Monthly Archives: March 2013
My Last Day Off…For a While
I serve a risen Savior
Marriage Equality and SCOTUS II
Marriage Equality and SCOTUS
The Human Rights Campaign’s push for marriage equality swept social media Tuesday as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case. The social campaign launched around 1 p.m. EST Monday afternoon, when the organization changed its Facebook profile picture from its iconic blue and yellow logo to the current red version.
“Red is a symbol for love, and that’s what marriage is all about,” Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Charlie Joughin told MSNBC.com on Tuesday. “We wanted to give people an opportunity to show their support for marriage equality in a public and visible way.”
Needless to say, this is a momentous week for LGBT rights and the Supreme Court. I can’t say that I understand all of the arguments that were presented yesterday, and I doubt I will understand all of the arguments presented today. Most of the analysts of yesterday’s arguments before the Court seemed to place Justice Kennedy as the major swing vote. Here are some of the arguments presented, as reported by The Huffington Post:
“Can you think of any other rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits or imposing burdens on them?” Sotomayor asked Charles J. Cooper, who is representing supporters of Prop 8’s ban on gay marriage. “Is there any other rational decision-making that the government could make? Denying them a job, not granting them benefits of some sort, any other decision?”
And when Cooper said Prop 8 supports “responsible procreation,” Kagan pushed back. “If you are over the age of 55, you don’t help us serve the government’s interest in regulating procreation through marriage. So why is that different?”
Yet the liveliest moments came when Scalia asked Ted Olson, President George W. Bush’s solicitor general and the lawyer for the two same-sex couples challenging Prop 8, “When did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage? 1791 [when the Bill of Rights was ratified]? 1868, when the 14th Amendment was adopted?”
Olson pushed back against Scalia’s originalist view, asking him in return, “When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit interracial marriages?”
“It’s an easy question,” Scalia said. “At the time that the equal protection clause was adopted. That’s absolutely true. But don’t give me a question to my question.”
“There’s no specific date in time,” Olson ultimately answered. “This is an evolutionary cycle.”
Alito’s issues with Olson’s argument were more pragmatic. “You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet,” Alito said. “On a question like that, of such fundamental importance, why should it not be left for the people, either acting through initiatives and referendums or through their elected public officials?”
Yet Ginsburg noted that one of the decisions Cooper was relying on in the case was written in 1971, when “same-sex intimate conduct was considered criminal.” In that case, Baker v. Nelson, the Supreme Court dismissed a Minnesota man’s attempt to marry his male partner as lacking a “substantial federal question.”
Kennedy also said he was “trying to wrestle with” whether a same-sex marriage ban should be viewed as a gender-based classification, calling it a “difficult question.”
By the end of the argument, it was clear that Kennedy believed the Prop 8 proponents had standing to sue, that same-sex couples had the right to marry and that such a right extended to all states. Yet that option — making same-sex marriage a federal constitutional right — compelled him to search for an escape hatch.
It is unclear from yesterday’s hearings how the Court might rule on Prop 8. It remains entirely possible that the Court might dodge the substantive question or rule on narrow grounds that only affect the State of California and not the rest of the country. Whatever it does, the rights of hundreds of thousands of families will be profoundly affected by whatever the Supreme Court rules on two marriage equality cases it is hearing this week. Without question, what the Court rules will make a difference in the short-term legal and political realities faced by same-sex couples.
But when Martin Luther King spoke about justice rolling “down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream,” he evoked the long arc of history that ultimately bends toward equal treatment and fairness for all. The Supreme Court may hurry the pace of justice or slow it down or dodge it altogether, but the sanctioning of anti-gay bias and legalized discrimination against gay families will someday soon be nothing more than an ugly relic of the past.
A decision in the case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, is expected by July.
Sonnet written in Holy Week at Genoa, by Oscar Wilde
|“Shelley’s Tomb in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome” – Painted by Walter Crane, 1873. Actually, it is John Keats‘ gravestone shown here.|
by Oscar Wilde
I wandered in Scoglietto’s green retreat,
The oranges on each o’erhanging spray
Burned as bright lamps of gold to shame the day;
Some startled bird with fluttering wings and fleet
Made snow of all the blossoms, at my feet
Like silver moons the pale narcissi lay:
And the curved waves that streaked the sapphire bay
Laughed i’ the sun, and life seemed very sweet.
Outside the young boy-priest passed singing clear,
“Jesus the Son of Mary has been slain,
O come and fill his sepulchre with flowers.”
Ah, God! Ah, God! those dear Hellenic hours
Had drowned all memory of Thy bitter pain,
The Cross, the Crown, the Soldiers, and the Spear.
The poem was published in 1881 on Wilde’s return to England, but he probably wrote it in Genoa, where Wilde may have attended the Chiesa Anglicana or Anglican Church.
During his travels in Greece with Mahaffy, Wilde’s interest in Roman Catholicism waned, and he was tinged with a little guilt when he was back in Italy in 1881 and realised in Genoa during Holy Week that he would rather remain an Anglican than become a Roman Catholic, or that he would rather be in Greece than in Rome:
… those dear Hellenic hours
Had drowned all memory of Thy bitter pain,
The Cross, the Crown, the Soldiers, and the Spear.
The sonnet opens with the poet in Scoglietto, the park around Villa Rosazza, near the Di Negro Metro Station. The oranges hanging from the trees are a common feature of Genoa in Via Negro as elsewhere. The imagery here is powerful with the oranges as lamps their brightness shaming the day. The flower blossoms, disturbed by the birds fluttering, fall as snow, an unusual but not uncommon feature of the climate in Genoa.
The sweetness of life in Genoa is underlined with the imagery of the sea and the narcissi and contrasted by the announcement of the death of Christ by the boy-priest, an image that reminds us not only of Wilde’s infatuation with Roman Catholicism but possibly of his troubled sexuality too.
The snows of the fifth line become flowers again to fill the sepulchre, a common practice in Italy and Greece as Christians decorate the churches for Easter.
The Hellenic hours could have various meanings, both to Wilde’s own sexuality but also the Graeco-Roman history of Christianity.
The last line is a kind of poetic shorthand summoning up aspects of the Crucifixion that are part of the common Christian memory.
Seventeen years after this poem was published, Oscar Wilde’s wife, Constance Lloyd, died in Genoa in 1898 and was buried in the Staglieno Cemetery. A year later, he visited her grave in Genoa on 26 February 1899 – a poignant and little-known episode in his life – and spent some more time in Genoa just a year before his own death.
I have not always been a Republican. As a young man I was a supporter of LBJ, and I actually voted for Bill Clinton; not once, but twice. I don’t actually regret either stance. I’ve come to believe that the old saying, “If you are young and not liberal, then you have no heart; but if you are old and not conservative, then you have no brain,” is entirely true. As I aged, I got smarter and more realistic about the world, just as one is supposed to do.
I would like to say it is now no secret to anyone that the Republican Party must change if it is to survive, but that cannot be said. Some of the most radical right wing nuts are still contending the Party is suffering not from right wing idiocy, but from its failure to further embrace the right wing agenda.
I agree, it’s time for change in both parties, though I consider myself a Democrat. The Democrats have moved too far left, and the Republicans too far right, which leaves no place for an American moderate. I’m not sure either party will moderate itself. The far left and right have too loud of a voice in each party. I have hopes for a true third party, not a one issue third party but one that will represent us moderates.
Gifts of Grace
According to tradition, the forecourt of the ancient Temple of Apollo at Delphi had inscribe on it the words γνῶθι σεαυτόν, “know thyself.” The maxim “know thyself” has had a variety of meanings attributed to it in literature. The Suda, a tenth century encyclopedia of Greek knowledge, says: “the proverb is applied to those whose boasts exceed what they are,” and that “know thyself” is a warning to pay no attention to the opinion of the multitude.
Though not a Christian maxim, Jesus actually says “Heal Thyself,” it certainly applies to us as well as to the other religions and philosophies that have used it. Romans 12:3-8 states
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.