Prop 8 backers call for reversal of court ruling

by Tenzin Shakya and Audrey Arthur

Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes (Flickr)

Proponents of Proposition 8 presented their case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Monday, citing procreation and children’s well being as a rational basis to appeal an Aug. 4 ruling deciding that the proposition is unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel, consisting of Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt, Judge Randy Smith and Judge Michael Hawkins, reviewed the case brought forth by

“We believe there is clearly a rational basis justifying the traditional definition of marriage,” said Charles Cooper defense attorney to the appellants. “The key reason that marriage has existed at all, in any society and at any time, is that sexual relationships between men and women naturally produce children.”

Proposition 8 was passed by California voters in 2008 defining marriage as an institution between one man and one woman. However, in an August ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said the proposition is unconstitutional and infringes upon equal protection rights of gay and lesbian couples. Proposition 8 proponents then issued an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Although the court has no time limit, most cases heard by the Ninth Circuit are decided between 3-12 months. If the judges decide the proponents have legal standing, their case may continue to the California Supreme Court. Else, the federal appeals court may issue a decision without referring to the Supreme Court.

Cooper argued that the historical definition of marriage has existed now and “for all time immemorial.” Society has no interests in relationships such as platonic male-female relationships or same-sex relationships because of their inability to produce children, Cooper said.

Protestors outside of the San Francisco 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

“When a relationship between a man and a woman becomes a sexual one, society immediately has a vital interest in that,” Cooper said. “Society needs the creation of new life for the next generation.”

The interests of society are threatened by unwanted pregnancies and pregnancies out of wedlock, Cooper said, because such instances often leave the mother to raise the child alone. Cooper suggested that the traditional home of one father one mother is the most beneficial environment to raise a child.

“Society will have to step in and assist that single parent in all likelihood, that is what usually happens, in the raising of that child,” Cooper said. “But as well as the undeniable fact that children raised in that circumstance have poor outcomes.”

Judge Reinhart of Los Angeles responded, “That sounds like a good argument for prohibiting divorce.” The statement initiated a wave of laughter throughout the courtroom.

He also questioned how such an argument would invalidate a same-sex couple from raising children in California and creating a happy, healthy family unit.

Cooper stated he was attempting to give examples of procreation to exhibit the clear distinctions among same-sex couples and opposite sex couples.

Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart responded to Cooper’s statements.

“It doesn’t matter how the child comes into the world,” said Stewart. “Family law in California recognizes that same-sex couples do procreate.”

To portray opposite-sex couples as traditional or ideal is demeaning toward same-sex couples, Stewart said, in that it implies gay or lesbian couples are less desirable.

“California does not discourage that in any way or say one is more desirable than the other,” Stewart said.

Theodore Olsen, an attorney who has led the challenge against Proposition 8, reacted to comments made in the appellant’s brief referring to problems that may occur with children if Proposition 8 is overturned.

“Proposition 8 needs to be enacted because the existence of same-sex marriage will make children prematurely occupied with issues of sexuality,” the brief read.

“That is nonsense,” Olsen responded. “If that was the course of justification, it would equally warrant the banning of comic books, television, video games and conversations with other children.”

Olsen criticized campaign methods of Yes on 8 and their emphasis on protecting children from potential harm of same-sex marriages.

“That was the original rationalization–protect our children from thinking that gay marriage is okay,” Olsen said. “Well, what is the matter with that? It must be something with the gay people.”

Olsen said such campaign strategies promote the idea that children must be protected from “these people.”

Judge Norman Randy Smith of Pocatello questioned the validity of any argument due to the equal rights that all couples share.

“What is the rational basis then if homosexuals have all the rights that heterosexual couples have?” asked Smith. “We’re left with a word: marriage.”



AB 12 extends foster care to young adults

By Tenzin Shakya, staff writer

Photo Courtesy of All Saints Church

Foster children will now have the choice to remain in foster homes till age 21 or move out at 18 with federal assistance. The California Fostering Connections to Success Act, signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger on Sept. 30 has made this possible for thousands of foster youth who under current law are legally emancipated without state support at age 18.

The legislation, also known as Assembly Bill 12, will be effective January 2012 and will require youth to attend school, college, career oriented programs or work a minimum of 80 hours a month in order to receive funding. The bill also provides transitional housing support to those who qualify until age 21.

Amy Lemley, policy director for the John Burton Foundation for Children without Homes in San Francisco, said the bill is an entitlement and “if all of California’s foster youth elect to participate, we are legally required to pay for them.”

San Francisco had an estimated 189 foster children emancipated within the last year according the database of the California Department of Social Services and the University of California at Berkeley. California had a total of 63,553 foster youth last year of which 5,332 were emancipated.

Carroll Schroeder, executive director of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, a co-sponsor of the bill said, “AB-12 takes advantage of funding opportunities provided for the first time by the federal government toward California’s Foster care system.”

SF State communications major and former Guardian Scholar, Jewel Boone, 19, said statistics provide data on the number of kids in foster care, but does not provide information on how it impacts them directly.

“Identity issues of not knowing who you are is a psychological task and a big responsibility for children and young adults,” Boone said.

Boone was declared a “ward of the court” since birth and has been placed with two foster families. Last year she was legally emancipated without choice after turning 18. Boone enrolled in SF State through the support of the Guardian Scholars Program, an organization founded under the mission to “create a system of support that will meet the academic, social, emotional, and financial needs of college-bound students who are transitioning out of the foster care system.”

She still considers herself “one of the few lucky enough to have a strong family support system.” She said a lot of her friends in the foster care system did not have that. “A friend of mine was kicked out at 11:58 p.m on his 18th birthday along with a bag that had all his things in it,” she said.

Boone credits the Guardian Scholars program at SF State for supporting people like herself.

“Without the state’s funding programs for foster care, chances of going to college is almost an impossible battle,” she said. “There would be no alternative for students like me, and I would not be able to afford SF State.”

Amid celebrations of the bill’s passing, Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform said AB-12 does not solve the problems faced by foster youth. “It’s not enough because the this bill simply makes it less bad than other wise.”

Wexler compares this bill to a “catch-22” scenario. “It’s a case of treating the wrong wound when a worse wound is hidden and unseen.” He said AB-12 simply funds the foster families to allow the foster care youth to stay in their foster homes until age 21 with at least three meals a day, and “one would hope that love and support from the foster family would also be there.”

Wexler said the real problem is children being placed into foster care when they don’t need to be. “Poverty, neglect, and housing for homeless parents separate children from their families, which could simply be solved by providing decent housing and daycare centers for single parents,” he said.

Boone acknowledges that the Foster Care system is still a “fairly flawed system, and a lot needs to be done to improve it.”

She said, “Sometimes the system just reinforces the disadvantages we feel but legislation such as AB-12 is the move in the right direction.”

Currently the Transitional Housing Placement Plus Program administered by the California Department of Social Services is able to assist one out of five foster youth after they are emancipated according to Lemley. “Now, they do not have to compete for the limited number of slots available, instead every one of them would be helped if they voluntarily elect to enroll in the program.”

Jennifer Rodriguez, staff attorney at the Youth Law Center said, “AB 12 provides opportunities for youth to live in college dorms, with family members, or transitional housing- making for the first time college a real possibility.”

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Californians face marijuana legalization decision in November

by Tenzin Shakya, staff writer

Photo Credit Samuel E Heller

On Nov. 2 California voters will decide if marijuana should be legalized for individuals over 21 years of age to possess and cultivate despite the federal government’s disapproval.

If the measure passes, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) plans to make the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control responsible for regulating the cultivation and sale of marijuana by taxing commercial use. Anyone over age 21 would have the legal right to consume less than an ounce of marijuana freely in non-public places without being penalized and would be allowed to cultivate marijuana in personal spaces limited to 25 square feet.

Ammiano’s introduction of Assembly Bill 2254 which is currently pending, would tax $50-per-ounce and directly fund the state’s drug related education programs.

“It’s a 21 and over law and varies from county to county and if LA does not want legal weed, they don’t need to have it. If San Francisco wants it, it can,” said Joshua Nermon, president of the SF State Student’s for a Sensible Drug Policy. “You have to start somewhere and everything in the past decade has built up to this moment, legalizing marijuana and starting to look at our whole drug policy in a totally different light.”

Nermon said Proposition 19 would reduce the penalty for possession, send fewer people to jail and address the public’s use of marijuana. He said medical marijuana is designed for patients, but people have abused it by using it for recreational purposes.

According to the World Drug Report 2010, provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the world.

“But in a way, it’s a good thing because it has opened people’s eyes to how harmless it is,” said Nermon. “Marijuana does not create a dependency as other drugs like heroin.”

Max Mier, a medical marijuana patient and the creator of the iPhone application “Herb Converter,” gathered signatures for Proposition 19 by the Dolores Park Cafe in San Francisco’s Mission District. He said, “Marijuana is a much safer alternative to relieve stress versus the currently available alcohol which does, in some cases, destroy families.”

At SF State, “the typical consequence for possession (of marijuana) is completion of an educational module,” said Ellen Griffin, spokesperson for SF State. However, a “student with an intent to sell is automatically evicted from University Housing.”

SF State’s policy on marijuana is in compliance with the federal government’s Controlled Substances Act which recognizes marijuana as an illegal drug and does not acknowledge the difference between medical and recreational use of marijuana.

“Local or state laws do not apply on campus, so Proposition 19, if passed, will not affect the University,” she said.

Proposition 19 is estimated to generate $1.4 billion in tax revenue and help fund state programs. Despite revenue generated, opponents are in disagreement.

“This free-for-all measure is deeply flawed and poorly written and it’s doubtful that we’ll see the revenue listed by proponents,” said Roger Salazar, spokesperson forNo on Proposition 19.

He said unlike alcohol which is regulated statewide, this measure would leave it up to 536 different counties and cities to enforce and regulate laws in local jurisdictions. It would be “costing law enforcement more time and money to control marijuana and regulate authorized dispensaries.” Salazar called Proposition 19 a “jumbled legal nightmare” and said he doubts it will pass.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, District Attorney Kamala Harris and Mayor Gavin Newsom have announced their opposition to Proposition 19 and are calling on their supporters to vote against it.

“California will not see a single positive result if Proposition 19 passes,” Senator Feinstein said in July when she announced that she would co-chair the No on Proposition 19 campaign. “It is a poorly constructed initiative that will cause harm to Californians on our roadways, and in our schools, workplaces and communities,” she said.

Opponents predict legalized marijuana would lead to a decrease in its price, and the revenue generated from taxes will not be worth the efforts. It would also mean cheaper marijuana for patients who use it for medical marijuana purposes.

According to a study released by the RAND Corp, a non-profit research institute, the retail price of marijuana could drop to as low as $38 per ounce compared to the current estimated $375 per ounce.

In an email to [X]press, San Francisco based pro-marijuana activist and blogger Dragonfly De La Luz said that cities would have the right to levy unlimited taxes on cannabis and “possessing cannabis of any amount will be illegal if it was bought anywhere other than a licensed dispensary, restricting our coming freedom to possess whatever cannabis we choose.”

Frances Hsieh, chair of endorsements at the San Francisco Women’s Political Committee, supports Proposition 19 and said it would help bring money into general funds.

“The amount of money spent on law enforcement could be better spent on social programs involving the youth, family and children,” she said.

The cost of education has been increasing with the state’s budget cuts. Before Proposition 13 of 1978, People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation, California schools were funded by local property taxes. After it passed, CA school systems became dependent on state general funds. Proposition 13 limited property taxes in California to no more than one percent of a home’s assessed value, shifting the focus of control from local school funding, to the state.

“We’ll be much better off if we wait until 2012 and vote for the California Cannabis Hemp and Health Initiative (also known as the Jack Herer Initiative),” said De La Luz. “It’ll give us an opportunity to vote in on a legalization initiative that is actually worthy of the name, and that will make fewer people criminals, not more.”

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