But first . . .

ACTIVIST JUDGES

A decision by a California judge yesterday, certain to be appealed, held that these gay couples – including one that has been together more than 51 years – are entitled to the same legal rights as any other married couples. Judges in New York City, Washington State – and of course Massachusetts – have found the same thing.

It’s amazing anyone cares so much whether gays get drivers’ licenses, marriage licenses, liquor licenses, or any of the other civil stuff law-abiding citizens get . . . but on the specific issue of ‘activist judges,’ something funny has happened, at least in Massachusetts.

The state legislators who voted in favor of gay marriage were all reelected, while some of those who voted it down have been voted out. It’s expected that when this issue next arises in the Massachusetts legislature, the elected representatives themselves will affirm the Court’s decision. So at least in some small pockets of civilization (Canada is another that comes to mind) it’s not just crazy judges who are interpreting ‘equal protection under the law’ to include gays – it’s legislators.

This is great news for the Republicans, who will try to use gay marriage to cut Social Security benefits, thwart funding for education and health care, impose a global ban on embryonic stem cell research, eliminate the estate tax, criminalize abortion, drill in ANWAR, attain a filibuster-proof lock on all three branches of government – the whole list. The longer gay marriage can be kept in the news, the better.

But what are judges to do? Conclude that a couple of 51 years should be entitled to equal protection under the law – but then rule otherwise?

It is a dilemma. Yet attitudes are changing. Soon, a majority of Americans may decide it’s just not that important to them to deny Rosie O’Donnell’s partner and their kids Social Security survivor benefits . . . or to insist that Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, a committed couple of 51 years, remain ‘strangers in the eyes of the law.’

What is so fragile about Senator Rick Santorum’s marriage that it is threatened by the happiness and commitment of Phyllis and Del?

Interracial marriage, so long illegal, may not be your cup of tea – but how does it threaten or weaken your own?

Justice Clarence Thomas is married to Virginia, a white woman. But if he had been married to Virginia in Virginia prior to 1967, he could have been arrested.

Let’s hope he remembers that when, eventually, all this comes before him for a decision.

And now . . .

WOOF! WOOF!

Kevin Smith: ‘Another excellent organization is Canine Companions for Independence, which trains assistance dogs for sighted, but otherwise handicapped people. The program is similar to the Guide Dogs program, with early training being provided by volunteers and then intensive training afterwards before being matched with a person. If for some reason the dog does not pass the intensive training, the original trainer has the first right to keep the dog for a small fee. We’ve had several of these dogs in my office (an auditing department), and it’s been a great experience all the way around.’

Michael Roth: ‘Another part of Guide Dogs is that they cull out of the program really well-behaved dogs with good genetics and use them as breeding stock. They are looking for people to house these animals (‘Breeder-Keepers’). The role involves keeping the dog in your home, following the rules of the school, and taking care of them properly. This offers another wonderful opportunity for people to contribute to Guide Dogs and the Guide Dog mission. I am currently a Breeder-Keeper for Genie, a wonderful Golden Retriever, who has had three litters of pups who have gone on to be Guide Dogs.’

LIONS

Tony Spina: ‘Did you know that there are about 60 organizations in the US that train dogs to be eyes for the Blind? Paws with a Cause is one, and my personal favorite is Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester Michigan. And I would like to add two additional facts:

  • All of the year-long training of the dogs that you wrote about and the weeks-long lodging/feeding/training of the dog’s blind future partner is completely free. Also dogs are given to people living all over the world, not just in a particular state.
  • Lions International is a charity that focuses mainly on blindness. So by joining your local Lions Club, you support research to cure and prevent blindness throughout the world, and help your communities while you are doing it. The biggest share of the donations from the Lions Club that I am a member of (Addison Township, Michigan) is sent to Leader Dogs. With more than 46,000 clubs in 193 countries and geographical areas there is a Club to join near you!

Click here for the speech by Helen Keller in 1925, eight years after the Lions founding, that changed its purpose to helping the blind.’

Mike Wallin: ‘While I love the heartwarming stories about guide dogs and the heart burning stories about Brussels sprouts, can you occasionally mention something about money?’

☞ Tomorrow!

BUGS

Peter Vanderwicken: ‘How come I no longer get your column by email? By the way, Brussels sprouts are best cooked by boiling for 10 minutes, then drenching in red wine vinegar.’

☞ Fixed.

Toby Gottfried: ‘You mark some paragraphs with a little hand and outstretched index finger – in Internet Explorer anyway. In Mozilla Firefox, this wingding shows up as the letter F.’

☞ That’s F for Firefox.

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