Judges doing what judges do, go figure

Oklahoma recently had its law banning gay marriage deemed by the courts as being unconstitutional. Since then, supporters from both sides of the issue have been arguing back and forth about why it it should or should not stand. Those supporting the ban often make comments about liberal judges and the will of the people. Those who support gay marriage are saying things in response such as the majority does not get to vote away individuals rights, and often make responses to constitutional amendments, usually the 14th.

The one thing that is clear is very few are really looking at what the courts had to say on the subject. This is actually kind of understandable because you have to actually track down the document giving the information, or just go here, and then translate all 68 pages from legalese into something understandable. Not a task many are up to.

While the language of the document isn’t extremely difficult to slug through, even those of us with a passing familiarity for such things don’t necessarily jump at the chance to try. The good news, however, is someone else did.

A forum user on the Tulsanow.com forums by the name of cannon_fodder decided to take on the task of creating a more digestable summary of the case. With a background in legal matters, he has been able to break it down into layman’s terms for you. So next time you find yourself debating this subject, you can now go in with a knowledge of why the decision was made.

Below is the meat of the posting that can be found at http://www.tulsanow.org/forum/index.php?topic=20377.msg278450#msg278450

1.   Long discussion on jurisdictional issues, each couple had standing on different issues and were challenging different portions of the law.  The DOMA challenge was deemed moot (thrown out by SCOTUS).  In the end, §A of the Oklahoma constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman and prohibited legal benefits of marriage to gay couples was the only portion decided.
2.   The actual decision begins on page 30,
a.   with a discussion of a distinguished case (holding Baker v. Nelson, 1972, which held that gay marriage laws in MN are not a Federal Question, does not apply because circumstances have materially changed);
b.   discussing the impact of Windsor (2013 Supreme Court holding that DOMA identified a subset of marriages and made them unequal in violation of the US Constitution); and
c.   a discussion of how marriage works in Oklahoma (apply for a State license [cannot be related, cannot be currently married, must be 18 or…, and cannot be same sex], have a ceremony to “solemnize” the marriage, file the marriage license and the marriage certificate with the State).

3.   Starting on Page 41 the Court goes into the equal protection discussion (legal holding)
a.   Does the challenged state action intentionally discriminate between groups of persons? And if so…
b.   Can state’s intentional decision to discriminate be justified by reference to some legitimate government purpose?  If no… it is unconstitutional and the State cannot do it.

4.   Does it discriminate?   Yes, yes it does. (starting on P. 42)
a.   The group singled out is “Same-sex couples desiring an Oklahoma marriage license”
b.   The amendment prevents every same-sex couple in Oklahoma from receiving a marriage license, and no one else.
c.   The amendment was adopted for the purpose of excluding some Oklahoma citizens from marriage (citing many statements from politicians on their intent).  “Exclusion of a defined class was nota  hidden or ulterior motive, it was consistently communicated to Oklahoma citizens as justification for SQ 711.”  P.
d.   “This is a classic, class-based equal protection case in which a line was purposefully drawn between two groups of Oklahoma citizens”

5.   Is the intentional discrimination justified?  No, no it is not. (starting on P. 47)
a.   Sexual orientation is not a protected or suspect class (race, religion, etc.), so the government only needs a “rational basis” to discriminate against homosexuals.
b.   The government needs to show “any conceivable state of facts that couple provide a rational basis for the classification” and discrimination.
c.   The state fails to show any rational basis for the following reasons:

6.   What were the stated basis , and why they are not rational? (starting on p. 53)
a.   Promoting Morality – moral disapproval of a class of persons is not a permissible justification for a law discriminating against them
b.   Encouraging Procreating – We don’t require anyone else to procreate, or have the ability to procreate in order to get married.  Also, banning gay marriage is not likely to encourage anyone to procreate that wasn’t already considering it (can’t get gay married?  OK fine, I’ll have a baby with a man).
c.   Responsible Procreation – it is in the state’s interest to encourage couples to have children in wedlock (reduces the burden the chances of the State having to pay for the kid), but there is no link between gay marriage and the goal of having procreating couples be married.    “Permitting same-sex couples to receive a marriage license does not harm, erode, or somehow water-down the “procreative” origins of the marriage institution” any more than marriage of couples who cannot ‘naturally procreate’ or do not wish to ‘naturally procreate.”  Also – if the stated goal is to have children born into married couples, allowing gay marriage will enhance this goal as currently unmarried gay couples can, and do have children and are prohibited from marriage.
d.   Lack of interest – the argument that the State of Oklahoma has no interest in gay marriage because it doesn’t advance a State interest fails because in this instance the State took specific action to prevent it.  Not caring is not justification to ban it.
e.   Promoting the “Optimal Child-Rearing Environment” – Excluding gay couples from marriage does not make it more likely that a same-sex couple desiring or already having children will change course and marry an opposite-sex partner.  Gay marriage does not make it more likely that a heterosexual couple will decide to forgo marriage and have children out of wedlock.  Same-sex marriage does nothing to promote stability of heterosexual parenting.  No other couple is required to provide an “optimal” child rearing environment to get a marriage license.  If the goal is to promote stable, loving, financially successful, and responsible parenting by a committed couple – gay marriage actually helps this goal.
f.   Negative Impact on Marriage – No other couple is tasked with upholding the entire institution of marriage as a condition of getting a license.  Oklahoma consistently is near the top of the nation in the divorce rate for heterosexual couples, accusing same sex couples of eroding the institution of marriage is ”insulting to the same-sex couples, who are human beings capable of forming loving, committed, and enduring relationships.”  “Preserving the institution  of marriage” is just another inappropriate way of passing moral judgment disguised as law.
g.   NONE of the reasons hold up as rational

7.   The amendment to the Oklahoma constitution is “an arbitrary exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit.  Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed.  It is not a scarce commodity to be meted our begrudgingly or in short portions.  Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights. The Bishop couple has been in a loving, committed relationship for many years… and want to be recognized as a married couple with all its attendant rights and responsibilities . Part A of the Oklahoma Constitutional Amendment excludes the Bishop couple, and all otherwise eligible same-sex couples, from this privilege without legally sufficient justification.”  P.67

8.   “The Court declares that Part A of the Oklahoma Constitutional Amendment violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteen Amendment to the US Constitution by precluding same-sex couples from receiving an Oklahoma Marriage license.”  P.67

9.   The order is STAYED in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Utah case.  No marriage licenses can be issued in Oklahoma to same-sex couples until the 10th Circuit rules.

The right to print arms

In a video posted on YouTube early in the month of November, 3D printing company Solid Concepts demonstrated a fully functional 1911 handgun. What made this particular gun unique is that with the exception of six springs, was entirely made of printed parts.

While not the first 3D printed gun, it is the first that is made of metal through a process known as Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), giving it the durability to survive multiple firings. At the time of writing, the Solid Concepts first printed 1911 has fired over 700 rounds and is still fully operations.

Prior to Solid Concepts’ creation, 3D printed guns were made of plastic, either almost entirely such as a design of non-profit organization Defense Distributed,  the Liberator, or partially, combining it with pre-manufactured metal parts such as the barrel and upper receiver in an assault rifle. Defense Distributed has been working on an open access wiki project to allow the free exchange of printable gun designs. The Liberator itself has only one non-printed part, a nail used as a firing pin, and fires .22 caliber rounds.

One major concern over plastic firearms that can be printed is the ease in which someone can get them past current detection systems, such as metal detectors at the court house. In response to this concern Philadelphia, Penn. has banned the manufacturing of guns through 3D printing technology.  These concerns may be premature, however, since the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has lead a series of tests on the Liberator and found that they are unreliable and prone to self-destruction upon firing.

Solid Concepts’ 1911 does not suffer the inherent problem of being unable to fire multiple rounds. This fact is what lead the company to design the firearm, to show that DMLS printing has the ability to print products that can stand up to a high volume of pressure. On its website the company states “The whole concept of the metal sintered gun was not to produce a cheap gun, our intent revolved around proving the reliability, usability, durability and accuracy of metal 3D Printing.” It also states that if it decides to sell copies of its 1911 in the future, the cost will be in the five figure range, making it well beyond the price range for the average customer.

This full metal printing is not for the average home user either, with DMLS machines ranging in cost from $400,000 to well over $1,000,000. For an individual to have such a machine would be the equivalent to having a CNC lathing machine in their garage, which can also make similar productions.

Instead of using industrial style machines to create ready to go firearms, or the more accessible plastic style printers which produce unreliable guns at best, home gun builders are better off using other methods. Even building an AK-47 from a shovel, as one contributing member of the Northeastshooters.com forums member did. Username Boris posted pictures and description of the process in November of 2012, showing how he cut and reformed bits of a shovel into various parts of the gun, which he then married to a blank, aftermarket stock , wooden grips, and, presumably, a firing pin.


It should be noted that manufacturing a firearm at home is not in and of itself illegal. According to the ATF an individual is allowed to manufacture a firearm with a license, but not for sale or distribution. There are, of course, limitations to this, and the ATF may have additional requirements to be completely legal.

The future of 3D printed guns will likely fall into the category of free speech instead of gun control. As the attorneys and courts try to figure this one out, be on the look out for technology to confuse this situation even more. In the meantime, be safe, and be smart.

10 quick steps to being a better parent

As the father of four children, each of whom is very much their own person, I have had some ups and downs. It seems that thus far, my middle daughter is the biggest handful. Please feel free to read that as disobedient, angry, knows everything there is to know, is going to do her own thing regardless of the consequences then blame everyone else for bringing those consequences down on her, teen. Trying to keep this child, at the very least, heading in at least somewhat the right direction has proven to be a challenge. Not a week has gone by that I haven’t asked myself what else we can do to help this child do better. In recent days I’ve taken an even deeper look into what makes this child tick, and what to do.

At this point I’m sure you are looking for that ten point list that was promised in the title, but in reality, there isn’t a quick, easy list to help you with whatever problems you are having with your child, or that you might have in the future. Instead, I challenge you to look back into yourself. While trying to shake some kind of answer free about my daughter, I found myself looking deeper and deeper into myself, or more specifically, my teenage self. I turned over actions in my head that I did in my past that seem to parallel my own daughter’s, and a realization came to me, we as parents forget who we as children once were.

Yes, I know, not everyone was as misbehaved as I was, or as their child might be, but who we are goes deeper than the actions we take. When we question ourselves as parents what we are doing wrong, sometimes we have to look back at ourselves and ask what did our parents really do wrong, or do right. This isn’t an attempt to downplay the role our parents have in our lives, they are, after all, where we get a lot of our guiding principles in life. Instead, this is to help you understand that despite our best efforts our children will manage to be themselves despite our best efforts to cultivate them otherwise. So do not blame yourself for everything that your child does wrong, because there is a good chance that you really aren’t to blame. Each child is who they are, and are, as we all are, individuals with different needs and motivations. We work with them the best we can, and hope we get it right, and that they make the choices that they must make to become the best they can be. So don’t be so ready to look to the outside for what to do, instead look within yourself, you just might find something that will surprise you.

I do have one tip, however, that is a universal answer to being a good parent. Always consider what is best for the child, not what the child thinks is best, not what seems the easiest, or not even what something online says is best (ironic, isn’t it?), but what, to the best of your knowledge, is best for the child. Sometimes being a parent means making a hard choice, being mean, or may make you the unpopular one of the family, but if you always do what is best for the child, to the best of your ability of knowing, then you have done your job as a parent.

And the children shall lead the way

In 1967 the Supreme Court of the United States deemed discriminating against inter-racial relationships is unconstitutional, yet it seems society has yet to catch up to it, unless you ask the children.

Cheerios recently produced a commercial that consisted of a mixed race family.  The commercial did not focus on the race of the family, in fact, it did not even mention it or allude to it, it was simply a fact of the family.  The response was, in large part, accepting, but that was overshadowed by the very vocal outcry against such a practice.  The anger at the cereal company for presenting such a thing was so negative that the comments on the YouTube video of the commercial had to be disabled.

All is not lost, however.  The YouTube user TheFineBros, brothers Benny and Rafi Fine, produce an online video production called React, in which they get candor reactions from people on various subjects.  The brothers tackled the issue of the controversial commercial by having some children watch the video and getting their reaction to it.  Interestingly enough, not a one of them even fathomed the possibility that there was something wrong with the family.  When asked about it, they were simply aghast that anyone would have a problem with it.  See the full video for yourself.

In response to the negative reactions, YouTube user Kenji America posted a parody of the original commercial, complete with a mother and daughter that look very much like those in the original commercial.  It has a very straight forward message to those who spoke out against Cheerios for its commercial, and puts it own twist on the punchline.

It’s a start

I spend a lot of time talking, to the point you would think I love the sound of my own voice.  It might be because I hate awkward silence, or it might be because I love information, receiving and giving.  I seem to have something to say about everything, some good, some not so much. I’m not always right, but I try to be accurate, and while I don’t like being wrong, I accept that I sometimes am. That being said, I apparently like the idea of my words getting out even more than the sound of my own voice, because I have come here to add my voiceless words to the net.

Now, I didn’t just wake up this morning and decide, “hey, I’m just going to make a blog.”  Okay, that wasn’t the entirety of the decision, anyhow. I’ve long considered this, and for an even longer time have had thoughts of a newsletter or something along those lines. Unfortunately, at least for me, I have never felt I had enough to say of importance to warrant any form of regular writing, especially of the non-fiction manner. All that, however, has been changing rapidly for me recently.

I think one of the first things that occurred in this process was finding like minded people to talk to, people who understood me when I spoke. This was likely the single most transformative aspect of returning to school to get a degree. I no longer felt alone in this world, and realized that there were people who wanted to hear what I had to say. From there, I began communicating more, even public speaking became a norm for me.

More recently there have been some significant events that have lead me to this point, the first was catching the “journalism bug.” After working at the school newspaper for a bit as the office manager, I had written a few, small articles on some basic happenings around campus, nothing exciting. Then I had a chance to cover the recent tornadoes that destroyed much of central Oklahoma. Between the photojournalism involved in that, and actually getting the story out, I was hooked to the point that I have even changed my major to communications.

Even more recently, returning from a conference in Oklahoma City, I rode back with someone I had not previously known, an acquaintance of an acquaintance, so to speak. This gave me a new opportunity to talk to someone and disseminate information stored in my head for whatever reason. During this discussion, this women that I was talking with had asked me if I had a blog. Upon learning I did not, she made the suggestion, and was completely serious about it. So for the past several weeks, between exams and deadlines, I’ve mulled the idea around in my head. I’ve also considered doing some freelance writing for some various newsletters and pages.

Today, after a second night of decent sleep in a row, I made the decision to look further into the idea of blogging, which is what has brought me here. So, if you are still reading this, don’t worry, it should get better.

While this first posting seems to be little more than a floundering at how I’ve gotten here, I felt it important to lay some groundwork to help any readers understand what has brought the page to fruition. Content will develop as time passes, but for now, it will be ideas that I find interesting and want to share with others, and I am sure it will evolve over time.