Category Archives: News

It Could Be Today

  
The countdown is on for the Supreme Court to render its verdict in watershed cases that could bring marriage equality to all 50 states. But an update to the high court’s calendar suggests we could get a ruling as early as this Thursday.

According to the Supreme Court website, the Court has added a non-argument session “for the announcement of opinions on Thursday, June 18, 2015, at 10 am.”  Insiders believe that’s when they’ll break the news of their decision in Obergefell v Hodges, which involves existing bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

It is possible, of course, that the justices will announce a verdict in some other case, and hold off on marriage equality until as late as June 30, when the current session ends.

  

What Are The Possible Verdicts In The Supreme Court Marriage Equality Cases?

Experts on both sides of the issue believe SCOTUS will issue a broad ruling granting federal marriage equality. But what does that actually mean? And what if the justices don’t? 

Below, I’ll review three possible verdicts the Supreme Court could issue in Obergefell v Hodges and spell out what they mean in practical terms.
Of course SCOTUS can be unpredictable at times, so it is still a situation we wait for with bated breath.

If SCOTUS Rules Marriage-Equality Bans Are Unconstitutional…

Any remaining barriers to gay marriage are also unconstitutional, meaning same-sex couples will be able to marry anywhere in the country.
 This is the best possible outcome, but if Ginsberg writes the opinion, then it could possibly be an even wider ruling.

If SCOTUS Limits Its Ruling To Require States To Recognize Marriage Equality…

Couples in states without same-sex marriage would actually have marry elsewhere, but must be afforded all the rights of the institution at home.
 This may be the case of Roberts writes the opinion.  If this is the case, then SCOTUS is keeping the status quo and issuing a half-hearted ruling such as we saw in Windsor, which struck down significant parts of DOMA.

If SCOTUS Rules In Favor of Bans On Marriage Equality…

In the immediate, bans in 14 states—including the ones in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee that are at stake in Obergefell v Hodges—would remain intact.
 This would be the most disastrous of rulings, and means that Kennedy, who wrote the opinion in Windsor sided against equality in Obergefell.

Tragically, though, states that had their marriage bans thrown out by federal courts in the past could attempt to reinstate such barriers. Existing same-sex marriages could come into question, as well. Experts agree such a ruling would have wide-ranging effects that could throw our hard-earned victories into chaos.

However SCOTUS rules, it’s guaranteed to be a major issue of the 2016 presidential race, and the religious right will go nuts, either with joy or with the belief that the world is ending.  
UPDATE: SCOTUS issued First Amendment and criminal law rulings, but nothing on Obergefell. The Court had seventeen opinions left to issue going into today. They issued six today. With eleven opinions left, SCOTUSblog believes that there is a possibility that they may extend the session into July. It happens on occasion, but because the justices have teaching and speaking obligations in July, they often attempt to finish by the end of June.


Obergefell v. Hodges 

 
Obergefell v. Hodges presented a lot of back and forth on the issue of same sex marriage at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, which was deeply divided as it heard oral arguments in the case.  Obergefell v. Hodges is a case which is likely to go down in the history books alongside other landmark civil rights cases.  This one centers on two questions: first, whether there is a constitutional right to gay marriage, and second, if not, whether states that have bans on gay marriage have to recognize gay marriages performed in other states where it’s legal.  The first question seems to be the most important, and I have tired to sum up the SCOTUS proceedings as succinctly as possible, but it turned out to be way too long.  The best summary I’ve read is from a New York Times article by Adam Liptak.  I read over numerous articles about the proceedings, and the one by Liptak seemed to be one of the best. So if you want to read about the arguments presented and the questions asked by the justices, then click on the link for the Liptak article.

Let’s face it, most of the arguments against same sex marriage are ridiculous.  Opponents argue that same sex marriage:  would destroy the institution of marriage, Marriage is for procreation, polygamy would follow, voters should be able to decide, tradition and history, and religious concerns.  Those six are the arguments that opponents seem to want to argue most.  So let’s look at these one at a time.  Same-sex marriage will have no effect on opposite-sex marriage.  Quite simply, it will not affect a heterosexual marriage in any way.  Also, if marriage is for procreation only, then barren couples should have their marriages invalidated, no one should be able to marry a post-menopausal woman, and couples who do not want children should not be allowed to marry.  However, opponents of same-sex marriage still say that LGBT couples should not be allowed to marry because the marriage cannot produce children.  What is equal about that?  As for polygamy, one of the arguments is for religious freedom, but we deny those whose religion allows polygamy to practice it.  So why not allow polygamy?  I want only one man in my life, but if you’re Islamic or Mormon, you should have the right to have multiple wives, as long as one woman can also have multiple husbands.  Furthermore, if voters were able to decide all issues about equality, the American South would still be segregated, interracial marriage would still be illegal, and sodomy would still be illegal (and for those who would think that it should still be illegal [none of my readers I hope] then please remember that most sodomy laws included any sex that was not in the missionary position).  The American voters cannot be trusted with protecting the rights of minorities, which is why we have the 14th Amendment.  As for tradition and history, if we are speaking strictly of American history, numerous Native American tribes allowed not only for transgender but also for same-sex marriage.  It is only the introduction of Christianity that those tribals laws changed.  Which brings me to my last point, America’s Founding Fathers believed in separation of church and state, therefore religious need not apply.

Preliminary indications are that the Court is ready to rule 5-4 in favor of marriage equality. However, while even those opposed to marriage equality concede as much, a win — especially one in which marriage equality is affirmed as a civil rights issue — is no guarantee.  The Supreme Court will release its ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges in June. While there’s reason to be optimistic, the oral arguments did not provide a clear win for the LGBT community, and even if marriage equality is affirmed, it could be affirmed in narrow terms that aren’t transferrable to other LGBT cases involving discrimination unrelated to marriage.  My greatest fear is that the Supreme Court will issue a very narrow decision in favor of same-sex marriage and those states who allow same-sex marriage will be allowed to continue and other states will be forced to wait, therefore, having two Americas, one with LGBT Americans having marriage equality in some states and others states where LGBT Americans will be deemed second class citizens.  I personally am hoping for a broad opinion written by Ginsberg.


Come Out to the National Parks 

The National Park Service is encouraging LGBT Americans to come out and visit the more than 400 parks overseen by the federal agency.  The latest move by the park service to engage the LGBT community is part of the new Find Your Park initiative, launched recently in conjunction with the National Park Foundation.

Gay and lesbian park service employees and lesbian singer Mary Lambert, one of several celebrity centennial ambassadors for the initiative, are helping to spread the inclusive invite as part of the new public awareness and education campaign celebrating the milestone centennial anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.

I’ve always loved the National Parks, and once considered joining. The National Parks Service as a historian.  When I was a kid, my family would go camping at least once a year at the Gulf Islands National Seashore at Ft. Pickens near Pensacola.  We would also often go in the summers to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park and stay in either Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, or Cherokee, North Carolina.  I learned so much at these National Parks and Ft. Pickens was one of the major reasons for my love of history.  The beauty of the National Parks is unmatched anywhere, and they deserve to be celebrated.

A video featuring gay park ranger Michael Liang, a visual information specialist at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Southern California shows him jogging through Cheeseboro Canyon off the 101 where he runs prior to heading to work.  Liang noted that parks allow visitors to “slow down” their minds and “notice” the beauty of the outdoors.  “All you have to do is get up, get out there, and find your park,” said Liang.

Liang, 29, explained that the park service is looking to create the next generation of park supporters and advocates with the campaign.  “If you look at who we traditionally attracted, it was upper middle-class families,” noted Liang, who grew up in Michigan and started with the park service as an intern in 2004. “The parks are funded by the taxpayers, so it is really important we represent the diversity of the country and the population.”

Through the Find Your Park’s website, http://www.findyourpark.com/, any visitor can upload their own video talking about their love for America’s protected spaces or an individual park site that is of particular interest to them.  “It is a digital platform to share your stories. We invite the public to share their favorite national park stories or how they want to envision what the park service looks like,” said Liang. “It is a great way for LGBT people to share why it is important to them or what we can do to make them more relevant to our community.”

Responsible for the marketing materials of the park where he works, Liang said he is mindful of using photos that show a diverse array of visitors. He is working on a series of posters aimed at inspiring Los Angeles residents to visit the Santa Monica Mountains west of the city.  “I take personal responsibility to ensure the people depicted in those photos reflect the diversity of L.A., for example, having two men holding hands watching the sunset in the Santa Monica Mountains,” said Liang, who came to the park last June from Philadelphia where he worked in the park service’s regional office for the Northeast. “I am still discovering our park. By June my challenge is to identify LGBT historical figures with our park. It will be perfect timing to start digging into those stories.”

One way the parks can attract LGBT visitors, said Liang, is through the programming sites offer guests. He pointed to the Bay Area’s Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park on the waterfront in Richmond, which has sought to capture the stories of LGBT people who either worked in the East Bay shipyards during the war or were service members who embarked from Bay Area military bases for combat in the Pacific Rim.

“How we can attract LGBT visitors is through creating national park sites that tell the story of our community,” said Liang, who is hopeful that one day there will be an LGBT-specific national park site. “While there currently isn’t one yet in the system, there is the theme study looking at LGBT sites.”

In January 2014 the B.A.R. broke the news that the park service had teamed with Megan E. Springate, who identifies as queer and is seeking a Ph.D. in archaeology at the University of Maryland, to oversee a National Historic Landmark LGBTQ Theme Study and proposed framework.  As part of the project, the park service is seeking nominations of places important to the country’s LGBT community for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places or to be designated as a National Historic Landmark. Both are considered important first steps that could lead to the properties one day becoming national park sites.

According to park service officials, only five properties in the country have been granted some form of federal historic preservation recognition specifically due to their relationship to LGBT history. There are four sites presently included in the National Register of Historic Places and one – New York City gay bar the Stonewall Inn – listed as a National Historic Landmark. The second landmark, the Chicago home of gay rights pioneer Henry Gerber, should be finalized later this year.

Last month the National Park Service released a seven-page document listing various ways members of the public can assist with its LGBTQ Heritage Initiative. Steps people can take run the gamut from proposing landmark-worthy sites to creating LGBT-themed tours of historic districts.

“The National Park Service has just released a document that brings together the many ways that people across America, regardless of identity, location, or how much time they have, can participate and engage with the initiative,” Springate wrote in an email to members of the Rainbow Heritage Network, a group for LGBT history advocates. “These include sharing information about places important to your community, spreading the word, visiting historic places, and writing nominations or nomination amendments for the National Register of Historic Places or National Historic Landmarks programs.”

The document can be downloaded online at http://www.nps.gov/history/heritageinitiatives/LGBThistory/GetInvolved.pdf


Back to the Grind 



Spring break is over and there are eight more weeks of school.  And thus begins the marathon.  I had such a wonderful and magical spring break, that it makes it even harder to return to school today.  However, my plan is to let my good mood shine through and hopefully it will rub off on the students.  I know that’s wishful thinking, but good things are happening and I’m trying to be optimistic.  The best news is that it’s a four day week.  We have Good Friday out of school.

I know this is a short post, and there were several things in the news from last week that I could talk about, but it seemed like a lot of the news was depressing.  California has a proposed ballot initiative that calls for killing gays with “bullets to the head.”  Really, what kind of sick minds could actually propose such a thing, but one lawyer in California has done just that.  Furthermore, indiana has passed a new law which the governor signed which is a legalized form of discrimination against gay people, even though it’s under the sick and misguided guise of “religious freedom.”  What utter bullshit!  It’s pure bigotry and has nothing to do with religious freedoms, because they are meant for people who call themselves Christian to refuse service to the LGBT community.  What they need is to be taught about “what would Jesus do” if they want religious freedom.  They should be doing all they can to help everyone and anyone, not finding ways to discriminate.  

There were other news related issues, but even thinking about gem make me sad and/or angry.  This week is Holy Week, and I plan to spend my week being optimistic and trying my best to love my fellow man, which I guess means being nice to my students, or at least as nice as I can be without losing control of them.

I hope everyone has a fabulous week.  I’m starting my morning with a cup of coffee, which always brightens my day and puts a pep in my step.

Give Alabama the Finger…The Wedding Finger #LuvUAlabama



”Star Trek” icon George Takei is lending a hand — or, rather, a finger — to the battle for marriage equality in Alabama by helping to launch a social media effort in protest of Alabama’s recent halt on same-sex marriages.

The actor and outspoken lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activist shared a photo of himself with his husband, Brad Takei, on Instagram and Twitter calling for his followers to give Alabama “the wedding finger” in response to the state’s apparent backtracking on marriage equality.

“I’m going to say it. Alabama is really starting to piss me off,” Takei wrote in a separate Facebook post.

In an email sent to The Huffington Post, Takei said:

I was genuinely dismayed to hear that a state’s highest court would flout a federal court order, which was left to stand by both the Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. This is grandstanding at its worst, and it is extraconstitutional.
You know, 60 years ago it wasn’t considered a real marriage if a white person wanted to marry an Asian American like me. And now look, I married a white dude. Times change. Attitudes change. And for the better.
We decided to speak out in this somewhat tongue in cheek way to make an important point. It is all about love, and we, as a same-sex couple, just want the same right to have our love recognized.
We hope enough couples, gay and straight, join with us to make this point. We’ll be collecting up the pics, all tagged with the hashtag #LuvUAlabama plus each couple’s home state, to create a mosaic of support for marriage equality. We hope Alabama, too, soon joins the right side of history, as all of America one day will.

Only time will tell if the effort will have an impact in Alabama, where the battle for same-sex marriage has taken some unexpected twists in recent weeks.

In January, a federal judge found that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, while a number of probate judges promptly refused to comply with the ruling.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court refused in February to halt same-sex marriages in Alabama, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples statewide in what has been deemed “a defiant ruling” on March 3.

So let’s all give Alabama the finger…the wedding finger.


A Temporary Setback



Probate judges in Alabama’s 67 counties were caught in a tug of war between state and federal courts over the issue of same-sex marriage on Tuesday and were ordered by the state supreme court to stop issuing the licenses.

As of noon Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign had identified 42 counties it said had stopped issuing same-sex licenses as of today. Another 19 never issued the licenses and the status of six — Bullock,  Crenshaw, Lamar, Macon, Monroe,  Sumter — is unclear, the advocacy group reported.

“Because of the Alabama Supreme Court’s willingness to ignore their oath of office, all Alabama’s counties appear to be in conflict with the intent of a federal court order,” HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a press release. “This is only a temporary setback on the road to equality, but the message it sends to LGBT Alabamians is despicable.”

Same-sex couples will likely appeal up to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary to block the latest state supreme court ruling, said Ben Cooper, chairman of Equality Alabama. “It’s important to understand that this is not nearly the end of this,” he said.

The federal government does not take kindly to states getting in the way of their rulings.  Attorney Shelley Bilbrey notes, “You know at some point, we end up with the George Wallace standing at the school-house door situation.”

Let’s say a probate judge wants to issue a same-sex marriage license. Let’s say they want to side with the federal court and ignore the state ruling.  Why not?

Bilbrey answers, “They would be fearful of a contempt citing.”  She’s saying probate judges could be jailed for following a federal court decision.  You can see why they may be reluctant to issue the same-sex marriage licenses, no matter their own feelings on the legality or morality of the issue.  Bilbrey adds, “Regardless of what he believes about the issue, I certainly would never want to risk a contempt citing.”  Because the ruling itself shows the state supreme court is using a lot of the powers at their disposal.  As for contempt, Bilbrey assesses, “I wouldn’t doubt that they would exercise that, since they’ve already taken this drastic measure.”

The Republicans in our state house and in our courthouses promised smaller, less intrusive government, but right now they are trying, instead, to write our marriage vows for us. And that love and cherish and sweet old fashioned notion stuff just got struck right out.  The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that love is not a factor in marriage.  Have they decided to send us back hundreds of years to arranged marriages, when we weren’t able to choose who we’d marry?  No, these perverse judges instead want to look in our underpants to make sure our parts are compatible for baby-making.  


The Alabama Supreme Court of Idiots


Weeks after a United States District Court judge in Mobile ordered a probate judge there to issue same-sex marriage licenses, the Alabama Supreme Court has ordered a halt to same-sex marriages in the state.   In a 134-page opinion, seven of the nine justices said the U.S. Constitution “does not require one definition of marriage.”  The Alabama Supreme Court once again has instructed probate judges not to issue marriage licenses.

Of course the big conflict here is that a U.S. District Court judge struck down Alabama’s ban on gay marriage. That was appealed, but the Supreme Court refused to put a hold on that ruling while it decides on the issue of same-sex marriage itself.  Alabama seems not to be able to understand that federal jurisdiction trumps state jurisdiction.

“As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman,” the court wrote. “Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.”

While same-sex marriage advocates chanted “love wins” outside Alabama courthouses last month, the Alabama Supreme Court said love has little to do with legal marriage in the state. 

In probably the most appalling part of the Supreme Court’s opinion, the justices stated that “Although love may be an important factor in a lasting marriage, civil marriage has no public interest in whether the people seeking a marriage license love one another.”

This means that that yesterday’s ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court throws the state into conflict with the federal judiciary. Remember, it was Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore who issued a similar order in February.  U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade, who struck down gay marriage in the state, has already ruled that probate judges should should follow her order, not that of the chief justice.  Now the Supreme Court of Alabama has decided to respond with an almost unanimous voice, over a case in which they have no jurisdiction.  Unlike the United States Supreme Court which does have a few instances of original jurisdiction, the Alabama Supreme Court only has appellate jurisdiction as the state’s highest court of appeal.  A case must begin in a lower state court in order to be heard by the Alabama Supreme Court.

Contrary to the Alabama constitution and Judicial precedent over jurisdiction, the Alabama Supreme Court issued the order, called a writ of mandamus, that had been requested by the Alabama Policy Institute and the Alabama Citizens Action Program last month to stop the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses.

The court seemed to chide Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange for not taking a more active role in enforcing state law, sadly however for the wrong reason.  “In the wake of the federal district court’s orders, Attorney General Strange has refrained from fulfilling what would otherwise have been his customary role of providing advice and guidance to public officials, including probate judges, as to whether or how their duties under the law may have been altered by the federal district court’s decision,” the court wrote. Strange had the legal duty to advise the probate judges to follow Judge Granade’s order; however, he remained silent on the subject and let chaos ensue.

Moore actually recused himself from Tuesday’s ruling, presumably, because his previous order had already been addressed by Judge Granade, but I have to wonder why Justice Tom Parker did not also recuse himself.  Parker was founding Executive Director of the Alabama Family Alliance (now the Alabama Policy Institute), which was one of the two public interest groups who asked the the Alabama Supreme Court to rule in this case as a court of original jurisdiction, which it cannot do.  One has to wonder how much in campaign contributions Parker and others justices received from the Alabama Policy Institute to make it worth their while to ignore Alabama legal precedents to even take up the issue.

Justice Greg Shaw was the lone dissenter in this case. He said that the Supreme Court should have put Granade’s ruling on hold, but that it is clear that this court has no jurisdiction to take this case and that the public interest groups suing on behalf of the state have no standing.  Further, Shaw stated in his dissent that pursuant to the Alabama Constitution, Alabama’s probate judges have both judicial and ministerial duties.  The Alabama Supreme Court only has jurisdiction of their judicial, not ministerial duties. Shaw pointed out that the judiciary of Alabama has no legal authority over issuing marriage licenses of any kind, therefore it is not in the jurisdiction of the Alabama Supreme Court to rule on this action of the county probate judges, just as they have no authority over the keeping of public records, driver’s licenses, or automobile tags.

Shaw concluded:

“By overlooking this Court’s normal procedures; by stretching our law and creating exceptions to it; by assuming original jurisdiction, proceeding as a trial court, and reaching out to speak on an issue that this Court cannot meaningfully impact because the Supreme Court of the United States will soon rule on it; and by taking action that will result in additional confusion and more costly federal litigation involving this State’s probate judges, this Court, in my view, is venturing into unchartered waters and potentially unsettling established principles of law. Therefore, I must respectfully dissent.”

“The state is going to take such a black eye on this,” said University of Alabama Law Professor Ron Krotoszynski, Jr.. “I think it’s going to play very badly in the national media,” he said, citing shows  like Bill Maher, John Oliver and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

“They’re rejecting Judge Granade’s reasoning lock stock and barrel,” Krotoszynski said.

Granade’s reasoning is in line with more than 60 federal district judges who have ruled on the same issue since the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) in 2013, Krotoszynski said.

The next likely step is for one of the probate judges to file an emergency stay with the U.S. Supreme Court, Krotoszynski said. The situation could be “chaotic” between now and June when the U.S. Supreme Court is to rule on the issue anyway in a 6th Circuit case, he said.

Probate Judge Davis in Mobile could be in the worst position if the Alabama Supreme Court brings him under their order, which it appears they are inclined to do, Krotoszynski said. “He is between a rock and a hard place,” he said.  Davis had been ordered specifically to follow Judge Granade’s ruling when he initially refused to allow the Mobile County Probate Judge’s office to open for business after the initial stay ended.

The Human Rights campaign blasted the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling, which it called meandering and bizarre.

“The Alabama state Supreme Court does not have the authority to interfere with a federal court order,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “This order is outrageous and baffling, and no amount of legalese can hide the bare animus that forms the foundation of this extralegal ruling.”

If you are interested in reading the ruling, you can do so by clicking the link below.  I skimmed most of it, but the dissenting opinion by Justice Shaw is obviously written by someone who cares more about the rule of law and the procedure of law then by someone who is only concerned with politics.

Alabama Same Sex Marriage Decision


Google Reverses Blogger’s Censorship Policy



Last Monday, Google sent an email to Blogger users who had blogs with adult content saying that there would be a change in policy on March 23, effectively banning any adult content blogs. Last Thursday,  I wrote about Blogger’s new censorship policy.  Now, Google has reversed that decision, allowing people running adult blogs to continue.

On Friday, a rep from the Blogger team posted to the support page:

This week, we announced a change to Blogger’s porn policy. We’ve had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities. Blog owners should continue to mark any blogs containing sexually explicit content as “adult” so that they can be placed behind an ‘adult content’ warning page.

This message was also given to bloggers who had written into the Blogger support page seeking help with what to do with their accounts. A rep for Google confirmed the change in policy to BuzzFeed News.

I thought the ban was a terrible idea — it meant that people who had devoted huge amounts of time, labor, and love into their blogs would have that taken away (adult blogs wouldn’t have been technically deleted, they’d be turned “private,” which means they’d be invisible to readers). While porn spam on Blogger may be an issue, there are myriad other types of blogs that contain adult content. Their now reversed policy was vague and left many bloggers with a lot of questions.

An early employee of Blogger, Jason Shellen, told BuzzFeed News earlier this week that he thought the new policy may have been a result of Google’s shifting priorities. The original Blogger team had staunchly believed in it as a platform for free expression, and he was disappointed to hear about the change. Ironically, former Blogger founder Ev Williams, who went on later to found Twitter and then Medium, posted on Monday about new changes on Medium that would make the platform even more blogging-friendly for users and readers.

Turning all adult blogs private would have been a devastating blow for the fabric of the internet. What was likely meant to be an anti-spam measure would’ve taken away not only people’s beloved works of art and communities of readership, but also would’ve deleted incomprehensible amounts of internet history. Google is a big company with deep pockets, and to remove who knows how many (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of the works that its users had been making for more than a decade just because of some pesky spam seemed like a massive overreaction.

I’m glad that Google listened and did the right thing by reversing this decision. I hope that whatever weird interdepartmental power struggle that led to the bad idea in the first place won’t be revisited.

Owning Blogger means being the steward of millions of people’s deepest creative thoughts and feelings and art. As that steward, Google has an ethical responsibility preserve that for the internet. This is a happy day for the internet.


Blogger and Censorship

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Note: This is a back-up/mirror blog for my original Closet Professor Blog at closetprofessor.blogspot.com.

Google has announced a new adult content policy for Blogger. Starting March 23, 2015, bloggers won’t be able to publicly share images and videos that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity on Blogger. Google says that they will “still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit. For example, in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts.” Bloggers says that if an existing blog doesn’t have any sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video on it, that you won’t notice any changes.

If an existing blog does have sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video, the blog will be made private after March 23, 2015. Blogger says that no content will be deleted, but private content can only be seen by the owner or administrators of the blog and the people who the owner has shared the blog with.

Several years ago when Blogger began to shut down many gay blogs, I decided to remove anything I deemed overtly sexually explicit or contained graphic nude images or videos from my blog. At the same time, I also removed the adult content warning. However, I do still post some nudity on my blog, but mostly only male behinds. I never post an exposed penis, nor an erect penis.

I have several issues with Blogger’s explanation of the new policy because it is too vague and ambiguous. There needs to be a specific policy to explain what Google/Blogger will determine as what will be deemed not to “offer substantial public benefit.” Who will determine what is substantial? The answer most likely is that it will be either google workers or some computerized search technique they will use. I’ve had a few problems with Blogger in the past with their AdSense revenue sharing program. It never produced much money, but a little here and there always hoped. However, AdSense, even though I conformed to their policy, decided that my blog was in violation of their policy. Though I emailed them numerous times, I was never given an explanation. I’m afraid they will do the same with their new policy.

Some of the blogs I read daily, do contain sexual content. Steve’s “All Natural and More” is one of my favorite blogs. I follow it and check it out each day. I love the pictures that Steve shares, but I also love the newsworthy items that he shares on his blog. Since I am a follower of Steve’s blog, will I lose access to this blog if it is deemed “pornographic” or will I have to ask for permission to follow his blog or other blogs that are made private that I follow? Will blogs that are converted to private still appear on my Dashboard? These are just some of the many questions that Blogger should be answering, but is remaining silent about.

It is simple censorship. A blog (a truncation of the expression weblog) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first). Many blogs provide commentary on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries; others function more as online brand advertising of a particular individual or company. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic, sometimes those topics are sexual in nature. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of a blog. I’ve met many great people through blogging.

What upsets me is that a blog is an extension of your personality. Often bloggers are anonymous so that they can freely express a part of their personality that they may not be able to express to the public world around them. This is especially true of closeted gay bloggers. By censoring us, of what Google/Blogger may or may not deem to offer substantial public benefit, they are taking away a large part of what blogging is about. I do not believe that my blog is in violation of their new policy, but if one day they deem it to be in violation, please remember my dear readers that I have a mirror blog at closetprofessor.wordpress.com.

UPDATE:

Writing for Google’s Blogger Team, Social Product Support Manager Jessica Pelegio said that users whose blogs were consistent with Blogger’s existing policies (including the labeling of adult content) would not need to make any changes.

“We’ve had a ton of feedback,” Pelegio said, “in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities. So rather than implement this change, we’ve decided to step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn.”

Rally for Marriage

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I never listen to the radio in the mornings. I used to listen to NPR every morning on the way to school, but occasionally they get on a story and they are as bad as all the other news sources and just go on and on ad nauseam. So, I usually listen to an audiobook to and from school. But this morning, I was having trouble with the phone syncing to the radio and it kept playing the actual radio station, which happened to have “The Rick and Bubba Show” on the station. I used to listen to Rick and Bubba fifteen years ago back when it was largely a comedy show and they still played music, but since then they have gone so far to the Christian Right politically and religiously that I can’t even begin to listen to it.

The less than two minutes I accidentally heard the show, it was like listening to a racing lunatic on the radio. Rick Burgess has such a blind hatred of President Obama and all things liberal that he sounds like a religious fanatic, which he is. This morning he was ranting about how Obama decries any criticism of Islam while chastising anyone in support of Christianity. It was a load of shit. Rick would say the same thing about me. I hate when other people are ignorant and dismissive of a religion just because it is different from theirs and they don’t understand it. I probably didn’t hear more than 20 seconds of the show and in that time, he raged against Obama’s “hatred” of Christianity and got on the topic of same-sex marriage in Alabama.

Rick Burgess happens to be a fanatical supporter of Alabama’s Chief Clown Roy Moore. Burgess last week sent out a message on Twitter stating that Alabama probate judges claiming to be Christians should make a stand and refuse to sign same sex marriage license. Then, in a follow-up statement to AL.com, Burgess urged judges to follow the example of King in fighting unjust segregationist laws.

“If you are a Christian and a probate judge do you condone a version of marriage that goes against God even though it’s the current law of the land? Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter from a Birmingham jail covered this when explaining to fellow pastors why he would continue to break “unjust” laws.”

This coming from a man who we all know doesn’t hate Obama because he’s “not a Christian” but because Obama is part African-American. All southern (and most national) conservatives don’t hate Obama solely because he is a Democrat but at least 75 percent of their hatred is because he’s “black.” It pisses me off that someone like Rick Burgess will hate a man because he’s black and then turn around and used Dr. King as an example for judges to hold themselves to a “Christian” standard.

Honestly, I can’t understand why anyone would listen to the dribble that comes from the mouths of Rick and Bubba. Not only will I not find myself accidentally listening to them again, but I will never tune to that radio station again.

By the way, I’d also love to be attending the Rally for Marriage in either Birmingham or Mobile tomorrow. I wish they were holding one in Montgomery, but maybe I will head to one of the rallies. If you are around Birmingham or Mobile, I encourage you to go. Show your support for the Alabama probate judges who are doing the right thing and for the right for gay people to marry and have some equality in Alabama.