Utah

Tenth Circuit Protects Right to Marry

A federal appeals court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
PFAW Foundation

Voting Rights Advocates Rack Up More Wins

Earlier this month, PFAW reported on what has gone right for voting rights at the state level in 2014. While there is much more work to be done to enact needed reforms and to step up and counter threats when the right to vote is under attack, states like Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina have shown that we can win. Now we've uncovered even more evidence of why we can and should keep fighting the challenges that lay before us.
PFAW

Video: Brian Brown Says Anti-Gay Movement Represents 'True Civil Rights'

National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown spoke Tuesday night at an anti-marriage equality rally at the Utah state capitol, where he claimed that the anti-gay movement represents “true civil rights.” There have been several news reports about the event, but YouTube user Drew Stelter posted video of Brown’s speech.

In the speech, Brown pushed the narrative that conservative Christians are being persecuted by the increased acceptance of gay rights. While he acknowledged that there might be people of many faiths in the crowd, he made it clear exactly who his audience was: “I would say that it’s pretty likely that those of us here share some respect for our savior, Jesus Christ.”

Brown went on to compare the movement against marriage equality to Christians who fought against the Roman empire, slavery, and those at the head of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. “Throughout history, people of faith have stood up against gross injustices, stood up for true civil rights,” he said, adding later: “We stand up for the civil rights for all when we stand up for the truth about marriage.”

PFAW Foundation Staffer Reacts to Utah Marriage Battle in CNN Op-Ed

It has been a roller-coaster few weeks for marriage equality in Utah, where a legal battle over the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples continues and more than a thousand marriages are caught in limbo.

On Friday People For the American Way Foundation Major Gifts Associate Tyler Hatch reacted to the struggle in Utah, and his op-ed was featured by CNN.

Hatch writes:

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of Kitchen v. Loving (Utah’s marriage equality case currently under review by the 10th Circuit) the issue of marriage equality is once again before the Mormon or LDS church.

I was raised LDS and went to church nearly every Sunday until I was 18. I participated in weekly youth meetings, attended Boy Scout outings, and was a leader within my church. By all accounts I appeared to be the model youth, however inside I was dejected. Severe depression, suicidal thoughts, and extreme self-loathing plagued my adolescent and teen years due to an overwhelming sense of guilt regarding my sexuality.

….Whether it is in the halls of elementary schools, the wedding chapel, or feeling secure and safe in the workplace there is much work to be done. LGBT equality is an issue that will surely grip our generation for years to come. As society becomes more accepting of LGBT individuals I remain optimistic that progress will be made, at least within civil society.

….There are no easy answers for the countless number of LGBT individuals with conservative religious backgrounds and the struggle to find an identity within that intersection is a fight that will continue throughout our lives.

PFAW Foundation

Utah Eagle Forum Compares 'Disturbing And Disruptive' Homosexuality to Murder, Theft

A sample letter opposing a proposed state antidiscrimination measure circulated by the Utah Eagle Forum this week calls homosexuality a “disturbing and disruptive” “personal weakness,” which the group compares to “theft, dishonesty [and] murder.”

Fox 13 reporter Max Roth, who attended an Eagle Forum event on the antidiscrimination bill Wednesday, posted an image of the letter on Twitter, which was then spotted by On Top Magazine. The meeting was led by Utah Eagle Forum head Gayle Ruzicka.

The sample letter, signed by Orem Eagle Forum president Barbara Petty, asks the antidiscrimination bill’s sponsor Sen. Steve Urquhart, “What were you thinking?”

“Any confusion a man or woman has for their gender other than the gender that they were born with, is their personal weakness,” Petty writes. “We all have weaknesses and some are more disturbing and or disruptive than others. There is no need to categorize weaknesses.”

“However our God inspired Founding Fathers included words in describing our Constitution as a document good only for a moral people,” she continues. “Deviant sexual life styles are immoral.”

The letter goes on to compare discrimination against “immorality” to discrimination against “theft, dishonesty [and] murder” and berates Urquhart for promoting “oppression of the majority by the minority.”

We’ve transcribed the letter from Roth’s photograph. Sic throughout, bolding is ours.

Barbara Petty
Orem, UT

August 2013

Dear Senator Urqhart

We raise our voices in extreme rejection of the Anti-Discrimination Bill that you sponsored.

To propose such an option in support of a questionable life style is unacceptable.

God’s word says he created man and woman in his image. Any confusion a man or woman has for their gender other than the gender that they were born with, is their personal weakness.

We all have weaknesses and some are more disturbing and or disruptive than others. There is no need to categorize weaknesses.

However our God inspired Founding Fathers included words in describing our Constitution as a document good only for a moral people.

Deviant sexual life styles are immoral. We urge you to withdraw your anti discrimination bill and any further activity in that direction.

We discriminate against immorality, theft, dishonesty, murder etcetera and as our representative in the Utah Senate your oath of office is to uphold the constitution. We hold you to the oath you have taken.

Such action as described in the anti discrimination bill allowing a man to say he feels like a woman and wants to use the bathroom and shower facilities for women is a disgrace to the sacred covenants we have with the God of this world and offends all decency.

It is also a complete perversion of sentiment in that, in order to make a small minority feel more “comfortable” in their unnatural behavior, the overwhelming majority must suffer being uncomfortable in natural behavior. It is not an abuse of a minority to reject its abuse of the sensibilities of the majority.

Isaiah 5:20 says: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

What were you thinking?

Please don’t consider oppression of the majority by the minority to be good.

Sincerely,

Barbara Petty

cc: Senator Ralph Okerlund (who voted in favor to bring this Bill out of committee)
      Senator Peter Knudson (who voted in favor to bring this Bill out of committee)

You can view Roth’s report from the event and another anti-antidiscrimination event the same day here.

Utah Man Starving Himself To Stop Same-Sex Marriages

Right-wing advocates of “nullification” say it is a principle by which state and county officials can simply ignore federal laws and court rulings they consider unconstitutional.  A Utah man who believes a federal judge acted unconstitutionally in ordering officials to permit same-sex marriage in the state has been fasting since December 21, he says, and will keep doing so until state officials refuse to obey the federal judge.  He invokes the founding fathers in his call for nullification.

In an interview posted today on the Cultural Hall website, Meacham said it is “completely pointless” for state officials to go through the courts because they are “packed full of activist judges that don’t listen to the constitution.” He has urged state officials and county clerks to defy the order. He told an interviewer he is emulating Gandhi, and said he is willing to sacrifice his life for the cause.

Trestin Meacham is a libertarian-leaning Navy veteran who ran for the state senate in 2012 as a candidate for the far-right Constitution Party, which promotes biblical law. His online bio from Project Vote Smart doesn’t have much more information other than that he is a small business owner and Mormon, while his personal Facebook page describes his politics as “Anti-Marxist Secessionist.” (It lists joking pop culture references for his work and education.)

As a candidate he was described as a conservative blogger, though some of his blogs appear to be defunct. In his writings and postings he has demonstrated a commitment to the Tea Party’s notion that much of what the federal government does violates the Tenth Amendment. As a candidate, he argued:

For over a hundred years we have been drifting further and further from the government designed by our founders, to something more closely resembling the writings of Karl Marx …

It is the duty of the State Legislatures to stand up to the federal government and take back our God-given right of self-government laid out in the Constitution. Washington is not going to reform itself. Even if we had Ronald Reagan as President, with control of both houses of Congress, it would still be heading down the wrong path. Washington is too corrupt; it will not relinquish its unconstitutional power. Reform can only come from an outside source, that source is the states.

As a State Senator, I will oppose any further unconstitutional power grabs from Washington. I will also sponsor and support legislation, which takes back the states rightful power from our corrupt federal government.

Meacham claims federal courts decisions on gay marriage will lead to tyranny, ultimately forcing churches and LDS to officiate same-sex weddings:

I think an attack on freedom, an attack on the Constitution, affects everybody.  If a fed judge can throw out the Constitution and the will of the people then we’re really little better off than a Soviet satellite nation. Our freedom means nothing. They can do anything if they can do this.

In a 2011 comment on a story on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, he wrote, “Our schools have always been places for socialist indoctrinations. The public school system is the tenth plank of the Communist Manifesto.” An old YouTube channel apparently created while he was serving in Korea includes birther material.

Meacham has linked to right-wing sources online promoting nullification. In today’s interview he also appealed to the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, quoting Joseph Smith saying that saints should not follow any law that violates the Constitution.

Meacham has a blog devoted to his fast / hunger strike as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The blog Meacham created to promote his fast appears to be built on the same platform as a fictional country, Kherutistan, that Meacham seems to be constructing online, complete with its own Declaration of Independence and flag. Kherutistan is a libertarian paradise, a “heroarchy” led by people of good character where the basic ground rule of living is for people to be excellent to one another.

Vander Plaats: Marriage Equality Unconstitutional Because It's 'Against The Law of Nature'

Last year, Religious Right activist and possible 2014 Iowa Republican Senate candidate Bob Vander Plaats claimed that the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling had provoked a “constitutional crisis” because it defied “the law of nature and the law of nature’s God.”

In an interview on the Steve Deace show last week, Vander Plaats elaborated on this constitutional analysis, claiming that a Utah federal judge’s ruling legalizing marriage equality was wrong because same-sex marriage “goes against the law of nature” and therefore is “against the Constitution.”

Vander Plaats also encouraged Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to simply ignore the court’s ruling and issue an executive order staying the decision until it’s put to a popular vote. 

He warned guest host Jen Green that the Utah ruling was the first step on a slippery slope to tyranny, showing the need to put judges “in their place” as he did in Iowa in 2010.

Vander Plaats: First of all, Justice Shelby, there’s a lot of issues with his ruling. Number one is, you had the people of Utah already amend the Constitution to what marriage is. And you’re supposed to uphold the Constitution, not redefine the Constitution. So, that’s number one.

Two is, there is no research on it, there is no data on it. Why? Because it never existed before. So all there is is speculation. But what we know is it goes against the law of nature, and the law of nature’s God, which means, again, it’s against the Constitution.

My suggestion to Gov. Herbert: Don’t overcomplicate this. Don’t over-study this or analyze this. Lead on this. Issue an executive order from the governor’s office that places a stay on this judge’s decision until the people of Utah resolve this, either through the legislature – the people’s representatives – or through another vote, if you need to go through another vote. But you don’t allow an activist judge to have his way to inflict same-sex marriage on the entire state of Utah.

It is We the People who are the final arbitrators of this deal. They gave us the power of the king. The governor is the executor. He’s got the executive branch, he’s the one who gets to enforce or not enforce. By him staying silent, he’s really enforcing this judge’s opinion. That’s why he needs to step up and lead, and what I’d say, issue that executive order.

And for the Lead or Get Out of the Way members and audience, and especially those in Utah, what really has to concern you here is that if they will do this to the institution of marriage, they won’t even blink an eye when they take your private property, tell you how to educate your kids. If you really want to have tyranny, keep allowing activist judges to keep activism alive. You need to put them in their place. That’s what I’d encourage Gov. Herbert to do.

Green: You will be made to care.

Vander Plaats: You will be made to care. But Gov. Herbert could make that judge made to care. Just like in Iowa, we made the judges, that they should care about what they’re doing.

Right Wing Leftovers - 12/20/13

  • A federal judge in Utah has struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
  • On a semi-related note, anti-gay marriage activists believe that they will eventually win this fight: "This may take us years, but in the same way Roe v Wade looked utterly hopeless when it was put forward. But we see now today that the majority of Americans are now pro-life."
  • Glenn Beck's political insights are quite remarkable.
  • While ostensibly complaining about Phil Robertson's suspension, Breitbart's John Nolte says "bundled cable is the root of too many political and cultural evils to count."
  • Bryan Fischer sees the "Duck Dynasty" controversy as a turning point in human history: "Phil Robertson has created a moment of historic opportunity for evangelicals and social conservatives to reverse our cultural slide into sexual deviancy and begin turning our ship of state back toward sexual normalcy."

Breaking: Judge Strikes Down Ban on Same-Sex Marriage in Utah

Adding to this week’s great news on marriage equality, today U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, which was put into the state constitution by referendum in 2004.

One of the far right’s standard attacks on the increasing number of judicial opinions striking down discriminatory marriage laws is that judges are “redefining marriage” and “usurping the legislature.”  No doubt they will do so again in this case.  Fortunately, Judge Shelby opens his opinion with a brief but important explanation of how the American constitutional system works:

The issue the court must address in this case is therefore not who should define marriage, but the narrow question of whether Utah’s current definition of marriage is permissible under the Constitution.…

[T]he legal issues presented in this lawsuit do not depend on whether Utah’s laws were the result of its legislature or a referendum, or whether the laws passed by the widest or smallest of margins. The question presented here depends instead on the Constitution itself…

In his opinion, Judge Shelby also takes apart the harmful, bogus argument that preventing same-sex couples from marrying somehow “elevate[s] the status of opposite-sex marriage”:

Rather than protecting or supporting the families of opposite-sex couples, Amendment 3 perpetuates inequality by holding that the families and relationships of same-sex couples are not now, nor ever will be, worthy of recognition. Amendment 3 does not thereby elevate the status of opposite-sex marriage; it merely demeans the dignity of same-sex couples. And while the State cites an interest in protecting traditional marriage, it protects that interest by denying one of the most traditional aspects of marriage to thousands of its citizens: the right to form a family that is strengthened by a partnership based on love, intimacy, and shared responsibilities. The Plaintiffs’ desire to publicly declare their vows of commitment and support to each other is a testament to the strength of marriage in society, not a sign that, by opening its doors to all individuals, it is in danger of collapse.  (Emphasis added.)

Congratulations, Utah!

PFAW

Sen. Hatch Misleads 'This Week' About His Role in Judicial Filibusters

On ABC News’ “This Week” yesterday, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah claimed that he takes the “principled position” of voting against filibusters of judicial nominees:

And matter of fact, I continue to vote against filibusters with regard to judicial nominations because I think it's a principled position. I actually think the president, whoever the president may be ought to have the full choice of who they put on the bench.

And unless there's just some overwhelming reason why somebody should never be on the bench.

But on many pivotal votes to break GOP filibusters of President Obama’s federal judicial nominees, Sen. Hatch hasn’t voted “against” the filibuster. Instead, he’s made a habit of voting “present” or not voting at all. Because a motion to break a filibuster requires 60 affirmative “yes” votes to succeed, not voting or voting “present” in effect supports the continuation of the filibuster.

Hatch voted “present” on efforts to break Republican filibusters of Obama judicial nominees Caitlin Halligan, Goodwin Liu, Jack McConnell and Robert Bacharach. He did not vote at all in cloture votes on nominee Andrew Hurwitz and in the second cloture vote on Halligan.

These votes allow Hatch to say he didn’t support a filibuster, while in fact voting to do just that. And he certainly didn’t take a “principled position” to vote “against” his Republican colleagues’ obstruction.

PFAW

Glenn Beck Will Save the 4th of July by Talking to The 'Man in the Moon' in Utah

For several weeks now, Glenn Beck has been talking about his grandiose plans to "change the way we celebrate Fourth of July" so that people no longer sit around drinking beer, watching fireworks, and listening to anti-Americans songs written by Bruce Springsteen.

And he is going to do it by putting on a spectacular live show in which the American story is told by someone "who knows the story of America better than anybody else ... The Man in the Moon."  And, shockingly, Beck has decided that the place best-suited to hosting this groundbreaking, holiday-changing performance is none other than Salt Lake City, Utah:

PFAWF Releases Reports on Outside Election Spending in 21 States, Organizes ‘Money Out/Voters In’ Events Across the U.S.

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

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New Young Elected Progressives Endorsees

Today we are unveiling three more new endorsees of People For the American Way’s Young Elected Progressives program: Sean Garballey (MA), Carl Sciortino (MA), and Luz Robles (UT). These three, young individuals, under the age of 35, have been great progressive leaders in their respective states.

Sean Garballey (MA)

Sean Garballey is running for reelection to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He has been a member since 2008, representing Arlington, MA. Garballey has established himself as a leader of the Massachusetts progressives and currently serves on four committees, including as Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws. Prior to serving in the House, Garballey was an Arlington Town Meeting Member for 5 years. He has been a proven progressive champion in the Massachusetts legislature, sponsoring several bills to increase the funding of public education and grants for those seeking public higher education. Garballey also received the Public Service Award in 2011 from affiliate PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network. Visit his website here.

Carl Sciortino (MA)

Carl Sciortino is running for reelection to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He has been serving the Somerville and Medford areas in the House since 2005. Sciortino serves on the Public Health and Transportation Committees, among others, and has been a leader in the House for the past several terms. He was named "Best of the New" by Boston Globe Magazine and "Legislator of the Year" by the National Association of Social Workers and has been a great progressive leader in fighting for equal, social rights. Visit his website here.

Luz Robles (UT)

Luz Robles is running for reelection to the Utah Senate. She has represented Utah’s 1st district since 2008. Robles serves on the Senate Ethics Committee, the Health and Human Services Committee, and two others. Robles has fought hard for equal rights for all individuals and sponsored a bill which would give illegal immigrants an accountability card allowing them to gain work without changing their legal status. She was named the Fifth Most Influential Person in Utah by Deseret News and is a great progressive representative for the people of Utah. Visit her website here.

PFAW

ALEC Holds Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will hold its annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah from July 25-28th. Over 1,500 ALEC corporate lobbyists and member legislators will meet behind closed doors to vote on model bills and strategize about the implementation of pro-corporate legislation in statehouses around the country.

Utah-based and national good-government groups will release a report and host a community forum to discuss ALEC’s impact on Utah as the organization pushes its agenda of slashing and privatizing social services while providing tax cuts to big business. At least three dozen Utah legislators are members of ALEC, and several member corporations are located in Utah.

“At closely guarded retreats like this, ALEC brings together corporate lobbyists with state legislators from around the country who will enact their wish lists into law,” said Diallo Brooks of People For the American Way. “The model bills being pushed at these retreats benefit powerful corporate interests but leave working families, the nation’s infrastructure, public education and the environment in the dust.

“The American people have suffered from ALEC’s far-reaching influence in the state, and the organization has largely escaped scrutiny in Utah – until now. As a result of the ongoing effort to expose the ALEC agenda, Utahns and Americans around the country are standing up against the extreme policies that put corporate bottom lines above the needs of Americans and their families.”

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Attend a Rally to Save the American Dream this Saturday!

Events have been organized in cities and state capitols across the nation to show solidarity with workers in Wisconsin. Find the event or events nearest you.

“Rogues’ Gallery” Report Profiles Far-Right Senate Candidates

People For the American Way today released “The Rogues’ Gallery,” profiling 15 far-right Republican nominees for Congress. The report makes clear that the Republican slate of nominees is everything the Tea Party or the Religious Right could want.
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