Friday, May 16, 2008

On the good, the bad, and the Friday Random Ten

Okay, so it's been a while, I know, and I also know I say that at the beginning of every TGTBATFRT, usually because it's been a while. Work continues to be a pain in my assholes, and the personal life is... good, actually, really good, but time-consuming. But quit you're whining, because TGTBATFRT is back, baby, we're back, and we're... back.

What's good (for the bunch of weeks ending 5/16):

- gays settlin' down
- chicken and vegetable potstickers
- Iron Man - a seriously entertaining movie, whether or not you care about comic books. And it brought teh hotness back to Robert Downey Jr.

- Bonnie Richardson is very, very good.

What's bad:

- all this bulljive over gays settlin' down. Seriously, people, I've heard the legitimate arguments and given them due consideration before refuting/dismissing them, but this whole "gay marriage destroys straight marriage" thing? How? For the love of the invisible pink unicorn, would someone please tell me how marriage becomes weaker when more people are allowed to do it?
- George W. Bush quitting golf... to show empathy for mothers who've lost kids in Iraq. Now, I'll grant him that playing golf while people die draws some pretty significant fiddling/Rome-burning associations, but if you've just lost your husband and the father of your children to a roadside bomb, is your first thought going to be, "Well, at least President Bush cares enough to sleep in on a Saturday"?

The Ten:

1. Dion, "Runaround Sue"
2. Queen, "We Are the Champions"
3. Cheap Trick, "Surrender"
4. Sarah Vaughan, "All of Me"
5. Brian Whitman, "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me"
6. Frank Sinatra, "Fly Me to the Moon"
7. Chicane, "Low Sun"
8. Franz Schubert, "Das Fischermadchen" from Schwanengesang
9. Guster, "Born to Be Wild" (live, with Jump, Little Children)
10. Sarah Brightman, "Scene D'Amour"

What's good for you this week? That and your Ten go in comments.

On gays settlin' down, redux: California soul

Okay, so yesterday, California's highest court struck down as unconstitutional the state's ban on gay marriage, voting 4-3. Blah, blah, blah, judicial activism, blah, here's the reason it works:

First of all, let's note that the will of the people is not the highest law in the land, nor should it be. The will of the people has brought us slavery, discrimination on the basis of race and sex, Sunday blue laws, and American Idol. The people can be kind of stupid sometimes. Not always, but sometimes. And on the occasion that the people get stupid and try to pass discriminatory laws just because they have the sheer numerical authority to do it, someone has to be able to step in and say, "Well, yes, I realize that you all want it, but you can't pass a law outlawing Catholicism just because the Pope is really creepy. It's unconstitutional."

And that's what the courts have said here: that whether or not a majority of people in California want to deny gay people the right to marry, it's unconstitutional to discriminate against them by denying them a right that straight people have. Over at Pandagon, MAJeff (who appears to be the god of biscuits, for which I salute him) explains what it means that gays are now considered a "suspect classification":
In constitutional jurisprudence, there are basically two levels of analysis: rational basis and heightened scrutiny. Different states may have different levels, and Federal jurisprudence has sort of a middle one for gender, but these are the two basic ones.

Rational basis is the lowest level. It basically assumes that laws are constitutional if the state can show a rational reason for making the law–in this case, the state would need to have a “good enough” reason to distinguish between gay and lesbian people. Under this standard, the burden is on people challenging a law to show that the state does not have a “good enough” reason to deny the right.

The higher level is strict scrutiny. At this level, the burden falls upon the state to demonstrate is has a “really really good” reason to deny a right or treat people differently.

There are generally two ways to bump the analysis up to strict scrutiny. The first involves the denial of a “fundamental” right. Generally, those are the ones listed in constitutions, but things like marriage and privacy, although not explicitly listed, have been included.

The other way is through a suspect classification. At the Federal level, race is the only category that bumps this analysis up. Gender occupies sort of a middle location. Sexual orientation has no status at the Federal level.

MAJeff does go on to note that he's not a lawyer (just a "geeky sociologist who is studying the issue"), so any lawyers out there might want to check behind him on that, but on the surface, it sounds square. Gays should be allowed to marry not because there's any special reason to give them any special right, but because marriage is a basic right and there's no good reason not to give it to them.

Of course, if you read through the rest of that linked thread, you'll see that the fundies and Freepers have plenty of reasons to deny gays the right to marry, most of which involve dogs and/or polygamy and/or the influence of Satan (and, apparently, little boys and girls being forced to marry each other in public schools, which I don't quite understand). A few things to remember:

- Your dog cannot legally consent to marriage, nor legally sign the marriage certificate, so stop trying to make him.
- Straight Californians will not be forced to divorce their heterosexual partners now that marriage is legal for gays; it's a both-and thing, not an either-or.
- Churches will not be forced to perform gay wedding ceremonies, but should, because they're bound to be awesome.
- "Voting from the rooftops" is illegal (exceptions: voting precincts located on rooftops; absentee or mail-in ballots).
- Massachusetts has yet to collapse under the weight of its own sin and crumble into the ocean.

So here's to gays settlin' down (in California, at least) and what are sure to be the best wedding receptions evar.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

On The List

Okay, so I have a couple of problems with the way this issue has been handled. I think it's possible for school administrators to go too far in their pursuit of order and decorum. I think that PDAs can be kind of icky when they go too far. I think high school kids will, to some extent, be high school kids. And I think that, despite recent security concerns and efforts on the part of many school administrators and even the protestation of the courts, kids should still have some right to privacy, because they're supposed to be learning to be adults and part of being an adult is seeing to your own business without needing constant monitoring.

That's why I think that people on both sides of the issue have... issues. And I have issues with that. For instance:

Issue the first: The infraction in question is a public display of affection. Now, it's been several years since I was a high school student, but when I was, public displays of affection tended to be public. You didn't need to make a list and track them down or monitor them or anything, 'cause they were, like, right there. In public.

Issue the second: I don't know if this is a failure on the principal's part or a failure of reporting, but the ABC report doesn't say that the boys who were outed had actually participated in any alleged PDAs. It only said that they were on the list of students to be "monitored," and that that's how the outing occurred. Which means they're suffering negative consequences for doing nothing wrong.

Issue the third: This is just supposition, of course, but in general, people who have something they're trying to keep quiet tend to, y'know, try and keep it quiet. Two guys who are trying to hide their coupledom from the rest of the school aren't likely to be among those causing PDA problems in the hallways.

Issue the fourth: This isn't entirely an issue of discrimination. This is a serious invasion of privacy for gay and straight students. There's no reason that the high-school administration should keep track of the ever-shifting configurations of teenage romances unless they're actually in the process of causing trouble--in which case, see above re: Issue the first.

Issue the fifth: This is still kind of a civil liberties issue because the gay kids are far more likely to suffer negative consequences for their relationship than the straight ones are. According to the ACLU's lawsuit, both boys have dealt with harassment from other students and one has even lost educational opportunities because of the outing.

Issue the sixth: A PDA is a PDA whether it's gay or straight. Even if Andrew and/or Nicholas had been engaged in a fervent hallway make-out session, the principal had no reason to call and say, "Your son was caught making out with another 'mo in the hallway." A simple, "Your son is being disciplined for breaking the rules by engaging in a public display of affection," should be entirely sufficient.

Issue the, what, seventh? Seventh: Nicholas's mother, who was apparently unaware that her son was gay until so informed by the school, reports that the principal said she "had a problem with homosexuality" and that "homosexuality will not be tolerated." If that is, in fact, the case, there is a clear case of discrimination here on top of the indiscriminate violation of privacy, and that ain't cool.

PortlyDyke over at Shakespeare's Sister has a really powerful post up about the pressures of simply being gay, even being "out," in a society that isn't entirely accepting of it. She writes about a challenge she made to a close friend of hers:
Spend an entire week pretending that you're not a couple. Don't write a check from a joint bank account. Hide all the photographs in your home and office which would identify you as a couple. Take off your wedding rings. Touch each other, and talk to each other, in public, in ways that could only be interpreted as you being "friends". Refer to yourself only in the singular "I", never in the "we". When you go to work on Monday, if you spent time together on the weekend, include only information which would indicate that you went somewhere with a friend, rather than your life-mate. If someone comes to stay with you, sleep in separate beds. Go intentionally into the closet as a couple. For a week.

They took my challenge.

They lasted exactly three days.

My friend returned to me in tears on day four and said: "I'm sorry. I had no idea what it is like for you."

Chances are, these kids were under enough stress as it was just trying to keep their relationship quiet in what was obviously a hostile environment, and there may well have been a few hetero couples on the list that were making similar efforts for their own reason. Even assuming that the list in question was made in good faith and in an effort to maintain decorum in an educational setting, the effort required to put the list inside a desk drawer or folder where it couldn't be seen by other students would be minimal at the very least.

And if the principal did, in fact, out a couple of high school students for no other reason than her own discomfort with homosexuality, she should be removed from her position. High school is hard enough, trying to get into college, wondering if that one tough teacher is out to get you, without having to wonder if that one tough teacher really is out to get you.