Thursday, March 28, 2013

Marriage Equality and SCOTUS

This week has been a historical week for both gay rights and the US Supreme Court. Two major cases involving gay marriage have been heard before the Court. One was the case in California where Proposition 8 , which bans same sex marriage, is being challenged and the other case is DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same sex married couples from states which allow gay marriages.

The oral arguments are now over and the 9 justices must decide the cases. After hearing about some of the questions asked by most of the Justices it would be tempting to make a prediction, but that would be too dangerous. The Justices are almost evenly divided, with 4 Democratic nominated members and 4 Republican nominated members and a Republican Chief Justice, but it is still difficult to predict, except for 2 members. It is tradition for Justices to keep their personal feelings on issues to themselves, but Justice Scalia has many times broken that tradition with his strongly derogatory statements against gays and voting rights for minorities. He definitely will not support any type of gay or any other minority rights. Then there is Clarence Thomas, who has not asked a single question in his many years on the bench. He is the only Black member and is strongly conservative. He also has voted against affirmative action and other issues that would help Blacks and other minorities. He has an attitude of "I made it to the top, so to hell with you, if you haven't".

Justice Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts will be the swing votes. Kennedy has a history of supporting gay rights, but no one knows what Roberts will do, especially after supporting Obamacare. The court seemed to attack DOMA in the oral arguments, which could give a hint of how they will vote. They should make their decision sometime in June. So we will have to wait until then.

In the polls public support for same sex marriages has shown a dramatic increase over the past decade. Even a majority of young Republicans support gay marriage, while the majority of the older members of the party are against it, as well as most other issues benefiting minorities. The Justices today have effectively shot down the arguments of the conservative and religious right opponents. I felt very good about one of the Justice's reply to a lawyer saying marriage is solely for the purpose of procreation. The Justice said that if a gay couple should be denied marriage, so then should couples where one or both are over the child bearing age or couples who are unable to have children. The lawyer didn't respond.This reminds me of a friend, or I should say former friend of mine who was always very conservative, but since Obama's election has gone way over the edge. She and her husband have always said they are in favor of gay rights, but have always supported anti gay politicians. Recently she asked why I was so against anyone who supported DOMA. I explained my views to her. In her reply she stated that both her and her husband believe that the purpose of marriage is to have and raise children. This from a couple who have no children, are not religious and have often professed their extreme dislike of children and also said because of their marriage they are more financially secure. Typical conservative Republican hypocrites!

If DOMA is found to be unconstitutional many deserving people will benefit, either from government benefits such as Social Security, immigration or other federal benefits or just a feeling of equality and security. I am especially interested in immigration rights for bi-national couples, that are denied under  DOMA. There are many bi-national couples who are forced to live apart simply because of their sexual orientation. There are many people, like myself, who are forced to live in another country, because my country treats me as a second class citizen. The US government always emphasizes human rights in dealing with China and other developing nations, but it's about time the government starts looking at human rights back home. I can only hope that SCOTUS will make the rights decision for me and millions of other Americans.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013



I know it doesn't seem like spring for many people in the US, but it is and with spring comes Easter. I would like to wish all of my readers, family and friends, who celebrate, a very Happy Easter. It will soon really be spring.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Time for My Yearly Punishment

Yesterday I finally completed my 2012 tax returns. As I always owe some money I don't hurry my returns. As some of you may know, I am retired and live in Malaysia. Because I live abroad I not only have to file my federal and state taxes I also have to pay a penalty for living abroad.

I don't mind paying my taxes, but I do mind filling out the extra paperwork required, which is called FBAR, Foreign Bank Accounts Report.  Apparently the purpose of the FBAR is to catch those people who have millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts, like Mitt Romney. As anyone living anywhere in the world I need a bank account to pay for my daily living expenses and emergencies. But because I live abroad I am treated as a criminal. The US government is not only pressuring me, but it is pressuring banks in foreign countries who have American clients. It has gotten so bad in some countries that some banks have refused to open accounts for Americans, which is a real hardship for those Americans working and living abroad. I am retired and live on a fixed income and do my own taxes, as I do not have a complicated financial situation. Those very people the IRS are out to get have the money, the means, the lawyers and the greed to get around these requirements, whereas I sheepishly comply, face with threats of imprisonment. There is one other form, which is required of expats, who have foreign bank accounts totaling $200,000 and over. This is called the FATCA, Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. Fortunately I do not have to use this form as I both permanently live abroad and my assets are way less than $200,000

To add insult to injury, as I am filling out my tax forms and the FBAR forms I keep thinking that because I also live abroad, my own benevolent government will not allow me to use any of the money I paid to medicare all during my working career. I am constantly reminded that I am a second class citizen, because I live abroad.

Ablog about liberal politics andsocial issues