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    Send out the Clowns

    1-Ann RostowCongress is finally ending its surreal performance. Boehner signaled long ago that he would not allow the United States to default on its bills. The Speaker is an enigma, but he is not crazy. And if there had ever been a real chance of default, the Dow would not have been flirting with 15,000. It would have been stealing kisses from 9,000.

    If you like the analogy of playing chicken, John Boehner was behind the wheel of the clown car and the Democrats were driving a Mack Truck. The inexplicable aspect of the showdown, however, was the fact that the clowns were insisting — not that the truck would swerve at the last minute — but that the impact itself would crush the truck and send it off the road, leaving the car unscathed.

    These are the people who really believe Obama’s mother flew from Hawaii to Kenya in order to give birth, filing fake newspaper articles in the island press just in case her son might run for president one day.

    They believe the earth was created a few thousand years ago. That climate science is an elaborate hoax. That Obama is a Muslim. That a new Black Panther party is planning a race war. That the government is setting up concentration camps to round up enemies of the state.

    I’m not talking about crazy tea party people in the sticks. I’m talking about lawmakers. And even the saner ones bloviate mindlessly about leaving our grandchildren to pay off our government debt as if we’re not continually paying off our grandparents’ government debt. Hello? Our grandchildren can issue thirty-year T-bonds just like we do, provided that is, that we maintain the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

    And what could undercut that state of affairs? Oh yeah! A debt default.

    I understand that some of these districts are so gerrymandered that only a certified moron can win a Congressional seat. But surely there is a way for other Republicans to fence them off into their own little pasture where they can bleat and fuss without spreading chaos through the entire flock. I don’t know how, but something must be done.

    Does this have anything to do with GLBT news? Not really. That said, given that our vibrant community is an integral patch in the colorful American quilt, we join our fellow countrymen and women in eager anticipation of the denouement. Plus, since a majority of gay voters are Democrats, there’s a certain satisfaction in watching the GOP self-destruct. If their ineptitude lets us win the Virginia governorship, cut into (or win back) the House majority, and hold onto the Senate in 2014, the whole sordid affair will be well worth a frustrating few weeks

    Don’t Stay

    The big news this week emerges from New Jersey, where Judge Mary Jacobson has refused to suspend her October 21 deadline for marriage equality. Judge Jacobson ruled in favor of same-sex couples back on September 27 in an opinion that was appealed directly to the state’s high court by Governor Chris Christie. Christie also asked Jacobson to hold off on granting marriages until the justices could review the matter, a request that has been routinely granted in other marriage cases.

    But not this time!

    Normally, a stay is appropriate in a situation when one of the parties would be severely damaged by allowing a court order to proceed. And normally, judges have decided that allowing same-sex couples to marry in the middle of litigation could lead to a problematic situation if a higher court were to reverse the marriages down the road.

    This time, Judge Jacobson ruled that the same-sex couples themselves will be harmed by further delay, while the state of New Jersey will be just fine, thank you very much. It’s still possible that the New Jersey Supreme Court will step in to halt marriages between now and next week, but it’s also possible that the justices will let them start. If the October 21 deadline is kept in place, it’s a sure indication that New Jersey’s high court will fall in line behind Judge Jacobson’s reasoning.

    We’re sure the justices will legalize marriage in the near future in any event. There is simply zero legal rationale to ban marriage equality in New Jersey under state law precedent. With that in mind, it’s possible that Garden State lawmakers will find it within themselves to pass marriage equality with a veto-proof majority before the court can act. The current equality bill has several religious loopholes that presumably would not appear in a court opinion. In effect, therefore, passing marriage in the legislature has become the conservative option. One way or another, add New Jersey to the list of free states by January, maybe by next week.

    Recognize This!

    And after New Jersey? Well, not exactly the deluge but, as you know, there are quite a few other states lining up to tie the equality knot. In Oregon, for example, activists are collecting names for a 2014 referendum that would reverse the state’s antigay marriage amendment. But a recently filed federal lawsuit might eviscerate the ban before the voters get their chance. The suit argues, not just that Oregon must allow marriage, but that Oregon must recognize same-sex marriages contracted elsewhere.

    I emphasize this last point, because although it seems obvious, we have not put much effort into seeking marriage recognition in the past. Why bother? We’re seeking marriage, and recognition comes along automatically, right? Of course, but the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling has changed the game and it’s also delivered an interesting, albeit oblique, new legal precedent.

    Think about it. In Windsor, the High Court ruled— not that marriage equality was mandated by the Constitution—but that recognition of existing marriage was mandated by the Constitution. If that’s the case for the federal government, why would this High Court precedent not demand the same result from a state government?

    The High Court has not said that Texas must legalize same-sex marriage. But has it not implicitly said that Texas must recognize a same-sex marriage when a married couple moves from Boston to Austin? And, obviously, if a state is ordered to recognize same-sex marriages from outside its borders, the fact that it does not license marriages itself becomes a moot point.

    Why have we not pursued marriage recognition suits in the past? Well, for one thing, we’ve only had a few years of marriage equality, and it’s only now that we’re starting to see increasing numbers of married couples moving into the mean states or traveling to marry.

    Second, as mentioned, we now have a directly applicable Supreme Court precedent in our arsenal.

    Third, we’re trying to win full equality, not whittle around the edges. That said, I think we might see some lawsuits, narrowly tailored to coin a phrase, geared to win marriage recognition in some of these states where a direct assault is less likely to succeed.

    Interesting, ne’est-ce pas?

    What? Did you say no? Damn you.

    Oreos All Around

    Hey. Did you read that Oreo cookies are just as addictive as cocaine? It’s all over the news this morning along with the information that Oreos light up the same pleasure centers as our erstwhile bad habit. I even read that Noel Coward got a kick out licking the middle part.

    But before we abandon the topic of marriage, I have to tell you that a federal judge in Michigan is hearing arguments today on the status of the Mitten State’s antigay amendment. Oddly, various headlines suggest that the judge might rule immediately from the bench, potentially legalizing marriage at once. But there is no evidence for this far-fetched scenario, so I am compelled to dismiss the idea. I will happily eat crow if I’m wrong.

    Well, at least I’ll eat an Oreo. I don’t like them, so it will be just as if I were to eat a crow. That said, I might start to like Oreos if all the stories are true. I suppose I’ll also need a hundred dollar bill and a Bloomingdale’s card if memory serves.

    Meanwhile, oral arguments before the New Mexico Supreme Court are scheduled for October 23 in a state marriage case that could be resolved fairly quickly. And we also have a renegade clerk in North Carolina who is accepting same-sex marriage license applications and asking the Attorney General what to do about them. The AG, Roy Cooper, is in favor of marriage equality, but has also pledged to defend the state’s antigay amendment in federal court. North Carolina is one of the several venues for our legal eagles’ federal marriage lawsuits.

    I’m guessing Mr. Cooper will tell the clerk to sit on his hands until the matter is settled in court. After all, the amendment is still on the books, right? Still, it’s nice to see. I love these renegade clerks.

    Finally, although several other cases are proceeding apace, I have to draw your attention to Sevcik v Sandoval, the federal challenge to Nevada’s antigay marriage amendment that has long been pending in the Ninth Circuit. The case was put on hold while the High Court considered the Prop 8 case, which clearly involved similar issues. But it roared back to life, and the first briefs are due this week.

    Sevcik has lost its sister case, the Hawaii suit of Jackson v Abercrombie, which had been moving on a parallel track. Now, however, Jackson has been shelved while the Hawaii state legislature considers marriage this fall. But we don’t need both cases in order to make waves. If Sevcik runs a normal course, we will have another Ninth Circuit ruling on marriage equality by next summer.

    Gay couples lost both the Nevada and the Hawaii cases in lower court, but both rulings were characterized by the typical twisted conservative jurisprudence that we hope and trust cannot survive Ninth Circuit review.

    Where’re Ya Goin’? Barcelona. Oh.

    Did you read about the baggage handlers at Jetstar airways who used tracking tapes to write “I am gay” on some guy’s luggage? The airline apologized, and interestingly, the victim wrote that he better understands how gay people and minorities feel. As a straight white man, he experienced an unfamiliar sensation of chagrin when walking out of the airport with his out and proud bag, and gained a new respect for the nuanced social disfavor that can ride in the wake of a visible gay man.

    I think that was good of him to recognize. The story reminded me of a recent incident that I forgot to mention to you, the case of two (straight) men at a bar who got their check and noticed that they had been nicknamed “gay guys” by the wait staff, presumably as a means to identify their orders. The men were outraged, not at being thought gay, but at the notion that someone would use perceived sexual orientation as a tag in this context. Again, apologies abounded.

    And here’s something interesting! Stephen Sondheim is rewriting “Company,” making commitment-phobe Bobby a gay man and also switching genders for Joanne, the aging booze hound who sings “Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch.”

    What? You’ve never seen “Company?” Surely you jest. I will just continue as if I hadn’t heard you. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the new version of the hit musical is being workshopped, with Alan Cumming replacing Elaine Stritch as Joanne. Not sure of the new character’s name, but I’d love to see Alan Cumming in that role.

    Another long exhausting day, another thousand dollars. A matinee, a Pinter play, perhaps a piece of Mahler’s. I’ll drink to that.

    And One for Mahler!

    The previous topic inspired me to look up the song, which inspired me to play it on YouTube, which inspired me to concoct a vodka stinger. Unfortunately, I do not stock white crème de menthe. Indeed, who would? But I do have a ginger liqueur that could make a provocative substitute.

    I’m back. This drink is not for the faint of heart. Topped off with diet ginger ale, it’s not bad. And now I want an Oreo.

    arostow@aol.com