A federal appeals court in Boston today upheld a lower court ruling that called the key section of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” unconstitutional. Section 3 of DOMA bans the federal government from recognizing legal marriages between people of the same sex, meaning that it willfully discriminates against a set of married people when it comes to Social Security benefits, joint-filing tax breaks, military spousal benefits and immigration. When DOMA was passed in 1996 no states allowed gay and lesbian couple to marry – its provisions were purely theoretical. Today, marriage equality exists in six states and the District of Columbia, and DOMA actively harms thousands of married Americans – 100,000 couples, according to the court.
In its decision concluding that DOMA violates the Constitution, the unanimous First Circuit panel – two out of three of whom were nominated by Republican presidents – was cautious. The panel said that under First Circuit precedent DOMA doesn’t trigger “heightened scrutiny” – a tougher standard for the federal government to meet. It also declined to address any arguments based on the premise that lesbians and gays have a constitutional right to marry (as opposed to having their existing marriages recognized by the federal government).
But the court was clear that Section 3 of DOMA does not meet the “rational basis” test for upholding a federal law that denies equal protection to a group long subject to discrimination – in other words, there’s just no good reason for DOMA to do the harm that it does.
The court looked at several justificiations offered for the law by DOMA’s supporters and found that each comes up short. Supporters say DOMA will save the federal government money (reports say that it actually costs the government money…and saving money isn’t a good enough reason for legal discrimination in the first place); that allowing lesbians and gays to marry harms children (it doesn’t, and Section 3 of DOMA doesn’t affect these couples’ rights to raise children anyway); and just plain moral disapproval (Supreme Court precedent says this isn’t enough of a reason). And finally, the court takes on the constant argument of opponents of same-sex marriage: that somehow gay couples getting married will harm the institution of marriage for everyone else:
Although the House Report is filled with encomia to heterosexual marriage, DOMA does not increase benefits to opposite-sex couples--whose marriages may in any event be childless, unstable or both--or explain how denying benefits to same-sex couples will reinforce heterosexual marriage. Certainly, the denial will not affect the gender choices of those seeking marriage. This is not merely a matter of poor fit of remedy to perceived problem, but a lack of any demonstrated connection between DOMA's treatment of same-sex couples and its asserted goal of strengthening the bonds and benefits to society of heterosexual marriage.
This is the crux of any number of court decisions that have struck down barriers to marriage equality. The main reason given for many laws that seek to deny marriage rights to gays and lesbians is that same-sex marriage will somehow weaken marriage for everybody else. It’s a claim that just doesn’t hold water.
The First Circuit panel did, however, go out of its way to defend DOMA’s supporters even while rejecting the law.
The District Court judge whose ruling the appeals court upheld declared that DOMA was motivated by “irrational prejudice” toward gays and lesbians. The First Circuit explicitly refuses to go there, instead stating that while that may have been true for some supporters, others were motivated instead by what it characterizes as the non-biased wish to “preserve the heritage of marriage as traditionally defined over centuries of Western civilization.” Under recent Supreme Court precedent, they write, the wish to uphold tradition isn’t a good enough one for denying equal protection. But the Supreme Court can change that if it wants:
In reaching our judgment, we do not rely upon the charge that DOMA's hidden but dominant purpose was hostility to homosexuality. The many legislators who supported DOMA acted from a variety of motives, one central and expressed aim being to preserve the heritage of marriage as traditionally defined over centuries of Western civilization. Preserving this institution is not the same as "mere moral disapproval of an excluded group," and that is singularly so in this case given the range of bipartisan support for the statute.
The opponents of section 3 point to selected comments from a few individual legislators; but the motives of a small group cannot taint a statute supported by large majorities in both Houses and signed by President Clinton. Traditions are the glue that holds society together, and many of our own traditions rest largely on belief and familiarity--not on benefits firmly provable in court. The desire to retain them is strong and can be honestly held. For 150 years, this desire to maintain tradition would alone have been justification enough for almost any statute. This judicial deference has a distinguished lineage, including such figures as Justice Holmes, the second Justice Harlan, and Judges Learned Hand and Henry Friendly. But Supreme Court decisions in the last fifty years call for closer scrutiny of government action touching upon minority group interests and of federal action in areas of traditional state concern.
Recognizing that the Supreme Court will likely review its reasoning, the court stayed the decision, so it will not go into effect yet.
Facetiously declaring that "haters of a feather stick together," Deace brought Fischer to try and explain why the Republican Party seemed so intent on embracing the issue of homosexuality at the expense of the support of Christian conservatives. Fischer warned that if the GOP continued along this path, it was going to spell the end of the Republican Party while Deace simply could not understand why Republicans would be "catering to the homosexual lobby, which is a major fundraising arm for Democrats across the country":
Deace: The GOP is going to have to make a decision here: are they going to stick with those traditions that past conservative stalwarts like Russell Kirk, those laws of natures and nature's God that you just heard Bryan reference, or are they going to embrace the new morality? And what happens Bryan if they make the wrong choice?
Fischer: Well, I think it will be the end of the Republican Party. You know, the evangelical community still provides the core of the Republican Party base, they're the ones who are most motivated to go to the polls and they'll just abandon the Republican Party ...
Deace: You can even simplify it on a more base level which is why would you want to aid and abet and fund the people who are funding the folks you are running against? Why would you want to do that? Why do we aid and abet and enable the homosexual movement? I mean, can you imagine if [Jeff] Sessions and [John] Cornyn said 'we're going to have a fundraiser with AFSCME about how we can raise money to help the Republican Party." There would be howls of protest, Bryan, across the fruited plain from every vestige of the right-of-center coalition in this country. Well, that's the exact same thing they're doing by catering to the homosexual lobby which is a major fundraising arm for Democrats across the country.
Deace and Fischer also claimed that GOP needs to take a stand against homosexuality in particular, because gay activists are systematically forcing society to accept their immoral behavior while refusing to even admit that it is a sin:
Fischer: You know, the reality is Steve, if homosexuals were willing to keep this in the privacy of their own bedrooms, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. They're the ones that are bringing it out of the bedroom, they're bringing it into our streets, they are demanding and insisting that we recognize this behavior, that we normalize it, that we endorse it, that we approve of it. So they're really the ones that are dragging it out of the bedroom and making it an issue in the public square and, you know, we have to respond to that.
Deace: I think what you just said is very important because I get asked this sometimes by Christians, hey I agree that this is a sin, but why is this different than other sins? Why do we make such a big deal out of this publicly? And the point that I make to them is, listen, they're isn't a group of fornicators out there saying we've got to change the laws of marriage, the accreditation laws for counselors, the way in the curriculum that your kids are taught in school in order to teach them, hey, that it's okay for me to be a serial fornicator or a serial adulterer and we're actually going to teach them how to do that better. I mean, we're looking here at an immoral behavior with its own political lobby and they're the ones that are driving this debate, we're simply reacting to it.
Fischer: Well, and you look at this issue of sin; people say 'well, homosexuality is a sin like every other sin' and there's a point to that. But the problem is people right now that are homosexual activists that are engaging in this kind of behavior, they're denying that it is a sin at all. You know, they;'re saying that it is perfectly normal, that it's healthy behavior; they reject the analysis that there is something morally deficient about that behavior whatsoever. You know, most adulterers say "yeah, that wasn't too cool what I did there," but homosexual activists say "no, what we're doing is just fine and not only just fine, we're going to insist that you approve of what we do."
A unanimous three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld a lower-court ruling which held that Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The panel included two Republican appointees.
Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way Foundation, issued the following statement:
“The First Circuit has reached the inevitable conclusion on DOMA: the arguments for such a discriminatory, hurtful law just don’t hold up. Over 16 years, DOMA has denied thousands of legally married Americans the protections and responsibilities granted to all other married couples under federal law. DOMA prevents married couples from providing for each other through Social Security; sponsoring each other for visas; helping each other with the tax benefits reserved for married couples; and prevents some service members and veterans from having their marriages recognized by the military. DOMA marginalizes a group of Americans, declares them inferior, and denies them rights granted to all others.
“ DOMA has caused real harm to Americans. A law that discriminates against a class of people just for the sake of discrimination is contrary to our principles and contrary to our laws.”
A few weeks ago, Roger Schlafly mourned a Census Bureau report showing that non-white births have now exceeded white births in the U.S, declaring that this was "not a good thing" because "immigrants do not share American values," by which he meant "vote Republican."
Today, Rick Scarborough of Vision America sent out an email warning that "the non-Hispanic white share of the population will fall from 70% today to a bare majority by the year 2050" and suggesting that is a bad thing. While insisting that "the racial mix of this nation shouldn’t matter," Scarborough lamented "the sad reality is [that] America is changing," suggesting that "more non-white families" means more single-parent households, which in turn means less Christians:
Now we are witnessing more babies being born out of wedlock than in wedlock, leading to escalating social problems. That brings us back to this latest revelation on the growing influence of minorities in America. The sad reality is that more non-white families will also mean an America with more fatherless families.
Children raised in a one-parent household are also less likely to attend church services as both children and as adults, According to various surveys, as adults, they are less likely to go to church, pray, read the Bible or listen to Christian radio. They are more likely to get their values from movies, popular music, video games and the dominant (non-Christian) culture.
The increasing polarization of the races is an additional cause for concern. Politicians and self-styled community leaders urge blacks and Hispanics to see themselves as members of a race first and foremost, and not as Americans or Christians.
[A]s Christians, we must reach out to minorities in families at risk, with the message of the Gospel – one of repentance, love, salvation and a helping hand. Many churches of every ethnicity are doing a heroic job here. But they need our help.
This is the best way to guarantee that America stays America – a nation animated by Christian values – regardless of the nation’s racial composition.
A few years ago, Scarborough was quoted as saying that "if this country becomes 30 per cent Hispanic we will no longer be America," but then insisted that he had said nothing of the sort, despite the fact that the statement was reported by two separate news sources.
Back in 2010, John Hagee released a book entitled "Can America Survive?: 10 Prophetic Signs That We Are The Terminal Generation" which he then used as a basis for several sermons at his Cornerstone Church.
In one, entitled "The Death of the Dollar," Hagee cited Deuteronomy 28, which lays out signs that a nation is being cursed by God, to declare that America was most certainly under the judgment of God, citing violence in our cities, our struggling economy, the emergence of new diseases, our military losses in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and a high divorce rate:
The most recent spate of companies fleeing from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have been from the education and retail sectors, but yesterday ALEC got a rebuke from the healthcare industry as well. Medtronic, the medical technology company, has informed the Center for Media and Democracy that they did not renew their ALEC membership. Medtronic is the 17th corporation to leave the organization.
ALEC’s “healthcare” agenda is much less about helping sick people than about enriching healthcare corporations. To do so, ALEC advocates for policies that put quality care out of reach for many people by privatizing Medicare and Medicaid and repealing important laws that expand public access to care, including ObamaCare. They also push for the deregulation of the pharmaceutical and insurance industries and seek to limit accountability for drug companies that produce faulty medications that can cause injury or death.
The ALEC agenda is extreme, and when it comes to public health, it’s downright dangerous. Medtronic now joins Blue Cross Blue Shield in doing right by their customers and patients by getting out of ALEC.
Matt Borges was recently named as the new executive director of the Ohio Republican Party and this is not sitting well with Ohio-based Linda Harvey, primarily because Borges previously served as a lobbyist for the gay rights group Equality Ohio.
Borges reportedly lobbied on behalf of anti-discrimination legislation in Ohio, which Harvey attacked in her radio message today as nothing more than an effort to "give a stamp of approval to immoral and sinful behaviors and a tool for lawsuits to defend behavior people should not be doing in the first place."
As such, Harvey declared that it was "unacceptable" to allow Borges to run the Ohio GOP "unless he renounces his past support for the goals of homosexual activism" because it is "one of the major forces for youth corruption, religious discrimination, and moral disintegration in our country":
Matt Borges is unacceptable at the present time to lead this party unless he renounces his past support for the goals of homosexual activism. And let's be realistic, homosexual activism is now one of the major forces for youth corruption, religious discrimination, and moral disintegration in our country. We need to oppose it with every legal, spiritual, and civil means at our disposal and this is, in my opinion, the duty of every Christian in this country.
This is simply an in your face insult to Ohio Christian families and voters. It's also terribly foolish strategically when people with strong values should be united against the re-election of Barack Obama.
Samuel Rodriguez, the Hispanic Evangelical leader who is treated as a bridge-builder by some centrist Christians and the Obama White House in spite of his close alliances with the fringes of the Religious Right, has launched a fasting campaign against marriage equality. Rodriguez, who serves on the White House Task Force on Fatherhood, has expressed “deep disappointment” regarding Obama’s recent embrace of marriage equality.
Rodriguez joined the Southern Baptists’ Richard Land on Land’s May 19 radio show to denounce marriage equality as a threat to religious liberty and to call on churches to be more aggressive in opposing it. Rodriguez, who tells evangelicals that they should welcome Hispanic immigrants because God has sent them to redeem Christianity in America, insists that a multi-ethnic religious awakening is necessary to defend “Biblical marriage” in America.
Land and Rodriguez both portrayed the advance of gay rights as a threat to religious liberty, with Land claiming, “There is an attempt in our society to basically make it illegal to condemn homosexuality in our churches – it’s called hate speech.” Rodriguez said the promotion of marriage equality is “an attempt to silence the church of Jesus Christ.”
Excerpts from the interview:
This egregious attempt to redefine an institution that God formed is not only a violation of everything that we understand to be appropriate but it is an incredible incursion into religious liberty and religious expression. So I believe that we need a multi-ethnic kingdom-culture firewall to push back. White evangelicals alone will not be able to defend marriage in America.
This is not an issue of equality. There is an attempt to silence the voice of Christianity, there is an attempt to silence the voice of truth, of righteousness and Biblical justice. So really the church needs to wake up and say, 'Not on our watch.’ We must stand up for Biblical truth. We must vote vertical. We must look at our legislators and those that represent us on Capitol Hill and say, ‘religious liberty, the family, biblical marriage and life, must stand protected.’
I do believe that the power of the pulpit in addressing truth and righteousness is critical. We can’t sacrifice Biblical truth because at times it becomes confrontational. Listen, Jesus Christ had very strong confrontational moments. This idea that this is a patsy sort of Christianity. That’s not the Christianity that we follow and adhere to. Sometimes, truth hurts.
Last week, Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis spoke at the Family Research Council's "Watchmen on the Wall" conference where he warned that the failure to embrace a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis is undermining "the doctrine of marriage" and leading to things like gay marriage.
As luck would have it, just last week I bought a copy of "The One Year Chronological Bible" and had begun reading through it in conjunction with my copy of The ESV Study Bible. Ham's assertion that a literal interpretation was required in order to understand the true nature of biblical marriage was in the forefront of my mind as I began working my way through Genesis, especially once I realized how much polygamy and incest the book contained.
In fact, outside of Adam and Eve, and Noah and his wife, just about every major patriarch engaged in either polygamy or some form of incest, and often both.
According to Genesis 16, Abraham slept with and married his wife's Sarah's slave because Sarah was was unable to bear children. On top of that, according to Genesis 20, Sarah was also Abraham's half-sister and he later took at least one more wife.
Abraham's son Issac was married to Rebekah, who, according to Genesis 24, was the daughter of the son of Abraham’s brother, which would make Rebekah the daughter of Issac's cousin, or Issac's first cousin, once removed.
Rebekah then gave birth to Esau and Jacob. According to Genesis 26, Esau married two Hittite women and then later took a third wife while Jacob married the daughters of his mother's brother, his first cousins, named Leah and Rachel. Rachel was unable to bear children and so gave Jacob her servant to sleep with and take as a wife, to which Leah responded by likewise giving Jacob her servant for a wife.
In addition to these arrangements, Genesis 38 tells the story of Judah sleeping with and impregnating his daughter-in-law while Genesis 19 tells the story of God's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah where only Lot and his two daughters were saved ... after which Lot's daughters got their father drunk and slept with him and became pregnant.
One of the arguments we hear most often from the Religious Right is that changing "the biblical definition of marriage" by allowing gay marriage will lead to things like polygamy and incest ... which is odd considering that, according to the Book of Genesis, polygamy and incest were predominant forms of marriage.
It has come as no surprise that the Religious Right has been up in arms over President Obama's recent announcement in support of marriage equality, but what seems to have really upset them was his citation of the Bible's "do unto others" teaching in explaining his views.
Today, on Liberty Counsel's "Faith and Freedom" radio program, Matt Barber blasted Obama for daring to cite the Golden Rule in support of gay marriage, saying that in doing so "President Obama has called Jesus a liar" and engaged in heresy:
On today's broadcast of James Robison's "Life Today" television program, Robison featured Janet Porter, Jay Richards, and Mark Davis discussing "how Christians can bring about a new direction for America."
Not surprisingly, the solution the three advocated was for Christians to stand up in defense of the Bible and God's plan for mankind, which prompted Porter to declare that Christians have an innate advantage in this debate because "every shred of social science research" proves that the Bible is correct and the Founding Fathers created this nation for the purpose of spreading the Gospel and occupying until Jesus returns:
You know what I love about debating the issues of the day? If they're grounded in the Word of God, that they're going to basically bear out what God says. If I didn't believe in the Bible, I'd believe the Bible just by reading the paper. Because when you follow what God says, there are blessings; when you choose death, there are curses. That's the issue.
We're supposed to, as his representatives, we're to occupy until he comes and that's really what our great commission is to go, we're to make disciples, we're to teach and to obey everything he's commanded us. That's really what this is based on, that's what our founders are basing our documents on and that's the joy of standing for what God says is because every shred of social science research bears it out to be true.
Earlier this month, the NAACP passed a resolution supporting marriage equality and declaring that it would "oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens."
This move is not sitting well with Matt Barber, who is accusing the organization of making the announcement simply in order to provide political cover for President Obama and, in doing so, "thumbing their nose at their own constituents." On top of that, Barber said the resolution was "offensive," declaring "how dare they demean and undermine and cheapen the genuine, noble civil rights movement" by supporting "deviant sexual behavior" especially since gays never had to drink from separate water fountains or were victims of lynchings:
The Family Research Council's Watchmen on the Wall conference is truly a unique event, as it brings together a cornucopia of conservative pastors and religious leaders to hear from all sorts of political activists, evangelists, Creationists, and anti-Muslim crusaders, all of whom are free to promote their own specific agendas. Which is why Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, was given a half an hour to lay our her views about how the End Times will arrive "within my lifetime."
Working from Matthew 24, Lotz systemically checked off a long list of recent wars, environmental disasters, and examples of Christian persecution, all of which she asserted were proof that the return of Jesus was just around the corner. And yet, Lotz warned, people today are just blindly going about their business amidst an atmosphere of rising secularism and atheism, completely unaware that God's judgement has already begun:
Over the last few weeks, Bryan Fischer has been growing increasingly vocal about his views that President Obama hates both the Constitution and the United States of America because he thinks it is "one big, giant Ku Klux Klan meeting" and is therefore intentionally trying to destroy the country.
Let's just start with Eric Holder and the Department of Justice - and this goes to his boss Barack Obama - they believe fundamentally that the United States is a racist nation to its core, that it's part of our DNA, that the Constitution is a racist document, that it's a toll of what oppression, that the United States has always been a racist country, it always will be a racist country, it cannot be helped because it's part of our DNA, as long as the United States exists in its current form, it is going to be racist. So Barack Obama and Eric Holder they see that their role, their job, is to punish America for its racism. And I think part of the reason they want to bring America down is, you know, essentially what Barack Obama has said is you can't clean this thing up, you can't correct it, you can't rebuild it, you just have to destroy it. If you're going to get rid of the racism that characterizes America, you are simply going to have to destroy the American political system and start all over because it's in our DNA. There's no what to rehabilitate it, you got to just get rid of it, you got to get rid of the Constitution because it is a racist document.
So in Eric Holder's world, and he's been very straightforward about this, he's never going to prosecute someone if the victim is white, he's just not going to do it. Because in his world, by definition, whites can only be perpetrators. It's impossible, in their worldview, for a white to be a victim, they can only be perpetrators and blacks can never be perpetrators, they can only be victims. So unless the template for the crime is a white person committing a crime against a black person, they're just completely uninterested. They are not interested in justice, they are interested in racism and pressing their view of race.
Earlier this year, we stumbled upon a few episodes of David Barton's "Building on the American Heritage Series" that had been posted on the TBN website. Today, while searching form something else, we noticed that several other episodes from that same series had also been posted and so we are working our way through them.
Near the end of the episode entitled "Politics In The Pulpit," Barton made a point that the purpose of the church is not to create harmony or unity among the congregants but to preach the word of God's and support God's laws. As such, Barton cited 1 Timothy 1:8-10 in order to declare that the purpose of the law is to punish ungodly and sinful (like gays) regardless of what the Supreme Court rules:
The Family Research Council is currently hosting its annual Watchmen on the Wall Pastors Briefing in Washington DC, featuring a variety of Religious Right leaders and members of Congress working to mobilize pastors from across the nation.
Today, in between speakers, FRC handed the floor over to Jesse Connors so that he could promote his web-based evangelism tool called TrueLife.org which claims to offer "reliable answers from a biblical worldview via the Web that are non-threatening and easy to understand and directs people to church."
Connors' service seems to revolve around producing, for a fee, personalized business cards that pastors can hand out, encouraging people to visit the True Life website where they can learn more about Jesus and the Bible and find local churches. At least, that was the best we could discern, as it was hard to know just what Connors was talking about as he grew increasingly emotional while discussing the success of the effort and demonstrating a video about struggling with homosexuality:
One of the central components of the work we do here at Right Wing Watch is listening to various radio programs and watching videos produced by an ever-growing army of Religious Right activists. And among the most unpleasant chores in this process is the regularly viewing of Rick Joyner's daily "Prophetic Perspective on Current Events" broadcast, since Joyner generally spends the entire program mostly talking in circles without ever actually saying anything while simultaneously insisting that what he is talking about is vitally important.
Joyner fancies himself to be something of an expert on history, despite the fact that he doesn't really know what he is talking about, and he is convinced, based on a two-day long vision he had several decades ago, that the demonic forces responsible for Nazism in Germany are now trying to take over America. Thus, we end up with clips like this from yesterday's program where he declares that liberals and gays are "useful idiots" being used by the Devil to bring America down and who, once they succeed, will immediately be wiped out by the very forces they helped to bring to power:
We should probably point out that it was not Marx, but rather Lenin to whom the phrase "useful idiot" is generally attributed.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce plans to take full advantage of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to push its right-wing agenda, according to its president, Tom Donohue. As reported by USA Today, Donohue told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor earlier this week that under that decision, the Chamber can and will run “an aggressive program” and will not disclose its donors.
Donohue also suggested that estimates that the business group would spend $50 million on the 2012 elect were too low. Thanks to Citizens United, individuals, corporations and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce can make unlimited, often anonymous expenditures on ads supporting or attacking candidates. Until that decision is overturned, disclosure rules would at least shed light on the process and give Americans insight into who is using their wealth to disproportionately influence elections.
But that’s not how Donohue sees it: “The disclosure thing…is all about intimidation.” While requiring disclosure might makes sense on the surface, he said, “in this instance you become a target.”
Americans deserve to know who’s trying to buy their elections. Even far-right Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia knows that "Democracy requires a certain amount of civic courage." Donohue’s demand that corporate entities be allowed to pour money into elections without having to show their faces makes his agenda perfectly clear: it’s not about democracy or free speech, it’s about maximizing corporate profits by any means necessary.