Tag Archives: religious right

Kentucky clerk to continue to deny marriage rights to gay couples through her appeal

Same-sex couples in a small eastern Kentucky county got everything they wanted in a ruling from a federal judge on Aug. 17, except for one sentence and except marriage licenses.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning denied Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ request to delay his ruling from last week ordering her to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. That ruling followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. However, Bunning then delayed his own decision, effectively granting Davis’ request while also denying it.

“If the Court decided to delay enforcement of its Order while Davis pursues an unpromising appeal, it would essentially give Plaintiffs a favorable legal ruling with no teeth and prolong the likely violation of their constitutional rights,” Bunning wrote.

But Bunning acknowledged that “emotions are running high on both sides of this debate” and said he would delay his ruling while Davis appeals to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Attorneys on both sides disagreed about the implications.

Dan Canon, representing the gay couples, said Davis remains under the judge’s original order.

But Mat Staver, who represents Davis and is the founder of Florida-based Liberty Counsel, said the convoluted order essentially grants her request for more time.

What is clear is that Davis will continue refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone in this county of about 23,000 people, home to Morehead State University in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky. Until the case is resolved, no new wedding can be legally recognized in Rowan County unless the couple obtain a marriage license somewhere else.

“This is not something I decided because of this decision that came down,” Davis testified in federal court last month. “It was thought-out and, you know, I sought God on it.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. But it also “ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”

Bunning, and now the court of appeals, are left with the narrow issue of whether that ruling infringes on a local elected official’s religious beliefs.

Bunning says no, arguing that Davis is “free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do.”

“However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk,” he wrote last week.

Davis’ lawyers compare her to other religious objectors, such as a nurse being forced to perform an abortion, a noncombatant ordered to fire on an enemy soldier, or a state official forced to participate in a convicted prisoner’s execution.

Clerking has been a family business in Rowan County. Davis worked for her mother for 27 years before replacing her in the elected post this year, and her son Nathan now works for her. He personally turned away a gay couple last week.

Around the United States, most opponents of gay and lesbian marriage rights are complying with the high court. Some other objectors in Kentucky submitted to the legal authorities after Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear told them to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples, or resign.

Kim Davis is one of the last holdouts, and apparently the first to be challenged in federal court, putting her and tiny Rowan County in the middle of one of the country’s largest social upheavals.

Davis wants Kentucky lawmakers to allow county clerks to opt out of issuing marriage licenses for religious reasons. But the governor has declined to call a special session. Davis faces fines and possible jail time for contempt of court if she loses her challenge and still refuses to issue licenses. But she can only be impeached from her $80,000 a year job by the legislature, and impeachment proceedings are unlikely even after the lawmakers reconvene in January.

Davis, through her attorney, declined to be interviewed. Acquaintances describe her as easygoing but reserved. She hid behind her attorneys to avoid being photographed in a courthouse hallway and had to be told to speak up from the witness stand.

Shortly after she took office in January, she said she wrote every state lawmaker she could and pleaded to change the law, to no avail. So, on June 26 – the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide – Davis told her staff not to process any more licenses until further notice, no matter who asked.

Under Kentucky law, marriages must be licensed by a county clerk, who first determines if the couple meet all legal requirements – such as being unmarried, and old enough. And because every license issued in Rowan County is under her authority, she feels she can’t delegate the job to a non-objector.

“If I say that I authorize that, I’m saying I agree with it, and I can’t,” Davis told the court.

Rowan County Judge Executive Walter Blevins can issue marriage licenses if the clerk is “absent,” but the term is undefined in state law. Both Blevins and Bunning decided Davis not issuing licenses for religious reasons does not mean she is absent. That leaves Davis, for now, firmly in control.

Davis said her beliefs on sin are shaped by “God’s holy word” in the Bible, and that she attends church “every time the doors are open.” She also leads a weekly women’s Bible study at the county jail.

“I love them. They’re the best part of my Monday,” Davis said.

Davis testified that the Bible teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman and that sex outside of marriage is a sin. Court records indicate Davis herself married when she was 18 in 1984, filed for divorce 10 years later, and then filed for divorce again, from another husband, in 2006.

Many Christians believe divorce also is a sin, and an attorney for the same-sex couples repeatedly questioned her about this in court. Asked if she would religiously object to issuing a marriage license to someone who has been divorced, she said, “That’s between them and God.”

Davis has not said how she would react should she lose her appeal.

“I’ll deal with that when the time comes,” she said.

Catholic group cuts funding to Portland nonprofit that supports marriage equality

A Catholic organization has decided to cut off long-standing funding to a Portland, Oregon, immigrant rights group that works with day laborers over its affiliation with an organization that supports same-sex marriage.

Voz Workers’ Rights Education lost a $75,000 grant in June from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which is the national anti-poverty, social justice program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Catholic Campaign director Ralph McCloud said the group asked Voz to cut ties with the National Council of La Raza, a large Latino civil rights organization that endorses marriage equality, to be considered for the grant. Voz has been an affiliate of NCLR since 2009, primarily as a grantee.

After Voz refused to cut its ties, the organization “self-disqualified” itself from the funding process, McCloud said.

In June, the bishops approved more than $14 million in grants to 205 organizations. The bishops had supported Voz since 1994, via 10 grants, McCloud said.

“It’s certainly difficult and painful, because Voz has done some tremendous work,” McCloud said. “But it became obvious that they were assisting in something that was contrary to the teachings of our traditions. And we have to honor our donors’ intent that this money be spent on issues that are not contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Voz is not the first nonprofit to lose church funding because of ties to organizations that endorse same-sex marriage.

A coalition of conservative Catholic groups led by the American Life League has criticized what it sees as lax administration by the Catholic Campaign and has been working since 2009 to call attention to CCHD grantees with activities, positions or affiliations with other nonprofits that contradict Church teachings on abortion, contraception and gay rights.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops conducted a review of the grant program and adopted several changes in 2010 that were designed to clarify the eligibility rules and strengthen the application review process. As a result of the review, nine nonprofits that were part of coalitions led by groups that supported reproductive rights or same-sex marriage no longer qualified for the funds, McCloud said. Others chose not to apply, or re-apply.

Community organizations serving immigrants and the poor in Colorado, Illinois, California and several other states have either had to decide whether to forgo their grants or sever their relationships with larger groups whose views the church considers problematic.

The lost grant represents a large bulk of Voz’s annual budget of $310,000, said Voz director Romeo Sosa. But he said the decision to withdraw from the grant competition allowed Voz to maintain its values.

“Marriage equality is not the focus of our work; we focus on immigrant rights. But we work with everyone, we don’t discriminate,” Sosa said. “There may be gays and lesbians among our staff or workers, and we can’t turn our backs on them.”

Local labor, immigrant rights, and groups that support gay rights have vowed to fundraise for Voz to fill the financial hole left by the grant’s loss.

App vs. apathy: Guides to help consumers in the market

Interested in checking out a list of retailers and manufacturers to see which are naughty and which are nice? WiG tested a number of free smartphone apps that guide shoppers to the businesses that support their causes. Several we like:

• The Human Rights Campaign’s Buying for Workplace Equality App rates brands, products and businesses on LGBT issues, specifically workplace issues such as non-discrimination policies, domestic partner benefits and employee affinity groups. The guide contains ratings from “Apparel and Accessories” to “Travel and Leisure.” The companies with the best LGBT records receive the highest scores out of 100. Example rating: Converse, 100; Nike, 100; Adidas, 15.

• 2nd Vote is an app launched at the right-wing Values Voter Summit to help conservatives buy their tea from businesses with similar politics. If you can get past the idea that you’re signing up — you’ll need a username and password — for a Values Voter tool, you can effectively use 2nd Vote to support businesses that support progressive causes — including marriage equality and choice. Just look for the lowest scoring business, brand or product and be sure to “vote” in the app to endorse your favorites. Example rating: Chick-fil-A, 8, actively conservative; Arby’s, 5.7, passively liberal; Ben & Jerry’s, 2, actively liberal.

• GoodGuide helps consumers buy products and support companies rated for impact on health, society and the environment. There’s a barcode scanner in the app, a search option to find a range of goods ranked from zero to 10 and a shopping list. Example rating: Green and Blacks Almond Chocolate Bar, 7.4; Terry’s Dark Chocolate Orange, 3.6; Ferrara Imported Belgian Milk Chocolate Bars, 2.7.

— L.N.

Christian right furious over selection of Robert Gates to lead Boy Scouts

Religious-right leaders are incensed over the nomination of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to serve as the next president of the Boy Scouts of America. If the BSA board approves his nomination, Gates will assume the two-year position in May 2014.

Gates was an Eagle Scout before he began his decades-long career in public service, which included leading the Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Department. He retired as defense secretary two years ago after serving under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

As defense secretary, Gates helped oversee the end of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly gay and lesbian military personnel.

The Scouts has faced its own issues with gays in its ranks. In a process guided by the national executive board, the BSA agreed in June to allow openly gay Scouts, but not gay Scouting leaders.

Christian-right leaders clearly disapprove of Gates for supporting President Barack Obama’s repeal of DADT. Most right-wing media outlets led their coverage of Gates’ selection, which was announced on Oct. 31, with reminders of the role he’d played in overturning the Pentagon’s discriminatory policy. Anti-gay religious websites expressed alarm that Gates would be sympathetic to the BSA’s new policy of allowing out gay youth to participate in Scouting.

A columnist for the fundamentalist Christian website worldmag.com called Gates’ selection a “fruit-basket-turnover” and complained that BSA spokesman Deron Smith declined to answer his questions about the choice.

“When I emailed Smith more than a dozen questions related to this surprise move and its possible relationship to the new policy allowing homosexuals to participate in Scouting, he answered, ‘The BSA just completed a review of its membership policies and there are no plans to discuss it further,’” World writer Warren Cole Smith wrote angrily in his column Signs and Wonders.

Gay-rights groups, on the other hand, praised Gates’ appointment and called on him to push BSA a step further and allow gay leaders and adult volunteers.

“Millions of people and national corporations have called on the Boy Scouts to put an end to discrimination once and for all,” GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz said. “We urge Dr. Gates to continue his work to ensure all people are treated equally, no matter who they are and no matter what uniform they wear.”

Gates has previously recalled his time in Scouting fondly, saying in a 2010 speech that earning his Eagle Scout badge “was the first thing I had done that told me I might be different because I had worked harder, was more determined, more goal-oriented, more persistent than most others.”

“At a time when many American young people are turning into couch potatoes, and too often much worse, Scouting continues to challenge boys and young men, preparing you for leadership,” Gates said, according to a transcript of his remarks posted by the Department of Defense.

Sarah Palin writing book about Christmas

Sarah Palin has a new book coming, this time about Christmas.

The former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor has a deal with HarperCollins for “A Happy Holiday IS a Merry Christmas,” scheduled for November. HarperCollins announced Monday that the book will criticize the “over-commercialism” and “homogenization” of Christmas and call for a renewed emphasis on the religious importance.

“Amidst the fragility of this politically correct era, it is imperative that we stand up for our beliefs before the element of faith in a glorious and traditional holiday like Christmas is marginalized and ignored,” Palin said in a statement released through her publisher. “This will be a fun, festive, thought provoking book, which will encourage all to see what is possible when we unite in defense of our faith and ignore the politically correct Scrooges who would rather take Christ out of Christmas.”

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Palin was again represented by Washington attorney Robert Barnett, who negotiated deals for Palin’s “Going Rogue” and “America by Heart.” Both books were released by HarperCollins.

According to the publisher, the book will advocate “reserving Jesus Christ in Christmas – whether in public displays, school concerts (or) pageants.” Palin also “will share personal memories and traditions from her own Christmases and illustrate the reasons why the celebration of Jesus Christ’s nativity is the centerpiece of her faith.”

ELECTION MATTERS: Gay marriage and the ballot box

On one aspect of whether same-sex couples should have the right to marry, both sides agree: The issue defines what kind of nation we are. Half a dozen states and the District of Columbia have made history by legalizing it, but it’s prohibited elsewhere, and 30 states have placed bans in their constitutions.

Where they stand:

President Barack Obama supports legal recognition of same-sex marriage, as a matter decided by states. He’s also repudiated the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and affirms the right of states to refuse to recognize such marriages. The administration no longer defends the law in court, but it remains on the books.

Republican Mitt Romney says same-sex marriage should be banned with a constitutional amendment, not left to states. He also opposes civil unions if they are equivalent to marriage, and says states should decide what rights and benefits should be allowed for same-sex couples.

Why it matters:

The debate divides the public down the middle, according to recent polls, and stirs up passionate feelings on both sides.

Those who oppose it often invoke religious teachings, contending that their faith cannot condone legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples. They worry about conflicts between religious liberty and public policy if gay marriage spreads to more states and gains federal recognition.

Gay-marriage supporters cite examples of devoted same-sex couples — some partners for decades, some raising children — and say it’s unfair to deny them the same rights as heterosexual couples.

“It’s about what kind of country we are,” said Lee Swislow of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, a Boston-based legal group that has won several landmark court rulings. “Do we treat each other the way we want to be treated?”

The Maryland Catholic Conference recently summed up the views of many who oppose same-sex marriage.

“The average citizen of Maryland has enough common sense to know that marriage cannot be redefined; that a child comes from both a mother and a father; that marriage is the building block of society,” the group said. “It is not discriminatory to reserve marriage for one man and one woman.”

As things stand now, same-sex couples face a patchwork of conflicting laws and practices that vary from state to state.

Six states allow same-sex marriage; nine more have civil unions or domestic partnerships that extend marriage-like rights to gays and lesbians.

The federal government, however, doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, nor do the vast majority of states. Even with an out-of-state marriage license, gay and lesbian couples in those states face uncertainty, extra legal bills and rebuffs that straight couples avoid. Complications can arise with adoptions, inheritances and survivor benefits.

If legally married in their own state, same-sex couples still must file separate federal tax forms, with separate deductions, even when they’re raising children together and jointly owning property.

This election won’t get rid of that patchwork, but it could have a major impact given that four states have gay-marriage measures on their ballots.

In Minnesota, the vote is whether to put a ban on gay marriage in the state constitution. Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state are voting on whether to legalize gay marriage.

Thus far, foes of gay marriage have prevailed in all 32 states where the issue reached the ballot. If that streak is broken in the four states that are addressing it in November, it could provide momentum for supporters, and perhaps even influence the Supreme Court if — as expected — it takes up cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act.

Gingrich wants to restore church militants

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, who is running strong in polls in ultra-conservative South Carolina, urged Christian right leaders to build campaign support with church militants.

In a conference call this week with his campaign’s Faith Leaders Coalition, Gingrich warned that religious charities are losing their rights because of government laws against discriminating against gay couples, according to Right Wing Watch.

Gingrich said, “The state governments, for example in Massachusetts, which has literally driven Catholic adoption services out of the state, the District of Columbia, which has literally driven Catholic services out of taking care of the poor, the degree to which if you aren’t pro-gay, pro-abortion and pro-secular, you don’t have any rights. If you watch Europe right now, there is an increasing risk of speech becoming illegal, there are sections of the Bible you can’t read anymore in some European countries because it involves homosexuality and the act of reading it from the pulpit would be considered a hate crime.”

Gingrich, during the call, called for the restoration of the “church militant” so civilization can “survive” against attacks from atheists and Islamists.

Participants in the call included the Rev. Jim Garlow, American Family Association founder Don Wildmon and religious right pollster George Barna.

For more information about the Right Wing Watch, go to www.pfaw.org.

Romney, Paul ahead in Iowa polls

Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are leading a field of seven candidates in polling in Iowa, where citizens will cast votes on Jan. 3.

Meanwhile, the AP is reporting that two Iowa pastors, fearing a split among religious right voters, suggested Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann bow out before the precinct caucusing takes place next week.

“Otherwise, like-minded people will be divided and water down their impact,” said the Rev. Cary Gordon, a Sioux City minister who asked Santorum several weeks ago to consider exiting the race but now supports the former U.S. senator.

The Rev. Albert Calloway, a retired pastor from Indianola, Iowa, asked U.S. Rep. Bachmann, R-Minn., to consider quitting.

Both pastors said they were concerned that neither Romney nor Paul are close to their causes. And Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Paul, a long-serving Texas congressman, are running neck-and-neck in the state, where the caucuses are a test of a candidate’s ability to raise cash and organize staff and volunteers.

With Newt Gingrich fading from the top tier after being targeted by a barrage of attack ads, Iowa voters are about evenly split between the more moderate Romney and the extreme libertarian views of Paul, according to the AP.

But many Republican conservatives across the country distrust Romney because of his past positions on abortion, gay marriage and health care. Paul, meanwhile, is seen as too extreme by mainstream party voters.

The Iowa caucuses likely will force some candidates to drop out of the race and shape the coming six-month string of state-by-state primary elections and caucuses leading up to the Republican National Convention in August that officially names a candidate.

New Hampshire’s primary is Jan. 10, where Romney holds a lead in polls. South Carolina’s primary is Jan. 21, followed by Florida’s primary on Jan. 31.

Source: AP