A federal judge ruled today that Michigan’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional, the latest in a string of state marriage equality victories.
The Associated Press reports:
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman announced his ruling after a rare two-week trial that mostly focused on the impact of same-sex parenting on children.
There was no indication that the judge was suspending his decision. Attorney General Bill Schuette said he was immediately filing a request with a federal appeals court to suspend Friedman's decision and prevent same-sex couples from immediately marrying. The decision was released shortly after 5 p.m., when most county clerk offices in Michigan were closed.
Reacting to the legal challenge of Michigan's marriage equality ban, American Decency Association head Bill Johnson last week told the ABC affiliate WZZM that there will be divine repercussions for legalizing same-sex marriage and blamed the "mainstream media" for its "relentless" promotion of "this alternative lifestyle."
He added: "I believe that as we turn our back upon God and upon his standard, it opens this culture, it opens our families, it opens each of us as individuals to increasing lawlessness, chaos and dysfunction."
The ADA also said that gay "special rights" will lead to "despotism" and the end of freedom:
How things have changed since President Reagan so eloquently spoke of that first constitutionally guaranteed right – our religious liberty. What do we now see from our current president, his administration, and imperious judges? A commanded worship at the altar of political correctness. A mandated belief in special “rights” for homosexuals that supersedes religious liberty. A stripping away of freedom “to speak and act” on our beliefs and “apply moral teaching to public questions.”
Like dominoes falling, each day we see another example of lawlessness and despotism kicking at the legs of liberty.
Residents of Bay County, Michigan, are receiving robocalls from the state chapter of the American Family Association urging them to reject a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance that the group claims “threatens religious freedom and women’s privacy rights by giving special protections to individuals involved in homosexual behavior or cross-dressing.”
The Bay City Times has posted a recording of the robocall, in which AFA Michigan president Gary Glenn calls the LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance a “discriminatory law.”
The ordinance would prohibit [pdf] the county government from discriminating on the basis of “race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, height, weight, marital status, physical or mental limitation, familial status, sexual orientation, or gender identity/expression.” It would not apply to private businesses, although Glenn has nevertheless fretted that it would require a Christian bookstore to “hire a man who comes to work wearing a dress.”
In an appearance last month on a conservative talk radio show, embattled RNC Committeeman Dave Agema defended the anti-gay comments that caused prominent Republicans to call for his resignation.
Agema insisted that his anti-gay stance has nothing to do with animus towards gay people, he just believes that gay rights will doom America.
The former Michigan state legislator said on The Renegade River Show that gay rights weaken the family “and when you start destroying the family unit in a nation, the nation starts to crumble from within.”
“Look at the Greek empire, look at the Roman empire,” Agema continued. “Basically, I am trying to protect America.”
He also maintained that schools are “teaching the homosexual lifestyle, how to be a homosexual in some sort of class that they’re teaching that we’re paying for,” and argued that gay marriage had major repercussions in Denmark, Netherlands and Switzerland (a country that has not legalized gay marriage).
Pressure is growing on Republican National Committee member Dave Agema to resign because of his long history of making outrageous anti-gay and anti-Muslim statements, with both RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and Michigan GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak calling for him to step down.
But Agema does have one stalwart defender: Bryan Fischer, which is no surprise since Fischer likewise has a long history of making outrageously bigoted anti-gay and anti-Muslim statements. Today, Fischer dedicated a segment of his radio program to declaring that Agema is one of his heroes who, just like Jesus, is being targeted simply for telling the truth.
"There is only one test now to determine whether someone is a genuine conservative or not," Fischer said, "and that test is whether they support, embrace the homosexual agenda or whether they will criticize the normalization of homosexuality":
You may remember Kamal Saleem, the phony ex-terrorist and Religious Right all-star who claimed that President Obama’s babysitter was setting up a shadow Islamic government and that Roe v. Wade imposes Sharia law.
Back in 2012, Saleem was scheduled to address a forum at a Michigan public school about the supposed dangers of Muslims in the U.S., prompting People For the American Way and the Council on American Islamic Relations to send a joint letter to the school asking them not to provide a platform for someone promoting misinformation and intolerance.
The school cancelled the event due to safety concerns after independently discovering that Saleem’s supporters bragged that he is a target of terrorist threats.
The hosts of the event — Republican National Committeeman and former state lawmaker David Agema, a local county commissioner, and a chapter leader of the anti-Muslim group ACT! for America — sued the school, the city and other city officials for a variety of claims, as well as PFAW and CAIR for the tort of interfering with a contract.
Right Wing Watch, a project of PFAW, was also mentioned in the lawsuit [PDF], which says the blog “criticizes and disparages conservative politics and Christian–Judeo values.”
Judge Janet Neff, a Bush appointee, correctly found that PFAW and CAIR were within their First Amendment rights to send a letter to the school: “The Court agrees that the petition from Defendants CAIR-MI, [Dawud] Walid, PFAW and [PFAW president Michael] Keegan to the school superintendent constitutes an attempt to influence governmental action, a petition that is protected by the First Amendment.”
As we’ve noted before, the Thomas More Law Center doesn’t exactly have the best track record:
The anti-gay and anti- Muslim group started by Domino’s Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan is best known for its legal defeats, including its failed challenge to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act; unsuccessful lawsuit against Planned Parenthood to “require it to declare a link between abortion and breast cancer;” and failed defense of the Dover, Pennsylvania school district where they argued “that federal law recommended that students learn alternatives to evolution such as the teaching of intelligent design.” After the disastrous Dover decision, Rick Santorum defected from the group’s Citizens Advisory Board, even though he stars in an ad for the Law Center, because of what he called their “huge mistake in taking this case and in pushing this case to the extent they did.”
Tony Perkins hosted embattled Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema yesterday on Washington Watch to defend his anti-gay Facebook posts that cited, among others, Holocaust denier Frank Joseph and Paul Cameron, an extremist and activist who poses as a researcher.
Agema told Perkins that the church should help gays and lesbians “get out of” their “lifestyle,” and tell them “about all the diseases you get, how it gets you into drugs, gets you into all these other things that you don’t want to be in.”
He said gay people should be treated no differently than alcoholics: “if you saw your friend for example dying of alcoholism would you just stand quietly by and watch it happen? Or would you speak up and say hey I want to help you.”
Agema lamented that wealthy and powerful gay activists are suppressing the facts and making the truth-tellers “shut up,” to which Perkins agreed and added that homosexuality is “personally destructive and harmful to the society as well.”
Agema: There’s definitely hate, they call you every name in the book. What I’d like to have the homosexual community know is I don’t hate them, as a matter of fact when Jesus caught the woman in the act of adultery when they brought her to him he said I don’t condemn you but go and sin don’t more. That ought to be the church’s goal here. We ought to be saying to these people: hey, we don’t agree with your lifestyle and we’ll help you get out of it, but we want you to know the facts of what’s going to happen to you if you stay in this lifestyle.
Study after study after study talks about all the diseases you get, how it gets you into drugs, gets you into all these other things that you don’t want to be in. So if you really love someone, if you really were concerned about someone, if you saw your friend for example dying of alcoholism would you just stand quietly by and watch it happen? Or would you speak up and say hey I want to help you. That’s what we should be doing. But the problem is the homosexual community is very organized, they got a lot of money behind them, as a matter of fact the average homosexual makes more than the average person does, has better education and they are very good at shutting anybody down and embarrassing him so they will shut up. So when this happened to me this time just like when it happened to me before I thought, I’m not going to keep quiet on them. It’s starting to backfire on them.
Perkins: I could not agree with you more. I think probably the most profound display of hate would be silence in the face of people making choices that are personally destructive and harmful to the society as well. I want to thank you for standing up because you are absolutely right, a lot of people have self-censored themselves because of the intimidation, they’ve simply backed away and said I don’t want people saying that stuff about me because that’s not who I am, and we’re not haters.
The Republican leader argued that marriage equality and LGBT-inclusive curriculum in school may eventually turn kids gay and make parents and churches victims of hate crime laws. He called on schools to teach kids that gay people “live twenty years less than the average person” and tell gay students about “all the diseases you’re going to contract.”
Perkins also told Agema that he agreed with his Facebook post and is only in trouble for “presenting the truth.”
Agema: I think what the people have to know is if this passes, what will happen is it is just a progression of events that will occur. First of all, what will happen to your school kids when they are in school, it’s already being taught in a lot of places that it is an accepted lifestyle. Then the next thing that will occur is your kids will come home and say I think this is a good thing and I think I want to be one, and if you as a parent stand up and say this is against my moral beliefs and my biblical beliefs, then the next thing you’re going to get into is hate crimes because you’re speaking against something that’s been sanctioned by the state. If you look at Denmark and others then the state also tells the churches you have to marry homosexuals and if you don’t what may happen in the United States is you might lose your tax exempt status.
So this all blew up and so I made a web page here listing several other studies that show the harmful effects of the homosexual lifestyle. Just imagine this, if our kids are in school instead of being told that this is an acceptable and OK lifestyle we are actually briefed and taught the ramifications of this lifestyle, that you’re going to live twenty years less than the average person, you are going to die younger and here’s all the diseases you’re going to contract, there’d be a totally different philosophy here instead of basically telling the kids that this is good. So I think we got to go into this with our eyes wide open and what the 2 or 3 percent of homosexuals what they are doing in the United States today is trying to get the courts to do what they can’t get the individual states to do, and that’s dictate that all states will accept homosexual marriage.
Perkins: I’m joined by Dave Agema; he is the Republican National Committeeman from the state of Michigan. We’re talking about a post that he put on his Facebook page citing facts, statistics regarding the homosexual lifestyle during the oral arguments before the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage. What is troubling to me is that your post has been called a form of hate but simply what you are doing is having a conversation presenting the truth. These are documented facts. I looked at what you put up there and some of it is the same information we have on our website, some of it comes from the CDC, comes from other medical sources, it’s all footnoted, there’s nothing hate in here it is just talking about the facts. This is troubling that you can’t even have a conversation about what’s in the best interest of our society without being a bigot or a hater.
Agema: That’s exactly how they get you to shut up.
UPDATE: It appears that Calvin College will no longer be hosting the event.
The American Decency Association plans to host Kamal Saleem, who claims to be a former terrorist, at Calvin College as part of a tour of Michigan. Saleem’s story of working as a terrorist all over the globe has been thoroughly debunked, but he continues to be an idol of Religious Right groups. He even spoke at last year’s Values Voter Summit following Paul Ryan where he warned that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to “shut down” churches and synagogues.
Saleem has argued that President Obama is a Muslim who is using Roe v. Wade “to bring Sharia law” to the U.S. He maintains that Obama wants to make sure that “Sharia law will be supreme in America” by working with “Hamas to import Muslim people to the United States” and “legalizing terrorism.” Saleem even claims that “there are many generals who swore to destroy the United States of America are generals in the United States [military]” and that an Islamic shadow government is secretly running the U.S. through the Obama family babysitter.
He spoke at Calvin College in 2007, where he met Professor Doug Howard, who went on to write an article for Christianity Today on the “bizarre” and fantastical claims that Saleem makes in his book, The Blood of Lambs.
Michelle Goldberg of The Daily Beast reports that “Saleem told me that Howard is an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood” and in an interview with Tim Murphy of Mother Jones, Saleem asserted that Howard supports radical Islam:
But Saleem didn't flinch. "He's related to a special group called the Muslim Brotherhood, and he works with them, he went to DC, he was with CAIR," he said.
I mentioned that Howard is a Christian, which makes him an odd fit for the Brotherhood.
"So? He's a professor of history. Islamic history professor, and he's writing on what? On Islamic history glory. So the group he's with, there are different groups. He rallied with them in DC, and he invited an Iranian radical to Calvin University. They spoke right there." That Iranian radical, it turns out, was Reza Aslan, who in addition to being an American citizen raised in the Bay Area, is famous mostly for suggesting that democracy is a useful weapon against terrorism.
("I don't know what to say! Maybe I should add that to my faculty web page," joked Howard in an email, adding that as part of his semester in DC, he took students to meet with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, AIPAC, the Mennonites Central Committee, and, yes, one trip to a mosque.)
But now, Saleem is once again set to speak at a college which he believes is employing a Muslim Brotherhood agent who is part of an alliance between professors and terrorists.
Out of State Money Floods Contests in 2012
Washington, DC – Today People For the American Way Foundation unveiled new state-by-state fact sheets detailing outside spending in U.S. Senate and House races in 21 states. Each report analyzes the outside spending totals from Super PACs, dark money groups, and out-of-state spenders in the down ballot federal races from the 2012 election cycle. The fact sheets reveal that, on average, a majority of outside election money in these states came from Super PACs. And in every case, a vast majority came from organizations registered outside of the state.
The release of the “Outside Spending, Outsized Influence” reports coincide with the weekend marking Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the third anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC to draw attention to the dual threats of voter suppression and unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics. The reports – a partnership between PFAWF and U.S. PIRG – are part of the Money Out/Voters In campaign. As part of that campaign, People For the American Way Foundation, its affiliate People For the American Way, and other organizers across the country are hosting “Day of Action” events in more than 76 cities in 33 states this weekend. Members of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council will be leading Money Out/Voters In events in Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.
“Last year’s elections were far and away the most expensive in history,” said People For the American Way Foundation Executive Vice President Marge Baker. “A major reason was the influx of outside, special interest spending in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision. When big money floods our elections, it dwarfs the ability of individual Americans to have their voices heard. Just as important, when politicians push laws to suppress the vote, we turn back the clock on decades on progress to expand and improve our democracy. We need to pursue the full range of remedies to address the problem of too much money in politics, including amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United, and we need to stand up against the growing threat of voter suppression. This weekend we are joining with allies across the country to call for a democracy that gets Money Out and Voters In.”
The states featured in the reports are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.
For links to each report, please visit: http://www.pfaw.org/issues/outside-spending-outsized-influence-big-and-s...
For more information about the Money Out/Voters In campaign or the Days of Action, please visit: http://www.moneyout-votersin.org
Patrick Colbeck, the Michigan state senator who, along with state Rep. Mike Shirkey, was the driving force behind Michigan's anti-union "right to work" legislation, appeared on "WallBuilders Live" today where he, and David Barton, attributed the legislation's passage to "divine providence":
I had a great colleague in the state House, state Representative Mike Shirkey has been phenomenal, he's a phenomenal Christian.
We've also got what I call kind of a patchwork quilt that if any one of those patches would have came out of the quilt, this never would have happened. We had folks at the grassroots level, we had union members that were for us, we had business leaders that were for us, we had folks that had been in the political environment for quite some time, we lobbyists helping us. There were people all over the place and, reflecting upon everything that happened, if any one of those pieces - simple little pieces - would have disappeared and we wouldn't have had them, then it never would have passed.
So this is, we believe, knit together with some divine providence and when we pursued it, we pursued it with biblical principles. We had what we called the Philippians 4:8 Strategy that said focus on what's noble, true, excellent, and praiseworthy. Don't go off an do the usual political whack-a-mole when you find somebody who's not a hundred percent agreement with you; you go off and systematically work through them, make the values proposition for them and give them a reason to vote it and not against it.
On Nov. 6, Americans turned out in massive numbers to reelect President Obama, take away seats from Republicans in the House and the Senate, and pass progressive ballot measures throughout the country. But it seems that Republicans in Washington and in states across the country just didn't get the hint. Despite all the talk of post-election "soul-searching," there doesn't appear to be any self-examination going on among those currently clinging to their seats in Congress and state legislatures.
Just look at Michigan. Just weeks after the state legislature's Republicans took a drubbing from voters, who cut their majority in the state House from 18 to 8 despite recent Republican gerrymandering, the state's GOP leadership went on a right-wing rampage.
First, they passed a package of so-called "right to work" laws that are meant to politically weaken unions and have the side effect of financially weakening the middle class. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder was against "right to work" before he was for it, thanks to some powerful arm-twisting from corporate front groups.
Then, they got to work on some extreme anti-choice measures. One tries to force abortion clinics out of business by regulating them into the ground. It also places unnecessary burdens on women, including requiring them to prove they weren't "coerced" into seeking an abortion; prohibiting them from consulting with their doctor via videoconference; and requiring them to sign a death certificate and hold a funeral for the aborted fetus (this requirement, at least, has just been removed from the bill). Yet another bill would let doctors refuse to provide or employers refuse to cover any procedures they find immoral. This one isn't just about abortion - it could allow employers to refuse their employees insurance coverage for contraception, or even blood transfusions. Sounds familiar? The Blunt Amendment in the U.S. Senate - wildly unpopular except among the Senate GOP - would have done the same thing.
Anybody who was paying the least bit of attention to this year's elections would have noticed that two of the things voters find most repugnant about today's GOP is its blind allegiance to big corporations and its enthusiasm for regulating women's health.
Apparently the Republican Party wasn't paying attention. Or is just too beholden to the interests of the Corporate and Christian Right to care.
What's happening in Michigan is just a microcosm of the whole. In Ohio, immediately after an election shaped in part by the GOP's toxic attacks on women's health, Republican legislators got to work trying to defund Planned Parenthood. And in Washington, DC, Republican leaders are approaching fiscal cliff negotiations with the sole goal of protecting George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy.
This isn't what I'd call "soul-searching."
Today Michigan members of People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network condemned the anti-labor legislation Governor Rick Snyder signed into law on Tuesday.
State Representative Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, Michigan, a member of People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, said:
“Michigan is a state where more than one in six workers belongs to a union. The effects of this law will be far reaching, harming hard-working families across the state. Workers want good jobs, decent compensation, affordable benefits, and a good standard of living. A ‘right-to-work for less’ law would severely hurt our families by eroding their ability to bargain which could result in lower wages, and fewer benefits and less worker protections.
"These are real families – many of which are already facing tough decisions about how to make ends meet. Despite the protests of thousands of Michigan citizens, the state legislature and Gov. Snyder decided to go forward with the legislation. We are deeply concerned about this attack on workers’ rights and middle-class families.”
What was obvious to those gathered to speak out against the so-called “right to work” legislation was its damaging nature – its affront to workers’ ability to collectively bargain and its harm to middle-class families across the state.
What may have been less obvious to some were the bills’ connections to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a one-stop shop for corporations looking to get special-interest legislation introduced. Funded by the likes of Exxon Mobil and Charles Koch, ALEC promotes “model bills” for state legislatures on a number of issues. As People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch explained in an “In Focus” report on ALEC:
ALEC propagates a wide range of “model legislation” that seeks to make it more difficult for people to hold corporations accountable in court; gut the rights and protections of workers and consumers; encumber health care reform; privatize and weaken the public education system; provide business tax cuts and corporate welfare; privatize and cut public services; erode regulations and environmental laws; create unnecessary voter ID requirements; endorse Citizens United; diminish campaign finance reform; and permit greater corporate influence in elections.
One type of “model legislation” ALEC puts forward is a model “Right to Work” Act. And as the Center for Media and Democracy points out, Michigan’s bills included almost identical language to ALEC’s model bill. This is extremely troubling – not only for the many families in Michigan that will be affected, but also for our democratic process in general.
Because as the same Right Wing Watch report notes:
Americans are increasingly recognizing and speaking out against the disproportionate power of corporations in shaping public policy and steering politicians, and ALEC is a prime example of how Corporate America is able to buy even more power and clout in government. Rather than serve the public interest, ALEC champions the agenda of corporations which are willing to pay for access to legislators and the opportunity to write their very own legislation…. ALEC represents an alarming risk to the credibility of the political process and threatens to greatly diminish the confidence and influence ordinary people have in government.