Tag Archives: traditional

Communities enact bans on GMO crops

Two Oregon farmers are defending a local ordinance in federal court in a campaign to protect their harvests and create a zone free of genetically engineered crops.

The Center for Food Safety and Our Family Farms Coalition joined the farmers in the defense of the Jackson County ordinance approved by voters in May 2014. Campaigns are underway to enact similar measures in other parts of the country, including in Wisconsin.

In the Oregon county, the ordinance passed 66-34 percent, despite opposition from the chemical industry, which spent nearly $1 million on its campaign against the local law that now faces a legal challenge.

“Across the United States today, family farmers growing traditional crops are being threatened by crops that have been genetically engineered to survive heavy pesticides or produce their own insecticide,” said Elise Higley, a farmer and director of Our Family Farms Coalition. “Monsanto, Syngenta and other chemical giants have created a product they simply cannot control and which puts the livelihood of family farmers everywhere at risk.”

Tom Buchele, an attorney with Earthrise, which is involved in the legal defense of the ordinance, said their case is about a farmer’s right to protect crops from contamination and valuing a democratic vote.

Transgenic contamination is the transfer of genetically engineered crops to conventional, organic or wild plants. When contamination occurs, traditional farmers can lose the opportunity to sell in GE-sensitive domestic and foreign markets or to customers who avoid genetically modified foods. 

“When I learned that Syngenta was growing genetically engineered sugar beets close to my farm, I had little choice but to tear up the crops I was already growing that were likely to be contaminated,” said Chris Hardy, one of the farmers defending the ordinance. “No farmer should have to worry about whether a patented product of Monsanto is going to drift onto their property and threaten their farm.”

Other communities with zones restricting the use of genetically engineered seeds or plants include Boulder, Colorado; San Juan County, Washington; Montville, Maine; and Marin County, California.

Some states, including Wisconsin, have limited laws addressing the use of genetically engineered plants or organisms. Other states, including Iowa and Indiana, have laws against local control of GMOs.

Activists are engaged in at least two related campaigns in Wisconsin. Right to Know GMO is promoting GMO labeling in the state and a petition is circulating on MoveOn.org to declare La Pointe and Madeline Island in Ashland County a zone free of genetically engineered crops.

Equality victories have gay-marriage foes scrambling

Equalities foes are scrambling to respond in Congress and state legislatures to a series of court rulings that would require some of the most conservative states to recognize same-sex marriage.

Some gay-marriage foes are backing a bill recently introduced in both chambers of Congress that would leave states fully in charge of their marriage policies, though the measure stands very little chance of passage.

In the states, they are endorsing a multitude of bills — some intended to protect gay-marriage bans, others to assert a right, based on religious freedom, to have nothing to do with gay marriages should those bans be struck down.

In Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia, federal judges have voided part or all of the bans on same-sex marriage that voters approved between 2004 and 2006. Each of the rulings has been stayed pending appeals, and a final nationwide resolution may be a few years away in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The trend is unsettling to the conservative activists who oppose gay marriage, and some have called for extraordinary measures in response.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, known for fighting to display the Ten Commandments in a judicial building, has written to all 50 governors urging them to support a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as between only a man and a woman.

In Missouri, where voters approved a gay-marriage ban in 2004, eight Republican House members filed articles of impeachment against Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon after he ordered his administration to accept joint tax returns from same-sex couples who were legally married in other states. The Republican House leader has yet to schedule the matter for public hearings, but some GOP sponsors insist they are serious.

“The people put it in the constitution that marriage is between one man and one woman — the issue is the governor has absolutely ignored the constitution and the people’s will,” said Rep. Ron Schieber, a Republican from Kansas City.

The demand for religious exemptions, meanwhile, is widespread. Gay marriage opponents have fought for strong exemptions in every state where lawmakers have already decided the issue. In New York, for example, gay marriage was recognized only after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s top two legislators struck an 11th-hour compromise on religious accommodations.

However, the resulting exemptions have generally been limited in scope — and haven’t come anywhere near to what gay marriage opponents sought. In Massachusetts and Iowa, where same-sex marriage won recognition through the courts, there are no religious exemptions related to the rulings.

In light of this track record, opponents in red states have been proposing pre-emptive bills with broad accommodations for religious objectors. Most of the bills aim to allow individuals or businesses, for religious reasons, to discriminate against gay people and same-sex couples.

Bills in Ohio, Mississippi, Arizona, Idaho and Oklahoma would allow a person or company to assert a religious freedom defense against a lawsuit from another private party. For example, a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple could defend his decision as a legally protected religious right.

The Kansas House passed a measure last week providing a faith-based legal shield for people who refuse to provide services to gays and lesbians. It details which services would be exempted — ranging from bakeries to adoption agencies to government clerks — and allows faith-based refusal of services to gay couples in any domestic partnership. But the top Republican in the state Senate put a quick stop to the bill’s momentum, declaring that a majority of Republican lawmakers in that chamber don’t support it.

“A strong majority of my members support laws that define traditional marriage,” said Senate President Susan Wagle. “However, my members also don’t condone discrimination.”

In South Dakota, a Republican-led Senate committee narrowly defeated a similar bill that would have barred lawsuits or criminal charges against clergy who refuse to perform same-sex weddings. Critics of the bill said it was unnecessary because the U.S. Constitution already guarantees religious freedom.

One of the sponsors of that measure was Rep. Steve Hickey, pastor of a Sioux Falls church that opposes gay marriage.

“I’m saying keep the state out of my church,” Hickey said at a committee hearing. “I only promote and perform traditional marriages. … It’s is not because there is any bigotry. It’s because I deeply care about people.”

In Indiana, the battle over gay marriage has revealed rifts among Republicans. Republican Gov. Mike Pence urged lawmakers to refer a constitutional ban on gay marriage to the November ballot, but the measure suffered a significant setback last week that could delay a vote until 2016.

Proposed constitutional amendments must be approved twice by the Indiana Legislature — unchanged and in consecutive biennial sessions — before making the ballot. The proposed gay-marriage ban cleared the Republican-led Legislature two years ago but was changed recently to remove a ban on civil unions, thus preventing it from going to the 2014 ballot.

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow with the right-wing Family Research Council, expressed disappointment with the Indiana development.

“That was our best hope for a victory at the ballot box this year,” he said.

Mormon leader defends opposition to marriage equality

More states and nations may legalize same-sex marriage, but human laws cannot “make moral what God has declared immoral,” a top Mormon leader said on Oct. 6.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, in an address at the Mormon church’s biannual general conference in Salt Lake City, said the faith’s stance against same-sex marriage might be misunderstood or prompt accusations of bigotry.

But he urged members to remember that their first priority is to serve God, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ policies are based on God’s decrees, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (HTTP://BIT.LY/1HUO8FJ ).

An LDS eternal perspective does not allow members “to condone such behaviors or to find justification in the laws that permit them,” Oaks said. “And unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has declared to be unchangeable.”

Some 20,000 Mormons gathered at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City and millions more watched worldwide via telecasts and the Internet to hear Oaks’ remarks on the final day of the two-day conference.

Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, bemoaned America’s declining birthrate, later marriages and rising cohabitation.

He cited the changes as evidence of “political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God’s decrees about sexual morality and the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and child-bearing.”

The Mormon church teaches that same-sex attraction is not a sin, but acting on it is.

“Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters,” the church website states.

Plans for prom banning gays rocks Indiana community

A small Indiana community best known for its parks and corn festival has become the center of a national discussion about intolerance over a group’s plans to host a “traditional” prom that bans gay students.

Residents and officials in Sullivan, a city of about 4,200 near the Illinois border, are scrambling to escape the uncomfortable spotlight cast when a teacher supporting the “traditional” prom for Sullivan High School said she believes people choose to be gay and that gays have no purpose in life.

“I just … I don’t understand it,” Diana Medley, referring to gays, told Terre Haute television station WTWO.

The comments by Medley, a special education teacher in a neighboring school district, have gone viral and sparked online campaigns to have her fired. A petition on Change.org calling for her dismissal had generated more than 17,500 signatures from as far away as the United Kingdom as of Thursday, and a Facebook page supporting a prom that includes all students had more than 27,000 likes.

The fallout has surprised many residents, who say the issue roiling the community in an area known for coal mining and attractive parks is being blown out of proportion.

“We are conservative around here. That’s just the way of this town,” said Nancy Woodard, 60, who owns the Hidden Treasure Exchange store. “In any town in this county, you’ll find four or five churches no matter how small the town. … The Bible is a big belief system here.

“Everybody has jumped on this little town. To me, there isn’t any need for it,” she said.

Sullivan High School Principal David Springer said talk of the “traditional” prom began in January, after a student began circulating a petition demanding that gays be allowed to participate in the grand march at Sullivan’s April 27 prom. The “traditional” prom would not be sanctioned by the district and wouldn’t be held at the school.

Springer said the school, which has 545 students in grades 9-12, has never banned same-sex pairs from the event.

“I’ve been to eight grand marches and … we always had girls go out together, and a lot of times they just didn’t have a date,” Springer said. “Our prom is open to all of our students.”

But others say calls for a “traditional” prom, fueled by Medley’s comments, speak to a larger climate in which gay students fear being bullied and aren’t welcome.

“When someone says your kid has no purpose, how do you think that makes a parent feel?” asked Annette Gross, Indiana state coordinator for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), whose son came out at age 19.

Aaron Gettinger, a 20-year-old Stanford University student who graduated from Sullivan High in 2011, said he isn’t surprised by the push for a “traditional” prom that would ban gay students. He said he was bullied daily because he is gay and encountered viewpoints similar to those espoused by Medley.

“It’s just the way that it is,” he said. “It’s part of a way of thinking that the rest of the country needs to know still exists and goes on.”

Organizers of the “traditional” prom declined to comment, and it’s unclear whether the event will still happen.

School officials and the minister of a church where planners met Sunday have worked to distance themselves from the flap.

Dale Wise, the church’s senior minister at Sullivan First Christian Church, said his church turned off its fax machine and took its website offline Tuesday because both were the target of hate mail and pornographic messages.

Wise said the planning group met at the church because it allows community meetings to take place there but the church “had no affiliation whatsoever” with the “traditional” prom effort.

Springer said his staff has been inundated with calls and emails about Medley, whom he noted doesn’t work for his school. She teaches in the Northeast School Corp., a neighboring district.

Neither Medley nor Northeast officials returned calls seeking comment. The district issued a statement this week saying Medley was “expressing her First Amendment rights” and that “the views expressed are not the views of the Northeast School Corporation and/or the Board of Education.”

Sullivan isn’t alone in its struggles over how to handle same-sex couples at proms. A small southeast Missouri school district is facing a threat of legal action over a policy barring same-sex couples from attending prom together.

The Southern Poverty Law Center on Thursday accused the Scott County Central School District in Sikeston of discrimination and gave the district until Feb. 25 to revise the school dance policy or face a potential lawsuit.

Sullivan High School freshman Te’Airra Walters, 15, said it shouldn’t be a big deal for a same-sex couple to attend prom together. She said she doesn’t like the negative attention the controversy has attracted.

“People from other schools around here are saying Sullivan is trashy,” she said. “I think it’s pretty much ridiculous.”

Plan to ban gays from prom rocks small Indiana town

A small Indiana community best known for its parks and corn festival has become the center of a national discussion about intolerance over a group’s plans to host a “traditional” prom that bans gay students.

Residents and officials in Sullivan, a city of about 4,200 near the Illinois border, are scrambling to escape the uncomfortable spotlight cast when a teacher supporting the “traditional” prom for Sullivan High School said she believes people choose to be gay and that gays have no purpose in life.

“I just … I don’t understand it,” Diana Medley, referring to gays, told Terre Haute television station WTWO.

The comments by Medley, a special education teacher in a neighboring school district, have gone viral and sparked online campaigns to have her fired. A petition on Change.org calling for her dismissal had generated more than 17,500 signatures from as far away as the United Kingdom as of Thursday, and a Facebook page supporting a prom that includes all students had more than 27,000 likes.

The fallout has surprised many residents, who say the issue roiling the community in an area known for coal mining and attractive parks is being blown out of proportion.

“We are conservative around here. That’s just the way of this town,” said Nancy Woodard, 60, who owns the Hidden Treasure Exchange store. “In any town in this county, you’ll find four or five churches no matter how small the town. … The Bible is a big belief system here.

“Everybody has jumped on this little town. To me, there isn’t any need for it,” she said.

Sullivan High School principal David Springer said talk of the “traditional” prom began in January, after a student began circulating a petition demanding that gays be allowed to participate in the grand march at Sullivan’s April 27 prom. The “traditional” prom would not be sanctioned by the district and wouldn’t be held at the school.

Springer said the school, which has 545 students in grades 9-12, has never banned same-sex pairs from the event.

“I’ve been to eight grand marches and … we always had girls go out together, and a lot of times they just didn’t have a date,” Springer said. “Our prom is open to all of our students.”

But others say calls for a “traditional” prom, fueled by Medley’s comments, speak to a larger climate in which gay students fear being bullied and aren’t welcome.

“When someone says your kid has no purpose, how do you think that makes a parent feel?” asked Annette Gross, Indiana state coordinator for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), whose son came out at age 19.

Aaron Gettinger, a 20-year-old Stanford University student who graduated from Sullivan High in 2011, said he isn’t surprised by the push for a “traditional” prom that would ban gay students. He said he was bullied daily because he is gay and encountered viewpoints similar to those espoused by Medley.

“It’s just the way that it is,” he said. “It’s part of a way of thinking that the rest of the country needs to know still exists and goes on.”

Organizers of the “traditional” prom declined to comment, and it’s unclear whether the event will still happen.

School officials and the minister of a church where planners met Sunday have worked to distance themselves from the flap.

Dale Wise, the church’s senior minister at Sullivan First Christian Church, said his church turned off its fax machine and took its website offline Tuesday because both were the target of hate mail and pornographic messages.

Wise said the planning group met at the church because it allows community meetings to take place there but the church “had no affiliation whatsoever” with the “traditional” prom effort.

Springer said his staff has been inundated with calls and emails about Medley, whom he noted doesn’t work for his school. She teaches in the Northeast School Corp., a neighboring district.

Neither Medley nor Northeast officials returned calls seeking comment. The district issued a statement this week saying Medley was “expressing her First Amendment rights” and that “the views expressed are not the views of the Northeast School Corporation and/or the Board of Education.”

Sullivan isn’t alone in its struggles over how to handle same-sex couples at proms. A small southeast Missouri school district is facing a threat of legal action over a policy barring same-sex couples from attending prom together.

The Southern Poverty Law Center this week accused the Scott County Central School District in Sikeston of discrimination and gave the district until Feb. 25 to revise the school dance policy or face a potential lawsuit.

Sullivan High School freshman Te’Airra Walters, 15, said it shouldn’t be a big deal for a same-sex couple to attend prom together. She said she doesn’t like the negative attention the controversy has attracted.

“People from other schools around here are saying Sullivan is trashy,” she said. “I think it’s pretty much ridiculous.”

Church wants special collection for anti-gay campaign in Washington

Washington state’s campaign finance watchdog said that the state’s Catholic churches can’t collect donations from their parishioners for the campaign seeking to overturn the state’s gay marriage law.

Last week, Yakima Bishop Joseph Tyson sent a letter to pastors in 41 parishes asking that they announce a special collection at upcoming services that would go to Preserve Marriage Washington, which is opposed to same-sex marriage. The group forced a vote with Referendum 74, which asks voters to either approve or reject the law passed earlier this year that allows same-sex marriage in the state. That law is on hold pending a November vote.

The diocese’s chief of staff, Monsignor Robert Siler, said this week that the collection date was set for Sept. 8-9.

But Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, said no organization can be an intermediary for a contribution. The church can hand out envelopes at Mass, but a member of Preserve Washington has to be on hand to collect them or parishioners must send them in individually, she said.

Anderson said the restrictions stem from Initiative 134, which voters passed in 1992 to regulate political contributions and campaign spending.

Siler said the diocese coordinated its efforts with the Washington state Catholic Conference.

“As far as I know, the procedures we sent to the parishes meet the requirement of state law,” he said, noting that the envelopes are preaddressed to the campaign.

“We’re not collecting and counting money,” he said. “We’re just collecting envelopes and forwarding them.”

Anderson said that even so, what the church is proposing to do is what federal laws refer to as “bundling,” and that isn’t allowed under state law. Anderson said PDC officials would be reaching out to church officials in the coming days.  

“We just want to make sure they understand what they can and can’t do,” she said.

“Under state law, no one can be an intermediary for a contribution,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a loose pile of money or if each is in a little envelope.”

Sister Sharon Park, executive director of the Washington state Catholic Conference, said she couldn’t comment until she had talked with the PDC.

“It’s hard to say anything without knowing what they are talking about,” she said.

Siler said, “if we need to amend our procedures, we will.”

Preserve Marriage Washington has lagged in fundraising so far, raising just $471,000 compared with the nearly $6.1 million raised by Washington United for Marriage, which supports the gay marriage law.

Washington United for Marriage announced this week that the group has reserved $5 million for television advertising starting sometime after Labor Day.

Gay Republicans urge focus on economy after Florida fight

Gay Republicans continued to encourage the candidates for their party’s presidential nomination to focus on jobs and economy the morning after the Florida primary.

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich battling for votes in the Sunshine State pushed their conservative credentials and ran a series of bruising negative attack ads.

Romney emerged the clear choice in Florida, with 46 percent of the vote. But Gingrich vowed to carry on in the nomination race, which has Rick Santorum and Ron Paul in third and fourth in delegates.

Log Cabin Republicans, on Feb. 1, released a statement cheering Romney’s win in Florida: “With a strong showing in Florida, including a win at the Florida Log Cabin Republicans straw poll on Saturday, Romney proves he can build a coalition of conservative voters.”

But LCR executive director R. Clarke Cooper said concern remains about Romney’s recent courting of right-wing groups.

“The real question now is whether Romney can win a majority of Americans, including younger voters, independents and disaffected Democrats,” Cooper said. “The 2010 mid-term election, in which Republicans campaigned on smaller government and cutting spending, is a model for victory in 2012. Republicans of all stripes are strongly committed to replacing President Obama, there is no need or excuse for engaging in antigay pandering or divisive social politics.”

The day before the Florida primary, the Romney campaign announced its Social Conservatives Coalition and released a letter from nine Massachusetts conservative leaders who defended the candidate as anti-abortion and anti-gay rights.

The letter stated that Romney staunchly denounced same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and “he followed up on that denunciation with action – action that saved our nation from a constitutional crisis over the definition of marriage. He and his staff identified and enforced a little-known 1913 law that allowed them to order local clerks not to issue marriage licenses to out-of-state couples. Absent this action, homosexual couples would surely have flooded into Massachusetts from other states to get ‘married’ and then demanded that their home states recognize the ‘marriages,’ putting the nation only one court decision away from nationalizing ‘same-sex marriage.’”

One of the nine, Roberto Miranda, has said that the “virus of homosexuality and gay marriage” brought about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Hefner and the unhealthy straight lifestyle

The religious right spends millions of dollars each year promoting inflammatory depictions of unhealthy gay “lifestyles” as the norm for the LGBT community. But it appears that the creator of the world’s most envied straight lifestyle, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, lives a life of sexual dysfunction more gag-worthy than anything evangelical Christians can throw at us.

In her new memoir, former Playmate Izabella St. James reveals how Hefner, 84, treats his harem at that temple of traditional heterosexism known as the Playboy Mansion. For starters, she recounts the problem of Hef’s dogs:

“They weren’t house-trained and would just do their business on the bedroom carpet,” writes St. James, in excerpts that appeared in London’s Daily Mail. “Late at night, or in the early hours of the morning – if any of us visited Hef’s bedroom – we’d almost always end up standing in dog mess. Everything in the Mansion felt old and stale, and Archie the house dog would regularly relieve himself on the hallway curtains, adding a powerful whiff of urine to the general scent of decay.”

St. James also shares how Hefner, who recently announced his engagement to Crystal Harris, 24, paid his harem.

“Every Friday morning we had to go to Hef’s room, wait while he picked up all the dog poo off the carpet – and then ask for our allowance: a thousand dollars counted out in crisp hundred-dollar bills from a safe in one of his bookcases. We all hated this process. Hef would always use the occasion to bring up anything he wasn’t happy about in the relationship. Most of the complaints were about the lack of harmony among the girlfriends – or your lack of sexual participation in the ‘parties’ he held in his bedroom.”

Of course, there’s nothing in the way Hefner lives that’s inconsistent with the “traditional” sexual morality promoted by the Bible. The good book encourages men to take as many wives and sleep with as many servants as they can afford. It also mandates the complete submission of women to men, including surrender of control over their bodies.

And, in biblical times, living in close proximity with domestic animals and their refuse was the norm.