Marriage Equality

Rallying for Marriage Equality – Day Two

What has stood out most for me from this experience is seeing the real people behind these cases. Yesterday, I waited at the Court until attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson walked down those famous steps with the Proposition 8 plaintiffs, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo. Today, I watched as Edie Windsor, at 83 years old, made that same walk, to loud cheers and applause and chants of “Edie! Edie!” In return, we all got a wave and a kiss blown our way.
PFAW

Garlow: Christians Will be 'Forced Underground' if Court Affirms Marriage Equality

In an interview with Janet Mefferd yesterday, pastor Jim Garlow elaborated on his theory that gay people don’t actually want to get married. In fact, Garlow told Mefferd, gay people want to “destroy marriage” and “force us to affirm an immoral behavior.”

Garlow further 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.”

Garlow: I think it’s important for people to realize what’s really at stake here. And I know this sounds sound strange, most of us assume naively that what homosexuals are actually for is marriage. And that is not true, at least not universally true. What they want is to destroy marriage.

I think Masha Gessen out of Australia was the most open one I’ve seen on it. She’s a homosexual activist and she just said bluntly, ‘Let’s face it, we don’t want marriage, we want the end of marriage.’ And that’s exactly what happened, of course, in European countries, where they changed the laws regarding what the definition of marriage is and people just stopped getting marriage. And you’d think marriage rates would go up. Instead, they dropped because nobody respects the institution anymore.

And that’s what the heart of this is, not only to end marriage, they’re not demanding marriage for themselves, they want us, to force us to affirm an immoral behavior.

Mefferd: That’s it. And the religious liberty issue, and I know you’ve been really big on this as well, I think more Christians need to understand the connection between advancing LGBT rights and retreating Christian rights.

Garlow: If same-sex so-called marriage is established as the law of the land, many of the people who are listening to my voice right now, not maybe immediately but at some point in the future, if they are followers of Christ, will be forced underground. Their buildings will be taken away from them, many of their rights will be taken away from them.

Matthew Hagee: Gay Marriage Will be 'the Death of Capitalism'

On yesterday's "Hagee Hotline," 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. When you create a society that does not recognize this relationship as the foundation of its existence and you cease to produce what is required to sustain your economy, you will not survive":

Barber & Staver Say Entire Judiciary Will Lose Legitimacy if SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Marriage Equality

On the latest "Faith and Freedom" radio broadcast, Matt Barber and Mat Staver weighed in on the Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act cases that are currently before the Supreme Court,  during which Staver declared that if the Court does not rule as he thinks it should, the Supreme Court "will have lost its legitimacy in its entirety." 

Barber agreed and took it a step further, stating that if the Court rules in favor of marriage equality, it "will be the nail in the coffin of the credibility" of the entire judicial system because it is "just absurd" to think that something that the Founding Fathers believed to be a "crime against nature" would now be ruled constitutional.

"If they go over the edge here," Barber warned, "we are no long in decline, we are in a free fall":

Stay in Hope: Remarks by Minister Leslie Watson Malachi on Marriage Equality

Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of African American Religious Affairs at People For the American Way, delivered the following remarks to those supporting marriage equality in front of the Supreme Court today.

I greet you as one who is humbled to stand before you on this day that will be like none other and say celebrate, be glad in it, and keep standing for and with Hope!

Why Hope? As the Director of African American Religious Affairs of People For the American Way, Hope tells us DOMA will not stand but like Goliath, will fall.

Hope says same gender couples, in committed relationships will be recognized and receive those 1100 plus benefits now denied by the federal government. Hope defends what is right, Hope unites people and families, Hope stands with us and for us, and Hope is the American Way!

Why Hope? As an organizer and ally since 1996, Hope kept us waiting for this historic day. Hope gave us a process and a lesson to never take lightly judicial nominations, to make sure voter registration and mobilization is a core value, to rejoice in victories in 2012 from the proclamation from the highest officer holder in this country – President Obama - to 4 states making it 9 states total passing pro-Marriage Equality laws, and that our work in the states is not done.  Hope hasn’t just strengthened those who have always believed in marriage equality. It’s brought others to reconsider their opposition and join us on the side of justice for all. Hope is why we have so many other new and welcomed allies for equality.

Why Hope? As a Christian, during this Holy Week, from our sacred text “hope that is seen is not hope”, so you have had and must hold on with unwavering confidence that help has arrived, is sitting in between the walls of the highest court of this nation, and speaking into existence freedom that will no longer be denied.

And finally, why Hope? As an African American woman, on behalf of the Equal Justice Task Force of African American Ministers In Action, Hope says the enemy is a liar when they say African Americans and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are two separate - even hostile – communities, for “no weapon shall be forged against us” and no wedge can be driven between those who know oppression, discrimination, denial of basic civil and human rights.  Hope connects the civil rights movement to the gay rights movement, the yesterday to today, the hopeful to the hopeless.

So Beloved, stay in Hope! Stay in Hope I say for if the Justices are about the business of justice, then they will speak against hate, division, intolerance, and barriers to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.

Stay in Hope for my sacred text tells us what “man meant for harm, God intends for good”.

In this pivotal moment in our country's history, we must stand on the side of compassion and equality rather than on the side of oppression and discrimination. And that’s why we’re all out here on the steps of the Supreme Court today.

I leave you with these words, stay in Hope because it was the late Senator Ted Kennedy who said, and prayerfully he won’t mind me playing with it a little bit, “ For all those whose dreams have been our concern (to defeat all forms of discrimination), the work goes on (we are not going to stop trying until gay and lesbian Americans across the country have full legal equality), the cause endures (freedom to be, freedom to love, just freedom), the hope still lives ( I say again hope still lives), and the dream (for all persons to marry the person they love) shall never die.”

Be encouraged! Have faith. Expand love. Know peace. And may Hope, which is never silent, always be with you!

 

 

PFAW

Rallying for Marriage Equality – Now

“What do we want?  Equality!  When do we want it? Now!”

This morning PFAW staff and members joined a crowd of thousands gathered in front of the Supreme Court to chant, march, and speak out in support of marriage equality.  As Supreme Court Justices heard the first round of oral arguments on the marriage cases before them this term, multitudes of supporters gathered on the Court steps to share a simple message: our country is ready for marriage equality.

Today, the Court heard arguments on California’s anti-gay Proposition 8. Tomorrow, it will be considering the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In the weeks leading up to today, we have been asking friends of PFAW to share why dumping DOMA is important to them.  As I stood out at the rally this morning, I thought about all of the people who had been brave enough to share their story with us – and what this day meant to each of them.

For Bishop Allyson Abrams, a member of PFAW’s African American Ministers in Action, it’s time to dump DOMA “because it hurts and humiliates those who know love and who practice showing it each and every day.”  For Sam Paltrow, member of affiliate PFAW Foundation’s Young People For Program, DOMA has to go because it “teaches that gay families do not matter,” and for Young People For member Erik Lampmann, it’s an “issue of economic justice.”  Missoula City Councilmember Cailtin Copple, member of affiliate PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, “would like the chance to marry the person [she] loves someday.” 

While each person at the Supreme Court rally today – and those at the marriage rallies in all 50 states across the country – had a different reason for being there, we had a common goal:  Equality.  Now.

PFAW

Jennifer Roback Morse: If SCOTUS Legalizes Gay Marriage, Future Generations Will Ask 'What Were You Thinking?'

Speaking at today's "March for Marriage," Jennifer Roback Morse of The Ruth Institute predicated that, should the Supreme Court strike down Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, forty years from now, young people will demand to know "what where you thinking?"

Morse said that future children will turn to their same-sex parents and say "Dad, you and your partner are lovely guys; I love you Dad, but did you really think I would never need a mom?  What were you thinking!?! Mom, I know you love me.  You and your partner are nice ladies, but the biological connection that was so important to you, did you think it would never be important to me?  What were you thinking!?!"

Apparently, in the future, children raised their entire life by same-sex parents will refer to one of their parents as "Mom" or "Dad" and the other as "your partner."

Gary Bauer Threatens to Leave GOP if it 'Bails Out' on Issue of Marriage Equality

Today, the National Organization for Marriage and allied groups organized a "March for Marriage" orchestrated to coincide with arguments at the Supreme Court over the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. 

The march ended with a rally on the National Mall featuring a variety of speakers, including Gary Bauer, who used it as a platform to send a message to the Republican Party that "if you bail out on this issue, I will leave the party and I will take as many people with me as I possibly can":

Starnes and Rios: Gay Rights Opponents 'Second-Class Citizens,' Face 'Punishment' and 'Persecution'

Fox News commentator Todd Starnes joined Sandy Rios on American Family Radio yesterday to discuss the marriage equality cases being argued at the Supreme Court this week. The two took a grim view of the proceedings: Starnes lamented that opponents of gay rights have become “second-class” citizens and Rios warned that a Supreme Court marriage equality victory would lead to “tremendous punishment” for anti-gay activists.

“We are in for persecution like we have never seen,” she said, to which Starnes replied, “Well, it’s already started.”

Starnes: People are, people are very concerned about, about culture and about values and where things are going in this country. What concerns me, though, Sandy, is the vitriol coming from those who support gay marriage. You know, I’m the kind of person that is more than happy to sit down and talk and debate and listen to what people have to say. I may not agree with it, but at least, you know, it’s their right to have their opinion under our Constitution.

And yet, there seems to be this opinion on the other side that says, you know what, you and I don’t deserve the same rights. You know, it’s as if we’re second-class citizens now because we support the traditional, Biblical definition of marriage, or perhaps we are pro-life, and that means we’re somehow second-class citizens who don’t deserve to be in the public marketplace of ideas.

Rios: Absolutely. In fact, it’ll be worse than that. You know there’s going to be punishment. There will be tremendous punishment. If gay marriage is embraced by the country, if the Supreme Court goes south this week in its hearings, we are in for – of course, we’re not going to hear about it until June – but we are in for persecution like we have never seen it.

Starnes: Well, it’s already started.
 

Equal Protection or "Social Tradition": The Supreme Court's Test in the Marriage Cases

The Supreme Court hears two cases this week that could determine the future of marriage equality in America.

NOM's Brown Invokes Lincoln on Federal Marriage Amendment: 'We Cannot Be…Half Slave, Half Free'

National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown joined Steve Deace on Friday to discuss the marriage equality cases being argued this week at the Supreme Court. If the Court rules broadly in favor of equality, Brown said, NOM would turn its focus toward advocating for a Federal Marriage Amendment banning marriage equality throughout the country. Responding to conservatives who are concerned about the Federal Marriage Amendment’s infringement on states’ rights, Brown invoked Abraham Lincoln: “We need a solution in this country, we cannot be, as Lincoln said, half slave, half free. We can’t have a country on key moral questions where we’re just, where we don’t have a solution.”

I think we’re going to win these cases. But say the worst happens and we lose in a broad way – that means that the Court somehow does a Roe, a Roe v. Wade, on marriage and says that all these state constitutional amendments are overturned, gay marriage is now a constitutional right – well, we’re going to press forward on a Federal Marriage Amendment. We’ve always supported a Federal Marriage Amendment, and there’s a lot of misconceptions about it. Some people try and argue, ‘Well, this is against federalism.’ No, our founders gave us a system where we can amend the Constitution. We shouldn’t have to do this, we shouldn’t have to worry about activist judges, you know, making up out of thin air a constitutional right that obviously none of our founders found there and no one found there until quite recently. But if we do, for us, the Federal Marriage Amendment is a way that people can stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough.’ We need a solution in this country, we cannot be, as Lincoln said, half slave, half free. We can’t have a country on key moral questions where we’re just, where we don’t have a solution. And if the Court forces a solution, the way we’ll amend that is through  the Federal Marriage Amendment.

PFAW Foundation Releases Report Analyzing Critical Issues To Be Argued In SCOTUS Marriage Cases

WASHINGTON – Today People For the American Way Foundation released a new report outlining the history and arguments surrounding the two marriage cases before the Supreme Court this term: Hollingsworth v. Perry, challenging California’s Proposition 8, and U.S. v. Windsor, challenging Section 3 of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The report, Equal Protection or ‘Social Tradition:’ The Supreme Court’s Test in the Marriage Cases, details the legal histories of the current Supreme Court cases as well as past cases addressing the issue of marriage discrimination.  PFAW Foundation Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin, the report's author, takes apart conservative arguments against marriage equality, including those based on the goal of legislating social morality.  Released just before the Supreme Court hears oral argument, the report provides timely, in-depth analysis and historical background on the central issues of the cases.

“The only real question is what role the Court will play in the historical process of vindicating the rights of the people,” the report notes. “Will it constitutionalize discriminatory ‘traditions,’ as it did in Bowers v. Harwick, or will it defend the rights and liberties of the people, as it did in Lawrence v. Texas?”

The full report is available at www.pfaw.org.


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Ohio Anti-Gay Leader Encouraged Portman to Put Son in Ex-Gay Therapy, Vows to Fight His Reelection

Sen. Rob Portman has, unsurprisingly, been faced with a barrage of criticism from Religious Right groups since he announced that, inspired by his gay son, he had changed his mind to support marriage equality. But perhaps no one has been more upset with Portman than Ohio anti-gay leader Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values. Last week, Burress called Portman “a very troubled man” who is  “distraught over what’s happened to his son.”

On Wednesday, Burress took to “ex-gay” activist Michael Brown’s “Line of Fire” radio program to recount a conversation he had with Portman shortly before the senator’s announcement. Portman was “dejected” and “basically sad throughout the conversation,” Burress says. And while Burress had initially thought Portman was “looking for help for his son to walk away from the lifestyle” through "ex-gay" therapy,  it eventually became “obvious that he was going to embrace his son’s behavior, which was devastating, because he just gives his son no chance whatsoever of understanding, you know, that he doesn’t have to be that way.”

Burress knows who to blame for this change of heart in father and son: Yale University, where the younger Portman is currently a freshman. At Yale, Burress says, Portman’s son was “probably associating with the other homosexual activists” and ultimately “forced his dad’s hand on this thing.”

Burress: He called me the night before he went public and told me that he was the first one that he wanted to call, and we shared ideas and thoughts. And when he first called me, I thought he was looking for help for his son to walk away from the lifestyle, because I’m pretty sure that he knows that I spent four and a half years on the board of an international organization helping people walk away. And he dropped the bomb on me by saying he was going to change his opinion, which I still today cannot believe that he did that because this is a principled issue and you just don’t turn your back on principled issues.

Brown: Phil, do you think, and you wrote a very gracious but firm editorial that’s getting a lot of national exposure, do you think that he was unaware before this that his son felt that his homosexuality was not a choice? Because he announced it as if this was a new revelation.

Burress: Well, he knew about it for two and a half years. So, apparently in thinking back, he, they learned about it while he was a freshman in high school, and now he’s a, excuse me, a junior in high school, and now he’s a freshman at Yale. And I don’t think there’s any coincidence to this whatsoever that he came home, probably associating with the other homosexual activists at Yale, and I think maybe he forced his dad’s hand on this thing because, that’s just my gut feeling, because Rob started off the conversation by saying, ‘I’ve got some really bad news,’ and he was dejected and basically sad throughout the whole conversation. And it ended up being a conversation, a dad to a dad, but it was obvious that he was going to embrace his son’s behavior, which was devastating, because he just gives his son no chance whatsoever of understanding, you know, that he doesn’t have to be that way. And I told him that it’s not innate, it’s a learned behavior.

Later in the program, Burress promised electoral defeat for Portman if he runs for reelection in 2016. Burress notes that former Ohio Republican Sen. Mike DeWine lost his bid for reelection in 2006 after opposing a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Burress neglects to mention that DeWine, who supported a federal gay marriage ban,  in fact lost to Democrat and gay-rights supporter Sherrod Brown.


Brown: What do we do now? Do we just say, ‘Another loss, throw in the towel, America’s capitulating,’ or can we bring about change?

Burress: We can bring about change alright, and what’s surfacing now is what happened to Mike DeWine, Senator Mike DeWine, when he opposed us in 2004. I chaired the marriage amendment in Ohio to change the constitution here in Ohio and Senator DeWine came out against us. And he’d been in the Senate for, I think, two or three terms, and obviously that cost him his election. When he ran again, he got beat because he switched his position. And there’s no doubt in my mind that the same thing’s going to happen, based on the emails and the calls we’re getting, is that people are not only devastated but are angry that they have somebody up there that they voted for to represent their point of view and their values and he’s turned his back on them. This is a non-negotiable issue with our organization and he will be listed on our annual, what we call Ohio Election Central, our reporting agency where we endorse candidates, as ‘unacceptable for public office.’

 

Why It’s Time to Dump DOMA: Paul Gordon

This piece is the eighth in a series of guest blog posts on “Why It’s Time to Dump DOMA.” In the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court arguments on the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, we’re asking friends of PFAW to share why dumping DOMA matters to them. Be sure to check back soon for the latest post in the series.

At the end of 2008, my husband and I were married in the same synagogue where I’d had my bar-mitzvah more than three decades earlier.  As a 13 year-old in the 1970s, I read from the Torah and spoke to the congregation about letting the people we love know how much we love them. But as a closeted 13 year-old, I never dreamed that 30 years later, I’d be standing in the same chapel, with all the same people who are dearest to me, publicly professing my love for another man. Rick and I were surrounded by family and married in the traditions of our faith. And as we drank from the Kiddush cup, we adapted a practice from the Passover Seder; since Prop 8 had just passed, we removed eight drops of wine as a symbol that our joy was diminished by the suffering caused by marriage discrimination.

Passover is my favorite holiday because it is about living in a just society.  It teaches us to welcome the stranger, because “we were strangers in the land of Egypt.” It is a lesson that, unfortunately, must be learned and relearned, as every society has those whom it unjustly treats as outcasts.

It’s appropriate that the Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments in both the Prop 8 and Defense of Marriage Act cases during the week of Passover. Although the Constitution uses the language of “equal protection” instead “strangers in the land of Egypt,” the underlying values are the same. It is wrong – and unconstitutional – for states to prohibit us from marrying and for the federal government to refuse to recognize our marriages. What better time than Passover to dump DOMA and strike down Prop 8?

Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel
People For the American Way

PFAW

Barber & Crampton: Christians Must 'Rise Up' and 'Resist' if SCOTUS Strikes Down DOMA

On a recent "Faith and Freedom" radio program, Matt Barber and Steve Crampton discussed the looming Supreme Court hearing over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act during which they declared that if the Court strikes it down, "it is high time the people rise up against the tyranny of the judiciary."

"If the judges foist this upon us, we need to resist," proclaimed Crampton, which prompted Barber to respond that Christians will have seriously consider civil disobedience, saying "in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr, it may be the time for peaceful civil disobedience when it comes to the fundamental deconstruction of our most fundamental institutions":

Hagee: Sodom and Gomorrah Was God's 'Pilot Study' for Dealing with 'the Homosexual Society'

On this week's "Hagee Hotline," Pastor John Hagee responded to a question from a viewer about whether God would hold this nation accountable if it ever legalized gay marriage by declaring that biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah was "God's pilot study for his response to the homosexual society," and warning that it was not a matter of the government approving it but rather "if the people accept it, and if the righteous accept it, judgment will come":

Challenging the Right's Religious Liberty Claims

The ongoing campaign by the Religious Right and its conservative Catholic allies to redefine religious liberty in America – which has been covered extensively by PFAW and Right Wing Watch – is the focus of a new report released on Monday by Political Research Associates, a think tank that also monitors right-wing organizations. “Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights,” was written by Jay Michaelson, who published a condensed version in the Daily Beast.

Michaelson’s report reviews the organizational players and the strategies they employ, among them: mixing fact and fiction; claiming that there is a war on religious liberty; and reversing the roles of victim and oppressor to portray as religious liberty “victims” people who claim a right to discriminate against others. He notes that Religious Right disinformation has had some success in shaping public opinion: in Minnesota last year a large plurality of marriage equality opponents believed that if marriage equality became the law, churches would be forced to solemnize same-sex marriages, even though there is universal agreement that the First Amendment guarantees that churches are free to choose which relationships to bless or not to bless.

The PRA report includes the following recommendations for social justice advocates:

1. Define and publicize the campaign to redefine religious liberty

2. Organize a unified response

3. Counter misinformation

4. Reclaim the religious liberty frame

5. Develop academic responses

6. Leverage religious communities

7. Ongoing research and monitoring

Religious liberty was also the topic of a forum at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., cosponsored by the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Education Project, Moment Magazine, and the Committee on Religious Liberty of the National Council of Churches. Moment, an independent Jewish Magazine, has also published a special Religious Freedom issue for March/April 2013.  At the conference, two large panels brought together a range of religious and secular voices to discuss and debate the meaning of religious liberty and the claims that liberty is under attack in the U.S. today.

Charles Haynes, the First Amendment expert who heads Newseum’s religious liberty committee, noted that the broad coalition that came together to back the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the 1990s is no longer.  Michael Lieberman, director of the Civil Rights Policy Planning Center for the Anti-Defamation League, suggested a reason: that the coalition had intended RFRA to be a shield against government restrictions on the free exercise of religion, but that conservative groups had turned RFRA into a spear used to attack anti-discrimination laws.

One central principle of PFAW’s Twelve Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics became clear: while people can agree on the broad principle that religious liberty protects the freedom to live in accord with one’s religious beliefs, that consensus breaks down quickly when deciding how law and policy should react when religious liberty comes into tension with other constitutional principles like equality under the law. Indeed, panelists strongly (but civilly) disagreed on to what extent organizations – whether religiously affiliated institutions or business corporations – should be able to claim exemption from anti-discrimination laws or the HHS requirement for insurance coverage of contraception. 

Richard Foltin of the American Jewish Committee argued for a shades-of-gray, rather than a black-and-white approach, saying organizations should be viewed on a spectrum, with churches and sectarian institutions on one end and corporations at the other. Foltin said the AJC has submitted amicus briefs in favor of marriage equality at the Supreme Court, but also believes that there are significant religious liberty questions that courts will have to deal with as marriage equality is implemented.  (As noted at another point during the day, the states that now recognize marriage equality all have somewhat different religious exemptions.)

Michaelson proposes five tiers of organizations with differing levels of claims to religious liberty: churches/denominations; religious organizations; religiously affiliated organizations; religiously owned business, and religious individuals. The right-wing, he says, keeps trying to “move the sticks” from the first three groups to the latter two.  He notes that the Mormon Church owns extensive business interests, including shopping malls, and says that if business owners are allowed to claim exemption from anti-discrimination laws and other regulations based on religious belief, many employees will have their rights and interests restricted. 

Author Wendy Kaminer argued that the religious liberty of institutions is over-protected rather than threatened, saying that she believes some claims for religious liberty are actually demands for religious power to impose their beliefs on others.  If business owners are allowed to claim a religious exemption from generally applicable civil rights laws, she asked, what would be the limiting principle to such claims? Could business owners cite religious beliefs to ignore child labor laws, or to refuse to hire married women?  Kaminer challenged what she called an emerging legal double standard: when it comes to taking government funds, advocates say religious organizations need a level playing field and should be treated like every other organization. But when it comes to free exercise claims, and groups like Catholic Charities say they shouldn’t be subject to generally applicable laws, they don’t want a level playing field but special privileges.

Holly Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, said that overblown rhetoric about threats to religious freedom is damaging to public understanding of religious liberty. She suggests that the first response to someone who talks about threats to religious liberty should be to ask them what specifically they are talking about.  For example, while people may be concerned when they hear about “an assault on religious liberty,” most Americans do not see a problem with requiring religiously affiliated institutions to abide by anti-discrimination laws or meet contraception requirements.

Legal scholar Jeffrey Rosen suggested that on church-state issues, the Supreme Court justices could be divided into three camps: religious supremacists, advocates of “religious neutrality,” and strict church-state separationists.  The separationists, he said, had their heyday in the 1970s and early 1980s, but that the courts have been moving more toward a “religious neutrality” approach, which he said in some cases is really a cover for the religious supremacists yearning for an openly religious state.  He said a landmark of the triumph of “neutrality” over separation was the 1995 Rosenberger case, in which the court said a public university could not deny funding from a religious publication because of its religious nature.  In the future, he said, Justices Breyer and Kagan may be willing to embrace a “religious neutrality” approach in hopes of winning votes to try to keep Robert and Kennedy from joining the Scalia-Thomas religious supremacists.

Mark Rienzi of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has filed lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate and which has urged the Supreme Court to uphold Prop 8 and DOMA, portrayed religious liberty issues not as part of a culture war but as the necessity in a pluralistic society of recognizing that differences exist and allowing everyone the maximum ability to live according to their beliefs. He suggested that most church-state conflicts are blown out of proportion and can be resolved relatively easy with a willingness to work around individual religious liberty claims. Kim Colby of the Christian Legal Society endorsed that view, and noted that the Supreme Court will likely be deciding cases in the near future about what constitutes a “substantial burden” on a person’s religious beliefs and what might qualify as a “compelling state interest” that would justify that burden.

Michaelson challenged Rienzi’s portrayal, saying that “religious liberty” itself has become a code word for a new tactic in the culture war against LGBT equality and reproductive rights, and that it was wrong to pretend there would be no victim if a business owner were granted the right, for example, to ignore laws against anti-gay discrimination.  Pharmacies, he said, used to have lunch counters that were segregated. Would it have been OK to justify that discrimination by saying there was another lunch counter down the street, the argument used by advocates for allowing pharmacists to refuse to provide some drugs based on their religious beliefs?

The ADL’s Lieberman said that from his perspective as an advocate for minority religions these do not seem like small or easily resolved issues, and said there was a clear prospect that individual rights would not be safeguarded if, for example, majoritarian school prayer were permitted.  Hoda Elshishtawy, legislative and policy analyst at the Muslim Public Affairs Council also noted the reality of a major power differential between members of majority and minority religions.  Dan Mach, director of the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, noted that there are widespread abuses in public schools, citing an example of a South Carolina public school that set aside a day explicitly intended to try to convert as many students as possible to Christianity.

Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance, who moderated the first panel, noted that even on the day the First Amendment was passed, not everyone agreed with it or agreed with what it meant. We’ve been working it out ever since then and can’t quit, he said.  Charles Haynes made a similar point in his closing remarks, noting that in spite of all the differences evident in how we apply First Amendment principles, the ability to continue having the conversation is a reminder of how well those principles have worked to protect religious liberty in an increasingly diverse nation.

Ralph Reed Makes 'The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage'

A few weeks ago, Ralph Reed stopped by the offices of the Wall Street Journal to make "The Case Against Gay Marriage" which he did by declaring that "all the statistics and data that we have" prove that children of intact, loving families to better than children who do not grow up in such families. 

Reed proceeded to cite some unnamed CEO who claimed to have studied the most productive staff in the company and discovered that "the number one determinant of how hard they worked and how dedicated they were" was coming from an intact, loving family.

Of course, that might lead one to ask how exactly that is supposed to be an argument against gay marriage, since gay marriage would only lead to the creation of more intact, loving families, but Reed wasn't buying it because "we have not tested that thesis on a national level." 

Apparently the anecdotal evidence that Reed gleaned from some anonymous CEO was very convincing but the idea that gay families could also produce productive, hard working citizens was too untested and so it would be dangerous to "tinker" with the institution of marriage so "willy-nilly":

NOM's Peters: Regardless of 'Propaganda,' the Human Heart Knows Gay Marriage is Wrong

Thomas Peters of the National Organization for Marriage was the guest on today's episode of "WallBuilders Live" where he discussed the organization's efforts to spread its anti-marriage equality message to the next generation, saying that the key to their success will be finding a way to overcome the "intolerance and hatred" on campuses against those who promote this message.

Insisting that being anti-gay marriage does not make one anti-gay, Peters asserted that, despite all the "propaganda," the human heart simply knows that gay marriage is wrong and so this position will eventually win out, and it is imperative to work to prevent people from becoming confused and lost in the meantime:  

I'd say that the two big steps to getting to that message, of course, are fighting against the intolerance and hatred that is directed against us, especially in schools. You have a lot of pro-marriage people my age and younger in schools right now and they don't feel safe right now in sharing their pro-marriage convictions on that vast majority of college and high school campuses. That is something that has got to end.  We've got to figure out how to break down this ostracizing of pro-marriage viewpoints.

And second of all, we have to continually talk to people about how being pro-marriage is not anti-gay and that there is simply nothing discriminatory about seeing the love of a man and a woman as unique and special and worth protecting.

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Marriage just speaks to the human heart and no matter how much propaganda you try to throw at that, the human heart always reestablishes what it knows to be true.  And we just know it's true that there is a difference between two men coming together and a man and a woman coming together.  And so I think that is the core message of marriage that eventually will overcome.  The question is how many people in the meantime are confused, how many people lose out on that saving message.

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