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Anti-gay Justice Roy Moore suspended for remainder of term in Alabama
The Alabama Court of the Judiciary suspended anti-LGBT Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore for the remainder of his term due to his unethical actions against marriage equality.
The nine-member Court of the Judiciary found Moore unanimously guilty of all six charges brought against him.
Moore will remain on the bench, but will not receive a salary and he will be unable to make any legal decisions.
His term is up in 2018. At that point, he will not be able to run for the justice again in Alabama because he will be past the office’s age restriction.
“Roy Moore has flagrantly and willfully attempted to block marriage equality at every turn in Alabama, using his position of power to push a personal, radically anti-LGBTQ agenda,” said Eva Kendrick, state manager for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group. “We are thrilled that justice has been done today and he will no longer be able to use the bench to discriminate against people he had taken an oath to protect.
Kendrick continued, “Roy Moore’s bigoted rhetoric and unethical actions harmed LGBTQ Alabamians and emboldened those who would seek to hurt us further. We hope this is a turning point for our state. We must focus on electing politicians and judges who will move us forward, not backward.”
HRC Alabama initiated the #NoMoore campaign to remove Moore from the Alabama Supreme Court for “his blatant legal and ethical failings.”
HRC Alabama also called out Moore’s discriminatory behavior with a billboard in downtown Montgomery, and held rallies and press conferences outside each of Moore’s ethics hearings — including the final hearing on Sept. 28.
Last year, HRC and other civil rights organizations joined the Southern Poverty Law Center’s ethics complaint filed with the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama and seeking Moore’s removal for violating the obligations of his office.
The complaint described how Moore urged Gov. Robert Bentley and members of the Alabama Probate Judges Association to ignore federal court rulings striking down the state’s ban on marriage equality.
The court has now ruled that Moore violated the canons of judicial ethics by ordering the probate judges to defy the federal court injunction requiring them to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on a non-discriminatory basis.
This is the second time in 13 years that Moore has been sanctioned as a result of ethics complaints filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
SPLC president Richard Cohen, in a news release, said, “The Court of the Judiciary has done the citizens of Alabama a great service by suspending Roy Moore from the bench. He disgraced his office and undermined the integrity of the judiciary by putting his personal religious beliefs above his sworn duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution.
“Moore was elected to be a judge, not a preacher. It’s something that he never seemed to understand. The people of Alabama who cherish the rule of law are not going to miss the Ayatollah of Alabama.”
WisDems slam Scott Walker’s endorsement of Ted Cruz
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin issued a statement today blasting Gov. Scott Walker for endorsing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for president. The endorsement comes a week before voters in the state head to the polls to vote in the presidential primaries as well as for a Supreme Court justice and local leaders and judges.
Cruz came to national attention when he caused a shutdown of the federal government in 2013 over the Affordable Care Act, which he has compared to Naziism. WisDems denounced Cruz’s “extreme right-wing policies” on issues such as abortion, marriage equality and climate change.
“Cruz’s extreme record mirrors not only that of Walker, but also of current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump,” said a statement issued by WisDems. “ Most recently, Cruz said we should “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods,” but this only scratches the surface of his divisive rhetoric. Cruz has accused people who support marriage equality as waging “jihad” against people of faith, said the laws in this country that give women a right to choose are extreme, and has said the Obama economy is disastrous even though we have had 68 positive months of job growth.
“It’s shameful that Scott Walker would support a candidate with an extreme record of divisive policies and hateful partisan rhetoric,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Executive Director Kory Kozloski said today in a prepared statement. “Ted Cruz has spent his career working to divide people across this nation, rather than working to bring us together. That is not the sort of candidate the governor of our state should be standing behind.” Kozloski said.
WisDems’ press release provided an overview of Cruz’s divisive rhetoric (below):
- Ted Cruz compared those who believe in the science of climate change to those who believed the earth was flat.
- Cruz compares the current research on global warming to that of “global cooling” in the 1970s, even though that subject was not taken seriously and has been debunked as ludicrous.
- Ted Cruz compared the fight to defund Obamacare to that of taking on the Nazi’sin World War II.
- If elected, Cruz stated he would repeal every word of Obamacare, which means nearly million people would lose coverage, insurance companies could punish people for pre-existing conditions, and companies would be able to discriminate against women with higher healthcare costs.
- Cruz went so far as to say he lost his own healthcare coveragebecause of the ACA, and this has been dismissed as pandering for votes.
Gay Marriage and homophobia
- He accused theLGBT community of waging jihad against people of faith
- When Ted Cruz announced his presidency he said a top priority was defending traditional marriage, i.e. gay people would not have the right to marry
- He scorned the Supreme Courts decision to make marriage equality the law of the land and said states should ignore the decision.
- See Ted Cruz’s history on Gay Marriage and Homophobia here.
- Ted Cruz said he wants to “carpet bomb” ISIS into oblivion and continues that narrative even though military experts say this is not feasible and is dangerous.
Subcommittee defeats Tennessee bill to reject Supreme Court ruling, eliminate marriage equality
The Tennessee House Civil Justice Subcommittee this week voted down a measure that would have eliminated marriage equality in the state and required the state to defend marriage as “between one man and one woman” — even if that mean foregoing federal funding.
“As the first vote this year on the nearly 100 anti-LGBT bills being considered across 24 states, this is certainly encouraging news from Tennessee,” said Sarah Warbelow of the Human Rights Campaign. “We will remain vigilant in case this legislation should resurface in any other form, and continue to work with our local partners to fight other anti-LGBT legislation in the Tennessee Legislature.”
Chris Sanders of Tennessee Equality Project, a statewide LGBT civil rights group, added, “We are grateful that this bill will not be moving this session and remain watchful of any attempts to discriminate against LGBT Tennesseans.”
An analysis by the Tennessee General Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee determined that passage of the bill would have cost the state upwards of $8 billion annually.
The legislation voted down today is part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. At least 100 Anti-LGBT bills are pending in 24 states, including in Wisconsin.
Year in Review: Supreme Court gives marriage equality its blessing
An Alabama justice notorious for his bigotry couldn’t stop the equality avalanche.
Neither could a hypocritical county clerk in Kentucky and her allies — from conservative politicians such as Mike Huckabee to hate groups such as the Family Research Council.
In 2015, same-sex marriage became legal across the United States with a 5-4 ruling from the Supreme Court on June 26.
The morning of the decision, same-sex couples in many states where same-sex marriage had been banned headed to clerks’ offices to apply for marriage licenses and then to see officiants who could preside over their legal unions.
In a Rose Garden news conference, President Barack Obama hailed the ruling as a milestone in American justice that arrived “like a thunderbolt.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, stating that the hope of gay people intending to marry “is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Outside the court, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., sang out, “Oh, say, can you see.”
“Love wins!” boomed celebrants at Pride parades held days after the ruling.
And so many couples said, “I do.”
At the time of the decision, there were bans against gay marriage in place in 13 states.
The bans fell more easily in some states than in other states.
In Alabama, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered state courts not to implement the federal court order and fought for weeks to block marriages the way others before him had fought to retain segregation in the 1960s.
In Rowan County, clerk Kim Davis, a born-again Christian fundamentalist who has divorced three times, refused to comply with the court mandate and denied marriage licenses to gay couples. While Davis, who cited God as her guide, briefly was jailed for contempt of court, deputy clerks in her office lifted the ban.
Meanwhile, LGBT civil rights advocates continued the drive to enact non-discrimination protections at federal, state and local levels.
The federal Equality Act, which would ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, had 170 co-sponsors in the House and 39 in the Senate as the year ended.
Chad Griffin, president and CEO of the Human Rights Campaign, pointed out when lobbying for the legislation that in most states, a couple who gets married is at risk of being fired from their jobs and evicted from their homes simply for posting their wedding photos to Facebook.
In Wisconsin, activists continued to press for state protections for transgender people and to fight to hold off a Republican attempt to block school districts from enacting policies protecting transgender students.
In 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. But the state does not ban discrimination based on gender identity.
Fast track to approval
Between June 26, when the Supreme Court legalized the rights of same-sex couples to marry, and Nov. 6, about 96,000 gays in the United States married, according to Gallup. UCLA’s Williams Institute estimates that close to a million lesbian and gay couples living in the U.S. are married. In some liberal states, it’s estimated that up to half of all same-sex couples living together are married.
Polling in July 2015 found 55 percent of Americans approve of marriage equality. In comparison, it took until the 1990s before a majority of Americans approved of inter-racial marriages, which were made legal in 1967.
DID YOU KNOW?
At the time of the Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality, 20 other countries already allowed same-sex couples to marry in all jurisdictions. The first country to legalize same-sex marriage was the Netherlands, in 2000.
In defense of the Clintons’ LGBT record
The nation has come so far so fast on LGBT issues that it’s easy to forget — or never to have known — the sociopolitical realities that faced Bill Clinton when he introduced the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy and signed the Defense of Marriage Act.
It was Clinton’s zeal to fulfill his campaign promise to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military that led to the enactment of “don’t ask.” New to Washington and naïve to its vicious ways, Clinton announced soon after taking office that he intended to keep his promise to end the ban preventing gays and lesbians from serving in the military. He was unprepared for the near-hysterical backlash from Republicans as well as the majority of American citizens.
Looking back, it’s obvious that he should have taken a more measured, pragmatic approach, as President Barack Obama did on marriage equality. Clinton and the LGBT community acted before they’d sufficiently made their case on the issue.
In response to the backlash, Clinton proposed the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue,” which was seen as a compromise. It meant gays and lesbians could serve, but only secretly. In retrospect, the compromise seems shockingly offensive: It forced gays and lesbians to live in the closet, in the shadows — in paranoia and shame.
Still, it might actually have been better than the previous policy if not for the anger it triggered among Armed Forces leaders, who were offended that a young liberal and former anti-war activist dared tell them how to run the world’s largest military. So they ignored the “don’t pursue” portion of the policy and, in an act of revenge, embarked on a witch-hunt that led to record numbers of discharges. The witch-hunts wrecked tens of thousands of gay and lesbian patriots’ lives and undermined the nation’s military capacity.
Clinton’s role, however, was motivated by miscalculation and inexperience, not anti-gay sentiment.
The same is true of the Defense of Marriage Act. We remember it now as a gross perversion of our constitutional rights, which indeed it was. But support for same-sex marriage was only 27 percent in 1996. Republicans were determined to enact a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, which would have taken decades to undo. 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.
In signing the anti-gay law, Clinton made it easier for gays and lesbians to gain the right to marriage later through a Supreme Court decision. Otherwise, equality leaders would have had to go through the process of enacting a constitutional amendment repealing an anti-gay amendment — a process that, like the Equal Rights Amendment, would probably never have succeeded.
With this history in mind, it seems unfair to mock Hillary Clinton’s claim that the Defense of Marriage Act was a defensive political maneuver, because that’s exactly what it was. Both Clintons have devoted large swathes of their careers to expanding civil rights. There is no calculated flip-flopping concerning Hillary Clinton’s evolving position on this issue, any more than Obama’s change of heart was a flip-flop. Both Clinton and Obama have consistently been on the side of social justice. It’s in their DNA.
When progressives resort to demagoguery on issues like marriage equality, they are mirroring the destructive, unyielding approach of the right. They’re suggesting that compromise is no way to win, that pragmatism is betrayal.
In so doing, they’re aiding and abetting the real enemy, the opponents of equality and social justice. The Republican right would love to watch us bicker internally with our self-defeating purists and wind up as frayed and recklessly self-destructive as their side of the aisle.
Progressives need to decide if they want to win the war or continually re-enact the battle on this and other key issues.
Kentucky clerk returns to work, will not block licenses to gay couples
Clerk Kim Davis returned to work on Sept. 14 for the first time since being jailed for disobeying a federal judge and said she was faced with a “seemingly impossible choice” between following her conscience and losing her freedom over denying marriage licenses to gay couples.
She said she decided not to interfere with deputy clerks who will continue to hand out the marriage licenses in Rowan County.
In her first day back after a five-day stint in jail, Davis said she was torn between obeying God and a directive from the judge that “forces me to disobey God.” Davis, an Apostolic Christian, believes gay marriage is a sin.
Davis refused to issue licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage. Her profile reached a fever pitch when she was jailed, as protesters, presidential candidates and news crews from across the county descended on the small town of Morehead, Kentucky.
Early on Sept. 14, the plaza outside the courthouse took on a carnival air: loud speakers blasted Christian music, television cameras and lights were set up in white-topped tents and Davis’ supporters waved signs and prayed.
The issue has drawn some of the most fervent Christian activists from across the country. Their trucks are parked up and down the street, bearing signs that read “sodomy ruins nations” and “repent.”
One truck, with a North Carolina license plate, has a poster-sized photo of an aborted fetus on the side. Others, from Iowa and Colorado, feature photos of two men kissing with doomsday warnings about the sin of homosexuality.
Police had a heavy presence outside the courthouse as about 100 reporters formed a tight semi-circle around the courthouse door and waited for Davis. She emerged just minutes before her office officially opened and gave her statement, saying the licenses would now say they were issued “pursuant to federal court order.”
“I don’t want to have this conflict. I don’t want to be in the spotlight. And I certainly don’t want to be a whipping post,” Davis said. “I am no hero. I’m just a person that’s been transformed by the grace of God, who wants to work, be with my family. I just want to serve my neighbors quietly without violating my conscience.”
U.S. District Judge David Bunning held her in contempt and ordered her to jail Sept. 3 when she continued to refuse to issue the licenses. In her absence, her deputies issued at least seven licenses to gay couples and altered the forms to exclude Davis’ name.
The governor, the attorney general and the county attorney have said the licenses are valid. Davis and her attorneys claim otherwise.
The deputy clerk who handed them out, Brian Mason, said he will continue to hand out the licenses.
Mason now sits behind a sign that reads “marriage license deputy.” He remained calm, scrolling on his computer and chewing gum, despite the surreal scene unfolding before him. Dozens of television cameras crowded around his counter, with some reporters climbing step ladders to get a better shot of him sitting at his desk, waiting for a couple to arrive to get a marriage license.
“I love my deputy clerks and I hate that they have been caught in the middle of any of this,” Davis said. “If any of them feel that they must issue an authorized license to avoid being thrown in jail, I understand their tough choice and I will take no action against them.”
Mason, 38, has worked for Davis for a year and a half.
Davis went into her office after making her statement and remained there with the door closed and the blinds draw, despite the crush of media waiting at the counter.
Matt Sparks, sheriff of this rural county, is in the unexpected position of coordinating reporters from around the globe as they wait for a couple to arrive and try to get a license.
He asked the reporters to step back from the counter so a few customers could do business, like a man looking bewildered as he arrived to renew his car tag.
“I know what shot you’re looking for,” the sheriff told the crowd of media. “If a couple comes in you can step back up.”
Judge orders release of anti-gay clerk Kim Davis from jail
U.S. District Judge David Bunning on Sept. 8 ordered the release of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis from federal custody and ordered her not to “interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.”
Davis was sent to jail last week after being found in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the law on same-sex marriage. She has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing her religious beliefs and in violation of her sworn oath of office in Kentucky.
In her quest to be allowed to continue to discriminate against gays and lesbians, Davis was denied stays at all levels of federal court, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
After she went to jail last week, staff in her office began issuing marriage licenses.
“It is imperative that Kim Davis follow the law and allow same-sex couples to access their constitutional right to marry the person they love. Period,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign. “While Davis has the right to believe whatever she likes, as a public official she has no legal basis to refuse to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. The overwhelming majority of public officials across this country are following the law, and history will not judge her kindly. It’s far past time for this needless ordeal to end.”
William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said “This case was brought to ensure that all residents of Rowan County, gay and straight, could obtain marriage licenses. That goal has been achieved. The Kentucky attorney general and counsel for Rowan County have said the marriage licenses are valid. We are relying on those representations, and our clients look forward to proceeding with their plans to marry.”
With clerk in jail, gay couples get marriage licenses in Kentucky county
A gay couple emerged from a Kentucky county clerk’s office with a marriage license in hand early on Sept. 4, embracing and crying as the defiant clerk who runs the office remained jailed for her refusal to issue the licenses because she opposed same-sex marriage.
William Smith Jr. and James Yates, a couple for nearly a decade, were the first to receive a marriage license in Rowan County on Sept. 4. Deputy clerk Brian Mason issued the license, congratulating the couple and shaking their hands as he smiled. After they paid the license fee of $35.50, James Yates rushed across the steps of the courthouse to hug his mom as both cried.
“This means at least for this area that civil rights are civil rights and they are not subject to belief,” said Yates, who had been denied a license five times previously. He said he and Smith were optimistic they would get a license when they arrived, in part because the deputy clerk, Mason, had always been respectful when they came previously.
A crowd of supporters cheered outside as the couple left, while a street preacher rained down words of condemnation. Yates and Smith said they are trying to choose between two wedding dates and plan a small ceremony at the home of Yates’ parents.
The licenses were issued only after five of Kim Davis’ deputy clerks agreed to issue the licenses, the lone holdout from the office being her son, Nathan Davis. Kim Davis’ office was dark as the license was issued to Yates and Smith, with a sheriff’s deputy standing guard in front of it.
“I just want the licenses given out. I don’t want her in jail. No one wanted her in jail,” Yates said.
A second couple, Timothy and Michael Long, also were issued a license about an hour after Yates and Smith. When the couple got inside the office on Sept. 4, a man harassed them and said, “More sodomites getting married?” The Longs did not respond, and a worker told the man to leave.
During a hearing Sept. 3, U.S. District Judge David Bunning had offered to release Davis if she promised not to interfere with her employees issuing licenses, but she refused, citing her Christian beliefs.
Speaking to reporters, Davis’ husband, Joe Davis, held a sign saying, “Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah” and said his wife was in good spirits after her first night in jail.
When asked if she would resign, he said, “Oh, God no. She’s not going to resign at all. It’s a matter of telling Bunning he ain’t the boss.”
Kim Davis and Joe Davis still support her employees, who he called “good people” and “good workers.” He said he ate with the other deputy clerks on Sept. 3 at an Applebee’s restaurant and told them “I loved them and I was proud of them.”
Davis’ son supported his mother and was warned by the judge not to interfere with his fellow employees. The judge said he did not want “any shenanigans,” like the staff closing the office for computer upgrades as they did briefly last week.
“That would show a level of disrespect for the court’s order,” Bunning said. He added: “I’m hoping that cooler heads will prevail.”
Davis’ son sat stoically as the judge questioned the clerks on Sept. 3, some of whom were reluctant.
“I don’t really want to, but I will comply with the law,” deputy clerk Melissa Thompson said, weeping while she stood before the packed courtroom. “I’m a preacher’s daughter and this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.”
“I don’t hate anybody,” she added. “None of us do.”
Bunning indicated Kim Davis would remain in jail at least a week, saying he would revisit his decision after the deputy clerks have had time to comply with his order.
Davis said she hopes the Legislature will change Kentucky laws to find some way for her to keep her job while following her conscience.
But Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear again refused to call a special session of the legislature. State lawmakers will not meet until January.
Davis, an Apostolic Christian, wept during her testimony in federal court on Sept. 3, telling the judge she was “always a good person” but that she gave her heart to the Lord in 2011 and “promised to love Him with all my heart, mind and soul because I wanted to make heaven my home.”
“God’s moral law conflicts with my job duties,” Davis told the judge before she was taken away by a U.S. marshal. “You can’t be separated from something that’s in your heart and in your soul.”
Supreme Court denies stay request, same-sex couples to marry in Kentucky county
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied, without dissent, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis her request for a stay of an order from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that required her to issue marriage licenses immediately to couples in the case Miller v. Davis.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic marriage equality ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, Davis repeatedly refused to issue marriage licenses to any couple based on religious beliefs about marriage for same-sex couples.
On Aug. 12, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled that plaintiffs in this case must be able to obtain marriage licenses in Rowan County.
Davis proceeded to appeal that decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and when her request for a stay pending appeal was denied, she requested a stay pending appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court so that she may continue to refuse issuing marriage licenses.
Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “Today the U.S. Supreme Court resoundingly affirmed that government officials must carry out the duties of public office. By refusing to simply issue a form, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has prevented our clients, four loving couples, from obtaining marriage licenses in the county where they live and pay taxes. Davis has no basis for any further delay in denying couples the freedom to marry.”
“Ms. Davis’ choices are clear: she must either choose to follow the law or resign her public position,” said JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president for policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign. “A public official’s personal religious opinion does not give her the privilege to trample over the rights of others. Freedom of religion is important, and Ms. Davis has the fundamental right to believe what she likes. But as a public servant, she does not have the right to pick and choose which laws she will follow or which services she will provide. We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied the stay.” HRC is the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group.
Davis, who is represented by the ultra-rightwing Liberty Counsel, issued a statement on Sept. 1. Her statement, without edits, follows:
I have worked in the Rowan County Clerk’s office for 27 years as a Deputy Clerk and was honored to be elected as the Clerk in November 2014, and took office in January 2015. I love my job and the people of Rowan County. I have never lived any place other than Rowan County. Some people have said I should resign, but I have done my job well. This year we are on track to generate a surplus for the county of 1.5 million dollars.
In addition to my desire to serve the people of Rowan County, I owe my life to Jesus Christ who loves me and gave His life for me. Following the death of my godly mother-in-law over four years ago, I went to church to fulfill her dying wish. There I heard a message of grace and forgiveness and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. I am not perfect. No one is. But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to Him and to the Word of God.
I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage. To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience. I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word. It is a matter of religious liberty, which is protected under the First Amendment, the Kentucky Constitution, and in the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Our history is filled with accommodations for people’s religious freedom and conscience. I want to continue to perform my duties, but I also am requesting what our Founders envisioned – that conscience and religious freedom would be protected. That is all I am asking. I never sought to be in this position, and I would much rather not have been placed in this position. I have received death threats from people who do not know me. I harbor nothing against them. I was elected by the people to serve as the County Clerk. I intend to continue to serve the people of Rowan County, but I cannot violate my conscience.
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