Monday, May 26, 2008

Hillary's Remarks about "Assassination"

I've been thinking a lot lately about Senator Hillary Clinton's unfortunate remarks last week alluding to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968.  She seemed to be implying that she was remaining in the Democratic race just in case someone - presumably Barrack Obama - gets assassinated.  I've got to say that these remarks were really over the top and incredibly offensive.  What's worse is that she later offered only a tepid half-apology for her remarks to the Kennedy family, but failed to mention the damage such remarks had on the current campaign or Senator Obama.  

What is wrong with Hillary anyway?  Is she so detached from the reality of possible assassination attempts on Obama or even on her own life that she would mention such a disturbing scenario? Is she really so incredibly clueless about the potential danger in making such references in normal political discourse? Hasn't she heard about the numerous comparisons made between Obama and Bobby Kennedy, not to mention John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King? In making such remarks, she really has reached a new low in her campaign that is very disturbing. 

Here's a commentary from Keith Olbbermann that expresses the outrage about these comments that many of us are feeling.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage: As Goes California, So Goes the Nation?

The California Supreme Court delivered a groundbreaking decision this morning:  State law banning same sex marriage is clearly unconstitutional.  To really understand this issue it is first important to recognize that marriage is not an "unchanging institution" as many conservatives such as George W. Bush and John McCain have erroneously alleged. In reality, marriage has undergone many important social and legal changes over the years.

For example, marriage used to be completely male-dominated and patriarchal, with men even permitted to beat their wives in some localities.  Women had no real legal rights in marriage for centuries with property rights often denied them upon the death of their husband or in divorce proceedings. By the way, people often quoted from the Bible to defend such sexist arrangements and laws.

Speaking of divorce, that's another example of how marriage rights have changed over time. No-fault divorce laws are a recent legal innovation that have dramatically altered marriage as an institution; abused spouses (both female and male) are now able to exit their marriage much easier as a result.

Marriage has also changed in laws governing rape. Until the 1970s, most states did not have any laws protecting women (or men for that matter) from rape by their spouses. All of these changes in marriage went up against the conservative status quo, but nonetheless prevailed.

Probably the most important legal precedent in this regard is how a large number of states used to have anti-miscegenation laws that prevented people from marrying someone of a different race.

It was not until 1967, in the case of Loving v. Virginia, that the US Supreme Court struck down such laws that banned interracial marriage. The Court used the equal protection clause in support of their decision. Public opinion polls taken at the time found that upwards of 90 percent of the general public (not just in the South) disagreed with the Supreme Court and supported bans on interracial marriage. Many so-called "Christians" - especially in the South - quoted from the Bible to defend their stance opposing mixed-race marriage. Fortunately, the Supreme Court did not simply affirm what was popular and reputedly "Christian;" instead, they took a stand to expand the definition of marriage to include a broader number of people.

Our current debate is the latest battle in the progressive evolution of marriage as a legal institution. It is not really an issue of gay rights; rather, it is an issue of human rights.

It is important to note that there are over ONE THOUSAND SPECIAL LEGAL RIGHTS AND BENEFITS accorded to married couples in the U.S. (e.g., inheritance, joint income tax returns, disability benefits, worker's compensation, spousal or child support, insurance benefits, medical leave, bereavement leave, child custody, Social Security and other retirement benefits, power of attorney, hospital visitation, divorce, etc.)

For this reason, it is high time to grant equal marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples nationwide. This is an issue that relates directly to the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. Though marriage has religious connotations, it is primarily a legal institution that licenses and codifies relationships and the rights that go with them. To deny same-sex couples equal marital rights is contrary to basic liberty. That's what America is really supposed to be about: liberty for all; rather than some mindless conformity based on homophobic bigotry. 

The California Supreme Court decision is another important step in the historic and ongoing expansion of civil and human rights in the U.S.   Hopefully, as goes California, so goes the nation.