Marriage Equality

Steve Deace: Gay Rights Advocates Seek 'Validation' Through Marriage And 'Pro-Sodomy Propaganda'

Conservative talk show host Steve Deace was, to say the least, livid at the news this week that the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals of a number of lower-court marriage equality rulings, thus allowing same-sex couples in several new states to begin marrying.

Deace spent a good part of his interview Monday with Religious Right activist Bob Vander Plaats railing against the LGBT rights movement, which he declared is “not about ‘I want to visit people I love in a hospital’ or ‘I want to pass on to people I care about an inheritance’” but is instead about a search for “validation and ‘I want someone to validate my desires that my conscience tells me are wrong, that my conscience tells me go against the way I was made.’”

“‘To validate these desires and impulses that I don’t think I can control, and I want you to tell me that I’m okay just the way I am,’” he continued, in the voice of an imaginary gay-rights activist. “‘And if the God who made me, who I ultimately desire validation from…if that God will not validate me, then I will go to the next most powerful force on earth and try to get them to do it, and that is government.’”

He added that “the onslaught of pro-sodomy propaganda in our culture” is yet another step in this search for validation: “You will be made to care when your kids watch the Disney Channel. You will be made to care when you watch ESPN. There is nowhere for you to go. Consider the onslaught of pro-sodomy propaganda our culture has been deluged with and the numbers in that Pew research poll. There’s a backlash.” (He was referring to a recent Pew poll showing a downtick in support for marriage equality.)

Vander Plaats agreed with Deace’s assessment: “This isn’t about Mary and Susy having a garden next door anymore. This is about saturating every piece of life with this very issue for what you talk about, and I think you’re right, Steve: validation.”

Huckabee Urges States To Ignore Rulings On Marriage Equality, Abortion Rights & Church-State Separation

In an interview with Iowa-based conservative talk show host Steve Deace on Monday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee repeated his recommendation that governors simply ignore the Supreme Court’s decision to let stand lower court rulings legalizing marriage equality in several new states, adding that state governments should have also ignored Roe v. Wade and the Supreme Court rulings banning school-sponsored prayer.

When Deace pressed him on the “maelstrom” that would be set off if state governments simply ignored court rulings on marriage, Huckabee responded that it was in fact the courts that have set off a “constitutional crisis” by ruling in favor of marriage equality.

“I look back to 1973,” he said, referring to the year in which Roe v. Wade was decided, “and I’m wondering what would have happened if the two branches of government, the executive and the legislative, simply said, ‘We appreciate your opinion, court, but now if states wish to empower that, I guess they can do so, but until that happens we’re not automatically going to go killing 55 million babies over the next 40 years.’”

In cases such as Roe and rulings in favor of marriage equality and church-state separation, Huckabee said, elected officials should have said, “Well, the courts have spoken and it’s an important voice, but it’s not the voice of God and the Supreme Court isn’t God” and simply ignored the courts’ rulings.

Earlier in the interview, Deace insisted that a drop in support for LGBT rights reported in a recent Pew poll happened because “people are seeing this really isn’t about consensual love…this is really about in the end using the coercive force of government to get you to abandon your own moral conscience.”

Huckabee agreed, adding, “It’s never been an honest situation where those who were advocating the most extreme levels of changing our culture were sincere and straightforward and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of it.”

He added his hope that in reaction to yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, “somewhere there will be a governor who will simply say, ‘No, I’m not going to enforce that’” and order county clerks not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Janet Mefferd: LGBT Legal Victories Threaten The Republic

Yesterday, Religious Right talk show host Janet Mefferd condemned the “lawlessness” of the U.S. judicial system following recent court decisions that have advanced marriage equality for same-sex couples.

She warned that judges are threatening the system of self-government with their decisions to strike down marriage bans. “The bigger question is: how have we lost our right to govern ourselves?” she asked. “That’s what we’re losing.”  

“They get away with it. You just push the lawless limit and see how much you can get away with, and unfortunately, people are getting away with an awful lot,” she said. “I don’t understand why there aren’t more Christians yelling and screaming — nicely, of course — on this issue of lawlessness. Do we not care about lawlessness? How do you have a republic without law, the rule of law and the respect for law? How does a republic survive when it loses respect for the law?”

Sandy Rios: Riots And Starvation Coming To America

The American Family Association’s Sandy Rios dedicated much of her radio show today to attacking the Supreme Court for refusing to hear appeals on several marriage equality cases, which led her to discuss the purported threats to religious freedom that marriage equality is bringing to America.

Rios warned that religious liberty is in peril and viewers should purchase a new AFA DVD, “A Time To Speak.”

“If we don’t do something, I think we’re going to see — and this is radical — I think we’re going to see riots in the street, we’re going to see starvation, we’re going to see things we have never seen before, we’re going to see a complete breakdown in terms of law enforcement, it’s going to be a nightmare,” she said. “This will be what you are handing to your children if you don’t speak up now. I’m not sure we can pull it back, but are you going to say in retrospect that you did nothing?”

Later in the show, Rios spoke to Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Institute about the supposed death of religious freedom in America, linking it with the news out of the Supreme Court.

Rios said “leaders the [gay rights] movement” are “fascists when it comes to this issue” who “will not stop until people who object are brought to their knees,” an assessment that Shackelford agreed with, and in turn denounced gay rights advocates for using “unconscionable” tactics and pushing “the ultimate intolerance.”

Another Nail in the Coffin for Baker v. Nelson

The Supreme Court's decision not to hear marriage equality appeals may have an important substantive effect on the law.
PFAW Foundation

Downbeat Pat Robertson Criticizes Supreme Court On Marriage Equality

Pat Robertson today rebuked the Supreme Court for “punting” on marriage equality, blasting the courts — along with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring — for “overriding the wishes of the states” to “protect traditional marriage.”

The “700 Club” host later compared the decision to Roe v. Wade: “It’s the same thing with abortion. Instead of letting the people decide as they should’ve under the Constitution, it was taken out of their hands by the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade and because of that no effort by the people has been successful ever since and it’s been a travesty as we’ve seen over 50 million unborn babies slaughtered in this land.”

FRC: Marriage Equality Judges Would Flunk Law School

The Family Research Council’s Travis Weber slammed the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuit Courts yesterday for their decisions knocking down state bans on same-sex marriage, telling “Washington Watch” guest host Richard Land that the rulings were based on “poorly constructed, very poor analysis.”

“Even thinking back to how we were trained in law school to approach legal questions, if you used some of the analysis that these judges have used in striking down state marriage laws, you would be scolded in a lot of legal writing classes,” he said.

Look Who Wants To Amend The Constitution Now: Ted Cruz Wants States' Rights Amendment on Marriage

Sen. Ted Cruz has spent the past several months railing against a proposed constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and related campaign-finance cases, which would restore to Congress and the states the ability to “set reasonable limits” on election spending.

Cruz has gone into full hyperbole mode over the amendment, claiming that the campaign to narrowly roll back what many legal experts believe is an erroneous interpretation of the First Amendment is in fact an effort to “repeal the First Amendment,silence pastors and imprison old ladies.

So, of course, it was no surprise at all yesterday to see Cruz himself proposing to amend the Constitution to reverse what he sees as an erroneous interpretation by the courts, this time on the issue of marriage. Roll Call reported on Cruz’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s "tragic" decision yesterday to decline hearing any marriage equality appeals, thus letting same-sex couples in several states get married:

While most Republicans shied away from commenting Monday on the Supreme Court’s historic decision to let stand a slew of lower court rulings legalizing gay marriage, Sen. Ted Cruz torched the court’s decision.

The Texas Republican called the decision “tragic and indefensible” and said he would introduce a constitutional amendment that would ensure states can ban gay marriage.

“By refusing to rule if the States can define marriage, the Supreme Court is abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution. The fact that the Supreme Court Justices, without providing any explanation whatsoever, have permitted lower courts to strike down so many state marriage laws is astonishing,” he said in a statement.

“It is beyond dispute that when the 14th Amendment was adopted 146 years ago, as a necessary post-Civil War era reform, it was not imagined to also mandate same-sex marriage, but that is what the Supreme Court is implying today. The Court is making the preposterous assumption that the People of the United States somehow silently redefined marriage in 1868 when they ratified the 14th Amendment,” he said.

“Nothing in the text, logic, structure, or original understanding of the 14th Amendment or any other constitutional provision authorizes judges to redefine marriage for the Nation. It is for the elected representatives of the People to make the laws of marriage, acting on the basis of their own constitutional authority, and protecting it, if necessary, from usurpation by the courts.”

For the record, here is the section of the 14th Amendment that courts have been relying on to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Peter LaBarbera Vows 'Massive Civil Disobedience' To Block Gay Marriages

Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality is not exactly pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear appeals on several marriage equality cases, warning in a statement today that as a result of the court’s non-decision “we live not in freedom but under tyranny.”

“Now is the time for civil disobedience on a massive scale: we hope that statesmen and citizens alike -— in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah and Virginia — indeed, any state where the people’s will has been robbed by elitist judges — will reassert their state sovereignty against escalating judicial supremacy,” LaBarbera writes. “God is not mocked: the Scriptures are clear that homosexual practice is an offense against both God and the very bodies of those who practice it (as is all sexual immorality).”

We are witnessing a "gradual Roe v. Wade" by which unelected judges impose homosexual 'marriage' on the nation. Hubris rules the day as millions of Americans' votes defending actual marriage (one man, one woman) are negated by one court ruling after another. Each decision bastardizes America's noble quest for racial justice by invoking "equality" for unions based on disordered sexual behavior that can never be "equal" to God-ordained sex within marriage. Now the nation's highest court is content to let the ongoing disenfranchisement become law.

Yesterday's action by the Supreme Court only solidifies the idea that the powerful elites who dominate politics, media and culture do not care what the people think, expressed through the ballot box or their elected state legislators. And if "We the People's" votes do not count, then We live not in freedom but under tyranny.

The notion that nine men and women in black robes know more about what constitutes marriage than 76 percent of Oklahoma's voters is insulting and preposterous. Now is the time for civil disobedience on a massive scale: we hope that statesmen and citizens alike--in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah and Virginia—indeed, any state where the people's will has been robbed by elitist judges—will reassert their state sovereignty against escalating judicial supremacy.

From a moral and spiritual perspective, no court or government action can—to quote from the ill-informed ruling of Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner--"confer respectability on a sexual relationship" between two people of the same sex. Homosexual activists yearn to be told that their defining sin is not a sin at all—and legalizing genderless "marriage" is their holy grail to achieve that end. "Love is love," we are told, or rather scolded. But God is not mocked: the Scriptures are clear that homosexual practice is an offense against both God and the very bodies of those who practice it (as is all sexual immorality).

The truly loving thing for Christians to do is not to "bless" same-sex relationships but to guide men and women caught up in false homosexual identities to the One, Jesus, who will forgive them and guide them to a life pleasing to God.

Gordon Klingenschmitt: Supreme Court Letting Gays 'Recruit Your Kids'

Anti-LGBT activist and Colorado Republican state legislative candidate Gordon Klingenschmitt reacted today to the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal of lower court marriage equality rulings by asserting that “sodomy is still banned by God in all 50 states” and “God will have the last word.”

In an email to members of his Pray In Jesus Name project, Klingenschmitt lamented that “cruel judges now deny kids’ rights in 30 states,” telling his readers that conservatives must work even harder to “defend their children from such an agenda to normalize sin and recruit your kids.”

Unfair to Kids: Judges force homosexual "marriage" in 30 states

Every child has a right to a mom and dad. Cruel judges now deny kids' rights in 30 states.

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear any of seven possible appeals from five states that would protect traditional marriage between one man and one woman. This dereliction of duty allowed bad lower-court rulings to enforce homosexual "marriage" in 11 new states, against the will of the voters. Many children will now be told by the government, "You can't have a mother. You get two dads instead." That's unfair to kids.



THIS JUST IN: Sodomy is still banned by God in all 50 states. Gay marriage now "legal" in 30 states? Only 3 states voted for that, meaning it was imposed on kids in 27 states by oligarchs, against the voters' will. 38 states had bans before this judicial TYRANNY overruled the people's will. God will have the last word. …

Will Christians work this hard, to defend their children from such an agenda to normalize sin and recruit your kids? Legislation. Ballot Work. Courts. All fronts in all states.

Sadly, it appears some House Republicans are caving in without a fight. "The House has determined, in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Windsor, that it no longer will defend that [DOMA] statute," said lawyers for the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG).

But we are not done. We are fighting back. We will fight to defend traditional marriage as Jesus defined it in Matthew 19:4-6, between one man and one woman. We must encourage Congress to NOT give up the fight.

I met several Congressmen last year in DC, and although they are discouraged, they are not ready to quit. But they must hear from us, that we still care about traditional marriage. Let's send Congress a message today. Demand a Constitutional Marriage Amendment...

Stacy Swimp: Supreme Court Marriage Ruling Would Bring About Last Days

Anti-gay activist Stacy Swimp, a Michigan pastor, claimed last month that a Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage equality throughout the country would bring America into the biblical Last Days.

If the Supreme Court were to issue a favorable marriage equality ruling, Swimp told Cleveland anti-gay activist Molly Smith in a September 23 interview, “I see America looking like what Jesus said the world looking like. He said, ‘As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when the Son returns.’”

“You see,” he continued, “in Noah’s day, you had complete lawlessness, men did what was right in their own eyes, according to the Bible, and there were no moral boundaries that men respected. And so we are at the threshold in our global society.”

“If this happens to become law, you’re going to see complete chaos and lawlessness,” he said, adding that such a ruling would lead to “broken families” and “escalated crime.”

Later in the interview, Swimp argued that “homosexuality, lesbianism” is just “one component of lawlessness that we’re seeing in our society” and that the LGBT rights movement and “Islam and the global terrorism” are “working together to silence the gospel.”

He added that Christians are facing persecution in America today, while Muslims and Buddhists face none: “You don’t see Muslims, by the way, who disagree with marriage protection being persecuted in America. You don’t hear about Buddhists and all these other religions being persecuted while fighting for their religious freedom.”

“That’s right, it’s us as the Christians,” Smith agreed.

Supreme Court Action on Marriage Cases Is No Surprise

In last month's Supreme Court Term Preview, PFAW Foundation explained why most Justices might very well want to avoid taking the then-pending marriage cases.
PFAW Foundation

Alliance Defending Freedom Lobbies For Anti-Marriage Referendum In Slovakia

Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based Religious Right powerhouse, has urged Slovakia’s constitutional court to allow anti-gay activists to place a referendum on the country’s ballot that would reinforce the current bans on same-sex marriage, adoption, and domestic partner protections and add a provision making it harder for schools to offer sex education.

The National Law Journal reports:

The court is considering a petition seeking a referendum submitted by the Slovak Alliance for Family. The measure calls for a vote on four questions:

· The definition of a marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

· A requirement that adoptive parents be married.

· Prohibiting registered partnerships between gay and lesbian couples.

· Permitting parents to opt out their children from sex education classes taught at public schools.

"The people of Slovakia should have the freedom to preserve marriage and family if they so choose," said Alliance Defending Freedom senior legal counsel Roger Kiska, who filed an amicus brief with the court. "This referendum will allow Slovaks to affirm current Slovak law and important social values, which is perfectly acceptable under the Slovak Constitution."

The opt-out of sex education classes, however, is not existing law.

More than 400,000 citizens signed the petition supporting a referendum, according to Roger Kiska—more than the required number of signatures. However, Slovak President Andrej Kiska asked the Constitutional Court to review the measure because of a provision in the country's constitution that forbids holding a referendum to change "fundamental rights and liberties."

In June, Slovakia became the seventh EU country to ban same-sex marriage. Alliance Defending Freedom has a hefty budget for Europe, spending more than $750,000 on its European programs last year.

Stop Persecuting Us! Five Religious Right Tactics On Clear Display At The Values Voter Summit

One thing was clear at last week’s Values Voter Summit: many of the Religious Right’s leaders and allied politicians know that their stances on abortion rights and LGBT equality are becoming more and more toxic to the average voter, and less and less popular within the GOP.

Many speakers at the conference tried to reframe the debate on issues such as same-sex marriage, insisting that opponents of LGBT rights are becoming an oppressed minority in America. This delusion even seeped into matters such as foreign policy, with speakers attacking President Obama as an Islamist sympathizer who refuses to take military action against ISIS, even while he was doing exactly that.

Naturally, one politician was able to prey upon the many fears and fantasies of the far-right: Ted Cruz.

Even as the Values Voter Summit subtly changed its tone on some familiar issues, five tried and true tactics of the Religious Right were unchanged at last week’s event:

5. Make Audacious Persecution Analogies

While addressing the plight of Christians in the Mideast and people such as Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan and Saeed Abedini in Iran — both of whom are actually the victims of shocking anti-Christian persecution — Values Voter Summit speakers often attempted to claim that conservative Christians face similar abuses and comparable treatment in America.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel attempted to paint the Obama administration as more malicious than the government of Nazi Germany, and twins Jason and David Benham — who lost a planned HGTV reality show after we reported on their anti-gay political activism — even had the gall to compare themselves to the victims of ISIS.

Todd Starnes and Kelly Shackelford rattled off cases of purported anti-Christian persecution in America, “Duck Dynasty” star Alan Robertson said his family’s reality TV show was briefly suspended as the result of demonic attacks, and a Colorado baker who gained national attention after denying service to a gay couple broke down in tears.

Maggie Gallagher, the founder of the National Organization for Marriage, told attendees that marriage equality opponents will be “oppressed” due to their opinions, and Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel predicted Big Government persecution of Christians on behalf of “the intolerant homosexual lobby.”

4. Demand Religious Freedom… Except For Muslims

For a conference dedicated to protecting religious liberty and addressing the supposed persecution of Christians in America, there sure was plenty of animosity towards Muslims.

Conference speakers including Michele BachmannRobert DeesGary Bauer and Brigitte Gabriel dedicated their remarks to the threat of Islam, with several conflating Al Qaeda and ISIS with all of Islam and suggesting that the U.S. government somehow declare war on the religion.

Prior to the conference, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, whose group was the summit’s chief sponsor, suggested that Muslim-Americans be stripped of their rights under the Constitution.

3. Brazenly Ignore Reality

It was surreal to watch several Values Voter Summit speakers criticize President Obama for not going after ISIS at the same time as a U.S.-led coalition was launching a daily torrent of airstrikes against ISIS and the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria and Iraq.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a likely GOP presidential candidate, said Obama doesn’t believe that ISIS leaders need to be “hunted down and killed and destroyed.”

Bachmann declared that the president was ignoring her sage advice on how to handle ISIS: “You kill their leader, you kill their council, you kill their army until they wave the white flag of surrender. That’s how you win a war!”

2. Push Back Against The GOP

There was a palpable fear throughout the conference that the Republican Party is moving away from the Religious Right, as more and more GOP candidates either refuse to highlight the movement’s anti-choice and anti-gay positions or are openly trumpeting support for abortion rights and gay marriage.

Just before the conference took place, Focus on the Family, the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council issued a letter announcing their vow to defeat two openly gay Republican House candidates and the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Oregon, who is pro-choice and running advertisements boasting of her support for marriage equality.

NOM president Brian Brown criticized Republicans for blaming the party’s stances on social issues for losses in the 2012 election. “It’s not our fault,” Brown insisted as he introduced unabashedly anti-gay politician Rick Santorum at the summit.

Later, at a NOM-sponsored panel, Brown accused gay rights supporters of attempting to “hijack” the GOP. While one panel at the summit attempted to explain the potential for libertarians and social conservatives to build a political alliance, it seems many in the audience didn’t want anything to do with the libertarian message.

1. Throw Them Red Meat

Ted Cruz once again won the summit’s presidential candidate straw poll, with Ben Carson, who didn’t attend the summit this year but was well-represented by campaigners from the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, finishing in second place. Cruz and Carson notably outpaced Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, two favorites of Religious Right movement who both spoke at the summit.

Cruz packed his speech with warnings about imminent threats to the Second Amendment and religious freedom, and listing objects of conservative derision: IRS, Common Core and Obamacare.

Conference organizers said Jeb Bush and Chris Christie were not welcome at the summit, but they wouldn’t have been able to stand a chance against Cruz’s easy applause lines anyway.

Robert Oscar Lopez: LGBT Advocates Are Like Pol Pot And Are 'After Your Kids, Plain and Simple'

Robert Oscar Lopez is the latest anti-gay activist to attack at the Human Rights Campaign for featuring him in a report on “the export of hate,” writing in the American Thinker today that HRC’s inclusion of him in its report “reveals” that the LGBT movement is “after your kids, plain and simple.”

“They have convinced themselves that gays are a tribe unto themselves, so their consuming goal is to populate the tribe so they don’t disappear,” he writes.

“They want to have children to love them and call them Mom and Dad,” he writes, but “[j]ust because you control a human being doesn’t mean that’s your child.”

He then goes on to compare same-sex parenting to slavery, and LGBT rights activist to the Khmer Rouge.

This is a teachable moment because it reveals a great deal about what makes the Human Rights Campaign tick. They’re after your kids, plain and simple; all their other issues are mere window dressing.

They have convinced themselves that gays are a tribe unto themselves, so their consuming goal is to populate the tribe so they don’t disappear.

Parenthood is their great white whale. They want to have children to love them and call them Mom and Dad. They need to get those children from you because biology prevents them from siring them naturally. Gentlemen readers, these folks are trying to find a way to get the sperm out of your testicles and into their laboratories; lady readers, these folks need to find a way to implant an embryo of their sperm in your womb, keep you obedient during the gestation, and take your baby away forever.

The main item on the gay lobby’s agenda is patently insane. People don’t generally want to let lesbians milk sperm out of their testicles. People don’t usually like the idea of gay men gestating babies in their wombs and then taking them away. (And no, “visitation” plans where these gamete donors get to see their progeny a few times a month are not a good arrangement; that stuff’s really creepy.)

And at least with me, these HRC lackeys cannot pull the old “are you saying my children are worth any less?” routine. Just because you control a human being doesn’t mean that’s your child. Even if someone is your child, criticizing you is not the same as insulting your child. This is basic, but somehow the HRC manages to whitewash the complexities. Despite all the choreographed photographs of happy gay couples with children, people generally do not like growing up and knowing that half of them was sold to a gay couple.

That’s the other thing. Not only does the HRC explode into hysteria when they see me traveling to Paris and – gasp! – talking to people in French. They also hate when I bring up history. They love to compare themselves to black people. Their comparisons are vaguely based on their sense that black people were enslaved and held captive, while gay teenagers didn’t get to go to a prom, and isn’t that all a similar kind of suffering? I mean, isn’t the Middle Passage a lot like the pain of not having a bridal registry for two men at Nordstrom’s?

Cursed am I for having studied so much antebellum black literature. I can’t help but point out that black suffering came from a practice of people buying people, and now, because they can’t procreate naturally, homosexuals are buying people and calling them their children. I know, I know – we’re not talking about whips and chains or being forced to harvest sugarcane. But is slavery minus atrociously painful labor no longer slavery?

Wasn’t slavery the problem with slavery, not all the horrors that sometimes accompany slavery and sometimes do not? The thing itself – buying people like livestock and owning them, no matter how long the contract runs, whether you are a house or field servant – is the evil, not the byproducts.

Notice how I am not using profanity or saying that gay people are going to the fiery place below. I am simply pointing out that the gay lobby is not the first orchestrated movement to rationalize buying people. This is enough to turn them apoplectic. It’s enough to land an obscure little nobody at a Cal State top billing in their paranoid fantasies.

According to some historians of the so-called killing fields, in the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge hunted down people with eyeglasses and killed them en masse. They did this ostensibly because they worried that people who were too intelligent might challenge the draconian policies of the government. Fortunately, the Human Rights Campaign has no killing fields, so I and my contact lenses are safe for now. God grant that the awakening of reason come earlier rather than later.

Michele Bachmann Tries To Walk Back 'Boring' Gay Marriage Remarks

Following her Values Voter Summit speech about engaging in “spiritual warfare” with Islam, Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke to journalists, including Michelangelo Signorile, who asked her about gay marriage.

Bachmann, a leading anti-gay Republican, said that “it’s not an issue,” telling Signorile, “In fact, it’s boring.”

The Minnesota congresswoman now appears to be walking back her remarks, suggesting in an interview with WorldNetDaily that she is the victim of a media attack:

In a follow-up interview with WND, however, Bachmann clarified her comments.

“What I said is that this won’t be the issue that drives the 2014 election,” Bachmann said. “I told the reporter it’s getting boring having them only press this issue with Republicans while ignoring Democrats.

“The media loves to divide us on this issue. They look for something all the time,” Bachmann told WND. “I said nothing different. I’m the woman who carried the traditional marriage amendment in Minnesota, and I stand firm in my belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman.”

Bachmann’s aide told WND she wasn’t brushing off the radio host, she was merely making a quick, parting comment as she was leaving.

PFAW Foundation’s Supreme Court 2014-2015 Term Preview

To: Interested Parties
From: Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel, People For the American Way
Date: September 25, 2014
Subject: PFAW Foundation’s Supreme Court 2014-2015 Term Preview


The beginning of a new Supreme Court term has become a time to worry, “What’s next?” In the past two terms alone, often in 5-4 decisions, the Roberts Court has severely undermined the Voting Rights Act, continued its assault on the American people’s efforts to limit money in politics, strengthened the hand of employers who discriminate, significantly eroded church-state separation, discovered religious rights for for-profit corporations seeking to deny female employees needed contraception coverage, undercut unions, and found ways to help large corporations bypass laws designed to limit their power over small businesses and ordinary people.

As bad as the Roberts Court has been, there have also been some good decisions in the most recent terms. For instance, the Court struck down the odious Defense of Marriage Act, upheld the EPA's general authority to issue regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, and unanimously recognized our Fourth Amendment right to privacy concerning our smart phones.

The 2014-2015 Term is set to begin on October 6, the traditional First Monday in October, and the Court will be hearing a number of important cases. At the same time, perhaps half the cases it will hear this term have not been determined or announced, and there is substantial speculation on whether it will hear cases on several high-profile issues, marriage equality most prominent among them. Below is a summary of some of the major cases the Court may hear this term, along with cases already scheduled that we will be following.


CASES THAT THE COURT MIGHT HEAR

MARRIAGE EQUALITY

If the Court accepts a marriage equality case, it will obviously become the blockbuster case of the term (and perhaps the decade). The Court has already been asked to hear appeals of pro-equality rulings by three circuit courts: From the Tenth Circuit are Herbert v. Kitchen (Utah) and Smith v. Bishop (Oklahoma). From the Fourth Circuit are Rainey v. Bostic, Schaefer v. Bostic, and McQuigg v. Bostic (all Virginia). From the Seventh Circuit are Bogan v. Baskin (Indiana) and Walker v. Wolf (Wisconsin). While states and government officials who lost in the lower courts are filing the appeals, the couples who won the cases are also urging the Court to hear the appeals, so there can finally be a national resolution to the issue.

Should one of the remaining circuit courts uphold a state marriage ban, the resulting split among circuits on such a major constitutional issue would almost guarantee review by the Supreme Court. But if every circuit continues to rule the same way, the Justices might decide to let the issue be resolved there.

Conservatives like Scalia and Thomas, who have in case after case shown their hostility to LGBT equality but may be unsure of how Kennedy would vote, might not be willing to risk a Supreme Court precedent that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. From their perspective, if they can’t change the outcome around the country, why make it worse by adding a jurisprudential nightmare from the nation’s highest court that would taint American law for decades to come?

For Justices likely to recognize the constitutional right to marriage equality, the calculation might be different. They, too, not knowing Kennedy’s position, might not want to risk a 5-4 ruling in the “wrong” direction on a major constitutional and societal issue. But even if they could be certain of being in the majority, they might find advantages to having the Court stay out. Justice Ginsburg, for instance, has suggested publicly that Roe v. Wade went “too far, too fast,” provoking a backlash that could otherwise have been avoided. If the legal question of marriage equality is being decided rightly in all the circuit courts, some Justices might rather leave well enough alone. In fact, Justice Ginsburg told a group of law students in mid-September that without a circuit split, she saw “no urgency” for the Court to take up the issue now, although she added that she expects the Court to take it up “sooner or later.”

Should the Court grant cert on one or more of the appeals, it could answer a number of critically important questions in addition to whether states can prohibit same-sex couples from marrying.

Exactly which constitutional right do the bans violate? While numerous courts have ruled in favor of same-sex couples, they have been anything but unanimous in their reasoning: Some have suggested that the bans violate the Due Process Clause, because the longstanding, fundamental right to marry includes the right to marry someone of the same sex. Other judges indicate that the bans violate the Equal Protection Clause because they deny the right to marry based on the sex of the people seeking to get married. Still others suggest that the bans violate the Equal Protection Clause because they discriminate against gays and lesbians. While the different legal rationales would all have the same immediate result (marriage equality), they could create very different legal precedents and have very different impacts down the line as lower courts consider other types of discrimination, whether aimed at gays and lesbians, at transgender people, or at others.

A Supreme Court ruling might decide what level of scrutiny the Equal Protection Clause requires for laws that discriminate against gay people, an issue not squarely faced in previous cases. Most government classifications are subject to – and easily pass – “rational basis” scrutiny by the courts: The law is constitutional as long as it’s rationally related to some legitimate government interest. (The Court has said that animus against gays and lesbians is not a legitimate purpose, which in the past has let it bypass the question as to whether anti-gay laws warrant more scrutiny from the courts.)

But a few types of laws trigger heightened Equal Protection scrutiny. Sex-based classifications are subject to intermediate scrutiny: They must be substantially related to an important government interest. Race-based classifications are generally subject to strict scrutiny, the highest level: They must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest. If the Court rules that laws discriminating against lesbians and gays warrant some level of heightened scrutiny, that would have an enormous impact nationwide on all kinds of laws that discriminate against lesbians and gays, not just marriage bans.

The Court’s discussion of this issue could also shed light on whether eliminating private discrimination against LGBT people is (in the Court’s eyes) a compelling government interest. This could have an enormous impact as courts consider right wing challenges to anti-discrimination laws on the basis of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act or state-law analogs.


ACA SUBSIDIES

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act strategically launched lawsuits in four different circuits challenging federal subsidies for millions of Americans buying health insurance on federally-run exchanges. The circuits were apparently selected to maximize the possibility of a circuit split, which in turn would maximize the likelihood of getting the case heard by the Roberts Court, which (they hope) would deliver a crippling blow to Obamacare. Decisions have been reached in two of the circuits, although one has since been vacated.

Section 1311 of the ACA says states should set up insurance exchanges, while Section 1321 of the Act says the federal government can set one up if a state doesn't. Subsidies are available for less well-off people getting health insurance through an exchange, based on the amount the person pays for the insurance s/he is enrolled in through an exchange "established by the state under [section] 1311" of the ACA. The law’s opponents hope to have the Supreme Court rule that Congress intended for subsidies to be unavailable to Americans purchasing insurance through the federally-established exchanges that the law calls for in cases where the state does not step in. In other words, the argument is that Congress intended to undercut the financial viability of the law and thwart its central purpose.

A unanimous panel of the Fourth Circuit rejected this wild claim in King v. Burwell. However, two far right judges on the D.C. Circuit formed a majority in a three-judge panel ruling actually agreeing with the Obama care opponents in Halbig v. Burwell. Dissenting Judge Harry Edwards recognized the lawsuit as a “not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” noting that “[i]t is inconceivable that Congress intended to give States the power to cause the ACA to crumble.” The full D.C. Circuit subsequently vacated the ruling and will consider the issue en banc, and most observers expect a ruling more like the Fourth Circuit’s.

But even if that happens, there are still lawsuits percolating in Indiana (Seventh Circuit) and Oklahoma (Tenth Circuit), so the hoped-for circuit split may yet occur. If it does, the Roberts Court is almost certain to consider the issue. While the case is transparently political and legally weak, that did not stop the conservative Justices when it came to the Commerce Clause challenge to the individual mandate.


CONTRACEPTION COVERAGE AND RELIGIOUS NONPROFITS

The Roberts Court may hear one or more cases involving religious nonprofits that oppose the ACA’s contraception coverage requirement, in a sequel to Hobby Lobby v. Burwell. In that case, the Roberts Court gave certain for-profit corporations religious liberty rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), then completely rewrote the law to give the chain store the right to “exercise” its religion by refusing to comply with the ACA’s contraception coverage requirement.

Under RFRA, a federal law cannot impose a substantial burden on a person’s religious exercise unless it is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest, and it is the least restrictive means of doing so. In Hobby Lobby, the Roberts Court concluded that the corporation and its owners suffered a “substantial” burden” on their religious exercise because the owners were offended by the contraception coverage requirement, even though it did not restrict or burden what they may believe or do. The majority also concluded that the law was not the least restrictive means of furthering the government’s interest in women’s health, because the Administration offers religious nonprofits an accommodation: They are exempt if they simply sign a form certifying that they are a religious nonprofit that objects to the provision of contraceptive services, and provide a copy of that form to their insurance issuer or third-party administrator, which then has the responsibility to pay for and provide the coverage. (Churches, in contrast, are wholly exempt.) The Roberts Court concluded that the federal government can make this accommodation available to for-profit corporations, meaning the coverage requirement is not the least restrictive means of achieving the ACA’s goal.

But three days later, the Court issued a temporary injunction against enforcing even this accommodation against Wheaton College, a non-profit religious institution that argued that the accommodation substantially burdens its religious freedom. This prompted a furious dissent from the three women Justices. Although the merits of the case are still being argued before a lower federal court, this was an ominous sign of how the Roberts Court will address the legal question when it inevitably reaches the high court.

Another high-profile case (or one similar to it) that may reach the Court involves Little Sisters of the Poor. This religious nonprofit organization, too, has a religious objection to the accommodation that was designed to meet its religious objections, arguing that the form is like a permission slip that would trigger contraception coverage, making the nuns complicit in sin. However, the Little Sisters’ insurer is classified as a “church plan,” which is actually exempt from the ACA requirement. So regardless of whether the Little Sisters signed the form, their employees would still not have the contraception coverage. Nevertheless, last January, while its RFRA suit against the contraception coverage provision was before the Tenth Circuit (where it is still pending), the Supreme Court enjoined the federal government from enforcing the law until a final resolution on the merits.

It seems likely that there will be a request that this issue be considered by the Supreme Court at some point this term, either through one of these cases or one similar to them.


CASES CURRENTLY BEFORE THE COURT


EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS

Young v. UPS: Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy

The Supreme Court is to decide to what extent employers can treat pregnant workers temporarily unable to work differently from other workers temporarily unable to work.

This case involves Peggy Young, a pregnant employee of UPS with temporary medical restrictions on how much she could safely lift. UPS did not make any accommodations for her, such as temporary alternative work. As a result, she spent several months on unpaid leave, during which she lost her medical coverage.

In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that discriminating against employees who are pregnant was not sex discrimination under Title VII. Congress corrected that interpretation of the law in 1978 with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which has two relevant provisions. First, it specifies that sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

The second provision explains how to apply that general principle: It says that women affected by pregnancy “shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes … as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.” This establishes a basis of comparison. So while a typical sex discrimination case looks at how a female plaintiff is treated in comparison to similarly situated men, a PDA case looks at how she is treated in comparison to non-pregnant workers with similar ability (or inability) to work.

UPS’s collective bargaining contract calls for UPS to accommodate temporarily disabled employees if the disability is due to an on-the-job injury, or if they have lost their DOT certification to drive. UPS also accommodates employees who have a permanent impairment under the Americans With Disabilities Act. UPS says its policy is “pregnancy-blind:” They claim they are treating Young the same way they’d treat a non-pregnant employee whose injury doesn’t fit any of the above conditions.

But Young argues that isn’t the proper analysis under the PDA. She points out that UPS would have made an accommodation for someone “similar in their ability or inability to work” to her if they were in one of those three categories. So, she concludes, the plain text of the PDA requires UPS to accommodate her, as well.

Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk: Overtime pay for workers at warehouse distribution centers

The Supreme Court is to decide if employers can deny overtime pay to employees at “customer fulfillment” distribution centers for the time they spend waiting for mandatory security screenings.

This is a class-action lawsuit brought by Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, two former employees of Integrity Staffing Solutions, which provides workers to work in the warehouses of companies like Amazon.com. At the end of the shift, the company requires every employee to go through a security check before they leave the facility to make sure they aren’t stealing the merchandise. The employees wait as long as 25 minutes to be searched. Busk and Castro claim that they should have been paid overtime for this time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as should all current employees, as well.

FLSA requires overtime pay when a covered employee works more than 40 hours in a workweek. In 1947, Congress helped define what counts as “work” by passing the Portal-to-Portal Act (PPA), which says that FLSA’s overtime requirement doesn’t apply to activities that are “preliminary” or “postliminary” to an employee’s primary job responsibilities. In a 1956 case called Steiner v. Mitchell, the Supreme Court interpreted the PPA as requiring overtime only for tasks that are an “integral and indispensable part of the principal activities for which covered workman are employed.”

Busk and Castro say that any activity required by and benefitting the employer (such as the security searches) are part of the actual job, not “postliminary” to it, so they count as time at work under FLSA and should generate overtime pay. They get support from an amicus brief submitted by the National Employment Lawyers Association, which details how loss-prevention activities have become integrated into the modern retail work routine, making searches like those at issue here part of an employee’s principal activities.

The workers won at the Ninth Circuit, but the court used different reasoning: that the searches are “postliminary” (so the Portal-to-Portal Act applies), but that they are an “integral and indispensable part” of the workers’ principal activities and therefore subject to overtime pay. Integrity (supported by an amicus brief from the Obama Administration) asserts that the searches are “postliminary” to work, are not an “integral and indispensable part” of the employees’ principal activities and, therefore, don’t trigger the overtime requirement.

Part of the company’s argument seems to be a results-based pitch to a corporate-friendly Court: In its certiorari petition urging the Justices to hear its appeal, Integrity Staffing wrote that since the Ninth Circuit ruling, “plaintiffs’ lawyers have brought nationwide class actions against a number of major employers—including Apple, Amazon.com, and CVS—seeking back pay (plus overtime and penalties) for time spent in security screenings.” Notice that it isn’t employees who are suing, but “plaintiffs’ lawyers,” a framing that is red meat for right-wing ideologues. This argument also seems to have less to do with discerning congressional intent and more to do with protecting large corporations.

Mach Mining v. EEOC: Pre-lawsuit settlement efforts by the EEOC

The Supreme Court is to decide if employers can escape liability for illegal discrimination by arguing that the EEOC failed to make a sufficiently good-faith attempt to reach a settlement with the employer.

Mach Mining has never hired a woman for a mining position. A woman who had been turned down several times for a coal mining job filed a sex discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a step that Title VII requires before filing a lawsuit. EEOC looked into the allegation, found it had merit, and – again, as required by Title VII – sought to negotiate an end to the alleged sex discrimination “by informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion” before suing. After several months without success, the EEOC notified the company that it felt further efforts would be futile and initiated a lawsuit. Mach Mining says the case should be dismissed on the grounds that the EEOC didn’t make a good-faith conciliation effort. In response, the EEOC says Title VII doesn’t allow such a defense.

While several other circuits have ruled otherwise, the Seventh Circuit in this case concluded that Title VII cannot be interpreted to allow courts to inquire into the adequacy of the EEOC’s conciliation efforts. For one thing, Title VII has no express provision for an affirmative defense based on a defect in the EEOC’s conciliation’s efforts. It also calls for the EEOC to “endeavor” to end the discrimination through “informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion.” If it can’t reach a result “acceptable to the Commission,” it can sue. The Seventh Circuit interpreted this as giving the EEOC great deference.

The court also noted that Title VII makes the process confidential, with penalties for making the information public without the consent of everyone concerned. That could prevent the EEOC from showing the court the evidence that it had sought to conciliate in good faith. It seems unlikely that Congress wrote Title VII to require the EEOC to defend its conciliation efforts in court but made its ability to do so dependent on the permission of the employer being sued. The court also concluded that there would be no meaningful standard of review. For instance, just how hard should the agency pursue an agreement?

A Supreme Court ruling for the employer could give employers a significant tool to stymie legitimate lawsuits against unlawful employment discrimination. As the Seventh Circuit wrote:

Simply put, the conciliation defense tempts employers to turn what was meant to be an informal negotiation into the subject of endless disputes over whether the EEOC did enough before going to court. Such disputes impose significant costs on both sides, as well as on the court, and to what end?

All the employer should legitimately hope to gain is some unspecified quantum of additional efforts at conciliation by the EEOC. The result of such a defense, as we have said in a closely related context, is to “protract and complicate Title VII litigation, and with little or no offsetting benefit.”


RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Holt v. Hobbs: Right of a Muslim prisoner to grow a short beard

The Supreme Court is to address whether a state prison’s prohibiting a Muslim prisoner from growing a half-inch beard violates the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

This case originated with a handwritten request to the Supreme Court from Gregory Holt (aka Abdul Maalik Muhammad), a Muslim prisoner in Arkansas, to hear his case. He states that his religious beliefs require him to have a beard, and he seeks to grow a half-inch beard. The state Department of Corrections prohibits beards generally, but allows quarter-inch beards grown for medical reasons. Muhammad sees his request as a compromise (since his religious beliefs really would have him grow it much longer) that has been accepted in prisons elsewhere.

Since he is in a state prison, Muhammad’s case is governed by a federal law called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA. Passed unanimously by Congress in 2000, RLUIPA requires prisons accepting federal funds to give greater religious liberty protections to inmates than is required by the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. Similar to the better-known Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was at issue in Hobby Lobby, RLUIPA is triggered when the government imposes a “substantial burden on the religious exercise” of a person confined to an institution. When that happens, the action can be upheld only if the government can demonstrate that the burden: “(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

The state argues that the no-beard policy furthers the compelling government interests in prison safety and security, and that the proposed half-inch accommodation would not be as effective as the no-beard rule in achieving those purposes. For instance, they provide the opinions of penal experts that prisoners could use the beards to hide contraband, and that escaped prisoners could too easily and quickly change their appearance simply by shaving. Muhammad (now represented by counsel) argues that the lower courts, which ruled against him, did not provide the strict scrutiny of the state’s arguments that is required by RLUIPA.

In Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court significantly rewrote RFRA, watering down the “substantial burden” requirement and applying the religious liberty law to for-profit corporations. Neither factor is relevant to this case, meaning the Court could rule in favor of Muhammad without rewriting the law. But the Roberts Court is known for playing the “long game.” Even if the Court rules unanimously for Muhammad, they may not all agree on the reasoning: The conservatives could write an opinion designed to be cited in future RFRA litigation strengthening the hands of those on the right who would reshape RFRA from a shield against government oppression into a sword.


VOTING RIGHTS

Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama / Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama: Racial gerrymandering

The Supreme Court is to address whether Alabama engaged in unconstitutional racial gerrymandering when it drew new state House and Senate district lines that channeled large numbers of African Americans into districts that were already majority-minority.

The GOP-controlled Alabama state legislature enacted a redistricting plan that transferred a significant portion of the black population that had previously been in majority-white districts into districts that were already majority-black. In so doing, the legislature was seeking to achieve certain percentages of black voters in the majority-black districts. At issue is whether legislators engaged in an unconstitutional effort to separate voters by race, or whether they followed traditional redistricting criteria in a way that was necessary to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

Due to population shifts, majority-black districts established after the 2000 Census lost population and had to be redrawn after the 2010 Census to bring in new people. In some cases, the population loss was disproportionately white, meaning that a significantly higher percentage of the remaining population was African American than before. In redrawing the lines while keeping the same number of majority-black districts, the legislature made two decisions that led to what some call “bleaching” – drawing lines so that large numbers of African Americans in majority-white districts would be redistricted into supermajority-black districts, and diminishing African Americans’ political influence in much of the state.

First, they chose to reduce the permissible population difference between districts from 10% (the 2000 standard) to 2%. To achieve district populations that close to each other, many more people would have to be drawn into the modified black-majority districts than would otherwise have been necessary. That huge numbers of those people would be blacks removed from majority-white districts was determined by the second decision: Ostensibly to comply with the requirement under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (this was before Shelby County) that new lines not lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise, the African American percentages in the redrawn majority-minority districts should be at least whatever they had become in 2010.

This reapportionment was upheld by a divided three-judge federal district court. The majority concluded that race was not the predominant factor in drawing the redistricting boundaries, so that they need not be analyzed under strict scrutiny as in the 1993 Shaw v. Reno case. The majority also concluded that even if strict scrutiny applied, the legislative boundaries were narrowly tailored to achieve the compelling purpose of compliance with the preclearance provisions of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which applied at the time. The plaintiffs in this case – the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and state Democrats – challenge those conclusions, arguing that legislators had misinterpreted Section 5, that race was impermissibly the overriding criterion used by legislators in drawing lines, and that the redistricting plan violated the Fourteenth Amendment.


FREE SPEECH AND SIGN REGULATIONS

Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona: Municipal sign regulations

The Supreme Court will hear a church’s Free Speech challenge to city rules regulating the size and placement of various types of signs, which affect the signs it puts up to direct people to its church services.

This case was brought by a small church (25-30 adult members) in Arizona that places signs up to invite people to its weekly services and inform them where they are being held. Good News Church and its pastor Clyde Reed are urging the Court to strike down the town of Gilbert’s sign ordinance, which treats some signs (such as directional signs for events, like a fair or, in this case, a church service) differently from others (like political, real estate, or ideological signs). The different types of signs have different rules on how large they can be, and where and when they can be posted. Good News Church argues the law is an unconstitutional content-based infringement of its First Amendment rights. The lower court had upheld it as content-neutral.

Gilbert regulations generally require a permit before posting a sign, with a number of exceptions that can be posted without a permit. These exceptions (each with specific size, number, and placement rules) include construction signs, open house signs, parking signs, building identification signs, garage sale signs, street address signs, and restaurant menu signs. The church devotes much of its focus to three of the exceptions:

  • Temporary directional signs relating to a qualifying event (like the church’s weekly church service)
    • Size: up to 6 square feet (and up to 6 feet in height)
    • Time: 12 hours before, during, and 1 hour after an event
    • Number: maximum of 4 on a single property
  • Political signs
    • Size: up to 32 square feet
    • Time: any time before election, until 10 days after
    • Number: unlimited
  • Ideological signs
    • Size: up to 20 square feet
    • Time: any time
    • Number: unlimited

The church has signs in the first category to tell people about their weekly church services in the space they rent. The maximum size is smaller than political and ideological signs, fewer can be posted, and they cannot stay up nearly as long. Represented by the far-right Alliance Defending Freedom, Good News Church argues that the city is violating its First Amendment rights by applying different rules to different types of noncommercial signs based on their content. According to the church, any classification based on what a sign says is content-based and therefore subject to the highest level of scrutiny. And if the law’s purpose is, say, to promote traffic safety or aesthetics, then what difference should it make if the sign is for a church service, political candidate, or particular ideology?

A divided panel of the Ninth Amendment disagreed, ruling against the church. It said the distinctions among different types of signs are content-neutral (and thus subject to a somewhat lower level of scrutiny) because Gilbert’s interests in regulating temporary signs are unrelated to the specific content or message of the sign. Each exemption is based on objective criteria related not to the sign’s message, but to the reason for the exemption (such as need for communication about elections, or the need to let event sponsors inform people how to get to the event).


HOLDING FRAUDULENT CORPORATIONS ACCOUNTABLE

Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi v. IndyMac MBS: Timing of lawsuits

The Court is to decide whether the clock stops on a deadline to sue for securities fraud when someone files a class action suit.

This case relates to a key 1974 precedent called American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, where the Supreme Court ruled that the filing of a class action lawsuit stops the clock (“tolls” in legal parlance) on the statute of limitations on filing federal antitrust claims for all potential members of the class, including those who are not actively involved with or even aware of the class action lawsuit. So if a court then doesn’t certify the class for some reason or dismisses its claims, but makes that decision after the statute of limitations has passed, those who would have been included in the class have not lost their opportunity to have their day in court just because they hadn’t made an individual filing in the case.

The current case relates to the financial meltdown of the 2000s and involves federal laws in the Securities Act of 1933 prohibiting sellers of securities from misleading investors. The law has two key time limits: (1) You generally have one year to file a lawsuit, and that can be a year after the untrue or misleading statement is made or discovered. (2) But there is an additional limit, one that restricts just how long after the fact you have to discover the wrongdoing: “In no event shall any such action be brought … more than three years after the security was bona fide offered to the public [or, depending on which section of the law is involved] more than three years after the sale.” The Second Circuit concluded that the American Pipe rule did not apply to this statute.

One of the great benefits of class action litigation is that it protects the rights of people who cannot afford to themselves engage in litigation and may not even realize they have been wronged. It also vastly enhances our society’s ability to hold large corporations responsible when they violate people’s rights. The rule from American Pipe has served that purpose well. But in other contexts, the Roberts Court has significantly undercut the ability of Americans to utilize class actions to protect their rights. If the Court rules that American Pipe doesn’t apply in the securities fraud context, it will be important to see if its reasoning also undercuts American Pipe as a precedent in other contexts.

Omnicare v. Laborers District Council: Holding companies accountable for false statements to investors

The Court is to address what investors need to prove to hold companies accountable for material misstatements in investment material.

When responding to a public offering of company shares, investors may rely on a company’s registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Under Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933, investors can sue if that statement “contained an untrue statement of a material fact or omitted to state a material fact [that was] necessary to make the statements therein not misleading.” This case asks what investors need to prove if the purportedly “untrue statement” was the company’s opinion that it wasn’t breaking the law.

Omnicare is the nation’s largest provider of pharmaceutical care for the elderly and other residents of long-term care facilities. In Omnicare’s registration statement, it said that “we believe” that its financial relationships with pharmaceutical manufacturers were legal. The investors here claim that some of those deals constituted unlawful kickbacks. The question is whether that allegation is enough to trigger Section 11.

According to Omnicare, for the investors to have a claim under Section 11, they have to allege that Omnicare didn’t believe the statement when it was made. Otherwise, companies could be held liable for statements of opinion that turn out later not to be true. Two circuit courts have taken that view.

But in this case, the Sixth Circuit took a different approach, one that makes it easier for investors to file a Section 11 claim. That court reasoned that Section 11 is a “strict liability” statute where the state of mind of company officials isn’t relevant, so it’s sufficient to allege that the opinion was false, regardless of whether the company knew at the time it was false. That’s the ruling the investors in this case are asking the Supreme Court to uphold.

In an amicus brief, the Obama Administration takes a middle ground, in which the company isn’t held liable only because it expressed an opinion that turned out not to be true. The Administration argues that a statement of opinion is actionable under Section 11 if: (1) the company didn’t believe it at the time (which both parties in this case agree on), or (2) there was no reasonable basis for the opinion at the time, even if it was sincerely held (which Omnicare disagrees with).

Any ruling by the Roberts Court should keep in mind that Congress enacted Section 11 to encourage maximum disclosure by companies making a public offering. After all, people associated with the company know far more about the business than potential investors could ever know, and Section 11 was intended to dissuade corporations from tricking investors.


CONCLUSION

Just as the Lochner case defined the Supreme Court a century ago as it turned conservative economic policies into constitutional dogma, America finds itself living through the Citizens United era, where the Court again routinely rules in favor of corporate and other powerful interests. By the end of June, we will know if the current term will have been as damaging to Americans’ fundamental rights as recent terms have been.

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The Right Enemies: A Look Back At Right-Wing Attacks On Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder, who today announced his plans to resign, has been a leader in addressing systems of racial discrimination and protecting the fundamental rights of every American to be treated equally under the law and participate in our democracy.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that the Right loves to hate him.

In February of this year, the American Family Association demanded Holder’s impeachment after he had the audacity to treat married same-sex couples like married opposite-sex couples with regard to a host of legal rights and recognitions. Shortly after, both Faith and Freedom Coalition head Ralph Reed and Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp echoed the call for Holder’s impeachment because of his support for marriage equality. Televangelist Pat Robertson also joined the impeachment parade, alleging that under Holder, “sodomy” was being “elevated above the rights of religious believers.”

Holder’s commitment to redressing racial injustice was no more warmly received by the Right than his work in support of LGBT equality. After Holder spoke out against voter ID laws, which disproportionately harm people of color, Texas Gov. Rick Perry accused him of “purposefully” “incit[ing] racial tension.” Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt argued that Holder’s open discussion of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system means that he is the real “racist,” asserting last year that Holder wants to “intimidate the rest of the country so that we don’t think about defending ourselves” against “attacks by black mobs on white individuals.” Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association went so far as to say that Holder would never “prosecute someone if the victim is white.” And after Holder visited Ferguson, Missouri last month, David Horowitz outrageously commented that the attorney general was leading a black “lynch mob.”

And those are just a handful of the attacks the Right has leveled against Holder for his work protecting equality under the law.

The fact that the far Right has reacted with so much vitriol to the attorney general’s leadership is a sign not only of how uninterested they are in the civil rights that the Justice Department is meant to protect, but also of how effective Holder’s work has been. The next attorney general should share Holder’s deep commitment to protecting the rights of all Americans – and, by extension, make all the “right” enemies among those hoping to turn back the clock on civil liberties.

This post originally appeared on the PFAW blog.

Scott Lively Doesn't Hate Gays, Just Wants Them To 'Enjoy The Blessings Of Being Able To Live A Heterosexual Life'

In an interview with the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios this morning, globe-trotting anti-gay activist Scott Lively insisted that he doesn’t hate LGBT people or “want them to be harmed in any way” or “put in jail.”

Instead, he said, “I want them to receive salvation in Jesus Christ, repent of their sins, and be able to enjoy the blessings of being able to live a heterosexual life and have a wife or a husband — depending on what their gender is — and the great blessings that come from doing things the God designed us to live. “

Earlier in the interview, Lively repeated his contention that a Human Rights Campaign report detailing his work pushing anti-gay laws throughout the world was “ trying to incite murder against me.”

“It’s a hit list, and a hit list file, it’s like the 10 Most Wanted list,” he told Rios.

“This is nothing less than directions to the next Floyd Lee Corkins on who to assassinate and where to find them and inflammatory rhetoric to get them all wound up in order to feel motivated to be able to do it,” he said, referring to the mentally disturbed man who attempted a shooting at the Family Research Council. “It’s a hit list for assassination.”

“Every leftist organization in America knows they have people that follow their rhetoric who are willing to commit murder,” he added.

When Rios responded that she herself had had “vile” things said about her, Lively responded, “It’s demonic, it’s literally demonic. What you’re seeing is demonic expression through human agents that have given themselves over to the Devil.”

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