• Buzzing Along

    Buzzing Along

    Obviously, this site has been inactive for some time now. I am writing away, however, as the senior political and...
  • Ten Years Later: Ten Years Back

    Ten Years Later: Ten Years Back

    Back at the old Law Dork blog, before I worked for the State of Ohio; before I stopped working for...
  • On a Television Near You

    On a Television Near You

    They let me on the Tee Vee … On Wednesday, Feb. 23, I appeared in the lead segment on Capital Insider,...

Buzzing Along

Obviously, this site has been inactive for some time now. I am writing away, however, as the senior political and legal reporter at BuzzFeed. And, as ever, I’m always on Twitter! (I’ve also picked up a bit of a Tumblr habit.)

Nonetheless, I do remain the Law Dork.

Have a great weekend!

Popularity: 12% [?]

Ten Years Later: Ten Years Back

Back at the old Law Dork blog, before I worked for the State of Ohio; before I stopped working for the State; before I moved back to D.C.; before I began working for Metro Weekly and covering the White House, Congress and, yes, the Pentagon; before we were remembering — as we are today — that awful day 10 years ago, I posted the following on September 11, 2006 — an unedited re-post of the words I wrote in the days after Sept. 11, 2001:

TITLE: Remembering
DATE: 09/11/2006 11:19:15 PM

Five years ago, I was working for the Tribune Chronicle in Warren, Ohio. Right about now, I was helping finish up the first zone of the Sept. 12 edition, after having been at work since 10 in the morning.

On Sept. 18, 2001, I wrote about that day. Though it was missing the perception and perspective that time provides, it remains my most vivid, and somber, memory of that day.

* * * * *

The Longest Day

I was up late Monday night (actually, early Tuesday morning), returning to my apartment — like most other nights — from putting out the paper. Being a copy editor at a morning newspaper gives me a somewhat nocturnal existence.

Tuesday was Election Day for voters in Massachusetts and New York City, and I had something to say about it. So — like many other nights — I wrote. Nothing special. In fact, most of it was pretty bad. But I wrote until the last moments of night, going to bed a little before 7 a.m. Tuesday. No need to wake before work that day, I figured I could sleep until 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

My sleep was cut short.

The phone rang.

Not even looking at the clock, I ignored the call, knowing it was some telemarketer I had no desire to speak with.

Then my cell phone rang.

My best friend.

It was 8:58 a.m.

“Turn on the TV.”

“What?”

“Now.”

MSNBC — the channel on when I had turned the TV off the night before — gave me my first view of the horror. For all my life, I will never forget the image so many of us saw that morning.

I also will never forget my half-asleep reaction from the relative safety of my Ohio home. The voice that came from my mouth was one I have never heard before — and hope to never hear again.

“Oh my God. Oh my God!”

Within moments, I was called into work.

I called my mother on the way there. I checked in with her and then called my friend again. The drive to the newspaper had me listening to the radio and my friend from Washington, D.C., report about smoke rising from behind the Old Executive Office Building — the earliest mentions of what soon turned out to be the flight hitting the Pentagon.

* * *

About 9:30 a.m., I arrived at the newspaper.

A special edition was to be put out by noon, and with the news changing by the minute, the task was not a simple one.

In addition, I had to make a decision that taught me more about journalism than any class or experience before Tuesday had ever suggested.

I could not feel.

I could not let the event hit me — in any true, emotional way — until after I was done for the day.

As we prepared the special edition, I did just that. I didn’t think anything other than checking the Associated Press for the latest updates, reading and editing local coverage, writing headlines and laying out pages.

There was the “buzz of the newsroom” I had loved since my first day at the paper.

I never would have guessed how empty and horrid that buzz could be.

As we went through the motions, as the terror became clear, as the towers crashed and the rumors swirled, our reality was singular. Our responsibility was awesome — yet depressing.

We were pressed against the glass — looking through the window for the community — hoping to accurately and objectively portray the day’s events, a simple phrase that took on a whole new meaning Sept. 11.

Regardless of how tight we pressed against the glass, we also were powerless.

We were not the doctors, police or firefighters rushing to the scene. We were not the local ambulance company hurrying to help. We were removed — and yet in the middle of it all.

After we finished the special edition, we at the copy desk were able to slow down for a few hours before beginning the next day’s paper.

* * *

Occasionally contributing to the editorial page, I sat with some of the editorial board as we discussed the next day’s editorial.

“Flatten Afghanistan — just go in and flatten it,” said one particularly ready-to-strike and half-serious editor.

I was disturbed, but not sure how I could speak — at my age — about an event with which I had little or no benchmark for comparison.

I remembered getting videotapes and recording the CNN coverage of the Gulf War as I attended middle school. I knew nothing then — and I knew less now.

All of a sudden my earlier dismissals of international politics and foreign nations were worse than simple-minded — they were arrogant, they were wrong, they were dumb.

With the surety only naivete can provide, I spoke.

“We can’t do that. They are just as innocent as the people in the towers.”

The discussion continued and my mind reeled:

What would it mean?

Was this war?

The hawk editor said it was war; I countered that it was an “act of war,” a distinction I desperately clung to in my 23-year-old mind.

As we talked, an editorial position became clear — and was echoed by many papers and the Bush administration in the next days.

I wasn’t willing to give up Afghanistan so easily, and other editors filed closer to me than to the hawk. We settled on those countries “who supported these terrorists or aided in the attacks.” I thought I was satisfied, but I wasn’t sure.

I wasn’t sure of anything.

* * *

Some lunch and down time later, the evening began.

The stories kept coming; the horrors kept building; the fears kept growing.

Being a rather cynical staff, we wanted to see Bush. Hell, we wanted to see Cheney. I think we all wanted to see anything resembling what has now become either “normalcy” or “life before Tuesday.”

As the paper came together and the images were placed with the stories, the “big picture” started to form.

A man falling — diving — from one of the towers.

The fire, blood, smoke and darkness of “ground zero.”

The Pentagon — which I had always seen as our military’s central fortress — becoming a misnomer, with fire trucks aiming their hoses at its missing side.

As the night came to a close, the last few of us sat watching the TVs, looking to find something — what it was, I am not sure.

Maybe some were looking for a way to avoid facing the reality.

Maybe some were trying to find some meaning.

Maybe some were hoping a counterattack quickly would be under way.

Maybe we just didn’t know what else to do.

* * *

Finally, about 2 a.m., I headed for home. I drove that drive I have driven five nights a week for the past year and a half thinking about everything and nothing at all. More than once tears started to well up.

I started thinking about people. Earlier in the night, I had read of Barbara Olsen’s death. The wife of the nation’s Solicitor General, I often had shouted obscenities her way as I watched her on Chris Mathews’ “Hardball.”

She called her husband before she died — from the plane. I had read it, and now I could get nothing else in my mind.

But then there was something else.

My friends.

I had talked to or gotten e-mails from nearly all my close friends in D.C. And to my knowledge, I knew no one who worked in or with the Pentagon in any way.

In New York, I knew one friend was OK. After returning home and checking my e-mail, I knew another was shaken, but fine physically. One other friend had not e-mailed — and despite wanting to hope for the best, I considered the worst.

As I read Wednesday’s online versions of The Washington Post and The New York Times, it hit.

It was 3:30 a.m.

I was not a journalist now.

I started crying.

I hurt. I had no concept of what had happened — and yet I felt it all hitting me at once.

The morning a distant memory, I called the friend who had woken me to this terror nineteen hours ago.

I cried; he comforted.

Then we talked of our fears of the day, our fears of tomorrow, anything to keep the voices going.

Eventually, we hung up, ending a long call on the longest day either of us have ever known.

I went to sleep.

Like a reverse nightmare, I hoped when my eyes shut that the terror would disintegrate.

It didn’t.

It won’t.

Popularity: 54% [?]

On a Television Near You

They let me on the Tee Vee …

On Wednesday, Feb. 23, I appeared in the lead segment on Capital Insider, the 8 p.m. show on TBD TV, Channel 8, in the District. I was far from perfect, but it was a great experience and host Morris Jones was gentle on me. If the video does not appear below, try here.

Popularity: 30% [?]

McCain, Maddow (and Eleveld) and Me

DADT-Maddow-1

So, I can always come home to Law Dork.

DADT-Maddow-2

Here is the surreal: Rachel Maddow noting that Kerry Eleveld and I had what has been characterized as a “testy” exchange with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) before showing the clip and bringing on Mike Almy, who I mentioned, to talk about how exactly McCain was wrong.

Here it is:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Popularity: 44% [?]

Nick Gets Married

This evening, I got to serve as a groomsman in the wedding of my brother, Nick Geidner, and Shelby Murphy. ‘Twas a wonderful ceremony — and a chance to spend a few days in Indianapolis.

I will, however, be back on the grid tomorrow, appearing on “The Sausage Factory” radio show. Info from their release:

THIS WEEK ON THE SAUSAGE FACTORY

This week is major with an in depth look at Politics, Law, Pop Culture and Race around the country. Of course, we’ll also have Twitter Trendz & Sports!

Join your hosts Chris Miller, Laura Martin & Derek Washington for a show that will make you think and laugh!

Saturday 27 August 2010 10am -1pm www.vegasallnet.radio.com

10:10 Tommy Christopher – White House correspondent
10:30 Congresswoman Titus of Nevada
11:00 Christopher Geidner – aka “The Law Dork”
11:20 Jarrett Barrios – President of GLAAD
11:40 Ari Ezra Waldman. – Legal expert will discuss “Stop! Or my HIV
will shoot you!”
12:05 Elon James – This Week In Blackness
12:23 Jwebb – With The Weekly Sports Wrap Up
12:35 J.Son – From Naked Boy News to tell us about his contest to
become the next “Gay Travel Guru”
12:45 Lane Hudson – On The DC Mayoral Race

Finally, a photo of the lovely couple, having their first dance.

Popularity: 39% [?]

Poliglot, or a Law Dork By Any Other Name Is Just as Sweet

photo-1

Well, I still have this site and will continue to maintain it, but the overwhelming majority of my attention (and writing) is over at Metro Weekly now, where we have, in the past week, launched Poliglot: a queer spin on politics! As things come up that don’t fit there, I will still post here on occasion — but it will be rare.

I urge you to bookmark Poliglot and stop by often!

Popularity: 50% [?]

A Personal Rebuke to Ike Skelton

Rep. Skelton (D-MO)

Rep. Skelton (D-MO)

A letter was emailed late last night to Get Equal, sent from Baghdad by a gay, Missouri soldier currently on his second tour of duty, according to Get Equal. The soldier writes that he is facing discharge under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and had asked that Get Equal deliver the letter to Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO).

Referencing DADT-repeal opponent Skelton’s remarks about a DADT-free world — “What do mommies and daddies say to their 7-year-old child?” — the soldier wrote:

I come in from a long day out in the streets of Baghdad and see on television my representative, my voice, condemning the act of acknowledging my existence. . . .

I will continue fighting for your freedom congressman, will you cease blocking mine?

There’s not much more to be said than that.

The full letter, provided by Get Equal, follows after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Popularity: 56% [?]

Prop 8 Trial Comes to a Close

Judge Walker

Judge Walker

Here’s the preview I wrote at Metro Weekly for today’s closing arguments:

More than five months ago, the trial questioning the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 – prohibiting same-sex marriages in the state – began in U.S. District Court. Tomorrow, June 16, the trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger will come to an end. That end, however, could also be the beginning of the much larger case for equality in marriage across the country.

I’ll be live-blogging here with thoughts and interesting notes about the argument as it happens, but also be sure to follow my list on Twitter of people in the courtroom and tweeting the closing arguments live.

Interesting question and answer:

JUDGE WALKER: Are you focusing on the facts pertaining to the California initiative or facts pertinent generally and throughout the country with respect to marriage?
MR. OLSON: Both of those.

Punt.

More from Olson:

I think it’s really important to set forth the prism through which this case must be viewed by the judiciary. And that is the perspective on marriage, the same subject that we are talking about, by the United States Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court — the freedom to marry, the freedom to make the choice to marry — the Supreme Court has said in, I counted, 14 cases going back to 1888, 122 years. And these are the words of all of those Supreme Court decisions about what marriage is. And I have set forth this distinction between what the plaintiffs have called it and what the Supreme Court has called it.

Tough words. This logic would apply across the United States, regardless of the type of marriage ban, whether it be statute or constitutional amendment (or just a lack of marriage equality without any affirmative prohibition, like in New York).

The judge brings up Baker v. Nelson:

JUDGE WALKER: Well, now, the Supreme Court in the Baker versus Nelson case decided that the issue which we are [concerned] with here was not ripe for the Supreme Court to weigh in on. That was 1972. What’s happened in the 38 years since 1972?

Interesting softball. Olson, of course, responded that much had changed — noting, most specifically, Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas.

Walker notes that, unlike in Lawrence, we are not dealing with a criminal statute here. Olson’s response is excellent:

And then the court goes on to say, persons in home sexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes just as heterosexual persons do. The court was talking about the private intimate behavior. If the court had said instead you can go to jail for five days because we caught you doing those things, we will take away your right to drive on the highways, we will take away your right to marry because you do those things or you engage in that conduct, it seems to me that that is just as unconstitutional especially if the thing which is taken away is also a fundamental constitutional right.

Good stuff.

Hard talk from Ted Olson:

It’s a traditional definition of marriage, which is something that we have always done it that way is the same — is a corollary to the because I say so. It’s not a reason. You can’t have continued discrimination in public schools because you have always done it that way. You can’t have continued discrimination between races on the basis of marriage because you have always done it that way.

That line of reasoning would have prevented the Loving marriage. It would have justified racially segregated schools.

Wow. Olson goes on:

Well, we know that taking away the right to marry was indeed the very essence of slavery. Yet that very freedom, once denied to slaves and denied to interracial couples throughout this country is now being denied to the plaintiffs not because they are Chinese, not because of their race, but because of their sexual orientation. How can it be wrong in those areas and right in this area under the Equal Protection Clause? That does not square with any of the language that the Supreme Court has used in deciding equal protection cases. And that has been used, that same language has been used to strike down classes among citizens. That’s the language of Romer. That principle has been extended from race to nationality to ancestry to sex to legitimacy to the favoring of the husband in matters of marital property and in 1996 in the Romer case to sexual orientation.

That, my friends, is a closing.

Therese Stewart from San Francisco is up next, talking about the specific harm the city and county suffer because of Proposition 8. Why do people go to San Fran to marry?

MS. STEWART: Because it’s long been the City of love the city where people leave their hearts. It’s a fact of our culture.

JUDGE WALKER: The City of love.

Yup.

Charles Cooper is closing for the Prop 8 proponents:

It’s because this relationship is crucial to the public interest. It’s crucial to the public interest because, Your Honor, the procreative sexual relations . . . benefit to society and [the plaintiff's argument] represents a very real threat to society’s interests.

JUDGE WALKER: A threat?

MR. COOPER: Yes, Your Honor. A threat in the sense that, to whatever extent children are born into the world without this stable, enduring marital union, raised and responsibility taken for the offspring by both of the parents that brought them into the world, then a host of very important and very negative social implications arise and potential social consequences arise.

Interesting.

Cooper’s closing is weak.

JUDGE WALKER: Don’t we have to have evidence?

MR. COOPER: You don’t have to have evidence of this point, if one court after another has recognized — let me turn to the California cases on this. The first purpose of matrimony any by the laws of nature and society is procreation. The California Supreme Court said that . . . . A century later the California Supreme Court reemphasized that. ” The institution of marriage serves the public interest because it channels biological drives — channels biological drives that might otherwise become socially destructive and it ensures the care and education of children in a stable environment.” That’s the California Supreme Court, Your Honor. That’s the purpose of marriage in this state according to the California Supreme Court.

And? The judge concurred with my thoughts here:

JUDGE WALKER: Let me ask, if you have got 7 million Californians who took this position, 70 judges as you pointed out, and this long history that you have described, why in this case did you present but one witness on this subject, one witness? It seems you had a lot to choose from if you had that many people behind you. Why only one witness? And I think it fair to say that his testimony was equivocal in some respects.

Ouch. Then, Cooper responded:

You need only go back to your chambers, Your Honor, and pull down any dictionary, pull down any book that discusses marriage, and you will find this procreative purpose at its heart wherever you go unless, unless, Your Honor, that book was written by one of their experts or has been written over the course of the last 30 years.

The “30 years” point somewhat tore apart his case, as Cooper admitted that things have changed in the past 30 years.

JUDGE WALKER: If it is taking place throughout the country and throughout the world in this fashion, then doesn’t that indicate a changed perspective with respect to the role and function of marriage in society?

MR. COOPER: In the minds of many, yes, Your Honor. In the minds of many.

Yeah, I’m not sure how you jump out of that hole. To say that Walker’s questions of Cooper are more probing and less sympathetic is to understate them. This:

JUDGE WALKER: Let me ask you. You heard Mr. Olson this morning recount the experience of, and the background of the loving decision by the Supreme Court in 1964, I think, 67. And up to that time numerous states had laws on the books which prohibited interracial marriage. At some point there came exactly the same kind of social change that you have just described with respect to homosexuality. And at some point, 1967, that matured into a constitutional recognition of a constitutional right, that the limitation against interracial marriage violated a fundamental individual right under our communication. Why are we not at that same at this point . . . here with respect to same-sex marriage?

Well then.

After — in his discussion of the standard of review — positing that gays are not politically powerless and asserting that homosexuality is not immutable, Cooper did acknowledge that gays do have a history of discrimination.

JUDGE WALKER: This Proposition 8 and these other positions in other states that limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, the DOMA statute that has been mentioned, the exclusion of gays and lesbians from military service for a long period of time, aren’t all those simply indicia of a long history of discrimination?

MR. COOPER: No, we would — I want to are clear on this. We have never disputed and we have offered to stipulate that gays and lesbians have been the victims of a long and shameful history of discrimination. We have been bound to note that thankfully the situation today in 2010 is not what it was even yesterday let alone in 1990 when high tech gays was decided, thankfully.

Um, this is just a roundabout, sneaky way of claiming that gays aren’t politically powerless any longer.

Walker gets into what rational basis is even claimed:

JUDGE WALKER: A disability, a classification, has been put on marriage which disables people who wish to marry others of the same sex. In order to disable certain citizens do you not have to show a core relative benefit to others or to society? And the “I don’t know” or you don’t know where this is going to lead answer, is that enough to impose upon some citizens a restriction that others do not suffer from?

MR. COOPER: It is if there is a rational basis for that distinction, yes. I really think that really ends up being the bottom line on it. If there is no — if there is — if in looking at the, whatever society’s purposes are for marriage and interests are for regulating and caring about marriage, if there is no basis on which to draw a distinction between one group and another, then the distinction can’t stand. But if there is a distinguishing characteristic that is relevant to one of those purposes, then the distinction can stand.

Not so sure there.

Now, the plaintiffs will have a 30-minute rebuttal time. Olson crushes from the start:

[Y]ou can’t come in here and say I don’t know and I don’t have to prove anything and I don’t need any evidence except for some people writing in books who won’t come into court and subject themselves to the judicial process.

. . . .

Mr. Cooper says you have to accept the fact that first of all you have to accept my definition it has to be between a man and a woman. Then if you have oh marriage between a man and a man or a woman or a woman it will change the marriage. Well, of course it will, because you started by defining the term that you wanted to define.

Blunt. Echoing an earlier editorial about the Vermont marriage case in The New Republic that I’ve always loved, Olson said: “Proposition 8 isn’t changing the institution of marriage. It is correcting a restriction based upon sex and sexual orientation.”He then addressed the issue of why this is coming up now:

It’s no longer against the law to work for the federal government. It’s no longer against the law in most places to walk into a bar if you are a homosexual. The break down thank God of some of these barriers has changed people’s attitudes and I am sure that contributes to people saying, “Now, well, if that’s the case and psychiatrists have changed their view about homosexuality.” People no longer think it’s a disorder or anything like that. They have explained and people have come to understand the differences between various members of society and we have found out that all of those horrible taboos are not justified. In fact — and there are stories, some of which were in the ads that were supporting Proposition 8, are no longer true. So of course people are thinking well, if these are our fellow citizens and they don’t present a risk to us, they are not damaging they are just like us, why shouldn’t we start talking about marriage?

Nicely put. Olson ended:

[Y]ou have to have a reason [for Prop 8] and you have to have a reason that’s real not post hoc justification not speculation not built on stereotypes and not hypothetical.

That’s what the Supreme Court decisions tell us. We don’t have that here. We have a decision that takes — and there isn’t any question. A group of people who have been victims of discrimination, who are a discreet minority, who have identifiable characteristics, their sexual orientation. And we want to foreclose them from participating in the most fundamental relationship in life.

. . . .

The Romer case that says you can’t take away rights and make them unconstitutional impossible to recover except by amending your state constitution. And the Lawrence case that says that the sexual orientation of individuals and their private conduct is a protected right. You cannot then in the face of all those decisions by the United States Supreme
Court say to these individuals, “We are going to take away the constitutional right to liberty privacy association and sexual intimacy that we tell you that you have and then we will now use that as a basis for not allowing you the freedom to marry.” That is not acceptable. It’s not acceptable under our Constitution. And Mr. Blankenhorn is absolutely right the day that we end that we will be more American.”

With that, as Judge Walker concluded, “ The matter is submitted.

Popularity: 57% [?]

Grind This, Examiner

So, The DC Examiner decided it was good to do an over-the-top “gay men meet on GrindR” expose video today.

When Gawker picked up this “report,” Yusef and I at Metro Weekly decided it necessitated a response.

Popularity: 46% [?]

The Votes

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full House voted for the compromise language to set in motion the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Here are my reports on the Senate committee vote — “One Vote Down, Several (Votes and More) to Go” — and the House vote — “DADT Repeal Clears House.”

Popularity: 45% [?]

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