Nel's New Day

November 20, 2015

LGBT Equality Only Partial

Many same-gender couples will spend their first Thanksgiving as married couples after the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. Yet Obergefell v. Hodges has not made LGBT families secure throughout the nation because of a myriad of roadblocks in many states.

An early obstruction came in Rowan County (KY) last summer when the county clerk, Kim Davis, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. After her contempt of court kept her in jail for a few days, she said that the county deputy clerks could issue the licenses but only after she changed the wording of the license forms and removed her name and that of Rowan County. She also ordered her deputies to sign the forms as “notary publics” instead of deputy county clerks.

Although Gov. Steven L. Beshear declared last month that the marriage licenses were valid, he has now submitted a brief with the U.S. District Court that states his office does not have the authority to determine whether these licenses are valid. Couples have filed a brief in U.S. District Court supporting their prior assertion that the Rowan County clerk’s office failed to comply with orders directing deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses without interference by Clerk Kim Davis.

ScaliaSupreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia angrily spoke about losing Obergefell during a speech to first-year law students at Georgetown last week. Scalia said that determining which minorities deserve protection should be made through the democratic process rather than a court decision. According to Scalia, only political and religious minorities are protected by the constitution.

Last summer’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges may have changed the perception of due process. According to Kenji Yoshino, the case may displace five decades of the high court’s substantive due process decisions. For a half century, the Court used tradition, specific definition rather than general abstraction, and the willingness to protect negative “freedom from” rights rather than positive “freedom to” rights to determine due process. Almost two decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Washington v. Glucksberg that due process did not cover the right to assistance in committing suicide. In Obergefell’s dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts, who declared that the majority “effectively overrule[d] Glucksberg, the leading modern case setting the bounds of substantive due process.”

The marriage equality ruling has replaced a rigid ruling on due process, according to Yoshino, with the common-law approach voiced in Justice John Harlan’s dissent for Poe v. Ullman (1961). He supported a balance of individual liberties against government interests without being “shackled to the past.” Tradition, to Harlan, was a “living thing,” a concept that Scalia despises. Instead of opposing marriage equality because of the long historical tradition against same-gender marriage, the Court majority considered the “right to marry.” The question for the future is whether Obergefell will be used to make future decisions about due process or whether the Court will revert to the past as it has many times since Roberts became chief justice.

For now, some courts and legislatures are giving same-gender couples a “partial equalty”—really an inequality—that will require the Supreme Court to take up more litigation. Custody, adoptions, fostering children, and couples’ rights after separation are most likely the next fights for same-gender couples.

Hoagland.PeirceIn Utah, Judge Scott N. Johansen ordered a nine-months-old child removed from a lesbian couple because it was “not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex couples.” Public outcry led to his rescinding the order, but the judge left open the possibility of removal at a December 4 hearing. Fortunately for the child, the judge has now recused himself “and refers all pending matters to be assigned by the presiding judge.”

Utah began placing children with same-gender couples after the Supreme Court decision last summer, and an infant girl was placed with married couple Rebecca A. Peirce, 34, and April M. Hoagland (above left), 38, and their two biological children in August. On November 10, 2015, the two women attended what they thought was a regular hearing, but Johansen ordered that the baby be removed within a week and given to a heterosexual couple. The Division of Child and Family Services said that it was “in the child’s best interest” to stay with the two women. Even the GOP governor joined in the protest for the judge’s decision. Gary R. Herbert said, “He may not like the law, but he should follow the law.”

As in Kentucky, the current obstacle is not necessarily the law but the attitude of government employees who discriminate against LGBT people. In the hearing, the judge said “that research has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home,” but he refused to cite any sources. At this time, research is on the side of the same-gender couple with no current credible study supporting the judge’s bias.

Justice Anthony Kennedy clearly listed adoption among the rights associated with marriage, but he didn’t mention foster parenting. Until recently, most states prevented child placement with same-gender couples who were not married, and the law prevented many of these couples from being married. Several states permit private placement agencies to discriminate against same-gender couples, but Mississippi is the only state that flagrantly enforces a state law banning adoptions by same-gender couples.

smith and Phillips adoptionFour couples are challenging the Mississippi ban on adoptions by same-gender couples, including Janet Smith and her wife, Donna Phillips (right). The state is blocking Smith’s adoption of Donna’s eight-year-old daughter, Hannah Marie. The two married women are raising Hannah together, but Smith has no legal status in regards to their daughter. Phillips, a captain in the Mississippi Air National Guard, is “concerned about legal aspects for Jan” if she is called or activated. This lack of legal recognition puts children at risk of losing both their parents and ending up in foster care if something happens to their birth parent and their other parent is not legally recognized.

Last year, 29 percent of Mississippi’s same-gender couples were raising children younger than 18, the highest percentage of any state. A year ago, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves found the adoption ban to be unconstitutional, but the decision was stayed pending action by the Fifth Circuit and then the Supreme Court. Ronnie Musgrove, the governor who signed the ban into law 15 years ago, has written that he regrets his action. “As I have gotten older, I came to understand that a person’s sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with their ability to be a good parent.”

Another Mississippi couple, Kathryn Garner and Susan Hrostowski, has waited 15 years for a second-parent adoption of the child they raised together since he was born just six weeks before the ban went into effect. Two other couples, also plaintiffs in the case, want to adopt children from foster care. Kari Lunsford and Tinora Sweeten-Lunsford wanted to take a child with special needs who could not be matched with other foster parents. They were told that they would have to live apart for at least six months during a home study, and only one of them could adopt the child.

The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review an Alabama case in which judges refuse to recognize an adoption granted in another state. A lesbian known in court filings by her initials V.L. helped raise the children, now ages 10 to 12, but has no visitation rights since the couple separated. During their 16-year relationship, the two women had three children from sperm donors, and a Georgia court approved V.L.’s adoption of the children in 2007. In September 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court struck down the woman’s visitation rights and ruled the adoption invalid, saying the Georgia court was wrong under that state’s adoption laws to grant it. Earlier this year, the same court directed probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to same-gender couples even after a federal judge ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

The case involves a constitutional provision requiring one state to respect court orders of other states: Article IV’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. Lawyers for V.L. wrote that the decision “would create a massive loophole in the Full Faith and Credit Clause.”  They added, “There is no legal or practical basis for singling out adoptions as uniquely unworthy of full faith and credit.” If states don’t recognize adoptions from other states, LGBT parents can lose their parental rights when they travel, for example the inability to make medical decisions for their children if they are in an accident. V.L.’s attorneys have also applied to the Supreme Court for a stay of the Alabama’s ruling so that she can visit the children during the appeal. Justice Clarence Thomas, the justice with jurisdiction in Alabama for emergency actions, has called for E. L., the biological mother, to respond to the stay applications by November 30.

LGBT discrimination

Despite last summer’s ruling that same-gender couples can marry, 61 percent of the LGBT population “will continue to live in states with medium or low legal protections—or that have outright hostile laws,” according to the report Mapping LGBT Equality in America, released earlier this year. Since this map was released in early October, all of Houston (TX) LGBT people lost their rights in the November election.

October 18, 2015

World Didn’t End, Benghazi Arguments Continue

October 7, 2015 has come and gone, and people reading this are still here despite the predictions of the E-Bible Fellowship. Their website’s explanation for the mistake reads in part:

“The world today is populated by a generation of people that has outdone all past generations for wickedness. It tends to view a “passed date” for its end as some sort of victory and celebrates it as though it means it will now never end. And yet, the truth is that the world is in its death throes. A date of destruction given to the world (like October 7th, 2015) is like a man with a terminal disease that was given a short time to live his Dr. The man passes the 6 months (or year) he was told. Yet the prognosis hasn’t changed. He’s still terminally ill. It’s still certain he will die from his disease. It’s just a matter of when that remains in question.”

There have no posts since that one on October 8. Unfortunately, the congressional control of climate deniers gives a sense of validity to the planet’s “terminal disease.” Meanwhile the United States struggles to loosen a grip by fundamentalist Christians.

Muslims may inadvertently cause fundamentalist Christians to separate church and state. In Tennessee, conservative legislators want to prohibit “anything deemed ‘religious doctrine’ ” for public school students in ninth grade or younger after parents complained about the content of world history curriculum. Teachers were teaching about the Five Pillars of Islam in order to “provide historical context about the influence the religion had on regions of the world.” And about Islamic role in introducing algebra and influencing the Renaissance. The resolution of “no religious indoctrination” in schools will be very enlightening.

First, Rowan County (KY) Clerk Kim Davis refused to allow anyone in her office to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Then she spent five days in jail and said that her staff could issue the licenses although they wouldn’t be legally binding because she changed them. Now she’s totally caved: her lawyers admit that they are binding. Meanwhile federal judge David L. Bunning has ordered Kentucky’s Democratic governor Steve Beshear to decide if the altered marriage licenses are valid.

A bike lane is impinging on a Washington, DC church’s “religious liberty” because fewer parking spaces” “would place an unconstitutionally undue burden on people who want to pray.”

Televangelist Pat Robertson usually has an answer for everything—frequently “send me money”—but one viewer took him aback. “Why have you undergone surgeries if your faith would be enough?” prompted Robertson come up with some non-answers before he said, “I don’t know what else to say. If you have enough faith … maybe I don’t have enough, but I have enough for other people.”

Herb Titus, a dominionist Christian Reconstructionist attorney, has declared that the United States has changed its immigration policy and gone against the Bible. Immigrants can come only from countries that are based on Christian principles because the United States would otherwise “become a kind of multicultural society,” according to Titus. He said, “We had a carefully designed policy for many years to allow as immigrants into the United States only those people from countries that have a Christian-principled culture.” What he bases his beliefs on, no one seems to know. The U.S. has had quotas, but they were based on nationality. Barring all Asians from emigrating was not based on religion, but ethnic background.

A federal judge seems to be supporting Titus in acting unconstitutionally. Texas health officials are denying birth certificates to immigrant families with U.S.-born children, and U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman has denied an emergency injunction to recognize identification cards issued by Mexican consulates to citizens living and working in the U.S. Before 2013, these documents were acceptable to receive birth certificates. The immigrant rights lawyers represent 28 adults and their 32 children. Without birth certificates, the children could be considered criminals and deported. The newborns could not even receive baptisms without birth certificates. The 14th Amendment guarantees the right to citizenship for children born on U.S. soil, and the parents have documentation from the U.S. hospital where the children were born.

Evangelical pastor Rob Schenck has taken on Sarah Palin in a documentary, The Armor of Light, about gun violence and the question of whether a person can be both pro-life and anti-gun safety. One scene shows Palin telling a NRA audience not to waste ammunition on a warning shot. She criticized Vice-president Joe Biden for this advice and said, “Gals, you know that nowadays, ammo is expensive. Don’t waste a bullet on a warning shot.” In the film’s voice-over, Schenck wonders about the “ethical dimensions of having a constant, defensive posture.” He said, “When pastors, preachers, bible teachers, ignore these questions, it creates a vacuum. And other voices fill that vacuum.”

I admire Pastor Schenck for addressing this issue, but he’s going to have a difficult time persuading the people who think that they have the right to shoot anyone at any time because of their skewed sense of reality. An example of this is the Alabama KKK. In an interview with the BBC documentary, KKK: The Fight for White Supremacy, a KKK member explained that the Nazi Holocaust concentration camps were actually “summer camps” for Jewish people instead of death camps.

“These death camps, they gave the so-called people that were being killed cigarettes, there was coffee, there was a movie theater, a library, even a swimming pool in Auschwitz. And if you’re going to sit there and kill all these people then how come all these things would be in there?”

Stunned, the interviewer asked the KKK member what the Jews were doing in Auschwitz. “Swimming” was the answer. “And working. Because they didn’t want to do any work, and what Hitler was trying to do was he was trying to teach them to work, trying to rehabilitate them, if you will.” Asked where he heard this, the Klan member said, “It’s all history.”

And now all the television viewers in Great Britain will know how stupid “Amuricans” are.

Sunday is almost as well known for political interviews as for religion, and CNN’s Jake Tapper hit the ball out of the park in his interview with Jeb Bush. Raw Story described this follow-up to Donald Trump’s comment that George W. Bush was president during the 9/11 attacks. There was nothing false about Trump’s statement, but Bush has taken great umbrage at the insinuation that Bush was responsible for the disaster.

Tapper asked Bush how he could blame Hillary Clinton for the attacks in Benghazi while exonerating his brother George W. from any blame for the 9/11 disaster. Told that “my brother … kept us safe,” Tapper asked if Bush’s loyalty to his brother “might be in some ways a political or policy liability blinding you to mistakes he made.” Tapper continued by asking how Bush could “make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi.” Bush was unable to find an answer, but Tapper asked why terrorists were not responsible for the four deaths at Benghazi if they were those solely responsible for the 3,000 deaths on 9/11. Bush said, “They are!”

Bush has a problem: either he admits that his brother was inept in protecting the country by ignoring intelligence about Osama bin Laden’s attacking the U.S., or he is forced to admit that Clinton and the Obama administration aren’t liable for the Benghazi attacks. (This exchange was omitted in reports from CNN and The Hill about Tapper’s interview with Bush.

Equally enlightening about the Benghazi select committee was the discussion on Meet the Press when Andrea Mitchell responded to Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-KS) statement about Clinton relying on former advisor Sidney Blumenthal’s intelligence. “That is factually not correct… I cover the State Department. That is just factually not correct,”Mitchell said. Pompeo tried to put down Mitchell—and failed—but he said nothing when Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) said that the committee doesn’t “know what this committee’s supposed to look for. Apart from damaging Hillary Clinton, it has no reason for existence.” The clip is worth watching.

September 19, 2015

‘Persecution’ of Christians

“I don’t think there is any question that the Supreme Court’s decision goes against the natural law. That’s not the way nature functions. So as a result of that, I think Kim Davis and everybody else has the obligation to oppose it.” That’s GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s take on how his perception of “nature” supersedes constitutional rights for U.S. citizens.

The Rowan County (KY) clerk is now out of prison because she’s reluctantly allowing deputy clerks to issue licenses to same-gender couples. Now her lawyers can’t follow the law. The 6th Circuit Court rejected her appeal to overturn a judge’s order to issue marriage license because the lawyers did not go through U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who had ordered Davis to be detained. Lawyers maintained that they skipped that legal step because of the judge’s “extraordinary doggedness.”

Another court may be hearing another case that uses the excuse of religious belief to disobey the law. In defiance of the Supreme Court legalization of marriage equality, Washington County (AL) Probate Judge Nick Williams filed a petition to protect him and anyone else who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Williams said about the Supreme Court’s ruling, “I’m quite sure they broke several constitutional amendments in that ruling.”

Before Justice Antonin Scalia decreed that the corporation Hobby Lobby is a person with religious rights in denying its women employees their lawful contraception, the ultra-conservative Scalia wrote about religious exemptions in Employment Division v. Smith (1990) that rejected a petitioner’s request to use peyote in a sacrament:

“The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind—ranging from compulsory military service, to the payment of taxes, to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races.”

Smith was not about Christianity, which may be why Scalia supported the state of Oregon and not religious rights. The ruling also led to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 which “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected” and opened up all the religious protesting of the past few years. Even so, Scalia suggested that no country would allow religious exemptions on such a grand scale.

Scalia said that he would retire before being forced to rule against his Catholic beliefs. Kim Davis is not as ethical. She refused to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples, went to jail for a few days because she refused to follow a judge’s order to do so, and now hides in her office allowing deputies to issue licenses but claiming that they are all invalid because they lack her signature.

Twenty-five years ago, Scalia recognized the current problem, that there is no logical stopping place to “religious exemptions.” People claim the religious right not to dispense birth control, photograph same-gender weddings, bake celebratory cakes, etc.  As Jeffrey Toobin wrote in The New Yorker:

“The principle [of religious exemption is] a troubling one—that religious belief carries with it a shopping-cart approach to citizenship. You can choose some obligations but not others, while the legislators and judges figure out which ones are really mandatory. It’s a recipe for further division in an already polarized society—and the prospects, in Kentucky and elsewhere, are for more conflict, not less.”

GOP Mike Huckabee claims that God returned to Earth in the form of Kim Davis. Her compulsion to follow her bible may require her to post a list of couples (or more than couples) who can and cannot get licenses from her county:

  • No – A  license for a man with a consenting woman who doesn’t have her father’s permission – Numbers 30:1-16.
  • Yes – A license for a man and a nonconsenting woman if her father gives her in marriage or sells her to a slave master – Exodus 20:17, Exodus 21:7.
  • Yes – A license for a married man and three other women – 1 Timothy 3:2.
  • No – A license for childless widow and her husband’s reluctant brother because a man has the responsibility to seed children for his deceased brother – Matthew 22:24-28.
  • No – A license for a Christian and a Hindu because they are, according to Paul, “unequally yoked” – 2 Corinthians 6:14.
  • Yes – A license for a soldier and a virgin prisoner of war but only with written instructions on the purification ritual required before bedding her. Also if she fails to “delight,” he must set her free rather than selling her – Deuteronomy 21:10-14.
  • Yes – A license for a rapist and his victim with the father present who has been paid 50 shekels ($580) for the damage done to the father. Also no divorce – Deuteronomy 22:28-29.
  • Yes – A license for a man and his wife’s indentured/undocumented servant but only if the man is reminded that marriage is not required for sex because of community property laws apply and any offspring is owned by the man’s original wife, not the indentured woman – Genesis 30:1-22.
  • Probably not – A license for a man and his mother, sister, half-sister, mother-in-law, grandchild, or uncle’s wife although the decision changes throughout the Bible—siblings okay in Genesis but not later in the text – e.g. Lev. 18:7-8; Lev. 18:10; Lev. 20:11; Deut. 22:30; Deut. 27:20; Deut. 27:23.
  • Absolutely no – A license for a black woman and a white man, or vice versa – Gen. 28:6; Exod. 34:15-16; Num. 25:6-11; Deut. 7:1-3; Josh. 23:12-13; Judges 3:5-8; 1 Kings 11:1-2; Ezra 9:1-2, 12; Ezra 10:2-3, 10-11; Neh. 10:30; Neh. 13:25-27).
  • Also no – A license for a gentile and a Jew – Deuteronomy 7:3-4.
  • Yes – A license for a man and a sex-trafficked teen he bought from a gangster if Kentucky legalizes sex trafficking although Kentucky may not have to pass a law because, according to Davis and others, —but God is higher than the law, according to people like Davis. – Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17.

Most of these directions are in the Old Testament, but so are the Ten Commandments, commonly posted inside and in front of public buildings when Christians have their way.

A billboard posted in Davis’ town also tries to be helpful in explaining marriage and the Bible.

billboard

Religion in health care also causes a serious problem for women after the Catholic Church has taken over large numbers of hospitals in the U.S. Just one example is 33-year-old Jessica Mann, who is pregnant with her third child and needs a Caesarean for the birth. She also needs a tubal ligation to prevent further pregnancies because she has pilocytic astrocytomas, a brain tumor which can cause blindness and paralysis. At least 30 percent of women choose this procedure, but Genesys Hospital in Grand Blanc Township (MI) refuses to do the contraceptive procedure, calling it “intrinsically evil.” Of the nation’s 25 largest healthcare systems, ten of them are funded by Catholics and receive public dollars while denying some reproductive healthcare. More than 50 percent of obstetrician-gynecologists who work in Catholic Hospitals say that hospital religious policies have directly conflicted with their ability to provide patient care.

Many Christians, primarily those who are fundamentalists, bitterly complain about the persecution that they suffer. The law forces them to serve LGBT people, same-gender couples can legally get married across the United States (if they can get served!), and people want to keep religion out of government. Persecuted Christians can check the following questions to see how severe their persecution is, how much liberty they have lost. Anyone who answers “no” to one of these questions should go the ACLU for help. Otherwise ….

  1. Can you choose to go to any religious service?
  2. Are you allowed to pray in the privacy of your own home? Without worrying about being arrested?
  3. Can you read, buy, and/or own religious books or materials with no threat of imprisonment or death?
  4. Can your religious group build a house of worship in your community? Without protests or denial of building permits based on religion?
  5. Can you teach your children about your faith at home?
  6. Is your religious group allowed equal protection under the establishment clause without giving another religion preferential treatment?
  7. Do you suffer violence or injury or death because of your beliefs?

Christians in the United States can answer “no” to the above questions, but many people of other faiths cannot, both in other countries and within the United States. More and more, political candidates are leading people in the belief that the Christian god is higher than the law of the land. Freedom of religion should be freedom for all, not just for “freedom” to have Christianity rule every person’s life.

My Favorite Religious Story of the Week: Giovanna Sforza shipped 20 pagan books from Arizona to North Carolina. When she opened the box, the pagan books had been replaced by a Baptist hymnal—presumably in a post office.

September 8, 2015

Davis’ Rejection of LGBT Rights Not Unique

Chuck Todd celebrated his first year’s anniversary on Meet the Press last Sunday with more misinformation. In the interview with Colin Powell, one of George W. Bush’s Secretaries of State, cogently explained why the United States needs to follow through with the proposed Iran agreement. At the show’s end, however, came a discussion about U.S. cause célèbre, Kim Davis, the county clerk who become famous for her refusal to follow the land of the law.

Once again Todd showed his inability to do his research:

“This is the only place in the country that we’ve had this. Meaning that I think a lot of people thought there would be more clerks that wouldn’t do this.”

Doris Kearns Goodwin followed Todd’s lead and said, “All of our country, and other registrars, in other counties, people have gone issuing marriage licenses. And that’s the important thing to understand, that that social movement created an acceptance.” Even revered television journalist Tom Brokaw expressed ignorance about marriage-equality problems since the decision:

“I think acceptance of same-sex marriage is so outrunning the opposition that it’s game over, quite honestly. This was an exception down there.”

What makes Kim Davis unique is that she is the only person who went to jail because of her refusal, contempt of court for not following a judge’s order. Across the nation, however, government officials are refusing marriage services to same-gender couples. Both North Carolina and Utah allow judges to not perform any marriages if same-gender ceremonies violate the judges’ “religious beliefs.” An Oregon judge, Vance Day, is also refusing to perform marriages. He is not required to do so by state law, but he clearly stated that he had stopped marrying people because of his “religious” opposition to same-sex marriages.

Alabama Probate Judge Nick Williams ordered his deputies in Washington County not to issue any licenses at all since the court’s June decision. In Pike County (AL), Probate Judge Wes Allen said that the law does not require county officials to issue marriage licenses.

Immediately after the Supreme Court ruling, Texas AG Ken Paxton told government officials that they could refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples on religious grounds. Granbury (TX) lost $43,872.10 in attorney’s fees because Hood County Clerk Katie Lang refused to issue a license to residents Joe Stapleton and Jim Cato, partners for 27 years. A federal court judge forced Lang to issue the license, but the settlement of the case cost the taxpayers. Lang’s website states that she doesn’t agree with same-sex marriage, but she is now allowing deputies in her office to issue the licenses.

In Texas, two counties have not confirmed that they will issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. “We are not going to discuss marriage policy over the phone. If a couple comes in to apply, we will discuss it at that time,” said Molly Criner, a clerk in Irion County, 200 miles northwest of Austin.

Several Kentucky clerks initially refused to issue any marriage license, included the president of the Kentucky County Clerks Association. By now the number is probably down to two clerks—both named Davis. Casey County Casey Davis said that he might be willing to die to avoid issuing a marriage license to a same-gender couple. Kentucky considers it a Class A misdemeanor, a first-degree official misconduct, if “a public servant … refrains from performing a duty imposed upon him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.”

Fifty years ago, white people dominated the media, and black issues were largely underrepresented. On Meet the Press, three straight people decided that discrimination against LGBT people is “game over.” Same-gender couples face discrimination across the nation, and the mainstream media doesn’t report it because journalists are ignorant.

Several GOP presidential candidates have rushed to support Kim Davis. Yet a Supreme Court decision in Garcetti v. Ceballo (2006) limited free speech protections for government employees when they are on the job. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that a public official is only protected only when engaged in an issue as a private citizen, not if it is expressed as part of the official’s public duties. Government employers must comply with the central duties of their jobs. As for the states with laws that permit judges their choices of whether to comply with their responsibilities, Katherine Franke, a Columbia University law professor, said that government officials “don’t have a First Amendment right to pick and choose which parts of the job they are going to do.”

cruzDetermined to out-perform Donald Trump, both GOP presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz rushed to Grayson (KY) when the judge announced he was releasing Davis if she performed her job. Huckabee was front and center while one of his aides blocked Cruz from speaking to the media. (A video of the encounter is available here.)

In releasing Davis, the judge mandated that she “not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.” According to Davis’ lawyer, Davis would go back to work on tomorrow or the next day and “would not violate her conscience.”

More legal problems may come from the rally. Composers for rock band Survivor were offended by the use of “Eye of the Tiger” in the Grayson circus without permission. Jim Peterik wrote:

“I was very surprised and dismayed at the misuse of the song I co-wrote with Frankie Sullivan for Rocky lll. The song has motivated thousands through the years to reach beyond their limits. Its use for the release of Kim Davis does not support my views or my politics. I have contacted my publishers to make sure this usage is stopped immediately.”

Sullivan was more blunt in his Facebook post: “NO! We did not grant Kim Davis any rights to use ‘My Tune — The Eye Of The Tiger.’ I would not grant her the rights to use Charmin!” In 2012, Sullivan sued Newt Gingrich for using the piece during campaign events.

Even Fox network disagrees with Kim Davis’ position. A panel of legal experts agreed that Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver, is “ridiculously stupid” for his claim that the Supreme Court cannot legally strike down same-sex marriage bans. Trial attorney Chip Merlin said that anyone who violates a judge’s order should “expect to be thrown in jail.” Criminal defense attorney Sharon Liko added, “She’s applying for the job of a martyr. She wants to practice her faith by not issuing marriage licenses. Yet, she will not agree to let the deputy county clerks issue marriage licenses even if it’s okay with their faith.”

Fox News host Gregg Jarrett explained:

“When she took the job she swore to uphold the law. We rely on government officials to do that. They can’t just pick and choose what laws they like, which ones they don’t. If they were allowed to do that, wouldn’t that lead to chaos, anarchy and so forth?”

The consensus was that Davis “can either follow the law—she can do her job—or she can get out.”

Staver went on Wallbuilders.com to rile his followers and said that marriage licenses for same-gender couples will “grant a license to engage in pornography, to grant a license to sodomize children or something of that nature.”

Kim Davis is not paying fines or legal fees, and she’s getting her usual salary. Yet the conservative anti-marriage equality group National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is using her name for fund-raising. The group’s statement began, “I am writing you today with a more personal request, something unrelated to NOM. Kim and her family face a very uncertain future.” It goes on to explain that NOM has joined ActRight.com  “to create a special crowdsourcing fund whose proceeds will go directly to Kim Davis” and asks for “a generous contribution to the Kim Davis Fund.” It promises to make funds “available” to her and “to support her family while she sits in jail.” [And continues to draw her salary for not doing her job.

During live coverage of Davis’ release from jail, anchor Shephard Smith spoke up with an amazingly rational assessment of those who support her refusal to issue marriage licenses:

“They set this up as a religious play again. This is the same crowd that says, ‘We don’t want Sharia law, don’t let them tell us what to do, keep their religion out of our lives and out of our government.’ Well, here we go again.”

Discussing the Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage equality, he said, “This is not unprecedented. They did it when they said black and white people couldn’t marry.”

He concluded, “Haters are going to hate. We thought what this woman wanted was an accommodation, which they’ve granted her, something that worked for everybody. But it’s not what they want.”

 

Amazing!

September 5, 2015

Kim Davis Denies Dignity to LGBT Couples

Filed under: Discrimination — trp2011 @ 7:37 PM
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When the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality throughout the United States, I was one of those millions of people naive enough to think that government officials would obey the law. Not so. In several counties and other municipalities across the nation, same-gender couples cannot get married because the law means nothing to some elected officials. One of them, Rowan County’s clerk, Kim Davis has become a cause célèbre since her refusal to issue marriage licenses put her first in front of a judge and now in jail. One of three Kentucky county clerks refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples, she maintains that she cannot because of her “religious beliefs.”

After Federal District Court Judge David L. Bunning ordered Davis to issue licenses, both the 6th Circuit Court and the Supreme Court refused to delay the order while she appealed. Bunning ordered her to jail, saying, “The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order.” In short, Davis is paid by taxpayers to issue marriage licenses but refuses to issue licenses to couples she finds morally objectionable, citing “God’s authority.” She could get another job which doesn’t violate her religious beliefs, but she chooses not to do so. Davis was jailed, not because she is opposed to marriage equality but because she ignored a court order. She refused to follow the law and is now in contempt of court.

Davis’ support includes a white supremacist group who plans to rally in her favor and most of the GOP presidential candidates. Only Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Carly Fiorina said that she should do her job. As usual, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) played both sides:

“While the clerk’s office has a governmental duty to carry out the law, there should be a way to protect the religious freedom and conscience rights of individuals working in the office.”

Rubio is right that Davis is required to carry out the law. She swore an oath that she would follow the U.S. Constitution and the law. [I provided the entire Kentucky oath below because it’s a bit bizarre.]

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky so long as I continue a citizen thereof, and that I will faithfully execute, to the best of my ability, the office of County Clerk according to law; and I do further solemnly swear (or affirm) that since the adoption of the present Constitution, I, being a citizen of this State, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.”

Rowan County deputy clerks said Davis “terrorized” them and they were afraid to issue licenses. A question, however, is whether the licenses are valid. Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel that is affiliated with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, says that the licenses are void because they lack Davis’ authorization. The form states that is must contain “an authorization statement of the county clerk issuing the license,” but state law requires only “the signature of the county clerk or deputy clerk issuing the license” to be valid. Rowan County attorney, Cecil Watkins, said that these licenses are valid. The deputy clerks are issuing marriage license on the order of a federal court judge.

Staver compares Davis’ imprisonment to the boycotting of Jews in Germany during the Nazi regime. He said, “This is the new persecution of Christians here in this country.” Staver thinks Davis is doing her job. He said, “She has a right to this employment and you don’t lose your constitutional liberties just because you are employed by the government.” Members of Kentucky’s legal community think that Staver and his partners “may have violated their duty to tell her she had no case.”

Davis’ current husband, Joe, demonstrated outside the courthouse with a sign that read, “Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah.” About the judge who jailed his wife, Joe Davis said, “He’s a butt.” And “a bully.” The governor of Kentucky? “No backbone.” He also said, “Just because five Supreme Court judges make a ruling, it’s not a law.”

Rowan County LGBT supporters

Other protesters  opposed Davis’ actions. [Photo by Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times]  Matt Bevin, GOP candidate for governor, suggested changing the state law for issuing license, perhaps to a form that couples could get online, to end the standoff. Gov. Beshear said he doesn’t want to call a special legislative session; thatleaves the situation unsettled until next year.

A tweet from best-selling Christian author Rachel Held Evans describes the hypocrisy of Davis and her supporters:

Evans tweet about Kim Davis

Even former vice-president Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz think that Davis should do her job. Appearing on Newsmax, Dick Cheney pointed out that “it’s the law of the land.” Steve Malzberg tried the argument that forcing Davis to do her job would lead to forcing churches to perform same-sex weddings, Liz Cheney snapped:

“As my dad said, it is the law of the land. The court has ruled. And she’s not an employee of a church or synagogue, she’s a government employee. So, she has an obligation to uphold the law.”

Davis has a very good reason for not resigning her job—actually 80,000 of them. That’s what she gets paid. In rural Kentucky, $80,000 plus benefits is a hefty annual salary for a 9-to-5 job where she can terrify the people who work for her. She’s used to a good salary: for 24 years she worked as county’s chief deputy clerk for her mother who established her compensation—common practice in Kentucky. In 2011, county residents complained about her salary of over $63,000, far more than the $38,000 that the Chief Deputy Sheriff was paid. The county clerk’s salary budget was cut for 2012.

When Davis’ mother didn’t run for re-election in 2014, Davis ran for county clerk and won the general election by about 500 votes. After she was elected she said, “I promise [that I will] follow the statutes of this office to the letter.” Her four-year term began in January 2015.

The Lexington-Herald Leader editorial board wrote:

“We’ve never heard of a clerk denying a license to a divorced person, a philanderer, someone who’s abused a partner or neglected children. It’s easy to imagine the outrage and chaos that would ensue if clerks began morality-testing prospective opposite-gender spouses. But that’s exactly the right that Davis is demanding. She wants to pick and choose, based on her beliefs, which legally qualified couples will get marriage licenses….

“Davis can resign if she’s morally unable to issue the marriage licenses while the appeal is pending. Law-abiding, taxpaying Rowan County citizens have been denied their constitutional rights for almost two months while Davis has kept her job.”

Davis is now married for the fourth time. Her first three marriages ended in divorce in 1994, 2006, and 2008. Her twins, fathered by her third husband, were born five months after her divorce from her first husband and have been adopted by her second husband who is also her fourth husband.

When the issue is resolved, Kim Davis will very likely become a star on the Christian lecture circuit like the bakers in Oregon who didn’t want to “participate” in a same-sex wedding by making a cake. Unconfirmed reports indicate that she will appear at two different family values-themed rallies with Donald Trump and that Sarah Palin wants her to be the next interview subject for an upcoming On Point television broadcast. Someone should ask her about biblical verses mandating that people obey the government.

One person rejected for a marriage license in Rowan County said:

“When you’re gay and you grow up in Kentucky, you kind of get used to hiding who you are, accommodating other people and making them feel comfortable. You don’t realize how much of your own dignity you’ve given away. It catches up to you.”

In his opinion legalizing marriage equality across the United States, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “[Same-sex couples] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” Some day Kentucky may do the same.

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