Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The Evolution of Informed Consent.
Religion and the Trial of Proposition 8.
When Proposition 8 was fought at the ballot box in California to deny the newly-minted right to marry for gay and lesbian couples, those leading the charge were mainly religious. The Mormon Church gave more than $180,000 in efforts to repeal the new marriage law. That was peanuts though compared to the nearly $730,000 in cash and services provided by Colorado-based Focus on the Family and the $1.275 million given by the Catholic Church group the Knights of Columbus.
The religious argument against marriage equality for gays and lesbians may have won the round at the ballot box, but in the San Francisco courtroom where the legal battle to overturn Prop. 8 wraps up its first week, religion has been largely absent. Religious arguments don’t hold a lot of legal water, so anti-marriage equality proponents are forced to use their secular arguments, and reading reports from the courtroom (since the U.S. Supreme Court nixed video coverage of the trial), they’re leaking fairly badly as well.
Without being able to argue that God ordained one man and one woman for life (never mind all that Old Testament polygamy) and so we cannot deviate from that pattern, those opposed to same-gender marriage are instead focusing on issues like parenting, economic impact, discrimination, and child rearing.
In their opening arguments, defense attorneys laid out their case:Charles Cooper, the lead attorney for the Proposition 8 defense (…) is hitting the main points in the defense: that the voters have spoken on the issue, and gay couples in California enjoy strong legal protections under domestic partnership laws. (…) Cooper finished his opening statement, defending the need for society to preserve the traditional definition of marriage and limit it to heterosexual couples for its procreative purposes. He told the judge that marriage must be “pro-child,” and that would be at risk if same-sex couples were allowed to marry. Cooper insisted that the courts should stay out of the issue and allow the voters to decide whether they want to allow same-sex marriage, but the judge questioned that thesis. “There are certainly lots of issues taken out of the body politic. Why isn't this one of them?” the judge asked at one point.
Throughout the week, the plaintiff’s lawyers have taken a whack at each of those issues, and more. Harvard University historian Nancy Cott was the first to dismiss the idea that marriage should be reserved for procreation.Her task to start the second day of trial is to knock down one of the central arguments of gay marriage foes: that the state has a compelling interest in restricting marriage to heterosexual couples because of the procreative purpose of marriage.
Asked by plaintiff’s attorney Theodore Boutrous whether procreation is a central purpose of marriage, Cott scoffed, nothing that President George Washington, “the father of our country,” was sterile by the time of a later marriage.
“Procreative ability has never been a qualification for marriage,” she testified.
A "Reverse Version of the Scopes Monkey Trial" in Ohio
Mr. Freshwater, an eighth-grade public school science teacher, is accused of burning a cross onto the arms of at least two students and teaching creationism, charges he says have been fabricated because he refused an order by his principal to remove a Bible from his desk.
After an investigation, school officials notified Mr. Freshwater in June 2008 of their intent to fire him, but he asked for a pre-termination hearing, which has lasted more than a year and cost the school board more than a half-million dollars.
The hearing is finally scheduled to end Friday, and a verdict on Mr. Freshwater’s fate is expected some months later. But the town — home to about 15,000 people, more than 30 churches and an evangelical university — remains split.
To some, Mr. Freshwater is a hero unfairly punished for standing up for his Christian beliefs. To others, he is a zealot who pushed those beliefs onto students.
“Freshwater’s supporters want to make this into a new and reverse version of the Scopes trial,” said David Millstone, the lawyer for the Mount Vernon Board of Education, referring to the Tennessee teacher tried in 1925 for teaching evolution. “We see this as a basic issue about students having a constitutional right to be free from religious indoctrination in the public schools.”
Legal Questions Answered For End of Life Care.
Knowing what vital steps to take to get your financial and legal affairs in order when confronted by serious illness just became easier thanks to a new guide released by the American Bar Association (ABA).
Seniors and family members facing the onset of a life threatening illness or injury are often unaware of how to get their affairs in order to protect themselves and their families.
“The Legal Guide for the Seriously Ill” — a project by the ABA Commission on Law and Aging commissioned by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) — was designed for both the seriously ill individual and those caring for someone who is seriously ill.
The guide explains “Seven Key Steps” in a brief, clear way while offering additional tips and resources for readers looking for more detailed information and guidance.
“‘The Legal Guide for the Seriously Ill’ is a great resource for anyone facing a serious illness,” noted ABA president Carolyn B. Lamm. “The book provides critical tools that help readers understand their options, make informed decisions and minimize some of the anxiety they may be feeling about their financial and legal affairs at this stage of life.”
Development of the new guide was prompted by current societal issues and concerns facing many Americans, such as paying for health care, managing health and personal decisions, and patient rights.
“The Legal Guide for the Seriously Ill” also explores recent legislative and regulatory changes to give users a thorough understanding of where they stand when making important decisions.
The guide is expected to fill an important gap in resources for many Americans.
UK Nurses Drop Opposition to Aid in Dying.
Britain’s main nurses’ organization has dropped its opposition to assisted suicide, as a new poll released Saturday showed solid support for the right to die.
Doctors group the British Medical Association remains opposed.
The Royal College of Nursing said it was adopting a neutral stance on the issue after its research showed nurses were divided.
A survey by Populus published Saturday found 74 percent of people wanted the medical profession to be able to supervise assisted suicides, although a large majority 85 percent felt it should be legal only in specific circumstances.
Under British law, assisting a suicide is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, but prosecutions are rare. More than 100 Britons have died in Swiss clinics run by the group Dignitas in the past decade, and none of their friends or relatives has been charged with a crime.
The issue of assisted suicide was back in the headlines this month after 85-year-old British composer Edward Downes and his wife Joan, 74, died at a Swiss suicide clinic. He was blind and increasingly deaf, while she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The pollster interviewed 1,504 adults by telephone between July 17 and July 19. The margin of error is about plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
Why Did Coakley Lose in Mass?
Mad Pride: Mental Illness Advocate Judi Chamberlain has Died.
Judi Chamberlin, who died this weekend at age 65, was a civil rights hero from a civil rights movement you may have never heard of. She took her inspiration from the heroes of other civil rights movements to start something she liked to call Mad Pride — a movement for the rights and dignity of people with mental illness.
It started in 1966, when Chamberlin was 21 years old and seeing her doctor because she was dealing with a deep depression. "After a while, he suggested I sign myself into a hospital because I was just not functioning, I was so depressed. And I just thought, 'Oh a hospital's a place where you get help.' And you know, I'd been in hospitals for surgery and things like that, and didn't think of it as having anything to do with your fundamental rights. So I just said, 'OK, I'll try it.' "
Chamberlin told her story in a 2006 interview with Will Hall, host of Madness Radio, a program by people like Chamberlin who call themselves "psychiatric survivors."
"And very quickly, [I] found out that once you sign papers to go in on a voluntary basis, but then you can't leave when you want to leave, which was absolutely shocking to me," she said.
She got out of that state hospital and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where she lived with other people who'd been diagnosed with mental illness but who'd then gotten government money to develop their own treatments. She recovered and eventually moved to Boston, where she started working with other former American patients who wanted to change the system. They called themselves the Mental Patients Liberation Front.