On the Family Research Council’s Washington Watch last night, Rep. John Fleming (R.-LA) weighed in on the pending Supreme Court decisions on marriage equality. Fleming likened gay marriage to marriage between a U.S. citizen and a foreigner, claiming that federal recognition of gay marriage would cause straight people to enter into same-sex marriages for practical benefits. Same-sex marriages would then have to be questioned to determine if they were “done for convenience” or as the result of a bribe. Host Tony Perkins added that gay marriage would never be legitimate, because there is no way to “verify” the validity of the couple.
Fleming: But you know, it’s interesting. Humans can be very innovative sometimes and I can actually see where two people of the same sex, even who are not themselves homosexual in any way, could find a way to get married just for the purpose of sharing those benefits and only for practical reasons. So you can see the ramifications if the Supreme Court comes out and allows that.
Perkins: No question about it. And there’s no way to necessarily verify that. What you can then set up is a case where you discriminate against couples who are in some jurisdictions, because if they move their marriage is not recognized. And they could then be treated in a way that’s different than heterosexual couples that are cohabitating. It’s a mess once you go down this path.
Fleming: It is. It would be similar to marrying someone from a foreign country. Is it done for convenience? Did someone pay somebody to be married? I mean you can see how the whole institution of marriage could be demeaned. It could certainly be reduced in its importance and taken off the lofty place that we now hold marriage.
Fleming also said that fathers are being “marginalized” as a result of the decline of the traditional family. He stated that “fathers have a less and less important role in procreation now,” although the biology behind that last point was a little unclear.
Perkins: There’s really an alarming rate of fatherlessness in America. And we’re beginning to see the consequences of that as we’ve moved away from that normative definition of what marriage and family has been and should be.
Fleming: No question, Tony. The long term trend over the last three decades is to marginalize fathers. Fathers have a less and less important role in procreation now, in rearing children, in providing for families. Even in many cases, even when they’re actually in the marriage and they exist as a father, oftentimes being marginalized in their importance there. So it’s an alarming cultural direction.
As the nation awaits the Supreme Court's rulings on two high-profile marriage equality cases, several dozen Religious Right activists have signed on to a "Marriage Solidarity Statement" that was drafted by Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver and Deacon Keith Fournier, vowing to resist any ruling in favor of equality.
This who's who of anti-gay activists has collectively declared that they "will not stand by while the destruction of the institution of marriage unfolds in this nation we love" because "this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross":
As Christian citizens united together, we will not stand by while the destruction of the institution of marriage unfolds in this nation we love. The Sacred Scriptures and unbroken teaching of the Church confirm that marriage is between one man and one woman. We stand together in solidarity to defend marriage and the family and society founded upon them. The effort to redefine marriage threatens the proper mediating role of the Church in society.
Experience and history have shown us that if the government redefines marriage to grant a legal equivalency to same-sex couples, that same government will then enforce such an action with the police power of the State. This will bring about an inevitable collision with religious freedom and conscience rights. We cannot and will not allow this to occur on our watch. Religious freedom is the first freedom in the American experiment for good reason.
If the Supreme Court were to issue a decision that redefined marriage or provided a precedent on which to build an argument to redefine marriage, the Supreme Court will thereby undermine its legitimacy. The Court will significantly decrease its credibility and impair the role it has assumed for itself as a moral authority. It will be acting beyond its proper constitutional role and contrary to the Natural Moral Law which transcends religions, culture, and time.
As Christians united together in defense of marriage, we pray that this will not happen. But, make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the true common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.
Considering that Staver and others who signed this declaration have predicted that any ruling in favor of gay marriage will lead to civil war, one has to wonder just how these anti-gay activists intend to resist any such ruling.
Four of the Tea Party’s favorite senators – Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, and Marco Rubio of Florida – addressed the kick-off lunch for this year’s “Road to Majority” conference, which is sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition.
Rand Paul made his case for a humbler foreign policy, suggesting that anti-abortion “pro-life” advocates should also think about the lives of 18- and 19-year old soldiers sent abroad before applauding a politician who talks with bravado about pre-emptive wars. He said that even when American soldiers go to war with the best of intentions, the law of unintended consequences can be merciless.
Paul told activists that there is a worldwide “war on Christianity” that is being waged not only by “liberal elites” but also by American taxpayers through the country’s financial support of countries that persecute Christians. “American taxpayer dollars are being used to enable a war on Christianity in the Middle East.”
Paul took the requisite political shot at Barack Obama, saying the "scandals" surrounding the administration were causing the president to lose his "moral authority" to lead the country.
Johnson said the root cause of the country’s problem was that too many Americans were either never taught or have forgotten the “foundational premise” of the country. The nation’s founders, he said, understood that while government is necessary, its growth is something to fear. “Far too many Americans,” he said, “are willingly trading their freedom and ours for the false sense, the false promise of economic security.”
Johnson said he would like Americans to take their disgust about the IRS, or Benghazi, or the NSA, and apply it in a broader way to the federal government. He said people who talked about restoring trust in government have the wrong idea. What we should do, he said, is foster a healthy distrust of the government.
Lee said conservatives had not focused too much on families, but too little. He said conservatives have to have an agenda that includes “forgotten” families at the bottom rung of the economic ladder, policies that address the effect of stagnant wages, rising costs of housing, etc. He called for a new “conservative reform” agenda that didn’t seem all that new: tax cuts to encourage entrepreneurship, school choice, and welfare reform, as well as an end to “corporate welfare.”
Lee said conservatives are opposed to big government because a small government encourages a healthy civil society. Conservatives, he said, aren’t about a “you’re on your own” philosophy, but rather a “we’re in this together” one. But in his take, “in this together” does not involve the government. Without an intrusive government, he said, communities and churches would take care of people. Remember, Lee is the guy who believes the welfare state is unconstitutional, along with restrictions on freedom such as child-labor laws.
Marco Rubio has taken some heat from some of his fellow conservatives recently for his advocacy of immigration reform. Reed is on record supporting comprehensive reform, but talking points for the activists’ post-lunch lobbying on Capitol Hill reflect tensions within the movement. While it talked about the biblical basis for a compassionate immigration policy, it also talked about the rule of law and a so-called “enforcement trigger.” One of the talking points says, “Alongside our principles, we vehemently oppose amnesty and guaranteed paths to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently residing in the country.”
Rubio revisited his campaign theme of American exceptionalism. He used a biblical passage from Matthew chapter 5 to encourage activists to keep bringing their faith into their political activism, especially, he said, at a time when people are told they should silence their faith.
Rubio expanded on the notion that Christians should be the “salt of the earth” and a light unto the world to take on the foreign policy portion of Rand Paul’s remarks, without naming Paul specifically. A call to retreat from the world, he said, is a call for America to hide its light, and there is no nation that can replace the U.S. and its example of freedom:
“Our light must shine so that others will look to us and give glory to our heavenly father.”
Rubio made a couple of references to protecting marriage, but none of the senators explicitly addressed the battle over marriage equality. Talking points for activists’ afternoon lobbying visits on Capitol Hill were clearer. “Public polling overstates the support for same-sex marriage,” claim the talking points “The American people have overwhelmingly supported traditional marriage in votes on state referenda and initiatives.”
Also on the lobbying agenda: asking representatives to support the House of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, which would allow churches and preachers to engage in explicit electoral politicking without consequences for their nonprofit tax status.
In last month’s American Family Association magazine, Ed Vitagliano lamented that gay people might not want to be friends with Christians who are opposed to marriage equality. Vitagliano is probably not boosting his chances of making gay friends with his article in June’s AFA Journal, a two-page spread with “Sodom” plastered across the top.
The thrust of the article is that “embracing homosexuality is a sign of deep spiritual sickness” in a culture. America, he writes, is on the verge of suppressing the truth about God’s plan and the duality of gender. “A downward death spiral results from such suppression,” he warns.
The homosexual movement has had such great success because Americans have become arrogantly self-indulgent and idolatrous. Straight America has embraced homosexuality because straight Americans first embraced the sexual revolution for the satisfaction of their own perverse sexual appetites.
Judgment came to Sodom because violent homosexuality was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. As a prevalent sin, however, it was the manifestation of an underlying wickedness that permeated the entire culture – a wickedness that was not limited to the homosexual.
Thus homosexuality often becomes the barometer of a culture rotting out from the inside. If the problem were only homosexuality, then the simple act of pushing it back into the closet (if that were possible) would be enough to forestall judgment.
But what Ezekiel 16 teaches us is this: By the time a culture accepts idolatry, abortion and homosexuality, it is already ripe for the devastation wrought by God’s wrath.
Whether they live in a decidedly pagan culture or one, like America, that is an admixture, Christians are called to be salt and light.
Standing against the unrighteousness permeating our society might not be the easy thing to do, but it’s a whole lot easier than running from the fire and brimstone that inevitably follow.
The latest fundraising pitch from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins blasts “the national Republicans” whom he says are “running away from the natural and biblical definition of marriage, flocking to the radical side in support of same-sex ‘marriage.’”
Perkins’ letter insists that allowing same-sex couples to get married is dangerous to religious liberties, to the next generation, and “dangerous to civilization itself.” Perhaps worst of all is that Obama’s “machine” would benefit from the GOP alienating its conservative base:
Sacrificing our values, and their distinctives as a Party, will send millions of voters packing. One terrible side effect: President Obama’s machine will be stronger than ever. Their radicalization of American public policy will intensify.
But be assured that Perkins “cares deeply” about gay people:
Please understand: this is no vendetta. We care deeply about those who engage in either heterosexual sex outside of marriage or homosexual behavior in any context. Both are immoral and unhealthy. We want what is truly best for them and for our nation.
What is truly best for them is a lifestyle of biblical morality. (emphasis in original)
Perkins calls for a “massive outpouring of outrage from principled conservatives” and urges supporters to sign a petition to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. And, of course, to send a check.
TO: Reporters and Editors
FROM: Jamie Raskin, Senior Fellow, People for the American Way Foundation
DATE: May 24, 2013
RE: Blockbuster Decisions Coming Soon from the Supreme Court . . .Will Conservative Justices Twist the Constitution to Subvert Equal Protection?
The Roberts Court will soon release major decisions shaping the future of voting rights protection, affirmative action in university admissions, and the rights of marriage for gay and lesbian Americans. In each case, the promotion of equal rights under law in our society is opposed by a conservative agenda that seeks to enshrine inequality in the name of “federalism,” “color-blindness,” or “social tradition.” What is at stake in these cases is whether America continues its journey towards strong and inclusive multi-racial democracy or accepts conservative arguments that undermine constitutional and social progress.
Congressional Protection of Voting Rights versus “Federalism Costs”:
The Voting Rights Act on the Chopping Block in Shelby County v. Holder
In Shelby County v. Holder, conservatives seek to dismantle the essential machinery of modern voting rights protection, which is the pre-clearance procedure for voting changes in covered jurisdictions. This procedure is contained in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the monumental statutory achievement of Congress in the last century. Chief Justice Roberts, in a near-miss decision on the same subject in 2009, has already expressed the sentiment of his conservative colleagues that the provision now “raises serious constitutional questions.” At oral argument in Shelby County, Justice Scalia offered his view that the Voting Rights Act has become nothing more than a “racial entitlement.” Despite broad bipartisan support in Congress for the Voting rights Act, including Section 5, the conservative legal movement is mobilized for its destruction.
Section 5 obligates covered states and jurisdictions to “pre-clear” changes affecting voting with the Department of Justice or the federal district courts in Washington. This procedure affects states and counties that were the worst offenders against voting rights and has been in place for nearly a half-century. Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment clearly gives Congress the “power to enforce” voting rights “by appropriate legislation.” The Court has four times—in South Carolina v. Katzenbach (1966), Georgia v. U.S. (1973), City of Rome v. U.S. (1980), and Lopez v. Monterey County (1999)—rejected invitations by states to declare Section 5 as outside of Congress’ powers under the 14th and 15th Amendments. Thus, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and later Alaska (along with certain jurisdictions in California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota) have had to prove that proposed changes in election laws do not disadvantage minority voters. While the Justice Departments and the courts routinely approve more than 99 percent of submitted plans, the VRA remains a critical stop against laws meant to disenfranchise racial minorities. Hundreds of state plans and thousands of proposed changes have been rejected under the law, preventing a backslide in the project of building a strong interracial democracy.
But the case against Section 5 today turns on neither constitutional precedent nor text nor the facts of political life on the ground, but rather on the talk-show fallacy that a nation which twice elects an African-American president simply cannot contain any states or counties where minority voters face actual barriers to participation. Backing up this non-sequitur intuition are constitutional myths: that Congress has to treat all states and counties the same and cannot distinguish among them based on their records of committing voting rights violations. and that the pre-clearance mechanism in the Voting Rights Act and its “coverage formula” impose far too high “federalism costs” on covered areas (i.e., it allegedly takes too much power from the states). All of these taking points are supposed to justify the Court’s substituting its judgment for that of Congress and to find that Section 5 is no longer a “congruent” or “proportional” remedy, under either the Fourteenth Amendment or the Fifteenth Amendment, for threats to voting rights. But the lower courts in this case reviewed more than 15,000 pages of Congressional findings and testimony and were convinced of the continuing need for preclearance to deal with the disingenuous disenfranchising and diluting schemes in the covered areas, including voter photo ID laws, tightening restrictions on registration and at the polls, and racist gerrymanders.
The arguments against Section 5 appeal to the racial fatigue of Supreme Court arch-conservatives, who are willing to give state legislatures, a majority of which are in conservative Republican hands today, the freedom to restrict voting rights. The pre-clearance procedures of Section 5 are the major obstacle to this goal because they mean that all of the traditional hijinks of Jim Crow politics must be submitted in advance to federal judges or DOJ civil rights lawyers for approval. Rather than placing the burden on African-Americans and other minority voters to find lawyers and make the case against repressive practices after they go into effect, the covered jurisdictions have to affirmatively show that their innovations are not discriminatory or “retrogressive” before the damage is done. As the Supreme Court put it approvingly in South Carolina v. Katzenbach, “After enduring nearly a century of systematic resistance to the Fifteenth Amendment,” Congress chose “to shift the advantage of time and inertia from the perpetrators of the evil to its victims.”
The word “federalism” does not appear in the Constitution, nor does the opaque and mysterious phrase “federalism costs,” which has become the key mantra for the conservatives. At least four Justices—and we’ll see about Justice Anthony Kennedy—appear poised to use these malleable concepts to override the clear enforcement powers that the Constitution explicitly assigns to Congress through Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment. Thus, the Supreme Court is on the brink of usurping Congressional power plainly granted by the Constitution by thwarting Congressional decisions to enforce the equal rights of Americans to vote and participate in the political process.
Racial Integration, Inclusion and Diversity versus “Color-Blindness”:
Affirmative Action Walks the Plank in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin
The ceaseless attack on affirmative action returns again this Term with Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a sweeping challenge to a modest use of race and ethnicity in UT’s admissions process that was adopted to correct for continuing weakness in the numbers of minority students on campus. The twist here is that most UT students are admitted through a policy guaranteeing admission to students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their public high school classes. About one-fifth of the class is admitted outside of that race-neutral policy, and affirmative action plays a role in this small part of the process.
Most people thought that the lawfulness of such a policy was settled for at least 25 years in 2003, when the Court decided Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, cases testing the constitutionality of affirmative action programs as practiced, respectively, at the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Michigan’s undergraduate program. The majority upheld the Law School’s “holistic” use of race and ethnicity in the process to promote diversity in the educational experience because all consideration of applicants remained individualized and there were no quotas and no numerical targets used in the selection process. (The University of Texas modeled its law school’s affirmative action program after that upheld in Grutter in 2003.) Meanwhile, the majority invalidated the undergraduate plan because racial or ethnic minority status was quantified and treated as adding bonus points in a rigid numerical weighing system, a process that the Court said leaned towards being a quota system. While rejecting the college plan as a blunt instrument, Justice O’Connor found that the kind of diffuse and holistic use of minority status embodied in the law school program was permissible. She thought such affirmative action would be warranted for a period of what she predicted to be another quarter-century. Given that most public universities remained segregated through the 1950s and 1960s, this seemed like a sensible time-line.
The Grutter decision reaffirmed and updated Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the 1978 high Court decision which struck down numerical quotas for minority admission but approved the generalized use of race in the admissions process to promote the compelling interest in having a diverse student body. Grutter was met with relief and enthusiasm throughout American academia, in the business sector, by the armed services, and across American society.
Now, once again, conservatives hope to turn the Constitution against the project of equal rights and equal opportunities. The key move is to claim that Equal Protection mandates absolute “color-blindness” and therefore forecloses any conscious efforts to build diversity and inclusion into the educational experience of students. But the history of the Equal Protection Clause demonstrates that its Framers clearly contemplated that government would seek to take account of the racial implications of official discrimination in the past to fashion consciously inclusionary policies going forward.
Equal Protection of the Rights of all Citizens in Marriage versus “Social Tradition”:
United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry
Two significant cases raise the important issue of whether gay and lesbian Americans enjoy an equal right to marry and to enjoy all the rights of marriage. Here, straightforward understandings of Equal Protection clash with an extra-constitutional commitment to the “social tradition” of discrimination against gay people.
One case, United States v. Windsor, deals with the constitutionality of Section 3 of “DOMA,” the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which provides that the word “marriage” in any federal law or regulation—including the Social Security Act, the Internal Revenue code, immigration law, and more than 1,000 others—shall apply only to the “legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife.” This sweeping discrimination means that, although hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian Americans have won and exercised the right to marry in twelve states and the District of Columbia, the rights, benefits, and duties that they should receive as married people under federal law are categorically withheld from them. Under federal law, married couples who are gay are treated as legal strangers to one another and as unworthy of the rights enjoyed by other citizens.
This discrimination has dramatic consequences. The respondent in Windsor, Edith Windsor, was forced to pay $363,000 in federal taxes on the estate she inherited after her wife (and life partner of 40 years) died, since DOMA prevents same-sex spouses from inheriting marital property on a tax-free basis, a benefit that heterosexual couples take for granted. Windsor won a clean victory in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which found that discrimination against gay people triggers Equal Protection “intermediate scrutiny” and that Congress could not even demonstrate a valid, much less an important, interest for defining marriage at the federal level so as to exclude from its benefits thousands of married couples in the states.
The other case taken up by the Supreme Court is Hollingsworth v. Perry, which tests the constitutionality of California’s infamous Proposition 8 ballot measure, which revoked the marriage rights that gays and lesbians had enjoyed in the state under a landmark California Supreme Court decision. Proposition 8 was voided in a broad pro-marriage decision handed down by California United States District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, a decision that was reaffirmed on narrower grounds by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which essentially found that California had no rational basis for taking away from its gay citizens the marriage rights that it had previously granted.
Both cases involve government refusing to recognize the equal rights of gay people, either in married couples or couples who want to get married. With DOMA, Congress denied the same equal rights and benefits to gay married people as it offers to straight married people, and with Proposition 8, California actually revoked the marriage rights of gay people and prohibited the legislature from ever restoring those rights. The Proposition 8 proponents even sought to use the measure to annul gays’ and lesbians’ existing marriages without their consent. The discrimination in both cases is plain to see, all of it justified on the grounds of “traditional marriage” and “social tradition.”
The right to get married as a basic civil right has frequently been addressed by the Supreme Court, but the Court has never addressed whether that right extends to gay and lesbian Americans, and the Court could successfully dodge the underlying issue here.
One good possibility is that the Court will strike down DOMA as a naked Equal Protection violation, saying that states need not necessarily extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian residents but that, if states do extend equal marriage rights, the federal government may not discriminate against people who avail themselves of those rights. Pro-marriage forces expecting this result place a high burden of hope on Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has written excellent majority opinions upholding the equal rights of gay and lesbian Americans in Romer v. Evans (1996) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003). But Kennedy may instead decide purely on federalism grounds, potentially providing a fifth vote to strike down DOMA but preventing any pro-equality legal rationale from having a majority that would bind lower courts in the future.
In the California Proposition 8 case, the Court could say that states that give all of the state-law rights of marriage to gay and lesbian citizens cannot withhold from them the title of marriage; this would affect eight states in a similar situation as California. Another possibility, more remote, is that Justice Kennedy would agree to join the moderate-liberal faction in simply declaring that gay people have equal rights to marry, which would mean invalidating discriminatory laws still on the books in the vast majority of states. Conversely, the Court might also say that there is no obligation for California to protect the right of gay and lesbian citizens to marry at all. Or, finally, it could dismiss the whole case on either standing grounds—the Attorney general of California refused to defend Proposition 8, leaving that task to anti-marriage advocates who put the initiative on the ballot—or on the grounds that cert was improvidently granted. There are still many ways to escape the basic issue of discrimination, even though all of the momentum in the states is towards marriage equality and the rationales for discrimination have been collapsing everywhere like a giant house of cards.
Equal Protection versus the Politics of Inequality
As we await the Supreme Court’s decisions in these cases, Americans should not miss the big picture of this constitutional moment. In a society that disenfranchised African-Americans and other minorities for centuries and discriminated openly against racial minorities and the gay and lesbian population, we are living through giant progressive changes in political democracy and voting rights, educational opportunity, and marriage rights for all. Yet, in politics, as in physics, every action creates an equal and opposite reaction, and a huge ideological undertow has formed on today’s Supreme Court, which has replaced the values of the long-ago Warren Court with commitments to corporate power over government and government power over people. What is at stake in these cases is whether the Supreme Court will interpret the Constitution to be the instrument of equal protection for all or will twist it to make it the guarantor of inequality and injustice.
* * * * * * *
Jamie Raskin, a Senior Fellow at People for the American Way Foundation, is a professor of constitutional law at American University’s Washington College of Law and a State Senator in Maryland.
KSFY in Sioux Falls took on the debate about legalizing same-sex marriage in South Dakota yesterday by airing a report on how Iowans are faring under that state’s four-year-old marriage equality law. The station, in an attempt to hear both sides of the issue, interviewed an Iowa married couple, John Sellers and Tom Helten, and the state’s leading anti-gay activist, Bob Vander Plaats, who is trying to get the law overturned.
Which led to this segment, in which Sellers and Helten explain how they go to church, argue about bills and care for each other’s parents, followed by Vander Plaats explaining that he opposes marriage equality because, “If you do things God’s way when it comes to marriage, things work out really good. When you go against His plan, it’s awful.”
Photo credit: City of Minneapolis Facebook
Thousands of Minnesotans streamed into St. Paul Tuesday afternoon to witness history in the making. Governor Mark Dayton welcomed an estimated crowd of 7,000 equality supporters to watch him sign marriage equality legislation into law, making Minnesota the twelfth state to legalize marriage for same-sex couples.
People For members helped make this historic event happen. In 2012 PFAW activists joined the fight to vote down an anti-gay ‘one-man, one-woman’ measure on the November ballot. Following that first step, they continued working hard, joining PFAW ally organizations Minnesotans United and OutFront Minnesota in organizing their neighbors, making phone calls, sending emails, and writing letters to their newspapers, demanding full marriage equality for same-sex couples.
In late April, even a massive Midwestern blizzard didn’t stop hundreds from waving rainbow flags while rallying for same-sex marriage on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol before heading inside to lobby their legislators. Last week the big moment finally arrived, as activists from across Minnesota trekked to St. Paul to witness the historic debate of HF 1054 in the MN House. After a contentious three-hour debate, the bill passed easily on a vote of 75-59, evidence of the measure’s broad bi-partisan support.
On Monday the action moved to the Minnesota Senate chamber. Once again, PFAW members in their bright red PFAW ‘Equality Now!’ t-shirts joined thousands of marriage equality supporters at noon in the capitol as the MN Senate took up the measure. A massive crowd packing the rotunda and hallways chanted ‘Vote Yes!’ and sang protest songs, letting Senators know where they stood. By a vote of 42-45, the Senate voted down a divisive amendment that would have allowed business owners to refuse goods and services to same-sex couples based on religious objections. The hours-long but respectful debate on the intact same-sex marriage bill resulted in another bipartisan vote; the measure passing 37-30, sending the bill to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature.
At 5:00 pm yesterday Gov. Dayton and supportive members of the Minnesota Legislature gathered in the 90-degree heat on the front steps to celebrate the historic bill signing. A deafening roar rose from the crowd as Dayton signed the bill into law. Following the ceremony, the thousands of equality revelers paraded to downtown St. Paul for a free party thrown by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. The celebration lasted late into the warm spring night.
PFAW congratulates all Minnesotans and our People For members in celebrating the state’s newly-minted status as the twelfth marriage equality state!
Yesterday, as the Minnesota Senate voted 37-30 to allow same-sex marriages in the state, PFAW and friends expressed their support for marriage equality through signs, chants, and songs:
The Family Research Council’s Watchmen on the Wall conference is an annual gathering for pastors and other church leaders to hear from a panoply of right-wing speakers and get motivated to “transform America.” Our coverage of last year’s event highlights speakers’ attacks on evolution, secularism, Islam, LGBT people, and other tools of Satan.
This year’s conference, which takes place in Washington DC May 22-24, has been promoted by FRC for months. In April, FRC sent an excited alert that Sen. Ted Cruz, a Tea Party and Religious Right favorite who is reportedly mulling a 2016 presidential bid, had confirmed.
Based on other confirmed speakers, it seems likely that there will be two major themes to this year’s gathering: 1) religious liberty in America is under attack by Obama and his gay allies; and 2) only the church – led by uncompromising fired up pastors – can save freedom and America.
A notable addition to the cast of conservative evangelicals is William Lori, Archbishop of the Diocese of Baltimore and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. Lori has led the bishops’ attack on the Obama administration’s proposed regulations requiring insurance coverage of contraception. Lori, who believes that “aggressive secularity” is “becoming the established ‘religion’ in our country today,” will be right at home with his friends at the Family Research Council. A typical FRC Action mailing from Tony Perkins earlier this year said President Obama is out to “crush freedom.” The same letter warns about “death panels” under Obamacare, which Perkins calls “the tip of the tyranny-iceberg.”
Also entertaining the Watchmen will be Rep. James Lankford, who earlier this year blamed gun violence on “welfare moms” overmedicating their kids with psychiatric drugs because they “want to get additional benefits.” At FRC’s Values Voter Summit in September, Lankford said of the dispute over contraception coverage, “this is not a war on women, this is a war on people of faith.”
Also confirmed is Ergun Caner, who lost his position at Liberty University after Muslim and Christian bloggers, and then journalists, began to expose the falsehoods in the Jihadi-to-Jesus life story that Caner had used to make a name for himself in the post-9/11 evangelical universe. Caner will probably echo his remarks at the 2009 Values Voter Summit, where his message to Christians who were not being outspoken enough on the issues of the day: “You need to preach, teach, and reach, or just shut up and get out of our way.”
Anti-gay activist Harry Jackson is quick to invoke Satan and other demonic powers as the forces behind the gay rights movement, which he portrays as an enemy of religious freedom. He has charged that a “radical” gay element is trying to “close down every church in America.” In fact, one of his columns was titled,” Why do Gays Hate Religious Freedom?” Jackson’s apocalyptic anti-Obama rhetoric did not convince many Black Christians to vote against Obama, but Jackson thinks they’ll be sorry. God, he says, will “take out” those who chose “race over grace.” Jackson is a long-time FRC ally; he and Perkins co-authored Personal Faith, Public Policy, which calls Supreme Court rulings on church-state issues “assaults” on Christianity.
Jim Garlow, a California pastor who led church backing for Prop 8 in California and was then tapped by Newt Gingrich to run one of his political groups, had warned before the election that an Obama reelection would destroy the country. During an FRC post-election special Garlow said that Christians should expect massive persecution from the government. At last year’s Watchmen on the Wall conference, Garlow spoke at a press conference attacking President Obama’s use of religious language to describe his support for marriage equality. Evoking the words of a colonial preacher, Garlow said, “if necessary, here we die.” In an FRC DVD promoting Watchmen on the Wall, Garlow says an FRC-produced video was crucial to the Prop 8 win.
Richard Land is retiring in October after 25 years as head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty commission; he was dogged by controversy during the past year over plagiarism charges and racially inflammatory remarks he made regarding the Trayvon Martin killing. Land has charged that the only reason the Obama administration proposed regulations on contraception coverage was to "set the precedent of ramming this down our throats and forcing us to surrender our First amendment freedom of religion." Land says God will unleash judgment on America for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Watchmen will also hear from Jacob Aranza, whose 1983 book Backward Masking Unmasked warned that rock music was encoded with satanic messages that would entice teens into drug use and abnormal sexual behavior. Aranza says he burned “hundreds of thousands” of albums in those days. More recently, Aranza was an endorser of Rick Perry’s “Awakening” and participated in Religious Right strategy sessions convened by James Robison to try to prevent Obama’s re-election. In 2011, Aranza and Perkins appeared together on Robison’s television show, and Aranza gushed about Perkin’s work to mobilize pastors:
Tony Perkins is one of the great heroes in America today. He is a hero because it is unseen. He is uniting and equipping the most important people in America, and that's the pastors in America. If the local church is the hope of the world then pastors are the hope of the local church. Tony Perkins exists to encourage them and to equip them and to empower them. He's taking regular pastors -- the average church in America, James, as you know is less than 200 people; 80% of the churches in America are 200 or less -- and he is taking men like that and he is turning them into absolute heroes, just like pastors in Maine who are literally changing the moral fiber of an entire state because he has equipped them and empowered them and told them they're the people that are supposed to be the hedge of builders, and he is encouraging them to do just that.…I believe that as you speak you are literally trumpeting a sound that is encouraging pastors across America and families across America that are Christians to unite together to see God once again bring spiritual awakening to our nation.
JC Church is one of FRC’s pastor leaders “networking churches in Ohio to answer the call on moral issues.” His 3 Cord Alliance, which is affiliated with FRC, teaches pastors “how to bring sound scripturally based influence and change to your community.” Church has been praised by Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values: “I believe that if all the pastors in Ohio were like Pastor Church, we would have an army that Satan could not stop. He understands that America is led by the pulpit and we count on him to unite fellow pastors and their congregations to be the salt and light we so desperately need in the world today.”
Jack Hibbs is a California-based preacher who also pushed Prop 8; in 2011 he helped lead an unsuccessful effort to overturn the state’s SB 48, which he charged would lead to public schools indoctrinating students. In a video urging pastors to get involved, he said it is not enough to teach and preach the word of God, pastors needed to be “culture changers for Christ.” Leading into the 2012 election Hibbs was outspoken about the fact that Christians should vote for Romney over Obama. In a radio show the day after the 2012 elections, He says he was on the phone with Tony Perkins on election night and they had both believed that the outcome was up to the church: “The answer wouldn’t be determined in the White House or the statehouse….the answer for righteousness or unrighteousness, for light or for darkness, for liberty or tyranny, would be decided by the pastors.” Given the way things turned out, Hibbs says “I believe the responsibility, the outcome, and the fallout falls into the hands of the pulpits of America’s pastors who did not speak up….” Hibbs also echoes Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remarks: “those who are looking for handouts, they don’t want to work, they want the government to give things to them, overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama.” Hibbs said he was disappointed but not discouraged, because “God’s on the throne” and therefore “God has appointed him to be our president for God’s purposes – OK that means God has got some pretty gnarly purposes coming for America.”
There’s a special role at the conference for FRC’s executive vice president, retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin. Boykin retired from the military after being reprimanded by then-President Bush for making speeches depicting the war on terrorism as a Christian holy war against Islam. FRC hired Boykin last year after he was disinvited from speaking at West Point after faculty and cadets objected. Boykin and his Religious Right allies portrayed his mythical martyrdom as an attack on freedom of speech and religion. At last year’s Values Voter Summit, Boykin invoked Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler in denouncing what he said is an effort to move Americans away from belief in a sovereign God. He says everything President Obama is doing is right out of the” Communist Manifesto.”
Perkins seems to be counting on Boykin to strong-arm pastors at the conference into making a concrete commitment to political activism. In an insert in a packet mailed to pastors, Perkins says Boykin will offer the “concluding challenge” – and he insists that pastors book their flights home no earlier than 4pm so that they can stay. “During the Briefing, we will share details of the strategic plan the Lord is using to bring revival and renewal in communities around the nation through the engagement of pastors. At the end, we have a ‘call to decision’ or ‘invitation’ sort of like many of you do in a worship service. Just as you want those attending your worship service to stay and respond, we would respectfully ask the same of you.” Perkins has some leverage – FRC picks up most of the tab for one pastor from each church.
FRC launched Watchmen on the Wall in 2004. A 2010 promotional DVD said the group was up to 14,000 pastors; it said Perkins’ goal was to have 40,000 Watchmen pastors by 2015. Pastors who sign up get access to regular briefings, model sermons, and other toolkits for mobilizing their congregations and communities. The same promotional video contains a clip of “historian” David Barton quoting 19th Century preacher Charles Finney saying, in effect, that if the country is going to hell, it’s pastors’ fault. The notion that America can only be saved by more aggressive preachers is a recurring theme at Religious Right gatherings, including Liberty Counsel’s recent Awakening conference.
Last week, RWW posted video of Michele Bachmann calling the 9-11 and Benghazi attacks God’s judgment on America. A few weeks earlier, at Liberty Counsel’s Awakening conference, Bachmann insisted that public policy should reflect what she thinks God says – and she urged American Christians to focus on “spiritual warfare” in order to promote right-wing policies.
You see if we retreat from our values and fail to make the case on issues like marriage – because it is one man, one woman – because God said it is. Not because it’s poll tested – because God said it is. And life – not because it’s poll tested, because God stands for life. He made us in his image and likeness. And if we tread too softly on issues, like taking on Islamic jihad, and if we fight too timidly, and if we strive too meekly, then I think we all understand we very easily could come face to face with defeat, and then our nation would in fact pay a great and a lasting price, one that none of us wants to face.
Because we need to recognize the desperate situation of our condition, not only in the natural but also in the supernatural. Because as the scripture was read from the pulpit at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, we fight not against this world, we fight against the powers and principalities and 'Prince of the Air,' that’s where we need to focus as well, is on spiritual warfare…
Two years ago, the Iowa Religious Right group The Family Leader caused a bit of a stir when it convinced Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann to sign a “marriage pledge” that, among other questionable provisions, stated that African-American families were better off under slavery than they are today.
Just a few months later, all the major Republican presidential candidates save Mitt Romney participated in a “Thanksgiving Family Forum” hosted by the group.
And apparently the Family Leader’s president Bob Vander Plaats hasn’t learned much from the “marriage pledge” episode. In an interview today with Business Week about Sen. Rand Paul’s chances with social conservatives, Vander Plaats says Paul’s “leave it to the states” position on marriage equality is unacceptable because gay marriage, like slavery, is something “you don’t leave up to the states.”
Vander Plaats said Iowans may tolerate Paul’s comments on abortion exceptions because he’s also authored a bill that would define life as beginning at conception. His views on same-sex marriage are another matter.
“We are definitely going to have visits with Rand on some of those things,” said Vander Plaats, who disagrees with Paul’s view that the legal status of same-sex marriage, like drug crimes, should be left up to the states.
“You don’t leave slavery up to the states, nor should you,” said Vander Plaats. “It’s either right or it’s wrong.”
This afternoon the Minnesota House passed a bill allowing same-sex couples in Minnesota to marry. It is expected to be taken up by the Senate on Monday, and Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged to sign the legislation if it reaches him. If successful, Minnesota would be the twelfth state – and the third in one month – to pass marriage equality legislation.
“I personally want this to pass, but I also think it’s the right direction for Minnesota and where the future is headed,” said Minnesota House Speaker Paul Thissen on Tuesday, according to the Star Tribune.
Jake Loesch, communications director for Minnesotans United, shared a similar sentiment:
“Marriage is a simple freedom, it’s something that all Minnesotans deserve and it’s about the love, the commitment, the responsibility that two people share.”
As the Supreme Court considers cases that could lead to sweeping changes for same-sex couples and as state after state passes marriage equality legislation, here’s a look at Right Wing Watch’s collection of recent claims from the Religious Right on marriage equality. Relying on wild predications and outright lies, right-wing opponents contend that marriage for same-sex couples will lead to everything from “the murder of the masses” to Christians being forced underground.
Here are highlights of Right Wing Watch’s recent reporting on right-wing opposition to marriage equality:
10. Glenn Stanton: Same-Sex Marriage is a ‘Pernicious Lie of Satan’ that Imperils Society and Humanity (February 2013)
Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family asserted that homosexuality “is a really pernicious lie of Satan” because it denies “the distinct God imaging in each of us as males and females.” He went on to warn that gay equality leads to the “persecution” of Christians and will “redefine not only marriage but the family itself if not humanity completely.”
Read the full article here.
9. Harry Jackson: ‘Polygamy and Many Other Forms of Marriage’ Will ‘Automatically Sweep the Land’ if Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal (March 2013)
Pastor Harry Jackson said conservatives can win their fight against marriage equality if they succeed in convincing Americans about gay marriage’s dire consequences, such as the “automatic” legalization of polygamy. “If same-sex marriage is allowed to be mandated by fiat,” Jackson warned, “then right behind it, polygamy and many other forms of marriage will automatically sweep the land within just a matter of a few years.”
Read the full article here.
8. Erik Rush: Same-Sex Marriage Is an ‘Anti-Theistic, Christophobic Design of the Radical Left’ (March 2013)
WorldNetDaily columnist Erik Rush argued that gay rights advocates have a “venomous hatred for everything smacking of Christianity” and that same-sex marriage is part of “the anti-theistic, Christophobic design of the radical left,” which Rush claims will bring about “societal dissolution.”
Read the full article here.
7. Sandy Rios: Gay Marriage Brings about the ‘Rape of Our Children's Innocence’ (November 2012)
Sandy Rios of the American Family Association argued that marriage equality will lead to “explicit instruction in public schools” and the “rape of our children’s innocence.”
Read the full article here.
6. Matthew Hagee: Gay Marriage Will Be ‘The Death of Capitalism’ (March 2013)
On “Hagee Hotline,” Pastor Matthew Hagee warned that legalizing gay marriage would spell “the death of capitalism.”
“The only relationship in natural law that can produce consumers,” Hagee declared, “is the relationship between a man and a woman.”
Read the full article here.
5. Jim Garlow: Christians Will be ‘Forced Underground’ if Court Affirms Marriage Equality (March 2013)
Pastor Jim Garlow warned that if the Supreme Court affirms marriage equality, Christians will be “forced underground. Their buildings will be taken away from them, many of their rights will be taken away from them.”
Read the full article here.
4. Tony Perkins: If SCOTUS Legalizes Gay Marriage, it Could Lead to ‘Revolution’ (November 2012)
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council declared that if the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage, Christian conservatives will never accept it because they know that “it’s unnatural for two men to be married.” If the Court strikes down the anti-gay marriage amendments passed by various states, Perkins warned that it could lead to “revolution” and “just break this nation apart.”
Read the full article here.
3. Southern Baptist Leader Fred Luter Links North Korean Threats to Gay Marriage, Boy Scouts (March 2013)
Fred Luter, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention: “I would not be surprised that at the time when we are debating same-sex marriage, at a time when we are debating whether or not we should have gays leading the Boy Scout movement, I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that we have a mad man in Asia who is saying some of the things that he’s saying.”
Read the full article here.
2. Mat Staver: Supreme Court Could Spark Second Revolution and Civil War over Marriage Equality (December 2012)
According to Liberty Counsel head Mat Staver, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality, America may head toward outright revolt and a second civil war.
“This would be more devastating to our freedom, to our religious freedom, to the rights of pastors and their duty to be able to speak and to Christians around the country, than anything that the revolutionaries during the American Revolution even dreamed of facing,” Staver said. “This could cause another civil war.”
Read the full article here.
1. Alan Keyes: Gay Marriage Will Lead to Communism and ‘The Murder of the Masses’ (April 2013)
Former ambassador and perennial presidential candidate Alan Keyes maintained that if the government goes against divine law and legalizes same-sex marriage then the state will have limitless power, ultimately becoming a Communist regime that will authorize “the expropriation of all property” and “the murder of the masses.”
Read the full article here.
Both were fairly restrained, despite the best efforts of the moderator, who at one point asked Vander Plaats if McCoy, who lives in Des Moines with his partner, is “living a life that is not approved by God, in your mind?”
Vander Plaats responded that he was “not here to judge Sen. McCoy” because the senator might be like “some people that say, ‘Well, I’m gay, but I’m not practicing gay.'"
Later on, the conversation turned to the future of marriage equality. Vander Plaats brought up a question that Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked during oral arguments on the Prop 8 case, in which she prompted attorney Ted Olson to take down the right’s “slippery slope” argument that gay marriage will lead to legalized polygamy and incest. This question, Vander Plaats alleges, actually indicates that Justice Sotomayor would be ready to give legal backing to polygamists and “a dad who wants to marry his son or daughter.”
Vander Plaats added that, despite polls showing steadily increasing support for marriage equality, he believed that there would be a “reverse” of marriage equality “probably in our lifetime or in somebody else’s lifetime.”
At Liberty Counsel’s recent Awakening conference, gays were portrayed as enemies of religious freedom who are bent on turning public schools into indoctrination centers using the issue of bullying as a “Trojan horse.” Greg Quinlan, president of Parents and Friends of ExGays and Gays, who describes himself as ex-gay, complained that New Jersey’s new anti-bullying law is being used to bully Christian students, and hollered that the law is actually fascism.
You don’t need a law, inculcated and put into code, to talk about bullying. What this bully bill is is behavior modification. That’s the job of the parents and the teachers and we don’t need that put into law. This is fascism! This is fascism! We need to put a swastika on it!
Quinlan complained that public officials, including Gov. Chris Christie, would not listen to Religious Right objections to the bill because gay rights advocates had exploited the suicide of a bullied boy:
Because one boy -- and the homosexual agenda is extremely good at this, when there’s a disaster -- one boy jumps off the George Washington Bridge, kills himself in the Hudson River. And they seized that moment and they took it and used it to their advantage. And what did we do? We said “Oh, that’s terrible that that happened,” but we don’t have any statements to make when these issues do happen. This is where we have to have better messaging.
Matt Barber, one of the most ferociously anti-gay voices in public life, used a question about the treatment of an anti-gay protestor to charge that gays are motivated by hatred for Jesus Christ and that the “homosexual lifestyle” is a sin-condemned “culture of death.”
The question was, an elderly woman was at a homosexual rally and she was carrying this big styrofoam cross and she was knocked around, it was caught on film, no charges were filed, they took her cross, and stomped it, and crushed into tiny bits. That is a microcosm of what we’re up here – and I thought, something that immediately occurred to me was, wasn’t that a metaphor for what we’re up against. It’s about the cross. It’s about the cross and a hatred of Christ, who is what? The way, the truth, and the life. They hate the way, which is Christ, they hate the truth, which they are in conflict with, and they hate life. This is a culture of death we are talking about here, and the wages of sin is what? Is death. The homosexual lifestyle astronomically, from a statistical standpoint, leads to death. The wages of sin is death.
Other speakers on the panel were Rena Lindevaldsen, a Liberty University law professor and associate dean, and Cynthia Dunbar, a Religious Right activist who served on the Texas state board of education and who is now also a law professor at Liberty. Dunbar bragged in her conference bio that her work has earned her a “position” on Right Wing Watch.
Following closely on the heels of Rhode Island, Delaware is poised to become the eleventh state to allow same-sex couples to marry. Because the Delaware House passed a marriage equality bill last month and Governor Jack Markell has pledged to sign it, the only remaining step was passage in the state Senate – which happened this afternoon.
Recent polling data found that a clear majority of Delaware voters, like the majority of Americans in general, support marriage equality. In April Gov. Markell told the Huffington Post:
“…when the advocates came to me earlier this year, and said we think it's time…I said, you know what, it is time, and I'm happy to stand right there with you.”
We agree: it is time for loving, committed couples to be treated equally under the law – in Delaware and throughout the country.
Today the Rhode Island House passed and Governor Lincoln Chafee is expected to sign legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry, making it the tenth state in the country with full marriage equality. The state House passed a similar version of the bill earlier this year but held another vote following minor changes to the Senate version. Last week PFAW President Michael Keegan released a statement celebrating passage of the bill in the state Senate.
In The New York Times yesterday, Governor Lincoln Chafee called the nationwide push for marriage equality a “historic realignment”:
“A historic realignment is happening all around us, as Americans from all walks of life realize that this is the right thing to do. It is occurring both inside and outside of politics, through conversations at the office and over kitchen tables, and at different speeds in different parts of the country.”
Across dinner tables, in the pews, and in the halls of state legislatures, the momentum is indeed undeniable. Today’s victory will not only give equal marriage rights to committed, loving couples in Rhode Island, it will also strengthen the nationwide momentum towards marriage equality.