David Host: The Right Result – But a Troubling Ruling

David HostI have long been hesitant to write about the marriage equality issue because of my own nuanced feelings on the issue. I have always strongly believed that our society must confer the same protections and benefits upon couples regardless of sexual orientation – and as the current debate has progressed, I have become increasingly persuaded that such benefits must include the civil contract which the law defines as “marriage.” Thus, on a basic policy level, I agree with today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Yet, I remain fundamentally uncomfortable with this ruling for other reasons. First, I do not think that the Court’s evisceration of the democratic process was necessary or wise in this instance. The rapid growth of states which have adopted marriage equality shows a fundamental change in societal attitudes on this issue; a transformation which seems only likely to accelerate as the so-called “millennials” achieve a greater share of political power. I think that the Court could have steered a more moderate course by requiring states to recognize all marriages performed in other states, without directly overruling a particular state’s definition of marriage by judicial fiat. Instead of promoting an emerging national consensus, this ruling seems destined to exacerbate divisions on this issue.

Second, I think the Court short-circuited a vital discussion that needs to occur in our society regarding the entanglement of church and state when it comes to marriage. Given the “wall” that exists between church and state in almost every other instance, I have always thought that marriage offered an interesting display of cognitive dissonance. Many of us have gotten married in a church and divorced by a judge – and ministers who officiate a marriage ceremony frequently proclaim that they act “under the authority of God and the State of ______.”

I certainly hope that this entanglement does not become the “nose under the tent” which leads to a broader intrusion upon the free exercise of religion and the freedom of conscience in America – yet, I cannot not see how ministers who invoke the state’s authority can avoid performing same-sex marriages under the implications of today’s ruling. Perhaps the onus is now upon the churches which do not recognize same-sex marriage; they can always distinguish between “spiritual marriage” and “legal marriage,” and limit the marriage ceremonies they perform to the former. Of course, many couples would have to participate in  two wedding ceremonies – but I think that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has always mandated that result.

My main concern is that today’s decision has steamrolled the dissent on this issue, foreclosing the natural consensus that could have otherwise emerged; a consensus that would have confirmed and strengthened the boundaries between church and state in America. Instead, I am concerned that the Supreme Court’s ruling will further blur the line between private conscience and public responsibility; an outcome which does not seem likely to enhance the long-term health of our nation.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Happy 4th of July!

10527695_10154376541020515_5719417994505475252_nThe image that I think best signifies Independence Day for our country isn’t bright colors waving gloriously in the wind or even extravagent fireworks exploding across the sky. 

I think the most fitting image is a small but determined flickering flame that burns quietly through the day and night in each of us. That spark. That inclination. That dedication. That incontrovertible belief at our core that each of us is endowed by our Creator with cerain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

jyb_musingsThe spark that ignited a revolution to free ourselves, not the world, so that we might enjoy the fruits of living freely, if we could remember how to preserve it for ourselves.

Independence Day, for me anyway, is about honoring and fanning that giant little flame in each of us that animates our daily lives and defines the country we are blessed to call home.

Happy 4th of July.

Please Sign Petition to Thank Presidents Ramsey and Capilouto for Their Support of Academic Freedom

UK President Capilouto

UK President Capilouto

U of L President Jim Ramsey

U of L President Jim Ramsey

The two largest universities in Kentucky — the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville — have been friendly rivals on the court and gridiron for decades.

(OK, sometimes, not so friendly…).

But they are united by the fact that they boast of Presidents who are deeply committed to the ideals of higher education — especially academic freedom.

And today, The Recovering Politician was proud to break the news that U of L President Jim Ramsey and UK President Eli Capilouto each joined the growing list of college and university leaders (192 and counting) who have denounced the American Studies Association’s pernicious academic boycott of Israel. (Read about it here.)

Here’s Ramsey’s statement; and here’s Capilouto’s statement.

Please join me and thanking them for their principled stance on behalf of academic freedom by signing the petition below:

Thank you Presidents Ramsey and Capilouto for Supporting Academic Freedom

We the undersigned thank University of Louisville President James Ramsey and University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto for their principled stance on behalf of academic freedom in denouncing the American Studies Association's boycott of Israel.


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BOMBSHELL: McConnell Campaign Manager “Holding His Nose” in Supporting Mitch

From Think Progress:

EconomicPolicyJournal.com released a recording of McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton talking about his current job with Dennis Fusaro of Reformed Theological Seminary. Benton, who used to work for Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), suggests he is only working on McConnell’s campaign to prepare for Rand Paul’s re-election campaign in 2016.

“Between you and me, I’m sorta holdin’ my nose for two years, cause what we’re doin’ here is gonna be a big benefit to Rand in 2016, so that’s the long vision,” he said.


From The Weekly Standard:

McConnell campaign aide Allison Moore emails a statement from Benton:

“It is truly sick that someone would record a private phone conversation I had out of kindness and use it to try to hurt me. I believe in Senator McConnell and am 100 percent committed to his re-election. Being selected to lead his campaign is one of the great honors of my life and I look forward to victory in November of 2014.”

From GOP primary challenger Matt Bevin:

From WFPL’s Phillip Bailey

From Justin Barasky, Press Secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee:

UPDATE #2 7:00 PM

And now the McConnell campaign’s official response:

Artur Davis: The Gay Marriage Case That Will Really Matter

Continuing to pick over the remains of the Supreme Court’s news-making week, there is one other piece that should be examined. As my last posting argued, the Court’s decision to avoid the merits of Prop 8, Hollingsworth v. Perry, is hard to defend as a work of judicial analysis, given the anti-democratic veto power it puts in the hands of a Governor and Attorney General who disagree with laws their own constituents voted into existence. But I would argue that there is a real chance that taking Prop 8 on the merits might have ended disastrously for social conservatives, and that we have just gotten a good look at what the next super-showdown on the subject will look like.

The basis for all of that: a not well remembered Supreme Court decision from the mid nineties, Romer v. Evans. The case involved a Colorado constitutional amendment that sought to preempt a series of grassroots campaigns around the state geared toward winning more local protections for homosexuals. Under the amendment, which voters approved statewide, local jurisdictions were precluded from passing any form of initiatives  that had the effect of making sexual orientation  a “protected class”, analogous to race or gender.  In a majority opinion by Anthony Kennedy, the Colorado amendment was struck down on the ground that it blocked one class of the state’s citizens, its gay community, from exercising the ability to win favorable results in the political process, and that even under the lowest level of equal protection review, rational basis, there was no valid justification for such a limitation. One of the informal legal advisors for the litigants challenging the amendment: a rising Republican appellate whiz who had just missed being confirmed for a federal judgeship a few earlier, named John Roberts.

davis_artur-11Romer did turn heads in 1996 because it was the first instance of the Supreme Court invalidating a law that was aimed at gays. But the reasoning, that a law couldn’t survive constitutionally if it simply reflected disapproval of homosexuality, seemed light years beyond the political culture at the time, which included a near unanimous passage of the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by a Democratic president. And for all practical purposes, Romer seemed to have almost nothing to do with DOMA, didn’t discourage it or generate any real challenge to it, and is not lauded in liberal legal circles in the same manner as Lawrence v. Texas’ 2003 overturning of local sodomy laws.

That was then. This week, Romer is cited heavily in and was one of the linchpins of the ruling ending DOMA, and had the Court chosen to decide whether Prop 8 violates the equal protection clause, it could not have avoided Romer’s potentially broad reach. Does a state referenda limiting marriage to its traditional definition somehow preclude gays from petitioning California’s legislature or judges to change that definition? Would the five justices who discarded DOMA have bought any rationale that there was a reason for Prop 8 other than moral apprehensions about homosexuality?

Read the rest of…
Artur Davis: The Gay Marriage Case That Will Really Matter

Artur Davis: Of Voting Rights and Gay Rights

At the risk of upsetting a popular narrative, that the Supreme Court just dealt a crippling blow to the interests of black voters while handing a decisive win to gays on the future of marriage, I offer a few contrarian points. In random order,

(1)   It’s a cheap misread to construe the Court’s rulings on Section 5 and the Defense of Marriage Act as some subversive proof that the Court, or more accurately Anthony Kennedy, the deciding vote in both cases, is more sensitive toward the aspirations of gays than blacks. Whatever you think of  Kennedy’s analysis, it is at its core a judgment about the scope of federal v. state authority: put simply, Justice Kennedy’s view is that states should have more leeway to regulate their election practices, as opposed to Washington, and that states ought to determine what is or isn’t a marriage, as opposed to Congress doing so. Those are serious, entirely consistent positions that shouldn’t be dismissed by fixating on the politics or matching the gloom on the face of blacks outside the Court yesterday with the zeal of gays today.

(2)    The Court’s complex holding on Prop 8 has a clean result-an explosion of gay weddings in California in the next month-but its winding procedural course had little to do with sweeping claims of autonomy or dignity. To the contrary, a rare coalition of conservative and liberal justices clung to some fairly basic rules of legal standing: You don’t get to file a lawsuit simply because you are rooting for one outcome or another. You have to be an injured party who is contending that either enforcing or violating said law injures you in some way. I am in the camp that thinks that the Court got it wrong here: by denying standing to the plaintiffs, the Supremes effectively let the Governor and Attorney General of California over-turn a majority of their voters by refusing to enforce or even defend Prop 8, their constitutional oaths of fidelity to California’s laws notwithstanding. But resolving Prop 8 with an ordinary technical legal point hardly suggests that the Court is poised to take on North Carolina’s referendum against same sex marriage last year, or any statute in any of the other 37 states that don’t recognize gay marriages.

(3)    Combined with the decision to decide another day on affirmative action, this was a week of a cautious court (or again, two cautious jurists in Kennedy and John Roberts) that took pains to minimize the upset to the social and political landscape. Politicians who have linked the Voting Rights Act to the Obama presidency can certainly do so in a thematic, inspirational way, but they should remember that with the exception of Virginia, not one VRA covered state was part of President Obama’s winning coalition in 2012. In not one of these states will a black congressman’s job be imperiled, given that the Republicans who control the legislatures in these states are perfectly happy with heavily racially gerrymandered districts and the free ride they give Republicans in the rest of the state. (It is telling that every single southern redistricting plan in 2011, all but one drawn by a Republican legislature, was pre-cleared by the Holder Justice Department). To be sure, voter ID laws in the VRA states will pass more frequently and with less scrutiny, but in states that are already red and that haven’t been contested at the presidential level since Bill Clinton seemed momentarily capable of winning everything in October 1996. (I will allow for the possibility that Texas is the one state where a rollback of Section 5 confers an edge to Republicans, given the vagaries of drawing districts there and the tension between a heavily Republican legislative majority and a rising minority base that is not as geographically concentrated as in the South).

Read the rest of…
Artur Davis: Of Voting Rights and Gay Rights

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: July 4th Leftovers

How smart were our Founding Fathers really?

Were they just good with “big ideas” about freedom, liberty and all that. Or did they have practical intelligence too?

One way to find out is to look back on the original July 4th in 1787. If it was set on a Thursday like this year’s allowing for not only a great national political event (“big idea” part) but also picking a date that allowed for everyone to enjoy a long weekend and have an extra day to recover from over-indulging on food and drink the night before, I think we can confidently conclude the Founders had both high theoretical and practical intelligence.

But if they set our big celebration day on, say, a Tuesday, we can confidently conclude they were more like a bunch of absent minded professors. Brilliant with complex and philosophical ideas….but could not be trusted with practical matters like party planning.


jyb_musingsI remember hazily a rainy 4th of July with our family about 20 years ago. My half sis Pamela was having fun holding sparklers (and trying not to let sparks touch her arm) and laughing as we tried to light fireworks on the front porch in the damp and dank evening light.

I remember looking down at a disappointing and spent firecracker that had settled amid a sea of matches that it took to finally light it.

But tonight Pamela seemed to have a slightly brighter and more memorable 4th.

She was the CNN reporter covering the re-opening of the Statue of Liberty.

And avoided burning her arm with a sparkler.

And it didn’t rain. One of the blessings of liberty is freedom of speech….and that is especially valuable since we love the power of story.


Here is a powerful scene from a powerful story exemplifying the modern essence of what we as a young nation carved out for ourselves in an early defining moment on this day 226 years ago.

Happy 4th of July.

For all the original reasons for this nationally sacred holiday. For all the reasons that have developed over the years for celebrating this holiday. And for the fireworks, cookouts, friendship and fellowship too.

As we live freely in each of our individual communities tonight together as Americans.

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of Liberty

The Politics of Liberty

Latin America has come a long way from its days when militant dictators were the norm. However, experts are concerned that a new form of authoritarianism is emerging in the region. [Washington Post]

The judicial battle over same-sex marriage may be about to resume as lawyers are requesting that the highest court in the land take another look at a 2008 ruling. [US News]

“I could smell my flesh burning,” recalls Kim Young-hwan, a South Korean activist who claims he was tortured in a Chinese prison. [NY Times]

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of Liberty

Politics of Liberty

Few would deny that Rupert Murdoch and his papers’ dirty tactics went too far, but now London is seeing hesitation by news outlets to track down any of these “unsavory” stories. [NY Times]

Awaiting the day they will return home, Syrian refugees in Turkey have found some peace and normalcy for now. [NY Times]

A motley crew marched on the White House yesterday, demanding more government support for the fight against AIDS. [WSJ] 

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of Liberty

Politics of Liberty


Do Bagram detainees have the right to habeas corpus? So far – no. However, one federal judge explored the case during a hearing Monday, searching all possibilities. [SCOTUSblog]

The brutal beating of a Chilean homosexual finally led to progress in the country’s criminal justice system. [NY Times]

Security Council members stumbled on negotiations as Damascus transitions into an all-out war zone. [Washington Post]


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