Tag Archives: Supreme Court

Anti-sodomy law still on the books? Get rid of it!

I just learned something today that I probably should have known already.

It’s that a law banning sodomy in Texas remains on the books, even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state’s anti-sodomy law to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Let me stipulate here that I am not comfortable writing about sex, so I’ll be discreet.


The anti-sodomy law was a vestige of the state’s prejudice against homosexual behavior. It banned same-sex intimacy. The Supreme Court then stepped in and said the state cannot ban such behavior, given that what two people do in the privacy of their home is, well, no one’s business but their own.

I thought the court’s striking down of the law meant the end of it. The state couldn’t enforce an unconstitutional law. Silly me. I was wrong.

The Texas Tribune reports that Texas isn’t alone among the states that still have anti-sodomy laws on the books. Eleven other states have these outdated laws.

They all should be repealed.

I find it incredibly hypocritical for legislators who contend that government shouldn’t interfere in people’s lives to retain a law that interferes in the most intrusive manner imaginable.

The highest court in the country ruled in 2003 that states could not punish people for engaging in same-sex intercourse, as Texas did.

The Legislature needs to finish off this law once and for all. Time’s wasting, ladies and gentlemen.


Death Row to freedom … how does one cope?

Of all the stories I read each day, the one type of story that stretches my comprehension deals with Death Row inmates who suddenly find themselves free to pick up the pieces of their lives.

I never can quite grasp how these individuals cope with such profound circumstances.

Anthony Ray Hinton sat on Alabama’s Death Row for nearly 30 years. He’s now a free man. He gets to go to the grocery store, watch the movie of his choice, visit with friends and family members … you know, do the things you and I get to do.


The court had convicted him of a 1985 murder, sentenced him to death and then let him sit there for three decades. The U.S. Supreme Court, though, ruled that Hinton didn’t receive a competent defense, to which he is entitled under the U.S. Constitution.Ā “He was a poor person who was convicted because he didn’t have the money to prove his innocence at trial. He was unable to get the legal help he needed for years. He was convicted based on bad science,” according to Bryan Stevenson, head of Equal Justice Initiative, based in Alabama.

Now the court has determined it doesn’t have enough evidence to kill him, so Hinton has been set free.

Good for him. I will pray for him as he seeks to acclimate himself to a life he hasn’t known for 30 years.

How he accomplishes that is the great mystery.


This story also brings to the forefront the great debate about capital punishment.

Anthony Hinton sat in an Alabama prison cell for more than half of the life he’s lived already. What if the state had executed him for a crime it couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt? In Hinton’s case, he reportedly had an alibi and couldn’t have been present when two men were shot to death.

It is fair to ask whether HintonĀ symbolizes other individuals whose guilt remain in question.

The ultimate punishment for crimes requires utterly incontrovertible proof that the person awaiting execution is guilty of the crime. Innocent people have been put to death; of that there can be no doubt.

A singleĀ wrongly executed individual is one too many.

Anthony Hinton has been spared.

Now the hard part commences. This man has to figure out how to live like a human being.

Godspeed, Anthony Ray Hinton.


Graham writes strategy for GOP failure

Lindsey Graham is saying things his fellow Republicans don’t want to hear.

But they should.

That is why the U.S. senator from South Carolina’s expected bid to become the next president of the United States is likely going to fail. He will be unable to persuade the fire-breathing GOP base that he’s tell them a harsh truth: You can’t govern if you’re angry.


As Politico reports, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas vows to “repeal ‘every word’ of Obamacare and Common Core if he becomes president. He would ‘abolish’ the IRS, flatten the Tax Code so Americans can fill out their taxes on a postcard, and ‘finally, finally, finally’ secure the border.”

Graham is trying to talk some sense into his fellow Republicans by reminding them that governing is a shared responsibility. They need to work with Democrats, not against them, if they expect to get anything done.

My hunch is that his message is falling on mostly deaf ears.

Republicans are mad at Democrats for what they perceive has been a shutting-them-out of the governing process. The GOP response now that it has control of both legislative houses? Payback, man.

Graham said it won’t work.

Here’s how Politico profiles Graham: “Graham, who has served in Congress since 1995 and is an attorney in the Air Force Reserve, is not without a wide range of votes that add to his baggage headed into 2016. He voted for both of President Barack Obamaā€™s Supreme Court nominees. He backs Loretta Lynch to be attorney general. He believes climate change is real and that the federal government should do something about it. Heā€™s open to a Simpson-Bowles-type approach to rein in big deficits, something that would raise tax revenues. And he was an architect of the comprehensive immigration bill, something the right wing of his party despises.”

What in the world is so unreasonable about Graham’s approach toĀ governing?

Everything, apparently, according to the far right wing of the Republican Party. Too bad.


Al Gore for president?

Ezra Klein is a bright young man. He’s a frequent TV news talk show guest and once contributed essays to the Washington Post.

He now writes for Vox — and he’s put forward a patently absurd, but still interesting idea: Al Gore should run for president of the United States.

Yeah, that Al Gore. TheĀ former two-term vice presidentĀ who collected more popular votes than Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 2000, only to lose the presidency when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to stop counting the ballots in Florida, which went to Bush and gave him the presidency.


What commends Gore to make the race? According to Klein, he has more unique ideas on how to govern than any of the other so-called alternatives to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Klein agrees with Gore that climate change is an international concern. He thinks Gore is credible on the issue and can make the case eloquently using the White House as his bully pulpit.

Does he have drawbacks? Oh sure.

Klein writes: “The problem with a Gore candidacy, to be blunt, is Gore. He can be a wooden candidate. His relationship with the press is challenging, to say the least. He is an aging politician in a country that loves new faces. His finances are complicated, and he made an insane sum of money by selling his cable network to Al Jazeera. His divorce from Tipper Gore means his personal life isn’t the storybook it once was. He is loathed by conservatives, who find his environmentalism to be rank hypocrisy from a jet-setting, Davos-attending mansion dweller ā€” as politically polarized as concern over climate change already is, Gore could polarize it yet further.”

Klein’s essay attached to this blog post is worth your time.

I’m hoping Al Gore reads it and gives the notion Klein putsĀ forth some thought.


Abortion bill: a non-starter

Let’s just put this one on ice: Abortion is not going to be one of those issues where the White House and Congress are going to compromise.

President Obama will veto HouseĀ Resolution 36 if it ever gets to his desk.

Let’s hope it doesn’t get there.


The bill, cobbled together by Republicans who themselves are split on this issue, would prohibit abortions 20 weeks after fertilization.

Yep. That’s it.

Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to choose whether to end a pregnancy. Or that most Americans favor granting women the opportunity to decide such matters. Thus, abortion remains legal. The rate of abortion also happens to be declining.

None of that matters. Republicans who control Congress say two things: They oppose government “interference” but they demand that government interfere in this most personal and intensely emotional decision possible.

The National Journal reports: “Republicans themselves are divided on the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. At last week’s GOP retreat, Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., called on House leadership not to bring up the bill this week, saying that the caucus needs ‘to be smart about how we’re moving forward.'”

It’s not smart to approve a bill they know will get a veto and which will not be overridden. It’s also not smart to tell a woman that she must take a pregnancy to full term. That is her call to make — exclusively.




Lynch deserves confirmation

Allow me to state once again my strong support of presidential prerogative in key appointments.

The current president, Barack Obama, has just nominated Loretta Lynch to become the nation’s next attorney general. The U.S. Senate will vote to confirm or reject the appointment. I join Republicans in wanting the next Senate, the one controlled by the GOP, to have a say in this vote.


But I always shudder at the prospect of trumped-up reasons by the loyal opposition coming to the fore during these hearings.

They crop up from both sides of the aisle.

The Constitution gives the president the authority to nominate Cabinet officers. It also gives the Senate the power to “advise and consent” to the appointments. I get all of that. I understand fully the “co-equal” aspect of government, which empowers the legislative branch with as much power as the executive.

Now that I’ve laid down those cards, I want to declare that the president is elected by the entire nation. Yes, the Senate — as a body — is elected by the same voter base. But it’s the president’s call on who he wants to serve on the Cabinet.

This president has chosen a highly qualified individual. Lynch is seen by both Democrats and Republicans as a workhorse. She’s fair and dogged in her pursuit of justice.

Now we’re getting some rumblings from the far right wing of the Republican Party that at least two senators want Lynch to state whether she believes a potential executive order from the president on immigration is legal. Well, the president has made no such order, so the demand to know such a thing deals with an extreme hypothetical scenario.

I’ve never backed away from this prerogative issue. I stood behind President George H.W. Bush when he nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court for precisely the same reason I back the current president. He’s elected by Americans who were told what kind of individual would receive these appointments. Thomas was qualified to serve on the High Court when the president selected him, although the American Bar Association’s recommendation was less than sparkling. Still, he was qualified.

I have stood behind President George W. Bush’s appointments of Samuel Alito and John Roberts for all those reasons.

My belief in the Lynch appointment falls in line what I perceive as the president’s prerogative as the chief executive of the federal government.

My sincere hope is that the Senate gives Lynch a thorough but fair hearing.

Chief justice going soft? Hardly

Conservatives reportedly are getting itchy over some recent decisions by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts.

Why, he’s siding with some of the Supreme Court’s liberals and that dreaded swing vote on the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

He’s just not the dependable conservative they thought they were getting when President Bush appointed him to the court.


These nervous nellies on the right ought to relax.

I don’t consider the chief justice to be a toady to the right. He’s now holding a lifetime job and is free from the political strings to which he was attached when the president appointed him chief justice. It might be — and it’s way too early to tell — heading down a trail blazed by other formerly “conservative” justices who turned out to be anything but.

Chief Justice Earl Warren took his seat after President Eisenhower appointed him in 1953. The very next year, the Warren Court handed down the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling that effectively ended segregation in the nation’s public schools systems. Ike called the Warren appointment his biggest mistake as president.

President Nixon appointed Harry Blackmun to the court in 1971 and all Blackmun did was write the Roe v. Wade decision that ruled abortion to be a protected right under the Constitution.

President Ford named John Paul Stevens to the court in 1975, thinking he was getting a conservative jurist to serve on the court. Stevens turned out to be one of the leading court liberals.

And what about Roberts? All he’s done is side with the liberal minority on the court in a 2012 vote that upheld the Affordable Care Act. It was a narrow decision that didn’t bring about the end of the world.

The Supreme Court remains a conservative body. It has three hard-core righties — Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Roberts might be tilting more toward the center, hardly to the left. Kennedy remains the pivotal swing vote. The four liberals remain dependably so: Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor have formed a Fearsome Foursome of liberal jurisprudence.

The hard right just needs to chill out. I doubt that the chief justice is going to turn on them. Hey, if he does, then he’s joining some pretty heady company among justices who rediscovered their consciences and their principles.

These 5 men have tin ears

The five men who voted on the U.S. Supreme Court to reel in a part of the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control provisions deserve a serious scolding.

They’re getting it now in the wake of that 5-4 court ruling that involves “closely held” companies, such as Hobby Lobby.


They ruled that these firms are not compelled to offer contraception coverage under the ACA. Some of these companies, such as family-owned Hobby Lobby, can cite religious grounds for refusing to provide coverage for female employees. IUDs, for example, are seen by some as a form of abortion. So, the court said, they don’t have to offer that kind of insurance provision.

Five justices — Chief Justice John Roberts and associate justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito — comprise the majority. Of the four court members who dissented, three of them — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — are, quite clearly, women; the fourth is Stephen Breyer.

The fact that five men decided this key ruling that affects women provides ammo for those seeking to make inroads in the upcoming mid-term elections. I’m going to bet that we’ll see this ruling show up in campaign ads around the country — perhaps even in Texas — as candidates seek to take note of the decision that has such an impact on the health care that women can receive from their employers.

Let’s add also that all five of the men comprising the court majority were appointed by Republican presidents. Let us also note that one isn’t likely to hear a single word, not one utterance, from those on the left complaining about “unelected judges” wielding too much power without having to answer to the voters for their decision.

The “answering” part will be left ultimately to voters who will get to determine who they want to sit in the president’s office and who they want to appoint the next Supreme Court justice when that opportunity presents itself.

Boehner changes mind on executive orders

It still boggles my mind that John Boehner wants to sue the president of the United States for exercising his constitutional rights as the nation’s chief executive.

That is, the president has decided to issue executive orders — imagine that — to move projects forward.


Why, how dare he do that, says the speaker of the House of Representatives.

Well, as it’s been reported on the link attached to this post, it was just fine for President George W. Bush to use executive authority, but not President Barack Obama.

Obama has pulled out his executive signing pen fewer times than Bush ever did. He’s done far fewer times than many of his predecessors.

But that hasn’t dissuaded the speaker from taking the president to court in what many people think now is a stunt, a sop to the tea party wing of his Republican congressional caucus.

Wait a minute. Didn’t Boehner once declare that the tea party wing wasn’t to be taken seriously? Didn’t he incur their wrath when he said that?

The wrath must have gotten to the speaker, who’s now saying that the president has failed to carry out his duties “faithfully,” whatever that means.

Today, the Supreme Court stuck it to the president when it voted 9-0 in ruling that Obama’s recess appointments were improper. I get the court’s standing in reeling in the president’s executive authority in making these appointments while Congress is in recess.

I do not quite understand what in the world has riled the speaker enough to sue the president for doing what the Constitution says he is entitled to do.

Maybe the speaker will let us all in what he has in mind … in due course.

More on prayer decision …

Accuse me if you will of suffering from some form of ideological schizophrenia, but I want to make one more comment on this week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on public prayer.

I don’t object to the ruling on constitutional grounds. The court ruled 5-4 that sectarian prayers that open government meetings are allowed under the Constitution, in that they don’t force people to adhere to certain religious tenets. I’m fine with that.

What is objectionable, though, are government bodies’ insistence on reciting Christian prayers in front of citizens who might not worship Jesus Christ. What is so wrong with making the prayers more ecumenical?

A Christian pastor friend of mine recently opened a service club meeting I attended with a prayer. He didn’t end it with the usual “in Christ’s name.” He offered the prayer in “God’s name.” I told him later how much I enjoyed the message of his invocation, but he took it to mean I appreciated the ecumenical nature of the blessing. “I realize that not everyone here believes in Jesus,” he said. I nodded in agreement, although that wasn’t the intent of my compliment.

This ruling also reminds me a bit of what is billed in Amarillo as a “Community Prayer Breakfast,” which takes place every November around the time of Thanksgiving. If the city, which sponsors this event, is going to call it a “community” gathering, then it needs to be far more inclusive in its message of fellowship.

I’ve attended my share of these prayer breakfasts, which take place in the Civic Center. They resemble Christian tent revival meetings in their zeal to proclaim people’s faith in Jesus Christ. If you’re Jewish or — heaven forbid — Muslim and you’re passing through Amarillo and want to attend the Community Prayer Breakfast, which often is advertised on billboards along Interstate 40, you’ll learn right away that the event isn’t precisely what you think it is.

The Supreme Court decided correctly on constitutional grounds on the case it heard. However, the lesson likely won’t stick in the minds of government officials who keep insisting on opening their meetings with prayers that extol a certain religious faith at the exclusion of others.

By all means, let’s pray at these public meetings — but let’s try to include everyone who gather to seek God’s blessings.