Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dangers In The Work We Do

There have been a number of interesting stories in the news lately (and by lately, I mean last month, because I have sucked as a blogger lately) about the risks of being a diplomat. The articles stem from the deaths of journalists and other Westerners held hostage by ISIS, though I wonder whether some of this is also related to the new show Madam Secretary (which no, I will not review here. A lot of my colleagues hate it, much as my friends in construction hate HGTV, but I am enjoying it and figure anything that shines a positive light on the work we do is a good thing, even if it is not terribly accurate).

I meant to share these sooner, but I don't yet have a desk in my office in our new home and that makes blogging challenging. But hopefully my new desk will arrive tomorrow and I can organize my office so that work up here will be possible.

So for now, I will just share some links with you.

From Federal News Radio: It happened to me: Diplomats recount stories of crisis and survival

From the Center for American Progress: Attacks Against American Diplomats.

From the Washington Post: Reporters’ deaths point to dangers Foreign Service officers also face abroad

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Whole New World

SC Statehouse
Photo by
SC Equality
My wife and I were driving down the GW Parkway to FSI last Monday when we first heard the news: the Supreme Court had declined to hear the cases on marriage equality.

My initial response was confusion and disappointment. We had really hoped the court would finally weigh in and give some clarity to the issue. How could they not weigh in when five separate appellate courts had ruled that the ban on marriage equality was unconstitutional? And what would this mean in those cases? More lives on hold?

But clarity was soon in coming and change swept through like wildfire.

Their non-decision, while not deciding on the issue for the whole country, is having close to the same effect and was apparently the right one: there was no need to weigh in on an issue upon which all of the lower courts had agreed. So in Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana and Wisconsin, the lower court ruling would stand and marriage equality would be the law of the land.

The non-decision would likely expand marriage equality to the other states covered by those federal appeals courts: meaning marriage equality was also coming to Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

South Carolina, y'all!

Virginia immediately accepted the ruling, and as of 1 p.m. on the 6th, couples began to get married and suddenly we were married both at home and at work!).

A few other states fought and then surrendered, including North Carolina, where GOP leaders went back to the court with the argument that the federal court didn't have jurisdiction (really guys? 'cause I think we fought a war over that one...).

Others are still fighting it, including South Carolina (of course), although the probate judges in Richland, Charleston, and Colleton counties have begun accepting applications. The SC Supreme Court ordered them to stop, but the judge in Richland County refused. She is the same probate judge who handled my grandmother's estate...I thought she and her staff were awesome then. Now she is my hero.

In the week since SCOTUS' non-decision, even more states have joined the right side of history, including Alaska (one Facebook meme noted that a certain politician from that state could now see marriage equality from her back yard!).

In fact, on Wednesday, Estonia passed a gender-neutral civil partnership law that will grants LGBT people there many of the rights and responsibilities of marriage. They are the first country formerly occupied by the Soviet Union to do so! Told you I loved that place!

I don't even know for sure what the count of states is now with marriage equality because so many places are in flux. It is somewhere between 30-35, up from 19 before the non-decision. More than half of the country lives in a marriage equality state. Here is the latest map from wikipedia (it is edited by Joe Jervis of the LGBT blog Joe.My.God., and he noted that he had to change it some eight times in a week, including twice in one day).

Here is the current map (as of this morning):

Here is what that means:

Dark blue: Same-sex marriage legal
Dark silver: Same-sex marriage performed elsewhere recognized
Light blue: Same-sex marriage legalization pending, but not yet in effect
Light Silver: No prohibition or recognition of same-sex marriage in territory law
Gold: Judicial ruling(s) overturning the same-sex marriage ban stayed indefinitely pending appeal
Yellow: Judicial ruling(s) overturning the ban on recognizing same-sex marriage performed elsewhere stayed indefinitely pending appeal
Red: Same-sex marriage ban runs contrary to federal appellate court precedent (includes SC, of course)
Garnet: Same-sex marriage banned

This is a historic moment. Love is winning.

And our potential retirement locations are increasing! Thanks to Asheville for being so welcoming...you are currently that the top of the list!

Asheville, NC City Hall.
Photo courtesy of WLOS ABC 13