Monday 29 June 2015

Gay Community News

John Arthur is dead. He suffered as Lou Gehrig suffered through  amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ALS.  It is also known as Charcot's disease after the great 19thC neurologist.  If you're British you'll recognise it as Motor Neurone Disease MND and associate it with the physicist Stephen Hawking.  You may also think of it as "life's a bitch and then you die" because one of the muscle-systems that is ablated by the disease is the swallowing reflex which we all take for granted until we can't eat.  There must be worse ways to go, but I can't think of any this morning.  Stephen Hawking is famous because he is a physicist, who wrote a book that many have bought but few have read, and because his decline is as tragic as anything written by Shagsper.  John Arthur has played a walk-off part in a great legal upheaval across The Pond.

John Arthur was the married partner of James Obergefell. What in tarnation are we going to call the equal partners in a same-sex marriage? That's not going to be decided by the rule of law.

But recognition of the legality of same-sex marriage took a big step forward in the 5-4 decision by SCOTUS on June 26 2015 ruling that the marriage contracted out-of-state by Arthur and Obergefell must be recognised by the State of Ohio and Obergefell is entitled to be named as next of kin on the death certificate.  I'm sure that will have financial as well as practical and social implications.  In Ireland you can leave your entire estate tax-free to your surviving spouse but effectively nothing-at-all to your partner of 40 years. The tax burden is less on gifts to your sister than on inheritance by the woman who has shared your life for decades.  The Supreme Court ruling is now and forever known as Obergefell vs Hodges but the Justices consolidated the case with similar challenges to state law from Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky.  It's also interesting that James Obergefell has been straight [sic!?] and consistent through his trials but the defendants have been but straw men of reaction.  The case started as Obergefell vs Kasich [John Kasich, Governor of Ohio] when John Arthur was still alive.  The case has shape-shifted through Obergefell vs Wymyslo; Obergefell vs Himes before coming to the highest court in the land as Obergefell vs Hodges.

The Supreme Court's decision, which of course applies to ALL 50 states, is as close as it can be and so you may anticipate that this decision is not final except for the compelling tide of history argument. As the old men of the Supreme Court die off they will be replaced by younger people who have more gay friends and more empathy.  It is quite worrying that so many of the positions taken by individual judges can be predicted with sufficient accuracy that you can win money by betting on their opinions.  It shouts that judicial findings are interpretations of the law through a haze of prejudice and certainty about how things should be rather than a scientific or objective assessment of how things are.  I think we can feel smug in Ireland that the issue of same-sex marriage has been determined in the positive by plebiscite rather than by statute. It's probably true that, whatever the legal status of gays in the several states, the majority of voters would rather they were back in the closet and marriages still had a car, a dishwasher, a father, a mother and 2.3 children.

You may feel the need to get with the program spectrum and recognise the flutter of flags that somebody has decided represent their gender identity. Here's the sporcle quiz.  I got 1/10: hopeless, but I can definitely live with this ignorance.

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