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“The Right To Discriminate”: What Do The GOP Candidates Think Of State ‘Conscience Clause’ Legislation?

There’s an interesting/horrifying piece in today’s New York Times about a trend across the country, but mostly in the South, to enact “conscience” legislation at the state level that would allow businesses to discriminate against gay people if they can justify it on the basis of their religion. One interesting facet of this issue is that the moneyed interests in the GOP, along with big corporations (not the same thing, but there’s plenty of overlap) are completely spooked by these bills. We’ll get to that in a moment, but here are some colorful details:

“The L.G.B.T. movement is the main thing, the primary thing that’s going to be challenging religious liberties and the freedom to live out religious convictions,” said State Senator Joseph Silk, an Oklahoma Republican and the sponsor of a bill in that state. “And I say that sensitively, because I have homosexual friends.”

Of course he does. He goes on:

“They don’t have a right to be served in every single store,” said Mr. Silk, the Oklahoma state senator, referring to gay people. “People need to have the ability to refuse service if its violates their religious convictions.”

I mean, come on. Gay people want to be able to go into every single store? Who do they think they are?

But this brings up a question for me. When the religious conservatives pushing these bills argue for why they’re needed, they always mention a retailer whose work gets right down into all that gayness. Like the baker who might have to make a cake for a gay couple and live through the horror of placing two female figurines on top of the cake, or the photographer who might have to take their picture, trying to see his camera’s viewfinder through the veil of tears he weeps at the destruction of the American family represented by two people making a commitment to spend their lives together.

But no legislator is going to specify an exhaustive list of who would and wouldn’t be able to refuse service, because doing so would be a very difficult thing to write into a bill’s text. Instead, the right to discriminate is inevitably written broadly. For example, one bill in Oklahoma says: “No business entity shall be required to provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges related to any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, group or association.” Which would mean, for instance, that it would be legal for any store or restaurant to put up a sign saying, “We don’t serve gays.” Other bills (here, for example) are written even more broadly, just saying that the state can’t stop you from acting on your sincerely held religious beliefs, which would include discriminating against gay people if that’s your thing.

As the Times story details, some of these bills have died in the face of opposition from business interests; for instance, when Walmart came out against the one in Arkansas, it was pretty much doomed. The company may be conservative in many ways, but it doesn’t want its state to be known as a bastion of hatred and discrimination.

So I’d be interested to hear specifically from some influential Republicans—like, say, the ones running for president—on what they think of these laws. I looked around a bit and didn’t find any of them commenting on it, which isn’t too surprising given that it’s been playing out at the state level. But maybe someone should start asking. Do they think a baker ought to be able to discriminate? And if they say that there ought to be a way for the baker to exercise his “conscience,” then the next question is, what about a restaurant? What about a hardware store?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 6, 2015

March 7, 2015 Posted by | Conscience Legislation, Discrimination, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Three Legs Of The Conservative Stool”: The ‘War On Women’ Is The Latest War That Republicans At CPAC Want To Win

All political movements, to some extent, sound nonsensical to outsiders because groupthink elides the needs for certain connective thoughts to be voiced aloud. CPAC, a celebration of orthodoxy among a bullet-point-equipped faithful who all try to sound more stridently like everyone else than anyone else, magnifies this tendency to maddening degrees. Two separate subjects are mentioned with the causal relationship omitted. Facts appear without context; good things are named as though good outcomes inevitably eventuate. When cause-and-effect statements appear, they aren’t much better.

By this process, you can arrive at a conclusion like this: To win the War on Women, you better put a ring on it.

At CPAC, conservatives dedicated an entire panel to “The Future of Marriage.” One could be forgiven for assuming it tackled the issue via the sub-topic “Gays, and the Ickiness Thereof,” because that was the default assumption among those attending CPAC as part of an ongoing More Jaded Than Thou contest. Instead, the panel bypassed halting marriage equality and went straight for a return to celebrating a time when women had few stable life opportunities outside of marriage.

Heritage Foundation vice-president Jennifer Marshall signaled the need for conservative candidates to “be indivisible” on the matter of the “very interrelated” three legs of the conservative stool – marriage, small government and a stable economy. What a weird stool. Why these three things? Why not neighborhood bowling leagues, usury and the gibbet?

Marshall answered that question by explaining that “the sexual revolution has made relationships between men and women much more challenging”. Naturally, as polyamory and bed hopping have had very little effect on bowling or usury. Still, it was an important statement to make, because it implied that women had been complicit in the destabilization of their economic security.

Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute – employer of such luminaries as Iraq War stooge Judith Miller, invariably wrong William Kristol and racist hack Charles Murray – was willing to go even further than Marshall in placing the blame for women’s economic travails on alienation from “the family” and then further blaming women’s thoughts for turning women against where they belong.

“Feminists have taken over college campuses. They run the bureaucracy. People are losing the vocabulary to say fathers are essential,” she said. “I predict there’s going to come a time when Father’s Day is hate speech because you’re dissing a lesbian couple.” Piles of unsold real, comfortable Wrangler Jeans clogging up landfills. Tasteful Methodist sex harnesses going unsold at tasteful Methodist sex harness shops. Ships teeming with rear spoilers for family sedans being turned away from the nation’s harbors. A chilling vision of dadless things to come.

Nonetheless, vague problems demand vague solutions. Thus MacDonald advised 2016 Republican candidates: “If you want to eliminate poverty overnight, you can wipe it out by having stable, two-parent households.” (Note the weaseling inclusion of “stable.”) After all, we determine income inequality by households, so take two people living together in poverty, marry ‘em, and presto! No more poverty. Statistical problems go away if you stop gathering statistics. That only sounds nutty if you don’t already know that global warming isn’t real because thermometers lie.

That more or less made sense if you’d listened to the previous hour’s explanations that everything is bad in the inner city, and too many urban folks don’t get married, so, like, the two things are connected, man. Meanwhile, according to MacDonald, “The most affluent members of American society are still getting married.”

Shortly after this, Wade Horn, former assistant secretary for children and families, weighed in with the observation that marriages save money and diversify productivity because “marriages allow for economies of scale and specialization” within the household. (For those scoring economies of scale at home, presumably because specialization has made one of you an actuary: economies of scale good when you are married to someone; bad when buying prescription drugs for nations.) When your bridesmaids give you bewildered looks at the altar, point at your groom and cross their eyes while miming throwing up, just hold your hands apart to show how much he scales your economy.

To a cynic, that might read like a heartless thought. But do you know what’s really heartless? Government. “Children need their mothers and fathers. There is no government program that can possibly substitute for the love and guidance and sense of place in the world that parents provide,” MacDonald explained. “What we’re seeing now in the inner city is catastrophic. Marriage has all but disappeared. When young boys are growing up, they grow up without any expectation that they will marry the mothers of their children.” And she’s right; people who think government will love you or your abandoned children are idiots. The Department of Love has been a failure since 1967, and large faceless institutions will never care for human beings no matter how well they claim to mean. Those “inner city” people shouldn’t have been trying to hug America. They should have hugged something more practical like each other and that smiley face from Wal-Mart.

But if these problems and solutions got too specific for you, there was always Kate Bryan of the American Principles Project and moderator of “The Future of Marriage in America” panel. Sometimes it’s all just The Culture. The Culture — the Great Silent Chobani — depicts marriage as negative. Example: “The old ball and chain.” Why, if we could just get rid of this expression that zero non-horrible people have used unironically for at least a generation, we could have this thing licked in no-time. Women, inequality, stability, stools, the Whole Chobani. Good talk, everyone.

 

By: Jeb Lund, The Guardian, February 28, 2015

March 2, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, CPAC, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Bigots Continue Their Battle”: Despite Conservative Republicans, Gay Marriage Will Prevail

She didn’t mean it.

Alabama state legislator Patricia Todd now says she’s not going to name those among her conservative colleagues who have had extramarital dalliances, although she had threatened to do so. But she has stiffened her resolve about this much: She’ll continue to combat anti-gay bigotry, which is what started this imbroglio.

Todd, a Democrat and Alabama’s only openly gay legislator, was heartened when a federal judge struck down the state’s law banning same-sex marriage earlier this month. The ruling is another sign of the rapid advance of gay rights; if U.S. District Court Judge Callie V.S. Granade’s decision holds, Alabama will be the 37th state to permit gay marriage.

But the ruling was immediately greeted with criticism from Republicans in the statehouse, who vowed to fight it. State House Speaker Mike Hubbard, for example, pledged to “continue defending the Christian conservative values that make Alabama a special place to live.”

For Todd, that was too much. “What I heard was, ‘We’re going to defend the Christian values of Alabama and family values.’ … This rhetoric … is very hurtful in the gay community,” she told me.

So she took to her Facebook page to warn her colleagues that she would fight back.

“I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about ‘family values’ when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have. I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet OUT,” she wrote.

Her anger is understandable. For decades, conservative Christians have wielded the Bible as an instrument of division, distorting its message to buttress their bigotry. Worse, they’ve been “family values” hypocrites, indulging their own vices while casting stones at others.

As just one example, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was implicated in a prostitution scandal in 2007. He offered an apology for his “sin” and has since been re-elected. He continues, by the way, to oppose gay marriage.

The challenge to Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage was brought by a lesbian couple, Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand, who were married in California in 2008 but live in Mobile. The major reason for their nuptials was so that Searcy could be considered a legal parent to their son, whom McKeand gave birth to in 2005, they told The Associated Press. But the state of Alabama refused to recognize their marriage.

Judge Granade, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, ruled that Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment. And she dispensed with the absurd notion that rearing children in a same-sex marriage would loosen the bonds that tie biological parents to their offspring.

“… Alabama does not exclude from marriage any other couples who are either unwilling or unable to biologically procreate. There is no law prohibiting infertile couples, elderly couples, or couples who do not wish to procreate from marrying. … In sum, the laws in question are an irrational way of promoting biological relationships in Alabama,” she wrote.

Still, the bigots continue their battle, hoping to bend the arc of history back toward the 19th century as the nation waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a definitive ruling later this year. Alabama’s attorney general is appealing Judge Granade’s ruling. And Alabama’s famously combative Supreme Court chief justice, Roy Moore, has promised to ignore the federal judge’s decision.

Further, those antediluvian voices have been echoed on the national stage by some Republicans considering a run for the presidency. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have suggested a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

But that view is rapidly dwindling, close to obsolete outside the aging GOP base. Nearly 60 percent of Americans now support same-sex nuptials, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll. No matter what the Supreme Court rules, gay marriage will prevail in the not-too-distant future.

That’s why Todd is optimistic — even as she pushes back against the prejudices of some of her colleagues. “The reality is, we’re going to win this battle,” she said.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, January 31, 2015

February 1, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Marriage Equality, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“People Make Mistakes About Sex And Stuff Happens”: Will Dirty Pol Vito Fossella Replace Dirty Pol Michael Grimm?

Anthony Weiner sexted with scores of women, only getting caught when a photo of his crotch went viral, and still ran for mayor two years later. Eliot Spitzer spent more than $15,000 on high-price prostitutes, and after resigning his governorship in disgrace, ran for New York City comptroller five years later. Rep. Charlie Rangel was censured by the House of Representatives and was urged by the president of the United States to step aside, and he still ran and won re-election—three more times.

And now to this list of New York pols who refuse to go away, it may be possible to add another name: Vito Fossella.

The former Staten Island congressman was one of New York City’s most prominent Republicans, regularly winning re-election by double digits. He was often talked about as a future New York mayor.

But all of that came to an end in 2008, when the 43-year-old Fossella got a little too sloshed at a White House reception honoring the New York Giants Super Bowl victory and was arrested for driving under the influence in northern Virginia. The scandal could have been the kind that amounts to a mere hiccup in the baroque New York political scene, but it became a bit more serious when it was revealed that Fossella, a married father of three, had been cruising around the D.C. suburbs because he was off to see his mistress, with whom he had fathered a child—a fact that was revealed when Fossella called the woman to pick him up from his overnight stay in jail.

But now that Rep. Michael Grimm is joining the crowded club of New York politicians who have resigned in disgrace, is Fossella ready to join the nearly equally crowded club of lawmakers who have mounted ill-fated comeback attempts?

“Vito’s name has come around a couple of times. He is very beloved in the Staten Island community,” said Leticia Remauro, a former Staten Island GOP chairwoman and a political consultant. “He served the community well, but he clearly has to make a decision based on why he left.”

John Catsimatidis, a supermarket magnate who lost a bid for the Republican nomination in the 2013 mayor’s race, won Staten Island, a victory many attribute to the introductions Fossella made on the island. Before Grimm announced he was stepping down, Catsimatidis used his Sunday morning AM radio show to urge the congressman to give up the seat and suggested that he support Fossella.

“Vito is the most experienced. If he wants it, it is his for the taking,” Catsimatidis told The Daily Beast by phone from the Bahamas. As for Fossella’s baggage, Catsimatidis, a major donor to Republican causes, said: “Who doesn’t have baggage? People make mistakes about sex and stuff happens.”

Catsimatidis appeared to step back a bit from his comments over the weekend, however, saying he would commission a poll to find out who was the most viable Republican—Fossella, district attorney Dan Donovan, or Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.

Donovan, who has come under withering criticism for his inability to win an indictment against a New York City police officer in the strangulation death of Eric Garner, a black Staten Island man selling loose cigarettes, announced Tuesday morning that he was “seriously considering the race.” Although Donovan remains a popular figure on Staten Island even after the Garner grand jury decision, many island political analysts said they doubted he had many ambitions beyond the DA’s office.

Guy Molinari, a former Staten Island borough president, pushed back against that view. “It is his dream [to go to Congress] and he is going to be running,” Molinari said. “He is entitled to it. The reading I have right now is that all of the elected officials, with the exception of Malliotakis, are lining up behind Donovan.”

When Fossella was first elected to Congress in 1997 at age 32, Molinari was described as his political godfather. In the intervening years, the two had a falling out, and the tribal divisions of Staten Island’s Republican Party split between a Molinari camp and one loyal to Fossella. Molinari was an enthusiastic backer of Grimm, but when Fossella loyalists in Staten Island’s GOP leadership endorsed Fossella in 2008 even though he said he would not run in light of his scandal, Molinari attacked his protégé in unusually personal terms.

“It’s going to be ugly, it’s going to be nasty, but he has to know that would come out in the course of a campaign. Everything he has done will be brought to light by me in this campaign,” Molinari said at the time, pledging a primary battle. “I have a difficult time believing that Fossella would put his own personal ambitions above his family. His family has been through enough, and I couldn’t believe that he would be willing to put them through all of that once again.”

Fossella declined to run again, but in the years since he has mused aloud about challenging Grimm. Now that Grimm is gone, the question is whether Fossella was merely tweaking Molinari or was serious about seeking a return to Congress.

“I think he had a genuine interest in that seat,” said one Fossella ally, who said the former congressman was unlikely to challenge Donovan if the district attorney decided to run. “It’s a great gig to be the DA, and I think Danny likes doing it. The likelihood as I see it is that Donovan stays where he is.”

Fossella did not respond to requests for comment for this article, but in a television interview Tuesday night, he gave a tepid denial, saying he was “not really” interested in running again and that “my hope is that the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn go to the polls and just choose the best person for all of us.”

These days the former congressman appears to have reconciled with his Staten Island family and has rebuilt his life working as a lobbyist for a firm owned by former U.S. Senator Al D’Amato. He appears frequently on television as a political commentator. If he were to run, he would have to overcome deep skepticism from Washington Republicans, who are not likely to want to replace one scandal-scarred Staten Island Republican with another scandal-scarred Staten Island Republican. The district, which also includes parts of Brooklyn, is by far the most Republican in New York City—Bill de Blasio failed to carry it even as he romped to victory in the 2013 mayor’s race—and should be a relatively easy Republican win in a special election, which conservative base voters are more likely to turn out for. But if Democrats lose this year, they think they can win the seat in 2016 riding Hillary Clinton’s coattails—something Republicans also sound keenly aware of, even if they have their own motives for discouraging a Fossella campaign.

“Under the circumstances, with the problems he has had, and in this atmosphere with the issues that are out there,” said Molinari, “I just don’t think Fossella runs.”

 

By:  David Freedlander, The Daily Beast, December 31, 2014

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Republicans, Staten Island NY | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We’ve Adapted Before, And We’ll Adapt Again”: Immigrants’ Energy And Vitality Ought To Be Celebrated

“This is a blessing from God.”

“I’ve always had to look behind my back. Now I don’t have to worry so much.”

“This is a very amazing moment.”

According to news reports, those sentiments — hope, relief, gratitude, joy — have been expressed by immigrants heartened by President Obama’s decision to delay deportation for as many as 4 million people who entered the country without papers. They are ordinary folks eager for a semblance of normalcy — the right to a driver’s license, the ability to get a job legally, the respite from constant worry — in the adopted country they now call home.

While Obama’s action has drawn withering criticism from his conservative critics, the president framed his decision as an attempt to keep families from being torn apart. According to the Migration Policy Institute, some 3.7 million adults who came into the United States without authorization have at least one child who was born here or has legal permanent status and has been here five or more years.

Those children are firmly ensconced in their communities, anchored in their schools or workplaces, and strangers to the nations in which their parents were born. They speak English; they surf the Internet; they obsess over the latest smartphone. In other words, they are as American as your kids and mine.

What sort of country would separate them from their parents or force them to leave? Why not embrace them for the vitality they bring to us?

Opponents of Obama’s executive order are given to a heavy reliance on the rules and regulations of permissible entry, the legal codes that govern borders and visas and citizenship. It’s certainly true that unauthorized immigrants have violated those statutes — stealing across a river, sneaking through a desert, ignoring a previously agreed-upon departure.

But surely there is something to be said for leniency, for mercy, for generosity toward those who have, after all, committed only a misdemeanor, which is how the law characterizes a first-time illegal entry. (Obama’s executive order pointedly excludes those who have committed felonies.)

That mercy ought to be freely meted out since Americans bear some complicity in the law-breaking, some responsibility for the unauthorized sojourns taken by so many gardeners, cooks and nannies, painters, ditch diggers and fruit pickers. Back in the go-go 1990s, we practically threw open the gates and invited in low-skilled workers who were happy to do the jobs that Americans didn’t want to do.

There was more than enough work to go around in an economy where the unemployment rate dropped to as low as 4 percent, and native-born laborers shunned sweaty work picking Vidalia onions, toting drain pipe and laying sod. Undocumented workers proved cheap and compliant, unable to complain when safety regulations were violated and wages were substandard.

So they came by the millions, in Democratic and Republican administrations. They stayed, they worked hard, they married and had children. They adopted our values and called this country their own.

Perhaps it was inevitable that a backlash would be swift and furious, especially after the economy turned sour and the middle class shrank. Besides, every immigrant wave in the nation’s history — whether Irish or Polish or Chinese — has provoked an eruption of anger and resentment.

This backlash has been building since at least the early aughts, when President George W. Bush tried to pass legislation that would give the undocumented legal status and a path to citizenship. Ultraconservatives in his party rebelled, even as business executives pleaded for a compromise that would satisfy their need for workers.

The resentment was seeded, in part, by the reality of demographic change — by, yes, the discomfort produced by racial and ethnic differences. Older Americans, especially, have recoiled at a country that grows browner and more diverse, where Spanish-language signs dominate some neighborhoods and soccer fields replace baseball diamonds. That, too, has happened before in our history as immigrants brought their customs and religions and languages.

But the nation adapted before, and we’ll adapt again. That constant rejuvenation is one of the nation’s strengths, that energy and vitality is one of our advantages. We, too, ought to be grateful those immigrants are getting a shot at the American dream.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, November 29, 2014

November 30, 2014 Posted by | Executive Orders, Immigrants, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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