Daily Update: Monday, June 26th, 2017

06-26 - Obergefell v. Hodges

We have no Saints to honor today; instead we note that on this date in 2015 the United States Supreme Court ruled, 5–4, in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. And today is the birthday of my Internet friend Lori in Wisconsin (1954).

Baker v. Nelson (1971) was a case in which the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a state law limiting marriage to persons of the opposite sex did not violate the U.S. Constitution. Baker appealed, and on October 10th, 1972, the United States Supreme Court dismissed the appeal “for want of a substantial federal question.” Because the case came to the U.S. Supreme Court through mandatory appellate review (not certiorari), the dismissal constituted a decision on the merits and established Baker v. Nelson as precedent, though the extent of its precedential effect had been subject to debate. In November 2014, following a lengthy series of appeals court rulings from the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuit Courts that state-level bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, the Sixth Circuit Court ruled that it was bound by Baker v. Nelson and found such bans to be constitutional. This created a split between circuits and led to an almost inevitable Supreme Court review. On January 16th, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court consolidated the four same-sex marriage cases challenging state laws that prohibited same-sex marriage (DeBoer v. Snyder (Michigan), Obergefell v. Hodges (Ohio), Bourke v. Beshear (Kentucky), and Tanco v. Haslam (Tennessee)) and agreed to review the case. Decided on June 26th, 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges overturned Baker v. Nelson and required all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions. This legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States, and its possessions and territories. The Court examined the nature of fundamental rights guaranteed to all by the Constitution, the harm done to individuals by delaying the implementation of such rights while the democratic process plays out, and the evolving understanding of discrimination and inequality that has developed greatly since Baker. I personally believe that the court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is a very good thing, and I personally know same-sex couples that are very happy to now be legally married; but I also recognize that I have friends and family (not to mention the Catholic Church) who disagree with the court’s ruling, and I allow those who disagree in good faith to maintain their disagreement. And today is the birthday of my Internet friend Lori in Wisconsin (1954).

Last night we sat out on the front porch, and I was extraordinarily happy to see fireflies (aka lightning bugs; under either name, they are not in SouthWestCentral Louisiana.) I finished reading Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner via Kindle on my tablet, then did my Book Review for the book for this Weblog and for my Goodreads and Facebook accounts. I then started reading Beethoven’s Skull: Dark, Strange, and Fascinating Tales from the World of Classical Music and Beyond by Tim Rayburn via Kindle on my tablet. 

Richard went to work for the first day of the two-week pay period at the casino. Meanwhile in Eastern Kentucky, I overslept and woke up at 8:30 am. I posted to Facebook that today was the Anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges, did my Book Devotional Reading,  and read the morning paper. 

We left at 9:30 am, I left off a bag of dog food at the Animal Shelter (which was not open yet) and Liz Ellen did some banking at her bank. We then got on I-64 West. After a stop so that Liz Ellen could leave off birthday presents at her office, we went to Lexington. We ate very good Shrimp Platters for lunch at Smithfield Seafood on Sixth Street (near Transylvania University), then went to the Kentucky Horse Park. We enjoyed the 2:00 pm Parade of Breeds, saw the exhibits at the Museum of the Horse, and I purchased a T-shirt and some earrings at the gift shop. On our way home Richard called; after his shift ended at 11:00 am he had attended the Meeting with Max, and he updated me on what Max had said. He also said that the guys were over fixing the air conditioning; it was just a broken contact inside the compressor. I then called him back to clarify what Max had said in the meeting. Back in town, Liz Ellen and I picked up hot dogs for dinner.

We arrived home at 6:00 pm, and ate our hot dogs. At 7:00 pm we turned to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, to watch our #3 LSU Tigers play the #4 Florida Gators in the first game of the Championship series. We watched Jeopardy! at 7:30 pm. We sat on the front porch and watched fireflies (and one rabbit). And our LSU Tigers lost the College Baseball game with the Florida Gators by the score of 3 to 4.

Tomorrow is the Optional Memorial of Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor (died 444). Tomorrow is also Lottery Day, according to Shirley Jackson’s 1948 short story “The Lottery”, and it was on tomorrow’s date in 1957 when Hurricane Audrey made landfall in Eastern Texas and Western Louisiana. Richard will go to work early and sign the Early Out List. I will say my goodbyes to Liz Ellen and her cats, and get on the road by 8:00 am and head west and south. Our #3 LSU Tigers will play the #4 Florida Gators in the second  game of the Championship series at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. 

Our Parting Quote this Monday evening comes to us from Howard Baker, American politician. Born in 1925 in Huntsville, Tennessee, his father later served as a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from 1951 until 1964, representing a traditionally Republican district in East Tennessee. After high school Baker attended Tulane University in New Orleans. During World War II he trained at a U.S. Navy facility on the campus of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee in the V-12 Navy College Training Program. He served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946 and graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1949. That same year he was admitted to the Tennessee bar and began his law practice. He married Joy Dirksen, the daughter of Senator Everett Dirksen. Baker began his political career in 1964, when he lost to the liberal Democrat Ross Bass in a U.S. Senate election to fill the unexpired term of the late Senator Estes Kefauver. In the 1966 U.S. Senate election for Tennessee, Bass lost the Democratic primary to former Governor Frank G. Clement, while Baker handily won his Republican primary race over Kenneth Roberts, 112,617 (75.7 percent) to 36,043 (24.2 percent). Baker won the general election, capitalizing on Clement’s failure to energize the Democratic base, including specifically organized labor. Baker thus became the first elected Republican senator from Tennessee since Reconstruction. In 1969 he was already a candidate for the Minority Leadership position that opened up with the death of his father-in-law, Everett Dirksen, but Baker was defeated 19-24 by Hugh Scott. At the beginning of the following Congress in 1971, Baker ran again, losing to Scott this time 20-24. Also in 1971 President Richard Nixon asked Baker to fill one of two empty seats on the U.S. Supreme Court. When Baker took too long to decide whether he wanted the appointment, Nixon changed his mind and nominated William Rehnquist instead. Baker was re-elected to his Senate seat in 1972. In 1973 and 1974, Baker was also the influential ranking minority member of the Senate committee, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin, that investigated the Watergate scandal. Baker is famous for having asked aloud, “What did the President know and when did he know it?”, a question given him by his counsel and former campaign manager, future U.S. Senator Fred Thompson. When Hugh Scott retired, Baker was elected senate minority leader in 1977 by his GOP colleagues, defeating Robert Griffin 19-18. Re-elected again in 1978, he served two terms as Senate Minority Leader (1977 – 1981) and two terms as Senate Majority Leader (1981 – 1985). Baker ran for President in 1980, dropping out of the race for the GOP nomination after losing the Iowa caucuses to George H.W. Bush and the New Hampshire primary to Ronald Reagan, even though a Gallup poll had him in second place in the presidential race at eighteen percent behind Reagan at 41 percent as late as November 1979. In 1981 he received the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards. Baker did not seek re-election in 1984. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom the same year. However, as a testament to Baker’s skill as a negotiator and honest and amiable broker, Reagan tapped him to serve as Chief of Staff during part of Reagan’s second term (1987 – 1988). Many saw this as a move by Reagan to mend relations with the Senate, which had deteriorated somewhat under the previous chief of staff, Donald Regan. (Baker had complained that Regan had become a too-powerful “Prime Minister” inside an increasingly complex imperial presidency.) In accepting this appointment, Baker chose to skip another bid for the White House in 1988. His first wife had died of cancer; in 1996 he married former Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum, the daughter of the late Kansas Governor Alfred M. Landon, who was the Republican nominee for President in 1936. In 2003 the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy was set up at the University of Tennessee in honor of the former senator. Vice President Dick Cheney gave a speech at the 2005 ground-breaking ceremony for the center’s new building. In 2007 Baker joined fellow former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole, Tom Daschle, and George Mitchell to found the Bipartisan Policy Center, a non-profit think tank that works to develop policies suitable for bipartisan support. The rotunda at the University of Tennessee College of Law is now named for Baker. While delivering a commencement speech during his grandson’s graduation at East Tennessee State University (Johnson City) on May 5th, 2007, Baker was awarded an honorary doctorate degree. Upon the completion of the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy in 2008, Sandra Day O’Connor assisted in the facility’s dedication. In his later years Baker served as Senior Counsel to the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz. He was also an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy. Baker also held a seat on the board of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, a non-profit which provides international election support (died 2014): “The most difficult thing in any negotiation, almost, is making sure that you strip it of the emotion and deal with the facts.”

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