Election Day was a disaster for the National Organization for Marriage: it lost in all four states in which marriage equality was on the ballot in some way; it failed to take out another Iowa Supreme Court justice who had ruled in favor of equality; and it failed in its mission to defeat Barack Obama.
Washington, DC -- Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way, released the following statement in response to victories of marriage equality ballot measures in Maine and Maryland, the lead for a marriage equality measure in Washington, and the defeat of a discriminatory marriage amendment in Minnesota:
"Yesterday was a great day for progressive values, and none more than the American value of equality under the law. For the first time in our history, voters accepted marriage equality at the polls, with marriage equality measures passing in two states and poised to pass in another. In a landmark victory, voters also rejected a discriminatory marriage amendment. And, for the first time in our history an openly gay American won a seat in the U.S. Senate. This is not a fluke, it is a watershed.
"Eight years ago, George W. Bush and Karl Rove hitched their reelection effort to anti-gay animus, pushing discriminatory ballot measures in 11 states in an effort to boost their own campaign. Yesterday, Americans decisively reelected the first president to publicly support marriage equality and turned out to the polls to support their LGBT neighbors.
"These votes are victories for families in Maine, Maryland and Washington who will now have access to many of the protections of marriage. But they are also victories for all Americans, who step by step are building a country where all our neighbors are treated with decency and respect. We have a lot of work left to do, but this much is clear: the politics of exclusion and discrimination is no longer a winning formula."
This week the Equal Justice Task Force of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers In Action released a statement in support of the marriage equality ballot measures in Maryland, Maine, and Washington and opposing a discriminatory marriage amendment in Minnesota.
“At this moment in history, it is important that we stand on the side of faith, compassion, and equality instead of on the side of discrimination and oppression,” said Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of African American Religious Affairs at People For the American Way. “We’ve seen again and again that when laws prevent gay and lesbian couples from getting the protections that only marriage can provide, all families are harmed and all communities suffer. As an African American and a woman I am frightened when one group attempts to limit or restrict the rights of others. We urge voters in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington to reject discrimination and vote to strengthen and affirm all families.”
People For the American Way President Michael Keegan responds to the Log Cabin Republicans’ endorsement of Mitt Romney:
I’m not surprised that the Log Cabin Republicans have gone against the best interests of LGBT Americans in endorsing Mitt Romney. Responding to their rationalization would normally not be worth the time, but one of their attempts at self-justification deserves a response. Log Cabin claims, ‘Those who point fearfully to potential vacancies on the United States Supreme Court, we offer a reminder: five of the eight federal court rulings against DOMA were written by Republican-appointed judges. Mitt Romney is not Rick Santorum, and Paul Ryan is not Michele Bachmann.’
The Log Cabin Republicans have willfully ignored everything Mitt Romney has said about the Supreme Court.
Romney has said that he will appoint Supreme Court justices and lower court judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who are both adamantly opposed to protecting the rights of gay people under the Constitution. Both dissented in Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling that ended criminal sodomy laws. In his dissent, Scalia accused the Court’s majority of signing on to the ‘homosexual agenda.’ These are the kind of Justices that Mitt Romney has promised to nominate to the Supreme Court.
We can also look to Romney’s choice of Robert Bork to lead his judicial advisory committee, a clear signal that he’s ready to cede judicial nominations to the Religious Right. Bork has vehemently disagreed with every pro-gay rights decision the Supreme Court has ever made, and even claims that marriage equality will lead to ‘man-boy associations’ and ‘polygamy.’ This is who Romney has picked to advise him on judicial nominations.
Romney doesn’t just support amending the Constitution to prohibit marriage equality – an amendment that every justice would be obliged to enforce. Everything Romney has said about judicial nominations indicates that he will appoint Supreme Court justices and lower court judges who will do lasting damage to the rights of all Americans – including LGBT people. No LGBT American or anyone who believes in equality should be fooled into thinking otherwise.
A conservative George H. W. Bush nominee on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals authored a strong decision today declaring section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Earlier this year, a federal district court judge in Connecticut, that one a Bush-43 nominee, also declared the law unconstitutional. So did a unanimous panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
The case before the 2nd Circuit was that of Edith Windsor, an octogenarian in New York who lost her wife in 2009; they had been together for forty years. The New York Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Windsor, described her case in a press release this summer:
Windsor and Spyer lived together for more than four decades in Greenwich Village. Despite not being able to marry legally, they were engaged in 1967. In 1977, Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and Windsor helped her through her long battle with that disease. They were finally legally married in May 2007.
When Spyer died in 2009, she left all of her property to Windsor. Because they were married, Spyer's estate normally would have passed to Edie as her spouse without any estate tax at all. But because of DOMA, Windsor had to pay more than $363,000 in federal estate taxes. Payment of the federal estate tax by a surviving spouse is one of the most significant adverse impacts of DOMA since the amount owed, as was true in this case, is often quite substantial.
"Edie Windsor, who recently celebrated her 83rd birthday, suffers from a serious heart condition," said Roberta Kaplan, a partner at Paul Weiss and counsel to Windsor. "Because the District Court's ruling in her favor is entitled to an automatic stay of enforcement, Edie cannot yet receive a refund of the unconstitutional estate tax that she was forced to pay simply for being gay. The constitutional injury inflicted on Edie should be remedied within her lifetime."
The 2nd Circuit opinion leaves no ambiguity as to the discriminatory harm done by section 3 of DOMA. Ian Millhiser at Think Progress pulls out this paragraph of the decision:
[W]e conclude that review of Section 3 of DOMA requires heightened scrutiny. The Supreme Court uses certain factors to decide whether a new classification qualifies as a quasi-suspect class. They include: A) whether the class has been historically “subjected to discrimination,”; B) whether the class has a defining characteristic that “frequently bears [a] relation to ability to perform or contribute to society,” C) whether the class exhibits “obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that define them as a discrete group;” and D) whether the class is “a minority or politically powerless.” Immutability and lack of political power are not strictly necessary factors to identify a suspect class. Nevertheless, immutability and political power are indicative, and we consider them here. In this case, all four factors justify heightened scrutiny: A) homosexuals as a group have historically endured persecution and discrimination; B) homosexuality has no relation to aptitude or ability to contribute to society; C) homosexuals are a discernible group with non-obvious distinguishing characteristics, especially in the subset of those who enter same-sex marriages; and D) the class remains a politically weakened minority.
That’s an unambiguous indictment of DOMA and of all laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians. Nevertheless, House Speaker John Boehner, who has now spent $1.5 million taxpayer dollars in an attempt to defend DOMA, is likely to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. But the easier option, as PFAW president Michael Keegan points out in a statement today, would be for Congress just to repeal DOMA. It’s done enough harm to millions of people like Edie Windsor, and its effects will become clearer as more and more gay and lesbian couples are allowed to marry, and find that their marriages aren’t recognized by the federal government.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages sanctioned by the states, is unconstitutional.
Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way, issued the following statement:
“Every federal court that has reviewed DOMA’s section 3 has found that it violates our constitutional principles. This should be no surprise. DOMA hurts gay and lesbian married couples by denying them some of the most basic protections of marriage, and it does so for no reason but prejudice against LGBT families. Our Constitution guarantees all Americans equal protection under the law, and DOMA clearly violates that principle.
“House Speaker John Boehner has wasted nearly a million and a half taxpayer dollars on defending this indefensible law. I am confident that the Supreme Court would not let DOMA stand, but I hope that they never have to review it. Most Americans don’t want to hurt their gay and lesbian neighbors, and we’ve seen over and over again that DOMA does real harm to real people. Congress must recognize the harm that DOMA has done and repeal it before it hurts more legally married Americans.”
A People For the American Way petition calling for the repeal of DOMA has gathered over 200,000 signatures.
A few years ago, anti-gay activist Harry Jackson claimed that he had moved from Maryland into the District of Columbia in order to lead an unsuccessful campaign against marriage equality in the District. Jackson’s legal residency was the topic of much debate at the time; Jackson signed an affidavit affirming his DC residency. But now, Jackson is supporting an anti-marriage equality campaign in Maryland. Will he be eligible to vote against marriage equality in Maryland? At the Values Voter Summit this past weekend, Jackson bragged that he had ordained and pastored Derek McCoy, who directs the Maryland Marriage Alliance and asked VVS attendees for financial support. Jackson, in a workshop promoting his own campaign to use marriage as a wedge issue against Obama and other Democrats in seven swing states, caught himself when talking about the struggle over marriage in Maryland. “I live in – have a church in that state,” he said.
Cross-posted at AlterNet
Pete Sessions heads the National Republican Congressional Committee and in that role his top goal is electing Republicans. To that end, Sessions has worked with Log Cabin Republicans – and was honored by the group with its Barry Goldwater Award in 2010 – in spite of his own strongly anti-gay voting record: during the past three sessions of Congress his rating on HRC’s scorecard has ranged from zero all the way to six percent and now sits at three percent. Sessions has voted repeatedly for federal constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage, and against ENDA and repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
On today's "Faith and Freedom" program, Matt Barber declared that gay activists don't actually want marriage equality but rather are interested in "deconstructing the Judeo-Christian notion of marriage as marriage has always been."
In fact, Barber claimed, the institution of marriage has always been about restricting which sorts of relationships are legitimate, which is why "people can't marry children, people can't marry close relatives, people can't marry their favorite pet." Barber then warned that if "we're going to break the institution of marriage and radically redefine it" then "polygamy is inevitable if same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land and we can no longer have prohibitions on incestuous marriage":
On the Janet Mefferd Show yesterday, the Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg shared his theory of how gay rights activists are winning the battle for public opinion: through “intimidation” and “emotional blackmail”:
Sprigg: There are people with big bucks who are trying to move the Republican Party in a more liberal direction on this issue. And while, you know, I think it will be a long time before – I don’t think it’ll ever happen that the Republican Party will endorse same-sex marriage – but what I fear more than that is some candidates in office and officeholders simply going silent on the issue.
Mefferd: Oh, that’s happening.
Sprigg: That is definitely happening and that’s where the big concern is, because if we are not willing to fight to defend marriage, then that increases the chances we will lose it.
Mefferd: Well, and that’s what’s so frustrating, especially for us as Christians, when we look at so many people who don’t have the spine to talk about it. ‘Well, let’s just work the issue back around to the economy, everybody wants to talk about the economy, I don’t want to talk about something controversial.’ Part of it, I think, is because they don’t want to be vilified, they don’t want to be called names, because that’s what the activist crowd does, they call you names, they insult you, they make your life pretty miserable. Look what they’re doing to Dan Cathy! Who does want to put up with that?
Sprigg: Right. That’s exactly right. It’s a form of intimidation that they’re using, a sort of emotional blackmail almost. And with some people it’s effective. They don’t want to pay that price.
It has been known for years that Chick-fil-A supports right-wing groups. The company has given out gift cards at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit. At a recent Religious Right gathering, a speaker talked about how wonderful it was to live and work in Atlanta, where, he said, there’s a Baptist church on every corner and the streets are paved with Chick-fil-A.
So I am no fan of Chick-fil-A, but I’m a big fan of freedom, and that includes Chick-fil-A’s freedom to open its restaurants, even in cities where progressive political leaders don’t like the reactionary politics promoted by the company and its owners.
There’s been a robust campaign by advocates for LGBT equality to call more attention to Chick-fil-A’s contributions to “traditional family” groups, which total in the millions of dollars. But the feathers really flew when company president Dan Cathy made comments in an interview with Baptist Press bragging about his company’s position on marriage – “guilty as charged” -- and his comments to an Atlanta radio station.
I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’” said Cathy.
I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about,” he added.
It’s no surprise that Cathy’s comments have stirred supporters of LGBT equality to respond. Much of that response has been in the best traditions of free speech and protest. In Washington, D.C., this week, the Human Rights Campaign organized a protest in front of a Chick-Fil-A food truck. Other activists have rallied outside Chick-Fil-A stores and some students have protested the company’s presence on their campuses.
In addition, a number of political leaders have spoken out in defense of marriage equality and in opposition to the company’s support for discrimination. Twenty years ago, I would never have imagined elected officials taking the time to publicly criticize a business on behalf of the ability of same-sex couples to get married. It’s a good thing – a sign of amazing progress.
But a couple of politicians have gone too far – suggesting that the power of government should be used to prevent the company from opening restaurants based on its political donations and the positions of its owners. That’s not a good thing. As a matter of principle, the government shouldn’t treat individuals differently based on their political or religious beliefs, or companies based on the political activities and contributions of their owners. As others have noted, we wouldn’t want cities or states to have the power to prevent the opening of stores whose owners support LGBT equality or other progressive causes.
People For the American Way’s headquarters is located in the District of Columbia, where elected officials have recognized that LGBT people should be treated equally under the law. DC’s progressive public policies stand in stark contrast to the anti-equality work of groups like the Family Research Council, but we would never suggest that the DC government could or should have prevented FRC from planting its headquarters in the center of downtown DC. Our commitment to freedom and equality should extend to those who don’t share it.
Illinois pastor John Kirkwood joined Peter LaBarbara on Americans for Truth About Homosexuality Radio Hour last week to discuss a pending challenge to Illinois’ ban on same-sex marriage. The two were up in arms because the Cook County circuit court judge presiding over the case, Sophia Hall, is openly gay. Not only do they want Judge Hall to recuse herself from the case (the Right made a similar, unsuccessful demand of Judge Vaughn Walker, who presided over the Prop 8 trial in California), but they take issue with the very existence of openly gay judges.
Kirkwood, perusing a newsletter article about a function honoring openly LGBT judges in Cook County compared the event to one honoring “the adulterous judges of Cook County” and mused, “We were better off when the Mafia ran Illinois because they were interested in making a profit, not making some kind of political statement that is totally abhorrent.”
LaBarbara: It’s just amazing, John. I mean, you know, Cook County is corrupt, but it’s hard to appreciate how corrupt it is if you’re outside of Illinois. And this is a county that, and we have a photo here of Judge Hall, she’s one of 14 openly homosexual judges in this county.
Kirkwood: Yeah, you know, it’s affectionately called “Crook County” now. And I can actually make the bold statement, and it might sound absurd as a pastor, but we were better off when the Mafia ran Illinois because they were interested in making a profit, not making some kind of political statement that is totally abhorrent.
Kirkwood: It just occurred to me how outrageous it would seem if the headline you read is, “Seek to Honor the Adulterous Judges of Cook County.”
LaBarbara: Right, right, well that goes to, John, that goes to you as a pastor and all of us. We’re believers and we regard homosexuality as a serious sexual sin. And so, yeah, just even the language: “gay judges.” I mean these are judges who are openly practicing immoral conduct, they’re proud of it, and even though they don’t think like that, that’s how many people regard homosexuality and that’s the problem.
On his program yesterday, Bryan Fischer was discussing the study produced by professor Mark Regnerus purporting to show that children of same-sex parents fare worse than children of heterosexual parents and the news that the University of Texas would be conducting an investigation into his study, seeing the latter as proof that "the homosexual lobby is vicious, they are venomous, [and] they are filled with hatred."
During the discussion, Fischer cited the study as evidence that children in same-sex homes are at a higher risk for sexual molestation, prompting him to declare that any parent "who goes into the homosexual lifestyle after siring children" should be denied custody and only allowed to have supervised visits with their children:
The American Family Association describes itself as “a Christian organization promoting the biblical ethic of decency in American society with emphasis on moral issues that impact families.” We know from AFA’s primary spokesperson Bryan Fischer that rank bigotry doesn’t seem to run afoul of AFA’s definition of decency. So where does honesty figure in?
The July-August 2012 issue of the group’s magazine, AFA Journal, includes a two-page spread from David Barton, the “historian” whose lies and misrepresentations have earned him condemnation from actual scholars – including evangelical Christians. The article, “Evidence of executive enmity” supposedly summarizes the evidence that the “anti-biblical” President Obama “has an ax to grind with people of biblical faith.” Barton complains about a range of Obama administration policies and recycles false and misleading claims that have been repeatedly debunked, as RWW’s Kyle Mantyla has noted repeatedly. Barton also claims that Obama demonstrated “preferential deference for Islam’s activities and positions.”
Among Barton's Christian-persecution claims is that retired Lt. Gen. William Jerry Boykin was disinvited from speaking at West Point “because he is an outspoken Christian.” (In reality Boykin was disinvited after many faculty and cadets – most of them Christian – opposed Boykin as an inappropriate speaker given his inflammatory statements describing US foreign policy as a spiritual war against Islam.)
Also featured in the AFA Journal is a quote from “Catholic sociologist” David R. Carlin, Jr, asserting in Crisis magazine that “[T]he drive for same sex marriage is not simply about same sex marriage or the moral legitimization of homosexual behavior; it is also about the de-legitimizing of Christian morality” and that “those who are pushing for the institution of same sex marriage are ipso facto pushing for the elimination of the Christian religion.” But what about all those Christians who support marriage equality? Carlin dismisses them: "The trouble with 'liberal Christianity' is that it isn’t Christianity."
All year, Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission has been releasing monthly videos laying out "irrefutable proofs that Barack Obama is NOT a Christian!"
Today the CADC released its latest video focusing on Obama's support for gay rights, claiming that he has "recently come out of the closet" in support of marriage equality and thus "has revealed his true anti-Christian colors."
But Cass is particularly upset by the way Obama "invokes Christ to try and justify his anti-Christ position" because "the Bible is very clear about homosexual acts being a very evil thing":