Beyond the Comfort Zone

Dear Friend and Reader:

This was one of those weeks when it takes a team to keep up with the news. Ours has been in high-focus mode. In our prior edition, we left off right before last week’s one-two solstice-Capricorn Full Moon. Then this past Tuesday, Jupiter entered Cancer for the first time since July 12, 2001. Mercury stationed retrograde Wednesday morning, about 12 hours later. It will be retrograde till July 20.

Last weekend’s Capricorn Full Moon rises over New York Harbor. Photo by Julio Cortez / AP.

Much of our current astrology involves the eminently personal sign Cancer, where energy has been concentrated around the Aries Point and, consequently, many personal transitions and upheavals over the past few days.

Cancer is a comfort zone and quite a bit of astrology has been shaking up that little refuge. Yet Jupiter’s ingress indicates some significant improvements and a stabilizing factor, which will be more noticeable after the waters of transition settle down a bit.

The public realm has been a kaleidoscope of issues, a full-on example of the 2012-era phenomenon of everything, all at once. It’s too much for most people to handle, though the events make interesting patterns. It’s one of those moments when it’s hard to tell if the world is getting better, worse, both or all three at once.

This is a dramatization of the Uranus-Pluto square — the 2012-era aspect, now at a peak of energy.

In Texas this week, Republicans continued their assault on women’s reproductive rights, attempting to close nearly all women’s health clinics and in practical terms, all but ban abortion. Under the moral leadership of Gov. Rick Perry, who was a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, they have mounted a new offensive against women. And while Perry has led the charge to “respect life” and is speaking today at the Right to Life convention, on Wednesday evening Texas executed Kimberly McCarthy, its 500th prisoner since 1976 and its 261st on Rick Perry’s 13-year watch as governor.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the Texas senate tried to scam passage of the proposed law SB5, claiming the vote was concluded Tuesday before the midnight deadline rather than Wednesday after midnight. They were blocked by an actual 11-hour filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis, then busted for trying to alter state documents, in part thanks to citizen reporters who live-tweeted the whole thing.

It was the perfect Mercury retrograde moment, happening about six hours before Mercury changed directions. The New York Times originally reported on its front page that the law “appeared” to pass, then the story disappeared. Perry, who says he’ll be back for another round, has among other things succeeded at reviving a comatose Democratic Party in Texas. He accused Sen. Davis of “hijacking the democratic process.”

And in comments late this week, he added: “Even the woman who filibustered in the senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances,” Perry said. “It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.”

Just hours before Mercury stationed retrograde, The New York Times published this story on its front page — then the story disappeared and was rewritten.

The implication was, she should be glad she was not aborted as a fetus.

China is about to dump tons of chlorofluorocarbons into the air — the stuff that damages the Earth’s protective ozone layer (please see ECO). Pres. Obama, in a big speech, finally warned the nation about global warming and promised to do something about it, nearly five years into his term.

As far as we know, NSA leaker Edward Snowden is probably still in a Moscow airport after leaving Hong Kong last week, and is awaiting a decision on political asylum that he has sought in Ecuador. WikiLeaks got itself involved, and is providing him with legal resources, assistance securing safe passage and apparently contacts in Ecuador. That put WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange back into the news; he is still living in Ecuador’s London embassy.

In Florida, the murder trial of George Zimmerman is underway. He is the Neighborhood Watch guy who stalked teenager Trayvon Martin, then shot him at point blank range, claiming self-defense.

The list goes on and on — and includes four landmark decisions issued by the Supreme Court that came out this week, all of them on the general theme of ‘equality’. They all have their roots in the events of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of the 1960s, to which we are energetically connected by the Uranus-Pluto square of our own era.

One of this week’s rulings involved the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which came at the end of what’s known as Jim Crow — a century-long era of institutionalized racism that persisted after slavery ended. We are still to this day working out the legacy of the global human trafficking industry, the slave trade from Africa.

In the summer of 1964, Freedom Summer to be exact, three civil rights volunteers — Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney — were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi, by local Klansmen, cops and a sheriff. There were many, many other schemes to block or intimidate poor southerners from voting, from “literacy tests” to “poll taxes,” and the murders were set in that context; they were a warning.

Pres. Lyndon Johnson and Congress responded by passing the Voting Rights Act, part of which required certain states with a history of racial issues to subject any proposed changes to voting laws to pre-approval by the federal Department of Justice.

Pres. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This actually worked pretty well, but the Supreme Court this week voided that provision after 48 years, claiming that Congress didn’t really know what it was doing when it reauthorized the act in 2007, that times had changed, that racism isn’t so bad now, and so on.

The court, in one of its usual (of late) swing-vote-decided 5-4 rulings, now allows states with a history of racism to proceed with their voter discrimination projects unchecked.

This change comes after many recent election cycles where one of the top issues has been the attempt to block minorities from voting through various schemes such as voter ID laws, disallowing voting on Sundays and others.

To me it seems like the law needed to be expanded in scope (to places like Ohio and Pennsylvania) rather than be eliminated. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dissented from the majority, accused the court of “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

In another decision, the court revised the way colleges and universities may organize their affirmative action programs, allowing the concept of diversity but saying that it had to be done in a race-neutral way. Since I no longer edit the New York Education Law Report and you’re probably not an admissions dean, I will spare you the details.

Beyond One Man and One Woman 

The most celebrated decisions of the week involved same-sex marriage. As you’ve probably heard, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the first federal law to address marriage, and one that openly disparaged lesbian and gay people.

Passed during the reign of serial infidels Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, the law forbade the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. DOMA defined marriage as exclusively between “one man and one woman.” In 1996 when DOMA was passed, same-sex marriage was not legal in any jurisdiction. This was merely a prophylactic measure.

It’s the height of irony that Gingrich and Clinton created the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Both are infamous for multiple affairs, and Gingrich for serial polygamy. Photo by Ruth Fremson.

DOMA’s proponents were trying to foreclose in advance on same-sex marriage, but they also took the initiative on polyamorous (also called plural) marriage. I’ve always thought that required some foresight, though as we will read in a moment, DOMA advocates had considerably more vision than many polyamorous people.

The DOMA case that made it to the Supreme Court was actually an IRS action: a lesbian whose partner of 40 years had died was forced to pay $350,000 in federal estate taxes that she would not have paid had her marriage been recognized by the federal government.

That is to say, she was taxed $350,000 for allegedly being single. But the real equal protection issue seems to be why people get paid that much money to be married, no matter to whom. Single people pay substantially more in taxes than married people, which seems to be a direct form of discrimination, affirms the business transaction aspect of marriage, and provides a false incentive to get married.

Minutes after the DOMA ruling, the Supreme Court also ruled on California’s Proposition 8 initiative, which in 2008 banned same-sex marriage in California. This initiative was funded and supported with considerable personnel by the Mormon Church.

The situation goes back to another public initiative from 2000, called Proposition 22, which also banned same-sex marriage, but was held to violate the California state constitution. So the Mormons came back eight years later with a proposition to amend the state constitution — that was Prop 8. [The super curious and judicial freaks may find a nice timeline here.]

The story of the litigation is so complex it would take me about 1,500 words to get it right — I will skip most of it. But I will sum it up.

Wedding photo of Edith Schlain Windsor and Thea Clara Spyer.

Because of Proposition 8, Kristin Perry was denied a marriage license to marry her partner Sandra Stier. So they sued then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to challenge the provision. But neither he nor anyone else in the state government was willing to defend such a ridiculous constitutional amendment.

The court system allowed the Mormon front-group inventors of Proposition 8 — Dennis Hollingsworth, the leader of, and a rival group, Campaign for California Families — to intervene on behalf of the state as the defendants.

After a trial, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, in a truly brilliant decision, struck down Proposition 8 on Aug. 4, 2010 for being “unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause because no compelling state interest justifies denying same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry.”

What was interesting is that lawyers from both the conservative and liberal sides of the fence joined together to fight Prop 8. Lead co-counsel were Ted Olson, former solicitor general under George W. Bush, and “superlawyer” David Boies. In the famous Bush v. Gore case, Olson represented Bush and Boyes represented Gore.

The trial court decision was appealed, and the 9th Circuit appellate panel affirmed the trial court’s decision, holding that Proposition 8 served no purpose “but to impose on gays and lesbians, through the public law, a majority’s private disapproval of them and their relationships.”

Vaughn Walker served as a federal judge in Northern California from 1989-2011 (retiring as chief judge).

This week the Supreme Court agreed, and then it threw out the whole case on the basis that the pro-marriage groups who were acting on behalf of state officials lacked standing to be involved — and told them never to come back.

While this ruling does not make it mandatory for states to approve same-sex marriage, Conservative Philosopher King Senior Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who is no friend to gay people, gay rights or gay anything, said in a dissent that in effect, this ruling opens the way to same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

He even gave a simple legal formula that will help the proponents of gay marriage colonize even states that don’t recognize same-sex marriages. Scalia, who angrily dissented from the majority, was in true form for this case. If you want to read some of the best quotes from his dissent, here’s a link from Mother Jones. Notably, when the court struck down sodomy laws in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case, Scalia predicted that it would lead to same-sex marriage.

Beyond the Nuclear Family

At a family gathering sometime in the early 2000s, I joked that same-sex marriage was great, but we would really be making progress when I was allowed to marry a man and a woman. This was part social satire and part coming out — and fortunately most of my family appreciates both aspects of who I am.

The “one man, one woman” part of the same-sex marriage ban has always struck me as funny.

The language seems to come from DOMA (though it may originate earlier, this seems to be the first time it appears in legislation). I’ve always thought that was proactive of the defenders of marriage, who must have heard of polyamory or at least polygamy. It’s even funnier that the Mormons are the ones who were so busy defending traditional marriage when everyone associates them with polygamy.

The Schumard family, circa 1955 — an image of the American nuclear family, which replaced the extended family, which replaced the tribe. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Why not extend marriage to three women, two women and a man, two men and a woman or three men and a baby?

I think that DOMA and Proposition 8 both falling flat is an invitation to anyone who supports nontraditional relationships to claim a victory — and to claim some territory in public consciousness. It’s inevitable that the polyamory issue will come to the surface sooner or later, and that the gay rights movement paved the road on which it will drive, built the rest stops, wrote the driving manual and packed a picnic lunch.

I think that polyamorous is the new queer. If that is true, it’s on the way to being the new (or old) normal.

I asked my fellow thinkers in the poly movement for their impressions of how this week’s cases impacted polyamorous people.

“I feel overturning DOMA is a step in the right direction and I am thrilled for the many same-sex couples that will be positively affected by this decision,” said Robyn Trask, executive director of Loving More, an organization that advocates for alternative relationships.

“Is it a step toward plural marriage? I am skeptical as it is a complicated issue and begs the question: should marriage be regulated at all? I know many polyamorists would choose to marry more than one if it were legal and that, by the laws of some states, many are violating the law since co-habitation is in some states considered common law marriage,” she said, adding, “I think individuals should have the choice of who they love, how they commit and to how many.”

Trask believes that the matter is larger than same-sex marriage; it extends into the concept of what a family is — and that concept is changing.

“The right to family of choice is really what is at stake and that some legal protections should extend to people in multi-partnered marriage. Unfortunately too many of us in the polyamory community have been afraid to even bring up the subject, we are still afraid of job discrimination and other issues like child custody,” she said.

Loving More magazine cover focusing on children in polyamorous situations — one of the main topics discussed by the poly community.

“Many people are in the closet and most are not willing to support an effort to demand equality and recognition of polyamory as an orientation and a viable choice in relationships and families. We as a movement are in our infancy with nothing acting as a catalyst to bring us together in a cohesive way. Too many of us simply stick our head in the sand and are not willing to take the risks needed to gain acceptance and recognition. We can’t even agree on the definition of polyamory and throw fits when someone dares to define it as loving relationships” as opposed to sex for its own sake.

I also heard back from Jessica Karels, the co-founder of Modern Poly, a polyamory advocacy and education organization.

“Historically marriage has been a financial transaction that secured alliances among families, in which a woman’s ability to produce legitimate heirs was among the items traded,” Karels said.

“Only in the past few centuries have people intentionally married for love, but it was only in the past century that women have started to ascend from property to partner in a marriage.”

“By keeping the nuclear family as the norm, we place the obligation of raising children on the biological parents rather than on the community that they will later benefit. Our culture enforces this model by limiting financial resources to mothers, especially single mothers.

“The United States is especially guilty of this, as we are the only first-world country that does not make paid maternity leave mandatory. Legislation to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care further enforces this system by forcing fertile women into motherhood lacking community support, or into a partnership based on financial need rather than wholly on love and commitment.”

Karels sees a potential evolution from same-sex marriage to a wider concept of family because it rearranges gender roles and outside help is required if the same-sex couple wants to have a biological child.

“Recent steps towards marriage equality could have a larger cultural impact than we can imagine. Same-sex marriage, by its very nature, denies the traditional gender roles that are a part of the nuclear family model — the very same gender roles that have justified the oppression of women throughout history.

“A same-sex couple requires outside assistance in order to become parents — be it a surrogate mother, a sperm donor, or a mother giving up her child for adoption. In some instances, the adult who provided ‘biological aid’ becomes a member of the family of sorts and helps with caring for and raising the child. This triple-parenting based on need can lead to multiple-adult parenting based on choice and love — an evolution of family from nuclear to community.”

I will let Jessica have the last word.


Inner Space Monthly Horoscope for July 2013, #956 | By Eric Francis

We’re now under the influence of all three water signs. Jupiter ingressed Cancer on June 25, joining Saturn in Scorpio and Chiron and Neptune in Pisces. Mercury is retrograde in Cancer. That began June 26 and ends July 20. If you’re making plans or initiating a project, make sure you leave a few days’ margin after the retrograde ends to allow Mercury to come back up to speed and focus your thoughts. The Cancer New Moon is July 8. Mars enters Cancer July 13. Venus enters Virgo July 21, and the Aquarius Full Moon is July 22. That’s the same day that the Sun ingresses Leo.

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You seem to be going back and forth on an issue that’s calling for a firm decision. The more decisive you try to be, the more it seems like there are two irreconcilable sides of the story, each with its own seemingly valid point of view. The more you try to please everyone, the more obvious it becomes that you’ll never be able to do that. I suggest you not burn yourself out doing this. You probably already know the reality of the situation, not from rationalizing or arguing one side of the case over the other, but because you simply know. What you’re really waiting for is the courage to take action, whether that means declaring an end to something, or committing to it more fully.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — It’s time to set boundaries with your family, which really means organizing your life the way you want. I suggest you identify the center of your life: the element about which you’re the most passionate, or the place where you most dependably tend the fires. Then ask yourself how you feel when you imagine your family — be it parents, spouse, partner or children — knowing that’s the thing you care about so deeply. Do you perceive support or reticence? Do you feel better about yourself, or do questions come up? How you think that others feel about you is a good picture of how you feel about yourself. It’s more complex than you may think, though you do seem determined to get to the heart of the matter.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — You’re at the most important juncture of the year when it comes to sorting your financial priorities, and getting clear about how to be more financially successful. I suggest that the first thing you do is recognize your potential. Your earning capacity has expanded significantly in recent weeks, and you need to be clear about that so you can take advantage of it. Yet there’s another ingredient that will help unlock your potential, which is sorting through everything you were taught about money as a child: whether it’s a good or bad thing, whether you deserve any and for what activities, the impressions that adult relatives made on you, and so on. This may be ancient history but it’s information that is useful and indeed essential to work with now.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Jupiter has returned to your sign for the first time in nearly 12 years, and I trust you’ve already started to notice some of the pressure coming off, and your world expanding just a bit. Jupiter is providing you with a kind of cushion that will create some open space around you and deflect random objects, and give you access to additional resources. Now that you know this, I suggest you relax a little and see what happens. Try doing that Cancerian thing and eat real food, take care of the plants and get enough sleep every night. There has been a frenetic quality to your life the past few months, as if you’ve been driven by some kind of invisible psychic force. Take some time and notice how much you’ve accomplished. That’ll give you a clue of what’s to come.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) –Match your actions to your innermost thoughts. From our earliest days we are trained to split our personalities: to say one thing and do another; to feel a certain way and act against our feelings; to violate our intelligence or intuition; and many other examples. One beautiful thing about the astrology of July is the close relationship between your deepest sentiments and your choices and actions. It would seem you have no interest in hypocrisy — only in acting from your values with the utmost sincerity. This is the course of action that will feel the best because it’s a reflection of who you actually are. All those options about choosing anything to the contrary are vastly overrated.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — You have no control over how you’re perceived. You have some influence, but in truth, people believe what they believe and they often see based on their beliefs. Meanwhile, you’re a person on a mission — and from what I can tell, you’re entirely sincere. Part of taking up anything larger than yourself, or acting in ways that benefit others, can be the perception that you have some other motive. I could go over all the rationales behind this, but you probably know them. I suggest that you not let anyone’s opinion of you, or their perceived opinion, influence your dedication. Persist for just a little while and soon enough the simple reality of the situation will be obvious to everyone.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — You tend to leave an impression on others that is more austere and conservative than you may think. There’s a certain reserve around your sign, a reticence to reveal too much, and your astrology is illustrating just such an inner discussion now. You seem to have some compelling reasons to stay silent — and some even more compelling reasons to reveal something specific about yourself. Which is the correct impulse? Well, which haven’t you tried? What are your concerns about consequences? Are they just fears, or are they realistic? One of the main qualifications for leadership is sincerity. Were you to choose that path, what would you want to reveal? Not be compelled to reveal out of some moral dictate, but want to reveal because you will feel better and stronger for doing so?

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You may be spending too much time pleading your case or arguing for your cause than is necessary. That would include negotiation or studying various points of view. People in your life are more likely to do what’s right based on the fact that it’s actually so rather than based on any rationales that you may present to them. I would propose that if you accept and believe what you know to be true — especially what you know to be true for you — that others will be much more inclined to do so. If you find yourself debating anything, ask yourself whether you really believe it, and what basis you have for doing so. Be bold about questioning yourself — and about responding.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You may find it easier to clear the hot air out of the room now that Jupiter is in Cancer — a sign that’s cooler, more inwardly seeking and oriented on feelings. You’ve learned a lot about yourself with Jupiter moving through your opposite sign. Its new placement is less about what is said and more about what is done. People demonstrate their feelings, their caring, their sincerity through their actions. Words can deceive easily and often do so; it’s more difficult to deceive with actions. Now you need to tell the difference, both in terms of what you do and what others do. Let your actions and the actions of others do all the talking.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — It’s been a long time since you were cut a break. You’ve been so driven and so restless in recent years, you might count it a miracle if anyone could keep up with you, or understand you, or feel the kinds of pressures and enforced changes that you’ve been going through on a fairly regular basis. Your relationships can now consciously provide a cushion of safety for you. Yet whether you see and feel this will depend largely on your emotional orientation. I suggest you relax a little. Give people the benefit of the doubt about whether they understand you or are capable of seeing your point of view. You don’t need to push yourself or others so hard. Get the feeling of being at home wherever you are, and you will feel like that a little more every day.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Yours is the sign of the water bearer, and that water has to come from someplace. Some of the sage descriptions of your sign encourage you to fill up your urn so that you have something to give to others when called upon to do so. Jupiter joining many other planets in the water signs is a reminder to pause, fill up and strengthen yourself. To do this, however, you will need to make a conscious choice to trust, and to question your many reasons not to trust. This time in your life only seems to be about the authority you have over your own life and to some extent your responsibility for others. It’s about relaxing into an exchange, and having the faith to receive what you need when it’s offered to you.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — It takes a lot to let go of control on this planet right now, whether it’s actual control or the illusion thereof. You have compelling reasons to do that, most significantly your peace of mind. But in order for this to be sincere, you need to replace control with something else. The one-word description of that ‘something else’ is faith — though that too may be challenging for you at times, and it’s nothing that you can contrive. What I suggest you replace it with is an experiment in how far your creativity can get you. If you see a problem, a puzzle or a conflict, try having faith that your creativity can turn it to something positive for everyone, then give it a try. Your results will speak for themselves.

Leave a Comment