Tag Archives: rogue

RESISTANCE: Scientists go rogue on Twitter in defiance of Trump

Employees from more than a dozen U.S. government agencies have established a network of unofficial “rogue” Twitter feeds in defiance of what they see as attempts by President Donald Trump to muzzle federal climate change research and other science.

Seizing on Trump’s favorite mode of discourse, scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and other bureaus have privately launched Twitter accounts — borrowing names and logos of their agencies — to protest restrictions they view as censorship and provide unfettered platforms for information the new administration has curtailed.

“Can’t wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS,” one anonymous National Park Service employee posted on the newly opened Twitter account @AltNatParkService.

“You can take our official twitter, but you’ll never take our free time!”

The @RogueNASA account displayed an introductory disclaimer describing it as “The unofficial ‘Resistance’ team of NASA. Not an official NASA account.”

It beckoned readers to follow its feed “for science and climate news and facts. REAL NEWS, REAL FACTS.”

The swift proliferation of such tweets by government rank-and-file followed internal directives several agencies involved in environmental issues have received since Trump’s inauguration requiring them to curb their dissemination of information to the public.

Last week, Interior Department staff were told to stop posting on Twitter after an employee re-tweeted posts about relatively low attendance at Trump’s swearing-in, and about how material on climate change and civil rights had disappeared from the official White House website.

Employees at the EPA and the departments of Interior, Agriculture and Health and Human Services have since confirmed seeing notices from the new administration either instructing them to remove web pages or limit how they communicate to the public, including through social media.

The restrictions have reinforced concerns that Trump, a climate change skeptic, is out to squelch federally backed research showing that emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other human activities are contributing to global warming.

The resistance movement gained steam on Tuesday when a series of climate change-related tweets were posted to the official Twitter account of Badlands National Park in South Dakota, administered under the Interior Department, but were soon deleted.

A Park Service official later said those tweets came from a former employee no longer authorized to use the official account and that the agency was being encouraged to use Twitter to post public safety and park information only, and to avoid national policy issues.

Within hours, unofficial “resistance” or “rogue” Twitter accounts began sprouting up, emblazoned with the government logos of the agencies where they worked, the list growing to at least 14 such sites by Wednesday afternoon.

An account dubbed @ungaggedEPA invited followers to visit its feeds of “ungagged news, links, tips and conversation that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is unable to tell you,” adding that it was “Not directly affiliated with @EPA.”

U.S. environmental employees were soon joined by similar “alternative” Twitter accounts originating from various science and health agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Weather Service.

Many of their messages carried Twitter hashtags #resist or #resistance.

An unofficial Badlands National Park account called @BadHombreNPS also emerged (a reference to one of Trump’s more memorable campaign remarks about Mexican immigrants) to post material that had been scrubbed from the official site earlier.

Because the Twitter feeds were set up and posted to anonymously as private accounts, they are beyond the control of the government.

(By Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Alabama chief justice urges state to go rogue, refuse same-sex marriages

Alabama’s chief justice, who famously refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a state judicial building, has urged probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples even though a federal judge ruled the state’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional.

Roy Moore sent a letter to Alabama probate judges this week saying they are not bound by the ruling because they were not defendants in the lawsuit and have not been directly ordered to issue the licenses. He said the federal court did not have the authority to allow same-sex marriages.

“No federal judge, or court, should redefine marriage,” Moore said in an interview on Feb. 5.

Moore said state courts, including probate courts, have the authority to interpret the U.S. Constitution independently, just like lower federal courts do, and the U.S. Supreme Court will resolve disputes over those interpretations.

The Republican judge is no stranger to controversial remarks about homosexuality and the decisions of federal judges. Moore was removed as Alabama chief justice in 2003 after he refused to obey what he called an “unlawful” federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state judicial building. Moore in 2002 called homosexuality “an inherent evil” in ruling against a lesbian mother in a child custody case.

Moore, who was re-elected in 2012, said he sent the letter to offer advice to probate judges because of confusion over the federal ruling. However, a legal group that has clashed with Moore in the past says he is the one trying to incite chaos. And Moore’s advice is contrary to that of the Alabama Probate Judges Association, which said last week that the decision is binding on the state’s probate judges.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade’s order striking down the state’s ban on gay marriage will go into effect on Feb. 9 unless the U.S. Supreme Court grants Alabama’s request for a delay. Gay couples are expected to apply for marriage licenses across Alabama that day.

Granade clarified her first order, saying the judges have a constitutional duty to issue the licenses. But she stopped short of ordering them to do so.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the group that filed the complaint that led to Moore’s ouster in 2003, filed a new judicial ethics complaint over his comments about the gay marriage ruling.

“Justice Moore is, I think, a dangerous person. He’s created a crisis in the state before. He just seems hell-bent determined to do it again,” said Richard Cohen, president of the SPLC.

Cohen said judges who refuse to issue licenses risk being sued and were being led into “very, very hot water by suggesting they ignore Judge Granade’s order.”

But Moore said it was his duty as head of the court system to try to help judges sort out the issues.

“I can’t tell them how to think. I can’t tell them how to interpret the Constitution. I can say that they are obliged to follow the Alabama Constitution and nothing prevents that,” Moore said. “To disobey the Alabama Constitution would be to ignore the 81 percent of the people in this state that adopted the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.”

3 Colorado counties issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples

A third Colorado county began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples on July 11 even though the legal fight is far from resolved in the state.

Pueblo County joined Denver and Boulder County in allowing gay couples to marry a day after a state judge ruled the Boulder clerk can continue issuing the licenses.

Colorado’s 2006 voter-approved gay marriage ban remains on the books. But District Court Judge Andrew Hartman noted it is “hanging on by a thread” following rulings by another state court and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Denver, clerk Debra Johnson began granting marriage licenses to gay couples shortly after Hartman issued his ruling. She gave licenses to 17 gay couples on July 10.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers had sought to block the issuing of licenses, warning of “legal chaos.” In a statement this week, he pledged to go to the state Supreme Court as soon as possible “to prevent a legal patchwork quilt from forming.”

In Boulder County, more than 100 couples have married since its clerk started issuing licenses two weeks ago, when the appeals court found Utah’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

The ruling became law in all six 10th Circuit states – including Colorado – but the panel immediately put it on hold while Utah appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On July 9, District Judge C. Scott Crabtree struck down Colorado’s ban, joining multiple other judges who have done the same in other states. Crabtree also placed his ruling on hold while the legal battle plays out.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has asked Suthers, a Republican, not to appeal.

“The decision on marriage by Judge Crabtree puts Colorado on the right side of history,” Hickenlooper said.

In the Boulder case, Hartman found the licenses were harmless and an acceptable form of civil disobedience. But he required that all couples be warned their marriage could lack legal value if a court later upholds Colorado’s ban.

His decision left clerks around the state trying to figure out what to do next.

They must weigh the risk of issuing licenses that might become invalid with violating people’s rights by declining to do so, Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner said. “It’s sort of a rock and a hard place,” she said.

There is no guarantee the nation’s highest court will take the case when it returns in October. But situations like the one in Colorado add to the pressure for a final, definitive ruling on gay marriage in the U.S.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, but it’s in limbo in much of the rest of the nation. Seemingly every week, another gay marriage ban is struck down. Sometimes marriages start immediately; other times the rulings are put on hold and nothing happens.

Pennsylvania sues to stop county from issuing marriage licenses to gays

State officials asked a court to stop a rogue county from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples on July 30, nearly a week after a clerk began granting them in violation of Pennsylvania law.

The petition filed by the Pennsylvania Health Department alleges that D. Bruce Hanes, the register of wills in Montgomery County, “repeatedly and continuously” flouted the law. As of July 30, Hanes’ office had granted 34 licenses and registered six same-sex marriages.

“There is no limit to the administrative and legal chaos that is likely to flow from the clerk’s unlawful practice of issuing marriage licenses to those who are not permitted under Pennsylvania law to marry,” the lawsuit said.

Pennsylvania is the only northeastern state without same-sex marriages or civil unions. Hanes began issuing licenses to same-sex couples shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage of Act.

At the time, Hanes said he wanted to “come down on the right side of history and the law.” He declined to comment on the pending litigation, but county solicitor Ray McGarry said the state Health Department’s lawsuit “has serious flaws.” The county will continue to grant licenses to gay couples, McGarry said.

The Health Department, which oversees marriage licenses for the state, contends in its complaint that Hanes’ actions interfere with the agency’s administrative responsibilities and would likely lead to illegal claims for benefits. A department spokeswoman declined to comment further.

The developments come the same day that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s office indicated that it would defend the state’s marriage law in a separate legal challenge filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat who supports same-sex marriage, had said earlier this month that she wouldn’t defend the state in that suit because she believes the law to be unconstitutional.

On July 30, Corbett’s general counsel wrote in a letter to Kane’s first deputy that the governor’s office would defend the law. But General Counsel James Schultz said that Kane’s refusal “establishes a very troubling precedent.”

“This will create chaos and uncertainty – not unlike what we are seeing in the unlawful actions” of Hanes, Schultz wrote.

The legal status of the gay marriages registered in Montgomery County is unclear. In other states with same-sex marriage bans, licenses issued by defiant local officials have been voided by courts.

A 1996 state law defines marriage as a civil contract in which a man and a woman take each other as husband and wife. It says same-sex marriages – even if entered legally elsewhere – are void in Pennsylvania.

The ACLU has sued to have the law overturned. The state was granted an extension to respond to that lawsuit and officials must now respond by Sept. 16.

Recent polls show a majority of state residents favor gay marriage in Pennsylvania, even though bills to legalize it have gone nowhere in recent years in the Legislature.