Thursday, July 27, 2006

DOMA DOMA DOMA

Yesterday the Washington Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the state's Defense of Marriage Act. Since I am still passing as a lawyer, I suppose I should take this opportunity to weigh into my views on the court's decision.
First, a note with regard to my personal views on gay marriage - I am totally unsure of what I think anymore. I honestly am not aroused with strong passion on either side of the issue. From a religious point of view, I believe that marriage is ordained to be between a man and a woman, but since I generally believe religious views should not have any place in determining public policy, I am more restrained in my views about what the government should do. Generally, I believe that people should have equal rights, and so I believe that some kind of civil union status seems appropriate. The fact is people should be able to determine for themselves who they wish to enjoy rights to their estate, to make medical decisions, and so forth (from a practical sense - people making wills, powers of attorneys and so forth can handle many of those concerns In fact, my view used to be that I thought the government should only sanction civil unions and then it is up to appropriate religious bodies and so forth to call the relationship a "marriage" or whatever, because from a civil law standpoint, that would treat people equally. But then I realized that would be impossible to impliment because it require a vast reworking of all family laws in every jurisdiction in the country. My solutions for problems are always impractical (I will later post my solution to America's oil dependency).
So, since my personal views on the subject are so disjointed these days, what I will post is my view of the Washington Supreme Court ruling. Yesterday, I tried to read the plurality decision, the concurrence, the dissent, and the concurrences to the dissent. All in all, it was just too long, but I think that I got through enough to understand the gist of the constitutional law ruling. First of all, I generally have to say that the plurality decision which upheld DOMA, was clearly centered in existing law. Based on my law school and bar exam knowedge of constitutional law, the plurality opinion made sense. There is no appeals court that has found that homosexuals are entitled to strict scrutiny protections or that there is a fundamental right to same sex marriage on the basis of the federal constitution. the Massachusetts ruling based its decision on its state constitution, and the Washington State Constitution's privileges and immunities clause only applies to minorities who are treated favorably (ie favoritism), not the other way around.
Second, I think that the court was correct in applying rational basis review to the legislation. This is the part of the opinion where I think most commentators get the ruling wrong - some commentators state that the court found that marriage between a man and a woman only is valid because of the procreative value of marriage between heterosexual couples. So basically, these commentators conclude that the court was ruling that procreation is what makes marriage between a man and a woman entitled to protection. Therefore, what about heterosexual couples that don't/can't produce offspring? Well, that is not what the court ruled at all. What the court said is that the legislature grounded their legislation on the basis of protecting children and the inherent benefit of reserving special rights to marriage because it is a relationship that facilitates the procreation of offspring, and that was rational basis for the state's interest in designing DOMA. Rational basis review isn't concerned with whether the legislation is over/underinclusive (meaning that just because not all married couples don't have kids, and because some kids are born outside of marriage doesn't mean the legislation isn't valid). It is only whether the legislature came up with a rational basis. Granted, as pointed out by the court, some of the legislators who sponsored the bill were bigots and clearly were motivated by bias against same sex couples. However, the state succeeded, according to the court, in showing the legislative intent was not motivated by bias.
The first thing I have to say about the dissents - Justice Bridges lost my respect when the dissent actually cited to Brokeback Mountain and Will and Grace. Pop culture in law decisions is never a good idea. The dissent also quoted a BYU Journal of Public Law article, which I found humorous, on a personal level. The dissents, taken as a whole, were extremely passionate. I don't think passion is a bad thing (it is what guides what I do every day), but at the same point in time, in the legal climate that we live in, I do believe there is absolutely a value in the judiciary not ruling based on their passions, and grounding their opinions in settled law. Why? Because, for too long have conservatives been blaming liberals for "judicial activism" overruling the will of the people. Now, I think that conservative judges are more guilty of this, particularly on a national level (the present conduct of the Supreme Court, as a perfect example). I want conservative judicial activism to take the spotlight (in rolling back environmental legislation, and other areas where conservatives have run completely wild in rolling back important legislation and regulation), and I want people to stop blaming all of America's problems on supposed "liberal" judges. To me, the dissents read exactly like what some paint liberal activist judges to be - where the judge has an opinion on what the outcome to be and will grasp at any legal straw to get there. They resorted to citing trial court and unpublished opinions from other states to get there. It just isn't what a supreme court opinion is supposed to be.
That being said, it is a legislative issue. It has to be. I am all about the 14th amendment and extending civil rights to people. It is one of the things that made the Supreme Court in the 1960s so great. But those same issues are not before us today. I think that it is compelling that in a state like Washington, we have been able to pass real anti-discrimination laws. I think that legislatively, there are not the same barriers that existing in the 1960s. I haven't seen anything yet that has persuaded me that the state doesn't have some interest in regulating marriage. If the state does have some interest in regulating it, then to me that makes it fertile grounds for legislation.
This is long and disjointed, because as I said, I don't really know what I think on this topic anymore. I just felt the need to say something.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The free visors continue

So my sister Sarah sent me another free visor for my birthday! Woo Hoo! It is a 2005 North Carolina National Championship visor, so it is particularly special. I am just totally set for playing tennis this summer. It is going to be a scorcher her in Seattle today (This is the day of the year when the high is 90 degrees), and I am going to the Mariners/Red Sox game tonight to cheer loudly against the Red Sox, so perhaps my sun visor will come in handy there too.

But first I have to go to court and complete a court hearing which I am dreading. This week has been overwhelmingly stressful and I hate being a lawyer. I don't know how I could have picked a career that I am so ill suited for.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Get on the phone Kofi!

President Bush's overheard remarks yesterday to Prime Minister Tony Blair, actually gave me more confidence in the president than any rehearsed statement he has made since he has taken office. Slate has an excellent article in the exact same phenomenon. Aside from President Bush's misuse of the word irony, he actually sounded like he knew what he was talking about yesterday. And, he actually sounded like he believed diplomacy was important. It was refreshing to hear it from a President that I lost any confidence in so long ago. Even though I don't agree with the President's unabashed support of Israel (their response and infliction of harm on the civilian population of Lebanon has just been too disproportionate for my taste), I like to see that he is actually thinking.

For my birthday weekend, David and I went hiking in the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park. It was a perfect sunny day in the rainforest, which was green as far as the eye could see. Unless you looked down, that is. If you looked down, you would just see mud. But I think that it is important to get dirty now and then. We ate dinner at a delicious French Restaurant, Chez Shea on Saturday night. Thus, my birthday was pretty well spent. Of course, that is if you don't count the distressing event of having that time of the month and its associated symptoms overlap with a day when I was already stressing out about my ticking biological clock and fear that menopause is closer than ever. At 28, I am starting to worry about such things.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Yesterday, I was reading two of my old journals, one from my sophomore year of college, the other from my second year of law school, and they made me depressed. I was not depressed because I was humiliated at how much time I invested in pointless relationships (note to self: never advise a girl to write a paper for a boy, much less write a paper for a boy who cheats on you). Rather, I was depressed because I used to be so much more thoughtful and articulate. I would read Erich Fromm and comment for pages about the lack of overt authority in modern society. Now, what have I become? I write blog entries about free sun visors. Sigh. This is why I need to be a student again. For me it must be complete impracticality or mind numbing boredom.
In other news, I am still stuck on this world cup Zinadine Zidane head butt situation. On All Things Considered during my drive home from work yesterday, I was privileged to hear the new French dance song, "Coup de Boule." I wish I could find a link to that song. I love it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Two free Visors in One Week

My blog is significantly less interesting without having access to the internet at my house. I haven't been able to upload any pictures, and just my words can be dreadfully boring to read. Maybe I will have to pay for internet access...
The good news about last week is this - I went from owning zero sun visors to owning two sun visors in one week! They both were free, too! My mom gave me her Wake Forest Sun Visor after I used it at the beach on Tuesday and made a statement like, "I sure wish I had a visor like this for when I play tennis." Then, on Friday night, we went to the Mariners game and it turned out to be "Ladies Night" at Safeco Field. Thus, they gave to all of the Ladies, a free Mariners visor. It turned out to be useful at the game, too, because it was quite sunny. In Seattle in July, the sun does not set until after 10:00 pm, making an evening game feel like an afternoon game.
In more somber news, I am incredibly sad about France's World Cup performance yesterday. Of course, the antics of France's star Zidane were pretty hilarious. I guess if I was French, I would feel humiliated, the way I do when an American does something completely aggressive and reckless. But since I just happen to like France, and since I do not have any children that look up to Zidane as a role model, I just get to be entertained by the whole disgraceful showing.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Back again to gray

Growing up, I was so anxious for the time when I would finally be able to leave Pensacola, now I am sad whenever I have to leave it. Maybe it is because now that I am older I have finally learned how to appreciate my family. Maybe it is because I now live in a place where the water is too cold to swim at any time during the year and in the summer I just want to live in a bathing suit. In Pensacola, I was nearly able to accomplish this. We went swimming, sailing, kayaking, on trips to the beach. Of course, I also was able to play a fair amount of tennis, which was also quite lovely.
At the end of the day, no matter how I try to mask it, I am Southern. I am Southern because the older I become, the more connected to my roots I want to feel. The more I question as to why I live so far away from the people that I love and landscapes that I know. Even though the shape of the Gulf Islands changes with every passing hurricane, it is still the place I know best. I am beginning to appreciate familiarity a little bit more.
So I was sad to sad to leave and come back to my world of family law cases. Perhaps if I had a job which I could stand just a small bit more it wouldn't make me so weepy to come back. Or perhaps if at least the weather was somewhat more cheery when I returned instead of so gray and overcast.