Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Judge allows gay marriages in Kansas, at least for now

I originally wrote this story for the Junction City Daily Union. However, the paper wants a story with a more local focus. 

My editor, Alix Kunkle, gave his blessing for me to publish this story here. 

Subscribe to The Daily Union to hear the story of Slone and Jaleesa Hayes, Junction City residents who were married earlier this year.

Across the country, gay and lesbian couples have filed lawsuits challenging state bans on gay marriage.

A Kansas lawsuit challenging the state ban on gay marriage has resulted in a preliminary decision that allows gay couples to marry across the state, including right here in Geary County.

The path to that decision, however, does not begin in Kansas. 
In June and July of last year, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decided state bans on gay marriage in Utah and Oklahoma violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the US Constitution. 

Utah and Oklahoma appealed to the Supreme Court, and on Oct. 6, the Supreme Court declined to their appeals.
Doug Bonney, legal director of the Kansas American Civil Liberties Union, is one of the lawyers representing gay couples in the state.

He said the ACLU decided to file its lawsuit after the Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeals of the Utah and Oklahoma cases.

“That meant, as a legal matter, the law was established in the 10th circuit,” he said. 

The 10th circuit has jurisdiction over Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas. 
The case began with just four plaintiffs. 

The ACLU provided legal representation to two lesbian couples who sued the district court clerks of Douglas and Sedgwick counties for denying their marriage applications.  

On Nov. 4 the judge overseeing the case, federal district judge Daniel Crabtree, decided gay marriages should be granted in Kansas while he heard the case. 

He reasoned the outcome of the lawsuit would likely fall along similar lines to the earlier cases heard in the 10th Circuit. 
The state appealed that decision all the way to the US Supreme Court, but it was not overturned.

Bonney said while most counties in the state are following the court’s decision, a few are not. 

Which brings us back to Geary County. 

On Nov. 13 Michael Powers, the chief judge of the 8th judicial district, which includes Geary County, issued an administrative order saying court clerks were bound by the decision and should process applications for gay marriage licences. 

The ACLU thought the state of Kansas might concede the case after gay marriage licenses began to be granted as a result of the ruling. 

However, it did not. 

Instead, the case grew. 

The ACLU added more plaintiffs to the case who were married in other states whose marriages were not recognized by Kansas.

Some were state employees who were not allow to add their spouse as a dependent beneficiary on their state health insurance. 

Others were not allowed to change their last name on their driver’s license after being married. 

Bonney said another problem same sex couples face is that the state does not allow them to file their taxes as a married couple.

“Turbo tax has a very hard time allowing you to do one thing for a federal return and not allowing you to do the same thing for a state return,” he said.  

However, Bonney believes the case is about more than just taxes, driver’s licenses, and insurance.

He said the case seeks to uphold fundamental American values.

“People should be treated equally regardless of whoever they love, whoever they decide to marry,” he said. 

But the case itself revolves around legal technicalities. 

Bonney said the government isn’t asking the judge to rule on the merits of banning gay marriage.

“The state defendants claim we sued the wrong defendants, that our clients don’t have legal standing to sue and other such technical pleading defenses that really don’t go to the merits of this claim,” he said. 

While he said his crystal ball is perennially cloudy, Bonney said he believes Crabtree will issue a ruling on the case in the early summer. 

The judge’s decision, however, may not matter for too long.
The Supreme Court decided to hear an appeal of similar decisions in January. 

Oral arguments in that case are scheduled for April 28, and the court is expected to make a ruling by the end of its term in June.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sex Education: Rules without context

Playwright's Prologue: This play is not a recommendation that sex is right for you and your partner. It is a satirical examination of how we explain sex to children and young adults.

In health class, students are warned of the dangers of pregnancies and STDs. In college, posters and PSAs give young adults a list of dos and don’ts about rape and consent, with no room for any ambiguity in-between. In church, we are told certain kinds of sex displease God.

There is no discussion of the role sex plays in relationships. The decisions made by actual people about when and how to have sex are also missing. This play attempts to satirize talking about sex without actually discussing the role sex or abstinence plays in actual people’s lives.

[Lacey and John sit at John’s place talking before a date. Lacey is 22 and John is 23.]
John: Are you sure you’re ready?
Lacey: Yes.
John: I just don’t want us to rush into this too quickly.
Lacey: Don’t worry; I’ve thought about it a lot. I really do want to sleep with you.
John: ok, how about tonight after the movie?
Lacey: I can’t wait.
[Lacey kisses John]

[Flashback to Lacey as a young girl in bible school. She is 13-years-old with her hair in pigtails. She sits cross-legged on the floor while staring dreamily at a boy a few seats away.]
Teacher: And the seventh commandment tells us not to commit adultery. Can anyone tell me what adultery is?
Kevin (age 13): I can.
Teacher: Yes Kevin.
Kevin: It’s when you have sex with someone else’s husband or wife.
Teacher: That’s right Kevin, but it is so much more than that. Even when you think about having sex with someone, you’ve committed adultery in your heart.
[Lacey starts paying attention.]
It’s very difficult not to have those thoughts, but we’re all sinners. That’s also why it’s a sin to have sex before you’re married. The person you are having sex with will one day be someone else’s husband or wife.
These laws were created by god, not man. The commandments Moses received from God are the most important rules he has given us, and we should do our best to follow them.

[Lacey is in bed with John having noisy exhilarating sex.] 
John: That’s right.
Lacey: Aaaahhh [deap breath] Ohhhhh
[Breathing becomes more intense as they approach climax.]
Lacey: I need a drink.
John: What!? [Pauses]
Lacey: My throat is dry.
John: Ok, but hurry back, I don’t want to lose momentum.
[Lacey gets up, pours a glass of water, drinks, and leaves the glass next to the bed.]
John: Ready?
Lacey: For what?
John: To get started again.
Lacey: [surprised] Sure, if you want to.
[John and Lacey begin having sex again. They build up to climax.]
Lacey: I need a tissue.
John: What!!??
Lacey: Sorry, my nose is clogged.
John: Yeah, and so is my penis. Can’t it wait?
Lacey: No, it can’t.
John: Sigh…. Fine.
[Lacey gets up, blows her nose, throws away the tissue, returns to bed, and lays down to sleep.]
John: Lacey, you can’t be ready for bed, now. Can you??
Lacey: What, you want to go again?
John: Obviously.
Lacey: Fine, one more time.
[John and Lacey have sex, approach climax]
Lacey: I’m hungry.
John: It can wait a couple more minutes.
Lacey: I don’t think it can.
John: Sorry, not this time.
[John holds Lacey down, climaxes]
Lacey: John — that was rape.

[Flashback to John in Health Class. He is a freshman in High School staring out the window to a bright sunny day.]
Teacher: Rape is when you have sex with someone without their consent. But what is consent? If someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they can’t consent. If someone is unconscious because they’re sleeping or passed out, they can’t consent. According to the law, if someone is under 16, they can’t legally consent to have sex.  Consent should always be verbal; it should never be assumed. Consent can be removed at any time during the act of sex. And sex without consent, is rape. Susan, do you have a question?
[John looks forward.]
Susan: Yes, ma’am. Don’t a lot of people drink alcohol before they have sex? My parents do, all the time.
[Class laughs.]
Susan: [To the class] oh, grow up. We are here to learn about sex, we should be able to talk about these kinds of things.
Teacher: You’re right lacey, on both counts. But you should always get someone’s consent before either of you start drinking. That way, you know it is your partner that made the decision, not the alcohol. If you don’t get permission ahead of time, it’s rape.

[John and Lacey lie in bed.]
John: What do you mean that was rape?
Lacey: I withdrew consent, and sex without consent is rape.
John: That’s absurd.
Lacey: I told you I wanted to stop.
John: And I told you I wanted to have sex, and you said yes. You knew what I meant by that.
Lacey: But that’s not how consent works. Someone can withdraw consent at any time, even right before climax.
John: But why would you want to?
Lacey: I told you, it violates my religious beliefs.
John: What are talking about? I don’t remember you telling me that.
Lacey: It was a month ago, remember?

[One month ago. John is playing Tetris on his phone as Lacey returns from the bathroom in a restaurant.]
Lacey: John, can I talk to you about something?
John: [Still looking intensely at his phone] Sure.
Lacey: You know the 10 commandments in the bible?
John: Yeah.
Lacey: I’ve thought a lot about them. Don’t you think it’s strange how Moses died before reaching the Promised Land because he upset God?
John: I guess.
Lacey: Don’t you think that would have an effect on the covenant between God and the Israelites delivered through the 10 commandments?
John: I suppose.
Lacey: I glad we see eye to eye on this.

[John and Lacey back in bed]
John: What does that have to do with sex!?!?
Lacey: It’s like Moses ascended the mountain, but never reached the peak. [Pause]
God let Moses die before reaching the Promised Land because he wouldn’t follow God’s command to talk to a rock. That was obviously a sign from God that Moses wasn’t a righteous profit. This canceled the laws God communicated through him.
John: I have never heard that interpretation of the scripture before.
Lacey: That’s because it’s the basis for a new Christian church, the Saturday Saints.
John: You mean the Latter Day Saints.
Lacey: No, that’s the Mormon Church. We don’t believe Joseph Smith was a legitimate profit, but we don’t have anything against the Mormons either.
John: So you’re with the people who go from door to door telling people Saturday is the real Sabbath?
Lacey: No, those are the Seventh Day Adventists. Our church is much more secretive then that.
John: So who are the Saturday Saints?
Lacey: It all began 3 years ago when the topic came up in my bible study group. 

[Three years ago, Lacey’s hometown]
Lacey: So how is college going for everyone?
Beth: Really well.
Susan: Me too. Hey, I want to bring up a topic where I might not see eye to eye with our church.
Lacey: Sure, don’t worry, this isn't a judging place, and intellectual rigor is an important part of faith.
Susan: Don’t either of you ever think about having sex before marriage? I know our parents and the reverend say it’s a sin, but everyone does it, and it doesn't harm anyone.
Beth: The church always throws out the same explanation, it’s forbidden by the seventh commandment.
Susan: But why should a commandment banning adultery have any implication for pre-marital sex? No one is married or cheating on anyone.
Lacey: They would be cheating on their future husband or wife.
Susan: But that’s a stupid interpretation!
Lacey:  Centuries of church teaching can’t just be wrong. But, there is one thing I have wondered.
Susan: [Seeing a valuable opportunity] Yes.
Lacey: Moses never made it to the Promised Land. What does that mean for the 10 commandments?
Beth: What are you getting at?
Lacey: God obviously wasn't happy with his chosen profit.
Susan: That meant God nullified the 10 commandments!
Lacey: Which means God is just fine with pre-marital sex.
Beth: But our parents still believe the 10 commandments are valid. They’re still going to expect us to be virgins on our wedding nights.  
Susan: So we just won’t climax.
Beth: What?
Susan: If we don’t climax, we can tell our parents we are virgins and still have sex before marriage.
Lacey: Brilliant, but we need a name for our new gospel.
Susan: I now declare the birth of a new church, the Saturday Saints. Young men and women will be invited to join our new church to understand what God believes they should do between the sheets.

[Back to John and Lacey in bed]
John: So this is all so you can tell your parents you’re a virgin?
Lacey: And the church.
John: But if you want to have sex, why not just have sex? Who cares what your parents and church thinks?
Lacey: You can’t just abandon your community. You have to have deference to your parents and religious leaders, even when they insist on dictating the personal details of your life.
John: It seems you are really letting other people make major decisions for you.
Lacey: But I care about them and don’t want to disappoint them.
It’s just a shame you won’t be a virgin on your wedding night. Oh well, at least I didn’t climax.
John: So until the day you are married you will be torn between your own desires and the desires of your family and church.
Lacey: Yes.
John: I suppose we should get some rest then.
Lacey: See you in the morning John.
John: Good night Lacey.
Lacey: Good night John.

[Stage lights off]