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Relieved that Scalia can no longer judge us

His record includes decades of attacks on LGBT Americans

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Scalia, gay news, Washington Blade
Scalia, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade editorial cartoon by Ranslem)

Although it’s true that you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, it’s difficult to assess the record of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia without getting angry. Especially if you’re gay.

The social media spectacle over the weekend of some liberal gays celebrating Scalia’s death, while being shamed by their more conservative (and tasteful) friends highlighted this problem.

We can find sympathy for Scalia’s family and friends — a group that included Ruth Bader Ginsburg — while feeling relieved that Scalia is no longer in a position to sit in harsh judgment of our lives and love. It’s hard to blame those who found some relief in Scalia’s death, given his glee in disparaging gays. There has been a lot of misguided praise for Scalia since his death.

Let’s be clear: If Scalia had his way, not only would gay couples not be legally marrying, we’d also lack basic anti-discrimination protections. In 1996, in his dissent in Romer v. Evans, Scalia described Colorado’s law that sought to kill anti-discrimination protections as a, “modest attempt by seemingly tolerant Coloradans to preserve traditional sexual mores against the efforts of a politically powerful minority.”

His dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned sodomy laws, likened gay sex to incest and bestiality, among other ills the public could justifiably exert its “moral disapproval” to ban.

And in his dissent in the Obergefell case that ended bans on same-sex marriage, Scalia saw a threat to democracy itself. “I write separately to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy,” Scalia began his screed.

He continued, “This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.”

So much for protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

Scalia is closely identified with the concept of “originalism,” or the view that the Constitution’s meaning is locked as of the time it was adopted. This notion, of course, ignores the amendment process and the Ninth Amendment entirely, which states, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This concept also constrains justices who might adapt to new times, technologies and concepts that would have been totally foreign to the Founding Fathers. It’s a restrictive view that put Scalia at odds with liberals and some conservatives alike during his 29 years on the high court.

What’s even more distasteful than the social media celebrations of Scalia’s death are the assertions by Republicans like Sens. Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz that the GOP will oppose ANY replacement put forth by President Obama, per his constitutional duty. Let’s hope the Republicans have miscalculated on this craven plan and in blocking a moderate Obama appointee are faced with the prospect of President Hillary Clinton getting the pick — with a Democratic Senate to advise and consent.

There can be no doubt that the GOP has lost its way. There must be a reckoning — the mindless lunatics of the Tea Party must be cut loose so the remaining sensible voices can reshape a GOP for a modern era. The anti-intellectualism endorsed by George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and others has predictably led the party to where it is today: The brink of nominating a racist, washed-up reality TV star as its candidate for president.

Obama should teach them one final lesson and cram the most liberal nominee he can find down the throats of these treasonous Republicans.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. lnm3921

    February 17, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    It’s good you point out the historical mindset and judgments from Scalia on our issues. It only illustrates the fact that the GOP want to replace him with someone similar if not worse.

    It’s nice to think that the GOP will give Obama’s nominee a fair chance but they’ve already pledge to oppose anyone he puts forth expecting to capture the White House in November. It should be particularly alarming that the leading GOP contenders in particular Cruz and Rubio are very clear in opposing our freedom and equality.

    Assuming the American public will give Hillary and the Dems a clean sweep win due to GOP obstructions over Obama’s nomination to fill the vacancy left by Scalia sounds rather naïve given that historically what is at stake with the SCOTUS has had little if any impact in swaying elections.
    It should however galvanize GLBT voters to make sure a Democrat does get elected. Not only because the seat Scalia has vacated is at stake but also because it’s likely there will be other vacancies under the new Presidency. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been ill in the past. Scalia has proven that the unexpected can occur at anytime.

    Since most of the freedoms and protections we enjoy today have been the result of judicial rulings rather than legislative ones, we should be very concerned about at least preserving the status quo on the court and prevent it from tiling further to the right. Remember, most conservatives on the court ruled against marriage equality. That leaves the ruling vulnerable.

    Is it far fetched? Sodomy was found to have no constitutional protection by a more conservative court in 1986 only to be reversed 17 years later as decided incorrectly. Take nothing for granted! Doing so can cost your dearly.

    Sadly Justice Kennedy, our champion, will not be there forever and we never know what we can get in his place. Remember Thurgood Marshall was replaced by Clearance Thomas!

    • old married lady

      February 18, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      It’s nice to see an intelligent, well-written response to this story rather than the rants I’ve seen all week across the gay media. Having said that, I simply can’t resist one small snipe. Echoing what Bette Davis said when Joan Crawford died, “Mother always said to speak good of the dead. Scalia is dead.Good.”

      • BigGaySteve

        February 21, 2016 at 7:50 pm

        People dancing on Scalia’s grave only to find themselves in Trump ads.

  2. Palmer

    February 18, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but since The Advocate (which I no longer read) was founded in 1967 doesn’t that make it the oldest gay news magazine in this country?

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Congress must act, Democrats in Virginia must vote

Fighting to save our democracy from Trump loyalists

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The time has come for Democrats in Congress to vote on both the hard and soft infrastructure bills. Failure to do so will invariably lead to Republicans taking back Congress and that is unthinkable considering where they stand on so many issues.

To stop that from happening the House of Representatives must first pass the trillion-dollar hard infrastructure bill, already passed by the Senate, in time for Terry McAuliffe to stand up in his race for governor of Virginia and show what Democrats in office can do. This bill will bring billions to Virginia. But that is not enough. Virginia Democrats must come out to vote in record numbers to keep Trump stand-in Youngkin from winning. Make no mistake he is only a stand-in for the former president. He is a lacky with a lot of money trying to buy the race with lies and innuendo. He is anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, and has gleefully accepted the endorsement of a liar, misogynist, sexist, racist pig who is still trying to destroy our democracy. Democrats must come out and vote to show the nation and the world that is not who America is and we aren’t dumb enough to fall for his stand-in lackey. 

All that Democrats really should need to know to vote against Youngkin is his acceptance of Trump’s endorsement. The man who had his top aides and advisers plan to overthrow our government on Jan. 6. One simply needs to read the story in the Washington Post on how Giuliani, Bannon and others had a ‘command center’ at the Willard Hotel, steps from the White House, to plan the Jan. 6 insurrection. As reported, “The effort underscores the extent to which Trump and a handful of true believers were working until the last possible moment to subvert the will of the voters, seeking to pressure Pence to delay or even block certification of the election, leveraging any possible constitutional loophole to test the boundaries of American democracy.”

This despicable collection of people who met at the Willard, and their leader Trump, can truly be called out for treason. These people are homegrown terrorists. They instigated a riot at the Capitol that threatened the lives of members of Congress and the rioters even threatened to hang the vice president if he didn’t do Trump’s bidding. This is the endorsement happily accepted by Trump stand-in Youngkin.

So it comes down to whether Democrats will come out to vote in Virginia on Nov. 2. Will they show the world they care enough to act and vote? Will they convince their family, friends, and neighbors of the importance of this election and of voting for Terry McAuliffe and the entire Democratic slate? If they don’t the headline won’t read ‘Youngkin wins,’ it will read ‘Trump wins’. That has to be an unacceptable outcome for any decent person. 

As reported, “Republicans Christine Todd Whitman (former governor of New Jersey and EPA Administrator in the George W. Bush administration) and Miles Taylor (chief of staff of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the Trump administration) have an important message they wrote in their New York Times piece, “We Are Republicans. There’s Only One Way to Save Our Party From Pro-Trump Extremists,” stating “Rational Republicans are losing the party civil war. And the only near-term way to battle pro-Trump extremists is for all of us to team up on key races and overarching political goals with our longtime political opponents: the Democrats.” We can only hope decent Republicans will take that recommendation under consideration this year and vote for McAuliffe in Virginia.

The McAuliffe election will be a lens into what can happen in the mid-terms in 2022. If Democrats lose in Virginia it will just motivate Trump Republicans to get out and vote and fund other Trump lackies across the nation. Instead of Trump finally fading into obscurity he will be revitalized and that will be sad for the nation. If McAuliffe wins and Joe Biden can sign those two  infrastructure bills, along with ending the war in Afghanistan, Democrats will know what is possible. They will be motivated to work to ensure Democrats keep Congress. It is what we need to save our democracy.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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What do the gays do about Facebook?

We are hopelessly hooked on dangerous social media

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Let me just put all my cards on the table — I enjoy Facebook. I get a lot out of it. Instagram, not so much. But I think that’s more of a generational thing. But after recent events, I just feel a little icky about it all. I mean, don’t you? 

After the damning and didn’t-we-know-all-along Senate testimony by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, being on Facebook just seems, well, a little gross. Yes, I know the irony that I am criticizing Facebook via a column that will ultimately be shared on Facebook, so don’t bother pointing that out. 

The long and short of it — evidence shows that Facebook is lying to us all about making any real progress against hate speech, violence, and the spread of misinformation. And aren’t those all red flags for the queer community? Essentially, Facebook isn’t just harmful to the self, but to whole groups and even societies. The parallels between this and the queer community are obvious ones. Again, aren’t our physical safety and overall wellbeing fairly paramount issues for the queer community? 

Take this one point for example: the evidence of harm to ourselves by ourselves. According to the documents Haugen supplied, Facebook’s sister company Instagram essentially makes 13.5% of teen girls have thoughts of suicide. Have there been any thoughts on how social media might be impacting LGBT teens? According to the Trevor Project’s 2020 study, 15% of LGBT teens attempted suicide in the past year. Forty percent had thoughts about it. Both numbers are staggeringly high on their own and also staggeringly higher than for their straight counterparts. I would like to know what role social media plays in this. But, like Haugen’s Senate testimony, I think we all know the answer to that already. What with bullying and the spread of hate speech, it simply can’t be good. 

And that’s just the issue of self-harm. What about the other issues of hate speech and misinformation? Yes, the queer community has enjoyed greater social acceptance in America. But that is by no means universal. Take the plight of trans teens, last year one of the far right’s go-to punching bags and boogey men — this time for the non-issue of high school sports. Talk about the spread of misinformation. I could enlighten us all by doing a deep dive on the right’s social presence, spreading their general talking points on the trans community, but such an exercise would be both stomach churning and time consuming. 

As for queer adults, I’m not sure if things can be much better. You sometimes hear that life is just high school with money. To that I would add: then gay men can be at times that mean group of eighth grade girls. Yes, it’s true. We can be pretty damn ugly to one another. Facebook and Instagram clearly aren’t helping any of this. But can we let it go? Aren’t we all hooked? Sometimes you’ll hear when someone snaps a picture of a group event or party, post it on Facebook ‘or it didn’t happen.’ Granted you don’t hear this much anymore as so many folks, especially younger gays, have drifted off to other platforms, but honestly is there much of a difference? And to post it or it didn’t happen? Who is that for but those who weren’t there?

Who knows what will happen? I mean, what with octogenarian superstars Sens. Chuck Grassley and Diane Feinstein on this, I’m sure meaningful reform and oversight are just over the horizon. Maybe it’s time we start policing ourselves? Demanding better from our community on social media first? I’m wondering what that might look like. Until then, I guess we’ll just keep scrolling, like we have been doing. Over and over and over. 

Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer. He contributes regularly to the Blade.

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McAuliffe YES, Trump NO, for governor of Va.

Youngkin is a stand-in for disgraced former president

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Terry McAuliffe, Equality Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Vote Terry McAuliffe for governor of Virginia because he will be a great governor. Reality is the alternative is Donald Trump who may be calling himself Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, but don’t be fooled, Youngkin is only a stand-in for Trump.

Virginians know and respect McAuliffe. He was a successful governor in his first term and is a decent and honorable man. Had Virginia law allowed him to run for a second consecutive term he would have won easily. He has a stellar record of moving the state forward on equal justice and equal opportunity, civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights. 

The first executive order McAuliffe issued upon taking office in 2014 banned anti-LGBTQ discrimination against state employees. He vetoed religious freedom bills, created Virginia’s LGBTQ tourism board, and became the first Virginia governor to declare June as Pride month. He was the first governor of a southern state to officiate a same-sex wedding.

He recently said, “As governor, I will fight my heart out to make Virginia the most open, welcoming and inclusive state in the nation, and break down the disparities that LGBTQ communities, and particularly communities of color, face in education, health care, the economy and more. Together, we’ll move Virginia forward into a better, brighter future for all.”

When it comes to women’s rights McAuliffe staved off attacks by extreme Republicans who controlled the Virginia Legislature during his tenure. He fought for women’s health care rights and fought to keep open every women’s health clinic in the state. He vetoed legislation that would have harmed women, including a bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood in Virginia. 

On civil rights he said one of his proudest accomplishments was being able to reverse a racist Jim Crow law disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Virginians. McAuliffe restored the right to vote to more than 200,000 Virginians with felony convictions allowing them to fully participate in democracy after serving their time.

He was good for business and during his term as governor had a record of bringing more than 200,000 good paying jobs to the state and oversaw a lowered unemployment rate and an increase in personal income of over 13 percent. McAuliffe understands early investments in the state’s infrastructure helps the state to be a national leader in clean energy. 

These and so many other positive reasons are why Virginians should vote for Terry McAuliffe. 

But there are also many reasons to vote against Trump stand-in, Glenn ‘Trump’ Youngkin. The first is Trump saying, “he has my complete and total endorsement!” 

Youngkin continues to spread the Trump lie by still fighting the 2020 election and calling for an audit of Virginia election machines. He regularly speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He got caught on tape behind closed doors telling donors he won’t “go squishy” on banning abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood. He added, “As a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won’t win my independent votes that I have to get.” Then he is still casting doubts on the COVID vaccine. He claims he is telling people to get vaccinated against COVID and then is recorded telling others it is their choice. He is against mandating vaccines for teachers and healthcare workers. His ads feature a teacher, who is a Trumper, endorsing his education program (a disaster) but who is opposed to mandating vaccines for teachers. They feature healthcare workers endorsing him who are against a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.  Youngkin is trying to buy the Virginia election saying he would raise $75 million but most from his own vast fortune, actually trying to buy it for Trump. 

Virginia Democrats and right-thinking independents and Republicans must come out in large numbers to repudiate Donald Trump once-and-for-all by casting their votes for Terry McAuliffe. 

Let’s hope Trump voters in Virginia stay home this year. But McAuliffe can’t count on that to win. It will take Democrats in huge numbers to give McAuliffe the same big win Joe Biden had over Trump in Virginia in 2020. If that happens Democrats will also keep the House of Delegates and win the other statewide races. 

Remember, when you vote for McAuliffe you vote for the man named “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine in his last term. Virginians should give him a well-deserved second term.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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