Virginia clerk does his best in a bad situation

Paul Ferguson is a public servant, but he is prohibited by law from serving all of the public equally and is required by law to discriminate.

He is not the first public servant in the Commonwealth of Virginia to face this dilemma, but he handled it about as well as he was allowed:

Participants gathered in the square to request marriage licenses from Paul Ferguson, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.

“I commend each of you that is coming forward today for your courage. I think you do realize that by law, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow me to issue those marriage licenses to you,” Ferguson said. “I hope that if laws do change in the future, that you will choose to return one day to Arlington County to receive a marriage license.”

More than a dozen couples stepped forward to request marriage licenses from Ferguson. In turn, each was rejected.

“Diverse weights and diverse measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord,” the book of Proverbs says.

Ferguson has been charged to employ diverse weights and diverse measures according to the abominable law of Virginia. At least he was able to do so without adding insult to injustice.

* * * * * * * * *

Ed Brayton informs us that this July has been declared “Heterosexual Awareness Month.”

The event seems to be organized by the same kinds of people who spent college whining about why there was no White Students Union and no Men’s Studies department — the sort of privileged people eager to seem deeply aggrieved at even a symbolic gesture that doesn’t focus on their group and their own desperate need for all of everyone’s attention. You know … assholes.

But this might still do some good.

From the owners of Hobby Lobby to the president of Wheaton College, if there’s one thing heterosexuals have been demonstrating lately it’s a massive lack of awareness of heterosexuality — or at least of how heterosexual sex actually works.

So even if this Heterosexual Awareness Month event was only dreamed up as another chance for privileged chauvinists to punch-down at everyone else, perhaps it will serve a real purpose too. (Probably not.)

* * * * * * * * *

And speaking of basic human biology, here’s (via It’s Okay To Be Smart) a simple truth about human development that I’m not sure our friends in the “personhood begins at conception” crowd have thought much about:

But then I don’t think that crowd has thought much at all about any aspect of basic human biology.

I learned a new-to-me word from that video: rathe. Not quite as fun — or as ordinarily useful — as philtrum or purlicue, but still good to know. (Although it does change how I read “The Jabberwocky” …)

"She has the power of her position but most restaurant patrons don’t, and the supposed ..."

LBCF, No. 190: ‘Something happens’
"That sounds a little like the libertarian idea that word of mouth can replace regulations ..."

LBCF, No. 190: ‘Something happens’
"I’m really glad I saw the more recent version of The Producers first - I ..."

Romans 13 and the Gettysburg Address
"Yeah... when you find yourself arguing that the people who control all three branches of ..."

LBCF, No. 190: ‘Something happens’

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • PatBannon


    And it must hurt for him to (most likely) want to grant those marriage licenses and be unable to…he’s making the best of his rotten situation, and good for him.

    Also, because I can’t think of a better way to bring this to your attention, Fred, read this if you haven’t already: Very vulgar language, but amusing and precise. He sounds a lot like you in places:

    “I don’t know why the privileged are always trying to convince us they’re victims. There’s certainly a dignity in surviving a hardship, but not when you brought it on yourself and all you did was complain about it. The only real plight of the white Christian is that he has an impossible amount to prove. It’s why we’re the only race that hunts ghosts and chases Bigfoot.”

  • Hexep

    The scrotal raphe! I was wondering what that thing was called.

  • LL

    RE  “the sort of privileged people eager to seem deeply aggrieved at even a symbolic gesture that doesn’t focus on their group and their own desperate need for all of everyone’s attention. You know … assholes.”


    Maybe somebody needs to organize a complementary program for the education of Republicans called “How Ladyparts Actually Work.” Sounds like a lot of the information would be news to a lot of men, at least, and probably a lot of women, too. 

  • Anti-trans crusaders rarely take into account those whose sexual phenotype and genotype don’t match, pronouncing judgements based on phenotype alone.  Thus one would assume they’d be very opposed to non-early stages of pregnancy resulting in phenotype male children because that represents the most effective transition between sexes ever.  (For human beings at least, I understand some other species can do some impressive things.)

    As for “rathe” I had no idea what the fuck that thing was called, and will likely forget by the end of the week.

  • You know … assholes.

    In that spirit, have a classic scene from Blazing Saddles:

    (cool trivia: Gene Wilder ad-libbed the last line; Cleavon Little cracks up the way he does because he was not expecting it at all)

  • Also, because I can’t think of a better way to bring this to your attention, Fred, read this if you haven’t already:… Very vulgar language, but amusing and precise. He sounds a lot like you in places:

    Heh, I loved the line, “when the Democratic government tries to regulate or deregulate anything from cars to junk food to killing bald eagles, it’s called a war. When the Republican side does it, it’s so totally not.”

  • mcc

    There’s a human tendency to treat “male” and “female” as these very solid immutable categories, almost platonic as far as how crisp and clean the dividing lines are. If you spend even a little bit of time researching the biology of gender you quickly discover that absolutely nobody told our bodies it’s supposed to work that way.

  •  One of the things I found most amazing when I got pregnant is how pregnancy actually mimics a lot of evolution.  You start out as a single-celled organism, look like a fish for a while complete with proto-gills (seriously, from my first sonogram it looked like I was pregnant with a goldfish), have a tail for a while and only in the second trimester start looking human at all.  Some of the really early pictures of the fetus have a scary resemblance to the Geiger aliens.

  •  Some of the really early pictures of the fetus have a scary resemblance to the Geiger aliens.

    That is probably not a coincidence.  Giger’s designs tend to involve a huge amount of sexual imagery juxtaposed against machinery and mutilation.  Heck, one of his paintings was even called “Birthmachine“.  

    Arguably that was one of the things that made Giger’s alien design so disturbing in the first place, the sexual subtext hits a lot of fundamental buttons in human sexuality, deliberately jamming them the wrong way for effect.  

  • ReverendRef

    Participants gathered in the square to request marriage licenses from
    Paul Ferguson, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Arlington County and
    the City of Falls Church.

    What I enjoyed most about this was that Mr. Ferguson was from Falls Church (at least, he worked there).  The Episcopal church in Falls Church was one of the first, and a major player, in the schism over the issue of gay rights.  So much so that they caused a lot of problems for those of us who want the church to be open to everyone equally.  They’re still causing problems, but I don’t want to get into family stuff here.

    It was just nice for me to see someone from F.C. being understanding and compassionate in that situation.

  • banancat

     Just in general we like to put all kinds of things into neat little groups.  This is especially true with species of organism and looking for the “missing link” when really life is a spectrum and cladastics can never have perfectly distinct lines.  But you also see it a lot when people make a big deal about tomatoes being fruit and not vegetable, when in fact they are both fruit and vegetable.

  • Baby_Raptor

    People who complain about swear words amuse me. I mean, I get complaining about insulting slurs, or other things that are used to other people and hold them down. Those are actually bad words. They actually cause damage. 

    But the little 4 letter words that society thinks are bad simply because their parents said so? It’s dumb. If you don’t like the words, don’t use them. But judging someone else because they choose to, or complaining about it, simply because you don’t like the words is a waste of time and energy. It doesn’t make the point any less valid simply because they used words you don’t approve of, and it doesn’t make the person any less smart. 

    Words are sounds used to communicate. Stop getting worked up over the sounds and worry about the idea they’re trying to get across. 

  • No-One


    Which is why it’s strange that someone at Fox News declares a new war
    every 11 seconds. They use that word so desperately and often that if
    you taught a child that “war” meant “HELP!” he would produce perfect Fox
    News copy every time you dropped him in a well.

  • Anonymous

    I just want to say, I’m sorry I told everyone to go fuck themselves two years ago. And deeply sorry for my homophobic opinions.

  • Anonymous

    I just want to say, I’m sorry I told everyone to go fuck themselves two years ago. And I’m deeply sorry for my homophobic opinions.

  • arcseconds

     Are you trying to tell us that we’re not descended from apes, after all, but from Aliens?

  • reynard61

    “Ed Brayton informs us that this July has been declared ‘Heterosexual Awareness Month.'”

    I’ve been aware that I’m a heterosexual for many, many, many months now. What’s so special about July that I need to be reminded of it again?

  • Kirala

    Regarding “vulgar language” – ALL words have meaning and weight; it’s not a simple binary good word/bad word. I dislike hearing (although I generally don’t complain about) “vulgar language” because I grew up in a context where some of those words were assigned the weight “to use in case of apocalypse,” and it gets wearing to have to silence my mental apocalypse-alarm repeatedly when reading a paragraph or listening to a conversation. And because I like reserving some words for the possible apocalypse, I’m disinclined to try to permanently recalibrate.

    I can and do temporarily recalibrate in appropriate contexts. (Tropic Thunder: Utter genius. Also, surviving teaching at a public high school.) But I appreciate it when people are kind enough to warn me that I may be encountering strong language. Even when words aren’t weapons, they still have weight, and that weight can be difficult. And ignoring or removing that weight from all the sounds gives us nothing substantial to say.

  • Oh, sure you’re aware of it, and I’m aware of it – but what about society in general? When did you last hear about a country legalising heterosexual marriage? Eh? Eh?


  • Descended from?  We’re the same species as.  When a facehugger and a human being get together is a viable offspring produced?  Yes.  Thus: same species.

  • Didn’t a facehugger mate with a dog or a cow in Alien 3? Where does THAT leave us?

  • The_L1985

     I remember being vaguely disappointed that my HS biology class never mentioned the reproductive systems of any creature, ever.  The textbook had all that info about snails and oysters and that one lizard species that reproduces by parthenogenesis, and we never got to learn about any of it in class.

  • The_L1985

    Actually, we have no way of knowing whether most of those chest-bursting babies are fertile, because very few such movies/games show us what happens after they grow up (if we don’t kill them all off in the first place).

    It’s also possible that the eggs were already fertilized, and the facehugger is just depositing an embryo in the human host.

  • DCFem

    Please publish the push back you get about this story. Because you are going to hear from the folks that you told they could not be nice and be anti-gay at the same time. This will be one of their litany of false equivalencies. The county clerk (whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting) is not homophobic, he’s just been put in a bad position where he must uphold an unjust law. And I applaud his courage for speaking out as that could have consequences at said job.

  • Jim Roberts

    [Once wrote the biology section for an Aliens RPG]Xenomorph drones – which is what you usually see – aren’t capable of reproduction themselves. Only the queens can reproduce, but technically only produce eggs containing facehuggers. There’s some evidence that queens are naturally occuring from the drone population, typically produced by particularly suitable facehugger/host combinations, although the rate of drone: queen hasn’t been observed. Because they’re xenomorphs. The embryo created by the facehugger is a combination of xenomorph and host physiology. [/Once wrote the biology section for an Aliens RPG]

  • You’ve heard of ring species and … um … technical term alludes me, line species maybe?  Anyway you’ve heard of them, right?  A can mate with B, B can mate with C, C can mate with D but A can’t mate with C and D can’t mate with B.  Ring if D can mate with A, the other thing if not.

    Well it would be like that except instead of a loop or a line it would be a web with the Alien at the center of it.  Call it a web species or a spoke and hub species.

  • Well the queens come from people, and the queens make facehuggers and the facehuggers mate with people to make more queens.  (Not nearly as many new queens as new drones, but that queen in Ripley in Alien 3 had to come from the queen that was human on its host’s side.)

    Unless you go with just the original movie with deleted scene in which case:
    The face huggers mate with people.
    The chestbursters are produced.
    They age into drones.
    The drones turn people into eggs.
    The eggs hatch face huggers, which given time and opportunity will mate with people.  The cycle is complete.

    Either way, facehugger plus person can equal viable offspring.

    In the canon, before the genetic tampering, it would seem that there are three genders for the Alien speices:

    The drone, so far as we know, is a mule so does not count as viable offspring.

    The queen produces the egg-facehugger combo which is sort of sperm container that houses a mobile sperm until such time as a member of the other gender is close enough, once it does the facehugger (mobile sperm) goes off to impregnate the host (mother) by mixing their genetics.

    We see the contribution that the host’s genetics make in the difference between the results when the host is a biped (Alien, Aliens) and when the host is a quadruped (Alien 3.)

    When the queen mates with a host via external sperm that is the facehugger the result is either a drone (most of the time) or a queen (some of the time).  The second of which is viable.

    When a host mates with another host (which they generally can do provided both requisite similarity and requisite differences between the hosts) they produce additional hosts.

    Thus we have two kinds of breeding and three kinds of offspring (drone and queen from type of breeding one, hosts from type of breeding two) but queen+host can produce another queen which, given another host, can again produce another queen and so on, as far as we know, forever.

  • Ursula L

    Hmm…  I wonder if that county clerk was forewarned of the situation, or even part of the plan, in order to have a suitable response ready.  It would make sense for organizers to work with sympathetic officials, so the situation is controlled to the best advantage.

    If they take this to court as discrimination, this response is evidence that at least one government official recognizes this as discrimination.  

  • Greg Robinson

    There are plenty of pieces that the “life begins at conception” crowd hasn’t really thought through all that fully.  Like, how do identical twins work?  Only one conception occured, so they share a single “life”, right?

    And relatedly, what about teratomas?  It’s still a “life” if it’s just a tumor made out of differentiated tissue inside of a person, right?  That’s what this whole debate is about in the first place, after all.  And in that case wouldn’t removing that tumor then be murder?

  • DorothyD

    My understanding of the Catholic position is that the exact moment of ensoulment isn’t known, so it’s imperative to err on the side of caution, given that it might occur at conception. And presumably God creates another soul if a fertilized ‘n ensouled egg should later split. Or two souls simultaneously if ensoulment occurs later. 

    Dunno about teratomas.

  • ReverendRef

     What’s so special about July that I need to be reminded of it again?

    Well . . . DUH . . . it’s the month that we celebrate the awesomeness that is the U S of A.

    I thought that was rather self-evident in their choice of July.  [/end sarcasm]

  • Anonymous2

    I don’t remember the specific incident you’re referring to, and I can’t speak for anyone you might have offended. But thanks for the apology and reconsideration of your opinions.

  • Vermic

    Seanbaby is the best.  Thank you for the link.

  • “Heterosexual Awareness Month”. Christ, these people are so full of their need to be ~special~ they’re taking the dominant cultural-sexual paradigm (seriously, count all the heteronormative ways we treat opposite-sex marriage) and trying to treat it as if it were a minority orientation in need of recognition. That is the height of complete absurdity.

    It’s like how people don’t even realize that all the things they piddle all over the Gay Pride Parades for, straight people do in microcosm every single frakkin’ day.

    Oh noes boys kissing boys and girls kissing girls! What, boys kissing girls isn’t practically a staple of the young love people coo over all the time?

    Oh noes people dressing all ~flamboyantly~ and ~shockingly~ – what the hell is Mardi Gras, then?

    And so on, and so forth.

    It’s like those dumbasses who whine and snivel about MLK Jr Day and Black Awareness Month and they want a white equivalent thereof.

    Shit, every major white guy who was President is on the US currency – history as taught in K-12 is heavily focussed on the white cultural and social experience in the past – and the cherry on the sundae is the kind of crap dumped all over Barack Obama, no-one would have dared even claim Bill Clinton wasn’t a US citizen and spent two years trying to prove it to the detriment of the workings of politics in Washington, DC.

    Oh, and “Men’s Studies”? Lordy me, the only thing worse than that is people trying to get “Men’s Centers” at universities because some jackass wants to hop up and down and flap his hands because Women get a hundred square feet of space to call their very very own.

    It’s like I remember saying on the old Slacktivist – how can these people who occupy 100% of the wall to wall cultural space throw such a fit over being asked to take up 95% of it instead?

  • P J Evans

    You’ve heard of ring species and … um … technical term alludes me,

    Sounds like some plants, which have to be pollinated by a different individual in the same species. (Fruit trees are notorious for this.)


    how can these people who occupy 100% of the wall to wall cultural space
    throw such a fit over being asked to take up 95% of it instead?

    By not according any moral weight (or according negative moral weight) to cultural space being allocated to those outside their tribe.

  • vsm

    I thought Men’s studies was a fairly common thing to teach at universities, alongside Women’s studies. The approach tends to be feminist, though, so these people probably wouldn’t care too much for it.

  • Jenny Islander

    What, your teacher didn’t show you footage of snake orgies, snails simultaneously impregnating each other, or male octopodes (or was it squid?) ripping their own arms off in order to present a sperm packet to the female?

    We also got to see a really happy male whale.

  •  I tell you, it all makes sense if you assume the beginnings of life are some kind of quantum superposition. At some point after conception, the superposition collapses, causing the beginning of life to be back-dated to the moment of conception ejaculation.

  • The_L1985

     No, no, no, and no.  We sort of glossed over prenatal development a bit, but how the sperm reaches the egg was not covered in class at all.

    Welcome to the world of abstinence-only education, where even the biology teachers are so afraid that they’ll be accused of “teaching our children immorality” that they can’t even talk about animal sex.  (Plant sex was OK though, because spores, pistils, and stamens don’t look like human reproductive organs.)

  • PatBannon

    I only referenced the language because Seanbaby is extreme in his profanity and coarse language in general even for, and I wished to bring Fred’s attention to this fact ahead of time. I guess I could have said “Trigger warning: highly vulgar and sexual language” or something.

    I’m not complaining or making any value judgment on his language, I think it’s fucking hilarious as shit. I’m just saying, this is what it’s gonna be like.

  • We saw a time-lapse video that wasn’t clearly marked as a time-lapse video, seeming to demonstrate that sperm spend a few seconds swimming somewhere vague and pinky-orange, then jump-cut to being right next to an egg, and after about 20 seconds or so, fertilization happens.

    Upon reflection, I have no idea what sort of animals it was.

  • veejayem

    Ah, but do you acknowledge the alien-predator “hybrid” at the end of AVP? And can you explain the ending of Prometheus?

    In fact, can ANYONE explain the ending of Prometheus? Or the beginning? Please?

  • The_L1985

     I remember that one.  There were also a few shots of various stages of prenatal development.

  • Matri

    I have two words to counter your entire argument:

    Spider Wasp.

  • But that fails to take into account the fact that the things produced by a mating xenomorph and host will show traits from both the xenomorph and the host implying parentage on the part of both while the spider wasp has traits from the spider wasp and the other spider wasp but none from the host.

    Also there’s the whole thing about the embryo implantation theory having severe problems that the DNA Reflex theory simply does not.

    Are the Anchorpoint Essays still around?  Yes, I see that they are.  Recommended reading.

  • I would not call it “mating” so much as being an in-generational environmental adaptation.  Imagine if a caterpillar changed what kind of butterfly it would become based on what kind of tree branch it formed its cocoon on.  For example, if the pattern and colors on the wings adapted to the pattern and colors of the tree bark.  

    It gets something from its host, no doubt about that, but I would not call that a mating.  The host does not form the embryo, but the embryo does change in response to it.  Logically, the host is adapted to its home environment, and by adapting itself to its host the adult xenomorph would then also be adapted to that environment.  Part of their “ultimate survivor” shtick.   

  • Rhubarbarian82

    I just learned about the reproductive cycle of angler fish this week, and it was terrifying. The Oatmeal had a pretty funny comic on how terrible a hand the male angler fish has been dealt.