Nel's New Day

April 11, 2017

Three LGBT Wins in Court

 

On the surface, last week’s court case about Gavin Grimm looked like a loss for human rights. When the Gloucester County (VA) School Board banned transgender students from using the bathrooms that conformed with their gender identities, Gavin Grimm, then 15, addressed the board on November 11, 2014 to explain why he was not a threat to other students. The transgender teen explained that he had used the boys’ bathroom in public places throughout Gloucester County and had never had a confrontation. As Seth Millstein wrote:

“He explained that he is a person worthy of dignity and privacy. He explained why it is humiliating to be segregated from the general population. He knew, intuitively, what the law has in recent decades acknowledged: the perpetuation of stereotypes is one of many forms of invidious discrimination. And so he hoped that his heartfelt explanation would help the powerful adults in his community come to understand what his adolescent peers already did. G.G. clearly and eloquently attested that he was not a predator, but a boy, despite the fact that he did not conform to some people’s idea about who is a boy.”

Regrettably, a majority of the School Board was unpersuaded.

In 2014, Grimm sued the Gloucester County (VA) School Board for banning transgender students from using the bathrooms that conformed with their gender identities. He argued that the policy violates Title IX prohibiting gender discrimination in public schools. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals had ordered that Grimm could bring a claim against the school district because of an order issued by President Obama, and the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear the case on March 28, 2017. SCOTUS returned the case to the loser courts after Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) issued a directive permitting schools to discriminate against trans students.

Grimm (with journalist Katie Couric) asked the 4th Circuit Court to hear his case on an expedited basis with the hope that he could be treated equally for even one day before his graduation. On April 7, 2017, however, three judges from the 4th Circuit Court issued procedural orders refused Grimm’s request, and his case will be heard after he graduates to determine whether Title IX protects transgender students independently of any federal guidance.

 

 

Instead of the usual one-line order announcing procedural decisions, Senior Judge Andre Davis wrote the following:

I concur in the order granting the unopposed motion to vacate the district court’s preliminary injunction and add these observations.

Our country has a long and ignominious history of discriminating against our most vulnerable and powerless. We have an equally long history, however, of brave individuals—Dred Scott, Fred Korematsu, Linda Brown, Mildred and Richard Loving, Edie Windsor, and Jim Obergefell, to name just a few—who refused to accept quietly the injustices that were perpetuated against them. It is unsurprising, of course, that the burden of confronting and remedying injustice falls on the shoulders of the oppressed. These individuals looked to the federal courts to vindicate their claims to human dignity, but as the names listed above make clear, the judiciary’s response has been decidedly mixed. Today, G.G. adds his name to the list of plaintiffs whose struggle for justice has been delayed and rebuffed; as Dr. King reminded us, however, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” G.G.’s journey is delayed but not finished.

G.G.’s case is about much more than bathrooms. It’s about a boy asking his school to treat him just like any other boy. It’s about protecting the rights of transgender people in public spaces and not forcing them to exist on the margins. It’s about governmental validation of the existence and experiences of transgender people, as well as the simple recognition of their humanity. His case is part of a larger movement that is redefining and broadening the scope of civil and human rights so that they extend to a vulnerable group that has traditionally been unrecognized, unrepresented, and unprotected.

G.G.’s plight has shown us the inequities that arise when the government organizes society by outdated constructs like biological sex and gender. Fortunately, the law eventually catches up to the lived facts of people; indeed, the record shows that the 4 Commonwealth of Virginia has now recorded a birth certificate for G.G. that designates his sex as male.

G.G.’s lawsuit also has demonstrated that some entities will not protect the rights of others unless compelled to do so. Today, hatred, intolerance, and discrimination persist — and are sometimes even promoted — but by challenging unjust policies rooted in invidious discrimination, G.G. takes his place among other modern-day human rights leaders who strive to ensure that, one day, equality will prevail, and that the core dignity of every one of our brothers and sisters is respected by lawmakers and others who wield power over their lives.

G.G. is and will be famous, and justifiably so. But he is not “famous” in the hollowed-out Hollywood sense of the term. He is famous for the reasons celebrated by the renowned Palestinian-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye, in her extraordinary poem, Famous. Despite his youth and the formidable power of those arrayed against him at every stage of these proceedings, “[he] never forgot what [he] could do.” Judge [Henry Franklin] Floyd has authorized me to state that he joins in the views expressed herein.

The value of this ruling—and of Gavin Grimm’s bravery—is that it tells the story of why the nation needs justice for the marginalized people. Even losses can take the rights of people forward.

Another amazing story comes from Grace Dolan-Sandrino, a 16-year-old Afro-Latina trans teen, who wrote “I’m a Trans Teen—Stop Talking About My Genitalia Under the Guise of ‘Privacy.’”

Grimm and Dolan-Sandrino (right) are two people feared by many people if they simply use the bathroom of their gender identities. The male trans student was forced into girls’ facilities, and the female was expected to use the boys’ bathrooms. Or they could choose damage their health and avoid any bathrooms for the long days at school. As Dolan-Sandrino wrote:

“When I was in middle school I had to use a nurse’s bathroom two floors down from my class, across an open courtyard, and down a hall in a separate building. Because it was so far away, teachers began limiting the times I could use a bathroom in a day. Soon enough, I could only go once, maybe twice—while the rest of my peers could use bathrooms located just across the hall.”

 

Another court ruling last week was a clear win for LGBT people. Three same-gender couples in Nebraska, sued the state in 2013 because a 1995 directive prevented fostering children to any couples who were not “heterosexual.”  A district court found for the couples in 2015, but Nebraska appealed to the state Supreme Court, arguing that the three same-gender couples did not have standing because they hadn’t been denied foster care licenses.

Last Friday, the same day that the 4th Circuit refused to expedite Grimm’s lawsuit, the Nebraska Supreme Court unanimously rejected the state’s appeal and affirmed the lower court decision invalidating the 1995 directive. Justice John Wright said that same-gender couples suffer constitutional harm from knowing that official state policy constitutes discrimination. He endorsed Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s finding that “basic due process and equal protection principles” stand as a barricade against this discrimination. He further stated that direction declaring that “heterosexuals only” need apply to be foster “is legally indistinguishable from a sign reading ‘Whites Only’ on the hiring-office door.”

A valuable part of the ruling is that the existence of anti-LGBT policies inflict grievous constitutional harms, echoing the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor’s concern that anti-LGBT laws “degrade” and “demean” same-gender couples. Nebraska judges agree that the 14th Amendment shields the rights of sexual minorities throughout the nation.

A third groundbreaking ruling in favor of LGBT people came three days before these two rulings. The full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 8-3 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBT people from workplace discrimination because discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is sex discrimination. The appeals court, covering Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, gives Kimberly Hively the right to sue Ivy Tech Community College (South Bend, IN). She alleges that she was denied full-time employment and promotions because she was seen kissing her girlfriend. The first appeals court to determine LGBT people have the right to sue on the basis of Title VII came to that conclusion after examining 20 years of Supreme Court rulings, including the ones on marriage equality. The Supreme Court may take this case because other appeals courts in Georgia and New York have differed in their rulings.

It is hoped that other civil rights cases will be affected by the 7th Circuit Court ruling. Other courts have ruled that Title IX, the basis for Grimm’s ruling, should use the same interpretation as Title VII. Another difference of opinion is whether Title VII protects transgender people.

The U.S. Supreme Court giveth, and it taketh away. We will wait to see what it’s decision will be in the upcoming cases about LGBT civil rights.

June 18, 2016

Orlando Shooting, Not the First Hate Crime

Last night Bill Maher talked about the Orlando killing being the only act of violence against LGBT people. I’m always amazed at the ignorance of self-proclaimed liberals about the subject of homophobia.

We expect this behavior from conservatives. They refuse to mention anything about the LGBT community since the Orlando shooting as they cry crocodile tears about the deaths of 50 people. They send “thoughts and prayers” and hold a “moment of silence” before voting down rights for LGBT people. Two days after the Orlando shooting, Rep. Pete Sessions blocked a bill that would have permanently banned discrimination against workers by federal contractors, President Obama’s executive order that covered 20 percent of the nation’s workers. This is the third time that the House has stopped the LGBT protections bill. Sessions also even insisted that Pulse was not a gay nightclub; he called it “a young person’s nightclub” with “some [LGBT people], but it was mostly Latinos.”

Most people don’t try to persuade conservatives to vote for equal LGBT rights in employment, housing, lodging, and other issues that greatly impact everyone’s lives. But liberals and independents who think that the shooting in Orlando is the first time and place that LGBT people have faced violence need some education.

LGBT people suffer from more hate crimes than any other minority group in the United States. Almost one-fifth of the 5,462 so-called single-bias hate crimes reported to the F.B.I. in 2014 occurred because of the target’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Hate crimes against LGBT people in the U.S. Americans are 8.3 times the expected rate based on the size of LGBT population—higher than the rate for Jews (at 3.5) and black people (at 3.2). Crimes against LGBT people increased after same-gender people gained marriage rights.

These statistics may be the tip of the iceberg because most hate crimes are not reported to the police and local jurisdictions frequently fail to classify those reported as hate crimes. Thousands of city police and county sheriff’s departments filed not one hate crime to the FBI between 2009 and 2014. Mississippi reported only one hate crime throughout the state in 2014. Data in just 12 states shows 88 homicides of LGBT people from 2012 to 2015, and homicides are almost surely much higher for the entire country.

Early reports from the Orlando shooting stated that the Orlando killer called 911 and claimed his crime supported ISIS. Since then, the investigation thinks that this might have been for attention, but conservatives cannot let go of what makes them the most comfortable. South Florida criminal defense attorney Khurrum Wahid, who has represented several defendants accused of terrorist-related activities such as supporting Islamic radicals, said, “It’s a lot easier to call it Islamic terrorism because we’re all united against that. But it’s not as easy to call it homophobia because we’re not all united against that.” The conservative belief also allows them to continue their hateful rhetoric toward the president. For example, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said on the campaign trail that “Barack Obama is directly responsible” for the deaths of 50 people last Sunday morning.

Investigations into the crime reveal that the killer was a mentally unstable, self-loathing, bigoted, violent man who abused his first wife and hated himself for being gay. Southern Poverty Law Center Mark Potok describes three strands:  “he hates gays, … he doesn’t like his life at all, … [and] Islamist ideology, which is the weakest of the three. It’s almost like an afterthought.”

The motivations behind attacks against LGBT people “have always been, and continue to be, [about] seemingly religious rhetoric,” says Kaila Story, a professor of women’s and gender studies at University of Louisville. Like politicians, conservative religion avoids mentioning that most, if not all, the people killed in Orlando are LGBT. The Vatican’s statement referred only to “innocent victims, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution read, “We regard those affected by this tragedy as fellow image-bearers of God and our neighbors.” The religious group then passed Resolution 3 that supports the overturn of marriage equality, enables religion-based discrimination against LGBT people, and opposes inclusion and respect for transgender people.

Conservative religious leaders who openly recognize that LGBT people were killed in the gay bar are gleeful about their deaths. Television evangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson responded toward the tragedy in which a Muslim “gentleman” killed 49 LGBT people: “The best thing to do is to sit on the sidelines and let them kill themselves.”

Sacramento pastor Roger Jimenez went farther than Robertson in his sermon to the members of the Verity Baptist Church, posted the day after the horrific event:

“I think that’s great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job—because these people are predators. They are abusers….

“I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put the firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out.”

YouTube removed the video the day after Jimenez posted it.

Pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church (Tempe, AZ) released this venom, again in a video uploaded to YouTube:

“The good news is that there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world, because, you know, these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles. That’s who was a victim here, are a bunch of, just, disgusting homosexuals at a gay bar, okay?”

The acceleration of hate toward LGBT people in the past year is shown by the 200 bills introduced in state legislatures and localities that would strip LGBT people of equal rights. These bills are accompanied by lies such as the danger of washing hands in a bathroom next to a transgender person. In the conservative tradition of controlling through fear, Republican lawmakers are claiming that they can protect LGBT people because of the falsehood that Muslims want to kill all “homosexuals.” Those who make that claim haven’t looked at their own Christian religion. Most Christians don’t want to “kill homosexuals,” but there are enough that LGBT people are in danger. You might want to do a little reading in that department, Bill Maher.

Donald Trump calls himself the only candidate who will protect LGBT people from Muslims—who are not a serious problem for LGBT people considering all the other issues faced in that community, including violence from so-called Christians. Although some of the 20 percent of the LGBT community who vote Republican have said that they will support Trump, the conservative gay group Log Cabin Republicans has not yet endorsed Trump for president. As with all other Trump statements, he changes his mind frequently on LGBT rights but did announce that he would select Supreme Court justices who would overturn marriage equality.

Dominique Hernandez holds up her fist painted in the colors of a rainbow, with a heart on her pulse, attends a vigil in memory of victims one day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Dominique Hernandez holds up her fist painted in the colors of a rainbow, with a heart on her pulse, attends a vigil in memory of victims one day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

What does homophobia feel like? James Michael Nichols writes that homophobia means that he is “living in constant fear of violence.” In this piece he describes his feelings as he arrives in his “home state of North Carolina”:

“But what does it mean to feel unsafe as you walk down the street, through the airport, on the subway, at the grocery store? How do you communicate that feeling to people who have never had to feel uncomfortable and regulated because of their gender presentation or self-expressions of queerness?”

He wrote about always having to assess the level of threat no matter where he is, being careful of where he goes and how he dresses, checking out places before travel, not getting a job because of being “too gay,” watching older people return to the closet to survive in nursing homes where they may die alone because families have already declared them dead, and being unable to show any affection for a loved one in public. Bill Maher should not declare that LGBT people when he has no idea that we go through in our daily lives.

Hopefully, some people can change. As a young adult, Jeremy Todd Addawy was a part of the racist skinhead movement who hated everyone except white straight people. According to an interview with Erin Nanasi, he decided that he could not live in a life “filled with rage and bigotry. This video shows his belief—in a comedic way—about his belief that “marriage is not a religious issue, it’s a freedom issue.” If he can learn, maybe others can too.

November 6, 2015

The Bathroom Issue

Houston LGBT people lost some of their rights after last Tuesday’s election because radical conservatives claimed that the city ordinance would allow men to go into women’s bathrooms and molest little girls. The city’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) would have prevented discrimination on the basis of race, age, military status, disability and 11 other categories. The vote shows great ignorance about transgender people as Kelly Lauren pointed out in her photo on Facebook with the caption “Houston, do you REALLY want me in the same restroom as your husband or boyfriend?” Matthew Mills show this photo for a class project.

husband bathroom

Lauren also wrote:

“I am 54 years old and have been performing for about 37 years as a drag entertainer. “I am transgender… The picture was taken several months ago but I reposted it when all of this nonsense happened… All I have to say is that I would get in way more trouble in the men’s room than I could ever possibly in the women’s restroom because I am THAT kind of girl! [laughs]”

Joni Rodgers wrote this for the Houston Chronicle:

 “Skewing Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) as the “Bathroom Ordinance” was the latest ultra-conservative pitch for preserving their sacred right to hate on LGBT folks. The ordinance in no way authorizes men to use the ladies’ room. None of this is about the ladies’ room. Or the men’s room. It’s about the straw man’s room.”

no men in women's

Two men carrying signs outside Rodgers’ polling place, claimed that they were standing up for her rights as a woman. When she said that she had previously had a penis, one of them said, “You’re not a woman. You’re a pervert!” He decided that if she were a woman that she would have had bigger breasts. Rodgers said:

“So now I’m required to have large breasts to use the women’s room? What’s the minimum cup size? What if I’m a woman who’s had a mastectomy? Or what if I’m just a hippie chick who doesn’t wear a bra? How do you plan to enforce this policy if you can’t tell the difference?”

The man claimed that “God can tell the difference!” Rodgers asked if God was supposed to monitor the lady’s room. “Like he doesn’t have enough to do?”

Rodgers concluded:

“The ‘Bathroom Ordinance’ mentality is not about anything you’re doing wrong. It’s not even about who you are. It’s about who some stranger thinks you are. And some people think anyone who doesn’t fit the standard gender template is to be hated and feared.

“I wish I had a dime for every time I was called “sir” when I was in chemo. Perfectly understandable. I have the height of a supermodel, but I’m not stacked like one. I was bald as a grapefruit. My skin was too sensitive for any kind of makeup, and because I was in misery, I dressed for comfort, frequently wearing Gary’s oversized shirts with baggy cargo pants. I was aware of some stink-eye glances, but I was never genuinely afraid to use the ladies’ room. I wouldn’t feel that way today.

“I am not for a moment co-opting the disenfranchisement experienced by people who actually are trans or cisgender. I’m saying the promotion of ignorance and hate forces all of us to live in a city that is less generous, welcoming and intelligent than it should be.”

I recognize that the proposed HERO was about so much more than using a bathroom, but the focus of the battle against the ordinance was all about the bathroom. It is just the tip of the iceberg of discrimination against LGBT people. These photos show why the argument used to fight these rights is totally ridiculous. The bathroom police need to figure out that the transgender males below should be allowed to use the appropriate–male–bathroom.

man with two womentrans man in cowboy hatman in baseball hat

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!

July 25, 2015

Marriage Equality Not for All

Every month in editing a newsletter for our local PFLAG group, I write articles about national and global news. This past month has been filled with the aftermath—and sometimes backlash—to the Supreme Court decision that LGBT people should have equal rights in marriage. The media frenzy began when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-gender couples should have the right to marry in all 50 states. Here are some of the issues that emerged from that decision.

Of course, conservatives were traumatized by the possibility that LGBT people could get married. Judges refused to marry same-gender couples or said that they were too busy. A Texas judge required everyone who he married, LGBT or straight, to sign a document stating that he was opposed to the decision and that no one should even mention marriage equality in his presence. Some clerks decided to quit rather than issue marriage licenses. One of them refused until threatened with a lawsuit.

Jacob WilsonThe three members of Dent County (MO) commission unanimously voted to lower the flags “below halfstaff” at the county courthouse once a month for a year in order to “mourn” the legalization of marriage equality. Within a day they had to back down because of protests from the population of 15,000 for its violation to flag protocol and its bigotry. Out of this discrimination came a positive action from Jacob Wilson (right), a gay alumnus of Salem High School, who establishing a scholarship fund to support LGBT students and allies.

Other good things have happened since the decision. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed that married same-sex couples will have access to full federal benefits after the Supreme Court ruling to legalize marriage equality. Prior to the SCOTUS decision, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration were required to deny full benefits for married same-gender couples living in states that did not recognize marriage equality.

One segment of the U.S. population not covered by the Supreme Court ruling that legalizes marriage equality is Native Americans living on reservations. The decision does not extend to sovereign Indian Nations because the fate of that judgment lies in Congress. Unless Congress passes legislation to require same-gender marriage on Indian Nations—a highly unlikely act—tribes create and enforce their own laws governing marriage. Many tribes have changed their laws to legalize marriage equality or ruled that they will follow the rules of the state where reservations are located, but ten tribes, including the two largest ones of Cherokee Nation and the Navajo, have acts that prohibit same-gender marriage. The Navajo changed Navajo law accepting same-gender unions when they passed the Diné Marriage Act of 2005 in response to former President George W. Bush’s call for amendments to state constitutions banning same-sex unions.

Alray Nelson & Brennen YonnieAlray Nelson (left), an openly gay man living on the Navajo reservation in Arizona with his partner Brennan Yonnie, is working to change the 2005 act because same-gender couples are denied the rights of married heterosexual couples in issues such as housing, property rights, and custody of children. Many contemporary LGBTQ Navajo talk about historical accounts of same-gender unions and even the prominence of the nádleehí–third-gender people–in Navajo creation stories. Nelson said, “When I’m reading comments from Navajo leaders, it seems like the majority of them came from the boarding-school era, and so everything that they were taught from that time of assimilation is so full of misunderstanding, fear and hate for our own people. It seems like the U.S. government did a very good job at training our Navajo men and women–our brothers and sisters–to be their own oppressor.”

Bans on LGBT marriage is not the only problem on Nelson’s reservation. LGBT bullying and teen suicides are high, and the Navajo Nation has seen an unprecedented spike in new HIV diagnoses because the people lack information about the disease.

navajo_hastiin_klah2Navajo history includes Hastiin Klah (1867-1937), weaver and medicine man who embodied both male and female spirits as a nádleehí Navajo. Farther back are drawings, photographs, oral histories, and language that advocates say is evidence LGBT Navajo tribe members were once accepted. Anthropologist W. W. Hill noted Navajo nádleehí indivudals were associated with wealth and that the families they were born in to were considered fortunate. But that began to change. The change came when the U.S. ordered Native Americans to attend U.S. schools and accept European religion.

Marriage equality is just the beginning of LGBT rights in the United States: we need laws and rulings to give us equality in credit, housing, employment, lodging, jury service, federal financial assistance, education, etc. Legislators such as Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) are introducing bills to restrict federal funding to municipalities that don’t comply with the ruling. Other legislators, including Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, are behind a bill to stop LGBT discrimination through an update to the Civil Rights of 1964. Pocan is also one of the Democratic congressional members who introduced Restore Honor to Service Members Act that would help service members discharged from the military to correct the military record, reflecting their honorable service.

cartoon

 

Marriage equality opponents who struggle to stop same-gender marriage through amending the Constitution should realize that only one amendment to that document took away rights—the 18th Amendment starting prohibition—and it lasted only 13 years before being overturned by another constitutional amendment. The history of the U.S. Constitution has been to give rights, not take them away. The so-called First Amendment Defense Act on allowing discrimination through “religious freedom” has a restrictive nature rather than opening up rights to everyone and should not be allowed.

November 16, 2014

Pope Francis Flips the Church’s Attitude

Who knew when a mild-manner cardinal from Argentina became the leader 1.2 billion and renamed himself Francis that he would throw his followers—and the conservatives in the United States—into such a turmoil?! His attacks on climate-change deniers, unfettered capitalism, and bigotry against LGBT people have become legendary. While committee Senate leaders such as James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) will take the country back to the 19th century in environment, public works, commerce, science, and transportation, the pope continues his speeches about how science, rational thought, and data are important parts of present and future human goals.

Last month, the pope said to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that the Catholic Church evolution and the Big Bang theory of the universe fit with biblical teachings. “God was [not] a magician, complete with an all-powerful magic wand.” At the same time, Congress will be controlled by people who link Darwinism with eternal damnation. Inhofe, who wrote The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, said:

“God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is, to me, outrageous.”

During the times of the Founding Fathers, people revered intellectual achievement. It was the Age of Enlightenment that used the scientific method of independent inquiry and the study of objective data to reach conclusions after repeated experiments that were carefully analyzed. Even presidents in the 20th century sought advice from people in the opposing parties. Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Vannevar Bush, an opponent of the New Deal, to head up of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, and Democrat Jerome Wiesner sat on the Science Advisory Committee to Dwight D. Eisenhower. The pope moves ahead; the Congress has gone into reverse.

Last week, the pope officially demoted Cardinal Raymond Burke, the U.S. cardinal who attacked Francis on his progressive expressions. In 2004, Burke said that voting for a pro-choice candidate is a “serious sin” and said last year the Church “can never talk enough” about the “massacre of the unborn.” After Francis said about gay priests, “who am I to judge?” Burke told said that homosexual acts are “always and everywhere wrong, evil.”

Pope Benedict XVI elevated Burke to the head of the Apostolic Signatura—the Vatican’s highest court. Benedict resigned, and Francis sent Burke to a ceremonial role as the Patron of the Order of the Knights of Malta. The tipping point leading to the reassignment may have been Burke’s participation with conservative bishops who protested the pope’s discussion of “family issues” such as homosexuality. In his attack, Burke said that the pope did “a lot of harm” and compared his leadership to “a ship without a rudder.” Last month, Burke called homosexuality “profoundly disordered and harmful” and told people that they should keep their children away from LGBT people and cut ties with LGBT relatives. This is the pope’s second demotion of Burke: in 2013, Burke was removed from the Congregation for Bishops.

Francis had already irritated cardinals by elevating many bishops from countries outside the West to cardinal. Before removing Burke, the pope replaced Cardinal Francis George, the conservative who compared organizers of the Chicago Pride Parade to the Ku Klux Klan, with moderate Bishop Blasé Cupich, who condemns anti-LGBT bullying and asked priests and seminarians not to pray in front of Planned Parenthood clinics as a protest.

The pope also diverges from U.S. conservatives in the excesses of capitalism. Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have both called him a Marxist, and other pundits have called him a Communist and Socialist. At the World Meeting of Popular Movements, a three day conference attended by farmers, fishermen, miners, and Argentine “cartoneros,” who sift through garbage for recyclable goods, Francis said:

“Let’s say together with our heart: no family without a roof, no peasant farmer without land, no worker without rights, no person without dignified labour!”

He explained this statement:

“Land, housing and work are increasingly unavailable to the majority of the world’s population. If I talk about this, some will think that the Pope is communist. They don’t understand that love for the poor is at the center of the Gospel. Demanding this isn’t unusual, it’s the social doctrine of the church.”

Ken Ham, infamous for his religious museum that puts humans and dinosaurs in the same time period, said, “Pope Francis has compromised biblical authority in favor of man’s ideas in the area of origins.” Ham was offended by the pope’s statements that “God is not afraid of new things.” This declaration fails to defer to the bible, according to Ham, which was literally written by God. Ham protested:

“If God and His Word are open to change, then God’s Word is not an authority on anything—man becomes the authority because he gets to decide when and how God’s Word applies.”

Ham asked his followers to pray for the pope. “I encourage you to pray that church leaders like these will realize that they are placing man’s opinions above God’s Word and that they will repent and trust God’s Word, beginning in Genesis.” Unfortunately for Ham, his god failed to translate his words into other languages; therefore his bible is written by human beings.

Conservatives such as Catholic John Ransom are going so far as to say the pope claimed that “God is not a divine being.” It’s another problem of mistranslating because the pope did not speak in English. Ransom’s column about the pope is titled “Can the pope shut up too?” which lacks a sense of reverence for his Church’s leader.

Creationist Ray Comfort didn’t attack the pope but approached the him in a patronizing manner. Comfort said that any self-described Christian might “think that they are siding with science, [but] they don’t realize that the theory has no scientific basis—that it’s unproven, and that it has to be received on blind faith.” People who believe in evolution “don’t believe in Jesus.”

It is possible that The pope’s comments could lead to a schism in the Catholic Church. Australian Cardinal George Pell wrote that Pope Francis was the 266th pope “and history has seen 37 false or antipopes.” The insinuation is that Francis may be the 38th, possibly sent by the devil.

Conservative American journalist Ross Douthat wrote that “[Conservative Catholics] might want to consider the possibility that they have a role to play, and that this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him.” He also argued that the pope is “stacking the synod’s ranks with supporters of a sweeping change”—as if this were unusual.

U.S. bishops may have decided their approach to Pope Francis last week at the annual General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Part of the business was to pick four representatives to send to the October 2015 synod on marriage and the family. The first synod on the subject was last month when the Vatican riled up conservatives by seeming to recognize loving and committed same-sex partnerships. Cardinals Timothy Dolan and Donald Wuerl will also attend the synod because they are the highest-ranking Catholic clergy in the country.

The highly conservative website, Breitbart.com, describes the selection as a “conservative ‘dream team.’ “  Those chosen were Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop Charles Chaput, and Archbishop Jose Gomez. Alternates are Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Archibishop-designate Blasé Cupich. Of the six, only Cupich is moderate; the rest are solidly right-wing.  For example, Chaput argued against giving communion to Catholic politicians who support pro-choice and condemned Notre Dame for giving President Obama an honorary degree. Gomez is his protégé.

Times are going to be rocky for the Catholic Church, and this will reflect on the Church’s influence in the United States.

October 31, 2014

It’s Halloween! Be Afraid of the GOP

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 8:21 PM
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With four days until the 2014 election results start to trickle in, the polls are up and down. A week ago, carpet-bagger Scott Brown and former Massachusetts GOP senator, was even with New Hampshire’s Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Now he’s down by 8 points. The robotic creature for the New York Times, assigned with determine winners, reported that its conclusions were 3 percent accurate. The GOP is chortling—at least publicly–that it’s taking over the senate. This is what we can expect if Republicans have a majority by January 1, 2015:

Agenda control through the budget process: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy.” It will be a return to 2011 when Congress threatened to not raise the debt limit to pay for what they had already spent as well as 13 months ago when the GOP shut down the government 13 months ago in an attempt to get their own way and cost the economy at least $24 billion.

More tax cuts for the wealthy and further spending cuts for middle- and working-class families: Although the senate needs 60 votes to break a filibuster, congressional budget resolutions can squeak through with an ordinary majority of 51 votes and cannot be filibustered. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2015 budget bill sent to the senate gives those making over $1 million another $200,000 in tax cuts while cutting nondefense spending by $4.8 trillion. Almost 70 percent of that money takes from programs helping low-income and middle-class families—Medicaid, Pell Grants for college, etc. The GOP also wants to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Right now, the reality is an average U.S. corporate tax rate at 27 percent with small businesses paying a disproportionately large percentage because of loopholes and subsidies for the big companies. GOP leaders claim that they will close these loopholes, but they can’t afford to do this because they’ll lose campaign funding. GOP austerity cost the economy 2.4 million jobs from December 2010 to October 2013.

Obstruction of well-qualified judicial nominees, leaving vacancies on federal courts: The record shows continued filibustering of the president’s judicial nominees. Only 16 judicial nominees were filibustered during George W. Bush’s eight years compared to the 77 nominees from President Obama filibustered in a six and a half years. There would have been more than 77 if the senate had not changed its rules to require a simple majority vote for reasonable debate times for these nominees. A GOP senate means the return of the filibuster for judicial confirmations. Currently federal courts have 63 vacancies and 32 judicial nominees.

Another vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act: The GOP has promised that the first vote would be to repeal the ACA if they control the senate. The vote would take place at a time that the uninsured rate is at a record low: 7.3 million enrolled and paying premiums through the marketplaces; 8 million with health coverage through Medicaid; and 5 million signed up for ACA-compliant plans outside the marketplace. And that’s with almost half the states refusing to participate in the ACA. Insurers also cannot deny coverage with a pre-existing condition or put lifetime and annual coverage limits on their care. They have to spend at least of the premiums on health care and cover young people up to the age of 26 on their parents’ policies.

Greater rollback of women’s health needs: McConnell says he will push for narrower exemptions on abortions after 20 weeks than the Supreme Court has allowed. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) has a bill to allow businesses the ability to refuse contraceptive coverage for their employees. Before the ACA required equal insurance charges for both genders, women were charged up to 150 percent more than men for the same coverage. Over 48 million women receive preventive care without deductibles or co-payments and saved $483 million on just birth control pills, $269 per woman, because of ACA.

Use of the Congressional Review Act to weaken environmental rules, jeopardizing public health: Congress can pass a joint resolution stopping a major rule submitted to the legislative branch. The senate can accomplish this in 60 days without any possibility of a filibuster. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said that he will challenge every EPA rule under the current administration, including the proposal to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants by up to 30 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. The rule would curb dangerous pollution, save money on energy bills, and improve public health by avoiding 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in children every year. Full implementation would save $93 billion in 2030. For every dollar, people will see $7 in benefits.

Expansion of carrying concealed and loaded guns: The NRA wants the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, allowing people to get gun permits in states that have the weakest gun safety laws and carry them all over the United States. This is a race to the bottom as states with the weakest standards set national standards for these permits. People like George Zimmerman, who killed a teenage boy and has a history of violence including assaulting a police officer and domestic violence, would have permission to carry his gun everywhere instead of in only those states with weaker gun safety laws. Local law enforcement would have no recourse. This legislation failed by only two votes in 2009 and was included in the compromise measure developed by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Fortunately, it was three votes short of breaking the filibuster because it could have passed with 57 votes.

Legislation removing any LGBT rights: At this time, 33 states recognize marriage equality with another three that may soon marry same-sex couples after courts release rulings. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has announced that he will be “introducing a constitutional amendment to prevent the federal government or the courts from attacking or striking down state marriage laws.” Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, reiterated the party’s support for a constitutional amendment that would unmarry loving and committed same-sex couples. The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act currently pending in Congress would, if passed, allow for government-sanctioned discrimination against the LGBT community and gut existing workplace protections for the now thousands of legally married same-sex couples employed by the federal government or its contractors. For example, this Act would permit federal workers to ignore paperwork from same-sex couples for processing tax returns, approving visa applications, or reviewing Social Security applications and allow a federally funded homeless shelter or substance abuse treatment program to turn away LGBT people.

Legislation to deport DREAMers: Children who were brought to the United States and who meet strict criteria may currently stay in the U.S. and work legally. A senate bipartisan bill that passed 68 to 32 would have made this administrative rule into law as part of immigration reform for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, but the House refused to consider the bill. A GOP senate would most likely reverse its former position on immigration reform. Cruz said he would “use any and all means necessary” to prevent the administration from allowing undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to stay in the place they know as home.

More cuts to programs and rules that increase college access, affordability, and readiness:  Ryan’s budget cuts Pell Grants by $90 billion, makes monthly student loan payments higher, and eliminates $107 billion from early education and K-12 education programs over the next decade. A GOP senate would most likely block regulations on for-profit colleges with a history of predatory practices that saddle students with higher rates of debt and low-quality degrees and charge 3.5 times as much as public institutions for the same degree.

On the other hand, the GOP may suffer if it wins the senate. The Tea Party will put more leverage on the GOP establishment to toe the far-right line. Their unwillingness to compromise and move to the right will cause them to lose more voters in 2016, including those for the president. Repealing health care, rejecting minorities, and taking more rights from women will lose the party a huge constituency.

The GOP may win some seats this year because they keep minorities and low-income people from voting, but these people will have the next two years to get the necessary ID. In addition, the courts may overturn the discrimination of the new voter suppression laws. Judicial rulings during the past few weeks to keep these laws have cited only an excuse that they can’t be changed this close to the election. During the next year, there will be many lawsuits from people denied their constitutional right to vote in next week’s election.

October 11, 2014

Marriage Equality on Coming Out Day 2014

October is LGBT History Month, and today is the 26th anniversary of Coming Out Day, the internationally recognized day of awareness and celebration of people coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer. Thanks to all the brave people willing to openly declare their sexual preference and gender identity, LGBT rights has progressed more rapidly in the past decade than any other social issue. This past week, marriage equality rights have exploded throughout the nation after the Supreme Court refused to take any of the marriage equality cases brought to them from Indiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Utah. That brought the total of states with legalized same-sex marriage to 24. Below are judicial decisions as of midday on October 11. Legalized same-sex marriage changes hour-by-hour, and some of this information can be outdated.

Because each circuit court can set a precedent for all the states within its jurisdiction, all the other states within the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuit Courts benefit from the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the five cases from these courts. Those six states are Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming. That action would bring the total to 30 states recognized same-sex marriage.

The 9th Circuit Court legalized marriage in Nevada and Idaho after the Supreme Court’s decision. Idaho’s administration plans to file briefs with the 9th Circuit to ask for a full hearing from the 10 panel court. The Supreme Court turned down the state’s appeal after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy briefly blocked same-sex marriage in Idaho until he changed his mind a day later. Yesterday’s 9th Circuit Court ruling about Hawaii ended a pending appeal on same-sex marriage by declaring it moot. That would make the grand total of states where same-sex couples might get legally get married to 35. Lawsuits are pending in the district’s states of Alaska, Arizona, and Montana.

In Arizona, U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick ordered the parties in the Arizona same-sex marriage cases before him in the U.S. District Court for Arizona to submit their briefs by October 16. He has issued an order stating that the 9th Circuit Court ruling on Nevada and Idaho also applies to Arizona.

The 6th Circuit Court has not ruled after early August arguments although two of the three judges were leaning against marriage equality. Federal judges in this circuit court region struck down bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

The conservative 5th Circuit will hear a case later this year after a federal judge in New Orleans upheld the ban in Louisiana although a state judge ruled against the state law. In the same district, Mississippi had refused to divorce a lesbian couple because the state does not recognize their marriage. In Texas, on the other hand, a federal judge invalidated the state’s ban in February. The couple wants the case settled before their second child is born so that they can get married. If either the 5th or 6th Circuit Court rules in favor of banning marriage equality, the Supreme Court may feel it has to step in.

In the 8th Circuit, a state court judge invalidated the Arkansas ban, and one in Missouri overturned part of the ban, requiring state officials to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Nebraska’s Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the state’s ban on procedural reason. Cases from North and South Dakota are pending in federal courts.

In the 11th Circuit, both Alabama and Georgia have cases pending in federal court, and a Florida appeals court was asked to delay a ruling until after the Supreme Court had decided.

400px-US_Court_of_Appeals_and_District_Court_map.svg

As with other Supreme Court rulings, some states tend to drag their heels and refuse to change state laws to conform to these decisions. Colorado is already issuing marriage licenses, and Virginia is speedily preparing to do the same. On the other hand, Utah has claimed that it cannot implement same-sex marriage until the state’s marriage laws are re-written.

South Carolina, impacted by the 4th Circuit’s ruling against bans in its district, said that it will keep the bans in force until the courts rule specifically on South Carolina’s law. The 4th Circuit is expected to soon issue a mandate. In the meantime, a clerk in Charleston (SC) accepted a marriage license application by Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley, making the state’s only out lawmaker and her partner among the first to receive a marriage license in the Palmetto State.

GOP Govs. Sam Brownback (Kansas) and Matt Meade (Wyoming) agree with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in refusing to allow same-sex weddings. A Kansas state judge, however, ordered the Johnson County Clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Judge Kevin Moriarty’s order on Wednesday was to “provide guidance and prevent confusion” and said that “any case from Kansas … would be bound by the Tenth Circuit decision.” Kansas law also sanctions clerks and judges who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and Moriarty declared that “our district court clerks and judges are entitled to protection from laws that are unconstitutional.” Citizens should be free, he wrote, “to exercise their constitutional rights” and officials should likewise be “free of any ambiguity or inconsistency in the administration of justice, including the issuance of marriage licenses.” Confusion still reigns, thanks to the state Supreme Court, which stopped marriage licenses for same-sex couples after one couple was able to obtain one. A hearing in that court is set for Nov. 6.

In North Carolina, U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen Jr. gave Attorney General Roy Cooper and attorneys representing same-sex couples until 3 p.m. Monday to respond to requests by state legislative leaders to intervene. Earlier this year, Cooper, a Democrat, announced that his office would no longer defend North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriages after a federal circuit court found a similar ban in Virginia was unconstitutional. In North Carolina’s Western District, however, U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. issued an order late Friday afternoon striking down the state’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment, and Wake County offices stayed open late last night. Same-sex couples are marrying in North Carolina, and more county clerks will issue marriage license to same-sex couples—unless, of course, another ruling comes along.

As of today, the number of marriage equality states officially reached 29 after same-sex couples began marrying in both Nevada and West Virginia. On Thursday afternoon, WV Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) said he would no longer defend the ban, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) in turn told state agencies to start the marriage process, using existing marriage license forms until there are variations. Procedural requirements in Nevada needed an injunction from a district court judge, also issued Thursday after a Mormon judge recused himself and was replaced by another judge who issued the injunction.

same sex map better The current status of marriage equality in the United States according to Freedom to Marry:

In 29 states – CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, ID, IA, IL, IN, ME, MD, MA, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OK, OR, PA, RI, UT, VA, VT, WA, WV, and WI, plus Washington, D.C. – same-sex couples have the freedom to marry.

In an additional six states – AK, AZ, KS, MT, SC, and WY – federal appellate rulings have set a binding precedent in favor of the freedom to marry, meaning the path is cleared for the freedom to marry there.

In an additional 8 states, judges have issued rulings in favor of the freedom to marry, with many of these rulings now stayed as they proceed to appellate courts: In AR, FL, KY, MI, and TX, judges have struck down marriage bans, and in LA, OH, and TN, judges have issued more limited pro-marriage rulings.

In MO, the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states are respected.

Much more information for each state is available here.

In his ruling striking down marriage equality bans in Idaho and Nevada, Judge Stephen Reinhardt referred to decisions mandating racial integrations, women on juries, and gays’ serving in the military when he wrote:

 “The lessons of our constitutional history are clear: inclusion strengthens, rather than weakens, our most important institutions. When same-sex couples are married, just as when opposite-sex couples are married, they serve as models of loving commitment to all.”

The latest argument against banning marriage equality will certainly have the far-right further gnashing their teeth. In an additional concurring opinion to the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling, Judge Marsha Berzon argues that same-sex-marriage bans also constitute sex discrimination and therefore violate Equal Protection on additional grounds. Although this argument has failed in the past, Berzon posits that laws against same-sex couples are based on sex stereotypes of a “real man” and a “real woman.” As ​Alexander Brodsky and Elizabeth Deutsch wrote, “Long before marriage equality was hip, Adrienne Rich spoke of “compulsory heterosexuality”—part of being a good woman is loving men. If courts accept this argument, LGBT rights will go far beyond marriage without the laborious wait for Congress to move into the 21st century. It refuses to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), but Title VII could end job discrimination. The same goes for housing, business services, and the over 1,000 laws discriminating against LGBT people.

All the changes during the past week bode well for the progress of LGBT rights in the United States unless the five conservative Supreme Court judges reverse this forward thinking.

September 14, 2014

If Christians Controlled the United States

ISIL’s control of Iraq has been top in the news this past week, especially after President Obama’s speech, partly because many people are afraid of having a government controlled by religion. Here are some attempts to have that control in the United States.

Rick Santorum: “I think we should start calling secularism (which is defined as ‘without religion) a religion,” Santorum told a grinning Fischer. “Because if we did, then we could ban that, too, because that’s what they’ve done: they’ve hidden behind the fact that the absence of religion is not a religion of itself.” “We always need a Jesus candidate.”

Steve Williams, mayor of Huntington (WV):  The only “silver bullet” to stop drug use is prayer. His prayer beam was on September 7. The next day the police department arrested a local man on drug charges after organizing a massive anti-drug offensive codenamed “Operation: River to Jail” to eliminate drug trafficking.

U.S. Air Force: An airman cannot reenlist because he won’t say “so help me God.” Until last October, enlistees could omit the God phrase, but an update dropped that option. The Air Force says it can’t make any changes unless Congress changes the statute mandating the oath. The Department of Justice has been asked for an opinion in the case. The other branches of the military don’t require the God oath.

Bryan Fischer, American Family Association spokesman: Atheists should be banned in the military because they won’t die for God like true Americans will.

“This is an absolutely foundational, non-negotiable, bed-rock American principle: there is a Creator – with a capital “C” (you could look it up) – and he and he alone is the source of the very rights the military exists to protect and defend. Military service should rightly be reserved for those who believe in and are willing to die for what America stands for – and what America stands for is a belief in God as the source of our rights.”

Paul Wieland, Missouri Republican State Representative: Providing birth control for his daughters violates his religious beliefs so he’s suing President Obama. A judge originally dismissed the case because the family has no legal standing to file the lawsuit, but five Supreme Court justices permitted discrimination in the Hobby Lobby decision. Now Wieland’s lawyer, Timothy Belz, declares that the man’s daughters are like “employees” who have to listen to their father, the “boss.” He should be able to police the sexual lives of his adult daughters. A suggestion was to drop the insurance for the daughters, but providing health insurance is also one of Wieland’s religious beliefs.

Russell Pearce, Arizona GOP vice-chair:  Women on government aid such as Medicaid and food stamps should be sterilized as well as tested for drugs and alcohol. Food stamps should also be restricted to such items as 15-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese, and powdered milk—no fruits or vegetables. They should also be required to live in military barracks-style housing and endure spot inspections with punishment for not keeping everything spotless. Possessions will be inventoried to restrict the women from having unapproved items—such as televisions. Pearce didn’t say anything about men on government aid.

Barrie Goettsche, store owner of the Christian-based Chick-fil-A: Employee Daphne Richards was demoted without insurance after medical leave for a double mastectomy because of cancer in both breasts. Her workweek was cut from 40 hours to 10-15 hours and her hourly wage dropped from $14 per hour to $10 per hour. Goettsche said that she had been written up before her leave, but Richards has a letter from Goettsche that praises her work. “Daphne is a very sensitive, loving and compassionate person. I know she will continue to be a valuable asset and resource to the restaurant as she gains more experience, responsibility and time under her belt.” Richards was attracted to Chick-fil-A because of their Christian standards, but she has filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission regarding about the company’s treatment of her.

Dr. George Visnich, a Pennsylvania oral surgeon: His prayers went with the employee of 12 years after he fired her. The letter to her stated, “You are currently engaged in a battle against cancer that will be demanding physically, mentally, and emotionally. You will not be able to function in my office at the level required while battling for your life. Because of this, I am laying you off without pay as of August 11, 2014.”

Fran Millar, Georgia state senator: Voting on Sunday would be a violation of separation of church and state in DeKalb County, according to the GOP legislator. On his Facebook page, Millar gave another reason: “If you don’t believe this is an efort [SIC] to maximize Democratic votes pure and simple, then you are not a realist.”

Love in the Name of Christ, Church Everett (PA): A teenager may go to prison for two years because he allegedly took a photo of himself simulating oral sex with a statue of Jesus. The 14-year-old was charged with desecrating a venerated object. A vandalism charge carries only a maximum penalty of one year in jail. The church did not press any charges.

Cardinal Francis George, head of the Archdiocese in Chicago: In his column in Catholic New World he complained that his church members are forced to live under a pro-gay, pro-choice “state religion” similar to those living in nations “governed by Sharia law.” George has a history of LGBT hatred: in 2011, he compared LGBT rights advocates to the Ku Klux Klan.

Marian (Catholic) High School, Bloomfield Hills (MI): Barbara Webb has been fired for getting pregnant from artificial insemination. The school has known for five years that she is in a same-sex relationship, but administration declared that a “nontraditional” pregnancy broke her contract’s “morality clause.”

fred and georgeFred McQuire and George Martinez: The marriage of these two men is one that Francis George bitterly protests. Together for over 45 years, they legally married in California. An Arizona judge recognized their marriage in Arizona after Martinez died last month of pancreatic cancer. McQuire can now get his partner’s death certificate to settle Martinez’s affairs.

What McQuire won’t get are spousal Social Security and veterans benefits. Federal law requires him to have been married to Martinez for at least nine months to qualify for his Social Security benefits and one year to qualify for veteran benefits. With Martinez’s benefits, McQuire would have had a monthly income of $4,000. Without it, his benefits alone total $1,300. Martinez’s pancreatic cancer was blamed on exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam where both men served in the military. In this country, thanks to religious law from people like Francis George, a male and female married for one year are eligible for spousal benefits, but a gay couple together for 45 years has no rights.

In their craving for a “Christian nation,” these people want to deny LGBT people and poor women any rights, eliminate voting for blacks, ban non-Christians from public office and serving in the military, allow employees to fire people for illness, and put imprison youth for a long period of time for foolish pranks.

Those U.S. Christians—including the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute—who claimed the U.S. should be like Russia’s totalitarian regime because of its persecution of LGBT people might want to reconsider their support of Vladimir Putin. Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine are now killing people to purge Slovyansk of rival Christian denominations in a return to control by the Russian Holy Orthodox Church.

Meanwhile, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and former Sen. John Breaux (L-LA) are lobbying to lift President Obama’s sanctions on Gazprombank GPB (OJSC), controlled by Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom, the country’s largest gas producer that supplies about a third of Europe’s natural gas.

In a bit of good news for people who believe in religious freedom, Allegheny County has voted against posting “In God We Trust” in its council chambers.

June 8, 2014

Religious Advice Both Right, Left

Conservative religious leaders specialize in giving advice and ordering around their parishioners. Here are a few prime examples from the past few weeks:

If anyone sends you a letter with the new Harvey Milk stamp, don’t open it. That’s because Milk was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States. In fact, you should go farther than that, according to Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, and write “Return to Sender” on the envelope before sending it back. Worse news for Perkins: the Milk stamp is a “forever” stamp which allows it to be indefinitely used as first-class postage.

Harvey Milk Avoid health care because it’s the same as sexual gratification, another pearl of wisdom from Perkins. Misogyny and prevalence of guns aren’t responsible for the Santa Barbara killings. Perkins said, “It’s almost like Obamacare, you have a right to healthcare, you have a right to sexual gratification, almost.” [No, I don’t understand the connections either.]

Christians need to be afraid of LGBT people, Tony Perkins also said, because the gay agenda wants “to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians.” He claims that LGBT people want to exterminate poor Christians in concentration camps. On the same program, Nicole Martin warned against “witch hunts” against Christians, another reversal of when Christians cheerfully killed anyone they didn’t like.

Be sure that you’re a Christian if you want to get married in Virginia, the state with motto “Virginia is for lovers.” Court-appointed officiant in Franklin County, Bud Roth, insisted on performing a ceremony at the church and then asked the couple about their religious beliefs. He turned them away because one was an atheist and the other an agnostic. Roth said:

“You don’t believe in God… I just don’t marry anyone who does not believe in God [or] believes that there is a God someplace. So I’m not going to talk the issue over with you and I’m not going to argue about it, okay? I’m just not going to marry you. Correct?”

The couple protested to Judge William Alexander, who appointed Roth. He thought that the paid government employee could refuse to marry anyone he wanted. Maybe Virginia is just for unmarried lovers.

Christians may now eliminate all other belief systems from prayers at public government meetings, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway. Chesterfield County (VA) Board of Supervisors now permit only Judeo-Christian clergy to give the before-meeting prayer. No Wiccans need apply because they are “neo-pagan and [invoke] polytheistic, pre-Christian deities.” No Sikhs either.

Virginia isn’t alone. When La Vista (NE) hosted a “Faith and Freedom” Memorial Day event, Robert Fuller, a member of the Omaha Atheists, asked Mayor Douglas Kindig if they could meet to talk about Fuller’s concerns. “Take me to f—ing court because I don’t care,” Kindig told Fuller before he said, “Minorities are not going to run [my] city.”

Beware the eminence of the biblical “End Times” because of climate change, says Texas pastor John Hagee. And don’t do anything about it because you’re better off talking about Jesus than you are trying to make the planet better.

“The Bible says that whenever we approach the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strange weather patterns. Jesus said this in Matthew the twenty-fifth chapter. So we have a decision to make: do we believe what an environmentalist group says and choose to live in a world where we’re attempting to make everything as clean in the air as possible, or do we believe what the Bible says, that these things were going to happen and that rather than try to clean up all of the air and solve all of the problems of the world by eliminating factories, we should start to tell people about Jesus Christ who is to return?”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has announced a new watchdog group called “Operation Inclusion” to protect the rights of all people in the United States. My advice? Join them.

operation inclusion

More of my advice:

Don’t bother to join Utah’s Church of Compassionate Service to avoid paying income taxes. They’ve been busted by the courts. A decade ago, Kevin Hartshorn started this great scam by taking money and possessions from all his so-called ministers and giving them debit cards used for paying their expenses. Hartshorn said that none of these people could be sued because they have no assets. Agency Assignments were doing what the ministers were already doing. For example, Bruce Calkins was told:

“[T]o enable you to fulfill your responsibilities as agent of the Order, you are hereby instructed to pursue work in histotechnology at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, San Diego, CA as a Histotechnologist and as an Independent Associate/Distributor of nutritional supplements and skin care products produced by USANA Health Sciences . . . for the financial support of the Order. Further, funds generated from the results of your labors are not to be construed as income or financial gain to you personally, yet will be the financial blessings of the Compassionate Order of Service.”

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t swallow Hartshorn’s arguments.

Not all mega-churches reject LGBT people. With 4,500 the Dallas Cathedral of Hope has a 90-percent LGBT membership. Seventy-percent of the congregation is under 30, and the church holds weekly services in Spanish.

In California, Pastor Danny Cortez kept his job at the Baptist New Heart Community Church after he openly accepted his gay son. The congregation also voted to become a “Third Way” church, welcoming LGBTI people without judgment. Cortez’s son, Drew, came out to his father after he learned that his father liked the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis song “Same Love” because of its inclusive message.

Avoid the Colonial Hills Baptist Church (Indianapolis, IN) if you object to violence against women. Under the guidance of Pastor Nate Utley, the youth group made a video for seventh graders to show them what to do with people who break rules. In one scene, Utley beats a woman with a baseball bat until she is appears to be lifeless on the floor. She was accused of disrespecting him. Utley beats another girl because she doesn’t throw a pizza box into a trashcan. Other enactments included cutting off a person’s hand for failing to return a cell phone and hitting kids with tennis balls. Here’s the video.

Leader of the Colonial Hills Baptist Church, Chuck Phelps, shamed a pregnant 15-year-old girl for being raped by a church deacon in 1997 while he was at the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church in New Hampshire. Phelps told the girl she should have been stoned to death; his wife asked the girl if she enjoyed the rape. The motto of Phelps’ current church is “A Church That Feels Like Home.”

People who are 100 percent opposed to marriage equality hurt their LGBTQ children. Mormon couple Wendy and Tom Montgomery fought to pass California’s Prop 8. Then they read their son’s journal and found that he is gay. Jordan, who was nine years old and questioning during that time, said, “It was really depressing to see my parents supporting something that was completely against what I was.”

Their journey is shown in a short documentary, Forever. Wendy Montgomery said, “I am a better person for having a gay son. I love differently, and I love more openly. I didn’t realize the judgment I had before I realized that having a gay son was a great blessing and not a burden.” Too bad she didn’t know that six years ago.

You can now pay taxes in Kentucky without wondering if the money goes to the Ark Encounter theme park, a religious place that shows dinosaurs living at the same time that humans have. The state has decided that it will no longer provide the $43 million a year in tax incentives to support the place.

In one small victory to separate church and state, South Carolina has removed all religious language from naming the Columbian Mammoth the South Carolina state fossil, as an 8-year-old girl requested. The GOP is still pushing for creationism in its education standards, but that’s a subject for another Sunday.

 

 

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