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Archive for the ‘Gender Issues’ Category

“Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”

George Wallace 1963 Inaugural Address

Today, it is 2015.  We should be well beyond this bigoted phrase.  However, we have not passed beyond the world of bigotry and hate.  Government officials in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, among others, have taken up this mantra.  The only difference is that they are now wrapping themselves in the hatred of religion.  Or, I should probably say they are wrapping themselves in the false Religion of Hate!

Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was constitutionally protected in all 50 states.  Even before this decision, the Religion of Hate was busy passing laws that would deny same-sex couples the right to marry and/or get services from private business to celebrate their marriages.

This Religion of Hate came to us under the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” laws they passed.  According to these laws, if you wish to discriminate against same-sex couples, all you have to do is say “I have a deeply held religious belief” against them.  That makes everything perfectly legal for you to discriminate against anyone you wish.

During the Civil Rights era, we heard the same stupid arguments about segregation that we are hearing now about same-sex marriage.  It was “God’s Will” that the races be separated.  They used that wonderful phrase from the bible that said “each shall seek their own.”  It was nothing more than Religion of Hate and it was endorsed by many politicians like George Wallace.

The Attorney General of Texas has openly said that county clerks in his state do not have to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples if they don’t want to.  They are being allowed to break their Oath of Office with his blessing.  He even said there are hundreds of lawyers who are willing to defend these oath breakers, many pro-bono.  How nice.  The Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, has just joined the long list of bigots in political power like George Wallace.

Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee has said that clerks should “resist” this ruling.  He is calling for “civil disobedience” by pubic officials because he believes the court “overstepped” its bounds and “created a civil right that does not exist.”

First, the court did not “create” anything.  This ruling came about because someone challenged the same-sex marriage ban in their state as being unconstitutional.  They argued that these bans denied them “equal protection under the law.”  The court simply agreed with their argument and said that the laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

Second, there was nothing in the Supreme Court’s ruling that said that ONLY same-sex marriages were protected.  They did not ban heterosexual marriages.  They did not say that a Roman Catholic Priest MUST marry a same-sex couple.  This was a ruling that declared same-sex civil marriages have the same legal rights as heterosexual marriages.

No one lost any civil rights in this case.  No one has suffered any harm in this case.  No one has been allowed to “attack” Christians in this case.  To the contrary, all this case did was ensure same-sex couples have the same civil rights as everyone else.

But, when you subscribe to the Religion of Hate, you are expected to deny civil rights to those terrible “others.”  You are expected to be able to deny dignity to people of religions that do not subscribe to the Religion of Hate.  You are expected to claim that you are the ones under attack even though you have not been affected at all.

There have been a lot of instances of hate in our country.  We have endured the evil of slavery.  We have endured the evil of the Jim Crow laws.  We have endured bigotry against Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists.  We have seen the Religion of Hate preached from church pulpits and state houses and even the halls of Congress.

The real unfortunate part of this narrative, is that the Republican Party has endorsed this Religion of Hate.  Where are the other Republicans bashing their right-wing nuts?  Where are the complaints from other Republicans that these members of the Religion of Hate are not speaking for the party?  You don’t hear any of that because the party as a whole has endorsed, and placed its political future, with the Religion of Hate.

The Religion of Hate says that marriage was defined by God as between one man and one woman.  A few weeks ago, I saw a church sign at an Episcopal Church, I don’t remember where it was located, that read:

There are thousands of Christians that are homosexual.  Get over it!  God

We need to see more signs like that one.

All of this hate speech from people like Paxton, Cruz, Gohmert, Huckabee, Jindal, and the rest of the so-called “Christian Right” only proves how un-Christian these nuts are.  They do not subscribe to the religion of Christianity.  They do not subscribe to any religion that teaches tolerance and love.  No, they are the new purveyors of the Religion of Hate.

Even non-believers know that Jesus taught love.  He taught tolerance.  He taught not to judge others.  His was a religion of peace, tolerance, and love.  Three things that were basically unheard of at the time.  That is why I can say absolutely that Conservative Christians are NOT Christians at all.

They are simply bigots, racists, and haters.  They are nothing more, and nothing less.  That is the religion they want to force on everyone else.  As the song said:

Go ahead and hate your neighbor.  Go ahead and cheat a friend.  Do it in the name of heaven.  You can justify it in the end.  There won’t be any trumpets blowing, come the judgment day.

Is there anything more evil than the Conservative Christian’s “Religion of Hate?”

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All I can say is this has been some week.  We have seen everything from the sublime to the horrific.  We have seen mass murder by a white supremacist in Charleston, SC.  We have seen terrorist attacks in France, Tunisia and other places in the world.  We hear that “abstinence only advocate” Bristol Palin is still unmarried yet pregnant again.  We have seen the Supreme Court rule against conservatives in the Affordable Care Act.  And now, we see the Supreme Court rule that same-sex marriage is constitutionally protected.

I don’t know how to classify this week.  It has been a tragedy for sure.  But, it has also produced groundbreaking rulings from the Supreme Court.  There is so much to talk about, it is hard to pick and choose which topic should make it today.

I have decided that the wacko reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the same-sex case merits the most ink right now.  Not because the other items are not important, they are, but because I have not seen so much hate and bigotry openly spouted from conservative mouths since the 60s.  In his descent, Scalia said to “ask a hippie.”  I openly admit that I am a hippie.

If Scalia were to ask my opinion, I would say that he does not understand just what the Constitution of the United States is about.  The Constitution is not, and never was, intended to use religious beliefs to create the “law of the land.”  He also said this decision was a blow against democracy.  However, he misses the point that the Supreme Court was established for the sole purpose of determining which laws are and are not constitutional.

It has always been the duty of the Supreme Court to state which laws are unconstitutional when they turn out to be prejudicial against minorities.  Democracy, in order to work properly, needs “checks and balances” to ensure equal treatment under the law for everyone and not just those whom a majority believe deserves those protections.

This ruling by the Supreme Court has done exactly that.  It has decided that banning same-sex marriages denies equal protection under the law for a specific minority in this country.  That is unconstitutional!  I might suggest that Scalia take some refresher courses in Constitutional Law.

One of the biggest arguments is that the states should “define” marriage.  That may sound good, but there are federal issues at stake as well.  Remember, same-sex couples who have not been recognized or allowed to marry in those states that banned it are not protected when their partner dies.  Even if the will of the partner states the other is to inherit everything, the federal government can only give spousal relief and deductions to the Estate Tax if they are legally recognized as being married.  This goes for Social Security benefits as well.

A lot of this started because a woman sued because she was required to pay huge estate taxes when her partner died.  They were legally married, but the state they lived in did not recognize that marriage.  Therefore, the survivor was liable for Estate Taxes in the thousands of dollars.

Another factor deals with visitation and legal representation for terminally ill patients.  Same-sex couples in states that banned same-sex marriage were denied these rights by hospitals.  Even when a living will said the person’s partner could make a call on when to terminate life-support, if the state did not recognize that same-sex marriage, that right was taken away from the partner.

As a result, allowing states to define marriage, takes away these legal protections from same-sex couples.  That is not only wrong, it is unconstitutional.  That is one of the things this court ruling is about.

But, Scalia is just the tip of the iceberg.  The rest of the right-wing are all on oxygen bottles right now.  Their hysteria is liable to cause arteries to explode all across Conservative America.  America’s Crazy Uncle Louie Gohmert even says this ruling will cause our country to suffer major attacks because “God will remove his protective hand from America.”

I don’t believe in God’s wrath, but using his own words, maybe Crazy Uncle Louis should be asking if the flooding, drought, and other natural disasters in his own state may be because God is mad at Texas for being so bigoted towards their fellow humans.   Texas leads the nation in uninsured, restrictive voting rights, anti-Latino legislation, anti-immigrant policies, anti-women issues, and lots more.  Maybe Crazy Uncle Louie should be asking God’s forgiveness for his intolerance and using God’s name to justify it!

The list of crazies goes on.  The Canadian Senator Ted Cruz thinks we should elect the Supreme Court justices.  Mike Huckabee thinks we are on the road to a “Banana Republic.”  And Scott Walker is still trying to figure out a way to get around this ruling and ban same-sex marriages in Wisconsin.

The arguments these lunatics put forth are simply idiotic.  They claim that same-sex marriage is an attack on “traditional marriage.”  Just how it is an attack they never say.  We have had same-sex marriages for several years in some states, and I still haven’t heard of a single case where a “traditional marriage” couple got a divorce simply because two gays got married together.

Mike Huckabee even went so far as to say that this ruling is a “slap in the face to traditional married couples.”  Well, I am in a “traditional marriage” and have been for decades.  I do not feel like I have been slapped in the face.  Nor do I feel threatened because same-sex couples want to get married.

The biggest argument against same-sex marriage is always based in religious beliefs.  Crazy Uncle Louie says that one man and one women marriages are “biblical.”  So is polygamy.  How many wives did King Saul have?  Which “biblical” marriage is Crazy Uncle Louie in favor of allowing?

All of this is nonsense of course.  None of these arguments or sound-bites have any real meaning or reason why same-sex marriages should be banned.  All this ruling has really done is unloose the bigotry and hatred these people really hold for fellow human beings.

It has allowed the true bigots in government to show their true colors.  And, I am sure that it will get worse.  You will see more states pass things like “opt out” laws that allow government employees to discriminate against same-sex marriage by refusing to issue a marriage license based on “religious grounds.”

As I have written before, this ruling is proving just how tyrannical the conservative movement in this country really is.  They are not interested in the Constitution.  They are not interested in the rule of law.  They are only interested in controlling everyone else’s lives.  They want the power to say what is and isn’t legal.  They want the power to say who can and cannot be married.  They want the power to dictate how we each are to live our lives.

They are not interested in democracy.  They are not interested in anything except their own power.  Remember, this court has a conservative majority.  Yet, when the court handed down it’s ruling, the first thing out of conservative mouths is that this court is “making laws.”  No, they are not making laws.  They are determining which laws are and/or are not constitutional.  In other words, they did their job.

But, in case you haven’t noticed.  The really scary part about all of this hysteria is that it is coming from every single Republican Presidential hopeful.  And, if you think their bigotry won’t affect you, think again.  Bigotry is never satisfied.  You may be their next target.

 

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On Monday morning, there was a completely odd interview or “conversation” on race.  As you might expect, it took place on Fox News “Fox and Friends.”  I guess it may not be all that odd since the people they were talking to was Erick Erickson and talk radio show host Richard Fowler.

However, even for these folks, it really got bizarre.  They started discussing whether racism was a “mental health issue” or just plain “evil.”  As such, you know they don’t believe that the Republican base is racist since they do not suffer from “mental health issues” or are just plain “evil.”

On Friday, Erickson wrote a piece that blamed the Charleston massacre on America’s inability to confront the fact that certain people — among them, Caitlyn Jenner — are mentally ill, and should be called out as such.  “A society that looks at a 65-year-old male Olympian and, with a straight face, declares him a her and ‘a new normal’ cannot have a conversation about mental health or evil because that society no longer distinguishes normal from crazy and evil from good,” he wrote.

Of course, Doocy just couldn’t resist bouncing off that comment.  He asked Fowler and Erickson whether “the real problem with our culture [is] that we cannot label mental health as an issue because we have accepted too many ‘eccentricities’ as normal.”

Erickson agreed by again linking transgender identity with evil, saying that “we can no longer label mental health issues, we can no longer label evil as ‘evil’ — we try to explain around that and immediately move to the political solution.”

According to Erickson, we shouldn’t be asking GOP potential nominees questions about mental health or evil either as that would “politicize” the issues.  Even though both agreed that the suspect in the church killings was a racist and a terrorist, we shouldn’t be talking about it being a mental health issue, because the suspect isn’t mentally ill.

That leaves us with talking about the “evil” portion of the equation.  But, according to Erickson if we try that, it will just go around to “gun control.”  So, let’s take into consideration several items about pure “evil.”  Do you know that more people are killed in the nation by gun violence than traffic accidents?  Do you know that about 99% of all serial killers or mass murders are white?  I would put that into the category of “evil.”

On the other hand, racism is pure “evil” as well.  There is no other explanation for it.  It started in this country when we began importing slaves to work the plantations in the south.  The simple fact that some believed that it was okay to own fellow humans is nothing short of pure “evil.”

The Civil War was fought with slavery as the backdrop.  Ever since the Civil War, there have been “evil” people in politics that wanted to keep segregation alive and well.  The Jim Crow laws are a perfect example.  The term of “equal but separate” in my interpretation is “evil.”  Denying people their civil rights based on anything other than common law is pure “evil.”  That is what Jim Crow laws did.

Today, we see additional examples of “evil” in our world and politics.  Denying people the right to marry and give them the same rights that other married people have, is “evil.”  Denying a person without a Photo ID card that perfectly matches everything else, is “evil.”  Denying women the same pay for the same work as men do is “evil.”

Allowing mentally ill people and criminals to purchase guns without having to go through a background check is “evil” since it puts guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t own them.  Lumping all members of certain religions as all being terrorists is “evil.”  Denying women to make their own choices about their own health is “evil.”

If the right wants to hold a conversation about evil, let’s have that conversation.  But, they don’t want that conversation either.  Why?  Because it is their policies that I am calling evil.  You cannot have a meaningful discussion about evil if the other side is endorsing policies that most reasonable people find evil.

All of this talk by Erickson and the rest of the right-wing is just a smoke screen so they can continue on their evil progression of taking rights away from everyone but themselves.  This incident even brought up the old argument about the Confederate Flag again.  Lindsey Graham, a Presidential Candidate, says that “it is part of who we are.”

That may be true.  But, I am sure that Lindsey Graham would be screaming at the top of his lungs if the government of Nuremberg, Germany started flying the Swastika over its government buildings.  After all Lindsey, it is “part of who they are.”  I have said for many years, the Confederate Flag is a symbol of “pure evil.”  It is time it goes away, except for maybe some history museums.

The biggest problem with the right-wing is that they not only want to “pick and choose” the parts of the Constitution they want to believe in, they also want to define what is evil and what is not.  If you are a transgender, you are evil.  If you are gay, you are evil.  If you support political policies that deny groups of people their civil rights, you are not evil.

No matter how you paint your picture, racism is pure evil.  Until the right begins to understand that, we will never get away from it.

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The other day, the U.S. Supreme Court actually shocked me!  That is hard to do in most cases.  However, taking into consideration the conservative view of the current majority of the court, this one actually shocked me.  In case you haven’t heard, the court ruled not to review North Carolina’s Ultrasound Law.

A lower court and then the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law earlier.  This law was one of those draconian laws that forced women who wanted an abortion to go through an ultrasound with the doctor required to read a script detailing what she was seeing.  It didn’t matter of the woman wanted the ultrasound, or even wanted to hear what the doctor told her.  It didn’t matter if the doctor was against this procedure and script reading either.  If the doctor failed to follow the law to the letter, that doctor risked losing his license to practice medicine.

Handing down its decision, the Fourth Circuit stated:

Informed consent frequently consists of a fully-clothed conversation between the patient and physician, often in the physician’s office. It is driven by the “patient’s particular needs and circumstances” … so that the patient receives the information he or she wants in a setting that promotes an informed and thoughtful choice. This provision, however, finds the patient half-naked or disrobed on her back on an examination table, with an ultrasound probe either on her belly or inserted into her vagina… Informed consent has not generally been thought to require a patient to view images from his or her own body much less in a setting in which personal judgment may be altered or impaired. Yet this provision requires that she do so or “avert her eyes.”

Rather than engaging in a conversation calculated to inform, the physician must continue talking regardless of whether the patient is listening… The information is provided irrespective of the needs or wants of the patient, in direct contravention of medical ethics and the principle of patient autonomy. Forcing this experience on a patient over her objections in this manner interferes with the decision of a patient not to receive information that could make an indescribably difficult decision even more traumatic and could “actually cause harm to the patient.” … And it is intended to convey not the risks and benefits of the medical procedure to the patient’s own health, but rather the full weight of the state’s moral condemnation.

This refusal to review the case by SCOTUS is a potential major blow to the anti-choice forces.  One of the key elements of their fight against choice has just been rendered illegal.  There are several states that still have such laws on their books.  And, you can be sure they won’t go down without more legal wrangling.

The Republican base is all for telling people what to do and how to act.  We have seen this nonsense in various forms of stupid laws and legal wrangling in the last several years.  Besides this draconian law, the conservative base of the Republican Party wants to be the sole determining source for many of life’s biggest decisions.

Remember the fight in Florida about when a woman could be taken off of life support?  That was a huge political issue.  Remember the brain-dead woman in Texas that was kept on life-support simply because she was pregnant?  Remember the cases in Tennessee where women were charged with murder of an infant because they had a miscarriage?  These cases were all determined by conservative laws that tell the average person only the conservatives in this country have the right to make decisions for them.

The other factor that no one talks about in these types of cases is fiscal.  The states tell you what you may or may not do, and if you decide to go against them they tell you that you have to undergo very expensive medical procedures before you can go ahead with your decision.  Yet, even though you are forced to undergo these procedures, you are still stuck with the bill.

In the cases in Florida and Texas, the state did not “pick up the bill” for the added useless medical treatment they forced on these women.  None of the states that require an ultrasound prior to an abortion pick up the tab for that procedure either.  The patient and their families are required to pay for these procedures even if they don’t want them.

Let’s be honest, none of these procedures are cheap!  Unfortunately, this type of stupid law may not be limited to stupid conservative states.  Scott Walker is Governor of Wisconsin and is running for President.  Wisconsin passed a similar law to the one in North Carolina that was just struck down.  He said of his law:

I’ll give you an example. I’m pro-life, I’ve passed pro-life legislation. We defunded Planned Parenthood, we signed a law that requires an ultrasound. Which, the thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea. Most people I talk to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time who’ll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, you know we still have their first ultrasound picture. It’s just a cool thing out there.

We just knew if we signed that law, if we provided the information, that more people if they saw that unborn child would, would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child.

Yes, the Governor thinks these ultrasounds are “a cool thing.”  But, he also tells you exactly why forced ultrasounds are necessary.  To convince women NOT to have an abortion.  No other reason, just to make women change their minds.

This is the kind of country we are potentially facing.  One where the government will decide what is “moral” and what is not.  If they consider something “amoral” based on its narrow interpretation of some ancient book, then they will tell you what you can and cannot do.  One thing fascists all around the world throughout history has advocated for is that women have as many children as possible.  It is the only way to ensure enough “soldiers” to fight their wars of aggression.

Maybe it is time to ask if these laws forcing people to undergo treatment they don’t want is really a step in that direction?  Thankfully, at least for now, the courts, including SCOTUS says this kind of law is illegal.  Maybe, just maybe, that is a step away from Republican interference in our personal lives.

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There is a new budget proposal that Republicans are saying will save the government $4 Billion dollars.  They claim this money should be used for “more important programs” that will benefit the American People.  Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole said:  “This is a fiscally responsible bill that reduces discretionary spending by nearly $4 billion.  At the same time, by carefully reprioritizing where taxpayer dollars are spent, the bill increases funding for important programs that benefit the American people.”

That all sounds great.  Except, there is a major problem with Cole’s statement, and the proposal being put forth.  This “savings” will be at the expense of 4.7 million low-income people who rely on Title X for their preventative health services.  What it essentially does is kill Title X by taking away all of its funding.

Title X became official in 1970, under that great Republican Richard Nixon.  It helps connect these 4.7 million Americans to things like pap smears, cancer screenings, STD tests, birth control and counseling about how to space out pregnancies and plan for the families they want.  Title X was instituted for women who are not eligible for Medicaid and cannot afford to see a doctor.

In many cases, the services they receive at Title X clinics are literally life-saving.  “For many of these women and men, a Title X-funded health center is their only access point to the health system and the only health care they receive all year,” Clare Coleman, president & CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said in a statement on the proposal.

But, in their current fever of denying poor people the Republicans on the Labor, Health and Human Services subcommittee say this is “discretionary” spending that the country can do without.  Besides including language to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, the language they put in this proposal is outright dreadful.  They added language that would eliminate Title X funding unless the program meets a certain ideological (read: abstinence-focused) criteria:

None of the funds appropriated in this Act may be made available to any entity under title X of the PHS Act unless the applicant for the award certifies to the Secretary that it encourages family participation in the decision of minors to seek family planning services and that it provides counseling to minors on how to resist attempts to coerce minors into engaging in sexual activities.

But just to make sure you have no control over your health care, they added other wording that allows your school or boss to determine which forms of contraception or other health care procedure you can be covered under because they man they may not like them:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, no provision of this title (and no amendment made by any such provision) shall… require a sponsor (or, in the case of health insurance coverage offered to students through an institution of higher education, the institution of higher education offering such coverage) to sponsor, purchase, or provide any health benefits coverage or group health plan that includes coverage of an abortion or other item or service to which such sponsor or institution, respectively, has a moral or religious objection, or prevent an issuer from offering or issuing to such sponsor or institution, respectively, health insurance coverage that excludes such item or service.

The other thing that these Republicans have failed to recognize, is the financial benefits to the government, especially state governments that eliminating Title X funding will have.  According to the Guttmacher Institute, each dollar invested in Title X saves $3.80 in Medicaid expenses related to pregnancy and childbirth.  In other words, this $4 Billion spent each year results in a return of over $12 Billion.

Another Guttmacher analysis found that the services provided by Kansas’ Title X clinics in 2010 helped save the state more than $61,000,000 in public funds. “That accounts for savings from reduced maternity and birth-related costs, along with reduced costs related to miscarriage and abortion and savings related to [sexually transmitted infection] screening and cervical cancer prevention services,” according to the report.

In other words, it could easily be argued that Title X funding contributes to “family values” that Republicans are always claiming to support.  Yet, they are very willing to eliminate the program all together.  One can only ask, why?  Is it because they have an aversion to helping low-income women?  Is it because they are more interested in saving money than lives?  Or, is it simply they want to control your life?

I have said before I believe they simply want to control your life!  There is no other explanation for these constant attacks against programs like Title X.  Or, allowing your boss to decide what type of health care you are allowed to have under their plains.  Or, allowing your boss to decide if you actually need birth control, and what forms they are willing to let you use.

Low-income people will be hurt dramatically by these proposed cuts.  It is almost like the Republicans, led by Rep. Cole are setting up their own “death squads” when it comes to health care.  If you deny people access to preventative medicine, they are more likely to die form something that could have been prevented.

This is just another case of those “god fearing, good Christians” denying those in need the services they require.  How very Christ-like of them.

 

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Every person who serves in public office, a judgeship, or any other government job is required to take an Oath of Office.  That Oath of Office varies depending on which position you are going to serve in.  When I joined the Coast Guard all those years ago, I took an Oath as well.

In that Oath, I swore to “defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  I also swore to uphold all “legal commands” issued by senior authority and uphold the laws of the U.S.  This oath has been issued to service members for as long as I can remember, and far longer than that.

Even the President of the United States is required to take an oath as well.  I don’t know of a single position in federal, state, county, or local employment that is not required to take a similar oath.  These oaths are designed to ensure that all employees of the government are sworn to uphold the laws they are to serve.

That is until now.  In North Carolina, there was a law passed that was vetoed by the Governor, and then overridden by the State Legislature that allows Magistrates to disobey the law.  This is being dressed up under the guise of “religious liberty.”  But, in essence, Magistrates in North Carolina are allowed by law to violate the very laws they have sworn to uphold.

The law is known as SB2.  We all know that Gov. McCrory is a total nut-job himself.  However, even he was smart enough to veto the law when it was first passed.  SB2 states:  “Every magistrate has the right to recuse from performing all lawful marriages under this Chapter based on sincerely held religious objection.”  Note this particular part, the emphasis will be mine:  all lawful marriages.”  That is correct, a Magistrate can now recuse from performing all lawful marriages just by saying he has religious objection against it.

Now, we all know that this is intended to stop same-sex marriages.  But, the Legislature knows very well that would immediately draw a court objection striking it down since it would limit the action to only “some” marriages.  This law has more far-reaching consequences than you may think.

Just as an example, a Magistrate is Catholic.  That Magistrate does not believe in divorce and re-marriage.  As a result, that Magistrate could “recuse” himself from issuing a marriage license and performing a marriage that involves a couple where at least one of them was divorced.  Although this marriage is “legal” the Magistrate is allowed to take it upon himself to not perform said service.

This can run the whole gamut.  Inter-racial marriages, same-sex marriages, inter-faith marriage, all of which are “legal” but not recognized by certain “religious beliefs.”  What about a Magistrate who believes in polygamy?  That Magistrate  can now deny to perform a monogamous marriage based on his “religious beliefs.

You may read this and think I am being insane.  But, what would have happened back in 1967 when the Supreme Court decided Loving v. Virginia. It was in Loving—decided 48 years ago —that the court ruled it unconstitutional for states to prevent mixed-race marriages.  If SB2 had been on the books back then, a Magistrate could have denied to marry any inter-racial couple.

If you think I am kidding, in 1976, Carol Ann and Thomas Person, she white and he black, walked into their local courthouse in North Carolina to get their marriage license.  As she recently told the story in a column in the Raleigh News & Observer, the magistrate said no. A second magistrate on duty said the same thing, and one of them “took out a Bible and began to lecture us about their religious views and why Thomas and I should not be together.” This was nearly a full decade after Loving.

Religious Freedom is supposed to mean that you may believe or not believe in any form of religion you choose.  The one part of American History that the Conservative Christian Cult fail to remember is that the many of our Founding Fathers were not Christian as we now say.  They were Deists.  These included such figures as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and others.  Deists believed in the existence of god.  But, they did not believe in the story of Genesis.  They held that god started the universe and sat back and let nature take its course.  They did not believe in god’s interference in day-to-day life.

Since most of these Founding Fathers who were Deists were also member of the Free Mason’s it stands they would hold such beliefs.  In order to be a member of the Free Masons, you must believe in a god.  They call that god the “Great Architect”.  But, Free Masons do not necessarily follow normal Christianity.

As a result, our Founding Fathers put into our Constitution the Separation of Church and State.  They founded a “secular” form of government.  Democracy can only exist as a secular government.  Once Religion is brought into government, Democracy ceases to exist and you fall back to Theocracies that masquerade as Monarchies.  That was the one thing our Founding Fathers did not want to happen here.

As I wrote before, bigotry will not simply die and go away.  It must rear its ugly head and make life miserable for everyone.  Laws like SB2 are perfect examples of bigotry rearing its ugly head.  This law serves no purpose except to allow individual bigotry to invade the public trust.  It is allowing Magistrates to hide behind their religious bigotry and deny people “legal marriages” simply because they don’t agree with the couple wishing to be married.

It took until 1960 until a Catholic was elected President.  The primary rally against a Catholic becoming the President was because Protestants believed that a Catholic President would “take his orders from the Pope.”  John Kennedy needed to give his infamous speech telling the country that he was American first and that his religion would not hinder his allegiance to America.

Today, that “fear” has been turned on its head.  More than once, during an election cycle, I have been handed a list of candidates from people I knew.  They told me that I needed to vote for this slate of candidates because they were the “most God-fearing Christians” running for office.  These candidates were suppose to make sure God’s law was America’s law.  I don’t think I need say I did not vote for any of them.

Which brings me back to the main point.  Should a person’s Religious Belief trump their Oath of Office?  I say absolutely not!  When I took my oath, there was nothing that said “unless you have a religious belief against it.”  Neither should any other oath taken by any public official.

By not performing “legal” marriages in North Carolina, a Magistrate is violating that oath of office.  That Magistrate is supposed to “serve all of the citizens of North Carolina.”  They are bound by the State Constitution to do so.  If a Magistrate is so against performing “legal” marriages for whatever reason, he should resign his post.

In all honesty, if such a law were passed at the Federal Level, I would not hesitate to call it treasonous!  If you choose to work for a government, you are choosing to serve the people represented by that government.  Your religious beliefs have nothing to do with how you carry out your duties.  You are obligated to uphold all legal orders.

This law is a perfect example of how the right-wing is perverting our laws.  They are openly defying the very “law of the land”, the Constitution, that they claim they want to defend.  And, as I wrote before, this is how Fascism begins.

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We are about half way through the year.  The Presidential election process for 2016 is underway with a myriad of candidates.  The budget is supposedly being worked out and there are a lot of questions which the budget could answer, but probably won’t.

A few years ago, sequester became a reality.  Mitch McConnell has claimed that was a major victory for the Republican Party.  But, as always, things have changed since then.  We have seen the rise if ISIS in the middle-east.  We have seen the Ukraine problems and Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.

These have all sent the war hawks into a tizzy.  They ask: “How are we expected to fight all these things with the Defense Department hampered by sequester?”  So, the new budget being proposed by Republicans in Congress will increase the Department of Defense budget by about 9 percent.

Unfortunately, that increase isn’t really going into the Defense Budget.  It is a gimmick where the money is going into a special fund used to “fight wars.”  That is a whopping $38 Billion dollars.  In the meantime, non-defense spending is supposed to remain under sequester.

We have seen a tragic accident on Amtrak.  Yet, under a bill just passed by the House, Amtrak’s budget is going to be cut by $242 million.  TSA has made the headlines because of failed tests of the screening they do at airports.  Yet, under sequestration, the TSA budget has been regularly cut.

Since the report of the tests became public, Republicans, the very party that insisted on TSA in the first place, now say it would be more efficient to turn it back over to the same private security that failed on 9/11.  By the way, when a Republican says something would be more “efficient” what they are really saying is “cheaper.”

In the past few years, we have seen bigotry raise its ugly head again.  It isn’t just about black and white anymore either.  It is about sexual orientation, it is about immigration, it is about women’s rights.  The same Republican Party that claims to defend the Constitution is working tirelessly to void rights to these groups of people simply because they are different.

If you just look at immigration, you can see the total hypocrisy in their arguments.  People like Ann Coulter say immigration, of any kind, should be stopped.  She doesn’t just hate undocumented immigrants, she hates legal immigrants, too.  Yet she is more than happy to show up on an immigrants news network to spew forth her hatred for immigrants.  Yes, I am talking about Fox News which is owned by an immigrant.

Since the 1970s we have seen our infrastructure start falling apart.  Our roads are overcrowded and dangerous.  Our bridges are collapsing underneath us.  Our dams are in danger of collapse.  Our electrical grid is antiquated and just waiting for the next trigger to cause a major blackout.

For example, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower wanted, and got passed the Interstate Highway System.  He used public money and said it was for Defense purposes.  Having such a highway system, he argued would make it easier to transport troops in times of need.  Yet, that very highway structure supposed to make it easier to transport troops is so overburdened that it almost useless.

Additionally, our railroad system is suspect as well.  Look at all of the train derailments we have had just in the last couple of years.  This country lags the rest of the developed world in high-speed rail systems.  As a matter of fact, we DON’T HAVE a high-speed rail system.  These all hurt our economy as well.  We don’t transport our goods as fast as we should.

To make matters worse the only export business being conducted by our corporations, supported by Republican policies, is to export our jobs to China and other foreign countries.  All the while taking advantage of tax loopholes in the tax code so they don’t have to pay any taxes in this country.  Over half of the Fortune 500 companies in this country pay nothing in taxes!

We lead the developed world in the number of uninsured people, even with the Affordable Care act.  We are at the bottom of the developed world in terms of pensions and care for our retired people.  And, we are forced to work longer, because of our poor pensions, than anyone in the developed world.

The EPA is, as usual, under fire because it wants to do its job and protect our drinking water and the air we breath.  It wants to protect our planet’s climate.  Republicans claim climate change is a hoax.  Yet, the one department’s budget they want to defend the most, the Defense Department, has said that climate change is a severe threat to our national security!

Yet, all of these things are being sacrificed in the name of the Defense Budget.  We must remember, as Republicans tell us, we live in very dangerous times.  We must be prepared to defend ourselves from those evil people in the world.  That may all be true.  But, as a veteran, I am compelled to ask a simple question.  What exactly are we defending?

Why should anyone be willing to put their lives on the line for a country that treats its own people like they are the enemy?  Why should anyone be willing to put their lives on the line for a country that is willing to throw away any injured veteran?

We always hear Republicans talk about “American Exceptionalism.”  What is so exceptional about a country that says it costs too much to ensure everyone has health coverage?  What is so exceptional about a country that treats minorities like they are second-class citizens with no civil rights?  What is so exceptional about a country that treats its elders like they should just die off and make things cheaper for the survivors?

What is so exceptional about a country that asks its young to defend it, and then treats them like some leper when they need the physical and psychological help after fighting in wars?  What is so exceptional about a country that allows its infrastructure to collapse possibly killing people when a bridge falls down or a dam breaks?  What is so exceptional about a country that had an education system that was the envy of the world only to let it fall off the charts reducing the opportunities for those who graduate from that failing school system?

What is so exceptional about a country whose policies are driving good paying jobs overseas instead of fighting to keep them home?  What is so exceptional about a country that allows its working class to fall behind the cost of living while giving tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and arguing that the minimum wage isn’t necessary?

There is nothing exceptional about any of those things.  Yet, that is our reality today.  I served my country for 20 years.  I have never looked for praise or thanks.  I served because I believed I was doing the right thing.  I enjoyed my years in the Coast Guard.  I help save countless lives which was what I wanted to do.  It was a pleasure to serve my country… then.

But, things are a little different now.  When I was in the Coast Guard,  I served a country that was in favor of better living standards for the poor and elderly.  I served a country that was proud of its educational system.  I served a country where working class people had bargaining rights that ensured them fair pay for fair work.

I served a country that was fighting against bigotry at home.  I served a country where immigrants were welcomed and not spat upon and called names.  I served a country that was far closer to that fairy tale of “American Exceptionalism” than the one we live in today.  The country I served was not perfect.  We had a lot of problems.  But, it was different in that it was trying to solve our problems, not just blame someone for those problems.

Yes, all of these items I have mentioned costs money.  Yes, taxes may have to go up, especially for the wealthy, if we are to face reality and fix our problems.  Yes, civil rights must be more than a slogan or catch phrase.  They must be defended for ALL of our citizens.

Immigration policies must be reformed.  We must make it more costly for a company to “outsource” our jobs and cheaper for them to keep those jobs here in America.  We must ensure our poor and elderly are helped and not criticized for “being takers.”  We must protect our environment and our planet’s climate.

If we do all of these things, we will have something to defend.

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