Loving on loving: Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others

Since the recent changes in the status of same-sex marriage in the states of Iowa and Vermont, and with other states such as Maine and New Hampshire also considering a change, perhaps it’s time to remember that this isn’t the first time America has faced the question of who can marry whom. In the 1920s, the Commonwealth of Virginia was one of several US states that adopted strict eugenics laws. One of those laws in Virginia was the Miscegenation Act, under which all people were registered by race at birth and it was against the law to have sex with or to marry someone of a different race. This wasn’t repealed until 1967, by the US Supreme Court, in the case Loving v. Virginia.

Mildred Delores Jeter Loving, whose Washington DC marriage to Richard Loving resulted in her and her husband being convicted of a felony under the Virginia law, had this to say about marriage in 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the decision that overturned the law:

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone, they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.

“The system is inherently defective”

Statement by Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico on signing into law an Act repealing the death penalty and substituting life imprisonment without parole for capital offenses:

“Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime. If the State is going to undertake this awesome responsibility, the system to impose this ultimate penalty must be perfect and can never be wrong. But the reality is the system is not perfect — far from it. The system is inherently defective. DNA testing has proved that. Innocent people have been put on death row all across the country. Even with advances in DNA and other forensic evidence technologies, we can’t be 100-per cent sure that only the truly guilty are convicted of capital crimes. Evidence, including DNA evidence, can be manipulated. Prosecutors can still abuse their powers. We cannot ensure competent defense counsel for all defendants”

Bill Richardson, a former advocate of capital punishment, was later interviewed at length by Rachel Maddow, and you can see the interview here. New Mexico is the first state to repeal the death penalty since New Jersey in 2007.

These are great days..

I am pleased that Binyam Mohamed has today returned to the UK following his release from Guantanamo Bay

Statement by David Milliband, Foreign Secretary, on the return of Binyam Mohamed to British soil:

I am pleased that Binyam Mohamed has today returned to the UK following his release from Guantanamo Bay. This is the direct result of our request for his release and return, and follows intensive negotations with the US Government. Mr Mohamed was accompanied by FCO officials, officers of the Metropolitan police and the doctor who visited him at Guantanamo Bay last week. We have been in touch with Mr Mohamed’s family and legal representatives to inform them of his return.

The UK Government requested the release and return of all former legal UK residents detained at Guantanamo Bay in August 2007. In reaching this decision we have paid full consideration to the need to maintain national security and the Government’s overriding responsibilities in this regard. (FCO Press Release, February 23, 2009)

See also FCO Press Release, February 20, 2009

Charles Darwin on slavery

“It is argued that self-interest will prevent excessive cruelty; as if self-interest protected our domestic animals, which are far less likely than degraded slaves, to stir up the rage of their savage masters. It is an argument long since protested against with noble feeling, and strikingly exemplified, by the ever illustrious Humboldt. It is often attempted to palliate slavery by comparing the state of slaves with our poorer countrymen: if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin; but how this bears on slavery, I cannot see; as well might the use of the thumb-screw be defended in one land, by showing that men in another land suffered from some dreadful disease. Those who look tenderly at the slave-owner, and with a cold heart at the slave, never seem to put themselves into the position of the latter;—what a cheerless prospect, with not even a hope of change! picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children—those objects which nature urges even the slave to call his own—being torn from you and sold like beasts to the first bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one’s blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty: but it is a consolation to reflect, that we at least have made a greater sacrifice, than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin.” -Charles Darwin, 1845. Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world, under the Command of Capt. Fitz Roy, R.N. 2d edition. London: John Murray.

Popular support for Connecticut ruling allowing same-sex weddings.

Newsday reports that the University of Connecticut surveyed 502 adults over the weekend for the Hartford Courant on the subject of the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling that people are entitled to marry someone of the same sex.  The poll shows 53% in favor of the rulingand 42% against.  Republican voters tend to oppose it and Democrat voters tend to support it.

Connecticut becomes third US state to recognize same-sex marriage

Mirabile dictu!

Reuters reports, October 10, 2008, that the Supreme Court of Connecticut has struck down a state law banning same-sex marriage.  This makes Connecticut the third of three states of the USA that permit couples to marry if they are of the same sex.  The court overturned the rulings of lower courts and recognized that the marriage ban did “cognizable harm” and infringed on a “fundamental right” of same-sex couples.

The human consequences of unsafe abortion in Kenya

As I noted last month (“Kenya is reconsidering its abortion law“, September 19, 2008), there are plans to table a new bill, The Reproductive Health and Rights Bill 2008, before the Kenyan Parliament, with a view to revising its ancient laws criminalizing abortion doctors, women seeking an abortion, and those helping them.  The Catholic church and the Muslim leaders have predictably opposed it and the bill is thought extremely unlikely to prevail.

Meanwhile of course illegal abortion in Kenya continues, and is highly risky because of the unhealthy conditions and the nature of the quacks and folk medics who are still willing to procure abortions.  Najum Mushtaq reports in a piece for IPS News Agency that Ministry of Health produced a study in 2004 financed by the Rockefeller Foundation and titled “A National Assessment of the Magnitude and Consequences of Unsafe Abortion in Kenya”.  According to the study’s findings, says Mushtaq, “300,000 women get abortions in Kenya each year, nearly half of them between 14 and 24 years of age. More than 20,000 of them end up in hospitals with complications after unsafe abortions.

Another study of hospitals in Western Kenya notes that almost 50 percent of all gynaecological emergencies arise from badly-performed abortions. The research, which was carried out in 2006 by Kakamega Provincial General Hospital in Western Kenya, also observed that more than half such patients were teenagers.

Serious problems for a developing nation that needs to be careful how it expends its limited medical resources.

What a change in forty years: homosexuality

Time Magazine, February 12, 1965 carried an article “Homosexuals Can Be Cured” in which a Doctor Samuel B. Hadden argued that the influence of Freud and the number of homosexuals who believed themselves to be happy that way meant that few cures were attempted.  He worked mainly with men because he had never had enough lesbian “patients”.  At that time the opinion of the psychiatric and psychological establishments was still that homosexual orientation was pathological.

Time Magazine, October 31, 1969 carried another article, “Are Homosexuals Sick?”  The magazine asked eight experts, two of whom were described as “admitted homosexuals”, to a symposium in New York City where they discussed the question.

This debate was very different in tone.  I am struck by the attitude of Rev. Robert Weeks, who spoke of two men of his acquaintance who had been together for many years: ” Both of them are very happy and very much in love. They asked me to bless their marriage, and I am going to do it.”

Which brings us right up to date, really!

Another reason to use Google

FT reports that Google publicly opposes California Proposition 8.

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/our-position-on-californias-no-on-8.html

I can’t wait to see the fundies all calling for a boycott and switching their gmail accounts.

New Ecuador constitution may open another chink in anti-abortion South America

Associated Press reports that a vote on the new constitution has passed by a strong margin in the South American republic of Ecuador, despite opposition from the Roman Catholic church.  While the constitution defines life as beginning from conception, it contains wording that opens up very wide chinks in Catholic traditionalism.  The family is recognized  “in its diverse types” and the new constitution guarantees “the right to freely make responsible and informed decisions about one’s health and reproductive life.”

Yes, it has opened the door to abortion and same-sex marriage a little wider.

About bloody time too.