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And the Wait Begins: Arguments end in Second Same-Sex Marriage Case

And the Wait Begins: Arguments end in Second Same-Sex Marriage Case

 

A majority of Supreme Court justices posed questions in oral arguments today regarding the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, indicating the court may strike down a key part of the legislation that denies legally married gay couples the same benefits provided to straight couples. 
 
The court is expected to offer a ruling with three months on the constitutionality of the 1996 federal law that defines marriage for federal tax and benefit purposes as only between a man and a woman. 
 
Today’s arguments ended two days of presentations before the Supreme Court on one of the most landmark social issues of this generation—the right  married esbian and gay couples to receive the benefits of law provided to straight couples. 
 
Following the arguments, Edith Windsor, aged 83 stood on the steps of the courthouse and proclaimed something she kept secret for decades prior to her challenge against the Defense of Marriage Act. 
 
“I am a lesbian, okay, who just filed a lawsuit against the United States of America, which is overwhelming for me,” she proclaimed. She had just listened to two hours of arguments before the Supreme Court on whether or not she was required to pay higher estate taxes than someone in a heterosexual marriage. 
 
Windsor attempted to explain to the media why she and her deceased spouse, Thea Spyer married in the State of New York when the law was established decades after they first met. 
 
Marriage, Windsor said, is a “magic word, for anyone who does not understand why we want it and why we need it.”
 
Under the Federal Defense of Marriage act, pension, Social Security and bankruptcy benefits, along with other federal provisions, are not granted to lesbian and gay couples who are legally married in states that allow such unions. 
 
As a result of this federal law, Windsor was required to assume an estate tax bill that was much larger than what straight couples were required to pay. Moreover, because Windsor’s decades-long partner was a woman, the United States government did not recognize their same-sex marriage, even though their home state of New York did.  
The United States Supreme Court was divided among ideological lines during the arguments regarding the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. If legally married, lesbian and gay couples were denied more than 1,100 federal benefits. 
The potential swing judge, Justice Anthony Kennedy questioned the reach of the legislation, saying it represents a “grave risk of running into traditional state police powers to regulate marriage.”
 
This statement caused observers to speculate Kennedy joining the four liberal-leaning justices to create a majority against the Defense of Marriage Act. 
 
 
Source: Associated Press

Federalism

Federalism

A Look at Federalism in the United States


In the United States, government is recognized on both the state and national level. This relationship between the levels is known as federalism. While federalism in the United States responds to the political atmosphere, there still a balance between state and national government. 
The first American governments after the revolutionary war did not use federalism. Prior to the U.S. Constitution, America was made up of colonies that were under the rule of England. While these colonies did cooperate with each other, particularly during the Revolutionary war, they were essentially self-sustained bodies of government.
The idea of combining these smaller divisions to centralize government as is found in federalism was heavily criticized. These colonies had fought against the oppression of England, which had a central government, similar to the national government suggested in the U.S. Constitution. However, soon after declaring independence, it was clear that individual states would not be able to sustain themselves without creating some form of a central government 
Federalism helped unify the states without destroying all of their governing powers. For example, a centralized government allows the states to use the same currency. However, states would still be able to set their own laws as well, for example, whether a death penalty would be used in the state.
The U.S. Constitution was drafted, which carefully defined just how federalism would be and the relationship between the state and national government. It also worked to limit the national government’s power while protecting the rights of citizens.
While the type of federalism in the United States has varied throughout American history, there are still certain powers that will always remain so by the authority of the U.S. Constitution.
Reserved Powers: These are specifically for just the state, such as police powers, licensing, education, conducting elections, regulating intrastate commerce, and health regulations.
Granted Powers: These powers, sometimes called the enumerated or express powers are listed in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. These consist of the powers that the federal government have. Some examples include regulating commerce, coining money, declaring war, establishing post offices, collecting taxes and making legislation that enforces the Constitution.
Concurrent Powers: Powers that are held by both the state and federal government, for example taxation, setting up courts, creating and enforcing laws, constructing and maintaining roads, and certain spending.
While the powers of both the state and national governments are defined in the U.S. Constitution, there can be shifts to the balance in federalism.
For example, in the late 18th century, Americans were more concerned on strongly limiting the Federal government, but doing so made the Federal government effectively useless. It was necessary move away from the Federalist papers and to create a new government through the U.S. Constitution since states could not be expect to have objective and educated views on a national level.
The Federal government was given more power in the 19th century by Justice John Marshall who felt that the U.S. Constitution did not create defined layers of the government and portrayed this view in many of his rulings, such as how the Commerce Clause could be used by the Federal government as seen in Gibbons v. Ogden.
Justice Marshall’s attempt and strengthening the national government in federalism was slightly undone by Justice Taney, his successor who would felt that the national government was limited exclusively to the enumerated powers while the states would receive everything else.
Since the Regan administration up until the beginning of the 21st century, there was a push to return powers to the states from the Federal government, particularly through court decisions that evaluated the Federal government’s powers through gun possession, police powers, the Commerce clause, and agriculture.

Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed Against City of San Jacinto

Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed Against City of San Jacinto


On November 13, 2012, the Justice Department announced that it filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of San Jacinto in California for violating the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act.  The lawsuit was filed for the city’s treatment of group homes for disabled persons.  


According to the complaint, the city has made it extremely difficult for group homes of people with disabilities to remain and operate in the city.  The zoning codes currently state groups homes that are not required licensing from the state—and even some licensed homes—are not allowed zoning in the city.  


The complaint also alleges that the city targeted housing for people with disabilities during a sweep in November of 2008.  During the sweep, armed officers and deputies in uniform showed up to multiple residences, interrogated the residents with disabilities, and made them fill out a questionnaire intended for people with mental disabilities.  


The lawsuit occurred after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a large number of complaints from operators of group homes around the city.  The Justice Department is asking the court to make the city stop enforcing the discriminatory laws and make reasonable accommodations for all group homes.  The Justice Department is also seeking monetary damages for victims of the civil rights violations.  


Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, stated, “No person should be denied an equal opportunity for housing in his or her community, or suffer harassment or intimidation, because he or she is a person with a disability.  The Justice Department is committed to preventing discriminatory treatment of people with disabilities.”


André Birotte, Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Central district of California, stated, “This suit is part of my office’s continuing efforts, in partnership with DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, to ensure that all residents of the Central District are accorded the rights to which there are entitled under the law.”


Source: U.S. Department of Justice
 

Structure of the U.S. States

Structure of the U.S. States

The Structure of the U.S. States
 
The United States is made up of 50 federated states that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this, an individual can be a citizen of both the State and the Federal entity simultaneously. This comes from the United States Constitution, which gives power to the both the state and federal government.
The U.S. state’s power is specifically delegated by the constitution in the 10th amendment of the Bill of Rights which says that any power that is not given to the federal government or is then received by the States or to its people, as long is the power has not been specifically prohibited to the states.
Traditionally, the 10th amendment leaves certain things to be regulated by the U.S. states such as:
• Public health
• Public education
• Transportation
• Water supply
• Electrical grids
• Local law enforcement
• Roads
• Telecommunications
• Intrastate commerce
With certain amendments and interpretations of the Constitution, there has been an increasing trend of the federal government playing a stronger role.
U.S. states have the power to organize their governments however they see fit as long as it is constitutionally sound and it is a republic.  Most states have used a three-branch system that imitates that of the Federal government, with an executive, legislative, and a judiciary branch.
• The executive branch of a U.S. state is led by the governor, who is the chief executive. He leads the Cabinet of the State in states that have a plural executive and has the power to veto legislation.
• The legislative branch of a U.S. state is usually a bicameral legislature (the exception being Nebraska’s unicameral legislature). There is the state Senate, which is the upper house, and the lower house which can be the State Assembly, House of Delegates, or the House of Representatives.
• The organization of the judiciary branch can vary between U.S. states, but their purpose is to still protect an individual’s Constitutional rights through due process. Many states have different levels of courts, from trial level, to the first appellate, and the state Supreme Court. With the exception of Louisiana which uses civil or code law, all U.S. states use common law.
The U.S. started with just the original 13 and since then has expanded to 50 states. Article 4 Section 3 of the Constitution points out that while new states can be admitted into the Union by Congress, the new state cannot be made up from jurisdictions of other states, or the combination of multiple states, whether partially or fully, unless all involved state legislatures and Congress agree to it. However, most states have been incorporated after being a territory organized under Article 4 section 3’s Territorial Clause.

French Lawmakers Approve Same-Sex Marriage Bill

French Lawmakers Approve Same-Sex Marriage Bill


Same-sex marriage in France is now one step closer to legality, as lawmakers in the lower house of parliament approved a bill that extends the right to adopt and marry to same-sex couples.


The initiative secured approval in the National Assembly by a vote of 329 to 229 and 10 abstains. Before it can be placed into law, the bill must still go before the Senate; if passed, it would formally mark the most critical advancement for French gay rights advocates in more than 10 years.


France is not the only nation debating the polarizing issue of gay marriage, as UK lawmakers also took a big step last week toward legalizing the measure when they appropriated the second reading of a bill in the House of Commons.


While a significant number of Parliament members backed the legislation, which is backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, the push has prompted widespread controversy and rebellion within Cameron’s conservative party. The bill in the United Kingdom must go through several more stages before it can officially be made into a law. The Church of England, and other religious institutions, are among the organizations vehemently opposed to UK legislation.


Extending the right to adopt and marry to homosexual couples in France was one of President Hollande’s electoral pledges during his campaign efforts last year.


France’s National Assembly, which is dominated by Hollande’s Socialist Party, approved the most critical article of law with an overwhelming majority earlier this month. The left, which also controls the majority of the Senate, faces stiff opposition from social conservatives and the Roman Catholic Church as huge numbers routinely turn out for protest marches in the nation’s capital of Paris.
The archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, claims that offering marriage and adoption to same-sex couples would be viewed as a transformation of marriage that would impact everyone. The bishop went onto say that failing to recognize gender difference within the union of marriage would be a deceit that would damage the foundations of society and lead to widespread acts of discrimination.


That said, the legislation has secured wide backing from gay rights advocates, including from the French, gay, lesbian and transgender organization Inter-LGBT who claims that legislation would be a significant step forward for France in terms of equality of rights.


A law legalizing civil unions in France was passed in 1999 under a previous Socialist government. Known in the nation as PACS, the civil union agreement may be entered into by straight or homosexual couples and offers many but not all of the rights of a traditional marriage.
 

Jobless Benefits May be Cut by 10%

Jobless Benefits May be Cut by 10%

 

Forced federal budget cuts initiated by Congress could cost the jobless up to 10% in their unemployment benefits. This proposal would take place March 1st if the budget proposal passes.
 
Aside from unemployment benefits, many other safety net programs, including Medicaid and food stamps, are protected from the $85 billion in forced spending cuts. 
 
The unemployment benefits vulnerable to the budget cuts are those provided by the federal government. These federal benefits kick in when your state benefits, which last up to a maximum of 26 weeks, are exhausted. Eligible workers currently can collect these federal benefits for up to 47 weeks. Federal unemployment benefits, which average roughly $300 a week, act as an emergency measure. Congress has been offering said benefits since 2008 as a stop-gap to protect the millions of Americans struggling to find new employment in a difficult economy.
 
The forced spending cuts are set to take effect next month to trim the program’s funding. If the budget goes through, recipients of unemployment benefits could lose an average of nearly $400 through the end of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30th. 
State benefits would not be impacted by the proposed budget cut. 
 
An estimated 3.8 million Americans are receiving federal unemployment benefits. The reduction in individual employment benefits will vary based on where the individual lives. This variance arises because states are scrambling to adjust their unemployment system if Congress fails to avoid these cuts. The longer a state waits; the next unemployment check a person receives could be very small. 
A number of the proposed federal cuts will not be felt immediately, but the reduction of unemployment benefits will surely ripple through the economy at a fairly rapid pace. 
 
The proposed budget cuts would also slash the resources an unemployed person can utilize at job centers, as funding aimed at assisting disabled workers, disadvantaged youth and low-skilled adult workers is set to be sliced. Veterans’ transition assistance programs, which aid military personnel locate jobs when they return from deployment, would also be negatively affected if the proposal goes through. 
 
Moreover, states will also lose a portion of their funding to administer the unemployment benefit program, which could result in slower processing claims and widespread staff layoffs.  
 

Throng of Hundreds of Thousands March in Puerto Rico against Gay Rights

Throng of Hundreds of Thousands March in Puerto Rico against Gay Rights

 

Roughly 200,000 religious Christians marched to voice their anti-gay sentiment in Puerto Rico on Monday afternoon. The march is considered the largest anti-gay demonstration in the commonwealth’s history.
 
Forming around San Juan’s Capitol building, hundreds of thousands religious Puerto Ricans halted traffic while defending the traditional heterosexual marriage concept. Traffic was halted for miles as the throng protested against the premise of granting gay couple’s legal rights. 
 
The mass demonstration, which took over three weeks to organize, attracted protested from all sects of the Christian religion who vehemently oppose same-sex marriage. And while many of these religious individuals simply rallied against the premise of same-sex marriage, a decent percentage were openly opposed to granting any rights to homosexual couples, including protections against violence. 
 
The protest comes in light of efforts by some Puerto Rican lawmakers who are seeking to pass an amendment to the nation’s Domestic Violence Act 54, which would provide protection rights for all couples, gay or straight. 
 
Puerto Rican Senator Luis Vega Ramos claims that the measure is essential because it provides justice and equal access to protection from intimidation, assault or domestic violence. However, in Puerto Rico, massive opposition to the movement could prevent homosexual couples from receiving any sort of protection against acts of violence.
 
The throng of protestors, who blasted gospel music and brandished large posters and signs, alleged that the proposed law would discriminate against the church. 
 
“We are worried that the legislation will discriminate against the church, and we are concerned that public education will be used to damage our children because it presents them with behaviors that their parents don’t support,” said Pastor Cesar Muniz, a spokesman for the nation’s religious group Puerto Rico for the Family. 
 
Monday’s protest marks the largest anti-gathering rally in the history of Puerto Rico. The rally deeply offended members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, as many LGBT members held small counters protests that, unfortunately, went unnoticed. 
 
A number of Puerto Rican legislators have expressed opposition to same-sex marriages while still fighting for violence protections for gay couples. The American commonwealth remains largely divided over the issue, especially among the religious communities. 
 
 

 

McCarthyism

McCarthyism

McCarthyism before McCarthy
“McCarthyism” is a term that was coined by a cartoon by Herbert Block featured in the Washington Post on March, 29, 1950. It was used to describe the campaigned carried out by Joseph R. McCarthy, who at the time was a Republican Senator of Wisconsin. 
While McCarthyism described the period which Joseph McCarthy campaigned, there were preexisting attitudes from events over 30 years prior that created what is now known as the McCarthy era.
The start of McCarthyism and the McCarthy era can be earliest tracked from the 1910’s. After World War I, there was an extreme sense of patriotism in American society. From here came the birth of the First Red Scare from 1919 to 1920.
There was a nationwide fear of dissent from the government, particularly from communists, anarchists, and socialists. During this time, many civil liberties were ignored, and innocent people were jailed for expressing their dissent. 
Americans were very concerned about the possibility of communists infiltrating the United States, where they could potentially subvert labor unions, schools, and other institutions. There was particular concern with the labor unions, as two of the largest unions had strong objections to WWI and had even held strikes for various reasons. These strikes were often associated to “Reds,” demonizing many of the strikes after as crimes against society to conspire against the government and establish communism.
In the aftermath of World War II and the deconstruction of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Russia was quickly becoming a powerful and influential force on the global stage. Russia was extending communist influence over many parts of Eastern Europe and China was at this point on the verge of becoming a communist state. The Korean War also demonstrated the fight against Communists, as the United States, South Korea, and the U.N. fought against North Korean and Chinese communists.
Both Government and private agencies began to investigate, hoping to find evidence of this subversive activity. In the 1930’s the House Committee on Un-American Activities was formed, and was revived throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s.
In 1950, Joseph R. McCarthy was a young Senator who was hoping to seek political gain. He created an effective and well publicized, but morally questionable campaign using what is now known as McCarthyism, which relentlessly sought to expose Communists in the United States. His McCarthyism-filled Anticommunist campaign, which continued till 1953, attempted to identify and eliminate communists as well as “fellow travelers” in the government. 
In the same year, McCarthy claimed he had a list of 205 names of individuals who were Communists working within the State Department, which he never released. Many Congress members approved of his questionable ethics due to the success he received from them. It was the use of these heavy-handed tactics that Herbert Block coined McCarthyism in his cartoon, just weeks after the announcement of this list.
The Senator’s use of McCarthyism was initially endorsed by many voters and politicians, but ultimately McCarthy destroyed his reputation when he attacked the U.S. army by accusing them of promoting communists. He submitted evidence that was found to be fraudulent and after attempting to wrongly discredit one of the attorneys hired by the U.S. Army, his McCarthyism was quickly exposed his popularity effectively vanished, followed by weakened attitudes of McCarthyism.

Speaker of the House

Speaker of the House

The Speaker of the House of Representatives is the highest ranking officer of the United States House of Representatives. The position requires the speaker to head the House as well as the majority political party as well as various procedural and administration functions. The Speaker of the House also leads his or her own congressional district.
The authority of the Speaker of the House is given in Article one, section 2 which specifically states “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.”
This means that the representatives of the House can choose the Speaker as their presiding officer from the members of the majority party. One elected, the Speaker have the ability to choose other officers such as the clerk for the House, doorkeeper, sergeant at arms, chaplain, and other nonmembers. They can also initiate the process of removing federal officers by a vote and then trial by the Senate.
While a speaker does not officially have to be an elected member of Congress, this has never happened. The Speaker of the House is chosen every midterm election by a vote of the members of the house. After elected the Speaker of the House serves a two year term. While serving, they still act as the representative from their congressional district.
While the Speaker of the House does not always preside over regular meetings, they do often preside over special join sessions of Congress when the House of Representatives hosts the Senate. Here the Speaker of the House will determine when bills should be debated or voted on.
One of the most important features of the position of Speaker of the House is that the Speaker is only behind the Vice president in terms of the line of Presidential Succession, followed by the President pro tempore of the Senate. To date, this succession has never been acted on.
Currently Republican representative John Andrew Boehner from Ohio’s 8th district is the 61st Speaker of the House. Boehner is a graduate of Xavier University who earned a Bachelor’s degree in business. He first worked in the private sector soon ran for public office in 1984 in the Ohio General Assembly.
Boehner was then elected Congress in 1990 where he served on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce as chairman. He was elected as a House Majority Leader in 2006 and finally as the Speaker of the House in 2010. 

John D. Rockefeller

John D. Rockefeller

The Oil Industry’s Revolutionary Man: John D. Rockefeller


Early Life
John D. Rockefeller was born in Richford, New York on July 8, 1839. From an early age, his parents created an understanding of the value of money and how important work and savings were to being successful.  In 1851 his family moved to Owego, New York and a year later he attended Owego Academy where he particularly excelled in arithmetic.
His family then moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1853. Here John D. Rockefeller attended high school between 1853 and 1855. Rockefeller found himself to be particularly apt at math and debate
College and Early Career
John D. Rockefeller completed 10 weeks at Folsom’s Commercial College in the spring of 1855. In  his brief time there he learned bookkeeping, commercial history, penmanship, mercantile customs, and banking  and exchange. He also learned how to properly write up contracts from his father.
At the age of 16, John D. Rockefeller started his job search and through perseverance, obtained a position in 1855 as an assistant bookkeeper at Hewitt and Tuttle. His strong work ethic and honesty impressed his employers and by 1858, he had acquired more responsibilities at Hewitt and Tuttle, such as arranging complicated transportation deals.
John D. Rockefeller began to explore his own trading ventures that he felt he could be successful in. In 1859, John D. Rockefeller started a business with his neighbor, Maurice Clark that commissioned merchants in hay, grain, meats, and other goods. Clark and Rockefeller soon became a very successful and competitive business, which rapidly expanded during the Civil War.
John D. Rockefeller realized that business would be limited in Cleveland with incoming railroad innovations. He shifted his attention away from agricultural products to raw industrial materials that were available in the area. 
John D. Rockefeller’s Shift to the Oil Industry. 
Oil was found in Pennsylvania in 1859, shifting the attention of the economy. In 1865, Rockefeller purchased the firm of Andrews, Clark & Company which handled oil refining and quickly began to extend the company out. With a few changes in partners, the firm became Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler and by 1868, it was world’s largest refiner.
John D. Rockefeller later started the Standard Oil Company of Ohio in 1870, which held one tenth of all the oil business at the time. He then decided to consolidate all oil refining firms to create one large organization, creating Standard Oil in 1871. While Standard Oil was successful for many years after, it was eventually dissolved in the 1890’s.
The End of Rockefeller’s Career
John D. Rockefeller had a partial nervous breakdown in the early 1890’s. Meanwhile his business was so large and he has acquired so much wealth that he did not know what to do with it. Much of it was invested as well as donated to charities. He sold his iron-ore businesses and retired in 1897.
From retirement until his death, John D. Rockefeller participated in many philanthropic activities, for example helping to finance the University of Chicago as well as starting the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research.
Rockefeller died on May 23, 1937 at the age of 97.