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Posts Tagged ‘Barney Frank’

What is Wrong With Ann Althouse?

March 21st, 2010 5 comments

Ann Althouse’s blog features many funny and deliberately irreverent observations. I can’t always tell whether she’s being serious, and that’s OK — if not a job requirement — for a blogger. But it seems that her love of blog traffic (of which I’m admittedly envious) has overtaken her best judgment. Her recent post on the ugly racist and homophobic incidents that unfolded at yesterday’s Tea Party protest in Washington, as reported by, among others, that left-leaning MSM outlet known as “Fox News”, is just nuts. Here are some choice nuggets from her defense of the nasty people who hurled racial and anti-gay epithets at several African-American congressmen and at Barney Frank:

“There’s nothing wrong with showing anger at the thing that motivates you to protest. That’s what protests are for! The members of Congress have a lot of power, and they ought to have to hear the anger their exercise of that power is causing. It’s outrageous for them to pose as victims without very good cause. So what if some idiot said a bad word?”

Yeah, so what?  And how do we know that it was just “some idiot” and not a broader swath of the protesters? Althouse has the goods: Her husband told her (apparently he saw everything), and there’s a 48-second video that doesn’t contain any nastiness, posted on her website. Then she concludes, on that basis, that the race card was being played for nothing. “Shame!” (The fact that she actually uses the term “race card” is a problem by itself, but never mind.)

Nice evidence. Let’s look at some reliance  evidence, shall we? Here‘s a story, told by witnesses, recounting how Barney Frank had to call the capitol police to haul away some protesters who were banging on his door, shouting through the mail slot (classy!), and calling him “Homo communist” and telling him, cleverly, to “go homo to Massachusetts.”

Althouse might not know, somehow, that gays live in a society where our physical security is often at risk. (But by saying that, I’m sure I’ll be accused of playing the “gay card.”) Frank might well have believed that people banging on his door, shouting, and calling insults, might be about to do him harm. But that doesn’t seem to have occurred to her.

Later, she added a final inanity to the post, disputing the account that one Congressman had been spat upon by noting that no arrest had been made. Therefore, she’s assuming it’s a lie. What? Perhaps the offender eluded detection, slipped away, or the police weren’t right on the spot — to name just a few other possibilities in the real world of imperfect law enforcement. But she needs to provoke, so there it is.

All of this might be tolerable, barely, but for the willingness she has to post any and all comments, without editing or comments of her own, no matter how horrible. Andrew Sullivan repeated a few of these that her readers had for him this past Fall, and they’re far worse than anything accompanying this story. But some of these are bad enough. . As a law professor and a member of the profession, she should show some minimal discretion. Here’s an example of the kind of comment she allows (this from a reader reacting to a gay commenter’s offense):

Hey downtownload, you dumbfuck of a homo, did it ever occur to you that the more you show your naked hatred of “straights” the more it will be returned? It is good, profoundly good that normal America is getting it full in the face from all the marginal shits, it’s a lesson that will be well and truly learned and never forgotten. A tidal wave coming your way in November, fagellah.

At the least, she might have edited out the more vituperative epithets. But that’s not what drives traffic to her blog.

The Mighty Kozinski?

December 27th, 2009 No comments

In a battle that only lawyers and marriage debate partisans (like me) could love, federal appellate court judge Alex Kozinski has been sparring with the Obama DOJ over whether the government must (or even can) provide federal benefits to the same-sex partner of a staff attorney for the 9th Circuit (Kozinski’s court). You can find good accounts of the issue here and especially here; I’ll refer you to those and not rehash their good work.

Whatever happens with this case, though, it’s become increasingly clear to me that some case involving same-sex marriages — either directly or indirectly — is going to reach the Supreme Court sooner rather than later. For relentless coverage of the legal landscape relating to this issue (and of the many cases that might get to the high court), there’s no better place than Proposition 8 and the Right to Marry. The site chronicles almost every procedural and substantive development on cases from Massachusetts and California (to name two of the likeliest to come before the Supreme Court), and provides a rich source of links to official documents, reporting, and legal analysis.

This development may or may not be good news for the marriage equality movement; historically speaking, you’d have to say that this is a bit early. The Court doesn’t like to get ahead of social changes by much (by the time it declared bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional, only a handful of states still had them), but things move faster than they used to, and people are more mobile than they were. So all kinds of questions of interstate recognition of same-sex marriages keep popping up (often in the context of divorce, as I wrote here and here), and these create problems because of DOMA.

Of course, Congress might be able to stall the Court’s participation by repealing DOMA, but that move is a ways off; so far off, in fact, that Barney Frank won’t even co-sponsor the legislation leading to its repeal. So DOMA’s constitutionality may be the vehicle for examining the ban on same-sex marriages more comprehensively. And when that happens, it will likely be up to Justice Kennedy, as it so often is. The other eight are likely set, four to a side, making Kennedy an audience of one for the advocates. Is this really what  anyone wants?

Barney Frank, Re-Reconsidered?

September 18th, 2009 No comments

Quite understandably, Barney Frank has his defenders — even when he takes an action that, at least on the face of it, seems inexplicable to the gay community of which he’s such a vital part.

So I wasn’t surprised when Chris Geidner (Law Dork) stood with Frank when he decided not to support NY Rep Jerrold Nadler’s just-introduced bill, The Respect for Marriage Act, to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”). I fired away at Frank, which provoked an e-mail response from Geidner. He wrote:

I just think it’s naive at best (and I know you’re not naive) for people to diminish the sensible statement that Barney made about this provision causing political problems for a DOMA repeal bill.

Please, tell me why I’m wrong.

Well, I’ll try. As usual, though, Geidner does have a point, even if, in the end, we have a difference of opinion as to whether Frank should have declined to co-sponsor the bill. Some background:

The Respect for Marriage Act goes beyond undoing DOMA’s two provisions, and the “extra” provision is the one that Geidner, and Frank, think spells political trouble. The Act adds a section that would ensure that a same-sex couple, once validly married under the law of any state, would gain — and keep — federal recognition of their union, even were they to move (or visit, I guess) another state that denied marriage equality. It would also, if I’m reading it correctly, allow those who leave the country to marry (by going to Canada, for instance) to have their marriages recognized by the feds if the couple then took up residence in, say, Iowa.1

Geidner, in an earlier post, thought that this so-called “certainty provision” is unique. I’ve not found evidence to the contrary, but that is likely because the situation hasn’t arisen in exactly this way before. DOMA having confused the relationship between the feds and states when it comes it marriage, it’s not surprising that efforts to restore the status quo ante (where the federal definition of marriage follows state law) are complex, perhaps novel.

Geidner agrees with Frank on the point that the certainty provision will be attacked for forcing one state to recognize a same-sex marriage valid in another (even though it doesn’t). I’m sure they’re right, but the repeal effort will be attacked with or without the certainty provision, and on essentially the same ground. By seeking to remove the DOMA provision that tells states they needn’t recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, Nadler et al. will be accused of doing that anyway (even though that provision of DOMA was never needed for a state to refuse recognition of a marriage celebrated in a sister state). Here‘s what he said:

“Mr. Frank knows better than anyone that our opponents will falsely claim that any DOMA repeal bill ‘exports marriage’ in an effort to generate fear and misunderstanding,” Nadler said. “But the dishonest tactics of our opponents should not stop us from aggressively pushing to end this horrific discrimination now, as is the consensus of the nation’s top LGBT groups who all support this approach.”

And on the merits, of course, life without the certainty provision would become a legalistic morass, as couples moving from pro- to anti-gay marriage states would have no clear answers to apparently simple questions, like: Can I file a joint federal income tax return? Is the incrementally greater political risk (conceding that point for now) a sufficient reason to cause a pile-up of needless lawsuits and confusion?

Of course, I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes; but (perhaps naively)  I don’t much care. To me, it sends a terrible message for Frank —  who, again, was willing to sponsor a bill to legalize pot that stands less than no chance of passing  any time soon — to be refusing to sign onto this repeal of DOMA. But I respect Geidner’s view. In his first post, he had this much exactly right:

These discussions and debates are the inevitable result of many people of good will attempt to correct the damage done in 1996 with DOMA’s passage.  In the coming days…, expect to be hearing a lot more about these and other issues relating to any possible DOMA repeal.  Regardles of views on this or that provision, though, I want to remain clear that these are debates over strategy and tactics, not in any way an attack on the folks working to right this wrong.

And in that spirit, I want to make clear that I see Barney Frank as someone “working to right this wrong” — however much I disagree with how he’s going about it.

  1. It might also be read to allow the Canadian-married couple to get federal benefits wherever in the U.S. they resided.

Barney Frank, Reconsidered

September 16th, 2009 No comments

There’s much to admire about Barney Frank. He’s brainy, has a lacerating wit that he’s willing to use in calling out idiots, and straightforwardly principled on a number of issues. I particularly admire (if I don’t fully share) his purist view of the First Amendment. He was one of  only three House members to oppose the law that now forbids protests near many military funerals, and has declined to support the resolution against Joe Wilson, on the ground that being a “jerk” shouldn’t be censurable. Overall, his Massachusetts constituents and the LGB…1 community are, in general, lucky to have him as a spokesman and a champion. But…

Recent events have caused me to re-evaluate his real value and commitment to the gay community. It’s time to hold him accountable. The trigger for this post was his refusal to co-sponsor a bill (“The Respect for Marriage Act”), just introduced into the House yesterday, that would repeal the pernicious Defense of Marriage Act. Frank’s reason? The bill “has zero chance of passage, even out of committee.” Doesn’t Frank’s refusal doom the bill? “It does send a message that it’s a bad idea,” says Frank. “But I want to send a message.”

Well, that’s odd, because Frank hasn’t exactly restricted his support to bills with a reasonable chance of passage. Last year, for example, he proposed the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008, which would decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts of pot. Is this likely to pass? A year after its introduction, it has a robust seven co-sponsors in the House; by contrast, DOMA repeal has more than 90 co-sponsors exactly one day after its introduction.

Worse, Frank now says that we should rely on the courts for the repeal of DOMA. This is the same person, remember, who defended the Obama Administration’s offensive brief supporting DOMA. If that brief’s arguments are accepted, there’s no chance that DOMA will be declare unconstitutional. Yet now the Roberts Court is our best chance? What is Frank thinking?

In a way, none of this is surprising. Frank’s courage has always come with a bold-faced asterisk. He didn’t come out until several years after first being elected to the House, after his seat was secure. Not unforgivable; people come out at their own pace, and Frank, now approaching the age of 70, is of a generation for whom openness about (gay) sexual orientation is uncomfortable. Yet his hesitance bespeaks a politician’s genetic predisposition towards self-preservation. So perhaps there’s something going on behind Frank’s odd stance here that we’ve yet to learn; some kind of deal, perhaps, to hold off on DOMA in favor of other legislation that (we’re endlessly reassured) will be forthcoming much sooner: hate crimes law; ENDA; perhaps even the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

But it’s appalling for him to argue that The Respect for Marriage Act will be controversial because it will be seen to require states that oppose same-sex marriages to recognize such unions from other states. The bill plainly does not do that, and Frank knows it. It simply requires the federal government to look to the state where the couple was married in deciding whether to recognize it for federal purposes. By suggesting that opponents will be able to use this provision to attack  the bill, Frank fuels their arguments.

This is leadership?

  1. I left out the “T” from the usual alphabet string above because Frank has sometimes seemed obtusely insensitive to the needs of the transgender community. He once supported a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that wasn’t trans-inclusive. (Quick: What group most needs protection against workplace discrimination?)