To PFAW Activists: You did it! You helped DEFEAT the discriminatory Russell Amendment in the defense authorization bill, which passed in the Senate yesterday after having already passed in the House -- with the Russell Amendment STRIPPED from the bill.
THANK YOU for standing up to discrimination and contacting your members of Congress!
The Russell Amendment would have allowed federal contractors and grantees to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people and others in their employment practices. Even though it was part of a defense spending bill, it would have applied across the entire federal government. Among other things, it would have gutted President Obama’s executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people by federal contractors.
Thousands of PFAW members and activists contacted their members of Congress to make sure this lame duck session was not used to ram through this discriminatory proposal.
But make no mistake, this amendment was part of a broader effort by the Far Right that’s not going away -- at least not anytime soon. Right-wing Republicans have been hard at work in the states and on Capitol Hill trying to redefine religious liberty as a right to discriminate, hijacking a core constitutional principle that has been a shield to protect religious exercise and turning it into a weapon that can be used to deprive people of their legal rights.
With hard-right GOP majorities in both chambers of Congress and Trump in the White House, we can expect the Russell Amendment and similar measures to come up again in the New Year. We need to be ready.
But, for now, we can celebrate this win as we prepare for the many coming fights to defend true religious freedom and equality for all -- the American Way.
THANK YOU again for being such an integral part of this important victory.
Mat Staver, who represented Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in an ethics trial that recently ended in his suspension from the court, said yesterday that the verdict in the case shows that “we’re seeing the breakdown of the rule of law” in America that will eventually lead to the “dissolution of the entire republic.”
Moore had attempted to stop federal marriage equality rulings from taking effect in his state, later making the flimsy excuse that he was merely providing judges in the state with a “status update” on the law, a claim that the state’s Court of the Judiciary pointed out had been contradicted by Staver’s own words.
Staver was the guest on VCY America’s “Crosstalk” program when a listener called in to ask, “If Judge Roy Moore can be suspended because of a frivolous complaint against him that has no merit, why doesn’t Liberty Counsel file frivolous complaints against all the judges on the Supreme Court and have the Supreme Court wiped out, and the legislature will obviously have to do something about it.”
Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, responded that that strategy would never work “because the deck is stacked” against groups like his and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed an ethics complaint against Moore, would “throw the rules out” to go after him.
“So what happens here is when the rule of law is thrown out and when people don’t abide by the rule of law and they make it up as they go, then the outcome is predetermined,” he said. “That is the problem that ultimately breaks down the entire freedom and democracy that we have, in terms of our representative form of government, I should say. It breaks down the whole system.”
“In fact,” he continued, “Thomas Jefferson said this: ‘The seeds of dissolution lies in the judiciary.’ What does he mean by that? He means that if the judges, if the courts, don’t restrain themselves and we the people don’t restrain them within their confined duties, then that’s where the seeds of dissolution of the entire republic are. And it will grow and grow and grow and grow, and eventually it will dissolve the entire republic of the United States of America. And that’s what we’re seeing, we’re seeing the breakdown of the rule of law, and when they make it up as they go, it doesn’t really matter. So that’s the problem that we have in this case.”
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, famous for having lost his seat on the court in 2003 when he defied a federal order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building, has been sanctioned yet again by the state’s Court of the Judiciary, which ordered today that Moore be suspended without pay for the remainder of his term in office, this time for defying federal court decisions on marriage equality.
The Court of the Judiciary’s ruling is a brutal smackdown of the attempts by Moore and his attorney, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, to justify the chief justice’s efforts to stop marriage equality from taking effect in his state.
The court’s judges make clear in the ruling that their decision on Moore’s case has nothing to do with their opinions about the Obergefell ruling, which they note “some members of this court did not personally agree with or think was well reasoned.”
However, they reject Moore’s recent attempt to claim that his January order requiring state probate judges to defy Obergefell and refrain from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was nothing more than a “status update” on the law. In fact, they note that a press release from Staver himself the day the order was issued completely contradicts that claim:
Chief Justice Moore’s arguments that his actions and words mean something other than what they clearly express is not a new strategy. In 2003, this court’s order removing Chief Justice Moore quoted the following testimony from him before the [Judicial Inquiry Commission]:
“I did what I did because I upheld my oath. And that’s what I did, so I have no apologies for it. I would do it again. I didn’t say I would defy the court order. I said I wouldn’t move the monument. And I didn’t move the monument, which you can take as you will.”
Just as Chief Justice Moore’s decision that he “wouldn’t move the monument” was, in fact, defiance of the federal court order binding him, a disinterested reasonable observer, fully informed of all the relevant facts, would conclude that the undeniable consequence of the January 6, 2016, order was to order and direct the probate judges to deny marriage licenses in direct defiance of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell and the Strawser injunction.
Indeed, to see that the January 6, 2016, order can be reasonably read as requiring defiance of the United States Supreme Court and the district court in Strawser, we need to look no further than a press release issued by Mat Staver—Chief Justice Moore’s own counsel in these proceedings and one of the counsel of record in API—that was issued the same day as the January 6, 2016, order. In that press release, which solely addressed the January 6, 2016 order, Staver asserted:
“In Alabama…state judiciaries…are standing up against the federal judiciary or any one [sic] else who wants to come up with some cockeyed view that somehow the Constitution now births some newfound notion of same-sex marriage.”
Chief Justice Moore’s contention that the only purpose and plausible reading of the January 6, 2016, order is that of a “status update” is entirely unconvincing.
In fact, in a public press release this morning after the ruling came down, Staver claimed again that Moore’s order was “merely a status report"and, ironically, accused the court of throwing “the rule of law out the window.” However, in an email to Liberty Counsel supporters, he declared, “Liberty Counsel upholds 'just' laws—and the moral law of God. In Alabama and across America, in state judiciaries and legislatures, Liberty Counsel's legal team is standing against the federal judiciary, resisting tyrannical rule, and upholding the moral law of God.”
UPDATE: Moore released a statement saying “This was a politically motivated effort by radical homosexual and transgender groups to remove me as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court because of outspoken opposition to their immoral agenda.”
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is currently facing trial before the state’s Court of the Judiciary after a judicial ethics panel called for his removal from the bench due to his efforts to defy the federal courts on marriage equality.
Moore is being represented by Liberty Counsel attorney Mat Staver, who also represented Kentucky clerk Kim Davis in her efforts to defy the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision.
In an interview with an Alabama Christian radio station yesterday, Staver insisted that the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission is seeking the “death penalty” for Moore in the sense that removing him from the bench would “kill his career.”
Bob Crittenden, the host of “Meeting House” on the Alabama-based Faith Radio, asked Staver if the court could choose to take a less severe action against Moore than removing him from his post, which Staver said would be like a prosecutor asking for a first-degree murder charge and then changing her request when that doesn’t work out.
What the commission is asking for, he said, “is total removal, not anything less, not suspension, not punishment, not reprimand—total removal. They’re asking for the highest penalty. They’re asking, if you will, for the death penalty, in that sense, to kill his career, end his career. And I don’t think they can punt and go back to some lesser issue.”
He added that the process of being charged and suspended from his job has been punishment enough for Moore.
If past experience is any indication, being removed from the bench would far from “kill” Moore’s career. Back in 2003, he was removed from the state supreme court for flouting an order to remove a 10 Commandments statue from the state judicial building, which he followed up with an activist career, a number of political campaigns, and ultimately his reelection to the court.
According to news reports, Donald Trump is set to release today more names of individuals whom he would consider nominating to the Supreme Court if elected, a key part of his strategy to win over the Religious Right and the conservative establishment.
The new list includes Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who, as Peter noted earlier this year, is not only a staunch social conservative but also believes that large parts of the federal social safety net are unconstitutional:
Lee dismisses Supreme Court rulings upholding a women’s right to abortion . He called the court’s marriage equality ruling a “breathtaking presumption of power.” People For the American Way noted in a 2010 report that Lee “has denounced as ‘domestic enemies’ those who disagree with his radically limited view” of the Constitution.
Here are a few things that Sen. Mike Lee believes are unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:
Lee also has some ideas about how he’d like to change the Constitution. We wrote when Lee was running for Senate in the Tea Party wave of 2010:
He wants to eliminate capital gains taxes and make the current tax system more regressive – more reliant on lower income taxpayers – and says his favorite approach to taxation would actually be to repeal the 16th amendment altogether, strip the federal government of the power to tax income, and leave it to the states to determine how they would tax their own citizens to pay for the limited federal government that would be left.
He’s a constitutional lawyer who’d like to make lots of changes to the Constitution: he has said he supports repeal of the 17th Amendment, which calls for popular election of U S Senators; he wants to "clarify" the 14th Amendment through legislation to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. to parents who are not citizens or legal residents; he wants to amend the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget and to impose congressional term limits.
Other names on Trump’s expanded list are also sure to please those who are hoping to radically reshape American law.
The Trump campaign’s statement boasts that one potential pick, Michigan Chief Justice Robert Young, is part of a court majority that has “embraced originalism and led what one scholar described as a ‘textualism revolution.’” The article in question notes that much of the Michigan majority’s philosophy draws on the arguments of the late Justice Antonin Scalia (while differing with Scalia in some ways).
In 2007, Young wrote a majority opinion upholding Michigan’s voter ID law, writing that it was a “reasonable, nondiscriminatory restriction designed to preserve the purity of elections and to prevent abuses of the electoral franchise."
The new list also includes Charles Canady, a Florida Supreme Court justice who served four terms as a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1990s. In the House, Canady was the first to introduce the so-called ban on “partial-birth” abortion, a term that had been newly coined by anti-choice activists to stir up opposition to a specific abortion procedure and prompt a legal challenge to undermine Roe v. Wade.
Also on Trump’s list is Timothy Tymkovich, the chief judge of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, who wrote that court’s opinion in favor of Hobby Lobby’s attempt to cite religious objections to deny its employees health insurance coverage for contraception. That case later made it to the Supreme Court, resulting in a dramatic reinterpretation of the idea of religious liberty in America.
Trump’s new Supreme Court list is, like his original list released in May, clearly aimed at pacifying social conservatives who want assurance that his federal judges will uphold their policy priorities and by conservative legal groups intent on remaking American law.
We have previously reported that Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage and the World Congress of Families is lending his support to the growing backlash against marriage equality by religious conservatives in Mexico. Turns out the intensely anti-gay Brian Camenker of MassResistance is also helping out.
In a September 16 post on its website, MassResistance wrote that over the summer Camenker responded to a plea for help from organizers of Mexico’s National Front for the Family. Camenker sent the group digital files of the Spanish-language version of his group’s booklet, “What same-sex ‘marriage’ has done to Massachusetts: It’s far worse than most people realize” and a Spanish version of his group’s video, “What ‘gay marriage’ has done to Massachusetts.” (Among the “shocking” things the video mentions are requirements that insurance companies must recognize legal marriages by same-sex couples and lawyers must learn about legal equality.)
The National Front has invited Camenker to Mexico City for what the group hopes will be a massive anti-marriage-equality rally this Saturday, September 24, building on other rallies that have taken place across the country this month.
The post says that the California chapter of MassResistance is planning to hold a rally in solidarity at the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles and hopes that other chapters will get on board. The National Organization for Marriage has announced plans for an anti-marriage-equality rally at the Mexican embassy in Washington, D.C. this Friday, September 23. CitizenGo, a conservative platform for online organizing that has mobilized on behalf of anti-gay efforts around the globe, is also promoting the D.C. event.
Camenker was a speaker at an anti-gay summit that was held in Salt Lake City last October on the eve of a World Congress of Families summit. Camenker disagreed with people who urged anti-LGBT activists to always speak the truth in love. “I think there is a place for being insulting and degrading, and I think I can back that up by scripture,” he said. As we reported at the time:
Camenker said that in the Old Testament, “God has two sets of laws regarding how you treat your fellow man.” One is how you treat your neighbor, who you might work with and forgive. “There’s a whole different set of rules for people who want to tear down society, who want to push immorality, who want to tear down the moral structure of society.” That set of rules is “very brutal,” he said. “God says those people who want to do that must be destroyed.”
He said the LGBT movement is a “house of cards” that is “held together by force, intimidation, and propaganda” and can be destroyed by standing up to it, the way communism was. “We are in a war,” he repeated, saying of gay-rights advocates, “They would send us to concentration camps if they could.”
Marriage equality has been spreading across Mexico as activists have engaged in a long-term strategy challenging discrimination in the federal courts and state legislatures. But after President Enrique Peña Nieto announced this summer that he would like to put marriage equality into the country’s constitution, conservative religious leaders have been mobilizing a backlash. Now, U.S. anti-gay activist Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, who became president of the anti-LGBT World Congress of Families earlier this year, is headed to Mexico to show his support.
Anti-equality activists at the National Front for the Family organized marches in multiple cities last weekend that were supported by Catholic Church officials. They’re following up with a national anti-equality march scheduled for September 24. Religious conservatives would like to amend the constitution to ban abortion and sex ed as well as marriage by same-sex couples.
In a Wednesday email from the World Congress of Families, Brown writes:
WCF is launching a petition drive to give you and citizens across the globe the opportunity to add your own voice to the National March for the Family in Mexico City. Even though most people can't be there in person, you can lend your name and voice to the effort to uphold marriage, protect children from "gender ideology" and support the right of parents to direct their children's education according to their own values and principles.
I will personally deliver this petition to the leaders of National Front for the Family, including my friend, Rodrigo Ivan Cortes, when I meet with them in Mexico City.
The National March for the Family has the potential of being the largest single demonstration of support for marriage, children and parental rights in history. Beyond its significance in the domestic affairs of Mexico, this march also can help advance the worldwide movement to support marriage, religious liberty and the truth of gender that we were made male and female.
Matt Barber, an anti-gay pundit and Liberty University law professor, attended last weekend’s Values Voter Summit, which he told Virginia-based radio host Rob Schilling felt “like an island of reason in a sea of insanity” because “this United States of America right now is more insane than certainly you and I have seen in our lifetimes.”
Schilling agreed, noting the rainbow display on the White House last year, which he said put “a spiritual target on the building.”
Our leaders, Barber said, are “devolving into ancient pagan sexuality of the Sodom and Gomorrah type and touting it as good, it makes you worry for your country.”
“Well we saw what happened to those places, Matt,” Schilling responded, “and I’m very concerned. And certainly maybe even a decade or at least for sure two decades ago, this seemed like a fortress that was protected by two oceans and nothing could touch us. And now you and I know there are many ways that this nation could be obliterated almost instantly.”
Barber agreed that there are “so many threats to this country right now” and that “the frog is just about dead that is boiling in the pot.”
“And I think we recognize now that we are in trouble, serious trouble as a nation, more so than any time immediately preceding the Civil War,” Barber added. “That’s how volatile the situation is here domestically, I’m just speaking about, you throw the global threat into the mix and these are tumultuous times.”
Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who died yesterday at the age of 92, was an early and ardent supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, one of the few Religious Right leaders who embraced the thrice-married, brash business mogul before they were left with no other option.
Schlafly’s love of Trump was hardly surprising: For decades, she has fought to build a Republican Party that rejects immigrants, stirs up fears of communists (and now Muslims), condemns “globalism,” eschews “political correctness,” and does it all with the veneer of protecting the “traditional family.” Trump was the candidate she had been waiting for.
Schlafly got her start as an anti-communist activist in the 1950s and 1960s, defending Sen. Joe McCarthy’s notorious communist hunt until the end and canceling her subscription to The National Review when it denounced the conspiratorial anti-communist John Birch Society. In 1964, she self-published a book called “A Choice Not An Echo,” urging the GOP to reject moderation and back Sen. Barry Goldwater’s presidential run; that year, Goldwater lost the presidential election in a landslide but made an indelible impact on the Republican Party.
But Schlafly really made a name for herself as the nation’s most famous anti-feminist, leading the successful fight to stop the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. Throughout her career, Schlafly denounced “the feminists” and their goals, even as she became a successful career woman in her own right. (Schlafly’s niece later admitted that even as the activist exulted stay-at-home mothering as the natural role of women, she hired domestic help to help her manage balancing her career and childrearing.)
Through her group Eagle Forum, Schlafly remained active in a long list of conservative causes after the ERA was defeated.
Later in her career, Schlafly denounced equal pay legislation, saying that the “so-called pay gap” should actually be increased to help women find husbands who earn more than them. In 2007, she said that it was impossible for a husband to rape his wife because “by getting married, the woman has consented to sex.” A staunch opponent of abortion rights, Schlafly founded the Republican National Coalition for Life to ensure that the GOP remained an anti-choice party.
Hand-in-hand with Schlafly’s anti-feminism was her staunch opposition to LGBT rights. One of her primary arguments against the Equal Rights Amendment was that it would eventually lead to marriage equality and other rights for LGBT people. Her views on the issue didn’t waver even after her son John, who remains active in Eagle Forum, was outed as gay.
In recent years, Schlafly turned much of her attention to fighting immigration, and particularly to fighting efforts within the GOP to be more welcoming to immigrants. After the Republican National Committee responded to Mitt Romney’s loss in the 2012 presidential election by issuing an “autopsy” report that urged the party to stop alienating Latinos, partially by considering immigration reform, Schlafly lashed out, saying that there was no hope for the GOP to win Latinos. Latinos, she said, don’t “have any Republican inclinations at all” because “they’re running an illegitimacy rate that’s just about the same as the blacks are.” She added that Latinos “come from a country where they have no experience with limited government. And the types of rights we have in the Bill of Rights, they don’t understand that at all, you can’t even talk to them about what the Republican principle is.”
Schlafly attacked President Obama for bringing in “foreign ideas and diseases and people who don’t believe in self-government” and repeatedly declared that current levels of immigration are destroying America. In response to people skeptical of Trump’s plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, Schlafly scoffed. “In my mind’s eye,” she said, “I see those railroad cars full of illegals going south. That’s what they ought to do.” Schlafly made clear that her objection was not to immigration in general, but to the fact that many immigrants were coming from Latin America, saying last year that while it is “quite true that America was built by hard-working people from all over the world,” today’s immigrants are “not the same sort” as the mostly European immigrants who flocked to the country in the early 20th century.
She tried to square this anti-immigrant sentiment with her Christian beliefs by claiming that the Bible’s demands of “kindness and compassion” to strangers do not apply to the government’s treatment of immigrants.
It’s no wonder that Schlafly loved Trump, who offered to deliver the Religious Right’s policy priorities while putting his heart into fighting immigration and stirring up fears of the supposed radical Muslim infiltration of America. Schlafly stuck with Trump, whom she introduced at a St. Louis campaign rally, even as her support for his candidacy helped to tear apart both her organization and her family. In the month's before Schlafly's death, her daughter joined other Eagle Forum officials in a lawsuit that seeking the ouster of Schalfly’s handpicked, pro-Trump successor. Fittingly, Schlafly’s final book was released today. It’s called “The Conservative Case for Trump.”
Trump may seem like something new in the political system, but he’s exactly the kind of candidate Schlafly spent her life priming the GOP to accept.
Anti-equality organizations are enthusiastically promoting a new study on sexual orientation and gender, hoping it will be new culture war ammunition.
The study by Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh appears in “The New Atlantis,” a journal co-published by the right-wing Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Center for the Study of Technology and Science, which shares an address with EPPC. The New Atlantis is not a peer-reviewed journal, and has critiqued peer review, widely considered the gold standard in scientific publishing.
Among the authors’ contentions are that the belief that sexual orientation and gender identity are innate or fixed properties is “not supported by scientific evidence.” The study also says that the stress of social stigma is not a sufficient explanation for higher rates of mental health and substance abuse problems in LGBT communities.
In his preface, co-author Mayer dedicates his work to the LGBT community, “which bears a disproportionate rate of mental health problems compared the population as a whole,” and to “scholars doing impartial research on topics of public controversy.” He declares himself a supporter of equality and opponent of anti-LGBT discrimination.
Mayer says that McHugh initially approached him to review a monograph he had written and the project expanded from there. The prominent but controversial McHugh is a Catholic in his mid-80s who has described himself as “religiously orthodox, politically liberal, and culturally conservative – a believer in marriage and the Marines, a supporter of institutions and family values.” The new study builds on a body of work that dismisses the notion of transgender identity. TransAdvocate and others challenged McHugh’s “selective reading of transgender medical literature” two years ago, and ThinkProgress critiqued his work in 2015.
Brian Brown at the National Organization for Marriage can hardly contain his excitement about the new study, writing in a letter to supporters, “The importance of this new study cannot be overstated.” He urges people to “help spread the word” to “make sure that this groundbreaking research gains the wide hearing it deserves despite what will surely be a concerted effort by the media to bury its findings.”
Also participating in the roll-out is the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, one of the most prominent opponents of marriage equality. Anderson says the study’s findings undermine the Obama administration’s requirement that schools accommodate transgender children as well as the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.
Anderson has written a book and spoken widely about how the anti-equality movement should reject and resist the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. Anderson has urged the anti-equality movement to conduct new research (citing the widely discredited Mark Regnerus study on “family structures”) to create “new insights” that future Supreme Court justices could use as justification for overturning Obergefell.
One theme of this year’s Republican National Convention is the Religious Right getting fully on board the Trump Train. Even before he vanquished Ted Cruz, his final primary opponent, Trump has been aggressively courting the Religious Right, and he has recently sought to shore up support from the movement leaders who backed Cruz and other candidates.
Yes, Trump is a habitual liar whose Bible-waving and political use of religious is transparently cynical, but that isn’t stopping Religious Right leaders from rallying around him. And why not? He allowed the Religious Right to write anti-gay discrimination into the GOP's platform. His promise to fill the Supreme Court with right-wing justices gives them hope that marriage equality in the U.S. will be short-lived. And he is even promising to overturn the federal law that forbids churches, like other tax-exempt nonprofits, from engaging in direct electoral politics, and to sign legislation defunding Planned Parenthood.
In Cleveland this week for the RNC, Religious Right political operative Ralph Reed spoke with Doug Wright, “Utah’s most listened to talk show host.” Polls show that many of Utah’s Mormon voters are resisting the call to unite behind Trump.
When asked why so many evangelicals are supporting Trump in spite of his “interesting” background, his use of “vulgarities,” and other things that might concern a conservative Christian, Reed said, “You’re not electing a pastor-in-chief, you’re electing a commander-in-chief.”
Reed reminded Wright that evangelicals backed Mitt Romney in the 2012 general election even though they had a different approach to faith, and even though Romney had previously held pro-choice and pro-gay views, something for which some conservatives have criticized Trump. “I thought we were members of a faith where we were supposed to welcome converts,” said Reed.
In fact, said Reed, he thinks Trump “has the potential to be the greatest advocate for our values, and do the most to advance that agenda, precisely because he doesn’t necessarily come from where we come from.” In other words, because people don’t view Trump as a Religious Right activist, they might be more receptive to his call for ending the ban on church politicking.
Here’s Reed’s basic case for Trump, starting with the fact that “he is a professing Christian.”
More importantly…he shares our values. He’s pro-life. He’s pro-traditional marriage, which is very important to us…He’s pro-religious freedom. He supported the Hobby Lobby Decision, supports Little Sisters of the Poor, has placed in the platform, at his insistence, at this convention, for the first time in the history of the Republican Party, a call for the repeal of the Johnson Amendment to the internal revenue code, which threatens churches that speak out politically with the loss of their tax-exempt status. That has been used to harass and persecute the Christian community for over half a century. Donald Trump will end it.
Milo Yiannopoulos, a gay British cultural provocateur, self-described “dangerous faggot” and senior editor at Breitbart, brought his anti-political-correctness, anti-Islam message to Cleveland this week, teaming up with conspiracy-spouting radio host Alex Jones, political dirty trickster Roger Stone, anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller and Gays for Trump.
At Monday’s America First Unity Rally, Yiannopoulos (simply “Milo” to his fans), took the stage wearing a bulletproof vest — a small group of protesters had gathered nearby but were being kept out of the park by a phalanx of police — but he theatrically peeled it off as he began his remarks. He performed the same routine at Tuesday night’s sold-out, Breitbart-supported Wake Up! party, organized by Gays for Trump, which Gateway Pundit called “the hottest ticket at the RNC.” Among the Trump supporters at the party were white nationalists Peter Brimelow and Richard Spencer, who chatted with guests and reporters.
The party venue was adorned with soft-core posters of skinny young men in Make America Great Again caps, some posing with guns, courtesy of Twinks4Trump. It gave a surreal feel to the event, which was appropriate given the surreal claims about Trump made by some of the speakers.
Chris Barron, a co-founder of GOProud, was among those welcoming people to the party, where he was also said to be acting as a surrogate for the Trump campaign. Barron said Trump is making the GOP and conservative movement more accepting of LGBT people, adding, “Donald Trump is a better friend to the LGBT community than Hillary Clinton could ever be.” Geller made a similar claim, saying, “If anyone is for gay rights, clearly it’s Trump.” Milo went even further, declaring, “Donald Trump is the most pro-gay candidate in American electoral history.”
Really? The guy who couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger to keep the Religious Right from writing discrimination into the party platform? And who has promised Religious Right leaders the Supreme Court of their dreams? Such skeptical thinking is wrong-headed, according to the speakers at Wake Up!, because it is not focusing on the real threats to gay people: Islam and those who “mollycoddle” it.
Geller, resplendent in rainbow sequins, started her remarks with a characteristically tasteful joke: “A jihadi walks into a gay bar. And the bartender says, ‘What’ll you have?’ And the jihadi says, ‘Shots for everyone.’”
She decried gay rights activists for talking about access to bathrooms for transgender people, saying, “Gay rights in the 21st century is the persecution, oppression, execution of gays living in Muslim countries under the Sharia.”
Geller said she was making her first public appearance since two ISIS-linked gunmen attacked a contest for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed she had organized in Garland, Texas, last year, saying 25 events had been cancelled out of fear. “So you gotta love Trump!” she said, “Yes! Because he gives them all the middle finger!” As she acknowledged, Trump harshly criticized Geller for holding the Garland event, but, she said, “he’s come a long way.” She said Trump’s proposed “ban on Muslims from jihad nations is logical, sensible and reasonable.”
Like speakers at the Alex Jones rally on Monday, Geller tore into Republicans who have not fallen in line with Trump:
I’m one hundred percent behind Trump. Because if you’re not behind Trump, you’re for Hillary. Bill Kristol is for that criminal. George Will is for that criminal. We have got to overthrow the GOP elite. We have got to unite behind Donald Trump.
Joining Milo and Geller at the Wake Up! party was Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who said Islam has “no place in a free society” and said Western countries should “de-Islamize” their societies; he has called for banning the Quran and said, “I don’t want no more mosques in the Netherlands and I am proud to say so,” leading someone behind me to shout “throw them out!”
Wilders described Europe – or “Eurabia” – as having been turned into an imploding hellhole of violence and fear because of Muslim immigrants, and warned that France is on the brink of civil war. The reason, he said, is that “we have no real leaders in the Western world anymore. We have appeasers. We have Chamberlains instead of Churchills, ruling all our countries.” He called for democratic political change, saying that people feel that their leaders have abandoned them and that political parties like his are winning support all over Europe. The crowd responded to Wilders with chants of “Geert” and “Trump,” and went wild at the statement that Wilders could become the next prime minister of the Netherlands. He ended his speech with this promise: “We shall win. We must win. And we will win this war.”
Milo reprised many of the comments he made at the Alex Jones rally, talking about a culture war in which liberals have become “traitors to the gays” by accommodating Islam. He joked about having been banned from Twitter that very day, a day before he would have access to all the national media at the RNC’s radio row, and he said, “I am going to make their lives hell.”
But he struck a defiantly hopeful tone, saying “I am not the only person who is dedicated to the destruction of liberal media in this country. I am not the only person who recognizes that after a few decades of good work, these people have now thrown us under the bus.”
At both events, Milo denounced political correctness, Islam and the left, in his intentionally button-pushing way. “I might be a dick-sucking faggot, but I fucking hate the left,” he told the crowd at the Jones rally, generating surprised laughter, and then cheers:
They do not represent me. They do not represent you. They do not represent tolerance. They do not represent understanding. They do not represent diversity, any of the things they claim to care about. The left in this country is a cancer that you need to eradicate because it is undermining the fundamental principles on which this country was founded, and for which everybody looks up to you guys.
Political correctness is not just a problem, he said at the Jones rally, it is deadly:
Political correctness killed at Sandy Hook. People knew about this guy, they knew what he was about, they knew what he was up to, and they were worried about saying anything for fear of being branded racist.
At that statement, I exchanged a puzzled look with the man standing beside me. I was puzzled because the killer of the children at Sandy Hook was white. If my neighbor was a loyal Alex Jones listener, he might have been puzzled because Jones promotes the theory that Sandy Hook was a hoax, staged as a “false flag” operation to give the government an excuse to try to seize people’s guns. Yiannopoulos may have been thinking about San Bernardino; he also said “political correctness killed” in Orlando, suggesting that the shooter hadn’t been apprehended sooner because people were afraid of being seen as racist or Islamophobic.
Yiannopoulos said he knew not everyone in the crowd was with him when it comes to homosexuality, but urged them to “stick up for your women and your gays.”
“Die on your feet or live on your knees,” he said, pausing with comic timing. “Well, I do live on my knees, but that’s alright. That’s alright. As long as I’m not facing Mecca I guess I’m alright with you guys. I mean, I might have been by accident…”
Yiannopoulos said he was appalled to find out that on American college campuses, which he thought would be the freest places in the world, people’s thoughts and language are being policed and restricted. “It seems to me as though the political left in this country is trying to destroy all of the things that made America great.”
Looking ahead, Milo said he’d be mocking criticism of concerns over “cultural appropriation” by lecturing to “the insane students at Yale” on famous cultural appropriators while dressed “in full Native American costume.” And next week, he said, he will be in Stockholm to “lead a gay pride march through the Muslim ghetto.”
The left is always telling us how homosexuals are stunning and brave. Well, the left-wing ones aren’t but ours are. And we’re going to take the fight to them. I’m taking the fight to American campuses. I’m fighting political correctness wherever I find it. I’m fighting hateful third-wave misandrist feminism wherever I find it. I am fighting Black Lives Matter, a hateful, destructive movement, wherever I find it. Donald Trump is going to fight the same things wherever he finds them, too.
Milo told the party crowd that the only thing that Breitbart ever cut from one of his columns was his response to people complaining that it was racist to put “whites only” in profiles on hook-up apps like Grindr. He asked whether his would be deemed racist for saying “blacks only.” But, he said, he wouldn’t actually put it that way. Instead he’d write, “Don’t contact me if you’re under seven inches or you know who your dad is.”
Which brings us to the end of the party and to the protesters outside with signs and flyers declaring, “There’s nothing fabulous about racism.”
For the past couple of months, Christian-nation advocate David Lane and dominionst Doug Stringer have been organizing a day-long prayer rally that will take place in Cleveland this Saturday. Timed to coincide with the Republican National Convention, the event will be the latest in the series of “The Response” rallies organized around Republican politicians. They are modeled after a series of “The Call” events organized by dominionist “apostle” Lou Engle.
The first Response, which was promoted by some of the most extreme and divisive Religious Right figures, served as the unofficial launch of Rick Perry’s doomed presidential bid in 2011. The Perry event reflected Lane’s perennial goal of uniting conservative evangelicals behind a single candidate. Other Response rallies have been hosted by Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Pat McCrory of North Carolina.
Stringer has been on the ground in Cleveland meeting with local clergy to promote Saturday’s event as a nonpolitical opportunity for Christians to come together across racial and denominational lines to pray for America. That was also the message delivered on a pre-Response conference call last week, on which Stringer and other organizers described the event as a time of unity and prayer so that the Christian church can be a source of healing and hope at this “providential time” in our nation.
That’s the bait part of the bait-and-switch nature of these events. The switch comes at the rallies themselves, which, along with prayer and praise music, promote the Religious Right’s political agendas on abortion, LGBT rights and separation of church and state.
As we noted when the Cleveland Response was announced:
Lane and Stringer took the Response to Charlotte, North Carolina, in September 2015. At this “nonpolitical” event, Religious Right rock star David Benham talked about gay rights groups who he said were out to “force” their agenda on the country, portraying a “spiritual battle that is now waging before us in this nation, the home of the brave and the land of the free.” Lane opened the “nonpolitical” North Carolina Response rally with a prayer that talked about the lack of prayer and Bible reading in the public schools, abortion, and “homosexuals praying at the inauguration.” Another speaker prayed for God to “help us be like Kim Davis, obeying the Constitution and defying federal criminals.”
Event sponsor David Lane is an intensely political operative who believes America’s mission is to advance the Christian faith. He has been trying to organize “an army” of conservative pastors to run for office in hopes that each of them will mobilize hundreds of volunteers to help turn out the evangelical vote.
While Lane’s dream of getting Religious Right leaders to coalesce around a single candidate was, to a significant extent, achieved this year with nearly unanimous backing for Ted Cruz, many evangelical voters did not follow the script. Lane is now putting his faith in Trump, who he believes “can be one of the top 4 presidents in American history.”
Another hint of the “nonpolitical” nature of the Cleveland event comes from its promotional materials, which included a video from E.W. Jackson, a failed Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia; Jackson has called the Black Lives Matter movement “demonic,” said promotion of LGBT equality is “spitting in the face of Almighty God,” and accused President Obama of being more interested in “defending Islam” than “defending America.”
Also gathering in Cleveland before the RNC is the Council for National Policy, a secretive network that brings together activist leaders from right-wing to far, far right. Politico reported this week that Ted Cruz is meeting with the group on Friday, which may act as a quiet launch for a 2020 White House run.
In the lead-up to and during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, we’ll be profiling some of the activists and politicians invited to speak at the event. Find more of our Meet the Speakers series here.
As Peter noted earlier today, speculation that Donald Trump may move the Republican Party into greater acceptance of LGBT people is hard to take seriously given the GOP platform committee’s approval this week of an exceptionally anti-LGBT platform, not to mention the anti-LGBT activists whom Trump himself has enthusiastically embraced in his quest for the presidency.
A preliminary list of this year’s Republican National Convention speakers should also put that idea to rest.
Along with the many businessmen and celebrity buddies of Trump who appear on the speakers list are a number of activists and politicians who have long records of anti-LGBT activism.
Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell and one of Trump’s earliest endorsers from the Religious Right, has a speaking slot. Falwell is the head of Liberty University, the school founded by his father, which is well known for itsanti-gay politics and student policies discouraging homosexuality. Liberty University is closely affiliated with Liberty Counsel, the anti-gay legal group that represented Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in her quest to defy the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.
Also speaking will be three former GOP presidential rivals to Trump who are known for their anti-LGBT politics.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who hooked his presidential campaign on an appeal to Religious Right voters, will have a speaking slot. As we previously wrote , Huckabee managed to cover plenty of extremist ground just in his 2016 campaign:
After all, Huckabee had vowed to outlaw abortion with a sweeping presidential decree,promised to defy the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling before it criminalized Christianity and destroyed America, and literally turned Kentucky clerk Kim Davis’ release from detention into a campaign rally, volunteering to go to jail on her behalf. The former Arkansas governor even pledged to boycott Doritos because the company released rainbow-colored chips benefiting an LGBT suicide prevention group and starred in a bizarre anti-gay film.
Then there’s Ben Carson, who attracted plenty of attention during his presidential run forclaiming that prison rape proves that being gay is a choice. Carson insisted that “abnormal” LGBT people shouldn’t get “extra rights” and called for the impeachment of justices who back gay marriage. He also argued, as Brian has summarized, that the gay rights movement is “part of a wideranti-American, anti-God, anti-Constitution plot conjured up by communist subversives and the New World Order.”
Cruz and Huckabee were both so eager to win the votes of anti-gay extremists that they attended a conference last year at which the organizer, radical pastor Kevin Swanson, repeatedly declared that the Bible demands that gay people be put to death.
And there are many more. Newt Gingrich, when he was running for president in 2011, signed the National Organization for Marriage’s candidate pledge to support a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality and said that he would reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In 2008, Gingrich warned that "there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, is prepared to use harassment.” Mike Pence, who’s now being reported to be Trump’s vice presidential pick, has a long record of opposing LGBT rights, including signing a bill in Indiana last year that would authorize broad discrimination against LGBT people, before backing down under public pressure to amend the law.
While few sitting members of Congress are showing up to the convention, among those invited to speak are several with strongly anti-LGBT records. Just this year, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy personally twisted arms to ensure the last-minute defeat of a provision that would have protected LGBT people from employment discrimination from federal contractors, creating a chaotic scene on the House floor. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee was instrumental in making the 2012 Republican platform reach new levels of anti-LGBT sentiment (although this year’s platform is even worse). Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, when she was a state legislator, tried to get a referendum on the ballot in an effort to overturn the state supreme court’s landmark marriage equality ruling. She has claimed she wants to leave the marriage issue to the states, but at the same time has said that she would support a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage.
We have lost count of how many times the Religious Right has been declared spent as a political force. Those declarations have always been wrong, and this year’s Republican Party platform is the latest sign of the movement’s continued power.
Four years ago, we called the GOP platform “a far-right fever dream, a compilation of pouting, posturing, and policies to meet just about every demand from the overlapping Religious Right, Tea Party, corporate, and neo-conservative wings of the GOP.” Yet this year’s platform is even further to the right.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 2012, Religious Right leaders spent the entire week in Tampa bragging about how they had essentially written the platform. But pro-LGBT Republicans were remarkably confident that it would never happen again. At the time, the Log Cabin Republicans vowed that never again would the party platform be hostile to LGBT equality. Former member of Congress Jim Kolbe said the anti-gay sentiment in that year’s platform was “the last gasp of the conservatives.” The upbeat attitude had us wondering about “the fine, fuzzy line dividing optimism from delusion.”
Well, there’s nothing left to wonder about. In spite of an organized and well-funded campaign by LGBT-friendly conservatives, Religious Right activists made sure that they dominated the platform committee. During the committee’s deliberations on proposed amendments on Monday and Tuesday, every effort to moderate the language on LGBT rights was rejected, including tame language that would have acknowledged growing support within the party for marriage equality. The Log Cabin Republicans are calling this year’s document “the most anti-LGBT Platform in the Party’s 162-year history.”
Even an amendment that would have recognized the LGBT victims of ISIS terror was deemed too much. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is bragging that he and fellow Louisiana delegate Sandy McDade, Eagle Forum’s political chairman, watered that language down so that it refers generically to all people terrorized by ISIS.
The platform includes Religious Right-approved language opposing marriage equality and endorsing legislation to give legal protection to anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religious liberty. And it calls for eliminating the IRS provision that prevents churches, like other nonprofits, from engaging in direct electoral advocacy — one of the promises Donald Trump has made to win Religious Right support.
A seemingly last-ditch effort by LGBT-friendly delegates to require a vote on a “minority report” to replace the long platform with a short statement of principles is now being denounced by Perkins and Religious Right activist David Barton as an attempt by gays to hijack the platform process. Its odds of success seem vanishingly small.
Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory Angelo says he’s “mad as hell” about the new platform, but in the same email he tries to distance the document from Donald Trump, who Angelo praised last December as “one of the best, if not the best, pro-gay Republican candidates to ever run for the presidency.”
Not long after that, as journalist Michelangelo Signorile noted, Trump accepted the endorsement of Jerry Falwell Jr. and promised to put right-wing justices on the Supreme Court. In January he promised to make Christianity (read right-wing Christianity) more powerful. More recently, Trump reiterated his promises in a closed-door meeting with hundreds of conservative Christian leaders, where he told them, “I’m on your side.”
Trump may be willing to let Caitlin Jenner use the bathroom of her choice at his office building, but he was unwilling to lift a finger to keep the party from supporting states that pass laws preventing transgender people from using bathrooms that match their identity — or from declaring in many ways that the party remains officially opposed to legal equality for LGBT people.
The presumptive Republican nominee is all bluster and toughness when he is denouncing political correctness, but he turns meekly obliging when dealing with the Religious Right leaders he is counting on to turn out the vote.
During Monday and Tuesday’s Republican platform committee deliberations, an already right-wing draft was pushed even further to the right by activists on the platform committee. But now Religious Right activist David Barton and other delegates are complaining that they were duped by pro-LGBT activists into signing a minority report that could force a floor vote on replacing the entire platform with a much shorter statement of principles.
Through endless hours of amendments — some substantive and some petty wordsmithing — attempts by libertarian-leaning delegates to introduce more moderate language on LGBT equality, the drug war and other issues were routinely voted down, even an amendment that would have acknowledged the LGBT victims of ISIS terror.
Throughout the grueling process, a few delegates repeatedly complained that the platform should be seen as a vehicle for marketing Republican Party principles, and should not be something so long and so deep in the weeds on policy disputes that nobody will bother reading it. One of those voices was Utah’s Boyd Matheson, who had proposed an alternative approach that would simply lay out a set of principles, based on the platform on which Abraham Lincoln ran for the presidency in 1860.
That could have saved everyone a lot of time, but the committee didn’t go for it. The committee wrapped up its deliberations on Tuesday evening, voting to approve the amended draft, which will get final up-or-down approval by the committee on Monday before going to the convention as a whole for approval.
But that’s not the end of the story, because 37 delegates signed a “minority report,” which The Dallas Morning News’ Lauren McGaughy describes as “a sort of petition by those who couldn't muster a majority for their proposals.”
“In this case,” McGaughy writes, “it supports doing away with the whole platform and replacing it with something shorter and simpler.” Among those who signed the petition were Matheson and Barton, the Religious Right activist who played an active role in shaping this year’s platform as well as the 2012 version.
Now, however, Matheson and Barton are among those claiming that they were “duped by a group of pro-gay rights delegates” into signing something that could be a source of division on the floor of the convention:
Boyd Matheson of Utah wrote the language in the minority report, but he said he did not support doing away with the whole platform and replacing it with his mission statement. In fact, he withdrew support of his own proposal Tuesday afternoon amid the fight.
"A minority report is a divisive issue that some people are trying to use to air their issues on the floor for the convention," Matheson said late Tuesday.
David Barton, a Texas delegate who helped him edit the language, went a step further, saying "someone hijacked the process."
He added: "It looks to us like they created a controversy."
Matheson and Barton allege that a group of LGBT-friendly Republicans who had tried -- unsuccessfully -- to include some positive mention of the gay community in the party's platform was behind the scheme.
The two said they would send an email to the other 35 delegates who also signed the report on Wednesday morning saying just this. Texas' other platform committee delegate, Diana Denman, also signed the minority report, and expressed her interest in removing her name.
Other delegates suggest that Barton and Matheson knew exactly what they were signing but “got cold feet afterward when they feared being associated with a gay rights push.”
Family Research Council Action, whose leader Tony Perkins was another active member of the platform committee, pushed out an alert yesterday warning that LGBT activists were attempting to “hijack” the platform.
Perkins and the Family Research Council are delighted with the far-right platform, saying the GOP’s support for “traditional family values” is “stronger than ever.”
In another message to FRC supporters yesterday, Perkins celebrated the Religious Right’s platform victories:
I am very happy to say that the final platform document overwhelmingly approved by the delegates may be the strongest statement of conservative principles by a GOP platform to date. As Gayle Rozika, a Utah delegate for whom this was the 6th platform, told me this is the most conservative platform in her experience. Her efforts, along with those of delegates like Carolyn McLarty (Okla.), Len Munsil (Ariz.), David Barton (Texas), Jim and Judy Carns (Ala.), Kris Kobach (Kan.), Sandy McDade (La.) and a host of other conservative leaders were effective in ensuring the GOP platform provides a clear and compelling understanding of the core conservative principles that those associated with the Republican party prioritize and pursue.
Our coalition of delegates -- including FRC Action and other groups like the March for Life Action, Eagle Forum, and Concerned Women for America -- proved invaluable. The platform is an important document, showing the Party of Lincoln continues to respect freedom, and the rule of law, the idea that all humans deserve respect, not because of some category, but because we have inherent dignity and are made in the image of our Creator. The platform is a useful document -- a standard for the party in local, state, and federal elections, use in town halls, and it provides standards to which we should hold our elected officials. Platform Chairman Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), led by co-chairs Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Va.) and Governor Mary Falin (R-Okla.) all did an excellent job allowing delegates to offer amendments and debate the issues with sincerity and respect. They deserve much respect for their efforts.