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Discrimination is Not Religious Freedom

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Reverend Irene MonroeA movement is afoot in state legislatures across the country to disenfranchise LGBTQ Americans. There are a surprisingly number of bills being introduced in state legislative session, which outrightly sanction and enforce LGBTQ discrimination. These bills are called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRA), but don’t be fooled. These lawmakers are looking to codify LGBTQ discrimination.

This week the Georgia Senate, with a vote of 37-15, approved controversial RFRA (House Bill 1023). The bill doesn’t want the state’s Christian religious conservatives, fundamentalists and evangelicals to “substantially burden” their personal religious practices and beliefs. What, you may ask, could possibly be such a burden to Christians in Georgia that a state law is necessitated? Burden, according the bill, is defined as:

“‘Burden’ means any government action or implementation or application of any law, including, but not limited to, state and local laws, ordinances, rules, regulations, and policies, whether statutory or otherwise, that directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails, or denies the exercise of religion by any person or that directly or indirectly pressures any person to engage in any action contrary to that person’s exercise of religion, including, but not limited to, withholding benefits, assessing criminal, civil, or administrative penalties, and exclusion from government programs or access to government facilities.”

But let’s be clear, the only religious folk lawmakers hope to protect from a “substantially burden” is Christians. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and other non-Christian Georgians don’t merit protection. As a matter-of-fact, these demographic groups — along with atheists and LGBTQs — can easily be subject to egregious forms of discrimination, bigotry and hate crimes under the guise of religion.

Authored By Reverend Irene Monroe – See the Full Story at SDGLN

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Matt Baume’s Field Guide to Sneaky Homophobic Bills

Friday, March 6th, 2015

Matt Baume

In a special two part video, Matt Baume takes viewers on a safari adventure through the country as he points out the four major types of anti-LGBT laws that are stealthily stealing away civil rights for everyone and what we can all do to stand up to this homophobic backlash.

Said Baume:

“Anti-gay discrimination is going extinct. But it’s not going without a fight. A beast is at its most desperate when its facing starvation. So it will do anything to adapt, to survive, and to pass itself on to the next generation.”

See the Full Story at Towleroad.com

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New York Senate Blocks LGBT Bills

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

New York MapThe state Senate killed two LGBT bills by not allowing them to come up for a vote, although both were seen as likely to pass.

Pink News reports:

The New York Senate has blocked bills which banned ‘gay cure’ therapy for minors, and protected trans people from discrimination. The ban on therapy to ‘cure’ homosexuality in minors had already been passed by the Assembly earlier this month, but was blocked by the Senate alongside the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act. The Senate leadership ended the legislative session without allowing the bills to go to a vote, despite support from both Democrats and Republicans.

The traitorous democrats (or is that DINO’s) who gave control of the state Senate over to the GOP are the gift that just keeps giving.

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USA: Who Is Pushing These “Right to Discriminate” Bills?

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

ChurchThese “right to discriminate” bills, which would let just about anyone discriminate against just about anyone because God, have been popping up all across the country, but is there someone co-ordinating all this behind the scenes?

Becca Morn at America Blog may have the answer:

As reported by Al Jazeera America: Cornerstone in Idaho, the Kansas Family Policy Council, and the Center for Arizona Policy, which supports the bill there, are all part of a network of 38 state “family policy councils” pressing for these laws under the umbrella of Citizen Link, the advocacy arm of the conservative Christian powerhouse Focus on the Family. Focus on the Family is James Dobson’s hate-mill, by the way, now headed by Jim Daly. Another backer is the American Religious Freedom Program, headed by Brian Walsh — who disingenuously claims these efforts are nothing more than trying to ensure that priests and florists don’t have to participate in Big Gay Weddings. And the ARFP sounds familiar, that’s because it’s part of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think-tank and lobbying organization run by Ed Whelan, former Reagan official in the DoJ and also former clerk for Justice Scalia.

The fact that it’s legal to discriminate against LGBTs in many states is nothing new. Twenty-nine states already have some form of ‘religious exemption’. But now this AFRP group has drafted its wide-reaching bill, and according to reports in the Wichita Eagle, has been shopping it around to state legislatures around the country. Brian Walsh, executive director of the ARFP, which supports religious freedom measures, acknowledges that his group consulted with the legislators on the bill, but he says that lots of other groups did as well: “We gave them suggestions and they took some of them.” Walsh says that ARFP was contacted by legislators who wrote the Tennessee bill and that the group frequently talked to legislators in South Dakota about “religious freedom” but not the state’s specific bill. Julie Lynde, executive director of Cornerstone Family Council in Idaho, one of many state groups that are part of Citizen Link, a branch of Focus on the Family, told Al Jazeera America, “We’ve been involved in working on the language” of the Idaho bill. Another member of Citizen Link, the Arizona Policy Center, has been active in supporting the Arizona bill.

And why are these proposed laws written so broadly? Becca thinks that’s the point:

In my opinion, Whelan’s organization didn’t write a sloppy bill to shop around. I believe the bill does exactly what it means to do, which is something the far-right conservatives have been itching to do ever since the first sweeping civil rights bills were passed in the 1960s: Repeal them. Not just some, and not just to enable anti-gay and anti-trans discrimination, but all of the equal rights laws. Using ‘religious freedom’ as the cudgel to roll back women’s reproductive freedoms is just another prong of the attack.

It’s a great article, going into detail on all these laws, including some I was unaware of. Read the whole thing to get a better idea of what’s lurking below the surface of all these “right to discriminate” bills.

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USA: Anti Gay Bills Dead in South Dakota, Kansas, and Tennessee

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Gay RightsThree states that were considering “Right to Discriminate” bills have killed them.

The Times-Union reports on the South Dakota bill:

A measure that sought to prevent lawsuits against businesses that refuse to hire or provide services to gays and lesbians was rejected Tuesday by a South Dakota legislative panel after opponents said the bill was unnecessary and would send a message of hate or fear. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-2 to kill the bill, which also sought to protect people from being sued for expressing their beliefs on sexual orientation.

Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, a member of the committee, said the measure and similar ones introduced during this year’s legislative session seem to be focused on trying to divide society. “Because what? We fear them? We fear what it’s going to lead to?” Hunhoff said. “I have a difficult time as a faith-based person that I’m supposed to be afraid of these people.”

Pink News reports on the Kansas bill:

A Tennessee Senator has dropped a bill which would have allowed businesses to refuse service for gay couples’ weddings based on religious beliefs. Senator Mike Bell on Tuesday shelved the ‘Religious Freedom Act’, (SB2566) before it went to a vote. After having taken over as lead sponsor of the bill last week, Bell admitted that the legislation was unnecessary, noting that business owners already have protections under Tennessee law. “I’m convinced that current law protects people of faith,” Bell said.

And USA Today reports from Kansas:

Senate leaders already had said the bill would not pass their chamber, but [Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff] King said Tuesday that his committee won’t even take it up. “We’re not working House Bill 2453,” said King, an Independence Republican, referring to the measure by number. King said he’s not drafting a narrower alternative. He said he’ll have hearings so interested parties can have national experts discuss whether Kansas needs a new law. “Something new would have to arise out of these hearings,” he said.

I would have thought that bills like these would have been a slam dunk in states like Tennessee, Kansas and South Dakota. We really have come so far, so fast.

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USA: More States Considering Allowing Christian Business Owners to Discriminate

Monday, January 27th, 2014

KansasFollowing in the footsteps of a proposed law in Arizona, at least two more states are considering laws that would let business owners discriminate based on sexual orientation.

LGBTQ Nation reports on Kansas:

With the legal climate uncertain for states banning gay marriage, Kansas lawmakers are considering a proposal designed to allow individuals, groups and businesses to refuse to recognize or provide goods, services or benefits to gay couples based on their religious beliefs. The legislator pushing the bill says it’s designed to protect religious freedom, and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is receptive to the idea, though he hasn’t yet studied the proposal enough to offer a formal endorsement. However, critics say the measure promotes discrimination against gays and lesbians, and is so broadly written that it could apply to any couple, gay or straight, with a less-than-traditional union.

South Dakota mapAnd On Top Magazine reports from South Dakota:

South Dakota Republicans have introduced two bills which seek to allow clergy, church officials and businesses to refuse to take part in gay marriages and related events. State Senator Ernie Otten said his bills were necessary in case a court overturns the state’s ban on such unions. The bills would allow clergy and businesses to refuse to perform or supply goods or services to same-sex marriages or receptions because of their religious beliefs.

You can ind the news about Arizona here.

Smells like an ALEC bill to me, being spread state-to-state by one of these shadow groups. What do you think? Do these folks realize these laws could be used to justify a Muslim or Buddhist vendor when they refuse to marry a Christian couple?

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USA, Virginia: Two LGBT Bills Killed in Assembly

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

VirginiaTwo Virginia Assembly committees killed two Pro LGBT bills, including a marriage equality proposal.

Metro Weekly reports:

In the Senate, the Committee on General Laws and Technology took up SB248, introduced by Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-City of Richmond, Henrico, Hanover, Charles City counties), to prohibit discrimination in state employment. The bill was nearly identical to a similar measure that passed both the committee and the full Senate by a bipartisan 24-16 vote last year, and would essentially have made permanent an executive order prohibiting such discrimination that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) issued just hours after being sworn in on Jan. 11. But a contingent of seven right-wing Republicans on the committee took advantage of the Senate’s temporary makeup to defeat the bill. Normally, the Committee on General Laws, at full strength, has 15 members. But a vacancy on the committee due to the election of former Sen. Mark Herring as Attorney General left the committee with only 14 members, eight of them Republicans.

The House measure, HB939, introduced by Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax Co.), would have repealed a Virginia state statute banning same-sex marriage. Notably, it would not have repealed the Marshall-Newman Amendment to the Virginia Constitution that voters approved in 2006, but only the underlying law prohibiting marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships and other instruments that recognize same-sex relationships. HB939 was assigned to the House Committee on Courts of Justice, from which Chairman David Albo (R-Fairfax Co.) assigned it to the 10-member subcommittee on civil law. The measure failed on a 5-4 vote, despite support from Del. Greg Habeeb (R-Salem, Roanoke, Montgomery, Craig counties) and Del. Manoli Loupassi (R-City of Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield counties), who voted in favor of continuing the discussion by allowing the full committee to consider the bill.

And so, marriage equality in Virginia may come down to the court decision, just as it has in Utah and Oklahoma.

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USA: As Colorado Tries to Make It Easier for Gay Couples to File Taxes, Idaho Makes It Harder

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Taxes and LGBT CouplesIt’s a tale of two states. one state is moving to make it easier for married same-sex couples to file joint taxes, while the other is trying to make it more difficult.

KDVR reports from Colorado:

A proposal that seeks to allow legally married same-sex couples file joint state tax returns cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday. Senate Bill 19 passed the Senate Finance Committee on a 3-2 party-line vote. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, would tweak state statutes so that the formal filing status used on state tax returns is linked to a resident’s federal returns.

Meanwhile, in Idaho:

A legislative House committee Tuesday approved a rule that will make it more complicated for married same-sex couples in Idaho to file their taxes. It’s a rule designed to try and appease state law, which does not acknowledge same-sex marriage, and the federal Internal Revenue Service, which does. It was a rare chance for gay Idahoans to speak their mind before lawmakers. The Idaho Legislature is 81 percent Republican and many in the GOP oppose gay marriage. It’s not a topic that comes up often, if at all, in the Legislature, since Idaho law and its constitution both define marriage as between one man and one woman.

They will fight us every single step, every single step of the way. But I firmly believe that love will win out, in the end.

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USA, Virginia: As Marriage Equality Hearing Nears, Bill Introduced In Legislature

Friday, January 10th, 2014

VirginiaWe have two stories out of Virginia today on marriage equality. In the first, a hearing in a lawsuit for marriage equality in the state is fast approaching.

The Washington Blade reports:

The first hearing in a federal lawsuit that challenges Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is scheduled to take place in Norfolk, Va., on Jan. 30. Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia will hold the hearing in the lawsuit that Tim Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk filed in July. Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Richmond are also plaintiffs in the case the American Foundation for Equal Rights joined in September.

At the same time, bills Have been introduced in the Virginia legislature that would legalize marriage equality in the state.

On Top Magazine reports:

Bills seeking to end Virginia’s ban on gay marriage were officially introduced on Wednesday as the legislative session got underway. Voters in 2006 approved the Marshall-Newman Amendment, which prohibits the state from recognizing any union other than a heterosexual marriage. Additionally, Virginia law excludes gay couples from marriage. Six delegates and three senators have sponsored resolutions which seek to remove the prohibition.

With Republicans still in control of the Virginia House and the Virginia Senate split 50-50, with a chance to tilt over to Republican control in a special election, chances for a legislative solution this year seem low. On the other hand, Virginia just went very blue, with every statewide elected office going to Democrats. And marriage equality is working its way down the Atlantic Coast…

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USA: Seven States Where Marriage Equality Could Move Ahead in the Next Two Weeks

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Gay WeddingWe’ve mentioned before that October was shaping up to be a big month for marriage equality. Buzzfeed has a great article this morning o the fights coming to a head this month in Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, Illinois, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Virginia:

It’s been less than four months since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and put an end to California’s marriage amendment, but advocates have been busy over the summer — setting the stage for a very busy two weeks that could rock the marriage equality landscape and change the country.

The calendar for the rest of the month is packed with a dizzying array of potential developments: decisions and movement in lawsuits that are multiplying by the week, possible votes from lawmakers being prodded to action by governors in their states, and — for the state of New Mexico — a hearing at the state Supreme Court to resolve once and for all whether same-sex couples can marry in a state that doesn’t specifically ban or allow such marriages.

The coming weeks also will feature the first action in the federal appellate courts since the Supreme Court rulings, with a filing in the Ninth Circuit in a challenge to Nevada’s marriage law. The quick reemergence of a marriage case at the appellate level is notable because that’s the path back to the Supreme Court, where marriage equality advocates are still seeking a ruling that would bring marriage equality to all 50 states.

Head over to Buzzfeed to read the whole thing – it’s gonna be a crazy month!

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