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“The Four-Time Bride Who Won’t Let Gays Get Married”: What Part Of “Separation Of Church And State” Doesn’t She Understand?

If ever there was an argument to make teenagers take citizenship exams before they can get a high-school diploma, it’s the Kentucky clerk who won’t issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and her all too supportive husband. Make that fourth husband.

“They want us to accept their beliefs and their ways. But they won’t accept our beliefs and our ways,” Joe Davis said of gay protesters at the Rowan County Courthouse, The Associated Press reported. “Their beliefs and their ways” is a reference to gay people who are trying to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s June ruling that they have a constitutional right to marry. “Our beliefs and our ways” refers to his wife Kim’s contention that she has the right to ignore the high court in favor of “God’s authority.”

That authority apparently includes godly approval to marry four times in a life so wildly imperfect that U.S. News & World Report could write this paragraph: “She gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband. They were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second.” All is now cool, though. According to her lawyer, Davis converted to Christianity a few years ago and her slate was wiped clean.

Would it be churlish to mention here that Davis has denied a marriage license several times to David Moore and David Ermold, who have been together for 17 years? Also, exactly what part of “separation of church and state” doesn’t she understand?

Davis has been sued for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and the Supreme Court declined Monday to get involved. She can’t be fired because she was elected to her position, but she could be found in contempt of court.

The honorable thing would be to step down, as county clerks have done in states such as Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi. There is a long, long tradition of resignations over conscience issues. But Davis would rather keep her job and exempt herself from whatever she thinks her religion demands, regardless of how that affects the lives of the taxpayers she is supposed to serve.

There is plenty of precedent for exemptions based on faith or personal morality, of course. Conscientious objectors in wartime. Doctors who oppose abortion. And for over a year now, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, certain corporations run by religious families who don’t want to offer insurance coverage for contraception methods they consider tantamount to abortion.

Yet war is a matter of life and death, and for those who believe that life begins at conception, so is abortion. Gay marriage is different. Nobody is at risk of dying, not even a fertilized embryo. Beyond the happy couple, in fact, few—if any—are affected at all.

So it’s hard to see this Kentucky case as anything but religion injected into the public sphere, with intent to discriminate against adults who are pining to make the ultimate commitment to one another. Some of them already have done so informally, for years and years, their unions far more enduring than those Davis cemented with official vows. All they are asking now is to be married in the eyes of society, the law and their God.

Why would people want to deny others rights and happiness in their personal lives, which should be none of their business? Why is it so hard for some people to embrace or at least accept diversity? Human differences — of appearance, temperament, chemistry, biology and all the rest — are clearly part of The Plan, whether the design is God’s or nature’s or not a design at all.

Back in 2009, Gallup found “a strong case that knowing someone who is gay or lesbian fosters more accepting attitudes on many of the issues surrounding gay and lesbian relations today.” In 2013, three-quarters in a Gallup poll said they personally knew a friend, relative or co-worker who was gay or lesbian. This year, 6 in 10 people said gay marriage should be legal. Not surprisingly, that was a record high.

The Davis case is now a headline cause for Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit “litigation, education and policy organization” that offers pro bono legal assistance in cases related to its mission of “advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family.” But the data — and the Supreme Court moves — underscore that Davis, Liberty Counsel and their allies are outliers, bucking social and political trends that are rapidly leaving them behind.

 

By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, September 3, 2015

September 4, 2015 Posted by | Kim Davis, Marriage Equality, Separation of Church and State | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Freedom Not To Do Her Job Whenever She Feels Like It”: Kentucky Clerk, Kim Davis, Ignores Court Rulings, Cites ‘God’s Authority’

Kentucky’s Kim Davis ran out of legal options yesterday. The clerk, who opposes marriage equality for religious reasons, has refused to issue marriage licenses to couples she decides are morally objectionable, despite the fact that Davis is paid to issue marriage licenses.

She and her attorney took the matter to court, and a federal district court judge said Davis could either follow the law or get a new job. She took her case to the 6th Circuit, which is pretty conservative, but which nevertheless rejected her case. Last week, Davis appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which turned the case away yesterday.

All of which led to this morning, when Davis decided to ignore the court rulings, the law, and her official responsibilities. MSNBC’s Emma Margolin reported:

A Kentucky clerk is still refusing to issue marriage licenses due to her religious opposition to same-sex nuptials, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, even after the U.S. Supreme Court dealt the final blow to her argument.

On Tuesday morning, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis denied marriage licenses to at least two couples, telling them she was acting “under God’s authority.” She then asked David Moore and David Ermold, a couple who has been rejected by her office four times, to leave.

When the local resident said, “We’re not leaving until we have a license,” Davis responded, “Then you’re going to have a long day.”

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported this morning that the federal judge in the case ordered Davis to “appear in his courtroom Thursday and explain why she should not be held in contempt of court.”

As a rule, judges tend not to like it when citizens ignore the law and deliberately defy court orders. It’s worth noting for context that U.S. District Judge David Bunning, appointed to the bench by George W. Bush, is presiding over the case.

It seems likely that Kim Davis will become a cause celebre in conservative circles, a status that will grow if she’s jailed for contempt. But given every relevant detail, it’s awfully difficult to see her in a sympathetic light.

Davis is paid by the taxpayers of Rowan County to, among other things, issue marriage licenses to couples. But she doesn’t like issuing marriage licenses, at least not to everyone entitled to them.

As Davis sees it, she wants to keep her job, and continue to receive taxpayer-financed paychecks, but she also wants the freedom not to do her job whenever she feels it.

The local clerk could simply find some other line of work – one that doesn’t cause a conflict between her spiritual beliefs and her responsibilities – but Davis doesn’t want that, either. As far as Davis is concerned, she can refuse to do her job and she can refuse to find a different job.

It seems likely the federal judge will explain to her that her posture is untenable.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 1, 2015

September 2, 2015 Posted by | Kim Davis, Marriage Equality, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Getting Democracy Backwards”: McConnell Digs A Hole On Social Security, Falls In

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in the midst of the toughest race of his career, still isn’t quite sure how he wants to present himself to voters. On the one hand, the longtime Republican senator is proud to be the nation’s top obstructionist, helping create the most dysfunctional Congress in modern history. On the other hand, McConnell wants the public to see him as the consummate dealmaker.

To help prove the latter point, the GOP incumbent cited an interesting example last week.

Though he hasn’t mentioned it much on the campaign trail over the past year, McConnell specifically touted his effort to push President George W. Bush’s plans to reform Social Security in 2005, which would have set up private accounts for retirees.

“After Bush was re-elected in 2004 he wanted us to try to fix Social Security,” said McConnell. “I spent a year trying to get any Democrat in the Senate – even those most reasonable Democrat of all, Joe Lieberman – to help us.”

We now know, of course, that Democrats weren’t interested in privatizing Social Security. Neither was the American mainstream,  which hated the Bush/Cheney idea. But the fact that McConnell brought this up, unprompted, was a clumsy error from a senator who’s usually more disciplined.

With time running out in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell decided to remind the state that he wanted to effectively eliminate the popular and effective Social Security system. Indeed, it’s been part of McConnell’s governing vision for many, many years.

When local reporter Joe Sonka asked McConnell whether voters should expect the senator to push Social Security privatization after the midterms, McConnell replied, “I’m not announcing what the agenda would be in advance.”

Wait, he’s not?

I’m starting to think Republicans have collectively forgotten the point of a political campaign. Last week, Scott Brown told voters in New Hampshire, “I’m not going to talk about whether we’re going to do something in the future.” Around the same time, McConnell said he’ll only announce Senate Republicans’ agenda after the election.

This is a little nutty, even by 2014 standards. Call me old fashioned, but in a democracy, candidates are supposed to tell voters what they’d do if elected. Then, after the election, the winning candidates are supposed to pursue the agenda endorsed by the electorate.

When McConnell says “I’m not announcing what the agenda would be in advance,” he’s getting democracy backwards. The longtime incumbent is asking voters to give him control of the Senate first, at which point he’ll tell everyone what he intends to do with his power.

It’s an odd pitch. Either McConnell still intends to eliminate Social Security, replacing it with private accounts, or he doesn’t. The senator brought this up as an example of his bipartisan outreach, so it’s not unreasonable to ask whether he still intends to pursue an anti-Social Security agenda if McConnell gets a promotion.

This probably isn’t the issue McConnell wanted to deal with in the campaign’s final week, but he opened the door, and shouldn’t be too surprised when others walk through it.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 27, 2014

October 28, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Mitch Mc Connell, Social Security | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Complicated Lies?”: The Amazingly Two-Faced Mitch McConnell

Alison Lundergan Grimes has been getting a lot of grief lately, not least from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which pulled the plug on her campaign yesterday. Her team quickly sent out a press release noting that she has $4.4 million in cash on hand, which the release said was “more than any Democrat in a competitive U.S. Senate race.” So she probably has enough to see her through to the end, but obviously, the DSCC move isn’t exactly a vote of confidence.

Even so, I’d like to pay her a compliment: I can’t conceive of how she managed to sit there next to Mitch McConnell at that debate Monday night and hear him say some of the things he said without her head exploding. That took admirable self-control.

I’m not sure which suffix to add to “shame” to better describe McConnell’s performance: Was it –less, or was it –ful? Remember Mitt Romney during the first debate of 2012, how he routinely said “my position is X” (invariably a more centrist posture) when for the preceding umpteen months his position had been the much more right-wing Not X? Well, McConnell made Romney look like an ironman of forthright constancy. So this is how, with a 30-year Senate record that you’d think you might be able to boast about, you win reelection: By completely misrepresenting who you’ve been for the last six years, and by saying “Obama” every 45 seconds.

Misrepresentations were numerous, but let’s just zero in on student loans. Grimes raised the issue and noted the rising costs of the loans, which Congress hasn’t addressed. McConnell responded that the Senate had taken care of the issue in a bipartisan fashion. But it didn’t. The Elizabeth Warren-sponsored bill failed in the Senate by four votes, getting only 56 yeas but needing 60 to end debate and make it to the floor. Two Republicans voted with the Democrats, but McConnell wasn’t one of them. And McConnell said publicly at the time that he was against Warren’s plan because it was “designed to fail” since it would raise taxes on rich people.

McConnell similarly talked out of both sides of his mouth on the minimum wage, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and other issues. And he, too, dodged a question, and it was one that’s rather more important than the one Grimes dodged about whether she had voted for President Obama. McConnell wouldn’t say whether climate change is real and whether humans contribute to it, so if he wins, Kentuckians will have the pleasure of knowing who their senator voted for in 2012 while he spends the next six years positioning himself to the right of Exxon-Mobil (which at least supports a carbon tax) and blocking any attempt to do anything about global warming.

McConnell’s real howler, of course, had to do with Obamacare. As you may know by now, he said yes, sure, keep Kynect, the state’s roaringly successful health-insurance exchange set up under the health-care law. After all, it’s “just a website.”

This was the moment when I was wondering how Grimes’s head could possibly stay in one piece. As McConnell well knows, Kynect is not just a website. It’s a state health-care program that citizens happen to be able to access through a website. Kentuckians go on to the Kynect website to see what types of insurance coverage are available to them under the Kynect program, which exists solely because of Obamacare. So if you repeal Obamacare “root and branch,” which is still McConnell’s position, you can leave the Kynect website up, but those coverage options people find via the site will no longer exist. Saying keep the website but kill the program is like saying that someone can keep that nice-looking home page that says “Google,” but it just won’t perform searches anymore.

It’s amazing, the audacity of it. If what Grimes did on the Obama-vote question is “disqualifying,” as Chuck Todd put it, then what is an incumbent senator telling a whopper like this? Given that half a million Kentuckians have signed up for insurance through Kynect, isn’t this just a little more important? What’s worse is that he knows he can get away with saying something like that because he is well aware that the explanation of why he’s lying is a little complicated for the average voter to take in. The media just aren’t set up to correct the record very well on things like this. I read a handful of write-ups of the debate from within Kentucky yesterday, and none among the few I read actually burrowed into an explanation of McConnell’s lie. It just gets summarized as a “testy exchange” or some such.

There was one event during this campaign season when McConnell did tell his audience the truth. But that didn’t happen in Kentucky in front of voters. It happened over the summer in California, at the St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort, where rooms run upwards of $500 a night, at a gathering put together by the Koch brothers. McConnell has been saying on the trail that if he wins and the GOP takes the Senate, he’ll open up the amendment process, implying that he’d permit votes on issues Democrats wanted to push—notably, of course, raising the minimum wage.

But behind closed doors at the Koch event, McConnell said the opposite, promising the 1 percenters that, should they win, his Republicans  are “not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage [inaudible]—cost the country 500,000 new jobs; extending unemployment—that’s a great message for retirees; uh, the student-loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse, uh.”

That was—speaking of comparisons to Mitt Romney—McConnell’s 47 percent moment. The sentiment is not as clearly put, so it wasn’t as usable for the opposition. But that was the probable (let’s face it) future majority leader saying to his real base: Don’t worry, boys, I got you covered.

That is how he will operate if he becomes majority leader. An inspiring campaign, all right.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 15, 2014

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Creating Winners And Losers”: Are The Beltway Media Helping Mitch McConnell Stay In Power?

The Beltway media are at it again, creating winners and losers long before Election Day. Yesterday I wrote that Alison Lundergan Grimes beat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky’s one and only Senate debate, and if you watched the debate, you might agree.

But if you had only followed the media coverage, you might well believe that Grimes is a goner, that her refusal to say whether she voted for Obama was of such import that it rightly overshadowed all other issues the candidates fought over—minimum wage, jobs, climate change, student loans, healthcare—and that her demurral was far more worthy of coverage than McConnell’ s actual lies and deceptions about the healthcare of 500,000 Kentuckians.

And if Grimes’s non-answer wasn’t a pretend disaster enough for the media to hyperventilate over, they got more confirmation later yesterday when the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee announced it wasn’t going to spend more to run ads in Kentucky. Well, surely that showed that Big Dems agreed with Big Media that Grimes was out. Money speaks. She’s over. Or so it seems.

But the media have it wrong. First, on the debate: Columbia Journalism Review did a large round-up of the political media responses to Monday’s debate and found that the coverage was “imbalanced” and that it “calls into question the national media’s role in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.”

Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes made national headlines during the debate for again declining to share how she voted in previous presidential elections. At the same time, however, the Washington press corps barely covered a claim by incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell that Obamacare, unpopular in Kentucky, could be repealed without dismantling Kynect, the popular statewide healthcare exchange funded through the law. McConnell’s argument is not only factually questionable, at best, but also seems to be of much more potential consequence to the state’s voters. Monday’s debate was the only televised face-off scheduled before the November election, and the imbalanced coverage calls into question the national media’s role in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.

Grimes’ non-answer received headline treatment on web stories at CBS, NBC ABC, and CNN. The Washington Post devoted an entire piece to the refusal, which led the Associated Press’ story , and Politico and National Journal both listed it as their top takeaway of the debate. Such stories either omitted McConnell’s claim or played it down relative to Grimes’ comment. FoxNews.com mentioned only the latter, meanwhile, and The Wall Street Journal left McConnell’s statement as its story’s kicker, unchallenged.

It’s not as if the media was hearing Mitch’s lie for the first time and simply lacked the time to study up on it. It had all been reported on before:

Liberalmedia and a few national outlets, such as the AP, challenged the five-term senator’s claim back [in May]. Indeed, an Obamacare repeal would have huge consequences for the Bluegrass State, as an estimated half-million residents have signed up for health coverage through its Kynect exchange. A Washington Post Fact Checker column soon after concluded, “the history of individual state exchanges shows it is not credible for McConnell to suggest that the state exchange would survive without the broad health-care system constructed by the Affordable Care Act, such as an individual mandate and subsidies to buy insurance.”

Given the availability of such reporting, not to mention McConnell’s hazy logic in a race in which Obamacare has been a central theme, it’s unclear why the national media didn’t pounce on his answer Monday. What’s more, local coverage of the debate suggests that Grimes’ voting history—a sign of her allegiance to President Barack Obama—is merely one of many concerns or Kentucky voters.

It is true that the DSCC stopped running ads in Kentucky in order to redirect funds to other state races. But the Democratic Senate campaign arm is still funding Grimes’s get-out-the-vote drive, and is “monitoring the race for future investments,” according to a DSCC official. In any case, Grimes is very well-funded herself, having just announced a record breaking nearly $5 million haul for the third quarter.

But the national media were quick to jump to the most melodramatic conclusion. As Daily Kos pointed out:

Today a rumor was spread throughout national media by irresponsible nationally-known media (Chris Cillizza, Jon Heilemann, Mark Halpirin, MSNBC, CNN) that “Democrats have abandoned Grimes”.

Heilemann and Halperin agreed on their program that “Her campaign is dead”.

This rumor was based upon the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) not having pre-purchased ad buys in KY market for last 3 weeks of campaign. The DSCC has been very active in the Kentucky market, with great ads playing. The DSCC acknowledged this was true, but that they were open to purchases if necessary.

Guy Cecil, the Executive Director of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, posted at about 8:00pm eastern Tuesday night 10/14, on Twitter:

Guy Cecil ‏@guycecil 3h 3 hours ago

Just signed a $300,000 wire for the KY Get Out The Vote operation for @AlisonForKY. That’s an interesting view of “pulling out of the race”

And for all this, you’d never know that as of Wednesday afternoon, Alison Grimes is only three points behind Mitch McConnell in the RealClearPolitics average.

 

By: Leslie Savin, The Nation, October 15, 2014

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Media, Midterm Elections, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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