The US Supremes Hit a Homerun For Equality!

Today’s “We, the PEOPLE!! was supposed to be about why the USA hasn’t got a leg to stand on when demanding that China, Russia or any other country we have verbally attacked on civil and/or human rights issues turn over Edward Snowden, the ex-CIA employee and private security employee who has severely damaged the USA’s intelligence gathering capabilities.  Why? Because no one (internationally) is buying our “Do as we say, not as we do” reality.

But then the US Supreme Court (a.k.a, the Supremes) issued their intensely-awaited rulings on two ground-breaking case regarding same-sex marriage.  The first was on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA) which was passed by a republican congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, who has recently opposed that law.  DOMA only recognized marriage as a legal contact between a male and a female human, denying same-sex couples over a thousand protections and benefits that opposite-sex married couples enjoy.

The second ruling regarded a California District Court ruling that struck down California’s 2008 proposition 8 (prop 8), which prohibited same-sex marriage in California.

In the first and most significant of the two, the Supremes, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection and due process clauses of both the 5th amendment to the US constitution, which states, in pertinent part:  “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law“;

…and more importantly the 14th amendment to the US constitution which states in pertinent part:  “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws…

The Supremes have long held that these “due process” and “equal Protection of the laws”provisions of the 5th & 14th amendments guarantee that all citizens will be treated equal in all matters of law.  Since marriage under government law is a matter of law, and the law must be equally applied among all citizens in accordance with the “due process” and Equla protection” provisions of amendments 5 & 14, the government cannot pass a law that causes a group of citizens to be discriminated against by being denied rights that every other American enjoys under these provisions.

The striking down of the DOMA law, which the Obama administration didn’t support in the first place and which the republicans in congress attempted to defend in the Supreme Court anyway, is a watershed moment in American jurisprudence.  While this ruling only applied to the federal DOMA law, it is clear that any future challenge to any of the 32 anti-same-sex marriage state laws in the USA is likely to prevail.  And if the challenge is properly framed before the Supremes, their ruling is likely to strike down ALL 32 anti-same sex marriage laws in one fell swoop.

The Supremes issued their second ruling on California’s prop 8.  Prop 8 supporters, i.e., people who do NOT support same-sex marriage, were the plaintiffs.  They challeneged a California District Court’s ruling that prop 8 violated both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the United States Constitution.

The Supremes ruled that the plaintiffs in the case (supporters of prop 8) did not have legal standing to present the case, and the case was remanded back down to the decision by the California District Court that declared prop 8 unconstitutional.  That accomplished two distinct goals:  First, it automatically made the California District Court decision the standing decision, meaning that same-sex marriage is now legal in California.  Second, it did not impact in any way the other 31 states that have anti-gay-marriage laws or state constitutional provisions.

Needles to say, pro-religion-in-government forces such as the fundamentalist Family Research Council,   Focus on the Family, and everyone’s favorite hate-mongering lunatic bin, the Westboro Baptist Church are absolutely LIVID over this decision  These extremist fundamentalist right-wing organizations have recently have been chipping away at a woman’s right to choose in numerous states.  But now they must divert their attention and their resources to fighting what will surely be a further battle to strike down the direction of the Supremes in the DOMA and prop 8 decisions.  The handwriting on the wall clearly says that this issue will be over in 5 years or less, and that those groups that are bent upon imposing their morality on the rest of us have got to be shaking in their flop-flops.

Additionally, there’s another dynamic in play here that doesn’t bode well for the anti-equality fundamentalists:

The under-30 crowd supports gay marriage 70%-25%.  Someday they will be the only voters left standing.

When that happens it will suck to be you if you’re still a bible-thumper.  Even more than it does now.  🙂

NSA Leaks: Bad, Good, & Amusing

Every so often, an event cuts directly through the partisan political posturing endlessly practiced in congress….or at least it appears to cut through it on the surface.  Just such an event recently occurred with the revealing of the years-long mega-data-mining of most of the telephone and internet records of ordinary Americans by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

This program is the evolution of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant-less secret government surveillance program which started after 9-11 by the Bush Administration along with the Patriot Act and other lesser known laws.  The outing was an act perpetrated by a former employee of a secret NSA contractor.  Edward Snowden, a high school dropout who never completed his full enlistment in the US Army, nor did he complete his computer courses at a community college, was nonetheless enough of a computer wiz to work his way up from being a security guard at the CIA into a US$200,000 job with a secret intelligence contractor.  As such, he had access to computers, files, programs and other secret information about covert US intelligence activities. He also signed a non-disclosure clause and he would have taken an oath to never reveal any classified information.

Still, despite these conditions of his employment, he freely told an American reporter for the British newspaper “The Guardian” about the current data-gathering programs at the NSA, including the name of the phone company providing the data, and the extent of the email mining, which was more about who is emailing whom than the exact wording and content of every email.

Realistically neither the NSA nor any other organization could possibly read every email, nor listen to every telephone conversation in this country.  It would be akin to trying to listen to every conversation occurring at every sports stadium everywhere, all at the same time.

Even though that level of eavesdropping is impossible, all surveillance programs carry issues and risks.  For instance, assume that you called a doctor, and then a lab, and then a hospital and then your lawyer, and then a cab company.  Even though no one had listened in on your conversation, just having the phone numbers of each place you called could tell a story about you being sick.  That constitutes an invasion of privacy for most Americans.

Also bearing consideration is the fact that power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and we have already experienced episodes of government officials going beyond the law “in the interest of expediency and national security”.  Nowhere was this more clear than when the Bush administration routinely bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court again and again to listen in on phone conversations during the Iraqi war, claiming they “didn’t have time” to get the secret warrant from the FISA court as required by law.

There is no evidence that the Obama administration either has in the past or would in the future condone such a violation.  But Obama leaves office in January 2017.  What if the next administration is more in line with “Tricky Dick” Cheney’s view of world control than the kinder, gentler, more intelligent Obama?

There was some some good being done by this surveillance, though that’s now gone.  Until the outing of this information, no one, including the terrorists who would destroy us, knew the extent to which we were capable of monitoring their communications activities.  Obviously, now that they know, they’ll find ways around that, just as Osama Bin Laden operated off-grid for so many years.

And there is also an argument to be made that people have a right to know that their privacy is secure and protected in compliance with the fourth amendment to the US Constitution (protection against unreasonable search and seizure).  thus, congress must devise comprehensive legislation based upon workable systems that guarantee privacy protection under penalty of law.  And here is where the issue is at its most amusing:

Since Edward Snowden blew his cookies, the old adage that politics makes strange bedfellows was never more obvious or fun to watch.

Some democrats and republicans see nothing wrong with the NSA surveillance program and have called Snowden a traitor.  Liberals like Diane Feinstein have joined with conservatives like John Boehner in this regard (a la sleeping with the enemy).  Other very conservative republicans like Rand Paul have joined liberal democrats to praise Snowden as a hero  (a la dancing with the stars).  What’s not so evident is that as a group, the conservatives LOVE this issue because they hope it will stick to President Obama like flypaper.  meanwhile, many democrats secretly LOVE that the conservative base of the GOP wants lots of government surveillance programs to protect against terrorists while HATING big government and background checks, proving that GOP’ers are hypocritical morons that can’t think straight.

In the end, it’s still business as usual at the funny farm… isn’t it?  🙂