Friday, June 30, 2006

TALON update - DoD delivers (and ICE holds back)

The Department of Defense (DoD) has delivered some more TALON documents pursuant to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's (SLDN) Freedom of Information (FoI) lawsuit. The DoD has confirmed it conducted surveillance on a more extensive level than previously reported.

SLDN Executive Director has a good quote in their press release:
Federal government agencies have no business peeping through the keyholes of Americans who choose to exercise their first amendment rights. Americans are guaranteed a fundamental right to free speech and free expression, and our country’s leaders should never be allowed to undermine those freedoms. Surveillance of private citizens must stop. It is the suppression of our constitutional rights, and not the practice of them, that undermines our national security. It is patently absurd that this administration has linked sexual orientation with terrorism. [emphasis added]
If you are interested in the gory details, be sure to read the letter the DoD sent containing the redacted emails of the 'terrorists'. In spite of the DoD's promise to deliver on the FoI request, apparently the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) has decided to hold back something still.

We have commented on the TALON case at several junctures. Here is the most recent blog, which leads to some of the earlier ones.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Marital Mythology

Julian Sanchez over at Reason has published an extended book review and comments about the institution of marriage. Starting with this:
“Barring a miracle,” Focus on the Family founder James Dobson writes in the April 2004 edition of his group’s newsletter, “the family as it has been known for more than five millennia will crumble, presaging the fall of Western civilization itself.”
Sanchez goes on to show that marriage as we currently know it is nothing like a constant over 'five millennia.'
In Marriage, a History, Evergreen State College historian Stephanie Coontz, author of the 1992 book The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, reveals that marriage has served diverse purposes through the ages, and that the really radical change in the institution was the 18th-century innovation of marrying for love.
Really diverse purposes.

Though not specifically about same-sex marriage, Sanchez' column is worth the read as it debunks a lot of the hyperbole being spouted by opponents of same-sex marriage, and those that want more, not less, state involvement to "save" the institution of marriage.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Primitive Anglican Theocrats Unveil Their Hand

[Brian Miller quotes this article in the Advocate and provides some insightful comments on the Outright Libertarians discussion list. I have taken the liberty of reposting it here on our blog.]
Nigerian archbishop Peter Akinola, head of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, said in the letter that Anglican primates from the developing world would meet in September to give a more detailed statement on the U.S. church. Akinola, one of the church's most outspoken voices against gay rights, said that the African bishops have carefully followed what has been said at a U.S. Anglican convention this week in Ohio.

"We have observed the commitment shown by your church to the full participation of people in same-gender sexual relationships in civic life, church life, and leadership," he said on behalf of African bishops in a statement dated Thursday. "Our churches cannot reconcile this with the teaching on marriage set out in the Holy Scripture and repeatedly affirmed throughout the Anglican Communion."
[Adds Miller . . .]
Note that his objection isn't just against full participation by gays in religious groups, but also in *civic* life. This would explain the law he's trying to pass in Nigeria which would increase the penalties for homosexuality AND imprison members of gay affinity or religious groups for five years or more.

This is nothing less than an effort by foreign theocrats to transform religious institutions into political lobbying arms to impose their third-world values on our country. Kudos to the Episcopalians in the US for resisting it, and shame to the "liberals" in this country who refuse to confront and clearly label primitive, hateful values simply because they come from Africa and they're afraid of being labelled as "counter-multicultural." Only libertarians seem to be standing up, consistently, against these efforts to destroy one's basic freedoms in the guise of "bible-believing."

It gets even more absurdly comical when you realize that the hypocritical Akinola was a driving force behind getting the Anglican church to recognize and honor polygamous marriages. The New Testament, the "Christian" part of the Bible, is (unlike on homosexuality) rather clear on where those stand -- they are banned and considered adulterous. If someone waged as nasty a campaign against the polygamous in Akinola's region as he's waging against American and Canadian gays, they'd doubtlessly be assailed as "cultural imperialists."

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Strange Bedfellows

Will wonders never cease? There are some in the Christian theological community that are proposing the separation of legal and religious marriage, if not the complete privatization of marriage. These proposals are remarkably in line with libertarian sentiments.

A study by the non-profit London-based Ekklesia (as reported by would separate religious and civil marriage.
What we are offering in this discussion is not a final proposal, but an invitation to participate in a major re-think about the meaning and practice of ‘getting married’ on the part of both religious bodies and the government – based on a mutually beneficial disentangling of the roles, interests and practices of church and state.
more . . .
They even broach the subject of one-size-fits-all:
The legal aspect of the union could allow different arrangements depending on the intent of each couple...
And that's not all. Another unlikely ally is Pastor Matt Trewhella in Milwaukee who gives "Five reasons why Christians should not obtain a state marriage license," many of which could have been written by a libertarian. (Hat tip to HoT.)

A little less seriously, we even find Jay Leno is with the program:
The Senate has rejected the gay marriage ban. When you think about it, do you really want Congress defining marriage? That's like asking Charlie Sheen to define monogamy.
Perhaps in a generation or so, there is some hope of actually seeing government pulling out of marriage. However, I expect we will see same-sex marriage legalized in most states well before privatization achieves any significant momentum. It is likely that the former will help accelerate the later.

Community Property - Not! reports a spat between the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Star Tribune and the organizers of the local Pride Parade that is going to the courts. Seems the paper reneged on publishing some ads when an included photo showed two men kissing.
On Friday Pride filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court. Papers filed with the court say that the Star Tribune applied different standards for heterosexual-based advertising than for ads from the gay community. The suit said that the company had in the past accepted ads of opposite-sex couples kissing.
I have two simple observations. First: the paper is not community property. The owners of the paper can chose what they print and don't. They have no legal obligation to set common standards for photographs of hetersexuals kissing, and of gays. Discriminatory policies may raise some question about their qualities as vendors of advertising and purveyors of journalism, but these are not matters for a court of law to decide. The marketplace can sort this out.

If, however, the paper agreed to print the ads, i.e., entered into a contract, then they should be obligated to print them. It sounds as if the Pride committee offered some alternatives, in the spirit of compromise. One has to wonder if there is more to the story, when the paper refused to publish the substitute ads. I might speculate that one level of management agreed to print the ads, then after-the-fact a higher level found out and nixed them. If this is the case, they deserve to get whipped in court.

Friday, June 16, 2006

EPA under fire for holding Pride events

The Washington Blade reports that conservative groups are flooding the EPA with email and phone calls in an attempt to force them to cancel planned events commemorating [EPA] Gay and Lesbian Pride Month during June. As good as these events sound—the first was a talk by actress, writer and producer Sheryl Lee Ralph on the subject of AIDS on behalf of the National Minority AIDS Council; the next is planned to be a talk by Gilles Marchildon, executive director of Equality Canada—I, too, wonder if this is a good use of tax dollars.
more . . .

While I would not begrudge Federal employees perks comparable to those in the private sector, (though perhaps I should, since Federal employees' compensation is 93% more than private sector employees), this seems to go well beyond that. My employer has not, nor have any of my past employers, declared June Gay Pride month; and I have never been invited to talks about AIDS and marriage equality on the company's dime. But it doesn't stop there . . .
[The Bush administration] has agreed to sponsor a wide range of events representing other minorities and causes. Among them have been African-American History Month, Save Your Vision Week, and Leif Erikson Day, which honors the memory of the 11th century Scandinavian explorer.
And, it is not just at the EPA where such perks are provided:
Between a half dozen and a dozen agencies were expected to sponsor or host Gay Pride events this month. Among them, he said, were EPA; the Departments of Agriculture, Transportation, State, and Justice; the National Institutions of Health; and the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
In the private sector generally this type of event, if held at all, would have some tie-in to a business purpose. How about a seminar on public choice theory, instead?

Those conservative groups should be working to save the taxpayer dollars spent pandering to African-Americans and Scandinavians, too. By singling out gays, they just prove their bigotry.

If the Dems' efforts in Alabama are any indicator, don't hold your breath

From the San Francisco Chronicle, Gays want more from Dems on marriage / Proposed same-sex bans seen as test.

So, this article talks about how disappointed some LGBT leaders are that last week's Senate debate on the proposed federal amendment to ban same-sex marriage had no support at all for equal marriage -- just support for "more important" issues and federalism (which I think was just lip service).
But, during last week's debate, most Democratic senators argued only that Congress should be confronting more important issues like the economy and the Iraq war; they did not specifically address same-sex marriage.

"We are disappointed that more senators could not take an affirmative stand for gay and lesbian Americans," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
more . . .
And instead of just dropping the Democrats after that scandalous display, these LGBT leaders are giving the Democrats one more chance, in the form of the state-level marriage ban amendments.
Gay rights leaders said a crucial test of Democratic Party support -- in addition to the marriage vote -- is how the party responds to a formal request from the National Stonewall Democrats to help fight the state amendments and encourage gays and lesbians to vote. The party has yet to budget any money for the efforts.

Well, if the Democrats' efforts in Alabama this past month are any indication of their upcoming efforts in Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia and other states, those LGBT leaders are in for serious disappointment.

In Alabama, the Democratic primary candidates for Governor were all for the marriage ban. No effort was made by Dean or others in D.C. to change this. The only candidate for governor on record as against the ban was Libertarian Loretta Nall. The amendment sailed through the legislature with broad bipartisan support (and I've always said that the first sign that a law is a very bad idea is when it has broad bipartisan support).

So does this mean that, after November, we'll see groups like NGLTF supporting third parties that have a better gay rights record than the Democrats?

Don't hold your breath.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A real marriage debate

Echoing a theme from libertarian philosopher Tibor Machan's essay I posted last week, Chris Crain, the Executive Editor of the Washington Blade is wondering: where's the real debate on same-sex marriage? Are there no statesmen in Washington who will argue the case against the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) on its merits, or is the sideshow about the GOP's motives going to hog center stage?
more . . .
The Senate debate on gay marriage was almost substance-free, but behind the slogans, the real issue is there waiting.

The United States Senate considers itself the world’s most important deliberative body, but you wouldn’t know it from the debate this week on a constitutional amendment banning gays from marrying.
Crain questions if the proposed amendment is truly aimed at activist judges, or itself imposes a [religious] standard that may be anathema to the people or their state legislatures in some jurisdictions (say Massachusetts or California).

Crain defends judicial decisions, which he characterizes not as "activism," but as judges doing their jobs—providing constitutionally-mandated equal protection under the law.
In every state where the highest court has ruled on gay marriage in the last couple of decades — from sea (Hawaii and Alaska) to shining sea (Vermont and Massachusetts) — justices have ruled that laws that allow only opposite-sex couples to marry violate the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.

President Bush has never uttered a word about the substance of those rulings, and pitifully enough, our defenders have been cowered away from doing so as well.

The justices in these states considered every argument offered up to justify marriage laws that segregate the rights, benefits and protections of marriage to opposite-sex couples only. And in every case, a majority has concluded that those justifications lack any rational basis — the easiest legal test for a law to pass.
From a libertarian perspective, one of the essential questions is "what is the proper role of government?" Outright Libertarian's position is that it should not be to take away individual rights, as the Senate was debating doing with the FMA, but rather to protect our inalienable rights equally, as the various state supreme court decisions have done to date.

The Libertarian Case for Gay Marriage

Here's a link to a well thought out post over at QandO by Jon Henke on the subject of same-sex marriage.
The ideal libertarian solution would be to have the government get out of the 'marriage' business altogether; to have government enforce civil contracts...

But since we don't live in Libertopia, we're left with a purely civil legal privilege available to one set of people, but not to another set... the civil legal privileges of marriage should be extended to everybody.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Pride and Prejudice

Michael Badnarik, the only Presidential candidate to attend the San Francisco Pride Parade and Celebration in 2004 (the Libertarian, of course), has released the following press release concerning the current debate about same-sex marriage as part of his high-profile run for Congress this year. If only we could get such a clear statement from Hillary Clinton . . .  but if I were you I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for one.
more . . .

Austin, Texas - While President Bush renewed his push on Saturday for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, Michael Badnarik, candidate for US Congress in Texas' 10th district, prepped himself for his campaign's first "Concert for Liberty" at the Red Eyed Fly.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't matter how you flip the mega-party coin in this debate. Both sides are the same," said Badnarik in reference to the 1996 passage of the Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. That act was signed into law by Democratic then-President Clinton.

Badnarik, a constitutional scholar, believes the rights of a minority group can never be voted away by a majority vote. He further contends that government has no place in private bedrooms.

"Marriage is a personal and religious sacrament and the government has no business usurping it. As a congressman, I will oppose any federal legislative attempt to prohibit gay marriage." Badnarik continues, "The government should never have gotten involved with marriage in the first place, and I intend to return churches and private individuals to their rightful place in defining among themselves what their sacraments and contracts are to be."

Although he personally will be in Houston attending the Libertarian Party State Conference, the Badnarik for Congress campaign will staff a booth at the 2006 Texas Pride Festival on June 10th at Waterloo Park in Austin.

Having raised over $280,000 to date, and with billboards already in place across the district, Badnarik aims to become the first Libertarian elected to the US House of Representatives. Badnarik ended the most recent campaign reporting period with the highest net cash position in the three-way race for Texas' Congressional District 10.

For more info visit To schedule an interview with the candidate, contact Jon Airheart at 512-637-6863.


NSA in our midst?

In the latest on the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund Freedom of Information Lawsuit instigated by the TALON domestic spying case, the NSA refuses to say if it is spying on LGBT civil rights groups. Says the NSA:
any substantive response to [the original] request would tend to confirm or deny specific activities.
Yeah—like you are illegally spying on us. But, this administration is developing quite a record of indifference to obeying the law. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said the surveillance program is “no big deal.”

Looks like the SLDN will have to bring the NSA to court in order to get them to follow the law. Said SLDN executive director C. Dixon Osburn,
2006 is the new 1984. The federal government’s Orwellian surveillance programs of ordinary, law-abiding citizens violates our right to privacy under current law.
In an earlier post in the series we reported that the Defense and Justice departments agreed to "bare all" in response to the FOI request, leaving just the belligerent NSA.

Gay Marriage Ban Blues

Our prolific California libertarian philosopher and author, Tibor Machan, has penned another great essay—this time on the subject of the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Dr. Machan discusses not what the motives of the proponents are (which is a question with a fairly transparent answer in this particular case), but rather the proper role of government in regulating the private interactions of individuals. With his kind permission, I include it below the jump, in its entirety.
more . . .

Gay Marriage Ban Blues

The charge that George W. Bush is merely trying to kowtow to his base with his promotion of a constitutional ban on gay marriage sounds plausible enough but that’'s really not the crucial issue. Never mind his motives. Is the idea sound is what counts. (Too many appear to have forgotten about what matters in these disputes——certainly not the varied, complicated, nearly undetectable motivations of the players!)

Should the U. S. Constitution be amended to ban gay marriages? Lets see why such a ban is supported. Bush says it has to do with upholding and supporting traditional marriages. Some others claim that the matter needs to be taken out of the hands of courts and placed into the hands of “the people.”

Sticking just to these points, is it really the business of the supreme law of the land to worry about upholding traditional marriages? Imagine if that were really the case. Wouldn’'t Congress and the president have to start meddling in the lives of millions of couples throughout the country? Marriages are, after all, failing part everywhere–—some 50% of them break up. So if it is the proper task of government to uphold and support traditional marriages, we would need a powerful marriage police.

In fact this isn'’t the proper task of courts. Nor of “the people, that is, the majority.

Conservatives especially, who supposedly champion what the American Founders had defended, should keep such meddlesome functions away from the government. Does a ban on gay marriage amount to securing our basic, unalienable human rights? No, it clearly does not. No one has a right to have others marry in a fashion one prefers. Quite the opposite is true——everyone has the right to marry as he or she, along with the partner, chooses. That is what the law would uphold in a free society, not what “the people” or their political representatives prefer.

Notice that none of this bears on the issue of whether gay marriages are a good idea. So what if they are or are not? The bulk of what people decide on in their lives, for better or for worse, is their own business and has nothing at all to do with the job the government has in a free country. What should I eat? How often should I exercise? What career should I choose? When should I take my vacation? Should I have yet another child? Should I add another chapter to the manuscript I plan to send to the publisher? Should I purchase a new car or house or pair of pants?

With regards to any of the matters and millions of others people can make good or bad choices. Whether they do is not the government’s concern. It may well be the concern of their friends, family, pals, neighbors, and others with whom they have civilized, peaceful relationships and who are welcome to attend to what choices they should make in life. Government isn’'t part of this interested, concerned entourage, that’s for sure.

The government is at most about keeping the peace and in an atmosphere of peace there can be no official meddling in the institution of marriage. It is between the parties who would marry, that'’s all. Except where matters of public health enter the situation, no governmental authority exists to order people about so far as whom they wish to marry is concerned.

So, let us assume for a moment that there is something amiss with gay marriage. The solution is for people to work it out with the advice of their intimates. Not unlike there being something amiss with someone’s career choice or religious preference. And do not tell me these aren’'t sufficiently consequential matters in people’s lives. They definitely are, every bit as consequential as whom they choose to marry. Yet no government has any just authority to meddle in these matters.

But, sadly, these days everything has turned into a public affair——whom one chooses to marry, what kind of automobile one chooses to purchase, whether one chooses to smoke, whether one is going to use fossil fuel——you name it and it is the concern of the likes of Al Gore and George W. Bush. They only differ in their choice of what goes into the basket of personal, private concerns they want to make a province of public policy.

Gay marriage or no gay marriage——leave it to the actual concerned individuals, namely, those involved in the decision, not the rest of us.

Monday, June 05, 2006

If you look up "out of touch" in the dictionary...

It used to be that the "liberal media" would gleefully make fun of an "out of touch" Republican politician by replaying over and over video of him marveling at something commonplace like a supermarket barcode reader. Today, such examples seem quaint.

Tony Snow, the White House Press Secretary, actually compared Bush's gay marriage ban with ‘Civil Rights’ legislation.

I miss the good old days when I could chuckle at Republicans who were so sheltered that they didn't do their own grocery shopping. But this latest nonsense is so absurd that it's not even close to funny.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Even "red state" Libertarians can support marriage equality

A couple of months ago, when I read about Wisconsin Libertarian Ed Thompson speaking out in favor of marriage equality, I pictured him in stark contrast to his more famous Republican brother as a stereotypical "left libertarian" more commonly found in places like San Francisco. Boy, was I wrong.

I was recently asked to review the new documentary DVD about Ed Thompson, entitled "A Remarkable Man." I figured it would be about a politician who stuck out like a sore thumb in a much more conservative part of the country. After all, they were asking me, a blue-state gay Libertarian to write a review. Again, my expectations were way off-base.
more . . .
"A Remarkable Man" is a DVD that every red state Libertarian ought to watch (as well as us blue state Libertarians who often find ourselves doing outreach in red counties). For me, the thought of reciting the Lord's Prayer at a charity Thanksgiving dinner would seem quite inappropriate, because whether living in San Francisco, Berkeley, Boston, or Cambridge, I've always been able to expect at least one or two non-Christians to be in the room, who I wouldn't want to offend. (And I'm betting Ed has never had to deal with vegan guests, as I have for the past few years.) But while watching this DVD, I got the clear impression that there was no such risk in Tomah, Wisconsin, where people experience no cognitive dissonance when hearing a man say he's "not very religious," yet they see him in the local church almost every day.

Similarly, since I myself live in places where private ownership of handguns is basically banned, it seemed odd to me that the crime that would carry the full weight of a local DA and police force would be the illegal ownership of nickel video poker machines -- and that the strongest bargaining chip for the DA to get a plea bargain out of these innocent business owners is that a felony conviction would result in the confiscation of their hunting rifles. It was surreal -- like Andy Griffith's Mayberry launched into the 21st Century.

But it occurs to me that the places I've called home, since fleeing Tennessee in 2000 for a more gay-friendly climate, are really just little bubbles of secular humanism in a much larger country that looks much more like Tomah, Wisconsin. Yet Ed Thompson proves that a Libertarian politician can fit in perfectly well in more conservative areas while refusing to compromise their principles of individual liberty and equal treatment under the law for everyone. Though the DVD makes no mention of the existence of gay people (for all I know, there aren't any "out of the closet" in Tomah), keep in mind after watching the documentary that the person it profiles is the same person who made the speech at Wisconsin's Libertarian state convention calling that state's proposed ban on same-sex marriage "lunacy." If Ed can get away with an uncompromising defense of liberty in Wisconsin, all of the other red state Libertarians ought to be able to do the same.