Rachel Jeantel Explained, Linguistically


Trayvon Martin’s friend and a key witness in the trial of George Zimmerman made a lot more sense than you think

Having spent nearly fifteen years with NBC News, I’ve witnessed (first-hand) a great number of high profile court cases.  Most recently, Casey Anthony.  One of the things I’ve come to realize – with the rise of cable and its endless 24/7 news cycle – is that the circus atmosphere created around these cases is not the only problem.  Another, and more dangerous, is the nasty habit the media has of over simplifying an issue…getting hung up on one specific aspect or characteristic of a story.  The George Zimmerman trial is no different.  To call this case simply a “black and white” issue, is to miss – entirely – an opportunity.  An opportunity  to look at the complex ways we are culturally different, and the challenges those differences bring to our goals of understanding each other. Rachel Jeantel, who testified on her friend’s behalf for days last week, became a social media phenomenon – being both vilified and supported by millions.  But what does all this say about us as a society?  What does it say about those who watched her testimony in judgment as if it were a TV show?  Chastising her for her way of expression, as opposed to empathizing with her experience.  When this case is finally decided, they’ll be others to take its place.  The media will have another chance to help us understand the implications of the events they’re covering.  I hope they don’t blow it again.  Because if they do, we as a society will be the real losers.    

The following article is from John McWhorter of Time.  We think he sums up our point very well.

Let’s face it, none of us would want to be Trayvon Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel in the last couple of days. Much of the country is laughing at the “ghetto” black girl who keeps getting tripped up in her story. But Jeantel has made a lot more sense than it may have seemed.

Yes, she was dissimulating in pretending that Trayvon Martin’s referring to Zimmerman as a “creepy-ass cracker” wasn’t “racial”—of course it was. Cracker is today’s “honkey,” a word now about as antique as The Jeffersons in which George used it so much. It is both descriptive and pejorative, although it’s important to note that according to Jeantel, Martin was not calling Zimmerman a cracker to his face but when trying to give his friend on the phone an update on the situation.

The origins of the word in reference to persons as opposed to snacks is obscure, but most likely started when cracking could mean bragging in Elizabethan English. Upper-crust colonial Americans had a way of referring to lower-class British immigrants to the South as loud-mouthed “crackers,” as in boastful beyond their proper station.

Pretty soon the word just referred to the people, period, with elegant Central Park architect Frederick Law Olmsted even casually writing in 1850 after a Florida jaunt that “some crackers owned a good many Negroes.”

Jeantel may well have heard some whites in Florida using the word for themselves with a kind of in-group pride – just as black people use the N-word that way. But surely she knows that’s a different meaning, just as anyone who claims it’s okay for Paula Deen to have used the N-word because Jay-Z does is faking it.

The important thing is that it made perfect sense for Martin to use that word to describe a white man chasing him for no reason. Few fully understand that the tension between young black men and the police (and by extension, security guards, traffic cops and just about any sort of watchman) is the main thing keeping America from getting past race. If ten years went by without a story like the Martin case we’d be in a very different country.

There are several possible reasons why Jeantel feigned on whether calling someone a cracker was racially-motivated. It could be because she wants to protect her dead friend. It could be because she’s extremely uncomfortable. Much of her irritable reticence is predictable of someone of modest education reacting to an unfamiliar type of interrogation on the witness stand. As natural as many educated people find direct questions, they are culturally rather unusual worldwide, an artifice of educational procedure. In oral cultures – i.e. most cultures— direct questions are processed as abrupt and confrontational. In that, Jeantel is operating at a clear disadvantage.

Yet one problem Jeantel is not having is with English itself. Many are seeing her as speaking under some kind of influence from the Haitian Creole that is her mother’s tongue, but that language has played the same role in her life that Yiddish did in George Gershwin’s – her English is perfect.

It’s just that it’s Black English, which has rules as complex as the mainstream English of William F. Buckley. They’re just different rules. If she says to the defense lawyer interrogating her “I had told you” instead of “I told you” it’s not because it’s Haitian—black people around the country use what is called the preterite “had,” which I always heard my Philadelphia cousins using when I was a kid.

If you think Black English is primitive, here’s a test – is it “I ain’t be listening that much” or “I don’t be listening that much”? It’s don’t, and Jeantel and millions of other black people nationwide could tell immediately that using “ain’t” in that sentence is “off.”

This was what defense attorney Don West failed to understand when he asked Jeantel:

“Are you claiming in any way that you don’t understand English?”

“I don’t understand you, I do understand English,” said Jeantel.

“When someone speaks to you in English, do you believe you have any difficulty understanding it because it wasn’t your first language?” asked West.

“I understand English really well,” said Jeantel.

She understands it as well as West or anyone. So now who’s the dumb one?

DOMA Is The End Of Scalia’s Gay (Happy) Reign


Josh Gad is USA TODAY’s newest, and perhaps most unusual, columnist. Filing whenever he can – or whenever the “news muse” strikes!


By Josh Gad – USA Today 

Today, as many are celebrating the historic Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage rights, there is one victim left in the dust. His name is Antonin Scalia. You may know him. He’s the judge whose face looks like a Panic Pete squeeze toy when he gets angry. He’s offended because he did not get his way. That’s right. Justice Kennedy and his four conspirators cheapened the law of the land by giving these “gays” the right to have equal benefits. Scalia and his marriage crusaders (including the divorced Justice Clarence Thomas, who chewed gum like an angry bovine as the decision was read) saw their precious straight-people-only utopia go up in flames. (Pun intended.)

In his scathing dissent, Scalia wrote: “It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostis humani generis, enemies of the human race.” Going further, Scalia accused the majority of “declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency … In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us.” And how right he is! He even has the Latin language to back him up. The original dissent went further to say Gayus Manus Makum me Sickus. Fearing a backlash, however, the last part was redacted.

You see, as Scalia fights for the rights of people to not have rights (i.e.: yesterday’s brave decision to strike down a civil rights law providing protection against voter discrimination), moments such as the DOMA reversal are a dangerous impediment to Scalia’s legacy: that of being the Senator Palpatine of his generation. It’s unfair to call him unbending. Just because he doesn’t recognize homosexuals as individuals does not mean he has no heart. For example, his staunch defense of corporations as individuals was a fearless reminder that General Electric and Koch Industries have feelings just like you and me.

I remember the first time I saw General Electric crying on a street corner after he had his lunch stolen by Comcast. I was like, “Man, I hope the Supreme Court gives him the same rights as me one day.” And indeed, Scalia paved the way for corporations to provide unlimited funds toward elections without having to disclose anything. Now that’s brave. That’s a legacy.

You see, Scalia understands that laws are laws. It doesn’t matter that, in the words of Kennedy, “DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others.” Who cares? Now, we’re just dealing with feelings. Under the nuance of Scalia’s wrath, we must remember that laws do not account for moral justice.

You see, it matters not if Frank and Bob, both crippled by the burden of not being able to share simple things like health and financial benefits, are subject to discrimination and are, in the eyes of their children, not as “worthy” as their friends’ parents. Forget that if moral equality weren’t adjudicated, women would still not have the right to vote and interracial marriage would still be outlawed.

According to the laws of Scalia’s land, we cannot judge on right or wrong or on conscience. Because the consequences of that might very well be…universal happiness. I shudder at the thought. After all, a happy gay is a dangerous gay. Pretty soon, we’ll all be drowning in a sea of confetti and satin. Now we must continue to abide by the LAW, not to be “interpreted,” not to be mettled with. After all, I’m positive there was no clause in the decision to make corporations individuals. There couldn’t have been. No.

That would be, to use a Scalia-approved Latin term, hypocrisy.


Wendy Davis & Supporters Run Out The Clock On Legislative Session

Something special is happening in Austin tonight.”

That Tweet from President Obama came as Ft. Worth Democrat, Wendy Davis, was entering hour nine of her thirteen-hour filibuster attempt to stave off a state bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks; closing 37 of 42 clinics currently in existence.

Rules of the Texas State Senate are so asinine and quirky, filibusters are nearly impossible to complete. It requires a days worth of standing, no food or drink, no leaning or stopping, no sitting or taking bathroom breaks and no physical support of any kind. You have to filibuster alone. And three sustained points-of-order from the opposition end it.

At 11:15 Tuesday morning, the President of the Special Session (appointed by Republican Governor Rick Perry) asked Senator Davis, “Is it your intention to filibuster?

Standing tall in business attire with comfortable pink tennis shoes, readying for the long day ahead, Senator Davis gave her reply. “Yes, Mr. President.”

Davis’ goal: Make it to midnight.

Thanks, in part, to live streaming of the Senate debate, people began to pay attention. As Davis continued, supporters started trickling into the courthouse, finding open seats in the upstairs gallery and settling in for what could either be a long day or a quick end to it.
By 5:00pm the trickle had become a steady stream. The gallery, now standing-room-only, watched Senator Davis reach her sixth hour.

But then just after 5:30pm, a Republican colleague challenged her filibuster, arguing she had gone off point while discussing Planned Parenthood’s budget. The President agreed and charged her with her first violation. Strike one.

An hour later, a fellow Democrat asked for part of Senator Davis’ testimony to be read back. While doing so, a colleague attempted to help her stand by trying to apply a back brace. This prompted, yet again, another challenge from the floor. Voicing opposition, another Republican called for a point-of-order. Claiming, inappropriate touching of the filibustering Senator, the presiding President agreed. Strike two.

With time running out and only one strike left, the hundreds had now become thousands. Not only was the upstairs gallery packed, but the rotunda below was filled to capacity, as well.

Just before 10:00pm, nearly two hours shy of her goal, Davis began speaking about the financial effects of a previous abortion bill, specifically, a sonogram law that had passed last year. For the third time, a Republican raised another point-of-order claiming the Senator had, once more, gone off topic. The President agreed and issued Senator Davis her third and final strike. The filibuster had ended.

Or had it?

As the calling for the final vote began, the upstairs gallery exploded with voices of disgust and chants of, “Let her speak!” The votes being cast were simply drowned out.

If the Republicans intended to rely on technicalities to end Senator Davis’ filibuster, they’d failed to take into account the Democrats finding technical solutions on their own.

Enter parliamentary inquires.

Trying to delay the legislation, a group of Democratic lawmakers began asking questions of the presiding officer. “What, exactly, were the reasons for the three strikes?” They asked.

At 11:45pm, Republican Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst, who been presiding over the Special Session, took one last question from a Democratic lawmaker, who’d shown up late after attending her father’s funeral. Trying to get caught up on the day’s events in the chamber, she asked her question.

At what point must a female Senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues in this room?” She asked.

For fifteen straight minutes the crowd roared, thunderously, in support. For fifteen minutes Dewhurst tried tallying the votes. As the midnight deadline passed, the Republican majority, in clear violation of their own rules, continued to try recording the vote.

At three in the morning Dewhurst conceded. After eleven hours of filibuster and two hours of debate, it was over. The filibuster was valid.

This is a remarkable story. Not because the territory was unfriendly for Wendy Davis (out of the 150 seats in the State House, 95 are Republican) and not because the Democrats out-maneuvered their Republican colleagues. Rather, it’s extraordinary because of the people. Yes, Wendy Davis is in the spotlight, and yes, Texas Republicans have, once again, shown themselves to look ridiculous and petty. But the people of Texas haven’t. Senator Davis was never really alone on that floor.

Governor Rick Perry is calling for, yet again, another Special Session on passage of this bill. So something special, as President Obama said in his text, has to happen again. The public has inserted itself into the democratic process more so now than ever before. And even if this bill passes, it’s important to stay involved. Continue to pay attention. Republican’s in Texas are trying to “see to it” that people won’t. Then again, they don’t see too well, do they?

Supreme Court Strikes Down Sect 4 – A Key Provision Of 1965 Voting Rights Law

Field Director Charles White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) speaks at a podium outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

By Bill Mears, CNN

A deeply divided Supreme Court has limited use of a key provision in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, in effect invalidating federal enforcement over all or parts of 15 states with past history of voter discrimination.

The court said it is now up to congressional lawmakers to revise the law to meet constitutional scrutiny.

“Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to the current conditions,” said Chief Justice John Roberts for the 5-4 conservative majority.

Section 4 of the law was struck down, the coverage formula used by the federal government to determine which states and counties are subject to continued oversight. Roberts said that formula from 1972 was outdated and unworkable.

Read the ruling

The practical impact of the majority ruling means the separate Section 5– the key enforcement provision– cannot be enforced.

Any changes in voting laws and procedures in those covered states– including much of the South– must be “pre-cleared” with Washington. That could include something as simple as moving a polling place temporarily across the street.

The two key provisions were reauthorized by Congress in 2006 for another 25 years and officials in Shelby County, Alabama, subsequently filed suit, saying the monitoring was overly burdensome and unwarranted.

“Congress could have updated the coverage formula at that time, but did not do so,” said Roberts. “Its failure leaves us today with no choice but to declare Section 4 unconstitutional. The formula in that section can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance.”

The case is Shelby County, AL v. Holder (12-96).

Veterans of forgotten voting war count the cost

Opinion: How segregation got busted

Feeding The Body, Mind and Spirit To Central Florida Homeless


Every Sunday, sandwiched between a cluster of churches and office buildings in downtown Orlando – in the stillness of the predawn hours, a volunteer mecca is buzzing with activity.  

Inside the kitchen of First Presbyterian of Orlando, the small army of bees are busy.  Half a dozen cooks are flipping pancakes, slicing potatoes and mixing oatmeal.  In the back, pots and pans are being scrubbed, while buckets of coffee are being brewed at breakneck speed.  Just outside the kitchen, in the Gathering Hall, tables are rolling towards their spot.  When they hit their mark, legs are popped into position and blue folded chairs are flipped open and shoved into place.  In rapid fire succession, the process is repeated.  “Pop! Pop! Pop!”  The banging and clanging of the choreography fills the room.  The clock is running.  

Behind them, amidst a mountain of cables and audio boards, three people organize songs and videos, prepping a program for an audience about to arrive.    

Time check:  5:43am.     

Outside the building the audience is gathering.  The crowd now forms a line, twisting its way underneath a wooden canopy and stretching over a hundred feet.  In the darkness it could be a queue for any concert, sporting event, or night club.  But this group isn’t here for a show.  And there’s no admission price.  Their tired eyes glance at me and I look at back at their weary faces. It’s my introduction to this group – nearly 300 of Central Florida’s homeless.  They’re here for a meal served with hope.   

Just behind the doors of the Gathering Hall, Michael Starnes, a long time volunteer organizes a prayer circle.  “This is a ‘high dignity’ environment,” he says.  It’s no accident the breakfast they’re preparing this morning isn’t being distributed at them.  Instead, it’s being served to them.  Served at tables intentionally set for eight, with styrofoam cups and utensils carefully wrapped in paper napkins.  Dignity, indeed!  

“Last night we all slept in a bed,” Michael continued.  “And today, we’ll go back to a home with a roof over our heads.  But those we serve today have none of that.”  It is a stark reminder of what I take for granted each day.  And a ‘call to notice’ what I’d be witnessing when the doors open. 

“Ok.  Everyone ready?” Michael asks those behind him.  “Yes!”, they reply in unison.  “Let’s go!”   

It’s now 6:30am.

As the doors swing open, people ranging from two to eighty-two are quickly seated.  But the rush and energy is focused.  Those who’ve been here before know the routine: some empty cups are already raised in the air, signaling the desire for hot coffee.  Volunteers enter the room with full pitchers, while a Chris Tomlin music video blasts, How Great is Our God on the big screen.  Everything is orderly and respectful.

Behind me is a growing sea of backpacks, bags, and personal belongings all neatly stacked in a straight line against the back wall.  I watch each homeless person come in, drop off their bundle, and find a place to sit.  Everything they own in life is in those bags.  And I find it surprising they’re willing to leave it unattended.  But that’s the kind of place this seems to be.      

The people I’m looking at are tired.  Not just tired of being homeless, but tired of being treated as if they’re invisible and don’t matter.  But here they’re valued.  They’re recognized for their worth.  They’re treated as guests.  

But it’s not just those who live on the streets who have stories to tell.  All the volunteers I’ve met have stories of their own.  There’s Ernie, a tall, slim man who once played football for the Philadelphia Eagles, now volunteering his time as a driver.  He helped dozens of people get here this morning.  And Allen from Kenya, who once was homeless himself, is also here to work.  His neatly pressed blue buttoned-down shirt, black slacks and polished shoes with tassels, are symbolic of how far he’s come since he was on the other side of the receiving line.  And a youth group from Johnson City, Tennessee, decided to spend the week in Orlando to help out wherever they saw a need.  This morning they were needed here to help with the capacity crowd.  

Despite the number of volunteers, the homeless still outnumber them almost 10 to 1.  


Joe Mills, this morning’s keynote speaker, takes the stage with a message.  “Trust…step forward,” he says.  “Step forward and just DO something!  Every little bit counts…”  While the room may have been listening, I heard his message directly.  Use what I have for the benefit of others, whether big or small.  Instead of talking about doing things – go do it!  We’re all called to serve no matter where we find ourselves in life.  Each of us has the ability to respond.  “Just DO Something,” he kept saying.  The irony not lost on me.  


Breakfast is over and the homeless are heading back onto the streets.  Inside, the volunteers are clearing tables, realigning chairs, and setting the room up for the Sunday services to come.    

For those homeless I met, this breakfast may be the only meal they’ll have today.  This is especially heartbreaking for those too young to understand why.   

Driving away I saw a man with a rolled up mat.  Finding a patch of tall grass beneath the shade of an adjacent building, he unfurled his mat and stretched out.  Using his backpack for a pillow, he was in a spot he’d, most likely, been in before.  While this group of volunteers couldn’t solve all their problems or alleviate all their suffering, they chose to step forward. They chose to DO something…anything!  And that was surely something!  




Confessions of A Fanatic Listmaker

I don’t know why this blog grabbed me the way it did. Maybe it’s because my Bucket List is still active. I’m always changing it, but I don’t have the heart to actually delete it. But now…well, Irish Katie’s got me thinking. Ok, Irish. You’ve got our attention now. We’re following. What’s next???

Irish Katie

I intentionally deleted my Bucket List.

There.  I said it.  Spreadsheet Katie, list-maker Katie, has decided to live her life without a Bucket List.


Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Bucket Lists.  For many, it’s a way for them to set their goals.  It helps people remember some very cool things they want to do and accomplish in life.

However, I’ve been thinking on some things lately … and for myself, I have decided to do away with the Bucket List.  Part of me has been debating my personal need for one.  I wonder how I would feel if I didn’t get some of the things done on that particular list.  I wonder how I would feel if I KNEW I might never get to them.  Would I be disappointed?

I don’t think I would feel like I let myself down.  Again, it has always been…

View original post 249 more words

From Huffington Post – ‘America’s Worst Charities’ List Criticized By The Association Of Fundraising Professionals


After a new report pointed a finger at “America’s Worst Charities,” nonprofit experts are speaking out.

CNN recently published the results of a study ranking “The 50 worst Charities In America,” conducted by the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR).

The study focused its ratings on charities that give donations to for-profit solicitors to fundraise. Using these charities’ IRS tax filing information, researchers compared the total proceeds raised by solicitation to the total amount of money paid to for-profit solicitors. Of the $1.3 billion raised by the 50 worst charities, almost $1 billion was paid to companies that do their fundraising.

But some charity experts are speaking out, saying these nonprofits are too far on the fringes. In a recent press release, Andrew Watt, the president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), a nonprofit support organization, said the investigation should not have solely focused on cases of solicitors who receive a commission, a practice widely viewed as unethical.

“The use of professional solicitors is not an indication of whether or not a charity is legitimate or effective. Many legitimate charities hire solicitors to assist in their fundraising,” he stated. “In the extreme cases cited by CNN and the Tampa Bay Times, solicitors are paid on a percentage- or commission-basis, a practice which is prohibited and considered unethical by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and most of the charitable sector.”

The report concluded that The Kids Wish Networkthe Cancer Fund of America, and the Children’s Wish Foundation International are respectively America’s top three worst charities.

Crisis management specialist Melissa Schwartz, who is working with Kids Wish, told The Times that the charity hires solicitors so its staff can focus on the children and not on raising money. She declined to give specifics, saying the charity “is focused on the future.”

The Times/CNN note that the study focused on nonprofits that have a history of deviating from established regulations — pointing out that 39 have been apprehended by various state regulatory administrations. The study methodology was also reviewed by GuideStar, among other nonprofit experts.

Watt did note that the report on the worst charities serves an important purpose: educating donors about the importance of awareness and research when giving to charities.

“The list developed by the Tampa Bay Times and CNN will help, to some extent, educate donors about wise giving and issues to be aware of when deciding to make a contribution. Donors always need to take their time when making a gift, especially if they are considering giving to new or unfamiliar charities.”

To learn more about tips on how to donate wisely and track where your contributions are going, click here.

From the Huffington Post – GOP Passes Anti-abortion Bill


Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), left, and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). Franks authored the 20-week abortion ban that passed the House of Representatives Tuesday. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday 228 to 196 that prohibits women from having abortions 20 weeks after conception.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, authored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), bans abortions after 20 weeks, based on the medically disputed theory that fetuses can feel pain at that point. It contains exceptions for women whose lives are in danger as well as some rape and incest victims who can prove that they reported their assaults to criminal authorities, but it contains no exceptions for severe fetal anomalies or situations in which the woman’s health is threatened by her pregnancy.

Opponents of the bill, including the White House, took issue with its narrow exceptions and argued that it interferes with a woman’s constitutionally protected right to have an abortion. The bill directly challenges the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade, which protects the right to end a pregnancy up until the fetus is viable outside the womb — usually around 24 weeks.

“Forty years ago, the Supreme Court affirmed that women in America have the constitutional right to make their own health care decisions without the government getting involved,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Tuesday. “Today, instead of focusing on creating jobs and improving our economy, the House majority is once again playing doctor and trying to tell American women what they can and can’t do, despite what the Constitution tells them they can do. House Republicans need to abandon their war on women and start working on the issues Americans care about.”

Republicans argued that the bill was necessary in light of the case of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion provider who was recently convicted of murder for providing illegal late-term abortions and cutting the spines of newborns that were born alive in his clinic.

“Listen, after this Kermit Gosnell trial and some of the horrific acts that were going on, the vast majority of the American people believe in the substance of this bill, and so do I,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, adding that he believes the bill has the support of a “broad bipartisan majority” in Congress.

But the bill has caused several problems for the Republican Party at a time when it desperately needs to reach out to women voters. The GOP lawmakers who advanced the bill out of the Judiciary Committee and unanimously rejected exceptions for rape, incest and health of the mother were all men. And during the debate over the rape exception, Franks said “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy [is] very low,” resurrecting an incorrect claim made by former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.).

To mitigate the controversy, Republican leadership quickly appointed Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to manage the bill on the floor and added narrow rape and incest exceptions into the bill. But the tactics did not appease the bill’s opponents.

“If the woman’s life is threatened, okay, she can have the abortion. But if her health is threatened, if the doctors conclude that she will become terribly injured in some way, it doesn’t matter,” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Tuesday. “She can’t have the abortion, because the morally arrogant people in this building decided that their outlooks are more important than her health and her safety.”

While the bill has forced members of the House to record a vote on abortion, it has very little chance of becoming law. The Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, is unlikely to take up the bill, and the White House said President Barack Obama would veto it if it reached his desk.

From NPR – Why Both Sides Want Gay Marriage Settled By The States


Anti-gay marriage protesters (left) try to persuade same-sex marriage supporters to get out of the way of their march in front of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court may rule on gay marriage this week. Advocates both for and against are glad the issue didn’t reach the court any sooner.

They didn’t want a repeat of the abortion issue. With its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, the high court stepped in and guaranteed a right to abortion but also triggered a backlash that has lasted for 40 years.

With same-sex marriage, by contrast, legislators and voters in nearly every state had the chance to make their feelings known before the Supreme Court weighs in.

People forget that durable rights don’t come from courts, they come from consensus and strong support from society,” says Jonathan Rauch, author of Denial, a recent memoir about growing up gay. “We are winning the right to marriage in a bigger, deeper way by winning it in the court of public opinion.”

After losing political battles in a majority of states, gay marriage supporters have won a number of legislative victories and ballot measures in recent years. Sensing momentum is in their favor, it may not be surprising that they’re glad they’ve had time to make their case to the public.

A Pew Research Center poll this month found that 72 percent of Americans believe universal gay marriage rights are “inevitable,” including 59 percent of those opposed to the idea.

But supporters of traditional marriage definitions also say that they’re pleased the court has waited to rule on this issue. The number of states blocking gay marriage still outnumber those allowing same-sex marriage by 3 to 1.

If states originate marriage laws, then state legislatures should legislate them,” says Sam Schulman, a journalist who has written a number of articles critical of gay marriage. “To let the courts decide feels just as wrong as letting opinion polls decide.

How Things Have Changed

In 2004, Rauch, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, wrote a book advocating gay marriage. That same year, Massachusetts saw its first legal same-sex marriages following the state Supreme Court’s ruling in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health.

The issue became central to the presidential campaign that year. On Election Day in 2004, voters in 11 states approved measures defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

If it had been the U.S. Supreme Court that issued a ruling back then, Rauch says, resistance would have been even more fierce.

States where opposition to gay marriage was strongest would have been angry not only about having had this issued decided for them in a way they didn’t approve, but about federal intrusion as well.

Gay marriage would be a legal reality, but it would have been in the crosshairs of massive resistance for two generations,” Rauch says.

Lowering The Stakes

Thanks to federalism, each state has been able to decide for itself. Last month, Minnesota granted gay couples marriage rights, joining 11 other states and the District of Columbia.

Four other states allow civil unions. All the rest block gay marriage, although there’s still some debate about the law in New Mexico.

If Goodridge had gone to the U.S. Supreme Court, we would not have been ready,” says Fred Sainz, vice president for communication and marketing for the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, referring to the Massachusetts case.

But opponents of gay marriage are also glad this issue has played out in states.

Who has the constitutional authority in our regime to make marriage policy?” asks Ryan T. Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation who has written extensively in favor of traditional marriage. “It’s not the unelected officials who sit on the federal bench.

Having this issue continue to play out politically gives opponents a fighting chance, he says.

Obviously, it’s very important that the majority of Americans do still support the description of marriage as between a man and a woman,” says Caitlin Seery, director of programs at the Love and Fidelity Network, referring not to poll numbers, but to the laws enacted in most states.

Where We Go From Here

Sainz is hoping the Supreme Court will find that there’s a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. “There is absolutely no doubt that the best possible outcome is a finding by the court that there is a fundamental right to marry nationwide,” he says.

Most observers don’t expect that outcome. More likely, they say, justices will offer a split decision, striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, which blocks federal recognition of same-sex marriages, but not creating a universal right to such marriages.

Rauch says that may be for the best. He argues it would still be better to let states continue to handle the issue.

He can understand the impatience of those who want marriage rights to be sanctified nationwide. He works in a jurisdiction in which his own marriage is legal — Washington, D.C. — but lives in Virginia, where it is not.

Rauch says Loving v. Virginia, not Roe v. Wade, may be the more apt comparison.

In its 1967 ruling in Loving, the Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage. But that decision came 19 years after a similar ruling by the California Supreme Court, during which time a number of states had decided to remove such bans themselves.

There may well come a time, maybe not all that long from now, when the Supreme Court will be recognizing rather than imposing socially recognized marriage equality,” Rauch says. “It’s a much bigger deal doing that at the front end, before there’s a national consensus, and at the back end when you’re basically cleaning up.

Where do you stand?

¿Quienes Somos?

Somos estudiantes de 3° año medio, del Colegio el Roble de Santo Domingo, V región Chile.

Nuestro proposito es defender a los animales, y escribir acerca de la penalizacion del tema.

El grupo esta conformado por Yikai, Rodrigo, Matías, Anita, Matías T.


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