Tag Archives: SCOTUS

Supreme Court Affirmative Action ruling: Fisher sent back to the 5th Circuit

By a 7-1 ruling, The Supreme Court of the United States has sent the Fisher case that challenged affirmative action back to the lower court.

How do you get the rabid anti-AA types to rule with the rabid pro-AA types? You rule on a procedural matter on the law, and then throw the case out. In this case, the strict scrutiny requirement in the current law wasn’t followed to the court’s satisfaction. Instead, it saw the lower courts as being too deferential to the University of Texas and not challenging its use of race.

There were other better reasons to throw it out, but this one will do.

This is a victory of sorts. Affirmative action is not dead, and Fisher? Well, she can decide to take the matter up again. But there’s another case next year, and she might want to cut her losses.

More to come.

On DOMA and Ginsburg’s dairy metaphor: Coconut milk marriages anyone?

I think my initial predictions will hold up. Prop. 8 goes back, and same-sex marriage resumes in California only. DOMA however goes dormant, if not totally dead.  DOMA doesn’t make sense, but to predict exactly how SCOTUS will come down on it isn’t really clear. Kennedy talking states’ rights and against Federalism could sway the conservatives, who may want to do nothing and let the Obama Administration have the courage of their convictions, i.e., if it’s a bad law, don’t enforce it. But who wants to deal with principles in Washington?

Then again, SCOTUS  can’t not do something. As Kennedy pointed out there is a definite victim with the estate tax burden on the plaintiff.

The court can be so stuffy that anytime someone shows some humanity or levity, it brings oxygen to the brain. That makes Justice Ginsburg  high-point scorer for the Wednesday session by pointing out the problem with denying same-sex couples the basic rights afforded to other marrieds under federal law.  The two-tiered, second class argument works here. But as Ginsburg put in dairy terms, that’s “skimmed milk marriage.” 

She totally skipped 2 percent marriage.

And then, what about the vegans?   

Do I have a coconut milk marriage? (You can have non-dairy, no-sugar, good fat Coconut Milk, Trader Joe makes the best one I’ve tasted. We’re talking alternatives that complete the metaphor).

See my original predictions at www.aaldef.org/blog


Some thoughts after SCOTUS – Prop.8 hearing

Prop. 8, that slimy, disingenuous constitution-block to same-sex marriage in the nation’s most Asian American state, is crawling back from the U.S. Supreme Court, not quite totally defeated but certainly with its tail between its legs.

It now waits for a decision by the High Court’s June recess. But from all appearances Prop. 8 will likely be sent back to California with the lower court ruling that declared it unconstitutional intact.

If my crystal ball is correct, same-sex marriages should continue again in the Golden State, but just in California. It doesn’t appear there’s five votes on the court to go whole hog for same-sex marriage nationwide quite yet.

But the trend is here. And if you’re for Prop.8 and anti-same-sex marriage, then you are akin to the proverbial Dutch boy with his finger you know where.

The flood of same-sex marriage support is about to overwhelm you.

Which is why, if you have a problem with same-sex marriage (maybe it’s a Catholic thing), I suggest you get thee to a gay marriage ceremony once they resume.

Stand in the back, by the organ — the big one that makes all the joyous noise. Or, if you’re crashing the party and feel uncomfortable, hide behind a rubber tree. Just go. You’ll be amazed.

In 2003, I attended my family’s big, fat gay wedding last weekend — my cousin Pauline’s, to be exact.

Forget about the legal contortions and gobbledygook you’ll hear from the lawyers on both sides of the issue. When you go to a gay wedding, one thing becomes apparent: The ceremony is so fundamentally American — as American as free speech — that it’s hard to imagine how anyone can fail to recognize a marriage based on such an unabashed public declaration of love.

The power of it all is undeniable. When the politics get personal, the matter is as clear as wedding-gift Lalique.

Before going further, I must say that while the function was big and fat, with nearly 400 people, I questioned whether it was really all that gay.

After all, this was a wedding where two brides made a pair — a lesbian pair. And that’s fine by me. As a straight male, I have definite lesbian tendencies. That is, I really like women, too.

At the wedding, author and former Ms. magazine Executive Editor Helen Zia helped make the distinction for me and schooled me on the lingo.

She said that I could use the term gay for a general description, but that lesbian was more appropriate, because it is more specific for my cousin.

Queer would be the inclusive term,” Zia told me. “Or you could say GLBT, for “gay lesbian bisexual transgender.'”

So be it. The whole affair was really my family’s big, fat queer wedding.

But the pressing questions straight people tend to ask are these: Are these really weddings? Are the participants really married?

No question in my mind. It was a celebration of love and diversity.

Some conservative religious folk keep bringing up children and procreation as the reason there’s a state interest to define marriage as between man and woman. But since that wedding, my cousin has raised a lovely daughter, in a family filled with love.

The truth is there is no good reason to ban LGBT marriages. Period. The change–for equality–is coming.

Addendum: Just heard the audio on the exchange between Justice Kagan and attorney Cooper on 55-year-olds. It’s a good way to refute the procreation idea as the deal breaker on same-sex marriage. Adoption and artificial insemination already diminish the point about procreation,  but using straight 55-year-olds drives the point home. Kagan’s right, most 55-year-olds who want to get married have no interest in kids. Not a lot of kids coming out of those marriages? Probably. But she never met my friend’s 80-something uncle who sired a son. But maybe that’s a Filipino thing. Most of the time, Kagan’s right. Marriage for the AARP crowd isn’t about kids, but no Prop.8 advocate in his right mind would think to try to block those marriages.

Procreation and the preservation of  family are the main points for those who hang on to traditional definitions of marriage. But they’re weak arguments that simply don’t hold up.

SCOTUS and Prop.8 ; Imagining a post-racial, post-same sex marriage debate world: the movie, “In the Family”; and Manny Pacquiao’s “Groundhog Day”

If you’re not sure what the Supreme Court is doing about gay marriage from all the different news reports,  then you need a time line.

Like the proverbial egg  passing through the snake, the issue is going through the process: In 2008, California narrowly passed a state amendment that banned same-sex marriage, but then a Federal court declared the ban unconstitutional. That ruling was subsequently upheld by an appeals court. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court simply said it would review the lower court’s decision.

Asian American same-sex marriage advocates saw it as a hopeful sign. API Equality-Northern California released this statement: “By granting a review now of the lower federal court’s ruling which held Proposition 8, California’s statewide constitutional ban on same sex marriage, to be unconstitutional, we hope that the U.S. Supreme will not uphold Proposition 8, but instead seek to affirm the lower federal courts’  ruling on this issue,” said Heidi Li, a California family law attorney and Steering Committee member of Asian Pacific Islander Equality – Northern California.

So the end is in sight of this snaky process. Maybe. We hope.


Those of you who remember me from my TV days in San Francisco, know that one of the things I did was act as resident film critic for the NBC affiliate (I was the one with the flower in the lapel, in between the convicted pedophile and the gal with the hat fetish).

I saw a lot of films in the ‘70s and 80s. Since then, I’ve been a lot more selective. But around the holidays, I always get the urge to see films (besides “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” for the umpteenth time) because this is truly the season when we are all prodded to the cinema right through Christmas.

But do you really want to flinch at another loud, crash’em up, blow’em up, spectacle in 1,2,3,or 4-D in the 8,14, or 16-plex?

I just saw the new Bond film and already find myself in need of a break. Slow food movement? I’m ready for the slow film movement.

Here’s my answer: “In the Family,” an independent film by Patrick Wang that some are calling a “masterpiece.” That may be a bit grand, but it is a fine antidote to the crashingly commercial. It opens this weekend, Dec. 7 at the Opera Plaza in San Francisco and the Camera Cinema in San Jose, and it’s definitely worth a look.

The film is a quiet tour-de-force. It’s absolutely one of the first post-racial, post-gay, post-hang-up movies I’ve seen ever. Hang up? That is to say it doesn’t get hung up on the obvious and because of that goes deeper. When do you recall seeing a film starring an Asian male, who is gay, in a conflict with his white family, over custody over a Caucasian child? And never once is there a mention of being Asian, or gay? Fish-out-of-water is a Hollywood convention and always played to the hilt. But here, the oddity of a Chinese American gay father in the South? Well, the movie just presumes it’s totally natural, like “Oh sure, there’s a gay interracial marriage and they’re raising a kid, and when the white father dies, the straight sister comes in to take the child.”

Oh, yeah. Like, you’ve seen these movies on Lifetime in your lifetime.

So are you ready for that?  In this movie, there’s nothing prurient or tawdry. When in a movie about gays is a kiss ever just a kiss? It is here. When is a movie with an Asian male in it just an excuse to show off some marital arts moves? All the time. But this movie is kung-fu free.

There’s also interesting things going on cinematically here. It’s an indy film so realism is a given, but this film shows off by disdaining the quick edit and letting the camera see and the actors act.  It seems like one long take after another. It is a long take. But by letting the camera go, the audience gets to see something amazing in the performance of the actors. They’re creating and letting us in on it. Cutaways? Sometimes. Mostly the camera is still and not moving, set on a wide shot and turned on. The viewer is allowed to see it all unfold as if watching a play (indeed Wang directed live theatre). Wang, an MIT grad naturally, shoots the movie in New York (Yonkers) but sets it in the South, (Martin,TN). And it’s totally believable.

So let’s review: here’s an Asian guy talking like a redneck, kissing his white husband, and raising a little white boy who calls him Daddy. With no karate chopping?

Yes, yes, yes and yes.

It doesn’t always work. In fact, you might feel like a fly in the wall who wants to move in for a closeup. Or land on someone’s nose instead of a backside.

But on the whole the movie works because it gets beyond the political rhetoric of race and gender, and marriage, and just looks at the human situation. There are even scenes that humanize the lawyers, which I actually found to be among the film’s best segments.

By the end, Patrick Wang playing Joey Williams makes perfect sense. It’s an Asian American story in a world where we simply exist. And may even be coincidentally gay, as if that matters. It’s the film after the culture clash. But even after some form of acceptance, there’s still conflict. And that’s where the movie reaches its peak.

Seeing the film reminded me of my days in Texas and Missouri where I spent the early days of my career. People thought I was Mexican and not Filipino. And then they were really confused when they heard my unaccented English and saw that I was dating their daughter.

If you want to imagine a post-racial future free of any race or gender B.S., or want to see a “Gaysian” portrayed in something other than the effeminate gal pal in chick flicks (those are the parts that used to go to Bronson Pinchot), then “In the Family” is a welcome sight.

Opening Dec.7 at the Opera Plaza in San Francisco and the Camera Cinema in San Jose.



After losing the debacle known as the Timothy Bradley fight which was so unfair even I felt cheated, Manny Pacquiao has run out of options. The best he can do is repeat himself. And the guy is human, not a machine.

The Mayweather fight is the only thing left, and that’s not happening. So what’s a Filipino super-star pugilist to do? In keeping with this posts’ movie theme, call Marquez-Pacuiao 4, “Groundhog Day.”

Manny answers the bell and it’s Marquez. Again.

No.4.(Four, by the way, rhymes with “whore” if you haven’t noticed). And what are we doing by going to the well another time except for money? I mean, I guess Pac-man shouldn’t dignify Bradley’s “championship” by fighting for the crown that was stolen from him.

So what’s left? Marquez? Again?

If it’s all rigged anyway, let me watch it all a week later  when it’s free.  So, to pre-empt your question, I’m not watching the fight this week.

 I’ll be watching my “24” DVDs all weekend long when I’m not going to Christmas cookie parties.

Pacquiao has been a great champion, but he’s got other things on his mind. And now boxing is his J-O-B.

He’s 2-0-1 against Marquez, who some say beat Pacquiao in at least one of the previous fights. I saw them all. It was close. But Pacquiao deserved the edge. Now, I’m not sure. Both are older and Marquez may get the better of Manny finally. But so what?

Part of me says, who cares about championships and belts, let’s just see a good fight. Marquez and Pacquiao fits the bill. But the other part of me hates to see Manny expose himself to more of boxing’s brutality.

He’s got a future outside of the ring—if he can leave with his brains intact.


That odd SCOTUS health care debate: Do we really want what’s worst for all Americans?

My mom is an idealist when it comes to affordable health care. And she’s unassailable. She died years ago.

But she knew the secret about making sure people got the coverage they needed. It’s called Medicare, though it should be called what it really is: single-payer health care.

It works. It’s not unconstitutional. And it can withstand the Tea Party’s illogical attacks.


While driving the other day,  I saw I sign a Tea Party type put up on the side of the road. It said, “Obama–Hands off my health care!”

Who really likes it the way it is, besides the big corporations? Health care is a large bureacracy that’s too expensive and leaves out way too many Americans. The only way to make it cheaper is if everyone gets in  and all the bad costs are  spread over a wide pool of folks.

The Affordable Care Act took care of that. It may not be perfect, but it expanded the pool and made coverage more fair.

We should be heralding the coming expansion of the ACA in 2014.

But after listening to the Justices the other day, I worry if this court will do the right thing.

This is after all, the court that believes corporations are people.


Is Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan an Uncle Tomboy? Feeding frenzy on the sexual identity of the solicitor general: Let’s work it out before it turns into unabashed bigotry

Ever been to the Liberace Museum?

Do you TIVO  the Ellen Show during the workday so you can watch late at night?

Got Melissa Etheridge on your CD rack? 

People are beating around the bush, shall we say, when it comes to the sexuality of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

Like it matters, right?

“None of our business “should be the official ‘“knee jerk response.”  

What about her hiring of minorities at Harvard? Why did the late great Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall call her a “knucklehead” when the young clerk argued chimed in against  a school busing case?  Slightly more relevant questions.

 But all the world seems stuck on the sexual red herring.

Then again, sex always makes for an exciting vetting process.  It was no charade for Clarence Thomas, whose hearings were sexually charged with references to the conservative jurist’s favorite porn star, Long Dong Silver, and the image of a pubic hair on a soda can.

None of it derailed Thomas.  

And neither should any of the sex talk about Kagan when all is said and done.

But, here we are as a country, working through a new low-point in our collective sexual maturity.

Hard to believe it really, considering  anyone who can afford cable can turn on Logo and see same-sex anything  24-7. You can even see queer themes on the major networks in prime-time.  Wasn’t always that way, so there’s some mark of progress.

But there are still some areas of society where your sexual proclivities are best left unsaid.

In D.C. policy wonks may talk a good game about gays and lesbians and when it comes to the public matters of civil rights, marriage and military service.

But every now and then, it’s just too tempting to gawk before taking the high road. 

That’s where we are with the Kagan sex talk. Anytime you can combine sex with fear in politics and you have a volatile mix ready-made for a nominee’s detractors.

Even in these oversexed times, too many are still uncomfortable when it comes to non-heterosexual  lifestyles.

 It’s as if being gay or lesbian were somehow unpatriotic. 

But this is where the sex talk gets interesting. The most ardent comments have come from out-gays, notably blogger Andrew Sullivan.

When I didn’t see the president introduce Kagan with the standard political husband and kids, the thought occurred to me that perhaps Kagan was a LWOB (lesbian without beard)   But what of it? I’ve stood side by side my entire career with blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans and  gay, lesbian, transgender groups for diversity in journalism.

Why wouldn’t I welcome the thought of a lesbian justice?

What surprises me is that I’ve heard more criticism from liberal and left-oriented groups who want to make sexual identity an issue, saying that to not hear someone acknowledge it is “cowardly.”

It’s no different when I as a “professional ethnicist” look at an issue and make it race relevant while others insist on a colorblind approach.

I know what I call those folks. In the context of sexual identity, would this make Kagan an  Uncle Tomboy? 

The Washington Post reports that the White House did come out pre-nomination and said Kagan’s not a lesbian.  But the rumors have persisted and now we have a full blown, “is-she-or-isn’t-she “debate.

That would be fine if we were all playing fair.

But many are not.  That’s why most people would rather not get into the discussion in the first place. So quickly can it turn into a living, breathing example of modern bigotry in  action.

That, of course, would be so un-American.

But very human.