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Sorry they got caught?

UPDATE: Hospital Is Fucking Lying Their Asses Off, Plus Police Abuse, Homophobia, AIDS Hysteria

I have to say I was not surprised to hear that the hospital in the Kansas City area was lying. I was surprised just how blatantly they were lying because the truth is so much more sickening and horrible than I suspected. A new interview on AMERICAblog is just utterly horrifying and heartbreaking. Please read it.

Here are some highlights.

  • Gorley’s husband, Allen Mansell, although in and out of consciousness, clearly expressed his wish that his husband stay & his brother leave. As Roger Gorley was physically hit & pulled by police, Mansell attempted to hold his husband’s hand to keep him from being removed.
  • The “belligerent” conduct being referred to is the outraged reaction Gorley had when Mansell’s brother challenged the spouse’s right to make medical determinations under their power of attorney. Hospital staff, despite knowing better, sided with the brother, and insisted & facilitated a violent removal of his husband over the patient’s objections.
  • Police were brutal, discriminatory, unnecessarily violent and utterly cruel.
    • In order to break his hold on the hospital bed & hand of his husband, police bashed at his wrists
    • When they knocked him to the ground, they dislodged his glasses & hearing aids and drew blood
  • Massive homophobia and AIDS stigma and ignorance
    • One officer would not touch Gorley with his bare hands, even refusing to touch his own handcuffs (because they recuffed him three additional times) when they were handed back to him
    • All officers acted as if there was an AIDS concern obviously because Gorley was gay, and not because of any routine reason

When I first read this, I cried. I got weepy again writing this update. These assholes are not only liars, they are brazen asshole liars who treated a gay couple like dirt.

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Today we’ve learned about a man in Lee’s Summit, MO who was removed from his hospitalized husband’s bedside, handcuffed, escorted off the property and arrested because he refused to leave. There have been some conflicting reports about a restraining order*, but that much of it has not been disputed by anyone.

Since this morning, the local Fox affiliate (the ultimate first source on all the pieces I’ve seen written) has put up an update that Roger Gorley is now free to visit his husband again, but there is no detail or explanation of how & when this development occurred.

It definitely was not there when the Change.org petition to have the hospital stripped of its Medicare and Medicaid access was started. So the cynic in me is wondering whether they actually realized they did a bad thing or whether they just want people to shut up about it so they stop looking bad.

Hospital statements have been cagey about the details of how & why Gorley was removed and frankly what is reported as part of a statement to the police is in direct contradiction to how he describes what happened. What I think explains the difference is that the hospital staff probably has different rules for family and non-family visitors of patients.

According to Roger Gorley, he arrived at the hospital and found that his husband’s family was already present in the hotel room, and it was one of them that told him to leave, even though he and Allen have been in civil union for years and Gorley has power of attorney for medical issues. (What’s more, apparently that power of attorney is on file and Allen has received treatment at this facility previously so there can be no reasonable claim of ignorance one the part of hospital staff.)

The local news report says that hospital staff asked Gorley to leave because they “did not want to have any visitors to Allen’s room.” To be frank, I do not believe the hospital here and this is why:

  • No mention of Allen’s family in any statements about visitors
  • Allen has previously been treated here without any problems of visitation for Gorley & Allen

So yeah, I think they’re trying to cover their asses here. Especially because they keep claiming they’re totally respectful of same-sex couples and the only problem was that Gorley was “belligerent,” “disruptive” and physically resisted being removed. I won’t believe them until they answer one key question: Why was it necessary to remove a spouse from a patients’ room?

Because I do not blame Gorley one bit for causing a scene when he was told to leave by his spouse’s family. I would be belligerent and disruptive too.

I don’t think this is just some misunderstanding. I think the hospital was sorry they got caught so publicly & are covering themselves to make it go away.

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*The local affiliate may have updated the story to remove reporting about issuing a restraining order, because I have seen sources linking that site as the source of a restraining order filing. The most recent public statement by the hospital was on their Facebook page claiming they never asked for or issued a restraining order.

Yes, the United States Senate is “Very, Very Unequal.” And that’s a good thing.

I normally love the kind of numerical/graphical analysis Ezra Klein does. So it was with great shock and frustration I watched him do his signature challenge while he was guest hosting the Rachel Maddow Show last Monday and he explained the Senate structure giving influence to less populous states as a bug, not  a feature. (His shorter writeup post is up at the Washington Post here.)

It’s factually correct that the way that the US Constitution sets up the Senate, it decreases the proportional power of the residents of populous states in a major way. More so now than it did when the Constitution was first drafted (from approximately 11:1 to 66:1). He includes this big and shocking looking graphic showing the seemingly over-weighted influence the same population has at the federal level.

Washington Post Graphic from Ezra Klein's Article

Washington Post Graphic from Ezra Klein’s Article

What he doesn’t really talk about is why the architects of our federal government would choose to create an inherently lopsided seeming system of representation. There was the idea that a number of checks would be required to ensure that risk inherent in democracy, the “tyranny of the majority,” was balanced. Small states feared (reasonably I might add) that because they were small their interests and needs would likely be swallowed if a majority of highly populous states ignored the need.

Our Constitution and federal government is structured in such a way to recognize that and mitigate harms. To protect individuals, we have the Bill of Rights, later amendments and a judiciary system to ensure that the rights of of individuals don’t get trampled.  But what about the representation needs of people in less populous states? Well for that, we have the United States Senate.

A major function of government and taxation is to ensure that vulnerable and poor people in our population are given the support they need; it’s the “common welfare” idea from the preamble. But there is no reason why that allocation would be proportional by state. In fact, when you look at the states with lower populations, there is a decent correlation between states that are lower in population but significantly higher in terms of poverty and strained infrastructure.

What’s more, some states are burdened in ways others are not. As a concrete example, the Intermountain West has two things that either directly govern or highly influence every important aspect of life here: lots and lots of space and very little water. That reality means our populations are clustered around areas where we can find enough water to survive, mainly around mountain ranges with reservoirs. What does that mean? Lots and lots of infrastructure costs; without federal transportation funds, we couldn’t function in a modern way*. We rely on interstate highway corridors for transportation in a way that other states don’t need to. Does that mean we’re “making out like bandits?”

I don’t think so. States will smaller populations are going to necessarily have a harder time generating comparable tax revenue to cover the needs of their citizens than highly populous states with affluent urban centers. Okay you say, but what does that have to do with the original idea of super-lopsided representation in the Senate?

Imagine for a moment what it would be like if the Senate were proportional body like the House of Representatives. What would happen to the federal aid, infrastructure and other funds that small states rely on? Well, it seems safe to say that we wouldn’t get most of it. It’s a lot easier to ignore the needs of constituents of small, poor states with two or three representatives when their votes have zero clout and impact in how federal legislation is passed in D.C.

So stop telling Californians they should hate the Senate, Ezra Klein. It does what it’s supposed to.

*In Utah, the town of Boulder got its postal delivery by pack mule well after World War II because of how remote & isolating the geography is.

Perennial Pointless Posturing Over Safe Gun Regulation

Every time some asshole decides to murder a bunch of people in a mass shooting, there is a very showy conversation about outrage and analysis of the cause. But ultimately, nothing is done because it’s hard and requires actual planning, change and action.

Instead, we see anti-regulation fanatics fighting what the vast majority of the country (including a majority of gun enthusiasts and hunters) think is fair and helpful progress to help curb violence. We see politicians engaging in or allowing scapegoating of media, social demographics, mentally ill people, popular culture and anything else they can blame to prevent really coming up with a solution.

I was in high school when the Columbine shooting happened. And I remember how the focus was so obsessive on why the shooters did what they did, and how we could identify individuals like them to prevent shootings rather than actually controlling the weapons used to murder others. The hysteria was so huge that my school began to focus on absolutely harmless individuals I knew for no other reason that they had small surface similarities to the murderers in Colorado. Thrack stopped wearing his coat for months because he didn’t feel it was safe for him to do so. Another friend was also profiled and interrogated by school administration; his understandably sarcastic and flippant response to being irrationally singled out led to being kicked out of school.

What happened to scapegoats after Columbine wasn’t some isolated case. People are doing stupid, hateful and stigmatizing things following our recent tragedies as well.  Atheists and those damn uppity feminists were blamed directly for the shooting by assholes who would have us believe that the murderer was so messed up by our demands for equality and a secular government that he had no choice but to kill teachers, administrators and small children.

Other assholes have decided to find scapegoats and take action like in Southington, a town 30 miles from Newtown, Connecticut. Local leaders there (in government and the community) recently organized an idiotic game burning event. Because that’s what’s going to keep us safe from constant gun violence.

Some others have suggested that we should throw standards of medical care, ethical standards for medical privacy and any respect for the mentally ill to the winds and start penalizing people more like to be victims of crimes than perpetrators. They want to increase the stigma people with mental illness face, rather than help us. They want us tracked, reported and cataloged because they’re assholes.

Fuck this shit. I’m tired of it.

So are The Mayors Against Illegal Guns, who have organized a push that people actually do something this time.  They are asking everyone who is tired of the inaction in favor of lip service to demand that policy makers tell us what they actually intend to do to fix things.

They are DEMANDING A PLAN. I signed their petition and I think you should too.

Gubernatorial Appointment Cloaked in Elections

I’ve always known the system was rigged against Utah public school students receiving a thorough and evidence based education, but I had no idea just how broken the structure truly is.  In Utah, while individual school districts have local controls, statewide direction is ultimately up to an elected Board of Education.

The trouble is, while the board members are technically elected, the process by which individuals end up on the ballot is anything but a fair democratic representation of the will of the people.  The first step is a committee, whose members are appointed by the governor.  Their job is to nominate and review individuals to produce three recommendations out of a pool of candidates.  The committee passes on those recommendations to the governor who selects which two will appear on the ballot for Utah voters.  Anyone else see the problem here?

Last year there was a bill passed by the Utah Senate to make school board elections partisan and eliminate the recruitment and nomination committee.  It (as well as a number of other proposed changes to board election law) failed.

The commitee has on multiple occasions removed an incumbent board member from the list submitted to the governor based on their opposition to the governor’s public policies.  From the Salt Lake Tribune, we learn that two incumbent board members have filed suit alleging that the nomination process is violates the United States Constitution.

Utah’s controversial way of picking candidates for the state school board has landed the state and its attorney general in court — again.

And yes, this is not the first lawsuit, more on that in a minute.

Incumbent Carol Murphy was elected by Park City area voters four years ago, but rejected in her re-election bid by the Committee for the Recruitment and Nomination of Members of the Utah State Board of Education last April. She is joined by plaintiffs Carmen Snow, who was rejected as a candidate for the seat representing Washington County, and Stacey McGinnis, who wanted to vote for Snow.

The suit alleges the women were rejected, in violation of their First Amendment rights, because they are advocates of public education rather than what it calls “privatization” of schools via school vouchers and other mechanisms.

According to Utah law, the committee, appointed every two years by the governor, scrutinizes those who want to run for the board and submits to the governor the names of three final candidates for every open seat. The governor then picks the two candidates whose names will appear on the November ballot in state school board districts statewide.

The suit contends the system politicizes the school board. It alleges that the committee is heavily weighted with business interests and lobbyists who favor privatizing education and rejects candidates who don’t pass a conservative litmus test.

“For example, the questionnaire required candidates to state their support or opposition to Utah Core Curriculum Standards and the teaching of sex education in public schools, two highly contentious issues, both of which have been driven by ultra-conservative factions of Utah’s Republican Party,” it said. [Emphasis added]

The Utah Education Association opposes the current near-appointment system, saying that because the decision is “contingent upon the approval of the Governor [it] takes away the voice of the people in the electoral process.”  Moreover, they support keeping the races non-partisan, but making reforms.  The UEA states that removing the governor’s conflict riddled control over the process would “increase accountability to voters and better involve the community in the electoral process” and “allow for implementation of good policy, free from party platforms.”

Some, including Third District Court Judge Anthony Quinn have argued that since the eventual nominees are elected, that there is no issue to be concerned with.  When ruling against ousted member Denis Morill two years ago, Quinn wrote the process is legitimate because the recommendations “are neither binding nor unilateral, since the ultimate decision as to who is elected … is determined by the outcome of a general election by the public.”  Nevermind that the system is gamed from the outset to give voters only the choice the governor’s appointed committee and governor himself choose to give us.

Others will say that because the races are all non-partisan, and we all support our children’s education, we needn’t be bothered too much about a conflict of interest or lack of democratic process in representing the wishes of Utah citizens.  On the contrary, while education policy has always had elements of partisan politics, it is especially politicized in an era of a Republican party that increasingly supports libertarian ideas that government should be out of education, that voucher systems should be allowed to drain public schools of resources, and that hostility to science should be fostered so as not to threaten the religious indoctrination of children.

This shouldn’t be difficult.  It’s obvious that deciding education policy is already a politicized issue; all you have to do is look at how vigorously people dissent about substantive issues for public schooling.  What we have to do now is make sure that the party in control (and in Utah, that party will be the Republican party for a very, very long time) can’t keep a stranglehold on the process without any input from the people they were elected to serve.

Tolerance Is Not Respect. Tolerance Is Not Good Enough.

In honor of Pride Month wrapping up now, I want to again link to one of the most profound things I believe has ever been written on the subject of “tolerance.”

Too many conservatives or moderate religious people delude themselves into thinking that so long as they express their tolerance for those they think are sinful, so long as they don’t call for death or prosecution that they are being decent human beings.  That they deserve recognition or a cookie.  They don’t. Tolerance is fucking bullshit.

Tolerance is for someone who doesn’t know better, like my dog who likes to jump on people. Tolerance is for someone whose views negatively impact your life, like people who want to stop me from loving the man I love, with all my heart. I do not want your tolerance. I do not deserve your tolerance. I will not accept your tolerance, any longer. What I will do is my best to ensure that we are all given equality and the legal right to love and marry the person who loves us back. From now on I will tolerate nothing less.

No one deserves your tolerance.  Human beings deserve respect and equality under the law. If you think anything else, you have no moral foundation.  I’ve said before I’m proudly intolerant of intolerance.  But I’m intolerant of your “tolerance” too.

Let’s Be Clear About Something, Marriage IS Defined Federally

After people realized the full implications of what President Obama said about marriage equality, there seemed to be three main camps of pro-equality reaction:

  • face value cheering that the president had supported marriage equality
  • people who said a private belief endorsement of the option to marry was meaningless without recognition that marriage is a right; and leaving marriage up to popular vote means you never saw it as a right at all
  • people who say that we should simply be happy at any progress at all, and that the state’s rights support is just a political reality we have to accept without criticism or we undermine progressive causes

Of these approaches, I’m really starting to have contempt for the last kind.  I actually saw multiple people say that we already leave the definition of marriage up to states already, so this simply isn’t a big deal.  Nothing could be more wrong.

We allow states to set criteria for marriage on a superficial level: age, closeness of relationships permitted, waiting periods, etc.  And we do this because the states are the ones actually issuing marriage licenses.  But what marriage means and defining an individual’s right of access is in unambiguous federal territory.

Not only do we rely on the fair faith and credit clause for all marriages except those of same-sex couples (who are oppressed directly by federal law through DOMA), but when we think about major redefinitions of marriage rights, those come down on a national level.  Let’s talk about two key shifts in how we as a country have defined marriage.

For its obvious parallels, I’m going to talk about Loving v. Virginia.  The landmark shift in 1967 overruled anti-miscegenation laws as unconstitutional limitations on love and marriage.  Loving decriminalized senseless racial segregation that, like same-sex marriage arguments, relied on religious moralistic arguments to support prejudice.  This wonderful change could not have happened any other way.  A popular majority vote would never have achieved speedy and uniform justice; it wasn’t until 1995 that a majority of Americans polled by Gallup finally approved of interracial marriages.  This was a federal redefinition of marriage that changed marriage to qualified mature couples of the opposite sex that loved each other, regardless of ancestry.

Well, say homophobes wanting to look less like bigots, that’s all well and good, but as far as we’re concerned, that didn’t really redefine marriage: look, it’s still one man and one woman.  That’s all we want to preserve.  We have this bullshit idea that marriages have to in general, be of the structure that produces pregnancy and children in stable households.  Sure, some men or women are infertile or don’t want kids, but by and large, marriage is about having and raising babies.  That’s cool, right?  Nope, not even close.

Next up is Turner v Safley from 1987.  This one is important, because it establishes that no, marriages aren’t about households to create children: it deals with the rights of prison inmates to marry.  Turner establishes that marriage is a right of liberty under the due process clause; in this case, prisoners marrying in pursuit of happiness is a right that has nothing to do with households, children or even with sex.  Prisoners have a right to marry even if they have no option to participate in a private household or raise children.  This establishes very, very clearly that marriage is about love, joy and happiness above any other consideration.  It pretty much blows the whining of religious bigots about parenting out of the water.

No amount of allowing states to come up with their own “definitions” of marriage would have created this uniform and socially standardized understanding of loving partnership in this country.  Only by relying on federal uniformity through legal precedents and guarantees of marriage transferability can we justly allow our understanding of marriage to evolve over time.  But I suspect that no matter how marriage changes over time, it will always fit into the description Judge Walker used: marriage is widely regarded as the definitive expression of love and commitment in the United States.

The Status Is NOT Quo, Mr. President

So now that the Democratic President of the United States has finally agreed that same-sex couples have the same rights to recognized, protected legal relationships and households, what does that actually mean?  Well, if you parse the statements, it’s symbolically important, but for policy it doesn’t mean a whole lot.  What this position actually amount to is promoting the status quo.

Especially if you were expecting the visible head of the Democratic Party to express opinions noticeably different from the expressed positions of Dick Cheney.  Because they are in fact, identical:

  • Same sex couples should be able to choose to get married.
  • States should be able to ban marriage equality without interference from the Federal government.

These are contradictory positions, and functionally they are as substantial as a toasted meringue.  There is absolutely no secular, civic objection to protecting the rights of same-sex couples and their families that does not ultimately come down to prejudicial rationalization that being gay is wrong.

And I’m simply not convinced that we have a president that has moved past religious ideas that being LGBT is somehow to be broken.  The people who have changed the president’s mind to be comfortable with same-sex marriage in principle (but not as a basic right) are those he describes as:

…in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together…

And while it’s great that he now acknowledges these people are no less committed and dedicated than their straight counterparts, gay and bisexual people shouldn’t have to prove their capacity for fidelity and monogamy before they are allowed to marry.  We certainly would never suggest this for straight couples; we don’t even force them to prove the marriage will last at all.

Unlike so many others, I’ve only ever lost one person I loved to AIDS. Kurt and cousin Donnie had been together for over 25 years, from the time that Donnie was 17.  They were as committed and loving as any couple I’ve ever known, but they weren’t sexually exclusive and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Because they lived in a state and year that prevented them from even domestic partnerships, when Kurt found himself HIV positive and rapidly declining, they needed to take precautions with their assets.  They put together wills and such to protect Donnie from problems with inheritances, but then Kurt found that he couldn’t bring himself to sign them.

In his mind, if he signed those documents, he would die*.  When he did die, his hateful, hateful family, the ones who had cursed him all his life, who had disowned him, who had told him he was suffering a righteous punishment from an evil god as he lay dying, they got the home that Donnie and Kurt had lived in for years.  With ghoulish triumph, they demanded that Donnie buy back his own home, and he had no other choice.

These two were incredibly loving people and no one who knew them would consider them uncommitted.  But they almost certainly wouldn’t pass the test of fitting into the comfortable monogamous household that has convinced the president gay people should have the option to marry.  That is wrong.  They deserved a chance to marry as much as the ultra-monogamous couple with kids that is so often held up as the reason gay people should be married.

Gay people should have the choice to be married for the same reason straight people have that choice.  When Judge Walker released his incredible decision** in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, I wept at the articulation of a simple truth in the findings of fact:

Domestic partnerships lack the social meaning associated with marriage, and marriage is widely regarded as the definitive expression of love and commitment in the United States.

If we lived in a time when the rights of same-sex couples were valued, injustices like what happened to Donnie could not happen.  But it does happen and it happens on large and small scales every day.  That is why we demand justice.  Why each evolving delay or dodge is so bitter.

I truly am grateful that no longer do we have a president that endorses a second-class citizenship for same-sex couples: a lesser recognition and set of protections.  I really am.  But it simply isn’t enough, and President Obama has a great deal more evolving to do on the matter.

By the President’s standards, what happened yesterday in North Carolina was good and fine and ethical.  He implies we should wait until younger generations not burdened with decades of learned bigotry make the shift state by state to make us a more just nation:

It’s interesting, some of this is also generational. You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same-sex equality or, you know, sexual orientation that they believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.

This isn’t good enough.  Not only is he asking to leave minority rights hostage to the whims of a hostile and homophobic majority vote, (thus delaying just and fair protections for LGBT Americans indefinitely in some states) but President Obama is silent on the Defense of Marriage Act. [See note below]  So even in those states where equality triumphed, same-sex couples are financially burdened and penalized.  THEY. ARE. NOT. EQUAL.  That is unacceptable.

We already knew that the country was headed for marriage equality inevitably.  Some of us are sincerely hoping that it will be sooner rather than later, with a fair verdict from SCOTUS on Perry v. Schwarzenegger.  But that does not remove the responsibility of the more progressive party to lead the charge and to remove the federal constraints that continue to harm legally married couples across the country.  Pretending that you are finished now, and using a cowardly dodge that we’ll get there eventually with the work of younger generations simply is not good enough.  We need a president who will be a leader in a quest for equal rights, nothing less.

You still have some evolving to do, Mr. President.  The status is not quo.

[UPDATE] It appears that the President’s remarks do include a mention of the DOMA noting that the administration ceased defending an unconstitutional law, but he does not advocate any federal legislation to repeal DOMA either.  He doesn’t get a cookie for failing to waste taxpayer resources if this is his position:

After Obama’s announcement, Mother Jones‘ David Corn spoke with an administration source and asked whether the president recognized gay marriage as a right. The official replied, “He has always said that it is a state issue, and he’s not suggesting changing that. He did did not support the North Carolina amendment, but he’s not saying he will bring up a piece of federal legislation on gay marriage. This is how he feels himself about the issue, and he leaves it to the states.”

*If you ever remember being angry at Louis for abandoning a dying lover in Angels in America, this gives you an idea how I felt about Kurt.  I can rationally understand that fear of death can cause some irrational and selfish panic, but it’s so hard to forgive someone when fear of death makes them betray a partner.

**Seriously, I can’t tell you how inspired I found this decision.  I have a stenographer’s notebook completely full of handwritten excerpts.  Yes, I do read court decisions (esp. SCOTUS decisions) for fun.  I am weird that way.