Thursday, October 30, 2008

And Now This

The No on Prop 8 website was attacked by out-of-state hackers to prevent further fund raising.

Did God tell you to do that too?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vote "No" on Prop 8 Part IV: Who's Lying? You Are. You're Still Lying

Sorry to be repetitive about being sorry about being repetitive, but bigotry makes me angry.

So since my last post, the "Yes" people dropped a press release entitled "Who's Really Lying" wherein they quoted themselves talking about a lawsuit in Massachusetts where a kid's teacher assigned a book called "King and King" wherein a prince, who is forced to get married by his mother (some things are universal), chooses another prince over a bunch of princesses. The Judeo-Christian parents get upset, because they did not get prior notice or the opportunity to pull their kid out of class. They cite this case as "proof" that same sex marriage will be taught in California Schools.

Let's get a few things straight here.

1. Same sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts now for over 4 years. And like California, its system is very decentralized: meaning each school district, each school, and even each teacher has a part in choosing the curriculum. Let's say this case actually stands for the assertion for which the Prop 8 proponents say it does. This means that in four and half years since the legalization of gay marriage, there have been two instances (there are actually two families involved, see below, and the Prop 8 people seized on the worst sounding one) where teachers assigned a book to a kid whose parents found it objectionable, so as to actually start a federal case on the matter.

I went into law because I'm bad at math, but that doesn't sound that bad to me. When I was in high school, teachers were getting into problems for assigning all kinds of books that some parents found objectionable. And for any teachers out there, I'm sure this seems sort of silly.

2. The case the Prop 8 proponents are talking about is called Parker v. Hurley, 514 F.3d 87 (1st Cir. 2008). Some of you might say, "Hey, what is a dispute about school curriculum doing in a federal court of appeals, the court right below the Supreme Court?" Well, the First Circuit agrees with you.

The parents sued on federal constitutional claims (specifically, First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and Fourteenth Amendment's fundamental substantive due process right to "parental autonomy") (the irony of these people, who are so obviously pro-life, trying to assert a substantive due process claim based on the penumbra of the 14th amendment is not lost on me).

The court noted that Massachusetts law allowed for parental notification for some topics (sex ed), but nothing else. I don't want to get into it, but schools have to really really screw up before it becomes a constitutional violation, like actual "indoctrination" against religious beliefs. Which is kind of what the Prop 8 proponents claim is happening. But no one is teaching children to be homosexual or that they have to get married to someone of the same sex. These books were, as mentioned in the case (and why they didn't fall into the "notification" part of the Massachusetts law), part of a broader curriculum of showing diversity, tolerance, and teaching what prejudice is (ironically enough).

So basically, the Court said there's nothing in the U.S. Constitution that prohibits this. I want to say that again, NOTHING IN THE CONSTITUTION. This WAS NOT the court saying that schools must teach children that they should be gay, which is how the Prop 8 people are portraying it. The Court merely said that there is a high burden before a plaintiff parent can establish that a public school is violating their constitutional rights. And this wasn't enough to establish a claim.

3. Interestingly enough, the other plaintiffs in the case were objecting to the inclusion of a book called "Who's in a Family" that was part of a "Diversity Book Bag." The book depicted different families, including single-parent families, an extended family, interracial families, animal families, a family without children, and here's the ringer, a family with two dads and a family with two moms. The book concludes by answering the question in the title: Who's in a family? The people who love you the most!" This is more obviously a part of a diversity curriculum.

4. This was in Massachusetts, a different state, with a different set of standards. And since this press release has come out, the California Teachers Association as well as other state officials have stated that the existence of same sex marriage does not mandate the teaching of same sex marriage in schools. It doesn't mandate so now, and it won't when prop 8 fails.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Vote "No" on Prop 8 part III: This is just getting silly now

Ok, sorry to be repetitive, but I saw another "yes" on prop 8 ad this morning based on another misrepresentation.

The ad starts with a young girl coming home from school explaining to her mother how she can marry a princess when she grows up. Then some law professor says that "This could happen because, without Proposition8, same sex marriage will be taught in schools." I'm paraphrasing here, but that's the gist.

Basically, they want you to think that because same sex marriage is legal, that public school teachers will now teach your daughter to be a lesbian. The disconnect is already obvious, but let's take a look.

First, let's remember that Proposition 8 is the suggested change to the California Constitution, voting "no" is the status quo. If Proposition 8 doesn't pass, there is no trigger that will suddenly mandate the teaching of gay porn or anything. Everything just stays the same.

Second, Proposition 8 has nothing to do with education code. This is an amendment to the California Constitution, which is another reason not to take this lightly or base your decision on these fear mongering tactics. Nothing will suddenly change the educational code so that somewhere in there it will all of a sudden require teachers to give demonstrations of same sex sex.

Third, Proposition 8 proponents want you to think that because the existing education code mentions "marriage" that somehow now schools will be required to teach homosexuality. To the extent that the existing education code mentions "marriage"at all, it is in the context of what goes into the general curriculum of either sexual health education and HIV prevention or the comprehensive health education program (Sections 51933 and 51890 of the Education Code, respectively).

As all of you know awkwardly know, the curriculum for sex ed varies greatly between school districts. This is because the curriculum for sex ed (which is NOT required by the state) is developed by each school district. The state sets general guidelines, including general topics and when certain topics (like sexually transmitted diseases, and birth control) should be taught, but that's it. Each school district is free to develop a sex ed plan that falls within the general guidelines.

The ONLY time marriage is mentioned in this context is when it says that "Instruction and materials shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships."(You can get the full subsection here). That's it. Just respect. So if a school district chooses to have sex ed, they are supposed to teach respect for marriage and committed relationships. To the extent that school districts weren't mandated to teach about civil unions between same sex couples before as "committed relationships" they are not not mandated to "teach" same sex marriage now, whatever that means. In a state with a 50% divorce rate, I think this is almost humorous.

The other mention of marriage is under the definition of what should go into a district's "comprehensive health education program," whatever that is. Like sex ed, this plan is developed by the school district under guidelines promulgated by the Department of Education. In this section, "marriage" is mentioned in a list of subjects that should be part of the program; a list that includes other things like "oral health" and "posture." The mention of marriage is thus:

Family health and child development, including the legal and financial aspects and responsibilities of marriage and parenthood.
Full subsection here.

Yup, that's it. The legal and financial aspects of marriage and parenthood. Has nothing to do with sex or gender.

Now, if it's just "homosexuality" and "school children" being mentioned in the same sentence that makes you uncomfortable (which is what I think the ad is really trying to provoke), that's fine, but Prop 8 is about "marriage," and again, doesn't have anything to do with education code.

And there have always been school topics that might bring up homosexuality. Sex ed has always supposed to teach about sexually transmitted diseases and other topics that affect both straight and gay couples. Although I dare say most schools are probably remiss in looking at these topics from a homosexual point of view. Learning about how HIV can be transmitted through both gay and straight sex didn't suddenly mandate a teacher to teach homosexual activity. How can teaching respect for, and the financial and legal consequences of marriage suddenly make Sally want to marry Katie?

It won't. Don't let the fear mongers win. Please.

Your Vector Zero-Nine-Zero for Bogey*/It Must Be That Time of (VROOOOOOOOM) Year Again

Every year, around this time, the Blue Angels come into town as part of "Fleet Week." This weekend, the Blue Angels will be part of an air show. But in order to do the air show, the Blue Angels need to practice.

And practice they do. Today and tomorrow, the Blue Angels will be "practicing" their aerial acrobatics over San Francisco for a few hours during the middle of the day.

I don't mean on the outskirts of the city. I mean directly over the city, financial district and all. And man do they fly low and fast. And loud. Three just flew over my office building in a triangle formation, causing (in addition to the impetus for this post) a "Top Gun in IMAX" sort of ffffffffVVVRRRROOOOOOOOOOMMMMmmmmmmm.

Unsurprisingly, SFers have mixed feelings (from about the display of the (I think) F-18 Hornets. While I don't think I hide the fact that I am 90% dove on here, I have to say, that I get a kick out of it.

Whoa. There goes another one. Jebus they're fast. I could just see it in the spaces between the high rises.

Anyway...when I was a kid I LOVED jets, and every year my parents took me to the air show up in Reno, and I loved it. I was simply enamored with how big a B-52 was and just how freaking cool the F-16 looks. I even got to see an SR71 Blackbird once, which for a little geek like me, was pretty much heaven if you added an ice cream sundae to the experience.

So does it seem to be a waste of money when our government is in an absurd amount of debt? Yeah, it does. Am I a little afraid that one might crap out and land in a big pile of debris in the middle of the financial district? A little. But you know what? Fleet Week helps the city out by providing an economic boost (by dropping off a crap load of navy servicemen) and San Francisco has a rich history with the Navy. Plus, the 10 year old in me still gets kind of excited and I wouldn't want to deprive the REAL 10 year olds of what to many of them is awesomeness incarnate.

So men and women of the armed forces, Welcome to San Francisco!

*Other than quotes from Top Gun, I got nuthin'.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Vote "No" on Prop 8 part II

So I saw one of the ads for proposition 8 last night, and I was aghast at a few of its claims. First, according to the ad, if proposition 8 does not pass, then some churches might lose their tax-exempt status. Second, the ad claims that churches will be forced to marry gay couples.

These claims are completely false. They are so far from even having even an aspect of "truthiness" that it just boggles my mind that someone said it was ok to run these ads.

First, the tax exempt status thing. Churches, as non-profit entities, are allowed to discuss legislation and politics generally, and can even support legislation, but they are not allowed to endorse specific parties or candidates without risking their tax exempt status. So their claim that the rejection of proposition 8 will cause them to lose that status is just completely false. Proposition 8 is completely unrelated to whether a church remains tax exempt. As long as these churches don't turn unabashedly republican and start going partisan in the pulpit, they have nothing to worry about. But that is completely independent of Proposition 8 or same sex marriage generally.

In any event, the tax status of churches is a matter of federal law, not state. So the passage of proposition 8 has no bearing one way or another on how the IRS handles the tax exempt status of churches.

Second, the Supreme Court said explicitly in the decision that no religion would be forced to conduct same sex marriages if it was against their faith:

“[A]ffording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person; no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.”
The fact of the matter is that since the Supreme Court decision in May of this year, same sex marriages have been conducted. No churches have been forced to marry anyone they didn't want to, and no churches have suddenly lost their tax exempt status. Proponents of proposition 8 are just trying to scare with outrageous fabrications. Don't let them fool you!

Although, I must admit, the "yes" on prop 8 track suit is pretty spiffy.