Friday, January 31, 2014

Oregon Woman Convicted of Obstructing Justice in Hate Crime Against Gay Couple & Their Poodle

Here is a story that I missed last year. A young twentysomething gay couple was walking their pink poodle -- named Beauty -- in Hillsboro, Oregon, back on March 1, 2013. An SUV pulled up next to them and the driver began yelling anti-gay slurs at the men and making fun of their dog. The driver then got out of his SUV and began punching one of the men in the face with his fist. He then hit the same man in the back of his head with a foot-long metal wrench. Fortunately, the victim was not severely injured from this attack.

Better yet, several witnesses managed to write down the license plate number of the SUV and police eventually arrested 23-year-old George Mason Jr. and charged him with 2nd degree intimidation, 2nd degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon, reckless driving, and federal hate crime charges. That trial is still winding its way through the court system.

But Mason's wife, Saraya Gardner -- also found herself facing charges related to this case. She was charged with obstructing justice after federal officials said that she lied about Mason's whereabouts to police officers and then repeatedly misled them regarding the assault.

We learned earlier this week that Gardner was found guilty of one count of obstruction of justice by a jury of her peers. She is understandably upset about the verdict and believe that the jury was tainted by evidence of her husband's anti-gay slurs.

Gardner's sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 12, 2014. She faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. She and her attorney are already planning to appeal this conviction.

Salt Lake City School District Promotes Mixed Messages Regarding Child Hunger // Updated on 01/31/14: District Staff Being Investigated & Placed on Paid Leave

(Originally written on 01/30/14): The Salt Lake City School District posted the following message on its Facebook page yesterday:
Help fight child hunger through the Souper Bowl of Caring! Child poverty and hunger are reaching alarming levels in Utah. More than 170,000 Utah kids are eligible for free school breakfasts and lunches and another 50,000 are eligible for reduced cost meals. School breakfast and lunch programs help, but what happens on the weekends?
Feel free to follow the above link to encounter another link to the Souper Bowl of Caring link.

This is what they posted on their Facebook page last evening. It's quite the contrast in messages:
Dear patrons and Uintah Elementary parents,

We have been investigating the lunch situation at Uintah Elementary School and would like to share the following information.

On Monday, a district Child Nutrition manager was sent to Uintah Elementary School to investigate the large number of students who had zero or negative balances in their school lunch accounts. That same day, the district manager and the local school kitchen manager started making calls to inform parents of the negative balances.

On Tuesday, the calls to parents continued. When lunch time came, students who still had negative balances were told they could not have a full meal but were given a piece of fruit and a milk for lunch. The district does this so children who don’t have money for lunch can at least have some food and not go without.

Unfortunately, children are served lunch before they get to the computer for payment. The children who didn’t have enough money in their accounts had their normal food trays taken from them and were given the fruit and milk.

This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize.

We are also investigating what type of notification parents may or may not have received prior to this week. The schools says they inform students when they go through the lunch line if they have a low balance. They say they also send notes home in the student’s Monday folders. However, when contacted Monday or Tuesday, many parents were surprised by the news. The district has specific guidelines for school kitchen managers on how parents should be notified, and we are currently investigating to see if these guidelines were followed correctly.

We understand the feelings of upset parents and students who say this was an embarrassing and humiliating situation. We again apologize and commit to working with parents in rectifying this situation and to ensuring students are never treated in this manner again.
To summarize: The Salt Lake City School District implemented a new meal tracking system and there are still bugs when it comes to notifying parents of low/negative balances. Meanwhile, the school district became concerned that several students at Uintah Elementary School have negative balances and they began the process of reaching out to several -- but not all -- of the parents. 

Before they completed the process of contacting parents, the district decided to refuse meals to the children whose records showed negative meal balances. But the district cannot figure out which kids have positive or negative meal balances until they get their food and go to the cash register.

So these kids got their meals, went to the cash register, had their lunch trays taken from them by school officials, and then their lunches were dumped in the trash. Each kid was given a carton of milk and a "piece of fruit" to replace the meal that was just dumped in the garbage.

I have read news accounts that anywhere from 30-40 children were affected by this decision. I have also read interviews that at least some of the parents involved actually had positive meal balances.

If the school district was truly concerned about the expense of these unpaid meals, then how is the value of those meals regained by dumping them in the garbage?

And how did this process of taking food from confused children reinforce the Salt Lake City School District's support for overcoming child hunger via the Souper Bowl of Caring?

Updated on 01/31/14: Once again, the power of bad publicity gone viral leads to results:
The Uintah Elementary School cafeteria manager and her supervisor have been placed on paid leave while our investigation continues. Once our investigation is complete, we will post an update for all concerned.
It's been suggested by some of the commenters in this Facebook thread that the cafeteria manager and her supervisor should be handed their paychecks and then have that check snatched from their hands, torn up, and tossed in the garbage.

Either way, this has been a huge black eye for the Salt Lake City School District. The story has gone global and their actions have been pretty much universally reviled.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina Reverses Insurance Cancelations to Gay Couples Following Bad Publicity

Remember Thomas Hafke and Chad Higby of Moore County, NC? They are a married same-sex couple who applied for family health insurance through that state's insurance exchange, they got approved for benefits, they paid their premiums, and then they received their new Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance cards. And then they received a call from Blue Cross Blue Shield's customer service office -- along with roughly 19 other same-sex married couples -- informing them that their family health plan was being canceled because North Carolina doesn't consider them to be a "real" married household due to the recently passed Amendment 1. They were essentially told that there was nothing to do about it except re-apply for two separate individual health insurance policies.

It's amazing what can be changed when provided enough negative publicity. Blue Cross Blue Shield reversed its policy of refusing family health policies to married gay and lesbian households:
In mid-January, Blue Cross systematically canceled 20 family policies and notified the affected customers they would have to reapply as unmarried single individuals. Some were married legally in other states and feared they would be required to lie on an insurance application form by denying their marriage.
The controversy rattled Blue Cross, the state’s largest insurer, and created a sense of embarrassment among many employees. CEO Brad Wilson extended a public apology in the company’s announcement. 

“We should have more thoughtfully considered this decision, with full appreciation of the impact it would have on same-sex married couples and domestic partners,” Wilson said. “We’re sorry we failed to do so...”
According to this article, couples like Hafke and Higby whose plans had been canceled will be retroactively restored. And new household applicants can purchase family coverage on Monday, February 3rd, and those plans will go into effect on March 1st.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Utah Legislator Introduces Bill to Fund Anti-Gay Legal Bills

Rep. Merrill Nelson (R) of Grantsville, Utah, has just introduced a bill that would allow taxpayers to check off a box on their tax-form and donate a portion of their state income tax refund towards the state's legal fight against same-sex marriage:
His HB48 would create a check-off on forms for a "Marriage Defense Fund." It would also allow direct donations to the fund via cash, check or credit card — and would direct the state to conduct a marketing campaign to help raise money.

This check-off would be a bit different than most of the efforts that taxpayers may choose to help fund on forms now, including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Utah Nongame Wildlife Account or the Pamela Atkinson Homeless trust fund.

"I see it as a way to placate proponents of same-sex marriage who have complained about the cost" to taxpayers for the state’s ongoing appeals to defend Amendment 3, said Nelson, an attorney for Kirton McConkie, whose clients include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I see it as a peacekeeping measure.... I see this as a way to placate both sides..."

Nelson said that since his bill does not address marriage policy — but focuses instead on how to help pay for the state’s ongoing legal battles — he hopes that it can move forward.
Note the bolded quotations.

One might see it as more of a peacekeeping measure if Nelson's bill allowed Utah voters to direct their tax refunds (as well as their additional cash, check, or credit card donations) to be placed in this "Marriage Defense Fund" or another alternative "Marriage Equality Defense Fund," complete with a dual marketing campaign to help raise money. Somehow, I don't think Nelson cares about all of Utah's families -- only the hets.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Archie: Riverdale Rescue": Valentine's Day!

I began writing back in October 2013 about the "Archie: Riverdale Rescue" iOS gaming app. It's an oddly addictive game where you are tasked with the improvement and beautification of Riverdale USA using a variety of recognizable characters, such as Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica. A big part of the game also involves building emotional bonds between the various characters, leading to romantic couples, BFFs, and overall friends. I thought it would be fun to discuss aspects of the game that I find exciting, disappointing, and/or note-worthy.

The "Riverdale Rescue" game was upgraded just yesterday. The biggest part of the upgrade was to introduce a bunch of new Valentine's Day content to the game (similar to the recent Halloween and Christmas/Winter upgrades).

Riverdale in "Riverdale Rescue" is still experiencing winter -- which makes sense given the current polar vortexes that keep engulfing North America. But now the snow is decorated with all sorts of red and pink heart designs. Check this out:

But the funnest part about this upgrade has been the various Valentine's Day-themed costumes that people can purchase through iTunes. Check these out:

Archie // Veronica // Reggie // Betty
Jughead // Big Ethel // Moose // Midge
Ginger // Kumi // Kevin // Jason
Cheryl // Dilton // Nancy
I love Kevin Keller's pink tux. Jughead as Cupid is pretty cool, too. But I don't get either Dilton's superhero costume or Nancy's bear costume. I mean, they're cute. I just don't get how they fit into the theme.

Meanwhile, even Hot Dog is getting into the act. I'd noticed after my last "Riverdale Rescue" blog entry that they gave him a winter look. It really doesn't have anything to do with Valentine's Day, but I thought he was too cute to ignore!:

Lastly, there is one unique new element that was introduced with the Valentine's Day upgrade yesterday. It's Spin the Bottle:

Let's imagine me getting ready for bed. I re-visit "Riverdale Rescue" one last time before catching a bit of shut-eye. I am given an assignment for a couple of my characters. I take them to the location of their latest task, but before I put them to work, I'm asked if I want them to Spin the Bottle before the start their new task:

It costs one soda in order to Spin the Bottle. But -- depending on where the bottle lands -- you could end up with a pretty sweet deal. If it's a shared task, the kids might bond together extra well. Or they might finish the task instantly. Or the task might speed up. Or you might receive an extra-large cash prize. I've spun the bottle a few times and it usually works out positively for me. Then again, I have a lot of excess soda. If I only had a handful of soda bottles, I'm not sure that I would want to spin the bottle too often!

Incidentally, players are only offered the Spin the Bottle option for assigned tasks. If you decided to send a couple kids to a random house in order to prepare it for upgrading or to build up a relationship, the Spin the Bottle prompt won't show up.

I'm really curious about what comes next. Spring? Summer? Groundhog Day? Memorial Day? Fourth of July? Also, I wonder if we will ever get to the point where new characters will be created to join the game? Imagine if a future upgrade introduced Josie & the Pussycats! Or Sabrina the Teenage Witch! Or Jinx! Or Cosmo the Merry Martian! That would be a lot of fun!

Either way, it's pretty clear that the game-makers behind "Archie: Riverdale Rescue" have plans for periodic upgrades designed to tweak the game and to excite its fans. Enjoy!

The FAMiLY Leader Rallies in the Cold -- One Iowa Speak Out for Iowa's Gay Families!

The FAMiLY LEADER is Iowa's official anti-gay family group. It is led by thrice-failed gubernatorial Bob Vander Plaats and has been working to outlaw same-sex marriages in Iowa since they became legal back in 2009. If you were unfortunate enough to be in Des Moines earlier today, you would find yourself witnessing their annual "Life, Marriage & Family Rally" -- although on a perversely fortunate note, this rally took place on the tail end of Iowa's latest deep-freeze!

The purpose of today's rally was to pray with and encourage Iowa's anti-gay legislators and to push them to promote anti-gay and anti-abortion policies.

The FAMiLY LEADER identified two main goals that they will be pushing during the coming year:
* They want Iowa legislators to pull legislation that would allow businesses and individuals to legally discriminate against LGBT people and our families.

* The FAMiLY LEADER also wants legislators to amend our state constitution to ban all recognition of same-sex marriages in Iowa.
It's been nearly five years since marriage equality began in Iowa. There have been a few minor hiccups -- usually involving a literal handful of anti-gay cake-makers -- since same-sex marriage began, but how much longer can Iowa's social conservatives seriously push this meme that Iowa will suffer until gay and lesbian families get struck down??

Fortunately, we have folks like Donna Red Wing of One Iowa speaking out for all of Iowa's families:
Iowa has enjoyed marriage equality for nearly 5 years. While the laws have changed, we recognize that it will take a little longer for the culture to change. Unfortunately, the Family Leader continues to use the LGBT community and our families as a divisive political wedge. I suggest we find a way to work together to find common ground and create the space to have civil dialogue around issues important to us.

While One Iowa recognizes and respects the religious beliefs of all Iowans, it is imperative to separate our appreciation for those beliefs from the Iowa Civil Rights Code. The law states clearly that all public venues and businesses must accommodate individuals regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

We hope that the Family Leader and its supporters will recognize that our families are really not that different from their own. We pay our taxes, we take care of our loved ones, we go to worship, and we are contributing members of society. Instead of the hostile posturing that we have seen on both sides of the issue of equality–especially marriage equality–we should broaden our conversations through ongoing civil dialogue about what’s important to all Iowans, and what we can do together to make this great state an even greater one. Will we continue to disagree? Yes. But let us do so from a perspective that respects both religious and individual freedom. As we move into the New Year, and into a fresh political landscape, we extend an invitation to our friends and to our opponents to meet and engage in honest, respectful dialogue.
One Iowa recently announced its own legislative advocacy day. It's called "Day on the Hill" and it's scheduled for Tuesday, February 11, 2014. Participants will participate in a training at the One Iowa office in Des Moines from 8:30 - 10:30 AM, which will be followed by a Legislative Luncheon at the Iowa State Capitol from 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM.

The 2014 "Day on the Hill" will be a joint effort between One Iowa and Community HIV/Hepatitis Advocates of Iowa Network (CHAIN).

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Iowa GOP Scrambles after Contractor Posts Racist Chart on its Facebook Page

The Iowa GOP had been working with a contractor called 4:15 Communications for roughly one year. 4:15 Communications was responsible for managing the Iowa GOP's Facebook and Twitter accounts and content. They seemed to be working together well enough until this Friday evening when the contractor posted this on the Iowa GOP Facebook page:

(click on image to read more clearly)
The flowchart posted on Facebook asks "Is Someone A Racist?" and then asks a series of questions to determine if somebody is racist. The Iowa GOP Facebook message accompanying the image reads "Because it's Friday night and we don't need serious political posts on Friday night we are sharing this. Happy Friday and LIKE and SHARE! Unless you think the chart is racist, then don't."

Apparently the Iowa GOP itself thought that the chart was racist (or at least troublesome). Within 40 minutes, The Daily Beast reached out to Iowa GOP Chairman AJ Spiker to inquire about the racism flowchart. Spiker had the image removed from the Iowa GOP Facebook page and issued a statement of apology. He also severed the Iowa GOP's working relationship with 4:15 Communications:
Shane Vander Hart, founder and president of 4:15 Communications said the post “didn’t reflect well on the party” and wishes he wouldn’t have posted the chart. “I deeply apologize for the post, it was an error in judgment, and it was certainly something I wish I could take back,” Vander Hart said. “I’m sorry that I offended anyone, it wasn’t my intent.”

He said prior to this incident he felt he had generally done a good job. “Had I thought about (the post) a little bit more I wouldn’t have done it,” he said.
The Iowa GOP has now implemented a new social media policy that requires at least two individuals to review any Facebook or Twitter content before posting.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

GOP Legislator Wants to Eliminate All Marriages in Oklahoma In Order to Prevent Gay Couples from Legally Marrying

GOP State Rep. Mike Turner isn't happy about a federal lawsuit over Oklahoma's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. So he has filed a bill to address his concerns over same-sex couples destroying the institution of marriage. His bill would eliminate all marriages in Oklahoma:
The idea stems from a bill filed by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Edmond). Turner says it's an attempt to keep same-sex marriage illegal in Oklahoma while satisfying the U.S. Constitution. Critics are calling it a political stunt while supporters say it's what Oklahomans want.

"[My constituents are] willing to have that discussion about whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all," Turner said. Other conservative lawmakers feel the same way, according to Turner...

Turner admits his idea makes a lot of people uncomfortable. He also says, "I accept that." Turner plans to wait until the federal appeals process plays out. The fight over Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage will now head to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
There's something quite pathetic about destroying all marriages in order to prevent gays and lesbians from getting married. Especially since this wouldn't actually eliminate gays from getting married. They say that people would go to their churches for a wedding and could say they are married. Guess what? Gays and lesbians can do that in Oklahoma right now. They are called commitment ceremonies and there are UCC church and MCC churches and others who will gladly officiate at commitment ceremonies and gay weddings.

But this bill -- if passed into law -- would be horrible when it came to complying with federal law with regards to marriage law. I mean, the feds don't recognize the civil unions or domestic partnerships of same-sex couples. They only recognize legal marriages. So what's the likelihood that they will honor all of the state's non-marriages?

Then there is divorce. I know people don't like to get divorced. It is messy and expensive. But it serves a purpose. If everyone has a wedding, but not a marriage and the law has nothing to do with recognizing those marriages, then divorce will mean nothing. Husbands and wives can and will abandon their spouses without any difficulty. There will be no divorce court structure to ensure an organized dissolution of the family and property within the family. I'm sure some folks will love that -- until they find themselves screwed over by a vindictive ex.

But at least the state won't be forced to recognize any gay marriages...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Oldest Duggar Boy to Testify Against Gay Marriage Next Week in Indiana as Exective Director of Family Research Council Action

It seems popular to get after the "Duck Dynasty" guys, but the real reality TV family that deserves the scorn of the LGBT communities is the Duggar family from TLC's "19 Kids and Counting" reality show. The Duggars have actively campaigned in Iowa and elsewhere for anti-gay politicians because they are anti-gay politicians. Papa Duggar is on record for wanting the Girl Scouts to toss out a trans girl. And their oldest son, Josh Duggar, is an executive director for the Family Research Council -- because apparently you only need a GED to work in politics.

Speaking of him, Josh Duggar is traveling to Indiana on Monday the 27th to participate in a joint news conference between FRC Action, the American Family Association of Indiana, and the Indiana Family Institute. They plan to advocate in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban legal recognition of same-sex marriages in Indiana. Duggar and the others plan to "speak to the consequences of redefining marriage and its detrimental impact on the freedoms and livelihoods of wedding vendors and those in other professions who for religious or moral convictions will not recognize the redefinition of marriage."

Keep in mind that Indiana, unlike states like Colorado or Iowa or Oregon, doesn't have statewide nondiscriminatory laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination. That means that many of their complaints will be baseless.

Then again, I never understood the desire of Christian business owners who actively seek to turn away business from LGBT people -- especially those like the Christian cake-makers on the west coast whose religious beliefs prevented them from making gay wedding cakes, but not divorce cakes, or winter Solstice cakes, or animal wedding cakes, etc.

Duggar will be sharing the stage with folks like Peter Sprigg (someone who's previously advocated for the criminalizing of and deportation of LGBT people), and Micah Clark & Curt Smith (two ex-gay proponents). Which should make for an interesting press conference. So if you are one who gets upset when you hear reality TV people make inflammatory remarks about LGBT people and our families, you will definitely want to check out Josh Duggar's press conference on Monday morning!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Virginia's AG Will Not Defend State's Anti-Gay Marriage Ban

Virginia's new Attorney General Mark R. Herring informed the world that he believes that state's anti-gay marriage ban is unconstitutional and that he will not be fighting for it when the case goes to court:
In a move that could give gay marriage its first foothold in the South, Virginia's attorney general said Thursday he concluded the state's ban on same-sex unions is unconstitutional and he will join the fight against it.

Newly elected Democratic Attorney General Mark R. Herring said he would support gay couples who have filed lawsuits challenging the state's ban.

"After thorough legal review, I have now concluded that Virginia's ban on marriage between same sex couples violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution on two grounds: marriage is a fundamental right being denied to some Virginians, and the ban unlawfully discriminates on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender," Herring said.

Herring stressed the same-sex ban will be enforced despite his challenge.
Virginia is in the midst of two federal marriage equality court challeges, one involving the American Foundation of Equal Rights and the other involving Lambda Legal and the ACLU.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Democratic Candidate from West Des Moines Announces Gubernatorial Campaign at 2014 Iowa Caucus

I was catching up on 2014 Iowa Caucus happenings. (I admit it. I didn't go. I was very tired. I walked the dog and then I went to bed early.) Anyway, I read up on some of the 2014 Iowa Caucus happenings and learned of a new Democratic candidate for Iowa Governor. His name is Zachary Newbrough and he lives in West Des Moines. But he made an appearance at one caucus location (Indian Hill Junior High School) and updated the folks there about his candidacy.

Newbrough readily admits that he has no political experience, but boasts "life experience." He admits to a criminal background (convictions of 5th degree theft and possession of drug paraphernalia). Plus he's going through a custody battle over his young daughter.

Newbrough is seeking campaign signatures and he's seeking monetary donations. He has identified his key campaign issues: education, mental health reform, marijuana legalization & reformation, and smoker's rights. It was the mental health portion of his website that convinced me that he needs to learn more before running for state office:
I have some ideas on that issue (mental health reform) exactly. First I want to say I am not going to make any promise ...that I cannot keep in this campaign. The only promises you will see or hear me making during this are ones that involve trying to get my ideas across. Obviously there is still the house and senate standing in between any law. What I can say is that I promise to make this one of the key elements of my campaign. Our current leader could not even accept the federal healthcare money just because he did not like the law. He thought about himself before his constituents. That being said, my plan would start with taking the extra money from the healthcare reform law. Enacting a lot of changes or totally rewriting the mental health policies of this state. I am not just stating for Medicare, anyone who needs it will get it. It will start with The national Guard. All returning active duty soldiers would be required to undergo 3 months of bi- weekly counseling at state expense at a doctor of there choice. If the doctor decides after 3 months more treatment is needed, it will be paid for. Second all Medicaid recipients would be allowed to go to a private therapist. No longer would they be required to go to Broadlawns or Iowa City. By doing this it will unclog our hospitals and make them more useful for emergencies. I would like to see a tuition reimbursement plan made for students that get involved in a career in mental health. If they agree to work so many years in the state then their tuition would be cut or paid for. This will allow more private doctors to take on patients that they normally could not do.
Newbrough's mental health reform ideas need some updating as he is starting from faulty ideas about the current mental health system here in Iowa.

The most glaringly example of this is the suggestion that Iowans on Medicaid must seeking mental health services only at the UIHC in Iowa City or at Broadlawns in Des Moines. I believe that Newbrough is confusing Medicaid with the newly defunct Iowa Care program. Iowa Care was a bare-bones state insurance program for Iowans with no insurance and very little income. As far as mental health services go, Iowa Care only paid for inpatient mental health treatment at the UIHC and at Broadlawns, which was problematic if you were poor, on Iowa Care, and living in Sioux City (or Decorah, or Dubuque, or Ames, or Wapello, or whatever). It was problematic because most people who were poor enough to qualify for Iowa Care generally did not have money to travel to Iowa City or Des Moines for bare-bones medical treatment except in emergency situations. It also sucked because those two hospitals were overwhelmed by Iowa Care cases and often had extensive wait lists.

But Iowa Care doesn't exist anymore. It was replaced by Iowa's version of the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare): Iowa Health & Wellness Plan. Iowa's very poor now qualify for a full range of medical and mental health services (minus dental at this time) and they can be treated in or very near their home communities.

But the other faulty idea is about using Medicaid to pay for private therapists and deciding that this will solve the issue of clogged-up hospital emergency rooms. First, there are already private therapists in Iowa who accept Medicaid funding. Not all do, but there are plenty who do.

More importantly, people don't usually go to the emergency room because they need to chat with a therapist. They go to the emergency room (or they're taken there by family or the police or by some other concerned individual) because they are suicidal, or because they have attempted suicide, or because they are acting bizarrely, or because they are demonstrating unsafe behaviors. Sadly, many of these people are treated in the ER and then sent home with the instructions to see an outpatient psychiatrist. This happens because there aren't enough mental health beds in that hospital or in other hospitals across the state.

The sad truth is that there are people currently inpatient -- people whom insurance/Medicaid have long-since stopped funding because they have been inpatient too long -- who remain inpatient because there is no place safe for them to go. The state has slowly reduced funding for services for those who don't need to be in the hospital but who are not safe to return to the community. Twenty years ago, these people might have been sent to the Woodward or Glenwood Resource Centers or to one of the Mental Health Institutes. Or maybe they would be sent to the juvenile treatment center in Toledo (which Iowa's governor just closed). People with ongoing behavioral challenges and/or psychoses remain in the psychiatric wings of Iowa's hospitals and prevent those with current mental health emergencies from being admitted.

In other words, we need to improve funding options for those who no longer need to be hospitalized for mental health treatment and re-fatten the programs that we have slowly starved that previously served those who cannot return to their homes because of severe chronic mental health needs.

All this is to say that I believe Newbrough needs to fine-tune his mental health reform policy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nero at Daycare -- 01/21/14

Nero had a great time romping in the snow with his four-legged friends on this very brisk afternoon! Check this out:

Monday, January 20, 2014

72% of Utahns Want New Laws Protecting Churches from Performing Same-Sex Weddings -- Even Though They Already Have That Protection!

Deseret News published an article about gay marriage in Utah, along with a series of public opinion polls. Here is the article in a nutshell:
A majority of Utahns do not support same-sex marriage, believe the decision on marriage should rest with individual states, and say if gay marriage were legal, Utah should pass laws to protect places of worship from having to perform weddings for gay and lesbian couples.
Here is a summary of the polls: 51% of Uthans think that businesses should be allowed to refuse professional services for gay weddings. 57% support civil unions for same-sex couples. 54% of Utahns would vote in favor of another constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. 45% of Utahns believe that their state should recognize same-sex marriages performed in states like Iowa or Hawaii. 37% of Utahns believe that states should have the right to define marriage. 55% of Utahns disagree with the recent federal court case that invalidated Utah's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. 57% of Utahns do not support same-sex marriage. And 72% of Utahns believe that a law should be passed to protect churches and other places of worship from having to perform same-sex marriages.

 That last poll result is the point of this blog article.

Why do Americans continue to express this fear that their churches will be forced to perform gay weddings -- totally against their will?

Marriage equality has existed in at least one state here in the USA for nearly 10 years. Actually, it's been nearly 14 years if you count Vermont's civil union period. There has never been a church in the USA that has been forced to host a gay wedding during that time. There has never been a minister or a priest or a rabbi or any other religious official here in the USA who has been forced to officiate at a gay wedding during that time. Not once. So why do they persist in expressing this unfounded fear?

Let's consider Utah prior to December 2013. During that time, only heterosexual couples were allowed to get legally married. Catholic Churches routinely limited weddings to Catholic members. Not only that, but they routinely refused weddings to those who've been divorced. Other religious communities have routinely exercised their right to establish wedding policies for their leaders and for their property.

Why do people think that all that gets thrown out the window because gay and lesbian couples now have the ability to get married???

Iowa has been a marriage equality state for nearly five years. My church is one of those churches who gladly welcomes and affirms LGBT members and families. We were doing commitment ceremonies for years before those weddings were legally recognized. It wasn't even a second thought that we would allow same-sex weddings in addition to other weddings at our church after the 2009 court decision that struck down our DOMA law.

But many other churches in Iowa do not perform gay weddings. Many other churches in Iowa will never perform gay weddings. And they have the legal right to refuse these weddings. Some of the kinder churches who have refused to perform gay weddings have been nice enough to refer gay and lesbian couples to our church or others like it. But they aren't even obligated to take that step.

The only people I have seen who've gotten in trouble over gay weddings since certain states have allowed them have been people like Rev. Thomas Ogletree or Rev. Frank Schaefer, who each made the choice to officiate at their sons' weddings and who are now being defrocked or already defrocked for making those choices. Neither man would have been defrocked if he had opted out of those weddings. And neither man would be criminally or civilly liable for refusing those weddings.

I think people get confused with two things:

1. There are government officials (they call them Recorders here in Iowa; they get called other titles in other states) who process wedding license applications. It's their job to process these documents. It's not an endorsement of every processed license. It's a process of confirming that each application is completed and processed correctly. They do not and should not have the ability to pick and choose which private citizens that they get to serve in those positions.

2. I think people are genuinely shocked that there are religious leaders and churches that actually support LGBT families and who are willing to officiate for same-sex weddings. Sometimes I seriously wonder if people just assume that those ministers/rabbis/officiators are literally drafted by pink-shirted government officials. Here is the deal: Those religious leaders are actually quite excited to officiate for those same-sex weddings. They wouldn't be there otherwise.

All this is to say that I would be one of those 22% who, if polled, would say that there shouldn't be any laws protecting religious leaders or institutions from hosting gay weddings. Because they aren't needed. They weren't needed in Iowa prior to 2009. They aren't needed now. They weren't needed in Utah prior to December 2013. They aren't now. Because churches are already legally permitted to establish their own wedding policies -- for gays or hets; for members or for non-members. It's already taken care of.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Marion, IA, Seeking Public Input on Potential New Urban Chicken Ordinance

One year ago last month, Iowa City finally passed an "urban chicken" ordinance. Urban chicken farmers must take a class and get their urban chicken farm approved by the animal shelter. They can then raised up to four hens (no roosters!!) for three years before they must renew their permits. Not only that, their immediate neighbors have the ability to veto their ability to raise their chickens. Iowa City residents were warned of chaos if that ordinance passed. Residents were warned of crowing, nasty smells, awful diseases, and eloping chickens. But the actual results of this ordinance have been pretty much yawn-worthy.

Now another nearby community has decided to explore the idea of urban chickens. The Marion City Council has scheduled a public hearing for Thursday, January 23rd, at 7:00 PM at the Marion City Hall to gather public input on starting its own urban chicken ordinance.

Marion's ordinance would allow residents of Marion "in certain neighborhoods within city limits" to raise up to six hens. Like Iowa City, potential urban chicken farmers would have to take a special class and they would have to get the permission of their neighbors in order to start their own urban chicken farm.

Nearby Cedar Rapids, IA, has had its own urban chicken ordinance since September 2010 and (as far as I can tell) they have had minimal problems since that time. Marion and Cedar Rapids are pretty much like Iowa City and Coralville (and to a lesser extent North Liberty). They pretty much bleed into each other from the borders. I don't know why, considering that I keep my eyes out for Iowa urban chicken stories, but I actually assumed that Marion already allowed for urban chickens.

I will post more once I learn more.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Girls Return to Riverdale in BETTY & VERONICA #269!

It took me a few days, but I finally found some time to read BETTY & VERONICA #269. The past several issues have featured a series of fairy tale princess remakes featuring our two title characters and their friends. BETTY & VERONICA #269 brings the girls back to Riverdale where we see them (and Archie) navigate through "Just Another Day!"

The story is pretty simple, but visually quite interesting. It shows a day in the life of each of the three characters, broken down into three panels per page. Betty gets the top panel, Veronica gets the middle panel, and Archie gets the bottom panel. So, for example, page five shows Betty missing her school bus ride while Veronica is struggling to choose which car to drive to school while Archie's mom is yelling at him to get out of bed -- NOW!! The book follows that visual pattern from the beginning of their day until they all make it to the school dance -- with the exception of a few pages where the three teens converge with their activities. I thought it an interesting way to tell this story.

The story itself was a familiar one. Riverdale High will be hosting its Winter Blitz tonight. Both Betty and Veronica text Archie, asking/telling him to take them to the dance. This panel is just typical Archie, which makes me wonder sometimes what the girls see in him!:

All three eventually make it to the dance. But which girl gets the coveted date with Archie?

It's great to be back in Riverdale again with Betty and Veronica. I actually enjoyed the fairy tale princess stories more than anticipated, but it's great to find the girls back in the "real world" with Archie and the Riverdale Gang.

"Just Another Day!" is written by Dan Parent and penciled by Jeff Shultz.

Incidentally, BETTY & VERONICA #269 featured an advertisement for "Archie: Riverdale Rescue." Each month, Archie Comics has identified top game players who have done a great job of beautifying their own private Riverdales. I have an online friend named Kingsley who was the first person selected for the "My Riverdale Rocks" contest. His likeness has been "Archified" and he's scheduled to appear in LIFE WITH ARCHIE #34. Check out this preview:

Not only that, I just learned that another of my online friends just got selected for the "My Riverdale Rocks" contest and is now awaiting for his own Archification process!

I have to admit that I'm a little jealous! I'm toying with hiring a civil engineer to look at my own Riverdale and come up with some suggestions for improving my game!

Congrats Kingsley!!

Another Methodist Minister Going to Church Court for Officiating at Gay Son's Wedding

Rev. Thomas Ogletree might be retired as a pastor within the United Methodist Church and as dean of Yale Divinity School, but that hasn't stopped officials within the denomination from pressing charges and sending him to "church court."

Rev. Ogletree is in trouble for officiating at his son's 2012 wedding to another man. He recently said that he could not refuse his son's request to lead the wedding and has no regrets for this action. In fact, he said he'd probably do it again.

Charges were filed by a group of Methodist clergy and supported by Bishop Martin D. McLee. Rev. Ogletree's church trial has been scheduled for March 10, 2014.

Assuming that Rev. Ogletree is convicted of violating the Methodist Book of Discipline, I'm not sure what will happen to him. He's already retired. Does he lose access to whatever pension system that the UMC offers to its retired minister? Feel free to educate me in the comments section if you happen to know.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Conservative Radio Host Talks About How Minimum Wage Increase Would Help Iowa

I was unwinding tonight in front of my computer screen when I found this blog article on Iowa City Patch by Maria Houser Conzemius. She wrote earlier today about WHO radio talk show host Jan Mickelson and how he was talking today about the need for a major increase in Iowa's minimum wage. Like, from $7.25 per hour to $12.50 per hour:
We turned on Mickelson's show in the living room and listened together. He spoke of "scumbag fill-in-the-blank big box stores" who pay their workers low wages supplemented by the safety net provided by taxpayers who provide the food stamps, Medicaid, subsidized housing, and other benefits that amounted to $2.1 billion a year for Walmart workers alone several years ago.

He said if we raised the minimum wage to $12.50 an hour, a family living wage, illegals would stop coming over the border to take jobs paying next to nothing or nothing in the case of wage-stealing employers (don't think it doesn't happen, because it does). A higher minimum wage would incentivize people to work instead of staying on the dole, and taxpayers wouldn't be subsidizing "scumbag corporations" who depend on taxpayers to cover for them.
She was quite surprised about his position. Mickelson has been broadcasting in Iowa for well over twenty years. He has a reputation for being a strong social conservative. I called into his show once back in 2002 to advocate for gay parents. The Iowa legislature was working hard that year to ban gay and lesbian individuals and couples from foster parenting and from adopting children. Mickelson was in favor of this ban. It was quite the stressful year, but we managed to get the bill killed.

But this is standard for his show. Lots of anti-gay opinions. Lots of other typical conservative topics also, but it was the anti-gay stuff that really got the audience excited and my blood pressure boiling. To be honest, I haven't listened to his show since around the time I called into his program. I'd much rather listen to Iowa Public Radio or KCJJ or Sirius XM or my iPod. So that's what I do.

But I'm digressing...

Maria was surprised by Mickelson's position on raising the minimum wage, but it actually doesn't surprise me because I've heard him talk about living wages on his radio program in the past and it's one of the few things that I strongly agree with him about.

Think about it. We have chipped away at living wages in this state and in the larger country for decades now. We eliminate job categories and replace them with new job categories employed by new workers at lower wages. What this has accomplished is a steadily eroded working class population who struggle to support their families with one full-time career. We have made it so that mothers (or fathers, for that matter) cannot become stay-at-home parents/homemakers because their families require two working parents in order to cover the basics. And, most recently, we have created a society of temporary employees who float between multiple part-time positions without the ability to save for the future and to develop any sense of career stability.

In the past, Mickelson lamented to erosion of wages at meat packing plants, which led to American workers leaving to find higher wages in order to support their families and the import of illegal immigrants who are willing to work for lower wages and afraid to complain about working conditions for fear of retaliation and deportation.

Of course, this wage stagnation has spread. Look at how the universities and communities colleges have essentially corporatized themselves and created their own industry of temporary semester-by-semester employees (i..e., adjunct professors) who don't know if they'll have classes to teach next semester and who most likely don't have any health benefits.

And don't get me started on what Iowa's legislature is doing with our state's mental health system and its employees...

The truth is that American industry cannot continue to exist with ever-stagnating wages and ever-increasing service and product costs. If wages continue to hover between $7.25-$9.50 per hour while housing, utility, food, and gasoline costs (among other basics) continue to increase, who do they think are going to buy their products (i.e., clothing, electronics, books, cars, etc.)?

So good for Jan Mickelson. I hope that your listeners absorbed your position on this topic and will push our legislature to work a little hard for Iowa's employees and a little less for Iowa's corporate industries.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

5th Season "Duck Dynasty" Ratings Down 28% Compared to 4th Season's Ratings

The 5th season premier of "Duck Dynasty" was last night. I was busy last night working out and then working with a client, so I missed the show. That's not a big surprise, since I've never watched the show to begin with. But there was a big surprise last night with the overall viewership. The ratings were unexpectedly down when compared to the last two seasons' premiers:
Though Duck Dynasty was expected by some to return to its biggest ratings yet after its huge controversy last month, the Louisiana-based reality show returned to lower viewership than its previous two premieres.

Wednesday night’s Duck Dynasty season 5 premiere had 8.5 million viewers. That’s huge for a cable reality show, but down 28 percent from its record-setting fourth season debut in August (11.8 million). It’s also slightly down from the show’s third season premiere in February last year (8.6 million). A&E notes the number up slightly from the fourth season finale on Oct. 23 (though obviously it’s standard to compare premieres to premieres).
Duck Dynasty's patriarch, Phil Robertson, attracted a lot of negative attention for a GQ magazine interview in which he quoted anti-gay Bible verses, asserted that vaginas are super-cool, and then opined that black people were happier (from his perspective) in America during the Jim Crow era. A&E quickly suspended Robertson from the show indefinitely, which prompted all sorts of people to step up to support his free speech rights to condemn gay people. A&E then defined the terms of his suspension and brought Robertson back into the fold.

This could have been a fluke. Or it could have been a signal. Time will tell.

Iowa Man Arrested & Charged with Incest

Lyle Trip of West Union, IA, has been jailed and charged with multiple criminal counts, including sexual abuse and incest. He is accused of having sex with two young members of his family. Trip has been charged with two counts of 2nd Degree Sexual Abuse, Incest, Lascivious Acts with a Child, and Indecent Contact with a Child.

Keep in mind that Trip has only been charged with these crimes -- not convicted. It's very possible that he is completely innocent of all charges.

But, it would be also good to remember this case and the charges filed the next time you hear somebody tell you that incest will have to be legalized if same-sex marriage is allowed to continue.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Gay Couple in North Carolina Loses Health Insurance Plan Because They're Married!

Thomas Hafke and Chad Higby of Moore County, NC, got married in Washington DC several months ago. They later applied for family health insurance through that state's insurance exchange, got approved for benefits, paid their premiums, and eventually received their new insurance cards.

Then they received a call from the head of customer service for Blue Cross Blue Shield early this week and were asked to clarify whether their marriage was an opposite-sex marriage or a same-sex marriage. Hafke confirmed that they were in indeed in a same-sex marriage. The BC/BS customer service head then apologized and told them that their health insurance policy was being canceled:
The Blue Cross Blue Shield national website says it offers coverage for domestic partners only in states where it is legal. However, Hafke and Higby's case isn't totally hopeless.

In an email statement, a Blue Cross spokesman says the company allows large companies to decide whether to offer its employees coverage for same-sex domestic partners. The insurance company is currently implementing technical changes that would allow them to offer coverage to small groups and individual customers by 2015.

It's good news for the couple, but not good enough for them this year. They will have to file separately for individual health coverage.
Sadly, ABC11 is pandering a bit with this title: "Same-sex couple feels ripped-off by Affordable Care Act." It's not the ACA that's caused them to be ineligible. They don't qualify for family health insurance because of the recently passed Amendment 1, which banned state recognition of same-sex marriages in that state.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Now Oklahoma?? Another Court Rules for Gay Marriage!

A federal judge ruled earlier today that Oklahoma's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage violates the federal Constitution:
The state’s ban on marriage by gay and lesbian couples is “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit,” wrote Judge Terence C. Kern of United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, in Tulsa, deciding a case that had languished for nine years. The amendment, he said, is based on “moral disapproval” and does not advance the state’s asserted interests in promoting heterosexual marriage or the welfare of children.
Lawyers representing Oklahoma were on the ball and actually asked for a stay of this ruling pending their appeal -- something that the state of Utah managed to stumble with following their recent federal court ruling in favor of gay families.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Methodist Church's Membership Drops by 80% after Choir Director is Fired for Being Gay

I learned the story of Adam Fraley earlier today. He is a gay man who, until recently, was the choir director of First United Methodist Church in Alexandria, IN. According to this article, he and his gifts were well-received by most of the church membership. However, the church's current interim minister recently fired him for being a gay man.

The issue is that United Methodist Church law insists that "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church." Does a church choir director violate that law? First UMC's interim pastor believes that it does. Others, including the Indiana Conference of the UMC, believe that this rule only applies to those seeking to become ordained.

Here is the interesting part. 80% of the congregation has left because of the way that Fraley was treated by the church's leadership. Of course, I don't know if that's 80% of 200 members, 80% of 100 members, or 80% of 20 members. But it's still a significant drop in membership.

Interim ministers are ministers who are specifically trained to take over temporarily when one minister leaves and to prepare the church for the next ongoing minister. There is some logic to shaking things up a bit between ministers. It helps prepare church members for the inevitable leadership differences between the minister that they knew and (presumably) loved and the new guy. But there's also a danger to shaking things up so much that you severely wound the church.

Will Fraley get his old job back? How much longer will this interim minister remain at First UMC? Will the church regain its old membership? It will be interesting to see how this story shapes up.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dilton Doiley Discovers that Dropping Out Isn't Cool in DILTON #4!

Archie Comics released the final chapter for their four-issue digital mini-series DILTON a couple weeks ago and I finally got around to reading the whole story last night. You can read earlier reviews of the series here, here, and here. Here is the storyline so far: Riverdale's resident genius Dilton Doiley was convinced by a guidance counselor that his academic talents were being wasted at Riverdale High. He was referred to a nearby private school for geniuses called Brainard University and was just about to begin classes there when he was head-hunted by Mr. Snarley of Snarley Tech, a very successful video game company. Dilton accepted the Snarley Tech offer and was assigned to lead the company's research & development team. Needless to say, his team was not pleased to find themselves supervised by a teen-age high school drop-out! Lastly, Dilton found out that Snarley Tech legally stole some hi-tech VR video game technology from Dilton's private computer lab. Defeated and demoralized, Dilton doesn't know where to turn next...

DILTON #4 begins with Archie telling the Riverdale Gang about Dilton's struggles to regain control of his virtual reality technology from Snarley Tech. It also introduces us to Corey Cavender, this new character sent to Riverdale High to replace Dilton. Through Archie's story-telling, the Gang learns why Dilton is so intent on getting back his VR technology: it's unstable. Apparently, it's too real. Only a strong mind can break him- or herself free from games once Dilton's tech is installed in it!

Can Dilton get Mr. Snarley to give him back his technology? Will the unscrupulous Mr. Snarley let Dilton out of his employment contract? Will Dilton remain a high school drop-out? And what exactly is Mr. Pigeonhole's deal anyway? Check out DILTON #4 to find out for sure.

Texas Politician Introduces "State Marriage Defense Act" to Congress

Rep. Randy Weber of Texas introduced the "State Marriage Defense Act" earlier this week, which would require federal agencies to review a person's state of residence when determining marital status for eligibility of federal benefits:
The 10th Amendment was established to protect state sovereignty and individual rights from being seized by the Federal Government. For too long, however, the Federal Government has slowly been eroding state’s rights by promulgating rules and regulations through federal agencies. I drafted the “State Marriage Defense Act of 2014” to help restore the 10th Amendment, affirm the authority of states to define and regulate marriage, as well as, provide clarity to federal agencies seeking to determine who qualifies as a spouse for the purpose of federal law. By requiring that the Federal Government defer to the laws of a person’s state of legal residence in determining marital status, we can protect states’ constitutionally established powers from the arbitrary overreach of unelected bureaucrats.
HR3829 has 27 co-sponsors. Surprisingly, nobody from Iowa -- including Rep. Steve King -- have co-sponsored this bill.

Of course, this would (or should) have wider effects for married Americans besides us gays. After all, not every state allows first cousins to legally marry. But every U.S. state recognizes the marriages of heterosexual first cousins when they move from one of those 27 states. That means that -- if this bill actually passes -- a first cousin marriage from Alabama should be void if that same married couple later moves to Rep. Weber's district in Texas.

I've been assured elsewhere (here and here, for example) that this bill is pretty much doomed to go nowhere.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Year's Resolutions Are Meant To Be Broken In KEVIN KELLER #12!

It was a busy week for new comic books. I finally got a chance to read KEVIN KELLER #12 this morning. It was originally supposed to be released back in mid-December. Interestingly, the title showed up digitally on the Archie App. But most of Archie Comics' comic book titles (minus their current headliners ARCHIE, AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE, and THE FOX) have found their shipment schedules mucked around with over the past two months. I have my suspicions why, but won't share them here. Suffice it to say, they seem to be finally catching up with these delayed print releases and that's good for me and other readers!

Written and drawn by Dan Parent, the theme of KEVIN KELLER #12 is about the New Year. And what comes with each New Year? Lots of broken resolutions! "Resolution Revolution" primarily focuses on a challenge for each of the Riverdale Gang by Pop Tate. He wants them to name their annual resolution and the one who keeps his or her resolution the longest will win a month of free food -- up to $20 per day so that Jughead doesn't bankrupt the diner! Here are some of the resolutions:

Can I just digress a bit and say how much I love it that Moose says "Duh" in this issue. It's the first time in a long time that I've seen him utter those immortal words in a new story. I missed it! Thanks Dan!

Back to the story... Since the kids can't monitor each other all the time, everyone make a deal. They will self-report if/when they slip. That seems to be working out except for a certain trouble-maker...

What follows are several pages of Kevin trying to get Devon to let the others know that he broke his resolution -- and Devon outright refusing! I won't reveal whether Devon self-reports or if Kevin ends up narcing on him. You'll need to pick up the book to find out for sure.

But I really liked this comic book. I've complained a couple time about Devon's identity as a "bad boy." Nobody liked him because he was trouble. The problem is that we never actually saw him causing real mischief in the series -- except for when he and Veronica were vying for Kevin's attention!

KEVIN KELLER #12 is where that all changes! Maybe their relationship just hit that stage where he's not trying so hard to make a good impression, but Devon's really pushing it in this issue. Not just with this "you're-my-boyfriend-so-I-can-get-you-to-lie-for-me" behavior, but there is a whopper of a moment at the very end of this issue and promises to spill over into the next issue! I'm not sure if we're having a Mr. Roper-moment there or if we're working towards a major shake-up in the whole Kevin/Devon relationship, but I really can't wait to see what happens next!

Same-Sex Divorce Problems in Anti-Gay Marriage States

I enjoy trolling Craigslist. I've used it to find a couple different part-time jobs and I've had a few laughs over entries in the "missed connections" section. I ran across the following post last night that I thought I would share (with a few spelling
My best friend and I got married 11/21/12
We have grown to see it was a mistake
And have not lived in the same house or state in almost six months
My soon to be ex has had a sex change
And is now a woman (Tobias) now known as Lisa
She and I both want to move on with our life
Myself (Steven) lives in Kansas
And they will not allow a same sex divorce
And she lives in Texas so since we were married in Iowa
We need to get divorced there
We do not want anything from each other and we
Have no kids or money to divide or
Property to split.
We just want a friendly quick divorce.
So if there is anyone with a heart that can help
Please let us know what to do.
We are both living with family because we are broke
And lived together in Colorado while we were
Married up until about six moths ago
So please help us end this.
We both want to have a chance to get married if we
Meet the right person latter in life.

So please someone have a heart and help us.
The sooner the better.

Two friends with a huge problem that needs
A huge heart. ....

Praying every day for someone
That will help us...
I've written about this before, but it bears repeating: You can get married in Iowa without being a resident, but you need to be a resident of Iowa for one year before you can get divorced in Iowa. Most other states also require a period of residence before they will process any request for a divorce.

I had an online friend who lived with the boyfriend in Missouri a few years back. They came to Iowa and got married. They then returned to their home state and had a fabulous reception and prepared for a lifetime of matrimony together. Unfortunately, my friend soon realized that he and his new husband had some major problems and could not continue living as a married couple. He tried annulling his marriage. He tried divorcing his husband. However, his state is a marriage inequality state and would not allow them to move ahead with either a divorce or an annulment.

My friend's only option was to move to a marriage equality state like Iowa (or New York or Massachusetts, etc...). Of course, it's not an easy process to get out of an apartment lease or to job search remotely during a recession. Unfortunately, my online friend passed away unexpectedly and this whole process became moot.

But it's something that same-sex couples really need to consider before they decide to take a vacation to one of the 17.5 active marriage equality states or Canada to get legally married and then return to their home state. Husband Mark and I could've traveled to Vermont or Massachusetts before 2009 to get legally married. We certainly talked about it and we had a commitment ceremony back in the late 90s. But then we would've come back to Iowa and been frustrated by our state's then-refusal to honor our marriage license and we would've been stuck if our relationship had soured.

Personally (and recognizing that I'm one of the fortunate gays right now in this country), I would be extremely hesitant to travel to another state to get married to a same-sex partner unless I was planning a scenic Hawaiian wedding and then returning to Iowa or Washington DC. The only exception I might allow for is if I lived in a community that borders a marriage equality state -- like Omaha, NE, or Moline, IL. At least then, it would be relatively easy later one to move to Iowa (or whichever marriage equality state you live near) without completely disrupting your career and social network.

I don't know that there is an easy answer for couples like Steven and Lisa. If they want to get divorced, at least one of them will need to move to a state that recognizes same-sex marriages for at least 6-12 months.

But others needs to consider stories like this and remember the old saying: look before you leap!

Friday, January 10, 2014

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder: We Will Honor All Gay Marriages Performed in Utah -- Even if Utah Itself Won't!

Utah may not recognize any of the @ 1,300 married same-sex couples that managed to get hitched before the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the lower federal court ruling striking down that state's ban, but U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wants everyone to know that the federal government will recognize any same-sex marriage that got done before the stay:
The Obama administration on Friday said that it would recognize as lawful the marriages of 1,300 same-sex couples in Utah, even though the state government is refusing to do so.
Wading into the fast-moving legal battle over same-sex marriage rights in one of America’s most socially conservative states, the administration posted a video on the Justice Department’s website making the announcement. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that the federal government will grant federal marriage benefits to the same-sex couples who had rushed to obtain marriage licenses after a federal judge last month unexpectedly struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” Mr. Holder said in the video. “These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds.”
Meanwhile, Utah AG Sean Reyes has clarified that they do not believe that the pre-stay same-sex marriage are invalid. If some married there and then moved to Boston or Des Moines, those marriages would qualify for equal marriage benefits and responsibilities because they are valid marriages. Those valid marriages just will not be married by the state (i.e. Utah) that issued those valid marriage licenses.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #3: The Apocalypse Continues!

I finished reading AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #3 -- written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and penciled by Francesco Francavilla -- last night. This series tells the story of the end of the world starting in Riverdale USA. Here's the background: Reggie secretly killed Hot Dog with his car. A distraught Jughead sought the misguided help of the teenage witch Sabrina. Hot Dog came back from the dead and bit Juggie. Jughead became sick, died, and came back from the dead. Not only that, but Juggie  attacked the Halloween dance, infecting tons of students and teachers who are now infecting their friends and families. Last issue ended with most of the Riverdale Gang hiding out at Lodge Mansion, while Nancy and Ginger discuss their relationship woes at Pop Tate's Diner under the shadow of Jughead's undead father!

We learned pretty early in this issue that Lodge Mansion might indeed be one of the most secure locations in Riverdale. Everywhere else seems to be overwhelmed by Jughead's zombie minions, but the Gang appear to be protected to Mr. Lodge's butler and security devises and have plenty of time to check out the library or take a break for a impromptu swim party! Of course, nothing lasts forever. We were warned last issue that one of the Gang got infected at the dance. Which one was it?? I predicted Moose or Betty. Turns out I was wrong. It was the girl who hadn't yet had the opportunity to say much more than two sentences: Midge! That transformation didn't work out for a certain jealous boyfriend!:

Meanwhile, Archie sneaks away from Lodge Mansion to make sure his parents are okay. He finds much of Riverdale in flames and the town in chaos. One thing that was cool was a reference to his newly introduced dog, Vegas! It was unclear from the next panel if Vegas became revealed as yet another zombie or if Archie finds himself in a confrontation with Zombie Hot Dog. I'm thinking it's the latter:

Lastly, Ginger Lopez and Nancy Woods have quickly become two of the coolest girls in Riverdale. It happened off-panel, but they managed to single-handedly take out undead versions of Pop Tate and Mr. Jones, burn down Pop Tate's Diner, and then ride off into the moonlight on a hotwired motorcycle! Pretty cool!:

I've been keeping an undead tally over the past few issues. AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #3 revealed the deaths of Midge, Moose, Pop Tate, and Mayor Martinez. It also hinted at the possible death of Archie's dog, Vegas.

There were no cliffhanger teases at the end of this issue. We're left wondering if any of the other kids are infected or otherwise unsafe within Lodge Mansion. We're left wondering if Ginger and Nancy will protect their families from harm or if they'll choose to escape from Riverdale. And we're left wondering if Archie will survive his encounter with a canine ghoul. Should be interesting!

Utah AG: We Will Not Recognize Any Pre-Stay Gay Marriages

Early this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on any new marriage licenses for same-sex couples in Utah. This was to allow Utah's Attorney General's Office time to file their appeal of the 12/20/13 federal court decision that struck down the state's gay marriage ban. Yesterday, Governor Gary Herbert's office sent out a letter to all state agencies instructing them to not recognize any same-sex marriages performed before the stay was issued:
Based on counsel from the Attorney General’s Office regarding the Supreme Court decision, state recognition of same-sex marital status is ON HOLD until further notice. Please understand this position is not intended to comment on the legal status of those same-sex marriages – that is for the courts to decide. The intent of this communication is to direct state agency compliance with current laws that prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.
Wherever individuals are in the process of availing themselves of state services related to same-sex marital status, that process is on hold and will stay exactly in that position until a final court decision is issued. For example, if a same-sex married couple previously changed their names on new drivers licenses, those licenses should not be revoked. If a same-sex couple seeks to change their names on drivers licenses now, the law does not allow the state agency to recognize the marriage therefore the new drivers licenses cannot be issued.
More recently, the ACLU of Utah has begun assembling plaintiffs and preparing a lawsuit to challenge the lack of recognition being offered to these 1,300+ new marriages.