Tag Archives: SCOTUS

Same Sex Marriage: A Great Day Has Come

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I was at work this morning when the Supreme Court handed down its rulings on same sex marriage. It was a ruling I’d been awaiting for months, and when it arrived, my pocket blew up with notifications.

My iPod dinged, my phone dinged. Something buzzed. A text arrived. It was the biggest party my pants have hosted in some time.

The Associated Press, the New York Times, the local WSB-TV station here in Atlanta all sent out alerts, first that the ruling was in, then a generalization about what it said, and finally – with a lesson learned from reporters trying to decipher Bush v. Gore on live television – stories on what it meant.

Today, the Court offered two rulings:

  • no longer can the federal government provide a preference for straight couples and ignore same-sex couples;
  • and those who oppose same sex marriage in California have no standing to sue to stop it.

That second opinion was the most telling to me.

It could’ve been broader. It could’ve paved the way to allow same sex marriage in all 50 states. But this Court has an affinity for states’ rights that will never allow that to happen. Nonetheless, those opposed to same sex marriage in California lack the authority to stop it – and, I think the ruling makes clear, the standing to oppose it at all.

Today, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ruled that California opponents to same sex marriage do not have standing to sue to stop it. (Photo of rally outside San Francisco City Hall — where people know how to party — from the Los Angeles Times)

I’m not gay. Never even a tryst in college. Things might’ve been easier if I’d been gay, in some respects (a thought that occurs to many men after some years of heterosexual marriage). And I’ve been mistaken for being gay before. But I’m not.

Some people are. Some of the gay people I know have obviously been gay since the first grade. They played with the girl and had Leah Frank binders when the rest of us bros carried Trapper Keepers. We didn’t know they were gay at the time, but as they came to realize it on their own, it became more apparent to us.

To watch someone grow up gay is really something. It shows you that gay doesn’t just set-in suddenly or result from a conscious decision someone has made; it’s something that, very often, is always there. And why should that be a bad thing?

Same sex marriage won’t impact me, because I’m not gay. I’ve got my own heterosexual marriage to worry about. And there’s nothing in these rulings that mean that churches must host or even recognize same sex marriage, so the First Amendment is fine. It does, however, mean that it’s no longer OK to treat gay people differently, to act like there’s something wrong with them.

Remember this: the ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that requires the federal government to recognize same sex marriage comes from a suit filed by Edie Windsor of New York. Windsor, now 83, married her wife, Thea Spyer, in Toronto (where same sex marriage is actually not that big of a deal) after a 40-year courtship. When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor was left owing more than $360,000 in estate taxes – taxes she would not owe if the federal government recognized her marriage as legal.

So the decision comes not as a result of a fanatical activist, but as the product – the something good – that came from 40 years of love between two women, and through the perseverance of the surviving member of that union who asked not to be treated differently, but to be treated exactly the same as my wife and I are treated in the eyes of the law.

And those opposed to same sex marriage really needn’t worry about these rulings. That’s why the second opinion is the most telling. Not only do they not have standing in the courts, they honestly don’t have standing, period. The only people who have an interest in whether or not same sex marriage is legal are those who have been using that as an excuse not to marry their would-be husbands and wives.

And for you, welcome to married life, suckers.

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The Art of Killing Hookers

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Niko Bellic

How I spend my weekends. I've got it down to an art.

I’m a married professional, a homeowner, a father and a taxpayer. In my life, I’ve received three tickets – two for speeding (both in Carrollton, about 10 years apart) and one in Douglasville for an expired tag (my Oldsmobile couldn’t pass emissions).

In my spare time – what time I have – I enjoy taking my dirt bike to the hills over the city, turning up the old country music and riding ‘till dawn. I also enjoy ripping off fancy cars and blowing down busy streets as quickly as I can (usually I drive in oncoming traffic, because it’s easier somehow to see the cars coming at you than the one’s you’re gaining on from the rear). There’s also this guy I steal cars for sometimes to make a little extra money. I use it to support my grenade-and-ammunition habit.

Oh, and I kill hookers. Sometimes before, sometimes after, sometimes for refusing to get in the damned car. I’ve shot ‘em, stabbed ‘em, ran ‘em down and hacked ‘em to bits with a samurai sword. I’ve bludgeoned them to death with baseball bats and golf clubs. It’s great fun. Sometimes, my wife helps.

She’s the one who taught me how to do it.

One of the best things she brought into our marriage was her PlayStation 2. My experience with game consoles ended with the N-64, and even that was primarily used for prolonged battles in “Goldeneye” and “Perfect Dark.” On the 27-inch television in the living room of our first apartment, we pushed the coffee table aside and sat in the floor next to each other, like a couple of kids, and handed the controller back and forth as we played “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.” For Christmas one year, I got her “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.”

That game still holds a special place in our hearts. We’d spend weekends holed-up in our apartment, checking off missions and opening more of the game. I navigated, reading the walk-throughs from the game guide I’d purchased while Ashley sliced paths of destruction across the deserts outside faux-Vegas, leapt hills in faux-Frisco and thumbed gang bangers in faux-L.A. We’d order pizza and burn through our cache of soda, fueling the fictional bloodshed.

The Grand Theft Auto games and others have been much maligned for their graphic depictions of violence. In the latest one – “Grand Theft Auto IV” – the characters routinely frequent strip clubs, and you can pay extra for a lap dance. It’s not completely indecent, though – the stripper does wear pasties.

It makes sense that these are games that are not suitable for young audiences. California agreed, going so far as to make it illegal to sell these games to young people.

When California passed the law, my reaction was, “Eh,” followed by a shrug. California has a year-round legislature, and it’s purpose is to make up laws. If it didn’t do that, it wouldn’t need to exist. And though California is a very large market for video games, it’s, like, all the way over there, man. If you want to fully appreciate how damned far away California really is, try driving there sometimes. Half-way across Texas is when I started having my reservations about continuing.

Also, I’m not much of a “gamer.” I’d like to be – I find video games fascinating. But I have a job, a family and a mortgage. There’s precious little time or money for video games. The idea of dropping a half-grand plus on a new gaming system leaves a lump in my throat that I simply cannot swallow.

But it was heartening to hear that my appreciation for the utter art that goes into these games is not lost on the highest court in the land.

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States put the brakes on California’s ban, effectively elevating video games to enjoy the same First Amendment protection as books, plays and films. In the 7-2 decision, the Court has placed the regulation of video games out of reach of the state and into the place where it seems most logical: the home.

Now, this doesn’t affect the rights of retail chains to decide that they will not carry certain titles or game ratings; though if they do, they will not be subject to prosecution for selling such games to minors.

The case was Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, and while it does apply only to the California statute, the effects liberate video game designers from the bonds that force them to consider content when planning games, enabling them to use a much broader platform for their narratives.

I continue to adhere to my belief that violent video games do not lead to violent behavior, but that only applies to an audience who knows the difference between fiction and real life. Those who do not know the difference ought not to have access to these games. Whether or not an individual is mature enough to handle these games, however, is more accurately decided by one’s parents; not the year-round California legislature.

Atta’ Court, SCOTUS.