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Edie & Thea v. DOMA…SF Does Smart Realignment…and More LAPD/Chalk Walk News

July 16th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


Edie Windsor, who is now 83, was with the same partner, Thea Spyer, for 44 years. The two women met in 1963, got engaged with a circular diamond broach in 1967. Yet it took until 2007 before they were able to finally get married in Toronto.

It was a bitter-sweet celebration. Thea had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977, and for 30 years the couple had struggled with the debilitating effects of the progressive disease. By 2007 an increasingly incapacitated Thea was told she likely had no more than a year and a half to live.

She died two years later, in 2009. Not surprisingly, she left her her wife and life-long love, Edie, everything.

New York State, where the women were residents, recognized their marriage, meaning Thea’s estate should have passed unencumbered to Edie.

But the federal government does not recognize gay marriage, in fact it has legislated against it, in the form of the Defense of Marriage Act – DOMA.

As a consequence, Edie had to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes.

Octogenarian Edie has not taken this issue sitting down. She sued the feds for the tax money and won. Naturally, the case has been appealed, specifically to the 2nd Circuit, however Edie isn’t waiting around for the appellate decision.

Instead, on Monday, with the backing of the NY ACLU and a long list of amicus briefs, she and her attorneys asked the Supremes to hear her case, which is considered the 3rd major challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act.

(It remains to be seen if SCOTUS will take the case.)

Lots of people have the story, but this Village Voice piece by Steven Thrasher has some good side information that other media outlets have missed. (Plus I notice Thrasher’s facts are more….you know….factual than some of the other outlets.)

Here’s a clip:

Last month, the Voice reported about Windsor’s victory in a federal district court here in New York. Although the Obama Administration has stopped defending DOMA, believing parts are unconstitutional, House Speaker John Boehner has directed the Bipartian Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to keep defending it in federal court.

Asked by the Voice what she’d say to Speaker Boehner for seemingly wanting her to be the only person in America he wants to pay more taxes, she replied, ” I think I’d rather not talk to him.”

Some case regarding the constitutionality of same-sex marriage should be on the docket of the Supreme Court next year, although any such ruling could be limited enough in nature that the issue will go on for years. But both advocates of same-sex marriage, as well as opponents in BLAG, seem to want the Supremes to weigh in, come what may.

The stakes are getting higher, and the effects are getting felt on a broader basis, almost daily with the schizophrenic gap between same-sex marriages being legally performed at the state level which are not recognized by the federal government. Today, Windsor’s estate taxes and her relationship would be treated the same in New York State as if she were heterosexual; but the United States government wouldn’t recognize them at all.

This crisis is growing the fastest here in New York. As NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman wrote in the press release, “The impact of DOMA is felt most dramatically today here in New York,” because, “At least 10,000 same-sex couples have been married in New York since our marriage law went into effect.”

It’s great that they could wed here. But, as Lieberman notes, the Marriage Equality Act is also inadvertently allowing tens of thousands of Americans to enter into a perverse, more acutely obvious state of “second-class citizenship” in the eyes of the federal government.

And speaking of gay marriage and SCOTUS, this fall the Supreme Court is expected to decide whether or not they will take on California’s Prop 8 case.


Now granted, San Francisco has much fewer realignment inmates to deal with than LA does.

But the No Cal county appears to be taking on the realignment challenge with creative fervor, while in many other counties, probation and sheriff’s department officials mostly talk mournfully about the need for more law enforcement and more jails—with LA often appearing to lead the latter uninspiring charge.

Damian Bulwa of the San Francisco Chronicle reports on the specific ways that SF is ahead of the curve. Here are some clips:

Under realignment, lower-level state prisoners are released to the supervision of county probation officers rather than state parole agents. San Francisco wants its jails to take custody of these inmates two months before their discharge date.

That way, said acting Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, the county could help them obtain such necessities as housing, job training and driver’s licenses before they hit the streets – “the things they are going to need to be successful.”

Nine months into realignment, San Francisco’s criminal justice leaders are united in embracing the change. They’re seeking to show that traditional incarceration is not the solution for lower-level crime.

“The realignment sky is not falling in San Francisco,” said Wendy Still, who as head of the city’s adult probation department has taken the lead in realignment. She spoke while displaying a blueprint for a $1.3 million, one-stop service center the city plans to open to connect convicts to social services.

Still said the changes would ultimately result in 100 to 200 additional convicts on the streets at any given time rather than behind bars. She acknowledged that there are “bad guys in there” with a history of backsliding, “and they’re going to do some bad things.”

But, she said, San Francisco is managing offenders better than the state had, in part by giving them services they need. She predicted a big drop from a past recidivism rate of nearly 80 percent for state parolees in San Francisco


Public Defender Jeff Adachi and others set up a re-entry council in 2005 to coordinate support for inmates awaiting release. Four years later, the state began giving grants to counties based on their ability to keep people on felony probation from returning to prison.

San Francisco’s adult probation department reduced such transfers by 48 percent [my italics] over two years, earning $2.1 million while overhauling the way it assesses the needs of probationers and links them to services.

Now, the city is moving even more aggressively.

For example, while some counties used state realignment funding to bring in more prosecutors, District Attorney George Gascón [who incidentally used to the the Assistant Chief of Police of the LAPD] hired an “alternative sentencing planner” to help prosecutors steer convicts to job training and drug treatment.

The state gave San Francisco $5.8 million for the first nine months of the program. This year’s award was bumped to more than $17 million.

Anyway, read the rest. As you do, it helps to remember that the majority of the people we put in prison eventually come out and return to our communities—a fact that law-and-order hardliners seem conveniently to forget.

One of the ideas behind realignment is the notion that the counties can do better than the state in enabling people to exit custody better prepared to lead stable and legal lives, instead of dumping them back on the streets far more broken than when they went in (which is what our resoundingly non-rehabilitative state prisons seem to do).

It also should be mentioned that Sheriff Baca’s Education Based Incarceration program is a step in the right direction. However, many, many more steps are needed.


Although not saying that officers did anything wrong, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told the LA Times Joel Rubin that he’s reviewing what happened, and what could have been done better.

Here’s a clip:

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said that after an initial review of last week’s skirmish between officers and protesters during downtown’s monthly Art Walk event he believes the department “overall responded appropriately.”

He added that department officials are in the midst of conducting a more thorough review of the night’s events, in which they will look into whether the “hard line enforcement” approach that police took was necessary. “I would much prefer to resolve these things through negotiation and cooperation, rather than hard line enforcement,” he said.

“We will look to see if there were opportunities we missed,” he said. “At this point, I don’t know if this incident could have been handled any better or differently.”

Over at LA Weekly, Dennis Romero talked to LAPD Commander Andy Smith about the issue and Smith pointed out that when the protesters rushed into the streets and blocked the sidewalks forcing other pedestrians into the street, then police have to step in.

Here’s a clip from that coverage.

LAPD Commander Andrew Smith told the Weekly:

One thing that’s getting lost is, from my understanding, we had people writing on the sidewalks and, because so many were doing it, they were blocking the sidewalk and forcing pedestrians to walk in the roadway.

There were lots of people amassing at Fifth and Spring streets for Art Walk on the warm summer night. So what?

Well, at the July Art Walk one year ago a 2-month-old boy was killed near Fourth and Spring streets after a Cadillac jumped a curb accidentally and hit the infant. Although the child was in his stroller on a sidewalk, some pointed to sidewalk overcrowding and called for streets to be closed for the event.

Cops, then, have been sensitive about keeping people off the streets.

But Smith says the Chalk Walk participants took it further by allegedly ignoring officers’ orders to get out of the way and by then purposely taking over the intersection of Fifth and Spring to start drawing in the street:

They refused to leave, were arrested, and then a whole bunch of people ran out and took over the intersection at 5th and Spring then unlawfully assembled, chalking in the intersection as well. They were rushing out en masse into the street.

Smith said people were given “an opportunity” to walk away without arrest, but many chose to challenge the cops.

Posted in California budget, CDCR, LA County Jail, LAPD, LGBT, Realignment, Sheriff Lee Baca, Supreme Court | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. Cheryl Says:

    I was at Art Walk the night the LAPD started a write. I haven’t seen one true statement from them yet. When will people cover what really happened?

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