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July 29, 2014

Religious Right Film: Activist judges attacking America with gay rights & Porn

Ian Silverstone at Right Wing Watch reports:

As if their first video didn't quite hammer the point home, Religious Right advocacy group Truth in Action Ministries has returned with part two of "We the People: Under Attack," an exhausting indicment of the federal judiciary and its allegedly anti-Christian agenda.

In the spirit of defending the rights of the “majority,” Phyllis Schlafly paints a grim scenario of judicial tyranny usurping American values:

"We have judges who have created new rights, who have knocked down laws and practices that have been part of our heritage since the beginning, and you can call the roll of what they’ve done: tried to throw up traditional marriage between a man and a woman; throwing out the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag because it has the words ‘under God’ in it; creating new rights that are not in the Constitution, like the right to abortion, the right to sodomy, the right to same-sex marriage licenses, the right to have pornography even with taxpayer’s money. You know these are not in the Constitution, and it is an offense against the American people, against We the People, and against our whole form of government. And the result is that the First Amendment has been turned on its head."

The video above shows excerpts from the film.

Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in 42, stars as the James Brown. This looks like fun. Opening in cineplexes on August 1.

John Oliver on our insecure nukes

Quick, hide under a picnic blanket!

4th Circuit rules against Virginia marriage ban, NC AG won't defend that state's ban

AFER-virginia-14201973056_af9d41bfe3_z
(Plaintiffs Mary Townley at right, Carol Schall and their daughter Emily. Photo courtesy AFER.)

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a lower court ruling in Bostic v. Schaefer that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriages and on the recognition of such marriages from other jurisdictions is unconstitutional, Justin Snow reports in Metro Weekly:

A federal appeals court found Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in a ruling handed down Monday.

With a 2-1 decision, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling finding Virginia law prohibiting same-sex marriage and recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states in violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The ruling is here. The attorney general of North Carolin said after the ruling that he will no longer defend that state's same-sex marriage ban, as it will not hold up in court. Lyle Denniston discusses the ruling at SCOTUSblog. As he notes, the county clerks who defended the ban have a right to seek an en banc review by the full 4th Circuit; stay tuned on that.

Ari Ezra Waldman at Towleroad analyzes the lone dissent by Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, who during oral arguments kept calling gay relationships "new" and "different," echoing Justice Byron White's notorious opinion in the 1986 Bowers decision in which he framed the dispute over sodomy laws as whether the constitution guarantees a right to have gay anal sex. Of course the constitution lays out broad principles, and was never set up to be a list of permitted activities. Indeed, it specifies the powers of the three branches of the federal government, leaving all others to the states and the people. Conservative judges like Niemeyer were effectively rebuked in 2003 by Justice Anthony Kennedy's Lawrence decision, but they persist in their discredited, biased approach.

The celebrity superlawyer team of Boies and Olson, touted in NYT reporter Jo Becker's much-criticized book on the Prop 8 case, Forcing the Spring, were involved in the Virginia case. Be assured that they will be fighting like alley cats for the right to do the oral arguments if the Virginia case is taken up by SCOTUS.

The Catholic Bishops of Virginia slammed the 4th Circuit's decision, saying, "This action reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the intrinsic nature of marriage and is an injustice to Virginia voters." Their arguments, based on "natural law" and other doctrine dressed up in pseudoscientific drag, have been refuted many times -- as has their suggestion that voters should be able to deny a fundamental right like marriage to people they don't like. These bullies are losing, and the final blow at the Supreme Court, likely in the coming term, cannot come soon enough to suit me.

July 27, 2014

Michael Sam gets under the far right's skin

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(Photo by Richard Phibbs for Out magazine)

Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch reports:

Religious Right activists often attempt to defend anti-gay remarks by insisting that the remarks are merely expressions of religious faith. And that is exactly how they are handling the controversy over former NFL coach Tony Dungy’s comment that he wouldn’t draft Michael Sam because he wouldn’t want “to deal with” attention over his sexual orientation.

Take, for example, WorldNetDaily columnist Carl Jackson, who today not only suggests that Dungy should be immune from criticism because he is a Christian, but insists that anyone who dared to disagree with his remarks has actually “persecuted” and “crucified” him “because he had the courage to say what everyone else thought about the rookie pick.”

And Miranda Blue, also at RWW, reports that AFA President Tim Wildmon used a fundraising letter to get all steamy over the beefcake in NFL locker rooms:

By the way, having been a sports reporter for a few years I've been in many football locker rooms where the players walk around naked or half-naked, changing clothes and going in and out of the showers. Putting a man like Sam, who says he is sexually attracted to men, in with all that beefcake seems unfair to the straight players and a distraction to Sam.

Speaking of showers, Tim, you sound like you could use a cold one. We completely understand.

The latest from Crazy Eyes

Rep. Michele Bachmann's anti-gay slanders continue. They are vile and I don't feel like repeating them here, but once again she is just making stuff up. Or possibly channeling her husband Marcus.

Bible museum dispute in the news

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?

July 26, 2014

A crude rejoinder with staying power?

I just ran across some amusing tweets by a participant in the recent Netroots Nation conference regarding hostile tweets she received during the conference.

My coffee shop pals and I were dubbed "bloviating pensioners" by a local troll on Twitter some months back, and we subsequently took great pleasure in embracing the phrase. But "fuck your effete sophistry" has a wonderful panache to it. I can just hear my friend Willy drawling, "Oh Rick, fuck your effete sophistry," followed by laughter all around.

Shade

Jeopardy! includes "shade" in a clue.

Applause from an adversary

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":

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.

I replied:

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,

Rick Rosendall
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.)

We owe it all to Dear Leader

Good observation from Stephen H. Miller at IGF Culture Watch, in which he translates HRC's fellatial* flacking of the President's recent executive order:

Here’s how I would have put it: “Finally, after 5-plus years of ignoring pleas from a voting bloc that has disproportionately supplied funds, labor and votes to his party, President Obama ordered that contractors working for the federal government his administration oversees can’t discriminate against LGBT workers. If organizations claiming to be leading the fight for LGBT equality had exerted more pressure instead of acting as supplicant lapdogs, it would have happened much sooner....”

He has a point.

(* Nod to Andrew Sullivan)

The polite debate on Israel and Gaza, in case you missed it

Early in the week, Jon Stewart illustrated the response often received by anyone who criticizes Israel in any way, or simply expresses sympathy for innocent children killed in a conflict.

July 25, 2014

Besen doubles down on effort to block disagreeable speech

Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out has responded to my criticism of his effort to get District of Columbia officials to somehow block the planned Bible museum two blocks south of the National Mall. (My piece originally appeared on July 21 at Daily Kos.) Our exchange via Twitter is below.

July 24, 2014

Interview with Edith Windsor: a marriage equality legacy

Marriage Equality USA interviews Edith Windsor on her historic victory last year against DOMA before the Supreme Court of the United States. Click here for the previous segments.

This Land Is Mine

Pretty well sums it up. Lovely singing by Andy Williams.

GOP Candidate In Arizona Promises To Fight 'The Gay Lobby,' Stop Illegal Immigration 'Before It's Too Late'

Miranda Blue reports at Right Wing Watch:

In a campaign ad that began airing last week in Arizona, Republican gubernatorial candidate Andrew Thomas boasts of having “stood up to the gay lobby” and promises to stop undocumented immigrants “before it’s too late.”

“When I enforced the law, illegal immigrants fled this state. Now they stay and protest” Thomas, a former Maricopa County attorney, says in the ad, as he’s flanked by a mostly-white crowd.

Thomas was disbarred in 2012 after facing corruption charges. He isn’t considered a frontrunner in a large Republican field that includes executive Christine Jones, State Treasurer Doug Ducey, Secretary of State Ken Bennett, former Rep. Frank Riggs, and others.

Gohmert: Bomb Iran (because Gaza)

The latest incoherence from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

Summer of Liberty, or something

Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America on how the gays have stolen our freedoms.

Rick Perry preps for another presidential run with immigration standoff

Photo-rick-perry-hunting-refugee-children-in-mom-jeans
(Photo source unknown)

The utter incapacity of some politicians to feel shame or be self-aware is almost charming. Almost. The photo op shown above turns it into something very ugly. This nitwit is unfazed by having made a mockery of himself in 2012, and is now calling out the Texas National Guard to shoot at what his predecessor's once called "the little brown ones." I wonder what more refined conservatives are thinking these days as so many on their side of the partisan divide overrun their genteel bigotry with a cruder variety.

Radio Raheem And The Gentle Giant

Embedding of this video by Spike Lee is disabled, so you have to click on the link to view it.

Twenty-five years after Lee's Do the Right Thing portrayed the murderous use of a chokehold by NYPD officers, and long after the use of chokeholds was banned, the real-life Eric Garner was killed by an NYPD officer in the same manner. This is murder.

Night in Gaza

Gaza_from_space

From Alexander Gerst aboard the International Space Station, a photo of Gaza at night. It is hard to tell ordinary lights from explosions.

A fundraising ploy disguised as a birthday card

BHO_birth_cert_tray

Thanks to the Birther nonsense, an unusually large number of us knows the date, year, and place of BHO's birth, even the hospital. I have a drink tray with a reproduction of his birth certificate. But I don't think 44 will notice whether I sign his birthday card. Yet I am getting multiple reminders a day. The thing is, Barack and I are just not close enough that we exchange birthday cards. So, you know, knock it off already, okeydoke?

Israel Is Destroying West Bank Houses To Punish Hamas’ Family Members

Palestinian_home_destroyed
(AP photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Very Old Testament. Bibi (and I mean you and your fanatical supporters and not your nation), may you reap what you sow.

July 21, 2014

President Obama signs executive orders on LGBT workplace protections

Free Speech and the Bible Museum

I want to draw your attention to an article that I have just published on the Daily Kos blog:

Free Speech and the Bible Museum

This concerns plans by the owner of Hobby Lobby to create a Bible museum a few blocks from the National Mall, and the response by Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out to the news. Besen, who has done invaluable work in exposing anti-gay junk science and religious extremism, has called for D.C. Government officials to somehow prevent the planned museum from opening. But since the museum is to be privately funded and located on private property, there is no legitimate basis to block it.

As my article discusses, GLAA has a long history of defending our opponents' First Amendment rights. This allows us to hold the moral high ground, and has won us praise, including from Washington Post columnist Colby King. We are much better off in the long run by respecting the rights of all, not just those who agree with us. Our longtime allies at the American Civil Liberties Union stand with us on this.

July 18, 2014

Obama to take executive action against anti-LGBT bias on Monday

The Blade reports:

President Obama is set on Monday to take executive action to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees working for federal contractors and the federal government, the Washington Blade has learned.

In a conference call with reporters on Friday, senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Obama plans to amend existing executive orders barring discrimination against workers to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Calls for resignation mount for Minnesota archbishop in scandals

ARCHBISHOP-sub-master675

Laurie Goodstein at NYT reports:

Just two years ago, the Roman Catholic archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis was making headlines as a leader in the battle against same-sex marriage. But for the last year and a half, the archbishop, John C. Nienstedt, has been battling to hold onto his post in the face of a series of scandals, which further deepened on Tuesday with the filing of an explosive affidavit by the former chancellor of the archdiocese.

Your Holiness, why does this man still have a job? Kindly stop apologizing and take action.

Déjà vu: NY father dies after police chokehold

25 years after Do the Right Thing, NYPD cops are still using the chokehold. The Root reports:

Witnesses say that Eric Garner was breaking up a fight when police approached him about selling untaxed cigarettes. A struggle ensued, a police chokehold was applied and moments later Garner was dead.

This is excessive, barbaric, and unacceptable. As Radio Rahim would say, ‪#‎fightthepower‬.

Mayor de Blasio vows a full investigation.

DOD: Chelsea Manning May Begin Transition in Prison

Advocate.com reports:

WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning has been approved to begin receiving hormone replacement therapy while serving her 35-year prison sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the Associated Press reports.

This is the right decision. Denial of healthcare is not an appropriate form of punishment. All prisoners are entitled to proper healthcare, and transgender prisoners are no exception.

Obama: evidence suggests Russia-backed separatists downed Malaysia Airlines

Update: London-based Russia Today reporter Sara Firth has resigned in protest over the lies her employer demanded regarding the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Good for her.

"The cure for AIDS may have been on that plane."


Nobel-winning French virologist Françoise Barré-Sinoussi expresses grief and loss over the crash of flight MH17.
(Video courtesy The Australian)

There have been reports that more than 100 of those aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 were on their way to the World AIDS Conference in Melbourne. If so (and there have been conflicting reports), the crime of the downing of the commercial jetliner might also be devastating for AIDS research.

One of the passengers was eminent AIDS researcher Dr. Joep Lange, executive scientific director of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development and former president of the International AIDS Society. Dr. Lange once said, "If we can get a cold can of Coke to any part of Africa, we can certainly deliver AIDS treatment." That remains true.

The Guardian reports that a team of OSCE inspectors was barred from the crash site by Russian-backed rebels:

The commander of the rebel unit, a man called Ilya who is known as Commander Glum, expressed annoyance as the OSCE team stood its ground, keen to access the scenes of carnage. 'OSCE came here without negotiating,' he shouted, as they prepared to leave...We didn’t agree to meet the OSCE here, go away,' he added, firing a warning shot. The five-strong convoy departed rapidly.
Crash-site-of-Malaysia-Ai-017
(Photo courtesy The Guardian)

July 17, 2014

Michael Sam Wins Arthur Ashe ESPY Award 2014

The ESPY Awards (short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards) were handed out last night, and Michael Sam of the St. Louis Rams won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. He received the award from Duane "The Rock" Johnson, the wrestler and actor known for "The Scorpion King" and other movies. Below, for no good reason, is a scene from the 2008 Get Smart movie featuring Johnson.

AFA's Bryan Fischer is sick of being bossed around by a 'little tiny minority'

Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch reports:

In this video, Bryan Fischer says he can't believe America has allowed itself to be bossed around by a tiny minority of bigoted gay bullies.

USA Today ran this story on July 15 about the CDC survey to which Fischer refers. USA Today reporter Cogan Schneier asked for a comment, and I replied: "I have no expertise in population estimates, so I leave that to others. I have not read the CDC survey, which I just heard about today, so I cannot comment on their methodology. In general, I suspect that underreporting by LGB people is a potential factor in any survey, so I would look to see how the researchers sought to ensure the most accurate sampling and the fullest reporting. In any case, none of GLAA's advocacy has depended upon how many LGBT folk there are. Plainly there are more of us than the most virulent opponents of equality would like. To be clear, GLAA's advocacy includes the 'T' for transgender; I referred above to LGB because a colleague told me that the CDC researchers did not include transgenders in this survey due to difficulties they encountered in counting that population. We hope CDC overcomes those challenges and includes trans folk moving forward."

Tallahassee Mayor John Marks for the Freedom to Marry

Freedom to Marry reports:

Tallahassee Mayor John Marks shares why he supports the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. "This is the right thing to do. Individuals have rights and freedoms, and we need to allow everybody to have those same rights and those same freedoms."

Meanwhile, in Mississippi, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports:

For the first time in [Mississippi's] history, a sitting mayor has publicly stated his support for same-sex marriage, an announcement preceded by a wave of Mississippi towns approving anti-discrimination resolutions for LGBT residents during the first half of 2014.

Waveland Mayor David Garcia added his name to the Freedom to Marry – and LGBT rights group – list of U.S. mayors who support same-sex marriage.

Florida Keys judge overturns gay marriage ban; state AG to appeal

Steve Rothaus and David Smiley of The Miami Herald report:

A Florida Keys judge overturned the state’s 2008 constitutional gay-marriage ban on Thursday, and ordered that two Key West bartenders and other gay couples seeking to wed be allowed to marry.

Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia — overjoying gay rights advocates and outraging opponents of same-sex marriage —ordered the Monroe County Clerk’s Office to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples Tuesday morning....

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi swiftly announced she would appeal Garcia’s ruling to the Third District Court of Appeal.

Connecticut Ruling Sparks Debate on Retroactive Gay Rights

Dave Collins reports for AP:

A new Connecticut Supreme Court ruling is adding to the debate on whether gay marriage rights should be applied retroactively and qualify same-sex couples for rights and benefits for which they weren't entitled before state laws allowed them to marry.

Although no states that allow gay marriage have made their laws retroactive, many same-sex partners believe they should have received Social Security survivor payments, tax breaks, inheritances and other benefits that were afforded only to heterosexual married couples before gay marriage laws were passed.

The Connecticut high court ruled unanimously Wednesday that a woman whose wife died amid a medical malpractice case may sue a doctor over the loss of her wife's companionship and income, even though that right to sue was limited to heterosexual married couples at the time. Legal experts called the decision the first of its kind in the country.

Trans sister of NBA star found dead in Baltimore

HuffPost reports on the murder of trans woman Mia Henderson in Baltimore early Wednesday morning.

The violence keeps happening. Condolences to Mia and her family, and may those responsible be found and brought to justice.

Meanwhile, Transgender Lobby Day was held on Capitol Hill Tuesday by the National Center for Transgender Equality and five other groups. The need for both cultural and political work on behalf of trans equality is all too apparent.

Culture Thieves

Beyonce_Mrs._Carter_Show_Birmingham_1
(Photo by Raz Birkshaw. Courtesy Wiki Commons)

My column this week looks at a recent flare-up in the culture wars. Here's the opening:

Sierra Mannie, a University of Mississippi senior, wrote a commentary picked up by Time last week titled, "Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture." Here's a portion:

"I need some of you to cut it the hell out. ... I don't care ... how cute you think it is to call yourself a strong black woman, who taught you to twerk, how funny you think it is to call yourself Quita or Keisha or for which black male you've been bottoming -- you are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood."

Someone was looking for a throwdown. She talked about Beyoncé, white privilege and the legacies of racism and sexism. She made some valid points. She also said that black women "cannot hide their blackness and womanhood to protect themselves the way that you can hide your homosexuality."

Let's pause there. David Mariner, Executive Director of The DC Center for the LGBT Community, posted a response on Tumblr. He did not imitate a black woman saying, "Oh no you dih-int." He was conciliatory and thoughtful:

Follow the link above to read the whole thing at Metro Weekly.

NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter from Gaza After Witnessing Israeli Attack on Children

Hospital-inset
(Ayman Mohyeldin reports from Gaza City on killing of four Palestinian boys by Israel. Photo credit: NBC News)

NYT reports that Israel has begun its expected ground assault on the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald reports:

Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent who personally witnessed yesterday’s killing by Israel of four Palestinian boys on a Gazan beach and who has received widespread praise for his brave and innovative coverage of the conflict, has been told by NBC executives to leave Gaza immediately. According to an NBC source upset at his treatment, the executives claimed the decision was motivated by “security concerns” as Israel prepares a ground invasion, a claim repeated to me by an NBC executive. But late yesterday, NBC sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, along with an American producer who has never been to Gaza and speaks no Arabic, into Gaza to cover the ongoing Israeli assault (both Mohyeldin and Engel speak Arabic).

Mohyeldin is an Egyptian-American with extensive experience reporting on that region. He has covered dozens of major Middle East events in the last decade for CNN, NBC and Al Jazeera English, where his reporting on the 2008 Israeli assault on Gaza made him a star of the network. NBC aggressively pursued him to leave Al Jazeera, paying him far more than the standard salary for its on-air correspondents.

Yesterday, Mohyeldin witnessed and then reported on the brutal killing by Israeli gunboats of four young boys as they played soccer on a beach in Gaza City. He was instrumental, both in social media and on the air, in conveying to the world the visceral horror of the attack.

NBC, you are beneath contempt.

R.I.P. Elaine Stritch

NYT reports that legendary Broadway actress and comedian Elaine Stritch has died at age 89. May she rest in peace.

The video above shows her onstage in 2002. Below, she appears with David Letterman in 1996.