Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Great and Powerful Gays

Here’s a novel approach to perpetuating discrimination against gays and lesbians: they already have too much power, so let’s not give them any more.

Gay Americans simply have too much political power to be afforded equal rights under the Constitution, according to a brief filed by the state of Ohio asking the Supreme Court to permit that state to continue to practice marriage discrimination. Ohio’s claim comes as part of a greater effort to convince the justices that laws which discriminate again gay men, lesbians and bisexuals should not be treated with skepticism by courts applying the Constitution’s guarantee that everyone shall be afforded “the equal protection of the laws.”

Under this provision of the Constitution, most forms of discrimination are entirely permissible. It is acceptable, for example, for the government to discriminate against unqualified job applicants when making hiring decisions, or to discriminate against people who commit serious crimes in deciding who to incarcerate.

When the government discriminates against groups that have historically been subject to unequal treatment that has little basis in their ability to “perform or contribute to society,” however, the Court applies what is known as “heightened scrutiny” to such discrimination. This is why discrimination on the basis of race or gender is typically not allowed, because racial minorities and women have historically been subject to the kind of irrational discrimination that triggers heightened scrutiny. A major question in the marriage equality litigation now pending before the Supreme Court is whether the nation’s long history of irrational discrimination against gay people also justifies applying such scrutiny to laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Uh, excuse me, but look next door, Ohio.  If we were so powerful, Indiana would not only not have passed their RFRA last week, we would have forced the state to do a complete make-over, made the Purdue football team play in tank-tops and short-shorts, replaced the state song with “It’s Raining Men,” and made Birkenstocks the official state shoe.

Sheesh.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Didn’t See That Coming?

Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) seemed genuinely surprised at the backlash to his state’s new law that legalized gay-bashing in the name of “religious freedom.”

Gov. Mike Pence, scorched by a fast-spreading political firestorm, told The Star on Saturday that he will support the introduction of legislation to “clarify” that Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.

“I support religious liberty, and I support this law,” Pence said in an exclusive interview. “But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there’s a way to clarify the intent of the law.”

The governor, although not ready to provide details on what the new bill will say, said he expects the legislation to be introduced into the General Assembly this coming week.

By yesterday he seemed to regain his footing and went on the defensive, going back to his bullshit arguments that the Indiana law is the same as the federal law.  It’s not; the Indiana law addresses individuals and their ability to use “religious liberty” as their reason for discriminating against customers.*

Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act will not be changing despite critics saying it allows business owners to discriminate against members of the LGBT community, state Gov. Mike Pence said today during an exclusive interview on ABC’s “This Week.”

Pence described the media coverage and opposition to the law as “shameless rhetoric,” saying it strengthens the foundation of First Amendment rights rather than discriminates.

“We’re not going to change the law,” he said, “but if the general assembly in Indiana sends me a bill that adds a section that reiterates and amplifies and clarifies what the law really is and what it has been for the last 20 years, than I’m open to that.”

His reaction to the reaction is pure knee-jerk defensiveness: blame the media, blame the rhetoric, blame the dog for his farts.

But he has no one to blame for the backlash but himself.  It’s not as if he didn’t know that this would happen, and if he honestly didn’t, then he has no business being in elected office.  It’s not as if equality for LGBTQ people and marriage equality just happened last week.

Laws such as RFRA are the last gasps of the anti-gay forces to barricade themselves against the progress of the 21st century.  The more they scramble the more they know they’re going to lose.

*Garrett Epps at The Atlantic explains why the Indiana RFRA law is not like the others.

Friday, March 27, 2015

How Would They Know?

In light of Indiana now codifying anti-gay discrimination into state law, the question arises: how would the businesses that seek to use the law know who’s gay so they can refuse them service?  Via Balloon Juice:

1.) What criteria will business owners be using to determine who is and who is not gay? Ordering a latte? Saying please? Not liking President Bush? Or do you just have to be suspiciously gay-like to impinge enough on someone’s religious freedom to warrant being denied service.

2.) As the Klan also operated under the auspices of Christianity, what is to keep businesses from kicking out or denying service to blacks, and when confronted, just say “Oh, we didn’t kick them out because they were black, we kicked them out because they were gay.”

It’s not like we wear signs or pink triangles.

I am curious to know who’s going to pay for defending the state in the inevitable lawsuits that will be brought against the state for passing such a law.  Should every taxpayer in Indiana foot the bill for defending this bigotry, and does the state have funding in their budget to pay for it?

Also, as noted yesterday, the backlash has already begun and it’s more than just fair-minded Christians.  Businesses are having second thoughts about doing business in the Hoosier State.  That more than anything should get the attention of the Republicans because if there’s one thing that will get them to abandon their sacred principles of adoring the Baby Jesus, it’s money.

Indiana isn’t the first state to pass such a bill, but it is the first that has a large and varied corporate profile.  Major industries and sports franchises are located in the state, and very few of them are willing to sacrifice both their public image and their bottom line in defense of bigotry.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday, March 6, 2015

Legalizing Gay Bashing

Via the New York Times:

As it looks increasingly likely that the Supreme Court will establish a nationwide right to same-sex marriage later this year, state legislatures across the country are taking up bills that would make it easier for businesses and individuals to opt out of serving gay couples on religious grounds.

Many states are now reliving a version of events that embroiled Arizona in February 2014, when Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed a bill that would have allowed businesses to use their religious beliefs as a legal justification for refusing to serve gay customers.

The resurgent controversy is fueled in part by a deep anxiety among many evangelicals and other conservatives that the Supreme Court will make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states after it takes up the matter in April.

This harks back to the time fifty years ago when states tried to work their way around school desegregation and public accommodation clauses in the civil rights laws, and it was also when the cry “states’ rights!” became the dog whistle for racism.  Now it’s “religious freedom” (an oxymoron if there ever was one) that has become the fig leaf for bigotry.

In all likelihood, these laws will prove to be very expensive for the states that enact them and the businesses that invoke them.  The states will be spending a lot of taxpayer dollars defending the indefensible in court and the LGBT community and their allies will stay away from the states that pass them.  Businesses that refuse to do business with gay couples will be tarnished with the brush of hate, and word will spread very quickly.

I’ve said before that I don’t believe in actively boycotting a business or a state.  Like most Quakers, I believe in showing respect to all people.  Therefore it would be very unfriendly of me to embarrass those states or businesses by giving them my gay money or encouraging my friends, family, and co-workers to patronize their business for fear of tainting their holy presence with people who find their actions, if not their beliefs, hateful.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Your Move, Godzilla

This seems like a reasonable solution to the marriage equality debate.

An obscure, two-page opinion by an Alabama Supreme Court justice contains an ominous warning. If marriage equality remains the law in Alabama, Justice Glenn Murdock may vote to abolish marriage in his state altogether.

Justice Murdock’s opinion is attached to a brief order from the state supreme court as a whole declining to offer further guidance to Alabama probate judges regarding whether they must comply with a federal court order holding that same-sex couples are entitled to the same marriage rights as straight couples. In a brief opinion concurring in that order, Murdock hints that, if this federal court order is permitted to stand, then his own court should strike down all marriages within the state of Alabama.

This is like a kid who doesn’t like the roll of the dice in Parcheesi so he knocks over the table.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Nothing Better To Do?

After more than four years in office and overseeing the deliberate implosion of the state’s economy, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has decided to rescind an executive order that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

So what does it tell you about a governor who scrambles out of the smoking ruins of the state’s public school funding and abyss of debt caused by massive tax cuts to purposefully reach out to a community and deprive them of their rights to be left alone?  That’s a priority?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Civics Test

Todd Starnes is a particularly obnoxious reporter for Fox News who now has the monumental sadz because the state of Oregon has told a couple of Christian bakers that they violated the state’s public accommodation law by refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.  He sums up his veil of tears by citing the Constitution thus:

The evidence seems to indicate that Christian business owners are being intentionally singled out for persecution. And it appears the courts are consistently ruling that gay rights trump everyone else’s rights. The Constitution guarantees every American a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Melissa Klein makes wedding cakes. That’s her pursuit of happiness. Should she be denied that right simply because of her Christian faith?

Raise your hand if you see the flaw in his argument.

Okay, I’ll give it to you: The Constitution does not guarantee “every American a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Those words are in the Declaration of Independence, which has no force of law.  There is nothing in the Constitution about those guarantees.  There is, however, the right to equal protection under the law which has been interpreted by the courts and just about anyone who went to law school to mean that you can’t have a business that is open to the public and choose not to serve a certain segment of the public because you think they’re icky.

Monday, February 2, 2015

We Get It

Mike Huckabee likes to use folksy metaphors and ignorant analogies to get his views out there and suck up some pixels and airtime on blogs and the TV.  He does it not only just to make sure that we all know that he thinks Teh Gay is icky but also so he can pluck the pigeons and grift along with the grifters.

Yes, we get it; he’s a sniveling but charming homophobic bigot like your cranky old uncle who makes everyone laugh uncomfortably at the family reunion with racist jokes and rants about kids these days.  The good news is that Mike Huckabee will never get close to being in any position of power again unless they bring back Hee Haw.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Nice Try

The American Family Association is now trying to put as much distance as they can from their freshly-fired paid spokesperson Bryan Fischer and all the garbage that he spewed out over the American landscape.  They put out a long list of his rants about gays, Native Americans, Muslims, and the so forth and told the world not to associate his claims with AFA.

To quote JMG: “FUCK THAT.”

Mr. Fischer still has his daily radio show, he is still paid by the AFA, and, as the Southern Poverty Law Center says, as long as the AFA keeps doing that without renouncing Mr. Fischer and his bilge, no dice.  He’s all yours and will be forever and ever, amen.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rights and Wrongs

Frank Bruni in yesterday’s New York Times:

I’ve been called many unpleasant things in my life, and I’ve deserved no small number of them. But I chafe at this latest label:

A threat to your religious liberty.

I don’t mean me alone. I mean me and my evidently menacing kind: men who have romantic relationships with other men and maybe want to marry them, and women in analogous situations. According to many of the Americans who still cast judgment on us, our “I do” somehow tramples you, not merely running counter to your creed but running roughshod over it.

That’s absurd. And the deference that many politicians show to such thinking is an example not of religion getting the protection it must but of religious people getting a pass that isn’t warranted. It’s an illustration of religion’s favored status in a country that’s still working out this separation-of-church-and-state business and hasn’t yet gotten it quite right.

We’re at an interesting crossroads, brought about by the rapid advance of same-sex marriage. It’s now legal in 36 states, including, as of last week, Florida. Equality is increasingly being enshrined into law, and one response from those opposed to it is that the law shouldn’t apply to them.

Why? Because it contradicts their religious beliefs, which they use as a fig leaf for intolerance.

Fifty years ago the opponents of civil rights and integration asserted that “states’ rights” affirmed their belief that discrimination should stand.  Today “religious liberty” bears the same burden, and it fails to carry the weight.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Base Player

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, Class of 1996.  Someone should look into who taught him Constitutional law because they need to fire that professor.

On the matter of same-sex marriage in Florida, Mr. Rubio noted,

“I do not believe that there is a U.S. constitutional right to same-sex marriage,” Rubio told the media. “Now, as I’ve said before, states have a right to change their laws. I don’t believe it’s unconstitutional. I just don’t believe there’s a constitutional right to it.”

Okay, I’m not a lawyer and I didn’t go to law school like he did, but even I know history and that way back in 1967 — four years before Mr. Rubio was born — the United States Supreme Court held in Loving v. Virginia that the right to marriage — in that case between two people of different races — was a fundamental right.

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

So, Mr. Rubio has it wrong on the concept of the constitutionality of marriage as a right and is apparently unaware of the precedent.  (I do hope that he’s not harboring the belief that people of different races shouldn’t marry.)  He also seems to lack the basic understanding that there is a difference between the laws that get passed or referenda that get tacked on to the state constitution and the rights we have as citizens.  Under our present form of government, we have a judiciary branch — co-equal with the legislative and executive — whose primary purpose is to decide whether or not the actions of the other branches are following the rules.  The courts exist to prevent the legislatures or the people from violating the law or taking away the fundamental rights of the people.

Mr. Rubio also seems to forget that the courts have overturned laws passed by Congress that I’m sure he’s glad they did: Citizens United, for one.  In his nascent plans to run for president, he’s probably thrilled that corporations have had their fundamental rights to pour money into a campaign, and I’m sure he’s going to take advantage of it.

What’s happening is that Marco Rubio is trying to outflank his fellow Floridian and mentor Jeb Bush in cornering the market on right-wing nutsery, and bashing marriage equality and the LGBT population is his way of doing that.  As I’ve noted before, he has yet to come up with a reason to oppose marriage equality that isn’t based on bigotry, discrimination, and intolerance.  But that’s what sells to the Republican primary voters, and no one ever lost an election by pandering to the basest base.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wedding Bell Blues

Aw, the poor babies have the marriage equality sadz:

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee declared the state ban unconstitutional in August, but stayed his decision through Monday to give some time for legal appeals. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, sought extensions of the stay from the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, but both turned her down.

[…]

In a statement issued Monday, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said it was “deeply disappointed” by Hinkle’s decision and by the appeals courts’ refusal to grant Bondi an extension.

“Marriage based on the complementarity of the sexes is the lifeblood of family, and family is the foundation of our society,” the bishops said. “The crisis that sadly the family is experiencing today will only be aggravated by imposing this redefinition of marriage. Society must rediscover the irreplaceable roles of both mother and father who bring unique gifts to the education and rearing of children.”

With their record of obstruction of justice and sheltering of pedophiles, the Catholic bishops are in no position to lecture anyone on morality and the lifeblood of the family.  The “crisis” isn’t because same-sex couples are being granted their equal rights; it’s because absolute strangers are imposing their personal morality and peccadilloes on everyone else.

Here is why Jeb Bush will not be the 2016 GOP nominee:

As gay couples began to wed in Florida after a court ruling, Jeb Bush, the state’s former governor and long an opponent of same-sex marriages, struck a conciliatory note on Monday, telling The New York Times that “regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law.”

[…]

“We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law,” Mr. Bush said in a statement. “I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue – including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.”

This “conciliatory” shrug from Mr. Bush isn’t going to cut it with the True Believers in the Republican base.  He’ll be seen as caving in to the Sodomites on South Beach to pander for their votes, and no self-respecting homophobe would vote for anyone who says we have to respect the rule of law.

Also, marriage is not a sacrament when it’s done in a civil ceremony; it’s a legal contract.  Sacraments are reserved to those who think their god is somehow involved in determining and upholding their marriage.  That’s fine if that’s what makes it mean something to them, but the government isn’t in the ritual business, and religious liberty is not at stake when two men go down to the courthouse and fill out a form.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Happy Holidays

In the spirit of loving goodness and holiday cheer, a preacher in Arizona has come up with the way to have a merry Christmas:

Moved by the Christmas spirit, [Faithful Word Baptist Church Pastor Steven] Anderson laid out his final solution for all those homos spreading the AIDS — execute them all, preferably before the day Christians celebrate the birth of that blessed little baby, Hallelujah!

Pastor Anderson has also prayed for the death of President Obama, took on women speaking in church, and went after the Jewish people for killing Christ.

To quote the immortal Molly Ivins, it sounded better in the original German.  Arbeit macht frei and all that.

HT to Steve Bates.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

NOM Broke

Get out the tiny violin.

On Wednesday, the viciously anti-gay National Organization for Marriage finally released its 2013 tax filings—two days late, in direct violation of federal law. The results are nothing short of brutal. NOM raised $5.1 million last year—a 50 percent drop-off from its 2012 earnings. Two donors accounted for more than half of that money. And the group’s “Education Fund,” which churns out anti-gay propaganda and homophobic calumny, raised less than $1.7 million, a 70 percent decline from 2012. NOM closed out the year more than $2.5 million in debt.

Heh.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of bigots.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Stop Helping

When the right wingers are running out of things to carry on about, it’s probably not a good idea to hand-deliver them something to shake down the gullible.

Earlier this year Houston passed an ordinance to protect the LGBT community from discrimination.  A bunch of pastors took it upon themselves to get a petition drive going to repeal it.  They lost, so of course they sued.  After all, what good is judicial activism if you can’t use it yourself?  In the course of the lawsuit, the City subpoenaed the sermons of the pastors who railed against the ordinance, and that had the predictable result.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, was on Fox News last night claiming that Houston Mayor Annise Parker (D) is “taking a bulldozer to that wall of separation [of church and state]” and trying to “dictate what pastors preach.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tweeted that the subpoenas constitute a “march against our freedoms.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called the subpoenas a “grotesque abuse of power.” And Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott (R) wrote to the Houston City Attorney that the subpoenas should be unilaterally withdrawn because they reflect “hostility to religious beliefs.”

Because discovery in a lawsuit violates everything we hold sacred in our judicial process.  Just ask Kenneth Starr.

But on the whole it’s not a good idea to go after spouting preachers.  For one thing, it skates way too close to the wall of separation of church and state (although it’s ironic that many pastors who claim there’s no such thing suddenly discover it when there’s a subpoena on the pulpit).  Second, it gives them a status of martyrdom that they don’t deserve.  Martyrs should be in jeopardy for a good cause: one that will enlighten the human condition, not feed the bigotry and fear that these terrible-tempered ministers shout into the headlines.

Mayor Parker is only adding to the flames with this.  She needs to find another way to beat them at their own game.