The long holiday weekend (and a short time to produce a column for this week), prompts a news roundup:
BuzzFeed News reports on the case of Taylor Moore, a student at Southern Arkansas University, who's been pressing for months for action on unwanted sexual groping by another student last December. She was in a dorm bed with a boyfriend when another student walked up naked, with erect penis, and groped her vaginal area. She objected and he stopped. She says her initial complaints to campus officials fell on deaf ears. She says the campus police chief said no crime had occurred because there'd been no penetration. The local prosecutor said it was, at best/worst, a misdemeanor and not in his jurisdiction. Prosecutor David Butler dug his hole deeper by saying it was a "he said/she said" deal and warning of the difficulty of getting jury verdicts for victims when "alcohol is involved." The young woman said no alcohol was involved.
Why is it that male officials who talk of "he said/she said" situations invariably side with what HE said and bring no charges? Have they ever thought that a jury's propensity to find excuses for assault — alcohol, provocative clothing, lack of sufficient physical violation — could be rooted in the sexism on display by male officials here? Enough hell has been raised that, seven months later, the city attorney might try to file a misdemeanor charge. SAU is redoing its obligations under Title IX and the male student has been suspended for a period. Taylor Moore has found another place to attend college.
Speaking about sex: Federal Judge Carlton Reeves has struck down Mississippi's "religious freedom" law that allows people to use their religion as a pretext to discriminate against gay people in employment, housing and public services. Arkansas has a similar law. It should fall, too. The judge in Mississippi was guided by the legal advocacy of Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer who established the case law that was the foundation for the end of state bans on same-sex marriage.
Religious freedom laws are meant as freedom-to-discriminate laws. They establish unequal rights for favored religions. The Baptists, for example, might be unable to endure the presence of gay people. But people of other faiths, several of them plaintiffs in Mississippi, feel differently. Wrote Reeves: "Persons who hold contrary religious beliefs are unprotected. The State has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others." That is what Arkansas does, time and again, both in legal discrimination against gay people and enforcing religious doctrine in attempting to de facto outlaw abortion.
A federal appeals court has again affirmed that the Second Amendment does not confer unlimited ability to possess guns. It said possession of a machine gun and other military weapons is not a protected right. The gun nuts want to be armed to take on the government as needed. As if.
Ted Suhl, who made millions running religion-flavored mental health services for youths on the government's tab, is trying to use a new Supreme Court ruling in the case of a Virginia governor to say the money he threw around to public officials wasn't bribery, but just a means of gaining access, as with campaign contributions. This access lubrication included, the government says, a no-work "consulting contract" for Steven Jones, a state legislator and former Human Services official now serving time for taking Suhl bribes. If only our state's inadequate financial disclosure law required more detail of legislators about their "consulting" firms and about law practices that take "retainers" with businesses that have interests in the legislature. I'm reasonably certain Jones wasn't the first or last legislative "consultant." Rumors are rife that the ongoing public corruption probe related to the bribery of a judge in a nursing home case has spread into unrelated legislative areas. We can hope.
And finally: I always thought Arkansas was the cheese dip craziest state in the country. But last weekend, Memphis cops reported, one Memphis woman stabbed another woman for "wasting" Ro-tel cheese dip. To add insult to lost cheese dip, the car taking the stabbing victim to the hospital crashed.