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Marriage Equality Bittersweet

Marriage Equality A bittersweet victory

After news broke that the US Supreme Court upheld marriage equality making gay marriage legal in all 50 states I posted a tweet expressing how happy I was about the court’s decision. From this short tweet I ended up having a very interesting exchange with someone who comments a lot on my blog.  We disagree on almost every political issue imaginable but I love to hear his point of view.  He said he was unhappy about the Supreme Court’s decision to make marriage equality a nationwide thing.  Then I asked him a very simple question that he had no answer to.  I asked him how this decision to legalize gay marriage would change his life or change the way he practices his religion.  He couldn’t answer because the truth is it will have no effect whatsoever on his life or how he chooses to live it.

If you are one of those people who are disappointed or sadden about someone gaining rights that you already enjoy, please ask yourself how this changes anything about your life or wellbeing as a citizen of a free country.  If you are one of those people who oppose this for religious reasons, please ask yourself how this will change your Sunday morning church service, or the way you read your bible, or the way you pray to God.  If you’re truly being honest with yourself, you’ll see how insignificant this is in your life.  But for gay people like me, this gives us a chance to better our lives.  It says to us that we deserve to be treated like equals.  We pay the same taxes, we abide by the same laws, we work in and contribute to the same economy, so what gives you the right to tell me how to live my life?  What gives you the right to exclude me from the same opportunities you have?  No one is forcing you to agree with gay marriage, no one is saying your religious beliefs are wrong or not valid.  No one is forcing you to like lgbt people.  But in a free democracy you can’t force me to live my life by your religious beliefs or by your interpretation of your religious text.

Marriage Equality Upheld

Marriage Equality Upheld

Believing homosexuality is a sin is totally valid, and even though I disagree it’s not my place to tell you you’re wrong or to try and force you to believe what I believe.  If that’s your religious belief, in my eyes I don’t consider that homophobic.  But to actively seek out ways to make people like me live as second class citizens and to support laws that gives you more rights just because you’re heterosexual, that is homophobic and it spits in the face of a true democracy and weakens us as a country.  History has taught that lesson to us over and over again with slavery and Jim Crow.  Slave owners and those who supported the right to own slaves used scriptures from the Bible to justify the practice of owning African slaves:

you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you.  You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land.  You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. Leviticus 25:44-46

Laws were created to uphold a system that treated human beings as cattle primarily for financial gain but the aide of Biblical scripture allowed it to last 200+ years while supporters struck down every moral challenge to this barbaric system with (what they thought was) written approval from god. I’m using this example not to bash Christianity or anyone’s beliefs, but to show how problematic it can be when government makes legislative decisions based on a personal religious belief.

Clementa Pickney's casket in Charleston SC

Clementa Pickney’s casket in Charleston SC

At the end of our conversation he asked me how I felt about the news. I told him it was kind of bittersweet for me. I was elated to hear how the Supreme Court’s decision upheld Marriage equality which makes gay marriage legal in all 50 states, but my heart is still heavy knowing that the funeral of Rev Clementa Pickney (the pastor who was murdered last week by a white supremacist) is happening later today as well. As an out gay African American man my double minority identity presents dueling dichotomies all the time. Carrying this burden today means not fully participating in the joy and celebration that my white lgbt brothers and sisters are experiencing. But Clementa Pickney as a South Carolina senator believed in marriage equality. He along with the other members of the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus were always on the side the lgbt community. That fact alone makes the sweet a lot less bitter, but it also reminds me that the fight for true equality isn’t over. It reminds me that we have to vigilantly protect each win because the same people who lost today aren’t going to change their ways and give up on their fascist crusade tomorrow. As soon as we think we’ve won and let our guard down, it gives the losers an opening to stop the momentum of our progress and a chance to destroy the good that we’ve built. Rev Clementa Pickney and the 8 other African Americans who died at the hand of a white supremacist serves as a stark reminder of that fact.

RIP Senator Reverend Clementa Pickney.

Rev Clementa Pickney

Rev Clementa Pickney

Chicken & Why You Don’t Matter

Chicken & Why You Don't Matter

PBS’s news magazine Frontline did a report on dangerous pathogens found in chicken sold by one specific company. The chicken made a lot of people sick and some even died. The shocking part of this story is the company knew their chicken was tainted and even knew it was making people sick but did nothing to address the problem and continued to sell the tainted chicken to consumers. The federal entity who’s supposed to enforce strict regulations to protect consumers from hazards like this also knew about the company’s tainted chicken but did nothing to protect consumers, and did not push for a recall. It’s a very interesting piece that I think holds meaning that goes way beyond just chicken.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/trouble-with-chicken/
To me this is just another reminder that corporations run our government now. It’s totally mind-boggling to me that American’s were scared out of their minds about Ebola and right before the midterm election a majority of voters listed Ebola as one of the most important issues that concerned them enough to come out and vote. If I recall the poll correctly, voters said the second most important issue was Benghazi. People are getting sick and dying because of tainted chicken and the company selling this chicken continued to sell it even though they knew there was a problem. I guess they figured it was much cheaper to buy politicians and political influence than it was to recall the chicken to protect the consumer. Adding insult to injury the government agency who are supposed to regulate and protect the citizens against this kind of malfeasance were also aware that a potentially deadly pathogen was in a consumer product yet they did almost nothing to hold the company responsible and did nothing to alert or protect the citizens who pay their salaries.

Situations like this reinforce my belief that Citizens United was one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in my lifetime. That law pretty much guarantees that the citizens of this country and the politicians we put in office are completely powerless against the will of the 1% and the corporations they own. The media both progressive leaning and conservative tells the country what issues they should care about, and how to think about the issues they chose to report. Ebola got wall-to-wall 24 hour news coverage on every cable news network for 3 weeks straight. There were only 2 deaths from Ebola in the US, and neither of the people who died contracted the disease here in America. There have been 6 or 7 investigations into Benghazi so far and all of them concluded the same thing. There was no conspiracy in which the president and the secretary of state colluded to make sure American’s in the consulate died. But somehow voters named both of those issues (Benghazi and Ebola) as the two issues that were most important to them.

I place a lot of blame for this on the media. I find it very curious that campaign finance reform and overturning the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United almost never gets discussed on network news. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the enormous spike in ad buys that brought them unprecedented profits and revenue during the last presidential election where candidates on both sides spent over a billion dollars each to fund their bid for president. It’s very plain to see that Citizens United worked out very well for all of the news networks. Why would they want to stop the gravy train? This kind of thing breeds voter apathy and political cynicism. Unfortunately the voter apathy they cultivate works in their favor as well. The less engaged you are and the less you believe in the system they know people like that are less likely to vote. The lower voter participation gets, the more power they have.

I wish I had a simple solution to fix all of this but I don’t, but something has to change. We can’t claim to be the land of the free and the home of the brave when public opinion shows that an overwhelming majority of citizens wants to raise the minimum wage and overturn Citizens United, but corporations and the 1% are against both of these things so it will never even get a vote despite the will of the people. After Benghazi and Bridgegate fizzles out, they’ll throw us another meaningless distraction and a large majority of us will eat it up just like we’ve been conditioned to. Now isn’t that sad?

I Support You

Legal gay marriage in all 50 states has been the law of the land for 96 hours now and the sky isn’t falling, straight married couples aren’t getting divorced due to the change, the black plague didn’t reemerge, we didn’t have to sacrifice a virgin to stop volcano’s from erupting, no one turned into a pillar of salt, there was no rioting, no looting, no anarchy, no national guard, no EMS alert on tv, nope, none of that happened at all. Barack Obama is still the president, Fox News is still racist, wall street continues to screw everyone out of their retirements, the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west, and Socially Urban Blog is still the most amazing source for progressive commentary :-).  Yep, all of that is still as it was before. People woke up and went to work, or to school, or did nothing just like every day prior to gay marriage being legal. Other than the whining from republicans and a few silly angry posts predicting the end of the world from a few misguided (but well-meaning) panic-prone people on social media, life went on as usual and this Monday seemed no different from the Monday of last week. But for gay people like me I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to know that my government, who I pay taxes to, will no longer tell me I deserve less rights just because I’m gay. I wish I could describe that feeling but words will not do it justice.

Tonya R Isom

Tonya R Isom

Finally getting full marriage equality was inconceivably extraordinary and life changing for me, but of course there was an immediate and somewhat predictable backlash brewing as well.  Some of the anti-gay homophobic posts on so many people’s timelines that I have on my friends list kinda threw me for a loop. Usually I try not to take too much of it personal but sometimes it’s hard to just brush it off. Right in the middle of all the negativity I got a message from a friend that almost brought me to tears. It was so simple and unexpected. Tonya R. Isom sent me a 3 word message along with a picture of the White House lit in rainbow gay pride colors. Those 3 words were I support you.  It was simple, elegant, heartfelt and timed perfectly to snap me out of the creeping darkness I began to feel while reading all of the negativity. I don’t know how she knew I needed that, but I’m so thankful that something touched her heart and lead her to throw me a lifeline right when I needed it most.

After getting her message I decided to take a little social media sabbatical Saturday and Sunday. I had to remind myself that I’m not here to make people happy or to convince people that they should accept me. I’m in charge of my happiness and it’s going to take a whole lot more than a few facebook posts to get me down, or to take away the joy I felt after hearing the court’s decision. I’m not deleting anyone, I’m through trying to convince people that I deserve the same rights they have, and I’m through showing respect to those who show me disrespect. Like our facebook page www.facebook.com/SociallyUrbanAt the end of the day, gay marriage is legal, it’s a done deal, settled once and for all by the highest court in our judicial system. Those who oppose it or those who think it’s wrong, their opinions became completely irrelevant on Friday June 26 2015 at approximately 10 am eastern standard time.  But fret not; it’s never too late to educate and evolve.  Just know that love and justice will always be triumphant over negativity and fear. ‪#‎MarriageEquality‬ ‪#‎DamnTheHaters‬

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE
To those who may have posted angry homophobic comments, I have nothing but love in my heart for you and I wish you no ill will or harm. To those misguided souls who posted inflammatory meme’s and pics designed to invoke fear or stroke public outrage, I harbor no hate in my heart and will not make negative judgments about your character. However I will lend some advice. Before reposting a meme from someone else’s page, please do a little research to find out if it’s true or not. In my experience, the more inflammatory the information is, the more likely the information is a fraud. One really good resource to search for a reposts or meme’s authenticity is http://www.snopes.com. They recently debunked a set of photos depicting Jesus kissing a man at what looked like a gay pride parade. All of those photos were taken 3+ years ago all at different times, and all outside of the United States. 2 were from Brazil as a part of a performance art project. None of them were in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage here in the US a few days ago. Whoever created the set of photos wanted to outrage Christians and make them hate gays even more. I’m sure he’s very happy at the response because it accomplished exactly what he intended it to. But I refuse to let dirty tactics like this divide us. I hope we can all take this as a learning experience and avoid divisive tricks like this in the future.

NC Voting Rights Crisis

North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory and the republican legislature are not interested in winning your vote.
The republican majority in North Carolina’s legislature gained a huge victory this week when the US Supreme Court stayed the Fourth Circuit court order reinstating two voter restrictions that will effect the coming election in November. The first gets rid of same day voter registration, and second gets rid of a rule that will count an eligible voters vote even if they cast that vote at the wrong precinct. Both of these decisions can be overturned before the presidential election in 2016 but they will be in effect for the coming election in November (2014).

In 2008 Barack Obama won the state of North Carolina and that victory helped him win the white house. The success of North Carolina’s Obama for president coalition in 2008 caught the state’s republicans off guard. Obama’s coalition was something southern politics had never seen before and something no one thought was possible. That coalitionpresident obama in north carolina included black people, white people, Latino’s, college kids, independents, first time voters, women from 18 to 80, just a huge array from all different backgrounds working together for a common cause, and working hard to elect a president they believed in. This coalition shouldn’t have caught republicans off guard if they were paying attention to NC’s changing demographics. For every presidential election that preceded 2008, republicans won by tailoring their campaigns to address the issues of one demographic; white men. Convincing the state’s white men to vote for them was all they needed to win. So all of the issues that were important to every other demographic were ignored. Especially issues of concern to minorities and women. Marginalizing those two groups left the door wide open for a candidate with a message of hope and change. President Obama spoke to their concerns and made them feel like their issues were important to him. It was just that simple. Listen to the people, address their concerns, and show them a way government can help equalize opportunity so more than one demographic group can succeed. The election happened and of course Barack Obama won. After the election North Carolina’s GOP was floored at the results. Even though they won the white male demographic by a landslide, they still lost.

Following 2008 NC’s GOP had two choices if they were going to remain competitive in future elections. They could listen and address the concerns of minority and women voters, or they could use their legislative majority to gerrymander districts, tweak and change voting rules, and add newNC General Assembly 2014 restrictions on registering new voters. Their choice tells us something very important about who they are and what they believe. They love freedom, they proudly support each American’s right to vote, and they are huge fans of democracy… until freedom, voting, and democracy doesn’t work in their favor. Since none of that worked in their favor, North Carolina’s republican led legislature began passing unprecedented sweeping changes that altered the way North Carolinian’s exercises their constitutional right to vote. We know these changes are designed specifically to lower democratic voter turnout and stifle any minority influence within the legislature because the proof is in the results that the laws give us.

If you ask governor Pat McCrory why these changes are being made he will lie and say these restrictions are needed to protect the integrity of the vote, and to cut down on voter fraud. We know that is a lie because voter fraud is almost nonexistent in NC. North Carolina hasn’t prosecuted one single case of voter fraud in the last 30 years. We can prove the real 130731_moral_monday_ap_605motive behind this by looking at the specific changes they made. Minority voters have a tradition called “souls to the polls” where church congregations load up in a bus after Sunday church service and go to vote as a group. So NC’s GOP decided to get rid of Sunday voting. Minorities are a lot less likely to have two forms of id. So NC’s GOP created a new voting rule requiring two forms of id to vote. In districts with a large percentage of democratic voters, NC’s GOP made sure they have less resources to accommodate the large number of voters. 70% of NC’s minorities took advantage of the state’s early voting in 2008. So NC’s GOP cut the number of early voting days. In the 2008 election blacks accounted for 42% of those who utilized the same day registration rule. So NC’s GOP got rid of same day registration. I could go on and on with statistics just like these that all hurt democratic candidates and unfairly target minorities. Every republican legislator who denies that these laws are designed to suppress the vote are insulting the intelligence of the American public. It’s impossible to put these restrictions and laws in place without knowing who they will negatively impact. I wish they would just be honest about their intentions because even though I think it’s a vile despicable slimy way to hold power, I’d at least respect their honesty and feel like they respected me enough to tell me the truth.

The good news in this sad state-of-affairs we call NC politics is, the Reverend Dr. William Barber and the Moral Monday movement. They are on the front lines fighting to get rid of these unconstitutional un-American, unfair, voter suppression laws. The movement has grown to include 80,000 North Carolinian’s from all walks of life. GovernorRev Dr William Barber McCrory and NC’s republican legislators should be very afraid of Dr Barber and his movement. Just like the Obama coalition from 2008, the Moral Monday movement is diverse, organized, and motivated. If you look at some of the protests you’ll see white, black, republicans, gay, straight, Christian, men and women. Some of these activist even voted for McCrory, but they see these voting laws for what they really are, and they refuse to sit in silence just because they are republican. When you have truth and justice on your side, you will be victorious in the end. The harder the opposition defends these unconstitutional laws, the larger the Moral Monday movement will grow. That will eventually lead to a democratic majority in North Carolina’s legislature, and a democrat in North Carolina’s governors mansion.

Just when you thought they couldn’t sink any lower they pull one of the sleaziest vote tampering tricks in the book. If you thought Kevin Spacey’s character on House of Cards was bad, you haven’t seen anything yet. The billionaire Koch brother’s political organization that helps republicans get elected, created a mailer with incorrect voter registration information and sent out thousands of them to North Carolina voters. Anyone who gets this in the mail andkoch brothers Americans For Prosperity fills it out thinking they are registering to vote will be in for a rude awakening when they show up to the polls to cast their vote in November because their registration will not be processed due to the dirty trick the Koch brothers mailer played on them. And even though they can prove they thought they were registering when they filled out the mailer, NC’s new voting laws says they are still ineligible to cast their vote. This is how desperate the state’s republican party has become. They are willing to do anything, even shred our country’s constitution to hold on to power at any cost. Zero integrity, zero honesty, extremely poor character. I have no idea how Novembers election will turn out, but I know for a fact that the communities they are trying to stop from casting their vote, will show up in record numbers to let them know that this state can not be bought by billionaires with no morals, or won by dirty tricks created to elect republicans like Tom Tillis.



NC Republican admits they are trying to suppress the vote of minorities.


www.kayhagan.com



Liberal’s Dirty Little Secret

www.sociallyurban.com

Before i begin this blog post i feel i need to preface it with some important factors to keep in mind while reading it. I am a very proud and vocal member of the Democratic party and even though I’m about to share some harsh critiques about my party and some of its representatives, I feel even at their worst they are still miles ahead of any republican at their best. Now, i felt I had to say that because it was needed to put things in the proper context.

The country-wide debate of New York’s “Stop and Frisk” policy that unfairly targets African American and Latino males has uncovered something surprising about my fellow liberals. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the Trayvon Martin shooting and racial profiling titled “No Justice For Trayvon”. In that blog I highlighted how some whites perceptions of young African American males are based on a subconscious irrational fear that makes them see those males as potential criminals. This is true for both conservative and liberal whites although that perception may be slightly more common among conservatives. After a court ruled that NY’s “Stop and Frisk” policy was unconstitutional and a violation of American civil rights it sparked a huge national debate about the ruling and NY mayor Michael Bloomberg’s defense of the program.Socially Urban Blog Those who supported the policy pointed to the low crime rate in the city which they attributed to Stop and Frisk. To me and a lot of African Americans it sounded like they were saying it’s ok to violate a young black male’s civil rights if it makes whites feel less fearful. That was a huge insult unto itself but what came after that was even more insulting. They tried to spin it in the media by saying the policy is in place to protect African American’s living in poor neighborhoods. African American’s translated this to mean they were racially profiling and violating our rights for our own good. Like a parent punishing a petulant child. To me that insult was beyond disgusting because segregationist used the exact same language in the 1950’s to defend Jim Crow. I felt it necessary to write this blog because there were some very important points that were never articulated in the media and among pundits. Watching panel discussions on MSNBC and CNN became tortuous for me. I found myself screaming my points to the tv like they could hear me. Since I’m not a cable tv news political pundit or host, my blog will have to suffice (lol).

The first and most important point I want to make is about those who think Stop and Frisk is necessary. In order to support stop and frisk you have to believe that race determines behavior. How else can you believe that stopping and searching African American’s and Latino’s almost exclusively is acceptable and necessary to prevent crime. This is a hard truth but it needs to be addressed so we can fix it and move on. I’m sure stop and frisk supporters do not want to ask themselves that question. Especially liberals and cable news pundits like those on MSNBC. Don’t get me wrong I love watching MSNBC because I like their reporting of political news and I’ve come to respect the on-air talent. One of my favorites is Chris Matthews the host of Hardball. He’s a moderate democrat with an astute political mind. His views usually mirror my own, but his coverage and views of Stop and Frisk has been very disappointing. Watching him interview pundits has exposed his support for the policy. Time after time he’s expressed fear of New York returning to the violent city it was in the 1970’s and 80’s. When one of his guest presented the idea of stopping more than just blacks and Latino’s Chris likened it to searching grandma at the airport for explosives. When Michael Smirconish guest hosted End Stop & Frisk Chris’s Hardball he was a lot more vocal in his support for the policy. I naively thought progressives would see this Stop and Frisk policy for what it was. Racial profiling, unconstitutional, a severe violation of civil rights, a throw-back to Jim Crow, and just plain wrong. If equality, your personal ethics, and basic human fairness weren’t enough to convince you that this law is racist and unjust, take a look at the stats and ask yourself is this an effective use of police time and resources. According to a study done by the Center For Constitutional Rights during the year 2011 NYPD officers stopped and frisked a total of 636,288 people. Out of those 636,288 stops, 574,483 were African American and Latino. That’s a shocking 87%. Out of those 574,483 minorities only 2% were found to have contraband. TWO PERCENT!!!!!! Under any other circumstances this program would have been rejected years ago due to it’s ineffectiveness.

When you take an objective look at the overwhelming evidence against Stop and Frisk you have to ask yourself why is mayor Bloomberg fighting so hard to keep this in place and why are some white liberals like Chris Matthews and Michael Smirconish vocally supporting the policy or at the very least why aren’t they vocally advocating for its demise. I think the answer can be found in my Trayvon Martin blog titled “No Justice For Trayvon”. They see all young black males as potential criminals, and Stop and Frisk placates this irrational fear. I’m not saying these people are intentional racist. I believe they’ve been conditioned to think about young black males in that way. Their subconscious has made this connection and every crime committed by a young black male reinforces that belief. It’s very disappointing to see so many of my fellow democrats quietly supporting this vile version of institutionalized racism knowing it dehumanizes an entire race of people. Extremely disappointing. Unfortunately this race behavior linkage is perpetuated by the language we use when talking about inner city crime and violence. When we use terms like “the black community” it lumps all blacks together. Even the president has made this mistake. He said we need to address the crime and violence problem within the black community. But this problem mainly exist in the inner city. So instead of lumping all blacks together, he should have said we need to address the crime and violence happening in the inner city. I do not live in the inner city and I have never been involved in any crime. I’m a college educated law abiding citizen who lives on the coast of North Carolina. I have absolutely nothing in common with a violent gang member hundreds of miles away in Detroit. But since we share the same skin color I’m treated like a suspected criminal and I’m supposed to accept that. It’s ridiculous and extremely frustrating.

I’d like to share one more observation that no one else has brought up. The Stop and Frisk policy was built on a supreme court ruling that relaxed the Stats on Stop and Frisk rules for search and seizure when an officer believes a suspect may have a gun.  Before this ruling law enforcement could not stop and search random citizens without a clear and articulatable reason. But Bloomberg found a way around the 4th amendment by using that supreme court case. He argued that NY police could stop and search anyone they wanted to and justify it by saying they thought the person had a firearm. My question is why aren’t the NRA (National Rifle Association) out lobbing to end Stop and Frisk? It goes against the very rights they say they are protecting. The right to own a firearm and the right to carry a firearm without being searched by police hoping to find and confiscate a legally owned firearm. The lack of action from their organization shows an obvious racial prejudice in the way they choose issues to speak out against. I sent this question to the head of the NRA but got no response in return. The lack of response makes me think my suspicions are valid.

As a result of discriminatory policing practices like stop and frisk, New Yorkers feel as if their communities are under siege.  To learn more about the human impact of these practices, visit www.stopandfrisk.org.

STORY UPDATE:

Chris MatthewsA few weeks after I published this blog post I got the chance to ask MSNBC show host Chris Matthews where he stands on Stop and Frisk. In my blog post I stated that he seemed to support Stop and Frisk. It was very easy to draw this conclusion because he never condemned the policy and never once called it unconstitutional. Instead he would share his fear of New York’s crime rate returning to the very high levels the city had in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Here’s a link to read his response: http://sociallyurban.com/reply-headlines/chris-matthews-response/

Huge Week For Supreme Court

Huge Week For Supreme Court

This has been a huge week for our prestigious Supreme Court.  They delivered monumental rulings that will dramatically change this great country. The rulings that garnered the most attention were the Voting Rights Act ruling, the Defense of Marriage Act ruling, and California’s Prop 8 ruling. Preceding all three of those by a few days there was another Supreme Court ruling that didn’t get much attention at all. I believe it’s just as significant and monumental as the three I named, but I’ll put that one aside for the moment and comment on the three attention grabbers first. Afterward I’ll explain what the lesser known ruling is and how it will impact the direction of our country.

I’ll start with the good news first. At approximately 9am the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision that struck down DOMA (the defense of marriage act) which lifted the federal ban on gay marriage. With a 5-4 vote Justice’s Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan and Kennedy all voted in favor of lifting the ban and Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion which states “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.” Of course the dissenting Justice’s were Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas. All four are ultra conservatives so their opposition to gay marriage is no secret. Now that DOMA was ruled unconstitutional by the highest court in the land, legal gay marriage in all 50 states is all but certain. Immediately following the DOMA decision the court ruled on California’s Prop 8. Prop 8 was a ballot measure in California that wanted to define marriage as 1 man and 1 woman. Before this ballot measure gay marriage was legal in California. After Prop 8 reversed legal gay marriage in California, a federal court in San Francisco struck it down on the grounds that it unfairly discriminated against gays and lesbians who wished to marry. California’s governor and state attorney refused to take the case to the Supreme Court because they were supporters of gay marriage, so an outside anti-gay organization decided to argue the validity of Prop 8 in the place of the state attorney to the Supreme Court (which has never been done before). In another 5 to 4 vote the Supreme Court decided that a private organization did not have legal standing to appeal after the ballot measure was struck down by a federal judge… thus killing Prop 8 and legalizing gay marriage in the state of California once again. Both of these historic rulings fills me with optimism and reaffirms my belief that this country really is the land of the free.

This week the Supreme Court also ruled on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. In a 5 to 4 decision their ruling on this matter shakes the very foundation of my aforementioned reaffirmed optimism. This decision guts the very heart of the Voting Rights Act freeing nine mostly southern states to change their election laws without advance federal approval. Republican governors wasted no time rushing to file numerous new voting restrictions in every state where they have legislative control. Most of these new voter laws were blocked due to federal law during the last election. Congress has the power to redraw the map of states where voting laws need more scrutiny, but any action is unlikely as long as republicans hold a majority in the house. The GOP’s reaction to this new ruling is further evidence that they are aware that a large majority of American’s do not agree with their ideology and they know keeping minorities away from the polls is the only way they can win any future election.  I believe their constant overreaching will hurt them in the midterm elections next year.  The more they fight minorities and gays, the more determined and involved we become.

Now here’s the ruling you probably haven’t heard about.  The gay marriage and the voting rights rulings made headlines all across the country and lead every newscast for days. They were huge stories so of course they deserved huge attention. But there was another Supreme Court ruling this past week that should have gotten just as much attention as the other three rulings did.  Unfortunately the “powers that be” minimize the news coverage when it involves corporations flexing their power to stay above the law.  American Express (huge credit card conglomerate) appeared before the Supreme Court to bar a class-action claim against them.  A group of small restaurant owners joined together to sue American Express claiming that the company engaged in monopolistic business practices to force the merchants to accept their new credit card (with higher merchant fees) after they signed an agreement to accept their debit cards. This put the merchants in difficult position because they could not afford the higher fees, but losing the ability to accept AmEx debit cards would hurt their business as well. So the small group of restaurant owners banded together to sue American Express. American Express did not want a court jury trial and they challenged the merchants right to join together for a class-action suit. Instead they wanted arbitration (controlled by an arbiter of American Express’s choice) with each merchant independently. That’s how this legal issue ended up in front of the Supreme Court. To me, this seems like such an easy ruling. No corporation should be able to dictate the terms of which they are being sued for. But 5 out of 8 Justices did not share this opinion. They decided that the merchants could not band together, but not only that the Justices also ruled that American Express can force a merchant into an arbitration controlled by them. WTF? When did corporations get more rights than an American citizen? This ruling says corporations can deflect any lawsuit brought against them from this point on. Where’s the accountability? In a strongly worded dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the decision means “the monopolist gets to use its monopoly power to insist on a contract effectively depriving its victims of all legal recourse.” The ruling was the third in three years to shut down class-action efforts brought on behalf of employees, consumers and now small-business owners. Lawyers on both sides of the issue said the court’s conservative wing was determined to shield companies from these broad lawsuits. The court has taken another big step down the road of permitting companies to use arbitration agreements to entirely insulate themselves from class-action liability. Even more proof that right wing conservatives do not give a damn about the people they are supposed to represent, and despite their rhetoric claiming to champion small businesses, their actions paint an entirely different picture.

Justice Scalia’s Racist Agenda

Justice Scalia's Racist Agenda

I’ve been seething for a few days now over Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s outrageous comment calling the Voting Rights Act a “racial entitlement”. There’s an article by LEONARD PITTS JR. in the Miami Herald that sums up everything I’ve been feeling about the injustice of The Supreme Court even hearing this argument. Although concise and extremely eloquent there is one very important aspect that Mr Pitts article left out. Supreme Court justices are not elected or held accountable by the people. They are lifetime appointments appointed by whatever party is in the white house whenever a seat becomes open (which is rare). The Voting Rights Act was enacted by congress and upheld by congress with overwhelming bipartisan support for almost 50 years now. Congress is an elected body who serves as a voice for their constituents aka THE VOICE OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. Justice Scalia not only wants to destroy The Voting Rights Act, he wants to remove the power to uphold or overturn the Voting Rights Act away from a democratically elected body who are there to represent the American people and transfer that power to an appointed body who can make decisions that goes against the intentions and will of the American people without scrutiny or recourse. This is one of the most radical concepts the bench has ever seen. The Supreme Court has never done this or even contemplated doing this in the history of our nation. If Justice Scalia is allowed to remove the power of congress as he sees fit, we are no longer a democratic country. It’s unconstitutional, it serves to further disenfranchise minority voters (which is his intention), it’s a huge step back from the progress we’ve made toward equal rights, it makes the voice of the American people irrelevant and it sets a very dangerous precedent for future legislation. This is not a democrat vs republican issue. The last time the Voting Rights act went through congress in 2006 99% of democrats AND REPUBLICANS voted to extend it, but unfortunately current house republicans aren’t speaking out and condemning Justice Scalia. That says a lot about how different this crop of republican law makers are from where they were just 6 or 7 years ago. If you can’t publicly support The Voting Rights Act as popular and as needed as it is, then what can you support? The silence from the hill is deafening.

Miami Herald article I referenced:
http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/03/3261943/voting-rights-act-not-a-racial.html

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