Trump Appoints AG

President elect Trump has appointed Senator Jeff Sessions,the 3 term junior US Senator from Alabama, to be the next attorney general of the US.  I do not know Senator Sessions personally, but living in the same general area of the country, he is often on my radar screen.

Sessions (Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III) has been called by the “National Journal” the fifth most conservative US Senator.  He has supported a national amendment to ban same sex marriage (remember, he is from the state where the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roy Moore, has been cited and suspended from the high court by the Court of the Judiciary because he told Alabama’s probate judges to defy the federal court orders on same sex marriage — the same guy, who in 2003, was taken off the bench when he defied orders to take down the 10 Commandments monument from the state judicial building) and has supported other conservative measures, including opposition to abortion and illegal immigration.  (Now, don’t get me wrong, I oppose illegal immigration, too, but our entire immigration system is “broke” and we won’t fix it with hostility.)

When Sessions was Attorney General of Alabama, he worked to deny funding to student Gay-Straight alliances at Auburn and the University of South Alabama.  It is positions like this one that earned him a zero (0) rating from the Human Rights Campaign.  And Oregon in particular is concerned because of his rather rabid anti-marijuana position.  (Apparently his rabid anti-marijuana sentiments came to light during his hearing before the Senate to become a federal judge in Alabama.  An African American man whom Sessions had worked with on some policy issues alleged to the committee that Sessions had said that he approved of the Ku Klux Klan until he realized that some of them smoked marijuana but that folks that smoke marijuana are “bad” people. This was reported by Ken Rudin, of NPR in his blog, Political Junkie,” posted on May 5, 2009.  He didn’t get confirmed.)

As the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee in the 110th Congress, while questioning Judge Sonia Sotomayor upon her nomination to the Supreme Court, he noted that “empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.”  (My understanding of the meaning of empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference — to walk a mile in those shoes, so to speak. I would hope that every judge in the land has empathy for every litigant.)  He also questioned her on her position relative to the use of foreign legal materials in considering US constitutional cases. (Scalia hated the use  of foreign legal materials; Breyer loves the use of foreign legal materials.  All I know is that after the US constitution was adopted, we relied on foreign legal materials all the time.  We had no case law of our own, so courts often turned to Britain for guidance.  British common law is still a moving force in our American rule of law.)  And he made it clear that he did not like the fact that Judge Sotomayor had served as a board member of Latino Justice (formerly known as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education fund) which was founded as a US non-profit in 1972, taking the lead from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund which Thurgood Marshall had established in 1957.

So, it sorta seems to me that Senator Sessions doesn’t like people who think differently from him.  He seems to actually simply disregard him.  I guess his empathy level is not too high.

I’m not even going to discuss his views on women.

 

 

Wisconsin Federal Court Ruling on Birth Certificates

In late September of this year, the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (The Honorable Barbara B. Crabb, District Judge) enjoined the Wisconsin Department of Health from enforcing a Wisconsin statute as it was written and directed the DOH to apply/construe it in gender neutral terms:  specifically that the word “husband” should be construed to mean “spouse.”  She also adopted a notice and measures as to how birth certificates created prior to this ruling could be corrected.

Our Mississippi judges could have thought of that….

 

Two women can’t make a child…

Recently Chancellor John S. Grant of Rankin County, Mississippi, ruled that, since two women can’t make a child, one of the divorcing parents in a couple’s same sex marriage will be denied custody.  So the woman who carried the child who was made viable by sperm donation is the woman parent, and  the child “…has got a natural father somewhere.”

Chancellor Grant reasoned that his decision was not discriminatory; it was based on a biological fact…”it is impossible for two women to conceive a child and that conception must occur between a man and a woman.”

Perhaps the Chancellor is correct in his biological facts.  But he is not right in disturbing the only family relationship the child — the couple’s youngest son — has ever known.  Somehow I think that Judge Grant forgot that these custody issues look to the “best interests of the child.”

Governor Bryant Receives Second Award based on HB 1523

The Heritage Foundation awarded our governor a Conservative Leadership Award last week.  It was bestowed for signing HB 1523 into law in April of this year.

The Heritage Foundation is a conservative non-profit think tank based in Washington DC.  It gives Conservative Leadership Awards each year to “conservative leaders who have persevered in the face of the liberal machine.”  While there is no doubt that the governor did accomplish the signing of HB 1523, it seems tongue-in-cheek to suggest that he persevered in the face of the liberal machine.  I don’t think there is a liberal machine in Mississippi.  I believe that Governor Bryant was simply going with the flow.

Governor Bryant was gracious:  “I was humbled to receive the Conservative Leadership Award from the Heritage Foundation…I was joined in this class by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).  [It was a] great honor for Mississippi and all those who believe in our religious freedoms as provided in the Constitution.”

Vice President Biden

When I was a law student, I had the pleasure of meeting Senator Biden (a very young senator at the time).  He spoke at my law school and I was quite impressed with him.

I remain impressed.

In August, Biden, a Catholic, officiated at a same-sex marriage of two White House staffers.

There was push-back.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement that did not mention Biden, per se, but noted that “[w]hen a prominent Catholic politician publicly and voluntarily officiates at a ceremony to solemnize the relationship of two people of the same-sex (sic), confusion arises regarding Catholic teaching on marriage and the corresponding moral obligation of Catholics.”  The Conference also suggested that this prominent Catholic politician presents to the world “a counter witness, instead of a faithful one founded in the truth.”

My theory is that Vice President Biden put his money where true faith is:  “…and the second [commandment] is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Edward Peters, a canon lawyer at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit says that officiating a same-sex wedding is not an excommunicable offense, although it could become one.  Peters suggested that any official punishment coming from the Church would be through an action of D. C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl.  Peters said that a most appropriate punishment, should Cardinal Wuerl, choose to reprimand the Vice President, would be to deny him communion.  Denial of communion in the Catholic church is called for when an individual “obstinately perserveres in manifest grave sin.”

Thank you, Vice President Biden, for being the Christian that you are.

Who is Warren Hall?

Warren Hall is a priest who was fired in 2015 from his position as chaplain at Seton Hall University after he posted support online for a group supporting marriage equality.  Thereafter, he was appointed to a parish in Hoboken.  Two days ago he was suspended from this position by the Newark Archbishop John Myers.  The reason, according to the Archbishop’s spokesman, that Hall is “not allowed to function as a priest in any way” is because all priests promise “reverence and obedience” to their bishops and support of church teachings.

Hall attributed his firing from Seton Hall to be a result of a photo he posted on his Facebook page which supported the NOH8 campaign, supporting “marriage, gender and human equality.”  He then publicly announced he was gay and furthermore that he has kept his vow of celibacy.  The Archbishop’s spokesman indicated that the matter at Seton Hall was resolved when Hall removed the post from his page.

Where does one go in life as one called to the priesthood and a lifelong Catholic?  The Episcopal Church welcomes you.

LGBT Friendly Institutions of Higher Learning

For several years now, CampusPride.org has offered a list of LGBT friendly colleges and universities.  The top for fall 2016 include:  Cornell University; Elon University; Harvey Mudd College; Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Indiana University, Bloomington Campus; Ithaca College, Macalester College, Montclair State University, Portland State University, Princeton University, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick Campus; San Diego State University; Southern Oregon University; The Pennsylvania State University; Tufts University; University of California, Los Angeles Campus; University of California, Davis Campus; University of California, Santa Barbara Campus; University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Maine at Machias; University of Maryland, College Park Campus; University of Massachusetts, Amherst Campus; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus; University of Pennsylvania; University of Vermont; University of Washington; University of Wisconsin, Green Bay Campus; University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Campus; and Washington State University.

The same poll noted 102 campuses with documented anti-LGBTQ policies and cited as dangerous environments for LGBT students.  (CampusPrice.org/ShameList)  They include:  Blue Mountain College and Mississippi College, two (2) Baptist colleges in Mississippi.

While Mississippi’s major state supported universities aren’t in the LGBT friendly list, at least they are not noted in the Shame List.  That’s a good thing.  And we can continue to work on that!

Salem, Mass

When I think of Salem, I think of the witch trials.  That’s what history reminds us of.  The more I learned about the witch trials, I realized that fear was at the heart of the witch trials — fear and intolerance.

The folks in Salem are at it again.  Yesterday, one of the newspaper boxes that sells Salem’s Rainbow Press was burned, after several others had been vandalized during the same week.  The Rainbow Press is an LGBT newspaper that touts the largest readership in the area.

Setting a newspaper box on fire seems more like a kid-prank than a hate crime, and had other boxes not been vandalized, I would have suggested that the police were on the wrong track when looking at it as a hate crime.  But again, fear and intolerance have triumphed — but just for a Saturday.  Because today, the last Sunday in August, rainbow flags fly high in Salem.  Support is important; a show of support is terrific!  Fly those flags.  Ostracize hate and intolerance.

Housing Relief? Perhaps not in our town…

There are times when LGBT couples have difficulty finding appropriate housing, particularly if the issue is renting rather than purchasing.  We are reminded, often, that in small Southern towns — well, in any small town — people talk and other people care deeply about what is said about them.

Imagine you live in one of those small towns and you are reticent to rent to people who are “unique.”  Are you going to run afoul of the law?

Here’s where to look:

42 USC 3604 (a), which is a section of the federal Fair Housing Act, prohibits a person from refusing to rent, refusing to negotiate the rental of, or otherwise make unavailable, or deny a dwelling to any person “because of …sex.”  Sub-section (c) prohibits a person from making, printing or publishing “any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination “based on…sex.”

Sub-section (a) also prohibits a person from refusing to rent, refusing to negotiate the rental of, or otherwise make unavailable, or deny a dwelling to any person “because of…familial status.” And likewise, sub-section (c) prohibits dissemination of advertising which discriminates “based on …familial status.”

What happens if you do this?  Well, it all depends whose wrath you incur.  But the legal remedies under 42 USC 3613 (c) include actual damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.  I wouldn’t take the chance.

LGBT issues clash with Immigration Issues

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion on August 9 of this year which is worthy of note.  It was an appeal from the Board of Immigration Appeals (Straus, IJ A038 575 464).  The petitioner in this case was Gavin Tariano Walker, a Jamaican citizen residing in the state of Connecticut.  It is unclear how long Walker had been living in the US, but clearly long enough to rack up a couple of state law convictions (aggravated felony and controlled substance offense).  Hence, an Immigration Judge determined to remove him from the US.  He appealed, indicating that the Immigration Judge, reviewing the BIA, should have deferred his removal from the US based on the Convention Against Torture.

Walker’s problem, you see, is that he contends that he is a “widely known homosexual in Jamaica.”

In order to relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), one has to demonstrate that it is more likely than not that he would be tortured if removed to t he proposed country of removal, and government officials in that country would inflict such torture.  It is true that in Jamaica acts of gross indecency between persons of the same sex are criminalized.  The Human Rights report for Jamaica indicates that LGBT individuals suffer “serious human rights abuses, including assaults with deadly weapons, ‘corrective rape’ of women accused of being lesbians, arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings.”

Pointing out that it was unlikely that the Immigration Judge had appropriately applied the applicable standards outlining CAT’s intent by conflating or diminishing the nature of government acquiescence, the Second Circuit remanded the matter to the Immigration Judge for further study.

What would Donald Trump make of that?  What do you make of that?  Is he a felon to deport or a life to be saved?  And if he is a life to be saved, what is the likelihood that he will commit another aggravated felony?  Geez…….these are tough questions.