Nothing has catalyzed religious conservatives in recent years quite like idea of “religious liberty,” and the notion that the expansion of LGBT and women’s rights will somehow infringe upon that freedom. It has been at the core of the National Organization for Marriage’s agenda against same-sex marriage, and in the 2009 confidential memos released this week, the anti-gay group proudly celebrates its success with this messaging. If marriage equality advances, NOM sees religious liberty as a way to “protect” conservatives from having to recognize same-sex couples:
Although these religious liberty protections are in some ways more narrow than one might desire (focusing primarily on religious institutions, to the exclusions of individual professionals and business owners), they nonetheless mark a turning point of sorts in the gay marriage debate. Three of the four states to have passed a same-sex marriage bill this spring, did so only after the inclusion of real, substantive religious liberty protections, validating NOM’s frequently expressed concerns for the religious liberty of traditional faith groups if same-sex marriage is adopted without specific protection.
This is NOM engaging in post hocspin, because in the same memo, NOM admits that this “religious liberty” rhetoric is manufactured — a gimmick the organization hopes to deploy in Europe:
We have learned how to make the coercive pressures on religious people and institutions an issue in the United States. We will use this knowledge to raise the profile of government attacks on the liberties of religious people and institutions in Europe, both for internal domestic consumption in Europe and to halt the movement towards gay marriage worldwide. Our goal is to problematize the oppression of Christians and other traditional faith communities in the European mind.
The most important takeaway from these memos is that NOM’s strategy has very little to do with actually making a case against same-sex marriage. The concept of “religious liberty,” like all of NOM’s tactics, is just another scare tactic designed to alienate constituencies and stigmatize gays, lesbians, and bisexuals:
Convince the people of society that gay rights can only advance at the expense of religious freedom.
In his first inaugural address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asserted his firm belief that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” At the end of the day, NOM is nothing more than an insidious fear factory. No doubt, the dark hour of inequality will end in victory when “met with that understanding and support of the people themselves.”
More Hockey Players Welcome LGBT Athletes To The Ice |
The You Can Play Project continues its outreach to LGBT athletes from professional hockey players, including James Van Riemsdyk (Philadelphia Flyers), Mark Fayne (New Jersey Devils), Frans Nielsen (New York Islanders), Tyler Bozak (Toronto Maple Leafs), George Parros (Anaheim Ducks), Brandon Prust (New York Rangers), David Steckel (Toronto Maple Leafs), Andy Greene (New Jersey Devils), RJ Umberger (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Brian Boyle (New York Rangers). The You Can Play Project was started by Toronto Maple Leafs manager Brian Burke in memory of his son Brendan, who died in a car accident just months after coming out as gay. Watch the campaign’s latest anti-homophobia video:
VILLARAIGOSA: We need to come together as a country if we are going to tackle our biggest challenges. NOM’s divisive effort to pit one group of Americans against another is offensive and takes us in exactly the wrong direction. If we believe in family values, we must value all families; and I believe that every adult – regardless of race, religion, gender or ethnic heritage – should have the freedom to marry the person they love.
GRAY: Across our nation, gay and lesbian couples seek equal marriage rights because they believe in the same values we all do – commitment, stability, responsibility and family. That’s why it’s especially confounding that an organization that claims to support family values would seek to pit groups against each other in a hateful and cynical effort to deny equal rights to some families.
Mitt Romney Secretly Gave Race-Wedging NOM $10,000 In 2008 | Records show that Mitt Romney secretly funneled $10,000 to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) in 2008 through the Alabama chapter of his Free and Strong America PAC. Alabama’s lax financial disclosure laws helped keep the donation hidden until a NOM whistle-blower shared it with the Human Rights Campaign. The donation was made just weeks before the vote on Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in California. Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom, infamous for his “Etch A Sketch” description of the general election, claimed a contribution to the Prop 8 campaign, but given it was never disclosed, this may constitute a violation of California disclosure laws. In its confidential memos from 2009 released this week, NOM admitted that “most of the world may never know the crucial role that NOM played in the Prop 8 campaign.” Openly gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger is calling on Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich — all of whom have signed NOM’s presidential pledge — to disavow the anti-gay group for its strategy to drive a “wedge” between gays and blacks.
One of the photos of abuse shown by Rep. Lofgren (D-CA) at the hearing.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the conditions of detention centers for immigrants who are facing deportation. The hearing was meant as a follow-up to new health and safety standards put in place by the Obama Administration, but Republicans were there to argue that detained immigrants — who include victims of human trafficking and asylum-seekers– had it too good at the facilities.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, titled the hearing “Holidays on ICE,” alleging that the detention centers are like vacations for those brought there by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Smith said in a press release that “the Obama administration’s new detention manual is more like a hospitality guideline for illegal immigrants.”
Other House Republicans and their experts piled on Smith’s suggestion that detainees enjoy hotel-like accomodations:
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said that 110 deaths since 2003 was not alarming to him. King said he felt it reflects the general population, though those kept in ICE detention centers otherwise do not (PDF), and there is ample evidence of abuse and human rights violations.
King followed up, inquiring “Is it true that some of the inmates control the keys to their own cells?” The expert responded that he was not aware of that.
One witness said that detainees had access to move around within the facility. But images of the facilities paint a different picture.
As part of the new rules, detainees have a hotline to report abuse, During the hearing, the committee’s Republicans painted this as a bad thing. But previous experts have concluded that many facilities do not “meet the threshold of basic human rights standards.” Those standards include permitting detainees access to medical care and allowing women who are being held to give birth without being shackled.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, however, actually had photographic evidence of some of the conditions in these facilities, and they offered up a very different view of the detention centers. Many of her pictures depicted the results of brutal abuse, and one detainee Lofgren discussed died of cancer after being denied access to a doctor for two months.
Immigration advocates in the House have come out strong against Rep. Smith’s hearing. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), who wrote legislation pushing for detention center oversight, said that the hearing showed Republicans were seeking “cheap political points” and were unconcerned about the rights of people in the detention centers.
University of California and California State University Campuses Invite LGBT Students to Self-Identify |
In an effort to determine whether LGBT students are receiving adequate services and support, prospective students who are applying to or enrolling at the University of California and California State University next year may be asked to volunteer information on their sexual orientation. The move to allow students to state their sexual orientation was encouraged by a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown that calls for “educational institutions to adopt policies discouraging bullying of LGBT students.” While some students have voiced concerns for privacy, others have been more receptive, saying that most students will likely participate if the universities uphold their promises to keep the information confidential. Elmhurst College in Illinois was the first American institution to ask applicants to self-identify as LGBT. The move has proven to be quite successful for the liberal arts college, as nearly 5 percent of 2,204 applicants have identified themselves as LGBT, with few applicants opting to skip the answer the optional question. Though the information isn’t used to make admissions decisions, it does qualify students for the diversity “enrichment scholarship” once admitted. — Fatima Najiy
The National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher made her first public appearance today on MSNBC with Thomas Roberts, four days after confidential memos detailing NOM’s race-wedging tactics were released. In her appearance, she continued NOM’s incredulousPR strategy of continuing to spotlight people of color who oppose marriage equality and attempting to win their favor by defending them from charges of bigotry:
GALLAGHER: It’s insulting to suggest that these African-American or Latino leaders are standing up because NOM is manipulating them. Obviously the only reason anyone stands up for marriage at this point in this culture is out of principle because we believe it’s a good thing.[...]
We didn’t cause or create this, and frankly if we could get together with the gay community, and take the idea that it’s bigoted or discriminatory to stand up for marriage off the table for black people or for white people, we’d be happy to do it.[...]
I don’t apologize for any [of the projects listed in the memos]. Although, I don’t like the suggestion that somehow we have the power to make gay marriage advocates call other people bigots or haters. We don’t, we wish they would stop. Or that we have the power to make African American or Latino Democrats do anything. We’re really grateful and respect the leadership that they’ve shone for the values that they hold dear and that we share.
This is NOM “fanning the hostility” between blacks and gays exactly as described in the strategic documents.
Debating Gallagher was openly gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger, who has hounded NOM for attempting to circumvent state finance disclosure laws. It was just such an investigation into NOM’s operation in Maine that led to the release of these internal documents. When Gallagher tried to claim that the controversy makes the organization sound like it’s “way too big for our britches,” Karger and Roberts both pointed out that NOM continues to inject millions of dollars into anti-equality campaigns across the country. Watch it:
A Kentucky t-shirt company called Hands On recently refused to print apparel for Lexington’s upcoming LGBT pride festival, claiming to be a Christian company. The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington filed a complaint with the city’s Human Rights Commission, which protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. National conservative groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council have picked up on the controversy and are defending Hands On, but in doing so reveal a clear intent to demonize and ostracize the LGBT community. Here are recent remarks by FRC’s Tony Perkins and the Family Foundation of Kentucky’s Kent Ostrander, as reported by FOTF’s CitizenLink:
PERKINS: Whether it’s a t-shirt company, wedding photographer, or the church, homosexuals will not be satisfied until they compel us to either spread their perversion or promote it. Unfortunately for these activists, the Constitution doesn’t award its rights on the basis of political correctness.
OSTRANDER: The sad part is that this family, because of this intimidation, bullying factor, might lose their business, or a substantial portion of it, because the University of Kentucky and the public schools side with the gay component (and may pull their business). It’s just wrong for government to be involved in this.
Unfortunately for Perkins and Ostrander, the United States has a free market. That market is only free if all citizens have access to it, which is why non-discrimination laws exist. And if individuals wish to avoid a certain business because of its practices, that’s not “intimidation” — that’s life.
These conservatives’ complaints are ironic when juxtaposed with the National Organization for Marriage’s boycott of Starbucks over its support for marriage equality. The campaign continues to be a dismal failure, outpaced nearly 20 to 1 by the Thank You, Starbucks response and rebuffed by a a sharp increase in Starbucks’ stock value. Apparently, though, it is acceptable to challenge a business for supporting gay rights, but not for openly discriminating against gay people.
Despite all the incriminating language found within the confidential memos released this week, nothing has shone the National Organization for Marriage in a negative light quite like its intention to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” by provoking “the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.” Specifically, NOM points out that it wants to spotlight people of color who oppose the freedom to marry so that they receive the brunt of objection from equality activists.
BROWN: Let me be the first to say that the tone of the language in that document as quoted by the press is inapt. Here’s something I know from the bottom of my soul: It would be enormously arrogant for anyone at NOM to believe that we can make or provoke African-American or Latino leaders do anything. The Black and Hispanic Democrats who stand up for marriage do so on principle—and get hit with a wave of vituperative attacks like nothing I have ever seen. We did not cause it, nor can we claim credit for these men and women’s courage in standing up in defense of our most fundamental institution: marriage.
To Joe Solmonese and the Human Rights Campaign and Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry I would say: This is your movement. You are its leaders. Only you can hope to change the vicious attacks being made on Black and Hispanic Democrats (or white Republicans for that matter!) who don’t agree with you on gay marriage.
In addition, the email features a video of North Carolinians — almost all of whom are black — speaking in support of the discriminatory Amendment One, which bans all same-sex unions.
NOM’s gall in this matter is incredulous. There are no “vicious attacks” on any racial group coming from the LGBT movement, but opponents of equality are blatantly manipulating communities of color in an attempt to create a wedge. Even though this is now obvious from the memos and responses so far, it seems NOM has no intention of changing its tactics anytime soon.
Watch Julian Bond’s full conversation with CNN’s Anderson Cooper about the controversy, in which the civil rights veteran points out that “we ought to be happy that other people, including gays and lesbians, and many other people have imitated the black movement for human rights”:
It cannot be overstated that if Anchorage’s proposed LGBT non-discrimination protections pass, it could have a huge impact on the future of LGBT rights in Alaska. Currently, polling shows the measure known as Proposition 5 winning with 50-41 support from voters. Nevertheless, the campaign is getting ugly and attracting national attention as a result.
The campaign against Prop 5 is being led by an Anchorage megachurch known as Anchorage Baptist Temple, which has donated 61 percent of the nearly $80,000 effort. Claiming that there’s no evidence of “widespread discrimination” and that “Anchorage is already a tolerant city,” these opponents are disproving their own point with a series of ads that portray transgender people in incredibly negative ways. One ad portrays trans people as “transvestites” who are somehow a threat to children while another shows a cross-dressing man using a women’s locker room to the detriment of a gym owner’s business. Watch them:
A third ad tries to bait gay bar owners into thinking they’d have to hire straight bartenders — as if they don’t already.
That these attitudes are so candidly on display proves the need for Proposition 5 to pass. The Yes on 5 campaign has responded with an ad of its own, featuring a real transgender person discussing his real experiences to counter the offensive animated portrayals. Watch it:
Anchorage votes on Prop 5 next Tuesday, April 3.
‘Bully’ Documentary Opens Unrated Today |
The documentary Bully opens today in Los Angeles and New York, and in response to the MPAA’s refusing to lower its ‘R’ rating, it will be distributed unrated. As a result Cinemark theaters will not show the film, Regal and Carmike will still screen it as an “R,” and it’s still in question whether Landmark theaters will distribute it at all, but AMC theaters has committed to allowing young people in to see it. Yesterday, MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts talked to Bully‘s filmmaker Lee Hirsch and human rights activist Kerry Kennedy about the decision to release the film unrated and the importance of raising awareness about bullying in society. Watch it:
Welcome to The Morning Pride, ThinkProgress LGBT’s daily round-up of the latest in LGBT policy, politics, and some culture too! Here’s what we’re reading this morning, but please let us know what stories you’re following as well. Follow us all day on Twitter at @TPEquality.
- The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce board of directors has unanimously decided to oppose North Carolina’s discriminatory Amendment One.
- Meanwhile, a debate in Charlotte last night featuring NOM spokesman Frank Turek revealed that the debate is heated and there is still a lot of confusion about the actual impact of the measure.
- A new study has found that bottlenose dolphins engage in “extensive bisexuality, combined with periods of exclusive homosexuality.
- Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber claims there is “no evidence” of violence against the LGBT community.
- A trans music teacher in Santa Fe, New Mexico has been forced out of her job because parents complained that she was a drag show performer.
Under the federal Privacy Act, it is illegal for federal agencies to reveal a person’s confidential medical information. Nevertheless, the Social Security Administration did exactly that when it revealed to another agency that a California man is HIV positive. In a 5-3 decision yesterday (Kagan was recused) the Supreme Court effectively held that this man is completely without remedy for this violation of his privacy:
In a 5-3 ruling, the high court decided Stanmore Cooper’s claims of mental and emotional distress are not covered under the Privacy Act.
“The Privacy Act does not unequivocally authorize damages for mental or emotional distress and therefore does not waive the government’s sovereign immunity for such harms,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the conservative majority. . . .
“The person who is subject to this, to this embarrassment, this humiliation, doesn’t have out-of-pocket costs, but is terribly distressed, nervous, anxious, and all the rest,” Ginsburg said [during the oral argument on the case]. “The act that the Congress is reaching, the impact is of that nature. I mean, pecuniary (monetary) damages ordinarily attend conduct that embarrasses, humiliates you, causes mental distress.“
To be fair, the decision did not cut off the rights of someone who is fired or suffers other tangible losses due to a similar violation of their privacy, but it establishes that there is no remedy if the government simply shames someone by revealing their most embarrassing medical records. Moreover, it is worth noting that the plaintiff in this case is not the most sympathetic possible victim — his HIV status was revealed after he illegally failed to disclose it on an application for a pilot’s license.
Nonetheless, the rule announced yesterday could have sweeping implications. Programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security Disability and the veterans health system necessarily will gather a great deal of medical information about many, many Americans — and there should be very real consequences if the agencies that run these programs fail to treat that very sensitive information with confidentiality and respect.
Poll: 58 Percent of NC Voters Support Amendment One, 34 Percent Are Uninformed | Fifty-eight percent of likely voters in North Carolina said they would vote in favor of the state’s inequality amendment, even as thirty-four percent of those same respondents admit to not knowing what the bill entails, a new survey released by Public Policy Polling shows. The number of voters who said they would vote ‘yes’ dropped to just 41 percent once informed that Amendment One bans both same-sex marriage and civil unions. Just 31 percent of respondents could correctly identify the bill’s aim, while 7 percent thought Amendment One legalizes same-sex marriage. — Fatima Najiy
The National Organization for Marriage knows that there is a huge generation gap on the issue of same-sex marriage. A study published last August by the Public Religion Research Institute found that millennials (those currently 18-29 years old) support LGBT rights at significantly (and increasingly) higher rates than older age groups. Unsurprisingly, NOM’s confidential strategy memosreleased this week reveal an intentional effort to recruit young “elites” as spokespeople for the group’s anti-equality efforts:
By conducting student conferences, speakers and debates, we aim to find, train, and equip young leaders on the marriage issue at Ivy League and equivalent universities. NOM has launched the Ruth Institute for this purpose and is working with the Love and Fidelity Network to replicate the success of the Anscombe Model on the Princeton Campus at other Ivy League schools. [...]
Love and Fidelity Network, centered at Princeton, is building a network of chastity-supportive organizations at Ivy League colleges. the centerpiece of LFN’s networks is an annual student conference that draws 200 to 300 leaders from Ivy League and equivalent universities. NOM will “piggyback” on these existing conferences (and search for other similar venues) to identify, train, and equip next generation leaders on marriage, including media training.
But in keeping with the aims of the Cultural Strategies Project we will not confine our mission to attract and cultivate a community of cognitive elites alone. Through the Love and Fidelity Film Festival and YouTube and Song contest, we will seek to identify a next generation of elites capable of creating pro-marriage culture more broadly construed.
This is another example of the way NOM emphasizes “elites” as spokespeople, but divides them up between “non-cognitive” and “cognitive.” For its “glamorous” celebrities, NOM prefers the “non-cognitive” variety who can parrot talking points and raise controversy merely by taking the anti-equality position. But for its future leaders and spokespeople, NOM wants “cognitive elites,” intellectuals from prestigious universities who can make compelling arguments against the freedom to marry that will help “construe” the broader base of society. In addition to recruiting young people, NOM also seeks out “highly credentialed intellectuals” to serve as expert witnesses who will proliferate its message.
The Anscombe Society NOM references as a “model” is a student group at Princeton University that believes sex should be reserved until marriage but that opposes same-sex marriage, and thus “believes that homosexual persons are called to lead chaste lifestyles.” This position unsurprisingly mirrors that of the Catholic Church — one of NOM’s chief allies in almost every campaign — and its Courage ministry, which condemns gays to either a life without love or harmful ex-gay therapy. NOM’s intent to “piggyback” on this rhetoric demonstrates that it not only opposes an inclusive definition of marriage, but it also intends to further spread religious-based anti-gay stigma for years to come.
Malta Will Introduce ‘Civil Partnerships’ For Gay Couples |
The Maltese government is preparing to introduce legislation to recognize same-sex couples, according to Malta Today. Justice Minister Chris Said told Malta Today that government recognition of “civil partnerships” would begin under a cohabitation bill still being discussed. Said promised that the bill would be presented to Parliament, although he did not offer a timeline. Same-sex marriage is currently not recognized in heavily-Catholic Malta, although gays and lesbians can serve openly in the military, according to Edge Boston. A 2006 poll found that only 18 percent of Maltese citizens backed marriage equality, but a survey the next year found that 54 percent of Maltese under age 34 supported it.
Study: More Conservatives Than Ever Distrust Science |
Just 35 percent of self-identified conservatives said they had a “great deal of trust in science” in 2010, a new report published in the journal American Sociological Review reveals. The finding marks a 28 percent decline since the first survey taken in 1974, “when 48 percent of conservatives—about the same percentage as liberals—trusted science.” According to the report, support for science has remained relatively flat amongst liberals and moderates.
Kansas state Republicans want to make sure residents can discriminate against LGBT people, so much so that they have advanced a bill that would allow individuals to sue the government if they are deprived of the opportunity to do so. Yesterday, the Kansas House overwhelmingly passed HB 2384, the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which prevents the government from “burdening a person’s exercise of religion”:
Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless such government demonstrates, by clear and convincing evidence, that application of the burden to the person: (1) Is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
“Compelling governmental interest” shall not include prohibition of a practice or policy of discrimination against individuals in employment relations, in access to free and public accommodations or in housing, except as set forth in K.S.A. 44-1001 et seq., and amendments thereto, and the laws and constitution of the United States.
This is a step beyond the kind of legislation lawmakers have advanced in states like Tennessee that prevent municipalities from establishing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. According to this bill, not only would municipalities be inhibited from protecting against anti-LGBT discrimination, but those who do discriminate would become protected and entitled to do so.
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Lance Kinzer (R) claimed his bill is merely about the “free exercise of religion,” but confirmed that an apartment owner could use the measure to fight a complaint if he refused to rent to a same-sex couple. It constitutes nothing short of a religious license to discriminate against LGBT people.
The Kansas House has one final vote to take on the legislation before it advances to the Senate, where Republicans also enjoy a supermajority. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has expressed support for the bill, suggesting its inevitability of becoming one of the most wicked anti-LGBT laws in the country.