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by German Lopez 12.30.2013 111 days ago
Posted In: News, Economy, 2014 election, Governor at 12:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Governor’s “Ohio Miracle” Falling Far Short of Promises

Ohio was one of two states to see economy worsen in three-month index

Despite Gov. John Kasich’s claims to the contrary, the only miracle in Ohio’s economy might be how bad the state is doing compared to the rest of the nation.

The proof: Ohio’s economy was among just two states in the nation that actually worsened during September through November compared to August through October, according to the research department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Beyond Ohio’s borders, Alaska also worsened, two states remained stable and the rest of the nation moved in a generally positive direction.

In other words, while 46 states’ economies moved in a generally positive direction, Ohio actually got worse.

The measures come from the State Coincident Index issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia every month. The index combines several economic indicators to gauge the condition of each state’s economy. The research department then gauges whether the index improved or worsened after the latest month’s data is taken into account.

With the gubernatorial election now less than one year away, the sorry state of Ohio’s economy could prove a bad sign for Gov. Kasich’s re-election.

Kasich, a Republican, came into office as Ohio’s economy began dashing out of the Great Recession stronger than most of the nation — a trend Kasich took to calling the “Ohio miracle.”

Ed FitzGerald, Kasich’s likely Democratic challenger, has criticized the claim in the past few months as Ohio’s economy showed more signs of worsening despite Kasich’s promises that his policies would keep the state in the right direction.

One of those policies was privatizing Ohio’s development agency and effectively turning it into JobsOhio. In less than three years, the agency has been riddled in multiple scandals following accusations from Democrats that the JobsOhio board hosts various conflicts of interests and lacks transparency when recommending who should get state tax credits.

Kasich also pushed and approved an across-the-board income tax cut earlier in 2013 through the two-year state budget. But because the income tax cut came with a sales tax hike, left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio found Kasich’s tax cut heavily favors the wealthy, which calls into question whether the tax cut will actually help Ohio’s middle class or economy.

For FitzGerald and other Democrats, the challenge is advocating a progressive agenda that stands in contrast to Kasich’s policies. Although they have plenty of criticisms, it remains unclear what Democrats could do if — as looks almost certain — Republicans continue to hold Ohio’s legislative chambers.

Then there’s the question of whether state policies matter much, if at all. Economists generally agree that state officials tend to dramatize the economic impact of their policies when much bigger factors are at play, particularly as globalization reshapes the national and global economies.

For now, one thing is clear: Kasich’s policies haven’t been enough to turn around Ohio’s sinking economy throughout the past three months.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.30.2013 111 days ago
Posted In: News, 2016 election, 2014 election, Governor, Business at 09:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
toddportune

Morning News and Stuff

Portune could run for governor, city could host GOP in 2016, laxer regulations draw critics

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune will announce today whether he'll run for governor. If he decides to run, Portune will face off against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald to decide which Democrat should face off against Republican Gov. John Kasich next November. Until now, it has been widely assumed that FitzGerald would take the gubernatorial nomination without a primary challenge. But if Portune enters the race, it could lead to a primary process that could hinder Democrats' chances in a pivotal state election.

Hamilton County Republican Party officials are looking into hosting the 2016 national GOP convention in Cincinnati, but they acknowledge their bid might come in too late. The 2016 convention would put the national spotlight on Cincinnati during a presidential election year, when presumably two new presidential contenders will have been picked by Democrats and Republicans to replace President Barack Obama. Hamilton County Republican Chairman Alex Triantafilou said Cincinnati would be a great location for the convention, given the region's electoral importance to both parties, but he wants to make sure Cincinnati actually stands a chance before using time and resources to file a formal application.

Entertainment districts allow some businesses in Walnut Hills and nine other Cincinnati neighborhoods to receive their state liquor licenses more quickly and inexpensively, but some — particularly businesses facing new competition — are worried the increasingly popular economic designation will lead to more alcohol-serving establishments than Cincinnati can sustain.

Local startup incubator SoMoLend got state hearings over allegations of fraud pushed to February and March. The once-promising crowdfunding incubator previously partnered with Cincinnati, but the city cut ties with the business once allegations of fraud surfaced.

The Ohio Department of Health warned on Friday that flu activity is increasing across the state and Ohioans should get vaccinated.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol last week launched an enhanced registry of people who have been convicted of drunk driving at least five times.

Starting Jan. 1, regulations meant to crack down on puppy mills will require licenses for dog breeders and clean cages. The legislation enforcing the new rules was approved more than a year ago to curtail Ohio's reputation of being soft on large dog breeding operations.

Ohio gas prices spiked at the end of the year.

With the year drawing to a close, check out CityBeat's top stories of 2013.

The question you probably never asked has now been answered: Can a human fall in love with a computer?

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by German Lopez 12.18.2013 123 days ago
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Private backers support streetcar offer, city budget gap estimated, governor's race still close

More than a dozen business and philanthropic entities support the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority’s (SORTA) plan to develop a private-public partnership to pay for the streetcar’s operating costs, according to Eric Avner, vice president of the philanthropic Haile Foundation. If the people cited by Avner put money behind their support, they could get streetcar operating costs off the city’s books and pave the clearest path forward for the $132.8 million streetcar project since the new mayor and City Council took office earlier this month. Although Cranley called SORTA’s offer “woefully insufficient” earlier in the day, Councilman Kevin Flynn, one of two swing votes on council, said the idea could turn into a viable option if the business and philanthropic community provided more assurances.

Other streetcar news:
• City Council will hold public hearings on the streetcar today at 1:30 p.m., with a vote to decide the project’s fate expected tomorrow.
• Speaking about the streetcar project, Vice Mayor David Mann told The Business Courier, “I’m awfully close to saying let’s go for it.”
• The Federal Transit Administration might prefer to deal with SORTA over Mayor Cranley if the streetcar is completed.

Cincinnati’s projected operating budget gap for fiscal year 2015 is $16 million, which means City Council will need to find new revenue or cuts to balance the budget by July. Although a majority of council members promise to structurally balance the budget in the next few years, a minority say it will be more difficult than most expect without hiking taxes or cutting police and firefighters.

The 2014 gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. John Kasich and Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald is within the margin of error, according to a poll released Monday by Public Policy Polling (PPP). “Although there’s been a fair amount of movement toward Republicans nationally since (November), the state of this particular race has seen very little movement and Democrats continue to have an excellent chance at a pick up next year,” wrote Tom Jensen, director of PPP.

Meanwhile, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune could challenge FitzGerald for the Democratic nomination.

A task force could undertake a comprehensive review of the city charter to modernize the city’s guiding legal document.

Startup incubator SoMoLend is likely to liquidate before the scheduled Jan. 23 state hearing about alleged securities fraud. The liquidation would be an effective end to a once-promising company that partnered with the city of Cincinnati to foster startups and small businesses.

This year could be the least deadly on Ohio’s roadways, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

A bill in the Ohio House could require hospitals to report the number of newborns addicted to drugs. The grim number would provide a much-needed measure for tackling Ohio’s so-called opioid epidemic.

Ohio is doing a poor job fighting infectious diseases, according to a report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital obtained a grant to combat brain cancer.

Two won the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot.

Even the physics behind emperor penguin huddles are pretty complicated.

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by German Lopez 12.03.2013 138 days ago
Posted In: News, Privatization, Governor at 03:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Court Allows JobsOhio Documents to Remain Secret

ProgressOhio loses case against privatized development agency

The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously dismissed a request to compel JobsOhio to disclose various documents.

The court argued the Republican-controlled General Assembly largely exempted JobsOhio from public records law and therefore allowed the agency to keep most of its inner workings secret.

The decision was a major loss for advocacy group ProgressOhio, which claims the documents should be on the public record.

The Republican-controlled legislature, with the support of Republican Gov. John Kasich, in 2011 established JobsOhio, a privatized development agency, to replace the Ohio Department of Development. The JobsOhio Board of Directors is chaired by wealthy Ohio businessmen.

Republicans argue JobsOhio’s secretive, privatized nature is necessary to quickly foster economic development deals across the state. Democrats say the anti-transparency measures make it far too difficult to hold JobsOhio accountable as it recommends how to spend taxpayer dollars.

An Oct. 23 report criticized JobsOhio and other privatized development agencies around the country for consistently displaying conflicts of interest and other scandalous behavior. The report came from Good Jobs First, a research center founded in 1998 that scrutinizes deals between businesses and governments.

Kasich previously touted JobsOhio as one of the reasons Ohio’s economy quickly recovered following the Great Recession, but recent indicators show the state’s economy is now slowing down. Ohio is one of five states whose economy worsened in the past three months, according to an index from the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia that combines four economic indicators to gauge states’ economic health.

Others have more directly questioned the Kasich administration’s claims to success. An Oct. 29 investigation from The Toledo Blade found jobs numbers from the Ohio Development Services Agency are vastly inflated, indicating that the state government isn’t producing nearly as many jobs as it claims.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.21.2013
Posted In: News, Guns, Governor, Privatization at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
eric kearney

Morning News and Stuff

Local senator to run for lt. governor, audit clears JobsOhio, House OKs "stand your ground"

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald selected State Sen. Eric Kearney of Cincinnati as his running mate for his bid against Gov. John Kasich in 2014. Although Kasich is widely perceived as a favorite as the incumbent, recent polling found the race is tied. (The poll was commissioned by Ohio Democrats, but the firm behind it was deemed the most accurate national pollster of 2012.)

Republican State Auditor Dave Yost’s long-awaited audit of JobsOhio found no substantial conflicts of interests at the privatized development firm established by Gov. Kasich and Republican legislators to replace the public Ohio Department of Development. But the audit found 113 items totaling nearly $69,000 in inadequately documented expenditures financed through the state’s leased liquor profits and insufficient safeguards to identify potential conflicts of interest. In a statement, John Patrick Carney, the Democratic candidate for state auditor running against Yost in 2014, claimed the audit was a whitewashed attempt that fails to give taxpayers a full accounting of JobsOhio” and touted it as evidence the state auditor’s office needs change. CityBeat previously wrote about criticisms towards JobsOhio in further detail here. (Updated at 10:45 a.m.: Rewrote paragraph to add Carney’s comments.)

The Ohio House yesterday approved sweeping gun legislation that would impose “stand your ground” rules in the state and automatically recognize concealed-carry licenses from other states. “Stand your ground” rules remove a duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense when a person is in areas in which he’s lawfully allowed; current Ohio law only removes the duty to retreat when a person is in his home or vehicle. The bill is particularly controversial following Trayvon Martin’s death to George Zimmerman in Florida, where a “stand your ground” law exists but supposedly played a minor role in the trial that let Zimmerman go free. The bill now requires approval from the Ohio Senate and Gov. Kasich to become law.

Commentary: “False Equivalency Confuses Streetcar Debate.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says it opposes new early voting limits that would shorten the in-person early voting period from 35 to 29 days and remove a “golden week” that allows Ohioans to simultaneously register and vote in person. The Ohio Association of Election Officials claims the limits are necessary to establish uniform voting days across all counties without placing too much of a burden on smaller counties. But Democrats claim the limits aim to suppress voters. The Ohio Senate yesterday cleared the new early voting limits, which now require approval from the Ohio House and Gov. Kasich to become law.

If property and business owners along the planned streetcar line sue over the cancellation of the $133 million project, legal experts say they have a very slim chance of winning. The threat of litigation is one of the potential back-up options discussed by streetcar supporters if Mayor-elect John Cranley and the incoming City Council agree to cancel the project, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.

Hamilton County commissioners agreed to increase the tax return local property owners will get as part of the deal funding Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park. The deal boosts the rebate to $13 million in 2014, up from $10 million in 2013 but still below the $20.5 million promised to property owners after voters approved a sales tax hike to fund the stadiums. Commissioners estimate property owners will receive nearly $46 for each $100,000 of property value from the boosted rebate, up from $35 this year, but Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes told CityBeat that the exact number is unclear until the tax commissioner approves new tax rates.

College campuses generally struggle with too-frequent cases of sexual assault, but one lawsuit from an alleged victim is targeting Miami University for supposed negligence and a breach of the student code of conduct. The female student claims she was raped by former Miami University student Antonio Charles, but she says that multiple red flags could have prevented the alleged incident. Charles was eventually expelled from Miami University for “sexual misconduct” in response to the incident involving the plaintiff, but that was after he was investigated for multiple other accusations related to sexual misconduct. Miami University Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Rebecca Getson defends some of the university administration’s actions regarding sexual assault cases as a strict adherence to protocol and blames some of the public perception on the administration’s lack of awareness about the atmosphere.

Cincinnati’s economy will grow more slowly than the nation’s economy next year, according to Cincinnati USA Partnership for Economic Development’s panel of five regional economists.

Al Neyer plans to build a $22 million luxury apartment tower in downtown Cincinnati.

Cancer research done on mice might get screwed up by standard laboratory temperatures.

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by Hannah McCartney 11.07.2013
Posted In: LGBT, LGBT Issues, Governor, Government, News at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
lgbt1

Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Center to Close Doors

Organization cites need to "evolve with the times" for virtual switch

In two days, the physical space that's housed Cincinnati's Gay and Lesbian Community Center for the past 20 years will be vacant, but the organization won't disappear entirely.

Instead, the Center will become a completely virtual informational resource for the region's LGBT community and act as a funding resource for other Cincinnati organizations.

The Center could not be immediately reached for comment on the closure.

A letter from the board of directors sent out on Oct. 28 announced that the decision to close was based on a need to "evolve with the times." The letter states that the organization will continue to answer emails and voicemails and maintain its popular annual fundraiser, Pride Night at Kings Island, and that the board is working on selecting a public location to hold annual meetings. 

Pride Night at Kings Island, which has consistently been the Center's most profitable and popular fundraising effort, brought out record crowds this year.

The private, nonprofit volunteer-run foundation, which has been located in Northside for the past 20 years, uses its profits to provide grant to other Cincinnati-area LGBT groups. The organization's first grant for 2014 will provide Cincinnati Pride with $5,000 to expand promotions for Cincinnati Gay Pride on May 31, 2014, and for the city's celebration of Pride Month, which runs through June.



 
 
by German Lopez 10.21.2013
Posted In: News, Governor, Health care at 04:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Board Expands Medicaid Without Legislature’s Approval

Republican governor bypasses GOP-controlled legislature for cornerstone of Obamacare

A seven-member legislative board on Monday accepted federal funding to expand Ohio’s Medicaid program to cover more low-income Ohioans for the next two years.

Republican Gov. John Kasich originally attempted to get the Medicaid expansion through the General Assembly, but he ultimately bypassed the legislature after months of unsuccessfully wrangling with members of his own political party to embrace the expansion.

Kasich instead opted to go through the Controlling Board, an obscure panel that typically handles less contentious budget issues that keep with legislative intent.

Most Republican state representatives, including local Reps. Lou Terhar, Louis Blessing and Peter Stautberg, signed a letter in protest of the tactic. The letter invokes legal arguments against the governor’s decision and could be the basis for a lawsuit in the future.

“Our protest is not about the merits or lack of merit in expanding Medicaid,” the letter states. “Our protest goes to the fundamental form of government upon which our country was founded — a Republic of checks and balances and separation of powers.”

Republican legislators say they’re concerned about the government’s involvement in the health care system and whether the federal government can afford to pay for the Medicaid expansion. They argue it would be better to pursue Medicaid reforms instead of expanding the program.

On the other side, Democrats, in a rare alliance with a Republican governor, applauded Kasich for embracing a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Under Obamacare, the federal government asked states to expand their Medicaid programs to cover anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals with an annual income of $15,856.20 or less. If states accept, the federal government pays for the full expansion through fiscal year 2016, and then gradually phases down its payments to an indefinite 90 percent of the expansion’s costs.

In comparison, the Kaiser Family Foundation found the federal government paid for nearly 64 percent of Ohio’s Medicaid program in fiscal year 2013.

The expansion is necessary to fill a so-called “coverage gap” under Obamacare and Ohio law. Without the expansion, parents with incomes between 90 percent and 100 percent of the federal poverty level and childless adults with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level don’t qualify for either Obamacare’s tax credits or Medicaid.

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would insure between 300,000 and 400,000 Ohioans through fiscal year 2015. If legislators approve the expansion beyond that, the institute says it would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

The federally funded expansion is set to begin in 2014. It will cost the federal government nearly $2.6 billion, according to the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.17.2013
Posted In: Governor, Abortion, News at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

State Could Force Local Abortion Clinic to Close

Governor signed new anti-abortion restrictions into law with state budget in June

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) could order the Lebanon Road Surgery Center, a Cincinnati-area abortion clinic, to shut down after a hearing examiner upheld ODH’s decision to revoke the clinic’s license because the clinic failed to establish a transfer agreement with a nearby hospital.

Abortion rights advocates touted the closure as another example of how new regulations in the recently passed state budget will limit access to legal abortions across the state. But ODH handed down its original decision for the Cincinnati-area abortion clinic in November 2012, more than half a year before Gov. John Kasich in June signed the state budget and its anti-abortion restrictions into law.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio decried “the closure of an abortion provider in the Cincinnati area despite an exemplary record of medical safety.”

“Just as we feared when Gov. Kasich enacted medically unnecessary regulations on abortion providers, officials at the Ohio Department of Health have launched a regulatory witch hunt against Ohio’s abortion providers and have recommended the closure of an abortion clinic in Cincinnati,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement.

Ohio Right to Life, which opposes abortion rights, celebrated the decision.

“We are gratified to see yet another late-term abortionist shutting down,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, in a statement. “As a result of this Health Department order, Martin Haskell, a strong proponent and former practitioner of the controversial and deadly partial-birth abortion procedure, will no longer be able to abort children and jeopardize womens health in Hamilton County.”

Ohio law classifies abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities and requires they establish transfer agreements with nearby hospitals, where clinics can send patients for more comprehensive care in case of an emergency. The 2014-2015 state budget also barred abortion clinics from establishing transfer agreements with public hospitals, which abortion-rights advocates say greatly hinders the clinics because private hospitals are generally religious and oppose abortion rights.

The Cincinnati-area clinic is just one of five Ohio clinics in the past year to either close down or face the threat of closing down, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Without the five, Ohio would be reduced to just nine abortion clinics.

On Oct. 9, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio announced a lawsuit against Ohio’s newest anti-abortion restrictions. The ACLU claims the regulations went beyond the budget’s purpose of appropriating funds and therefore violated the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject” rule, which requires each individual law keep to a single subject to avoid complexity and hidden language.

The hearing examiner’s decision:

 
 
by German Lopez 10.09.2013
Posted In: News, Business, Governor, Parking at 08:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Bill restricts minor parties, parking contracts released, Pure Romance to get tax credits

A bill enacting new regulations on minor political party participation in state elections yesterday passed through the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate despite objections from the Libertarian Party and other critics that the bill will shut out minor parties in future elections. The bill now needs approval from the Republican-controlled Ohio House and Republican Gov. John Kasich, who would likely benefit from the bill because it would help stave off tea party challengers in the gubernatorial election. The proposal was sponsored by State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati.

The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority yesterday released drafts for contracts with operators who will manage Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages under the city’s parking plan, which leases the parking assets to the Port Authority for at least 30 years. Xerox will be paid about $4.5 million in its first year operating Cincinnati’s parking meters, and it will be separately paid $4.7 million over 10 years to upgrade meters to, among other features, allow customers to pay through a smartphone. Xerox’s contract will last 10 years, but it can be renewed for up to 30 years. The city administration says the parking plan will raise millions in upfront money then annual installments that will help finance development projects and balance the budget, but critics say the plan gives up too much control of Cincinnati’s parking assets.

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee yesterday approved nearly $854,000 in tax credits over 10 years for Pure Romance in return for the company coming to and remaining in Cincinnati for 20 years. The city administration estimates the deal will lead to at least 126 new high-paying jobs in downtown Cincinnati over three years and nearly $2.6 million in net tax revenue over two decades. Pure Romance is a $100 million-plus company that originally planned to move from Loveland to Cincinnati with support from the state and city, but Gov. John Kasich’s administration ultimately rejected state tax credits for the company. Kasich’s administration says Pure Romance didn’t fit into an industry traditionally supported by the state, but critics argue the state government is just too “prudish” to support a company that includes sex toys in its product lineup.

The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), Cincinnati’s vitriolic tea party group, yesterday appeared to endorse John Cranley, who’s running for mayor against Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls.

Ohio conservatives are defending their proposal to weaken the state’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates, which environmentalists and businesses credit with spurring a boom of clean energy production in the state and billions in savings on Ohioans’ electricity bills. State Sen. Seitz compared the mandates to “central planning” measures taken in “Soviet Russia.” A study from Ohio State University and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found Ohioans will spend $3.65 billion more on electricity bills over the next 12 years if the mandates are repealed. CityBeat covered the attempts to repeal the mandates in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the calls to repeal here.

Ohioans renewing their driver’s licenses or state ID cards will no longer be asked whether they want to remain on the list of willing organ donors. The move is supposed to increase the amount of participants in the state’s organ donation registry by giving people less chances to opt out.

An Ohio Senate bill would ban red-light cameras. Supporters of the traffic cameras say they deter reckless driving, but opponents argue the cameras make it too easy to collect fines for the most minor infractions.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine awarded $17 million in grants to crime victims services around Ohio, including more than $49,000 to the Salvation Army in Hamilton County.

President Barack Obama is likely to appoint Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve, which would make her the first woman to lead the nation’s central bank.

Lost in their smartphones and tablets, San Francisco train passengers didn’t notice a gunman until he pulled the trigger.

Scientists are bad at identifying important science, a new study found.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 09.26.2013
 
 
timothy black

State Rep. John Becker Is a Sore Loser

Becker worried a same-sex marriage case will turn U.S. socialist, make him cry

When my brother and I were little kids, we used to play board games all the time, and because I was older and smarter I usually won. Back in those days, my little bro didn’t really understand the concept of sportsmanship and he would sometimes defiantly flip over the entire Stratego board when I started to win a game and get really close to finding his flag, and then he’d storm off and say I cheated (I didn’t cheat, Dylan!). 

Republican Rep. John Becker is pretty upset that a terminally ill gay man has earned the right to die in peace, and now it’s become a very real possibility that other gay Ohioans might also get to die (and live) in peace. And, just like my brother, he’s kind of trying to ruin the game for everyone just because he’s losing.

In July, Judge Timothy Black heard the case of Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, a long-term gay couple who flew to Maryland to marry at the beginning of the month because Arthur is terminally ill, in hospice care, and not expected to live much longer.  

Obergefell and Arthur sued the state of Ohio for discrimination in not recognizing their out-of-state gay marriage, legal and recognized in Maryland, when other gay couples residing in states recognizing same-sex marriages and subsequently moved to Ohio would have their marriages treated as valid. And because Arthur is terminally ill, it's just as much for the emotional connection as it is for any kind of economic benefit.

Here's what Obergefell wrote in his original complaint (grab a tissue):

“Our legacy as a married couple is very important to John and me… in two or more generations our descendants will not know who we are. Married couples, often through research based on death records, have recognition for their special status forever. I want my descendants generations from now who research their history to learn that I loved and married John and that he loved and married me. They will know that they had gay ancestor who was proud and strong and in love.”

In his ruling, Black called the case “not complicated,” explaining that he’d allow the marriage to be legalized on Arthur’s death certificate because it was likely a constitutional violation that the state of Ohio treated lawful out-of-state same-sex marriages differently than lawful out-of-state same-sex marriages. 

In September, he ruled to allow the marriage of another gay couple — David Michener and William Herbert Ives — after Ives unexpectedly passed away in late August. Although these aren't (yet) blanket rulings, they're being interpreted as monumental victories for supporters of marriage equality.

Becker, then, decided to do the political equivalent of my brother running to my mom and accusing me of cheating; he wrote U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup and called for Black to be impeached for “malfeasance and abuse of power,” which apparently made him really concerned about the “federal government’s ever growing propensity to violate state sovereignty.” 

Unfortunately, though, U.S. District Court judges are appointed for life, so since Becker’s claims against Judge Black are totally unfounded, Black is free to continue to anger Becker and other people who don't approve of equality for gay couples.

Alphonse Gerhardstein, the attorney for both couples, calls Becker's response to the rulings "bullying."

"Federal judges are granted tenure for life for a reason. It's their job to enforce core principles even when the majority disagrees," he says. "Look at the Dred Scott case. I think most people would agree that's the worst case decision ever made by a judge, and even he didn't get impeached." (In case you forget, he's talking about Dred Scott v. Sandford, the landmark 1857 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ruled black people weren't citizens.)

Things that actually can get a judge impeached, says Gerhardstein, are offenses like having sex with a criminal defendant or taking bribes. 

On Wednesday, Sept. 25, the court added licensed funeral director Robert Grunn, who is responsible for registering deaths and providing personal information to the state on what should go on a death certificate, to the list of plaintiffs. Grunn currently serves same-sex couples when he signs death certificates, says the lawsuit, including those with marriages recognized outside the state of Ohio. The lawsuit, if successful, could require all funeral directors to recognize gay clients as married on death certificates if they were legally married in a different state.

Gerhardstein also says since accepting Arthur and Obergefell's case, he and his colleagues have received inquiries from between 30 to 50 other gay couples seeking legal recognitions of their out-of-state marriages. For now, he says, he and his firm are concentrating on cases specifically involving recognizing same-sex marriages on death certificates, although this litigation could (and probably will) lead to other blanket rulings on how same-sex marriages are recognized in Ohio. 

Another hearing with Judge Black is scheduled for Dec. 18.

 
 

 

 

 
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