The fight against LGBT equality in Florida is being spearheaded by John Stemberger, a man who claims homosexuality is a “pathology” and believes marriage equality will indoctrinate “schoolchildren into a gay lifestyle.”
Stemberger, who is president of the Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC), made national headlines this month after he asserted that “inner city” residents “have almost a barbarian society” due to the decline of marriage. During a July 30 interview on 100.7 WFLA, Stemberger suggested that allowing gay people to marry would ultimately destroy the institution of marriage, saying:
STEMBERGER: Marriage is a unique institution that does many, many things that are productive, so you want to encourage marriage. In the inner city right now we see what happens when marriage is gone. You have almost a barbarian society. It’s a very simple society. When marriage is gone, bad things happen in society.
His remarks were condemned as racist, but they’re just the latest in a long line of inflammatory comments from Stemberger. Through his work at the FFPC, frequent media appearances, and his founding of an anti-gay alternative to the Boy Scouts, Stemberger has emerged as one of the most virulently anti-gay social conservatives in the country.
The group is also a vehicle for a distinctly theocratic brand of conservatism. Stemberger has said that “no religion can save [America] except for Christians” and declared that public policy should be guided by “scripture.”
Most recently, the FFPC featured prominently in the debate over Florida’s anti-gay marriage amendment, which a federal judge struck down on August 21. Despite having slammed Republican state attorney general Pam Bondi in 2010 for being childless and “liv[ing] with her 60-year-old doctor boyfriend,” the FFPC lauded her defense of the state’s marriage equality ban in court, hailing Bondi as “an example of courage and responsible stewardship of her authority as the highest law enforcement officer in the state.”
The FFPC’s anti-gay agenda extends far beyond opposing marriage equality. The organization opposes gay adoption, calling same-sex parents “objectively inferior" to married heterosexual parents, despite study after study demonstrating that children of same-sex parents fare as well or better than those raised by opposite-sex parents. Moreover, the FFPC supports discredited ”ex-gay” therapy programs, with a page on its website listing resources for “leaving [the] gay lifestyle.”
Meanwhile, the FFPC’s “gay rights" page provides links to rabidly anti-gay commentary, featuring articles like "What Homosexuals Want" (courtesy of the anti-LGBT hate group the American Family Association) and “The Gay Agenda and Manipulation.” The page also links to an FRC pamphlet which asserts that homosexuality is linked to higher rates of pedophilia - a claim with no empirical basis.
Stemberger’s Anti-Gay Bigotry
After a decade at the helm of the FFPC, Stemberger has produced a lengthy track record of anti-gay rhetoric, including referring to homosexuality a “pathology.”
Among Stemberger’s most persistent fixations is how gay men express their sexuality. He finds “in-your-face” gay men particularly irksome. Denouncing “the social construct called ‘gay,’” Stemberger once defined that “construct” as “in your face, it’s shoving down your throat, and it’s intimidation.” During the run-up to the Boy Scouts’ 2013 vote on allowing openly gay members, Stemberger, in a Washington Times column, deemed those “who have same-sex attractions” acceptable members of the Scouts, but only if they were “discreet” and not “loud and proud.”
That fear of proud gay men may stem from Stemberger’s fondness for the anti-gay trope that gay men want to “recruit” young boys - an assertion he made during a July 2013 interview with hate group leader Peter LaBarbera:
Similarly, as Florida prepared to vote on its anti-gay marriage amendment in 2008, Stemberger justified the ban by stating that allowing gay marriages in the state “could result in the indoctrination of schoolchildren into a gay lifestyle.” Stemberger also sees a plot against young innocents in Walt Disney World’s Gay Days, which he has assailed as an opportunity for gay men to “flaunt” themselves in front of children while they enjoy “unbridled debauchery.”
Trail Life USA
Perhaps the seminal moment in Stemberger’s career of anti-gay extremism came during the debate over the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) policy banning gay scouts. Stemberger became one of the most prominent supporters of the BSA’s gay ban, appearing on CNN and Fox News to defend the policy.
Stemberger’s argued that accepting gay scouts would sexualize the organization and cause churches to pull their support for the organization. Speaking to CNN’s Don Lemon, he predicted that allowing for gay scouts would “literally destroy the program.”
Speaking with LaBarbera, Stemberger also predicted that allowing openly gay Scouts would ”increase sexual abuse” between boys:
When the BSA decided to end its ban on gay scouts, Stemberger lamented that it had been “one of the sadest [sic] days of my life”:
Stemberger responded to the vote by founding Trail Life USA, an anti-gay alternative to the BSA. In a September 2013 interview with right-wing radio host Janet Mefferd, Stemberger said that Trail life would not “tolerate activists. We’re not going to tolerate somebody who’s, you know, here and queer, loud and proud, all of that nonsense”:
Trail Life launched to much fanfare, with Fox News host Mike Huckabee delivering the keynote address at the group’s inaugural convention. The group’s membership policy appears to bar not only gay participants, but also gay rights supporters, stating that “[w]e grant membership to adults and youth who do not engage in or promote sexual immorality of any kind.” Although chapters had been established in 40 states by March, an assessment by the Associated Press deemed Trail Life a “tiny movement" overall.
Local media has rightly lambasted Stemberger for his “barbarian” comment, but his record of extreme and offensive rhetoric is far more extensive than is being reported. As the legal battle over Florida’s marriage ban intensifies, outlets are likely to continueturning to Stemberger for a “conservative” voice on LGBT issues. If and when they do, they should be prepared to shine a light on the animus and extremism that motivate his work.
Judge Posner is the sole Republican on the panel — he’s served on the Court since President Reagan appointed him in 1981 — but he is a highly idiosyncratic judge who has grown increasingly critical of his fellow partisans in recent years. In a 2012 interview, for example, Posner complained that “there’s been a real deterioration in conservative thinking. And that has to lead people to re-examine and modify their thinking.” He added that he has personally “become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy.”
On the specific issue of gay rights, Posner’s views are a bit nuanced, but he is openly sympathetic to the case for equality. In a 2013 essay entitled “How Gay Marriage Became Legitimate,” Posner questioned the view that the courts have played much of a role in advancing LGBT equality. Using antiquated language, Posner’s bottom line was that “the growing acceptance of homosexual marriage seems a natural consequence of the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s rather than an effect, even to a small degree, of litigation.” Yet he was also dismissive of arguments against gay equality. “[I]t is hard to make a case for discriminating against [gay people],” Posner wrote, “apart from a religious case based largely on Roman Catholic doctrine.”
Judge Williams is less outspoken than Posner — few, if any judges, share Posner’s affection for expressing his views in public — but she is a Clinton-appointee to the Seventh Circuit who is widely viewed as left-of-center. Given the overwhelming consensus among federal judges that marriage equality is required by the Constitution, it is unlikely that Williams will break with this consensus.
All of this, of course, is said with a standard caveat. It ain’t over until the court issues its mandate, and there is no way to be certain about how any of these judges will rule. Nevertheless, marriage equality supporters should be very pleased with this panel.
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.”
The nation’s largest organization of lawyers supports equal protection under the law for LGBT people.
Earlier this week, the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates voted unanimously to endorse laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination. The lawyers’ organization resolved that LGBT people “have a right to be free from discrimination, threats, and violence” and condemned “all laws, regulations and rules or practices that discriminate” against people for being LGBT.
The resolution urges the repeal of all discriminatory laws and the implementation of “equal protection under the law of all LGBT people.” It also directly calls on the United States Government “to work to end discrimination against LGBT people” and ensure their equal protections under the law. Currently, there is no federal legislation being considered that would ensure that LGBT people could not be fired, evicted, or refused service based on their identities.
It seems the fight for Saenz is quite personal, especially since his ex-wife reportedly left him for another woman, and Saenz unsuccessfully attempted to stop her partner from being in the presence of their children, according to an article from Lone Star Q:
Court records indicate that Saenz’s ex-wife, Corrine Morris Rodriguez Saenz, is a member of the LGBT community who was dating another woman when she filed for divorce from Saenz in August 2011.
In early 2012, with their divorce still pending, Saenz would take the helm of Texas Values after the organization spun off from the Liberty Legal Institute, where he’d risen to chief lobbyist.
With Saenz as president, Texas Values has led the charge against not only same-sex marriage, but also passage of LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in San Antonio and Houston. In fighting the ordinances, Saenz has often repeated the debunked right-wing myth that sexual predators would use the laws to prey on women and children in bathrooms.
During their divorce, Jonathan Saenz unsuccessfully sought to permanently bar Corrine Saenz’s girlfriend from being in the presence of the children, records show. At one point, he also sought to jail his ex-wife for failing to undergo an evaluation by a psychologist of his choosing—even though he refused to pay the psychologist’s $2,500 fee.
Both Corrine and Jonathan Saenz agreed to psychological evaluations as part of the divorce, but results aren’t included in the case file. However, court records suggest Jonathan Saenz had a prior history of mental health treatment. During discovery in the divorce, Jonathan Saenz sought to compel his ex-wife to produce all records in her possession “pertaining to the psychiatric, psychological, counseling or other mental health treatments of Jonathan Saenz, including but not limited to any documents relating to any consultations or treatments during their marriage.”
In her original petition for divorce, Corrine Saenz alleged their marriage was “insupportable due to discord or conflict of personalities … that destroys the legitimate ends of marriage and prevents reasonable expectations of reconciliation.” In his initial response, Jonathan Saenz denied that claim and asked the court to refuse to grant the divorce on those grounds.
Jonathan Saenz also sought an order barring Corrine Saenz from allowing “any unrelated adult, with whom the parent has an intimate, romantic, emotional, and/or dating relationship to remain in the presence of the children, including but not limited to Ercimin Paredes, a/k/a Ercilia M. Paredes.”
Paredes was Corrine Saenz’s girlfriend, court records indicate, and they both taught at Becker Elementary School in the Austin Independent School District.
According to court records, Jonathan Saenz alleged that Corrine Saenz was “deeply involved in her relationship with Ms. Paredes as early as the fall of 2010.”
In a counterpetition for divorce dated May 7, 2013, Jonathan Saenz accused Corrine Saenz of adultery and sought a permanent order barring Paredes from being in the presence of the children.
But Jonathan Saenz was unsuccessful, and there is no mention of Paredes in the Agreed Final Decree of Divorce, which was hammered out through mediation.
"The nation looks to this Court to answer the question presented here."
WASHINGTON — Following on the heels of Utah officials and an Oklahoma clerk, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Friday asked the Supreme Court to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of his state’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages.
What distinguishes Herring’s filing is that his is the first request to the Supreme Court by a party that backs the position of same-sex couples that the ban is unconstitutional.
Of the reason for hearing the claim, Herring, represented by Virginia Solicitor General Stuart Raphael, argues that the Supreme Court should accept certiorari in the case because “[t]he question presented is vital to a large population of same-sex couples, to their children, and to their fellow Americans who believe that discriminating against gay people is both unfair and unconstitutional. They may fairly call this ‘the defining civil rights issue of our time.’”
Michèle McQuigg, the clerk of the circuit court in Prince William County, also has said that she will be filing a certiorari petition in the Virginia case. Like the clerk in Oklahoma, McQuigg is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson continued his pattern of championing anti-LGBT discrimination, warning that gay rights and Christianity are incompatible and asserting that a society that affirms LGBT equality “is a society bent on suicide.”
In an August 7 Townhall.com column titled “Tolerate or Be Stamped Out,” Erickson lamented the growing marginalization of anti-LGBT attitudes, charging that pro-equality activists are determined to purge Christians from American society:
In fact,enormous energy is being expended by the left in America to make Christianity and Christians unacceptable. A New York Times writer wants to stamp out those views “ruthlessly.” He describes those with orthodox Christian views on marriage as unworthy of civility. Anonymous groups expose the home addresses of mostly Christians and subject them to harassment. This is not happening to orthodox Jews or Muslims, but to Christians.
It raises a serious question Americans must confront — are gay rights and Christianity compatible? The answer appears to be no.As gay rights activists use the tactics of Bull Connor to push for what they declare civil rights, they are targeting churches, religiously affiliated groups and Christian businesses for harassment and lawsuits.
Across the country, the left has decided our sexual preference is something we are born with, but our gender is something we get to decide. Anyone who thinks otherwise is threatened and harassed. Several thousand-year-old pillars of society are being shoved aside in the name of tolerance. Those who speak up for sanity, tradition and faith are treated scornfully.
This will not end well for any of us. Despite surveys designed to show the contrary, children tend to do best with mothers and fathers.A society that willfully undermines perpetuating itself is a society bent on suicide. One thing is for sure — a faith that survived its followers being used as torches to light the streets of Rome will survive a modern age hell bent on ruthlessly stamping it out. [emphasis added]
Erickson’s latest apoplectic screed is par for the course from the Fox News commentator. Last month, he endorsed a Georgia congressional candidate’s view that “the homosexual movement … is destroying America.” Previously, Erickson has written that gay people are on the “road to hell" and warned businesses that serve gay couples that they are "aiding and abetting" sin. Moreover, Erickson is a prominentsupporter of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing legal group working internationally to help criminalize homosexuality.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – A federal judge will hear a lawsuit challenging Missouri’s ban on gay marriage after state Attorney General Chris Koster intervened in the case and moved it out of state court.
The switch could put the Missouri case on a more direct route through the federal appellate courts at a time when U.S. judges have been increasingly striking down other states’ gay-marriage bans.
“We wanted at least one of the cases (from Missouri) to be considered in a court of broader jurisdiction,” Koster spokesman Eric Slusher said Thursday.
At issue is a lawsuit attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union filed earlier this summer in Jackson County Circuit Court on behalf of two same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses.
Although the state was not named as a defendant, Koster’s office intervened because the lawsuit alleges that Missouri’s constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage violates equal-protection and due-process rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Because of the alleged federal violations, Koster’s office moved the case to U.S. District Court, where it has been assigned to Judge Ortrie Smith.
Koster, a Democrat who is running for governor in 2016, has said he personally supports gay marriage but will carry out his official duties by defending Missouri’s ban. His office filed federal court documents earlier this week arguing that Missouri’s prohibition should be upheld because states have a right to set their own rational constraints on domestic relations until the U.S. Supreme Court says otherwise.
Missouri voters adopted a state constitutional amendment in 2004 that limits marriage to one man and one woman. The Legislature passed a similar state law in 1996.
The lawsuit contends the prohibition furthers no legitimate government interest and “serves only to disparage and injure same-sex couples.”
ACLU attorney Tony Rothert said the switch to federal court means there is “one less step to get to the U.S. Supreme Court.” But he said that may not matter.
“We’re very much at square one,” Rothert said. “It’s unlikely that this particular marriage-license case will be decided before the U.S. Supreme Court tells us the answer” to similar challenges raised in other states.
The decision to move the case to federal court does not affect a separate legal battle in St. Louis Circuit Court that arose in June after the city issued marriage licenses to several gay couples despite the Missouri prohibition.
Challenges to state gay-marriage bans have gained momentum after the U.S. Supreme Court last year ordered the federal government to recognize state-sanctioned gay marriages. Partly as a result of lower court rulings, gay couples now can marry in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
Earlier this week, officials from Utah and Oklahoma asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear appeals of decisions striking down their states’ gay marriage bans.
California Religious Right leader Jim Garlow helped spearhead the campaign to pass Proposition 8, and doesn’t seem to be giving up on his effort to ban same-sex marriage in the state even after the anti-gay amendment was overturned by federal courts.
While speaking to Bryan Fischer yesterday, Garlow insisted that every same-sex marriage — or as he calls it, “so-called gay marriage” — is still a violation of the law.
He said that Proposition 8 “still appears in the [state] Constitution, though it is being violated every single day” by gay couples getting legally married in the state.
The AJC’s Political Insider spoke to Jason Carter’s spokesperson about his stance on marriage equality after noting the GA Voice’s editorial on Tuesday saying it was time for him to state his public position on the matter. And this is what Carter’s spokesperson Bryan Thomas told the AJC: “Jason has long supported marriage equality, and …
The AJC’s Political Insider spoke to Jason Carter’s spokesperson about his stance on marriage equality after noting the GA Voice’s editorial on Tuesday saying it was time for him to state his public position on the matter.
“Jason has long supported marriage equality, and has said so to anyone who asked him. He doesn’t think we should ever be in a position of telling churches what to do, but has long been on the record in support of civil marriage equality.”
The AJC said our editorial was “puzzling” because reporters there were sure they had heard him state this position before.
During Carter’s four years in the Senate, the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage never became an issue, even at the committee level, so the video record is slim.
But we’re pretty sure we’ve heard Carter, whose Decatur-based district is very gay friendly, express himself on the issue.
We scoured the AJC archives and could not find anything. We scoured the internet seeking seeking anything about what Carter’s stance may be. Nothing except a dodge of the question in a Huffington Post interview in March. We even tried to ask him the question at the Atlanta HRC dinner this year and he declined to answer any questions.
We’ve been requesting interviews with Sen. Carter for months so we could ask him this question, and many others, to no avail. And now that a lawsuit has been filed in Georgia challenging the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and governors across the country are taking sides on the issue, we felt it was only fair Sen. Carter have the opportunity to answer.
Carter is joining fellow Democrat Greg Hecht in supporting marriage equality. Hecht is also running for state-wide office in a campaign to defeat Attorney General Sam Olens and has said if he was elected he would not defend the lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s ban on marriage equality.
We are grateful that Georgia Equality Jeff Graham told the AJC that “he was pleased by the above statement, but suggested that the Carter campaign might want to be more responsive to LGBT media in the future.”
Kudos must also be given to Project Q Atlanta for writing the story that prompted our editorial about an LGBT fundraiser for Carter in which nearly $100,000 was raised without Carter having to even say the word “gay” or “LGBT.”
And we are very grateful and hopeful now that state Sen. Carter’s has cleared up any confusion on the matter. Thank you, Sen. Carter, for your leadership in making Georgia even better. LGBT and progressive voters should be fired up to head to the polls to oust Nathan Deal and put a man with experience, knowledge, compassion, smarts and strong leadership skills to make Georgia a place we can all be proud to call home.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced Tuesday he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Virginia's same-sex marriage suit.
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced Tuesday he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Virginia’s same-sex marriage suit.
Herring says he plans to file the petition Friday to “definitively settle the constitutional issues for the Commonwealth and the rest of the country.” Utah filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court earlier Tuesday.
"Throughout this case, I have fought for the fundamental rights of Virginians and the quickest possible resolution," said Attorney General Herring. "I believe the district and appeals courts ruled correctly in striking down Virginia’s discriminatory marriage ban, but it has long been clear that the Supreme Court will likely have the final word. I want that decision to come as soon as possible and I want the voices of Virginians to be heard. This case has moved forward at an incredibly swift pace, and I look forward to a final resolution that affirms the fundamental right of all Virginians to marry."
Virginia’s General Assembly approved the same-sex marriage ban in 2005 and it was ratified into law by 57 percent of voters in 2006.
Attorney General Mark Herring has sided with same-sex marriage advocates, however both sides have conceded the final decision likely will be made in the Supreme Court.
The law is being challenged by Timothy Bostic and Tony London, a Virginia Beach couple, as well as Carol Schall and Mary Townley from Chesterfield.
Bostic and London have been in a relationship since 1989 and have lived together for more than 20 years. They applied for a marriage license in Norfolk in July 2013, but were denied by the clerk of court.
Schall and Townley have been together since 1985, have a child together and were legally wed in California in 2008.
Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester also joined the suit.
Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, according to the Associated Press, however those rulings remain in various stages of appeal.
Same-sex marriage is currently legal in the District of Columbia and 19 states. In all, the AP counts more than 70 cases filed in the remaining 31 states prohibiting same-sex marriage.