Thursday, October 26, 2006

NJ Supreme Court on Same-Sex Marriage + Voting + WS + Congrats to Jess + Ciudidano Cero

Oh well--Blogger continues acting up. After I'd corrected the link to Zack Barocas's review (thanks Reggie, for pointing it out) and added "more" of what I had intended to add to yesterday's post, particularly after I learned about the New Jersey Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, Blogger again wouldn't either save or let me access the page, and so I lost a good portion of the post. I did copy over some of it, so I'm posting that below.

NJ Supreme Court Issues Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage
Yesterday at 3 pm the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a "compromise" ruling stating that the New Jersey State Constitution required equality of benefits for all persons, which is to say, same-sexual couples, under state law, yet it also said that there was no specific right to "same-sex marriage" in the Constitution, and left it to the state legislature to figure things out. Ironically enough, in light of the national Republicans' anti-gay and anti-same-sex marriage stances, the retiring Republican chief justice, Deborah T. Poritz, dissented, going further than the rest of the court by stating that in fact that gay marriage should be legal. The majority left the decision in the hands of the Democratic-controlled state legislature, which now has about six months to decide whether the state will allow civil unions, gay marriage, or some differently named, expanded version of the domestic partnership law that now exists. Since New Jersey has no law barring out-of-state couples from marrying in state, as Massachusetts does, it could quickly become the chief destination for same-sex couples from other states who seek then to launch lawsuits in their home states. (Some pundits are already crowing that this will empower the anti-gay right, but my sense is that after Foley-Kolbe-page-gate, and the outings of vile Republican hypocrite closet-case US Senator Larry Craig and, most recently, Florida's GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, gay marriage's motivating power for the Talevangelicals has been considerably blunted.)

My feelings about marriage and same-sex marriage are complex, and while I have many criticisms of the institution of marriage as it's developed over the centuries, I nevertheless think that same-sex couples should enjoy equality under the law without hesitation. C and I signed up for the domestic partnership option not long after New Jersey instituted it, but it isn't universal across New Jersey and has little to no legal standing outside the state. With a marriage or civil union option, we and other couples could receive equal and transferable treatment, I imagine, in Vermont and Massachusetts, and vice versa, and as more states shift to some comparable form of equality, either by legislative or judicial means, a same-sex version of the Full Faith legislation will come into play. Yet for now federal discrimination continues. Returning to New Jersey, I'm curious to see how far the Democratic legislature, under the guidance of a progressive governor, Jon Corzine, is willing to go. New Jerseyans are pretty open-minded--increasingly so on social issues--and have already ratified domestic partnerships, so I don't see either civil unions or same-sex marriage, called that, as being too much of a leap. But we'll see.

Vote, Vote, Vote
I voted last week via absentee ballot, and I want to urge all J's Theater readers to vote in the upcoming federal and local elections. Every election is important, but the upcoming one is crucial. It could determine whether we have two more years of unimpeded, reckless misgovernment in Washington or something resembling, however indistinctly, a functioning divided governmental system of checks and balances. In my own case, I had to try my best not to retch as I cast a vote for Robert Menendez, the current sitting Democratic junior Senator from New Jersey. He's in a very tight race against a laughably underqualified Republican scion, Tom Kean Jr., whose aristocratic, self-styled "moderate" father, Tom Kean Sr., one of New Jersey's former governors, has been part of the Bush administration protection racket for the last few years. Kean Sr. not only did his best to shield Bush from any real scrutiny while serving as the co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, but just recently he served as a front for ABC's right-wing version of narrative leading up to the Al Qaeda attacks in 2001 and the early period of the US War in Afghanistan. The son, for his part, has been a dear friend to a number of business interests and doesn't turn down a corporate fundraising dollar if it comes his way, but far more worrying is the likelihood that he'll become the good little Republican zombie he was born to be and will enable George W. to continue his reign of tyranny.

Yet Menendez leaves a lot to be desired as well. Scandals ring him like rain clouds. His associates have been the subject of valid state and federal investigations, and as a member of the Hudson County Democratic organization, he has had ties to Bob Janiszewski, the disgraced former County Executive who wore a wire for the Feds and ended up being convicted of extortion and tax evasion. Moreover, Menendez was constantly battling Jersey City's beloved first Black mayor, Glenn Cunningham (who tragically fell dead before completing his first term), and maintains an extremist position, out of step with the Democratic Party and many fellow Cuban Americans, on Cuba. On top of this, he voted for George WPE's and the Senate Republicans' horrible torture bill, the anticonstitutional Military Commissions Act of 2006, which is utterly inexcusable or unforgivable. (Reggie H. has a very thoughful piece on this very bill.)

So what to do? There were Green, Libertarian, Democratic Socialist, and other candidates on the ballot, but I effectively saw this vote as coming down either for Kean Jr.-Bush or against them, so it had to be Menendez. Still, if he is indicted after winning, I hope our dear progressive-leaning governor, Jon Corzine, appoints someone who's not so tainted with the whiff of corruption. I know he wanted to make history by appointing the first Latino Senator from New Jersey, but there certainly have got to be other Latino Democratic figures--or figures of any race, gender, etc.--who could better represent the state.

The Democrats need six seats to retake the US Senate. It looks like Menendez will hold his seat, as will Democrats in Maryland (Cardin is barely ahead of Steele), Minnesota (Amy Klobuchar is well ahead of Mark Kennedy), Washington State (Maria Cantwell leads Mike McGavick), Michigan (Debbie Stabenow has opened up a widening lead over ultrarightist Dick DeVos), and a number of safe states (Massachusetts, New York, etc.). Democratic candidates in Rhode Island (Sheldon Whitehouse), Ohio (Sherrod Brown), Montana (Jon Tester) and Pennsylvania (Bob Casey Jr.) are leading their incumbent Republican opponents. In Missouri (Claire McCaskill vs. Jim Talent), Tennessee (Harold Ford Jr. vs. Bob Corker), and Virginia (Jim Webb vs. George Allen), the races are very close and could go either way. One thing I'm realistic about is how conservative some of the Democratic candidates, like Casey Jr. (who is anti-abortion) and Ford Jr. (who is about as right-wing a Black Democrat as you're going to find) are, and how easily they buy into the right-wing rhetorical echo machine without actively challenging its illogic. Yet I also keep in mind that if the Democrats win the Senate, the committee chairs will include the likes of Pat Leahy, Tom Harkin, Carl Levin, Kent Conrad, and others who are likely to press investigations and provide an overt challenge to the Bush-Rove juggernaut of signing statements, steady arrogation of unitary executive power, and complete and total suppression of Congress's oversight roles. The Republicans have decided to dump $5.5 million into the Kean Jr. campaign, but I hope it will turn out to be as bad of a decision as their focus, late in 2000, on pumping up Bush in New Jersey. He lost, history records, by a sizable margin to Al Gore. I'm not at all for wasting more than $5 million, but if it's going to a good cause, like stripping the Republicans of another dangerous weapon, I'm all for it.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Detroit Tigers
PujolsThe World Series has begun, and as of last night, the St. Louis Cardinals lead the Detroit Tigers 2-1 in wins. All of the pre-matchup hooplah basically dismissed the Cardinals as also-rans, and suggested that they would be trounced, in four games or, as Bernie told me, one wag suggested "three." Although they swept the San Diego Padres and defeated the National League's best team, the New York Mets, in 7 games, the Cardinals weren't given much of a chance. Detroit, which trounced its opponents for most of the season and then handily won in the post-season, was the overwhelming favorite. (And Detroit fans I know have been predicting a rout.) Yet the Cardinals won the first game 7-2, behind stellar pitching by rookie Anthony Reyes and timely hits, and after dropping the second game in Detroit, to a pine-tar-palmed Kenny Rogers (this drama continues to fill airwaves and Internet discussion boards), their Cy Young-winning starter Chris Carpenter took the mound in St. Louis Tuesday night and threw 8 shutout innings. The rain forestalled last night's game and if it's all stormy in St. Louis as it is today in Chicago, there may be another day's delay. Either way, the Cardinals have exceeded the expectations of all the naysayers, and with hope, they'll win the whole damned thing and be done with it.

Congratulations to Tyehimba Jess
LeadbellyCongratulations go to fellow CC brother and extraordinary poet Tyehimba Jess, who was awarded a 2006 Whiting Writers Award for his poetry. Jess's first book of poems, the National Poetry Series-winning volume Leadbelly (Verse Press, 2005). A wonderful brotha and an exceptional book of poems! Congratulations!

Rey Emmanuel Andújar's Ciudidano Cero
Ciudidano CeroThis past spring I wrote about picking up one of the exciting young Dominican author Rey Emmanuel Andújar's (at right, in Ciudidano Cero) books at the International Festival of the Book/Feria Internacional del Libro in Santo Domingo. He dropped a few comments in to J's Theater, and has continued to send me updates on his projects. For anyone in Santo Domingo this November, he'll be presenting his ongoing "laboratorio," which take the form of a performance piece entitled Ciudidano Cero (Citizen Zero) at the Santo Domingo International Theater Festival, which runs from November 9-19, 2006. (There is another piece, entitled "Cero," by Waddys Jácquez, which also will be going up, but according to the press note, the pieces are dramatically different.) The press note also states of Andújar's project, begun in 2001, that "es el resultado de un laboratorio desde la dramaturgia del escritor al texto ejecutado desde la miseria del circo caribeño partiendo de un cruce antropológico con la cultura Hip-Hop dentro de la estética marginal" (roughly: "it is the result of an experiment from the writer's dramaturgy, a text created out of the the misery of the Caribbean circus, starting from an anthropological crossing with Hip-Hop culture within a marginal aesthetic/aesthetics of the margin.") Andújar's email includes a link to a video, posted on YouTube, that features scenes from "Ciudidano Cero," with the hiphop group Lo Correcto. It's well done, and if you haven't heard any Dominican hiphop, want insight in musical form into the experiences of DR's poor and working-class youth, and have no familiarity with Andújar's work, it's a fine introduction.

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