King carries a message to Putin
Excerpted from the Bloomberg View: Vladimir Putin’s Olympics, like many of his policies, seem designed to annoy the West. For the Olympics at least, President Barack Obama has come up with a brilliant response to his Russian counterpart. Her name is Billie Jean King. Some background: The anti-gay law Russia adopted after winning the right to host the Winter Olympics, which begin in February, clearly violates protections against discrimination enshrined in the Games’ charter. The spineless response of the International Olympic Committee was to claim that a law that prohibits “propaganda” in support of gay relationships is not, in fact, discriminatory. Olympic boycotts, meanwhile, have been singularly ineffective at just about everything except hurting the athletes. What to do? This week the White House announced that neither Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden nor any member of the presidential Cabinet will attend the Games. In their place will be King and Caitlin Cahow, both accomplished athletes who also happen to be gay. King, 70, who won 39 Grand Slam titles during her tennis career and coached the U.S. women’s teams to Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2000, was the first major female athlete to come out in 1981. Cahow, 28, is a two-time Olympic medalist in women’s ice hockey. Their presence on the delegation, which also includes former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and presidential adviser Rob Nabors, recognizes that the Olympics are about sports – but about politics, too. If they weren’t, countries wouldn’t compete for the right to pay billions of dollars to host the games. These gestures are first of all important for the countries making them, which like to think they are being consistent about standing up for universal values (even if their own societies only rather recently saw the light on gay rights). They are also important in letting gay men and lesbians inside Russia know they have international support.
Boehner opens door for immigration reform
Excerpted from Tuesday’s San Jose Mercury News: Comprehensive immigration reform passed the Senate in June, but there still is little indication when or if the House of Representatives will consider it. It’s ridiculous, because if House Speaker John Boehner simply let a version of the Senate bill come to the floor, it would pass with votes to spare. It’s assumed Boehner wouldn’t do such a thing for fear of angering tea party voters and the right-wing groups that adamantly oppose a path to citizenship, which they derisively call amnesty. But what Boehner said last week, after a bipartisan budget agreement was reached, eliminates that excuse for blocking reform. There’s no reason not to bring the badly needed bill, or a version of it, to the House floor in the new year. Referring to the right-wing groups that opposed the budget before they’d seen it, Boehner said: “They’re using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous.” Visibly angry, he went on to say: “Frankly, I just think that they have lost all credibility.” Many Americans figured out a while ago that groups such as Heritage Action and FreedomWorks were motivated by their own narrow interests – not what’s best for the country. The most recent example? Their demand that lawmakers “defund” the Affordable Care Act, which wasn’t even technically possible and which led to the 18-day government shutdown. The strategy turned out to be an embarrassing failure that badly damaged the Republicans, which seems to have led to Boehner’s change of heart.
That Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP co-author of the budget deal, and Boehner bucked the tea party is a positive development for those who pine for compromise in Washington. Allowing immigration reform to come to the House floor would be another.
When a man loves 4 women
Excerpted from Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times: As gay marriage has gained acceptance across the country, its opponents have often claimed that the inevitable next steps would be recognition of bigamy, polygamy, bestiality and incest. So when a judge struck down part of Utah’s anti-polygamy law last week, those critics were quick to say they told us so. But that’s not what happened at all. On the contrary, the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups makes it clear that neither fundamentalist Mormons nor anyone else has an inherent right to multiple marriages. The state of Utah can continue to limit one marriage license to two people, under the same rules it has always followed, just as every other state does. But the problem with Utah’s law is that it didn’t just outlaw true polygamy, which is the practice of claiming more than one legal spouse at a time. It also prohibited cohabitation by unmarried people with multiple sexual partners. Thus the famous cohabiting fundamentalist Mormons in the reality series “Sister Wives” were considered by the state to be violating the law even though they were not officially married; they moved to Nevada to avoid the possibility of prosecution, and filed suit to challenge the Utah law. Though star Kody Brown and his four female mates like to call themselves married, the only official marriage is between Brown and his wife, Meri. But if all five want to live together, that’s their business, as Waddoups wisely concluded. Consenting adults should be able to engage in personal relationships without fear of arrest or criminal charges. That’s a far cry from the state legitimizing such relationships and conferring on them any of the perks of marriage, such as joint tax returns or spousal benefits.
Utah’s attorney general has not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling. We hope he doesn’t. His office has every right to enforce the state’s anti-polygamy law, but it should abandon efforts to interfere in personal and unofficial cohabitation arrangements.