Quite the letter…

The Obama administration will no longer defend blocking military benefits from same-sex couples.

This is pretty stunning: there is little in this decision and the associated letter that could not be eventually used as an argument for equal protection and equal rights for the full raft of Federal rights and benefits… even, in fact, to the point of claiming that not allowing same-sex married couples to seek citizenship for one of the partners would be against the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment. Not as-is, not today, but it’s a smaller leap from here and now to there than it was from 4 years ago to here. This may not seem to be huge, but it most definitely is.

Now point at anyone on the list of GOP candidates and tell me that any of their administrations would take an action similar to this one. And no, Ron Paul’s wouldn’t: he supports the DOMA, and criticized the current administration’s position on not arguing in its favor.

And then tell me that both political parties are all the same. OR better yet, tell the defendants in McLaughlin v. Panetta, the case referenced in this letter, and tell them that their medical and dental benefits, housing, travel and transportation allowances, hospital visitation rights, survivor benefits and rights to be buried together in military cemeteries would have been granted if Rick Santorum were president.

Washington: Gregoire to sign law allowing gay marriage today

Hear, hear.

So yes, there may be a referendum if the opponents of gay marriage gather enough signatures… which is probable. That means we won’t know the final results of this struggle until November.

If they don’t pursue the referendum or don’t gather enough signatures, the other option opponents have is the ballot initiative to define marriage as one man/one woman, but that wouldn’t prevent gay marriages from happening starting June 7th, which would place Washington in the same position as California regarding Prop 8: that initiative would remove already-existing rights from a group of people with no valid rationale for doing so, which the 9th Circuit has already declared to be an unconstitutional act.

They pretty much need to go for the referendum. Considering how many of the major employers in Washington have expressed support for gay marriage, it will be interesting to see what results they get.

Not a good fight to join

Do the Catholic bishops know that Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) covers contraception, which all of their church members are paying for with their tax dollars? Do they know that many of the Catholic institutions that provide health care for their workers do so with insurers that provide contraceptive coverage? And therefore their money is supporting contraceptive care?

This seems a poor argument to get into: contraceptive care is part of basic health coverage for women, and any attack on it is easily seen as an attack on basic women’s health and reproductive choices. It’s amazing to me that in this century there is still a group that feels that contraceptive care is a bad thing, but it’s less surprising when you note the source: an organization that for hundreds of years hasn’t felt that women are good enough to serve as leaders in the first place. I sense a theme.

I’ll note that the opponents of the new compromise (which has been deemed reasonable and appropriate by the President of the Catholic Health Association) don’t seem to be offering any solution that would guarantee full health care coverage for those who the Catholic Church would deny it to, they only seem to want to remove coverage. Rep. Boehner says he wants to push to repeat the rule completely, thereby eliminating reproductive health care for everyone covered. Does he offer an alternative that would allow for this basic care for anyone at all, regardless of religious belief? No, of course not: maybe he, as his friend Ron Paul seems to believe, thinks that if you can’t afford health care you should rely on the charity of your local Church to… oh wait.

Dear Media

If you support re-electing any President, it’s still OK to criticize them. That way they will do a better job the next 4 years.

You cannot assume that because I find fault with decisions made by this administration that suddenly I’m a “disillusioned liberal” who has come down from a position of exuberant (and unmerited) joy in 2008 to a bitter, cynical and unhappy 2012. I’m not.  But unlike the previous administration, I don’t find criticism of the President to be “unpatriotic”.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with this administration. There are things I dislike, and some I dislike intensely (the continuation of covert wars, the fact that Guantanamo is still open, the assassination of non-combatant American citizens far from any theater of war). I will complain about them, and loudly. But don’t mistake this for the grumbling of an individual who is looking to exchange this administration for someone on the opposing party: it’s not, it’s just me celebrating my right and responsibility to participate in this country’s political sphere. I hold no illusion that the opposing party would have acted any differently on the issues I am against.

And above all, stop spreading the inane theory that the “Hope” posters we raised in 2008 were an expression of “hope that Obama would fix everything for us.” I, for one, held hope that we were electing an administration that would allow US to fix the things that had been broken in the previous 8 years. And I, for one, am happy that this hope is being realized: not as quickly as any of us would like, but I know that slow progress in the direction of improvement is far better than a quick march towards collapse.

I, for one, still have a hope poster. And it’s going up again this year.

As I watch the President this week attempt to compromise on components of the ACA, I see someone who is listening to the other side and trying to reach a reasonable middle. I see someone who believes that everyone should have health care, and that women should not be second-class citizens, and that we can work together to achieve that goal.

Who do I see on the other side? Inflexible, rigid, distrustful dogmatists who deny the reality of women’s choices in the twenty-first century, and want their religious beliefs to be the law of the land.

Why would I want to switch my allegiance to them? Why would I have any hope that they will be the ones to improve my lot, or the lot of the poor? Or that of women, or of children? Or of the gay person in the military? Or the sick and underinsured? Or the gay loving couple who wants the same rights everyone else has?

Why would I give them my vote? They have taken too much from us already, by reducing the national conversation to a shouting match in which they can cede no points, because their points are 3,000 year old and written, quite literally, in stone.

I prefer to look to the future. See you at the voting booth.

At first blush, a good compromise

When JFK was in the process of being elected, there was huge concern that the Vatican would be setting the agenda in Washington, and (Catholic) President Kennedy had to reassure everyone that wouldn’t happen.

Half a century later the concern is that we’re not all respecting the Pope’s position on contraception… a position that by most accounts and surveys, even Catholics mostly ignore.

My tax money goes to support these tax-exempt organizations, and I’m offended by their position. Where’s my exemption? I don’t want to support their oppression, just like they don’t want to support women having reproductive choices. As soon as I get my exemption, they can get theirs.

But now my head is spinning a bit from the White House compromise on the insurance-covered contraception issue exemption for religious institutions. While I have yet to see the details, it sounds… like a great compromise? I’m not used to hearing the phrase “Democrats compromise on…” without parsing it as “Democrats shatter their spines bending over backwards on…”, but this seems extraordinarily reasonable, and well-considered.

The President said that “no woman’s health should depend on where she works.” Thank you, Mr. President, that’s exactly the heart of this issue.

And the Catholic Health Organization AND Planned Parenthood agreeing on an issue? That’s a first.

The Catholic Bishops came across poorly, and out of touch overall in this debate: “Sources familiar with White House thinking on the matter have said the administration is convinced approval from conservative Catholics is out of reach, and is trying to win over more progressive Catholics.” No kidding.

MN AU for Separation of Church and State

I am working with a group of people to form a Minnesota chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:  it’s a nonpartisan educational organization dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans. Founded in 1947, AU is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization based in Washington, D.C., that addresses issues such as religion in government and public schools, religious discrimination and free exercise, and reproductive and marriage rights. There are over 60 local chapters, but there is not yet one in Minnesota. We are starting one (in part) as a response to the MN Marriage Amendment, which we consider to be an unconstitutional entanglement of Church and State.

The first meeting of members of this chapter-in-formation will be on Thursday, February 23, at 7:00 p.m. at the Southdale Library, 7001 York Ave. S., Edina, second floor, Ethel Berry room. Come on over, we’d love to hear your views.

Check out the flyer!