Monday, April 27, 2015
April 26, 2015|10:46 am| The Christian Post|
WASHINGTON — What may have been the most diverse gathering of activists ever in Washington, D.C., gathered Saturday to "March for Marriage."
While the rainbow is often used as a symbol of diversity for the Gay Rights Movement, an impressive array of racial and ethnic backgrounds were evident among those united to defend marriage.
Eric Teetsel, executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, one of the sponsors of the March for Marriage, told The Christian Post that the crowd seemed "much bigger and more engaged" than last year's March for Marriage. That may be because the event, now in its third year, is young and "slowly starting to build," and the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a gay marriage case on Tuesday.
Teetsel was particularly struck, though, by the racial and ethnic diversity at the event.
"The thing that impresses me about this event, this is easily the most diverse rally I've ever seen. Every race, color and cultural background are united together for marriage," he said.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which organized the event, told The Christian Post that he was "overwhelmed" by the turnout, which he estimated to be twice as large as last year's March for Marriage.
The Capitol police seemed overwhelmed as well. The police did not close off First Street, which runs between the Supreme Court and the Capitol. At first they told the marchers to get on the sidewalks so traffic could continue. The sidewalks on both sides of First Street filled up, however, as one could still see marchers turning the corner from Constitution Avenue to First with no end to the March in sight. The police eventually acknowledged defeat and closed First Street.
When asked about the diversity of the marchers, Brown said the leaders of those diverse groups have been working for years "in the trenches together" defending marriage and some "amazing friendships" have developed out of that.
"I don't know what the Supreme Court will do [on gay marriage]," Brown continued. "I do know that God has His own purposes. The reality is we're working together in ways that we've never worked together before, with people of different faiths, different backgrounds. If that's the only thing that comes out of this, that's a big thing."
A translator was used for all the speakers, in some cases translating English to Spanish, in other cases translating Spanish to English.
At least two of the speakers mentioned the religious freedom concerns that have come with redefining marriage to include same-sex couples.
The day before the event, Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of a bakery in Oregon, learned they will be fined $135,000 for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.
Jennifer Marshall, vice president for the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity, mentioned the Kleins in her remarks, along with Barronelle Stutzman, a florist who was fined for refusing a same-sex wedding, and Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who was fired for his views about marriage.
"Standing for marriage comes with a cost," she said.
Cathy Ruse, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, added: "Obama says nobody should lose their jobs because of who they love. What if who they love is Jesus?"
Friday, April 24, 2015
Glenn Foden / The Daily Signal/ April 23, 2015
Ryan T. Anderson, the William E. Simon senior research fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, wrote about the same-sex marriage case earlier this week:
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about gay marriage. Here’s what you need to know.
1. There simply is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that requires all 50 states to redefine marriage. Whatever people may think about marriage as a policy matter, everyone should be able to recognize the Constitution does not settle this question.
Unelected judges should not insert their own policy preferences about marriage and then say the Constitution requires them everywhere.
2. The overarching question before the Supreme Court is not whether a male–female marriage policy is the best, but only whether it is allowed by the Constitution. The question is not whether government-recognized same-sex marriage is good or bad policy, but only whether it is required by the Constitution.
Those suing to overturn male-female marriage laws thus have to prove that the man–woman marriage policy that has existed in the United States throughout our entire history is prohibited by the Constitution. They cannot successfully so argue.
3. As Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito pointed out two years ago, there are two different visions of what marriage is on offer. One view of marriage sees it as primarily about consenting adult romance and care-giving. Another view of marriage sees it as a union of man and woman—husband and wife—so that children would have moms and dads.
Our Constitution is silent on which of these visions is correct, so We the People have constitutional authority to make marriage policy.
The debate over whether to redefine marriage to include same-sex relationships is unlike the debate over interracial marriage. Race has absolutely nothing to do with marriage, and there were no reasonable arguments ever suggesting it did.
Laws that banned interracial marriage were unconstitutional and the Court was right to strike them down. But laws that define marriage as the union of a man and woman are constitutional, and the Court shouldn’t strike them down.
4. The only way the Court could strike down state laws that define marriage as the union of husband and wife is to adopt a view of marriage that sees it as an essentially genderless institution based primarily on the emotional needs of adults and then declare that the Constitution requires that the states (re)define marriage in such a way.
Equal protection alone is not enough. To strike down marriage laws, the Court would need to say that the vision of marriage that our law has long applied equally is just wrong: that the Constitution requires a different vision entirely.
But the Constitution does not require a new vision of marriage.
Advocates for the judicial redefinition of marriage cannot reasonably appeal to the authority of Windsor, to the text or original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, to the fundamental rights protected by the Due Process Clause, or to Loving v. Virginia. So, too, one cannot properly appeal to the Equal Protection Clause or to animus or Lawrence v. Texas.
Nor can one say that gays and lesbians are politically powerless, so one cannot claim they are a suspect class. Nor can one say that male–female marriage laws lack a rational basis or that they do not serve a compelling state interest in a narrowly tailored way, as explained in Heritage Foundation legal memorandum “Memo to Supreme Court: State Marriage Laws Are Constitutional.”
5. Everyone in this debate is in favor of marriage equality. Everyone wants the law to treat all marriages in the same ways.
The only disagreement our nation faces is over what sort of consenting adult relationship is a marriage. Since the U.S. Constitution doesn’t answer that question, the people and their elected representative should.
And they should democratically enact laws that define marriage as the union of man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father.
6. Marriage exists to bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife, to be father and mother to any children their union produces. Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and woman are distinct and complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father.
Marriage is society’s best way to ensure the well-being of children. State recognition of marriage protects children by encouraging men and women to commit to each other—and to take responsibility for their children.
7. Redefining marriage to make it a genderless institution fundamentally changes marriage: It makes the relationship more about the desires of adults than the needs—or rights—of children. It teaches that mothers and fathers are interchangeable.
8. Rather than rush to a 50-state “solution” on marriage policy for the entire country, the Supreme Court should allow the laboratories of democracy the time and space to see how redefining marriage will impact society as a whole.
There is no need for the Court to “settle” the marriage issue like it tried to settle the abortion issue. Allowing marriage policy to be worked out democratically will give citizens and their elected representatives the freedom to arrive at the best public policy for everyone.
As the 6th Circuit noted when it upheld several states’ marriage laws, “federalism…permits laboratories of experimentation—accent on the plural—allowing one State to innovate one way, another State another, and a third State to assess the trial and error over time.” Judges should not cut this process short.
At the end of the day, this is a debate about whether citizens or judges will decide an important and sensitive policy issue—in this case, the very nature of civil marriage. Read more about it in our legal memo.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
April 21, 2015|1:00 pm| The Christian Post|
Efforts to ban sexual orientation change efforts therapy for gay minors at the state level have experienced mixed results following President Barack Obama's recent endorsement of banning the controversial practice.
Earlier this month, the Obama administration declared its support for banning SOCE therapy for homosexual and transgender minors.
Immediately after the administration's declaration, Colorado's legislature killed a bill aimed at bringing a ban to the state.
Known as House Bill 1175, the measure failed when brought before the Senate Committee on State, Veterans & Military Affairs.
State Senator Owen Hill, a Republican representing Colorado Springs,told local media that he voted against HB 1175 due to his concern about government overreach in the psychiatric profession.
"I am hesitant to use the heavy hand of government to take away the dignity of choice in cases where individuals want this therapy," said Sen. Hill to the Colorado Springs Independent.
However, in Illinois and Oregon similar bills are making progress through the legislative branches. Illinois' legislature, which voted down anti-SOCE therapy bill last session, is now mulling a reintroduced bill.
State Representative Sam Yingling, a Democrat representing Hainesville, told The Daily Northwestern about his support for the new bill.
"Conversion therapy does not work. It's no more effective that somebody going to a therapist to change the color of their skin," said Yingling.
Oregon's Senate Committee on Human Services and Early Childhood will hear testimony on House Bill 2307 on April 28, after the House overwhelmingly passed the proposed legislation.
Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays, said in a statement Monday that she hoped Oregon would take a similar route to Colorado regarding the bill.
"No one should be prevented from getting the help they want, and our society should allow every child and every person the freedom to be whoever they aspire to be," stated Griggs.
"We know that change is possible, and sometimes, talk therapy is the path that leads to a journey of hope for change and help to overcome unresolved feelings."
Also called conversion therapy or reparative therapy, SOCE therapy involves changing the sexual preferences of a patient from homosexual to heterosexual.
California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have passed bills banning the practice for those under the age of 18.
Several more states, including Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, and Virginia, have either voted down similar measures or let them stall in the process.
"In 2015 alone, legislation to ban the practice for minors has been introduced in at least 18 states," reported Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade.
"But non-related issues ranging from disputes over committee structure, Republican control and past failures stand in the way of these bills despite the statement from Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, endorsing a state-by-state approach in anticipation of 'broader action' at later time."
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
April 21, 2015|9:34 am| The Christian Post|
As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments next Tuesday on whether states will continue to be free to define marriage for their own citizens, a number of amicus briefs have been filed arguing that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee a fundamental right to same-sex marriage.
Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Ryan Anderson and prominent attorney and constitutional law expert Gene Schaerr recently co-authored their own amicus brief that asserts that the U.S. Constitution does not require states to redefine marriage to allow for two individuals of the same gender to get married.
Speaking at a Heritage Foundation discussion on Monday, Anderson and Schaerr, a former associate counsel to President George H.W. Bush, explained their brief in detail and offered more reasons as to why the Supreme Court should not force a decision in favor of same-sex marriage on all 50 states to uphold as law.
Anderson, who co-authored the book What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, explained that governments did not originally get into the "marriage business" because they wanted to be involved in their citizens' romances. Rather, state governments got involved in marriage so that the children who were born from marriages would have the best chance of having a stable family environment to grow up in, which included both a mom and dad.
"There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that requires all 50 states to redefine marriage," Anderson asserted. "The Constitution is simply silent on whether the consent-based vision of marriage or the comprehensive vision of marriage is the true definition of marriage. It is silent on whether the states should devise their marriage policy to serve."
Schaerr discredited a notion that a person has a constitutional right to get married to the person they love as long as they are two consenting adults.
"The bottom line is … there has never been any right to marry the person you love and so a states' rejection of that claimed right couldn't possibly be a denial of due process under the plain language of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment," Schaerr asserted. "If we turn to the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the argument that same-sex marriage is based on, that clause also has holes in it."
Schaerr also discredited a widely portrayed notion that bans on same-sex marriage are discriminatory against gays and lesbians.
"Unlike the old Jim Crow laws that prohibited mix-raced marriages, the man-woman definition of marriage doesn't offend the equal protection guarantee because it allows any otherwise qualified man and woman to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation," Schaerr said.
"The state man-woman marriage laws do not deny anybody the ability to marry based on their sexual orientation. There is no question on the marriage application that asks are you gay or lesbian," Schaerr continued. "The law doesn't care. The law just says that there are certain requirements for marriage and if you are willing to comply with those requirements, then we will give you a marriage license."
Anderson argues that redefining marriage as a union between two consenting adults would have drastic societal consequences.
"If you redefine marriage to say that it is the union of any two consenting adults, irrespective of sexual complementarity, how will we as a community insist that fathers are essential when the laws redefine marriage to make fathers optional?" Anderson asks. "That is the challenge that faces the society that redefines marriage as consenting-adult romance and care-giving. It eliminates the public message of marriage as about uniting a man and a woman as husband and wife so that children will have both a mom and a dad."
With unelected federal judges overturning a number of states' gay marriage bans in the last year and many people thinking the Supreme Court could do the same a national level, Anderson said that just because the court has the power of judicial review, that does not mean the Supreme Court reigns supreme.
"I think it is important here to say that judicial review is not the same thing as judicial supremacy," Anderson said. "The Supreme Court is not supreme. Judicial supremacy is a problem when it claims to be the only branch of government that has the obligation the defend and uphold the Constitution. All branches of government, the three federal branches and the state governments, take that oath to defend the Constitution. All branches of government are co-equal in interpreting what the Constitution means."
Although many are confident that at least five justices will rule in favor same-sex marriage, Schaerr explained that no Supreme Court justice has ever written an opinion that held that there is a constitutional right for same-sex couples to get married.
"In fact, there are three justices that have written or have joined opinions that clearly say there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage and Chief Justice Roberts' opinion in the Windsor case goes at least half way there," Schaerr stated. "So as of right now, in terms of Supreme Court Justices, its three-and-a-half on our side and nobody who's committed to recognizing a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage."
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Gene Schaerr /April 17, 2015/ The Daily Signal/
On the surface, abortion and same-sex marriage may seem unrelated. However, as explained in an amicus brief of 100 scholars of marriage, filed in the pending Supreme Court marriage cases and summarized here, the two are closely linked in a short and simple causal chain that the Supreme Court would be wise not to set in motion.
In a nutshell: A reduction in the opposite-sex marriage rate means an increase in the percentage of women who are unmarried and who, according to all available data, have much higher abortion rates than married women. And based on past experience, institutionalizing same-sex marriage poses an enormous risk of reduced opposite-sex marriage rates.
Effect of Same-Sex Marriage on Man-Woman Marriage Rates
As the amicus brief explains in detail, redefining marriage in genderless terms—which is legally necessary to permit marriage by same-sex couples—undermines the existing social norms of marriage in ways that are likely over time to reduce opposite-sex marriage rates. For example, an “any-two-adults” model of marriage implicitly tells men (and women) that a child doesn’t need a father (or mother), thereby weakening the norm of gender-diverse parenting. Other norms, such as the value of biological bonding, partner exclusivity, and reproductive postponement until marriage, will likewise crumble.
It is thus not surprising that, even in the short time that same-sex marriage has been officially recognized in some states at home and abroad, man-woman marriage rates have declined—even as marriage rates in other jurisdictions have remained relatively stable.
In the Netherlands, for example, among young women, and after controlling for other factors, there was a net 5 percent reduction in the nationwide opposite-sex marriage rate, and a 31.8 percent plunge in urban, less religious areas. As shown in the graph below, moreover, in just a few years after it redefined marriage Spain saw man-woman marriage rates plummet 36 percent.
Similar patterns have been observed in U.S. states for which we have sufficient data. Comparing the last year for which data are available to the year just prior to adopting same-sex marriage, Vermont (-5.1 percent), Iowa (-9.2 percent), Connecticut (-7.3 percent) and Massachusetts (-8.9 percent) all suffered a reduction in their opposite-sex marriage rates.
Yet, from 2009 (the first year of genderless marriage in Iowa and Vermont, and the second in Connecticut) until 2012, the overall U.S. marriage rate remained stable.
Increases in Abortion Rates
Conservatively applying the lowest of these reductions, a 5 percent reduction in marriages among U.S. residents aged 15-44 (from a base of 1.7 million marriages annually) means 85,000 fewer marriages per year. Over a 30-year fertility cycle, that amounts to 2.55 million fewer marriages.
Conservatively assuming that half of the marriage decline over the next generation comes from women who permanently forgo rather than delay marriage, under that scenario 1.275 million more women aged 15-44 would never marry—the equivalent of the entire city of Dallas, Texas.
Married women do not abort children at the same rates as cohabitating women or women living singly. Currently, as shown in the chart below, there are 28.9 abortions per 1,000 unmarried women per year, in contrast to 6.1 for married women:
Calculating the total number of abortions over an unmarried woman’s childbearing years by averaging this rate over her assumed 30-year fertility period, unmarried women would average 0.87 abortions over their lifetimes, while married women would average 0.18 abortions.
Accordingly, with 1.275 million additional women never getting married, nearly 900,000 more children of the next generation would be aborted as a result of their mothers never marrying. This is equal to the entire population of the cities of Sacramento and Atlanta combined.
And again, the actual increase in abortions would likely be much higher, as most women who would have married will cohabitate rather than live singly, and cohabitating women are three times more likely to have an abortion than a woman living singly.
In short, forcing states to convert the traditional gendered marriage institution into a genderless institution will very likely reduce man-woman marriages by undermining some of the norms that encourage heterosexual couples to marry, which will in turn increase the number of unmarried women and, hence, the number of children aborted.
It is one thing for the people of a state to subject themselves and their children to that risk through democratic processes. It would be quite another for the Supreme Court to subject a states’ citizens to that risk, against their will.
Monday, April 20, 2015
April 17, 2015|6:03 pm| The Christian Post|
Arizona Internet Evangelist Joshua Feuerstein could be facing felony charges after posting a YouTube video recording of a conversation he had with a Florida baker where he asked if she could make him a sheet cake displaying the words "We do not support gay marriage."
On April 1, Feuerstein called Cut the Cake bakery in Longwood, Florida, and asked owner Sharon Haller if she would make a cake and include the words "We do not support gay marriage." Haller initially thought the phone call was a prank. She then refused to make the cake saying, "We do not do that, sorry." She then quickly hung up the phone.
Considering the number of Christian-owned small businesses that have been sued, fined and received death threats for refusing to provide services for gay weddings, Feuerstein then spoke into the camera and offered his take on whether business owners should be forced to service events they believe to be morally wrong.
"It obviously violates her principles, so she doesn't feel like she should be forced to make the cake. And yet, there is all of this hoopla because Christian bakeries think that they shouldn't be forced," he explained. "We're getting to the place in America now where Christians are not allowed any form of freedom of speech."
"I love gay people. This is nothing against gay people," Feuerstein asserted. "This is about religious freedom."
After Feuerstein posted the video online, Haller told local media outlets that she received death threats for refusing to make the cake that Feuerstein asked for.
"People [are] telling us that we need to kill ourselves and all kinds of stuff, and we're just afraid for our business and our safety," Haller is quoted as saying to local media.
Feuerstein has since removed the video from YouTube.
Breitbart reports that Haller is considering taking Feuerstein to court because he never got her permission to publish their conversation. Recording conversations without consent is a third-degree felony in the state of Florida and punishable by up to five years in prison, The Orlando Sentinel was told by a Sarasota-based lawyer.
"The same statute that criminalizes recording phone calls also criminalizes posting it and publishing it," Andrea Flynn Mogensen, a lawyer who specializes in civil-liberty cases, said.
Breitbart also reports that Haller has inquired with the FBI as to whether Feuerstein can be charged with a hate crime.
But Haller is not the only one receiving death threats over this exchange, as Feuerstein wrote on Facebook that he has also received death threats, and he and his family have left town for protection after Haller told News 13 that Feuerstein asked her to make a cake that says, "I hate gays."
"He gave credit card information and he said he wants written on the cake, 'I hate gays,'" Haller is quoted as saying to the media outlet.
Feuerstein told one Orlando news channel that he never meant to cause any harm toward Haller and was just filming to see if a "double standard" exists.
"I wanted to see if it was actually a double standard; if a gay-friendly bakery and one that advertised themselves as so on pro-LGBT wedding sites would actually bake a cake that went against their principles," Feuerstein said.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
April 16, 2015|10:57 am| The Chistian Post|
Various conservative groups are offering diverse responses to the LGBT-themed public schools event on Friday known as the "Day of Silence," by either urging parents to keep their children home from school or by participating in the "Day of Dialogue" that encourages Christian students to share biblical views on sexual ethics.
Held every April, the Day of Silence is championed by the LGBT advocacy group GLSEN and boasts a participation rate in the hundreds of thousands.
"GLSEN's Day of Silence is one of the largest student-led actions in the country, with students from more than 8,000 middle and high schools, colleges and universities ... This quiet but powerful, student-led action raises awareness about the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination," GLSEN notes in a press release shared with The Christian Post.
While the Day of Silence will be observed on Friday, the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family will hold a "Day of Dialogue" in response to GLSEN's public schools event.
Thursday's Day of Dialogue observance focuses on Christian students speaking up for what they believe, including biblical views on sexual ethics.
Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family and facilitator for the Day of Dialogue, told CP that the event is meant to bring a Christian perspective to current hot button issues.
"Whether it's the Day of Silence — or another of the many, and increasing, efforts to endorse a form of sexual activism in classrooms — too often, these issues are promoted in a one-sided manner that leaves Christian students feeling like their deeply held beliefs are being marginalized," Cushman said.
"So it's a response in the sense that Day of Dialogue wants to ensure Christian students have a place at the table and an equal opportunity to share their perspective in a loving and respectful manner."
Cushman also told CP that instead of students engaging in silence "we believe it's important to encourage open dialogue."
"We wholeheartedly believe that the truth rises to the surface when honest conversations and a free exchange of ideas are allowed to happen," Cushman said.
The first Day of Silence was held at the University of Virginia in 1996, with organizers estimating that as many as 8,000 schools have students who take part.
Other conservative groups, including Concerned Women for America CEO and President Penny Nance, have been critical of the motives behind the Day of Silence.
In a column for Breitbart published last week, Nance argued that if anyone is being shamed into silence it is critics of the "gay rights" movement, not LGBT youths.
"In light of all we know today, how the pro-LGBT radicals are bullying Christians into silence, it is almost comical to hear this propaganda still being peddled to our children," Nance wrote.
"How about the silencing of Mozilla's former CEO, Brendan Eich? Or the bullying of Barronelle Stutzman, the florist who is at risk of losing everything she has, including her home, her family business, and her life savings, because of her religious beliefs on marriage?"
In keeping with this viewpoint, the Illinois Family Institute is coordinating with organizations across the nation, including various CWA chapters, to have a walkout on the Day of Silence.
Laurie Higgins, cultural analyst with the Illinois Family Institute, told CP that the walkout was being held because "GLSEN is exploiting legitimate anti-bullying sentiment and captive audiences in public schools to advance leftist assumptions about the nature of homosexuality and the morality of volitional homoerotic activity."
"The ultimate goal of GLSEN is to use public education to eradicate conservative ontological and moral beliefs or make it socially and politically impossible to express them," Higgins asserted.
"GLSEN and its supporters within public schools seek to indoctrinate other people's children with homosexuality-affirming dogma, conflating conservative moral beliefs with hatred. In so doing, they actually foment hatred."
Higgins added that the IFI and its allies have been encouraging walkouts on the Day of Silence for the past eight years.
"We have no way of tracking numbers of students who are called out. That said, we have more coalition partners this year than any previous year," Higgins said.
The Day of Silence and the events being held in response come as debates over homosexual marriage and the extent of religious liberty garner national headlines.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
April 14, 2015|4:01 pm| The Christian Post|
A Louisiana bill seeks to balance gay marriage with the religious freedom of those who oppose it.
The "Marriage and Conscience Act," sponsored by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, would prevent the state from punishing people for actions they take regarding marriage due to their religious or moral convictions.
The core section of the law states: "Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, this state shall not take any adverse action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction about the institution of marriage."
Even though gay marriage supporters are condemning the law as "anti-gay," it would codify a principle put forth by gay marriage supporters when they initially sought public support for gay marriage. That principle was often stated something like this: "Gay marriage will have no effect on gay marriage opponents. Those opposed to gay marriage will be able to go about their daily lives as they always have."
Since becoming legal in a majority of states, however, that principle has not been upheld. For example, Catholic social service agencies have been forced out of finding homes for orphans because they only place children in homes with a married mother and father. Wedding vendors, such as photographers, florists and cake bakers, have been forced out of business for refusing to use their talents for a same-sex wedding. And in Georgia a government employee was fired due to his belief that true marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
Like what gay marriage supporters originally called for, the Louisiana bill is based upon a principle of "live and let live." While gay couples would continue to be able to get a state marriage license, the legislation would let those opposed to gay marriage live according to their beliefs.
But gay marriage supporters are opposing the bill that seeks to codify the principle they once supported.
In an op-ed for The Times-Picayune, for example, Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, described the bill as "bigotry enshrouded in religion" supported by people who wish to "promote intolerance." He also falsely claimed that the bill would allow businesses to deny gays access to public accommodations. Misleadingly, Leger never informed that the bill is specifically about marriage.
Same-sex couples cannot obtain a marriage license in Louisiana due to a state constitutional amendment. In New Mexico, however, a photographer was punished for declining to work at a same-sex wedding even before gay marriage was legal in that state. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide this summer whether the U.S. Constitution requires all states to legalize gay marriage.
The bill has the support of Gov. Bobby Jindal, a possible Republican presidential candidate, who mentioned it in his Monday State of the State address.
"In Louisiana we do not support discrimination and we do support religious liberty, and we believe that we can uphold both of those values simultaneously," he said.
Jindal also sought to clear up misconceptions about the bill.
"All this bill does is provide necessary protections for individuals to prevent adverse treatment from the state based on religious beliefs regarding marriage," he continued. "This legislation does not allow a restaurant or industry to refuse service to a gay or lesbian person. The law merely ensures the state cannot deny a license, certification, accreditation, or contracts, to a person or a business on the basis of their sincerely held religious belief about marriage.
"It does not provide a right for a business owner to discriminate against gays or lesbians. I think we can all agree that the government should never force someone to participate in a marriage ceremony against their will.
"People, charities and family-owned businesses should not be penalized because they believe in the traditional definition of marriage. Regardless of your beliefs about the definition of marriage, we should all respect the right of our neighbors to hold a different view."
Recent religious freedom battles were over state-level religious freedom laws, called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in Indiana and Arkansas. Those laws, like the federal RFRA, direct courts to balance religious freedom claims against government interests. Government action can infringe upon one's religious freedom under RFRA, but only if there is a compelling state interest to do so and if the least restrictive means are used to advance that interest.
While states have been passing RFRA's since 1997, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal RFRA did not apply to state laws, the recent urgency to pass state RFRA's has been in reaction to the use of government force against wedding vendors opposed to serving same-sex weddings. There is not guarantee, however, that a state RFRA would protect these wedding vendors. So far, no wedding vendor has successfully used RFRA to prevent the government from forcing them to choose between their religious conscience and staying in business.
Louisiana already has a state RFRA. Unlike the efforts in Indiana and Nebraska, the "Marriage and Conscience Act" more specifically spells out what the legislators want — religious freedom for dissenters when gay marriage is legal.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
April 13, 2015|5:15 pm | The Christian Post|
A leader in the field of sexual orientation change efforts therapy has denounced the therapy's negative portrayal following the Obama Administration's support for banning the practice. Obama supports the right to an abortion for minors, but would deny them therapies to help with same-sex attraction if they want it, he pointed out.
Last week, President Barack Obama came out in support of bans on conversion therapy for gay and transgender youths.
David Pruden, executive director of the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity, provided The Christian Post with comments denouncing what he called "misleading" descriptions of conversion therapy.
"We believe that the personal and intimate conversations that take place in the confidential setting of a licensed professional counselor's office cannot become an excuse for politicians or policy organizations to push their way into the private lives of individual Americans," said Pruden.
"Too often, as in this case, politicians exploit these opportunities so they can grandstand or promote their political objectives at the expense of the happiness and mental health of individuals who freely seek therapeutic assistance."
Pruden went on to note the hypocrisy of some politicians who, while attempting to ban conversion therapy for minors, still believe that female minors should have access to abortion.
"Any society that grants the right to an adolescent to decide to terminate a pregnancy cannot rationally suggest that this same adolescent should not have the right to freely participate in conversational counseling to discuss sexuality," said Pruden.
"If an adolescent is experiencing confusion or ambivalence about their sexual attractions they should have the opportunity to talk with a counselor of their choice."
Last week, the Obama Administration voiced their support for banning the practice of conversion therapy for youths.
Also called SOCE therapy or reparative therapy, the practice involves changing the sexual preferences of a patient from homosexual to heterosexual.
In response to a petition calling for a ban that was signed by over 120,000 people, Senior Obama Advisor Valerie Jarrett agreed with a ban either at the federal or state level.
"The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm,"wrote Jarrett.
"As part of our dedication to protecting America's youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors."
At present, California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have passed bans on conversion therapy for minors. Oregon, Iowa, and Colorado are among states currently considering legislation. However, several states including Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia have voted down proposals to criminalize the practice.
Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, believes the administration's announcement might encourage some Democrat leaders to push bills banning the therapy for minors.
"These bills have been introduced in over a dozen states, but have only succeeded in two plus the District of Columbia," said Sprigg.
"It is possible that this endorsement will put these bills higher on the priority list of some Democratic politicians around the country, but I think most of them have more important things to worry about."
Lourdes Ashley Hunter, chief communications officer for the DC Center for the LGBT Community, told CP that it "is critical that our youth have every opportunity to thrive unapologetically in their truths."
"We are thrilled that President Obama is in support of banning conversion therapy as there is nothing wrong with us," said Hunter.
"…however it is time that the White House and President Obama stand up against the brutal violence and institutionalized structural oppression trans and gender non-conforming people of color are facing everyday."
Hunter, who also serves as national director of the Trans Women of Color Collective, also told CP that states should ban the conversion therapy practice for the benefit of youths.
"States must realize that conversion therapy is not a useful tool that supports the livelihood of our youth. When our youth say who they are, it is our responsibility to honor and support them in their truths," said Hunter.
Monday, April 13, 2015
April 10, 2015|1:13 pm| The Christian Post|
President Barack Obama symbolically demonstrated support for certain transgender political goals this week by announcing his support for bans on conversion therapy for youth and the addition of a gender neutral bathroom in the White House.
In response to a petition posted on a White House website, the Obama administration expressed its support for Sexual Orientation Change Efforts Therapy.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior presidential adviser, wrote in the official response to the petition that President Obama supported such a ban.
"As part of our dedication to protecting America's youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors."
Jarrett cited California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, which have all passed bans on the practice. Jarrett implied that a federal ban would be a challenge to enact.
"While a national ban would require congressional action, we are hopeful that the clarity of the evidence combined with the actions taken by these states will lead to broader action that this Administration would support," continued Jarrett.
"This Administration believes that young people should be valued for who they are, no matter what they look like, where they're from, the gender with which they identify, or who they love."
Sometimes called "conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy," SOCE therapy seeks to change the sexual preferences of a patient from homosexual to heterosexual.
While rejected by mainstream American psychiatry, several organizations and professionals offer SOCE therapy for minors and adults.
Over the past couple years, several state legislatures have debated banning the practice, with California being the first to do so. Most bills, including those introduced in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia, have either been voted down or withdrawn.
In January, a petition was posted on the White House website "We the People" calling for the enacting of "Leelah's Law." Named for a transgender youth who committed suicide after her parents had her undergo conversion therapy, the petition garnered over 120,000 signatories.
"Therapists that engage in the attempt to brainwash or reverse any child's gender identity or sexual orientation are seriously unethical and legislation is needed to end such practices that are resulting in LGBTQ+ deaths," read the petition.
"We respectfully seek your help to ban the practice known as 'conversion therapy' and name the bill in honor of Leelah Alcorn."
This is far from the first time that Obama has expressed support for the gay and transgender rights movements.
In 2012, Obama became the first sitting president to express support for gay marriage legalization and in January gave the first State of the Union that included the word "transgender."
Earlier this week Politico reported that the White House recently included a gender neutral bathroom for guests.
The move complimented Obama's executive order barring federal contractors from engaging in employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
"An all-gender restroom is also available in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which provides guests and staff an additional option," said White House spokesman Jeff Tiller, noted Politico.
"The White House allows staff and guests to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity, which is in keeping with the administration's existing legal guidance on this issue and consistent with what is required by the executive order that took effect today for federal contractors."
Ex-gay organizations and their allies have denounced the White House's recent support for SOCE therapy bans, saying that such a move interferes with a youth's freedom of choice.
In a blog entry, Andrew Comiskey of Desert Stream Ministries stated that the White House response to the therapy ban petition was "ill-informed" and based on "propaganda."
"Perhaps Obama thinks he is opening up the future for a gender-confused generation. He is actually closing it," wrote Comiskey.
"In refusing to consider valid options for persons who seek clinical assistance to change their sexual identity, he reduces human freedom, the very freedom he seeks to defend by condemning reparative therapy."