Obama: ‘new forms of discrimination’

Speaking to an LGBT Democratic fundraiser in New York Sunday evening, President Obama identified “new forms of discrimination” involving religious claims by politicians.

The following is an excerpt from remarks delivered by President Obama September 27 before an LGBT Democratic National Committee fundraising dinner in New York City. Full remarks can be viewed at the White House website.

Now, the good news is they probably won’t use marriage equality as a wedge issue like they did in 2004 because the country has come too far.  (Applause.)  In fact, America has left the leaders of the Republican Party behind.  One of their leading candidates argued that going to prison turns you gay.  (Laughter.)  Well, you think I’m — I shouldn’t go into this?  (Laughter.)  No, I mean, I’m just stating the facts.  Another candidate boasts that he introduced an amendment to end nationwide marriage equality — which isn’t even an accomplishment at all.  (Laughter and applause.)  A third says Americans should just disobey the Supreme Court’s ruling entirely.  I’m sure he loves the Constitution — except for Article III.  (Laughter and applause.)  And maybe the Equal Protection Amendment.  And 14th Amendment, generally.  (Laughter.)

 

Now, look, for some Americans, there’s no doubt that this change has been a world-wind.  And we believe that these changes have been for the better.  But we have to recognize — and in fact, I know the people in this room do because they felt it in their own family sometimes, or in the workplace — that with change, with any progress, comes some unease.  And as Americans, I think we have to acknowledge that.  I think that it’s important for us to recognize that there are still parts of the country that are getting there, but it’s going to take some time.

 

We affirm that we cherish our religious freedom and are profoundly respectful of religious traditions.  But we also have to say clearly that our religious freedom doesn’t grant us the freedom to deny our fellow Americans their constitutional rights. (Applause.)  And that even as we are respectful and accommodating genuine concerns and interests of religious institutions, we need to reject politicians who are supporting new forms of discrimination as a way to scare up votes.  (Applause.)  That’s not how we move America forward.

Fiorina shines, Bush ‘contorts’ to the right, Walker and Perry are gone

People posting on the Log Cabin Republican’s Facebook timeline last Wednesday night overwhelmingly agreed that business executive Carly Fiorina was the winner. But not everyone was praising Fiorina after the debate.

People posting on the Log Cabin Republican’s Facebook timeline last Wednesday night overwhelmingly agreed that business executive Carly Fiorina was the winner. Of the 117 responses to the open thread question, “Who won the debate?” 50 said former Hewlett-Packard CEO Fiorina, and 27 said U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. The next closest tally –11— was for pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

The tally from the national LGBT Republican group mirrored the reactions of most observers. And by Monday, September 21, support for Fiorina had catapulted her into second place in polling — behind real estate mogul Donald Trump. The CNN poll of 444 registered voters nationwide in the four days after the debate showed 24 percent support Trump, 15 percent Fiorina, 14 percent Carson, and 11 percent Rubio. All the other candidates, including Jeb Bush (9 points) were in the single digits.

Most observers commended Fiorina for answering often complex foreign policy questions with informed, detailed, and decisive answers. For instance, when asked how they would deal with Russian President Vladamir Putin sending military arms into Syria, Trump said he’d “talk” and “get along” with Putin. Fiorina said she’d rebuild the Sixth Fleet and the missile defense program in Poland, conduct military exercises in the Baltic states, and send a few thousand more troops into Germany.

Many also liked how she handled Trump’s remark to Rolling Stone magazine that he couldn’t believe anyone would “vote for that” –referring to Fiorina’s face. CNN moderator Jake Tapper invited Fiorina to “feel free to respond what you think about his persona.” Rather than take the bait to return an insult to Trump, Fiorina said, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said” – a line that drew a boisterous cheer from the debate audience.

Not everyone was praising Fiorina after the debate. Stampp Corbin, publisher of San Diego LGBT Weekly, posted an op-ed in his paper, noting the “ridiculous hypocrisy” of Fiorina calling out opponent Donald Trump for making an unkind remark about her face. Corbin was referring, not to her response at the debate but, to a campaign ad, “Look at this Face.” The ad shows the faces of many women with Fiorina saying in the background that these are the faces of leadership.

Corbin said he found Fiorina’s response hypocritical, given that she “mocked” U.S. Senate opponent Barbara Boxer’s hair as “so yesterday” during their race in 2010.

“Such a double standard,” wrote Corbin. “Fiorina can say nasty things about Boxer’s hair but her mug is off limits? Ridiculous.”

Corbin co-chaired an LGBT arm of the first Obama for President campaign.

Jeb Bush leans more to the right

While Fiorina’s performance and her boost in the polls were the big news out of last Wednesday’s debate, there was considerable sparring over at least one LGBT-related issue during the five-hour-long, two-tier event.

The candidates took on the issue of whether Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis should be able to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Jeb Bush took a step to the right and said he agrees with Mike Huckabee.

It was a somewhat surprising move. Earlier this month, Bush told reporters that Davis “is sworn to uphold the law” but that there “ought to be big enough space for her to act on her conscience….” CNN moderator Jake Tapper noted that candidate Huckabee had called the detention of Davis for contempt of court as tantamount to the “criminalization of Christianity.” Tapper then noted that Bush had said Davis was “sworn to uphold the law” and asked Huckabee if Bush is “on the wrong side of the criminalization of Christianity?”

Huckabee said, “No,” and then launched into a heavily opinionated discourse about the Kentucky controversy. Among other things, he claimed the U.S. Supreme Court “legislated” a new pro-same-sex marriage law “out of thin air.” (In fact, the court determined that existing state laws banning same-sex couples from marriage violate the U.S. Constitution.) And he claimed the government “made accommodations” for religious beliefs in the treatment of two Muslim male prisoners but not to Davis, who said she was asserting her Christian beliefs in denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (In fact, neither Muslim prisoner got religious accommodation. See Slate and Military.)

“What else is it other than the criminalization of her faith and the exaltation of the faith of everyone else who might be a Fort Hood shooter or a detainee at Gitmo?” asked Huckabee.

“I’m not telling you that, governor,” said Tapper. “But Governor Bush is, because he disagrees. He thinks Kim Davis swore to uphold the law.”

“You’re not stating my views right,” said Bush. “I think there needs to be accommodation for someone acting on faith. Religious conscience is a first freedom. It’s a powerful part of our Bill of Rights. And, in a big, tolerant country, we should respect the rule of law, allow people in this country –I was opposed to the [Supreme Court] decision, but we—you can’t just say, ‘Well, they –gays can’t get married now’. But this woman, there should be some accommodation for her conscience, just as there should be for people that are florists that don’t want to participate in weddings, or bakers. A great country like us should find a way to have accommodations for people so that we can solve the problem in the right way. This should be solved at the local level. And so, we do agree, Mike.”

Gregory Angelo, president of the national Log Cabin Republicans group, said he found that answer “confusing.”

“There are contortions that certain candidates are twisting themselves into unnecessarily with the Kim Davis issue,” said Angelo.

But overall, said Angelo, the candidates last Wednesday “merely reinforced statements made in the past.”

“I have noticed one thing that differentiates [this debate] from 2012,” said Angelo. “It’s the willingness to talk about LGBT issues and a degree of sympathy and respect that was sorely missing from 2012 cycle.”

Meanwhile, former Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped out of the race before the debate. Current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dropped out of the race after the debate.

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GOP field: split on Kim Davis, NOM pledge; agreed on Planned Parenthood

 

While the many Republican presidential hopefuls hold similar positions on LGBT-related issues, the past two weeks has seen them begin to distinguish themselves in some ways. For instance, during the past two weeks, five said they believe Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis has a religious freedom right to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, while five others said she needs to obey the law and issue the licenses. Only four have signed a National Organization for Marriage pledge to oppose marriage for same-sex couples in various ways.       But everybody wants to defund Planned Parenthood.

Because they have been much in the news in recent weeks, these topics could well be part of the third debate event Wednesday, September 16, on CNN:

Kentucky clerk controversy: Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, refused marriage licenses to same-sex couples by implementing a “no marriage licenses” policy. A federal judge ruled that policy unconstitutional and ordered her to issue marriage licenses to all eligible couples. When Davis refused, saying it was against her religious beliefs to issue licenses to same-sex couples, the judge found her in contempt of court and sent her to jail. After six days, the judge was satisfied that Davis’ deputies had begun issuing licenses and he released Davis with the caveat that she must not interfere with them. Opponents of allowing same-sex couples to marry have been couching the controversy as an attack on the constitutional right to free exercise of religion. LGBT supporters see it as an attempt to violate the constitutional guarantee of equal protection for same-sex couples by using religion as an excuse.

Planned Parenthood Funding: The nation’s largest provider of reproductive services makes a wide range of health services available to people with low incomes. Among those services are thousands of screenings per year for breast cancer, a disease that disproportionately affects lesbians; it also provides “sensitive, and appropriate reproductive health, general health, and sexual health services” to LGBT patients. Many Republican presidential candidates are supporting bills in Congress to stop federal funding –about half a billion dollars– for Planned Parenthood. Opponents of abortion are driving those efforts, even though Planned Parenthood spends only about three percent of its budget on abortion services.

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: The organization that’s been behind many of the efforts to oppose marriage for same-sex couples devised a “Presidential Marriage Pledge” for candidates. It pledges support for a constitutional amendment that limits marriage to one man-one woman; work to overturn the Supreme Court decisions that enable same-sex couples to marry and enjoy the same benefits as straight couples; amend or repeal any regulations or executive orders that recognize same-sex couples as married; support the FADA (see above); and have the Department of Justice investigate harassment of activists working on marriage issues. At deadline, only four candidates had signed it.

Here’s what the Republican presidential hopefuls have said on these issues. The percentages indicate how much support each candidate received, after averaging results from the last four national polls tracked by RealClearPolitics.com.

Donald Trump (29.8)

Kentucky clerk controversy: In response to a question from a press conference September 3: “I don’t know enough about it to comment on it. Was she jailed? I really don’t know much about it.” Then two days later, on MSNBC: “The decision came down from the Supreme Court, so I’m a believer in both sides of the picture. I would say the simple answer is: Let her clerks do it. From what I understand, she’s not letting her clerks do it either. The other simple answer is, rather than going through this — because it’s really a very, very sticky situation and terrible situation — 30 miles away they have other places, they have many other places where you get licensed. And you have them actually quite nearby, that’s another alternative.”

Planned Parenthood: Has sent mixed messages. Said he would defund the group, then said he opposes federal funds for abortion services but is OK with funding for other services.

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Has not responded to NOM’s request to sign the pledge.

Ben Carson (16)

Kentucky clerk controversy: Told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly he supports “traditional marriage” and that “This is a Judeo-Christian nation.

Planned Parenthood: Has petition on his campaign website asking support for Congress to “stop all public funds” to Planned Parenthood.

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Signed it.

Jeb Bush (8.3 percent)

Kentucky clerk controversy: Told reporters in New Hampshire: “She is sworn to uphold the law, and it seems to me that there ought to be common ground, there ought to be big enough space for her to act on her conscience and –now that the law is the law of the land- for a gay couple to be married in whatever jurisdiction that is.”

Planned Parenthood: Said federal funds should be withdrawn

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Has not yet responded to NOM’s request to sign the pledge.

Ted Cruz (7.0)

Kentucky clerk controversy: Cruz visited clerk Kim Davis in jail and spoke at the rally in support of her decision to refuse to issue all marriage licenses. He told Fox News Kelly File that the jailing of Kim Davis is “an outrage.” “It’s fundamentally wrong. For the first time, we’re seeing a Christian woman thrown in jail for standing up for her faith. I tell you, I stand with Kim Davis. Unequivocally, I stand with her and anyone else that the government is trying to persecute for standing up for their faith….We are a nation that was formed by people fleeing religious oppression and coming to seek a land where we could worship freely without the government getting in the way.”

Planned Parenthood: Voted August 3 for a motion to proceed to a vote on a bill (S. 1881) to prohibit federal funding to Planned Parenthood. (The motion failed to achieve necessary three-fifths vote.) He also co-sponsored the bill.

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Signed it.

Marco Rubio (5.5)

Kentucky clerk controversy: Told the New York Times: “We should seek a balance between government’s responsibility to abide by the laws of our republic and allowing people to stand by their religious convictions. While the clerk’s office has a governmental duty to carry out the law, there should be a way to protect the religious freedom and conscience rights of individuals working in the office.”

Planned Parenthood: Voted August 3 for a motion to proceed to a vote on a bill (S. 1881) to prohibit federal funding to Planned Parenthood. (The motion failed to achieve necessary three-fifths vote.) He also co-sponsored the bill.

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Has not yet responded to NOM’s request to sign the pledge.

Carly Fiorina (5.0)

Kentucky clerk controversy: Told Christian radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt: “it’s clear religious liberty is under assault in many, many ways. Having said that, when you are a government employee… then in essence, you are agreeing to act as an arm of the government….Is she prepared to continue to work for the government, be paid for by the government in which case she needs to execute the government’s will….I think it’s a very different situation for her than someone in a hospital who’s asked to perform an abortion or someone at a florist who’s asked to serve a gay wedding. I think when you’re a government employee, you are put into a different position honestly.”

Planned Parenthood: Told CBN it should be defunded and that, if Congress didn’t do it, she would, as president, even if it meant shutting down the government.

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Has not yet responded to NOM’s request to sign the pledge.

Scott Walker (4.8)

Kentucky clerk controversy: Told Laura Ingraham on September 3: “I think in America, it’s the balance you’ve got to have between the laws that are out there but alternately ensuring that the constitution is upheld. And I think the constitution is very clear that people have the freedom of religion.” Told a conservative website: “I’ve just got to think there has…to be some sort of reasonable accommodation that would allow this woman to practice her religious rights.”

Planned Parenthood: As governor, defunded Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin and would do so nationally as president.

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Told NOM he is not signing any pledges.

Mike Huckabee (4.3)

Kentucky clerk controversy: Visited Davis in jail and spoke at a rally in support of her September 8. He also started a “Free Kim Davis” petition on his campaign website. On his website, he says: “Having Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubt of the criminalization of Christianity in our country. We must defend religious liberty and never surrender to judicial tyranny.”

Planned Parenthood: Says to “fully eliminate funding” for Planned Parenthood is a “priority.”

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Told NOM he is not signing any pledges.

John Kasich (3.8)

Kentucky clerk controversy: Told ABC This Week: “I respect the fact that this lady doesn’t agree [with the Supreme Court ruling], but she’s also a government employee. She’s not running a church. I wouldn’t force this on a church, but in terms of her responsibility, I think she has to comply. I don’t think –I don’t like the fact that she’s sitting in a jail, that’s just absurd as well. But I think she should follow the law.”

Planned Parenthood: Signed state budget in 2013 that stripped funding from the Ohio Planned Parenthood group that served more than 56,000 patients in 2014, including more than 11,000 cancer screenings.

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Has not yet responded to NOM’s request to sign the pledge.

Chris Christie (2.5)

Kentucky clerk controversy: Told New Jersey radio station he doesn’t think Davis should have been jailed because “I have real concerns about making sure that religious liberty is protected in this country.” But he added, “I also have said before thought that people who are in government jobs need to do their jobs.”

Planned Parenthood: As governor, he defunded Planned Parenthood in New Jersey and said he would do so as president.

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Has not yet responded to NOM’s request to sign the pledge.

Rand Paul (2.0)

Kentucky clerk controversy: Told Boston Herald Radio: “I think people who do stand up and are making a stand to say that they believe in something is an important part of the American way. I think one way to get around the whole idea of what the Supreme Court is forcing on the states is for the states just to get out of the business of giving out licenses.”

Planned Parenthood: Voted August 3 for a motion to proceed to a vote on a bill (S. 1881) to prohibit federal funding to Planned Parenthood. (The motion failed to achieve necessary three-fifths vote.) He also co-sponsored the bill and introduced his own legislation to prevent federal funding of Planned Parenthood or “any of its affiliates.”

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Has not yet responded to NOM’s request to sign the pledge.

Rick Santorum (1.0)

Kentucky clerk controversy: In interview with CNN, said: “What Kim Davis did, in my opinion, was heroic and she suffered the consequences from it. I think putting her in jail was ridiculous –an extreme position. But you know what? That’s sometimes what it takes. People stand up and conduct civil disobedience because the law is unjust….So I commend her for actually standing up for her principles.”

Planned Parenthood: Would defund the organization and launch a criminal investigation into it over videos showing Planned Parenthood reps discussing with women purporting to be considering abortion the possibility of donating tissue of the fetus and responding to questions about prospects of some remuneration.

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Signed it.

Bobby Jindal (0.3)

Kentucky clerk controversy: Told the Huffington Post: “I don’t think anyone should have to choose between following their conscience and religious beliefs and giving up their job and facing financial sanctions. I think it’s wrong to force Christian individuals or business owners. We are seeing government today discriminate against whether it’s clerks, florists, musicians or others. I think that’s wrong. I think you should be able to keep your job and follow your conscience. I absolutely do believe people have a First Amendment right, a constitutional right. I don’t think the court can take that away.”

Planned Parenthood: As governor, has led efforts to stop Planned Parenthood from operating in Louisiana and tried to cut Medicaid funding for services provided by the group

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Signed it.

Lindsey Graham (0.3)

Kentucky clerk controversy: Told Hugh Hewitt: “As a public official, [Kim Davis should] comply with the law or resign. The rule of law is the rule of law. That’s what we are. We are a rule of law nation, and I appreciate her conviction. I support traditional marriage, but she’s accepted a job where she has to apply the law to everyone. And that’s her choice.”

Planned Parenthood: Did not vote August 3 for a motion to proceed to a vote on a bill (S. 1881) to prohibit federal funding to Planned Parenthood. (The motion failed to achieve necessary three-fifths vote.) But he did co-sponsor the bill.

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Told NOM he is not signing any pledges.

George Pataki (not included)

Kentucky clerk controversy: Told CNN “I would have fired her. No question about it. You take an oath when you’re going into public office that you’re going to uphold the laws and enforce the laws….”

Planned Parenthood: A campaign spokesman said Pataki would favor defunding Planned Parenthood.

National Organization for Marriage Pledge: Has not yet responded to NOM’s request to sign the pledge.

CNN is hosting the debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. Like Fox News did with the previous debates in Cleveland, CNN will divide the field into the top polling candidates and the lower polling candidates (based on CNN’s criteria). The upper tier will include all the same top tier from last month’s debate –Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Chris Christie– plus Carly Fiorina.

The lower tier will include Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Lindsey Graham. CNN’s criteria eliminated from the debate stage former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore who did not achieve the necessary minimum of one percent in recent polling. Rick Perry announced Friday that he was dropping out of the race.

The lower tier debate will be broadcast at 6 p.m.; the upper tier at 8 p.m.

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One LGBT rep voted against the Iran deal

Only one of the U.S. House’s six openly LGBT members voted against the multi-nation deal negotiated with Iran to stop its nuclear development program. Guess who didn’t?

All but one of the U.S. House’s six openly LGBT members voted for the multi-nation deal negotiated with Iran to stop its nuclear development program. Guess who didn’t?

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)

One day prior to Friday’s vote, Sinema released a statement saying, “the risks inherent in this deal outweigh the rewards.”

“I am concerned that this agreement will escalate a conventional arms race in the Middle East and further destabilize the region,” said Sinema. “The agreement allows financial resources to flow to an Iranian regime, which siphons resources away from its citizens to fund terrorism and foment war. It allows Iran to strengthen its military capabilities, including conventional weapons and ballistic missiles. The Iranian regime and its proxies have made no secrets about how they will use these new resources and weapons in the region.

“While the Iranian regime gets stronger, the [Iran deal] could limit our ability to use energy and banking sector sanctions to counter Iran’s aggression. Instead, our government has pledged to provide additional weapons to our allies in the region, escalating an arms race and increasing the likelihood of an expanded conflict.

“The agreement may push back the time it will take Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon but does not eliminate the threat. At the end of the deal, Iran will have the tools, knowledge, and money to be an internationally recognized, empowered and legitimized threshold nuclear state. This newly created power and legitimacy will make deterring the regime’s aggression more difficult.”

Reps. David Cicilline (D-RIs.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Marc Pocan (D-Wisc.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), and Sean Mahoney (D-NY) voted for the deal. In a statement released September 4, Polis said, “I have concluded that this enforceable, verifiable agreement is the best available option to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons…. Even if the United States does not participate, the international community very likely will, and Iran will still receive access to billions of dollars in accounts currently frozen under international sanctions. Not only would this diminish our influence internationally; it would substantially limit our ability to hold Iran to the rigid standard of disarmament set forth in the agreement.

“On the other hand, if we fully participate, we can play a leading role in the deal’s implementation and enforcement and provide ourselves a direct line of access to Iranian facilities. This course of action ensures an influential role for the United States in future developments in the Middle East and, I believe, ensures the greatest likelihood that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon.”

The House rejected a bill to approve the deal, by a vote of 162 to 269. The roll call can be viewed here.

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Judge releases Kentucky clerk with instructions she should ‘not interfere’

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis walked out of jail Tuesday afternoon, eliciting cheers from hundreds of protesters who had gathered outside to demand her release. While the release is being hailed by some as a victory for Davis, the court order enabling her release instructed that Davis “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.”
If Davis “should interfere in any way” with the issuance of marriage license, said the judge’s order, “appropriate sanctions will be considered.”

 

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis walked out of jail Tuesday afternoon, eliciting cheers from hundreds of protesters who had gathered outside to demand her release.

A smiling Davis left the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Kentucky, at 2:37 p.m. EDT, followed by her Liberty Counsel attorney Mat Staver and Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee.

Davis was released after U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning signed an order allowing for her release.

While the release is being hailed by some as a victory for Davis, the court order enabling her release instructed that Davis “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.”

If Davis “should interfere in any way” with the issuance of marriage license, said the judge’s order, “appropriate sanctions will be considered.”

Picking his words carefully at Tuesday’s rally, Davis attorney Mat Staver said Davis “cannot allow her name to be associated with something that conflicts with God’s definition of marriage. Her conscience did not change to get freedom.… She will not violate her conscience. She will return to work later this week and she will not abandon her post.”

Davis’ attorney Mat Staver told the rally crowd that Davis could hear the rally’s cheers when she was inside the jail. He said Davis would thank the crowd but not make any comment on the case to the audience or to reporters.

Davis took the stage to the song “Eye of the Tiger,” both arms raised and looking up, as if praying. She seemed overcome with emotion, as she looked out on the crowd.

“Thank you all so much. I love you all so very much,” said Davis before the crowd chanted back, “We love Kim.”

“I just want to give God the glory. His people have rallied, and you are a strong people….Just keep on pressing. Don’t let down because he is here….I love you guys, thank you so much.”

Judge Bunning ordered Davis, head clerk for Rowan County, to jail September 3 for contempt of court, after she refused to comply with his August 12 order to end a policy she initiated in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down bans on marriage for same-sex couples.

Davis had contended that, because of her Apostolic Christian beliefs, she could not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, June 26, Davis instituted a policy of not issuing marriage licenses to any couples –straight or gay.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit, Miller v. Davis, on behalf of four couples –gay and straight—who had been refused marriage licenses by Rowan’s office.

On Monday, Bunning directed ACLU attorneys to indicate by 10 a.m. Tuesday whether “any of the named Plaintiffs have had a marriage license issued to them by the Rowan County Clerk’s office….” Bunning’s order said the “deputy clerks…indicated they would comply” with the order. It also said that counsel for the deputy clerks would file a report every 14 days on the status of compliance with the order.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Tuesday that three marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples last week “were altered to remove the name of the jailed county clerk Kim Davis.”

The Herald-Leader reported that licenses issued last week and filed in the court record show that, where Davis’ name ordinarily would be, the words ‘Office of Rowan County, Rowan County’ appeared instead. Staver, at Tuesday’s impromptu press conference, said the licenses without Davis’ name are not valid.

When a reporter asked, “Kim was it worth it for you?” Davis just smiled and said nothing.

William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU-Kentucky, issued a statement saying, “This case was brought to ensure that all residents of Rowan County, gay and straight, could obtain marriage licenses. That goal has been achieved. The Kentucky Attorney General and counsel for Rowan County have said the marriage licenses are valid. We are relying on those representations, and our clients look forward to proceeding with their plans to marry.”

CNN, MSNBC, and other media broadcast live coverage of the “Free Kim Davis” rally and Davis’ release from the Carter County Detention Center.

Huckabee helped organize the rally for Davis and Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz went to Kentucky to meet with Davis in jail and participate in the rally.

Huckabee praised Davis for having “ignited something across this country” against judicial “tyranny.” Huckabee said he would be willing to go to jail on behalf of Davis.

“We will not surrender to tyranny of one branch of the government,” said Huckabee.

“I have a message for the judge,” said Huckabee, “if this judge believes somebody must be put in jail … I would ask this of him: Let Kim go. But if you have to put someone in jail, I volunteer to go.”

At the rally, Tony Perkins, president of the right-wing Family Research Council, compared Davis to the pilgrims who came to the New World in search of religious freedom and to civil rights legend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One pastor urged the crowd that the United States belongs to Jesus Christ. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown spoke to the crowd, comparing Davis to Rosa Parks.

“Do not comply with unjust authority,” said Brown.

In speaking to the crowd, Staver inadvertently referred to the crowd as being part of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“Kim Davis never thought she would be in the national spotlight. Kim Davis does not consider herself a hero,” said Staver. He said Davis ran for the office of Rowan County Clerk at God’s “urging” –“she will not resign that position.”

Supreme Court denies stay in Kentucky clerk bid to refuse marriage licenses

In a significant blow to those who seek to use a free exercise of religion argument to discriminate against same-sex couples seeking to marry, U.S. Supreme Court on Monday evening denied an emergency request to stop enforcement of a federal district court order that a Kentucky county clerk resume issuing marriage licenses.

In a significant blow to those who seek to use a free exercise of religion argument to discriminate against same-sex couples seeking to marry, U.S. Supreme Court on Monday evening denied an emergency request to stop enforcement of a federal district court order that a Kentucky county clerk resume issuing marriage licenses.

The one-sentence order indicates Justice Elena Kagan, who oversees such requests for cases out of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, referred the matter to the full court. No justice indicated dissent to the denial of her request, suggesting the religious freedom argument may have a difficult challenge once it reaches the high court.

Attorneys for Rowan County Clerk Kimberly Davis filed their request Friday after being denied the stay by the Sixth Circuit.

Davis still has an appeal before the Sixth Circuit. She is challenging a preliminary ruling in August by a federal district court judge. In a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning (an appointee of President George W. Bush) issued a preliminary injunction ruling prohibiting Davis from continuing her “no marriage licenses” policy, saying it was also unconstitutional.

Davis had ordered her office to stop issuing marriage licenses to any couple –straight or gay— after the U.S. Supreme Court, in June, struck down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples. Davis said it was against her religion to acknowledge marriages between same-sex partners and noted that all marriage licenses issued by the county must carry her signature.

“Expressly to avoid disparate treatment of any couple and ensure that all individuals and couples were treated the same, Davis suspended the issuance of all marriage licenses in Rowan County,” stated the petition to the Supreme Court. “….She instructed all deputy clerks to stop issuing marriage licenses because

licenses are issued on her authority, and because every license requires her name to appear on the license as the authorizing person.”

Davis describes herself as an Apostolic Christian. According to the denomination’s website, “The New Testament grants believers liberty. However, it also instructs us to not allow our liberty to become a stumbling block for a weaker brother. Since Apostolic Christians are an interconnected brotherhood, we are encouraged to curtail our individual freedoms to benefit the local and national church family.”

The conservative Liberty Counsel group is representing Davis in

Miller v. Davis, the lawsuit the ACLU initiated on behalf of couples in Rowan County who were refused marriage licenses under Davis’ “no marriage licenses” policy.

Miller v. Davis is believed to be the first lawsuit in the country to test the argument of some same-sex marriage opponents that their First Amendment right to freedom to exercise religion trumps the right of same-sex couples to the 14th Amendment guarantees of equal protection and due process of the law.

In its plea for a stay, the Liberty Counsel stated that Davis “holds an undisputed sincerely-held religious belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, only. Thus, in her belief, SSM is not, in fact, marriage. If a SSM license is issued with Davis’ name, authorization, and approval, no one can unring that bell. That searing act of validation would forever echo in her conscience…. If Davis’ religious objection cannot be accommodated…then elected officials have no real religious freedom when they take public office.”

Because the Supreme Court denied Davis’ request for a stay, Davis will now have to decide Tuesday whether to continue in her job while she appeals the merits of the preliminary district court ruling.

Cruz says gay florist should be able to refuse service to evangelical

Republican presidential hopeful told a gathering last Friday that a gay florist should be able to refuse service to an evangelical couple if the florist disagrees with the couple’s faith.

Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz said last Friday he thinks a gay florist should be able to refuse services to an evangelical couple if the florist disagrees with the couple’s faith.

That, however, would constitute discrimination based on religion, and both federal and state laws prohibit discrimination based on religion in public accommodations.

Cruz is a lawyer and should know better, but campaigns provoke candidates to say all kinds of strange things. For instance, at this same campaign event August 21, Cruz derided the Obama administration for sending millions of dollars to Iran, even though Iran is executing gay people.

Cruz himself has done nothing to protect the lives of LGBT people in the United States. A centerpiece of his campaign for the White House has been a message that the U.S. needs more laws to protect Christians who want to discriminate against gays.

Cruz’s poster couple while campaigning in Iowa last week was an evangelical couple, Dick and Betty Odgaard of Grimes, Iowa, who said their religious beliefs wouldn’t allow them to rent space or sell flowers to a gay couple.

The Iowa human rights law, like that of all other states, prohibits discrimination based on religion, but like that of a few other states, the Iowa law also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Iowa human rights commission declared that the Odgaards’ refusal of service to the gay couple was discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Cruz has produced a campaign video highlighting the Odgaards’ experience and invited them to a campaign rally in Iowa last Friday as an example of “Christians being persecuted” for “living according to their faith.”

Before that rally, Cruz participated in a pork chop fry as a way to meet with voters at the Iowa State Fair, when openly gay actress Ellen Page approached him and attempted to have a colloquy about rights for LGBT people. Cruz said he didn’t want to have a “back and forth,” but he did offer, at length, his defense of the idea that people should be able to refuse services to gay people based on their religious beliefs.

During the discussion, Cruz referred to the Odgaard, who operated a business that rented out a former church building and provided other wedding services but who refused those services to a gay couple. Cruz characterizes the couple’s business as a religious institution, which it was not, and then suggests that gay florists should be able to discriminate against evangelicals.

The following is a transcript of the ABC News coverage of the interaction between Cruz and Page:

Page: What about the question of LGBT people getting fired because they’re gay or trans?

Cruz: Well, what we’re seeing right now is actually we’re seeing Bible-believing Christians being persecuted. So for example…

Page: For discriminating against LGBT people.

Cruz: No, for living according to their faith. So, for example…

Page: Yeh, but people would use that argument during the segregation era.

Cruz: I’m happy to answer your question but not to have a back-and-forth debate. So, one of the couples that are going to be featured in a video, they’re from Grimes, Iowa, wonderful couple. They own an historic Lutheran Church. For many years, they hosted weddings in their church. A couple of years ago, two men came and wanted to have a same-sex wedding in their church. Now, the Odgaards are devout [Mennonites]. So they respectfully explained it would be contrary to their faith for them to celebrate in their church a wedding that was not [indiscernible]. The Odgaards were promptly sued, they were dragged into protracted litigation. They ended up spending $5,000 to settle the case. And they made a promise never again to host another wedding in their church. Driven out of business. This month, they laid off all their employees. That is fundamentally wrong. Let’s take the other side: No one has the right to force someone else to abandon their faith and conscience. Imagine, hypothetically, you had gay florist and imagine that two evangelical Christians wanted to get married and the gay florist decided, ‘You know what, I disagree with your faith and I don’t want to provide flowers.’”

Page: I would say they should provide flowers.

Cruz: And I would say the gay florist has every right to say, ‘If I disagree with your faith and don’t want to participate and, you know what, there are lots of other people they can buy flowers from.’ We don’t have a right to force a Jewish rabbi to conduct a Christian wedding ceremony. We don’t have a right to force a Muslim Iman to conduct a Jewish wedding. We’re a country that respects pluralism and diversity, and there is this liberal intolerance that says that anyone that dares to follow a Biblical teaching of marriage –that marriage is between one man and one woman– must be persecuted, must be fined, and must be driven out of business.”

Page: I disagree. I [indiscernible] more tolerance for LGBT people who were constantly persecuted in this country. It used to be illegal, they were thrown in jail. And we’ve come a really, really long way.

Cruz: Who’s thrown in jail?

Page: Gay people used to be thrown in jail.

Cruz: You know it is interesting right now. Do you where gay people are being persecuted right now? ISIS…

Page: All over the world, all over the world.

Cruz: ISIS is executing gay people. Iran is executing homosexuals.

Page: Yes.

Cruz: And on the left, you hear complete silence…

Page: That’s not true.

Cruz: …about Iran hanging homosexuals. And yet the Obama administration is sending over a hundred billion dollars to a regime that murders homosexuals. That is fundamentally wrong.

Page: [Indiscernible] Christians in Uganda, Christians in Jamaica are persecuting gays to a really, really violent extent.

Cruz: But does that trouble you draw at all that you draw a moral equivalence between Christians in Jamaica and radical Islamic terrorists in ISIS beheading children. They’re not….

Page: [indiscernible] gay persecution around the world…

Cruz: But, m’am, they are not morally equivalent. Murder is murder is murder, and it is wrong. And it is wrong across the board. And there is a difference between a community like Jamaica that may have different standards, may not be celebrating a gay pride parade but they are not murdering people. If they were murdering people, it would be wrong.

Page: A lot of gay people are getting killed…

Cruz: But in Iran and ISIS, it is the governmental body that is executing them for being homosexual. And why does Obama administration not stand against it?

Page: [indiscernible] talk to Obama about that’d be great.

Cruz: Great. Then we’re agreed on that.

Page: No, no we’re not. Don’t do that.

Cruz: But we’re agreed. M’am we’ve had a long discussion.

Page: Yeh, I appreciate it.

For the record: Clinton: ‘Everything I can’

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton held a town hall style meeting in Las Vegas August 18. Two of the approximately one dozen questions fielded by the candidate concerned LGBT issues.

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton held a town hall style meeting in Las Vegas August 18. Two of the approximately one dozen questions fielded by the candidate concerned LGBT issues. The following is a transcript of those questions from a youtube video of the event.

Audience member (at approximately 26:00 minutes): Hello, Hillary. My name is Dina Proto. I am a local LGBT business owner and founding president of the lesbian and gay chamber of commerce here in Nevada. …So my question to you is: How are you going to support our LGBT community in our country, improving economic equality, creating safe spaces for our youth –can you speak to that?

Clinton: I certainly can. Well, first, as president, I will do everything I can to make sure that marriage equality is enforced. It’s the law of the land, and it needs to be enforced across our country. And then we have to tackle the discrimination issues. When I was in the Senate, I was one of the senators sponsoring what was called ENDA –a bill to end discrimination against the LGBT community, and we have a lot of work to do there. There’s just so much continuing discrimination and bias, and I particularly worry about young people because there is a lot of misunderstanding and even mistreatment still today by families of young people who are LGBT. They’re hoping to be accepted and they’re not, and they find themselves on the streets. I know you’ve got people in Las Vegas who are homeless and on the streets who are young LGBT people who have had to leave home. So, we need more services, we need more support. And we all need to be speaking out in favor of, you know, treating these young people with respect and dignity and giving them a chance. And I hope that, as president, I will not only be able to speak to that but demonstrate how we do it and then support laws that will make it easier for a lot of our people, especially young people.

Audience member (at approximately 32:00): I’m the mother of a transgender child…Health care does not cover my child’s genetic issue. She was born in the wrong body, and it’s not her fault. Now, I want to know how I’m going to get an insurance company to cover her surgery, a drug company to allow a decent price for that medication, and a country who will not let [a company] fire her because she is a girl in a boy’s body.

Clinton: I could feel all the way over here the passion you have as a mom, and I thank you for being brave and willing to stand up and talk about your child. I think the whole country is learning a lot more than we did know or understand before. I think a lot of the issues you’re raising are going to have to be dealt with. And certainly as we negotiate with insurance companies and look for the kinds of health care that people need, all those issues have to be taken into account. I will certainly do my part, the best I can as president, to make sure that no child, no young person is refused the care that he or she needs.

 

For the record: Trump on firing gays

NBC news reporter Chuck Todd asked Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump Sunday, “Should private companies be able to fire people because they’re gay?”

NBC news reporter Chuck Todd asked Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump Sunday, “Should private companies be able to fire people because they’re gay?” Here’s the response:

Trump: Well, it’s a big discussion and I guess it’s getting a lot of negative rulings right now –that whole thing. And I’m willing to go with what the courts are saying.

Todd: And that is… you don’t think a private company should be able to do that.

Trump: I don’t think it should be a reason, no. I don’t think it should be a reason.

To watch, go to approximate 26:30 at NBCNews.com.

Religion v. equal protection showdown reaches 6th Circuit

An important showdown between the constitutional rights to religious freedom and equal protection reached a federal appeals court Tuesday (August 18). A county clerk in Kentucky filed an appeal to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in hopes of securing the right to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

An important showdown between the constitutional rights to religious freedom and equal protection reached a federal appeals court Tuesday (August 18). A county clerk in Kentucky filed an appeal to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in hopes of securing the right to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis filed her appeal less than a week after U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning (an appointee of President George W. Bush) ruled that Davis’ strategy of issuing “no marriage licenses” in an effort to avoid issuing them to same-sex couples “likely infringes upon…the fundamental right to marry.” Bunning’s August 12 order prohibited Davis from continuing her policy.

On August 17, Bunning denied Davis’ request that he stay his order pending her appeal of his decision to the Sixth Circuit. But in an unusual move, he granted her a temporary stay until the Sixth Circuit rules on her appeal of Bunning’s denial of the stay. In doing so, Bunning made note of “emotions running high on both sides of the debate.”

The Sixth Circuit is the appeals court whose ruling upholding state bans on same-sex marriage was struck down in June by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

The Kentucky case, Davis v Miller, is believed to be the first in the country to test the argument of some opponents of same-sex marriage that their First Amendment right to freedom to exercise religion trumps the right of same-sex couples to the 14th Amendment guarantees of equal protection and due process of the law.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit against Davis on behalf of couples who applied for marriage licenses but were refused under a “no marriage licenses” policy Davis adopted June 29 in reaction to the Supreme Court decision June 26. Davis said she adopted the policy because of her “deep religious convictions” against marriage for same-sex couples.

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Davis filed a lawsuit against Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat, after he issued an advisory urging all county clerks were to abide by the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell. That lawsuit reportedly alleges that Beshear’s memo, which his office said was advisory, was “intended to suppress religion.”

Kasich gets a small boost, but debate does little to change GOP standings

Republican presidential candidates’ responses on LGBT questions during the August 6 debate appear to have had very little impact on the candidates’ overall standings in the polls. Ohio Governor John Kasich, who won some positive commentary for his remark that he’d love his daughter even if she was gay (that wasn’t the question), picked up only one percent – from 3 to 4—following the debate. Louisiana Govenor Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee saw no change in the polls. Jindal said he’d sign an executive order day one to ensure Christian businesses could discriminate against same-sex couples; Huckabee expressed opposition to allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military.

Less than two weeks after the first Republican presidential debate, various polls and analyses show relatively little change in which of the 17 current candidates might have a realistic change at winning the nomination for 2016.

A Fox News poll of 1,008 registered voters nationwide, taken August 11 to 13, showed Trump with 25 percent of the support, followed by Carson with 12, Cruz with 10, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush with nine. The margin of error (MoE) was +/- three percent. Trump was down only one point from his high of 26 percent before the August 6 nationally televised debate.

Rich Tafel, who headed up the national Log Cabin Republicans during the 1996 presidential campaign, said he’s hearing “some support” for Ohio Governor John Kasich, “particularly after his answer at the debate.”

Kasich was asked how he would explain to a gay son or daughter his opposition to marriage for same-sex couples. Kasich, who has two teenaged daughters, said he believes in “traditional marriage” but accepts the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down state bans on same-sex marriage. When a Fox News panelist pressed him again to say how he would explain his opposition to a gay child, Kasich said, “Just because someone doesn’t think the way I do doesn’t mean I can’t care about them or can’t love them. So, if one of my daughters happened to be that, of course I would love them and I’d accept….This is where I would agree with Jeb and I’ve been saying it all along: We need to give everybody a chance, treat everybody with respect and let them share in this great American dream that we have.”

Tafel said he’s also heard support for former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

“There’s a bunch of gay conservatives in D.C. who have given money to Bush, but that strikes me more as they all thought he was inevitable and they were looking to get jobs in the next administration,” said Tafel. “Though he did just tell a tech company he supported protecting gays in the workplace at the state level and has an openly gay press guy.”

In February, Bush hired openly gay political operative Tim Miller as his campaign communications director. (Two months later, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton hired openly gay political operative Robby Mook as her campaign director.) Miller co-founded the America Rising political action committee to fund research for “exposing the truth about Democrats.”

Last month, Bush spoke to workers at a web-based company in San Francisco that helps find the right professional for any job. According to local Fox affiliate KTVU, an openly gay worker told Bush he could have been denied his job by companies in most states, including Florida, because they don’t have laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Do you think that’s good for Americans and fair to me?” asked the employee, who Fox identified as Thumbtack head of product Jake Poses.

“No, I don’t think you should be discriminated because of your sexual orientation. Period. Over and out,” Bush said, according to KTVU. The Contra Costa Times said Bush also added that he believes Christian business owners who oppose marriage for same-sex couples should be able to be “guided by [their] faith.”

Tafel ventured that U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida “might have some appeal, based on his generation and he’s tried to parse things.” He said Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s “wife and kids are supporters of their lesbian relative, but [the governor] hasn’t excited many gay conservatives.”

Chad Michael Terry, a Log Cabin member in Dallas, said the debates changed his mind about some candidates. Pre-debate, Terry expressed interest in Walker and Cruz. But after the debate, he said he was more impressed with former Hewlett Packard exec Carly Fiorina.

“Carly Fiorina was, indeed, the clear winner,” said Terry. Fiorina participated in the early debate that included only seven low-polling candidates. But Terry said she did the best of all the candidates, including the top 10 pollers in the prime time debate August 6.

“She showed America that there is a candidate out there who can speak clearly and concisely to the questions the electorate is asking.  She answers each question with the confidence one has from being prepared. She has been honest about her past successes, as well as failures.  And, most importantly, she is the only one on the 2016 stage that has the backbone to speak to the lack of experience and lack of accomplishment of the assumed Democrat front runner,” said Terry.

“Fiorina is a candidate I would be thrilled to vote for. She is the strong voice, many conservatives are begging for. She could become a real force, in the coming months,” said Terry.

Mimi Planas, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Miami, was also impressed with Fiorina.

“I really, really liked Carly Fiorina. She, to me, was the break-out candidate of the entire evening! She made me a bigger fan, for sure.”

Planas added that she thought Rubio and neurosurgeon Ben Carson were “good,” as was Ohio Governor John Kasich.

“Not too thrilled with Jeb and the rest,” said Planas.

Terry of Dallas was also impressed with Kasich.

“His answer to the gay marriage was brilliant. He verbally expressed what most Republicans I come in contact with feel but can not verbalize,” said Terry.

Terry said he was very disappointed with current frontrunner Donald Trump and former Texas Governor Rick Perry. Terry felt Perry was “not truly” engaged and Trump did not offer any “concrete policy positions.”

“What will [Trump] do when some adversary asks a President Trump a question? Will he just tell them they are idiots?” asked Terry.

The Human Rights Campaign singled out U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal for sending an “exceptionally troubling message to millions of LGBT Americans” during the debate by pledging to sign executive orders that would undermine anti-discrimination policies that currently protect LGBT. HRC Senior Vice President JoDee Winterhof said former Huckabee’s remarks against allowing transgender people to serve in the military “proved once again that he’s campaigning on hate.”

The debates, said Winterhof, “left far more questions than answers, and the answers we did get were deeply disappointing.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said the August 6 Republican debates “revealed how the opponents of equality view the LGBTQ community, people who support access to reproductive health services, people who demand an end to racism, and our millions of allies who represent all political persuasions.”

“By what most of the candidates said and by what they didn’t say,” said Carey, “it seems that we, together, are viewed with an equal amount of negativity and contempt.”

Veteran political campaign watchers are mostly riveted to polls in Iowa, where the first caucuses will be held February 1, and New Hampshire, which holds its first-in-the-nation primary the week after the Iowa caucuses.

In the five days after the August 6 debate, a CNN poll of likely Republican caucus goers in Iowa showed real estate mogul Donald Trump with a strong lead over the other candidates. Trump had 22 percent of the 544 potential voters surveyed, followed by neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 14 percent, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker with nine percent, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz with eight percent. In New Hampshire, which holds its first-in-the-nation primary the week after the Iowa caucuses in February, a Boston Herald poll of 414 “likely Republican primary voters” (MoE +/- 4.8), shows a much closer and different race, with Trump at 19 percent, followed by Bush at 13 percent, Kasich at 12 percent, and Cruz and Fiorina at nine percent.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s reputation among potential LGBT supporters took a hit August 10 when he vetoed a bill that would have allowed transgender people to amend their original birth certificates. It was the second time Christie has vetoed the bill. His veto statement indicated he believes the proposed changes to the law “create legal uncertainties” and that current law “already affords applicants an expedited administrative route to process requests for changes to birth certificates based on gender.” Specifically, he said he wanted any changes to “include safeguards to prevent against fraud, deception, and abuse.” But Alison Gill, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said the current law entails “unnecessarily expensive and invasive obstacles.”

First GOP debates: 17 candidates, one ‘humane’ response on LGBT issues

Only six of the 17 Republican presidential candidates fielded a question that hit upon an LGBT issue during last Thursday’s debates. And only one of those six –Ohio Governor John Kasich— answered in a way that suggested a measure of respect for LGBT people.

Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul singled out Houston’s lesbian mayor for criticism, saying she had tried to “invade the church to enforce [her] own opinion on marriage.” Candidate Bobby Jindal said he’d sign an executive order on Day One to ensure that “Christian business owners and individuals don’t face discrimination for having a traditional view of marriage.” And Mike Huckabee suggested that allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military would mean the government would have to pay for their gender change surgery.

In short: There were no surprises on LGBT issues from the 17 Republican presidential hopefuls who took part in one of two debates sponsored and broadcast by Fox News last Thursday (August 6). Only six of the candidates fielded a question that hit upon an LGBT issue. And only one of those six –Ohio Governor John Kasich— answered in a way that suggested a measure of respect for LGBT people.

Kasich said he would love his own child even if she was gay. But his wording walked a delicate line between noble father and tolerant tongue-biter.

“Kasich’s answer was far from perfect—the phrasing ‘if one of my daughters happened to be that’ was unfortunate, and in noting that he would love his daughters ‘no matter what they do,’ he indicated that he thought being lesbian was something that requires forbearance,” wrote June Thomas, editor of Slate.com’s LGBTQ section. “Nevertheless, his response was loving and humane….”

The mainstream media and the audience in Cleveland reacted favorably to Kasich’s comments, as did Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, the national gay Republican group.

“I was blown away by his response and by the response of the crowd,” said Angelo, who attended the debates in Cleveland at the invitation of the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County.

“I had to watch debate later to hear [Kasich’s] full response on replay because the cheers were so deafening, I couldn’t hear the entirety of his response,” said Angelo. “It was very encouraging.”

But other candidates showed no interest in walking a line between flat out opposition and respect for anything LGBT. At best, some Republican candidates participating in the debates just seemed eager to slide off the topic whenever asked to elaborate on their views against equal rights to LGBT people.

When a Fox News moderator asked former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking state bans on same-sex marriage is “settled law,” Santorum said no and likened his response to that of President Lincoln to the Supreme Court’s 1857 decision in Dred Scott.

In Dred Scott v. Sanford, the Supreme Court ruled that slaves were not citizens of the United States and could not sue and that Congress didn’t have authority to prohibit slavery. While Lincoln made clear he thought the Dred Scott decision was “erroneous” and hoped it would be overturned, he urged “respect for the judicial department.”

Santorum did not urge respect for the judicial department.

“This is a rogue Supreme Court decision,” said Santorum. “Just like [Chief] Justice [John] Roberts said, there is no constitutional basis for the Supreme Court’s decision.” But then he spent the rest of his time talking about the Supreme Court’s rulings upholding the right of women to have an abortion.

Fox News panelist Chris Wallace asked former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee how he thinks he can elected president given that some of his positions –such as wanting constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage and abortions— are positions opposed by a majority of Americans.

Huckabee completely ignored the question’s reference to same-sex marriage and talked exclusively about his opposition to abortion.

When Fox News panelist Bret Baier asked Huckabee how he would “handle” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s recent directives “to prepare for a moment” when the military might welcome transgender persons to serve openly, Huckabee did not attempt to answer that question. Instead, he said, “The military is not a social experiment” and “It’s not to transform the culture by trying out some ideas that some people think would make [us] a different country and more diverse.”

“The purpose is to protect America,” said Huckabee. “I’m not sure how paying for transgender surgery for soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines makes our country safer.”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal brought up the issue of same-sex marriage himself. When asked during the 5 o’clock debate (for candidates with low polling numbers) what his first executive order would be, if elected president, Jindal said he would “sign an executive order protecting religious liberty, our first amendment rights so Christian business owners and individuals don’t face discrimination for having a traditional view of marriage.”

Santorum then jumped in, echoing that response.

“I will institute an executive order to make sure that people of faith are not being harassed and persecuted by the federal government for standing up for their religious beliefs.”

Both remarks were apparent references to reactions of many opponents of same-sex marriage who have been promoting new state laws attempting to carve out a religious exception to human rights ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky picked up on the religious freedom theme during the 9 p.m. debate (for the 10 candidates with the highest polling numbers). Fox News panelist Megyn Kelly directed a question from a viewer who asked (via Facebook): “What would you do to ensure Christians are not prosecuted for speaking out against gay marriage and will Christians be forced to conduct business that conflicts with their religious beliefs?”

“Look, I don’t want my marriage or my guns registered in Washington,” said Paul. “And if people have an opinion, it’s a religious opinion that’s heartily felt, obviously they should be allowed to practice that, and no government should interfere with that.”

From there, Paul launched into an attack on Houston’s openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, though he did not mention her by name.

“One of the things that really got to me was the thing in Houston, where you had the government, the mayor actually trying to get the sermons of ministers,” said Paul. “When the government tries to invade the church to enforce its own opinion on marriage, that’s when it’s time to resist.”

It was not Parker, but the city’s legal department that subpoenaed the “sermons” of five Houston pastors, while preparing its defense against a lawsuit against the city’s human rights ordinance protecting LGBT people. Parker met with pastors and then directed the legal department to withdraw the subpoenas last fall, saying the subpoenas were “inadvertently” being associated with and escalating a religious freedom debate nationally.

That nuance was almost certainly lost on most of Thursday night’s 24 million viewers –a record for a presidential primary debate.

But nuance was not in play when Kelly asked real estate mogul Donald Trump how he could be considered electable given his sometimes crude remarks about women. She quoted him as calling some “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”

Trump tried to deflect the question by suggesting he had made those remarks about “only Rosie O’Donnell.”

O’Donnell, a lesbian actor and talk show host, has had a public feud with Trump since 2006, when, on The View, O’Donnell mocked Trump’s hair, his bankruptcies, and multiple marriages, and said he was like “a snake oil salesman.” Trump responded, calling O’Donnell “a loser” who is “unattractive inside and out” and saying he was going to “send one of my friends to pick up her girlfriend –and I think it’ll be very easy.”

Kelly stopped Trump cold: “For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell.”

“Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks,” continued Kelly. “You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president? And how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who is likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?”

“I think the big problem this country has,” said Trump, “is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people, I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either….”

Kelly asked Ohio Governor John Kasich a question that combined religious freedom and “gay marriage.” She asked: “If you had a son or daughter who was gay or lesbian, how would you explain to them your opposition to same-sex marriage?” (Kasich has twin teenaged daughters from his second marriage.)

“I’m an old-fashioned person here and I happen to believe in traditional marriage, but I’ve also said the court has ruled and I said we’ll accept it,” said Kasich, who then noted he had just attended the wedding of a gay friend. Kelly tried to press him to answer the question –how would you explain your opposition.

“Just because someone doesn’t think the way I do doesn’t mean I can’t care about them or can’t love them,” said Kasich. “So, if one of my daughters happened to be that, of course I would love them and I’d accept them because you know what, that’s what we’re taught when we have strong faith (lots of applause). So if she’s like that –This is where I would agree with JEB and I’ve been saying it all along: We need to give everybody a chance, treat everybody with respect and let them share in this great American dream that we have. I’m gonna love my daughters no matter what they do. Because you know what: God gives me unconditional love; I’m going to give it to my family and my friends and the people around me.”

Jimmy LaSalvia, former executive of the now defunct national gay group GOProud, was underwhelmed by Kasich’s remarks.

“Governor Kasich was the only one who got a question about marriage equality because FOX knew that his answer was the most palatable for most Americans because he recognized the reality that civil marriage for gay couples is legal now,” said LaSalvia. “But they also knew that he wouldn’t go so far as to offend their viewers and socially conservative GOP base by endorsing marriage equality.”

“I think the whole thing was a carefully orchestrated and ‘scripted’ program designed to further FOX News Channel executive’s goal of electing a Republican president in 2016,” said LaSalvia. “They carefully chose the questions to ask each of the candidates that would help further that goal.”

Log Cabin’s Angelo said he doesn’t think social issues will be the biggest focus in the 2016 campaign but adds, “They might come into play as voters try to determine which candidate is most like them.”

“I know a lot of folks, including Log Cabin folks, who are now big fans of John Kasich after his performance at the debate,” said Angelo, “where before, it was largely a ‘wait-and-see’. He’s got a lot of new friends.”

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For the record…

White House press secretary says where he thinks the “real power” behind “some social progress” for LGBT people has come.

The following is an excerpt from a White House transcript of Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s daily press briefing August 7. In the exchange, Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson asks whether the gains made by LGBT people under President Obama might be threatened if a Republican wins the White House in 2016.

Q    Josh, a question on the GOP debate last night.  A number of the Republican candidates pledged to take unilateral actions if elected on behalf of (inaudible) seen to enable LGBT discrimination.  And Mike Huckabee objected to the Pentagon’s plan on transgender service.  And even though John Kasich expressed some nuance, all 17 candidates opposed same-sex marriage.  If any one of these Republican candidates are elected to the White House, are the President’s advances for the LGBT community at risk?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, Chris, I think that’s a hard thing to say.  I think that so much of the progress that has been made is progress that a substantial number of Americans have come around to supporting.  And I think that speaks to not just the critically important political progress that’s been made in this country on some of the issues that you’ve just cited, but in some ways I think you can make a pretty persuasive argument that at least as important as that is the social progress that’s been made in communities, large and small, across the country in which discussions of these issues are taking place outside the context of any sort of political election or partisan debate.

 

And it’s my view that at least some of that social progress would not have been possible without some political leadership.  And that’s why the President is, justifiably, proud of his record.  But the real power behind this change in the view of so many Americans, as we perfect our union, is the power of the American people and the significant change that we’ve seen in a relatively short period of time.

 

Q    You can’t deny, though, a lot of this change is a result of the President taking action on these issues — for example, the executive order barring anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors.  That could be — the President signed that; a subsequent President could undo it.  So isn’t that in danger at all?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, again, I think I alluded to this in my first answer.  I do think that some of the social progress that’s been made can be attributed to some political leadership, including political leadership by the President of the United States.  And there’s no doubt that we would have liked to have seen Congress take some of the steps that the President has been forced to take on his own to try to make our country a little more just and a little bit more fair.

 

Congress has resisted.  But ultimately, those voters who prioritize these issues I’m confident will look carefully at the views and records of those who are running for President — because there’s no denying the kind of authority that they could wield sitting in the Oval Office on these issues.

Initial snapshots of GOP candidates on LGBT issues: ‘Confuse everybody’

Studies have shown that only about one-third of LGBT Americans vote Republican, but there’s realistic chance a Republican will win the White House in 2016, so LGBT people need to pay attention to who might take the GOP nomination.

The first debates among Republican presidential candidates hoping to win that nomination take place this week: first in New Hampshire Monday, a sort of rolling debate aired on CSPAN. In Cleveland Thursday, August 6, a 10-candidate debate will be broadcast live at 9 p.m. on Fox News. While pro-gay Republican groups have yet to take a stand behind any one candidate, individual gay Republicans and conservatives are beginning to sort the candidates into two basic categories: Maybe supportable and definitely not.

For now, among the maybes, to varying degrees, are: Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Lindsey Graham, James Gilmore, and George Pataki.

Among the definitely not are: Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Bobby Jindal.

Mimi Planas, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Miami, said she hasn’t decided who to back yet but considers Rubio, Fiorina, and Paul among her “top three.”

Jimmy LaSalvia, who founded the now defunct GOProud organization, dings Fiorina, noting that she chaired the American Conservative Union Foundation, part of the organization, American Conservative Union, “that kicked out GOProud from the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011 because we were gay.”

Donald Trump, on the other hand, accepted GOProud’s invitation to speak at that 2011 CPAC conference, said LaSalvia, even as many conservatives attending the conference raised objections to GOProud’s participation.

LaSalvia notes that Christie, Kasich, and Pataki have all “demonstrated in the past a willingness to include LGBT voters in their outreach.”

Log Cabin Republicans, the national gay Republican group, won’t make an endorsement during the primaries, said its national executive director, Gregory Angelo. That long-standing policy, said Angelo, was developed to ensure the organization did not get shut out of any eventual nominee’s campaign because of early support for another candidate. But Log Cabin does meet with as many candidates as it can and “gives members, as individuals, the freedom to support whomever they like.”

With the exception of Cruz, Huckabee, and Santorum, said Angelo, most candidates this time do not exhibit the same “strident opposition to LGBT equality that marked campaigns in the past.”

“A number of the candidates are trying to thread the needle,” he said, hoping to please both the evangelical base and the voters needed to win the New Hampshire primary and the general election.

“It’s like the GOP strategy on LGBT issues is to confuse everybody.”

With 17 announced candidates, the Republican field is already confusing to many people. Below is a quick look at each, with some highlights of their records or remarks on LGBT issues, and a ranking by their odds of winning the nomination as calculated by the research project PredictWise.com (as of August 3):

Jeb Bush                       

Current odds of winning the nomination: 45 percent

Occupational experience: Former governor Florida

Age: 62

Main asset: Father was president

Main liability: His brother was president

Response to Obergefell: Issued statement saying the Court should have let states decide the issue, urging the country protect “religious freedom” and “not discriminate.”

LGBT Record: Supported Florida constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage; penned a 1994 op-ed in Miami Herald saying “Homosexuality is wrong;” and wrote in a 1995 book that he opposed protections for LGBT people because, “We have enough special categories, enough victims, without creating even more.” In a January 2015 article on BuzzFeed, Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said: “Gov. Bush believes that our society should have a culture of respect for all people, regardless of their differences, and that begins with preventing discrimination, including when it comes to sexual orientation. This [1994] opinion editorial from 20 years ago does not reflect Gov. Bush’s views now, nor would he use this terminology today.”

Scott Walker

Current odds of winning the nomination: 16 percent

Occupational experience: Current Governor of Wisconsin

Age: 47

Main asset: His wife, Tonette, who comes from a Democratic family, told the Washington Post she and Walker’s sons had difficulty with Walker’s position against same-sex marriage.

Main liability: No foreign policy experience

Response to Obergefell: Issued a statement, calling it a “grave mistake” and saying the “only alternative left” is to amend the U.S. Constitution to “reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage.”

LGBT Record: Said he supported keeping the Boy Scout ban on gay leaders because it “protected children.” He later tried to back off the comment, and deflected a question about whether sexual orientation is a choice by saying, “I’m going to work hard for every American.” He supported the ban on same-sex marriage in Wisconsin and, as governor, tried to stop hospital visitation and domestic partner registries. Said he has attended the wedding reception of a gay family member.

Marco Rubio

Current odds of winning the nomination: 8 percent

Occupational experience: U.S. Senator from Florida (first term)

Age: 44

Main asset: He’s a fresh face in Republican field

Main liability: “imprudent” personal financial decisions

Response to Obergefell: Issued a statement, saying the issue should be left to the people of each state and he would appoint judges who would apply the constitution “as written and originally understood.”

LGBT Record: Asked if he’d attend the wedding of a gay family member or staffer, he said: “If there’s somebody in my life that I love and care for, of course I would. I’m not going to hurt them simply because I disagree with a choice they’ve made,” said Rubio. But he said he does support the so-called “religious freedom” laws because he doesn’t think business vendors should have to service “a specific event that violates the tenets of [their] faith.” Earned a 22 (out of 100) on Human Right Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard last session. Voted against ENDA in 2013.

Donald Trump

Current odds of winning the nomination: 8 percent

Occupational experience: Real estate tycoon

Age: 69

Main asset: Personal wealth he estimates at $10 billion

Main liability: Proposes unrealistic solutions

Response to Obergefell: Told CNN “I don’t say anything. I’m just for traditional marriage.”

LGBT Record: Accepted GOProud’s invitation to speak at CPAC conference in 2011. Eliminated a beauty pageant rule requiring contestants be “naturally born female.” He said he has “many fabulous friends who happen to be gay,” but thinks same-sex marriage is “weird” and doesn’t support it. He accepted gay actor George Takei’s invitation to lunch to discuss same-sex marriage and attended the wedding of a gay couple.

Mike Huckabee

Current odds of winning the nomination: 4 percent

Occupational experience: Former governor of Arkansas

Age: 59

Main asset: Folksy

Main liability: Fondness for employing extreme metaphors to express a point (Example: Peace plan with Iran equals marching Israelis “to the door of the oven.”)

Response to Obergefell: Issued a statement saying he would “not acquiesce” to the Supreme Court, an over-the-top response that calls into question his willingness to abide by the U.S. Constitution generally.

LGBT Record: Says gays worked for his administration and he has “friends who are gay” but thinks gays are trying to shut down businesses of those who disagree with them, and initiated a “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” to show support for CEO’s anti-same-sex marriage comments. Has said same-sex marriage will lead to the “criminalization of Christianity.” And, as governor, opposed gays as foster or adoptive parents.

Chris Christie

Current odds of winning the nomination: 3 percent

Occupational experience: Current governor of New Jersey

Age: 52

Main asset: Willing to ignore party lines when necessary

Main liability: Perceived as vindictive

Response to Obergefell: At a press conference, said he doesn’t agree with the decision and thinks the issue should have been left to “the people,” but that he would “support the law of the land.”

LGBT Record: Vetoed a marriage equality bill to allow same-sex couples to marry but then dropped an appeal challenging a court ruling that found the state’s ban unconstitutional. Appointed an openly gay man to the state supreme court. Signed a law prohibiting conversion therapy. Said he believes people are born gay and that he doesn’t look at gays as sinners.

Ted Cruz

Current odds of winning the nomination: 3 percent

Occupational experience: U.S. Senator from Texas (first term)

Age: 44

Main asset: Of Cuban descent

Main liability: Cruz alienated many of his GOP Senate peers in 2013 when he filibustered to oppose any bill that would keep the government funded as a means of gutting the Affordable Care Act. As he did so, he derided many of these same peers as being soft on the ACA. And many of those peers are reluctant to help him out now.

Response to Obergefell: Staged a Senate subcommittee hearing to air grievances against the Supreme Court majority that struck down state bans on same-sex marriage and to urge that the justices be subject to “retention elections.”

LGBT Record: Led a brief supporting state bans on same-sex marriage in Obergefell case. Earned a 20 (on a scale of 100) from Human Rights Campaign for his Senate voting record on LGBT issues, including a vote against ENDA. Met with small gay political gathering. Attempting to deflect questions about his positions on gay issues, he expressed concern for gays being executed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Praised legislation in some states that sought to allow businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples by claiming a religious objection.

John Kasich

Current odds of winning the nomination: 3 percent

Occupational experience: Current governor of Ohio, former U.S. House Rep.

Age: 63

Main asset: Popular governor of a big swing state

Main liability: Abrasive personality

Response to Obergefell: On CBS Face the Nation, he said, “it’s the law of the land and we’ll abide by it,” adding, “it’s time to move on” and “strike a balance” with religious institutions.

LGBT Record: Scored between zero and 30 on Human Rights Campaign scorecard while in Congress. Said the state didn’t need an Indiana style law to protect religious freedom. Issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity. Attended wedding of gay friend. In House, voted for the Defense of Marriage Act

Rand Paul

Current odds of winning the nomination: 2 percent

Occupational experience: U.S. Senator from Kentucky (first term)

Age: 52

Main asset: Provides free ophthalmologic surgery to poor Guatemalans

Main liability: Perceived as isolationist

Response to Obergefell: Wrote op-ed piece in Time magazine, saying he disagreed with the ruling but thinks all Americans should be able to enter into a “contract” and suggests the government shouldn’t be in the business of granting these contracts because they are an “intrusion of government into the religious sphere.”

LGBT Record: Earned a 20 (on a scale of 100) from Human Rights Campaign for his Senate voting record on LGBT issues, including a vote against ENDA. Voted against amendment to allow benefits for same-sex spouses of veterans. Said his office as a “zero tolerance policy for anybody who displays discriminatory behavior or belief…based on…sexual orientation….”

Ben Carson

Current odds of winning the nomination: 2 percent

Occupational experience: Former neurosurgeon and author

Age: 63

Main asset: Relatively new to national political scene

Main liability: Never run for office before

Response to Obergefell: Issued a statement, saying he “strongly disagrees” with the ruling, saying marriage is a “religious service, not a government form.” Called on Congress to “make sure deeply held religious views are respected and protected.”

LGBT Record: Lumped same-sex couples with NAMBLA and bestiality while explaining why he doesn’t support allowing same-sex couples to marry, then apologized for the remarks. Said prison proves sexual orientation is a choice, then apologized for those remarks, too, and, according to CNN, “said he won’t be addressing gay rights issues for the duration of his presidential campaign.”

Rick Santorum

Current odds of winning the nomination: 1 percent

Occupational experience: Former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania

Age: 57

Main asset: Persistence

Main liability: Failed to gain traction in 2012 bid

Response to Obergefell: Said the court “got it wrong,” and that, as president, he would issue an executive order “to ensure no agency of the federal government will interfere with the religious liberty rights of faith-based organizations who oppose same-sex marriage.”

LGBT Record: As U.S. Senator, scored zero on Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard. During campaign for GOP presidential nomination in 2012, Santorum said he wanted to reinstate the ban on gays in the military, characterized the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as “tragic,” and boasted of his active campaign to oust three Iowa state supreme court justices who had ruled that the state constitution guaranteed gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples seeking marriage licenses.

Carly Fiorina

Current odds of winning the nomination: 1 percent

Occupational experience: Former chairman of Hewlett-Packard

Age: 60

Main asset: Only woman in the field

Main liability: Less than stellar business success

Response to Obergefell: Posted at statement on Facebook, saying the decision “usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide” but urge Americans to find “a way to respect one another and to celebrate a culture that protects religious freedom while promoting equality under the law.”

LGBT Record: Said she voted for California’s Proposition 8. Supported civil unions for same-sex couples, but not marriage. And said she did not support ENDA.

Lindsey Graham

Current odds of winning the nomination: 1 percent

Occupational experience: U.S. Senator from South Carolina (2nd term)

Age: 55

Main asset: High profile in key Senate proceedings

Main liability: Not married

Response to Obergefell: Issued statement saying, he respects the court’s decision, would not support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, but would “staunchly defend religious liberty”

LGBT Record: Earned a zero on Human Rights Campaign’s latest Congressional Scorecard. Supported federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and voted for amendment to ban adoptions by gays in District of Columbia.

Bobby Jindal

Current odds of winning the nomination: 0 percent

Occupational experience: Current governor of Louisiana

Age: 44

Main asset: Former assistant secretary HHS and U.S. House Rep.

Main liability: Low favorability rating in home state

Response to Obergefell: Issued statement saying God made marriage one man and one woman and that this ruling would trigger an “all out assault against religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree” with it.

LGBT Record: Issued an executive order allowing businesses to refuse service to gay couples and is seeking a state bill to do so.

Rick Perry

Current odds of winning the nomination: 0 percent

Occupational experience: Former governor of Texas

Age: 65

Main asset: Former governor of a large state

Main liability: Perceived as not particularly bright

Response to Obergefell: Issued a statement, saying the decision was an “assault” on the 10th Amendment and an effort to “legislate” from the bench. (10th amendment says states have powers not reserved to the federal government or prohibited by the constitution.)

LGBT Record: As a GOP presidential candidate in 2012, he signed a pledge to the National Organization of Marriage to vigorously oppose same-sex marriage. Opposed gays in the military.

George Pataki

Current odds of winning the nomination: 0 percent

Occupational experience: Former governor of New York

Age: 70

Main asset: Former three-term GOP governor of large Democratic state

Main liability: Relative lack of name recognition nationally

Response to Obergefell: Told the Washington Blade he thinks states should have decided the issue but that he accepts the ruling and would not support effort to pass a constitutional amendment to ban marriage for same-sex couples.

LGBT Record: Signed a state law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Said the marriage issue should be left up to the states. Early campaign ad characterizes LGBT issues as a “distraction.”

Jim Gilmore

Current odds of winning the nomination: Not yet rated

Occupational experience: Former governor of Virginia

Age: 65

Main asset: Thinks the party must become more accepting of gays

Main liability: Couldn’t muster the funds to run in 2008

Response to Obergefell:

LGBT Record: Told the National Review that the GOP keeps “projecting anger at the gay community and the Hispanic community, even though they’re open to many of our ideas.”

 

Broadcast note: Thursday’s debate will be hosted and broadcast by the Fox News Channel. The network is dividing the Republican field into two tiers: The “top 10 candidates” based on an average of five national polls will debate among themselves at 9 p.m. ET, and the remaining announced candidates will participate in a separate debate at 5 p.m.

EEOC decision gives concrete remedies for federal employees facing bias

A U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision Thursday could provide important remedies to thousands of federal workers who might face sexual orientation discrimination and may increase pressure on Congress to advance the ENDA.

In a decision that could provide important remedies to thousands of LGBT federal workers who might face sexual orientation discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled Thursday (July 15) that existing federal law prohibits employment discrimination against federal workers based on sexual orientation.

Lambda Legal hailed the ruling as a “landmark” decision, saying it “authoritatively recognizes that federal workers mistreated because of their sexual orientation have a claim under Title VII.” Lambda added that the decision could have a positive impact for LGBT employees beyond the federal workplace.

“This ruling is likely to have enormous positive effects because EEOC interpretations of Title VII are highly persuasive to the courts,” said Lambda Employment Fairness Strategist Greg Nevins. “Given the clarity and logic of this opinion, most courts are likely to stop simply referring to old, illogical rulings about Title VII coverage. A few may disagree, but most probably will be guided by the Commission’s straightforward approach.”

President Clinton signed an executive order in 1998 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation against federal civilian employees. And last April, President Obama added a prohibition against gender identity discrimination and discrimination by federal contractors.

“The EEOC decision,” explained Nevins, “affords a concrete remedy directly to the aggrieved party, i.e., the usual remedies available under Title VII.  Under the President’s Executive Order, discrimination could result in significant penalties for the employer/government contractor, but wouldn’t directly result in the target of discrimination being made whole.”

The decision is one that has been in the making at EEOC for some time. Last October, the EEOC filed a brief in a Seventh Circuit federal appeals court case, arguing that the EEOC and an increasing number of courts have recognized that “intentional discrimination” based on sexual orientation “can be proved to be grounded in sex-based norms, preferences, expectations, or stereotypes.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. It also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who files a discrimination complaint.

In the current EEOC case, Complainant v. Anthony Foxx, an air traffic control supervisor (who was not publicly identified by name) asserted that he was fired in retaliation for filing a complaint that he had been passed over for a promotion because he was gay.

The employee filed a complaint three years ago after being fired from his position as a Supervisory Air Traffic Control Specialist at Miami International’s control tower. He said he was fired in retaliation for filing a complaint alleging he was passed over for a promotion because he was gay. But the Equal Employment Opportunity office of the Federal Aviation Administration dismissed his complaint.

The July 15 decision by the EEOC did not determine whether the employee’s FAA supervisors had, in fact, discriminated against the employee based on his sexual orientation; rather it sent that question back to the FAA, directing it to process it as an EEO complaint.

In doing so, the EEOC decision states that “Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination means that employers may not ‘rely upon sex-based considerations’ or take gender into account when making employment decisions….This applies equally in claims brought by lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals under Title VII.”

“A complainant alleging that an agency took his or her sexual orientation into account in an employment action necessarily alleges that the agency took his or her sex into account,” states the decision.

“Title VII similarly prohibits employers from treating an employee or applicant differently than other employees or applicants based on the fact that such individuals are in a same-sex marriage or because the employee has a personal association with someone of a particular sex,” wrote the commission.

But as important as the ruling in Complainant v. Anthony Foxx is, it does not compensate for the lack of explicit language in federal law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination.

Long-time gay legal activist Evan Wolfson of the national Freedom to Marry project noted that the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in Congress seeks to prohibit discrimination not just in employment but also in housing, public accommodations, education and federal funding. The EEOC decision provides “avoids uncertainty that makes it more difficult for both individuals and employers.”

Nevins agrees.

“Even if this [EEOC] decision was adopted by every court and carried out to a natural conclusion, it still wouldn’t accomplish what ENDA is trying to do there.”

And Nevins said the EEOC would “absolutely” help persuade Congress to move forward with ENDA and influence courts.

The EEOC decision itself notes, “Some courts have also relied on the fact that Congress has debated but not yet passed legislation explicitly providing protections for sexual orientation.”

“But the Supreme Court has ruled that ‘[c]ongressional inaction lacks persuasive significance because several equally tenable inferences may be drawn from such inaction, including the inference that the existing legislation already incorporated the offered change.’”

“This historic ruling by the EEOC makes clear they agree workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, much like gender identity, is illegal,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement released Thursday. “While an important step, it also highlights the need for a comprehensive federal law permanently and clearly banning LGBT discrimination beyond employment to all areas of American life. Such a law would send a clear and permanent signal that discrimination against LGBT people will not be tolerated under any circumstances in this country, and we remain fully committed to making that happen.”

A 2014 report by the Office of Personnel Management indicated there are 4.2 million U.S. federal employees worldwide. A 2012 survey indicated that about two percent (84,000) of the federal workforce identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

Why some think the dissent cries ‘wolf’ over Supreme Court marriage decision

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision striking down state bans against same-sex marriage has been touted as “probably the strongest manifesto in favor of marriage” and pilloried as “a threat to American democracy.” The huff and puff will soon die down, and here’s a look at the legal bricks that will remain standing and why some might think the dissent is crying “wolf.”

Kennedy: "Democracy is the appropriate process for change, so long as that process does not abridge fundamental rights.”
Kennedy: “Democracy is the appropriate process for change, so long as that process does not abridge fundamental rights.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision striking down state bans against same-sex marriage has been touted as “probably the strongest manifesto in favor of marriage” and pilloried as “a threat to American democracy.” It has energized celebrations at LGBT Pride events and private living rooms across the country and prompted warnings of “an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision.”

But despite these vastly different reactions, there has not yet been a threat by any state to secede from the union that President Obama characterized as “a little more perfect” now. As of Monday, 12 of the 13 of the states that had statewide bans in effect have started issuing licenses in at least some, if not all, their counties.

Mississippi’s attorney general told clerks to delay issuing licenses until a formal order to do so is issued from the federal appeals court. Louisiana’s Governor Bobby Jindal has instructed clerks that they do not have to issue licenses if they have religious objections to doing so. And the Texas attorney general is encouraging clerks to raise religious objections to issuing the licenses but has warned them that, doing so, could lead to “litigation and/or a fine.”

Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has vowed that he “will not acquiesce to an imperial court,” a statement that will almost certainly come back to haunt him, given that the constitution requires the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” (President Obama continued to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act until the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional.)

The huff and puff of opponents to allowing same-sex couples to marry will soon die down, and the legal bricks that will remain standing in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling are these:

  • the word “liberty” in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution includes the fundamental right of a citizen to marry
  • state bans against allowing same-sex couples to marry burden the “liberty” of gay and lesbian citizens
  • the bans are unconstitutional infringements on the rights to due process and equal protection
  • and states with such bans have not shown “a foundation for the conclusion that allowing same-sex marriage will cause the harmful outcomes they describe.”

The word “liberty” was at the center of the Obergefell decision, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy. He used the word 25 times. The dissents used it 122 times.

Kennedy noted that the 14th Amendment to the constitution says that “no State shall ‘deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law’.” He cited Supreme Court precedent saying that the word “denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right “to marry, establish a home and bring up children….” The quote came from a 1923 case, Meyer v. Nebraska, that struck down a state ban on the use or teaching of foreign languages in schools and which referred to numerous other precedents discussing the meanings of “liberty.”

None of the four justices in dissent mentioned Meyer. Instead, each claimed that the Kennedy majority based its decision on non-legal grounds. Chief Justice John Roberts contends the majority “relied on its own conception of liberty” and that its opinion was rooted in “social policy and considerations of fairness.” Justice Antonin Scalia said the majority engaged in “constitutional revision.” Justice Clarence Thomas said the majority’s opinion was “based on an imaginary constitutional protection and revisionist view of our history and tradition.” Justice Samuel Alito said the majority “invent[ed] a new right and impose[d] that right on the rest of the country.”

Some will argue that it was the dissenters who invented something new: the idea that, when there is a vigorous public debate about a matter, the Supreme Court should not act.

“Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens—through the democratic process—to adopt their view. That ends today,” wrote Roberts. “Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”

(A Williams Institute fellow, Adam Romero, said his research before and after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA found the court’s action “fostered positive attitude changes.”)

All four dissenters lamented the end of the national debate over same-sex marriage.

The debate over marriage for same-sex couples, wrote Scalia, “displayed American democracy at its best.”

“Individuals on both sides of the issue passionately, but respectfully, attempted to persuade their fellow citizens to accept their views…. Win or lose,” Scalia wrote, “advocates for both sides continued pressing their cases, secure in the knowledge that an electoral loss can be negated by a later electoral win. That is exactly how our system of government is supposed to work.”

Scalia: In Bush v. Gore, he was for the court intervening in the democratic process.
Scalia: In Bush v. Gore, he was for the court intervening in the democratic process.

But that’s not the system Scalia defended in 2000 when he went along with the 5 to 4 decision in Bush v. Gore that delivered the presidential election to Republican George W. Bush. That opinion (which did not identify an author) said that the majority admired the Constitution’s design to leave certain matters “to the people, through their legislatures, and to the political sphere” with one notable exception:

“When contending parties invoke the process of the courts… it becomes our unsought responsibility to resolve the federal and constitutional issues the judicial system has been forced to confront.”

That latter line might well have fit into the majority opinion for Obergefell. Instead, Kennedy wrote, “the Constitution contemplates that democracy is the appropriate process for change, so long as that process does not abridge fundamental rights.”

“The dynamic of our constitutional system,” Kennedy wrote, “is that individuals need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right.”

Bonauto: “In our system, you don’t have to convince every single person before the court vindicates your constitutional rights.”
Bonauto: “In our system, you don’t have to convince every single person before the court vindicates your constitutional rights.”

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders attorney Mary Bonauto put it most succinctly on The Rachel Maddow Show June 26:In our system, you don’t have to convince every single person before the court vindicates your constitutional rights.”

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“Justice that arrives like a thunderbolt”: On same-sex marriage “the fight is over”

June 26 has been solidified as the historic date for LGBT history in

From the U.S. Supreme Court Collection
From the U.S. Supreme Court Collection

the United States. It is the day in 2003 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not enforce laws prohibiting same-sex adults from having intimate relations. It is the day in 2013 when a Supreme Court procedural ruling enabled same-sex couples to marry in California. It is the day in 2013 when the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not deny married same-sex couples the same benefits it provides to married male-female couples.

And this year, in a widely expected yet stunning victory for LGBT people nationally, June 26 is the day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled  that state bans on marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional.

This latest decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, requires states to both issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize marriage licenses obtained in other states by same-sex couples.

The 5 to 4 decision authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy strikes down bans that have been enforced in 13 states and is expected to secure the lower court decisions that struck down bans in nine other states.

Kennedy wrote that “the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

“The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them. “

President Obama, at an impromptu press conference outside the oval office Friday morning, said the decision was “justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

“Today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect,” said the president, in remarks that sounded, at times, unscripted. He said the decision “affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: that when all Americans are treated equal, we’re all more free.”

LGBT organizations all over the country began issuing press releases declaring the decision “historic,” “amazing,” and “landmark.”

In Obergefell, which includes cases from four states, Kennedy was joined in the majority opinion by the court’s four more liberal justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Chief Justice John Roberts led the dissent, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.

Chief Justice Roberts, who read from his dissent on the bench Friday morning, said “a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational.”

“In short, our Constitution does not enact any one theory of marriage,” wrote Roberts. “The people of a State are free to expand marriage to include same-sex couples, or to retain the historic definition.”

Justice Scalia, who is known for his harshly worded disagreements, derided Kennedy’s majority opinion, characterizing it as “pretentious” and “egotistic” and said it “has to diminish this Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis” and caused him to want to “hide my head in a bag.”

Openly gay U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin called the majority decision a “huge, huge milestone in our quest for freedom and human equality.” On MSNBC just minutes after the decision was released at 10 Friday morning, she called the decision “sweeping” and predicted it would help promote “full equality” for LGBT people in other arenas, including employment and public accommodations.

“We’ve always known that discrimination is wrong,” said Baldwin, “but to have the Supreme Court in such a bold fashion say that it is now unconstitutional is just remarkable progress.”

A large crowd of LGBT people and supporters and media crowded the steps before the Supreme Court building plaza Friday morning. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington could be heard singing the national anthem at 10:35, with onlookers waving rainbow and Human Rights Campaign equal-sign flags.

Mary Bonauto, the openly gay attorney who argued against the state bans on marriage for same-sex couples, told the Supreme Court gathering that the decision is “momentous” and “a landmark ruling for love and for justice.” In her remarks to the crowd, and then later to a reporter, Bonauto noted the decision was released on a day when the country is in deep mourning over the racially motivated killings of nine African Americans at a Bible study inside Charleston, South Carolina’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Bonauto said it was important that all people be treated equally and be protected from violent acts of discrimination. She told MSNBC that the court’s decision shows “we do have a fundamental right to marriage” but that the “nation remains divided about this even as a majority of people support loving and committed couples taking this step to marry.”

“Today is a monumental victory and a giant leap towards full equality,” said Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Chad Griffin, to an MSNBC reporter on the steps of the Supreme Court. But he, too, added that there is much more to do.

“While we’re all out here celebrating today because marriage equality has come to every state in the country,” said Griffin, “we also have to remember that still today in America, in this country, in a majority of states, the moment this decision is realized and couples get married, in a majority of states, they can be married at 10 a.m., fired from their jobs by noon, and evicted from their homes by 2 simply because there are no explicit federal protections as it relates to non-discrimination in this country.”

But Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights who was involved in one of the four cases under appeal, said the majority opinion includes discussions that are likely to help equality for LGBT people in many other arenas.

“The court’s ruling that fundamental rights cannot be limited based on historical patterns of discrimination will be helpful to LGBT people in other fundamental rights cases, such as those involving the fundamental right to procreative freedom, to vote, to create a family, and to travel,” said Minter. “The court’s emphasis that the constitution protects a broad liberty to self- determination and expression will be helpful to transgender litigants in many contexts.” And Minter said the majority’s discussion of parenting will be “enormously helpful in other parenting cases.”

The Human Rights Campaign announced it was sending letters to each governor of the 13 states plus Missouri (which allows marriage but only in certain jurisdictions) to urge “immediate” and “full compliance with the law.”

In some of those states, efforts have been underway for some time to find a way to defy the widely anticipated Supreme Court decision. The North Carolina legislature passed a bill to let public officials who issue marriage licenses and can conduct ceremonies to refuse to administer the paperwork or perform the ceremony by claiming “sincerely held religious objections.” The governor vetoed the measure but on June 11, the legislature overrode the veto.

In Arkansas, the state supreme court ordered marriage clerks to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples, but on June 9, a state judge declared that more than 500 licenses issued to same-sex couples before the state supreme court order was issued would be considered valid. The Texas Supreme Court has taken a similar tact.

The Obergefell appeals challenged a Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision that upheld the bans in four states (Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee). It said the bans had to be upheld because the Supreme Court, in 1972, dismissal a marriage appeal by a same-sex couple, and that the issue should be left to the democratic process of each state. The majority opinion in Obergefell explicitly overruled the 1972 case, Baker v. Nelson, and said the democratic process is acceptable “so long as that process does not abridge fundamental rights.”

Asked by a reporter about the possibility of some states attempting to avoid compliance with the decision, Bonauto of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders said that possibility is basically futile. Some states might wait until the Supreme Court issues its formal “mandate” to abide by the decision, she said, and that mandate might take 30 days or more to filter down to the state levels. But, said Bonauto, “on the marriage question, the fight is over.”

“What a glorious day for equality, justice and love,” said Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal, which was involved in the Obergefell case from Ohio. “For the first time, LGBT people in America will live in a nation that respects their love and their families. June 26 is a day that will stand out forever as a day of victory in the history of the LGBT rights movement in America.  On this very day in 2003, Lambda Legal won Lawrence v. Texas, a groundbreaking Supreme Court ruling striking down state laws that made lesbian and gay people criminals for having private intimate relationships. And two years ago on this day, the Supreme Court issued its historic ruling inU.S. v. Windsor. Today, the Constitution and our democracy shine brightly again. ”

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Supreme Court: States must license and recognize licenses of marriages for same-sex couples

In a widely expected yet stunning victory for LGBT people nationally, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today (June 26) that state bans on marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional. The decision requires states to both issue marriage licenses to couples and to recognize marriage licenses obtained in other states by same-sex couples.

In a widely expected yet stunning victory for LGBT people nationally, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today (June 26) that state bans on marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional. The decision requires states to both issue marriage licenses to couples and to recognize marriage licenses obtained in other states by same-sex couples.

The 5 to 4 decision, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, strikes down bans that have been enforced in 13 states and is expected to secure the lower court decisions that struck down bans in nine other states.

Kennedy was joined in the decision by the court’s four more liberal justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Chief Justice John Roberts led the dissent, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.

Kennedy wrote that “the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

“The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them. “

LGBT organizations all over the country began issuing press releases declaring the decision “historic,” “amazing,” and “landmark.”

Rallies planned in advance are due to take place on the day the decision, including outside New York City’s historic Stonewall Inn at 6 p.m.

Dissenting, Chief Justice Roberts said that “a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational.”

“In short, our Constitution does not enact any one theory of marriage,” wrote Roberts. “The people of a State are free to expand marriage to include same-sex couples, or to retain the historic definition.”

The focus could now shifts back to the states, where efforts have been underway for some time by some to find a way to defy the Supreme Court decision, which was widely predicted. The North Carolina legislature passed a bill to let public officials who issue marriage licenses and can conduct ceremonies to refuse to administer the paperwork or perform the ceremony by claiming “sincerely held religious objections.” The governor vetoed the measure but on June 11, the legislature overrode the veto.

In Arkansas, the state supreme court ordered marriage clerks to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples, but on June 9, a state judge declared that more than 500 licenses issued to same-sex couples before the state supreme court order was issued would be considered valid. The Texas Supreme Court has taken a similar tact.

 

Supreme Court upholds health insurance subsidies critical to people with HIV

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6 to 3 decision, upheld the right of the federal government to provide health care insurance subsidies to people with low income in states that have chosen not to participate in the Affordable Care Act by setting up insurance “exchanges.”

The decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, is a big political victory for the Obama administration and a big relief for people with low incomes, including many people with HIV.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6 to 3 decision Thursday, upheld the right of the federal government to provide health care insurance stethoscopesubsidies to people with low income in states that have chosen not to participate in the Affordable Care Act by setting up insurance “exchanges.”

The decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, is a big political victory for the Obama administration and a big relief for people with low incomes, including many people with HIV. Lambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights joined briefs to the court urging it to uphold the subsidies.

The Supreme Court did not rule Thursday on whether states can ban same-sex couples from marrying, but it is scheduled to release its last five decisions of the session tomorrow and Monday.

The decision, King v. Burwell, upheld a decision from the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that said the federal government’s subsidies to people with low incomes in all 50 states was consistent with the intent Congress had in passing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Lambda, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and other LGBT groups filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the lower court decision. The brief led by Lambda said that withholding the subsidies from people in the states that did not participate in ACA would “lead to an absurd and catastrophic public health result, especially in the context of HIV….”

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan joined the Chief Justice in the majority opinion.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the dissent, which was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010 with the aim of providing health care insurance for all citizens. One aspect of the law required states to create health insurance “exchanges” through which citizens could do comparative shopping and find coverage they could afford. If states decided against creating their own exchange, the law provided for the federal government to set up an exchange for citizens in those states.

The ACA also provided for the federal government to provide subsidies for citizens with low incomes through the exchanges. Opponents of the ACA challenged those subsidies, saying the law meant them to be provided only through state-established exchanges, not through federal exchanges. A conflict arose over the law’s stipulation that the subsidy depended in part on whether the “applicable taxpayer” sought insurance through “an Exchange established by the state….” In writing the regulations to implement the ACA, the Internal Revenue Service said the subsidies were available to a taxpayer who enrolled through “an Exchange,” whether it was established by the state or the federal government.

The majority said “State Exchanges and Federal Exchanges are equivalent….”

“If a State chooses not to follow the directive in [the ACA] that it establish an Exchange, the Act tells the Secretary [of Health and Human Services] to establish ‘such Exchange.’ And by using the words ‘such Exchange,’ the Act indicates that State and Federal Exchanges should be the same,” wrote Chief Justice Roberts.

Justice Scalia called that conclusion “absurd” because “The Secretary of Health and Human Services is not a State.”

Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director for Lambda, called the majority decision “great news,” saying it protects “access for all” to health insurance, “including people living with HIV who are low-income, rural, southern, Black, and were—before the Affordable Care Act—largely uninsured.”

“No one should be put at greater risk to the ravages of HIV simply because they live in one of the 34 states choosing not to set up its own health insurance exchange,” said Schoettes. Lambda noted that, when ACA was enacted in 2010, “only 17 percent of people living with HIV had private health insurance.” Schoettes said that, while Lambda doesn’t have statistics on the change since ACA, “we know that it has increased substantially, because we know that there are lots of people enrolled through the exchanges today that were not previously able to obtain private health insurance.”

The brief noted that the rate of uninsured LGBT adults with low income went down by eight percentage points during the first year of ACA enrollment.

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If Supreme Court strikes bans, LGBT legal activists ready to fight the pushback

The Supreme Court of the United States will rule any day now on whether it is a violation of the federal constitution for states to bar same-sex couples from marrying. But for weeks now, in apparent anticipation that the court will strike down such bans, states that still have or want to keep their bans have been passing legislation aimed at trying to circumvent such a ruling.

The Supreme Court of the United States will rule any day now on whether it is a violation of the federal constitution for states to bar same-sex couples from marrying. But for weeks now, in apparent anticipation that the court will strike down such bans, states that still have or want to keep their bans have been passing legislation aimed at trying to circumvent such a ruling.

North Carolina’s legislature this month overrode its governor’s veto and enacted legislation that permits public magistrates and registrars to refuse to process marriage license applications for any couple by claiming to have a “sincerely held religious objection” to the marriage.

Indiana passed a law to allow any person, organization, or business being sued for discrimination to claim he or it is exercising religious beliefs as a defense in any proceeding against him or it. The aim of the measure was to enable businesses, including restaurants, bakers, and florists, to deny service to same-sex couples. There was such a backlash nationally against the law, the legislature amended it, within days, to state that the law did not mean businesses could refuse service based on sexual orientation.

Texas legislators, who missed a deadline to introduce a bill this year, will no doubt try again next session to prohibit the use of state funds to process and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. And the Alabama Supreme Court ordered state clerks to defy a federal court ruling to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

While some of these specific tactics are novel, efforts to avoid complying with a court order to provide equal protection to same-sex couples were tried in 2003 in Massachusetts when the state Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled, in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, that the state constitution requires equal treatment of same-sex couples in marriage licensing.

The SJC gave Massachusetts 180 days to comply with its order, but the legislature instead held a special session to vote on proposals to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex couples from marrying and to offer them only civil unions. One proposal passed its first vote but was killed the following year. There were also four different lawsuits (three in state court, one in federal court) to challenge whether the SJC had jurisdiction to decide the marriage issue. None succeeded.

Then-Governor Mitt Romney pushed for a stay of the SJC decision. That failed, too. But for a few years, Romney did succeed in blocking the state from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples from other states who might travel there seeking a license. He did this by reviving an obscure law passed in 1913 to block interracial couples from marrying in Massachusetts.

And there were rumors that Romney might order town clerks to defy the court’s ruling and refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Although the governor did not issue such an order, Mary Bonauto, the attorney who argued Goodridge and also argued the current appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court, recalls that some marriage clerks in Massachusetts were reluctant to comply with the SJC ruling and “a few resigned.”

But despite its initial vigorous resistance, Massachusetts did ultimately comply with the decision, the legislature repealed the 1913 law, and though opponents still exist, the fighting in Massachusetts has long been over. The U.S. Supreme Court decision this month –if it does strike down state bans— will only reinforce the SJC’s landmark decision.

As for the states who are now trying to resist compliance pre-emptively with a possible Supreme Court decision striking down their bans on marriage for same-sex couples: LGBT legal activists are clearly ready.

“If we win at the Supreme Court and state or local authorities refuse to comply, they should expect to be sued,” said Jon Davidson, national legal director for Lambda Legal. “Public officials will need to keep in mind that the right of same-sex couples to marry will have been clearly established at that point, and any interference with that right likely would subject government officials to personal liability for damages and attorneys’ fees.

“In addition, refusal to comply with court orders that will control them in some jurisdictions may lead to them being held in contempt of court and the imposition of sanctions,” said Davidson. “I think there will be less resistance than some are predicting, but we are ready to hold officials responsible for failure to comply with the law — indeed, we’re looking forward to it.”

Lambda Senior Attorney Jenny Pizer says it’s possible “obnoxious–even outrageous–measures will be proposed.”

“Bills seeking to expand religious exemptions in inappropriate ways are likely to continue to be among the most pernicious,” said Pizer. “I hope we’ll continue to be able to stop most of them if not all…[or] of those that pass, at least to narrow them substantially.”

Pizer says it may be “essential” that the LGBT community and friends “be prepared to help from all corners of the country, much more than we’ve done up to this point.”

But legal activists also expect that resistance will follow the same course it did in Massachusetts.

“If we win,” said Bonauto, “…I think it is fair to expect that there will be a few last ditch efforts to block marriages. They will fizzle.”