Gay Rights In the US Supreme Court: Will it Start a GOP War?

Yesterday and today (March 27, 2013) the US Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases regarding same-sex marriage and its subsequent legal benefits.

The first case was a challenge by a coalition of anti-gay rights groups including private citizens and religious institutions from California.  They are challenging the striking down as unconstitutional California’s 2008 Proposition 8 by a US Appeals Court.  “Prop 8” was voted in by a majority of California voters in 2008.  It amended the California state constitution to ban marriage between same-sex couples.  California state officials refused to oppose the striking down of the ban, so the aforementioned coalition led the challenge to the Supreme Court.

Based upon the questions raised by the Supremes when listening to the arguments yesterday, many expert observers believe that the court will attempt to stealthily slide away from a strong  national all-encompassing decision one way or the other.  Instead, it is possible that the court will either rule that the pro-ban plaintiffs, being private groups, have no standing to present their challenge, which will let stand the lower appeal court decision of unconstitutionality, or they may narrowly rule in some other way that only affects California.

The second case involves a challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act .  The operative portion of this federal law states that the federal government only recognizes man-woman marriages for any and all legal purposes and benefits, such as tax issues, estate issues and so forth.  Fully eight appeal courts have already found that provision of the law to be unconstitutional. 

This case (United States vs. Windsor) is unusual because the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which would normally be defending the law, actually now also agrees that the law is unconstitutional.  Bizarrely, a little-known group called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives (BLAG) has petitioned to defend the constitutionality of DOMA before the Supremes. 

The expert observers believe that DOMA has a better chance of being overturned by the Supremes as being unconstitutional.  In fact, it is even possible that they may also rule that BLAG has no standing to present arguments in favor of DOMA.

That would be a blow to the GOP in general and the ultra-conservative base of the GOP in particular.  Through BLAG, the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives has put the US government in the bizarre position of both defending and opposing DOMA.  This agenda was pushed by the socially conservative religious far right wing base of the republican party.  They are the same folks who are largely responsible for lunatic laws like the one recently passed and signed in North Dakota against a woman’s right to choose abortion once her fetus reaches six weeks or when a heartbeat can be detected (whichever occurs sooner), which in many cases is before many women even know they are pregnant.  Such repressive laws spring up wherever the extreme religious right can muster a majority of votes in state legislatures.  That has a tendency to occur in states with a high proportion of rural white residents, such as North Dakota.

The bad news for the GOP is that according to the latest polls, 53% of Americans support gay marriage:

Same-sex marriage

Put another way, at least 53% of Americans DO NOT support the traditional religious definition of one man-one woman marriage ONLY.  And more bad new for the GOP’s base:  Only22% support the Tea Party movement!

The Supremes are divided between between 4 conservative justices and four liberal justices, with one justice, Anthony Kennedy, considered the swing decider in many 5-4 decisions.  Still, despite the questions they ask of petitioners via oral arguments in open court, the nine justices meet in private and discuss the cases they hear.  They seem to be able to work together even if they ultimately will disagree on the final decision they issue forth.  And as the third branch of the US government, they co-exist with the other two branches.  One never hears of the Supremes bashing the administration or each other.

On the other hand, the GOP congress bashes everyone and everything that disagrees with them.  Consider the following GOP war list:

War on women;
War on gays;
War on immigrants;
War on atheists;
War on all non-Christian religions;
War on government;
War on unions;
War on public employees;
War on minority voters;
War on the environment;
War on regulations;
War on infrastructure;
War on taxes;
War on science;
War on logic;
War on minority voters;
And, of course, war on the first US African-American president.

It is therefore easy to imagine that if the Supremes rule in favor of gay marriage, even in a limited way, and/or find DOMA unconstitutional, the GOP will want to get even with those who decided to legislate from the bench, a.k.a. those “activist judges”.  So get ready to watch their

War on the Supremes!   🙂

Is the Catholic Church Doomed?

The big wait and suspense are now over.  The new pope has been elected by the cardinals in their conclave in Rome.  Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who now becomes pope Francis I.

The key to the future of the Roman Catholic Church, from the point of view of the cardinals who elected him, seems to be that Francis I has just the right combination of humility, experience and outsider characteristics to rescue the church from itself, i.e., the church-wide revelations of clergy sexual abuse of children, the violation of celibacy in general, the internal cover-ups and corruption, and the fact that most of the world’s catholics pick and choose which rules church rules to follow and which to ignore.

Whatever Francis I’s best intentions are, he is doomed to failure.

He will not fail immediately and not everywhere at the same pace.  But regardless of the fact that he is a Jesuit and has lived a lifestyle more in tune with his followers than with the luxurious lifestyle of those at and above his level in the church hierarchy, he is still committed to some of the oppressive church mandates, such as opposing contraception and same-sex marriage, or even gay relationships.  This means that regardless of any reforms he would be apt to institute within the church, these two most prevalent and invasive rules will probably have zero chance of being reformed.

There are several other factors which must considered when evaluating the chances for real modernization (and thus survival) of one of the world’s largest and most structured organizations.  One of those is that the Roman Catholic Church, like so many large global corporations, is replete with people who have risen the corporate ladder based upon their skills and their desire for greatest status (and the personal power that comes with that).  It is a human characteristic that the achievement of power and status begats a desire to achieve more power and status.  As such, it also triggers a desire to protect the power and status that already exists.  Some might call this politics.

The church hierarchy has been solidifying its power and status for centuries.  That hierarchy is made up of individual members doing the same thing.  It is a self-propagating process.  Thus, the hierarchy, as a group as well as individuals, has no motivation to see such radical change acceptance of birth control and same-sex relationships instituted.  Those radical shifts in basic church dogma would have unpredictable consequences in the minds of the church movers and shakers.  It would definitely shake up the status quo, something that the self-protective church hierarchy would probably fear more than death.

In that same vein, as more and more people come forward with allegations of having endured sexual abuse by church clergy, the church has been extremely reticent about opening up its vast store of documents relating to clergy sexual abuse.  Some believe that the documents would reveal a culture of abuse and church coverup and tacit acceptance spanning the entire 2000 year existence of the church.  Through unacceptable to many who believe in justice and disclosure, at least one can understand why the church would guard this information to prevent the erosion of its influence and power.  Thus, the less of the political evils for the church hierarchy is to endure the criticism and potential loss of membership over time, as opposed to being revealed as a corrupt, sex-starved, abusive, money-hungry egocentric group that has committed countless crimes against humanity.

Deeper still is the root cause of this abuse and subsequent coverup:  vows of celibacy, which defy and deny normal human sexuality, and the refuse to provide equal status to women in all aspects of the church and its structure.  This is akin to telling a dieter that he can only eat spinach and broccoli for the rest of his life while being continuously exposed to the wonderful aroma of steak grilling next door, every day.  Sooner of later, many (most?) people in that situation will weaken and seek to bite into that Filet Mignon.By denying the human sexual drive, the church set itself up long ago for deviant behavior caused by its deviant celibacy vow.  That led to the ignoring of the vow, which result in the church first ignoring the defiance, then accepting it and covering it up, until it hit a critical mass a few years ago.

Despite the church’s massive wealth and investments, it cannot forever endure the continuing loss of members and their financial support.  if the church cannot truly modernize and soon, it may go the way of those dinosaurs that Adam & Eve rode around on.

After all, even the church agrees that no dinosaurs exist today.  So maybe there is yet hope.

But don’t count on it.


Service Provider Policy: Death Over Life

Imagine that you are 87 years old, living in a facility populated by people like you.  Imagine that you are still fully ambulatory and mentally capable, and you may even have a car parked outside.  Your meals are provided for in a central dining room, as are other basic services such as your laundry and room cleaning.

The facility described above is known as an independent-living facility, one of three basic categories of place that the elderly often reside in, based upon their needed level of care.  The other two categories are assisted-living facilities which, in additional to the services already provided within independent-living facilities, also provide varying degrees of medical care and physical assistance. and nursing homes, which provide complete medical and physical support.

The 911 emergency services dialing system came into being in 1968, first in the USA and then in Canada.  Over the years the system has evolved to become more sophisticated  and effective, including the taking on of liability if a 911 operator directs an action that ultimately causes some harm.  Additionally, 911 operators have being increasingly trained in sophisticated life-saving techniques that they can walk a called through in order to enhance the chance of saving a life in a time-critical emergency.  This includes directing the application of CPR, which is short for cardio-pulmonary-resusitation.

CPR courses are taught everywhere, and all medical professionals are trained in its techniques.  However, in recent years the focus of CPR has changed from an assisted breathing/heartbeat mechanism to primarily an assisted heartbeat mechanism alone.  That has made the procedure on that can be taught and directed over the telephone by a 911 operator to a non-medical 911 caller in an emergency.

Loraine Bayless was an 87 year-old woman living at the Glenwood Gardens Independent Living facility in Bakersfield, California, which, interestingly, does not present seem to  have its own web site.  Lorraine collapsed with what was later determined to be a heart attack in the facility dining room and 911 was called by a woman who stated she was a nurse, although Glenwood executive director Jeffery Toomer has no claimed that the nameless nurse was not employed as a nurse but as a “resident services director”.

Glenwood Gardens has a policy that CPR is not to be administered by its employees, but instead directs them to call 911 in emergencies.  The claim that all residents sign a form that acknowledges their understanding and acceptance that medical services are not provided at Glenwood Gardens.  However, when Loraine collapsed and 911 was called the 911 operator assessed, based opun the nurse’s description of Loraine’s present physical status, that CPR had to be administered immediately or the patient would probably not survive.

The as-yet unnamed nurse/’resident services director” refused to administer CPR, citing company policy, despite her complete understanding (because the 911 operator made it crystal clear) that without it, the patient would probably die.  The 911 operator repeatedly pleaded with the nurse, and then asked the nurse to give the phone to someone else so that the 911 operator could provide step-by-step verbal instructions to the new listener to administer CPR to Loraine, in an effort to keep oxygen flowing to her brain until the Emergency Medical Technicians could arrive and take over.

The nurse/”resident services director” also refused to hand the phone over to anyone, citing that the other people in the facility dining room were other residents.  Listen to it yourself HERE:

911 call refusal to provide CPR

CPR was not administered to Loraine before the ambulance arrived.  She was transported to the nearest hospital and was dead on arrival.  While not yet confirmed, it is likely that her brain, deprived of oxygen for an extended period of time, died before the EMT’s even arrived.

When the story got out, Loraine’s family was quoted as saying that they had no problem with the Glenwood Gardens policy and actions, and that their mother wanted a natural death. But Loraine did not have a “Do Not Resuscitate” order on file, which directs that they are not to be resuscitated in the sudden onset of an immediate life-threatening event. One can only wonder what the inheritance is going to be regarding Loraine’s estate…

In the meantime, the city of Bakersfield, the state of California and state and federal advocacy organizations are rightfully up in arms over Loraine’s possibly preventable death.  The Glenwood staff is of course uninformative at this time, other than to say that their nurse/”resident services director” followed company policy.

However, contrary to what the Glenwood folks would have us believe, they would have suffered no liability had CPR been administered, because in cases such as this, the 911 operator (and system) assumes legal liability.  Yet, even this fact misses the primary issue in this case:

Since when did we in the USA relinquish our moral responsibility to save a life (if we can) to the for-profit commercial health service industry?

Or, put another way, consider this:

If universal health care existed in the USA, the smart money says that Loraine Bayless would be alive today.