Visit my national blog: In This Moment

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Debate on late-term abortion will probably dominate the next legislative session

Next year is a full-blown election year for the Kansas Legislature where members of the House and Senate go before the voters.

Given that and the ongoing hoohaw over Dr. George Tiller and late-term abortions, both AP and the Kansas City Star are arguing that the next session will be dominated by debate over abortion. An interim legislative committee is soon expected to be appointed to study the issue this summer and even some Democrats say they're ready to discuss changes in the law.

My take is that the conventional wisdom of the mainstream media is right on this one.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Doctor denies financial ties to George Tiller

The Lawrence Journal-World reports that an attorney for former Lawrence physician Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus denies that she had a financial connection to Wichita's Dr. George Tiller.

The alleged ties are the basis for 19 misdemeanor charges filed against Tiller yesterday.

Morrison says Kline is either grossly incompetent or manufacturing evidence

And that's just the start of the back and forth between Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison and his predecessor as AG, Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline. All of this, of course, surrounds the charging of Dr. George Tiller, a Wichita abortion provider.

The incompetent-or-unethical quote is from today's Topeka Capital-Journal, which also reports on the tight security that greeted reporters when they went to Morrison's news conference yesterday. The security was in response to all the emails Morrison's office received. Judging from some of the emails I've received from anti-abortion folks, I think Morrison has every right to be concerned.

Meanwhile, Kline is trying to claim that Morrison's charges are a victory for him. While it's true that Morrison did use the records Kline obtained, it's also true that Morrison threw out all 30 of the charges Kline was trying to file against Tiller. If you believe Morrison, then all 30 of those charges was botched. That's hardly a victory for Kline.

Morrison says Kline was so driven by his political agenda that he did sloppy work. Whether or not Kline botched the cases, it does make sense that he was driven to press the charges he did. At least half of those charges had to do with how to define a medical rationale for a late-term abortion. If Kline had succeeded, that might well have had the effect of choking off just about any late-term abortions.

Morrison's point is that Kline was trying to make a political point and not trying to enforce the law. If so, then Kline was way out of line.

The Kansas Constitution kindly created an institution to allow citizens to change the law. It's called the Legislature. Kline's job as AG was to enforce the law. That's what his job is now in Johnson County. His record on the Tiller case is just one reason why Johnson County residents are a tad nervous about their new DA.

Tiller is expected to make his first court appearance Aug. 7.

The Lawrence Journal-World has a good story about the 19 charges Morrison filed against Tiller. It includes detail on each count.

Here's the Wichita Eagle's story. The Eagle's best contribution to the story are a timeline of events surrounding Tiller and a brief biography of Tiller.

Kansas Public Radio has an audio report with lots of quotes from Morrison's news conference. I can't seem to link directly to the Morrison story, so you will have to scroll down until you find it on a page of other news reports.

The Kansas City Star reports on the record of the physician who signed off on the abortions performed by Tiller. The doctor, who once practiced in Lawrence, was disciplined by a state board.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

BREAKING: Kansas Attorney General rejects all of Kline's charges against Tiller, but files new counts

[updated 1:13 p.m.]

Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison has filed 19 misdemeanor counts against Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller.

The charges stem from a state law requiring that a doctor who provides an abortion and a referring doctor not have any financial or legal ties. Morrison is alleging that Tiller had those kinds of ties in 19 cases.

Here's the Kansas City Star report.

The Star adds this interesting paragraph.
Morrison’s decision to charge Tiller is likely to come as a shock to anti-abortion groups who expected Tiller to be cleared. They predicted that Morrison would decline to charge Tiller, saying the attorney general would shield the abortion provider. A political action committee controlled by Tiller spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the recent election attacking Kline.

One problem with instant analysis of the news is that you don't have time to dig up facts or get perspective, but having said that I'm going to leap in here for a quick opinion: At first blush, it appears that Morrison and his staff took their job seriously to investigate Tiller. (Hence the "shock" expected from anti-abortion groups.)

If that is true, isn't it much better that the new AG took his time and did a careful job, rather than doing what the previous AG, Phill Kline, may well have done? Botching an indictment doesn't help get a conviction.

It will be interesting to hear the reaction of Kline and his camp to today's events.

One important fact to note is that both Kline's and Morrison's charges are misdemeanors.

The bottom line is that we will only know over time whether Kline or Morrison or neither of them have been right about Tiller.


[1:12 p.m. update]

Here's AP's take on the story. They quote Morrison as saying the 19 counts are "technical" violations of the law.

More from AP. This story names the doctor with alleged ties to Tiller. See the bottom of the story, which also provides more detail.


[1:02 p.m. update]

A more national perspective is available at In This Moment.

[earlier post]

First reports from Topeka say that Attorney General Paul Morrison has rejected all 30 counts Phill Kline filed against Wichita abortion provider George Tiller in December. However, Morrison has filed 19 new counts against Tiller.

Details are coming.

Morrison's office had already announced that it was not filing 15 of the original 30 charges originally pressed by Kline. Calling Kline's work sloppy and unethical, Morrison's spokesperson yesterday told the AP that the charges the previous AG had filed were unfounded.

Here's background on the entire Tiller saga.
PHOTO: Paul Morrison

Morrison to announce whether he will charge Tiller at noon

The KC Star reports that Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison has just notified the media of a noon news conference. The results of his investigation into George Tiller -- and whether or not Tiller will be charged -- will be announced then.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

BREAKING: Paul Morrison's office says Kline botched George Tiller case

AP is reporting an exclusive interview with Ashley Anstaett, spokeswoman for Attorney General Paul Morrison. She alleges that former AG Phill Kline engaged in "unethical behavior" and left a mess for Morrison.

In a nutshell, Anstaett says Morrison's predecessor Kline, botched at least half of the charges he filed against Wichita abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller. Among the charges Anstaett makes, according to AP, are:

  • 15 of the 30 misdemeanor counts Kline filled in December were flawed.
  • In 11 of those 15 counts, Kline failed to include information that was favorable to Tiller -- a major ethical lapse by an attorney. (Kline's recently departed Johnson County Domestic Violence Division Chief Sue Carpenter was once censured for doing this.)
  • In 4 of the counts, Kline cited the wrong patient records to back up his charges.
  • “The case was not organized, summarized and ready to go, as Kline claims. This couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Anstaett’s comments covered only 15 charges. Morrison is set to announce by Friday whether or not he will file any charges against Tiller.

Kline denies everything. See AP for the details of his comments.

If what Anstaett says is true, then it's no surprise that Morrison has taken six months to finish his investigation of Tiller. If Tiller really is breaking the law, then the absolute worst thing Morrison could do is to bring a botched case before a judge. It amazes me that the anti-abortion folks can't seem to understand that. They seem more interested in screaming and making political points, than in actually getting a successful prosecution of Tiller.

My guess -- and I have no information on this -- is that Anstaett's interview is part of a PR campaign by Morrison to counter the Operation Rescue message that has been filling the Kansas media for the last few weeks.

I'm also guessing, that Morrison may well file charges against Tiller. Anstaett only discussed 15 of the counts. I suspect that she would have discussed more, if Morrison intended to clear Tiller completely.

Again, I have no information. Only guesses.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Morrison clears Planned Parenthood in Overland Park, but Kline still has records

Attorney General Paul Morrison has cleared Planned Parenthood -- one of two clinics at the center of former AG Phill Kline's mining expedition for medical records.

The attorney for the Overland Park clinic released a letter from Morrison tonight.

Here is a link to Morrison's letter. Note that the letter says that Kline -- now Johnson County District Attorney -- still has copies of the records. As the local DA, Kline could still file charges against Planned Parenthood.

No word yet on what Morrison intends to do about the 2nd and most controversial clinic -- that of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita.

I hear a lot of folks -- particularly anti-abortion groups -- screaming about how long it has taken Morrison to complete his investigation of the clinics. Given the controversy and all the publicity, I much prefer to see Morrison take his time and do a thorough job rather than jumping in to either follow in Kline's hasty footsteps or to jump away from them.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Republican vows to stop Lawrence's new domestic partner registry

To no one's surprise, Rep. Lance Kinzer said today he will once again try to ban domestic partner registries statewide.

Lawrence's new registry goes into effect Aug. 1 for both same-sex and heterosexual couples. Even if he succeeds, Kinzer couldn't get the Legislature to pass a ban until the session starts in January. If that happens, a victory by Kinzer would demolish a registry that would already have been functioning for months. A victory by Kinzer would declare null and void the registrations of many couples.

The bill by the Olathe Republican was approved last session by a committee in the House. However, it never made it to a vote of the full House. The ban would have to be passed by the House and then get through a Senate committee and the full Senate before going to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for her signature. Sebelius has not said whether or not she would sign such a bill.

A domestic partner registry does nothing more than allow couples to access benefits their employers already offer to them. It is nothing more revolutionary than a list of names. Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison has already said that Lawrence's registry is constitutional, even with the state ban on same-sex marriage.

If you want to be part of stopping Kinzer's attempt to keep Lawrence couples from getting insurance and other benefits, join the Kansas Equality Coalition and become a part of the fight for fairness.

Replacement for attorney fired by Phill Kline walks after only two months

After only two months (two months?!) on the job, Sue Carpenter has resigned as head of Phill Kline's domestic violence section in Johnson County. Carpenter took over after Kline fired the 15-year veteran who headed the unit.

The Kansas City Star reports that Carpenter's last day was Friday.

Carpenter had some problems before she got to Kline's office. Her resume, as announced by his office, was also a tad inflated.

Once again, why do we care about Kline?

First, his office oversees law enforcement for one of the state's biggest counties. How he performs his job has an impact on the lives of people who live in the suburban Kansas City county. Since Kline got his DA job under less-than-normal circumstances, the question in the minds of many in the county has been whether or not Kline is competent, or as The Pitch said this week, a dimwit.

By the way, I've never thought Kline was dim, dull or in any way stupid, but he constantly shows signs of ignoring the nuts and bolts of his job in favor of his own political, far right agenda.

As important for the rest of the state and nation, Kline has wider political ambitions. He is a darling of the Christian Right.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Kansas Supreme Court upholds Lawrence smoking ban

Wahoo! We'll still be able to breathe freely in Lawrence. I am such a happy camper.

The decision just came out.

Gitmo in Kansas? Ah, maybe not.

Reports that the Bush Administration might close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay appear to have been a bit premature.

Even if Gitmo is closed, it looks like Fort Leavenworth may not be the destination for remaining Gitmo prisoners after all. The Washington Post reports today, at the very bottom of a fascinating story on the politics of all of this:
The Pentagon did a contingency study on housing the detainees at military facilities in the United States last year and determined that the only detention center that could realistically house more than 200 detainees from Guantanamo in maximum security cells would be the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., but that the brig and the surrounding base would need significant security enhancements.
An earlier AP story contained complaints from Rep. Nancy Boyda, who sounded none-to-pleased that Gitmo detainees might end up in Kansas.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Step-by-Step Guide to figuring out if the religious right is turning toothless

I posted a detailed rundown of what's happening and what to watch on my national blog, In This Moment. I stuck the post over there because I do believe what happens here has national significance.

The Pitch takes on Phill Kline

Interesting story in The Pitch with some old -- and some new -- detail about the state of Phill Kline's tenure as district attorney of Johnson County.

Gitmo in Kansas?

I don't know how I missed this before, but the Lawrence Journal-World has reported that if the prison at Guantanamo Bay ever closed, the inmates might end up at Fort Leavenworth.

Their destination would be the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in northeast Kansas, about 35 miles from Lawrence. The USDB, as it is known locally, is the only maximum security prison in the United States.

I toured the USDB in the late 1980s when I was still a reporter for The Wichita Eagle. At that time, it was a grim place with a "special processing unit," i.e. death chamber, and an 1,000-inmate maximum security "barracks" that was a dead ringer for Alcatraz as imagined in the old Burt Lancaster movie, "Birdman of Alcatraz."

By the time I took the tour of the USDB, I had already done stories in several prisons in both Kansas and Michigan. At that time, the USDB was by far the creepiest of them all.

However, those old maximum security barracks were torn down in 2002, and today the prison only has a capacity of 500. It has a daily inmate count of 450.

Personally, I think it may well be a good idea to stop using Gitmo as an excuse for inhumane treatment of inmates -- treatment that does nothing but ruin our reputation around the world. If the end of Gitmo means prisoners end up in Kansas, then that might well be a good thing. However, that idea won't work unless the military puts a lot more money into the USDB.

PHOTO: A 2002 photo of the detention camp of Gitmo.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What's next for Lawrence's domestic partner registry

Both the mundane and, let's say, the profane are expected in the next few months now that the Lawrence City Commission has passed a domestic partner registry.

First up will probably be the mundane. The registry is supposed to go into effect on Aug. 1. The city still needs to determine an exact fee and set up the web site that partners will use to register. As soon as I have details, I'll post them and a link to the registration site. You can read the ordinance here.

What may be profane -- or what calls "common or vulgar" -- is an expected attempt to stop the registry. The Lawrence/Douglas County Chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition has been hearing for months that someone (don't know who) plans to file an injunction to block implementation of the registry.

This may well happen, but right now I'm personally a bit uncertain it will. Although the battle was long and hard and took a ton of work, the opposition proved itself to be fairly toothless by the time the whole thing was over. On the other hand, it never pays to underestimate the commitment of our opponents.

I'm more concerned, though, about a renewed attempt in the Kansas Legislature to pass a bill banning domestic partner registries throughout the state. Introduced by Olathe Republican Lance Kinzer, the bill was passed by an ultra-conservative House committee last session.

When the Legislature goes back into session in January, Kinzer's bill could go to a quick vote by the full House, which is largely conservative. The bill would still have to pass the more moderate Senate, but I would prefer that we never have to engage in that fight.

Kansas Equality Coalition Chair Thomas Witt reminds us that "the work is not done," and he's right.

I propose a short break for everyone to catch their breath, and then renewed commitment to the fight. One important way to get involved is to become a member of the Equality Coalition. It only costs $15.

Becoming a member not only provides financial support for the group, but it also proves to decision makers that everyday voters support our goals. The truth is that many do, but our opinions have often been drowned out by the screams of the religious right.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: The 1st domestic partner registry in Kansas history is law

[updated 7:19 p.m.]

The Lawrence City Commission just took it's third and final vote on the registry. As before, the ordinance passed 4-1. This is historic.

There was no discussion. The whole thing was over with in less than 5 minutes.

For the first time in Kansas history, same-sex couples have a means of getting public acknowledgment of their relationships. This is not a symbolic gesture. This means that domestic partners will have access to health insurance and other benefits offered by their partners' employers.

The registry goes into effect Aug. 1. Details on the new registry can be found in the approved ordinance. The registry is open to both same-sex and heterosexual couples, but is only available to residents of Lawrence. Couples will register online and pay a fee, which has not yet been determined.

Even though tonight's vote was over in minutes, it took months of grassroots effort to win the registry. Kudos to Maggie Childs and the rest of the Lawrence Chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition. You did very well indeed!

Monday, June 18, 2007

The final vote on the Lawrence domestic partner registry is tomorrow

This is it: Tuesday night the Lawrence City Commission is expected to take the final vote to create Kansas' first domestic partner registry.

The meeting starts at 6:35 p.m. at Lawrence City Hall, 6 East 6th St. One more time, we need to go to the meeting to support the proposal. The discussion and vote should be near the beginning of the meeting.

The Kansas Equality Coalition expects the proposal to be pulled off the consent agenda by Commissioner Mike Amyx. If he doesn't do that, he can't vote against it. With the proposal off the consent agenda, the Commission could, once again, hear comments on it. However, I doubt that Mayor Sue Hack will provide much if any time for testimony. Both sides have had ample time to speak and contact the commissioners.

We seem to be retaining our 4-1 margin on the Commission, which means the domestic partner registry should finally become official Tuesday night. If all goes as expected, this will be a huge victory for fair treatment under the law in Lawrence.

The city expects to start offering the registry online Aug. 1. A fee will be charged, but the amount of the fee has not been announced yet.

Here is the full text of the registry ordinance.

Lawrence domestic partner registry final ordinance

Here is the full, final version of the ordinance that the Lawrence City Commission will vote on Tuesday night. If approved, this becomes the law in Lawrence on Aug. 1, 2007.

This is available on the city web site, but you have to download the entire meeting packet to get it.




Section 1. Chapter 10, Article 2, of the Code of the City of Lawrence, Kansas, 2006 Edition, and amendments thereto, is hereby enacted to read as follows:


Whenever used in this Article, “domestic partner” shall be construed to mean two individuals who are residents of the City of Lawrence, as defined in Section 10-202, who have reached 18 years of age, who have the mental capacity to contract, and who live together in a relationship of indefinite duration, with a mutual commitment in which the partners share the necessities of life and are financially interdependent. Domestic partners are not married to another person, do not have another domestic partner and are not related by blood more closely than would bar their marriage in this state.


For the purpose of registering a partnership with the City of Lawrence under this Article, a “resident” shall mean a person who has established at least 60 consecutive days prior to filing a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the office of the City designated by the City Manager, a present and fixed residence within the city limits of Lawrence, Kansas where the person intends to remain for an indefinite period and to which the person intends to return following absence.


The following criteria must be met for two individuals to be considered domestic partners for the purposes of registering the partnership with the City of Lawrence:

(A) Both individuals are residents of the Lawrence, Kansas as defined in Section 10-202.

(B) Both individuals share a common permanent residence. It is not necessary that the legal right to possess the common residence be in both of the individual’s names;

(C) Both individuals agree to be in a relationship of mutual interdependence;

(D) Both individuals contribute to the maintenance and support of the household. The individuals are not required to contribute equally to the household.

(E) Neither individual is married to a third individual or a member of a domestic partnership with a third individual;

(F) Each individual is 18 years of age or older;

(G) Each individual has the mental capacity to contract;

(H) The two individuals are not related by blood in a way that would prevent them from being married to another in this State; and

(I) Both individuals agree to file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the City pursuant to this article.


(A) Two persons seeking to register as domestic partners may complete and file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with an office of the City designated by the City Manager.

(B) No individual who has previously filed a Declaration of Domestic Partnership in this City may file a new Declaration of Domestic Partnership until at least ninety (90) days after the date that a Request for Removal from the Domestic Partnership Registry was filed with the City under this article. This prohibition does not apply if the previous domestic partnership ended because one of the partners died.


(A) A domestic partnership registered with the City shall be removed from the registry in accordance with this Section:

(1) Reasons for removal from registry:

(a) One of the partners dies and the City is notified thereof; or

(b) A Request for Removal from the Domestic Partner Registry has been filed by one or both of the individuals registered as domestic partners with the City or

(2) Procedure for removal from registry:

(a) Within ninety (90) days of the dissolution of the domestic partnership, at least one former partner shall file a Request for Removal from the Domestic Partner Registry with an office of the City designated by the City Manager pursuant to procedures adopted by the City Manager. Upon receipt, the City shall provide the domestic partner who filed the Request for Removal from the Domestic Partner Registry with two copies of the Request marked “filed.” Unless the partners jointly file the Request, the partner filing the Request, shall within five days send a copy of the filed Request to the other partner’s last known address. This notice requirement does not apply if the removal request is due to a death of one of the domestic partners.

(b) The request shall be effective upon filing the Request for Removal from the Domestic Partner Registry with the City by one or both partners or on the date of the death of one.

(c) A former domestic partner who has given a copy of the Declaration of Domestic Partnership to any third party to qualify for any benefit or right and whose receipt of that benefit or enjoyment of that right has not otherwise terminated, shall notify the third party in writing of the Request for Removal from the Domestic Partner Registry, at the last known address of the third party.

(d) Failure to provide third-party notice required in Section 10-205(A)(2)(c) shall not delay or prevent the removal of the domestic partnership from the registry. The City shall have no duty to provide notice to third parties.


If it appears based upon a preponderance of the evidence that one or both of the partners in a registered domestic partnership no longer meets the definition of a domestic partner under this article, the City shall, after notice and an opportunity to be heard, remove the partnership from the Registry. The City Manager shall develop procedures for the implementation of this Section.


(A) The City Manager shall develop procedures and standard forms for the “Registration of Domestic Partnership” and “Notice of Removal from the Domestic Partnership Registry.”

(B) The City Manager, or his or her designee, shall determine a reasonable fee based upon the cost of processing the forms and the City shall charge these fees to the persons filing a Declaration of Domestic Partnership. No fee shall be charged for filing a Request for Removal from the Domestic Partnership Registry.

(C) The City shall maintain the registry based upon the information provided by the individuals filing the Declaration of Domestic Partnership. The City shall have no duty to independently verify the information provided by the individuals filing the Declaration of Domestic Partnership.

Registration pursuant to this Article creates no legal rights, other than the right to have the registered domestic partnership included in the City’s Domestic Partner Registry pursuant to this Article. No parties are prohibited from extending rights or benefits to persons listed in the Domestic Partner Registry.

This Article shall not be interpreted nor construed to permit the recognition of a relationship that is otherwise prohibited by State law.

No person shall register or attempt to register a domestic partnership pursuant to the Article without the consent of the persons to be registered. Any person who is convicted of a violation of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be punished by a fine of not less than $500 or a jail term of not less than 30 days, or both such fine and jail term.

If any provision, clause, sentence or paragraph of this Article or the application thereof to any person or circumstances shall be held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect the other provisions of this Article which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this Article are declared to be severable.

Section 2. This ordinance shall be published as provided by law and shall be effective as of the 1st day of August, 2007.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Even in Kansas, Bush is unloved & kept safe in a bubble

Our not-so-beloved president was in Wichita today, and it looks like he was, once again kept far from the regular folks of even this very red, red town.

The Wichita Eagle reports about Bush's arrival at McConnell Air Force Base:
"Several hundred Air Force personnel and Boeing employees were gathered there to greet him."

That's it? Just military personnel who have to be nice to the president and Boeing employees who may have been as eager to see the plane they built -- Air Force One -- as the president?

Bush then went to what is by all accounts a terrific Boys and Girls Club complex in Wichita and then on to speak at a private fundraiser for Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts. The Republican senator is up for reelection next year.

I wonder if Bush's appearance will help Roberts or hurt him. Bush's very public support of Jim Ryun didn't seem to do much for the recently ousted GOP Congressman. Bush's low-key arrival leads credence to the idea that the prez isn't even welcome in the Heartland.

Recent polls support that.

In a poll taken from 6/8 to 6/10 by Survey USA, Bush got only a 38 percent approval rating in Kansas. His disapproval rating is a whopping 60 percent.

Meanwhile, Roberts own approval rating is 14 points higher than the president's in Kansas. Roberts approval number is 52 percent. The senator scores a 36 percent disapproval rating.

Johnson County district attorney race tests religious right

To no one's surprise, Phill Kline has already picked up two opponents in the race for Johnson County district attorney.

We've got one Republican --Steve Howe, one of seven assistant district attorneys fired in January by Kline -- and one Republican turned Democrat -- former assistant district attorney Rick Guinn.

This will be an interesting race to watch. It will not only determine the future of law enforcement in the county, but will be a good gauge of the strength of the religious right.

The far right forced Kline into office in a Republican precinct committee vote. If moderates can't boot him out in 2008, then I doubt if there is much hope that moderate Republicans and Democrats can retake their county anytime soon.

Stay tuned.

Not Really News: Phill Kline attacks Paul Morrison & George Tiller

Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline rails against his two favorite enemies at the National Right To Life Convention in Kansas City, Mo.

This is hardly a surprise, but what I do find surprising is the claim by Jenn Giroux that it's "amazing divine providence" that the never-quite-disappearing controversy about Dr. George Tiller is heating up again.

How is this divine providence when Giroux herself brought Kline's hand-picked doctor, Paul McHugh, to stomp around Kansas just before the covention and yell about how Tiller is awful? This isn't divine; this is Giroux' very good sense of media timing.

I make the Kansas City news & pontificate upon the domestic partner registry

So here's a link to the link of the Fox 4 News story. It feels weird to post this, but well, I am a ham and the cause is a good one.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Phill Kline's hand-picked doctor commits "gross breach of trust" & more

The pursuit of abortion provider George Tiller -- aka the saga that never dies -- heated up this week when anti-abortion activists brought Paul McHugh to Kansas. McHugh's appearance coincides with the National Right to Life Convention meeting Thursday through Saturday in Kansas City, Mo.

McHugh is the former head of Johns Hopkins University’s psychiatry program. He reviewed the records of some of Tiller's patients for Phill Kline when Kline was the Kansas attorney general and continuing his Ahab-like pursuit of Tiller.

What McHugh did when he arrived was to stump the state talking about what he saw in those records -- that is, what he saw in the PRIVATE, CONFIDENTIAL medical records of these patients. To make matters worse, McHugh's statements concern an ongoing investigation in new Attorney General Paul Morrison's office. McHugh also attacked Morrison personally. Morrison was not amused.

The Kansas City Star reports:

Morrison fired back Tuesday with a stinging letter to McHugh, saying his public comments about the case threaten the integrity of the investigation and violate rules of conduct for physicians. Also, Morrison disputed McHugh’s claim that he had not been contacted by Morrison’s office and threatened to file disciplinary or legal actions against McHugh if he continued to speak publicly about the case.

“Your actions are a gross breach of trust, and demonstrate the dangers in allowing prosecutors to randomly invade the privacy rights of American citizens,” Morrison wrote. “… You do a disservice to you, Johns Hopkins and your profession.”

Because of the letter, McHugh refused to speak with The Star and did not discuss the case, as planned, at a public meeting in Overland Park Tuesday night.

McHugh claims Morrison's office never contacted him for his ideas on the records. In the letter, Morrison details the many efforts his office made to contact McHugh. The details are in the story in The Star.

Morrison's office is investigating Tiller and has said an announcement on the case will be made by the end of the month. That's only two weeks. Surely, folks can have the sense to wait two weeks to allow a proper investigation to be completed.

Details of Kline and anti-abortion group's pursuit of Tiller are available at my national-commentary blog, In This Moment.

A little Googling reveals that McHugh has been attached to many socially conservative organizations. He is a longtime opponent of sex-reassignment surgery for transgendered peoples. The Transexual Roadmap has a good overview of at least some of his ideas.

For a more positive view of McHugh, the Johns Hopkins Magazine did a profile in 1999.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lawrence domestic partner registry passes vote -- one more to go!

Tonight may well have been the toughest test of the registry. That's because the opposition finally got itself together and showed up tonight at City Hall. As the previous post shows, there was much passionate testimony about how passing a registry -- a mere list of names -- is immoral, horribly wrong and will lead to the destruction of Lawrence.

Luckily, the Commission didn't listen and, as occurred previously, the Commission voted 4-1 in favor of the registry.

One more vote and then this thing becomes a reality.

I remain amazed at how angry and upset some people get about issues that do nothing more than treat lesbian and gay people fairly. We take nothing from no one. Having a registry merely helps our families survive.

Sometimes I think our opponents can't even see us as human. I know the picture they portray of our lives is nothing short of ridiculous. I am so sad that they can't see the reality that their neighbors, me and others who are LGBT in this community, are just like they are. We deserve the same rights, and our families deserve the same support that they receive.

Kudos to state Sen. Marci Francisco, a Democrat, for testifying in favor of the registry.

Kudos to the City Commission for voting for fairness.

Lawrence domestic partner registry live blog

[updated 6/16/07 at 2:45 p.m. to correct identification of Natalya Lowther]

--- Note: This live blogging goes backwards, with the most recent chunk at the top and the oldest at the bottom of the post. --

[updated 7:05]

Testimony is done. Commissioner Rob Chestnut repeats his support for the marriage ban., but he is also repeating his support for the registry. "It's important to note that this ordinance has no comment on sexual orientation." The attorney general has said it doesn't conflict with state law. "I have to look at this as it's written, not what I think will happen. I appreciate all the dialogue. I had a lot of meetings and lunches and discussion, but I'm staying in the position I was in."

Commissioner Boog Highberger: "I do not see this action as a threat to individual's marriage or an institution. Data I've seen from countries that have instituted marriage, marriage rate has gone up....This is about freedom and freedom is one of the values this country was founded on. ... This is a freedom that does not impose on anyone else's freedom... I strongly support it. I think it's the right thing to do whether or not it's the popular thing to do."

Mayor Sue Hack: "I want to quote Pastor Peter Luckey. He said it's quite simply the right thing to do. ... I've thought about this for a long, long time. I'm proud to be in Lawrence, Kansas, to have this be a part of our ordinances."

The registry passed 4-1. Commissioner Amyx voted against.


[updated 7:01 on]

More discussion of how being gay is an "abomination before God" from another woman testifying.

[updated 7 p.m.]

Three women stood separately to talk about how this is all about sin. They are passionate, but not nasty and that's a blessing.

Another woman has stood to discuss moral values. "What happened to our moral values?"

(Sorry, I have to comment: We ARE moral. Sexual orientation is morally neutral. It's how you act and what you do with your orientation that matters. )

Yet another woman has stood, elderly, she says she is proud of the commission for supporting the registry. It isn't a threat to marriage or to her marriage and it's the fair thing to do.

Lori Messinger, from KEC stands: She is listing all of the states and cities that have registries. Atlanta, New Orleans have them, small cities, Ann Arbor, Mich; Iowa City, IA, many more. Lori notes that these are college towns that want to be welcoming. "I think it's importnat to note that I"m a Jew. You represent p;eople of diverse religious orgins."

I apologize for not getting all the names.

[updated 6:45 p.m]

Two ministers stood to oppose the registry. Rev. Leo Barbee and Rev. William Dulin.

Wow. A woman who identified herself as a "devout Christian" is now up testifying for the registry. She says the issue is health insurance and other benefits. "It's not the business of businesses to decide who's sinful. Nor is that the business of the city commission. That's God's job. It is the business of the City Commission to treat people in an equitable manner." Very eloquent.

I didn't catch the woman's name. She's wearing a bonnet as if she is Mennonnite. (The Lawrence Journal-World reports her name as Natalya Lowther. I chatted with her later in the week. She is a devout Mennonite who is also a member of the lesbian community.)

Sen. Marci Francisco just stood. She is Lawrence's state senator and is a Democrat and is urging the Commission to vote yes.


[6:35 p.m.]

Commissioner Mike Amyx had the City Commission pull the proposed domestic partner registry off the consent agenda. The Commission is now listening to public comment. Kansas Equality Coalition still believes it has the votes to pass this, but the opposition has finally gotten itself organized.

Stay tuned.

Kansas Voice makes its first appearance in the KGB

The KGB -- Kansas Guild of Bloggers -- has posted its newest edition over at The Force That Through, and leads off with a link to one of my posts.

Welcome folks! Glad to see you're here.

This is the first time Kansas Voice has appeared in KGB, although my other blog, In This Moment has shown up numerous times in the blog carnival. That was before I started shifting In This Moment to a more national focus.

One added joy of the new KGB is extensive linking to relatively unknown state blogs. It's great to see the Kansas blogosphere booming! I'll be updating my blogroll soon.

Remembering the details of the "horrible" bombing of Fred Phelps' church

Because Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church keep claiming that someone bombed their church, it's time to revisit the details of what exactly did happen in 1995.

The Emporia Gazette did just that and reminds us:
On Aug. 20, 1995, an explosive device of some sort went off in the driveway of a house occupied by one of Phelps’ daughters. No one was injured and property damage was small. A year later, a man was sentenced to 16 days in jail for the blast.

End of story. Not terribly significant, but Phelps and clan are claiming that God is killing Americans in Iraq with IEDs because of that bombing. The Gazette reports on one recent Westboro fax.

“You bombed our church,” one fax asserts, “and instituted a 15-year reign of terror against us — for warning you of fag sins. America is now in God’s eternal cross-hairs.”

Uh huh. I've been here, living not all that far from the Phelps, and I haven't noticed much in the way of a reign of terror aimed at them for the last 15 years. The only reign anyone can see is the reign of hatred that pours out of the Phelps' compound in Topeka.

If such a God exists -- a God that would kill thousands because someone popped a hole in a driveway -- then that is a petty God indeed.


PHOTO: Yup, that really is Fred Phelps in his pulpit. When I first met him more than 20 years ago in the Kansas Statehouse, he looked a tad younger, but just as wild eyed, although at the time he was wearing a jogging suit and clutching a diet pop as if it were a life preserver.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Anthropology treasures to be displayed, Nancy Boyda, robocalls & life's meaning

Busy day over at In This Moment, not so busy here, but there are a few things that caught my eye today.

First, some of the artifacts that were housed in the now-closed KU Museum of Anthropology will begin showing up this summer at the university's Spencer Museum of Art. Hooray! These treasures should not be locked away from the public.

Not a surprise here: The Republicans are out to get Rep. Nancy Boyda, the Democrat who knocked off longtime GOP Congressman Jim Ryun. They're sending out robocalls, much to the irritation of, at least, some of the folks receiving those calls. The only good news in all of this is that a new state law will require the folks paying for political robocalls to identify themselves in the future. About frigging time.

Finally, the meaning of life...

Ah, well, I don't know if I have that right now. Perhaps the meaning has something to do with coming to the end of a long feature story, as I am now? Don't know. Rather doubt it, really, but at least that's making me cheery today.

And so it goes...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Congratulations to Kansas Prairie!

Wahoo, Peg! Five years of blogging from outback Kansas. I am VERY impressed.

Lawrence domestic partner registry faces another vote Tuesday

Although it seems clear we have the votes to pass a domestic partner registry in Lawrence, it's important to make certain the City Commission knows we're committed. Thus, the Kansas Equality Coalition is urging supporters of the registry to attend Tuesday's City Commission meeting.

The registry is up for first reading on the consent agenda.

All this should require from us is to attend, listen politely and then leave quietly once the Commission has passed on the item. I believe there is one more vote before the registry becomes law.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Westboro Baptist Church faces Baltimore defamation trial in October

In This Moment has all the details, but it looks like Fred Phelps and the rest of Topeka's least-favorite family may finally be facing some legal hot watter.

Possible post-pride gay bashing in Kansas City

Right now it's hard to tell if this was a mugging or a hate crime, but it looks suspicious.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Congress learns how the U.S. attorney scandal snaked into Kansas City

The bottom line is that it looks like the Republicans were attempting to muck up an election out here in the Heartland. How's that for loyalty to the people who support you?

Here's an In This Moment roundup of the most recent blogosphere coverage of yesterday's testimony before Congress.

Nebraska 1, Westboro Baptist Church 0 - Stay tuned for more results

For the first time a member of Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church is arrested at a funeral picket.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Gay Kansas & the Greensburg tornado

Here's a myth about rural America: Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people simply don't exist out on the ranches and farms of the Heartland. If we do exist, we are hidden and tortured souls. If we're out, we're shunned or stoned or worse. At the very least -- this myth claims -- there isn't a straight ally in sight.

Here's the reality: We're here, we're queer and people are truly getting used to us.

I'm not going to downplay the difficulties of being GLBT and living in the vast stretches of flyover country, whether you do that as an out gay person or in the closet. But what has amazed me, particularly in the last five years, is how an increasing number of queer folks are out and integrated into rural communities. Meanwhile, our straight allies are growing in number every day.

In my work with the Kansas Equality Coalition, for example, I've met transgendered ranch hands (male to female) and, no, I'm not kidding and, yes, they are currently (as in today) hard at work as real-live cowboys. I've met lesbian and gay ranchers. The Equality Coalition's most rural chapter in Southwest Kansas (centered around Dodge City) is one of our fastest growing chapters and one of the most active.

Unfortunately, though, it often takes tragedy for the rest of the world to discover we're here. Such is the case of Fred Burgess and his late life partner, Jim Mathes. In early May when a tornado decimated nearby Greensburg, the couple's rural home, Prairie Oaks Farm, in neighboring Edwards County (2006 estimated population 3,138) was blown apart by another storm.

It has been a horrible year for Burgess. In March, Mathes died at age 73 of pancreatic cancer. At the same time, Burgess was diagnosed with lung cancer. Burgess has said he won't rebuild.

The story of the couple and the loss of Prairie Oaks Farm was first reported by The Hutchinson News and then taken up by Associated Press and flashed around the state. The story has been reprinted many times.

In that report, Mathes and Burgess are treated with deep respect. The story portrays their loss of each other and Burgess' loss of his home the way any tragedy should be treated. It is a soulful, sad, loving story. The story's tales of former Christmas parties and cooking classes at Prairie Oaks Farm also tell of lives well lived and valued by their communities.

The very ordinariness of all of this is what makes it revolutionary, but then again, LGBT people are no different than anyone else. We simply want to live our lives.

Meanwhile, straight allies who are members of the Equality Coalition lived in Greensburg and lost their home. The chair of the Southwest Kansas Chapter is working to pick up the pieces of her therapy practice, which once was housed in Greensburg. The chapter, along with the state board, continues to work to help the town.

The Liberty Press reports in its June issue about a son of Greensburg, freelance photographer and theatrical director Troy Dilport, who now lives in Wichita. The Press printed some of his photos of his devastated hometown. Both his mother's and sister's houses were destroyed by the tornado. Unfortunately, The Liberty Press doesn't post much of its issue online, so I can't link to any of the material about Greensburg.

My deepest sympathies to all who lost loved ones, homes, jobs, cars, their town. May you all get the help you need to recover. May we learn that underneath whatever differences we may have, we all love, live and are vulnerable to loss the same.
PHOTO: This is taken from a photo of our not-so-beloved president flying over Greensburg. I cropped out the helicopter and left in the view of the town. Somehow, George W. didn't seem as important.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

What's so cool about Kansas? Let me count the ways.

I am a native of Michigan. I hate being landlocked in Kansas. I hate being so far from the Great Lakes. I hate not having the north woods to wander through. I hate the lack of snow in Kansas. I hate, hate, hate summer days that go well over 100 degrees. (Anything hotter than 90 is truly not natural as far as I'm concerned.)

But over the last twenty something years an odd thing has happened. I have begun to love my adopted state. First it was grudging. (Oh yeah, those Flint Hills are kinda pretty.) Now, it has become full fledged adoration. (The wide open sky. The endless theatre of the clouds. The chummy artistic community of Lawrence. Oh, let me count the ways!)

I still love Michigan. I still love the Great Lakes, and it is quite likely that some day I will return. Right now, though, I find that there is much to love in the subtle beauty of the prairie and its cozy small towns.

So, it is with great delight that I take note of two interesting Kansonian happenings.

Mousie Cat over at Evolving in Kansas has a very cool list of what's right and what's wrong about Kansas. I do agree with much of the list, including the fact that it's such a delight that the Creation Museum is NOT in Kansas. However, I take umbrage at Mousie listing The Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kan., as one of the bad things about the state.

The Garden of Eden is truly cool. Well, it is also weird, as in very, very weird. While I would not have wanted to be either the wife or the children of its creator Samuel P. Dinsmoor, the sculpture garden is a worthy and fascinating work of folk art. Much of it also has a populist bent and provides interesting perspective on the history of Kansas politics.

Also of note, is the Kansas Sampler Foundation's contest to pick (drum roll please) the Eight Wonders of Kansas. The 24 finalists have been chosen, and you can go to a web site and vote for your favorites. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius will announce the winners on Kansas Day, Jan. 29, next year.
PHOTO: This is a small slice of Kevin Sink's gorgeous portrait of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, which along with the Flint Hills is one of the Kansas features nominated to be named one of the eight wonders of the state. Personally, it's one of my favorites. Visit the link to get the full impact of Sink's magnificent photos.

Kinzer says he won't stop trying to ban domestic partner registries

File this one under the so-what-else-is-new category: The Kansas Legislature's leading right winger says he won't give up on his push to block Lawrence and other Kansas cities from being fair to LGBT citizens.

At issue is Lawrence's impending passage of a domestic partner registry. Already anointed by a 4-1 vote, the registry is expected to pass two more votes and become a reality on Aug. 1 or thereabouts.

Note that this registry is nothing more than a list of names. Note also that all it does is allow people -- both straight and gay -- to gain access to insurance and other benefits their employers already offer.

Most folks call that being fair. But to Rep. Lance Kinzer the simple act of saying that people who are couples (some for decades) are, well, couples is horrifying. The KC Star reports:
But there are opponents, including one Kansas legislator who vows to push legislation next session to undo what Lawrence is doing and keep other towns from enacting similar registries.

“I think the city of Lawrence is doing this just to make a political statement,” said Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican who fears that the ordinance could lead to a challenge of the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages. “I don’t think it does on its face, but the potential is there.”

In the just completed 2007 session, Kinzer was the only sponsor on a bill to ban registries. While the bill made it out of one of the most socially conservative committees in the House, it never made it to the House floor for a vote. Apparently, there wasn't enough support to bring it up.

One warning, though. Never underestimate the power of the right to pass anti-gay legislation. That's why joining the Kansas Equality Coalition and helping the coalition in its Statehouse work is important.


PHOTO: Lance Kinzer

Kansas restaurants serve up food to help Greensburg

Restaurants around the state, including six in Lawrence, will be giving a percentage of their Thursday sales to the United Way in a Dine for Kansas event. The proceeds will help Greensburg residents struggling with the aftermath of the May 4 tornado.

Here is a complete list of participating restaurants in Dine for Kansas. The event is being sponsored by the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association.

The Lawrence six are:
  • Bigg’s Barbeque, 2429 Iowa St., 15 percent of sales.
  • Free State Brewery, 636 Mass., 10 percent of sales.
  • Montana Mike’s, 1015 Iowa St., a one-time donation.
  • Runza Restaurant, 2700 Iowa St., 15 percent of sales.
  • WheatFields Bakery Cafe, 904 Vt., 10 percent of sales.
  • Zig and Mac’s, 1540 Wakarusa Drive, 15 percent of sales.
I've never been to Zig and Mac's, but do check out the Free State Brewery and WheatFields. They have to be two of the best restaurants in the state. Bigg's BBQ also gets the Silver Seal of Approval.

IRS finally takes an interest in campaigning Kansas churches

I posted this story earlier on my other blog, In This Moment, but it most decidedly deserves to get more Kansas attention. At issue is a Wichita church, Spirit One Christian Center, which targets certain political candidates for attack and others for praise.

The pastor seems amazed that the IRS is questioning this. Frankly, I'm amazed that he's amazed. The law has always been clear that intervening in candidate campaigns is grounds for knocking a church out of its tax-exempt status. What amazes me is how seldom the IRS seems to notice what's going on.

What will also be interesting is to see what the IRS actually does. Do they ignore it? Condone it? Strip this so-called church of its tax-free status?

Anyone want to bet what the Bush Administration will do?