Without a doubt the hottest legal issue that continues to percolate in our federal Court system is the issue of marriage equality (or, as some term it, “gay marriage”). The rapid transformation of this issue in just the span of less than two years can only be described as breathtaking. Currently as a result of either court rulings, legislative action, or even state initiatives, the number of states that now have true marriage equality and allow same-sex unions is at 30 (out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia). It seems that new ones are being added every day, and the new states are some of the most conservative in the country on this issue — like Utah, Wyoming and Oklahoma.
This is all the more striking when you consider that years ago, every state that had an opportunity to vote on this issue all voted no on marriage equality. And although there had been some outlying state court decisions in the 1990s and 2000s, such as Hawaii and Massachusetts, for the longest time most courts were not willing to stick their neck out for this issue until now. The question is what has changed and why. The two people most responsible for the sudden and gigantic legal shift on this issue are U.S. Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
By the time they had arrived on the Supreme Court, there was a terrible decision on the books called Bowers v. Hardwick from 1986. This decision upheld Alabama’s right to criminalize and throw adults in jail for engaging in consensual sexual activity with another adult. At least one of the justices of the opinion, Justice Lewis Powell, regretted that opinion until the day he died.
Almost 20 years later the virtually identical law (this time from Texas) came before the Supreme Court, and this time the five votes to allow the government’s intrusion into ordinary people’s private affairs had dropped to three, and there were six votes for overturning that law. The seed was planted, and the authority of the government ito regulate who people have relations with was now being threatened. In fact, when Antonin Scalia dissented in the Texas case, he predicted that the opinion’s law and arguments would someday be used to overturn gay marriage bans. He was right.
The reason why the issue is so hotly contested is that there is no one way, or one set of biases, to look at it from. Thus people tend to come up with lots of different arguments. There are of course religious arguments, legal arguments (both for and against), moral arguments and even historical arguments. In my opinion, the reason why the anti-marriage equality cases have been losing almost everywhere is that they are definitely on the weaker side of almost all the arguments.
Most people are familiar with California’s foray into the issue. California’s current lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, used to be the mayor of San Francisco. As the mayor, he made the decision (in his first term) to start issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Extensive litigation over that executory decision resulted in a California Supreme Court decision that allowed same sex couples to get married. For a very short while. Proposition 8 was placed on the ballot in 2008 to overturn the California Supreme Court decision. Prop 8 narrowly passed, but it succeeded in banning same-sex marriage. Then some folks who wanted their right to marry filed suit this time in federal court over Prop 8 and its constitutionality. The lawyers fighting on the side of marriage equality were true titans — Ted Olson and David Boies, who in 2000 had fought on opposite sides over President’s Bush’s election. (Olson won.) If two diametrically opposed legal foes could come together, then maybe the entire country could come together?
At that trial, one of the main arguments advanced by the anti-marriage equality folks were that heterosexual marriages would now be threatened by these gay couple unions. It has always seemed to me that this is an incredibly weak argument. Nobody else’s marriage threatens other people’s marriages. After Kim Kardashian decided to divorce after 72 days of televised bliss, did a bunch of people decide to do the same thing? The other argument is procreation, and this rather doom and gloom scenario that humans will not be reproducing in these marriages. I don’t know if those folks are aware that at least for women science has invented a work around for this problem. Plus: What about elderly people who want to marry later in life. Are we going to ban their unions?
They also often throw out that these new same sex unions will undermine thousands of years of history. Typically the folks making these arguments never check to see if marriage has not evolved over time. The answer is that it absolutely has. Even in America it was acceptable up until 1967 to throw people in jail for being members of a different race and married to each other. It seems that most of these laws and restrictive freedom bans on people’s private matters generate from the South.
Last year the Supreme Court had the opportunity to speak finally on this question of what can the government do to prevent people from marrying members of the same sex. They answered the question, but not definitively. Ironically, they took the case that overturned California’s Prop 8 Ban, which could have been the final say on whether or not a state could ban same sex marriages. They punted on a legal technicality called standing, because California’s government officials refused to defend the ban in court and the person who filed the appeal did not have standing to do so. The other decision they issued that day (Windsor) involved two women who had to resort to marrying in Canada (they were New York citizens), and when one died the federal government wanted taxes that a heterosexual couple would not have had to pay. The surviving spouse sued and won. The Obama Administration had already announced they would not appeal the decision. House Republicans stepped in and failed. (How did they have standing?)
The Windsor decision – and in particular the Scalia dissent – has been used to go to many courts and fight against bans in states whose legislatures would never overturn their bans or amend their constitutions. One of the more provocative arguments made against the anti-marriage equality folks is that this is a constitutional right under the equal protection clause, and because it is a right, you cannot have popular elections where the majority gets to vote on the rights of the minority (Hint: The minority will always lose). That is why they are called rights.
Several of these conservative states that have seen their bans lose time after time in federal court (only a single federal trial court in Louisiana has yet upheld a ban) recently begged the Supreme Court to intervene. It only takes four votes to hear a case (but obviously five to win), so either side could have demanded a hearing, but amazingly they both blinked.
I obviously think the courts have been getting it right, and actually was outspoken on this issue 27 years ago on TV in southern California. There are many reasons I believe this way, but one of the reasons is I think inherent in our core beliefs is that what other people choose to do with their private lives, and who they marry, and who they spend their time with is their business. It is not the government’s business. That consensual behavior and interracial marriage was illegal during my life time shows just how much we have moved as a country on this issue. Besides if you happen to be in the marriage catering/planning business, don’t you want double your customer base? I guarantee you the divorce lawyers are all for this too!
So as I said in the headline, the debate is over. The only question is will there ever be a sweeping ruling from the Supreme Court? Hmmmn, maybe that is why Justice Ginsburg is sticking around, because she wants the chance to write that opinion. Or will the Court just allow the lower Courts to handle the issue. The Kennedy/Ginsburg view has won almost in every court, often with Republican-appointed Judges joining in. Why change what is working?
Humboldt County Superior Court Calendar: Today
Mattole Rd / Sr211 (Garberville office): Trfc Collision-Unkn Inj
Harrold St / E Harding Ave (HM office): Trfc Collision-No Inj
Briceland Thorne X Dewitt Snp (HM office): Trfc Collision-No Inj
Lumberjack News: No Quiet on the Quad
KINS: Sam Pennisi – CC102414
KINS: PM News 102414
Andrew Goff / Today @ 8:57 a.m. / Traffic
(Photos courtesy of LoCO superfriend Bob Pagliuco; video via James Shepherd)
LoCO is piecing together information about a pursuit that occurred this morning near the Highway 101/Highway 299 interchange involving multiple law enforcement vehicles and a man wearing a backwards baseball cap defiantly piloting a golf cart. The following is a thrown together timeline utilizing various reader reports.
Via Greg Gehr: “One of the CHP was trying to get in front of the golf cart and stop it because it didn’t appear to want to stop.”
Via Cerise Ibach: “Was on my way to HSU a few minutes ago and drove by a pretty funny scene. I was heading southbound on the 101 when the CHP came up behind me. The whole freeway was going pretty slow and at the 299 intersection, there was a golf cart being driven up the offramp. CHP was following and they wound up heading east on on 299 westbound. Driving into Arcata there were a few more law-enforcement vehicles headed that way. I just hope they don’t shoot that guy.”
Via James Shepherd: “The guy running from the cops in a golf cart on the freeway ended up in the ditch near the mill yard where I work and got tackled by cops.”
LoCO will update this post when we know more. Please always operate golf carts responsibly.
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UPDATE, 2:07 p.m.: CHP weighs in on golf cart guy:
In the early morning hours of October 24, 2014, 35 year old Cory Pearson, a PRCS parolee, reportedly stole a golf cart from the Sun Valley Bulb Farm in Arcata. Pearson, while under the influence of methamphetamine, was driving the stolen golf cart on Lamphere Road in Arcata.
At 7:46 am, Pearson stopped the golf cart in front of a residence and began ramming the front of the golf cart into the rear of a parked car. Witnesses reported this to CHP and gave a good direction of travel and description as Pearson fled the scene.
CHP Officers responded to the area and began looking for the golf cart. Reports to CHP dispatch led officers to locate the golf cart at 8:14 a.m. as it entered southbound US-101 from Giuntoli Lane. CHP positioned their patrol vehicles behind the golf cart with emergency lights and sirens on. Pearson attempted to evade the officer at speeds of 10 miles per hour as he drove the golf cart in the southbound lanes, center median, and shoulder of US-101. At the US-101 / State Route 299 junction, Pearson drove onto eastbound State Route 299 prior to the Giuntoli Lane over-crossing. Pearson attempted to escape by abandoning the golf cart and fleeing on foot. CHP Officers were able to catch Pearson within seconds.
Pearson was taken into custody and booked into the Humboldt County Jail on charges including felony vehicle theft, felony drug influence, and evading police. Neither CHP nor Pearson were injured in this incident and no weapons were used.
Kym Kemp / Today @ 7:52 a.m. / News
UPDATE 9:41 a.m.: The Avenue is now clear in both areas. Yeah, Caltrans!
UPDATE 9:00 a.m.: According to Caltrans’ spokesperson Eli Rohl, “There are two trees down - the first one up at [post mile] 39 and another near [post mile] 18.” One tree fall causing a partial closure is by Holmes. It is north of Weott. The second, as posted earlier, is a full closure south of Weott. The northern tree fall should be cleared by 10:30, Rohl said. At this point, the southern tree fall has no estimated time for being cleared. Caltrans is sending crews to the site to clear it as soon as possible.
UPDATE 8:41 a.m.: Caltrans estimates the closure will last one to two hours.
Original post: According to CHP dispatch a tree has fallen across Hwy 254 (the Avenue of the Giants.) The tree is across both lanes south of Weott. Follow updates here.
Kym Kemp / Yesterday @ 3:43 p.m. / Crime
Eureka Police Department press release:
The Eureka Police Department’s third quarter crime totals for 2014 have been recorded. Violent crime in Eureka is down 57% this quarter while property crime is up nearly 11% compared to the third quarter of 2013.
Overall there has been a 3.8% increase in crime since this time last year. Comparing crime data has allowed our department to identify a recent spike in residential burglaries and extra efforts are being directed to reduce those numbers. We are concerned property crime is up and we will continue to enlist the community’s help.
“We are elated that violent crime is down 57% this quarter, but we will continue to monitor these trends over an extended period of time,” said Chief Mills.
The Eureka Police Department hopes that sharing this information will drive a greater awareness of crime and demonstrate our desire to work with the community.
The attached two graphs show the violent and property crime totals since January 2013.
Kym Kemp / Yesterday @ 1:51 p.m. / marijuana
Left to Right: Ian Henry and Jacob Swagert
Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office press release:
On 10-22-2014, at approximately 7:00 p.m., a Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Deputy stopped a red GMC pickup truck for a traffic violation on Glendale Road at State Route 299, Blue Lake. After the deputy stopped the truck, he spoke with the driver who was identified as Jacob Paul Swagert, 25 years old from Eureka. Swagert told the deputy he did not his driver’s license with him. A check with dispatch confirmed Swagert’s driver’s license was suspended and Swagert was on probation. A male passenger in Swagerts truck was identified as Ian Henry, 24 years old, from Arcata. The deputy learned Henry was also on probation. The deputy searched the truck and located over two pounds of marijuana bud behind the driver’s seat, along with indications of sales of marijuana. Henry claimed responsibility for the marijuana.
Swagert was arrested for driving on a suspended license and violation of probation. Henry was arrested for violation of probation, possession of more than an ounce of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale and transportation of marijuana. Both were transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility and booked. Swagert was booked and released on his own recognizance; Henry’s bail was set at $25,000.00.
Anyone with information for the Sheriffs Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriffs Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.
Andrew Goff / Yesterday @ 1:08 p.m. / Flatmo’d!
In this edition of Flatmo’d — your Lost Coast Outpost‘s ever expanding coaster scribble museum collecting the works of future Simpsons star Duane Flatmo — our man highlights oft-overlooked, visionary ice architecture from one of the 20th century’s greatest painters.
Andrew Goff / Yesterday @ 11:55 a.m. / Weather
You like this rain, HumCo? Total buckets, right? So good.
Except “buckets” isn’t an actual metric, sadly. Thus, KHUM’s Cliff Berkowitz rang up the National Weather Service’s Reg Kennedy out there at Woodley Island to get a better idea of where we stand as far as our local sky water accumulation. If you can believe it, seems that we are a little above normal since September, though we are still technically in a drought.
Listen to Berkowitz and Kennedy talk about the weather in the interview below: