The More Things Change…

If you’re keeping track of what so far has been the creeping acceptance and legalization of marijuana in the U.S., on Friday things took a huge leap forward.

The U.S. Treasury issued guidelines stating, in effect, that it’s legal for banks to provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses. That removes a huge impediment to the growth of the businesses, for up to now federal banking restrictions have forced them to operate in cash.

The Obama administration plainly recognizes that with the sale or use of marijuana now legal in some form in 20 states and the District of Columbia, the old restrictions are anachronistic. Worse, they foster crime: The essence of anti-money-laundering enforcement is to move business activity out of cash and into auditable, trackable transactions, such as bank and credit card accounts.

What we’re seeing is a fascinating example of how a long-standing social and legal norm starts to change. Think same-sex relationships and gay marriage. The impetus for change originates in a few states; they demonstrate that presumed consequences don’t follow, and the old norm yields to the new norm, first slowly and then at greater speed; and at some interim point the federal government — whether through legislation, executive order or judicial directive — adjusts to the new world and forces the last holdouts to join in.

Thursday’s landmark ruling by a federal judge in Norfolk could ultimately mean the end of Virginia’s constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, legal experts say.

But until a higher court confirms a federal judge’s opinion that the ban violates the equal protection clause under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, gay and lesbian couples still are not permitted to marry in Virginia.

“The ruling is groundbreaking for Virginia in some ways like Loving v. Virginia (the case that legalized interracial marriage), but we have a long way to go to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Carl Tobias, a constitutional law professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, adding that the case may not be heard before the court until June 2015.

In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court last summer struck down a central part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The United States now recognizes gay marriage, but the constitutional basis for striking down the entire law was not entirely clear and states can still uphold bans that prohibit it.

Supporters of gay marriage considered the Defense of Marriage Act ruling the kiss of death for state statutes that prohibit same-sex unions and began launching legal challenges in federal courts across the country, including Virginia.

“There can be no serious doubt that in America, the right to marry is a rigorously protected fundamental right,” the judge wrote in her ruling. “The Supreme Court has recognized repeatedly that marriage is a fundamental right protected both by the Due Process and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The U.S. East Coast was blasted by the end of a four-day winter storm on Friday, freezing sales of Valentine’s Day flowers and sweets but revving up snowmobiles and ski areas desperate to salvage a lackluster season.

Attempts to purge Muslims from parts of the war-torn Central African Republic have prompted “a Muslim exodus of historic proportions,” rights group Amnesty International warned Wednesday.

International peacekeepers have “failed to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Muslim civilians in the western part of the Central African Republic,” the group said.

Another rights group, Human Rights Watch, also warned Wednesday that the country’s minority Muslim population is “being targeted in a relentless wave of coordinated violence that is forcing entire communities to leave the country.”

The Central African Republic, a former French colony, was plunged into chaos last year after a coalition of mostly Muslim rebels dubbed Seleka ousted President Francois Bozize.

Religion News Service published an article on Feb. 13 that looked at religious Internet memes and how they affect believers. RNS specifically looked at a Texas A&M University study that showed people might not be completely behind these memes — even though some of them spread knowledge about religion.

“This study shows how memes enable people to spread religious ideas, and at same time, critique religion,” said Ruth Tsuria, who was one of the authors of the study, to RNS.

Some of these memes — RNS gives the example of “Advice God,” which shows God as “harsh, unethical or suspicious” — are critical of religion, and some of it can be seen as mockery, RNS reported. Some religious memes poke fun at pop culture and use religious context to add to the comedy. Others reduce a religion to a one-sentence joke, leaving out many of the other details and beliefs, effectively generalizing the religion, RNS said.

It is clear as to why people are scared. Things are changing faster than they ever have before. New things that were once taboo are now becoming mainstream. This scares a lot of people because the generation that I am a part of (the millennials) are changing at a rate that is faster than ever thought before. Do not worry about the world, though. You can’t change it alone. Your primary focus is on your life and how you can make it better for yourself.

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