Granting that right would not require torture of legal logic. A decision by two adults of the same gender to marry causes no harm to themselves or others. But denying them the right to marry harms them, for no defensible reason — least of all states' rights. If denying states the right to ban gay marriage infringes on their rights as sovereign states, it's the same kind of infringement that denied them the right to ban mixed-race marriage, which some of them used to do.
States' sovereign rights don't include discrimination. The court has a responsibility to defend same-sex couples' constitutional right not to be discriminated against.
The Founding Fathers couldn't have foreseen such a thing as their Constitution being used to legalize same-sex marriage. They were enlightened for their time. But they also were 18th-century men who accommodated the right to own slaves and denied women the vote.
If the court legalizes gay marriage, it won't be a marker for how far constitutional law has evolved. It'll be more a measure of the advancement of human enlightenment. Four members of this Editorial Board are old enough to remember not knowing that Elton John is gay. At that less-enlightened time, outing him could have stunted his career. We are amazed, and pleased, at the rapid acceleration of social acceptance of gay marriage, and are ready to put the unenlightened past behind. We're confident that it won't be the last reed in the handbasket that takes us to hell.
If opponents of gay marriage stopped and listened to themselves — really listened — the moral decency that they cite as their motive would compel them to stop.
Do they hear themselves when, for example, they argue that gay marriage assaults the institution of marriage — knowing full well, as we're sure they do, that the right to marry someone of the same gender doesn't infringe on the right to marry someone of the opposite gender? And surely they know that it has no effect on the rates of heterosexual divorce and spousal abuse.
Was Gov. Greg Abbott, when he was attorney general, listening to himself when he argued in defense of Texas' ban on gay marriage that same-sex unions don't produce children? Was he hearing himself when he argued that the ban promotes the upbringing of children in stable, lasting relationships? Surely he knows that denying gays the right to same-sex marriage won't cause them to marry someone of the opposite sex and procreate. Surely he knows that the ban can't assist procreation by married heterosexuals. Surely he knows that the stability of a marriage depends on the two participants in that marriage, not on whether Texas bans gay marriage.
And, had Abbott listened to himself, surely he would have avoided his unintended insult to married heterosexuals who want children but can't conceive.
Texas' gay marriage ban does not prevent people from marrying for money or for countless other reasons having nothing to do with raising children. The moral judgments Abbott made in arguing for the ban, and the ones Texans made when they voted for it, don't ban people from marrying for morally wrong reasons. If we as Texans or as Americans could use government to do that, would we? Would we ban people from marrying for money? From marrying with no intent to have children? From marrying, knowing that one or both partners is infertile?
We expect Abbott to look back with regret someday, as did George Wallace for his segregationism. We know that Abbott spoke for many. But so did Wallace. Please let's move forward.
San Antonio Express-News. Jan. 26, 2015.
Why not just declare victory?
Several pieces of abortion legislation have been filed in the new Legislature. Why?
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has twice upheld Texas' already stringent laws. And, though one of those judges on a three-judge panel has expressed misgivings in another appeal, the state should nonetheless give up these culture wars.
So far, there has been a clear winner in Texas' abortion wars, and it hasn't been the pro-choice crowd. Short of getting the U.S. Supreme Court to undo Roe v. Wade, the decades-old ruling that established the constitutionality of abortion, there is no way to shut down the procedure completely in the state. And therein lies the answer.
If the 5th Circuit rules for the state — the latest case involves a requirement that abortion facilities upgrade to ambulatory surgical centers — Texas is expected to have only seven clinics remaining.
The state's abortion laws already require sonograms and a waiting period; ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy; limit the use of a pill to accomplish abortions; and require these doctors to obtain those admitting privileges.
The state says that 83 percent of Texans live within 150 miles of the clinics that will remain if the state's law is again upheld. That argument, as Judge Catharina Haynes seemed to question earlier this month, ignores that such distance is no small thing.
It also ignores the 17 percent of Texans who do not live close to the remaining clinics.
There is no justification for the impediments the state has erected to a constitutionally protected medical procedure. They only demonstrate that Texas is intent on making it difficult to get what is legally permissible.
Given that abortion is protected, this makes the case for fewer obstacles, not more. Continuing abortion debate will distract from far more pressing items. The focus will be on an issue that one side has already substantially won — no matter how the 5th Circuit rules in this latest appeal.
The Monitor of McAllen. Jan. 27, 2015.
Is Valley region a 'political pawn'? Border wall is counter to region's economic plans
A congressional delegation of House Republicans, led by U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, took another riverboat tour of the Rio Grande on Sunday near Mission and then afterward touted their plan to wall off the border here to keep immigrants out.
The very next morning, however, economic and business leaders from Reynosa and McAllen held a press conference a few miles away at the McAllen Convention Center and touted growth in the maquiladora industry and repeatedly talked about Reynosa and McAllen as "one community" that is growing economically.
Perhaps McCaul, of Austin, who is chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, should have stayed in town a few hours longer to hear how folks here really feel about our neighbors to the south.
Because if a wall were to be built here it would send a wrong message and goes counter to the inclusive dialogue that business leaders and elected officials in South Texas have gone out of their way to espouse.
Keith Patridge, president and CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corp., summed up aptly how incongruent McCaul's message is to theirs':
"It points out a really clear reason why we have to work together because we're kind of political pawns right now," Patridge told a joint press conference with INDEX Reynosa, which represents the maquiladoras and plant managers in Reynosa, Tamaulipas and McAllen.
"There's a feeling in the United States that we have an insecurity on the border and the Republican party was saying we need to tighten up border security. And there's a lot of people across the country who feel that way," Patridge said. "Unfortunately, it impacts us because we recognize the interaction and cross-border relationship between our communities."
Patridge and McAllen EDC vice president Ralph Garcia echoed the sentiments of McAllen Mayor Jim Darling who has repeatedly said we're "one community separated by a river."
Unfortunately, lawmakers in Washington who parachute in for quick peeks and photo ops and 15-minute press conferences don't get the full picture.
We commend Patridge and INDEX Reynosa President Alex Avila for their public show of unity and for portraying the positive messages of economic growth and future possibilities here.
In November, Patridge and Darling visited Korea and met with industry leaders there to tout the benefits of opening facilities in our region. Patridge told us that two automotive companies are very close to signing agreements here and that could greatly help add jobs in our region.
We agree with United Brownsville Executive Director Mike Gonzalez who said that a solution to the immigration crisis requires greater inclusion of border communities as well as a bi-national, integrated border control approach with economic development alternatives. "Fences and troops on the ground do little or nothing to reduce or control the forces that create illegal immigration," he said.
The House this week could take up McCaul's border bill, the Secure Our Borders First Act, although a blizzard in the Northeast could delay it. If passed, it would require new technology, infrastructure, like fencing, access roads, aerial and river surveillance as well as permanently fund the Texas National Guard for operations here.
In a recent six-part immigration series, The Monitor thanked troops for their efforts here but believe better control of our borders can be attained through local and state law enforcement (www.myrgv.com/brokenborders).
And while we advocate for greater roads and infrastructure and equipment to help agents, we believe that input from local officials is necessary.
As this controversial bill nears a House vote, tensions are certainly rising. U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, said after Sunday's visit: "At taxpayer expense, Chairman McCaul has brought his anti-immigrant dog and pony show to the Rio Grande Valley with no other purpose than to publicly humiliate South Texas. It's a despicable display of showmanship intended to appease Republican extremists."
And while a blizzard prepares to blanket Washington, it's obvious that a storm is brewing here also.
Longview News-Journal. Jan. 27, 2015.
Measure for use of medical marijuana extract is an idea whose time has come
State Sen. Kevin Eltife has filed a bill that would set up a system for allowing a marijuana extract to be used to treat those with a certain type of epilepsy. State Rep. Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth filed a companion bill in the House of Representatives.
The extract to be allowed is called CBD and its use has been shown to help prevent seizures in patients with epilepsy when no other drugs are effective. The bill would allow it to be used for children who, in some cases, have particular trouble in stopping seizures.
Treatment with CBD is legal in at least 10 states, most of them in the South, and is now being considered in others, including Georgia and Oklahoma.
We think Eltife's proposal is legislation whose time has come and we hope it passes and is signed by Gov. Greg Abbott.
But there are some difficulties to acknowledge. For one thing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not finished putting CBD through its rigorous — and quite lengthy — series of tests. That means doctors are not going to take the risk of prescribing it which, in turn, leads the Texas Medical Association to oppose legalization.
That does not and should not stop the bill from passage if alternate means of getting it to patients can be found. It does mean the program will have to be limited only to those who most need it.
Other states where CBD is legal have established one entity that is responsible for all dispensing of the product. In some cases it's the state's largest medical school and in others it's the state department of health or some other kindred agency.
This inhibits distribution of the drug and a number of those who need it will not be getting it. But it does allow limited distribution. We would urge the FDA to ramp up its testing protocol so the results can be taken care of and this therapy will be open to many more.
After all, CBD is an extract of marijuana and we know users have been indulging themselves with marijuana a long time before this. We aren't suggesting that a study isn't needed, just that it should proceed as quickly as is scientifically possible. Speed is not the FDA's strong point.
It should be pointed out that CBD will not give users a "high," so there is no worry it will become the latest drug to be abused. This is one reason why CBD has become so popular as opposed to just prescribing marijuana.
This would appear to be a bill with little controversy but we've thought that before. We hope this time it does sail through the legislature and provide help to those who, up to this point, have had little hope.
Abilene Reporter-News. Jan. 25, 2015.
There still is much to overcome
The mail came Friday with a letter addressed to the "Office of the Editor."
Inside was a clipping of a photograph that appeared on the front page of the edition of the Reporter-News from three days before.
The photo showed marchers crossing the Martin Luther King Jr. bridge in east Abilene on MLK Day. The third Monday of January is set aside to honor the slain civil rights leader.
Dozens of people marched west across the bridge, as has become tradition on MLK Day in Abilene. Most were African-American. At the front, a sign held by five people noted King's birthdate and the date of his death.
The only other interesting detail was a colorful flag flapping in the breeze a few rows behind the sign. Its rainbow colors — red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple — are familiar as the gay pride flag. The colors reflect the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, or LGBT.
Yes, we have such a community in Abilene.
The person who cut out the photograph wrote at the top: "And not a U.S.A. flag in sight. So sad!"
The point could be made, and rightfully so, that to honor Dr. King is to honor our country. His message harkened to those set forth by our founders, that all men are created equal. Still, that had not been the history of our country, though Dr. King held hopes that someday it would be.
So, an American flag would've been appropriate.
But the person who sent in the clipping really was not interested in patriotism. Rather, it was an effort to demean the march by pointing out that the U.S. flag was absent, and that tainted the march.
The same kind of criticism dealt the president for not wearing a flag pin.
Several years back, the newspaper received a similar cutout, this one from the cover of the Abilenian, which is published Mondays. Below the "masthead," which reads "The Abilenian: Abilene's Best People," was a photograph of black kids at a playground. The handwritten comment questioned whether those kids indeed were our city's best.
Our photographer was mortified by the slur.
We tend to review racial issues as happening elsewhere, but these hateful messages come from folks who live here. Someone took the time to cut out the photograph and send it to us, to tarnish an event intended to unite people.
It begs the sad question: Will prejudice ever end? While Dr. King paid the ultimate price for trying to bring people together, someone paid all of 49 cents for a stamp to mail a letter to the editor with the intent of tearing us apart.
Prejudice is easier than acceptance. Our nation has spent 238 years trying to get there.
The letter we received last week should emphasize to all of us that we have miles more to march.