Thursday, January 22, 2015
DENVER — If bakeries can be compelled to make wedding cakes for same-sex marriages, can they also be forced to create anti-gay cakes?
That’s the question before the Colorado Civil Rights Division after a customer filed a complaint against Azucar Bakery in Denver for refusing to write anti-gay messages on a Bible-shaped cake.
Owner Marjorie Silva told 9News in Denver that she received a complaint alleging religious discrimination from the state Department of Regulatory Agencies after she declined in March a customer’s request to write messages like “God hates gays” on a cake.
She said he handed her a piece of paper with the messages. “After I read it, I was like, ‘No way,’” Ms. Silva said. “‘We’re not doing this. This is just very discriminatory and hateful.’”
She said she had no problem creating a Bible-shaped cake — she does so frequently — but told him that she would not write the messages he requested, including a depiction of two men holding hands with an “X” over them.
The man who filed the complaint has been identified by Denver news outlets as Bill Jack, founder of the Worldview Academy in Castle Rock, which is a “non-denominational organization dedicated to helping Christians think and live in accord with a Biblical worldview,” according to the website.
Mr. Jack issued a statement to 9News saying, “I believe I was discriminated against by the bakery based on my creed. As a result, I filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights division. Out of respect for the process, I will wait for the director to release his findings before making further comments.”
Ms. Silva posted a photo of herself Monday on Twitter holding a white sheet cake with the message, “Stop the hate. Don’t discriminate,” written in pink frosting.
The case comes after the owner of another Colorado bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, was found guilty of discrimination by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for declining to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
The owner, Jack Phillips, was ordered by the commission in May to “re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly ‘compliance’ reports for two years,” according to a press release from the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents him.
Mr. Phillips, who offered to bake the couple another kind of cake but said baking a same-sex wedding cake would violate his Christian beliefs, has filed an appeal with the Colorado Court of Appeals.
Monday, January 19, 2015
January 17, 2015|8:52 am | The Christian Post|
As the U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday it will review 6th Circuit marriage cases, and thereby decide the future of marriage in America, Christian groups said the people and their elected representatives, and not unelected judges, should decide if states should legally recognize gay marriage.
"The majority of citizens in each state voted that the law should continue to recognize marriage as the union of a man and a woman," said Ryan T. Anderson, a fellow at The Heritage Foundation, in a statement after the Supreme Court said the justices will consolidate and hear together four cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Anderson, co-author of the book What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, pointed out that the 6th Circuit ruled last November that these laws do not violate the U.S. Constitution.
The justices will hear two-and-a-half hours of oral arguments in April, followed by a ruling before the term ends in late June, according toUSA Today.
"The people and their elected representatives should deliberate and vote about marriage policy—not unelected judges—and they should make policy that serves the common good by reflecting the truth that marriage is the union of a man and woman," Anderson added, underlining that redefining marriage to make it a genderless institution fundamentally changes marriage. "It teaches that mothers and fathers are interchangeable."
Central to the case are two questions. One is whether states are required to license marriages between same-sex couples under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which the Michigan case has to decide. And the second is whether the amendment requires states to recognize such marriages when licensed by other states – which the Ohio and Tennessee cases have to decide.
The Kentucky case includes both.
Gay marriage is legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Gay rights groups want all 50 states to legalize same-sex marriage.
"We've reached the moment of truth — the facts are clear, the arguments have been heard by dozens of courts, and now the nine justices of the Supreme Court have an urgent opportunity to guarantee fairness for countless families, once and for all," said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement.
However, Brian S. Brown, president of National Organization for Marriage, said in a statement that it is time for the 50 million Americans who stood for marriage in 30 states, to have their day in court
"We are confident that the Supreme Court has chosen the 6th Circuit case in order to affirm the finding of the Appeals court, just as it did in the cases of Windsor v. United States and Sabelius v. Hobby Lobby," Brown added. "We will be watching this case closely and anticipate an eventual victory for the democratic process, religious liberty, and the cherished institution of marriage which forms the very bedrock of our society."
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also released a statement, saying this case could potentially transform the cultural landscape of America.
"We should pray for the Court, that they will not seek to redefine marriage," he said. "Marriage was not created by government action, and shouldn't be re-created by government action. Even more than that, we should pray for churches who will know how to articulate and embody a Christian vision of marriage as the one flesh union of a man and a woman in the tumultuous years to come."
Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, said marriage is an institution older than the Constitution. "Marriage is a natural bond that society or religion can only 'solemnize.'"
Alliance Defending Freedom said the people of every state should remain free to affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman in their laws.
"Consistent with the Supreme Court's 2013 Windsor decision, which said that 'states have the essential authority to define the marital relation,' the 6th Circuit rightly concluded that the Constitution does not demand that a new view of marriage be judicially imposed on everyone," ADF Senior Counsel Austin R. Nimocks said in a statement. "We are hopeful the Supreme Court will uphold the freedom of the people to affirm marriage."
Friday, January 16, 2015
By Greg Stohr Jan 16, 2015 3:31 PM ET| Bloomberg News|
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, accepting a case that may cap a transformational decade for gay rights with what would be a landmark civil rights ruling.
The court’s decision, likely to come in late June, could bring gay marriage to 14 more states and stand alongside the 1967 ruling that said interracial couples had a constitutional right to legally wed. Whatever the outcome, the case will be a defining moment for Chief Justice John Roberts’s court.
Both sides urged the Supreme Court to resolve a disagreement among the lower courts. Pro-marriage rulings by four federal appeals courts have helped triple the number of gay-marriage states since 2013. The justices will be reviewing the sole appellate ruling that said states could restrict marriage to heterosexual unions, a decision that applied to Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.
A Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage would be a watershed moment for a movement that as recently as 1996 had support from only 27 percent of the American public, according to a Gallup poll. The latest Gallup survey on the subject, conducted in May, showed 55 percent supporting gay marriage and 42 percent opposing.
A decision against marriage rights might have complicated ramifications. Most of the 36 states that issue gay-marriage licenses do so as a result of court rulings. A Supreme Court decision could nullify those decisions, leaving each state to sort out who can wed while raising questions about the rights of already-married couples.
In the case before the justices, Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said changes to marriage laws should come from “the customary political processes,” not through the courts.
“When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” Sutton wrote in a 2-1 decision.
Gay-marriage advocates say the Constitution protects a fundamental right to wed and bars same-sex couples from being treated differently than heterosexual people.
Gays are being denied “the fundamental freedom and equal right to marry, and their families are deprived of the status, dignity, security and stability that marriage brings,” April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse argued in their appeal in the Michigan case. The two are nurses who have adopted three children, including two with special needs.
Michigan Governor Richard Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette argued in court papers that “marriage is an issue left to voters at the state level.”
The Supreme Court hinted at support for gay marriage in a 2013 ruling that struck down part of a law that denied federal benefits for same-sex spouses.
Writing for the five-justice majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Constitution protects gay couples’ “moral and sexual choices.” He rejected many of the justifications for treating gay unions differently from heterosexual ones.
The ruling created a broad sense that it was only a matter of time before the Supreme Court went the final step. Dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia said an eventual ruling legalizing gay marriage was “inevitable.”
The Supreme Court has reinforced that perception by letting court orders requiring gay marriage take effect. In the most significant move, the justices in October let stand three federal appeals court decisions, leading to marriage in 11 new states.
The final decision in all likelihood rests with Kennedy, the court’s most frequent swing vote. Though Kennedy often aligns himself with the court’s conservative wing, he been a champion of gay rights over the past 20 years, writing all three of the court’s most significant rulings.
Friday, January 16, 2015
January 14, 2015|4:25 pm | The Christian Post|
WASHINGTON — While Frank Bruni, a columnist for The New York Times, claims to be advocating a "live and let live" position on gay marriage versus religious freedom, he's actually advocating government coercion, Ryan Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, argued Tuesday.
The notion that gay marriage threatens religious liberty is "absurd" and "perpetuates confusion," Bruni wrote Sunday. Bruni mentioned wedding vendors — photographers, florists and wedding cake bakers — who are defending their right to decline service for same-sex weddings due to their religious beliefs. Those beliefs are a "fig leaf for intolerance," Bruni claimed.
Some states have sought to pass, or strengthen, state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts to make sure that courts continue to apply an appropriate balancing test in disputes between religious belief and gay marriage such as these. RFRA tells judges that the state can only infringe upon a person's right to behave according to their religious beliefs if there's a compelling government interest for doing so and the least restrictive means are used.
Tuesday, the editorial board of The New York Times described a Georgia RFRA bill as "legal cover for anti-gay discrimination."
Even though the federal RFRA was passed in the 1990s with only three dissenting votes in Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton, Bruni labeled its advocates "religious extremists" and compared them to racists.
In the last sentence of his op-ed, Bruni argued that his position is a "live and let live" position: "You must put up with me, just as I put up with you."
"That's not really what he's asking for," said Anderson, William E. Simon fellow in Religion and a Free Society, at Heritage Action for America's "Conservative Policy Summit." Bruni is saying, "I have a right to force you to violate your beliefs and bake me my wedding cake or take my wedding photos."
The "live and let live" position, Anderson continued, is that of the wedding vendors who do not want to participate in the celebration of a same-sex wedding due to their religious beliefs, because they are not asking the government to ban all wedding vendors from same-sex weddings. They are only asking for the freedom to choose for themselves whether to serve at a gay wedding.
"The principled solution to this is a 'live and let live' solution in which, if you're in favor of same-sex weddings, bake the same-sex wedding cake or take the flowers, but if you're against them, don't be coerced by the government," he said.
Anderson also criticized Bruni for saying religious freedom should only be protected in "pews, homes and hearts."
Bruni's characterization of religious freedom is part of a larger effort to redefine religious liberty to only include freedom of worship, Anderson claimed, "and thankfully the Supreme Court has rejected that argument repeatedly, most recently in the Hobby Lobby decision."
"The free exercise of religion is not limited to our homes, our pews and our hearts," he said. "Michelle Obama has probably said this best when she said, 'religious faith is also what we do Monday through Saturday.'"
Thursday, January 15, 2015
January 14, 2015|2:54 pm | The Christian Post|
A Texas district court judge has rejected the Mayor of Houston's motion to forgo a jury trial in the "Houston pastors" lawsuit, which seeks to force the city to allow voters decide whether or not to overturn a transgender rights ordinance, which allows self-identified transgenders to use bathrooms designated for the opposite sex.
The lawsuit looks to require Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the city to act on a petition, started by conservative Houston-area pastors and activists, calling for a voter referendum to allow the people of Houston to decide whether the ordinance, which passed last May, should stay or go.
Although the city's secretary Anna Russell verified that the petition had exceeded the amount of signatures needed to force the referendum, Parker refused to put the initiative on the ballot during last November's election.
Harris County District Court Judge Robert Schaffer ruled on Tuesday that the lawsuit against Parker and the city will indeed go to jury trial. The judge's ruling comes after Mayor Annise Parker, who is a lesbian, filed three motions earlier this month, all of which were rejected by the court.
The first motion Parker filed asked the judge to throw out the case completely on legal ground. The second motion asked to forgo a jury trial and instead have a bench trial, which would have taken the decision out of the citizens' hands again. And, the third motion asked for an appointed "special master" to review the case in place of judge and jury.
The plaintiffs' attorney, Andy Taylor, told The Christian Post that the mayor's third motion was simply to a ploy to stall the case because it would have taken such an appointed master at least three to six months to get caught up with the case.
"We are very pleased that a jury of ordinary citizens will get to tell Mayor Parker that she cannot block an election to repeal her ill conceived bathroom ordinance." Taylor said. "The mayor's refusal to let the people vote on her bathroom ordinance is totally devoid of any merit whatsoever. That's what she attempted here, at the last second, to prevent a jury from hearing the case."
The lawsuit gained national prominence when Parker subpoenaed sermons of five Houston pastors. Although she later withdrew the subpoenas, it was not before she received national scrutiny for doing so.
Steven Riggle, one of the five pastors who was subpoenaed by Parker and founder of the Houston mega church, Grace Community Church, was not keen of the idea of Parker trying to take away the right to a jury trial.
"In addition to taking away the constitutional voting rights of one million people in Houston, the mayor is trying to take away our constitutional right to a jury trial," Riggle asserted to a gathering of city council members. "As a citizen of Houston for over 30 years and community leader, I feel our city has suffered enough national embarrassment over this issue when what we have asked for all along is to simply let the people decide. It seems as if the city didn't learn anything from the national outrage over the subpoenas issued to pastors in our community."
Even after the national criticism, Taylor said Parker still "doesn't seem to get it."
"She is supposed to represent the people. And yet, she has, in this case, done everything in her power to block and mute the people from any involvement in this ill conceived bathroom ordinance," Taylor asserted. "When you put the two issues side-by-side on the scales of justice, you have got Mayor Parker, who has her own private agenda because of her sexaul orientation, on the one hand, then you have got the right of the people in the fourth largest city in the United States that want to express their sentiments by way of an election."
Plaintiff Joe Woodfill, who is one of four plaintiffs in the case, told The Houston Chronicle that Parker's actions are insinuating that the people of Houston are not capable of making such a decision.
"What [the city] is really saying is that they don't think the people are smart enough to make that decision. Whether it 's been having the voters vote or now allowing the jury to decide," Woodfill said.
Taylor added that there will be a phone conference with the judge on Thursday and he expects that timetable for the trial will be laid out then. Taylor does not expect this trial to start any earlier than Jan. 20.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
January 13, 2015|2:00 pm | The Christian Post|
A florist in Washington State who refused to provide floral arrangements to a gay couple for their same-sex wedding ceremony, due to her religious objection to such a union, can now legally be sued personally by the state's attorney general's office, a judge in the state has determined.
Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom ruled last week that the state may bring a consumer protection lawsuit against Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, as she is being accused of violating the Consumer Protection Act when she declined to provide floral arrangements to a regular customer's same-sex wedding because it went against her Christian beliefs.
The judge's decision means that Stutzman remains at risk of suffering a serious personal financial hit and potential loss of her business. Ekstrom has set the trial date for March 23.
"The clear language of the Consumer Protection Act and state anti-discrimination law supports both corporation and individual liability," Ekstrom said in explaining his decision.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, an advocacy group defending religious expression and also representing Stutzman, filed amotion stating that state law does not allow for a person to be sued personally for actions taken under business capacity. The organization also argues that Stutzman did not discriminate against the customer because she has served him flowers many times in the past.
"Washington law does not allow someone to attack a business officer personally rather than just sue the business absent such exceptional circumstances as when the officer knowingly engaged in fraud, misrepresentation or theft,'" the motion states.
Stutzman was approached in 2012 by one of her frequent customers, Robert Ingersoll, and he asked her to supply the flowers for his wedding ceremony, where he would marry his partner, Curt Freed. She politely told him that she could not provide the arrangements to that event without conflicting with her deeply-held religious belief that homosexuality is sin.
"I just took his hands and said, 'I'm sorry. I cannot do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ," Stutzman told reporters.
After Ingersoll posted on Facebook about his denial at the flower shop, Stutzman began receiving a number of threatening letters, emails and phone calls from LGBT activists.
"It blew way out of proportion," Stutzman said. "I've had hate mail, I've had people that want to burn my building. I've had people that will never shop here again and [vow to] tell their friends."
A few weeks after the incident, the state's Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent Stutzman a letter saying that she must handle floral arrangements for homosexual marriages and ordered her to comply with the state anti-discrimination law. Ferguson threatened legal action if Stutzman did not comply, which she refused to do so.
Two lawsuits were filed against Stutzman, one from Ferguson's office and the other from the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ADF motion also states that the attorney general's office involvement against Stutzman is unwarranted because no complaint was filed before he pressed violation charges.
"This court should reject the Attorney General's illegitimate claim of authority to bring this action," the motion states. "Accordingly, this court should dismiss the complaint filed by the State of Washington for lack of primary jurisdiction, failure to exhaust administrative remedies as required by law, and lack of standing."
As the Family Policy Network of Washington states, the judge's decision means that the state can go after the business assets of Arlene's Flowers and the personal assets of Stutzman in order to collect attorney's fees if their lawsuit is successful.
"In America, the government is supposed to protect freedom, not intimidate citizens into speaking and acting contrary to their faith under threat of severe punishment," Kristen Waggoner, the ADF attorney representing Stutzman, said. "The government is sending a clear message to Barronelle and the people of Washington: Dare to disagree with the government and you put your home, your family business and your life savings at risk."
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
January 13, 2015|7:57 am| The Christian Post|
A Colorado Civil Rights Commissioner has said that a Christian cake company's decision to invoke religious freedom rights to refuse to bake a pro-gay marriage cake is comparable to slavery and the perpetrators of the Holocaust.
Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal firm representing Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, said that such comparisons have "no place in civil society."
"Such alarming bias and hostility toward Jack's religious beliefs — and toward religion in general — has no place in civil society, let alone on a governmental commission that sits in judgment of whether he may follow his faith in how he runs his business," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco.
"Commissioner [Diann] Rice compared a private citizen who owns a small bakery to slaveholders and Holocaust perpetrators merely for asking that the state respect his right to free speech and free exercise of religion. Her comments suggest that others on the commission may share her view. This anti-religious bigotry undermines the integrity of the entire process and the commission's order as well."
Rice's comments apparently stem from a July 25, 2014, commission, which ordered Phillips to re-educate himself and his employees about marriage.
"I would also like to reiterate what we said in … the last meeting [concerning Jack Phillips]. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust. … I mean, we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination," Rice said back then.
"And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use — to use their religion to hurt others."
Phillips was asked in 2012 by Charlie Craig and David Mullions to bake a cake for their wedding reception. Although the cake artist agreed to make them other baked items, he said that because of his Christian beliefs, he could not fulfill the request to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.
Craig and Mullions then filed a complaint with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union against Phillips, which led to the Colorado Civil Rights Division determining that Masterpiece Cakeshop had discriminated against the couple.
"The undisputed facts show that (Phillips) discriminated against complainants because of their sexual orientation by refusing to sell them a wedding cake for their same-sex marriage," wrote Administrative Law Judge Robert N. Spencer in his decision in December 2013.
Phillips has since stopped baking any wedding cakes for either straight or same-sex couples as a result of the decision.
ADF legal counsel Nicolle Martin added that contrary to Rice's views, the U.S. Supreme Court has not found sexual orientation to be a status equivalent to race.
"The First Amendment plainly forbids this type of religious bias, which together with the commission's demonstrated misstatements of constitutional law raises serious questions about their judgment," Martin said.
"Jack should not be forced by the government, or by another citizen, to endorse or promote ideas with which he disagrees. But it's worse when he is forced to do so by one or more officials who make serious errors in their legal analysis and justify coercing the speech of a private citizen by citing their own hostility to religion."
Monday, January 12, 2015
January 12, 2015|10:34 am| The Christian Post|
A bill has been introduced in the Texas Legislature that if enacted would strip the salary of any Texas-government employee who issues a marriage license to a same-sex couple.
Known as House Bill 623, the recently introduced bill declares that no state funds will go to the distribution of gay marriage licenses.
"State or local taxpayer funds or governmental salaries may not be used for an activity that includes the licensing or support of same-sex marriage," reads HB 623.
"If an employee violates this subsection, the employee may not continue to receive a salary, pension, or other employee benefit at the expense of the taxpayers of this State."
Also called the "Texas Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act," HB 623 was filed last week by Republican State Representative Cecil Bell of Magnolia.
In a statement regarding the proposed legislation, Rep. Bell said that HB 623 was part of his obligation to represent the interests of the people who elected him.
"When I was elected, I made a promise to my constituents to fight to protect our traditional values and to stand strong in the defense of our constitutional rights as Texans and Americans," stated Bell.
"We as Texans voted in 2005 to define marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. In Texas marriage is sacred and traditional families are recognized as the fabric of our society."
In 2005, Texas voters approved Proposition 2, which added an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as being only between one man and one woman.
Debate over HB 623 comes as a legal challenge to the Lone Star State's marriage amendment makes it way to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Last February, a federal judge struck down an amendment to Texas' state constitution defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.
San Antonio Judge Orlando L. Garcia of United States District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled that the amendment violated the U.S. Constitution.
"While significant, Judge Garcia's ruling will have no immediate effect on gay and lesbian couples wishing to marry in Texas," reported the New York Times back in Feb. 2014.
"The judge issued a stay on his decision while the state appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans."
Texas filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit, which is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the appeal on Friday.
Regarding HB 623, the LGBT group Equality Texas has denounced the proposed legislation and has called on activists to contact Bell and express their opposition to his bill.
"HB 623 punishes state employees who would follow the law by issuing marriage licenses to loving couples. The bill would also attempt to exempt the State of Texas from constitutional requirements," reads an "Action Alert" from the group.
"Tell Cecil Bell that Texas and Texans respect the constitution, respect the rule of law and respect the right of loving couples to make their own decisions absent unnecessary government intervention."
Thursday, January 8, 2015
January 7, 2015|1:26 pm
An ex-gay organization is planning legal action against the District of Columbia for its recent banning of conversion therapy, also called Sexual Orientation Change Efforts therapy, for minors.
Voice of the Voiceless, an organization focused on ex-gay rights and recognition, is in the early stages of planning to bring legal action against the government of the nation's Capital over the recently passed bill.
Christopher Doyle, president and co-founder of VoV, told The Christian Post that at present they are seeking a plaintiff to bring a case against the new law.
"We are still seeking a plaintiff (minor and their family) who has been disenfranchised by this law in the District, but at this point, we cannot find a licensed practitioner who even practices SOCE therapy in the District, nor can we identify a client who has been disenfranchised," said Doyle.
Doyle also told CP that he believed the new law, B20-0501, violates the District's Human Rights Act as it curbs options for minors with unwanted same-sex attraction.
"The discrimination this law will enact will actually violate Washington, DC's Human Rights Act, which provides protection against sexual orientation discrimination towards those who identify as ex-gay in theDistrict. This would apply to minors who have unwanted SSA and seek change," said Doyle.
"Churches and faith-based organizations ... should contact our organization if they feel one of their member's families or children would like to see SOCE therapy in the District but cannot because of the law, and we will assist them in finding legal counsel."
Known called the "Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Amendment Act of 2014," the bill was introduced by Councilmember Mary M. Cheh in October 2013.
B20-0501 amended the Mental Health Service Delivery Reform Act of 2001 with the intention of barring SOCE therapy for minors.
Sometimes called "conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy," SOCE therapy seeks to change the sexual preferences of a patient from homosexual to heterosexual.
"A provider shall not engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a consumer who is a minor," read the bill.
"A violation … shall be considered a failure to conform to acceptable conduct within the mental health profession under section 514(a)(26) of the District of Columbia Health Occupation Revision Act of 1985, effective March 26, 1986 … and shall subject a provider to discipline and penalties under 514(c) of the District of Columbia Health Occupation Revision Act of 1985."
The bill was referred to the Committee on Health in October 2013, but was not given a notice of public hearing until several months later in May of 2014.
Last summer, the bill was given a public hearing where both proponents and opponents of the SOCE therapy gave testimony to the Council.
In early December, DC Council voted unanimously in favor of the bill, with the expectation being that Mayor Vincent Gray would sign the bill into law.
Later that month Mayor Gray did just that, giving remarks before signing the bill outside his office before a crowd that included LGBT activists.
"I am proud to sign a bill that protects youth and their families from the discredited practice of conversion therapy," stated Gray, as reported by the Washington Blade.
The District of Columbia joins California and New Jersey as the three jurisdictions in the United States that prohibit SOCE therapy for minors.
Similar measures have failed, however, in several other states including Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, and Virginia, have blocked or withdrawn similar proposed pieces of legislation.
"The decision by the Council and the Mayor signing this bill into law is completely political," said Doyle regarding the DC law.
"We have repeatedly requested information to substantiate the allegations of the those who testified against SOCE, and the Council has refused to investigate these claims of 'abuse' and 'coercion' from those who testified, nor have they made any effort to verify whether these stories are true, to our knowledge."
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
What do Americans think about marriage and relationships? And do these attitudes line up with what research shows is best for relationships?
A new, nationally representative survey of Americans ages 18-60 by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture helps answer this question.
What Americans Say about Cohabitation
The Austin Institute survey revealed that 44 percent of Americans believe it is a good idea for couples to live together before marriage, with another 30 percent remaining neutral on the matter. Only 25 percent disagreed that cohabitation is a good idea.
What the Research Says
Researchers find time and again that cohabitation is on average connected to increased risk of divorce. The connection between cohabitation and poorer relationship quality is likely partly due to selection: those who cohabit are those who would be more prone to divorce anyway.
But research also suggests that cohabitation itself appears to contribute to lower marital quality. Part of the reason is that cohabiting couples may be more likely to “slide” into marriage since they are already living together, even when the relationship isn’t necessarily the most suitable for marriage.
What Americans Say about Sexual Relationships
Respondents reported an average of between 4 and 6 lifetime sexual partners.
What the Research Shows
The number of sexual partners a person has matters when it comes to marital happiness down the road. Men and women who only have sex with the person they marry report higher marital quality. Furthermore, the timing of sex in a relationship makes a difference: couples who wait until they are married to have sex also report better marital quality.
What Americans Say About Marriage
Most Americans, even younger Americans, disagreed that marriage is an outdated institution. Overall, 66 percent disagreed that marriage is an outdated institution, with only 10 percent agreeing that it is. Furthermore, most couples in cohabiting relationships said they wanted to get married. The large majority–74 percent– of Americans also said infidelity is unacceptable
What the Research Shows
The survey results coincided with what other research finds: a majority of young Americans say getting married is important to them. Additionally, marriage is connected with better outcomes for adults, children and society. Married individuals are, on average, happier, healthier and wealthier, and children do best when raised by their married mother and father.
Yet, there has been a significant decline in marriage rates. What’s more, there is a growing marriage divide today: marriage seems to be turning into an elite institution with marriage becoming less common in lower-income and working-class communities. This is alarming considering marriage provides economic stability and promotes social mobility. As marriage rates have declined, unwed childbearing has increased, putting children at greater risk for poverty and other negative outcomes.
Strong marriages and families are foundational to a thriving and stable society. Perhaps more importantly, successful marriage and family relationships are tied to the happiness of adults and children. Unfortunately, cultural norms today often promote practices–such as cohabitation and sexual experimentation–that can hinder successful marriage relationships.
Helping people better understand what will give them the greatest likelihood of achieving a healthy and stable marriage is much needed, particularly in communities where marriage has declined most. There are some efforts taking place–such as First Things First in Chattanooga, Tennessee that provides marriage education, or the Love & Fidelity Network that seeks to help college students counteract the hookup culture–but more effort is needed at every level to help restore a culture of marriage.