Potpourri: The first two weeks of 2010 in the Restless West
• Have you ever been to Green River, Utah? It's near Arches and Canyonlands national parks and some of the most alien redrock canyon country in the world. Its a poverty-stricken little place, sitting forlorn on the side of I-70, bypassed by those on the way to Moab, Salt Lake City and Grand Junction. There's talk of building a nuclear power plant there, and its boosters are confident it won't harm the water, the air or anything else. Indeed, says the town's mayor, it'll spring Green River from the ravages of poverty.
• After the Bush administration all but declared open season on oil and gas development in the West, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar a few days ago announced an end to the West as a "candy store" for the oil and gas industry. The announcement comes after Salazar last year decided to reconsider 77 oil and gas leases in Utah near Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Dinosaur National Monument.
• Over in California, gay marriage is on trial. A few quotes:
"The fear of homosexuals as child molesters or recruiters continues to play a role in debates over gay rights," New York University history professor George Chauncey testified Tuesday.
From attorney Ted Olson's Newsweek piece this week about why he's arguing for gay marriage:
This procreation argument cannot be taken seriously. We do not inquire whether heterosexual couples intend to bear children, or have the capacity to have children, before we allow them to marry. We permit marriage by the elderly, by prison inmates, and by persons who have no intention of having children. What's more, it is pernicious to think marriage should be limited to heterosexuals because of the state's desire to promote procreation. We would surely not accept as constitutional a ban on marriage if a state were to decide, as China has done, to discourage procreation.
From Prop 8 proponents' general counsel's blog about the trial on its first day:
Several times Judge Walker interrupted the plaintiffs to question whether the state should be “in the marriage business” at all, asking if the plaintiffs would be happy with eliminating marriage altogether—and allowing only domestic partnerships for both man/woman and same-sex couples. Amazingly the plaintiffs testified that would be acceptable to them. They actually said: if same-sex couples can’t have marriage, then no one should. Obviously, the elimination of marriage for everybody is certainly not what the people of California, or the nation, have in mind as an appropriate solution to this debate.
Both from the opening arguments delivered by plaintiffs’ attorney Ted Olson, and the witness testimony, it is clear that our opponents are trying to re-characterize Prop 8—which simply restored the age-old meaning of marriage—as part of a agenda of hate and discrimination against gays and lesbians. One attorney said as much, claiming that Prop 8 promotes hate crimes against gays and lesbians, depression, homelessness, etc. These claims are preposterous, and we hope that they will be seen as such as the trial progresses.