Saturday, 27 June 2015

Finally, a day to rejoice.

After a racist piece of trash walked into an historic African-American church in Charleston, SC last week and shot nine people point blank with a perfectly engineered murdering machine, it was tough to resist a feeling of hopelessness for my homeland. The clown clusterfuck running Australia at the moment gives the brilliant John Oliver plenty of material but we don't have mass shootings here since gun control legislation was passed by a conservative government in 1996. Gun fetishists have little pull. Common sense does.

I don't like it when Australia makes the States look like Crazyland.

Brando's Kurtz. Possibly me someday.
Things picked up when South Carolina's continued flying of the confederate flag (yeah, lower case 'c') came under fire, though that talk was neutralised by NRA nutjobs claiming Emanuel AME Church victims could have prevented the cold-blooded slayings if only they'd been PACKING HEAT. In 2015 this sort of inhuman shit shouldn't surprise, much less outrage, but the day it becomes commonplace is the day I move to the highlands of Vitu Levu and pull a Colonel Kurtz.

On Thursday the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) rejected an argument that would have gutted the Affordable Care Act of its mission to provide poor people with basic health insurance. Again, with universal healthcare the norm in Australia it was hard to get overly excited, as the US has much ground to cover before matching what's routine in most Western nations. It was an unvarnished victory for Obamacare, however, and therefore good news for everyday Americans and a stick in the eye to the rampant right-wing 'Obama is a socialist!' mob.

A telling George Takei FB post today.
So, this morning. I couldn't sleep. Got up long before sunrise, made a pot of coffee, turned on the fantastic 5 Feet High and Rising radio show on PBS FM, checked Twitter and found a deluge of posts with the following hashtag: #lovewins

Love wins. Not often enough. But sometimes.

In a remarkable 5-4 decision, SCOTUS ruled gay couples across the US have a right to marry. As sunshine began creeping up Melbourne's eastern horizon I read Facebook posts from friends in the States who'd waited lifetimes for such recognition. The 14th amendment of the US Constitution guarantees citizens equal protection under the law, and as marriage is a lawfully binding agreement, governments cannot decide who marries who. Friday's Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges was dominated by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote: "The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty."

The final paragraph of Justice Kennedy's majority opinion became a social media meme in its own right:

The New Yorker's legal writer Jeffrey Toobin summarised the decision:
The government confers a bundle of rights on individuals who choose to marry. The constitution’s guarantee of equal protection forbids any state from withholding those rights from the class of people who happen to be gay. End of story.
Australia's federal government is currently helmed by troglodytes who've self-dosed on the cognitive dissonance and anti-intellectualism of Karl Rove, US neo-conservatives and the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld triumvirate, so in the case of marriage equality I can, today, June 27 2015, hold my head high knowing my homeland has done the right thing.

And Australia hasn't.

The ruling made me think back to my Asbury Park days, specifically March of 2004, when a city clerk named Dawn Tomek issued marriage licenses to a handful of gay couples. Same-sex marriage was illegal in NJ at the time, making it a national story for a few days and calling attention to the town's influential gay population. I first mentioned it on my Asbury Park Libbruhl blog on March 9:
Good to see Asbury Park make the Times for something other than another failed redevelopment scheme or race riot. A gay marriage at City Hall is hardly shocking, though. Kate and John Loffredo will no doubt handle the media spotlight with ease and AP's significance as a gay homeowner's haven will be solidified in the national media. Will there be a reaction from the not-always-gay-friendly AP African-American community? Especially as much of the gay marriage debate centers around a comparision to the black civil rights struggle?
Kate Mellina and John Loffredo are two giant figures of AP history who wrestled with AP's deeply entrenched veins of corruption long before any sensible person could claim optimism about AP's future. I posted this the following day:
Not much on the gay marriage situation in Asbury Park. Mayor Sanders -- who the day before said he wouldn't perform any such ceremonies -- put a halt to the issuance of any more licences for fear of putting the city in "jeopardy" and potential "financial liability." Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. Way to cover your ass, Mayor.

Of course, the shameful local rag saw fit to put a picture of the lone nut job at Municipal Hall yesterday in the article. Man says he wants to marry Bart Simpson. Why Bart Simpson? Because he's "known him for 6 years." Such is the intellect of the hateful, holier-than-everyone-else minority in this country. Go back to Jackson, you freak.
The story came and went quickly as local officials capitulated to state law and satellite TV trucks headed back up the Parkway and the next Top Story. Some locals did more than treat it as a ripple in the news cycle. I posted this on March 27:
Want to help Asbury Park validate the gay nuptials that took place a few weeks ago? Here's some news about fund-raising events in town, including info about how friend and Deal Lake Tower neighbor Kris Sanchez is contributing profits from sales at Etc., his Cookman Avenue store, to the cause. If you can't make it to AP, here's how you can pitch in:

Checks should be made payable to "City of Asbury Park Marriage Litigation Fund," and mailed to: City of Asbury Park, One Municipal Plaza, Asbury Park, NJ 07712, Attn: Rick Diaz. For more information, call (732) 775-2100.
Kris was an early business owner on Cookman Avenue when foot traffic was sparse and local politicians were controlled by nefarious puppeteers. (His was also one of the first celebratory posts I saw on FB this morning.) He was born in New Mexico but made Asbury Park more than his home -- he made it his cause. He and many others in the gay community invested in a town white suburbanites had abandoned generations ago. Their relationship to the Asbury Park renaissance of recent years is akin to Abraham Lincoln and the abolition of slavery in the US: It would have happened eventually without them, but not for a much longer time and not without much greater struggle. NJ legalised gay marriage in 2012, but seeds of its eventual normalcy to a majority of Americans were planted in Asbury Park in 2004.

Sadly, the furor that's accompanied SCOTUS's decision was foreshadowed in 2004 Asbury Park, too. Here's a post from March 29:
I've been anticipating a reaction from AP's African-American community to the recent gay nuptials. It came yesterday. Since I was in North Jersey I must rely on the Asbury Park Press's reporting, which has been notoriously tabloidish in its coverage of Monmouth County's bastard step-child. That said, here's the story's lead:

A crowd organizers estimated at 1,200 lined Main Street yesterday morning to participate in a prayer vigil prompted by the problems facing -- and in at least one case, dividing -- the city.

The marriage of two gay men at city hall earlier this month was cited as one of the reasons for the vigil, although the organizing ministers said the need to deal with drug use, poverty, inadequate housing, gangs, violence and problems with city schools was why so many people showed up.

The granting of a marriage license to a gay couple was the final issue that made local area churches decide to unite in prayer for the good of the community, said the Rev. Porter S. Brown of Faith Baptist Tabernacle, Bangs Avenue. And same-sex marriage was the topic that dominated conversation during a news conference held after the vigil.

Brown accused city council members of paying attention to just one segment of the city's population and said the Bible defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

"We believe the word of God is to be taken as is," Brown said, "and we are not going to compromise."

All the problems facing the African-American community and a city-sanctioned union of two committed individuals is what gets people to line the streets in protest --oops, I mean a "prayer vigil."

Proving once again that nothing stirs the faithful like bible-fueled hatred.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Social change always brings out the worst in otherwise decent people. In the States right-wingers are already talking of sedition and social disobedience, using religion as a baton, predicting armageddon ... the same panicky litany belched by generations of bigots, fear-mongers and hypocrites.

Today, courtesy of SCOTUS, we can also call these people what they legally are: Losers.

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