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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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Opinion | LGBTQ Virginians advocate D.C. statehood

The right of all Americans to be part of our democratic society

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My hometown will always be Washington, D.C. It’s the place where I was born and spent all of the first seven days of my life. As a lifelong Virginian however, where I live and attended schools, I straddle two communities important to me. 

As a business owner of 30 years in Washington, D.C., I pay many of my taxes and payroll taxes to the Nation’s Capital while I also pay income tax to Virginia where I’m a citizen.

Most important of all, as a gay Virginia voter, I can think of few lifelong political goals more important to me than achieving statehood for Washington, D.C. One of the compelling reasons I still make my home in Virginia and cross the Potomac River every day of my life, is because of my right as a Virginian to vote for two U.S. senators and for a member of the House of Representatives with the power to vote in Congress.

(It is still shocking to know that, with Washington, D.C. statehood still beyond grasp, the Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton who represents D.C. in the U.S. House of Representatives, has never yet had the authority to vote on the floor of the House.)

At an early age, I was dumbfounded to know that D.C. then did not even have a local government. We lacked an elected mayor and city council, with almost all decisions for the District of Columbia made by the federal government. Yet today, even with a mayor and local government in place, it is breathtaking to know that my friends, neighbors and co-workers still have zero voice in the Capitol and no one to vote for them – and for us – in Congress.

Consider that one of the world’s most diverse and educated cities has so often been bullied by extreme conservative leaders on Capitol Hill who – whenever possible – turn back the clock for D.C. citizens on voting rights, abortion rights, gun measures and our civil rights including LGBTQ equality. Not a single voter in D.C. has much, if any, say over any of those decisions.

The absence of statehood and the lack of real voting rights means that the unforgivable strains of racism and homophobia often held sway not just for Washington D.C., but in denying the United States a true progressive majority on Capitol Hill too. 

Virginians get it. In the past decade, we’ve worked very hard in every county and city in the commonwealth to turn our regressive political past into a bright blue political majority. We have elected LGBTQ candidates to state and local offices in unprecedented numbers. Our vote is our power.

More significantly, through the work of Equality Virginia and its many allies, we are repealing scores of anti-LGBTQ measures and reforming our statutes and constitution to secure equal rights as LGBTQ voters, adoptive parents, married couples, students, and citizens. Doesn’t Washington, D.C. deserve that future?

Virginia needs more states – like D.C. – to join forces and represent all Americans. To achieve this, and to defeat or neuter the anti-democratic Senate filibuster rule, we need our friends, allies and neighbors, the citizens of Washington, D.C. to share in our democratic ambitions.

Long ago, Washington, D.C. resident, abolitionist and civil rights leader, Frederick Douglass declared that “the District is the one spot where there is no government for the people, of the people, and by the people. Washington, D.C. residents pay taxes, just like residents of Nevada, California or any other state. Washington, D.C. residents have fought and died in every American war just like residents of Ohio, Kentucky or any other state. The District deserves statehood and Congress should act to grant it.” 

Speaking for LGBTQ Virginians, we agree. Conferring statehood is not a gift nor a blessing from the rest of us, but instead, it is the absolute right of all Americans to be part of our democratic society. As LGBTQ Americans, if we are to pass the Equality Act and other fundamental civil rights measures, we need the State of Washington, D.C. and its voters by our side.

Bob Witeck is a longtime LGBTQ civil rights advocate, entrepreneur, and Virginian, with long roots and longstanding ties to D.C.

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Opinion | Representation matters: The gayest Olympics yet

From one out athlete to more than 160 in just 33 years

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OK, I really want a Tom Daley cardigan. The now gold-medal Olympian told Britain’s The Guardian that he took up crocheting during the pandemic. He even has an Instagram page dedicated to his knit creations, MadeWithLoveByTomDaley. It’s all very adorable; it’s all very Tom Daley. 

All that aside, you’d have to be practically heartless to not feel something when Tom Daley and his diving partner Matty Lee won the gold on Monday in the men’s synchronized 10-meter diving competition, placing just 1.23 points ahead of the Chinese. And then seeing him with tears in his eyes on the podium as “God Save the Queen” played. Later that week, he knitted a little bag featuring the Union Jack to hold and protect his medal. So very wholesome

Daley is certainly one of the highest profile LGBTQ athletes in these games. Besides the diver, the 2020 Summer Olympics, now in 2021 because of the pandemic, are hosting more than 160 out athletes. A record to be sure, but calling it a record does it somewhat of an injustice. The United States sent the first out athlete to the 1988 Summer Olympics, Robert Dover an equestrian rider competing in dressage. Dover remained the only out (sharing the title once in 1996 with Australian diver Craig Rogerson) for 10 years. Then, during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the number of out athletes jumped to 15. London’s 2012 Olympics saw the number increase to 23. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro saw the number jump to 68 out athletes. And now we’re at over 160. 

So you get the trend building here. From one out athlete to more than 160. So very far, so very fast. And competing in everything from handball to sailing to golf to skateboarding. Also, noteworthy, New Zealand sent the first trans athlete, weightlifter Laurel Hubbard. These are but numbers and names, but to be sure, this sort of representation, this sort of visibility, is hugely important. Not just for athletes coming up behind them, but let’s think too of those out there, not yet even out, maybe watching in their parents’ living room. Seeing Tom Daley thank his husband, mention their son, this sort of queer normality being broadcast as if it is both groundbreaking and at the same time nothing at all — the importance of this cannot be overstated. 

On top of that, growing up gay, how many times were we all told, whether outright or simply implied, that sports were more or less off limits to us. Meant to display the peaks of gender and ability, sports were not meant for those who couldn’t fit neatly into that narrative. But it appears that that narrative is slowly becoming undone. Just look beyond the Olympics, to the wider world of sports. Earlier this summer, pro-football’s Carl Nassib came out.   

And maybe I’m just of a generation that marvels at the destruction of each and every boundary as they come down. We had so very little as far as representation back then. Now to see it all, and in so many different sports, you can’t help but to wonder what the future will hold for us; and it really delights the imagination, doesn’t it? 

It is the gayest Olympics yet. And if the trend laid out above continues, it will only get gayer as the years go on. And if it’s a barometer for anything, I think we will see a lot of things getting a bit gayer from now on.

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

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Opinion | Blame Mayor Bowser for violence epidemic?

In a word, ‘no,’ as the problem is nationwide

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The simple answer to the question “Does the Mayor get the blame for the violence epidemic?” is NO! This is not something that can be laid at any one person’s feet. The epidemic of gun violence is gripping the entire nation. 

The frustration and outrage I and everyone else feels are palpable. It’s frightening when you hear gunshots in your neighborhood. It makes bigger headlines when the shots fired are in neighborhoods not used to that like the recent shooting on 14th and Riggs, N.W. When the shots rang out patrons of upscale restaurants like Le Diplomate ran or ducked under their tables for cover. When shots were fired outside Nationals stadium the national media lit up to report it. The truth is we must have the same outrage every time shots are fired and people hurt or killed in any neighborhood of our city.  

Trying to lay the blame for this at the feet of the mayor, as some people on social media and in opinion and news columns in the Washington Post are doing is wrong. Some would have you believe the mayor is just sitting by and allowing the violence to happen. There are pleas “Mayor Bowser do something!” as if she could wave a magic wand and the shootings will stop. 

In a recent Washington Post column, “Bowser pressed to act after shootings,” a number of Council members are quoted including Chairman Phil Mendelson, Ward 2 member Brooke Pinto, Ward 4 member Janeese Lewis George, At-large member Anita Bonds and Ward 5 member Kenyan McDuffie. They all call for something to be done but not one of them says what they would do. It’s clear they are as frustrated and outraged as the rest of us but have no easy answers. What is clear is casting blame on the mayor and police commissioner won’t help to stop the violence and shootings. 

Again, this epidemic of violence isn’t just an issue for D.C. but a national epidemic. Recently our mayor sat beside the president at a White House meeting called to discuss what can be done about this with mayors and law enforcement officials from around the nation. No one from the president down had an answer that can make it stop right away. Many in D.C. would be surprised at the ranking of the 50 cities with the most violent crime per 100,000 residents showing D.C. with 977 violent crimes per 100,000 residents at number 27 behind cities like Rockford, Ill., Anchorage, Ala., and Milwaukee, Wisc. Crime in nearly all those cities and murder rates have gone up, in many cases dramatically, since the pandemic. 

The solution to ending gun violence is to get the guns out of the hands of those who are using them for crime but that is easy to say and much harder to do. We know ending poverty will make a difference. Giving every child a chance at a better education and ensuring real opportunities for every young person will make a difference. We must also hold people responsible for the serious crimes they commit and often courts are a system of revolving door justice where we find the same people arrested for a serious crime back on the street committing another one and the same gun used for multiple crimes.

There are anti-crime programs that might work but they need buy-in from the entire community including activists and the clergy who must work in concert with our political leadership. D.C. is funding a host of programs including ‘violence disrupters,’ job training, and  mental health and substance abuse programs. They all need more money and more support. 

In D.C., we have only 16 elected officials with real power; the Council, the mayor, the attorney general and our congressional representative. We have community leaders elected to local ANCs. When members of the council attack the mayor, some simply to make political hay for their own future election, it won’t solve any problems. 

This must be viewed as a crisis and our 16 elected leaders should sit down, agree to a series of anti-crime programs and efforts they will adequately fund, and stop attacking each other. Once they agree on the programs to fund they should bring together ANC members from across the city to a meeting at the convention center and work out a plan for what each can do to move us forward to safer neighborhoods. 

We must work together as one if we are to succeed in making life safer and better for all. 

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

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