What with the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the more recent, controversial SCOTUS decisions, Hollingsworth v. Perry and U.S. v. Windsor, offering Federal recognition to same-sex couples in states legalizing same-sex marriage and removing legal obstacles for homesexual Californians to marry, it’s a propitious time to reevaluate Bayard Rustin.
For those who have heard of Rustin, few understand the immense contributions he made to the civil rights movement. In 1963, he spent only ten weeks planning the March on Washington, still one of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history. Most credit King for adopting Gandhi’s tireless tactics of non-violence. But Brother Outsider, an award-winning documentary about Rustin’s life, showed he introduced King to these ideals. Rustin also reportedly came up with the idea of selling buttons, at 25 cents each, to fund the march — a tribute to the power of his grassroots organizing.
In light of the changing attitudes of recent times, Rustin may finally receive the attention owed to him for his substantial contribution. At this year’s 50th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington, President Obama decided to award Rustin posthumously with the Presidential Medal for Freedom, the highest civilian honor. “As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights,” the White House said of the President’s decision to honor Rustin this year.
But what really makes Rustin a compelling figure was his commitment to Gandhian non-violence.
Russia, according to Ian Bateson, is less a dystopian oddity than a fledgling democracy where a beleaguered leader needs a scapegoat to head off populist outrage.
The spread of anti-homosexual propaganda laws in Russia has coincided with a general tightening of freedoms and civil society, and most notably recent crackdowns on non-government organizations and opposition leaders. Asylee and photographer Alexander Kargaltsev, 28, sees it as all being interrelated. “[The new law] indulges populism to shore up popularity ratings and draw attention away from the areas where the government is failing such as education, healthcare, corruption, and reliance on natural resources.”
Judging by the standard set by the Soviet Union when homosexuality was illegal and then legalized in the Yeltsin era, that Boris the boozing buffoon Americans came to ridicule now looks positively enlightened.
Lyle Denniston has another of his redoubtably informative backgrounders on the politics of SCOTUS’ hearings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 on Tuesday.
For Tuesday’s hearing, under a one-hour schedule, the Court is not dividing the hearing between the issues of its authority to decide the case and the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Charles J. Cooper, of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Cooper & Kirk, will appear first for the sponsors of the ballot measure, with thirty minutes of time. He will be followed by the lawyer for the two same-sex couples who challenged that provision, Theodore B. Olson of the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, with twenty minutes. Finally, the Obama administration’s lawyer, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., will have ten minutes to make the government’s case as an amicus. The Chief Justice is likely to allow the hearing to go on beyond an hour.
More than twelve years ago, California voters went to the polls and approved Proposition 22. That changed a state law dealing with family relationships to provide that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” In May 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 22 violated the state’s constitution, which guaranteed equal protection of the laws. In response, more than 18,000 same-sex couples obtained licenses and were married.
In the November 2008 election, however, the state Supreme Court ruling was overturned at the ballot box by the state’s voters’ approval of Proposition 8. It won by a margin of 52.5% to 47.5% — about 5.4 million “yes” votes to about 4.9 million “no” votes. That changed the state constitution (not just a state law) to read exactly as Proposition 22 would have made state law to read: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The provision went into effect the day after the election, and same-sex marriages in the state stopped.