respond in the future if the apartment manager complains again, Huff says, “I can’t respond to someone who isn’t telling the truth.”

Huff added that he doesn’t feel safe, like he’s the victim of a rape and the perpetrator has been released.
Congratulations Mr. Huff. It's nice to see a victory here even if it was because Mrs. Howeth's friend who has been doing her bidding on the police force sold her out at the last minute and decided to stay away.

I agree with Mr. Huff though, it's disheartening that people like Mrs. Howeth are allowed to pursue a vendetta based on homophobia with no repercussions for the grief and misery they cause. She had Mr. Huff arrested and for that she deserves some measure of punishment. At the very least I believe it would be nice if at the end of the hearing she had been taken into custody and thrown in jail with her husband for the same period of time the Mr. Huff was because of her vendetta. She should also be forced to pay a hefty fine for making false statements.

By the way, the apartments that are so worried about middle-aged gay men are described variously on websites about housing in Tucson as "ghetto" and "No, ghetto is too nice." The "apartments" appear to be an old motel that has been converted to extreme low income housing. In fact, earlier reports indicate no variance was ever given to use the property as an apartment complex in a commercial zone. However, it appears Mrs. Howeth and her owners have not been cited for that violation.


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I'm Flattered!



It's nice to get notice again from the racists and homophobes back home at something called SC Hotline (read militant homophobic batshit crazy fascist - take that MoFo!).

It's been a long time since I was called "Militant idiot Homo". But please guys... couldn't you have at least gone for "faggot" or "butt pirate"? You can do better, I know. I've seen you in action with your Confederate flags and stuff.

As wacky as Arizona is, it's always nice to be mentioned back home and nice to remember how lovely it is to be 2000 miles away from the sound of dueling banjos.

I'm baaaack....
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Civil Partnerships Website Intentionally Misleading

According to Gino Meriano and Phillip Cotton who single handedly make up the whole "Civil Partnerships" movement in Arizona and have tricked gullible media outlets both straight and gay they speak for everyone their proposal with the stroke of a pen would set right all sorts of things including:
* Tax benefits, including inheritance tax
* Ability to make medical decisions for their civil partner
* Employment benefits
* Most state and occupational pension benefits
* Hospital visitation rights of civil partners
* Income-related benefits, tax credits and child support
* Duty to provide reasonable maintenance for your civil
partner and any children of the partnership
* Ability to apply for parental responsibility for your civil
partner's child
* Inheritance of a tenancy agreement
* Right to inherit if a civil partner dies without a will
* Access to fatal accidents compensation
* Protection from domestic violence
* Recognition for immigration and nationality purposes
Now the problem with all of these is that they would require fiddling with dozens, if not hundreds of laws to make this work. Each law would have to be amended because many state categorically that "marriage" confers the right. Meriano and his friend think just sticking on "Civil Unions confer the rights and responsibilities of marriage" will suffice. It won't at all.

In addition many of the rights he talks about are Federal in nature and prohibited under DOMA to even gay married couples. If we get DOMA repealed then couples who are LEGALLY MARRIED will receive those rights. Couples who are in CIVIL UNIONS will not.

It appears that this whole plan is a money making scheme for Meriano and Cotton. This is abundantly clear in that everything to do with the movement carries their personal business names and links to their websites. Likewise, the main impetus seems to raise money. Originally the money was going into a Paypal account for "Cyclone Entertainment" but recently the account links were changed to go to none other than.... Pink Weddings, LLC - Gino Meriano's personal business account!

So, there's something rotten in the state of Denmark about this whole thing. Please, please, don't send money to this group or sign petitions. If you are contacted by media for a comment, please support full and equal marriage rights for LGBT people! These two guys could be a major disaster for the entire LGBT population of Arizona.

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Gino Meriano Persists in His Lies

We all know now that Gino Meriano is probably pushing "Civil Partnerships" instead of full marriage in order to shore up his bottom line as a "Civil Partnership Consultant" and gay wedding planner. The Unified Voice group is headed by Joseph Cotton who also holds himself out as a "Civil Partnership Consultant" and has a brand new website for himself and his "organization."

The more Meriano talks the more he seems to spout the right wing's ideas about marriage and echoes their ideas. Despite admitting Civil Unions are inferior and cause more problems for couples than they solve he has plowed ahead, almost hourly turning out new materials. Who's backing this guy? Makes you wonder.

Anyway, his latest fallacious idea has come in the form of the world's simplest Marriage Flow Chart (illustration to left).

Now here's how that sucker should be labelled and why Meriano is a bald faced lier:

The correct labels for the bottom boxes should be:
Opposite-Sex
Marriage - Religious
Marriage - Civil (no straight couple has a commitment ceremony, that is what gay couples have done as a sign of their commitment to each other and it has never conveyed any civil rights)

Same-Sex Couples
Marriage - Religious, performed in one of the many open and affirming houses of worship in Arizona and nationwide to acknowledge and support a same-sex couple's commitment to each other. There are no civil rights conveyed by this ceremony.
Civil Partnerships - Prohibited by federal law from requiring any private company or individual to extend the rights and privileges of civil marriage.

So, there you have it. Mr. Meriano has blatantly lied about the structure of legal marriage in Arizona for straights in order to make it seem that "Civil Partnerships" are in any way similar to "Civil Marriage" for straights. Obviously, Mr. Meriano coming from London is woefully ignorant of American law and is running with this disastrous plan solo and without any sort of legal advice. Indeed, legal experts in the LGBT community strongly urged against this idea when first proposed but Mr. Meriano moved forward alone in order to help his own pocketbook at the expense of our civil rights and the movement to wrest Arizona from the hands of Conservatives.


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More on Meriano's "Civil Union" Initiative

From John Allard:

As with every issue once it enters the political realm, we are now in a position where decisions will be made based purely on numbers. At this point it is all about the number of signatures, so here are some numbers for you to consider:

230,047: The number of signatures required to put this proposition on the ballot in 2010.

980,753: The number of votes AGAINST Proposition 102. Every one of these votes is a potential signature for the petition. Many of these votes are from allies who believe that we deserve equal marriage rights, and unless we reach out to them and educate them that this is not 'a step in the right direction' they may sign the petition thinking that they are helping the LGBT community. Not even 25% of the people who voted against Prop 102 would need to sign the Civil Union Initiative Petition to put the the issue on the ballot.

1,258,335: The number of votes FOR Proposition 102. These are the voters in Arizona who are motivated to use their vote to ensure a socially conservative agenda is followed, and mandated, in Arizona. These are the people who will be motivated to go to the polls and cast a vote against any candidate they feel would be an ally to the LGBT community if there is an initiative on the ballot which they feel would give our relationships more validation than they deserve, even though in truth the initiative falls well short of providing us with the equality it promises.

?: The number we can not count is how many years it would take the LGBT community to recover from any damage done by the loss of our political allies. We have to support them so that they can support us. Do we really need to do much more than look at what has happened in Arizona since Jan Brewer took over as Governor only one week ago to imagine what we would face as a state, and a community, if we continue to lose political allies?

Delicious Tidbits

Here are today's Delicious Tidbits from around the Interwebs...

Filed Under: Let them eat cake (and drink cosmos)

Daily Kos reports on a "support group" for millionaire wives of bankers who are just having a horrible time of it in this economy. Oh, no, nothing like going hungry or anything but stuff like having your allowance at Bergdorf's cut and having to forgo bottle service. God forbid they'd had to lay off the nanny or maid! These crosses between Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives meet twice weekly at a post bar or restaurant to sip high priced cocktails and talk about just how hard it is to settle for Dom Peringon instead of Krug Clos du Mesnil.

Please, Mr. Postman!

Want to know how bad things are in America? One of the first things our brand spaking new country established was a postal service. Since that time we've been delivering those letters regardless of rain, sleet, snow, or dark of night. Well, except for holidays and stuff. But, now as Americans go broke the Post Office has announced it's broke as well. The Postal Service has announced it would like to ask that delivery be cut back from six days to only five. This is not a good sign.

Every Step you take, every move you make...

Arizona government has fallen in love with "speed cameras" and "red light cameras" despite citizen outrage, failure to be able to collect fines because of bad technology and corruption and studies showing they increase traffic accidents. But, like the good Conservatives they are, when faced with overwhelming evidence you made a bad decision just put your fingers in your ears and hum loudly. Now, it has come to light that the cameras that are supposed to just catch folks running red lights actually store video for up to 30 days. The video can be used to track motorists and also to spot minor violations not involving a moving violation. Oh yeah, AZ folks just love "limited government." ... I'll be watching you.
Chief Justice to speak at UA

Chief Justice John Roberts will speak at the University of Arizona next Wednesday as part of a series on law. We can only hope His Honor will be using notecards this time.

I thought this old bitch was dead...

Phyllis Schlafly in 2007 in Washington, DC at ...Image via Wikipedia

Nah, not really. I knew she was hanging around. But we haven't heard from her in so long you can't blame me for wishful thinking. Anyway, Phyllis Schlafly, that beehived crone hobbled back into the limelight by spouting drivel so ancient that Abigail Adams would have given her a smackdown. Here are her comments at Bates College via Pam's House Blend:
For nearly two hours, she belittled the feminist movement as "teaching women to be victims," decried intellectual men as "liberal slobs" and argued that feminism "is incompatible with marriage and motherhood."

...Schlafly asserted women should not be permitted to do jobs traditionally held by men, such as firefighter, soldier or construction worker, because of their "inherent physical inferiority."

"Women in combat are a hazard to other people around them," she said. "They aren't tall enough to see out of the trucks, they're not strong enough to carry their buddy off the battlefield if he's wounded, and they can't bark out orders loudly enough for everyone to hear."

At one point, Schlafly also contended that married women cannot be sexually assaulted by their husbands.

"By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don't think you can call it rape," she said.
OK, we'll take whatever...

Washington state seems willing to settle for whatever it can get in the rights arena. Not sure why they're pursuing a "Domestic Partnership" idea so heavily but the activists up there seem ready to settle for whatever crumbs their "Liberal Friends" might let fall from the table.
Washington state introduced Registered Domestic Partnerships in July of 2007. Initially, DPs were minimal in scope. They were expanded somewhat in 2008. Today, two bills were filed in Olympia, the Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill of 2009 (SB 5688, HB 1727) and a Marriage Equality Bill (SB 5674). According to the Seattle Times the DP bill will make DPs equal to civil marriage in all but name. Signs are positive that the bill will pass. (Pam's House Blend)
We can pretty much expect WA to stop fighting for full equality as their folks seem more than happy to sit at the back of the marriage bus at this time.

The Definition of Saddleback

A chastity ringImage via Wikipedia

After a long search to come up with the best definition of "Saddlebacking" in honor of Saddleback Church, its homophobic congregation, and their fashion challenged minister, Pam's has announced the winning entry:
Saddleback: (verb) the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities."

Usage: After attending the Purity Ball, Heather and Bill saddlebacked all night because she's saving herself for marriage.
Pacwoman? Ms. PACman?

Who cares? Sarah Palin, our favorite right wing befuddled beauty queen since Anita Bryant slipped into obscurity has launched SarahPAC, her very own political action committee based in Virginia. She doesn't tell us why her PAC is based in Virginia not her home state of Alaska but since she no longer spends time there despite being Governor it makes as much sense as anything. After all how can you keep the girl down on the Tundra after she's seen D.C.?

Anyway, proving that her "supporters" need to use that lifeline to call for help with questions as much as she does, her FAQ lists only four questions. In fact the whole site is made up of just four pages with nearly hidden navigation. Sarah, maybe you should spend that first donation on hiring a web guy who can do something with that pitiful "out of the box" template of yours.

Why Marriage is the only way...

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 12:  Supporters of gay mar...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

ProgPup has a nice post on how the argument that we don't need equal marriage rights because we can use contracts, wills, and powers of attorney to protect ourselves is specious. It also points out why "Civil Unions" which try to fill in gaps but often leave whole sections of law in question are bad choices to back. Take this couple's story for example:
Meadows had no surviving parents or biological children, but there was a will that provided for his longtime partner. But because that will was short one witness signature, a cousin of Meadows was able to successfully wrest control of the ranch, a piece of property worth $100,000, in which Beaumont had invested twice that... Imagine the pain of having the home where you'd raised your kids and lived for 25 years with your partner being pulled from under you... To add insult to injury, the cousins are suing Beaumont for back rent for the 25 years he lived on the ranch with Meadows.
I'd sing the Iceland National Anthem if I had a clue what it was...

Coat of arms of IcelandImage via Wikipedia

Johanna Sigurdardottir, the openly lesbian minister of social affairs, will take over Iceland's failed government as prime minister. This after Iceland's Social Democratic Alliance Party designated her as the choice to fill the spot after Monday's collapse of the coalition government. Unfortunately for Sigurdardottir, Iceland is a mess. The country has been virtually bankrupted by the Global Financial Hobo Apocalypse and the country's unemployment has skyrocketed as foreign money washes offshore.

Iceland's economy does make our look like nothing's wrong. Hmm... I wonder if this means that if Obama doesn't manage to fix things by 2012 we'll elect our first Lesbian president?

Talking without thinking...

Michael Jones at Change.org's Gay Rights blog has weighed in on the idiocy that is Meriano's "Civil Partnership" plan without bothering to actually think about it. I'm never ceased to be amazed by people who think using the separate water fountain will be just dandy. Once more, he's one of those guys who quotes Meriano ad nauseum without bothering to find out the nuts and bolts of local politics nor does he seem familiar with the recent NJ findings that Civil Unions despite the "same rights as marriage" claims don't even come close in reality. I'd rather just wait till I got equal rights, Mr. Jones instead of going through with a "Civil Partnership" to only find in a moment of crisis someone left out an important right when trying to jerryrig the legal patchwork to appease the right wing.


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