The Nail in ENDA’s Coffin

by Stephen H. Miller on June 6, 2014

Progressive groups say they’d rather have no Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) then one that doesn’t force those with faith-based objections to provide creative services for same-sex weddings.

In the past, I’ve been neutral on ENDA—aware of its potential for misuse, along with other anti-discrimination statutes, but mindful of its positive symbolic value. With the advance of marriage equality, the need for such a symbolic statement of inclusion by the federal government no longer seems necessary. And it is now crystal clear that ENDA will be abused, as state anti-discrimination statutes have been, to limit individual liberty and punish those who don’t bend knee to the progressive authority. Good riddance, ENDA.

More. I recently addressed (again) the appropriateness of religious exemptions and so won’t repeat myself, but see No Faith-Based Exemptions from the Dictates of the State?

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GOP Shift Is Slow but Inevitably

by Stephen H. Miller on May 31, 2014

An optimistic viewpoint on the GOP and gay issues, via BuzzFeed: “While Republicans aren’t likely to join the fight for marriage equality en masse, the past week has shown that a growing core of the party is done fighting.”

Challenging the religious right so that Republicans again become the liberty party—as they were, historically, in the fight against slavery—is the way forward (and, let’s recall, southern Democrats were the party of Jim Crow, until Nixon’s “southern strategy” brought the “Dixiecrats” into the GOP). This will be a long effort, occurring throughout the states, as the fight in Texas shows. But generational change is coming.

More. A choice in California, via the WSJ (firewalled, though). In the GOP gubernatorial primary:

Republicans are presented with starkly contrasting candidates in former Bush Treasury official Neel Kashkari, a son of Indian immigrants, and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who led the Minuteman campaign to patrol California’s southern border and has likened illegal migrants to jihadists. … Like a majority of Californians, [Kashkari] is also a cultural liberal. Yet this makes him more attractive to a large swath of voters who would never consider a candidate who opposes same-sex marriage and abortion. That includes many young people and Silicon Valley techies.

Mr. Kashkari is also focusing on economic opportunity, especially for the poor. The political rookie has reached out to voters in the rural Central Valley and inner-cities where he is making the case that broad-based economic growth and education reform can redress California’s inequality and poverty.

More, unfirewalled, via Businessweek.

Kashkari may not win Tuesday’s primary, but his views on gay marriage are the GOP’s only viable future And this isn’t.

Update: Kashkari wins the primary. The Washington Post suggests, “Kashkari won’t win this fall but he may well be the building block/new face that California Republicans badly need to begin the long climb back to relevance in the state.”

Added: The Wall Street Journal editorialized: “Most local Republican parties had endorsed Mr. Donnelly for his cultural conservatism and firebrand opposition to immigration. Mr. Kashkari, a son of Indian immigrants with a libertarian cultural bent, ran an insurgent campaign on jobs and education. He hopscotched from soup kitchens to Rotary Clubs promoting the GOP as a party of economic opportunity for all.”

And more good news from California, sure to leave LGBT lockstep Democrats fuming.

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No Faith-Based Exemptions from the Dictates of the State?

by Stephen H. Miller on May 25, 2014

Update: I’m putting this letter to UVa’s “Daily Progress” at top because of it’s importance: “As a gay man, it is worth noting that not everyone in the LGBTQ community criticizes University of Virginia professor Douglas Laycock for his attempt to balance LGBTQ rights and religious freedom.” Indeed.

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As if any more evidence were needed of the illiberal mindset among progressives that’s spreading to (or is it from?) academia:

University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock, by most measures a liberal who believes strongly in the separation of church and state (and husband of UVa President Teresa Sullivan) is being castigated by LGBT activists because his legal writings support allowing religious exemptions for private citizens from actions that violate their religious beliefs, such as being compelled to perform services on behalf of same-sex weddings or to purchase abortifacient contraceptives for employees:

“His work, whether he understands it or realizes it or not, is being used by folks who want to institute discrimination into law,” said Heather Cronk, co-director of Berkeley, California-based LGBT activist group GetEQUAL. … GetEQUAL has launched a national e-mail campaign calling out Laycock for his role in shoring up the legal arguments of those who support “religious bigotry.” … “I think it would be really constructive for him to hear how his work is being used to hurt the LGBTQ community,” said [UVa fourth-year student Greg] Lewis [among those recruited by GetEqual to take up the cause].

The activists “also also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking e-mails between Laycock and various right-wing and religious liberty groups.” As if that isn’t intended to have a chilling effect on legal theorists in academia who don’t draw appropriate conclusions.

Responded Laycock: “My position has always been that liberty in America is for everyone. … It’s for both sides in the culture wars. I believe that we should protect gays and lesbians in their right to live their own lives, including their right to get married, and we should protect religious conscientious objectors.”

Laycock co-filed an amicus brief in Windsor (discussed here) that urged that the Supreme Court “protect the right to same-sex marriage, that religious liberty is not a sufficient reason to deny the right, but that the Court must attend to the religious liberty conflicts that same-sex marriage may create for religious believers and organizations who object to facilitating such marriages.”

But such advocacy on behalf of the rights of religious dissenters marks him as an enemy of the people.

More. It wasn’t too long ago that the left was dismissive of conservatives who argued criticism of the Patriot Act (by those who saw it as a danger to civil liberties) would “give ammunition to America’s enemies,” in the words of John Ashcroft. These days, consistent defenders of individual rights (and that, sadly, no longer includes the ACLU) seem few and far between, and always subject to accusations of supporting our “enemies” of one sort or another.

Furthermore. Walter Olson’s take, at Overlawyered.com, describing the activists’ Freedom of Information Act hunting expedition as “trying to arm-twist a tenured, well-recognized scholar who takes a position that the Forces of Unanimity consider wrong.”

And here’s Dahlia Lithwick at Slate.

And Jonathan H. Adler: “You don’t start a dialogue with FOIA requests.”

Stephen L. Carter writes: “Laycock’s wrong is to have taken the position that there may be cases in which individual religious freedom should trump compliance with law—a view that, during Bill Clinton’s administration, was considered the liberal position in our politics.”

Still more. Shame on gay couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins for not respecting the rights of other people. Baker Jack Phillips now will “no longer make any wedding cakes. He said he would be fine selling cupcakes for a birthday party for someone who is gay but added, ‘I don’t want to participate in a same-sex wedding.’” The state has moved in and “ordered the baker to submit quarterly reports about the customers he refuses to serve and retrain employees to serve everyone,” which he was already doing; it was participating in a same-sex marriage that he chose not to do. For authoritarians, such a chose is verboten.

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Marriage-Go-Round

by Stephen H. Miller on May 21, 2014

With so much happening so fast on the marriage front (see below), it’s time to start a new post rather than continually adding to the previous one.

So let’s take a moment to note something truly momentous: According to the latest from Gallup, same-sex marriage now enjoys 55% overall support in the U.S., and a whopping 78% support among under-30s. And even 42% among those 65+.

Among party lines:

Democrats (74%) are far more likely to support gay marriage as Republicans are (30%), while independents (58%) are more in line with the national average. Though Republicans still lag behind in their support of same-sex marriage, they have nearly doubled their support for it since Gallup began polling on the question in 1996.

The GOP is where the work most needs to be continued, which means (progressive partisans, cover year eyes!) working to elect openly gay and gay-supportive Republicans. These three openly gay GOP congressional candidates would make a great contribution to that cause.

[Added: DeMaio's campaign office vandalized; power cords cut and liquids poured into the computers. Very nice.]

More. Pennsylvania’s GOP Governor Tom Corbett announced he won’t appeal the district court ruling (which effectively brings marriage equality to the keystone state), joining GOP governors Christie (N.J.), Martinez (N.M.) and Sandoval (Nev.) and earning praise from the American Unity Fund, a PAC dedicated to making a conservative case for “the cause of freedom for gay and lesbian Americans.”

Furthermore. Via ThinkProgress: Pennsylvania Just Legalized Same Sex Marriage and Rick Santorum Has Nothing to Say:

But some Republican strategists suggest that Santorum’s choice to remain silent is indicative of the GOP’s decision to de-emphasize its rhetorical opposition to gay rights in an effort to attract younger and more moderate voters.

“The push for same-sex marriage nationally is moving much faster than many in the Republican Party, including Rick Santorum, ever thought it would,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell told ThinkProgress. “And now the GOP is trying to internally rectify the changing landscape because their position hurts them primarily with voters under 40; those same voters they need in the tent if they want to win the White House in 2016.”

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Arkansas’ Symbolism…and More

by Stephen H. Miller on May 15, 2014

As the Washington Post reports:

Fifty-seven years after federal troops escorted nine black students into Little Rock’s Central High School as a white mob jeered, Arkansas again finds itself in the center of a debate over civil rights. This time, the issue is gay marriage, but the 1957 desegregation crisis still casts a shadow.

Followed by: Judge strikes all Arkansas bans on gay marriage.

Update. Marriage equality in Arkansas again is stayed.

Virginia, which gave rise to the Loving decision in which the Supreme Court eventually overturned state bans on mixed-race marriages, is another deeply symbolic venue that is seeing judicial progress.

As we’ve noted before, comparing the fight for same-sex marriage equality with the fight to allow mixed-race marriages makes many religious conservatives, and many African-Americans, exceedingly angry. In the National Journal, Ron Fournier describes some of these fault lines and notes, optimistically:

It’s easy to demonize conservatives and Christians. It’s harder to recognize that faith is a stern master, especially among African-Americans whose animus toward homosexuality runs deep. We should know by now that social change takes times, but the American public tends to eventually get things right.

Finally, a look at the state-by-state battle lines as of today, and the timeline of events that brought us here.

More. Dale Carpenter blogs at the Volokh Conspiracy:

Counting both federal and state court decisions, [Oregon is] the 17th consecutive judicial win for same-sex marriage advocates the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor last summer. …

It’s probable that this long string of judicial victories for same-sex marriage will come to an end in the near future, perhaps in a circuit court. It’s also likely that the issue will end up in the Supreme Court in the next couple of years. Same-sex marriage will come to that Court, when it does, with a momentum that could not have been imagined when it began in the United States ten years ago this month.

It’s a marriage-go-round of rulings:

Here’s the Oregon decision by district court judge Michael J. McShane. The conclusion is very moving.

And a judge appointed by George W. Bush just overturned Pennsylvania’s marriage equality ban, ending his opinion by stating, ‘We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

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Michael Sam Breaks Through

by Stephen H. Miller on May 11, 2014

We can certainly take a moment to celebrate along with Michael Sam:

…the University of Missouri football player who came out as gay in February, three months in advance of the NFL draft, was drafted this evening by the St. Louis Rams. He reacted the way any athlete would: by kissing his significant other. …

If Sam—picked 249th overall, despite being the SEC Defensive Player of the Year—makes the team, he will become the National Football League’s first athlete to play while openly gay.

In recent years the SEC Defensive Player of the Year has been among the top draft choices, whereas Sam was picked very late, in the final round, revealing the struggle continues. Still, some didn’t expect him to be picked at all, so this is indeed an historical marker.

More. David Boaz blogs in greater depth about Michael Sam and the Cost of Discrimination.

Furthermore. Eurovision’s transgendered winner, Conchita Wurst, also should be noted, especially for the Russian response.

Still more. Wesley Pruden of the conservative Washington Times must think this is very clever. He writes:

“Mr. Sam, who is finishing his education at the University of Missouri, knows a lot more than how to sack a quarterback. He knows how to suck the last few kilobytes out of his 15 minutes of fame. … Now that hype and hysteria has become the lingua franca of the age, Michael Sam, like everyone else in the tower of babble, whistles it fluently. You just put your lips together and blow.”

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Boycotts Aren’t All the Same

by Stephen H. Miller on May 9, 2014

There’s been much mischief made of late by critics of the “Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent” statement that I and other nonleftist gay writers (among others) recently signed, linking it to a supposed defense of all manner of anti-gay or otherwise scandalous misbehavior.

The statement argues, among other points, that it’s wrong to pressure companies to fire executives because they don’t personally support marriage equality. It was a response to boycott threats against Mozilla that led to the forced resignation of CEO Brendan Eich over a $1,000 contribution he gave several years ago to support California’s Prop 8 initiative (through which a majority of Californians banned state recognition of same-sex marriage, until the Supreme Court ruled otherwise).

That doesn’t mean boycotts are never justified; some certainly are, while others are an overreaction, or may be purely unjustified. And some are arguably justifiable but still very bad strategy if the goal is to build a broad majority consensus for gay legal equality.

From what I’ve read, for instance, I wouldn’t give my business to nor oppose the boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel, owned by the Dorchester Collection, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei. The sultan, who is dictator over his realm, recently moved to institute Sharia law there, which calls for stoning to death gays and adulterers, among others.

The sultan’s ownership is a few steps away from direct, but the nature of his evil actions is so great that it calls for a strong response. If enough pain is exerted, the Dorchester Collection may sell the property, or the sultan might even sell the Dorechester Collection. It’s probably folly to think that the sultan will stop persecuting gays and others, however. Also, we should at least be mindful that hotel employees, through no fault of their own, could be out of a job while the point is being made.

Of a different magnitude altogether is the ginning up of a boycott threat that led HGTV (the home and garden network) to cancel an upcoming flip your house show with the brothers David and Jason Benham, over their conservative faith-based opposition to the homosexual “agenda” and abortion.

This is somewhat akin to the recent “Duck Dynasty” controversy, which engendered such a backlash that family patriarch Phil Robertson was restored to the show despite his faith-based opposition to homosexuality. That show is all about the Robertson family and its personalities, so I didn’t have an issue with people telling A&E they no longer wanted to watch the brood (if they ever had). Whereas the Benham brothers show, “Flip it Forward,” was to be about helping “lower-income families purchase fixer uppers and transform them into dream homes.”

That’s a difference. And even if you think the brothers’ views are beyond the pale, they’ve gone from being just two of the many, many, home fixer-uppers and house flippers that populate HGTV to being a culture war cause celebre, “swamped with media requests for interviews.” CNN being just one example.

Recent weeks have seen former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice’s withdrawal as commencement speaker at Rutgers University following protests by leftwing faculty and students over her role in the Iraq War, and Brandeis University’s decision to cancel Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s honorary degree because leftwing faculty and students protested her impassioned criticism of Islamic brutality against women. As Ruth R. Wisse notes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “those who admit no legitimate opposition to their ideas feel duty-bound to shut down unwelcome speakers.”

These actions by universities surrendering to activists of a totalitarian bent who want to keep students from hearing viewpoints with which they disagree (legitimate opinions, even if debatable) is the company with which gay rights supporters are now being compared.

More. With hindsight, I’d now say the “Duck Dynasty” boycott call was inappropriate and, ultimately, counter-productive. Exposure, criticism, and the resulting plunge in ratings would have been a more judicious and adequate response than pressuring A&E to order Phil Robertson off the show, and would have avoided the network’s subsequent retreat in order to placate socially conservative viewers and fans (which many/most of the protestors never were).

Boycott threats work both ways, and often backfire by turning their targets into victims of the politically correct thought police. And thus do rightwing ideologues become free-speech martyrs (Chick-fil-A being another case in point).

Furthermore. As if to demonstrate the above, when the controversy erupted SunTrust Banks pulled all of its listed properties with the Benham brothers—provoking a predictable backlash that led to the bank’s reversal, announcing: “SunTrust supports the rights of all Americans to fully exercise their freedoms granted under the Constitution, including those with respect to free speech and freedom of religion.”

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Conservatives for Gay Equality Is a Good Thing

by Stephen H. Miller on May 7, 2014

I tend to agree with Walter Olson’s support for Justice Kennedy’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, on allowing ministers to give sectarian prayers when ceremonially opening town council meetings. But whether one accepts Justice Kennedy’s reasoning or not, I think it’s positive that he’s seen as independent enough to side with the court’s conservatives in opposition to the liberal bloc, and not just on business issues. It makes his past and future decisions in support of gay legal equality all the more influential.

That’s to say, from a broad perspective it’s good that gay equality isn’t seen only as an issue that big-government progressives support.

On a separate matter somewhat related, the week saw another nasty little homophobic attack on openly gay GOP congressional candidate Carl DeMaio by progressive gay activists that backfired, tripping up DeMaio’s Democratic opponent. Apparently John Aravosis of AmericaBlog doesn’t like gay Republicans who are in the closet, and really hates gay Republicans who are not in the closet.

Democratic homophobic insinuations against DeMaio are nothing new, again demonstrating that Gay Republicans Who Might Win Drive LGBT Democrats Berserk.

More. And they just keep coming. Contra HRC’s Fred Sainz’s partisan assertion otherwise, “To say that Carl DeMaio was anything but 100% on board with the campaign to defeat Prop 8 is an outright lie,” says Arlon Staggs, former Steering Committee member of HRC’s San Diego Chapter.

Furthermore. The Washington Blade looks at gay Democrats critical of the Victory Fund’s endorsement of Richard Tisei, an openly gay Republican running for Congress in Massachusetts. Tisei, unlike DeMaio, met all the Victory Fund’s litmus tests, both stated (opposed to any restrictions on abortion) and unstated (not provoking the ire of government employee unions by favoring public pension reforms). The critics’ beef, ultimately, is over the Victory Fund being even the least bit nonpartisan rather than what HRC has become, a Democratic party fundraising auxiliary.

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Gossip as Attack Weapon

by Stephen H. Miller on May 4, 2014

The truth, the truth, what is the truth? Gawker claims:

In the summer of 2013, according to multiple sources with knowledge of their exchange, [Fox news anchor] Shepard Smith approached Fox News president Roger Ailes about publicly coming out. The newly attached anchor was eager, at the time, to finally acknowledge his sexuality. “It’s time,” he told Ailes and other colleagues. “It’s time.” Instead, Ailes informed Smith that the network’s famously conservative audience would not tolerate a gay news anchor. Ailes’ answer was definitive: Smith could not say he’s gay.

In response, Smith and Ailes issued an angry denial, calling Gawker’s allegations “100% false and a complete fabrication,” and arguing much of the “evidence,” which came from anonymous sources, doesn’t add up. Elsewhere online are even stronger responses from Smith.

Given the ceaseless attacks on Fox News from left-liberal partisans, I’d need more to convince me that this isn’t just another hatchet job.

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The United Church of Christ in North Carolina is suing to overturn that state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Specifically, the Tar Heel state outlaws clergy performing same-sex marriages (which, in any event, are not recognized by the state):

As part of the state ban, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a minister to perform a marriage ceremony for a couple that hasn’t obtained a civil marriage license. In addition, the law allows anyone to sue the minister who performs a marriage ceremony without a license.

The law certainly seems to infringe on the rights of religious denominations and their clergy to perform rituals of their choosing, although whether that argument will led the courts to overturn the ban on state recognition of these marriages is less certain. Still, it’s an interesting development.

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