The November election put Republicans in full control of a record number of state legislatures around the country, a level of power that gives the party an unprecedented opportunity: change the U.S. Constitution.
Republicans already control Congress, the White House and more governors’ offices than they have in nearly a century. But it’s the state legislatures that could produce lasting change.
The GOP now holds numerical majorities in 33 legislatures, one shy of the two-thirds required to initiate a convention on constitutional amendments. There is no credible talk of using that power for amendments on hot-button social issues, such as banning abortion or gay marriage. But conservatives have a list of bread-and-butter governing issues they would like to see enshrined in the Constitution.
One, to require a balanced federal budget, is already approaching the level of support that would trigger a convention. Beyond that, a major state-level push is planned during 2017 for a constitutional convention that could also consider amendments to impose term limits on members of Congress and rein in various federal powers.
President-elect Donald Trump has pledged support for an amendment on congressional term limits.
“The possibility of constitutional change is in the air,” said law professor Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, a nonprofit museum that is hosting academic debates and symposiums about the efforts to amend the Constitution.
The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times since it was ratified in 1788, and its Article V spells out two ways to propose amendments. By a two-thirds vote of each chamber, the U.S. House and Senate can refer an amendment to the states. Or two-thirds of the state legislatures can request that Congress call a convention of the states.
Both scenarios require three-fourths of the states — or 38 — to ratify an amendment before it takes effect.
If the supporters of a balanced budget amendment succeed, it would be the first time in the nation’s history that states initiated the process. That scenario has become more likely as a result of the November election.
It takes 34 states to trigger a convention for constitutional amendments, meaning a unified Republican push would need the help of only a few Democrats in a single state to reach the mark.
“The overwhelming success of one political party at the state level is something of real constitutional significance,” said Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional law professor at Yale University.
Every state except Vermont has some sort of balanced budget requirement, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The U.S. government does not, but not everyone agrees that’s a problem. During recessions, for example, federal government spending can help drive the economy even if it means spending at a deficit.
Twenty-eight state legislatures already have approved measures calling for a convention to propose a federal balanced budget requirement, although they use a variety of terms that could raise legal questions about whether they all count toward the threshold.
Organizers at the nonprofit Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force have lined up sponsors in nine additional Republican-led legislatures — Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, South Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming — with the goal of reaching the two-thirds threshold in 2017.
But Republican control is no guarantee of success.
A Wyoming measure calling for a convention on a balanced budget amendment was shelved in 2015 after the state Senate altered it to make it contingent on assurances that Wyoming would not see a reduction in federal revenue.
Montana’s Republican-led House overwhelmingly defeated a resolution calling for a convention on a balanced budget amendment when it last met in 2015. Opponents expressed fears of a “runaway convention” during which delegates might propose all types of possible amendments.
Similar fears have thwarted past attempts at passing a balanced budget amendment. The movement peaked at 32 states when Missouri passed a resolution calling for a convention in 1983, then dipped to about half that as numerous states rescinded their resolutions. The tally began growing again after Republicans swept into control of many capitols in 2010.
The possibility of a convention dominated by delegates from a single party is “alarming,” said Carolyn Fiddler, a spokeswoman for the national Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
“There are no rules. They can just throw out the whole Constitution if they want to,” Fiddler said. “It’s the wildest of Wild West situations.”
Supporters of a balanced budget amendment hope to allay such fears by convening this coming summer in Nashville, Tennessee, to propose rules and procedures for a future convention on constitutional amendments. They contend a convention is unlikely to veer off into contentious issues such as abortion and gun rights because amendments ultimately will need bipartisan appeal to win ratification from 38 states.
The mere possibility of a state-initiated convention has been enough to prompt Congress to action in the past. With states just shy of the two-thirds mark in 1912, Congress instead wrote its own amendment requiring senators to be elected by a vote of the people rather than through state legislatures. The states then ratified the amendment.
But Congress has repeatedly fallen short of the two-thirds vote needed to refer a balanced budget amendment to the states. The last time both chambers tried was in 2011.
During the past three years, eight states have passed resolutions calling for a convention that would go beyond a balanced budget amendment to include other fiscal restraints, term limits for Congress and federal officials, and unspecified restrictions on federal power. Though still far from the two-thirds threshold, supporters of those causes believe the Republican rise to power could help their movement grow rapidly.
“With the election and things that have happened, it provides really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore critical structural checks in our constitutional system,” said Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, a Republican attorney.
Ivory was elected in September as the presiding officer of a simulated convention of the states designed to demonstrate that the method of proposing constitutional amendments actually can work. Among those present at the event was law professor Randy Barnett, director of the Center for the Constitution at Georgetown University.
“Amending the Constitution is always a longshot, no matter how you go about it,” Barnett said. But if 34 states — including 33 Republican ones — call for such a convention, “it would be very difficult for the Congress to stop that.”
While the NRA is ostensibly an organization focused on gun rights, members of its leadership have attacked LGBT people for years, including blaming a mass shooting on gay marriage, calling societal acceptance of transgender people “perverted,” claiming gay people “created” the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and labeling gay people “despicable,” “perverts,” and “degenerates.”
The NRA Has Attacked Gay People For Decades
NRA Top Lobbyist On May 20: Societal Acceptance Of Transgender People Is “Perverted” And “Twisted.” Chris Cox, who is the NRA’s top lobbyist and directs political efforts as the head of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said at the NRA annual meeting, “everything we’ve always known to be good, and right, and true has been twisted, perverted,” before citing as an example, “the media tells them Bruce Jenner is a national hero for transforming his body, while our wounded warriors, whose bodies were transformed by IEDs and rocket-propelled grenades, can’t even get basic healthcare from the VA”:
CHRIS COX: The America we know is becoming unrecognizable. Everything we believe in, everything we’ve always known to be good, and right, and true has been twisted, perverted and repackaged to our kids as wrong, backwards, and abnormal.
Who are our kids supposed to respect and admire? The media tells them Bruce Jenner is a national hero for transforming his body, while our wounded warriors, whose bodies were transformed by IEDs and rocket-propelled grenades, can’t even get basic healthcare from the VA. [NRA Annual Meeting, 5/20/16]
NRA Head Wayne LaPierre: Obama Admin. Is “In The Toilet” Because Of Efforts To Prevent Discrimination Against Transgender Students. NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre railed against the Obama administration’s recent guidance explaining that public schools must allow transgender students to use facilities, like bathrooms and locker rooms, that correspond to their gender identity:
WAYNE LAPIERRE: Felons with guns, criminal gangs with guns, and drug dealers with guns are getting away with murder literally in places like Chicago and Detroit and beyond. Where the full weight of existing federal enforcement of federal firearms laws is absent. A Clinton White House would be a dangerous extension of the Obama White House. And where has this White House put its full weight? In the toilet. In bathrooms in North Carolina, in school districts all over our country. [NRA Annual Meeting, 5/20/16
NRA Board Member Blamed Isla Vista, CA, Mass Shooting On Gay Marriage. After a gunman motivated by his hatred of women went on a shooting and stabbing spree in Isla Vista, CA, in 2014, Ken Blackwell, NRA board member and senior fellow at anti-gay hate group Family Research Council, blamed the shooting on “the attack on … natural marriage”:
KEN BLACKWELL: When you see there’s a crumbling of the moral foundation of the country, you see the attack on the — on natural marriage and the family that has been a part of the, not only the moral foundation and the upbringing of our children but the teaching of sexual roles and the development of human sexuality in our culture. When these fundamental institutions are attacked and destroyed and weakened and abandoned, you get what we are now seeing and that is a flood of these disturbed people in our society that are causing great, great pain. And as opposed to dealing with the foundational problems, we look for ways of blaming the Second Amendment, or blaming knives or blaming cars when they are used. At the end of the day, you have just underscored the problem. This is a convenient way of avoiding talking about what’s at the root cause. [5/29/14, Right Wing Watch via Media Matters]
Blackwell Compared Gay Marriage To Incest. In a 2009 column on D.C. legalizing gay marriage, Blackwell compared same-sex marriage to incest and also bizarrely suggested that transgender and bisexual people would use same-sex marriage laws to demand participation in polygamous marriages:
Remember, we’ve all been schooled in that LGBT formulation. That means Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered. The advocates of counterfeiting marriage cannot leave out their B and T. So, what will that mean? How can they deny ‘marriage equality’ to a bisexual person who wants to marry two significant others? Or what about a person who has attempted through surgery and drugs to change his sex? Should such a person, if married, be denied the right to marry another person? If love and commitment make a marriage, why cannot brothers and sisters marry? Or fathers and daughters? What the District [of Columbia] Council has done is to open the door to polygamy, to incest. [Patriot Post, 12/21/09, via Media Matters]
Blackwell Claimed That Gay People “Created” HIV/AIDS Epidemic. During the discussion over whether the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy should be repealed, Blackwell wrote in his column, “Already, this alternate lifestyle has created what the gay groups themselves refer to as a Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Do the American people want to bring this health crisis into the ranks of our volunteer military?” [Patriot Post, 2/23/10 via NRA On The Record]
NRA Board Member Ted Nugent Mockingly Suggested The NBA Should “Host A Homosexual Night” Where “Homosexuals Could Come Down On The Court, Hold Hands And Prance Around The Court To Music By The Village People.” NRA board member Ted Nugent slammed the NBA’s decision to fine then NBA star Kobe Bryant for using an anti-gay slur, complaining in a 2011 Washington Times column, “Bryant committed this egregious verbal foul because he used a word demeaning to homosexuals, the most protected class of people in America”:
Basketball superstar Kobe Bryant was socked with a $100,000 fine by the NBA last week for calling a referee what the NBA thinks is a derogatory, ugly and vile name.
To be exact, Mr. Bryant committed this egregious verbal foul because he used a word demeaning to homosexuals, the most protected class of people in America.
Gay rights groups applaud the decision of the NBA, which must make all the homosexual basketball fans feel peachy and special. Who knows, maybe the NBA will use Mr. Bryant’s $100,000 to buy courtside seats for gay basketball fans. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Show some gay pride, NBA.
Those among us who work tirelessly to shut down (and shout down, if the need arises) speech they disagree with must also be absolutely gay with pride and satisfaction over this fine.
If the NBA had any true gay convictions, the NBA should host a Homosexual Night. During halftime, the homosexuals could come down on the court, hold hands and prance around the court to music by the Village People. The NBA could then give each homosexual a pink basketball as a symbol of solidarity.
Homosexuals are a protected class in America. If you think what happened to Mr. Bryant was a travesty, just wait until you see what homosexuals in the military do when they claim they have been mistreated because of their sexual orientation. [The Washington Times, 4/19/2011, via Media Matters]
Nugent Said It’s “Despicable” When Men “Have Sex With Each Other’s Anal Cavities.” From a 2000 interview on Fox News’ Hannity and Colmes:
TED NUGENT: I got to tell you, guys that have sex with each other’s anal cavities — how can we offend guys that actually have anal sex? Don’t you think that might offend some of us who think that’s despicable? [Fox News, Hannity and Colmes via Nexis, 6/29/00]
Former NRA Board Member Praised Dictator Robert Mugabe For Calling Gay People “Perverts Who Do Not Deserve Civil Rights.” Jeff Cooper, a longtime board member who the NRA honored by naming a shooting range after when he died in 2004, praised Zimbabwe Dictator Robert Mugabe in his often-homophobic “Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries” newsletter:
Reluctant as we may be to compliment a dictator who prefers to be addressed as “Comrade,” we are compelled to do so in the case of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. He officially refers to homosexuals as “perverts who do not deserve civil rights.” In his words,
“Let the Americans keep their sodomy, bestiality, stupid and foolish ways to themselves. Let the gays be – gay – in the United States and Europe, but they shall be sad people here.”
How about that? [Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries, January 1996, via Coalition to Stop Gun Violence]
Cooper: “Lesbians Make Lousy Shots” Compared To “Normal Girls.” Cooper wrote in 1997 in his newsletter, “We are now given to understand by a police firearms instructor of wide background and experience that lesbians make lousy shots. Normal girls, on the other hand, tend to do rather well on the range. Is there a point to be learned here?” [Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries, November 1997, via NRA On The Record]
NRA Board Member, Iran-Contra Figure, And Fox News Contributor Oliver North Mocked Gay People During A GOP Fundraiser. According to the Williamson Daily News, during a 1993 GOP fundraiser held in Virginia, NRA board member Oliver North “told the crowd that he tried to telephone [Bill] Clinton, but the White House switchboard wouldn’t let him through until he disguised his voice with a lisp.” When a local LGBT group asked him to apologize, North responded, “If it angered some subset, that’s their problem.” [Williamson Daily News, 3/18/1993, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3/20/1993, via NRA On The Record]
NRA Board Member And GOP Rep. Don Young On Gay Artist’s Work: “Butt Fucking … You Think That’s Art?” During a speech before high school students, NRA board member Don Young slammed the art of gay photographer Robert Mapplethorpe:
U.S. Rep. Don Young said he was just trying to educate high school students when he used an obscenity to refer to anal sex while denouncing government funding of the arts.
Young, Alaska’s lone congressman for 22 years and a former teacher, told the auditorium full of 15- through 18-year-olds that the federal government has funded “photographs of things that are absolutely ridiculous” and “photographs of people doing offensive things.”
When students asked which pictures he was talking about, Young said, “butt f——…. You think that’s art?”
At West Valley High School, his words Friday had the roughly 150 students laughing or grumbling.
Later, Young told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he thought his comments would have lacked impact if he had used different words. “I was a teacher. I was trying to educate,” he said.
He apparently was referring to the Cincinnati exhibit in 1990 of homoerotic photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe. [Anchorage Daily News, 4/23/1995, via NRA On The Record]
NRA Board Member Described Gay People As “Degenerates.” In 1993, Wayne Anthony Ross, NRA board member and Sarah Palin’s failed nominee for Alaska attorney general, wrote a letter in response to an anti-discrimination ordinance. The letter read, in part:
This bill seems to give extra rights to a group whose lifestyle was a crime only a few years ago, and whose beliefs are certainly immoral in the eyes of anyone with some semblance of intelligence and moral character.
It is a shame that you folks don’t have some causes you could become involved in that are of benefit to society in general. Instead, you support degenerates.
None of you has done anything publicly (to my knowledge) to attempt to protect the millions of lives of innocent children killed each year through abortion, yet you collectively contribute $5,000 to the cause of sexual perversion. [Wayne Anthony Ross, 1993, via The Mudflats,Anchorage Daily News, 4/11/2009]
Interim Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley has gone from embarrassed to apologetic to angry this week as opponents released opinion pieces from her college days railing against homosexuals with AIDS, Bill Clinton supporters and abortion.
As she vies for a full 10-year term on the court in the April 5 election, those writings are unlikely to erode her existing support, particularly among the GOP’s religious-right base. But they could have some impact on voters who know little of either candidate — or don’t even know there’s a Supreme Court race going on.
A Marquette Law School poll in February found 60 percent of registered voters didn’t know or hadn’t heard enough to form an opinion on Bradley, and about the same had no opinion on her opponent, Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg.
“Most voters will be forming views of these candidates for the first time between now and April 5,” said Charles Franklin, director of the poll. He said that means it’s critical how well each campaign harnesses or reacts to the issue.
But University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Ryan Owens said he doesn’t think it will sway many people’s decisions in the state’s highly partisan landscape, unless comments continue to trickle out in the coming weeks.
“I think the climate right now is just so toxic that people who were going to vote against her just solidified in that position,” Owens said. Those who supported her will continue to do so, he said.
The race is officially nonpartisan, but clearly split on ideological lines. Liberals largely back Kloppenburg, while Republicans and conservatives support Bradley support Bradley, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican Gov. Scott Walker in October.
Walker has known Bradley since they were both students involved in GOP politics at Marquette University. Walker dropped out before graduating while Bradley went on to become a lawyer affiliated with far-right legal groups. She only became a judge when Walker appointed her to a circuit court vacancy in 2012. He subsequently appointed her to every judicial position she’s held, including her current one as a temporary Supreme Court justice.
Bradley has spent almost every day apologizing for the hate-filled college opinion pieces she wrote since th liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now brought them to light last Monday.
In one letter to the editor for Marquette University’s student newspaper, she wrote that homosexual and drug-addicted AIDS victims “basically commit suicide through their behavior” and don’t deserve her sympathy. In another column, she wrote people are better off contracting AIDS than cancer, because those with the “politically correct” disease would get more funding.
Bradley declined an interview, but she has said this week a “mosaic of life experiences” has changed her views.
Devin Gatton, president of the gay-rights group Log Cabin Republicans, said when he first saw the writings he thought they were disgusting.
But he said what he’s learned about Bradley in the days since has convinced him she’s changed. She attended a 2013 fundraiser for gay-rights group FAIR Wisconsin, the same year she won her only election, to retain the circuit court position to which Walker first placed her. Since then, her campaign says she’s presided over adoptions to gay couples. And Gatton says she gave him a “satisfactory” answer on gay marriage — that she would follow the Constitution. Of course, that’s something that all justices must do.
“Every politician apologizes,” Gatton said. “It’s the things she’s done since then.”
But FAIR Wisconsin Executive Director Megin McDonell said it would take a lot more than attending a fundraiser (in an election year) to convince her Bradley’s had “some kind of radical transformation” since those writings.
“People can change, definitely, people can change,” McDonell said. “But I can’t really say that I’m convinced at this point.”
Steve Starkey, executive director of LGBT community center OutReach, likewise said he hasn’t seen sufficient evidence.
“So far, the apologies have been kind of empty,” Starkey said.
Owens, the professor, said voters overall tend to see statements made a long time ago for what they are — an immature student caught up in a political wave.
But Bradley’s career is still tethered to Walker and is being run partially by the Republican Party, which has a platform against same-sex marriage.
Associated Press reporter Bryna Godar provided reporting for this article.
Messages of love and gratitude shared by the boy band One Direction topped Twitter’s charts this year, eclipsing President Barack Obama’s celebration of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage.
One Direction members accounted for half of the 10 most recirculated tweets, including the three most popular.
All the One Direction tweets were either directed at bandmates or the group’s fans. None are likely to be remembered for heralding pivotal moments in history.
“All the love as always. H,” One Direction’s Harry Styles tweeted in March after Zayn Malik announced plans to leave the group. Styles boasts 26.3 million Twitter followers. The band’s other current and former members have amassed between 16.6 million and 23.7 million followers apiece.
Obama nabbed the fourth spot in the Twitter rankings released Monday with a June 26 tweet that hailed the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage as “a big step in our march toward equality.”
Other tweets in Twitter’s Top 10 came from Saudi Arabia King Salman after his crowning, hip hop personality Kayne West calling for people to do everything they can, actor Leonard Nimoy philosophizing five days before his death and Caitlyn Jenner introducing herself after her transition from one-time Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner.
Twitter also released some of the most popular topics, denoted by hashtags, that resonated with the more than 300 million users of its short-messaging service. The list included (hashtag)JeSuisParis after last month’s terrorist attack in France, (hashtag) BlackLivesMatter after police shootings of African-Americans in several U.S. cities, (hashtag) LoveWins after the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage and (hashtag) RefugeesWelcome as people fled the Middle East for Europe.
Although Twitter Inc. has built a big audience, Facebook’s social network is five times larger.
A list about what people were talking about on Facebook this year is expected to be released soon, too.
On the Web…
In the 5 November 2015 editorial “In Defense of the Clintons’ record on LGBT issues,” the staff of the Gazette has presented fact-free, wishful thinking, revisionist history regarding the Clinton White House and its support for DOMA and DADT.
The editorial made the following statement: “Clinton signed DOMA with the hope of appeasing anti-gay activists and avoiding Republican threats of a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. And he succeeded.”
That is a patently false assertion without a shred of contemporary evidence to support it. Not a single document from the Clinton Justice Department, the Clinton White House staff, or documents marked with the reverse Clinton check mark indicating President Clinton reviewed the page backs up the false narrative that Clinton was trying to head off a constitutional ban on gay marriages when signing DOMA into law. None. I challenge the staff of the Wisconsin Gazette to either produce documentation or apologize for lying to Wisconsin’s progressive community.
Your credibility is on the line. The history you are reporting belongs in fact-free Texas tea party textbooks, not a credible progressive news publication.
And, pray tell, what about the Clinton White House was progressive exactly? The five major pieces of legislation Bill Clinton signed into law were uniformly conservative:
1) NAFTA was a jobs killing free trade treaty supported by corporate Republicans.
2) Welfare reform was a conservative Republican idea Clinton stole from Republicans and made his own.
3) The federal Religious Freedom Act Bill Clinton signed into law was pointed to by Indiana Governor Mike Pence earlier this year to justify his version of the Indiana bill to over ride civil rights protections for the LGBT community in the name of “religious freedom.”
4) was the Defense of Marriage Act, and
5) was ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Not a single progressive idea is present in any of the five major legislative Acts signed into law during the Clinton White House years.
Progressive policies rely on science and facts, not revisionist history and celebrity star gazing.
James Wall, Madison
See also Sanders has also been an uneven ally on gay rights.
Few actresses bring the simple authenticity to the screen that Julianne Moore does; it’s virtually impossible to imagine this actress sounding a false note. And so it’s hardly a surprise that she is deeply convincing — indeed, heartbreaking at times — in the real-life role of Laurel Hester, a dying woman who fought to her last breath to give her domestic partner rights to her pension benefits.
If Freeheld, directed by Peter Sollett, packs much less of a punch than did Moore’s shattering Alzheimer’s drama Still Alice, which justly won her an Oscar, it’s not because of the acting — Ellen Page and Michael Shannon also turn in admirable work — but because the film (and the script by Ron Nyswaner) doesn’t give these characters, or their relationships, enough detail and depth to really bring us in below the surface. Instead, it’s a well-made but matter-of-fact account of a gripping story, one made more poignant by the advances made in gay rights in the decade since.
We begin in 2002. Laurel Hester is a devoted police detective in Ocean County, New Jersey, with two decades of work under her belt and the goal of becoming the first female lieutenant on her force. With this goal in mind, she hides her sexuality from colleagues, even from her longtime partner, Dane (Shannon). Indeed, she goes all the way to Pennsylvania to find a date. At a volleyball game, she meets Stacie Andree (Page), a much younger auto mechanic.
A year later, they’re an established couple, renovating a home and becoming official domestic partners. But then tragedy hits. A persistent pain in Laurel’s torso turns out to be advanced lung cancer. Stacie vows the couple will beat the disease. Laurel, never one for sugarcoating a situation, knows how bleak the odds are.
The movie then takes an abrupt turn into a legal drama. Laurel requests in writing that her pension benefits be transferred to Stacie, who otherwise will have to leave their beloved home, upon her death. The decision falls to the Ocean County freeholders, a body of five Republicans, and they turn her down, despite the existence of a state Domestic Partnership Act. One of the freeholders worries: “People could just make anybody their partners.” Only one member is sympathetic to Laurel’s cause, but joins in a unanimous vote.
The fight escalates when Laurel appears at a freeholder’s meeting, but the decision remains the same. The case gets into the media, though, and pressure grows. Meanwhile, we watch Laurel endure the ravages of chemo, see her get violently ill, see her hair fall out. We’ve watched this sad trajectory in countless movies, but Moore has a way of making most anything seem like we haven’t quite seen it before.
The film changes tone yet again when Steve Carell enters the picture as Steven Goldstein, a larger-than-life activist who urges Laurel to broaden her fight to include gay marriage. Laurel, ever the pragmatist, says that’s not her battle. Carell makes Goldstein brash, passionate and broadly funny, and though his entertaining characterization might well be accurate (the real Goldstein was sitting in front of me at my screening, and seemed to greatly enjoy the portrayal), the sudden influx of humor is somewhat jarring, given the tone until then.
The final scenes are both cathartic and, in the case of Laurel’s final moments, hard to watch — Moore is frail, white, and completely bald. It’s impressive to see the photos of real-life scenes at the end, and realize how carefully the filmmakers recreated the story.
And it’s hard not to get swept up in the moment when an onscreen epilogue reminds us that in June, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry. Which makes Freeheld an important lesson in how quickly times, and attitudes, can change.
Freeheld, a Lionsgate release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America “for some thematic elements, language and sexuality.” Running time: 103 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
Two months after it legalized gay marriage nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked by a Kentucky county clerk for permission to keep denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who objects to gay marriage for religious reasons, asked the nation’s highest court Friday to grant her “asylum for her conscience.”
The Supreme Court ruled in June that the Constitution guarantees gay people the right to marry. But Davis contends the First Amendment guarantees her the right of religious freedom.
Her critics accuse Davis of having conveniently selective religious convictions, since she’s been married four times and the Bible condemns divorce far more than homosexuality.
She stopped issuing all marriage licenses in the days after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her, arguing that she must fulfill her duties as an elected official despite her personal Christian conviction. A federal judge ordered Davis to issue the licenses and an appeals court upheld that decision.
Davis’ lawyers said they filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court Friday, asking that they delay the mandate to issue licenses until her appeal is finished, a process that could stretch for months.
Forcing her to abandon what she claims to be her “Christian: principles and issue licenses could never be undone, her attorney, Jonathan D. Christman, with the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel, wrote the court. He compared it to forcing a person who objects to war into the battlefield, or forcing a person who opposes capital punishment to carry out an execution.
“That searing act of personal validation would forever, and irreversibly, echo in her conscience — and, if it happened, there is no absolution or correction that any earthly court can provide to rectify it,” he wrote.
But Davis has not only refused to grant such licenses herself but also forbidden her staff, some of whom have expressed their willingness, to issue them. The Rowan County Clerk’s office is somewhat of a hotbed of nepotism. Davis’ mother previously held her position as clerk, and several family members, including her son, work — or have worked — there.
Davis contends that if gay couples want to get married, they could easily drive to a nearby county to get a marriage license. But the couples counter that they have a right to get a marriage license in the county where they live, work and pay taxes.
Davis has said she will not resign from her $80,000-a-year job, and vowed that her office will never license a same-sex marriage. She has turned couples away for two months, in defiance of a series of court orders.
Davis cannot be fired because she is an elected official. The Legislature could impeach her, but that is unlikely given that many state lawmakers in Kentucky are Christian fundamentalists who share her belief, which seems to be that Jesus will forgive everything except issuing a same-sex marriage license.
The Republican president of the state Senate spoke at a rally last week in support of Davis.
Tom Witosky appears at Milwaukee’s Boswell Book Company, 2559 N. Downer St., at 7 p.m. this evening to discuss the book Equal Before the Law: How Iowa Led Americans to Marriage Equality.
Witosky and Mark Hansen — both award-winning journalists — co-authored the book, which chronicles the unique circumstances and series of events that led to Iowa’s Supreme Court unanimously ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in the case Varnum v. Brien. Iowa unexpectedly became the nation’s third state to approve same-sex marriage.
Unlike previous court decisions asserting the right to marriage for gays and lesbians, Iowa’s decision was unanimous. “It catalyzed the unprecedented and rapid shift in law and public opinion that continues today,” according to the University of Iowa Press, which published the much-lauded book.