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.
Conservative pro-family groups and Republican lawmakers are decrying Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring's recent decision not to defend the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.
Virginia residents cast their vote for who will be the state's next attorney general, Democratic state Sen. Mark Herring or Republican state Sen. Mark Obenshain.
The Family Research Council denounced Herring's recent announcement, citing the state's 2006 ban on same-sex marriage that was approved by 57 percent of Virginia voters.
"This lawlessness is an insult to the voters of Virginia who approved the marriage amendment by a large majority," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a statement following Herring's announcement on Thursday. "The 'left' is becoming a law unto itself."
The Republican Party of Virginia has also spoken out against Herring's decision. "By running for the office, Mark Herring asked for the challenge of defending Virginia's constitution and all it contains," Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins said in a statement.
"If Mark Herring doesn't want to defend this case, he should resign, and let the General Assembly appoint someone who will. Mark Herring owes the people of Virginia no less," he added.
The state's attorney general, who was elected to his post just last month, announced Thursday that as the state's principal legal officer, he will no longer defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage in federal lawsuits despite the fact that it was voter-approved, saying he personally finds the ban to be unconstitutional. Even though the gay marriage ban passed through the state's democratic process, Herring has decided to ignore the public vote on the issue and instead has said that he will be siding with the two same-sex couples, Timothy B. Bostic and his partner Tony C. London and Carol Schall and Mary Townley, in their current lawsuit challenging the state ban on same-sex marriage.
"As attorney general, I cannot and will not defend laws that violate Virginians' rights," Herring said in a statement Thursday.
"The commonwealth will be siding with the plaintiffs in this case and with every other Virginia couple whose right to marry is being denied," he continued.
Herring, who in just 2006 said he supported traditional marriage as between one man and one woman, has since flip-flopped on his position, now claiming that he has reflected more on the meaning of discrimination. "I was wrong for not applying it to marriage," Herring said about his views on discrimination. "I saw very soon after that how that hurt a lot of people and it was very painful for a lot of people."
Completing his u-turn on the divisive issue, Herring stressed his support for gay marriage in his attorney general campaign last year.
"The Supreme Court is clear: The United States Constitution is the law of the land, the supreme law of the land," Herring added. "I believe the freedom to marry is a fundamental right, and I intend to ensure that Virginia is on the right side of history and the right side of the law."
Herring's change on the issue holds political importance in a state like Virginia, where Democrats have recently replaced Republicans in top state political offices. Along with Herring, the state's newly-elected Governor Terry McAuliffe is also a democrat. According to CNN, Virginia is often regarded as a "purple state" because of its Republican-dominated general assembly and conservative-leaning social policies.
Despite Herring's recent announcement, Republican lawmakers in the state have vowed to do what is in their power to protect the sanctity of marriage and will fight any push to redefine marriage.
Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) said in a statement that it is not the attorney general's right to personally decide the legality of the same-sex marriage ban.
"Here in Virginia, the state's Marriage Amendment is a matter of perennial legislative debate, and that Amendment could well fall: the voters could repeal it or a court may strike it down," Obenshain, who lost to Herring in the recent attorney general race, said in a statement. "But it is emphatically not the role of the Attorney General to make that determination unilaterally, and that may well be the consequence of Attorney General Herring's decision."
Republican House Speaker William J. Howell of Stafford added that focus should be on "the dangerous precedent [Herring's decision] sets with regard to the rule of law."
Additionally, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, a group supporting traditional marriage, released a statement saying the attorney general's decision is an example of "malfeasance and neglect of duty" that "is not only a disgrace, it's an impeachable offense under the constitution."
The United Nations AIDS taskforce has announced its plans to pursue legal action against the African country of Malawi over its laws criminalizing homosexuality. The lawsuit, which will be carried out by the AIDS taskforce and various human rights groups, is considered rare.
In March, UNAIDS, the Malawi Law Society and local human rights groups will ask a high court to overturn the southern African country's law on homosexuality by ruling it unconstitutional. "Our argument is that as long as same-sex relationships are consensual and done in private no one has business to get bothered," Felicia Kilembe, a spokeswoman for the Malawai Law Society, told Reuters.
Malawi's laws regarding homosexuality have made international headlines in the past. In 2009, a transgender woman and a man were arrested for holding an engagement party. The couple had their alleged offenses pardoned later in 2010. Punishment for homosexual acts in the African country includes a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment.
The country's laws regarding homosexuality have created friction between Malawi's President Joyce Banda and international aid groups, as the impoverished African county desperately needs help but aid groups do not want to be entangled in possible human rights violations.
The recent, rare legal action taken by the United Nations reflects international ire over African countries' laws regarding homosexuality. Earlier in January, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same-Sex Prohibition Act of 2014, which illegalizes gay marriage and gay relationships and inflicts a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment for offenders.
Western governments had urged Nigeria not to pass its recent law, threatening tighter sanctions if the country goes through with the legislation. Although aid-dependent countries like Uganda or Malawi respond more readily to western threats regarding homosexuality laws, Nigeria's rich economy, fueled by oil output, allowed it to pass its anti-gay law without fear of reprimand from western powers.
Rumors swirled that the U.S. would withdraw financial aid for Nigeria's fight against AIDS/HIV due to the legislation, but United States Ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle later clarified that the U.S. government will continue to provide aid to the African country, although it is possible that the new law will interfere with what type of aid can actually be provided.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last week that he fears Nigeria's new law could result in an increase in prejudice and violence. "The Secretary-General fears that the law may fuel prejudice and violence, and notes with alarm reports that police in northern Nigeria have arrested individuals believed by the authorities to be homosexuals, and may even have tortured them," Ban's press office said in a statement, adding that the law "also risks obstructing effective responses to HIV/AIDS."
Thursday, January 23, 2014
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
RICHMOND, Va. — Following a seismic political shift in Virginia's top elected offices, the new attorney general has concluded that the state's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional and he will no longer defend it in federal lawsuits, his office said Thursday.
Virginia, widely considered a battleground state in the nationwide fight to grant same-sex couples the right to wed, will instead side with the plaintiffs who are seeking to have the ban struck down, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark Herring said in an email to The Associated Press.
"After a thorough legal review of the matter, Attorney General Herring has concluded that Virginia's current ban is in violation of the U.S. constitution and he will not defend it," spokesman Michael Kelly wrote.
Herring, a Democrat who campaigned in part on marriage equality, was to file a brief Thursday with the federal court in Norfolk, where one of the lawsuits is being heard, as notification of the state's change in position in the case, Kelly said.
The state's shift comes on the heels of court rulings in which federal judges struck down gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma.
The lawsuits in Virginia say the state's ban violates the Constitution's equal protection and due process clauses.
The decision by Herring drew divided responses — celebration from attorneys challenging the ban and condemnation from conservative activists.
Tom Shuttleworth, representing the couples challenging the ban in Norfolk, praised Herring's position "on the basic human right of being able to marry the person of your choice."
"It's a nice day to be an American from Virginia," he wrote in an email.
Lambda Legal, which has challenged the state's gay marriage ban in federal court in Harrisonburg, called Herring's decision critical as he is "the keeper of the federal and state constitution in the commonwealth.""
But the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia called the development "disappointing and frightening."
The Republican speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates said Herring was setting a "dangerous precedent."
"The attorney general has a constitutional and statutory obligation to enforce and defend the duly adopted laws and Constitution of Virginia," William J. Howell said in a statement. "This is not an obligation that can be taken lightly."
Herring's announcement comes two weeks after Democrats who swept the top of the November ballot took office, changing the state's political landscape.
With the election of Democrats Terry McAuliffe as governor and Herring as attorney general, Virginia made a hairpin turn away from the socially conservative officeholders they succeeded, particularly Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, an activist on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. McAuliffe issued an executive order on inauguration day prohibiting discrimination against state employees who are gay.
Virginia voters approved the same-sex marriage ban 57 percent to 43 percent in 2006. But a Quinnipiac University poll in July found that 50 percent of registered Virginia voters support same-sex marriage, while 43 percent oppose it. The survey's margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
It is not the first time an attorney general has decided to stop defending their state's gay marriage ban. In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Kathleen Kane said last year that she would stop defending that state's gay marriage ban, also calling it unconstitutional. An outside law firm was hired to represent the state in a lawsuit over the ban.
Proponents of striking down the state's ban say the issue resonates in Virginia in particular because of a landmark 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a Virginia couple and interracial marriage.
Mildred and Richard Loving had been married in Washington, D.C., and were living in Virginia when police raided their home in 1958 and charged them with violating the state's Racial Integrity law. They were convicted but prevailed before the Supreme Court.
The legal costs in the Norfolk case are being paid for by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which was behind the effort to overturn California's gay marriage ban.
David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, the high-profile legal tandem that brought down California's prohibition on same-sex marriage, lead the legal team in that challenge. Both cited Virginia's history when they announced their challenge.
"This case is about state laws that violate personal freedoms, are unnecessary government intrusions, and cause serious harm to loving gay and lesbian couples," Olson had said.
The Norfolk lawsuit's plaintiffs are two couples: Timothy Bostic and Tony London, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley. Bostic and London applied for a marriage license with the Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk's office in July 2013, but their application was denied.
Schall and Townley were legally married in California in 2008. They have a daughter, whom Townley gave birth to in 1998, but Schall can't adopt her because Virginia law doesn't allow same-sex couples to adopt children, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit argues that Virginia law stigmatizes gay men and lesbians, along with their children and families, because it denies them the same definition of marriage afforded to opposite-sex couples.
In that state General Assembly, Democratic legislators are still widely outnumbered in the House of Delegates, but they have been emboldened by the shift away from a reliably conservative state. They took immediate aim at the state's ban on gay marriage, but proposed constitutional amendments face a long road. The earliest voters could see a proposed amendment is in 2016.
There are currently 17 states that allow gay marriage.
A same-sex couple in California is claiming a local catering company refused to service their upcoming wedding ceremony due to their sexuality.
Kama Kaina and Mathew Rivera, a same-sex couple of four years, reportedly contacted Janet Zimmerman Catering back in November to request her services at their upcoming gay marriage ceremony in Big Bear, Calif. in June 2014. The couple received a response email from Zimmerman saying she could not provide catering for their wedding because her Christian beliefs prohibited her from supporting them celebrate their lifestyle.
"Thank you for contacting me in regards to your upcoming wedding," Zimmerman reportedly responded in an email to Kaina, according to The Advocate, an LGBT publication. "I really appreciate that you were honest with me and gave me a heads up that this would be a same sex marriage. I hope that you will also appreciate when I am honest with you when I say that catering your wedding would comprise [sic] my Christian beliefs and I will be unable to accept this job. I am sure that you will be able to find someone who will better suit your needs."
Kaina and Rivera have said that they are currently not planning to pursue legal action against Zimmerman, and they are now searching for a new catering service to help them on their wedding day. Zimmerman is likely not in violation of California's anti-discrimination laws because her catering profession may be regarded in court as a service, rather than a business. Online searches for Zimmerman's catering service yields one result on Facebook under the name Janet Zimmerman-Catering, but this page has since been removed.
Since gay marriage has been legalized in several states, business owners have been put into difficult situations when wanting to deny services to same-sex weddings, even if their decision is based on religious beliefs.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit group, is currently challenging a judge's previous ruling that Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, Colo., could not deny service to a same-sex couple based on his beliefs. Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel for the nonprofit group, said in an statement that the judge's ruling denies Phillips of his constitutional rights. "Forcing Americans to promote ideas against their will undermines our constitutionally protected freedom of expression and our right to live free."
In another recent case, Sweet Cakes bakery in Gresham, Oregon was the focus of public criticism after the bakery's owner, Melissa Klein, refused to bake a cake that would be used at a same-sex wedding. The bakery was ultimately forced to close its doors due to boycotting and a discrimination investigation by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
When the bakery closed, Klein posted on her business's Facebook page a verse from Proverbs: "Better is a poor man who walks in integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways."
Executives at several TV networks, including ABC and CBS, are said to be "upset" over A&E "caving in" to "Duck Dynasty" supporters and reinstating Phil Robertson to the show, after it had earlier suspended him for comments he made about homosexuality in GQ magazine.
"Several high-ranking executives have expressed upset over the way this all played out. The network execs think that in allowing Phil to come back so quickly and seamlessly, without apology, sets a bad standard," an unnamed insider shared with FOX411. "The standard being that talent can say whatever offensive thing they want about gay people or other groups and get away with it. No consequences."
Robertson labeled homosexuality a sin, telling GQ for its January edition, "Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers - they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."
He added, "We never, ever judge someone on who's going to heaven, hell. That's the Almighty's job. We just love 'em, give 'em the good news about Jesus – whether they're homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort 'em out later, you see what I'm saying?"
Also using explicit language, he said: "It seems 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."
The "Duck Dynasty" patriarch was criticized for those remarks by several gay rights organizations, including GLAAD, which called on A&E to "indefinitely suspend" the reality TV star, with the network claiming that it has always supported and championed the LGBT community.
The suspension led to calls for a boycott and online campaigns from conservative Christians and "Duck Dynasty" fans, who insisted that Robertson had the right to express his views. A number of conservative politicians and commentators spoke out in defense of Robertson, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Alaska and Arkansas governors Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell D. Moore called the suspension "censorious cultural fundamentalism."
"… I hardly think silencing him can be called open-minded. In fact, it's the sort of censorious cultural fundamentalism that is neither 'progressive' nor 'pluralistic,'" Moore wrote on his website.
Following the outcry, A&E announced that it was reinstating Robertson to the show on Dec. 27. While members of the Robertson family, who stood by their patriarch in the controversy, said that they have smoothed things over with A&E, the FOX411 source claimed that other networks have been "shocked" that Robertson remained suspended for only a week.
"It's all about money. I guess many feel that A&E should have taken a stronger stand," the insider shared. "Where do moral standards go from here? Does this now mean stars can say whatever offensive things they want under the guise of freedom of speech, without repercussion?"
In its statement explaining the reinstatement, A&E maintained that the show "resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family, a family that America has come to love."
"While Phil's comments made in the [GQ] interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs, and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the 'coarse language' he used and the misinterpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would 'never incite or encourage hate,'" the network said.
"Duck Dynasty" returned to air for its Season 5 premiere Wednesday night.
A Senate panel voted Tuesday to delay until next year all proposed constitutional amendments, including one to repeal the state’s ban on gay marriage and another to change existing term limits on the governor.
The Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections voted unanimously to push off the constitutional measures for procedural reasons. In order to amend Virginia’s constitution, a measure must pass the General Assembly twice, with an election in between. Then, it must be approved by voters through referendum. Because there will be no General Assembly elections this year, the committee voted to wait.
“Next year is the appropriate year,” said Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), the committee chairman.
Obenshain said the committee was not singling out any particular proposed amendment. He noted that one that he had submitted, intended to make it easier to establish charter schools, was subjected to the same delay. Other proposals called for changing the constitution to establish a redistricting commission, repeal a ban on gay marriage and allow the governor to serve two back-to-back terms. The constitution currently allows a governor to serve more than one term, but only after a break.