Monday, March 25, 2013

Tickets To Watch U.S. Supreme Court Hear Arguments In Same Sex Marriage Cases Going For Around $6,000, Justice Roberts Lesbian Cousin Will Attend Arguments As His Guest, Will Portman “Pretty Psyched” About His Father’s Evolved Position On Same Sex Marriage, Virginia Democrat Senator Mark Warner Announces Support For Same Sex Marriage, New None-Anonymous Survey Suggests 83-Percent Of Boy Scout Leaders In Great Salt Lake Council Oppose Lifting Ban On Gay Members, Harry Styles Sports Gold Thong, Patrick Schwarzenegger

The most expensive ticket to The Book of Mormon on Broadway: $477. The face value of a great seat for this year's Super Bowl: $1,250. And according to the Associated Press, guaranteed seats to watch the U.S. Supreme Court hear this week's same sex marriage cases: an estimated $6,000. Tickets to the two arguments that begin Tuesday are technically free. But getting them requires lining up days or hours ahead, or paying someone else to. The first people got in line Thursday, bringing the price of saving a seat to around $6,000. For some, putting a value on the seats is meaningless. "It's just not possible," said Fred Sainz a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights organization, which began employing two people to stand in line Thursday. The court will hear arguments Tuesday over California's ban on same-sex marriage. On Wednesday, the court will take up the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 federal law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage say the cases are so potentially historic that they want to be inside the courtroom to watch, no matter what the cost in time or money. Part of the reason the seats are so coveted is the court doesn't allow TV broadcasts of its arguments, so coming in person is the only way to see the justices at work. The court has said it will release transcripts of the hearings as well as audio recordings roughly two hours after each case ends, but advocates say that's no substitute for being there. Seats, meanwhile, are at a premium because there aren't that many. The courtroom seats about 500 people, but most seats are reserved for court staff, journalists and guests of the justices and lawyers arguing the case. After those people are seated, there are seats reserved for lawyers who are members of the Supreme Court bar and at least 50 seats for the public. Tickets for those seats are handed out on a first come, first served basis. For the most controversial cases, the line to get those tickets can start to form about a day before. When the court heard three days of arguments on health care last year, the first people arrived three days early. This time, the line started even earlier. By Monday morning there were more than three dozen people waiting, even as snow was falling. Several in the line said they were being paid, while others included college students and a substitute teacher. People in line said they passed the time talking and reading. There were games of cards and at one point people watched the television show The West Wing on one person's computer. Those waiting said they'd made friends, and they traded watching each other's chairs and sleeping bags to go for bathroom breaks or coffee. On Monday morning, one man came around offering others donuts. Donna Clarke, 62, of Mountain View, California, arrived Sunday night and was 37th in line. The Army veteran who has been with her partner for 27 years had intended to just be part of a planned demonstration outside the court Tuesday, but she decided to join the line when she realized it might be possible to get inside. "I think there'll be a lot of my friends who will be very jealous," said Clarke, who intends to marry her partner in Massachusetts before they return to California, and said the Supreme Court's decision could be a "transformative moment" for the country. Most of the people waiting in line are supporters of gay marriage. But opponents, too, said they intend to be at the court to watch. Ken Klukowski, a lawyer at the Family Research Council and a professor at Liberty University School of Law in Virginia, says these cases are "not just major, not just blockbuster, but historic." Klukowski said he expects to be getting up in the middle of the night to get in the separate line for members of the Supreme Court bar. "No one knows how early but ridiculously early," Klukowski said. For those willing to pay to get in, several Washington services will hold a person's place in line. One company charges $36 per hour, another $50. John Winslow, the operations manager of Linestanding.com, which like most other line standing services is also a courier service, said his service would be holding places for 40 to 50 clients, a number of them lawyers. His group held about 35 places in line for the health care arguments last year, he said. Most people, he said, are starting their line stander 24 hours before, so they'll spend $864 to attend. Linestanding.com's owner, Mark Gross, said for many of his clients, attending is personal. "Health care was more about public policy and the direction that the country was going politically," Gross said. "But this really affects people in a personal way," Kate Kendell, the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in California, contacted Linestanding.com three weeks before the argument to secure her space. Kendell, a lawyer, said she tried to get into a Supreme Court case that involved gay rights in 1995. By the time she arrived at 3 a.m. on the day of the argument, she said, there were so many people she could only get in a line that allows people to watch three minutes of the argument. This time she isn't taking any chances. "This is one of those experiences that I want to see firsthand. I want to see the faces of the justices. I want to hear their questions," she said. She initially planned for her line stander to start at 4:00 am Tuesday but has since moved the time up twice. "All I care about is being in that courtroom and I'm pretty much willing to do whatever I have to do," Kendell said.

Among those sitting in the audience Tuesday as a guest of Chief Justice John Roberts will be his lesbian cousin. ABC News reports that in an open letter distributed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Jean Podrasky writes, “Tomorrow, my cousin, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, will begin considering the fate of two of the most important cases impacting the rights of the LGBT community ever to go before the Court—the challenges to California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.” Podrasky, who is a resident of San Francisco, added that, “I want nothing more than to marry my wonderful girlfriend. I know that my cousin is a good man. I feel confident that John is wise enough to see that society is becoming more accepting of the humanity of same-sex couples and the simple truth that we deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and equality under the law. I believe he understands that ruling in favor of equality will not be out of step with where the majority of Americans now sit. I am hoping that the other justices (at least most of them) will share this view, because I am certain that I am not the only relative that will be directly affected by their rulings.” Podrasky is the latest gay or lesbian person revealed to be related to or friends with a powerful politician, and the sense that everybody knows someone who is gay is affecting the political debate over gay rights and gay marriage.

The gay son of the first Republican senator to announce his support for same sex marriage says he is “pretty psyched” about his father’s decision and hopes his story will inspire people who are afraid to come out. Will Portman, the son of Ohio Senator Rob Portman, wrote in a column for his college newspaper Monday that he came out to his parents in a letter that he wrote in a campus library and sent to them by overnight mail. “They called as soon as they got the letter,” Will Portman wrote in the Yale Daily News. “They were surprised to learn I was gay, and full of questions, but absolutely rock-solid supportive.” The senator, once an ardent opponent of gay marriage, announced March 14 that he supported it, saying that his son was entitled to the same happiness that he and his wife share. “I’m proud of my dad, not necessarily because of where he is now on marriage equality (although I’m pretty psyched about that), but because he’s been thoughtful and open-minded in how he’s approached the issue, and because he’s shown that he’s willing to take a political risk in order to take a principled stand,” Will Portman wrote. He wrote that he had had an understanding that Rob Portman was his father first and his senator second. He said they eventually began discussions about policy issues surrounding same sex marriage. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee last year, considered Rob Portman as a running mate. Will Portman wrote that his father told the campaign he had a gay son, and that the family had decided they would be open about it on the campaign trail. Will Portman wrote that he was relieved when his father wasn’t picked. He also defended his father against criticism that he waited two years after his son came out to support gay marriage. “Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out,” he wrote. “But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public.” His advice for anyone afraid to come out, or worried that there is something wrong with them: “I’ve been there. If you’re there now, please know that things really do get better, and they will for you too.”

The Washington Post reports that Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) has announced his support for gay marriage, making him the second Democratic senator to announce his support Monday, a day before the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on the topic. Warner was one of 40 senators to sign on to an amicus brief to the Supreme Court asking it to overturn a federal ban on gay marriage. He previously had not been supportive of same sex marriage. “I support marriage equality because it is the fair and right thing to do,” Warner said in a statement on his Facebook page. “Like many Virginians and Americans, my views on gay marriage have evolved, and this is the inevitable extension of my efforts to promote equality and opportunity for everyone. I was proud to be the first Virginia governor to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBT state workers. In 2010, I supported an end to the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, and earlier this month I signed an amicus brief urging the repeal of DOMA. I believe we should continue working to expand equal rights and opportunities for all Americans.” Earlier Monday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), another Democrat in a swing state, announced her support for same sex marriage. Warner’s support is notable because he’s up for re-election in 2014 and also because he’s considered a potential presidential contender in 2016. Almost all of the top contenders for the Democratic nomination in 2016 now support gay marriage, including Vice President Biden, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who announced her support last week. A recent Washington Post poll in Virginia showed 49-percent supported gay marriage, while 40-percent opposed it. Voters banned gay marriage in 2006, by a margin of 57-43. Warner has long been popular in his home state, with an approval rating that has often been in the 60s. He is not considered a top Republican target in 2014.

In Utah, 83-percent of the Boy Scout leaders, parents and organizations that run troops in the Great Salt Lake Council say they oppose lifting the ban on gay leaders and Scouts, according to a new survey. And 70-percent say they will be less involved or will quit Scouting if the ban ends. Fourteen percent say they would like to see a change in the policy. The results come from about 4,600 Utahns — the 11-percent who responded to nearly 41,000 surveys sent out by the Great Salt Lake Council on March 6. The survey is not anonymous. The council decided to survey its leadership and parents in advance of the Boy Scouts of America’s upcoming discussions on whether to alter membership rules. No Scouts were included, said Rick Barnes, scouting executive for the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America. "We think it’s an important issue," Barnes said, "and we don’t want to drag kids into the discussion." According to the Salt Lake Tribune, about 98-percent of the Great Salt Lake Council’s troops are sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Barnes said, adding that the number holds true for much of the state as well. Larry Love of Salt Lake City, an LDS Church member and Scout master, was surprised by the 83-percent support for the ban. "I thought it would be closer to 50-percent," Love said. "Everybody is making too big of an issue about this. I don’t think it’s a gay issue, but it’s an issue about if the leaders qualify to be a leader. We don’t talk about sex." Long-time Scout leader Michael Clara, who is also a Salt Lake School District board member and an active LDS Church member, did not return the survey. "I’m willing to support whatever the decision is," said Clara, who was endorsed by Equality Utah, which advocates for gay civil rights. "I support their current position now, but I don’t see how their position is in opposition to gay rights. Just because headquarters is having an issue doesn’t mean we’re having an issue on the local level." Nationally, the Boy Scouts of America is surveying leaders, donors, major charter members who run troops and members 16 and older to determine whether it is time to change the ban and to measure potential impacts either way. During its April 17 meeting, its national executive board is expected to draft a resolution based on the survey results, which will then go to a nationwide vote of all Boy Scout councils on May 23. The LDS Church is the number one charter partner nationwide, with the United Methodists coming in second. The Mormon allows chaste gays to hold "callings," or positions in its organizations, when chosen by local Mormon leaders, and its written guidelines do not exclude Scouting. The Great Salt Lake Council survey went to registered leaders at the unit, district, and council levels, to charter organization representatives and leaders, and to parents of Scouts. Barnes defined the battle within the national organization as "deciding what are core values are going to be." According to the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, Barnes said, homosexuality is inconsistent with scouting values. "That’s our current policy," he said. While BSA representatives in other parts of the country might support openly gay leaders and members, Barnes said that the membership and backers in Utah clearly want no change.

A photograph of a 16-year-old Harry Styles backstage at the X Factor has surfaced, Styles ironing a pair of white boxerbriefs while wearing a gold thong.

A shirtless Patrick Schwarzenegger spotted poolside in Miami.

No comments: