My column for this week is now online at the Blade. Here is an excerpt:
The Michigan House of Representatives recently passed a bill modeled on the 1993 federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, which featured in the Hobby Lobby case. The Michigan measure may allow emergency medical technicians to invoke sincerely held religious beliefs in refusing to serve LGBT people.
Where will religious demands in daily commerce end? If you view conscience clauses only in terms of gay families, the problem might seem limited. But what about people who object to interracial marriage or to second or third marriages after divorce? Assuming that gay conservatives are motivated by more than axe grinding against gay liberals, why does their solicitude for the religious right appear reserved for gay-related cases?
If an anti-gay Christian receives legal exemptions, why should a Christian Scientist parent opposed to modern medicine not be exempt from child welfare laws? Why should a Muslim devoted to the subordination of women (which, to be fair, is disputed within Islam) not invoke Sharia Law? Satanists, amusingly, have already responded to a Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma state capitol by demanding equal placement of a monument to the demon Baphomet.
I neglected to post this several days ago when Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) spoke out against congressional interference with D.C. voters' choice to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Thank you, Senator.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren lets Citigroup have it.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren blasts bankers: 'Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. It should have broken you into pieces.' http://t.co/idf3wwnW7B— Raw Story (@RawStory) December 13, 2014
GOP senator mansplains democracy to Elizabeth Warren http://t.co/KMPjnY07vu— HuffPost Politics (@HuffPostPol) December 13, 2014
i wholeheartedly endorse trolling @chrisgeidner out of the mistaken belief that he is the Harvard prof who was a dick about $4— E McMorris-Santoro (@EvanMcSan) December 10, 2014
Poynter reports that our friend, BuzzFeed reporter Chris Geidner, has somehow been confused for the Harvard Business School professor who got into a big fight over a $4 overcharge at a Chinese takeout.
One of my unhelpful comments was:
Screw you PC weaklings! Geidner doesn't apologize! #GeidnerianExceptionalism
It is a damned lie that Chris Geidner engaged in classified pillow talk with Dianne Feinstein!
Or was it Lindsey Graham that Chris Geidner didn't sleep with? #ewww
(Hat tip: Chris Geidner)
Another month of job growth. I have heard from some quarters what a disastrous president Barack Obama has been. For such people, the facts simply cannot be allowed to count.
Rosalind S. Helderman and Philip Rucker at WaPo report:
When officials at the University of California at Los Angeles began negotiating a $300,000 speech appearance by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the school had one request: Could we get a reduced rate for public universities?
The answer from Clinton’s representatives: $300,000 is the “special university rate.”
Maybe Hillary's new populist slogan will be, "Time to Get Yours." She could model herself after Prosperity Gospel televangelists. That would make me want to hurl, but it would at least be coherent. I do not see how this naked greed helps her politically. Oh, I can think up excuses, and the hacks will dutifully toss them out on command. But who will buy them?
By the way, in the above photo, doesn't she look a bit like Thomas Jefferson?
This year's Christmas ad by Sainsbury's, the British supermarket and convenience store chain founded in 1869, recreates the legendary Christmas Truce that occurred on the Western Front one hundred years ago during World War I. After the jump are videos about the making of the advert in partnership with the Royal British Legion, and the story behind it.
The video's moving reminder that humanity can emerge under the worst circumstances also reminds us of the pointlessness of war. It was rising anti-German sentiment during WWI, in 1917, that caused the British House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to become the House of Windsor, and Battenberg to become Mountbatten. The British, German, and Russian royals were cousins. The Tsarevitch Alexei, for example, famous hemophiliac son of Tsar Nicholas II, was the great-grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. If you didn't know better, you might think that as the world grows smaller, it would grow less violent.
At least at this point regarding the English and Germans, the prospect is not war but whether Britain will leave the European Union. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned Prime Minister David Cameron that she would sooner see the UK leave the EU than limit the freedom of movement within EU, with which Britain has a problem. The Iron Lady's ghost hovers, saying "No, no, no."
Pastor Manning just wants the job himself.
A Starbucks commercial, no less.
Apple CEO Tim Cook comes out in Businessweek.
I am so inspired by his bravery, I want to announce that I am gay too. There. A burden lifted!
Kidding aside, maybe courage isn't quite the right word. Sacrifice might be closer to the mark. For an intensely private person to discuss his private affairs can indeed be a big deal for that person. Of course, just mentioning you are gay is not giving blow by blow sexual details. Few straight people consider their sexual orientation a secret. That is one of the most pernicious double standards, enforced socially and tacitly. And for such an eminent man of business to break that silence is a great gift.
42 weighs in:
As Mark Joseph Stern at Slate writes, this Cheerios commercial for Canada, featuring Quebecois parents André and Jonathan and their daughter Raphaëlle, "hits all the right notes." For a major commercial brand to embrace gay families as part of its diverse customer base, in such contrast to Chick-fil-A, is a big deal, as Stern suggests.
(Hat tip: Bob Witeck)
DC Council members have taken entourages 2 Vegas! Includes candidate 4 Mayor, Bowser. We need affordable housing, jobs but they play!— Graylan Hagler (@Graylanhagler) August 16, 2014
@Graylanhagler Rev, I'm sure they have that on their wish list. They just have to keep their chips on #22. Oh, sorry, that's Casa Blanca.— Richard Rosendall (@RickRosendall) August 16, 2014
@RickRosendall lol!— Graylan Hagler (@Graylanhagler) August 16, 2014
@Graylanhagler They'll always have Vegas.— Richard Rosendall (@RickRosendall) August 16, 2014
Rev. Graylan Hagler is a candidate for At-Large Council.
Here's a new one. Thanks to Ian Silverstone at Right Wing Watch.
The dispute between Truth Wins Out and GLAA over the right of a privately funded Bible museum to open two blocks from the National Mall was highlighted on July 23 by Washington Post reporter Mike DeBonis.
And reporter Tom Sherwood at NBC Washington wrote in his notebook on July 23:
Hobby Lobby high-five? Well, kinda. The owners of Hobby Lobby craft stores won national attention when they won their Supreme Court battle to limit contraception insurance coverage for their employees because of the owners’ religious beliefs.
That recently prompted Wayne Bensen of the advocacy group Truth Wins Out to “strongly urge” District officials to make it as difficult as possible for Hobby Lobby to get all the permits it needs to build a private National Bible Museum in Southwest D.C. (the old site of the Washington Design Center).
Bensen wrote that the project near the National Mall “would make a mockery of surrounding museums, which are based on research, history and scholarship.”
Well, throwing up administrative hurdles didn’t go over so well with local activist Rick Rosendall, who is president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.
“There is no legitimate basis to block it,” Rosendall wrote this week in the Daily Chose. “GLAA has a long history of defending our opponents’ First Amendment rights. This allows us to hold the moral high ground. ... We are much better off in the long run by respecting the rights of all, not just those who agree with us.”
Goodness, we better not let that kind of high-mindedness catch on. Maybe even the warring members of Congress might start working together. And then, what would the mean ol’ media report?
Don't worry, Tom. You'll always turn up something. Besides, high-mindedness is about as likely to catch on in Washington as a coherent thought in Rep. Louie Gohmert. Oh, dear, that didn't sound terribly high-minded, did it?
The group Faith and Action says on its "About" page:
The missionary outreaches at Faith and Action are targeted specifically toward our nation’s public policy makers and particularly to Capitol Hill. We believe such a narrowly targeted effort is the most effective method for accomplishing our mission – to challenge our leaders with Biblical TRUTH.
If you suspect they are not big fans of GLAA's work, you are right. But on Friday, I came across this tweet in response to my article, "Free Speech and the Bible Museum":
Religious Freedom: Applause where applause is due. http://t.co/iuC99hnpK1 We’re often too quick to condemn and too slow to compliment....— Faith and Action (@FAADC) July 25, 2014
Here is the praise from Faith and Action blogger kaitlynn:
We’re often too quick to condemn and too slow to compliment. So, this time we wanted to make a point to applaud the writer of this article for standing up for religious freedom to back a cause that we happen to agree with, and HE happens to disagree with.
Richard J. Rosendall (President, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance) there are plenty of things we fully disagree with you on, but find your willingness to champion the freedom of speech and religious freedoms of everyone (despite the fact that you disagree with their views, and probably taking some heat for it) impressive.
Oh, dear, I'm in trouble now! But thank you. I hear faint echoes of the famous Christmas ceasefire in WWI. Or to quote JFK: "We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
Best wishes and God bless America,
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
A friend joked that I would be run out of town by angry liberals, and offered me sanctuary in another state (which I will keep confidential in case I need it); but joking aside, it is foolish and ahistorical to think we weaken our position by defending the free speech rights of our opponents. Censorship by our side is not only obnoxious and hypocritical, it is (as my article points out) unnecessary because we have the better arguments. As another friend put it yesterday, GLAA's approach demonstrates the maturity of our movement. (Or at least our corner of it, as I said back to him.)
Above, Jonathan Capehart (subbing for Steve Kornacki) discusses the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling with Gabriela Domenzain, Justin Snow and Chris Geidner. Below, Evan Wolfson joins the discussion.
Metro Weekly reports.
I heard the same yesterday from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who was interviewed by Atlantic Editor-at-large Steve Clemons at a Women of Washington event at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel. She criticized the bill's LGBT critics for insisting on perfection, and described the religious exemption as moderate and reasonable, while acknowledging that ENDA (which has passed the Senate) only has 9 Republican co-sponsors in the House.
Sorry, Congresswoman, but nine Republicans do not a surge of bipartisan support make. As for a reasonable religious exemption, why should the standard be any different for LGBT people than for the groups protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act? I am sorry, but ENDA only focuses on employment discrimination to start with, and to have an overly broad religious exemption on top of that gives us little to rally around.
Ros-Lehtinen also mentioned she is pro-life. If one of her fellow Republicans is elected president in 2016, and has a chance to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she will doubtless be pleased at the likely loss of women's reproductive rights. The gay rights movement gained a great deal from the women's rights movement. Indeed, the 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas that overturned remaining state anti-sodomy laws grew out of a string of constructive-due-process rulings starting with Griswold v. Connecticut and continuing through Eisenstadt v. Baird and Roe v. Wade.
I would love to know how Ros-Lehtinen squares supporting my rights while pulling out one of the foundations of our movement. But given the glib political answers she gave to several questions, it wouldn't leave me any more enlightened. I thanked her afterward for her support of gay rights, but given that, the last time I checked, she was the only member of the Republican caucus to have gotten a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign, if this is the best the GOP can do, we shouldn't get our hopes up.
(Photo of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen courtesy The Washington Post)
An interesting analysis by Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed.
July 8, 2014
Contact: Rick Rosendall
The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C. (GLAA) voted at its monthly meeting on July 8 to adopt the following statement. It may be attributed to GLAA President Rick Rosendall.
GLAA joins the growing list of LGBT rights organizations that oppose the present version of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). In its current form, sweeping religious exemptions in ENDA could enshrine anti-LGBT discrimination into law by allowing far more organizations to bypass civil rights protections than are permitted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Furthermore, provisions added by Senator Rob Portman through amendment seek, in his words, "to ensure that government cannot penalize a religious employer because it qualifies as exempt from the non-discrimination requirements of ENDA." These assurances could weaken existing state and city non-discrimination protections resulting in a step backwards in protecting the LGBT community.
Matthew Cella at The Washington Times reports on a matter that we have been following for a few years:
A D.C. jury found that a nonprofit group and its director misappropriated more than $300,000 from the city’s HIV/AIDS program for renovations on a proposed job-training center that instead was used to open a strip club.
The jury found damages of $329,653 against the nonprofit Miracle Hands Inc. and its director, reformed gangster Cornell Jones, after a four-day trial in D.C. Superior Court.
GLAA wrote about this in our 2012 policy brief, which provides some context:
The contrast between Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.'s vehement opposition to gay strip clubs in 2007 and his support for straight-oriented strip clubs in 2011 suggests a gaping double standard that he has not credibly explained. [Note: As we go to press, Councilmember Thomas appears set to resign as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors. We are not deleting this material because the issue continues to stir debate.] WAMU reported that Thomas "has supported the applications of the clubs and says these upscale strip clubs can be good corporate neighbors." Thomas denied being influenced by campaign donations, despite a Washington Times report (in June 2011) that "Keith Forney, a co-owner of the Stadium Club whose companies have received more than $90 million in D.C. construction funds since 2000, made separate payments to Team Thomas in 2008 and 2009 totaling $6,000." On top of this, former crack cocaine kingpin Cornell Jones is accused of diverting more than $300,000 in District HIV/AIDS funds to renovate the club. The city owes us a single standard that neither depends on campaign cash nor involves misuse of public funds.
At last, some justice in the case. As the Times story quotes D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, the verdict “should serve as a warning to all those who would attempt to misuse District grant funds.”
An amendment introduced by a Republican Representative from Maryland to block the implementation of D.C.'s marijuana decriminalization law passed 28 to 21 in the House Appropriations Committee.
Rep. Andy Harris, a physician, introduced the amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill, saying today marijuana is "dangerous to the developing brain."
As D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton notes:
D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization bill is undergoing a 60-day congressional review period and is expected to take effect in mid-July. As expected, Republicans are using a rider rather than the disapproval process set forth in the Home Rule Act to try to block D.C.’s decriminalization bill.
Norton's statement includes the following:
“Representative Harris is not only trying to overrule the will of my constituents, to whom he is not accountable, he is acting contrary to the laws of his own state, which recently decriminalized marijuana,” Norton said. “It is particularly offensive that he is trying to impose on another Member’s district what he was unable to do democratically in his own. Before tomorrow’s markup, I hope Representative Harris realizes that his amendment violates his own professed principles of local control of local affairs. Even those who profoundly disagree on particular local laws adhere to the most basic American principle of local control. Representative Harris can’t overturn the marijuana decriminalization laws of the 18 states that have decriminalized marijuana so he has stooped to using autocratic, anti-democratic power to seek to overturn our local laws. His constituents are going to be surprised to learn that their Member, who argues for limiting the federal government’s power over even traditionally federal matters, is offering an amendment that would insert the federal government into a local government’s local affairs. Representative Harris has been in Congress for two terms, but has only managed to introduce 10 bills this Congress, and he has not introduced a single amendment on the House floor this Congress. Surely, he should spend more time focused on bills and amendments to benefit his own Maryland constituents instead of introducing an amendment that will harm minorities, especially African Americans, in my district. Our allies in Maryland and across the country are prepared to help us prevent this amendment from being enacted.”
GLAA's policy brief for 2014, Building on Victory, states the following:
It makes no sense for the relatively benign marijuana to be proscribed while alcohol, a proven killer, is legal. Tommy Wells' bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts, Bill 20-409, is a good beginning. We support David Grosso's legalization and regulation bill, Bill 20-466. We understand the District's caution regarding Congress; but in light of developments elsewhere, and considering the damage done to lives by incarceration for victimless crimes, we are glad that the District has joined the nationwide discussion of this issue.
Thanks to Congresswoman Norton for fighting for the District. We have some work ahead of us.
Sen. Thad Cochran narrowly defeated Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel in Tuesday's runoff election. As you can see from the above non-concession speech, the GOP's internal blood-letting ain't over. Get your popcorn.
My theory: Thad Cochran may have been helped by his porn star name. See Mississippi's broadband porn rental rate.
The D.C. Council on Tuesday, by a vote of 9-4, upheld the so-called yoga tax (or wellness tax or gym tax) as part of the tax reform package in the 2015 budget. Does this mean all the kvetching over this trivial matter will finally stop? One can always hope, but Lane Hudson, one of the leaders of the protest against the tax, says he's only just begun. Or something.
Meanwhile, Miss Emily Litella, disguised as Marion Barry, came out squarely against the yogurt tax.
More crumbs! (Sorry, Larry Kramer briefly hacked my account.) I mean, thank you Mr. President. Better late than never!
Chris Johnson of the Blade reports:
The Washington Blade polled more than 50 state LGBT groups this week on their position regarding ENDA with its current religious exemption. The language would continue to allow religious institutions, like churches or religious hospitals and schools, to discriminate against LGBT workers in ministerial and non-ministerial positions even if the bill were to become law.
The religious exemption in ENDA is broader than similar exemptions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for categories of race, gender, religion and national origin.
The most common response from statewide LGBT groups — including Equality Illinois and Equality California — was that they continue to support ENDA, but oppose or have concerns about the bill’s religious exemption.
GLAA is in the latter group. Here is the statement I gave Johnson:
GLAA has long supported ENDA. Our position was to support the best achievable bill, because we understood the value of strategic compromise--not as an end point but as a way station in the ongoing struggle for equality.
But here in DC, as in the marriage equality fight, we have successfully fought against overbroad religious exemptions. Of course religious groups enjoy protections in their core religious functions; outside that sphere is another matter. For example, Catholic Charities demanded to be able to discriminate against same-sex couples as a government contractor providing adoption services. We and the DC Council said absolutely not. Catholic Charities then chose to stop delivering those services, which were taken over by another organization that was prepared to obey the law.
It is time to push back against the religious bullies. Religious exemptions beyond those applying to discrimination under Title VII should not be accepted in ENDA.
A "go slow" protest in Trafalgar Square by taxi drivers against competition from Uber could prompt more people to use the Uber app. I can't believe that's what the protesters intended.
I figured in this story on the SALM ANC-focused blog about Ward 2 CM Jack Evans bringing up the subject of a liquor license moratorium on 14th Street NW. Such a moratorium was roundly rejected by the ANCs and residents last year, so it's odd that Jack brought it up. But Jack has cleared it up: no moratorium on 14th.
The NFL draft is underway. As we watch and wait for Michael Sam to make history, here is his new commercial for Visa, with whom he has signed an endorsement deal.
As nfldraftscout.com reported on May 7:
Missouri defensive end Michael Sam was named the Arthur Ashe Courage Award winner. The honor goes to athletes or contributors who transcend sports. Sam will receive the award at the the 2014 ESPY Awards on July 16. Sam was SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year. He announced in February that he is gay, making him set to become the first openly gay player in the NFL. ESPN said in a statement it is honoring Sam for "his courage and honesty that resonates beyond sports." "I'm very honored to be presented with the Arthur Ashe award," he said. "It is about courage. You know I don't think there is anything courageous I did. I look forward to when we can live life in a world when gays don't have to come out in public."
Meanwhile, Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch reports that a DC lobbyist named Jack Burkman threatens a "relentless" boycott effort against any team that signs Sam. Get ready to order your Michael Sam gear from whatever team drafts him.
Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch reports:
On his Washington Times Radio show last Wednesday, former House GOP leader Tom DeLay reiterated his defense of Cliven Bundy, arguing that the Nevada rancher — who has repeatedly lost in the courts and refuses to recognize the existence of the United States government — doesn’t have to obey the law on land use.
“He doesn’t owe the federal government anything because he doesn’t recognize that the federal government can come take his livelihood away from him and he’s standing up for the rule of law, the real law, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and fighting against what is happening to him,” DeLay said.
This is the former House Majority Leader. All you can do is shake your head.
NBA legend Magic Johnson reacts to racist statements by longtime L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Sterling's offensive remarks can be heard here. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will hold a press conference on his investigation into the matter this afternoon.
Magic, of course, is right. Sterling must go.
Speaking of Magic and respect for others, below is a clip from last year of Magic talking about his son E.J. coming out.
Pink News reports:
The American Family Association has claimed that by pledging not to discriminate against their customers, Mississippi businesses are ‘bullying’ Christians.
The campaign was born after the state’s Governor, Phil Bryant, signed a ‘religious freedom’ law, protecting businesses who discriminate against gay customers.
Eye roll. AFA says shops that proclaim "We don't discriminate" are bullying Christians. My question is, why don't the alleged bullying victims make a virtue of it by offering up their suffering as a sacrifice to the BVM? And don't bully me by asking what that stands for, o ye godless!
The Blade reports:
The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday it won’t take up a case in which a New Mexico photography business alleges its rights were violated when it landed in hot water for refusing to shoot a same-sex wedding ceremony.
In orders published Monday morning, the court listed the case, Elane Photography v. Willock, without comment as among the cases it won’t consider.
The case was brought to the Supreme Court by Elane Photography, which was found to have violated New Mexico’s anti-discrimination law for refusing to take a photo for the same-sex wedding ceremony for Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth in 2006. (The wedding was only ceremonial because the incident took place before the state legalized same-sex marriage.)
Thank the Goddess for small favors.
Fox News reporter Todd Starnes writes at Townhall.com to defend now-former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich:
Why not demand that those who oppose gay marriage relinquish the right to own property? Why not take away their right to vote? Why not take away their children? Why not just throw them in jail? Why not force them to work in chain gangs? Why not call for public floggings? Or better yet, let’s just strap them down on gurneys, stick a needle in their arm and rid the world of these intolerant anti-gay bigots once and for all.
I want to assure Mr. Starnes that I oppose those traditional conservative measures.
Michelangelo Signorile wrote a detailed response to blogger Andrew Sullivan's criticism of "left-liberal intolerance" for the downfall of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich this week.
I agree with Signorile. Eich was totally out of synch with his company's employees, for one thing. This was a case of the market working. The First Amendment's free speech provision prevents the government from silencing you. It does not prevent a company from firing you when they decide that your actions will do the company harm.
The D.C. Office of Human Rights announced on April 3:
D.C. Office of Human Rights
“Safe Bathrooms DC” Aims to Increase Gender-Neutral Bathrooms
Innovative reporting method uses Twitter (#safebathroomsDC) to accept complaints
Thursday, April 3, 2014
CONTACT: Elliot Imse, Director of Policy & Communications – 202.481.3773; firstname.lastname@example.org
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Public bathrooms can present many challenges: inevitably long lines, empty paper towel holders, and faucets that manage to spray more water onto your clothes than into your hands. Yet these challenges are trivial when compared to those some transgender and gender non-conforming people face when using gender-specific public bathrooms. Fear of harassment or violence can create a stressful experience, and many people report scouring the neighborhood until they can locate a gender-neutral bathroom. Now, the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) is asking community members to help make it a bit easier for the transgender and gender non-conforming community, with today’s launch of its Safe Bathrooms DC campaign.
Aimed at rapidly increasing the number of single-occupancy gender-neutral public bathrooms in the District, the campaign features photos of common bathroom challenges, and aims to encourage people to report non-compliant bathrooms using Twitter or the OHR website. The District is one of the few jurisdictions in the nation that requires all single-occupancy bathrooms at restaurants, businesses or other public places to be gender-neutral, without labels such as “male” or “female.” While in the past non-compliant bathrooms could be reported to OHR through the traditional complaint submission method, now community members can quickly alert OHR by tweeting the business name and location using the hashtag #safebathroomsDC, or by submitting a short five question form on the OHR website.