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June 12, 2006 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2006-06-12

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Chronically homeless

The Michigan Daily - Monday, June 12, 2006 - 5
The politics of gay marriage

T here's year
an area Alco
right orde
behind my mor
apartment com- depr
plex in Ann expe
Arbor where style
four people to ta
spend most of stree
their time. A O
couple of worn chairs, empty bottles cally
and trash cans make up their liv- histo
ing space. From what I've gathered, men
these guys really like to drink. On the and
nights when they drink until they can class
no longer stand, I debate whether to Clea
call an ambulance out of concern for has
their lives. I always end up ignoring ness
their drunken stumbles and look the done
other way because I know that call- of h
ing 911 would probably mean having prob
them thrown in jail. But might they W
be better off in jail than drinking in dese
my alley, anyway? hous
These people outside my apartment agai
are homeless, and they have been for a mus
while. The Department of Health and a lar
Human Services would most likely pern
classify them as "chronically home- abus
less" - a term for those who have plete
been without a home for a more than shelt
a year or have experienced long-term cite
homelessness multiple times. Chroni- prim
cally homeless people are usually the ther
regulars at shelters and soup kitchens. nent
They are almost twice as likely to P
suffer from psychological or physi- port
cal disorders. And while the char- nom
acteristics of chronically homeless York
people are often the ones associated on
with the entire homeless community, year
they make up only 10 percent of the nent
homeless population. Eighty percent lowe
ofhomeless people are unsheltered for durin
less than three weeks - most as little is ab
as one or two days -and are typically to he
able to find money to pay rent again or Po
move in with a friend or relative. hom
But the people who live behind thos
my apartment, and many others like they,
them, aren't so lucky. The number also
of people who are homeless on any a wa
given night has gone up since the mon
late 1980s and remains high despite hom
increased federal funding, like the for
$28.5 billion designated for homeless imun
programs in 2006. help
Yet instead of pointing the finger It
at the slow economy or the mini- food
mum wage, which remains well ple
below the cost of living, researchers perm
at the Washington University School supp
of Medicine say a rise in substance addr
abuse is to blame. They found that help
more than 85 percent of homeless
people who abuse alcohol were diag-
nosed with an alcohol disorder in the

before they became homeless.
oholism is the most common dis-
r for the chronically homeless -
e common than schizophrenia or
ession. And, whether due to the
nses of living an alcoholic life-
or the inability to find a place
ke them in, they remain on the
ts, continuing their habits.
ther research shows that chroni-
homeless people have extensive
res of involvement in govern-
t-funded programs, like shelters
food banks, before they become
ified as chronically homeless.
rly, the programs the government
developed to counter homeless-
and the money it has spent has
little to attack the root causes
omelessness or address specific
lems, like alcoholism.
What the chronically homeless
rve is permanent supportive
ing that does not discriminate
nst alcoholics or drug abusers. We
come to terms with the fact that
ge percentage of those in need of
ianent housing have substance
e problems and they cannot com-
ly kick their habits andrmove into
ers. And, since homeless people
lack of affordable housing as the
ary reason they stay homeless,
e is certainly a demand for perma-
lacing homeless people in sup-
ve housing has also proven eco-
ically viable. A study in New
City showed the amount spent
a homeless person for the two
s after he was placed ina perma-
housing facility was significantly
r than the amount spent on him
ng the two previous years, which
out $11,000 annually (mostly due
ealthcare expenses).
ouring billions of dollars into the
eless-shelter system does a lot for
e who need time to relocate after
are forced to leave their homes. It
provides food to the hungry and
arm shelter in the winter. But this
ey fails to help the chronically
eless, the people who need shelter
more than the typical 90-day max-
im stay at facilities, and who need
breaking their drinking habits.
's not a bigger shelter or another
bank that's going to help the peo-
who call my alley their home. It's a
rianent residence with functional
ort programs and physicians who
ess their problems that's going to
these people start their lives over.
Kennelly can be reached at

ike clockwork,
have begun
to unleash their usual
meaningless issues to
bring their base out to
polls this fall to ensure
their continued domi-
nance of both houses
of Congress. On
June 7, the Senate rejected a constitutional
amendment banning gay marriage. Bitterly
divisive, the amendment failed to move out
of an initial phase of debate with 49 votes for
it and 48 votes against it. While 60 votes are
required to send the amendment to the states
for ratification, the amendment fell short of
even a sizable majority.
But the mere fact that more senators voted
to deprive gays of rights granted by the 14th
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is
ridiculous. Because the debate is framed as
a struggle to "save" heterosexual marriage,
those who wish to allow gays to marry are
put on the defensive and cannot make their
own attacks against oppressive religious
puritans who want to reverse society to a
pre-Enlightenment stage.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
expressed my feelings perfectly after the
vote: "Why is it (that) Republicans are all for
reducing the federal government's impact on
people's lives until it comes to these stinging

litmus test-issues, whether gay marriage or
end of life, (when) they suddenly want the
federal government to intervene?"
Is the right of gays to marry specifically
mentioned in the Constitution? Nowhere in
the Constitution does the phrase "and gay
marriage shall not be prohibited" appear.
But the following passage from the 14th
Amendment intrigues me when I confront
those who oppose gay marriage:
"No State shall make or enforce any law
which shall abridge the privileges or immu-
nities of citizens of the United States; nor
shall any State deprive any person of life,
liberty, or property, without due process of
law; nor deny to any person within its juris-
diction the equal protection of the laws."
So, are gays to be excluded from "equal
protection of the laws"? In Lawrence v.
Texas, when the high court struck down anti-
sodomy laws, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
wrote in a concurring opinion that the law,
because it outlawed only gay sodomy and
not heterosexual sodomy, did not qualify
for the rational-basis test and thus violated
the Equal Protection Clause. Banning gay
marriage is a similar constitutional exercise
to the Texas anti-sodomy laws. If only gay
marriage is banned and not straight mar-
riage, it is only a matter of time before such
bans will be tested in front of the court.
But this is all hypothetical conjecture.
The issue we are all forgetting is prob-

ably the most important one of all. Unlike
abortion, where a logical argument exists
to ban it - though I disagree with such an
argument - banning gay marriage has no
logical basis.
The roots of animosity toward granting
equal rights to gays do not lie with a genu-
ine concern for the public good, but rather
in religious dogma. Again, while I disagree
with such sentiment, we cannotcontrol what
other people believe. People are going to be
bigoted for whatever reason, and it would
be foolish for us to expect them to stop just
because we want them to.
But our country is not ruled by religious
dogma. The framers specifically wrote the
First Amendment to guard against such
oppression. While certain people may object
to gay marriage on religious grounds, a
rational and compelling argument against
it does not exist. Outlawing gay marriage
just because the Bible says to do so is neither
rational nor constitutional.
Such a ban is religiousbigotry atits worst,
and I challenge anyone to show me "evi-
dence" that homosexual marriage is worse
for families than heterosexual marriage.
A country with such a high incidence of
divorce has no authority to preach to anyone
about the "sanctity" of marriage.
Goldberg can be reached at

Cowards are cruel, but the brave love mercy

C arol Jacob-
sen, if she had
been born in
another time, might
have been one of the
abolitionists who
helped shuttle run-
away slaves along the
Underground Rail-
road. Faced with an
unjust system she is powerless to change,
she's doing everything she can to helpa few
of its victims escape.
Jacobsen, a professor of art at the Uni-
versity, runs the Michigan Battered Wom-
en's Clemency Project. With the help of
students, attorneys and other like-minded
people, she has taken up the cases of 20
imprisoned women, most of whom killed
their husbands orboyfriends in self-defense,
and asked Gov. Jennifer Granholm to grant
them clemency.
For a while, things seemed encouraging.
William Milliken, the former Republican
governor, personally lobbied Granholm to
let the women free. Late last month, though,
Granholm denied all 20 requests. That's not
surprising - she's facing a tough re-elec-
tion challenge, and the last thing she wants
is to be seen as soft on crime. It's easy to talk
about doing the right thing when you don't
have to worry about losing your job.
Through a spokesperson, Granholm ratio-
nalized her decision by saying the parole
board had recommended she deny the peti-
tions. When I mentioned this to Jacobsen,
she rolled her eyes. Michigan's parole board
is notoriously reluctant to give violent offend-
ers a second chance. Its approach has been
responsible for keeping many of these women
in prison for decades.
The parole board's severity can be traced
back to 1992, when a parolee named Leslie
Allen Williams raped and murdered four
young women. John Engler, then a first-
term Republican governor, jumped at the

opportunity to bolster his tough-on-crime
credentials. Using Williams as a bogey-
man, he pushed through stricter parole
policies and replaced the board - until
then composed of seven civil servants from
within the corrections department - with
10 political appointees, including several
former cops and prosecutors.
Under the new board, the term "life with
the possibility of parole" has become a cruel
joke. Inmates serving parolable life sen-
tences, who previously could expect to be
released after 10 or 15 years if they behaved
well, now have little hope of parole. In effect,
Michigan has abandoned rehabilitation as a
goal for many serious violent offenders.
It's not just bleeding hearts like Jacobsen
who find this approach troubling. Several
Michigan judges have publicly criticized it.
"What the parole board has done is unilat-
erally convert a parolable sentence into an
unparolable one," Brian Sullivan, a Wayne
County circuit judge, told the Detroit Free
Press last year. "That is an extreme position
that can deprive people of hope."
Some of the judges who sentenced the
women Jacobsen is fighting for have taken
a similar position. Norman Lippitt, the
judge who gave Karen Kantzler a life sen-
tence for killing her husband in 1988, has
written a letter to Granholm saying he had
been under the impression that she could be
paroled after 10 years. Had he known that
the parole board would never let that happen,
he wrote, he would have sentenced Kantzler
to a maximum of 15 years.
For most prisoners serving life sentences
- even first-degree murderers serving life
without parole - an approach like that one
would be more just. Americans often accept
without question the idea that cold-blooded
murderers are to be locked away forever,
but in the rest of the civilized world, true
life sentences are reserved for the very worst
criminals, those who arehbeyond redemption.
Murderers in Western Europe rarely serve

more than 15 or 20 years; those countries
recognize that such a long term is almost
always enough to ensure an offender won't
pose a threat.
Take Machelle Pearson. Of all the women
whose cases Jacobsen is pursuing, Pearson,
who is serving life without parole, is the
hardest to feel sympathy for. Unlike the oth-
ers, she didn't kill her abuser - she fatally
shot Nancy Faber, the wife of an Ann Arbor
News columnist, during a botched robbery
in 1983. Pearson, 17 at the time, was taking
orders from an abusive boyfriend.
A friend testified that Pearson high-fived
her boyfriend upon learning that Faber, a
mother of two children and the only wit-
ness to the crime, had died three days after
the shooting. It's easy to see why Jacobsen
nearly rejected her case.
But nearly 23 years later, Pearsonbears no
resemblance to the desperate, abuse-scarred
17-year-old girl who could be manipulated
into doing anythingby her domineeringboy-
friend. She has beena model prisoner, spend-
ing her time working with inmates who have
AIDS. Herbody is deteriorating from a neu-
romuscular disorder. And she has suffered
more than anyone should: While in prison,
she has been raped by a guard, impregnated
and forced to give up the baby for adoption.
Michigan's prisons are filled with people
like Pearson -men and women who did
terrible things decades ago, but have since
changed and could lead productive lives on
the outside if given a chance. The sentenc-
ing guidelines and parole policies that are
keeping them locked away are politically
popular, but they don't make sense. If a
Democratic governor like Granholm isn't
willing to use the power of her office to grant
a few of them mercy, it'shardto see how the
state's politicians will ever find the courage
to make the justice system more just.
Fresard is the Dailysfall/winter editor in
chief You can reach him atdmfres@umich.

L F }

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