State senators in Arizona voted heavily along partisan lines Wednesday in passing a bill that allows business owners to refuse service to homosexuals based on their religious beliefs.
With Republicans in the majority, the bill, SB 1062, passed with a 17-13 vote. It defeated attempts to expand existing employment laws which protect against racial and religious discrimination to include sexual orientation, according to theArizona Daily Star. A companion bill is also expected to pass in the House shortly.
Republican Sen. Steve Yarbrough explained that the decision to support the measure is more about protecting people of faith from discrimination rather that discriminating against homosexuals.
"This bill is not about discrimination," said Yarbrough who is a sponsor of the bill. "It's about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith."
The Arizona Senate Democratic Caucus responded in a statement that the group opposes the bill because it "conflates discrimination with religious freedom."
"SB 1062 permits discrimination under the guise of religious freedom," said Senate Democratic Leader Anna Tovar in the statement. "With the express consent of Republicans in this Legislature, many Arizonans will find themselves members of a separate and unequal class under this law because of their sexual orientation. This bill may also open the door to discriminate based on race, familial status, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability."
Democratic Sen. Steve Gallardo who represents Phoenix said while everyone has the right to their religious beliefs he doesn't agree with the premise of SB 1062.
"I do not agree that we have the right to discriminate because of our religious beliefs," said Gallardo. "I do not believe we have to throw our religious beliefs to others that don't share our same beliefs."
Arizona currently has laws protecting individuals and businesses from any state action which substantially interferes with their right to exercise their religion. SB 1062 bolsters that protection by extending coverage to private transactions as well.
A San Diego council member has become the first openly gay Republican to include his same-sex partner in a campaign advertisement.
Carl DeMaio, who is currently attempting to win the Republican primary, and challenge Democrat Rep. Scott Peters, has featured footage of his partner, Johnathan Hale, and himself at a pride parade in 2012 in a campaign spot that was released on Thursday.
Former San Diego Council Member Carl DeMaio is one of the Republicans hoping to run against Democrat Rep. Scott Peters.
GOP campaign officials and Elizabeth Wilner, who tracks campaign ads for the nonpartisan firm Kantar Media, told TheWall Street Journal that to their knowledge this was the first political advertisement from either party which included a politician's gay partner.
DeMaio, who is running against two other Republicans, has received the support of several high profile House leaders, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who have given the campaign $10,000 and $5,000 respectively.
DeMaio said that Hale did not have a problem appearing in the video because he supported his partner's political ambitions.
"You know, I think he's very supportive because he knows that I am very passionate about reforming our nation's finances and getting people back to work and holding government accountable just like I did in San Diego to save the city from bankruptcy," DeMaio told The Wall Street Journal. "In order to do this, I think we need to fix our political party, getting it off the divisive social issues and refocusing their attention on fiscal and economic reforms that are able to unite Americans, rather than divide them."
DeMaio also said he didn't think including Hale was a "big deal."
"You see straight candidates feature their spouses, their children, and sometimes their household pets," he added.
The Wall Street Journal's Patrick O'Connor predicted that there could be a "backlash from some conservative activists who have made this a big issue," citing Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage as an example.
Brown sent an email to supporters in September that said that DeMaio was a "pro-gay 'marriage,' pro-abortion candidate" and that the council member was "fine with abandoning the most important foundational institution of society."
He also called DeMaio a "trophy candidate [Republicans] can point to and say to the media, 'see, we're progressive, too. We've evolved' … In DeMaio, they hope to have a colleague who can steer their way to some of the millions that go into gay political causes."
DeMaio is one of three openly gay Republicans running for Congress this year, including Dan Innis in New Hampshire and Richard Tisei in Massachusetts.
"I think if you are a party that believes in financial freedom and economic freedom and you're against the government taking money or government mandating or regulating businesses, then I think that your commitment to personal freedom should extend to people's private lives," said DeMaio. "Let's get government out of what happens in people's personal lives and in their people's bedrooms and refocus the attention of government to economic reform because those issues are pressing and have not been really addressed by either party in recent years."
Nuesch told CP that he wrote his book because he saw several hundred books on the life and ministry of Billy Graham, 95, but none covering the story of the couple. "Ruth has played such an important role in this ministry. We have to write a book on the couple," the author explained.
As he researched the wife, who died in 2007, of renowned evangelist Billy Graham, Nuesch "realized she was a really exceptional person – as exceptional as Billy." The story of the couple's romance plays a central role in his book.
A Long, Persisting Romance
Ruth and Billy Graham pose for a picture in their later years.
"In your thinking, we have grown apart due to the wide separation of our various interests, but I feel closer to you than ever," Ruth wrote her husband while he was on a long evangelistic crusade in England, Nuesch quoted. "Wherever you are, I go with you in mind and heart, praying for you continually." Despite their long separation – two months – Ruth wrote, "Your problems, real heartaches, and glorious victories are much more my very own."
Nuesch explained that the romance lasted through the Grahams' entire marriage, even growing stronger in old age. "If you speak with Billy about Ruth his eyes always light up and he speaks so highly of her," the biographer explained.
The couple "felt that within God's guidelines sexuality was a gift of God, given for the marriage partners' enjoyment and not only for procreation," Nuesch wrote. Graham publicly disagreed with the pope on this matter, arguing that "young people are getting the wrong idea about sex – within marriage it's the most wonderful of relationships." The Grahams would often kiss in public.
Ruth and Billy Graham grin at each other in this romantic shot.
Nuesch told a story that revealed the Grahams' attitude toward divorce. When Ruth was asked on camera if she ever thought about divorce, she responded with a joking glimmer in her eye. "Divorcing never, but killing several times." This was her feisty personality, "a very normal person, very authentic, full of fun," the biographer explained.
Ruth and Billy Graham smile in front of their mountain home in Montreat, holding their son Franklin.
The biographer argued that the defining characteristic of the Grahams' marriage was its partnership. "They saw their ministry as a teamwork," Nuesch said. "God has called Ruth, just as clearly as He has called Billy. He called her as clearly to evangelism, but she expressed this call by staying at home, taking care of the family and freeing Billy up to be the evangelist."
Ruth would often joke that "God has delivered me, He has liberated me for staying at home and praying, not having to run after Billy all the day." She sacrificed her lifelong dream of preaching the Gospel in Tibet in order to raise a family and strengthen her husband's ministry. Nuesch explained that their separate roles helped them to run the family well while Billy spread the Gospel across the world.
Ruth was not just an evangelist by backing up Billy, however. The daughter of former President Richard Nixon, "Julie Nixon Eisenhower, said she was led to the Lord through Ruth Graham," Nuesch recalled. "If Billy has been given the gift of evangelism, Ruth has been given the gift of faith," Eisenhower said.
Nuesch even described Ruth as the person of faith in the Graham household. "In sermons, Billy led, but at home, she was supporting him, encouraging him. She embodied faith much more than Billy," the biographer explained. "Billy often said my world mission would have been impossible without her encouragement and support."
A Common Mission
Ruth and Billy Graham sit at their cabin in Montreat, North Carolina
The Grahams pursued a closer relationship with God together, as a family. "They both saw that it was their common mission to help share the Gospel to the world, to make Jesus known," Nuesch explained. When Billy Graham went away on evangelistic crusades, he would call Ruth at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, and they would pray together.
Both Ruth and Billy looked beyond worldly fame and never boasted of meeting important people, instead focusing on serving the Lord in their interactions with others, Nuesch said. He recalled an instance where the president was calling, and Billy Graham "would say 'I don't have time – I just have to talk to our housemaid at the moment. I'll call you back.'"
Ruth never put her husband on a pedestal.
"People who knew them best said they are even better at home than they are on the podium, and that is a very strong testimony for a person," Nuesch recounted. He counted authenticity and integrity among the Grahams' key traits.
The biographer argued that the strongest part of the Grahams' marriage was their prayer life. "There is no better recipe for a good marriage than to pray together frequently, because in this way you sense your spouse's heart," he explained. Both Ruth and Billy prayed and read Scripture constantly, very often with each other.
Congressman Raul Labrador (R – Idaho) presented his new bill to defend the religious freedom of those who believe in marriage, at The Heritage Foundation on Monday
WASHINGTON – Congressman Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) presented his new bill to defend the religious freedom of those who believe in marriage, and experts discussed the threats religious liberty faces in the public square.
The Health and Human Services contraception mandate and cases where homosexuals sue religious florists and bakers for refusing to do business with them "are creating a climate of intolerance and intimidation for citizens who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman," Labrador declared at The Heritage Foundation on Monday. He discussed his bill, H.R. 3133, The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, "to prevent adverse treatment of any person on the basis of views held with respect to marriage."
"We have a fundamental misunderstanding of religious freedom going on," said Sarah Torre, policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation's DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society. Torre argued that the Obama administration is "watering down religious freedom to just freedom of worship" by insisting that faith "is not something that you bring into your workplace." Instead, the current policies presume that "faith is something that you keep in your home and place of worship."
Austin Nimocks, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, agreed. He explained that many recent legal cases "portray same-sex couples as victims and that just hasn't been the case in the way all these things have happened." In cases where homosexuals sue companies for discrimination, they get the service originally denied them, and they force believers to undertake difficult legal battles.
The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act
Congressman Raul Labrador (R – Idaho) presented his new bill to defend the religious freedom of those who believe in marriage, and experts discussed the threats religious liberty faces in the public square. Sarah Torre, policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, and Austin Nimocks, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, watch Labrador speak at The Heritage Foundation on Monday.
Labrador explained his bill, H.R. 3133, in terms of current events. He referred to the HHS mandate as an example of "the administration forcing religious and other faith-based organizations to spend money on things like abortion pills that violate their most basic beliefs." Labrador argued that, in light of the Internal Revenue Service targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups, the federal government needs to be restrained from discriminating against those who uphold traditional marriage.
"We should not assume that the IRS will be any friendlier to organizations that support and want to continue practicing traditional marriage," the congressman warned. "My bill is narrowly tailored to prohibit the federal government from inappropriately targeting organizations or individuals who hold a religious belief that marriage is a union of one man and one woman."
The bill prohibits the federal government from "making tax exempt status contingent on the group's beliefs about marriage." Labrador articulated the basic premise of the bill, saying "all Americans should be free to believe and act in the public square based on their belief about marriage without fear of any government penalty."
"Am I understanding that because I believe that God creates life in His image, male and female, at conception, somehow I could lose a tax benefit?" this local DC-Area pastor asked at The Heritage Foundation on Monday.
Can It Pass?
Labrador insisted that the bill "doesn't take away anything from anyone," but instead protects the religious freedom of those who uphold traditional marriage. "This is something both social conservatives and libertarians can rally around, and it can generate support in both parties and actually pass both houses of Congress and become law," he said.
The bill already has 100 cosponsors, with five of the six House Ways and Means Subcommittee chairmen declaring their support, Labrador reported. "We actually have a couple of Democrats who are already cosponsors of the legislation," he added.
The Persecution Problem
Nimocks laid out the "massive distinction between acting because of a deeply-held belief about marriage and acting because you don't like somebody who defines themselves as gay or lesbian." Many of the defendants ADF supports have no problem with homosexuals, but choose not to involve themselves in marriage ceremonies because of their religious convictions.
The lawyer brought up "the florist in the state of Washington who was asked to provide flowers for two men" as an example. Nimocks explained that they were friends and would frequently hug each other. "But when it came to 'we want you to participate in and celebrate our ceremony,' that's where she respectfully drew the line."
Although they hugged before the man requesting flowers left, the florist ended up served with a lawsuit.
"In each instance the same-sex couple or gay/lesbian at issue got what they wanted," Nimocks explained. Occasionally, they received the desired service at a discount, or even for free, as in the case of t-shirts for a gay pride parade. After receiving what they originally wanted, "they then turn around and go after people with religious beliefs."
Energizing the Young
Torre proposed a strategy to alert Millennials to the religious freedom issue. "I think you tell them stories," she explained, about "these salt of the earth people who are doing the good work of restoring lives, of educating the next generation, providing health care for Americans." These public servants "are not able to do that under this rule, in accordance with the beliefs that motivated them to do that in the first place."
"You want to talk about social justice, you want to talk about empowering the poor, about taking care of those in need, you have to let people do that in accordance with their values and not penalize them through a government penalty," Torre declared.
Speaking at an event by a gay lobby group in New York on Saturday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will treat same-sex marriage on par with traditional marriage in all federal legal matters, even in states where gay marriage is not legal.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Orlando July 16, 2013. Holder told the major civil rights convention that controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense laws that have been adopted in 30 states should be reconsidered.
On Monday, the Justice Department will send "formal instruction" to all its employees "to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law," according to excerpts of Holder's speech.
"In every courthouse, in every proceeding, and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States, they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections, and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law," Holder said at the Human Rights Campaign's New York City gala, according to Reuters.
Federal benefits, including bankruptcies, prison visits and survivor benefits, will also be extended to 34 states that do now allow same-sex marriage, but those benefits will apply only where the federal government has jurisdiction, Holder added, according to CNN.
The government will not contest rights of gay married couples in states where previously prosecutors could argue that the marriage is not recognized in the state where the couple lives, Holder added.
"Just like during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the stakes involved in this generation's struggle for LGBT equality could not be higher," Holder said. "As attorney general, I will not let this Department be simply a bystander during this important moment in history."
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, praised the action.
"This landmark announcement will change the lives of countless committed gay and lesbian couples for the better," Griffin said in a statement. "While the immediate effect of these policy decisions is that all married gay couples will be treated equally under the law, the long-term effects are more profound. Today, our nation moves closer toward its ideals of equality and fairness for all."
However, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins strongly condemned the move.
"The news that the Justice Department will extend sweeping recognition to 'marriages' of same-sex couples, even in states that do not recognize such unions, is yet another illustration of the lawlessness of this administration," Perkins said in a statement.
"While the Supreme Court's ruling in the Windsor case last summer required the federal government to recognize such unions in states which also recognize them, the Court was conspicuously silent on the status of such couples when they reside in a state which considers them unmarried," Perkins pointed out. "The Obama administrations haste to nevertheless recognize such unions in every state actually runs counter to the Windsor decisions emphasis on the federal government's obligation to defer to state definitions of marriage."
Holder's announcement "illustrates the importance of Congressional action to pass the State Marriage Defense Act (H.R. 3829), introduced by Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas)," Perkins added. "It would require the federal government to defer to state definitions of marriage -- as required by Windsor -- by not treating persons as 'married' when they are unmarried according to the law of their state of legal residence."
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, also criticized Holder's announcement.
"The American public needs to realize how egregious and how dangerous these usurpations are and how far-reaching the implications can be," Brown said in a statement. "The changes being proposed here to a process as universally relevant as the criminal justice system serve as a potent reminder of why it is simply a lie to say that redefining marriage doesn't affect everyone in society."
Three years ago, the Obama administration had announced it would stop defending cases in court involving the Defense of Marriage Act. Two years later, the Supreme Court ruled that the DOMA was unconstitutional.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
BY KATHERINE WEBER, CHRISTIAN POST REPORTER
February 8, 2014|10:21 am
Alabama's chief justice has jumped into the debate on same-sex marriage by encouraging all 50 U.S. governors to push for an amendment to the U.S. constitution that would define marriage as being solely between a man and woman.
Roy Moore, chief justice of the state's Supreme Court, sent a letter to all 50 governors on Wednesday, encouraging their legislatures to approve of a convention that would address a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, both on a state and federal level. In the letter, Moore cited the U.S. Constitution's Article V, which forces Congress to address an amendment if 34 states vote that a convention is necessary. Moore told The Associated Press that he feels employing the Amendment V Convention is a better option than the alternative two-thirds vote amendment approval by each house of Congress.
"I think the time is ripe for that to happen with the political atmosphere in Congress. They can't get along or agree on anything," Moore said of an Article V Convention, which has never been held. The chief justice added that a state-initiated constitutional amendment would stop judges from legalizing same-sex marriages on a state-wide level, as seen recently in Utah. "Government has become oppressive, and judges are warping the law."
"The moral foundation of our country is under attack," Moore added.
Moore sent his letter to all 50 states, including Virginia, where recently the attorney general refused to defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage, and a federal court has now agreed to hear a bid that may overturn the state ban. Moore also sent a letter to Oregon, where voters may be able to approve of same-sex marriage in the November 2014 elections.
In response to Moore's letter, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley told AP that he has no problem with Moore's new effort but also believes the issue of same-sex marriage should be left up to the states' voters.
Follow us Get CP eNewsletter ››
"I am a states' rights person. Marriage licenses are issued by the state. I do believe that most things should be left on a state level," he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union issued a response to Moore's move, with Executive Director Susan Watson saying in a statement Thursday that she believes Moore is contributing to a more oppressive government. "Chief Justice Roy Moore said that government has become oppressive and this is yet another perfect example of his contributions to the matter," Watson said, according to al.com.
"His definition of marriage as 'one man-one woman' is a religious one. We support everyone's rights to have their own religious beliefs, but he is chronically imposing his beliefs on others."
Moore has previously gained national attention for his fight to keep a Ten Commandments monument at the state judicial building that he installed in 2000. He was eventually kicked out of office in 2003 for refusing to remove the monument following a lawsuit, and was re-elected in 2012.
Friday, February 7, 2014
Even while addressing the National Prayer Breakfast, Barack Obama could not resist the opportunity to promote same-sex marriage. He did it subtly, lamenting how faith, in his view, is twisted to "justify hatred and persecution against other people just because of who they are, or how they pray or who they love."
I know such rhetoric appeals to many young people. But all healthy societies reject such sentimentality and try through law and custom to discourage certain types of "love." An adult who is sexually attracted to a child and acts on that attraction is and should be discriminated against and jailed.
Every civilization prohibits legal recognition of incest because that particular form of "love" is fraught with obvious dangers. Likewise, until the last 15 years or so, virtually every society and every major faith discouraged same-sex relationships and never considered extending it to marriage.
I suppose it is possible that throughout all of recorded history every society was wrong and that we have experienced true enlightenment only in the last decade. I don't buy it.
I do not believe we are becoming more enlightened. Instead, America is being ripped away from its Judeo-Christian worldview. Same-sex marriage is already being followed by demands for legal polygamy. The legitimization of incest won't be far behind.
Monday, February 3, 2014
NDIANAPOLIS — Republican Gov. Mike Pence said Friday he would like lawmakers to restore language blocking civil unions in the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Indiana, a move that would place the issue on track to get on the November ballot.
Language that banned civil unions was removed by the House earlier this week, after a group of Republicans joined Democrats to support the move. That phrasing, which became known as "second sentence," was a sticking point for many Republicans who otherwise supported banning gay marriage. The proposal is now in the Indiana Senate.
The measure would not need Pence's approval before going before votes on the November ballot if it's approved by lawmakers before the end of the legislative session in March. But during his State of the State address earlier this month, he asked lawmakers to approve the amendment as it was first proposed last year to ban both the gay marriage and civil unions.
"Let me say I support traditional marriage, and I expressed support for the resolution that the Legislature passed during the last session and considered at the outset of this session," Pence told WISH-TV on Friday.
He also told the television station that he would not comment again on the issue until the Legislature completes its work in March.
Pence's comments marked the first time he had spoken about Monday's vote, which could push the proposed amendment to the November 2016 ballot. Under state law, lawmakers must approve the same measure they approved in 2011 in order for it to appear on the ballot this November. Removing the civil unions language would reset the clock on Indiana's constitutional amendment process.
The governor has kept the issue at arm's length throughout the debate. Constitutional amendments do not cross the governor's desk for approval, but Pence still controls the bully pulpit as the state's chief executive.
Pence's staffers also have attempted to shield him from talking about the volatile issue. A spokeswoman opened a news conference Wednesday saying that Pence would not answer questions on anything other than the state's propane shortage. The governor later darted from the news conference while a staffer cut in front of a reporter trying to reaching him.
The governor said he would address the issue "later" because he was "late for what I'm late for right now." A spokeswoman said she would not divulge the pressing event that caused Pence to bolt from the room.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, announced Thursday that the Senate would likely take up the measure the week of Feb. 10. Long has been mum on whether he supports reinserting the civil unions ban, but said he would like to see any effort to restore that part of the measure play out in front of the entire Senate, instead of in a committee.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Three years ago, President Obama closed his 2011 State of the Union address by declaring: "We do big things."
Today, however, it's Obama's struggle to push forward on the "big things" -- including tax reform, entitlement reform and gun legislation -- and a vexingly brittle relationship with Congress that threatens to curb his second term ambitions.
His annual address on Tuesday gave only passing mention to big-ticket legislative goals. Obama is instead vowing to use his executive powers to take what could only be described as modest steps in 2014 on the economy and education.
"I didn't hear any new ideas, that's for sure," Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told Fox News after the address.
The speech reflected the frustrated state of Obama's presidency in his second term. After enjoying the benefits for two years of a Democratic majority in Congress -- which he used to pass the health care law, the stimulus and other major bills -- a more Republican-dominated Capitol Hill continues to stymie Obama's wish list in his second term.
Gun control was a focus of last year's address in the wake of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, but the president could not sway Congress to back a bill tightening background checks. Last year's lofty talk of tax and entitlement reform also came back to earth, giving way in recent weeks to a more basic two-year budget deal.
Immigration legislation remains on the table, but Obama is now waiting on House Republicans to pitch their plan.
But instead of offering new proposals to Congress Tuesday night, Obama vowed to set out on his own to chip away at his agenda items via executive action.
"Some of my ideas, I'll need Congress, but Americans can't just stand still if Congress isn't doing anything," Obama said Wednesday during a stop at a Costco in suburban Maryland. "I'm not going to stand still either. Wherever I can take steps to expand opportunities for more families, I'm going to do it, with or without Congress."
The president spoke later at a steel plant near Pittsburgh -- to pitch a new retirement savings plan and talk about wages.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew was on hand at the U.S. Steel Corp. plant in West Mifflin, Pa., as Obama directed the Treasury to create a new savings program geared toward those whose employers don't offer retirement plans -- about half of all U.S. workers, according to the White House.
The idea is to offer a "starter" account to let people start saving even if they can't afford the large initial investment often needed for a private, commercial retirement account. Savers can start with just $25, and could opt to have contributions of as low as $5 deducted automatically from their paychecks.
Dubbed "myRA," the program will operate like a Roth IRA, so contributions to the plan will be made with after-tax dollars. That means account-holders could withdraw the funds at any time without paying additional taxes. The funds would be backed by U.S. government debt, similar to a savings option available to federal employees.
Initially a pilot program, the accounts should be available through some employers by the end of 2014, the White House said. Investors can keep the accounts if they switch jobs or convert them into private accounts.
Obama is also preparing to sign an executive order raising the minimum wage for workers carrying out new federal contracts to $10.10, up from the current $7.25. Although the measure will only help a limited number of people, it's intended to boost Obama's repeated call for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage for all workers to $10.10.
The stop at a Costco in Lanham, Md ., also gave Obama an opportunity to highlight efforts that many states are undertaking to try to improve wages for their workers. Maryland's Democratic governor is pushing to raise the state's minimum wage to $10.10.
On Thursday, Obama will visit a General Electric gas engines facility in Waukesha, Wis., not far from Milwaukee. He'll also speak at a high school in Nashville, Tenn.
Speaking on Fox News, Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen acknowledged that at this stage, "speeches aren't going to change [the] outcome of policy."
The Maryland congressman stressed the struggles the president is having with lawmakers.
"The president would like Congress to work with him to pass a national minimum wage," he said. "He understands he can't do that by himself as president, but he does understand as chief executive, when it comes to the federal government procuring goods and services he can allow federal government to lead by example and say if you want to do business with the federal government, at least pay employees a wage that allows them to stay out of poverty if they've got a couple kids."
A lawyer at a prominent law firm in Washington, D.C., has reportedly left his reputable job to help Utah defend its same-sex marriage ban, citing his strong Mormon faith as the motivation behind his decision.
Gene Schaerr, formerly a partner at the Winston & Strawn legal firm, reportedly sent a firm-wide email to coworkers on Jan. 17 announcing his plans to lead the state in defending its ban on same-sex marriage, which was struck down by a federal judge in December. Schaerr cited his dedication to his faith and family as the reason for his departure.
"I have accepted that position so that I can fulfill what I have come to see as a religious and family duty: defending the constitutionality of traditional marriage in the state where my church is headquartered and where most of my family resides," Schaerr, a Mormon, said in the email, which was reportedly leaked to the Above the Law blog.
Schaerr reportedly concluded his email by blessing his colleagues, saying he had faith in his choice, and referencing the Bible by writing "all things work together for good to them that love God."
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced earlier in January that Schaerr will be leading the defense team in arguing for the constitutionality of the state's Amendment 3 ban on same-sex marriage, which was approved by 66 percent of voters in 2004. Schaerr's official title at his temporary role will be Special Assistant Attorney General for the State of Utah.
In a statement issued last week, Reyes was quick to clarify that Schaerr, a Utah native and graduate of Brigham Young University, was not hired by the state for religious reasons, but rather because of his knowledge of and experience with constitutional and appellate law. "Mr. Schaerr was hired because he was the most qualified applicant, and gives us the best chance to win," Reyes said in a statement.
"Any intimation that he was hired for reasons other than his qualifications, his understanding of the Constitution and his mastery of the legal issues in this case are offensive and detract from the civility this case merits."
According to KSL.com, Schaerr completed his undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University and then earned a law degree from Yale. He reportedly has an 80 percent win rate in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, where the state is appealing a judge's previous ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. Additionally, Schaerr has reportedly won 75 percent of the federal appeals he has represented.
Human Rights Campaign Vice President Fred Sainz told BuzzFeed that Schaerr's decision to defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage for religious reasons was "wrong," adding that "when you become an attorney, you take an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, not any particular religious doctrine."
The Sutherland Institute, a conservative public policy think tank based in Utah, was reportedly heavily involved in the hiring of Schaerr and has offered to pay legal fees. The think tank's executive director, Paul Mero, said in a statement his group would foot the bill for the "right counsel and the right strategy, adding that Schaerr is "our guy."
"He meets the criteria that Sutherland Institute has been insisting on. I think he has the capability to provide a deep, rich, meaningful case before the 10th Circuit, and a winning case," Mero said.
Schaerr's decision to leave his firm is similar to the previous decision of lawyer Paul Clement, who in 2011 resigned from the firm King & Spalding after it dropped out of representing the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Clement said at the time that he resigned from the major law firm due to the "firmly held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client's legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular clients is what lawyers do." Clement went on to defend the statute with a smaller law firm.
The state is currently appealing federal Judge Robert J. Shelby's Dec. 20 ruling overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Following Shelby's ruling, over one thousand same-sex couples received marriage licenses in the state before the Supreme Court granted Utah a stay while Utah appeals the ruling. The state has frozen any recognition of the same-sex marriages until its case plays out in court, but the Department of Justice has agreed to recognize the marriages on a federal level.
Schaerr is one of three outside attorneys hired by Utah's attorney general's office to assist in the state challenge against Shelby's ruling, which will take place in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver beginning Feb. 3, when the state will file its brief.