Tuesday, July 1, 2014
June 30, 2014
The group Texas Values Action holds a demonstration against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
An effort to repeal a controversial anti-discrimination ordinance in Houston, Texas, that purportedly would allow men to use women's bathrooms has until Thursday to garner enough signatures to be considered or put to a vote on the November ballot.
In May, after an 11-hour meeting, the Houston City Council approved an "Equal Rights Ordinance" by a vote of 11 to 6. The ERO amends Chapters 2, 15 and 17 of Houston's Code of Ordinances, prohibiting discrimination in public facilities and private employment on the basis of "protected characteristics."
Critics of ERO have claimed that it will have several unintended consequences, such as allowing transgendered men to use women's bathrooms.
"The city has admitted that the public accommodation section of the anti-religious liberty ordinance will protect men who want to use women's bathrooms if they dress up as women,"Jonathan Saenz, a conservative activist and president of the pro-repeal group Texas Values Action, told The Christian Post.
Saenz also noted that there are strong concerns about the ordinance, especially regarding the issue of religious liberty for business owners.
"City Attorney David Feldman admitted at a public hearing that this ordinance will be used to prosecute photographers who do not want to participate in photographing same-sex wedding-like ceremonies," he said.
The label of protected characteristics includes race, color, ethnicity, sex, national origin, age, familial and marital status, military status, religion, disability, genetic information, pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The deadline for repeal was initially presumed to be last Friday, but has been extended to Thursday, July 3.
"Further information became available to determine that the official publication date of the new law was June 3, so we have 30 days from that point to collect and submit signatures," explained Saenz.
While not commenting on the exact number of signatures gathered as of Monday, Saenz told CP that he was confident that they will have enough names to challenge the ordinance.
"We remain optimistic that we will have the 17,000 signatures needed to force the city to repeal the ordinance or place the ordinance on the November ballot," said Saenz.
"If we do in fact secure the necessary amount of signatures, the city will be forced to suspend the enforcement of the ordinance."
While Houston city government officials declined to provide comment to CP about the movement to repeal the ordinance, Annise Parker, the city's openly gay mayor, described its significance to MSNBC soon after she signed the ordinance into law.
"It is by no means the most important thing I will accomplish as mayor,"said Parker to MSNBC in late May. "But it is personally meaningful to me because I understand what the hundreds of people who came before Council to describe their experience and the pain and discrimination they face daily."
The ordinance provides certain exemptions, including entities owned by a "bona fide private club," groups like any "social, fraternal, educational, civic or religious organization," state and federal government facilities and military discounts.
Friday, June 27, 2014
June 26, 2014|8:10 am
Plaintiffs Derek Kitchen (L-R) and Moudi Sbeity and Kate Call and Karen Archer talk outside the courthouse after a federal appeals court heard oral arguments on a Utah state law forbidding same sex marriage in Denver in an April 10, 2014 file photo.
Utah and Indiana became the latest U.S. states to see their bans on same-sex marriage struck down following separate rulings in federal court on Wednesday.
"It is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of love and commitment of same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples," a three-judge panel in the Utah case said while upholding a lower court ruling, NPR reported.
Back in December, Utah briefly became the 18th state where gay couples received the right to marry, after a federal district judge ruled that the state's same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. The decision was then put on hold pending appeals, though more than 1,300 gay and lesbian couples managed to get married before that.
Wednesday's decision, which resulted from a 2-1 split decision, has been put on hold, pending appeal which could go directly to the Supreme Court.
In Indiana, District Judge Richard Young, who also upheld a lower court ruling, added: "Same-sex couples, who would otherwise qualify to marry in Indiana, have the right to marry in Indiana. ... These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such."
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has filed a notice of appeal and an emergency request for a stay of Young's order, The Courier-Journal reported.
"Until the United States Supreme Court determines that traditional marriage laws such as Indiana's are unconstitutional, it is premature to require Indiana to change its definition of marriage and abide by this court's conception of marriage," the attorney general wrote in the request for stay. "Nonetheless, marriages in violation of Indiana's existing law have taken place, are taking place, and will continue to take place pursuant to this court's order."
Traditional marriage groups, such as the National Organization for Marriage, which last week staged the March for Marriage event in Washington D.C., said that they disagree with the decisions but do not find it surprising.
"The elected representatives of the people of Indiana have decided, for good and proper reasons, to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It is judicial activism for a single judge to substitute his own views on marriage for the considered opinion of the people's representatives," NOM President Brian Brown said in a statement.
"This is just the latest example of activism from the federal bench, but we fully expect this decision to eventually be reversed when the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the right of states to define marriage as a man and a woman. In the meantime, it is imperative that the state legislature move forward a state constitutional amendment preserving marriage so that the people always remain in control of the definition of marriage in Indiana."
Brown also praised Justice Paul Kelly's dissent in the Kitchen v. Herbert case in Utah, where the judge argued that the people of the state have the right to decide the issue for themselves.
"And while the Court has recognized a fundamental right to marriage, every decision vindicating that right has involved two persons of the opposite gender. Indeed, the Court has been less than solicitious of plural marriages or polygamy," Kelly wrote.
"If the States are the laboratories of democracy, requiring every state to recognize same-gender unions—contrary to the views of its electorate and representatives—turns the notion of a limited national government on its head."
Earlier in June, Wisconsin also saw it's same-sex marriage ban declared unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb neither stayed the ruling nor clarified when it takes effect, however, making it unclear whether gay licenses could be immediately issued.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
June 25, 2014
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday to express disappointment in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a denomination to which he belongs, for its recent decisions to bless same-sex marriages in states where it is legal, and to divest from three American companies whose products are sold to Israel.
See his full remarks here: http://cs.pn/TtkPEF
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
June 24, 2014
Brian Brown, president of National Organization for Marriage, addresses supporters of a traditional marriage rally at Utah's State Capitol building in Salt Lake City, Utah January 28, 2014.
The Internal Revenue Service will pay $50,000 to the National Organization for Marriage due to the leaking of its confidential tax documents to the Human Rights Campaign.
The judgment means that the IRS has now admitted that it was the source of the confidential information, John Eastman, chairman of NOM and part of the legal team that brought the suit, explained in a Tuesday phone interview with The Christian Post.
In 2012, HRC published confidential tax documents listing 2008 NOM donors.
The two groups are political opponents. HRC supports redefining marriage to include same-sex couples while NOM supports the traditional definition of marriage.
The list included former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who, it was clear at the time, would become the Republican presidential nominee. Several liberal news sites, such as The Huffington Post, republished the list.
After the list was published, Joe Solmonese left his position as president of HRC to become national co-chairman of President Barack Obama's re-election campaign. In that new position, he criticized Romney for donating to NOM's defense of marriage efforts. Romney, he argued, helped fund "a hate-filled campaign."
Someone at the IRS gave the confidential documents to Matthew Meisel, a gay rights activist, the lawsuit revealed through emails between Meisel and a colleague. When asked to testify, Meisel invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself and refused to reveal who at the IRS provided him with the documents.
While admitting guilt, the IRS claims the release of the documents was an inadvertent mistake because it failed to redact the confidential information. This story, though, is inconsistent with the Meisel emails in which he claimed to know a "conduit" within the IRS to obtain the information, Eastman said.
NOM has asked the Department of Justice to offer immunity to Meisel so that he can reveal his source within the IRS without fear of prosecution. Justice has said it will neither pursue prosecution of nor offer immunity to Meisel.
NOM will be looking into how to proceed with future cases, Eastman added. There are other potential civil actions that NOM could pursue, including suing Meisel, HRC or The Huffington Post.
While HRC quickly removed the confidential information from its website after NOM informed HRC the documents were confidential, the documents are still available at The Huffington Post. Under federal law, it is a felony to publish tax documents that are known to be confidential.
Monday, June 23, 2014
By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 6/23/14
COLD SPRING, N.Y. — New York's first openly gay member of Congress has married his longtime partner.
Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney exchanged vows Saturday with Randy Gene Florke at the Church of St. Mary-in-the-Highlands in Cold Spring.
Florke proposed in December after the youngest of their three children wrote to Santa wishing for her parents to be married.
The 47-year-old Maloney represents the lower Hudson Valley region. He is one of two members of Congress married to a same-sex partner.
The 51-year-old Florke is a real estate and design executive at a New York City firm he founded in 1996.
They've been together 22 years and have three children, ages 11 to 24.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent congratulations via Twitter.
Friday, June 20, 2014
June 20, 2014|5:30 am
Crowds marching from the U.S. Capitol Building to the U.S. Supreme Court as part of the second annual March for Marriage, held in Washington on Thursday, June 19, 2014.
WASHINGTON – Only recently out of "personal passions" have people tried to change the definition of marriage, and that is not a valid reason to change such a long-lasting institution, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee told The Christian Post while at the Second Annual March for Marriage on Thursday
History has one definition for marriage, said Huckabee, who was a featured speaker at the event.
"If we look at history, history has only one real view and that is marriage is between one man and one woman," Huckabee explained. "You don't have a lot of history of any other version of marriage and when you do, it doesn't last very long."
He also told CP that he opted to speak at the March for Marriage as a way of showing that he and other social conservatives support something rather than oppose.
"I think it's so important that people of faith, and frankly even people who believe that marriage is the foundation and cornerstone of society, are here," said Huckabee. "Not to express what we're against, because this isn't about being against something. This is about being for marriage. And that's why we're here."
Crowds gather at the Second Annual March for Marriage, held outside the U.S. Capitol Building on Thursday, June 19, 2014.
Held outside of the U.S. Capitol Building, the Second Annual March for Marriage brought thousands of people from across the country to demonstrate for traditional marriage.
Sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage, the event was also officially supported by other groups including the Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council, The Frederick Douglas Foundation, Concerned Women for America, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and the Coalition of African-American Pastors.
Among the diverse audience, a large number of Hispanics were in attendance and the rally reflected this ethnic presence.
Many of the presentations and rally signs were in Spanish as well as English, with hundreds of people from the crowd periodically participating in Spanish chants. "Quien vive?" (who lives?) shouted one of the speakers. "Cristo!" (Christ!), replied the audience.
Crowds gather at the second annual March for Marriage event held outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 19, 2014.
As busloads of attendees arrived, a contemporary Christian band led worship with NOM President Brian Brown giving opening remarks and introducing the various speakers.
In their assorted remarks, speakers stressed the importance of children having a mother and a father, addressing throngs of attendees on Thursday morning.
After the speeches, the rally concluded and the large number of demonstrators marched to the nearby United States Supreme Court building.
Crowds marching from the U.S. Capitol to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington as part of the second annual March for Marriage on Thursday, June 19, 2014.
Christopher Plante, spokesman with NOM, told CP before the official start of the rally that they were "thrilled" by the turnout already apparent as they arrived at the site.
"We're very excited, we came in on the bus just a few minutes ago to see all these people already here an hour early," said Plante, who stressed that the marriage definition debate was not over.
"It's absolutely not over. The battle for marriage, family is just beginning here. We will make a stand today," said Plante. "They can send a message to the Supreme Court, to the Congress that we want marriage defended in the law, politics, and culture."
In addition to Huckabee, others who spoke below the Capitol Dome included Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; the Rev. Ruben Diaz, New York State Senator and president of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization; Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., founder and president of the High Impact Leadership Coalition; and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
June 17, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington June 13, 2014. Obama said on Friday he will take several days to review options for how the United States can help Iraq deal with a militant insurgency, saying any action would need significant involvement by Iraq itself.
Some Christian groups are worried that President Barack Obama's forthcoming executive order guaranteeing the protection of LGBT individuals from employment discrimination with businesses that have federal contracts may not have sufficient religious liberty protections.
While the order has not yet been written up, concerns have been leveled by various individuals that the order might not include a religious exemption and would force faith-based groups to engage in hiring practices that are in opposition to the teachings of their faith.
"The big question is: will the Executive Order drive out faith-based organizations out of federal contracting?" Stanley Carlson-Thies, founder and president of Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, wrote in an email to supporters. "The federal government doesn't contract only for aircraft carriers, janitorial services, and IT expertise. It also contracts for research, consulting, and technical assistance, and, increasingly, for social services-particularly USAID and the Bureau of Prisons contract for social services."
In a statement released Tuesday, American Family Association President Tim Wildmon said he believed the move will further threaten Christian businesses.
"If the proposed order is issued, a Christian who owns a business that contracts with the federal government will not be able to use homosexuality or transgender identity as factor in employment decisions, regardless of the business owner's faith convictions," stated Wildmon.
"Furthermore, religious organizations that contract with the government to provide social services such as adoption assistance, disaster relief, health care navigation, preschool education, drug rehabilitation and prison ministry, would be required to hire homosexuals against their convictions."
Wildmon also stated that the "existing Executive Order that governs employment nondiscrimination by federal contractors requires that the contractors maintain an Affirmative Action Program actively to recruit members of protected groups."
"If lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals are now considered a 'protected group,' then what's to stop the government from trying to force Christian businesses to actively recruit them as the price of contracting with the federal government?" said Wildmon.
The executive order is coming in part due to the failure of numerous attempts by LGBT groups to have the United States Congress pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
For decades, ENDA has been introduced into Congress only to be voted down by either the Senate or House of Representatives.
The most recent ENDA bill was introduced in 2013 by Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and included a religious exemption. Last fall the Senate voted 61 to 30 to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, a move seen as historic.
However Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio declared his intention to kill ENDA once it went to the lower house.
"The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
Advocates for federal antidiscrimination legislation akin to ENDA or the executive order include the LGBT group the Human Rights Campaign.
Fred Sainz, vice president of Communications and Marketing at HRC, told The Christian Post that he felt the proposed executive order "provides much needed protections."
"The proposed executive order provides much needed protections to American workers who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," said Sainz.
"The most American value of them all is to work and provide for your family and this executive order will provide protections to ensure that can happen."
Regarding concerns about religious exemptions, Sainz told CP that since there is no present draft of the executive order, "the question of religious protections is premature."
Monday, June 16, 2014
June 14, 2014|8:29 am
A federal judge "reluctantly" put same-sex marriages in Wisconsin on hold on Friday, a week after she struck down the state's gay nuptial ban as unconstitutional allowing nearly 600 licenses to be issued.
"After seeing the expressions of joy on the faces of so many newly wedded couples featured in media reports, I find it difficult to impose a stay on the event that is responsible for eliciting that emotion, even if the stay is only temporary," wrote U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, who struck down the 2006 ban on same-sex marriage in a June 6 order without staying the ruling or clarifying if it takes effect immediately.
As a result, nearly 600 same-sex couples were granted marriage licenses in 60 counties in Wisconsin in the past week, according to USA Today. Another 12 counties declined to issue licenses.
On Friday, Crabb took note of the confusion that the ruling had created among county officials, but also indicated she was not responsible for it.
"They may have acted and they may have acted in response, but they did not act because I told them they could," she was quoted by Christian Science Monitor as telling lawyers in the hearing. "I never said anything about whether any county clerk could go forward with issuing a marriage license," she said. "That hasn't been decided."
The judge added, "Same-sex couples have waited many years to receive equal treatment under the law, so it is understandable that they do not want to wait any longer. However, a federal district court is required to follow the guidance provided by the Supreme Court."
The judge said she is having to grant the stay due to a U.S. Supreme Court stay that stopped gay couples from marrying in Utah after a federal judge struck down that state's ban in December.
"By staying this ruling, she has confirmed that Wisconsin's law regarding same-sex marriage remains in full force and effect," Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, was quoted as saying.
Van Hollen also said his office will appeal Crabb's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
John Knight, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who filed the case on behalf of same-sex couples, said they will quickly appeal the stay.
"In light of the decision of some county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, I will be filing emergency motions in the federal courts to stay Judge Crabb's order," the attorney general said after the June 6 ruling. "The United States Supreme Court, after a referral from Justice Sotomayor, stayed a lower court's decision striking down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage. There is no reason to believe the Supreme Court would treat Wisconsin's ban any differently."
Van Hollen said the decision is a "setback." "We'll continue to defend the constitutionality of our traditional marriage laws and the constitutional amendment, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters," he said.
Federal judges in many states have struck down state amendments and laws banning same-sex marriage as unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court last June squashed a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.
Same-sex marriage is currently recognized in 19 states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – and the District of Columbia.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
June 6, 2014: Jill Winkler, left, and Pamela Dietzler exchange rings as they are married at the Milwaukee County Courthouse in Milwaukee.AP
MADISON, Wis. – Same-sex couples began getting married in Wisconsin on Friday shortly after a federal judge struck down the state's gay marriage ban and despite confusion over the effect of the ruling.
Clerks in Madison and Milwaukee began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, a little over an hour after the judge released her ruling. Judges were on hand at both courthouses to perform ceremonies.
"I'm still up in the clouds!" Shari Roll said shortly after she married Renee Currie just a block from the state Capitol.
Court officials conducted the marriages even though Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the ruling did not clear the way for weddings to begin and sought an sought an emergency order in federal court to stop them. Van Hollen said confusion and uncertainty had resulted from the judge's decision and the status quo must be preserved.
In Milwaukee, Jose Fernando Gutierrez and Matthew Schreck married outside the county clerk's office in what was possibly the first gay marriage in the state. About 45 minutes later, Currie and Roll got married in Madison.
Clerks were keeping their offices open until 9 p.m. in Madison and Milwaukee to issue marriage licenses. It wasn't immediately known whether marriages were happening elsewhere in Wisconsin.
Andrew Warner, a minister at Plymouth Church in Milwaukee, married longtime partner Jay Edmundson, then performed a wedding for two members of his church, Christopher Martell and Mark Williams. Gutierrez and Schreck, who attend the same church, served as witnesses.
"I always felt like we were second-class citizens in not being able to get married," said Warner. "And now I feel good about my state in a way I haven't before."
Williams said he and Martell had assembled documents needed to get a license in anticipation of a ruling. They expected there to be a narrow window before a court halted the ceremonies.
"It definitely matters to us to have confidence that our relationship will be respected," Williams said.
In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb declared the gay marriage ban unconstitutional. But she also created confusion by asking the couples who sued to describe exactly what they wanted her to block in the law. She said she would later decide whether to put her decision on hold while it is appealed.
Attorney Larry Dupuis, who represented the couples who sued, said the ACLU would respond to Crabb next week, and he expected her to then issue an order for the state to allow marriages.
Voters amended the Wisconsin Constitution in 2006 to outlaw gay marriage or anything substantially similar. The ACLU filed a lawsuit this February saying the ban violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. It said the eight couples named in the suit and others like them had been deprived of legal protections that married couples enjoy simply because of their gender.
Gay rights activists have won 15 consecutive lower court cases since a landmark Supreme Court ruling last summer, with Wisconsin being the latest. Many of those rulings are being appealed.
"This case is not about whether marriages between same-sex couples are consistent or inconsistent with the teachings of a particular religion, whether such marriages are moral or immoral or whether they are something that should be encouraged or discouraged," Crabb wrote in the Wisconsin ruling. "It is not even about whether the plaintiffs in this case are as capable as opposite-sex couples of maintaining a committed and loving relationship or raising a family together.
"Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality, the two cornerstones of the rights protected by the United States Constitution."
Three of the couples who sued gathered at a bar in Milwaukee, where the gay festival PrideFest opened Friday. They celebrated with family and friends, who brought T-shirts with the message, "love wins."
Garth Wangemann, 58, and Roy Badger, 56, said they are eager to be married -- they have their clothes picked out -- but OK with waiting a bit longer. They said they had come a long way since the days when banks wouldn't give them a joint checking account and landlords didn't want to rent to them.
"We all wanted the day to come where young people (can) now take it for granted, they can marry the person they love," Wangemann said.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
June 6, 2014|2:59 pm
An 18-year-old Pakistani woman survived being shot twice and thrown in a canal by her family in an attempted honor killing for marrying the man that she loved.
"It is an honor-related incident," local police chief Ali Akbar told Reuters.
"The victim, Saba [Maqsood] ... married her neighbor Muhammad Qaiser for love five days ago against the wishes of her family. They took her to Hafizabad, shot her twice and threw her in the canal after putting her in a sack, presuming that she was dead."
Maqsood was apparently attacked by her father, uncle, brother and aunt and thrown into the waterway in the city of Hafizabad in Punjab province.
The woman survived, however, and was helped by two passersby after she regained consciousness and managed to struggle to the bank. She has wounds in her cheek and right hand, Akbar added.
"She is a brave girl. She came out of the canal and approached a nearby fuel station from where a rescue team rushed her to [a] hospital," he said.
The attack happened a little over a week following the honor killing of a pregnant Pakistani woman, who was stoned to death by nearly 20 members of her family, also for marrying a man against her family's wishes.
Farzana Parveen, the slain 25-year-old woman, is said to have beenthree months pregnant when her father, brothers, and other family members attacked her and her husband, before killing her with bricks in broad daylight.
The father, Mohammad Azeem, was arrested by police.
"I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it," Police investigator Rana Mujahid quoted the father as saying.
While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has condemned such honor killings and called for "immediate action" on these cases, polls on Pakistani attitudes have shown that a significant number do believe such killings can be justified.
A 2011 Pew Research Center survey found that 40 percent of respondents believe that to protect a family's honor, a woman who engages in premarital sex or adultery can be killed.
The survey did not, however, ask about children marrying without the consent of their parents, which was the case in both killings these past couple of weeks.