Dahlia on VA’s anti-gay legislature

Given that I found both articles about the disturbing actions of the VA legislature in Dahlia Lithwick’s FB feed, I figured she’d write a good essay about it.  She does not disappoint:

Thought experiment: If a decorated former Navy pilot and law-and-order prosecutor who loved his two children and devoted 20 years to the fight to restore school prayer had come up for a vote this morning, would Del. Marshall be questioning his integrity and character? Or pushing for a Supreme Court slot?

It should terrify anyone who cares about the future of the judiciary that advocacy, especially passionate advocacy, and most especially passionate advocacy on civil rights issues with respect to laws that have since been repealed, can be disqualifying. Or at least it can be disqualifying when that zealous advocacy is for a cause about which elected officials have personal religious objections…

If we keep refusing to seat any judges who stand up to discrimination, Virginia will continue to be a state that discriminates. And if we only want to seat judges willing to lie about who they are and what they believe in, we may as well stop seating judges at all.

I hope this brings Virginia legislators the national attention and opprobrium they deserve.  Countdown to Jon Stewart…

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Annals of pointless polling results

Recent Gallup poll on Obama’s new position on gay marriage finds 13% more likely to vote for him, 60% no difference, and 23% less likely.  Uh-oh– net negative!  Or not.  Check out the full table:

Does President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage make you more likely to vote for him, less likely to vote for him, or doesn’t it make any difference? May 2012 results

Most of that overall 26% comes from the more than half of Republicans who are now “less likely” to vote for Obama.  Sorry, but you cannot be “less likely” than “already not going to vote for that socialist, terrorist-sympathizer no matter what.”  This would seem to be much more an expression of their dissatisfaction with Obama’s new position than any honest assessment of their likelihood of voting for Obama.  We can be confident that somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of Republicans will be voting for Romney in November and in no way are nearly half of them up-for-grabs in any sort of meaningful way whereas what Obama says about gay marriage could conceivably make a difference.

The joke that is the VA legislature

So, I thought about blogging this story yesterday about some idiot state legislator in Virginia who did not want to approve a judicial appointment because the nominee is openly gay.  I decided that, ultimately, this is only one nut and there’s nuts all throughout state legislatures.  Alas, let’s make that nuts all throughout Virginia’s state legislature (or, the Republicans therein, at least).  This is just wrong and pathetic on so many levels:

 A late-hour lobbying offensive by social conservatives prevailed in the House of Delegates early Tuesday to torpedo bipartisan support for the judicial nomination of an openly gay Richmond prosecutor.

After a lengthy discussion, the GOP-controlled House of Delegates defeated the nomination of Tracy Thorne-Begland, Richmond’s chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney. He would have been the first openly gay judge elected in Virginia.

Thorne-Begland received 33 votes, and 31 delegates voted against him. He needed a majority of the 100-member House — 51 votes — to secure the judgeship…

Thorne-Begland’s nomination for a judgeship on the General District Court in Richmond, where he has been a prosecutor for 12 years, had been approved by courts committees in the House and Senate.

But his nomination came under fire late last week, as the Family Foundation and Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, stoked fears that the 45-year-old attorney would allow his sexual orientation to influence his judicial decisions.

Republicans cast the 31 votes against Thorne-Begland. Ten Republican delegates abstained and 26 delegates, including a handful of Democrats, did not vote. Eight Republicans voted for Thorne-Begland…

“The rejection of Mr. Thorne-Begland shows that discrimination based on sexual orientation is alive and well in Virginia,” Del. Mark D. Sickles, D-Fairfax, said in a statement after the vote in the House of Delegates. “And, it shows that legislators are more concerned about the Family Foundation scorecard than Richmond’s District Court.”

Thorne-Begland was the only one of more than three dozen judicial nominees — including 10 others from the Richmond region — who was not elected to a judgeship following a marathon legislative session dominated by review of amendments to the two-year state budget proposed by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

The defeat of the nomination came in spite of statements of support for Thorne-Begland from Republicans and Democrats alike.

“It is without question that he is extremely qualified,” said Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond, a former Richmond prosecutor who assured colleagues that Thorne-Begland would handle his role as a judge in a “dignified way and a correct way.”

Earlier Monday, Gov. Bob McDonnell told reporters that judicial qualifications, not sexual orientation, should determine who serves in Virginia’s judiciary.

“All I can tell you is what I’ve always said about judges, and that is that these ought to be merit-based selections solely based on a person’s skill, ability, fairness, judicial temperament, ” the governor said at an unrelated event.

Good for McDonnell who’s had his share of unseemly positions in the past.  Anyway, Thorne-Begland really has an interesting backstory, too:

Thorne-Begland, a decorated officer and fighter pilot — came out as a gay Naval officer 20 years ago to challenge the military’s now-defunct “don’t ask don’t tell” policy. His announcement resulted in his honorable discharge from the Navy. Between 2002 and 2006, he also served on the board of Equality Virginia, a nonprofit gay rights group…

A number of conservative House Republicans with military backgrounds questioned Thorne-Begland’s decision to speak publicly about his sexual orientation while he was in the military and subject to its code of conduct.

“For me it’s not not about fear and bigotry and ignorance and so forth,” said  Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William. “It is very definitely about duty.”

Riiiiiiiight.  No bigotry or ignorance to see here.  Move along.  Again, it’s one thing when you get one or two fringe lawmakers, but this was a decision of the majority of the VA House of Delegates.  Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 Republican party.

Infographic of the day

Via NPR’s Planet Money team, this is very cool:

Government Spending - Breakdown Of 50 Years

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know to look for Medicaid/Medicare down at the bottom undergoing massive growth.  And as for defense, there’s clearly something to be said for ending the cold war (though, we could probably cut further still).

Photo of the day

I really love historical photos.  Alan Taylor brings us this terrific set of photos from 1962.  The whole thing is well worth a look.  One of my favorites:

In this March 20, 1962 photo, President John F. Kennedy’s daughter Caroline Kennedy rides her pony, Macaroni, on the south grounds of the White House in Washington. An unidentified handler runs along to keep pace. (AP Photo)

Obama and all the single ladies

Was talking to a neighbor the other day and she complained about how many political phone calls she had been getting ahead of the NC primary.  I told her I suspected that she was part of a coveted demographic (single women).  Anyway, made me think of this really interesting chart from Gallup.  Presumably, at this point, everyone is well familiar with the gender gap.  But did  you realize how much Democrats support among women varies by marital status?  Short version: all the single ladies love Obama.  Pretty interesting chart:

2009-2012 Trend: Presidential Approval Ratings Among Women, by Marital Status

Also pretty intriguing how “divorced” seems to so perfectly split the difference between single and married.   Gallup points out that certainly some of what you are seeing here is about age, but it’s not age alone:

These differences are partly a function of single women’s younger average age — young Americans of both genders are more likely than their elders to approve of the president. That’s not the whole story, however, as single women within each age category are more likely than married women to say they approve. That may be because marriage is associated with a number of factors that predict the more conservative values associated with the Republican Party, including higher religiosity.

The gender gap in presidential approval is widest among Americans at higher income and education levels. Among the least-educated Americans, for example, men and women are similarly likely to approve of Obama, while there are substantial gender gaps among college graduates and those with postgraduate education. Almost two-thirds of women with postgraduate education (64%) approved of Obama’s job performance in April, compared with 53% of men, putting the former on par with single women as one of the president’s most supportive demographic groups.

Also got me thinking that most media reports of “soccer moms” “security moms” etc., tend to focus on married white women, who are surely an even more conservative group than the all women breakdown here.   I could just look up the numbers right now if I wasn’t trying to blog with Sarah crawling on me, but suffice it to say, married white women are a pretty Republican-friendly group.

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