Happytown 


Over the years, we've grown accustomed to our friends at the Liberty Counsel being on the case when it comes to denying gays equal rights and making sure Christians can erect monuments anywhere they please. They're just doing their thing, which is trying to drag America back to some idealized version of society that never really existed. Whatever gets you through the night.

But every once in a while, these "defenders of the faith" go a bit too far to be ignored. Most recent example: helping deprive a woman of visitation rights to her adopted daughter because she's a lesbian.

In February 2000, Kimberly Ryan gave birth to a daughter conceived through artificial insemination in Seattle. A few months later her domestic partner, Lara Embry, legally adopted the baby.

In 2002, the couple moved to Sarasota, and in 2004, they broke up. Florida doesn't recognize same-sex relationships of any capacity, so when Ryan became a Christian and "left the lesbian lifestyle," per the press release, she decided that her ex shouldn't be allowed to see the kid, ever.

Embry sued, asking a court to recognize her adoption. A trial court dismissed her claim, because Florida doesn't let gays adopt, even though a Miami judge recently found that law unconstitutional `see "Florida's case against gay adoption," Dec. 18`. Since the child never resided in Embry's uterus, she has no claim to it. Welcome to your new Florida home!

The Liberty Counsel has stepped in to make sure the child never sees its adoptive parent. Otherwise, as founder Mat Staver press-released, Washington state would be rewriting Florida law and "commandeer`ing` the state to enforce its contrary policy."

In other words, the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution -— states have to respect one another's judicial rulings — shouldn't get in the way of Florida's statutory bigotry, even when it comes to depriving an adopted mother of the right to see her child.

Jesus would be so proud.

Remember the hyperspace infrastructural continuum known as the Interstate Traveler rail system proffered by visiting Michigan resident Justin Sutton a couple of years back ("The future is … now?," Nov. 22, 2007)?

Well, it turns out someone is taking Sutton's $810 billion, pod-like, mag-lev, solar-powered, hydrogen-extracting, fiber-optic-carrying, 200-mph life chute into tomorrow seriously.

Michigan, you see, is having a little problem with its homegrown automotive industry, so the powers that be have established a state task force to hold hearings on Sutton's dream machine. The big three automakers are all behind it (you know, the ones who hate trains) and will play a big part in constructing it. For now, the big shebang is just planned to connect the desirable hotspots of Detroit, Lansing and Ann Arbor at a cost of $2.3 billion, to be paid by private investors.

In exchange for providing the rights-of-way lining the state's interstate system, state and local governments would benefit handsomely from a 50-50 profit share. Wow! It all sounds so great, right?

Yeah, but a little icky too. The whole "no money from the state required!" thing has a hint of swindle to it, especially when coupled with the business, transportation and engineering experts involved (also, environmental Republicans!). As commuter rail stumbles its way through another Florida legislative session, expect this pricey distraction to rear its head anew.

You know how the state's broke and the Republicans in Tallahassee are too scared to end tax loopholes for dry cleaning and bottled water because Grover Norquist might get mad at them? Now they're scrambling through all corners of the budget and hacking things left and right. Some of these are big, like the half-billion dollars being cut from schools. Others are less noticeable.

Take, for instance, HB 383, which will save the state $400,000 in court reporting fees by disallowing criminal defense lawyers the ability to take pretrial depositions in third-degree felony, misdemeanor or criminal traffic cases.

What does that mean for you? Say you're arrested for a DUI, and you'd like to get the cop who busted you on the record before you go to trial. Too bad. Paying a court reporter to record the deposition is simply too expensive for the state to bear these days.

Not everyone is happy about this. As local lawyer Adam Sudbury — whose law partner is state Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando — wrote to fellow lawyer state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, who voted for the bill in committee, "Defendants should be afforded the right to take discovery depositions to make a full and complete determination of whether it is in their interest to reach a plea agreement with the state or defend themselves at trial."

Sudbury goes on to suggest that if the state is so concerned with the expense of third-degree felonies, perhaps it could reclassify some as misdemeanors. Of course, that will never happen. As with hiking cigarette taxes to fund schools, going "soft on crime" in the name of preserving defendants' rights runs afoul of Republican ideology.

Hooray for poverty! On March 17 we received word via late-night Twitter feed (shut up, we know) that Brent Trotter, the president and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless, had decided to walk the talk.

It was Trotter who first suggested that supporters of the Coalition throw down their caviar sandwiches and be one with the poor through the $15 a Day Challenge … which is just what its name suggests and not at all unlike Weekly foodie Jessica Bryce Young's food-stamp foray into mayonnaise and Triscuits last year ("Fueled by ramen," May 1, 2008).

"It was tough to live on such a tight budget," says Trotter on the Coalition's blog, cflhome less.wordpress.com. "I had to constantly be aware of my spending, which was stressful."

Trotter's challenge wasn't just food-based. "I budgeted $5 for gas the first day, but I just had to go back the next day and put $5 in again. After making several stops for gas in one week, I realized how inefficient this was."

In the end it was the fast-food meals that made him feel the worst. Also, it's hard to keep high-end friends when you're living the low life.

Aww, Brent. You'll always have us!

Usually anniversaries are a good excuse to fall into the spiked punch bowl with your mouth open. But March 19, the fine folks of Orlando Peace and Justice had a much more sobering celebration in mind.

In light of the fact that our boys and girls have been dying in Iraq for six years, they intended to stand outside the Robinson Street offices of U.S. Senators Martinez and Nelson and hold vigil. Once there, they would recite the famous Martin Luther King speech, "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence," originally delivered exactly one year before the civil rights leader's assassination.

They had numbers: $2.5 billion from the citizens of Orange County for the war, money that could have bought health care for 865,332 people, or 1.7 million homes with renewable energy, or 41,816 elementary- school teachers.

The number of people who showed up for the vigil was even more depressing — about nine. It seems our new president has done something that other guy could never do: pacify the hippies.

"Obama is ruining us," joked organizer Matt DeVlieger. The war is over, right?

happytown@orlandoweekly.com

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