In a surprising anti-climax to one of the most important legal battles of the last several decades, the Supreme Court announced today that it would not hear several cases where federal appeals courts held that the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the same marriage rights as straight couples. The announcement listed these marriage equality cases as part of a lengthy order listing the cases where the Court had denied review. The justices offered no explanation for their decision.
As a practical matter, however, this decision not to hear these cases is an earthquake for gay rights. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which covers Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, refused to issue a stay halting its order favoring marriage equality. Although the Supreme Court later stepped in with its own stay order, that order provides that the Supreme Court’s stay will “terminate automatically” if the Supreme Court denies review of the case. Now that the justices have done so, there should be no further legal barriers preventing marriages from beginning in those five states — although it is possible that there may be some delay before marriages may begin due to procedural steps that need to be taken by the judiciary.
The Court also denied review in cases arising out of the Seventh Circuit, which covers Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, and in the Tenth Circuit, which covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. It is likely that marriages will be able to begin quickly in those states as well — although it may be necessary for plaintiffs in some of those states to seek an order from a federal court requiring states that oppose marriage equality to comply with their obligations under the Constitution.
One thing that should be noted is that there are still marriage equality cases pending before conservative circuits that could rule against equality. Nevertheless, the fact that marriages are likely to begin very shortly in the states currently subject to court orders will make it very difficult for the Supreme Court to reverse course — and retroactively invalidate those marriages — in a subsequent opinion.
BREAKING: Brian Sims Calls 'BS' On PA Lawmakers For Not Passing LGBT Hate Crimes Bill, After Bill Stalls
Rep. Brian Sims today unleashed a passionate and angry attack on his fellow lawmakers for trying to run out the clock on a stalled hate crimes bill.
Democratic Rep. Brian Sims today slammed Pennsylvania state lawmakers for not taking up a stalled hate crimes bill that would protect LGBT citizens. Sims classified the foot-dragging as “B.S.” and said there are more than one million LGBT residents of the keystone State who need the support of the legislature.
Sims repeatedly said the words, “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender,” and “LGBT” in an effort to remind lawmakers that “people like me” are not going away. “I want to say it very loudly” he insisted. “There’s no place in Pennsylvania that people pretend we don’t exist more than here in the Capitol.”
"This state doesn’t offer a single statewide LGBT civil right to people like me other than marriage and that’s ridiculous," a somewhat angered Sims said heatedly, his finger pointing. "And what happens is attacks like this, on people like me, in my neighborhood. Don’t let people tell you that we only have six or seven days left in session. That’s B.S.!"
LISTEN: At Pennsylvania Hate Crimes Rally, Senator Announces ‘I’m Gay – Get Over It!’
Philebrity summed up Rep. Sims comments this way:
"Sims finally said in one minute everything we’ve been trying to say from the beginning."
Conservatives routinely attack LGBT non-discrimination laws as unnecessary, burdensome and threatening to religious liberty. But in state after state and city after city, their horror stories haven’t come true.
Federal law still doesn’t prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in private employment, housing, or public accommodations, despite widespread public support for such protections.
As a result, many city and state governments have taken to adopting their own non-discrimination measures. In March, Maryland banned discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Since then, cities like Houston, Fayetteville, and Roland Park have similarly extended existing non-discrimination protections to their LGBT residents.
Debates about local non-discrimination laws are routinely hijacked by conservative activists and media outlets that warn that protecting LGBT people is unnecessary, burdensome, and threatening to religious liberty.
Here are the five most common right-wing talking points about LGBT non-discrimination laws, debunked:
MYTH: LGBT Discrimination Isn’t A Real Problem
Research shows that LGBT Americans continue to face widespread discrimination. A 2011 Williams Institute study found that nearly 40 percent of all LGB people open about their sexual orientation in the workplace will experience some form of employment discrimination in their lifetime. A 2013 study by the Department of Housing and Urban Development found widespread discrimination against same-sex couples in housing. And conditions are even worse for the transgender community, which faces astronomical rates of discrimination and harassment in all aspects of public life.
MYTH: Non-Discrimination Laws Create “Special Rights” For LGBT People
LGBT non-discrimination laws typically just add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of characteristics already protected under the law. In San Antonio and Fayetteville, for example, city governments merely expanded their already-existing non-discrimination laws to include LGBT people.
Myth: Non-Discrimination Laws Infringe On Religious Liberty
Non-discrimination laws typically include exemptions for religious institutions like churches and federal law already prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. The First Amendment also protects anti-LGBT speech and religious beliefs.
But non-discrimination laws are concerned with discriminatory actions, not beliefs. Religious convictions don’t give business owners a legal right to discriminate against LGBT people, in the same way they can’t be used to justify racial or sex discrimination. And courts have repeatedly found that non-discriminations laws regulating commercial activity do not violate free speech or religious liberty.
In cities like San Antonio, where opponents predicted that a non-discrimination law would criminalize Christianity, horror stories about violations of religious liberty haven’t come true.
Myth: Non-Discrimination Laws Will Cause Frivolous Lawsuits
A 2011 study by the Williams Institute found that LGBT employment discrimination complaints are filed at nearly the same rate as race and sex discrimination complaints - roughly 4 complaints per 10,000 employees:
A 2014 study published by the LGBQT Policy Journal at Harvard’s Kennedy School echoed those findings, concluding that “the rate at which LGB people file complaints under these laws is similar to the rate at which women and people of color file complaints under sex and race nondiscrimination laws.”
Managing editor of the LGBQT Policy Journal Crosby Burns told Equality Matters:
Anti-LGBT conservatives continually return to the argument that nondiscrimination protections will lead to a deluge of lawsuits. However, the data and on-the-ground experiences of these localities show that those arguments simply carry no weight.
Myth: Non-Discrimination Laws Let Sexual Predators Sneak Into Women’s Restrooms
Law enforcement officials, human rights workers, and sexual assault victims advocates have dismissed this argument as “beyond specious.” In states and cities where non-discrimination laws have been in place for years experts have found no evidence linking these laws to sexual assault or misconduct in public restrooms. Simply put, criminals who are willing to break the law and commit sexual assault aren’t concerned with the scope of local non-discrimination law.
Luke Brinker contributed research to this report.
Kazakh Political Leader Wants To Identify Gay People With Blood Test For ‘Degeneratism’ [TW: Homophobia, Anti-LGBTQ Bigotry]
Conservatives in Kazakhstan are advocating for a number of new anti-LGBT laws to be passed that mirror similar policies that have advanced in Russia, including a ban on “gay propaganda,” a ban on gay people serving in public office or the Kazkh army, and a ban on gay people adopting children. At a press conference last week petitioning for consideration of the “propaganda” law, the Kazakhstan national movement group known as Bolashak expressed its concerns about how gay-friendly the country has become.
The group’s leader, Dauren Babamuratov, was particularly outraged that “we have stopped so low that LGBTs no longer hide their orientation.” He suggested that you could identify such individuals as “young people in coloured pants” hanging out “in the city’s malls and other public places.”
Despite this shift to more openly identifying, Babamuratov also believes that homosexuality can be detected in a person’s DNA. “A blood test can show the presence of degeneratism in a person,” he explained. The propaganda law should be passed, he argued, because “suppressing activities of the LGBT community in Kazakhstan is extremely difficult” without laws against it.
Aldan Smayil, a Member of the Parliament’s Lower Chamber has previously said that legislation should be passed allowing the government to close down gay clubs and punish their owners.
Lawmakers have been considering a ban on “gay propaganda” since at least last year, and revisions to the Marriage and Family Code already underway may include other anti-gay policies.
Remember that online fundraiser to build a pro-LGBT billboard in the Westboro Baptist Church’s hometown? It worked. Feast your eyes on the “God Loves Gays” billboard, standing proud in Topeka, Kansas for all to see. If any additional funding comes through, it will be used for bus ads in Topeka, donations to LGBT youth organizations, and possibly a similar billboard in Utah. Bless. (via the Huffington Post)
Evangelicals for Marriage Equality says evangelical Christians can support marriage equality in the civil sphere regardless of their churches’ beliefs on the issue.
Marriage equality is getting support from an unexpected source with today’s launch of Evangelicals for Marriage Equality.
“As Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, we believe you can be a devout, Bible-believing evangelical and support the right of same-sex couples to be recognized by the government as married,” reads the organization’s statement of belief on its website. “Our commitment to following Christ leads us to speak out for equal treatment under the law for others — whether or not they share our religious convictions.”
The Washington, D.C.-based group was founded by two young, straight evangelical Christians — Josh Dickson, the former deputy director of faith outreach for the Democratic National Committee, and Michael Saltsman, vice president at a research and communications firm in D.C. and a frequent commentator in newspapers and on television.
Their view reflects the strong support for marriage equality among members of the millennial generation, says Brandan Robertson, an evangelical Christian blogger and activist who serves as national spokesman for the group.
“As spokesperson for the organization, I represent a growing number of millennial evangelicals that believes it’s possible to be a faithful Christian with a high regard for the authority of the Bible and a faithful supporter of civil marriage equality,” Robertson writes in an article published today on Time’s website. He notes that 43 percent of evangelicals aged 18 to 33 support marriage equality, compared with 27 percent of evangelicals overall, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.
“Are evangelicals who support civil marriage for same-sex couples watering down their faith to adapt to secular society?” Robertson asks in the piece. “Not at all. Instead, we’re making a distinction between theology and politics.” Some evangelicals believe same-sex relationships are sinful, he says, but others do not. It’s possible, he says, for churches to maintain their right not to solemnize same-sex marriages while supporting the freedom to marry in the civil sphere.
As the group launches, it’s apparent that it’s meeting some resistance in the evangelical world. According to a post on its website, it had planned to run a full-page ad in an evangelical publication to announce its formation, but it was rejected by three — Christianity Today, Relevant, and World Magazine. The first two objected to the ad’s content, while a World spokesman said simply that the magazine would “pass on the opportunity.” The ad reads in part, “There are hundreds of verses in the Bible that talk about love. There aren’t any that talk about the definition of civil marriage. It’s time for a new evangelical conversation about civil marriage equality.”
Mission America’s Linda Harvey appeared on “Understanding the Times with Jan Markell” over the weekend, where she warned that LGBT rights are pushing the world into the End Times.
After discussing the purported dangers that same-sex marriage presents to children, Harvey said that “we’re heading into the End Times, and it sure looks like we may be, or the end of America—or both.”
Harvey also called on cities to ban LGBT pride parades: “We need to go to our city councils and stop these parades. I think they are a blight on the community, they communicate exactly the wrong message: that homosexuality and gender change is totally fine, that it’s a big joke, because there are men dressed in feather boas, lipstick and heels in these parades, this is such a raw message to our children especially. My opinion is gay pride parades ought to be banned and we have every reason to do so, there is no redeeming social value, that’s my belief.”
She also criticized anti-gay leaders for not standing up more aggressively to LGBT-affirming Episcopalian and United Church of Christ pastors, arguing that they need to rebuff “vicious” LGBT rights advocates.
“Pastors are going to have to realize this has a huge impact on America, on our culture and on children,” she said.
“Everything we pass regarding acceptance and embrace of homosexuality or same-sex marriage, it’s not just some little population over there, it is being mandated in our schools and now in our courts and now in our workplaces that you have to embrace this and not just embrace this, you have to honor it or else we’re going to punish you.”
H/T: Brian Tashman at RWW
Four evangelical responses to gay rights -- they've changed a lot since '69 - Corner of Church and State
Evangelicals are often seen as being monolithic on issues of sexuality and LGBT rights. A careful study of responses to homosexuality by evangelical elites, however, shows that this is not the case. Sociologists Jeremy Thomas (Idaho State) and Daniel Olson (Purdue) combed through Christianity Today, evangelicalism’s flagship magazine. They uncovered four approaches that evangelicals have taken since the 1960s.
1. Biblical intolerance: “The Bible says it’s a sin, that’s good enough for me.”
Since the 1960s, evangelicals have taken a simple response to homosexuality: it’s a sin. Why? Because the Bible says so. End of debate. Even in the 1960s, evangelicals acknowledged that being gay isn’t a choice (it was seen as a psychological disorder). Still, the Bible was seen as clear on homosexual behavior. Most evangelicals with this response have opposed gay rights.
2. Natural intolerance: “It’s against human nature.”
In the 1980s, some evangelicals began espousing a new argument that turned on issues of health and the natural order. This response emphasizes natural law, not the Bible, as the foundation of public morality and the law. This isn’t someone thumping the Bible over someone. Evangelicals may believe in their heart-of-hearts that it’s wrong because of what they find in the Bible, but they know that a Bible-based argument will fail. Why bother when you can use science (procreation) and medicine (AIDS and HIV) to make the case. A call to a broader source of morality that is consistent with the Bible but not tied to it allows evangelicals to make moral arguments in the public square.
3. Public accommodation: “It’s a personal sin, but we live in a pluralistic society.”
Today, the dominant argument that homosexual behavior as a personal sin, not a public concern. As such, evangelicals should stand firm on biblical morality while recognizing that they live in a pluralistic society in which the rights of everyone should be protected. This response is generally supportive of expanded LGBT rights, including job discrimination protections, adoption, and civil unions. Same-sex marriage, however, remains the proverbially line in the sand that must not be crossed.
4. Personal accommodation. “It’s about love and respect, not sex.”
The most recently developed argument among is one of personal accommodation. It remains a minority position, but one that is seeing increased attention. Indeed, many evangelical leaders are publicly warning that this response is a threat. Personal accommodation avoids the question of personal morality. Those with this response emphasize their personal experience with LGBT friends. It emphasizes the love (not sex) between same-sex couples, with no judgment of the morality of these relationships. The Bible is invoked, not to discuss sexuality, but to argue for equal rights for everyone.
Fake "Christian" Dave Daubenmire: 'A Christian Who Votes For A Democrat Maybe Isn't Really A Christian'
In his most recent video update, “Coach” Dave Daubenmire asks: “Can a Christian vote for a Democrat?”
Unsurprisingly, his answer is no, as Democrats “have become the party of death” thanks to support for legal abortion and the “deathstyle” of homosexuality.
“Did you know that when you support Obamacare you support the medical care of those who are engaged in self-destructive behaviors, including male-on-male sodomy?” he asked.
“Who is the greatest perpetrators of homosexual rights and homosexual marriage?” he said. “You got it. The Democratic party.”
So, he concludes, “a Christian who votes for a democrat maybe isn’t really a Christian.”
Earth to Dave Daubenmire: it’s people like you and not people who vote for Democrats that are the phony “Christians.”
H/T: Miranda Blue at RWW
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says the nation’s highest court will definitely take a same-sex marriage case, and she suggests when the country will know the future of marriage equality.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg says the Supreme Court will not “duck” same-sex marriage. The 81-year old Associate Justice (all Supreme Court Justices are technically Associate Justices, except for the Chief Justice) told the AP today that she expects the Court to take a case and decide it no later than June of 2016, or possibly earlier. She did not specify which case, although it’s assumed it will be one (or several, possibly) of the many dozen making their way through the nation’s court system now.
The AP reports that Ginsburg “said attitudes have changed swiftly in favor of the right of same-sex couples to marry.”
In August of last year, Ginsburg became the first sitting Supreme Court justice to officiate at a same-sex wedding. She married Michael M. Kaiser and John Roberts (no relation to the Chief Justice) in Washington, D.C.
“I think it will be one more statement that people who love each other and want to live together should be able to enjoy the blessings and the strife in the marriage relationship,” Ginsburg told the Washington Post at the time.
In October of last year, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor also officiated at a same-sex wedding. She married a couple together for 36 years, Jeffrey Trammell and Stuart Serkin.
Jean Podrasky, an LGBT activist, the cousin of Chief Justice John Roberts, and an occasional contributor to The New Civil Rights Movement, last year on these pages wrote of Ginsburg’s siding with the majority to “toss out” the Prop 8 case on standing, allowing the lower court’s ruling to stand.
"I truly believe that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg knew exactly what she was doing by siding with throwing the case out on standing," Podrasky wrote. ”I think her idea was for us to slowly win over public approval before making same-sex marriage legal nationwide, to allow us to win state by state through the legislative process or the ballot box, and later to have the Supreme Court rule on this again in a couple of years.”
Those “couple of years” seem to be coming up quickly.
If Justice Ginsburg’s words are true, expect a major marriage equality case to be decided at SCOTUS no later than June 2016.
h/t: David Badash at The New Civil Rights Movement
Over the past five years, an underground movement has been burgeoning on evangelical Christian campuses. Although many of these colleges explicitly ban “homosexual behavior,” they are now home to dozens of LGBT-friendly student groups. The umbrella organization Safety Net, founded in December 2011, encompasses groups from approximately 75 different evangelical Christian colleges. Some of these groups are tiny, and many operate in near-secret. But over the past two weeks, an LGBT group at Gordon College has made itself impossible to ignore.
When we, the authors, attended Gordon College over a decade ago, the vast majority of administrators, faculty, and students simply assumed that the Bible prohibited same-sex attraction. Nestled on Boston’s North Shore, this small outpost of evangelical Protestantism taught us that it was wrong to be gay—not just wrong, but explicitly condemned by both God and the college code of conduct. Sure, a fledgling group emerged here and there to foster dialogue about homosexuality and Christian faith, exploring the edges of accepted belief, but all of us—questioners and Bible-thumpers alike—signed an agreement, stating in no uncertain terms that we would not take part in homosexual activities of any kind.Gordon College taught us that it was wrong to be gay—not just wrong, but explicitly condemned by both God and the college code of conduct.
At 10 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the 1,500 or so of us students filed across the quad towards the brick A.J. Gordon chapel, which stands beacon-like at the campus’s head. We worshipped Jesus, studied the Bible, and sought to embody Gordon’s slogan: “Freedom within a framework of faith.” The college encouraged us to engage with social justice issues such as nationalism, war, poverty, and even corporate power. Yet Gordon’s framework of faith was never free for the LGBT among us. LGBT voices were so muffled at Gordon that the majority of students could spend four years at the institution and walk away with a diploma, never having been forced to question their basic assumption that homosexuality was a sin.
Not so for today’s Gordon students. This past Monday, President Obama signed the Non-Discrimination Executive Order for LGBT people, which will forbids any federal contractor from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Although it’s unclear how this order will affect private colleges, Gordon’s President D. Michael Lindsay was one of a number of prominent evangelical leaders who sent a letter to President Obama, asking for an exemption. (Other signatories included Catholic Charities head Fr. Larry Snyder and megachurch pastor Rick Warren.) In other words, Lindsay asked Obama for permission to do what the College has always done: refrain from hiring people who engage in “homosexual behavior.”
What might have gone unnoticed at Gordon College 10 years ago received widespread coverage in national news outlets, such as The Boston Globe and The Washington Post. The public ramifications were also severe: The mayor of Salem, Massachusetts, cited concerns and canceled a longstanding building contract with Gordon. The New England agency responsible for accrediting private colleges and universities decided to review Gordon College in its upcoming meeting, even though the college had not been scheduled for review until 2022.
Even more tellingly, voices of protest also rang out within the Gordon College community. While Lindsay’s signature might have once been seen as a reflection of unity—a statement of evangelical Christianity’s opposition to homosexuality—the opinions that came forth from Gordon were diverse. Nearly 4,000 students, faculty, alumni, and supporters signed a petition urging President Lindsay to rescind his letter to the White House, and numerous instructors voiced disapproval through op-eds and blog posts.
Meanwhile, OneGordon—a student and alumni LGBT alliance founded in 2012—turned its website and Facebook page into gathering places for dialogue and clearinghouses for media reports and information related to the controversy. Paul Miller, a recent graduate who helped found OneGordon, describes the alliance as, “a handful of the many people making sure that President Lindsay is held accountable for his signature on the letter and its impact on Gordon’s reputation, academic community, and student body, which includes a number of LGBT students.”
Miller knows firsthand what it’s like to be a closeted gay man at Gordon College. “I have a vivid memory of sitting in my dorm room during my junior year,” says Miller, “and searching the Internet for even one Gordon group dedicated to LGBT students, to no avail.” When Miller helped launch OneGordon a few years later, he didn’t expect the group to have a huge impact—until he found out that Gordon’s senior cabinet members had met to address the group’s existence.
Then he tried to purchase the OneGordon.com domain name. “I discovered that it had been preemptively purchased,” says Miller, “along with other LGBT-friendly domain names for other Christian College alliances [such as OneWestmont.com and OneBiola.com] by an individual in Oregon with an anti-gay rights agenda.” According to Miller, the individual only relinquished ownership of the domain names after Miller and others threatened legal action.
Since founding OneGordon, Miller has been privately contacted by numerous supportive and support-seeking LGBT Gordon College students and alumni. In the midst of the recent scandal, one gay Gordon student told Miller how he’d felt during an unexpected encounter with President Lindsay: “He recounted working out on an ellipse machine in the Gordon College gym, getting a good sweat on, and bopping to Beyoncé on his headphones, when suddenly he realized that President Lindsay had mounted the ellipse machine next to him, and was starting a workout.” The two evangelicals—worlds apart in their beliefs about homosexuality—continued to exercise side by side.“There used to be no conversation. Now people are talking about LGBT issues all the time, and the university can’t pretend that there aren’t gay people who attend the school.”
Supporting LGBT causes can still have serious repercussions on college campuses. At George Fox University in Oregon, an LGBT group called OneGeorgeFox initially attracted support for many faculty members. Then, according to OneGeorgeFox founder Paul Southwick, the college held “an all faculty meeting, saying that if you support the OneGeorgeFox letter [calling for conversation around LGBT issues] you will be in open violation of your employment agreement.” Faculty supporters have been less vocal since that meeting.
Even so, says Southwick, “there used to be no conversation. Now people are talking about [LGBT issues] all the time, and the university can’t pretend that there aren’t gay people who attend the school.” OneGeorgeFox is currently advocating for a transgender student named Jayce, who filed a Title IX discrimination complaint against the university after it denied him housing. The Department of Education sided with George Fox’s, granting a religious exemption. But the ensuing controversy inspired new support for LGBT students. Southwick, who is Jayce’s lawyer, recalls a student government leader at George Fox who at first denied the campus LGBT group official recognition, but two years later became a public advocate for Jayce. (Earlier this week, George Fox announced a slight change to its policy, agreeing to house transgender students—if they’ve undergone gender reassignment surgery.)
On the whole, American evangelicals, who comprise roughly 28 percent of the population, are still the largest voting block opposing equal rights for LGBT people. Yet these campus alliances reveal that that evangelicals are not the united front they once were on this issue. In 2004, only about 1 in 10 evangelical Christians supported gay marriage. Just 10 years later, almost a quarter of evangelicals support gay marriage, including a near-majority of evangelicals under 35, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. If this trend continues, it is not an exaggeration to say that the most formidable obstruction to gay rights in the United States will dissolve.
This outcome, however, depends largely on the influence of evangelical Christian Colleges—the 120 member institutions of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, which are home, collectively, to over 400,000 students. Indeed, most future evangelical pastors, theologians, and leaders will be graduates of these institutions. Groups like OneGordon make it clear that young LGBT evangelicals are not only grappling with Christian faith and homosexuality; they’re also making their presence felt as never before and challenging their peers to lead the movement in definitively new directions.
Hobby Lobby , 2015, and President Obama.
WASHINGTON — Some of the largest national LGBT rights groups — unified on the marriage equality fight in recent years — have begun a very public debate over a piece of another key goal: religious exemptions in employment protections.
The fight, which broke out into the open on Tuesday, is about scope of religious exemptions in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was passed by the Senate this past fall. Notably, it comes as an executive order about employment protections is being drafted at the White House and in the wake of last week’s Supreme Court ruling in Hobby Lobby.
While the debate isn’t new, the method of raising the stakes of the debate on Tuesday was stark: Seven national organizations — including the ACLU and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force — announced in three separate statements that they were withdrawing their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act due to its current, broad religious exemption.
The lead sponsor of ENDA in the Senate, Sen. Jeff Merkley, told BuzzFeed in a statement that even he has “concerns” about where things stand. Merkley’s office said the senator continues to support the bill but that he is looking to make “fixes” going forward with regard to the religious exemption in the bill.
For years, the religious exemption in ENDA has kept growing. In order to grab more moderate Republican support (and the Democratic holdouts) for the legislation that was first introduced in the mid-1990s, the religious exemption has been expanded enough that Sens. Orrin Hatch and John McCain, along with a handful of other Republicans, supported the bill when the Senate voted on it last year.
Here is the religious exemption in the version of ENDA passed by the Senate this passed fall:
While Title VII provides a broad exemption from its religious anti-discrimination requirements, race, sex, and national origin anti-discrimination measures have a more narrow one. ENDA borrows the broader religious exemption — previously only applied to religious anti-discrimination requirements — and applies it to sexual orientation and gender identity.
In addition to the Task Force and ACLU, Lambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center, and Pride at Work all withdrew their support for ENDA on Tuesday because of that religious exemption.
Supportive lawmakers see that that ground is shifting, although they were not going so far as to oppose the legislation itself. “I am very concerned about the religious exemption in the ENDA bill that passed the Senate,” Nadler told theBlade. “I think it is overbroad and I will of course work hard with my colleagues to narrow it appropriately.” He added that his concerns were amplified by the Hobby Lobby ruling.
Merkley, in a statement to BuzzFeed, echoed Nadler’s concerns, saying, “I share concerns about the Supreme Court’s overly broad reading of religious exemptions. I will keep working with advocates and Members on both sides of the aisle to address this issue. Workplace discrimination against the LGBT community is wrong and must end.”
Although the attention Tuesday was on ENDA, there is no expectation that ENDA will be moving this year in the House — meaning the discussion about the bill is, for the most part, posturing. So, what is the posturing about?
Three things.AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito
1. Hobby Lobby made them do it — at least that’s what they are saying.
The most clear posturing in the statements on Tuesday was with regard to Hobby Lobby. The decision is fresh in people’s minds — regardless of whether the specifics of the decision are understood or even applicable to ENDA.
From the first statement by the Task Force’s Rea Carey, Tuesday’s flood of comments were pegged as coming “after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling,” in “a changed and intensified landscape of broad religious exemptions being used as an excuse to discriminate.”
The ruling in Hobby Lobby was about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s applicability to for-profit corporations and whether that applicability could then be used to exempt Hobby Lobby from the contraception mandate implemented by Health and Human Services under the Affordable Care Act. Justice Samuel Alito specifically disclaimed the impact on anti-discrimination laws (although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed concerns), and ENDA’s religious exemption is not directly implicated by the ruling.
Both Merkley and Nadler nonetheless said the Hobby Lobby ruling impacted their thinking on the religious exemption in ENDA, with Nadler saying that following the ruling, “[W]e must be more careful than ever to ensure that religious liberty … is not wielded as a sword against employees who may not share their employers’ religious beliefs.”
In addition, in the statement from the ACLU and LGBT legal groups Tuesday announcing that they were no longer supporting ENDA because of the broad religious exemption, they stated, “Given the types of workplace discrimination we see increasingly against LGBT people, together with the calls for greater permission to discriminate on religious grounds that followed immediately upon the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has become clear that the inclusion of this provision is no longer tenable.”Jose Luis Magana / Reuters
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (center) with Sen. Jeff Merkley (left).
2. This is actually a fight over the LGBT non-discrimination bill to be written in the next Congress.
Even though it’s only July, much of the undercurrent of today’s fight over ENDA is actually a fight over what tomorrow’s bill — the bill considered in the next session of Congress — will look like.
This fight began, in a way, when the debate over Arizona’s religious exemption bill went national, but the fact that new, focused attention will be given to the way federal legislation will be drafted in the next Congress was made very clear on Tuesday.
Making no specific comments about the religious exemption, the Human Rights Campaign is standing by ENDA — with a spokesman telling BuzzFeed on Tuesday, “HRC supports ENDA because it will provide essential workplace protections to millions of LGBT people.”
With no expectation of House movement this year, though, the comments by HRC — or the Task Force or ACLU or anyone other than House Speaker John Boehner — are somewhat irrelevant. The real question is what the bill will look like when introduced in the next session of Congress. Will it only focus on employment, or will it include additional areas like public accommodations, housing, education, or lending? And, regarding today’s debate, will it include a streamlined religious exemption or will it continue building on this year’s exemption? (None of this even gets into Republicans’ support for the bill, and whether their support — from key congressional supporters like Sens. Susan Collins and Mark Kirk and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to the American Unity Fund and Log Cabin Republicans — is contingent upon the religious exemption remaining as is.)
Even some of the other organizations still supporting today’s ENDA, like the National Center for Transgender Equality and Freedom to Work, signaled to BuzzFeed that next year could be different with regard to the religious exemption.
While Freedom to Work’s Tico Almeida continues to support ENDA, as passed by the Senate, he said of the group’s work to lobby for ENDA this year that “increasing the numbers of co-sponsors of ENDA this year increases the chances of a stronger bill getting introduced next year.” When asked if getting “a stronger bill” included seeking a more narrow religious exemption, Almeida said that it did.
For her part, NCTE’s Mara Keisling noted up front that “NCTE has been a leader for seven years in advocating for narrower religious exemptions in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.” Right now, though, she said that NCTE was focusing on its upcoming lobby day, which will be focusing on increasing support for ENDA in the House.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
President Barack Obama
3. The LGBT federal contractor executive order is being drafted right now.
The White House is preparing an executive order for Obama to sign that will bar federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity — and LGBT groups want to make it perfectly clear to Obama and others that ENDA’s religious exemption would be unacceptable to them.
With last week’s letter signed by Rick Warren and others and draft letter circulated by Jim Wallis seeking a strong religious exemption — similar to the ENDA religious exemption — in the executive order, LGBT groups and allies are trying to move quickly and forcefully to push the counterargument.
On Tuesday, two letters were sent to the White House — one from the heads of statewide LGBT groups and another from progressive religious leaders — pressing the White House to include no more broad of a religious exemption in the executive order than that given with regard to other classes in other anti-discrimination measures.
For the organizations withdrawing their support from ENDA, they are talking about the religious exemption contained in ENDA — but they also are sending a message that such an exemption would clearly not be acceptable to them in the executive order.
There is an argument to be made that, even if the ENDA religious exemption remains, a more narrow exemption for federal contractors could be justified because they are seeking federal funds. For those organizations withdrawing their support from ENDA, this takes that more nuanced and complicated discussion out of the talking points. It sends a simple message that those LGBT groups are no longer accepting religious exemptions different than those established for other anti-discrimination measures, such as those barring racial or sex-based discrimination.
Doing so now, far more than because of Hobby Lobby or in anticipation of next year’s fight, is the key time to act to influence the White House on the executive order.
Source: Chris Geidner for Buzzfeed
Earlier this week Politico published an in-depth article, “Evangelicals Are Changing Their Minds on Gay Marriage.” The crux of the argument is this paragraph:
Over the past decade, evangelical support for gay marriage has more than doubled, according to polling by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. About a quarter of evangelicals now support same-sex unions, the institute has found, with an equal number occupying what researchers at Baylor University last year called the “messy middle” of those who oppose gay marriage on moral grounds but no longer support efforts to outlaw it. The shift is especially visible among young evangelicals under age 35, a near majority of whom now support same-sex marriage. And gay student organizations have recently formed at Christian colleges across the country, including flagship evangelical campuses such as Wheaton College in Illinois and Baylor in Texas.
Politico also points to the $2 million deficit on the National Organization For Marriage’s 2012 tax return, and the $4.5 million deficit on the American Family Association’s 2012 return, as an indication theocratic extremists are losing their main battle.
Of course, actual science — especially science with which Evangelical leaders disagree — is anathema to the entrenched religious right.
Enter Russell D. Moore and Andrew Walker, leaders among the southern Baptist convention. In the National Review (Maggie Gallagher’s online home,) early this morning, the pair published a defiant refutation of Politico’s report.
“A Sexual Revolution for Young Evangelicals? No,” the op-ed insists. “Defying the secular culture, churchgoing Christians are sticking to Biblical teaching,” they claim.
To prove their point, the Southern Baptists trot out none other than Mark Regnerus, author of the most widely-discredited “study” — purportedly, but almost totally not — of gay parents. They also posted a video of Regnerus explaining his most-recent claims.
The New Civil Rights Movement alone published over 75 articles chronicling and often leading the charge proving just how false the Regnerus study was.
When Regnerus testified in a federal court case on same-sex marriage the judge in his ruling called Regnerus’ testimony before the court, “entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration.”
Moore and Walker in their National Review op-ed, point to “research, to be fully released in September,” that was, they say, “introduced in Mark Regnerus’s presentation ‘Sex in America: Sociological Trends in American Sexuality,’ unveiled at a recent gathering of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s leadership summit. According to Regnerus, when compared with the general population and with their non-observant peers, churchgoing Evangelical Christians are retaining orthodox views on Biblical sexuality, despite the shifts in broader American culture.”
Politico, as mentioned above, quotes “polling by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute,” which finds “among young evangelicals under age 35, a near majority … now support same-sex marriage.”
Moore and Walker write that Regnerus’ research finds “only 11 percent of young Evangelicals actively expressed support for same-sex marriage.”
Whose science should we believe?
"It is critically important that the decision includes explicit limiting language distinguishing this situation from claims for broad religious exemptions from nondiscrimination protections," Jenny Pizer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, a gay rights organization, told TPM. “Some may mistake this narrow ruling as a wide open door for religious liberty exemptions from other statutes that protect employees and the public. Today’s opinion says doing so would be incorrect."
They pointed to language in Alito’s decision that aims to limit its immediate scope to the contraceptive mandate and the specific parties involved.
"This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs," Alito asserted. "Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice."
Though he did not mention anti-LGBT discrimination explicitly, Alito later addressed concerns that the Court’s ruling could lead to religious freedom arguments to legitimize discrimination based on race, for example. “Our decision today provides no such shield,” he wrote.
"It strongly suggests it would reject broad religious claims to, for example, discriminate against gay employees," Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog wrote.
But others weren’t so sure. The Alito ruling did not provide explicit cover for private businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, but it didn’t rule it out either, Douglas NeJaime, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine, told TPM. The conservative groups that pushed bills like the one passed by the Arizona legislature this year might be emboldened by the decision to press their case anew in court, he said. NeJaime also pointed to a New Mexico photography company involved in a lawsuit because it refused to perform work for a same-sex couple.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg raised similar concerns about the Alito ruling’s implications in her dissent. “The Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield,” she wrote.
"I think the reasonable interpretation before today’s decision was for-profit businesses don’t have these constitutional or statutory rights," NeJaime said. "I think this decision suggests that they might."
But the key to that final question might be Kennedy’s concurring opinion, Fred Gedicks, a law professor at Brigham Young University, told TPM. Kennedy sided with Alito’s judgment, but wrote a short four-page opinion of his own, in which he indicated he was joining the Alito decision because, in the Hobby Lobby case, the government has a means of providing contraceptive coverage to those who are not covered by their employers.
(Under Obamacare, employees at religious non-profits who object to providing contraception receive coverage, but it is not paid for by their employer. Kennedy and Alito suggested the government do the same for employees at companies like Hobby Lobby).
"He is quite clear that exemptions are not permissible when they would impose burdens on employees and other third parties," Gedicks said. From the Kennedy opinion:Among the reasons the United States is so open, so tolerant, and so free is that no person may be restricted or demeaned by government in exercising his or her religion. Yet neither may that same exercise unduly restrict other persons, such as employees, in protecting their own interests, interests the law deems compelling.
"If we’re talking about whether a claimant could get a religious exemption from anti-discrimination law affecting LGBT people, I think you could see Justice Kennedy going with the four dissenting justices," NeJaime said.
h/t: Dylan Scott at TPM