Nel's New Day

June 9, 2013

Redemptive Suffering May Come to Your Town

The only hospital within 25 miles of our small town was created by a health “special district” supported by local taxes. Most of the area’s doctors are connected to the hospital. Almost 15 years ago, Providence, a large Catholic hospital wanted to take over the health district. When asked about the Catholic approach toward health care, Providence spokespeople assured people that nothing would change, that the hospital could continue with providing contraceptive medications and procedures to all men and women and that we could continue with the policy of “death with dignity,” legal in the state of Oregon.

When the case went to court, however, hospital officials admitted that they had not told the truth; the hospital and all the doctors connected with it would be required to follow the Catholic directives described below.

More and more people around the country are realizing the loss of patience autonomy if Catholics control their hospitals. Arizona found this out when a pregnant woman suffered from life-threatening heart danger:

“Physicians concluded that, if she continued with the pregnancy, her chances of mortality were ‘close to 100 percent.’ An administrator, Sister Margaret McBride, approved an abortion, citing a church directive allowing termination when the mother’s life is at risk. Afterward, however, the local bishop, Thomas Olmsted, said the abortion had not been absolutely necessary. He excommunicated the nun and severed ties with the hospital, although the nun subsequently won reinstatement when she agreed to confess her sin to a priest.”

Washington state has had an even greater independent view of health care than many other states. Like Oregon, they legalized death with dignity. Washington law mandates that “every individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse birth control” and “every woman has the fundamental right to choose or refuse abortion.” The state also guarantees an absolute right to privacy around mental health and reproductive issues for teens aged 13 and up. Last year, Washington legalized recreational marijuana use and marriage equality, and their constitution has an Equal Rights Amendment and a stronger wall of separation between church and state than the U.S. Constitution. State law even extended statutes of limitations on child sex abuse—something Archbishop Timothy Dolan successfully fended off in New York and Pennsylvania.

Like Oregon, however, the mergers between independent hospitals with large healthcare corporations mean more Catholic hospitals. Five of the six biggest hospital organizations are Catholic, including the Catholic Health Initiatives, operated by the conservative Franciscans. If all the planned mergers in Washington are successful, 45 percent of the state’s hospital beds will be religiously affiliated by the end of this year. One-hundred percent of hospital facilities in ten counties will be religious, including outpatient clinics, laboratories, and physician practices.

The plus side of mergers is the ability to acquire more expensive equipment, better electronic record keeping, and greater administrative efficiency. The down side is that everyone who is in the hospital or has a health practitioner connected with the hospital will have to follow the religious directives because, in the words of the U.S. Conference of Bishops, Catholic hospitals and healthcare corporations are “healthcare ministries” and “opportunities”:

“New partnerships can be viewed as opportunities for Catholic healthcare institutions and services to witness to their religious and ethical commitments and so influence the healing profession. . . .For example, new partnerships can help to implement the Church’s social teaching.”

No longer will care be dictated by medical science and patient preference. A set of theological agreements call the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” or ERDs dictate treatment options offered to–or even discussed with–patients.

Gone is the dual patient-doctor relationship. Religious hospitals operate with a trinity—a patient-doctor-church relationship: “The Church’s moral teaching on healthcare nurtures a truly interpersonal professional-patient relationship. This professional-patient relationship is never separated, then, from the Catholic identity of the healthcare institution.”

Providers who work in these religious systems must sign binding contractual agreements to adhere to the religious directives: “Catholic healthcare services must adopt these Directives as policy, require adherence to them within the institution as a condition for medical privileges and employment, and provide appropriate instruction regarding the Directives ….”

Fertility Treatment: “Reproductive technologies that substitute for the marriage act are not consistent with human dignity.” ERDs prevents any in vitro fertilization and related treatments, either for same-sex couples who may use surrogacy or insemination for childbearing of for the ten percent of couples in the United States who have fertility problems.

Contraception: “Catholic health institutions may not promote or condone contraceptive practices …. Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution.” A woman who delivers a baby at a Catholic hospital and wants an IUD inserted or her tubes tied must have a second, separate procedure at a secular facility—if she can find one. State-of-the-art methods like IUD’s are better provided at the time of delivery, because postpartum insertion improves health outcomes; having tubal ligation at a different time than delivery means two surgeries instead of one if the baby was delivered through a C-section. Physicians connected to a religious hospital are prevented from doing vasectomies in their office or clinic.

Abnormal Pregnancies: “In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion.” Catholic practice requires the removal of the entire fallopian tube to end an ectopic pregnancy instead of just taking out the developing fetus. That mandates invasive and fertility-destroying surgery. Catholic “ethics” also forbid abortion even to save the life of the woman carrying the fetus. The recent publicity regarding Beatriz in El Salvador clearly exemplifies this situation.

Advance Directives: “A Catholic health care institution … will not honor an advance directive that is contrary to Catholic teaching.” If patient directives and bishop directives conflict, the directives of the bishops take precedence regardless of a patient’s own religious or conscience obligations.

DNR: “The free and informed judgment made by a competent adult patient concerning the use or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures should always be respected and normally complied with, unless it is contrary to Catholic moral teaching.” Catholic hospitals refuse to honor a patient’s request of “Do not Resuscitate,” maintaining life support at all costs despite patient orders.

Death with Dignity: “Catholic healthcare institutions may never condone or participate in [Death With Dignity] in any way.” Although three states have now legalized the right of patients to voluntarily end their lives under specific conditions, Catholic hospitals will not allow this right. Physicians are prohibited from even discussing options that exist in other institutions or making referrals.

“Patients experiencing suffering that cannot be alleviated should be helped to appreciate the Christian understanding of redemptive suffering.” This theological notion is derived from the crucifixion story—the idea that the blood sacrifice of a perfect being could redeem harm done. Suffering itself has redemptive value, which is why Mother Teresa’s order, for example, practiced self-flagellation and glorified suffering of the poor, ill, and dying.

Not everyone in Washington is accepting the Catholic health care takeover. After Catholic Peace Health got an exclusive contract near her home in the San Juan Islands, advocate Monica Harrington created a website to complement the efforts of the national Merger Watch. Fighting the religious takeover of secular systems across the country for over a decade, Merger Watch has identified a recent surge of Catholic hospital ownership. The ACLU of Washington working toward a state-wide solution, the first in the country. Part of its efforts is soliciting confidentially-protected stories from patients and providers anywhere who have experienced religious interference in medical decisions in the United States.

The Catholic Church provides less than five percent of revenues for Catholic-controlled hospitals. The other 95 percent comes from insurance reimbursement and tax-payer funds in the form of Medicaid, Medicare and capital grants for public services. Yet that five percent gives the Catholic Church total autonomy.

Washington is not the only state in trouble. In Arkansas, the state’s only teaching hospital, UAMS, is negotiating a merger with St. Vincent Health. If that were to happen, medical students would not be taught correct procedures in women’s reproductive needs, endangering the lives of people who go to these students when they become health practitioners.

The following map shows the growing influence of Catholic hospitals, now providing 16 percent of the beds, through the share of admissions to Catholic hospitals in the United States:

1369656508-catholic_hospitals_map_lg

Fortunately, health care in our small town had a happy ending. We affiliated with a group of four other small-town hospitals, each of which kept its religious affiliation. One is Episcopalian, and another is Seventh Day Adventist. The other three are secular. The hospital still honors women’s reproductive rights, advance directives, and death with dignity.

People need to understand that Catholic hospitals prevent much more than abortions and emergency contraception. Catholic hospitals take away the rights of patients to both save their lives and make their own end-of-life decisions. Anyone in a Catholic hospital may discover, up close and personal, the meaning of redemptive suffering.

May 24, 2013

The GOP – Not Even Penny-Wise While Pound Foolish

Yesterday, a part of the I-5 bridge that crosses the Skagit River in northern Washington state collapsed, sending two vehicles down 50 feet into the 46-degree, 15-foot-deep water and three people to the hospital. With no loss of life, the loss of this bridge, which carries 71,000 people each day, may not seem like a big deal. But it is.

People have been well aware that bridges and other infrastructures across the country are crumbling. Almost six years ago, a Minneapolis bridge collapse that killed 13 people drew attention to the expanding disaster caused by Congressional unwillingness to address this problem. Last year, the Federal Highway Administration reported that 67,000 of our 607,000 bridges are structurally deficient. That’s almost 11 percent of all bridges, only one percent less than when the I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. Motorists take 210 million trips daily across at least one deficient bridge.

Some studies  identified bridges needing the most work, and some states installed sensors to track bridges’ deterioration on a computer. With a lack of funding, however, bridges, with an average age of 42, failed to receive the attention that they need. The nation has a C+ for maintaining bridges, and governments need to add $8 billion annually to their investment to take care of these bridges.

A truck with an excessively tall load striking a steel girder may have caused the collapse over Washington’s Skagit River. Naysayers could claim that the bridge was probably fine. But safe bridges are not classified as “fracture critical,” which means that the entire structure can be brought down if only one major part fails. Inspected twice during the last year, the bridge received a sufficiency rating of 47 out of 100 at its November 2012 inspection. The state average is 80, according to an Associated Press analysis. Built in 1955, the bridge is one of almost 2,000 bridges in classified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

The real news is that public construction spending is lower than it’s been in over 20 years.

bridge construction

In his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama spoke about addressing “an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair.” As he put it, “Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire–a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet, high-tech schools, self-healing power grids.” He supports the “Fix-It-First” program, but as Matt Yglesias explained:

“[P]oliticians and real-estate developers like to open brand new roads with fun ribbon-cutting ceremonies and new subdivisions. Finding money to actually maintain roads we already have is less appealing. Consequently, we get too many miles of road (and too much sprawl), but the roads suck. The fix-it-first concept is to flip this and make sure we’re maximizing the value of our existing roads before we build new ones.”

The president’s recommended a partnering with the private sector to create jobs through the investment in vitally needed projects. A government investment of $10 billion to create and capitalize an independent National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) could leverage $200 billion of total infrastructure investment from private sector partners and state and local governments.

The GOP is interested only in manufactured scandals that they hope will bring down President Obama and the Democrats, spending and tax cuts, and the elimination of women’s rights. They want to continue hearings on Benghazi, questioning former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; bring Lois Lerner back to question her about the IRS despite her clear intention to invoke the Fifth Amendment; investigate Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about fundraising for Obamacare; press forward on a national anti-abortion law which would be unconstitutional; and otherwise avoid governing the country.

Boehner and the rest of the extremists in Congress don’t consider that the United States is approaching an economy in which goods cannot be easily transported from one city or state to another because the country doesn’t have the bridges and roads and rail to do this.

The collapsed bridge in Washington has cut off the highway into Canada from the western states of California, Oregon, and Washington. This cuts private profits. Failure to invest in roads and bridges would total $3.1 trillion in lost GDP growth in the next eight years, lose 3.5 million jobs, and cost private sector companies over $1 trillion.

Eighteen months ago, Senate Republicans, with the help of Nebraska’s blue dog Ben Nelson and Connecticut’s independent Joe Lieberman, blocked the piece of President Obama’s jobs act, which would have provided for $60 billion in infrastructure spending.

At the same time, House Republicans were determined to pass a bill that would tie new infrastructure funding to federal revenue generated from an expansion of domestic energy production. At that time, 27 percent of the bridges in Ohio, Speaker John Boehner’s home state, were either “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete,” including 171 bridges that are part of the national highway system.

Almost a year ago, Mark Thoma, economist and Fellow at the American Century Foundation, wrote about how he was stunned by Congress’s inability to fund infrastructure investment because it would meet the GOP goal of a boost to the general economy.

“At a time when interest rates are as low as we are likely to see, when labor and other costs are minimal due to lack of demand during the downturn, and when the need is so high, why aren’t we making a massive investment in infrastructure, which is ultimately an investment in our future? There are many, many public investments we could make where the benefits surely exceed the costs–these are things the private sector won’t do on its own even though they are highly valuable to society–so what are we waiting for?

“If there’s any policy Republicans ought to be able to support, it’s infrastructure spending. It’s inherently a supply-side policy, it helps to promote future economic growth, and it’s an investment with large, positive net benefits. But Republicans see a ‘we won’t build that’ approach to infrastructure spending. . .”

For the past five years, interest rates have been at all-time lows, and construction workers have been largely unemployed. Investing in the infrastructure would have been a bargain. Bridges are not the only piece of infrastructure that are approaching crisis. Highways, wastewater treatment facilities, electricity grid, and tunnels are rapidly deteriorating without maintenance.

In a survey of airports last month, not one U.S. airport was rated in the top 25. Only 17 were in the top 100. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport fell to 30th from 24th a year ago.

The sequester will make this even worse because of the need for senators and representatives to fly on time. The $253 million paying for more prompt airplanes comes from airport maintenance and construction. President Obama said:

“We’re using our seed corn short-term. And the only reason we’re doing it is because right now we’ve got folks who are unwilling to make some simple changes to our tax code, for example, to close loopholes that aren’t adding to our competitiveness and aren’t helping middle-class families.”

More scary statistics here—and these are two years old! The GOP is intent to create a country with a non-government, and they are willing to destroy the concept of “general welfare” in order to do this.

December 11, 2012

Marriage Equality Goes to SCOTUS, Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:51 PM
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Last Sunday same-sex couples had their first chance to marry in Washington state. Oregon’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian, printed several pictures of happy couples who could finally legalize their relationships. For many of us, looking at the photos was like standing outside a home and pressing our noses against the window, watching the happy people inside.

beard [Larry Duncan, 56, a retired psychiatric nurse, and Randell Shepherd, 48, a computer programmer, of North Bend (WA) apply for a marriage license after being together for 11 years. Although they’re not religious, Duncan said, “Enough people have told me, ‘God hates fags’. I want someone in a church to say, ‘God loves fags,’ to have that stamp on it.”] 

women[Deborah Needham, 48, and Nancy Monahan, 57, of Renton (WA) married on Sunday after being together 14 years. Monahan is a retired Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class and a Navy veteran. ]

Other photos! And more!

In nine states throughout the nation, marriage equality is state law. Oregon, on the other hand, is one of 31 states that have enshrined discrimination in the state constitution by banning marriage equality. Advocates of same-sex marriage are hoping that 2014 will be the year to overturn this bigoted amendment, but this would require over two-thirds of the vote in support allowing LGBT people to marry their partners. At this time, polls indicate 54 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed.

There’s one other way that marriage equality can be legalized and all other states—a Supreme Court decision. Following the plethora of laws about same-sex marriage across the United States and the recent rulings that DOMA, the federal law restricting marriage to a man and a woman, is unconstitutional, SCOTUS has taken on two cases on appeal from lower courts.

Four federal district courts and two courts of appeal have overturned the provision in various cases on grounds that it unfairly deprives same-sex couples of federal benefits. The buzz now is what will the Supreme Court decide.

Which Cases Did SCOTUS Decide to Hear?Hollingsworth v Perry is the California case that overturned Prop 8, banning same-sex marriages after 18,000 gays and lesbians had already legally married in the state. According to federal Judge Vaughn Walker, a fundamental right to marriage equality exists in the U.S. Constitution from Due Process and Equal Protection clauses. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Walker’s ruling in a narrow ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional because it stripped away a previous right of same-sex couples to marry in California.

Windsor v United States challenges the $363,000 of estate tax that 83-year-old Edith Windsor was forced to pay after her partner, Thea Spyer, died in 2009. The two women had been together for 44 years and married in Canada because New York did not permit same-sex marriages. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional, again based on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

SCOTUS also plans to take up the issue of Article III standing, whether a person or group has the right to bring a case in court. The Supreme Court maintains that a person or group pursuing legal action must have suffered a direct and concrete injury in order to have standing in the case. After the California judge declared that Prop 8 was unconstitutional, the 9th Circuit Court determined that the opponents appealing the case lacked standing. They were merely ideologically against marriage equality.

SCOTUS also plans to examine whether House Republicans have Article III standing to intervene in the Windsor v United States case. If they lack standing in this case, they may lose their ability to defend similar laws, including other DOMA cases.

Which Cases Did SCOTUS Not Choose? The other cases which SCOTUS chose not to hear will not be overturned unless the high court’s final decision impacts them. 

1)    Diaz v Brewer deals specifically with health insurance benefits for LGBT state employees in Arizona.

2)    Gill v Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives and Massachusetts v United States Department of Health and Human Services deal with federal benefits denied to gay married couples, such as the right to file joint income taxes.

3)    Golinski v Office of Personnel Management (California) involves a married federal court employee who was refused the right to extend health benefits to her same-sex spouse. (So far Golinski is the only LGBT person in the country who has been allowed to begin receiving federal benefits while DOMA remains in effect.)

4)    Pedersen v Office of Personnel Management challenges DOMA in Connecticut as a violation of the 5th Amendment.

In Part 2 tomorrow, a non-lawyer’s take on what might happen to these cases in the next six months.

April 6, 2012

One Heart at a Time: LGBT Rights Progress

The Gay Politics Report comes into my email box a couple of times each week. Usually it has one or two articles that seem to move LGBT rights ahead with the majority providing discouraging news for equality. Somehow this edition was encouraging enough to make me search for even more good news for the LGBT community.

Lesbian chef Mirella Salemi has been awarded $1.6 million from restaurateur Edward Globokar after he held employee prayer meetings at his TriBeCa Mexican eatery, Mary Ann’s, to cure her of her “sexuality.” She worked there for six years before she quit in 2007. Globokar discriminated against employees in his six Manhattan restaurants, telling them they faced eternal damnation unless they went to church.

Joe Abell, an assistant school principal in Fullerton (CA), apologized to student Kearian Giertz after interrupting his speech for the annual Mr. Fullerton competition, walking him off the stage, and telling him he was disqualified. Giertz explained how he received Abell’s ire: “I said, ‘Hopefully, in 10 years time, I’ll be winning Emmys, Oscars and Tonys’–just, you know, the typical answer–and, then, I added, ‘But, more importantly, I’d really, really like to sit on the couch with the person that I love and say I’m married to them. In my case, that would be a male. And, I hope that, in 10 years time, that would be legal.’” Good for you, Kearian. Other students objected to this treatment.

After suing a southwest Ohio school district for not allowing him to wear a t-shirt with the statement “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe,” 16-year-old Maverick Couch will be permitted to wear the shirt for just one day—the Day of Silence that the school commemorates on April 20. That isn’t stopping Couch from continuing his lawsuit against Waynesville High School and the Wayne Local School District for violating his freedom of expression rights. School officials said the shirt was “sexual in nature,” indecent, and inappropriate at school. Couch said he wanted to wear the shirt to “promote respect for all students, gay or straight.” Couch’s attorney, Christopher Clark, said, “A student’s First Amendment rights are not restricted to one day of the year.”

U.S. Chief Judge Michael J. Davis has ruled that a marriage between a man and a transgender woman is legal under Minnesota law and that a health insurance plan could not drop the woman from her husband’s health benefits. The judge said that because one person is male and the other legally transitioned to female, the couple qualifies as legally married under the state’s Defense of Marriage Act. Davis is bucking the past trend of ruling the opposite way. A Texas judge voided a marriage last summer because a firefighter’s widow was born male. Kansas and Florida have had similar rulings based on the states’ Defense of Marriage Acts or state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

The rating for the film Bully has been changed from “R” to PG-13 because three expletives were edited out of the documentary. Bully was released on March 30 with no rating; a re-release with the new rating is scheduled for April 13. The film about school bullying follows five young people for a year. The monthlong rating dispute between The Weinstein Co. that released the film and the MPAA that gives ratings was made more public across the nation after 17-year-old Katy Butler of Ann Arbor (MI) started an online petition calling for a rating that would allow more young people to see it. The “R” rating for Bully for three expletives has been compared to the PG-13 rating for The Hunger Games in which ten teenagers are violently killed.

Four former DNC Chairs–Howard Dean, Donald Fowler, Steve Grossman and David Wilhelm—have joined Freedom to Marry’s Democrats: Say I Do campaign to secure a freedom-to-marry plank in the 2012 Democratic Party platform. The former chairs issued the following statement: ”We are proud that the Democratic Party fights for working families, economic justice, and equal opportunity for all.  Times change but our principles must always remain strong.  That is why, as former chairs of the Democratic National Committee, we stand with Freedom to Marry, 22 Democratic senators, Leader Nancy Pelosi, and more than 35,000 Americans in urging the Party to include a freedom to marry plank in the platform that is ratified at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this September.”

Robert “Bob” Kabel and Jill Homan have been elected to the posts of Republican national committeeman and committeewoman for the District of Columbia, making it the only jurisdiction with openly gay GOP committee members. Robert “Bob” Kabel and Jill Homan will officially take their positions in September at the conclusion of the 2012 Republican Convention.

The U.S. House of Representatives continues to use LGBT money to defend the Defense of Marriage Act preventing equality of marriage, this time before the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. Paul Clement defended the discriminatory law, claiming that Congress had a rational basis for passing the law because, in 1996, Hawaii might become the first state in the nation to legalize gay marriage and opponents worried that other states would be forced to recognize such marriages. He also said that Congress wanted to preserve a traditional and uniform definition of marriage and argued that Congress has the power to define the terms used in federal statutes to distribute federal benefits, the first time they would do since the adoption of the Constitution over 200 years ago.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery told the court that the Department of Justice would not be defending the constitutionality of the 1996 law regardless of the level of scrutiny the court found appropriate in the case. He supported that statement with President Obama’s February 2011 decision that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional because such laws should be subjected to heightened scrutiny and that, accordingly, DOJ would stop defending DOMA in court. He also argued that a law that denies same-sex couples a large number of federal benefits given to heterosexual couples amounts to “across-the-board disrespect.” Assistant Attorney General Maura Healey said “DOMA …. is really a rule of exclusion.” Mary Bonauto, an attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), said Congress passed the law out of “moral disapproval.”

Clement also tried to make the case that DOMA isn’t an anti-gay law. Although DOJ, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and GLAD argued that DOMA was motivated by “animus”—anti-gay sentiment—Clement used the argument that the impact of DOMA was not all bad. “In some cases,” he said, “it’s a net financial benefit to the same-sex couple; in some, it’s not.” Delery quoted from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, striking down sodomy laws, when Kennedy held that “times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.”

The House of Representatives is appealing a judgment in Massachusetts that declared the heart of the law unconstitutional in 2010. Judge Joseph Tauro found that the law interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns. Mary and Dorene Bowe-Shulman, of Acton, plaintiffs in the GLAD lawsuit, said they resent having to check the “single” box on their tax returns because they’ve been legally married in Massachusetts since 2004. “It’s humiliating to have to declare to the federal government once a year that we’re not married when we are married,” Mary Bowe-Shulman said.

Another heated court case may come from the supposed failure of Anchorage’s Proposition 5 that would have included gay and transgender citizens in the anti-discrimination Municipal Code that already protects others based on race, gender, age, marital status and other traits.  Voting was so high that polling places ran out of ballots, thousands of questioned ballots were cast, and some voters may have been illegally turned away from the polls.

Adding to the confusion—and illegality—was the statement from the opposition’s Facebook page from its administrator Jim Minnery: “Attention Young People or First Time Voters – YOU CAN REGISTER AND VOTE AT THE SAME LOCATION TODAY !! It is super easy. Take a few minutes TODAY and stop by a polling station, register to vote (all you need is your AK driver’s license) and cast a NO Vote on Prop. 5. We really need you to vote. Tell at least 3 of your friends how easy it is.” Even when reminded that Alaska requires voters to register 30 days before an election, Minnery didn’t take down his statement.

Meanwhile the Catholic Church in Washington state has declared war on marriage equality. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo are deploying parishes to collect signatures for Referendum 74, a measure that would overturn marriage equality in the state. Their letter denies Gov. Christine Gregoire’s statement that refusing marriage to same-sex couples equates to discrimination.

“Treating different things differently is not unjust discrimination,” the bishops claim. The Catholic leaders deny that same-sex couples can achieve “the reality of the unique, fruitful, lifelong union.” Showing their sensitivity, the authors of the letter asked that signatures not be gathered on Easter. Both Gregoire and State Sen. Ed Murray, sponsor of the marriage equality bill, are Catholic.

With all the progress, it’s one heart at a time. One conservative mother had her heart changed when she found out that her son is gay. Every anti-LGBT person should read her narrative.

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