Politics & Law

Lou FCD's picture

In Ontario, Stephine Beck's Life Worth Little

On Sunday, March 4, 2007, at 6:39 a.m., Stephine Beck was found dead, face down in the snow with her pants pulled down and her top pulled up. She had been strangled and dumped. Beck was the mother of five children, and pregnant.

Imagine the outrage this must have generated in the courtroom when the accused was brought to trial! Imagine how little mercy the presiding judge must have shown while sentencing the man convicted of such a heinous act. The killer was a crack addict, a drunk, and frequented prostitutes. His grown daughter testified that when they were children, her father would call them bitches and sluts. He was known to abuse his ex-wife when they were married. Surely the citizens of Ontario had their pitchforks and torches at the ready!

On a second look at bail, the judge himself wrote :

Yet, it is obvious that the accused is a Jekyll-and-Hyde type who leads a double life: a conscientious worker with a long-standing criminal involvement in drugs and prostitution.  The fact that his private world is populated almost entirely by drug-addled prostitutes (whom he sometimes abuses), leads one to suspect that he has psychosocial problems and is socially stunted.

Elsewhere in the court documents we learn more about Ryczak's emotional involvements with and violent feelings toward women who don't do as he would like them to do:

Melissa Reeves has stayed over in the accused’s trailer.  She has had conversations with him about Jennifer Dunsford.  The accused told Ms. Reeves that he was hoping for a relationship with Ms. Dunsford, but she rejected him.  He expressed anger at Edith Price, who was a girlfriend of Ms. Dunsford’s.  He told Ms. Reeves that he had “a bullet with Edie’s name on it.”  He also stated that he had another bullet for Jamie Price, Ms. Price’s brother."

The killer strangled Stephine in his home and was seen by the neighbor to drag her body out, load the body into his SUV, and drive away, returning a half hour later. Blood at the scene was DNA matched to Stephine. Leaves from a lime plant were found in Stephine's pants that matched a plant in the accused's home. The case was open and shut.

Surely this man, this murderer of Stephine Beck, was put away for a very, very long time, right?

Well, not so much.

Michael's picture

Don't put your daughter on the stage

Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington, wrote Noel Coward in 1947. Till the early twentieth actors, actresses and all things to do with theatre were considered unseemly as a career choice. Actors were often conflated with 'rogues', 'vagabonds' and 'loose women' as an underclass. The twentieth century saw a paradigm shift whereby  an acting career could bring fame and fortune, and  actresses and actors like Vanessa Redgrave and Ronald Reagan could enter politics without having their characters impugned. 

Elizabeth's picture

More good news: Vermont legislates same-sex marriage!

Marriage is now legal, regardless of gender, in four states in the US: Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa courts ruled that their state constitutions guaranteed equal protection and access to marriage for same-sex partners, and Vermont just enacted legislation that expressly permits marriage for same-sex partners.

In California the courts had also ruled that the state constitution guaranteed access to marriage for same-sex partners and for about half a year such marriages were legally performed. Then the people voted to amend the state's constitution to expressly prohibit same-sex marriage.

Judicial and legislative processes are generally better suited for protecting minority rights than are popular votes. This isn't to say that the courts and the legislatures always get it right. First of all they are often on opposite sides of the same issue (witness the judicial processes that overturn unconstitutional legislation). Second of all, most legislatures have taken an approach quite different to Vermont's: they've used the legislative process to exclude couples from marriage where legislators in Vermont used their power to expand access to marriage.

Click here to read more

Elizabeth's picture

IA Supreme Court: Excluding same sex partners from civil marriage is unconstitutional

Good news today from the Iowa Supreme Court: In a unanimous decision the court ruled that the state's ban on same sex marriages violated the equal protection clause. The original lawsuit was filed in 2005 challenging Polk County's denial of marriage licenses to six couples. A lower court found that the denials were unconstitutional and this ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court upholds that lower court ruling.

The case is called Varnum v. Brien and you can see the full decision in PDF form here.

According to a Huffington Post article, it is unlikely that the Polk County Attorney's office does not plan to ask for a rehearing, and according to John Sarcone, the Polk County Attorney, the decision can't be challenged in the courts by same sex marriage opponents because they have no legal standing, and the case does not raise any federal issues.

It sounds like marriage may be secure in Iowa in a few weeks. Of course opponents are furious, asking if this "perversion" is allowed what will be next, and no doubt they are already lobbing for an amendment to the Iowa constitution.

According to the anti same sex marriage Alliance Defense Fund's DOMA Watch, thirty states have amendments defining marriage as exclusively one-man+one-woman. Ten others have legislation that ban same-sex marriage. Iowa was one of those 10, and now it's ban has been declared unconstitutional.

This is an issue that ultimately needs to be settled at the federal level. Marriage should not be a state-by-state prerogative. I should not have to worry, if I move from one state to another, that my marriage will no longer be valid because of the gender of my partner. The Defense of Marriage Act needs to be repealed and the US Supreme Court needs a case like the Loving v. Virginia in which arguments can be made that prohibiting marriage based on gender is as unconstitutional as prohibiting marriage based on race.

Elizabeth's picture

Live Coverage of Oral Arguments in the CA Supreme Court Prop 8 Case

CA Supreme Court

From The California Channel: The California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Thursday, March 5, 2009, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., in three cases challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a statewide ballot initiative that was passed by a majority of California voters in November 2008.

Proposition 8 was an amendment to the constitution of the state of California that banned recognition of same-sex marriages. This constitutional amendment revoking people's already-established rights was passed by a simple majority vote on a ballot question. This occured half a year AFTER the state had  begun recognizing - and solemnizing - same-sex marriages because the Supreme Court had issued a ruling declaring that the failure to to do so was a violation of the basic civil rights of gays and lesbians as guaranteed by the state's constitution. In other words, the Supreme Court said "according to our constitution such marriages should be legal." Then the voters said "We've amended the constitution to make those marriages illegal." Now the Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to the voters' proposition. 

Watch the oral arguments live at http://calchannel.com. If the server overloads then watch and listen later by archive. 

And check in at Carnal Nation where Chris Hall, co-founder of Sex In The Public Square, will be live-blogging the hearing.

Elizabeth's picture

NCSF Statement on Pro Dom work and Prostitution statutes

NCSF logo

I love the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. The NCSF is one of those organizations you know you can count on to fight for the right to sexual expression even around stigmatized types of sexual expression like exchanging sex for money, or engaging in BDSM.

Prostitution arrests in Dungeons and porn shops (where prostitution may not have been occurring at all) have raised much concern, and NCSF advocates spoke with law enforcement representatives to find out how they're interpreting "prostitution". The findings are troubling and are reported below.

Elizabeth's picture

Protecting the kids - ur doin it rong

Audacia Ray has an excellent post on Waking Vixen that reports on two recent news stories involving teens and sex. The first was the story about teenagers sending naked photos of themselves to their boyfriends or girlfriends and being arrested and convicted of sex crimes. The second is the story of Operation Cross Country, which claims to be an attempt to rescue underage prostitutes but is much more effective at arresting adult prostitutes. In her post she asks this important question:

"Why are child prostitutes being rescued while adult prostitutes are being arrested? Why are kids who make porn of themselves being arrested while adult porn performers legally go about their business?"

Click here to keep reading

Elizabeth's picture

Sex Is Not A Public Nuisance

The New York Times this morning reports on a meeting last Wednesday involving city and state elected officials including Christine Quinn (City Council Speaker) and Thomas Duane (State Senator representing parts of Manhattan), Brian Conroy (the NYPD's Vice Squad commanding officer), and LGBT rights activists. The meeting focused on whether or not the city is targeting gay men for arrest on prostitution crimes because of their sexual orientation.

That is the wrong question.

The more relevant questions are: Why is sexual activity - the buying and selling of pornography, the accepting of money for sex - being defined as a public nuisance in the first place? And, what does it mean that simply liking pornography and being in a porn shop is enough to make one the target of a prostitution sting?

Click here for more.

Elizabeth's picture

Georgia Conservatives Use Budget Crisis to Attack Sex Researchers at Universities

"In this present economy, the taxpayers’ dollars are being used by the Board of Regents to inform students about such social topics. … I believe the timing is perfect to eliminate positions of professors and staff who are paid to provide such services.”

Those are the words of Charlice Byrd, a Republican representing Woodstock in Georgia's House of Representatives. She is quoted in a an article in Sunday's Atlanta Journal Constitution and she is not alone. Her colleague Calvin Hill (R-Canton) is "deeply disturbed" by the fact that the University system has experts on male prostitution and on oral sex.

You would think that these representatives and their Christian Coalition supporters (Jim Beck, president of the GA Christian Coalition reportedly wants legislative hearings on the issue) believe that researchers are offering courses in how to become a prostitute or how to perform oral sex.

We are talking about researchers whose research on sex-related topics provides the evidence needed to make smart policy on public health issues. These are exactly the kinds of people states need more of. And the state gets access to highly skilled researchers generally through their work in colleges and universities.

Click here to read more

Elizabeth's picture

Race, class, and gender in the public square

With permission of Jill Filipovic of Feministe! I am reposting her piece, A Story In Pictures. I stared at it for a long time trying to imagine how I could post about it and ultimately decided that it says everything it needs to say all on its own and I just wanted to share it with readers here. 

A Story In Pictures (Feministe! January 29, 2009)

Two of the most important women’s-rights-related bill-signings in the past few years.

The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003:
Bush signs abortion ban

And the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009:
Obama signs Fair Pay Act


I think the pictures say more than I can. Thanks Jill!

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