Monday, August 07, 2006

Quote of the day: An exodus of gay people from Virginia? (Plus: Bob Ney's exodus from Congress, and Krugman mulls an economic slowdown)


"We weren't really into Virginia politics, so we didn't really know about any laws that might be working against us."
--former Alexandria, Va., resident Beth Lowrer, who went to a lawyer with her pregnant partner, Alexandria schoolteacher Kati Towle, "to draw up a will and adoption paperwork," and was advised, "Don't have that baby in Virginia"

According to a report in today's Washington Post, the baby was born at George Washington University Hospital in D.C., and the family then moved to Silver Spring, Md., part of an apparently growing outflux of gay people from Virginia, despite the often-substantial costs incurred in relocating.

The problem? The state's 2004 ban on "civil unions, partnership contracts or other arrangements between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage," compounded by a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would bar "unmarried individuals" from "union, partnership or other legal status similar to marriage."

As the Post's Kirsten Downey explains:

Many gay people in Virginia and some family-law attorneys say they worry that the state law and proposed amendment are more far-reaching than simple bans on gay marriage--that the measures could threaten the legal viability of the contracts used by gay couples to share ownership of property and businesses.

The exact effects are unclear, and the 2004 law remains untested, but some gays say they fear the laws could affect their ability to own homes together; to draft powers of attorney, adoption papers or wills; or to arrange for hospital visitation or health surrogacy.

Married people get these rights automatically through long-established common law; gay people use legal documents to ensure they can leave their property at death to their partner or allow their partner, rather than the patient's birth family, to make end-of-life decisions for them. Some gay people worry that hostile family members could use the language in the laws to seize their possessions or take custody of their children if they could prove the couple had a relationship that illegally approximated a marriage.

Naturally the people working so hard to strip gays of legal rights say that isn't what they're doing at all:

Victoria Cobb, executive director of the Family Foundation, the Richmond-based group that backed the 2004 law and the proposed constitutional amendment, said the goal isn't to drive out gay people. She said "extreme homosexual organizations" might be trying to frighten their members by circulating false information about the amendment. She said it wouldn't add restrictions on gays but would simply underscore the ways their relationships are already restricted.

"I think it's extremely sad they would leave because of something they were never allowed to do anyway," said Cobb, who said she believed gays could go to court to defend themselves if a partner's family members challenged their right to own property in common, arrange powers of attorney or visit each other in the hospital.

Apparently Ms. Cobb is unaware how common such challenges by hostile family members are even without the cover of Virginia's law. It also appears that she wasn't asked how many of her legal rights she would wish to submit to a vote of screeching bigots like herself.

ALSO TALKING--Bob Ney puts his family first

"Ultimately this decision came down to my family. I must think of them first, and I can no longer put them through this ordeal."

--Ohio Rep. Bob "If I Done What They Sez, Dontcha Think I'd Buy a Better Toupe?" Ney, known to circling federal prosecutors as "Representative No. 1," in a statement released this morning announcing that he won't seek reelection after all, but will serve out the remainder of his current House term

ALSO TALKING TOO--Krugman asks, who takes it on the chin in the event of a (likely) economic downturn?

"The real wages of most workers fell during the 'Bush boom' of the last three years. If that boom, such as it was, is already over, workers have every right to ask, 'Is that it?'"

--Paul Krugman, in today's New York Times column*

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
*As usual, the full text of the Krugman column is appended in a comment.


At 6:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish the screeching bigots here in Virginia and everwhere would "focus on their own damn family"...the Wapo article reminded me of one I read a while back;

June 30, 2004

How will a sweeping new state law change the lives of gay Virginians? Some couples aren’t waiting around to find out.
by Scott Bass
and this...

May 26, 2004
Virginia is for (Straight) Lovers

Before we pull up the welcome mat for gay Virginians for good, we should consider the costs and consequences of discrimination.
by Tracy Thorne

At 7:05 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Here is the text of today's Krugman column:

August 7, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

Intimations of Recession

These are the dog days of summer, but there’s a chill in the air. Suddenly — really just in the last few weeks — people have starting talking seriously about a possible recession. And it’s not just economists who seem worried. Goldman Sachs recently reported that the confidence of chief executives at major corporations has plunged; a clear majority of C.E.O.’s now say that conditions in the world economy, and the U.S. economy in particular, are worsening rather than improving.

On the face of it, this loss of faith seems strange. Recent growth and jobs numbers have been disappointing, but not disastrous.

But economic numbers don’t speak for themselves. They always have to be interpreted as part of a story. And the latest numbers, while not that bad taken out of context, seem inconsistent with the stories optimists were telling about the U.S. economy.

The key point is that the forces that caused a recession five years ago never went away. Business spending hasn’t really recovered from the slump it went into after the technology bubble burst: nonresidential investment as a share of G.D.P., though up a bit from its low point, is still far below its levels in the late 1990’s. Also, the trade deficit has doubled since 2000, diverting a lot of demand away from goods produced in the United States.

Nonetheless, the economy grew fairly fast over the last three years, mainly thanks to a gigantic housing boom. This boom led directly to unprecedented spending on home construction. It also allowed consumers to convert rising home values into cash through mortgage refinancing, so that consumer spending could run far ahead of families’ incomes. (Americans have been spending more than they earn for the past year and a half.)

Even optimists generally concede that the housing boom must eventually end, and that consumers will eventually have to start saving again. But the conventional wisdom was that housing would have a “soft landing” — that the boom would taper off gradually, and that other sources of growth would take its place. You might say that the theory was that business investment and exports would stand up as housing stood down.

The latest numbers suggest, however, that this theory isn’t working much better on the economic front than it is in Baghdad.

Signs of a deflating housing bubble began appearing a year ago, but for a while it was possible to argue that eliminating a bit of “froth” in the housing market wouldn’t do the overall economy much harm. Now, for the first time, problems in the housing market are starting to seriously reduce economic growth: the latest G.D.P. data show real residential investment falling at an accelerating pace. The latest job numbers show falling employment in home construction, and retail employment has fallen over the past year, suggesting that consumer spending is running out of steam. (Gas at $3 a gallon doesn’t help, either.)

Meanwhile, neither business investment nor exports seem to be growing fast enough to make up for the housing slump.

Now maybe we’ll still manage that soft landing despite a rapidly rising number of unsold houses; or maybe there’s a boom in business investment and/or exports just over the horizon. But based on what we know now, there’s an economic slowdown coming.

This slowdown might not be sharp enough to be formally declared a recession. But weak growth feels like a recession to most people; remember the long “jobless recovery” that followed the official end of the 2001 recession?

And what will policy makers do about a slump, if it happens? A snarky but accurate description of monetary policy over the past five years is that the Federal Reserve successfully replaced the technology bubble with a housing bubble. But where will the Fed find another bubble?

And with the budget still deep in deficit and the costs of the Iraq war still spiraling upward, it’s hard to see Congress agreeing on any significant fiscal stimulus package — especially because history suggests that the Bush administration and Congressional leaders will turn any debate about how to help the economy into yet another attempt to smuggle in tax cuts for the wealthy.

One last thing: the real wages of most workers fell during the “Bush boom” of the last three years. If that boom, such as it was, is already over, workers have every right to ask, “Is that it?”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company


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