Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Collision at the Court

The oral arguments were held in Obergefell v. Hodges today. They were in two parts: on Question 1: “Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?” and Question 2: “Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?”.

You can listen to to oral argument and read an unofficial transcript on Question 1 here and on question 2 here.

I've only listened to the oral argument on Question 1 so far. There are many reports and articles on the arguments that would take weeks to study in full and you can be sure they will continue to come for some time. One early one was from the Washington Post. SCOTUSblog, a reliable source, has had numerous articles today and in the recent past. One of the clearest and most accessible to non-lawyers is Lyle Denniston's summary of the arguments.

For the truly obsessed, SCOTUSblog gives a plethora of links to commentary on the arguments from other sources.

The news of the day was Justice Kennedy agonized over whether the Court should, on it's own, change the institution of marriage, that had been, for “millennia,” understood as between a man and a woman, based only on a little over a decade of same-sex marriage. But later on in the argument, he showed impatience with, if not disdain toward, the arguments of the attorney representing the states.

By all reports, there was less fireworks in the argument on Question 2. But, interestingly, Chief Justice Roberts seemed to be hinting that he'd be favorable to a “yes” on that question. Even Justice Scalia appeared skeptical of the states' arguments that they didn't have to recognize marriages from other states that were valid under those states' laws. That led many commentators to speculate that Roberts may be trying to formulate a “compromise” with Kennedy: that the majority will answer “yes” to Question 2 but “no to Question 1. The effect would be that LGBT people would be able to get the benefits of marriage everywhere (by getting married in the 11 or 12 jurisdictions allowing same-sex marriage either by law, referendum or state court decisions based on state constitutions) that won't be effected by this decision but still allow most of the other states to maintain the fig leaf that they have not allowed such marriages in their state. The problem will be straightening out the status of thousands or tens of thousands of gay people who got married in states under court decisions that the Supreme Court refused to stay.

The inducement for such a compromise would likely be something like “Look, you can have a 9-0 decision (assuming Scalia would go along and Alito and Thomas would follow) that, for all intents and purposes, achieves same-sex marriage everywhere in the US, instead or a 5-4 decision that will set off a firestorm on the order of Roe v. Wade. Sure, there will still be the crazies predicting Armageddon, but the LGBT people will be inspired to bring referendums and constitutional amendments, particularly in 2016, when a presidential election guarantees large turnouts and gives them the best chance of success, that may just end any real controversy. A couple of dozen states reversing same-sex marriage bans would pretty much put the last nail in the coffin of the whole issue and we can clean up any lingering effects later.”

I could see that as appealing to Kennedy and even Ginsberg.

On the other hand, there were two particularly nice bits in the arguments. Mary Bonauto, arguing for the plaintiffs in Question 1, after being peppered on whether or not the Federal courts or the states should be the ones to decide if gays should be be allowed to marry, had this retort:
[I]n terms of the question of who decides, it's not about the Court versus the States. It's about the individual making the choice to marry and with whom to marry, or the government.
The other was by Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., who ended with:
… I would suggest is that in a world in which gay and lesbian couples live openly as our neighbors, they raise their children side by side with the rest of us, they contribute fully as members of the community, that it is simply untenable … untenable … to suggest that they can be denied the right of equal participation in an institution of marriage, or that they can be required to wait until the majority decides that it is ready to treat gay and lesbian people as equals. Gay and lesbian people are equal. They deserve equal protection of the laws, and they deserve it now.
And now we wait …

Monday, April 27, 2015


John Arthur Day

Never heard of it? John Arthur was married to Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the Ohio lawsuit that is one of four joined cases that will be argued tomorrow before the Supreme Court to decide whether or not same-sex marriage bans and refusals to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states violate the Constitution. By the luck of the draw, Mr. Obergefell's case was named first on the Supreme Court's grant of certiorari and, therefore, for good or for ill, his name will be what the Supreme Court's decision will forever be known by.

The story of Obergefell and Arthur is easily the most poignant of all the plaintiffs', though all are compelling. They had lived together for two decades in what was in every way, except legal definition, a marriage. Arthur was dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and, in a last ditch effort, they arranged for a a medical charter jet to fly them to Maryland, where they were married on the tarmac of the airport. They then returned to Ohio, where Arthur died. All that Obergefell requested was that Arthur's death certificate state that he was married to Obergefell at the time of his death. The State of Ohio refused.

The interesting thing is that John Arthur Day, also tomorrow, April 28th, was declared by the the city council of … wait for it … Cincinnati! The same city of Cincinnati that brought the first criminal trial of an art museum, the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, on a charge of obscenity for displaying the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe. That's one of Mr. Mapplethorpe's self portraits above right. It is the same Cincinnati that, in 2004, at the height of the 'ban same-sex marriage' frenzy (engineered in no small part by Karl Rove to assist the re-election campaign of George W. Bush) was the only American city to have expressly barred ordinances related to gay rights in its Charter and was called “the most anti-gay city in America.”

Now, Cincinnati has a domestic partner registry and city employees have “transgender inclusive” health benefits, including hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery upon a doctor's determination that it is medically necessary. While the city is technically a defendant in the Obergefell suit, its attorneys refuse to defend Ohio’s ban.

What happened? As Sheryl Gay Stolberg documents in the New York Times article “Gay Marriage Case Caps Cincinnati’s Shift From Conservative Past” there were a number of factors. The demographics of the city changed, as older, more religious and conservative people moved from the city to the suburbs. At the same time gentrification brought younger gay professionals into the city. Procter & Gamble, headquartered in the city, as is the case with most large corporations, saw that an anti-gay attitude was bad for business. The local coverage of the plight of Obergefell and Arthur and the suicide of Leelah Alcorn provoked an outpouring of sympathy for LGBT people. And, of course, like everywhere else in the country, attitudes are changing as more and more people find out that people they know and are related to are gay.

Predictably, our old friend Al Mohler is not pleased. He told Ms. Stolberg:
R. Albert Mohler Jr., the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who came here this month for a forum on same-sex marriage, said in an interview that Cincinnati had long stood as “a firewall” against the kind of moral degradation that, he argues, will come if gay people can wed.

“If this kind of moral change can happen in Cincinnati,” he warned, “it can happen anywhere.”
From his lips …

On Mohler's podcast (there's no transcript provided yet), he keeps repeating that 'if it can happen in Cincinnati, it can happen anywhere' line but seems to attribute it to Christians who aren't Christian enough and moral enough.

Somewhere in the Bible that I am unaware of, Christ apparently said “you can't be bigoted enough!”

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Pulling It Out of Your Butt

Just for a change of pace, I want to present to you Tennessee state Rep. Sheila Butt:
Republican state legislators across the country continue looking for ways to make it more difficult for women to exercise their right to choose abortion, and Tennessee is in the process of passing one of the classics: a waiting period. And a Tennessee Republican managed to make waiting periods even more insulting than they by definition are. Tennessee Democrats tried to amend the waiting period bill to exempt victims of rape and incest, but state Rep. Sheila Butt was not having it, because how do you know that a woman is telling the truth about her pregnancy being the result of rape or incest?
"This amendment appears political because we understand that in most instances this is not verifiable," Butt said. "Let’s make sure that these women have the information and understanding to act. Madam Speaker, I move this amendment to the table."
Because, like, women are too stupid or too emotional or too something to understand what is going on in their own bodies and decide how to deal with it unless the Republican oh-so-small-government steps in between the woman and her doctor and makes it as difficult as possible for her to get a legal medical procedure.

A while back I heard of some sociologists who thought that a person's name might effect the shape of their lives. I was dubious … until now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Say What?

A thought:
Unlike other hot-button constitutional controversies, conservatives have a hopeless public-relations war to wage. The best they can do, as Michigan did, is to append a table showing “ballot-box votes on the definition of marriage” that a ruling in favour of same-sex marriage would overturn. There are no poster children to be found. Supporters of the death penalty recall gory stories of murder victims, whose killers, they say, deserve the ultimate punishment; affirmative action opponents point to jilted white or Asian candidates who are rejected from their top-choice university because minority applicants with inferior credentials got in; and pro-life activists stick photos of aborted fetuses in women’s faces. But there is just no vivid argument available to match the stories of couples who cannot file a joint tax return, visit one another in the hospital or adopt each others’ children. No innocent bystander was ever dealt an injustice, maimed or killed because a pair of doting gays or lesbians happened to get hitched.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


A Guide to How It's Done

Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog has a fascinating post about the minutia of how oral arguments proceed in the Supreme Court. Ostensibly, it is a “A reporter’s guide to covering the same-sex marriage cases at the Supreme Court” but anyone interested in how the Supreme Court works (and wants to listen to the oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges) would be well advised to read it, as it is full of much detail.

I have argued, certainly, more than a dozen cases before the appellate courts of New York and it's nothing like this. For one thing, very few last more than about 15 minutes for both sides and there is, only in the rarest of cases, any reply by the appellant. The prospect of spending 30 minutes, as Mary Bonauto, the lawyer who will represent the appellants on the main issue, whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires that LGBT people be afforded an equal right to marriage, being peppered by the highest judges in the land (including bright but nasty Justices like Scalia) is simply beyond my comprehension. Worse yet, this is Bonauto's first time arguing before the Supreme Court, I was terrified the first couple of times I argued before the much less intimidating New York courts.

Now it is routine for me and, truth be told, there is no point to the oral arguments. The judges have all made up their minds and it would be a miracle if anything you said changed that. It's more a ritual now than anything.

But your first time before the Supreme Court …!

Fortunately, perhaps, she is a a MacArthur “genius” award winner and may be better equipped than I to take on the challenge.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Not Getting the Whole “Civil Law” Thingie

One of the stranger Amicus Briefs filed in the same-sex marriage cases now before the Supreme Court (collectively known as Obergefell v. Hodges), is the one filed on behalf of the Public Advocate of the U.S. [despite the name, not a government agency], Joyce Meyer Ministries, U.S. Justice Foundation, The Lincoln Institute, Abraham Lincoln Foundation, Institute on the Constitution, Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Pastor Chuck Baldwin.

One of the brief's big arguments is that:
Inevitably, a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage will usher in an unprecedented coarsening of community moral standards, spawning an aggressive impulse to force the American people not just to tolerate all forms of sexual misbehavior, but to embrace and encourage pagan practices that threaten to “defile” the land, and risk God’s judgment. …

Should the Court require the States and the People to “ritualize” sodomite behavior52 by government issuance of a state marriage license, it could bring God’s judgment on the Nation. Holy Scripture attests that homosexual behavior and other sexual perversions violate the law of the land, and when the land is “defiled,” the people have been cast out of their homes. See Leviticus 18:22, 24-30. Although some would assert that these rules apply only to the theocracy of ancient Israel, the Apostle Peter rejects that view: “For if God ... turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample [sic] unto those that after should live ungodly.” 2 Peter 2:4-6. The continuing application of this Levitical prohibition is confirmed by the Book of Jude: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Jude 7
Now, I've seen appellate briefs quote the Bible before … in much the same way as Mark Twain is sometimes quoted … but never as a legal authority that a court should follow.

Don't forget that the oral arguments are scheduled for April 28, 2015 and that, in a rare move, the Court will be releasing the audio of the oral arguments, along with an unofficial transcript, both of which should be available no later than 2 p.m. on the same day. They will be found here.

I'm taking bets that none of the attorneys will be arguing the Bible as a legal authority.


Republican Janus!

The Republican party has a problem.

It doesn't like to look as homophobic as it is. The Roman god Janus somehow comes to mind.

This was recently on display in Indiana and even Arkansas, home of the ultimate “bubba” store, Walmart, which came out strongly on the side of LBGT equality. The “economic” wing of the party knows that the majority of Americans are now in favor of equality and that no political advantage can, in the present day, be wrung out of bigotry, as it was once was in 2004. Instead, firestorms descend on Republican politicians who try to write bigotry into law or even try to, ever so slightly, side with that bigotry.

A case in point is the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, run by the Centennial Institute, which refused the “Log Cabin Republicans,” (“LCR”), a group of gay Republicans (why that isn't an oxymoron is beyond me!) request for a booth at the convention.

The Colorado Republican Party has now invited the LCRs to share its booth at the convention, which the organizers said was fine but not before decrying the LCR's “shaming and bullying” tactics. Those “shaming and bullying” tactics amounted to nothing more than a complaint on its Facebook page and a press release to the effect that its payment for a booth at the WCS had been “rescinded.”
But the Centennial Institute said it wasn’t a case of disinviting because it never specifically invited the Log Cabin Republicans. It said in a blog post Wednesday its practice is to decline exhibit space to groups whose policy goals conflict with its own, “whether it be higher taxes, climate extremism, disarmament, marijuana, abortion, gay marriage, abridgment of religious freedom, or the like.” …

“We’ve got a biblical article of faith, and marriage is one man, one woman,” Andrews told me Thursday, explaining why he declined the Log Cabin Republicans’ application. “They have chosen to turn it into a national protest movement raining down on me and my staff.”

In what he calls an orchestrated “bully movement,” Andrews said he’s gotten a barrage of phone calls and online comments from people calling him a “hypocrite,” a “bigot,” or a person “from the Dark Ages.”

“Several people have called us the Taliban. … Where is the tolerance they talk about toward us?” Andrews said. “It really doesn’t seem fair that if we respect their sexual freedom they can’t respect our religious freedom.”
What's the saying? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck … Phil Robertson will want to shoot it anyway!

If, as most court observers expect, the Supreme Court this June finds a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment for LGBT people to marry, this is only going to get worse for the Republicans. The Religious Right is already losing its collective mind about the prospect, even suggesting secession (and didn't that turn out well the last time it was tried?).

The Republicans have tied their fate to the Tea Partiers, those descendants of the John Birch Society that William F. Buckley had ousted from the Republican mainstream in the 1960s. They chose to ride the tiger and, as everyone knows, the hardest part of that is the dismount.

The Religious Right, which holds such sway in Republican primaries, will insist on nominating an outright bigot this time around … something that, whoever the candidate is … Cruz, Huckabee, (please God!), Santorum, just won't be able to run away from in the general election. If, perchance, the Republican establishment manages to nominate a Bush or Rubio or Christie, can they hide the bigots under their skirts? And just how long will the Religious Right continue to be a reliable Republican resource, especially if Hillary beats whoever the Republicans nominate … because he “wasn't conservative enough”?

I'm old enough to be philosophical about this. I won't be around in 20 years when this all plays out (or if I'm still around I probably won't know/care what's going on).

But, in the meantime, it's beer and popcorn time!

Thursday, April 16, 2015


The Confluence of All Cranks

Well, well, well …

At last, the connection between my two great obsessions … creationism and same-sex marriage!

I bet you didn't know that Darwin, along with engendering Nazism, Communism and just about every other political evil in the world, also is responsible for same-sex marriage!

Fortunately, we have Nancy Pearcey, Discovery Institute fellow, to set us straight:
Secularists claim that their view of same-sex marriage is an expression of respect. But surprisingly, the underlying worldview is actually a disrespectful view of the human body.

In an earlier age, nature was recognized as God's creation, expressing God's purposes. Because our bodies are part of nature, the human body has a purpose too. The biological correspondence between male and female in reproduction is part of the original creation that God pronounced "very good" — morally good — which means it provides a reference point for morality.

What changed this purpose-driven view of nature? Darwin's theory of evolution: It was proposed expressly to eliminate the concept of purpose or design in nature.

This not only changed biology, it also caused a monumental shift in moral thinking. For if nature no longer bore signs of God's good purposes, then it no longer provided a basis for moral truths. Nature was just a machine, churning along by blind, material forces.

The human body too was reduced to a morally neutral mechanism. Our sexual identity no longer provided clues to how we were intended to live. And if nature did not reveal God's will, then it became a morally neutral realm where humans may impose their will and preferences.

This background is crucial for understanding the impact of homosexuality. Think of it this way: Biologically, physiologically, males and females are clearly counterparts to one another. That's how the human sexual and reproductive anatomy is designed.

As a consequence, engaging in homosexual practice requires individuals to contradict their own anatomy — to override the obvious design of their physiology, to act in opposition to their own biology.

The implication is that biology does not matter.

We need to help people see that this is a profoundly disrespectful view of their own body. It treats the body as having no intrinsic purpose or significance — giving no clue to who we are as whole persons. Thus homosexuality has a self-alienating and fragmenting effect on the human personality.
A “disrespectful” view of the human body? What our bodies do is supposed to tell us how we were intended to live? We shouldn't impose our will and preferences on our bodies? We can't override the obvious design of our physiology or act in opposition to our own biology?

So, if God's good purpose was to make you shortsighted, it's “disrespectful” to wear glasses or contacts? If it was God's good purpose to have your body develop cancer, it's “disrespectful”to take chemotherapy? If it was God's good purpose to make a couple sterile, it is “disrespectful” to use technology to try to have children? The list is endless, of course. That doesn't even get to to the question of whether God, for his own “good purposes,” made you attracted to members of your own sex, whether it is “disrespectful” to love the people you love?

Talk about a “self-alienating and fragmenting effect on the human personality”!

Saturday, April 11, 2015


About Petards ...

Peter Montgomery at Religion Dispatches notes:
Mormon Church: High officials slam ‘counterfeit’ gay families

Not long after winning praise from Utah LGBT activists for a compromise in which the church supported legislation opposing discrimination in employment and housing, Mormon officials reaffirmed Church teaching against, in the words of apostle L. Tom Perry, “all of the counterfeit and alternative lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God himself established.”
“Despite what much of media and entertainment outlets may suggest, however, and despite the very real decline in the marriage and family orientation of some,” he said, “the solid majority of mankind still believes that marriage should be between one man and one woman.”
This is amusing on a couple of levels. First of all, a solid majority of humankind doesn't believe in or, at least, doesn't live under liberal democracies that value freedom of religion as we do here in the US. Why should we care what a majority opinion across the world is, especially when we are constantly told, particularly by the Religious Right, of “American Exceptionalism”?

Furthermore, a majority of humankind here in the US and the rest of the world still believe that Mormonism is a “false religion.” Does that mean we don't have to protect Mormons' religious freedom … anymore than we have to protect the 14th Amendment rights of LGBT people to due process and equal protection under the law … simply because a majority of people disagree with their beliefs and practices?

Guys, you might want to rethink this ...

Wednesday, April 08, 2015


The Mind of Theists

When in danger,
When in doubt,
Run in circles
Scream and shout!

Al Mohler is running in such tight circles he is in danger of disappearing up his own ass.

It seems:
The advocates of same-sex marriage and the more comprehensive goals of the LGBT movement assured the nation that nothing would be fundamentally changed just if people of the same gender were allowed to marry one another. We knew that couldn’t be true, and now the entire nation knows.
What's changed? The Indiana “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” was shot down … big time. But according to Al, it was just the same law that has been on the Federal books since 1993 and almost unanimously passed by Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton himself!

Except it wasn't the same law ... but why be picky?

But according to Al:
The real issue is the fact that the secular Left has decided that religious liberty must now be reduced, redefined or relegated to a back seat in the culture.
How does he come to that conclusion? Why because the New York Times Editorial Board had the temerity to say:
The freedom to exercise one’s religion is not under assault in Indiana, or anywhere else in the country. Religious people — including Christians, who continue to make up the majority of Americans — may worship however they wish and say whatever they like.
To Al, that's not enough:
There you see religious liberty cut down to freedom of worship. The freedom to worship is most surely part of what religious liberty protects, but religious liberty is not limited to what happens in a church, a mosque, a temple or a synagogue. That editorial represents religious liberty redefined right before our eyes.
But, perhaps not strangely for a Southern Baptist, Al doesn't mention the next paragraph in the Times editorial:
But religion should not be allowed to serve as a cover for discrimination in the public sphere. In the past, racial discrimination was also justified by religious beliefs, yet businesses may not refuse service to customers because of their race. Such behavior should be no more tolerable when it is based on sexual orientation.
What more does Al want, anyway?

His other evidence of this is a couple of columns by opinion writer Frank Bruni at the Times. The first, back in January, where Bruni said “churches have been allowed to adopt broad, questionable interpretations of a “ministerial exception” to anti-discrimination laws that allow them to hire and fire clergy as they wish,” and another recently where he says “debate about religious liberty should include a conversation about freeing religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”

The problem here is that, as part of the vast “secular Left” conspiracy against religion, I don't agree with Bruni. The “ministerial exception” is entirely appropriate to our constitutional scheme and necessary to keep government out of the freedom of religion of our citizens. And, while Bruni has every free speech right to talk to theists about freeing religion from past superstition and prejudice, government (to the extent he even suggested it did) has no role in that conversation.

To try to attribute to a large movement like liberalism and secularism the motives of the New York Times Editorial Board or of Frank Bruni is rather like me saying that all Christians want to kill gays because some Christians advocate stoning gays to death.

Is Al willing to take the views of a few as if they are his own?

I didn't think so!

Monday, April 06, 2015


Muncie ... We Agree

More fallout from the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act debacle in Indiana …

Up to now, 28% of the population of Indiana has been protected by local laws from discrimination based on sexual orientation and 21% from discrimination based on gender identity.

As a direct result of the RFRA flap, more local communities are considering extending anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people.

Tonight, Muncie, Indiana joined in and another 70,316 people were added to those in Indiana protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

It turns out the Indiana RFRA is having quite an effect … just not the one its sponsors expected.

And that's a good thing!

Thank goodness for the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Friday, April 03, 2015


Of Fans and Shit

As noted before, the state of Indiana was enduring a storm of criticism after its Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed into law. It got so bad, that the state's Republican legislative leaders and governor promised to come up with a “clarification,” even though they kept insisting that none was necessary.

Well, this is what they came up with:
This chapter does not: (1) authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service;

(2) establish a defense to a civil action or criminal prosecution for refusal by a provider to offer or provide services,facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service; or (3) negate any rights available under the Constitution of the State of Indiana.[…]

As used in this chapter, “provider” means one (1) or more individuals, partnerships, associations, organizations, limited liability companies, corporations, and other organized groups of persons. The term does not include: (1) A church or other nonprofit religious organization or society, including an affiliated school, that is exempt from federal income taxation under 26 U.S.C. 501(a), as amended (excluding any activity that generates unrelated business taxable income (as defined in 26 U.S.C. 512, as amended)). (2) A rabbi, priest, preacher, minister, pastor, or designee of a church or other nonprofit religious organization or society when the individual is engaged in a religious or affiliated educational function of the church or other nonprofit religious organization or society.
Gov. Mike Pence has now signed the revised law, despite being urged by Religious Right leaders, such as Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, to veto the clarification:
"On the eve of Good Friday, Big Business is encouraging elected leaders to take the silver over religious freedom.

"This new proposal guts the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and empowers the government to impose punishing fines on people for following their beliefs about marriage.

"Religious freedom should not be held hostage by Big Business. Big Business is now putting religious freedom in a worse place than before RFRA was signed into law. Gutting RFRA in this manner would put people of faith in the crosshairs of government discrimination as never before. Far from being a 'clarification,' this would gut religious freedom in Indiana. Religious freedom doesn't need a 'fix.'

"This proposal would force religious businesses and even nonprofits deemed 'not religious enough' to participate in wedding ceremonies contrary to their owners' beliefs. If the government punishes people for living their faith, there are no limits to what government can control.
Oh, good! A split between the social conservative wing and the economic wing of the Republican Party? Unfortunately, I doubt it will last through the 2016 elections.

But it sure brought out the bigots and the crazy in force: Mike Huckabee (gays won't stop until there are no more churches); Ted Cruz (preventing discrimination against gays is like forcing a Rabbi to eat pork); Glenn Beck (gays are Nazis who will instigate a Christian Holocaust); Mat Staver (gays are just like Hamas terrorists); Mike Farris (Nazi Germany would be proud of efforts to roll back Indiana's RFRA); Pat Robertson (gays will force you to like anal sex, bestiality); and my personal favorite, Scott Lively (gays are like Star Trek's 'Borg' attacking America).

Well, as long as they are going to be calm and rational about it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


A Tangled Web


Indiana Governor Mike Pence has stepped it it big time! What's more, he seems to have dragged the bigots elsewhere in the country in with him.

Last week, he signed into law a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that has ignited a firestorm of protest, including an editorial by the CEO of Apple, Angie's List CEO putting a $40 million expansion of its headquarters in Indiana on hold and the Commissioner of the NCAA questioning whether its student-athletes and fans were safe from discrimination in the state.

He didn't help himself by going on ABC News’ “This Week With George Stephanopolous,” that you can see above. Among other things, he melted my irony meter and sent it on a China Syndrome journey to the center of the Earth when he said (07:15) he is working hard to clarify the law but repeatedly … six times ... refused to answer the straightforward question: 'Does this law allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians?'

Although Pence repeatedly compared the Indiana law to the Federal RFRA, legal experts, such as Garrett Epps of the University of Baltimore disagree.

While Pence wouldn't answer the question directly, he repeatedly tried to poo-poo the notion that anyone in Indiana had any intent to discriminate against gays. Unfortunately for him, the supporters of the law, like Micah Clark, head of the American Family Association of Indiana, who was present at the private signing ceremony with Gov. Pence, said otherwise. On Tim Wildmon's radio show Clark said that going back and “clarifying” the law to say it is not about discrimination “could totally destroy this bill.” Wildmon agreed, saying that states have to defend “these Christian business owners against this kind of persecution.”

What kind of “persecution” are we talking about? Why, of course, something like this from Liberty Counsel:
Today, the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is being lived out by bakers, photographers, florists, ministers, county clerks, and owners of wedding venues who have lost their businesses, been forced to pay exorbitant fines, been threatened with jail, and made to choose between the natural created order of marriage between one man and one woman and judges who side with same-sex couples.
Others have been even more explicit.

Naturally, no one has been threatened with jail; no persons have have “lost” their businesses (though one bigot choose to close his/her business rather than serve LGBT people, I believe); no ministers have been threatened even with fines; and county clerks have simply been told to do their jobs under the law. But unreasoned fear is all the bigots have going for them.

Clearly the Religious Right fully expected the Indiana law to protect them from local anti-discrimination laws in the state, such as in Indianapolis. And why not? Pence kept reiterating that the law doesn't involve disputes between individuals but only applies to government “interference” with religious freedom. It doesn't take a genius to see that a local anti-discrimination laws are government action and when asked if he'd support adding LGBT to the state-wide anti-discrimination law, he responded that it wasn't part of his “agenda.”

The Republican politicians in Indiana have finally figured out which way the wind is blowing all over America and Pence has asked the legislature to “clarify” the law to assure everyone that it will not allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people. Whether they will or not will have to await whatever “clarification” they come up with.

In the meantime, Arkansas had passed a RFRA with all the bad features of the Indiana law but adding an even greater bar to enforcing anti-discrimination laws. Where Indiana's law said that to “burden” a person's or corporation's religious freedom, the government or a private party trying to enforce an anti-discrimination law had to prove that the government had a “compelling governmental interest” in doing so, the Arkansas law required proof that the government's interest was an “essential” one. It's a bit of a moot point in Arkansas, however. In Indiana, as noted above, a number of local governments have passed anti-discrimination laws that protected LGBT people. Arkansas recently enacted a law that prohibits local governments from doing so and there is no statewide laws protecting gays.

Still, the brouhaha in Indiana and the opposition of Walmart, the largest nongovernmental employer in the world, which happens to be headquarted in Arkansas, has spooked the Republican party there. The governor, Asa Hutchinson, who had previously announced that he would sign the bill has now asked the legislature to either recall the law and change the wording or else to pass supplementary legislation achieving the same effect. Otherwise, he won't sign it.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council keeps trying to put on a brave face to the effect that marriage equality is not inevitable based on one outlier poll. If anything is certain, the last few days ought to dash any such false hopes.

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