I.R.S. to Recognize All Gay Marriages, Regardless of State

August 29, 2013 By: seeta Category: Civil Rights, Intersectionality, LGBTQ

From NYT:

All legally married same-sex couples will be recognized for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether the state where they live recognizes the marriage, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service said Thursday.

The federal rules change is one of many stemming from the landmark Supreme Court decision in June that struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. That ruling found that same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits, but left open the question of how the federal government would actually administer those benefits.

As of the 2013 tax year, same-sex spouses cannot file federal tax returns as if they were single. Instead, they will have to opt for filing as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.” The location of their marriage — as long as it is legal — or residence does not matter: a same-sex couple who marry in Albany and move to Alabama will be treated the same as a same-sex couple who marry and live in Massachusetts.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax-filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in a statement. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

The Treasury said that the ruling applies to “all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an I.R.A., and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.”

CI: The “Criminal” Court and the Needlessly Divided “Left”

June 26, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Imperialism, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights, Voting Rights, White Privilege

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

The “Criminal Court” and the Needlessly Divided “Left”
by nancy a heitzeg

Today, I was going to post a nice uplifting tribute to Sister Helen Prejean – on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the publication of Dead Man Walking. The power of one voice, and yes that is true.

Maybe someday. In light of recent news items and SCOTUS rulings, frankly i am not in the mood. While media and many are distracted by cult of personality wars over Paula Deen, Edward Snowden and his mouthpiece, The Supreme Court of the United States set the Civil Rights clock back on many issues of legal equality, I can’t even began to calculate just how far.

Yes the odious Section 3 of DOMA was ruled unconstitutional today in United States v. Windsor and SCOTUS further invalidated the California same-sex marriage ban in Hollingsworth v. Perry. (Please note: these rulings do not over-turn the same-sex marriage bans in 37 states.) These are great and overdue victories on the long road to LGBTQ equal rights under the law. Forward.

But the whiplash inducing “logic” of SCOTUS both giveth and taketh away. A series of decisions this term undercut hard fought legislation that served to protect minorities and women. All, of course, while strengthening the power of corporations, as ever post – Citizens United. Key cases this term decided mostly by 5 old smug white  black-robed white-minded  men:

This is the legal solidification of the color-blind paradigm just decried here. War on Black – now fully legalized in soothing “race-neutral” language. War on Women too.

So, who beyond the immediately impacted groups and their proven allies is gonna care? And then what are you gonna do? And i am talking about real world ACTION not signing some damn on-line petition. or tweeting until your fingers blee,d or writing a blog post calling for the fantasy of a Constitutional Amendment on Voting. Doesn’t count – doesn’t cut it. People died for these rights – where you gonna be for the next round?


DOMA Unconstitutional Under Fifth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause

June 26, 2013 By: seeta Category: Civil Rights, LGBTQ

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court overturned DOMA.

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Five Controversial Decisions to Watch From the Supreme Court Next Week

June 21, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Education, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Poverty, Voting Rights, White Privilege

From Colorlines:

We’re all waiting on five very important decisions from the Supreme Court. It handed down just three unrelated decisions [yesterday]. That surprised many observers since the term comes to a close next week, and leaves a lot hanging in balance. The court will now hand down five controversial decisions on Monday, and possibly add one more day (likely next Thursday, but we really don’t know at the moment). Here’s a quick primer on the cases we’re looking out for:

  • Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. This is the affirmative action case.
  • Shelby County v. Holder. This is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act case (not to be confused with another seminal voting rights case that the high court ruled on earlier this week).
  • Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. This is the case about tribal sovereignty, played out in the attempted adoption of a Cherokee baby by a white couple.
  • Hollingsworth v. Perry. This is the California Proposition 8 case, which amended the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
  • United States v. Windsor. This case is about Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

Check back to get a better sense of what the future of affirmative action, voting rights, tribal sovereignty, and marriage equality looks like for the highest court in the land next week.

Four Burning Questions for Dean Spade, professor, lawyer, civil rights activist

April 10, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, Workers' Rights

An interview with Dean Spade excerpted from McGill Reporter:

This year it’s ten years since same-sex marriage was first possible in Canada and the US Supreme Court will soon rule on the question. What is so troublesome about the push for same-sex marriage?

The same-sex marriage agenda in the U.S. has been heavily critiqued by a wide variety of queer and trans activists because it fails to meaningfully address the key material problems facing queer and trans people, such as criminalization, immigration enforcement, poverty, health care access and homelessness, while it consumes enormous resources. It also has been a conservative shift in queer and trans politics, which has moved away from feminist and anti-racist critiques of marriage as a terrible and unfair way to distribute life chances and toward a conservative celebration of marriage as key to healthy families. This has happened alongside a right wing push in the U.S. to blame poverty on people’s failure to marry and to further cut poverty alleviation programs. In the U.S., after same-sex marriage is legal, queer and trans people will still face the same problems of a racist and violent growing immigration enforcement system, a growing wealth divide, and racist mass imprisonment. Some people who have immigration status or wealth to share with a partner will benefit, but the queer and trans people in the worst situations will still be facing the same dangers.

You’ve expressed serious concerns about trans people’s push for formal legal equality, such as their inclusion in protection from hate crime. What’s wrong with that goal?

Hate crime laws that provide more resources to law enforcement and/or enhance criminal penalties have been critiqued by many trans organizations and activists because they do nothing to prevent attacks against trans people but they expand the criminal punishment system which is the most significant source of violence against trans people in the U.S. They build that system in our names, and that system has been growing rapidly for several decades, such that now the US is the most imprisoning country in the world, with five per cent of the world’s population and 25 per cent of the world’s prisoners. A trans movement that is really about reducing harm and violence to trans people has to be an anti-criminalization movement, and a movement that doesn’t just try to get the law to say something our lives are meaningful, but instead seeks to dismantle legal systems that are killing us.

In your organizing and activism, you follow a different approach. Tell us about that.

I’m part of trans activism and organizing that centers poverty and racism. This work aims to analyze what is actually shortening trans people’s lives and work on changing those material conditions, so it centers trans people experiencing imprisonment, poverty, immigration enforcement and other life and death issues. It seeks to provide immediate support to people in those conditions, to dismantle systems that create those dangers, and to build systems and ways of being together that actually give people what they need.

What would be a major victory or advance for you on the path towards greater justice for trans people?

I’ll name a few of the things people in the US are working on that would be a significant benefit to trans people’s well-being: decriminalizing prostitution, stopping federal programs where local police forces turn immigrants they arrest over to the immigration authorities, ending exclusion of trans health care from health insurance programs, getting rid of surgery requirements for changing gender on ID, decriminalizing drugs, ending “3 strikes” laws, getting rid of sex offender registries. These are all vitally important efforts to address the violence trans people are facing, and they are part of broader trans political visions of a world without prisons, border, or poverty.

CI: For Intervening Variables, Not Yet Seen

March 27, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prisoner Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

For Intervening Variables, Not Yet Seen
by nancy a heitzeg

“…while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

Eugene V.  Debs, Statement to the Court Upon Being Convicted of Violating the Sedition Act, 1918

This was going to be a rant. Certainly, there is no shortage of stress-inducing topics to choose from:

The Supreme Court of the United States

The Roberts Gang seems about ready, with one hand, to throw a crumb of marriage recognition to gays and lesbians. As usual, the outcome and scope of the rulings will hang on the whims of one Anthony Kennedy. How tired are we of worrying about his moods? With the other hand, the SCTOUS may well undo any last remnant of Affirmative Action and gut the Voting Rights Act, rendering the the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause completely color-blind. And of course, turning back the clock oh 50 to 100+ years depending on how you want to do the math. Derrick Bell is still right – And We Are Not Saved.

NYPD Stop and Frisk

Yes, the odious racist practice is finally on trial, with gripping testimony and audio evidence that verifies what those subject to it have always known — said plain here in this exchange between Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack and Police Officer Pedro Serrano:

“Mott Haven is full of black people, so who are the right people?” Serrano asks.

MacCormack: “The problem was male blacks, 14 to 20, 21.”

Of course, we are pleased that this racist, ineffective and unconstitutional practice is on trial, but how many times do we really have to do this? How many times must white supremacist policing be framed as the result of a few bad policies enacted by a few “bad apples” in a few big cities? However many well-intentioned individuals choose to sign up for “protect and serve”, the damn system has been built from the start on “racial profiling” or any name you want to give it. Somebody say so.

The Toxic Gun Debate: Fear, Loathing, and Criminalization

No winners here. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg goes full hypocrite; Democrats go “Law and Order” with calls for more police in school and increased mandatory minimums for unlawful gun possession; the President goes Moynihan in Chicago; the NRA goes even more race-baiting crazy;  and  nice white liberals, inconsolable over dead white children killed btw by young white men,  call for more more more laws and  harsher penalties that will, as always, be enforced against “urban” communities of color. And Nobody will be  “safer” for it.

More “Smoke and Mirrors”

We are still facing a barrage of numbers claiming decarceration and a new era of “prison reform”. More long-standing “liberal’ non-profits team up with  ‘unexpected” conservative partners -aka white supremacist capitalist patriarchs- to garner funding. From the beginning of this year, Criminal InJustice has offered critical questions about the reality of both policy claims and the legitimacy of so-called reforms. Please see Smoke and Mirrors?Con Artists, Profit and Community Corrections and Confidence Men & “Prison Reform”. Eyes Wide Open. Keep asking the questions. Trojan Horses are at the gate.

But let me stop..

Because as usual, at that critical juncture where hope meets despair, I saw this:


Back on the right track, i then read Resilience, Love, and Refusing to Give Up in Chicago… And you should too..

At times like these, when there are many unanswered questions, when there is no clear light to shine the way, we are reminded. We persist, and that is enough.

Howard Zinn, in The Optimism of Uncertainty ( 2004) puts it like this:

Consider the remarkable transformation, in just a few decades, in people’s consciousness of racism, in the bold presence of women demanding their rightful place, in a growing public awareness that gays are not curiosities but sensate human beings, in the long-term growing skepticism about military intervention despite brief surges of military madness. It is that long-term change that I think we must see if we are not to lose hope. Pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; it reproduces itself by crippling our willingness to act. Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society.

And because I am a sociologist, always weighing the relative contributions of any number of factors, i like to put it like this: Waiting for Intervening Variables that Are Not Yet Seen.

So let them come. As they always do.

And we will be ready…

Obama Administration Filed Amicus Brief Opposing Prop 8, Endorsing Limited Marriage Right

February 28, 2013 By: seeta Category: Civil Rights, Intersectionality, LGBTQ

From SCOTUSBlog:

The Obama administration on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to rule in the case of California’s Proposition 8 that same-sex marriage should be required in eight more states, beyond the nine that already permit it, although it stopped short of explicitly calling for the Justices to extend the right to the entire nation.


The historic document, though, could give the Court a way to advance gay marriage rights, without going the full step — now being advocated by two California couples who have been challenging Proposition 8 since 2009 — of declaring that marriage should be open to all same-sex couples as a constitutional requirement.

Administration sources said that President Obama was involved directly in the government’s choice of whether to enter the case at all, and then in fashioning the argument that it should make. Having previously endorsed the general idea that same-sex individuals should be allowed to marry the person they love, the President was said to have felt an obligation to have his government take part in the fundamental test of marital rights that is posed by the Proposition 8 case. The President could take the opportunity to speak to the nation on the marriage question soon.

In essence, the position of the federal government would simultaneously give some support to marriage equality while showing some respect for the rights of states to regulate that institution. What the brief endorsed is what has been called the “eight-state solution” — that is, if a state already recognizes for same-sex couples all the privileges and benefits that married couples have (as in the eight states that do so through “civil unions”) those states must go the final step and allow those couples to get married. The argument is that it violates the Constitution’s guarantee of legal equality when both same-sex and opposite-sex couples are entitled to the same marital benefits, but only the opposite-sex couples can get married.

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Obama Administration to file brief against Prop 8

February 28, 2013 By: seeta Category: Civil Rights, Intersectionality, LGBTQ

From the Washington Blade:

The Obama administration will take part in the lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 8 by filing a friend-of-the-court brief before the Supreme Court, according to a report on Thursday by NBC News’ Pete Williams,

The report comes on the deadline day for submitting friend-of-the-court briefs in favor of the same-sex couples challenging Prop 8 in the lawsuit filed by the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

LGBT advocates have been pushing for the Obama administration to take part in the Prop 8 lawsuit amid uncertainty over whether the court will decide to uphold the same-sex marriage ban or strike it down.

Rick Jacobs, co-founder of the Courage Campaign, issued a statement commending President Obama for “standing-up for millions of Californians who simply want to marry the person they love.”

“The two Supreme Court cases this summer will be a watershed moment for equality and President Obama has put his Administration squarely on the right side of history,” Jacobs said. “Discrimination and hatred have no place in a country founded on the principles of liberty, justice and equality.”

The Justice Department has already taken part in the case against the Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court. Just last week, the Obama administration filed a brief contesting DOMA on the basis that laws related to sexual orientation should be subjected to heightened scrutiny.