Sunday, March 31, 2013

Legalizing gay marriage?

Sometimes the media coverage of a case or political matter so sucks the air out of the room that it is hard for me to write about anything else. The issue is topical, and it makes me want my say while anyone actually cares. Also, because I am way too busy doing things other than this blog (this working thing - whose idea was that exactly?), it is much easier to write about something very topical and legal than the other topics I have started in the past couple of months, but not finished, such as those on Jefferson, bio-ethics, guns and even reviewing two more of my favorite movies. Anyway, today the topical issue is gay marriage. Not a big surprise to anyone who has a tv or an internet connection.

Equal protection: There are two gay marriage cases orally argued before the Supreme Court this past week.  The first one, Hollingsworth v. Perry, came out of California and concerns whether the state has a right to ban gay marriage at all, or whether it is an impermissible violation of equal protection.  In other words, even though the state has spoken - here through California's very democratic ballot initiative - and amended their constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, federal courts have ruled that to do so violates the federal constitutional prohibition of violating the equal protection of the law.  
Even if you believe that gays are just as entitled to the happiness or misery associated with marriage as their straight counterparts, equal protection is often a very difficult question.  But it is not what people sometimes think it is.  Laws tend to discriminate between people - even criminal legislation - and government has always been allowed to do this. If equal protection meant government couldn't discriminate between people or groups, they would barely be able to make any laws at all. You might think in the abstract that government shouldn't be allowed to discriminate, but if that was the case it could also be argued that the government couldn't discriminate between who could vote, and a 3 year old could complain they were being discriminated against.  So, equal protection certainly doesn't mean everyone must be treated the same. It is supposed to mean that people similarly situated should be treated the same - and that is itself a goal and never a success. That is, the rule is that the law should not be arbitrarily applied (hah!) or based on personal feelings (double hah!) but on things the government has a sufficient interest in and in a way that makes at least a little bit of sense. In some cases, for what are considered very important issues, more is required of the government to sustain a challenged law.  At least that is the theory.  

Whether two people or groups of people are similarly situated is a matter of opinion that cannot be reduced to a set of rules that actually works in all cases. But, those rules that they do use broadly concern the courts making decisions about how strong the government's interest in something is, say something like regulating who can marry, and how narrowly the law accomplishes it.  Like any complicated legal issue, the opinions over the years are very inconsistent. Some matters, naturally, are easy. It is easy for us to say (now) that there cannot be a law that says people of Asian descent cannot have laundries in San Francisco.  But, it is a tougher question if the law says that you cannot have a laundry made of wood without a permit for safety reasons.  Does that sound like a neutral law? Generally speaking, yes, but not if it turns out most of the laundries are made of wood  and that almost no Asians get approved for permits. That hypothetical is from an actual case decided long ago, Yick Wo v. Hopkins. Very few people would disagree nowadays that you can't even have a very general rule that discriminates for no other reason than someone's ethnicity and those few people are so marginalized, they barely matter. 

Over the years the Supreme Court has decided that it will apply different standards for different types of cases to determine whether there is equal protection. That this is unequal treatment in a plain manner of speaking does not seem to be a great concern, because of the types of cases that get special treatment.  Some people call this constitutional theory. I call it unconstitutional, but what we prefer to do. One of the higher standards applied is strict scrutiny , which means that the government cannot make a  law discriminating on the basis of ethnicity or which restricts a fundamental right, like, say freedom of speech, unless its legitimate interest in doing so is considered compelling and they have narrowly tailored their legislation to meet those interests and that the means chosen to do it is the least restrictive way to accomplish the goal (the narrowly tailored and least restrictive elements of this scrutiny are very closely related).  In other words, it will be very difficult to have these laws found constitutional. They are considered suspect from the get go and the government has to meet a burden to sustain them.
Then there is heightened scrutiny, sometimes also called intermediate scrutiny, which means that the government has to have a really important or significant interest (but not necessarily a compelling one) in a field to discriminate and their solution must be at least substantially related to achieving that goal. It is much less clear what types of cases fit into this category, but they are often sex related. It also seems to apply to some other rights, like free speech issues where the "speech" has other aspects (like burning your draft card), etc., the rules for which are more complicated.  Unfortunately, it is not even clear to the Supreme Court if intermediate and heightened scrutiny are quite the same thing or not.

The last and the easiest test for the government, and by far the most common, to pass is that of rational relationship test, which basically means that the state has almost carte blanche to discriminate with respect to most any law not concerning ethnicity, fundamental rights or sexual issues just so long as they can show they are making some bare minimum of sense in what they are doing. These laws are presumed constitutional; the opposite of strict scrutiny. One of the contested issues in the other case we are going to discuss, U.S. v. Winslow, is whether the issue comes under the rational basis test, in which case the law might survive, or heightened scrutiny, in which case it has a better chance of being shot down.
I have tried to avoid getting too tied up in legalese and am trying to speak plainly here, but those are roughly accurate descriptions of the standards. They have been mocked by some, maybe most famously by the late Justice Rehnquist, and for good reason. They are kind of silly. What possible method can a judge have to determine whether a state's interest in some act or issue is compelling as opposed to just important, except by his own biased opinion or mere whim.  And isn't that why we bother to elect members to the legislature -- to represent our legitimately biased opinions?  And does the Constitution permit us to treat some matters differently than others because we think they are more important? 

While the above may be fairly termed legal mumbo jumbo by some, it is nevertheless crucial and the standard applied will determine the status of gay marriage in our country.  If in Hollingsworth, the majority (or maybe plurality) of the court determines that the right question to ask is whether California has a sufficiently important interest in regulating marriage which Proposition 8 substantially affects (that is, applies heightened scrutiny), it likely will also find proposition 8 unconstitutional. But, if the rational relationship test is applied, then it is obviously much easier for statute to be upheld and it probably will be. The court, perhaps, will determine this. But, maybe not, and here is why.
Standing: There is a second problem in Hollingsworth that seems very technical and legalistic, but it is also very important because it determines whether the court will even get to the equal protection question.   That is the standing issue.  It basically concerns whether the people suing have the right to do so at all, never mind the merits? The Constitution requires that federal courts can only take cases where there is an actual case or controversy. 

Standing is very important because we don't want everyone to be able to sue on every issue. Your neighbor can't go to court to sue for your car accident or oppose the foreclosure action against you either.  Those examples are fairly obvious. But it can get very complicated, especially when the government legislates on some civil right or tax matter that affects everyone generally or it is hard to say who the law affects specifically.  Just as an example, if the government passes a law saying that it can tap a telephone call if the speaker is speaking a foreign language - who should be able to sue on the law's constitutionality? Everyone, because we all let a foreign word or two drop into our conversation ("Oy vey!")?  Or no one, because it can't be shown that anyone has actually been tapped yet based on that reason?  

Here's another example. There could be good reason to argue that no one has standing to appeal abortion laws because by the time the appeals process can work, the pregnancy has long ago terminated one way or the other (so the question is moot). Roe v. Wade would not be law today except that the court basically made an exception for abortion issues, which otherwise they could never be decided.  In other words, when they want to rule on something, and their own rules won't permit it, the court changes or ignores them. When they don't want to rule on something, they use these rules as a shield.
The courts have worked out some principles for making determinations of standing, but in my opinion they are about as inconsistent on this difficult issue as they have been on any other. I can't say I like some of the standing decisions, particularly recently. However, it's obviously very important, because a good or bad standing ruling can affect many cases, far more than just those which concern the issues before the court on any given day.

In California, the State itself has decided not to be involved basically because Gov. Schwarzenegger liked the decision and so does his successor, Gov. Jerry Brown.  California's Supreme Court and then the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (considered the most liberal in the country) determined that the laws original sponsor can intercede and challenge the ruling. I could hazard a guess here on what the Supreme Court will do, but it would be a pure guess.  I am less sure of the votes on standing in this case than I am with respect to what judges would hold on the merits if they decide to consider them.
I will say though that I am generally in favor of matters that involve the equal protection clause, the due process clause or any of the bill of rights being handled with more liberality than other issues with respect to standing.  Otherwise, you tend to get unchecked government power, as no one can prove they are injured sufficiently to sue and the merits cannot be reached. This usually bodes well for the government and rarely for those challenging it. Here, however, it is not clear who it helps. The proponents oppose the court's decision which denied governmental power. But, the government in question, California doesn't want that power, even if the people voted for it. If your head is spinning now, welcome to the club.

The other case argued before the court this week is United States v. Windsor, which is a challenge to federal taxation of the estate of a woman from Maine whose same sex partner had left her money, which she was taxed on far above what she would have been had she been allowed to have been married (they were engaged since 1967 waiting to do so).  The federal act, the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA (1996) is at stake, or at least some parts of it.
There are many legal questions related to DOMA - does the federal government have the right to legislate on marriage, which is traditionally a state issue?  Does DOMA, which, among other things, defines marriage as between one man and one woman and permits states to ignore the same sex marriages from other states that permit it, unfairly discriminate against gays and violate equal protection under the law? In Windsor, the issues will be limited to the taxation question and it is not really clear how other parts of DOMA will be affected, if at all.

Standing is raised in Windsor too. DOMA was found to be unconstitutional by both the 1st and 2nd federal circuit Courts of Appeal. The holding was challenged by a created group basically consisting of congressmen. They did this because the United States itself has taken the position that the law is, in fact, unconstitutional.  Do the congressmen have the right to challenge the court's ruling? Again we have the unusual situation that the opponents of a court's decision limiting governmental power seek to restore power to a government that doesn't want it.
I have a bias in these matters and I believe writers (and judges) should state their bias, even where they think they have rational reasons for them.  I approve of gay marriage and have generally supported what are termed gay rights my whole life so far as I can remember. This was so even back when I was a teenager and made a lot of gay jokes and references that were typical of teenagers then and probably still are. Gay marriage was not then on my radar, or that of most people, but I was offended by any demonization or stigmatization of gays, and there was plenty of that.  I went so far as to let some people to think I was gay (though, I admit, it didn't sit right inside).  I did not see making jokes about them or calling my friends "gay" or a "faggot" or a "mo" (an expression of which I had no idea what meant when I started saying it in seventh grade) might hurt someone, but feel more that way as a grey haired man.  I don't mean that we cannot make jokes about gays, but at the very least when we do, we should recognize that they that there are sometimes people laughing who are crying inside.  So, these days, I personally try to avoid it. Usually, anyway. 

So, for me,  I recognize I have a bias against Proposition 8 and against DOMA, but, playing judge, I still try to look at the standing questions without that bias determining my answer.  There is way I use to try and do this that I recommend when considering constitutional and sometimes other questions - ask yourself how you would like it if what you support being done was in the control of someone or a government you did not trust at all? 
That probably sound rather vague, so here's an example of what I mean.  When a president takes actions that may or may not be within his powers, and the usual partisan divide occurs - supporters think it is constitutional and opponents do not - we should ask ourselves what if the president at the time was someone we didn't trust at all?  So, when Bush was president, I would sometimes ask Republicans whether they thought that Hillary Clinton should have the right to ignore the parts of laws passed by a Republican congress that she saw as unconstitutional, because that was the liberty Bush was asserting with his famous signing statements. I could ask Democrats the same question concerning Obama, who has taken that position with DOMA,  which ironically became law while his Democratic predecessor, Clinton, was in office.

As another example, with Obama president, I ask Democrats whether it would be okay with them if a President Sarah Palin had the power to engage in any war she wanted for as long as they wanted without congressional permission, as that was a liberty Obama took in attacking Libya. I have sometimes gotten surprisingly honest answers to these questions - that, yes, it is okay when someone likes the president and not okay when they don't. That really means, of course, that the person wants the rule of men and not of laws.

This question of presidential power is actually enormously important. The president's constitutional duty is to execute the laws that are in effect. DOMA is now, but President Obama has determined not to give it effect. The court actually spent quite a bit of time debating this issue in the oral arguments and it may be the most interesting part to me whether or not it plays a large role in the majority opinion. 

Applying this method to myself, since I am generally pro-gay rights and also tend to like civil rights claims to be heard on their merits, I like the result that a lower court has heard the case and struck down DOMA. When thinking about whether some congressmen challenging that ruling should be allowed to be heard too, I ask myself what if the issue was not one where I liked the lower court's decision and instead disliked it? Would I want the congressmen to be able to intervene in that case? The answer is, no surprise, yes.

I'm not suggesting that we should determine a legal principle on what we want to be the case, but that it is a way to check our biases at the door. Being aware of my bias (which a judge is not supposed to consider in making a decision but I think should be aware of), I come to an answer which is actually based on what I think the best neutral policy is, i.e., one that doesn't consider who is in power. My answer is yes, there should be standing here.  The neutral reason is that when there is an important civil or fundamental rights issue to be heard which might have broad application, at least someone should be able to contest it on either side of the question. There is not much point in having a Constitution if when there is a question, it cannot be determined in an authoritative way. 
I can't think of a reason that the person who challenges a law or ruling should be a congressmen instead of an ordinary person, but court's seem to like it a little better if congressmen sue on these matters rather than individuals. I suppose this is just the allure of official stature that has always existed to which even politicians and judges are subject. The court discussed this a little in oral arguments but might not get that deep into it in their decision.

So, it is my opinion that the Supreme Court should rule on the merits and not just allow the lower court rulings making DOMA unconstitutional to stand, even if it opens up the possibility that I won't like the decision made. My general rule would be to have the most liberal standing requirements for civil or fundamental rights cases. Obviously, that would engender argument about what fit into that category, but you never get rid of argument.
With Hollingsworth, I come to the same conclusion. Again, I support the decision overturning Proposition 8 because I do believe, even applying heightened scrutiny, that the state does not have a strong enough interest in determining who may have a marriage to discriminate against same sex couples as opposed to heterosexual couples. Paraphrasing a line of argument asked by Justice Kagan, who would approve banning marriage to people over 75 or those with sexual dysfunctions on the grounds they cannot have a natural baby? This is in line with my opinion that the states should merely be clerics with respect to marriage as far as possible to help with questions of inheritance and taxation and the like. But, any adult consensual couple who wants to have a legally recognized committed domestic partnership and call it "marriage" should be able to do so.  And, though I would not like it if the proponents of the law, who are challenging the decision striking it down, were successful, someone should be able to challenge it if the government does not.  I would, in fact, approve of anyone who merely voted for the law having that right, but as with Windsor, I will accept half a loaf rather than none.  Just so it is heard on the merits.

Some other stuff: There are a few other issues I'd like to discuss concerning these cases that do not involve standing:
I  occasionally listen to Supreme Court cases being argued on C-Span audio recordings.  I am pretty sure most people would find this very boring, but I find it exciting (usually; sometimes it is painful). Like Justice Thomas, I am not sure what value these arguments really have other than to show us the bias of the judges one way or another and to let the public have an avenue to hear the issues without reading the briefs. This time I think the arguments were enlightening in several respects. 

The justices are often jovial, sometimes cracking bad jokes (I've never heard a good one there) and other times being minimally tough on the lawyers. They are usually very civil. But, this time I sensed some frustration or anger behind some of the questioning. Justice Scalia nearly blasted out to one pro-gay marriage advocate - "I don't care if it works!"  If you google Scalia and the phrase "I don't care," you will get a lot of hits.  Justice Roberts also became a little testy with the same attorney when she followed the path of the Attorney General in avoiding answering his question about federalism with a bromide about equal protection.  Justice Ginsberg lectured one attorney as if he was a criminal defendant who she was sentencing and used the phrase "skim milk marriage" with contempt in her voice. That pretty much shows me where her thoughts lie if it wasn't so otherwise obvious. Justice Kagan kept her poise better but also seemed affronted by anti-same sex marriage arguments. 

Though I recognize that the judges are human, and that this is a very controversial subject, I can't say that we should be pleased that the judges are letting their feelings get away with them here, because it is a good indication that many of them will be voting based on other than what the law is or should be. You can argue that this is always the case. I don't think so, but it is a fair argument and it is certainly often true.  But, with these two cases it seems very true.
It is a little disturbing to me that some of the judges are at least said to be wondering if it is too soon to come to a judgment on gay marriage. This is framed in the idea that there just isn't enough information for anyone to know whether gay marriage may have negative effects. But, legislatures have never been held to only legislate only when something is ready and the court's determination on whether it is true or not should not be based upon how effective the law is, unless they find it irrational.  What this really indicates to me is that the justices are waiting for public opinion to move further towards gay marriage so that their decision will be popular with most people. I understand when legislatures hold back on legislating because of public opinion, but it is the very opposite of what courts are supposed to do, which is apply the law.

Public opinion very often lags court decisions. It certainly did in a case I think roughly analogous to this one, Loving v. Virginia, when laws against bi-racial marriage were held to be unconstitutional. Approximately two thirds of Americans were then against interracial marriage, which is a large number for a poll of American opinion on a controversial issue.  It was too bad on the public. The court had a case before it and made a decision. It is no different here.
This brings us to an excellent question Scalia asked to Ted Olsen, the conservative who has surprised many by championing gay marriage. He asked him when discriminating against gays became unconstitutional. Scalia's point is that if it wasn't thought so by a founder or at least the drafters of the 14th amendment, it cannot be unconstitutional. This is the argument about whether the constitution is living or not in the sense that as our culture changes, so does the constitutionality of an issue.

Olsen kind of hemmed and hawed, giving the kind of answer that Scalia hates.  His best answer would have been to point out that during Justice Scalia's confirmation hearing, he himself pointed out that he would find lashing prisoners unconstitutional now, because times have changed, even though the founders certainly did not find it cruel and unusual.  I believe it is Scalia who would have been hemming and hawing had he done so. And, though Olsen's mentioning it might have irked him, he isn't going to vote for gay marriage anyway.
Other attorneys who argued for gay marriage also made statements indicating that there has been a "sea change" in public opinion in favor of gay marriage and in fact, as a people, Americans have significantly changed in a short period of time how we think of homosexuality. Only in the matter of a decade, we have come from homosexuality being a crime to a small majority being for allowing gay marriage.  Some states  now have gay marriage (I think it is 9), though more of them by court decision rather than a vote.  And, of course, many more people are comfortable coming out as gay who even a few years ago would have remained quiet about it. Many still do hide it, but legitimizing gay marriage will certainly lessen the stigma that still attaches to it.

Justice Sotomayor also asked an interesting question to the attorney for the proponents of Proposition 8 as to whether outside of the area of marriage, the federal government could use sexual orientation as a factor in denying benefits or putting a burden on homosexuals.  The proponents attorney answered no, that he was only thinking about marriage. And, shortly after that he indicated that it was because homosexual couples cannot procreate. This seems to me to be a very weak argument.

The answer is important for two reasons.  His inability to answer it highlights what I think are the fallacies of the arguments that have been offered to oppose in lieu of solid ones.  The worst of the them is that marriage is a word that can't be modified or defined, as if, it alone among the billions of words that have been uttered, it cannot be changed (though it has been many times) or made to apply to anything other than heterosexual marriage. This is the fallacy of failing to differ between a thing and a word for a thing.
The other reason it is important is because it further signals to me that this whole argument about gays is coming to a close.  Frequently, when I comment online about gay marriage issues, I make a prediction that in a generation this will not be an issue at all and that it will be even difficult to find conservatives who remember that they were against gay marriage, just as you cannot easily find a conservative leader or commentator who still argues that homosexuality should be criminalized again - even though it is only 10 years ago  - more recently than 9/11 - since the Supreme Court decriminalized it in Lawrence v. Texas.

The procreation argument is especially weak because gays can adopt in some states and there are many other people who get married who cannot procreate (or adopt, for that matter). Opportunity was given by several justices, but particularly Kagan, to attorneys to expand on the purported negative impact of gay marriage, but there was no real answer given. In fact, Scalia, acting as his attorney in a sense (they sometimes do this and it always bothers me when they do) tried to come to his side's rescue. But, if you read the transcript, he also was dealing in speculation.
Neither side wants to tell the truth in open court about the emotions surrounding these laws in my opinion. Opponents of same sex marriage do not want to admit that they just don't want to see what they are used to being the law and the custom changed and that it arouses strong feelings in them. Proponets of same sex marriage also do not really want to acknowledge the animus against gays among both parties who passed DOMA, preferring to suggest that we are now more enlightened as a people.  I am not saying that all those voting for DOMA had animus against gays either, but surely many did. 

If you want to know what opponents really feel, go to any article opposing gay rights that allows comments and see what people write there. Some of it is downright ugly. Here's part of a reply I got to a comment I made on an article where the author suggested that if gays accepted Christian theology, they wouldn't be gay: "DHE, you are hands down the dumbest person to ever post on this website. . . You are a smug gay obsessed idiot."  You can say that this is just anecdotal (or that he is right) - one person - but I am telling you it is very common to read comments like that online. Homosexuality is certainly not the only topic that raises people's ire like that, but it is one of the most likely to do so. Like with many sexual, social and cultural issues, people are driven by their emotions and one of them is hate or animus. Topics like same sex marriage and abortion just arouse more anger than topics like immigration and guns, even though they are very important to people too. Why not admit it?

I don't like it when attorneys, even ones I am in agreement with, respond to a question beginning with the phrase "I'm not sure that . . . " and then refuse to acknowledge something they don't have a good reason to deny.  The expression is so obviously a hedging technique that judges should call them on it more often. "Yes or no, or I don't know, please" or "When you say you 'are not sure,' I think you mean that you don't have an answer for me. Is that right?" 

I am also annoyed by the insistence of so many attorneys arguing before the court to use the judges' names when responding to them. "Yes, Justice this," "No Justice that." The Supreme Court actually publishes suggestions for attorneys arguing before them that asks them not to do this. No one seems to care very much. I was so happy during the Bush v. Gore arguments that one attorney kept mixing them up.

A number of fascinating questions have arisen from these two cases which will not likely be answered, but we need resolution on.

One question I'd like to see raised is an aspect of DOMA that is not at stake. That is the law permits states to deny the marriage of people legally married in another state. This seems to me obviously in violation of Article Four, Section 1 of the Constitution which requires each state to give full faith and credit to the public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state, and permits congress only to prescribe "by general laws" the manner these are proved and the effect they will have. In other words, states normally MUST give full faith and credit to another state's declaration of marriage and congress can not specify that with respect to marriage (or any other subject) it cannot do so. It can only make general procedural laws on the issue. How this strange and obviously unconstitutional provision has stood so far is baffling to me.
Yet another issue here, and actually, quite a large one entitled to its own astericks is the issue of federalism. It was discussed in oral argument quite a bit, but it is hard to tell if it will define the majority opinion. That is, why is congress legislating about marriage at all? Traditionally, it is a state's right to define or regulate marriage and the federal government has nothing to do with it. That those who are most insistent on DOMA being constitutional are also usually the loudest voices in support of state's rights just emphasizes my ever present point that partisanship blinds everyone.

For this reason I was not impressed with Paul Clement's argument in Winslow that the federal government needs one definition of marriage for the purposes of its own Acts concerning things like taxes and inheritance, etc.  There is no area of law where it would not be simpler for the federal government to manifestly impose a single standard on everything. But, that is precisely what states' rights is all about. Every state and sometimes many subdivisions have their own laws, which may be  inconsistent. It is not surprising, of course, to see the two ideological camps switch positions, even dogmatic ones, for practical purposes.
If Justice Kennedy, likely the swing vote on both cases,  determines that the federal government should not be making these decisions at all, that will not only strike down the federal marriage law - DOMA, but might also possibly help the proponents of Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment.

Another similar question, raised by many, is why is any government involved at all in determining which adults can marry?  Marriage has been determined by the court to be a fundamental right. We can lock someone up for murder and possibly still not be able to stop them from choosing a spouse (there is at least some indication that this is the case). In a free society why should the government be in a position to determine what committed consensual relationships someone wants to be in concerning their public identity, their inheritance, their children and their property?

Frequently, when gay marriage is discussed, the question comes up - If gay marriage is allowed, why not then polygamy or between man and beast marriages or adult and minor?  I'll stop there with possibilities on the slippery slope. The second two are easy.  They involve consent issues. At least, a legislature could base its determination on that fact.  It is obvious an animal does not consent to a marriage and it would invest the animal with rights that our laws do not allow it (the laws against cruelty are not actionable by the animal - but have to do with people's feelings about them, not their feelings about themselves). With respect to a minor, it is more arbitrary of course - you can argue that many minors are old enough to consent and states differ on how old is old enough, but our law is very comfortable with making distinctions for children and they have been mostly found constitutional.

But as to polygamy, I say yes, that is right, even though the Supreme Court has held against it multiple times.  There are arguments that there are safety and health issues concerning polygamy, but that same argument could be made of many heterosexual marriages too. We just ignore them as too difficult to determine at large and take it on a case by case basis with the government or party alleging abuse or violence having to prove it. The same approach should be the case with polygamy. It doesn't surprise me at all that those who participate in polygamy now might act in ways that are consistent with their being stigmatized as criminals, because it is illegal everywhere.  The main questions that arise are abuse issues and of course they are important.  But, unless someone shows me that abuse is inherent in a polygamous relationship, I can't go along with it.  

Long enough for today. I think I at least touched on all the relevant issues. 

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .