Thursday, September 30, 2010

Oh please!

I mean REALLY? Get yourselves over here and vote.

I beg of you.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Congo Update: Accountability, Certification and Provenance for Conflict Minerals

Image from CNN

John Prendergast, Don Cheadle and Ashley Judd are not going to let anyone forget the situation in Congo. In an opinion piece at today, Judd and Prendergast call for an internationally binding certification scheme for verifying that minerals used in our electronic equipment- tin, tungsten and tantalum- are not conflict minerals. Their task is not an easy one. 

"There are at least 15 initiatives attempting to address the problem of conflict minerals by governments, companies and international organizations. This is the usual story of good intentions paving the road to hell, given that these overlapping and for the most part uncoordinated efforts will largely cancel each other out."
"The objective of mineral certification is to change the commercial calculus from violence to stability, from smuggling to legality, from collapsed state to rebuilding state, from private bank accounts to public revenues.

The chain of change begins with the consumer of the end products: laptops, cell phones, etc. The consumer demands change from companies and governments. Companies and governments lean on mineral to metal refiners. Refiners in turn press Central African exporters. Exporters subsequently -- for their economic survival -- demand transparency from suppliers right down to the mines, if that is what making money requires. It is a classic domino effect."
~ Judd and Prendergast at     

Here in the US, the finance reform bill that President Obama signed in July contained provision that requires publicly traded electronics companies to submit annual reports outlining their efforts to assure minerals in their products are conflict free. There is, however, no penalty for using conflict minerals. Prendergast has stated that it is still an important first step in accountability.

East Congo is probably the most dangerous place on the planet to be female. It would be hard to envision worse places than Darfur and Afghanistan, but Congo is that. Rape is so widespread and as we've seen on this blog, largely without impunity and happens en masse, even under the *cough* watchful eye of the UN. 

Judd and Predergast's op-ed piece is bookended by the story of Kika, pictured above.

"Democratic Republic of Congo (CNN) -- Our friend Kika is a long-term resident of Panzi Clinic, a remarkable facility in eastern Congo that manages, under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, to accommodate a small number of women who have survived excruciating acts of gender violence. For the sufferers who have heard of Panzi, post-rape, they will do anything to get there. Kika did. She crawled. It took her one month.
Kika was fetching water one early morning, as she always did. On this day, something that is becoming almost inevitable for girls and women happened to her. Armed militia appeared and began to sexually assault her. She screamed, attracting her older brother Patrice's attention. He came running. The militia welcomed their next victim by demanding he rape his sister. He refused. They insisted again. He said, "Kika is like my mother. I will not."
They stabbed him to death with their bayonets, then repeatedly raped Kika.
Patrice's now deceased and Kika's now broken body were carried back to their small home. After a week, Kika smelled very bad. She had had no medical attention. Her own family insisted she leave. That was when she began to crawl.
What links Kika's anguish and any one of us reading this? What connects us to her catastrophic suffering and that of so many other women and girls like her from Congo?
The ingredients in our electronics, that's what. The way they are being mined has everything to do with armed militia gang raping tens of thousands of civilians in what is grimly known as the worst place In the world to be a girl or woman.
When asked how she had endured such suffering, the otherwise straight-backed and stoic Kika wept. "Panzi Clinic did not abandon me," she said, sopping tears with a kitchen towel worn at her waist. The statement is profound.
The question for us, then, is, will we abandon her? Will we abandon tens of thousands of girls and women already incapacitated by the extraordinary violence done to their bodies and spirits, crippling a whole society? Will we abandon those who will be raped, either again, or for the first time, by armed militia extracting the minerals used in the electronics we love and rely on? Or, will we as consumers, as Americans, as members of the human race, take these simple actions, sustained over time, to make gender violence atrocities stop?"

~ Judd and Prendergast at

The sad thing is that there are so many Kikas. You can read about women who have suffered much the same in Nick Kristof's Half the Sky, and in so many other accounts. It really defies imagination to think that for the women of East Congo, these stories are commonplace.

Their suffering, however, is anything but.

When is enough Enough? No moment is soon enough for Kika. But you can try to help keep her daughters and granddaughters safe. Spread the word. Sign petitions. Write emails. Ask where the minerals in your XBox, iPhone, Dell laptop, Sony PSP and Nintendo DS came from. 

Stand up.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010


It's the only word I can come up with to describe the actions of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei. Ravi set up a webcam in his shared dorm room and broadcast his roommate Tyler Clementi having sex... with another man. And he did it twice so don't go thinking about remorse and onetime mistakes. Clementi, upon finding out what Ravi and Wei had done, evidently jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge, into the Hudson River. Ravi and Wei have been charged with invasion of privacy for planting the webcam in the dorm room.

Ravi maliciously planned this business. He tweeted about it! From his Twitter message on Sept. 19:

 “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”
~ from the New York Times

I simply cannot imagine the viciousness of Ravi and Wei, that they could do such a thing to another person. What kind of mind comes up with such a plan, to publicly embarrass and shame someone because of their sexuality? It is beyond just invasive. I really hope that Ravi and Wei can be charged for something with other than just  invasion of privacy. Their actions resulted in someone's death.

Clementi, an accomplished violinist, is mourned by friends and family, who have stated they are heartbroken.

Between Asher and Tyler, it seems that being being gay is getting to be less safe, less accepted, than ever. While other countries move forward with their legislated expressions of tolerance, we move farther and farther behind.

Why is who you have sex with so important? If you're both adults and it's consensual, why is it anyone else's business? Does sexuality define everything about us or something? Who among us would want to be defined solely by our sexuality or choice of sex partner?

I'd like to think that maybe Ravi was just a scumbag who would have recorded his roommate having sex with anyone, of any gender. But I think not. 

I really want to believe it gets better

Because every teen deserves better than what Asher and Tyler felt about themselves. 

Every human being does.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Palate Cleanser #112

The Old Road by Cat Shatwell
Image © Cat Shatwell, Used with Permission

The old road that leads to a ancient stone circle, a beautiful & magical place, Ballynoe, Co.Down, Ireland.
Ballynoe Stone Circle in Co. Down
A very large circle of over 50 stones up to 1.8 metres high (though many smaller) encloses a space about 35 metres across. It was built as a counterpart to the circle at Swinside in Cumbria. In the E half of the circle is a long low mound which contained large kists at the E and W ends. This mound obliterated two shortlived cairns built after the circle was constructed, in what Aubrey Burl describes as "prehistoric bigotry and vandalism [which] ruined this magnificent monument. "
Three pairs of stones stand outside the circle at varying distances, the nearest pair at the W side forming a kind of entrance 2.1 metres wide. Many of the stones in this circle were originally shoulder to shoulder, as at Lough Gur, at Swinside in Cumbria and La Menec in Brittany. A portalled entrance is aligned on the setting sun half-way between midwinter and midsummer (around March 21st), and the setting sun at winter solstice seems to slide down between the Mountains of Mourne which form a fine backdrop to the circle.

Check out more of Cat's gorgeous images of Ireland on her Flickr page and at ImageKind.
Visual palate cleanser concept © Bright Nepenthe, 2010
Principal text © Cat Shatwell

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Space, the final frontier

They found someplace new that we could screw up!!!!

I hope if there's intelligent life there that they're intelligent enough to say no trespassing.

Both images are from

You can read more here.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Iran, Sakineh

سلام به خوانندگان ایرانی من

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent visit to the US created quite a bit of furor. At least I know I'm still not over it. The statements offered to the international media about Iran's perspective on international sanctions, its human rights record, its nuclear program and so many other issues were amazing. Just the topic of Sakineh beggared the imagination. Ahmadinejad said, so smoothly and with a smile, on ABC News This Week, that Sakineh had not been sentenced to death by stoning (fact check here) or denied that there have been more executions under his administration (fact check here). That all this Western outcry "was news that was produced and incorrect, and regrettably, U.S. media affected -- was infected by U.S. politicians to make a piece of news out of it." (set time at 8:00)

Yes, it's all made up, just like mention of your possible impeachment? Or made up like the Iranian security force building a convenient case against Mousavi, your political rival? Or how about made up quests for freedom of expression, freedom from oppression, being unnecessary in Iran because these things already exist there for all?

Shall we talk about some made up things? Yes, yes, the people have forgotten the stolen election of 2009. And people in Iran (especially Baha'i people!) live so very freely.

The letters of protests following Ahmadinejad's lies about Sakineh Ashtiani have rolled in from around the world, including from Sakineh's own son, Sajjad. (How brave that young man is to call Ahmadinejad a liar and sign his name to the statement...) 

Why does Iran fascinate me? Why do I hope along with the Iranian people that their government is in the agonizing process of real change? I've been fascinated by the country, its culture and history, and by my lovely Iranian friends, for many years. And I ponder the workings of the Iranian government and wonder if it's not just a different, a more extreme, version of our own most recent past administration. One with executive leadership run amok, government straining, as it tries to balance legislative and executive branches, all while religion gets thrown into the mix. Religion plays so much less a part of our government (*cough* stem cells? abortion? prayer in schools?), of course. And our death penalty methodology is as humane as killing people is going to get. 

Last week I also watched Charlie Rose's look at Iran with Haleh Esfandiari of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Farnaz Fassihi of 'The Wall St. Journal,' Abbas Milani of Stanford University and Karim Sadjadpour of The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace last week. I watched it again today. The comments posted there are almost as interesting as the transcript. What I come back to again and again is that vision of Ahmadinejad lying to Christiane Amanpour. While I am not sure if the discussion of these four experts on Rose's program is an accurate and unbiased assessment, I can say I really hope what they see of Iran's approach to change is true.

Perhaps Ahmadinejad's position is increasingly unstable from within Iran. Though I have to say, it's hard to tell whether that's a good thing, or a bad thing in my mind. The delicate balance between the President and the Supreme Leader, looks more and more tenuous. Do we want the Supreme Leader to win? Didn't he want stoning back in the penal code? The bitter fighting between Ahmadinejad and the Majlis, the Iranian Parliament, is getting more and more entrenched. What is the parliament's vision of the future of the Iranian people? Were they in favor of the nuclear plan? And if impeachment is being mentioned again, as it has been in the past, one wonders, if the government is getting any closer to ridding itself of its worst ambassador in some time, where they'll go from here? But what would Iran without Ahmadinejad look like? Will it be a truer democracy? Is the Green Movement silent but still viable? What is the real will of the young people of Iran?

Paris Protest/AP

Beyond all those unanswerable questions, the fate of Sakineh Ashtiani is still up in the air. From the BBC, we see as of yesterday there is no decision as to her fate. Let's hope the West's interest keeps Sakineh safe from harm. And by harm, I don't mean just stoning. After TV interviews in August and September, in which she said people shouldn't protest her death because she was an adulteress and a murderer, and that no, no, she hadn't been flogged again after that picture was published in UK that turned out not to be her at all... I wince at the thought of what her life must be like. From the Guardian article in August, about her televised confession:

"She was severely beaten up and tortured until she accepted to appear in front of camera. Her 22-year-old son, Sajad and her 17-year-old daughter Saeedeh are completely traumatised by watching this programme," said Houtan Kian (Ashtiani's attorney).

In the balance between death by stoning, death by hanging, being beaten and tortured into giving interviews with well-inculcated confessions and timely denials, I wonder what Sakineh wishes for herself. I'm sure she wishes for the safety of her children, for peace, freedom, and most of all, no more suffering. 

I'm wishing for all that with her.

And what of all the others who await execution, in Iran and even here? Who's talking about them? 

برای تو صلح و آزادی است.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Palate Cleanser #111

Longleat Hedge Maze, Warminster, Wiltshire, England
Jason Hawkes

Goblet of Fire, anyone?

visual palate cleanser concept © Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Why Aratina Cage is The Best

Better than chocolate:

[This person has been banned from commenting because of making threats of violence to the blog writer.]

[Comment removed by moderator policy.]

Thank you Aratina, for having restored sanity to this little corner of the blogosphere. I think I'm not alone in being grateful...

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sea Otter Week!!!!

Attribution Unknown

Oiled Wildlife Care Network (you remember them- the heroes of the Deepwater Horizon Spill who toiled endlessly cleaning and tallying the wildlife rescued, saved and lost) have just informed me (by way of their blog) that it is SEA OTTER AWARENESS WEEK!!!!

As everyone knows, otters are the best and happiest animals on the planet. (Other than my cats and a few other cats I know.) That's why we must protect them. Because after all, they are as cute, and as endangered, as all get-out. (Plus, they are the official animal of Les Comtesses. We just love otters!) Well, actually, in addition to the cute factor, otters are actually integral to the marine nearshore ecosystem.

Defenders of Wildlife Sea Otter Campaign

The US Geological Survey counts sea otters every spring and fall in a region of the central California coast between Año Nuevo and Point Concepcion. Counting otters is no mean feat. And if you have any doubts on that point, by all means, go count otters in the photo here. It's great that someone is actually counting otters, and trying to track their success as they rebound from the terrible population lows of the early 80's.

The bad news on the otter front is that the population is down over the past two years. The spring numbers declined 3.4% over the previous estimates for 2009 and are down a full 4% over estimates from 2008. Although pup numbers are also down, the general population trend has been upward, with a few 'corrections', since counting by the USGS began in 1985.

You can support otters at Defenders of Wildlife, by attending a Sea Otter Awareness Event (list of venues here) or just by trying to talk about otters. Y'all can see which route I'm taking.

Y'otter be used to that with me by now.


And don't forget to check out if you need a happy fix.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Bullying + Bigotry

Phoebe Prince, CBS News

Longtime readers of the blog will no doubt remember Phoebe Prince, the Irish girl who moved to the states, got lonely and loose with a boy and was then bullied to the point of suicide. Phoebe was 15 at the time of her suicide. There was all manner of excuse made by the school, the children bullying her, and the failure of the system to protect a vulnerable child. 

I'm sure there are schools that do much that is right on the issue of bullying. But it's those schools who appear to do so little that stand out. Personal Failure posted her thoughts about gay bigotry, along with a link to an article on Asher Brown. 

Asher Brown, family photo

Asher Brown was a 13 year old Houston boy who was struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. After years of bullying at school, about his short stature, his apparel, his religious beliefs and ultimately because he was gay, last week Asher Brown committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. The Houston Chronicle notes that the school district's spokesperson Kelli Durham says that they just didn't know that Asher was being bullied and tormented. Asher's parents, Amy and David Truong say that they had talked to school counselors and their son's assistant principal at Hamilton Middle School many times. The statement reportedly infuriated the Truongs:

"That's absolutely inaccurate — it's completely false," Amy Truong said. "I did not hallucinate phone calls to counselors and assistant principals. We have no reason to make this up. … It's like they're calling us liars."
David Truong said, "We want justice. The people here need to be held responsible and to be stopped. It did happen. There are witnesses everywhere."

Houston's KRIV Channel 26 says that parents and youths who were interviewed confirmed that the bullying had gone on for years. The consensus was that the Cypress-Fairbanks District has a poor record of dealing with bullying. Evidently it's a lot of work to make sure your teens are bullied onto suicide. And you need all that video proof and all because just having parents tell you by phone is, well, not really proof of any problems.

Asher was physically bullied in addition to enduring verbal insults. The day before his death he was reportedly pushed down a flight of stairs and his book bag was kicked open and then he was kicked further when he tried to recover his books.

Ms. Durham said there was no video footage to prove that the events occurred.

I suppose if I were religious I would think that Asher Brown is in a better place and is at peace now. Instead, I think of his just being bullied, let down by the school system and dead. How much I wonder, was swept aside because of this child's homosexuality? Much as it seems like it was possibly so, I look at Phoebe Prince and think that perhaps... just perhaps, it had less to do with Asher's being gay than it had to do with a school staff just not giving a damn. 

I really wish that the school personnel and the youths that bullied this child, literally to his death, could just be locked into a closet together so that they can act like the wolves they are and devour each other. Permitting this type of violence in schools guarantees our future with these people as adults will be rather interesting, doesn't it?

Sadly, that closet thing is not going to happen and even if it did, it wouldn't help Asher's mother and stepfather bear there loss any differently. Because I can't imagine how they must wonder if there wasn't something else they could have done to save him.

I wonder how Kelli Durham and her colleagues are sleeping at night.

If you want the bigotry angle, please check out La Comtesse Personal Failure's post over at Forever in Hell.

Steel yourself. 

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010


Behind the Mask II by Heather Louise

Masks have always fascinated me, ever since I was a child. I collect them. Not masks like the one above, though. I collect mostly African and Indonesian masks. Ibo spirit masks, Punu and Senoufu masks for harmony and tranquility, Bamana chiwaras for agricultural knowledge or secrets and such. In those cultures the mask has more of a protective or assistive purpose, invoking powerful spirits, ancestors and principles, rather than serving the purpose of concealment. 

Most people think of masks as concealment. I guess we all wear masks in one sense or another. We mask our sorrows, our insecurities, and the trials and tribulations of our day to day life. Lately though, I have to say that I'm unsettled by more than a few instances in which one peers behind the mask and is dismayed to see too much. Too much hatred, too much venom, or just... too much. Within about the past year, it seems like I've had more than my share of finding out that what lies behind that mask is rather Phantom of the Opera-like. I've found people who aren't what they seem in so many ways that it's hard to grasp. In one case I was so pleasantly surprised I can't tell you. But what do you do when you see behind the mask and don't care for what you see? Push back and be glad of your sharper vision of reality? On the one hand there may be that aspect of trust when someone lets you see the foibles and fragility that makes us human. And on the other you can end up with that sudden realization that can only be described by that old truism "all that glitters..." Sometimes I'm disappointed in myself for not seeing more clearly from the beginning, so that I don't get startled anymore.

Because I'm just not there yet.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Symphony of Science

Thanks to Dana for sharing this...

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Palate Cleanser #110

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

NW Pakistan Surrenders to Taliban Justice? Let's Hope Not...

honor |ˈänər| ( Brit. honour)nounhigh respect; esteem his portrait hangs in the place of honor.• [in sing. a person or thing that brings credit you are an honor to our profession.• adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct I must as a matter of honor avoid any taint of dishonesty.privilege the great poet of whom it is my honor to speak tonight.• an exalted position the honor of being horse of the year.• a thing conferred as a distinction, esp. an official award for bravery or achievement the highest military honors.• ( honors) a special distinction for proficiency in an examination she passed with honors.• ( honors) a class or course of degree studies more specialized than that of the ordinary level [as adj. an honors degree in mathematics.• ( His, Your, etc., Honor) a title of respect given to or used in addressing a judge or a mayor.• Golf the right of teeing off first, having won the previous hole.dated a woman's chastity or her reputation for this she died defending her honor.

Over the past few hours, film footage of the Taliban stoning a woman to death has been circulating the wires. The woman, thought to have been seen out and about with a non-relative male, was hooded, tied to the ground and then stoned to death by a crowd of Taliban gathered around her in Orakzai, in the Northwest area of Pakistan. It is claimed that the video was shot about two months ago, smuggled out and given to the Dubai television outlet Al Aan. Reportedly, the man involved may have been merely shot to death.

Don't worry: This is NOT the actual video...

Carriers of honor? What honor is there in the lives of women who are forced to endure the miserable circumstances of life under the Taliban?

Let's think about the honorable minds that think a woman even being in the presence of a man not of her family must have sexually degraded herself and her family's 'honor'. 

All I can say is that I look forward to the time when the Taliban are either abolished or get their minds out of the gutter. The day when they stop persecuting women for their evidently immense corrupting power over men. Because as we know, men are so very, very weak.

Unless they are flinging stones.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why I love Blogger


© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Palate Cleanser #109

Passiflora (parritae x antioquiensis) ‘Mission Dolores’ 

Holy Rarity Factor, Batman, indeed!!!!

I'll be off trying to figure out if I can really grow it here in Zone Hotter Than Hell, Wetter Than Seattle Except When Drier Than A Desert.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Meeting Place/Palate Cleanser #108

Green Landscape

I'm having a picnic with a friend here, then reading for hours. 

It will be a happy Sunday.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Excommunicating the Messenger

Sister Mary Helen McKillop

I've been reading about Australia's forthcoming saint, Mary McKillop. In 1871, at age 29 and after only four years as a nun, Mary McKillop was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Founder and Mother Superior of the order the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart in Adelaide, McKillop learned that a Father Keating of Kapunda parish, just north of Adelaide, was sexually abusing children. McKillop told their local priest in Adelaide, Father Woods, who then informed the Vicar General, who had Keating sent packing, back to Ireland*. A colleague of  Keating's, Father Paul Horan, swore revenge on Woods and McKillop and, as Acting Vicar a year later, managed to hoodwink the local bishop, Bishop Sheil, into excommunicating McKillop and tried to destroy her order. On his deathbed, Sheil changed his mind and absolved McKillop, restoring her standing in the Church. McKillop's order received papal approval in 1873.

McKillop is greatly revered in Australia, with numerous colleges named after her, an electoral district in South Australia in her name, a $1 AUD coin honoring her as well as a rose, among many other commemorations.

It's so interesting to see how the Church has improved their handling of abusive priests since the 1870's, isn't it?


Mary McKillop rose flowering in winter
(dorofofoto at Wikimedia Commons)

*Of course I'm sure he never, ever worked with children again. *cough*

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010


Attribution Unknown

It's interesting how two friends can remain in synchrony over time and distance. 

So comforting.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010


Attribution Unknown

Okay, for the past month and a half I've dealt with seriously ill parents (and I'm an only child), ill child with no discernible answer as to what's causing his health condition, messed up older kids (sorry, no further details, some read this blog), tragic situations with GAL youth, sad friends, while I personally felt miserable, health-wise, for a variety of reasons. Then there's that shameful execution in Virginia that I read about today, which I still struggle to understand. I feel like I have so much, and so much to be happy about in my life, and yet I can't help but feel that there is darkness all around me, around us. In my mind is the GAL youth, stabbed and lonely, so vulnerable. Healing badly and so very mentally ill. Other youth who can't even get their Medicaid straightened out while pregnant, injured and 18. Youth struggling to get funds they're entitled to but more worried that I'm at a Bank of America hostage-taking robbery. Yes, all around, there are people who have so much go wrong. Right here in the First World USA. Correspondents right here in the US, who are so horribly threatened and spammed by that person who plagues so many bloggers whether they seem on point or not. Or my correspondents from so-called third world countries who seem so despondent about hope for their future, though somehow they still care and want to hope for the world at large.

Yes, the world feels so off-kilter some days. All it takes is one thing to plunge you deep into the sad. Point being: Someone I know just lost a baby at 27 weeks and all I can say is that surprisingly, sad can go even sadder. Bad and sad. Yep. Bad and sad.

I suppose that in a world with Iran, Congo, Afghanistan and molesting Catholic priests that  it's not the end of the world. But for our friends it likely was so very much to bear and I feel for them. 

Anyway, the only high points this week? Gay adoption is legal in Florida. And my best friend is visiting.

Hip, hip.


© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Palate Cleanser #107

Take me there, please....

Beach Grass, Scotland

Photograph by Jim Richardson, National Geographic
This Month in Photo of the Day: Nature and Weather Photos
Marram beach grass blowing on the coast of the Isle of Lewis.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

You go Richard!

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Long Way Down

Let's just say that wearing socks, carrying two glass vases and a pair of scissors was not a plan. 

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Palate Cleanser #106

attribution unknown

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Third District Court of Appeals' 3-0 Ruling In re: Gill

Portions of this post are cross-posted at It's About Politics It's About Children.

Judges Cope, Shepherd and Salter's landmark ruling finding the ban on gay adoption in FL to be unconstitutional can be found here.

Notes from the Ruling:

"We reject the Department’s remaining arguments for the same reason: they do 
not provide a reasonable basis for allowing homosexual foster parenting or 
guardianships while imposing a prohibition on adoption."

"Under Florida law, homosexual persons are allowed to serve as foster
parents or guardians but are barred from being considered for adoptive parents.
All other persons are eligible to be considered case-by-case to be adoptive parents,
but not homosexual persons—even where, as here, the adoptive parent is a fit
parent and the adoption is in the best interest of the children.

The Department has argued that evidence produced by its experts and F.G.’s
experts supports a distinction wherein homosexual persons may serve as foster
parents or guardians, but not adoptive parents. Respectfully, the portions of the
record cited by the Department do not support the Department’s position. We
conclude that there is no rational basis for the statute."

The 3rdDCA didn't mess around when it came to Dr. George Rekers, he of Rentboy fame. From their ruling:

"Unlike Dr. Schumm, Dr. Rekers sees no role for individual evaluation of the
proposed adoptive parent, if that parent is a homosexual. He maintained that
performing an individualized study of the proposed adoptive parent, like F.G., is
not viable because even if F.G. is found to be entirely appropriate as an adoptive
parent at the present time, it is possible that he may develop some sort of a 
disorder later in life."

11 Dr. Rekers opined at one point that he would favor removing 
children from foster parents who are homosexual persons even where the children 
had lived with the foster parents for ten years. R. 1736. He also said, however, 
that if he evaluated the F.G. household (which he had not done for this case), he 
might recommend continued foster placement. R. 1758.


"Dr. Rekers was questioned about his recent authorship of a law review
article entitled An Empirically Supported Rational Basis for Prohibiting Adoption,
Foster Parenting, and Contested Child Custody by Any Person in a Household that
Includes a Homosexually-Behaving Member, 18 St. Thomas L. Rev. 325 (2005).
According to the judgment, “the doctor heavily cited to the conclusions of a
colleague who is sharply criticized as distorting data and was censured and ousted
[or withdrew in lieu of ousting] by the American Psychological Association for
misreporting evidence regarding homosexual households.” Final Judgment at 20
(footnote omitted). The court concluded that “Dr. Rekers’ testimony was far from
a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence.” Final
Judgment at 23."

But best of all is Judge Salter's concurring independent opinion, which follows the ruling he joined. From that opinion:

"SALTER, J. (concurring).

I concur in affirming the judgment of adoption in this case. I write only to
emphasize certain parts of the record beyond those detailed by the trial court and
my respected colleagues. Those differences pertain to (1) the record regarding 
the other persons in the adoptive parent’s household and (2) the substantial  
changes in law and Department of Children and Families’ policy after the
Legislature enacted subsection 63.042(3) in 1977.
The categorical ban was enacted in haste and reaction in 1977.16 Those who
voted for it in the legislature did not prohibit the placement of children with
homosexual foster parents or permanent guardians—only the permanent step of
adoption was addressed. Because the Department has approved homosexuals to
serve as foster parents and permanent guardians,17 the Department now has
years of experience and observation to inform its position and its testimony in the  
trial court. 

Moreover, the placement of children in those households has allowed
bonds and relationships to form that are in the best interests of children—steps
toward permanency and stability in young lives that have already known too 
much pain and separation. In short, the categorical ban and the statutory 
polestar of “best interests of the children” after an extended and very successful 
foster placement (as here) are inimical.
In striking the categorical ban of section 63.042(3) on equal protection
grounds, we need not address the larger controversy regarding same-sex
marriage.21 The Department’s policies and stipulations (Appendix, paragraphs 6
and 8) have made it clear that placement with a married couple, or even an
applicant who might later marry, is not the rational basis proffered in support of 
the ban. The unconstitutionality of this particular categorical ban regarding 
adoption simply leaves the Department in the position described by its chief of 
child welfare services in her testimony below:

Q. Okay. So if the state law didn’t exist and the folks in the
department were implementing the child welfare policy,
would there be a reason to exclude gay people from adopting?

A. If the law didn’t exist, we would use the same criteria to
assess those families as any other, and the best interest of the
child would be the, would be the norm.

With these few differences in analysis, I concur in affirming the final
judgment of adoption."

21 In the recently-decided federal case in California, Perry v. Schwarzenegger,
2010 WL 3025614 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 4, 2010), many of the same equal protection
arguments, and two of the expert witnesses who testified in the adoption case here,
were cited in the court’s order.

Salter's ruling is both wonderful and accessible.

Things not addressed in the 3rdDCA's ruling? Permanency and Equal Protection for Children. Judge Cindy Lederman's original ruling on the Gill adoption addressed the issue of permanency, which is the primary best interests of these children. The Court refused to take up that argument.

The trial court made an alternative finding that “the statute infringes on the
Children’s right to permanency pursuant to the Adoption and Safe Families Act of
1997, [42 U.S.C. § 671,] adopted in Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes.” Final
Judgment at 38. The Department contends that this ruling was erroneous. 
Because we affirm the declaration of unconstitutionality on the ground that there 
is an equal protection violation under the Florida Constitution, we need not reach 
the trial court’s alternative holding.

What rights do our children have in this state? Surely, they have the right to permanency? Yet, though the Third District Court ignores the issue, in the Gill case, our own statutes appear to conflict with one another! If we terminate a child's parents' rights, we must pursue all options for permanency. Mr. Gill's children were owed more than a long term foster placement or a legal guardianship by our state. They were owed parents. And they believed that they had found parents.

Thankfully, so did the Third District Court of Appeals.

Let's hope DCF Secretary Sheldon gets his wish and the case is further appealed to the Supreme Court by the State. Let's get this shameful law off the books!

Edited to note:

This afternoon Governor Charlie Crist announced that Florida will no longer enforce the ban on gays adopting in the State of Florida. That does NOT, however, prevent the DCF from seeking an appeal to the FL Supreme Court, does not invalidate the statute and is not a guarantee that future administrations in this state will honor that decision. This is particularly important since Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott has been extremely vocal about his support of the ban. 

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010