Moderate Moment | Moderate Moms

Archive for October, 2014

The Civics Education Initiative

By Reid Wilson September 17

Name one of the authors of the Federalist Papers. How many justices are on the Supreme Court? What do we call the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution?

Students in seven states may soon be required to know the answers to those questions and more before they graduate from high school. A group aimed at boosting civics education in U.S. schools is using today, the 227th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, to begin pushing state legislatures to require high school graduates to pass the same exam that immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship must pass.

The Civics Education Initiative will introduce legislation in Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah to require students to take the test at any point during their high school careers, and to pass it before receiving a high school diploma or a general equivalency degree.

Public surveys show they have a long way to go. A 2011 survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found just 15 percent of Americans could correctly identify the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, while 27 percent knew Randy Jackson was a judge on American Idol. Only 13 percent knew the Constitution was signed in 1787. And just 38 percent were able to name all three branches of government.

In each of the seven states, CEI has prominent co-chairs who will back the legislation. Former senators Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) will push legislation in Phoenix. Sen. Tom Coburn (R) is supporting the measure in his home state of Oklahoma. And former South Carolina governors Jim Edwards (R), Dick Riley (D) and Jim Hodges (D) will advocate for the test in Columbia.
Their goal: To implement similar requirements in every state by Sept. 17, 2017, the Constitution’s 230th birthday.

If they succeed, students graduating from high school will already know the answers to the three questions above: That John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton wrote the Federalist Papers, that there are nine members of the Supreme Court, and that the first 10 amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.

How would you do on the U.S. Citizenship Quiz? Test yourself here:
View Photo Gallery —The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services partnered to create a Web site to help immigrants study for the civics portion of the naturalization test. The questions below are samples from their preparation materials. During a naturalization interview, you would be asked up to 10 civics questions from a list of 100. You must correctly answer six questions to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test. The exam requires you say the answers aloud.
Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post’s GovBeat blog. He’s a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he’s a complete political junkie.

Click here for headlines

Supreme Court refuses to take up Gay Marriage 

Same thoughts on Sam-Sex Marriage

I just got off the phone with a morning show here in town. I called into the host to make sure he knew about this morning’s Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. Essentially the court said it would not rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.  The ruling doesn’t nationalize it. And it doesn’t signal it will be up to each state to decide what it wants. What it does is allow same-sex couples to marry in states with appeals pending in front of the Supreme Court.  And, according to Anthony Rothert of the ACLU-MO, “it means the decision is binding for for all states within those circuits, so marriage should come very soon to North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.” Rothert also says the ruling may lead to a decrease in states appealing directly to the Supreme Court because they can see the tide of rulings towards same-sex marriage.

Just Friday, the courts here in Missouri ruled in favor of recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples who were legally wed in other states, where gay marriage is legal.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling was like a stone skipping in water. Its tone was quiet but its effect is anything but. Within minutes, the number of states where same-sex marriage will be allowed has jumped from 17 to 30.

The question is, “What’s next?” Will we see an amendment to overturn the State’s ban on gay marriage? And if so, how will it affect the elections overall? Here in Missouri, our Attorney General (who is running for Governor) is charged with defending the law on the books. It is his job. To his credit, he has said he is in favor of same-sex unions personally. And today, the ACLU announced that Attorney General Chris Koster has indicated to them he won’t challenge SCOTUS’ ruling.

The Republican players have taken a different tack. By not talking about same-sex marriage, some may be hoping to usher in a new day in politics, where voters can agree to disagree on social issues.

Asked about a ballot initiative or amendment, Rothert says, “The better course would be to get the anti-gay amendment off the books. Gay men and lesbians do not want gay marriage – they just want marriage, the same marriage that straight couples enjoy.”

This was the crux of my conversation on the radio this morning. Will Missouri step up to reverse course on a decision it made ten years ago to declare marriage for straight men and women only?  “Somebody’s going to do it,” I said. McGraw said, “Maybe you?” I said, “Well, no one has asked me.”

The most likely advocate, Democrat Jolie Justus, the only openly gay State Senator just retired because of term limits.

Why would someone ask someone like me if I am going to get involved? I’m a heterosexual single Mom with two teenagers, two dogs and a cat and a house that is always just beyond the reach of being well maintained. I had to ask myself, “Should I get involved?” A lot of people will be doing the same thing when the issue comes up, as I have no doubt it will. A core question is why is this important to the mainstream Missourian? For me, the answers are clear.

The truth is same sex couples will find each other, live together and raise families whether there is a ban on gay marriage or not. Can Missouri continue to be a state that allows shame to remain on its books? Do we want to be a state that dials down diversity? Can we recognize that stabilizing relationships creates stable neighborhoods and communities?

I have been blogging for years about the fact that the Republican Party needed to ease up on social issues. I am in favor of gay marriage and the Non-Discrimination Employment Act. To me it shouldn’t be hard to reconcile those views with being pro-business. Being tolerant is good business.

I can’t remember who I said it to but when I first got involved in politics, I remember saying a lot of people in my generation would like to vote Republican but feel pushed out of the tent over same-sex marriage. Shortly later, I applauded when George Bush’s daughter told the New York Times, “I am Barbara Bush, and I am a New Yorker for marriage equality. New York is about fairness and equality. And everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love.”

My response today? “Same.” Same thoughts on same-sex, that is. What a compliment to be asked whether I would stand up for an issue that is sweeping this country because of what it says about our values as a tolerant society.



Civics for Kids

Civics Education for Kids

The Mom Vivant / Debbie Baldwin of Ladue News

Posted: Thursday, October 2, 2014 12:00 pm
By Debbie Baldwin
As a parent, you constantly hope you are doing it right. Occasionally, things happen that confirm that hope, changing it into a belief: I believe I’m doing it right. Be it an A on a test, a win in the big game, a good decision on the playground or at a party, the belief becomes a surety. Wow, I’m a good parent—no, I’m a great parent! You bask in the glow of it and fleetingly consider baking cookies or taking on a DIY project. And then one day, your teenage child stands in the kitchen, between you and the cupboard, and says with disturbing sincerity: I need a plate.
Wait. What just happened? I was getting ready to brag about you at a party. Suddenly, I’m wondering if you have a complete set of chromosomes. The plates are right where they have always been—just at arms’ length behind you. I mean, sure, I guess I could put down the two gallons of milk I am holding with the head of lettuce balancing precariously on top and get you one, but is it that much of a burden to rotate 90 degrees and extend your free hand?
Where did I go wrong? He hit all the milestones as a kid—crawled when he was supposed to, babbled a few syllables at the proper time. I can still remember my friend, Jody, in a panic that her oldest son, Teddy, hadn’t clapped when the book said he should. I glanced proudly at Cranky and Whiny, clapping away, and assured her it would happen. Will she give me the same smug sympathy when I tell her my teenager cannot locate dinnerware? Don’t worry. I’m sure he’s fine. He’ll figure out the kitchen cabinets…eventually.
Well, this is really going to put a dent in my parental boast. I mean, what good is an A on a chemistry test when your kid won’t be able to get through the cafeteria line? Perhaps I’m making too much of it. I guess I should be glad he asked for a plate at all, no matter how horrified I may be at his inability to execute. And I guess we all need these subtle reminders that no matter how good of a job we think we’re doing, there will always be that moment when your kid needs a plate.

Missouri Courts Recognizes Gay Marriage from Other States

10/03/2014 10:19 PM 10/03/2014 10:19 PM

A judge struck down part of Missouri’s gay marriage ban for the first time on Friday by ordering the state to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states, saying state laws banning the unions single out gay couples “for no logical reason.”

The order means such couples will be eligible to sign up for a wide range of tax, health insurance, veterans and other benefits now afforded to opposite-sex married couples. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who has defended the state’s ban on gay marriage, said his office was reviewing the ruling.

The decision comes in a lawsuit filed by 10 same-sex couples who legally married outside the state, including Arlene Zarembka and Zuleyma Tang-Martinez. The St. Louis couple, who married in Canada, said Friday’s ruling could boost their household income, and they plan to apply Monday for Zarembka to receive Social Security benefits as Tang-Martinez’s spouse.

“To me, it’s a real validation by the judge of our relationship and our commitment to each other,” Tang-Martinez said.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is helping the couples, noted the ruling was a first in the state.

“We’re gratified that the court recognized that married same-sex couples and their families are no different than other couples, and that the Constitution requires them to be treated equally,” ACLU attorney Tony Rothert said. “This is not the first court to reach this conclusion, but it is the first court to do so in Missouri, so it’s a tremendous day for our state.”

Jackson County Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs sided with the couples, who argue that their rights to equal protection and due process are being violated by Missouri’s ban on gay marriage. Youngs said the couples deserve the same recognition as opposite-sex couples who married in other states.

“The undisputed facts before the Court show that, to the extent these laws prohibit plaintiffs’ legally contracted marriages from other states being recognized here, they are wholly irrational, do not rest upon any reasonable basis, and are purely arbitrary,” Youngs wrote. “All they do is treat one segment of the population — gay men and lesbians — differently than their same-sex counterparts, for no logical reason.”

The lawsuit before Youngs only challenges Missouri’s refusal to recognize marriages legally performed outside the state, not laws that bar same-sex couples from getting married in Missouri.

Rothert said the ruling means that thousands of Missouri couples can now qualify for spousal government benefits and, on a smaller level, change their last names to match their spouse’s on their Missouri driver’s license.

The case is among at least three challenging Missouri’s ban: There is a federal challenge in Kansas City, and a St. Louis case focuses on city officials who issued marriage licenses to four same-sex couples to trigger a legal test of the ban.

The lawsuits are based on the same arguments that led the U.S. Supreme Court last year to overturn part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied a tax, health and other benefits to legally married gay couples.

In Missouri, Youngs said he expects the state Supreme Court to “provide the last word on all of the important legal issues presented by this case.”

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The ACLU has cases pending against 13 other states with such bans, including five cases currently before federal appeals courts.

Read more here: