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.
Why is a horse in a wedding dress any more related to gay couples than to straight couples? Gay people are not seeking to marry horses, but other human beings. But somehow, this sort of stunt seems to persuade some people.
Matt Baume of AFER gives a marriage equality update.
Activist Doug Kerr writes at HuffPost:
Watching the events unfold in the suburbs of St. Louis that night, however, I felt a tremendous anger rise up in me as a father. I decided to post a comment in the group about how angry I was and how scary it feels to raise a black son in this world today. There are thousands of other black and white gay families raising black kids, and on a night like this surely they must also be feeling rage, fear and despair.
First the thread was shut down, then he was expelled. Shaking my head.
As they say on the old Warner Bros cartoons, aaaah, shadaaaap!
Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch reports. The right wing is losing it.
President Obama gave one of his finest speeches last night in announcing his executive action on immigration. Here is my favorite passage:
Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger -- we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too.
My friend Walter Dellinger, who was head of the Office of Legal Counsel from 1993 to 1996, explains in Slate that the President is on solid legal ground:
The idea that the immigration plan just announced by President Obama is a lawless power grab is absurd. As the Justice Department legal analysis that was just released amply demonstrates, much of the advance criticism of the president’s action has been uninformed and unwarranted. The opinion is well-reasoned and at times even conservative. The president is not acting unilaterally, but pursuant to his statutory authority. Wide discretion over deportation priorities has long been conferred on the executive branch by Congress, and it is being exercised in this case consistent with policies such as family unification that have been endorsed by Congress.
Dellinger's whole piece bears reading. Thank you and bravo, Mr. President.
Chris Johnson at the Blade talks to Freedom to Marry's Marc Solomon.
An update from Matt Baume at AFER. (From Monday)
The New Civil Rights Movement provides a long list of anti-gay obsessives who attended the Vatican conference on traditional marriage, and quotes this:
"We know that today marriage and the family are in crisis," the Pope told his very-willing audience. "This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable."
"We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment."
"Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notion. Family is an anthropological fact – a socially and culturally related fact."
Temporary? I have remained committed to my foreign partner for 13 years despite many barriers to our happiness. The complementarity nonsense was refuted centuries before Christ by Plato. In pastoral terms, this conference with so many anti-gay fanatics is I think the first wrong step #Pontifex has made in his public ministry. As someone observed, he is talking about us when he should be talking with us.
The Independent also reports.
I have previously counseled caution. The Pope's pastoral instincts are admirable, but he has shown no sign of intending to change Catholic doctrine regarding gay people, women's vocations to the priesthood, or contraception.
Miranda Blue at Right Wing Watch reports.
Multiple developments this week on marriage equality. Above, victory in Kansas. Below, developments in MS and SC.
The Clarion-Ledger on marriage in Mississippi:
Analysis: Judge likely will overturn gay marriage ban
Meanwhile, Justice Thomas weighs in.
Valerie Beaumont at Addicting Info reports on the latest anti-Obama slander by Pastor Stephen J. Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church, who (you might say) takes the Christ out of Christianity.
Mark Joseph Stern writes in Slate:
Thursday’s 2–1 decision by the 6th Circuit upholding four states’ gay marriage bans is a deeply obnoxious slog that I would not recommend even to the most eager masochist. Its author, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, seems to fundamentally misunderstand the constitutional arguments behind marriage equality: Instead of analyzing the 14th Amendment’s dual guarantees of liberty and equal protection, he simply states that gay people have no business fighting for their civil rights in court. After a while, Sutton’s repeated insistence that it’s not a federal judge’s duty to enforce the constitution makes you want to grab him by the shoulders and ask, then what in the world were you hired for?
Luckily, someone has already done that for us: Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, the dissenter in the case. Daughtrey’s opinion isn’t just blistering; it’s a scorching, bitterly funny, profoundly humane excoriation of Sutton’s sophistry.
Stern quotes three fine passages by Daughtrey:
The author of the majority opinion has drafted what would make an engrossing TED Talk or, possibly, an introductory lecture in Political Philosophy. But as an appellate court decision, it wholly fails to grapple with the relevant constitutional question in this appeal. … Instead, the majority sets up a false premise—that the question before us is “who should decide?”—and leads us through a largely irrelevant discourse on democracy and federalism. In point of fact, the real issue before us concerns what is at stake in these six cases for the individual plaintiffs and their children, and what should be done about it. Because I reject the majority’s resolution of these questions based on its invocation of vox populi and its reverence for “proceeding with caution” (otherwise known as the “wait and see” approach), I dissent.
Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast looks at the ruling by Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton upholding gay marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.
One of Sutton's arguments, designed to establish a rational basis for preventing gay couples from marrying, is the so-called natural law argument, which says that we are violating "nature's laws." As I have said before, natural law is merely religion in pseudo-scientific drag, cooked up by people who haven't the slightest understanding or respect for the scientific method. It amounts to a more polite rephrasing of the great line by playwright Christopher Durang's Sister Mary Ignatius, "You do the thing that makes Jesus puke." Instead of studying what nature has actually produced in all its diversity, they try to dictate to nature to stay within their comfortable boxes. Or, if you will, instead of studying God's creation, they tell God what to do. It's both bad science and presumptuous religion.
Sutton, by the way, is a respected conservative jurist. But as for those who say that the Sixth Circuit ruling sets back the cause of marriage equality, that is only true if you ignore the fact that this almost certainly propels the issue of marriage equality back to the Supreme Court of the United States, by creating a conflict among the federal circuit courts. That's less like losing and more like luring your enemy into a trap. Not that I am calling marriage opponents my enemies. We are all loyal Americans with an honest disagreement. If you ignore our opponents' endless lies and slanders, that is.
Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, has announced that it will soon offer health benefits to employee’s same-sex spouses despite the objections of Catholic archbishop George J. Lucas, reports KETV7 ABC.
Creighton UniversityOutlining the decision in a letter sent Monday to trustees, President Rev. Timothy Lannon, said that although Creighton continues to support the Catholic Church's teaching about marriage, the university is taking this step to meet the needs of its employees and remain competitive with other universities that already offer similar benefits.
Lannon added that 21 of the 28 Jesuit universities in the U.S. already offer similar benefits.
George J. Lucas, Archbishop of Omaha, reacted predictably:
I am dismayed that the recommendation of the University Benefits Committee is thought to supersede divine law regarding marriage. There is no tension between Catholic teaching and social justice; both are grounded in the same truths about the nature of the human person, the complementarity of man and woman and the meaning of human life and love.
Here's to superseding divine law.
(Hat tip: Craig Howell)
Your Honor, we cannot sleep knowing that down the street those homosatanists are doing the thing that makes Jesus puke!
One of the sessions I attended at Wednesday's Washington Ideas Forum (hosted by Atlantic and the Aspen Institute) was this discussion by attorneys Ted Olson and Evan Wolfson of the state of the battle over marriage equality in federal courts. Jonathan Capehart moderated. Here's an excerpt of David A. Graham's report:
"We are winning, but winning is not won," Wolfson said. "It's not a done deal until it’s done. It's not going to waft in on waves of inevitability."
Wolfson has been leading the fight for gay marriage for more than three decades; Olson, alongside Democratic lawyer David Boies, has recently been one of its most high-profile advocates. The men were chummy, despite a kerfuffle this spring over Jo Becker's Forcing the Spring, a book some LGBT advocates felt aggrandized Boies and Olson at the expense of Wolfson and others.
There was no rivalry—just a mix of hope and frustration. On the one hand, about two-thirds of states now have gay marriage, and about two-thirds of American citizens live in those states. On the other hand, that means one third do not, and as long as same-sex marriage is not legal everywhere in the United States, they argued, the rights of gay people and their families are painfully compromised.
Other highlights of the Washington Ideas Forum were DefSec Chuck Hagel, who announced that service members returning from West Africa will face a quarantine; and Attorney General Eric Holder, who said that no reporter will go to jail as long as he is AG. Holder was interrupted by a protester decrying DOJ's record on civil liberties under Holder. Capehart, who was also the interviewer in this case, smoothly turned to Holder and asked him what about DOJ's poor record on whistleblowers and journalists. Holder defended himself, but was more credible when he talked about his decision not to defend DOMA in court.
Thanks to Atlantic Washington Editor At Large Steve Clemons for inviting me to the forum, which was held at the Harmon Center and continues on Thursday morning. A Thursday highlight will be an appearance by Secretary of State John Kerry.
I am quoted in this article by Carlos Maza and Joe Strupp at Media Matters. They report:
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat apologized for appearing at a fundraising event for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an extreme anti-gay legal group working to criminalize homosexuality....
As Media Matters noted, ADF is one of the most extreme anti-gay legal groups in the country, fighting against even basic legal protections for LGBT people and working internationally to repress LGBT human rights, including supporting Belize's draconian law criminalizing gay sex.
On Wednesday, Douthat explained that he did not know ADF's event was a fundraiser and said he plans to decline the honorarium he received from the event.
I note that my quote (follow the link) was given before word of Douthat's apology. I am glad that he apologized and will not accept the honorarium.
The anti-gay Alliance Defending Freedom is suing the City of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho in a "gays are bullies" case. Last Friday, ADF attorneys filed a federal lawsuit and a motion for a temporary restraining order against the city. Here is an excerpt:
This case is about the City of Coeur D’Alene unconstitutionally coercing two Christian ministers, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies at The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in violation of their religious beliefs, their ordination vows, and their consciences. Coeur D’Alene does so by imposing a Hobson’s choice on the Knapps through City Ordinance §9.56, which bars sexual orientation discrimination in public accommodations: the Knapps can either violate their religious convictions and ministerial vows by performing same-sex wedding ceremonies or follow their religious convictions and vows by declining to perform same-sex ceremonies and face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.This was reported by Todd Starnes of Fox News: City threatens to arrest ministers who refuse to perform same-sex weddings
The story was given legs by Eugene Volokh at WaPo: Can ministers who make a living by conducting weddings be required to conduct same-sex weddings?
The claim that those awful gays are bullying ministers does not survive closer inspection. Here are several stories to check out:
A quick Google search shows that the right wing is going nuts over this story. We have to fight back with the truth.
Pope Francis has removed the virulently anti-gay Cardinal Raymond Burke (interviewed above prior to this development) as prefect of the Holy See's Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's supreme court. Excellent news. Timmian Massie reports at NCRM:
American Cardinal Raymond Burke, a darling of conservative Catholics who is virulently anti-gay, has confirmed to BuzzFeed what rumors from Rome have said for weeks. He will be demoted by Pope Francis from the head of the Roman Catholic Church's version of the Supreme Court to a figurehead role as the Patron of the Knights of Malta, a chivalrous order known for its work among the sick....
Burke recently told an interviewer that legally-married gay and lesbian family members should be shunned from family celebrations during the upcoming holidays, asking “what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?”
Burke's strong criticism of a preliminary document that included more inclusive welcoming of LGBT community members in the life of the Church and his challenge to Francis, who is seen to have had a hand in the drafting of the document, were apparently the last straw for the Pope.
I am not a praying person, but if you are, please pray for the health and longevity of this pope. The cleanup job he faces rivals the Augean Stables.
@Pontifex - Bravo for your action on Cardinal Burke, a strong signal that you mean business in your pastoral outreach to gays. Stay healthy!— Richard Rosendall (@RickRosendall) October 18, 2014
AZ: "This court is bound by precedent set by Ninth Circuit. Plaintiffs entitled to permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of [ban]."— Robbie Kaplan (@kaplanrobbie) October 17, 2014
Good news from Arizona! Lily Hiott-Millis at Freedom to Marry reports:
Today, October 17, U.S. District Court Judge John Sedgwick ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in Arizona in two federal legal cases that challenged the state’s anti-marriage constitutional amendment.
Attorney General Horne has said that he will not appeal the ruling meaning that marriage licenses could be issued as soon as today.
Bi-curious whales do it, quails do it,
New hermaphroditic snails do it.
Let's do it, let's fall in love.
Below, though sadly without benefit of my special lyrics, Billie Holiday gives her rendition. Use your imagination.
Azeen Ghorayshi of the Guardian reports:
Researchers in Taiwan have taken the unusual step of naming a newly identified species of snail in recognition of same-sex marriage rights. Dubbed Aegista diversifamilia, the hermaphroditic species was so named to reflect the “diversity of sexual orientation in the animal kingdom”, said Dr Yen-Chang Lee, who co-authored the study published on Monday in the journal ZooKeys.
Today GLAA received the following media inquiry:
My name is Manon Verchot, I am a journalist working at TreeHugger.com. I'm writing a piece about a new species of snail being named in celebration of same sex-marriage (http://bit.ly/1tZE2Jk) and I would love to get a statement from your organisation addressing what your thoughts are on this and what you think it means (if anything).
I will be publishing this piece Thursday morning, I would really appreciate it if you could get back to me before then.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I like to be helpful to members of the press, so I replied:
It seems like a lovely tribute, though I am somewhat reticent because inevitably some confused social conservative will complain that the next thing you know, someone will want to marry his pet snail. As it happens, I have no pet snail, and do not wish to marry one. Thus what began so pleasantly ends up with my having to deny amorous feelings toward gastropods.
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.
On a more serious note, those interested in the extensive examples of homosexuality that scientists have observed among animals should take a look at Biological Exuberance by Bruce Bagemihl.