Friday, July 26, 2013

Catching Up With Legal Headlines of the Day

Let me borrow a line from the Catholics and begin with "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned." It's been many months since I last posted anything on my blog. Although I make no bones about this being an "occasional blog", I realize the error of my ways in neglecting to write anything for so long. I will try to do better. Today's blog will hit upon some legal issues recently in the news. As always, these are my opinions, and I welcome yours - as long as you're polite and respectful.

Gay Marriage

The Supreme Court of the United States recently ruled that the federal government could not deny federal benefits to legally-married same-sex couples. U.S. v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ____ (2013). The Court also ruled in California's Proposition 8 case that marriage equality opponents lacked standing to defend its constitutionality when the state refused to do so. Hollingsworth v. Perry, 570 U.S. ____ (2013). Taken together, these two decisions bring hope to millions of same-sex couples and energize efforts in many states to remove same-sex restrictions on marriage. The tide of public sentiment has turned with a majority of Americans supporting marriage equality. CNN/ORC International poll (June 11-13, 2013). These Supreme Court rulings do not, however, fully open the door for gay couples in states where same-sex marriage is still banned. Couples in states with bans on gay marriage still face disparate treatment at the hands of government, and also face discrimination. Such couples face difficulty navigating federal laws and regulations to obtain the benefits the Supreme Court has decided they are entitled to.

Thirteen states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage.  It is my humble opinion that same-sex marriage should be allowed in all states and territories of the United States of America. Discriminatory action and sentiment of the past must be cast aside for a fair and tolerant America.

Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman

Only two people know what really happened that night almost two years ago in Sanford, Florida. News accounts, court testimony, and public gossip all paint somewhat different versions of what transpired between Trayvon Martin, a black teenager visiting from out of town, and George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch patrolman. The only thing that is known without a doubt is that a skirmish between them resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin. Six jurors heard testimony and saw evidence in the second degree murder trial of George Zimmerman. Those six jurors ultimately concluded that there was insufficient evidence to convict Zimmerman of murder.

Many people have very strong feelings about the verdict. It is difficult for me to understand why, aside from the obvious loss of life that we should all be upset about. Our system of justice, while not perfect, does work. The state has the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, the case against the defendant. If the state does not meet that burden, the jury must find for the defendant. Although certain people may be very upset about the outcome of this trial, those same people would appreciate how heavy the state's burden is if they were a defendant.

As I have read or watched news accounts about this - and the resulting demonstrations, inflammatory remarks made by athletes, calls by celebrities to boycott Florida, etc. - I wonder at what age people in the United States (and elsewhere) become prejudiced. The color of our skin should not be an issue. It is time that America lay down its arms in the race fight, and embrace each other as equals. When little children of difference racial backgrounds meet each other for the first time in playgrounds or schools, they might be curious as to why they look a little different - and that is understandable - but two minutes later they couldn't care less. They play with each other and have a good time. It's only the adults that seem to have a problem, who continue to perpetuate racial tension and prejudice. Let's all learn from the kids and start becoming "racially blind."