Supreme Court

Ginsburg Calls Out The Roberts Court's Empowering The Powerful

The Supreme Court issued a ruling today in another of its series of arbitration cases. Yet again, the Court upheld the ability of a powerful corporation to force consumers to agree to arbitration and sign away their right to engage in class action should the company violate their legal rights. Class actions are a vital mechanism to hold large businesses accountable. We’ve been writing about this trend for the past several years in cases like AT&T v. Concepcion and American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant.

Unlike the other cases, today's ruling in DIRECTV v. Imburgia was not 5-4 in the predictable lineup. Instead, it was 6-3, with Justice Breyer writing the opinion, joined by Justices Kagan, Scalia, Alito, Kennedy, and Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Ginsburg (joined by Justice Sotomayor) dissented, while Justice Thomas had a separate dissent.

Ginsburg’s dissent opened up with clear description of how the Roberts Court has empowered corporations and weakened consumers:

It has become routine, in a large part due to this Court’s decisions, for powerful economic enterprises to write into their form contracts with consumers and employees no-class-action arbitration clauses. … Acknowledging the precedent so far set by the Court, I would take no further step to disarm consumers, leaving them without effective access to justice.

Americans have long been able to count on strong consumer protection laws to protect them for being victimized by predatory corporations. Those laws, including the right to class actions, have been essential in letting ordinary people stand as equals to giant corporations and hold those businesses accountable. Ginsburg is correct to say that the line of 5-4 arbitration cases has left us “disarmed,” because giant corporations are increasingly empowered to change the relationship between buyer and seller into one between predator and prey. We are, indeed, disarmed and without effective access to justice … despite laws designed to protect us. In closing, Ginsburg wrote that the Court is:

further degrading the rights of consumers and further insulating already powerful economic entities from liability for unlawful acts.

We deserve better from our nation’s Supreme Court.

Ginsburg Calls Out the Roberts Court's Empowering of the Powerful

Ginsburg writes that the Roberts Court has left consumers disarmed and without effective access to justice.
PFAW Foundation

Mike Huckabee: Ignoring Gay Marriage Ruling Is 'A Matter Of Saving Our Republic'

Mike Huckabee once again insisted that Supreme Court rulings are simply opinions that carry no legal authority if not for the “good will” and “assent” of the legislative and executive branches, this time making the case for defiance of the top court in an interview with Robert George on the Catholic television network EWTN this weekend.

If elected president, Huckabee said, he would “absolutely decline” to enforce the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision and order the Justice Department to “protect in every way the rights of those citizens who joined in disagreeing.”

“It’s a matter of saving our republic to say that as president, we’re not going to accept this decision, we will ignore it and we will not enforce it,” Huckabee said, adding that he would only recognize same-sex marriages in states that legalize same-sex marriage, or polygamy, for that matter, “by a vote of its people.”

When George asked if conservatives then “couldn’t criticize” President Obama for acting lawlessly “if he refused to enforce” recent Supreme Court rulings on campaign finance reform and gun control, Huckabee responded, “Well, no.” He said that if that were to happen, Congress should then exercise its power to impeach the president or defund the executive branch, seeming to open himself up to impeachment if he decided to defy the courts on same-sex marriage.

Ted Cruz: President Can Ignore 'Fundamentally Illegitimate,' Nazi-Like Gay Marriage Decision

In an interview with influential social conservative commentator Robert George on the Catholic television network EWTN last month, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that the president should defy the Supreme Court’s “fundamentally illegitimate” decision striking down bans on same-sex marriage, which he compared to “Nazi decrees.”

George, the co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage and a mentor of Cruz’s, likened the court’s “tragic mistake” in Obergefell to infamous Supreme Court decisions including Dred Scott, asking Cruz, “Was Lincoln right to defy the court on [Dred Scott] and would you, as president, do that with the Obergefell decision?”

“Lincoln was absolutely right, I agree with President Lincoln,” Cruz responded. “And courts do not make law. That is not what a court does. A court interprets the law, a court applies the law, but courts don’t make law.”

Saying that it is “profoundly wrong” to refer to the gay marriage decision as the law of the land, Cruz said, “I think the decision was fundamentally illegitimate, it was lawless, it was not based on the Constitution.”

Cruz then brought up remarks that Justice Anthony Kennedy made recently at Harvard Law School, in which he discussed when it is the duty of public officials to resign rather than carry out laws that they think are unjust, such as in the case of opponents of marriage equality. Kennedy used the extreme example of judges who resigned under Nazi rule, saying that whether they can morally carry out their official duties is “a fair question that officials can and should ask themselves” and that “great respect … ought to be given to people who resign rather than do something they think is morally wrong in order to make a point.”

This, Cruz declared, amounted to Kennedy comparing “the Supreme Court of the United States to the Nazis.”

“This isn’t me calling them the Nazis,” he said, “this is Justice Kennedy calling the court on which he serves, calling the opinion that he wrote, analogizing that to the Nazi decrees that we must obey.”

George interjected: “Just to be clear, surely Justice Kennedy was not embracing Nazism.”

Cruz hesitated and smiled. “He drew the analogy,” he said, “and the obvious implication was just as you were forced to obey the Nazis, you’re forced to obey us as well … even if we are tyrannical and oppressive. Now, look, certainly he wasn’t embracing all of the horrible things the Nazis did but to make that analogy, that is essentially saying, we wear the jackboot and you must obey us.”

Michigan Republicans Urge State To Ignore 'Illegitimate' Marriage Equality Ruling

A Michigan lawmaker is introducing a resolution urging state officials to ignore the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, calling the decision “illegitimate” and urging officials to “re-claim this state’s sovereignty by not recognizing or enforcing.”

MLive.com reports:

State Rep. Tom Hooker, R-Byron Center, read his pending resolution out loud Wednesday during a "rally to protect religious people and stop persecution of religious people" outside the Michigan Capitol.

"The Supreme Court is not a Legislature," Hooker said. "Courts do not substitute their social and economic beliefs for the judgement of legislative bodies or elected and passed laws."
The rally, organized by a Christian non-profit called Salt & Light Global, drew a couple hundred people to Lansing.

Other speakers included Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, who is expected to introduce a similar resolution in the upper chamber, and Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, who told the crowd that he will co-sponsor Hooker's version in the House.

Hooker’s resolution reads, in part:

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of the Michigan Legislature that the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is illegitimate because the five justice majority, in reaching its decision, acted without constitutional authority and unconstitutionally usurped power expressly reserved by the United States Constitution to the states and the people; and be it further

Resolved, That under these circumstances, it is the duty of the politically accountable branches of the federal and state governments to preserve and protect constitutional governance under the rule of law; and be it further

Resolved, That we urge the Governor and all executive officers in the state of Michigan to uphold their oaths of office and re-claim this state’s sovereignty by not recognizing or enforcing the United States Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision as a rule of law …

Speaking at the “religious liberty” rally outside the state capitol, Colbeck, who plans to sponsor a Senate version of the bill, compared the position of Christians in America to that of people persecuted by ISIS.

Mike Huckabee: 'There Will Be No Abortion' When I'm President

At Friday’s “Presidential Family Forum” hosted by the Iowa conservative group The Family Leader, Mike Huckabee doubled down on his pledge to “ignore the court” and “defy the court” as president by recriminalizing abortion and gay marriage through executive fiats.

“I’m convinced the next president should ignore the unconstitutional and illegal rulings of the courts, including that of same-sex marriage, because it is not the law of the land,” Huckabee said.

He also reiterated his plan to outlaw abortion with a sweeping presidential decree: “We [should] simply say, there will be no abortion because that unborn child is a person.”

Only then, Huckabee argued, would God be able to bless America.

Supreme Court Takes Up Most Significant Reproductive Rights Cases in Decades

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

The Supreme Court announced today that it will decide on the constitutionality ofsevere restrictions adopted in Texas that threaten to make it virtually impossible for many women there to obtain safe and legal abortions.

Coupled with the Court's recent decision to hear cases on whether certain employers can effectively deny their female employees the contraceptive coverage they are entitled to receive under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the 2015-16 Supreme Court term could well become the most significant for women's reproductive rights since the Court upheld the right to choose in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 -- and almost as significant as when the Court overturned a law banning contraception 50 years ago in Griswold v. Connecticut.

The Texas case, Whole Woman's Health v. Cole, concerns a law imposing restrictions on clinics so severe that they would reduce the number of clinics that perform abortions in the state from more than 40 a few years ago to just 10, including none at all in the 500 miles between San Antonio and the New Mexico border. The state has claimed that the limits, requiring extensive hospital-like equipment and doctors with hospital admitting privileges even for clinics that offer abortions only through oral medication, are important to protect women's health.

These claims are belied not only by the medical evidence, but also by Texas politicians'; statements, such as Governor Rick Perry's vow to "pass laws to ensure" that abortions are "as rare as possible."

That law clearly violates the 5-4 ruling of the Court in Casey, which upheld the basic right to choose of Roe v. Wade, and held that such laws must truly be important to protect women's health and not impose an "undue burden" on that right. Will the Court uphold and correctly apply Casey and continue to protect reproductive rights? Given the stark divisions on the Court, the answer may well come down to the vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the last member of the five-person Casey majority who is still on the Court today.

The Court has also agreed to hear what many are already calling "Hobby Lobby II." Last year, the Court ruled 5-4 that owners of for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby could use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to raise religious objections and exempt themselves from providing contraceptive coverage to female employees as required by the ACA. To do so, the Court suggested that the companies could use the opt-out mechanism available to religiously-affiliated colleges and other nonprofits and inform the government of their religious objections, so the government could arrange for insurers to provide the coverage without cost to the employer.

Now, however, many of these nonprofits are claiming that the opt-out mechanism itself violates RFRA. In other words, they want to not just refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees, they also want to make sure the government cannot make other arrangements, so that the women will be deprived of contraceptive coverage guaranteed by the ACA.

Seven out of eight lower federal appeals courts have rejected these claims, ruling that simply telling the government of their objections and the identity of their insurer is not a "substantial burden" on nonprofits' religious free exercise under RFRA and that the government has a compelling interest in providing contraceptive coverage.

Justice Kennedy, who provided the fifth vote in Hobby Lobby, suggested in a concurring opinion that the opt-out was an appropriate accommodation. But if the Court upholds the nonprofits' objections in Zubik v. Burwell, the result will be devastating to the ability of women to get contraceptive coverage, especially since for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby will likely make the same claim that religion allows them also to completely deprive their female employees of contraceptive coverage. Although not as coercive as the Connecticut ban on contraceptives overruled in Griswold, the result could well be even more devastating to reproductive freedom across the country, allowing employers to transform RFRA from a shield to protect religion into a sword to harm reproductive rights.

Both the clinic and the contraceptive cases are highly likely to produce divided 5-4 decisions that will be enormously important to women' reproductive rights. With four of the justices in their 80s during the term of the president elected next year, these cases once again demonstrate the crucial stakes in the 2016 election for reproductive rights, as well as for so many other rights central to our liberty and freedom.

PFAW

Supreme Court Takes Up Major Test Of Anti-Choice Movement's Strategy

The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear Whole Women’s Health v. Cole next term. The case, which deals with abortion restrictions that Texas passed in 2013, represents a major test of the anti-choice movement’s long-term strategy of cutting off abortion access through incremental legislation rather than directly challenging the right to abortion. This comes after the court’s announcement last week that it will hear another challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate, testing how far the Religious Right can stretch the meaning of religious liberty in attempting to cut off access to reproductive rights.

In the Huffington Post today, People For the American Way’s Elliot Mincberg explains what’s at stake in the Texas case:

The Texas case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, concerns a law imposing restrictions on clinics so severe that they would reduce the number of clinics that perform abortions in the state from more than 40 a few years ago to just 10, including none at all in the 500 miles between San Antonio and the New Mexico border. The state has claimed that the limits, requiring extensive hospital-like equipment and doctors with hospital admitting privileges even for clinics that offer abortions only through oral medication, are important to protect women’s health. These claims are belied not only by the medical evidence, but also by Texas politicians’ statements, such as Governor Rick Perry’s vow to “pass laws to ensure” that abortions are “as rare as possible.”

That law clearly violates the 5-4 ruling of the Court in Casey, which upheld the basic right to choose of Roe v. Wade, and held that such laws must truly be important to protect women’s health and not impose an “undue burden” on that right. Will the Court uphold and correctly apply Casey and continue to protect reproductive rights? Given the stark divisions on the Court, the answer may well come down to the vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the last member of the five-person Casey majority who is still on the Court today.

This case represents the culmination of a decades-long strategy by the anti-choice movement — most notably the legal group Americans United for Life, which helped draft the Texas bill — to restrict abortion access to the point where the right to abortion exists in theory but not in practice. If the Supreme Court agrees to further weaken the protections of Roe v. Wade, it could open the door for many more onerous restrictions on abortion providers and women seeking abortions.

David Vitter: Gays Have 'Shoved' Same-Sex Marriage 'Down The Throats' Of Christians

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., addressed the Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge yesterday in an attempt to burnish his conservative credentials as he campaigns for governor.

Vitter, who is perhaps best known for his involvement in a prostitution scandal, announced at the beginning of his speech that he had received the endorsements of a number of Religious Right activists and organizations, including Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana state lawmaker.

In his speech, Vitter criticized the notion of the separation of church and state and denounced the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality decision, claiming that gay rights advocates want their views “shoved down the throats of folks who have sincerely held religious views that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

After declaring his support for a bill that grants legal protections to those who oppose same-sex marriage, Vitter said that the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling “will clearly unleash all sorts of assaults against conservative Christian beliefs who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. And make no mistake about it, those assaults are coming on churches, pastors and believers who are trying to live their faith in a quiet but important way, including in terms of how they choose to live their lives and run their businesses.”

“They want to make believers like us second class citizens,” he said. “They want to completely push us out of the public square and in some cases persecute folks who simply want to live their faith in terms of how they do business and other things.”

SCOTUS Will Hear Latest Contraception Coverage Refusal Cases

The premise of these challenges to the ACA's contraception coverage accommodation is a severe distortion of religious liberty.
PFAW Foundation

SCOTUS Will Hear Latest Contraception Coverage Refusal Cases

The Supreme Court today announced that it will hear several cases involving the accommodation for religious nonprofits seeking to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage requirement.  This is not a surprise; as People For the American Way Foundation wrote in its Supreme Court 2015-2016 Term Preview:

Under the accommodation, the employers simply tell the insurer or the federal government of their objection, at which point the insurer must offer the coverage separately to employees who want it. This way, the employees can get the coverage without their employers having to contract, arrange, or pay for it.  But some religious nonprofits assert that even the accommodation violates their religious liberty under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  Under RFRA, no federal law imposing a substantial burden on religious exercise can be sustained unless it is the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government purpose.

The list of circuit courts that have roundly rejected this argument is long:  The DC Circuit, the Second Circuit, Third Circuit, the Fifth Circuit, the Sixth Circuit, the Seventh Circuit, and the Tenth Circuit.  But in September 2015, the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of the nonprofits and found the accommodation violated RFRA.  Now that there is a circuit split, it seems likely that the Supreme Court will take up the issue via the appeals from one or more of these circuit decisions.

The premise of those challenging the accommodation is a severe distortion of RFRA and of the very concept of religious liberty set forth by the Court’s hard-right conservatives in the 5-4 ruling in Hobby Lobby.  That law was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 1993 as a means to protect the free exercise of religion.  But conservative ideologues have sought to transform RFRA from a shield into a sword, one that they can use to violate the rights of third parties.  The right wing’s enthusiastic embrace of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis shows just how far they want to extend the reasoning of Hobby Lobby.

Here, the conservatives argue that filling out a form so that insurance companies can know about their legal obligations to provide certain coverage is a substantial burden on the exercise of their religion.  That strained reasoning is a cynical use of religion to deprive women of needed healthcare, an effort to force women employees to live by their employers’ religious strictures rather than their own.  But what the Supreme Court said about the First Amendment in a 1985 case called Estate of Thornton v. Caldor is equally true of RFRA:

The First Amendment . . . gives no one the right to insist that in pursuit of their own interests others must conform their conduct to his own religious necessities. [quoting from a lower court opinion by Judge Learned Hand]

Justice Kennedy, who voted with the Hobby Lobby majority, is likely to be the deciding vote in this case.  His concurrence in Hobby Lobby hinted that he might not go as far as his fellow conservatives in granting people the latitude to use RFRA to deprive others of their rights:

Among the reasons the United States is so open, so tolerant, and so free is that no person may be restricted or demeaned by government in exercising his or her religion.  Yet neither may that same exercise unduly restrict other persons, such as employees, in protecting their own interests, interests the law deems compelling.  In these cases [involving for-profit employers] the means to reconcile those two priorities are at hand in the existing accommodation the Government has designed, identified, and used for circumstances closely parallel to those presented here [the accommodation for religious non-profits].

Given the circuit split on the accommodation for religious nonprofits, the Supreme Court had little choice but to take this issue on.  They do have a choice, however, in how they rule.  Hopefully, a majority of justices will take the first step in restoring RFRA to the law it was intended to be.

35 Years After Reagan's Election, His Justices Still Have a Huge Impact

The next president may pick 3-4 justices who could transform the Court for a generation.
PFAW

Pat Robertson: Gay Marriage Will Legalize Pedophilia

Only Pat Robertson could manage to transform a question about why bad things happen to children into a rant about gay marriage, and the right-wing televangelist managed to do just that today on “The 700 Club.”

When a viewer wrote in to ask why God would allow tragedies like child abuse to occur, Robertson responded by whipping up fears that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision will pave the way for the legalization of pedophilia.

“The time is going to come in America, the Supreme Court said homosexuality is a constitutional right, now they’ve said homosexual marriage is a right, then they’re going to say polygamy is a constitutional right, then they’re going to say polyamory is a constitutional right, then they’re going to say pedophile [sic] is a constitutional right,” he said. “You mark my word. They’re talking about transgender and sex change and all of this stuff. We have lost our mind, collectively, and it’s going to get worse and worse and worse and worse. Trust me.”

He went on to say that “sex with little babies” is widely encouraged in Islam: “There is no such thing as pedophilia in that religion.”

How Conservative Justices Are Allowing Corporations To Bypass The Courts

If you ever think that courts don’t matter, ask yourself this: Why are major corporations and arch-conservative judges going to such lengths to prevent you from having your day in court when someone has violated your legal rights?

The New York Times has an in-depth three-part series of reports on arbitration, the system by which ordinary people are increasingly being coerced into surrendering their right to the protections provided by the American judicial system.

Agreements to resolve disputes by arbitration are increasingly becoming a standard part of the all-or-nothing contracts that enormous corporations force individuals to sign as a condition of doing business with them. With private arbitration, you surrender your right to a courtroom with a neutral judge and a wide variety of substantive and procedural protections for all parties.

Instead, the company picks a private arbitrator whose living depends on getting cases from corporate interests. The protections of the court system are cast aside. And you can’t have class action lawsuits, which are often the only way to hold wrongdoers accountable when they harm large numbers of individuals relatively small amounts, so it is often not worthwhile for a wronged party to pursue arbitration.

Contracts have existed for centuries. In theory, they are negotiated by two people or businesses in a process of give-and-take, where both parties fully understand what they are agreeing to. But as anyone who has cable TV or a cell phone can tell you, most contracts we sign are handed to us “as is,” take it or leave it.

If you don’t agree to the terms imposed by some enormous corporation with millions of customers, the cost to you (life without a phone) is a lot more than the cost to the company (the loss of one of millions of customers). With vastly unequal bargaining power, the consumer has little choice but to agree. And, in fact, most people sign consumer contracts or click the “I agree” box online with little to no knowledge or understanding of the agreement.

As the Times reports:

By inserting individual arbitration clauses into a soaring number of consumer and employment contracts, companies like American Express devised a way to circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices.

Over the last few years, it has become increasingly difficult to apply for a credit card, use a cellphone, get cable or Internet service, or shop online without agreeing to private arbitration. The same applies to getting a job, renting a car or placing a relative in a nursing home.

By banning class actions, companies have essentially disabled consumer challenges to practices like predatory lending, wage theft and discrimination, court records show.

“This is among the most profound shifts in our legal history,” William G. Young, a federal judge in Boston who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, said in an interview. “Ominously, business has a good chance of opting out of the legal system altogether and misbehaving without reproach.”

How did we reach a point where individuals can be routinely victimized by large corporations and denied access to the courts to vindicate their legal rights?

To a great extent, the blame can be laid at the feet of five people: The conservative majority of the Supreme Court. Their devastating 5-4 rulings like those eviscerating the Voting Rights Act or allowing billionaires and special interests to spend unlimited money in politics are well known. Less well known are 5-4 decisions in arbitration cases. Particularly notorious are AT&T v. Concepcion, where the conservatives ruled that giant corporations can use arbitration agreements to undermine state consumer protection laws across the country, and American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant, where the conservatives empowered monopolists to use arbitration agreements to bypass federal antitrust laws.

As if this weren’t bad enough, arbitration is hardly the only weapon corporate interests are using to block their victims from vindicating their rights in court.

In fact, just today, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in Spokeo v. Robins, where corporate interests claim that their victims can’t sue in federal court if their “only” injury is that a right created by Congress was violated.

Last month, the Court heard oral arguments in Campbell-Ewald Company v. Gomez, where a large company argued for the power to terminate a class action suit against it early on by quickly offering a settlement to the lead plaintiff representing the class.

Fair and just courts are vitally important in providing equal justice under the law to those who would otherwise be powerless against the enormous entities who have so much more power and resources. So it is no surprise that those powerful interests are so dedicated to blocking ordinary people from having their day in court.

Reposted from People For the American Way Foundation.

Eliminating Courts, Eliminating Justice

Courts matter. That's why powerful interests are so dedicated to blocking ordinary people from having their day in court.
PFAW Foundation

At World Congress of Families, Anti-Choice Activists Celebrate Victories & Map Strategy To Overturn Roe v Wade

The first day of the World Congress of Families summit in Salt Lake City was focused on restricting access to abortion — the program described the day’s theme as “the value of life in all its stages and conditions.” 

During one anti-abortion panel, Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life — which Miranda once described as a sort of ALEC of the anti-choice movement —  celebrated the movement’s recent successes and mapped out a cultural and legal strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade, a strategy grounded in portraying abortion as harmful to women and the pro-life movement as pro-women.

Yoest told the audience to be encouraged, citing a graph from the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute showing that “more abortion restrictions have been enacted since the tidal wave election of 2010 than were enacted in the entire previous decade.” Said Yoest, “I’m really proud of this progress, because it comes from a deliberate strategy that we have enacted as a movement to concentrate on state legislatures.”

Yoest said after the 1983 failure to pass a constitutional amendment in Congress, activists convened their own congress and strategized.

“We came up with a strategy and emerged with a plan: focus on the statehouses and test the limits of Roe v. Wade. The story of the next several decades is one of trench warfare and gaining ground under the radar.”

This summer, she said, the Planned Parenthood videos have provided an “earthquake” which gives anti-abortion movement an opportunity to move forward strategically. [See PFAW’s report on the anti-Planned Parenthood attacks.] The legal strategy is aimed at Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s writing that overturning Roe would come with a “certain cost” to women who rely on it. “As pro-lifers, we need to understand that that’s the way he thinks, and his fellow justices on the court,” said Yoest. “But they are ignoring that there is a certain cost to the culture of death.”

Yoest said abortion brings women grief and dramatically increases a woman’s suicide risk. “What an Alice in Wonderland world that we live in where the defenders of so-called women’s health are the promoters of abortion. Let’s call them abortion harm deniers.”

Yoest cited Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing in dissent in Gonzales v. Carhart that “women cannot enjoy equal citizenship status” without access to abortion. And she quoted a feminist author telling women who have had abortion that she hopes they will begin to know their own power.

Ladies and gentlemen, our strategy for the next decade must engage this debate. Abortion for women is not power; it is poverty….

This is our way forward. We must engage a mother-child strategy. The mother-child strategy is rooted in a very careful study of the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence. The court has told us pretty clearly what they think about abortion. Going back again to Planned Parenthood v. Casey, they told us that the state has two areas of legitimate interest: one is protecting the health of the woman and two is protecting the life of the fetus that, according to them, may become a child. Anything that we bring before two courts – the court of public opinion and the Supreme Court — must engage both of these elements, both the mother and the child.

We must keep coming back to what we know to be the truth: pro-life is pro-woman.

Yoest paraphrased a saying by G. K. Chesterton —  seemingly the most quoted conservative at the conference — saying that fairy tales are “more than true,” not because they tell us dragons are true, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten. “The culture of death,” she concluded,” is a dragon that must be beaten.” 

Pat Robertson: Gay Marriage Is Still Illegal!

Televangelist Pat Robertson reacted to the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality with warnings about bestialityimprisonmenttyrannyfinancial collapse and God’s wrath.

And today, he advised a “The 700 Club” viewer to respond to gay marriage supporters by making the case that the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling is only an opinion that can only impact the “couple of people” directly involved in the case. The ruling would only have a wider impact if Congress or state legislatures pass gay marriage bills, Robertson claimed, making the same specious argument made by other Religious Right leaders such as Mike Huckabee.

“In the legal system, party A sues party B over marriage, ‘I want to get married to them,’ and the court says, ‘Okay, you can get married,’” he explained. “That doesn’t mean that I’ve got to get married to homosexuals, it doesn’t mean that you have to nor does it mean that it’s the law of the land. Congress didn’t pass any law. Your state legislature didn’t pass a law. So you’re not under anything, it’s a decision of the court having to do with a couple of people. Now they would like to make it bigger than that but, in terms of the Constitution, it isn’t.”

While Robertson is correct that no one will be forced to “get married to homosexuals,” the Obergefell ruling has struck down bans on same-sex marriage nationwide.

Supreme Court Goes Back to Work and Shows Again Why Election Day Is Judgment Day

This piece originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

The Supreme Court began its 2015-6 Term earlier in October. Even though it issued no decisions, the critical issues it considered and the stark divisions on the Court illustrate why Election Day 2016 will be Judgment Day for the Supreme Court and our rights and liberties, when America determines the president who will select Supreme Court nominees beginning in 2017.

Three cases in which the Court heard oral argument in October are good examples. As Supreme Court analyst Tony Mauro put it, the importance of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission v. Electric Power Supply Association is "hard to overestimate," since it could involve literally billions of dollars in electricity costs and determine whether the nation's power grid collapses in the case of a future blackout.

The question before the Court is the validity of a FERC rule that would have the economic effect of persuading large electricity users to cut back their demands at peak power usage times. Not surprisingly, conservative justices like Scalia and Roberts seemed to be clearly siding with big power companies, based on a narrow view of federal government authority, while moderates like Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor appeared to agree with the case for federal authority and the FERC rule.

With Justice Alito recusing himself from the case, the question is whether Justice Kennedy will side with the moderates and uphold the rule or vote with extreme conservatives and vote to affirm a lower court decision striking down the rule. A 4-4 tie would result in the lower court ruling being upheld without a controlling opinion. But if a similar issue arises in a year or so, and if Kennedy, Scalia, or Ginsburg have retired from the Court and are replaced by a nominee selected by the next president, the answer will likely depend on who nominates the new justice.

The Court was similarly divided during oral arguments in October in Montgomery v. Louisiana. That case concerns whether the Court's ruling in 2012, that it is unconstitutional to impose life sentences without possibility of parole on people convicted of murder when they were juveniles, applies to people like 70-year old Henry Montgomery, who was convicted for such a crime long before the Court's ruling and has already spent more than 50 years in prison.

Far right justices Scalia and Alito sounded clearly negative on Montgomery's claim, suggesting that the Court did not even have jurisdiction to hear it, while justices like Kagan and Breyer were far more receptive. As occurred in the 2012 ruling, this case is likely to produce a 5-4 decision with the outcome depending on Justice Kennedy. The fate of a thousand or more people convicted for life while juveniles like Henry Montgomery will hang in the balance.

On its last day of oral arguments in October, the Court heard Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez, one of several cases this Term that concern efforts by business to prevent consumers and others from using class actions to redress corporate wrongdoing. Conservatives on the Court have generally sided with business in such cases and have already severely limited the use of class actions, and Gomez may well be another example.

The issue in the case is whether a business can prevent a consumer like Jose Gomez from bringing a class action to get large amounts of damages and other relief for many injured consumers by offering to give him personally all the damages he can recover as an individual -- in this case, around $1,500 for violating a federal law on unsolicited telemarketing. This would be a good deal for the company, since as many as 100,000 consumers could be included in a class action because of similar violations.

As in previous class action cases, questions from moderates like Justices Kagan and Ginsburg suggested they are likely to agree with the consumer, while those from conservatives like Scalia and Roberts were in the corporation's favor, and Justice Kennedy is likely to be the deciding vote. Regardless of how this case is decided, other cases to be considered by the Court this Term -- as well as in future years -- are likely to have a significant impact on the ability of consumers and others to band together via class actions to obtain meaningful relief for wrongs committed by corporations.

It is always difficult to predict Court decisions and votes based on comments and questions at oral argument, and the Court may not even reach the merits of all the issues presented in these cases. But the importance of the issues at stake -- billions of dollars in electricity costs, the stability of the nation's power grid, the fate of more than a thousand people sentenced to life in prison for crimes committed as juveniles, and the ability of consumers to effectively seek justice for corporate wrongdoing -- demonstrates the importance of the Supreme Court to the rights and interests of all of us. And the close divisions on the Court on these and other issues, coupled with the fact that four will be over 80 in the next president's first term, show the importance of the 2016 election on the future of the Court -- and why November 8, 2016 truly will be Judgment Day.

If you need more convincing, stay tuned as the Court continues its 2015-16 Term -- the last term before the 2016 election.

PFAW Foundation

Little Red Riding Hood And The Big Bad Gay Wolf

Leave it to the folks at the far-right Christian Action League, the American Family Association’s North Carolina affiliate, to come up with an anti-gay twist to the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

In a column for BarbWire today, the group’s executive director, Mark Creech, rewrites the childhood fairy tale into a rather confusing attack on gay rights and the Supreme Court.

Once upon a time there was a dear little girl who loved her grandmother supremely. The grandmother had given to her a little cap of red velvet, which suited her so well she would never wear anything else. Thus, everyone called her Little Red Riding Hood.



For a little while longer the wolf spoke with Little Red Riding Hood, mostly telling her about the way wolves are wrongly perceived by people. “Wolves are nothing to be feared, they just want to be treated like everybody else,” he told her.

While on her way, Little Red Riding Hood pondered, “Yes, I think I can understand how the wolf must feel. Perhaps he is a victim, as he says, and his way is not decadent.”



“Oh grandmother,” she said, “What big ears, eyes, hands, and mouth you have.”

“Certainly you can appreciate diversity,” replied the wolf. And just when he thought the time was right, he sprang from the bed to eat Little Red Riding Hood.

A woodcutter nearby heard her screams and rushed to save her.

He overcame the wolf with his trusty axe. The townspeople hurried to the scene, cheered and supported the woodcutter, except for five foolish judges.

The five foolish judges declared the woodcutter prejudiced, bigoted, and intolerant. They said he had no right to defend either the grandmother or Little Red Riding Hood. They said the axe must be cast away.

Standing with the five foolish judges were also some clever foxes, relatives of the wolf, who argued the wolf’s proclivity for carnage was completely normal. In fact, to suppress the wolf’s appetites, something which was inherent to his nature, would be wrong, they said. Besides, it was claimed that grandmothers are like old traditions that need to give way to the new anyhow.

And so, on the basis of these considerations, not only did the mindset of many of the townspeople start to change, but the wolf was lauded and praised. Many townspeople would fly the wolf flag from atop their village cottages and buildings. An advocacy group called WUVS, standing for “Wolves, Underfed, Voracious, and Famished,” fought to give wolves special protections in law. And no one dared challenge the true nature of the wolf for fear his house, his livelihood, and even his freedom might be taken away.

So the years passed, grandmother was dead and Little Red Riding Hood would live her life in confusion, always in danger of many wolves and never to enjoy the basket of goodies with her grandmother, whom she had known and loved for so long.

I would not do all the work for the reader here, but if it helps, in this fable of Little Red Riding Hood, the Grandmother is traditional marriage. The wolf is homosexual activism. Little Red Riding Hood is an unsuspecting public, and, in another way, children and their future. The basket of assorted goodies signifies the many blessings and joys of real marriage. The woodcutter is true religion’s opposition to so-called gay rights. His axe is state constitutional amendments to define marriage as one man and one woman. The five foolish judges are the U.S. Supreme Court justices who ruled to redefine marriage for the nation. The clever foxes are professionals who argue homosexuality is inherent, fixed, unalterable, and normal. The townspeople represent ever-changing public opinion.
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