In today's On the News segment: Today, the federal Defense of Marriage Act was challenged before the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor; our public school system is under attack; former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean announced his new political action committee; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Today, the federal Defense of Marriage Act was challenged before the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor. The issue being challenged is section three of DOMA, which defines marriage for the purposes of federal law as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." Opponents of DOMA argue that the law violates same-sex couples' Fifth Amendment right to equal protection under the law, however defenders of the law say it ensures the sovereignty of the states. In the lead up to today's case, both the Obama Administration and the Attorney General announced they would not defend DOMA, so the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, known as BLAG, has taken up the defense. BLAG is made up of House Speaker John Boehner and several other Representatives, and they claim that the Defense of Marriage Act benefits our nation by saving money. And they argue that federal benefits given to opposite-sex couples encourage "reasonable procreation." There are three issues before the court in the case: whether DOMA violates the constitutional rights of same-sex couples, whether the President and the Attorney General refusing the law deprives the court of jurisdiction, and whether BLAG has the legal right to bring the appeal. DOMA denies same-sex couples multiple benefits they would otherwise receive under federal law, such as the right to file joint taxes, spousal healthcare from federal employers, and Social Security survival benefits. In addition to being morally wrong, there's no question that DOMA treats LGBT families like second class citizens. It's time for everyone in our nation to have the right to marry the person who they love. Let's hope the Supreme Court overturns DOMA, and helps to make that possible.
In screwed news... Our public school system is under attack. Yesterday, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld a school voucher law, which drains resources from the public school system, and primarily benefits religious organizations in that state. In a five-to-zero vote, the justices agreed with proponents of the voucher program, saying the law gives families more choices in school selection. The suit was brought by the Indiana State Teachers Association, and they argued that almost all of the voucher program money went directly to schools affiliated with religious organizations. According to teacher Teresa Meredith, "the vast majority of students will be robbed so that a group of students can get religious education on taxpayer dollars." And Ms. Meredith is exactly right. Voucher programs suck much-needed money out of the public school system, furthering the destruction of one of our nation's most precious resources. The United States is 17th in the world in education, and we will continue to lag behind until we start investing in our future leaders.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Howard Dean understands the political process. On Tuesday, the former Vermont governor announced his new political action committee, called the "Purple to Blue Project," which will focus on flipping swing state legislatures from Republican to Democrat. The Democracy for America project will start in Virginia, and move to three more states by 2014. Dean described the "Purple to Blue Project," saying, "What DFA's effort to do here is stop the right-wing extremists. This is about sane, normal Americans taking on these extreme people with bizarre ideas." The overall goal is to put a stop to the extreme legislation being pushed through Republican-controlled state legislatures all throughout our nation. Successful GOP efforts in state and local elections have allowed them to implement draconian legislation, like abortion restrictions, voter ID bills, and right-to-work-FOR-LESS laws in many states. Finally, it looks like democrats understand that this is a long-term fight. Get involved in local politics in your area, and support Howard Dean's effort to bring sanity back to our state legislatures.
Greek sailors have been hit hard by that nation's financial troubles. According the Associated Press, some members of the seaman's union have gone unpaid for months at a time. The union mounted a six-day strike back in January, to protest long periods without pay, but the government used emergency powers to force them back to work. The sailors, mechanics, and others who work aboard boats in Greece understand that the ferries are necessary to deliver food, medicine, and supplies to more than 100 inhabited islands in that nation. However, many are fed up after prolonged periods without a paycheck. And months without money means sailors can't pay rent, or send cash back home to their families for basic needs. This is a perfect example of why nations cannot cut their way to prosperity. As those landlords and shop owners lose money because of unpaid rent and unsold goods, the economy contracts even further. If sailors had money to spend, the landlords and retailers would too. It's that simple. Greece needs to put an end to their austerity measures, and start stimulating their economy with government spending.
And finally... Police in Boca Raton, Florida got some unusual help in ending a four-hour standoff with a man suspected of stabbing two people. Paul Charles allegedly stabbed his ex-girlfriend and her new partner, but the suspect ran into the water at Palm Beach, and threatened to take his own life if police pursued. Despite apparent symptoms of hypothermia, the alleged attacker remained in the water for some time. After several hours, police noticed multiple spinner sharks jumping in the water near the suspect – and apparently, Mr. Charles noticed them too. Finally, the man returned to dry land, where police were able to make an arrest. Without the help from the sharks, there's no telling how long the standoff would have lasted. Thankfully, Mr. Charles didn't remain in the ocean any longer, or we'd have a whole new meaning to "taking a bite out of crime."
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, March 27, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.