Wednesday, January 8, 2014
January 8, 2014
Attorneys representing a Colorado cake shop and its Christian owner filed an appeal last week after a judge ruled last month that the company must sell wedding cakes to gay couples.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys filed the appeal Friday on behalf of Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner, Jack Phillips.
"Every artist must be free to create work that expresses what he or she believes and not be forced to express contrary views," said ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner in a statement. "Forcing Americans to promote ideas against their will undermines our constitutionally protected freedom of expression and our right to live free. If the government can take away our First Amendment freedoms, there is nothing it can't take away."
In 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Phillips to make a cake for their wedding reception. The couple planned to marry in Massachusetts then hold their reception in Colorado, where same-sex marriages are not recognized.
Phillips, a Christian, told the couple he would make them other baked items but, because of his religious beliefs, could not make them a cake for their wedding celebration.
Craig and Mullins, who are being represented by the ACLU of Colorado, filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, which determined that Masterpiece Cakeshop had illegally discriminated against them. According to the ACLU, the CCRD's findings then led the Colorado Attorney General's office to file a formal complaint against the company with the state courts.
"The undisputed facts show that respondents (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.
Attorneys for Phillips argue that he did not deny the couple a wedding cake "because of" their sexual orientation, according to court documents. He did so because of his "unwavering Christian beliefs" about marriage and about how God would feel if he were to participate in or promote a same-sex wedding.
His attorneys also argue that Phillips's right to refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding celebration is protected by the Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment.
"America was founded on the fundamental freedom of all citizens to live and work without fear of government punishment," said lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an ADF allied attorney, in a statement. "Jack simply exercised the long-cherished freedom to not speak by declining to promote a false view of marriage through his creative work. It's outrageous that the government would turn its guns on Jack and threaten him with a potential jail sentence unless he says and does what the government demands."
A Rasmussen Reports survey conducted in July 2013 focused on another type of wedding vendor, photographers. The survey found that 85 percent of American adults believe a Christian photographer who is opposed to gay marriage on religious grounds should have the right to say no when asked to work a same-sex wedding ceremony, and only eight percent disagree.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Former President and Mrs. Bush celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary on Jan. 6, 2014, the longest marriage for a U.S. president in the nation's history. Here's a look at the couple through the years.
The longest-running presidential love story just celebrated another anniversary.
President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush marked their 69thwedding anniversary Monday, extending the couple’s record for the longest presidential marriage in the nation’s history.
They set the record in 2000 when they surpassed John and Abigail Adams’ 54-year union.
“They don’t think of it in terms of ‘we’re the longest,’” Jim McGrath, President George H.W. Bush’s spokesman, told FoxNews.com on Monday. “They’re just so clearly still in love and devoted to one another. They’re two people, but they’re really one person.”
The romance began when the two met during a Christmas dance at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., back when the future president was 16 years old. The two were engaged a year and a half later, right before President Bush shipped out overseas to fight in World War II as a naval pilot.
A few years later, in Sept. 1944, Bush was shot down and nearly killed during a mission over the Pacific, which resulted in his being sent back home in time for Christmas. Soon after, Bush and the then Barbara Pierce were married in Rye, N.Y. on Jan. 6, 1945. They would have six children, including future President George W. Bush.
Years later, Barbara Bush would tell her children that she married the first man she ever kissed.
The two occupied the White House as the president and first lady from 1989 to 1993. Previously, Barabara Bush was the second lady of the United States during President Reagan’s eight-year term, when her husband served as vice president.
She was hospitalized last week with pneumonia and released on Saturday. McGrath said she’s “thrilled” to be home, and that the couple celebrated a quiet anniversary at their home in Houston.
Meanwhile, President Bush, who has had some health problems, is doing “fantastic,” McGrath said, adding that the former president made it out to the annual family Christmas trip to Florida and was able to do some fishing.
As for the secret to the couple’s longtime bond, McGrath says the two treat each other with love and deference, as well as a healthy amount of teasing.
“It’s hard for one to think of life without the other,” McGrath says, “which is why 69 years is such a blessing.”
Monday, January 6, 2014
By: Julia Marsh
A married, heterosexual gym teacher at a tony Upper West Side private school was fired because his lesbian supervisor disapproved of his “traditional family status,” the canned teacher claims in a new Manhattan lawsuit.
Gregory Kenney, 50, taught gym at the Trinity School on W. 91st St. for 16 years before he was let go in June 2012.
Kenney, who lives with his wife and three young children in LI, says he was a well-liked employee at the elite institution that counts Truman Capote, Ivanka Trump and Eric Schneiderman as alumni, until a gay athletic director named Pat Krieger took over in 2009.
Krieger allegedly forced him to coach three sports, even though his contract only required him to join two teams, according to his reverse discrimination suit.
When he complained that the extra responsibilities interfered with his family obligations Krieger allegedly told him, “We all make choices,” the suit says.
After Kenney told Krieger that he couldn’t keep working nights and weekends, she reported him to the headmaster “while a single, female teacher faced no scrutiny when she refused to coach a third season.”
Kenney claims the allegedly biased athletic director “routinely favored other single, younger females without children and discriminated against [him] because of his gender, sexual orientation, ‘traditional family status,’ and age.”Kenney says he was fired because of his “traditional family status” from Trinity High School.
“He felt ostracized because of his family,” Kenney’s attorney, Steven Morelli told The Post in an interview.
“He had been doing this for so many years and he certainly did the job well or they would have gotten rid of him a long time ago,” Morelli added.
Kenney coached soccer, basketball and golf at Trinity, where tuition costs as much as $41,370 a year.
“On at least one occasion Kenney was dissuaded from attending social events with his peers because he was a heterosexual, married male with children, who wouldn’t fit in with [Krieger’s] ‘culture.’”
He says three other married coaches with young children were also sacked. Kenney was replaced by a gay female, according to court papers.
Kenney, who has 7-year-old twins and a 9-year-old, is still looking for a new job.
He’s seeking unspecified damages in the suit.
A spokesman for Trinity did not immediately comment.
Friday, January 3, 2014
December 31, 2013|5:14 pm
The Mountain States Conference (MSC) has approved a license for a woman who will become the Mennonite Church USA's first openly gay pastor.
In its decision to grant Rhoda Good a license, the conference empathized with those who disagreed with its decision but said that it felt it had acted in way consistent with its Christian values.
"It is the desire of the Leadership Board to function and communicate with a spirit of deep humility, joyfully acknowledging the work of God in our midst, and with a sense of sadness recognizing the pain that this causes some of the sisters and brothers that we love in Mennonite Church USA," the MSC stated in Mennonite World Review.
Good, who the MSC recognized as one "whose gifts and call to ministry are clearly affirmed," received her M.Div in spiritual formation/direction from Eastern Mennonite University and joined the pastoral team at First Mennonite Church of Denver in 2012.
Despite being in a commited relationship with another woman, Good was unanimously confirmed by the Mountain States Conference Leadership Board on Dec. 22 after a year-long process, and will receive her license on Feb. 2.
According to Mountain States moderator Rhoda Blough, in addition to following its normal credentialing interview process, it also asked the advice of the Leadership Boar and held four listening meetings across the conference with the pastor and five representatives from each member congregation.
"These were places where people could share," Blough told the Mennonite World Review. "It was not to be a place for debate; it was for prayer and listening and then eating together."
After the listening meetings, Good met with both the Ministerial Council and Leadership Board respectively who approved the pastor's request.
Following the decision, Blough said that the conference is making an effort to reach out to churches that did not agree with the MSC's decision.
"I think the Ministerial Council has kept this model of accountability in front of them to hear all the voices in our conference," she said. "We wanted to listen first and foremost to the heart of God of the people who make up Mountain States Mennonite Conference."
Whether Good will be ultimately ordained by the Mennonite Church remains uncertain as the license period can serve "as a time of testing that can, but does not necessarily, lead to ordination."
The MSC encompasses 21 congregations in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas and contains 1,708 members.
Monday, December 30, 2013
December 27, 2013|12:45 pm
Utah announced its plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a district judge's ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the state. The state announced its appeal plans Thursday as Utah's last four holdout counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, following the orders of Gov. Gary Herbert.
The office of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said that the state will consult with outside attorneys in the coming days and seek an emergency stay with the Supreme Court as soon as possible. "The Attorney General's Office is preparing an application to the United States Supreme Court requesting a stay of the district court's order," the attorney general's officesaid in a statement.
"Due to the necessity of coordination with outside counsel the filing of the appeal may be delayed for a few days. It is the intent of the Attorney General's Office to file with the Supreme Court as soon as possible."
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will receive the emergency appeal request because she has jurisdiction over Utah and surrounding states. The magnitude of the state's appeal could cause her to request all of the Supreme Court Justices to offer their opinion on the case.
Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled Utah's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional because it violated the right to equal protection and due process under the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment. Shelby wrote in his ruling that the ban on same-sex marriage violated couples' "fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason."
Sixty-six percent of Utah's residents voted in 2004 to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman. Utah is considered to be a more conservative state on the issue of same-sex marriage, due in part to its large Mormon population and the religion's belief that marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman.
On Monday, the state requested a temporary stay in the district judge's ruling, arguing that they wanted to see the case play out in the appeals court before the state actually allowed same-sex couples to start marrying.
Judge Shelby refused to grant a temporary stay in his own ruling, and the state was also denied an emergency stay by the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday.
The Utah attorney general's office has said it is appealing Judge Shelby's ruling because the "federal district court's ruling that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right has never been established in any previous case in the 10th Circuit [Court of Appeals]."
As Utah announced its plans to appeal to the Supreme Court, the last of the state's holdout counties began issuing same-sex marriage licenses after Gov. Gary Herbert ordered them to do so. Four counties, including Box Elder, Utah, Piute and San Juan had previously refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses in spite of Shelby's ruling.
County clerks told the Associated Press that they had little choice in issuing same-sex marriage licenses after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to grant an emergency stay on Tuesday. The counties could reportedly be held in contempt of federal court if they continued to refuse to issue the licenses.
San Juan County Clerk Norman Johnson told AP that he was hesitant to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses because he feels it is not the will of the voters who put him in office over a decade ago, but ultimately the county clerks must abide by state orders. "We have no choice," Johnson said Thursday. "The scales have tipped. It's not the way I want to see things go. But the law's the law, and I accept it. It's time."
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert ordered all counties to comply with Shelby's orders, although he made it clear he disagreed with the judge's ruling. "I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah."
Friday, December 20, 2013
December 19, 2013|3:48 pm
Claiming that "same-gender couples are as capable of responsible procreation as are opposite-gender couples," the N.M. Supreme Court found on Thursday that gay marriage is legal under the New Mexico Constitution.
"We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law," Justice Edward L. Chavez wrote for the N.M. Supreme Court.
The other four justices on the court concurred with the opinion.
Denying state marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the N.M. Constitution's equal protection clause, which says that no person can "be denied equal protection of the laws," the court found.
The remedy, Chavez wrote is that "'civil marriage' shall be construed to mean the voluntary union of two persons to the exclusion of all others. In addition, all rights, protections, and responsibilities that result from the marital relationship shall apply equally to both same-gender and opposite-gender married couples."
The court was unconvinced by the defense arguments that the previous definition of marriage should be upheld because opposite-sex married couples best provide child rearing needs. According to the opinion, the defense argued that maintaining the definition of marriage is in the interest of the state because it promotes "responsible procreation" and "responsible child-rearing."
Chavez wrote that "it is not clear what the opponents of same-gender marriage mean by 'responsible procreation,' ... ." In the next sentence, though, he uses the term "responsible procreation" without defining what it means for the court: "Same-gender couples are as capable of responsible procreation as are opposite-gender couples. We conclude that there is not a substantial relationship between New Mexico marriage laws and the purported governmental interest in responsible procreation."
Chavez also claims that "no one denies that LGBT individuals are fully capable of entering into the kind of loving and committed relationships that serve as the foundation for families, or that they are capable of responsibly caring for and raising children."
Chavez does not address, though, scientific evidence that children do best when they are raised by both a mother and a father (see here, here and here).
Thursday, December 19, 2013
WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Former Presidential Candidate Gary Bauer noted that critics of Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson "want free speech for themselves, and silence for everyone else."
In the midst of the controversy over an interview Robertson gave in which he supported traditional marriage, Bauer, the president of American Values, made the following statement:
"The attempt by gay rights groups and A&E to censor Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson is outrageous. This is another example of the well-funded organized effort in America to silence anyone who dares to express the Judeo/Christian worldview on human sexuality. Phil Robertson's critics are intolerant, pure and simple. They want to decide what can be said in the public square and what can be taught in places of worship. A&E should be ashamed of themselves for bowing to these intolerant extremists."
Thursday, December 19, 2013
December 19, 2013|9:34 am
A pro-traditional marriage group has started a petition demanding that A&E reinstate Phil Robertson of 'Duck Dynasty' after his remarks on homosexuality.
The National Organization for Marriage announced on Thursday morning the creation of a petition demanding that A&E reverse its suspension of Robertson.
"The gay lobby bullies are at it again. This time they've attacked one of the most popular Christians in America – Phil Robertson, patriarch of Duck Dynasty's Robertson family," reads the announcement for the petition.
"The grossly misnamed Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and their Hollywood ally GLAAD have demanded that Phil be punished and, incredibly, last night A&E succumbed to the gay bullies and suspended Phil Robertson!"
In a recent interview with GQ, Robertson garnered controversy when he referred to homosexuality as a sin.
"It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical," said Robertson.
The remarks caused an uproar among groups like GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign, who demanded that A&E pursue punitive action against the "Duck Dynasty" star.
Wednesday evening, A&E agreed to do so, suspending Robertson from the hit reality TV program for his remarks.
"What's clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike," said GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz in a statement.
"By taking quick action and removing Robertson from future filming, A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value."
Outrage from fans was almost instantaneous, as a Facebook group dubbed "Stand With Phil Robertson" was launched, and within a day has already garnered more than 307,000 likes.
In their petition, NOM has asked supporters to either email or mail a statement calling for the cable channel to reinstate Robertson and to offer an official apology.
"A&E's executives may not believe in the Bible, and that is your right. But you have no right to silence the millions of Christians, like Phil Robertson, who uphold the word of God," reads the petition in part.
"Nothing that Phil Robertson said is hateful. In fact, he has specifically said that he loves all people and would never treat anyone with disrespect simply because they are different from him. He has simply stated his opinion about sin as taught by the Bible."
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
SALT LAKE CITY – A federal judge appointed by George W. Bush has struck down key parts of Utah’s polygamy ban as unconstitutional, while leaving intact the state prohibition against bigamy.
As previously reported, Kody Brown of the TLC reality show Sister Wives, along with his four “wives,” Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, filed suit in 2011 to challenge parts of the law that they claimed violated their privacy rights.
The five had been under investigation by state officials for violating the statute, and moved to Nevada to escape punishment. Brown is married to Meri, and considers his relationship with the other three women as being “spiritual unions.”
While all states prohibit bigamy–entering into multiple marriages–Utah also bans residents from living together in a polygamous relationship. Brown, a member of the Apostolic United Brethren Church, a fundamentalist Mormon sect, contended that such a prohibition violates his freedom of religion.
Washington, D.C.-based attorney Jonathan Turley represented Brown in court, who has fathered 17 children with the four women.
“Homosexuals and polygamists do have a common interest: the right to be left alone as consenting adults,” he told reporters. “There is no spectrum of private consensual relations—there is just a right of privacy that protects all people so long as they do not harm others.”
On Friday, Judge Clark Waddoups, nominated by then-president George W. Bush sided with Brown in determining that Utah’s prohibition on polygamist cohabitation violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and interfered with the right to privacy. He pointed to the 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized sodomy in the nation, and differentiated unmarried sexual conduct from criminal bigamy.
“Consensual sexual privacy is the touchstone of the rational basis review analysis in this case, as in Lawrence,” he wrote. “The court believes that Plaintiffs are correct in their argument that, in prohibiting cohabitation under the statute, ‘it is, of course, the state that has equated private sexual conduct with marriage.’”
Therefore, because Brown does not claim to be married to all of the women–nor does the state ban cohabitation in other relationships—Waddoups threw out the cohabitation section of the statute, while upholding the prohibition on bigamy.
“The court finds the cohabitation prong of the statute unconstitutional on numerous grounds and strikes it,” he concluded. “As a result, and to save the statute, the court adopts the interpretation of ’marry’ and ‘purports to marry,’ … thus allowing the statute to remain in force as prohibiting bigamy in the literal sense…”
Brown applauded the judge’s ruling on Friday, releasing a statement that called for tolerance of his polygamous lifestyle.
“While we know that many people do not approve of plural families, it is our family and based on our beliefs,” he wrote. “Just as we respect the personal and religious choices of other families, we hope that in time all of our neighbors and fellow citizens will come to respect our own choices as part of this wonderful country of different faiths and beliefs.”
But some have expressed concern over the continued demoralization of the American family in the courts.
“This is what happens when marriage becomes about the emotional and sexual wants of adults, divorced from the needs of children for a mother and a father committed to each other for life,” Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told reporters following the decision. “Polygamy was outlawed in this country because it was demonstrated, again and again, to hurt women and children. Sadly, when marriage is elastic enough to mean anything, in due time it comes to mean nothing.”
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
TRENTON — Key Senate Democrats are moving forward with a plan to turn a court decision legalizing gay marriage into state law, saying they want to protect same-sex couples from having this right removed by a future court.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday is scheduled to hear a new bill called the Marriage Equality Act, (S3109) which is a slightly modified version of a bill (S1) to legalize gay marriage that Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed in 2012.
The measure was posted for a committee vote late today. Sponsors said while they believe this is the best option, the debate isn’t over.
"This is the step we’re taking right now. This is a very fluid situation," said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen). "It could change."
Gay marriage has been permitted in New Jersey since October, thanks to a Superior Court decision to legalize it. Hours after the weddings began despite efforts to stay the ruling, Christie dropped his appeal. Some advocates have argued for the need to write it into state law, stating that a higher court could overturn the decision if things change.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), a bill sponsor, said a key factor in Judge Mary Jacobson’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage was that gay couples in civil unions would be denied federal benefits because they were not married. If the federal government gave them benefits, Lesniak said, the rationale for the decision could be undercut, which is why it needs to be written into law.
"No future court can change that decision," Lesniak said.
But other advocates argue that any legislation would curtail rights gay couples have under the judge’s decision by recognizing some religious exemptions.
Troy Stevenson, the executive director of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said nothing is settled.
Stevenson had spoken in favor of not writing gay marriage into law because the original bill contained restrictions the court decision did not include. Under the original bill, a group affiliated with a religion — such as the Knights of Columbus — would have been allowed to refuse to rent a hall to a gay couple who wanted to be married or have a reception. Under the court decision, that question is not addressed.
"We can’t stand by anything that will have any stronger exemptions or caveat our rights than what we’ve got right now," Stevenson said.
Lesniak said the new bill continues to have an exemption for religious organizations. But he said only church-affiliated groups that use an event space exclusively for their members would be able to turn away gay couples who wish to get married there. Clergy would not be required to perform gay marriages, but proponents say that exemption would be covered under the First Amendment anyway.
"It does not go as far as the bill that the governor vetoed," Lesniak said.
"If you open up your facilities, you can’t discriminate."
The committee agenda says the panel will not hear testimony on the bill because it is similar to the original bill debated extensively last year. To get the bill to Christie, the full Senate and Assembly would have to pass it.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) did not respond to requests for comment.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said, "We will treat it as we do with all bills in the normal course."