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Posts for February, 2014

Maine Says No To Discrimination, Arizona (Naturally) Says Yes

Jim Burroway

February 20th, 2014

In a mostly party-line 89-52 vote, the Maine House defeated a bill that would have created a special exemption for those who wish to claim a right to discrimination based on religious beliefs.

While the exemption was supposedly aimed at allowing discrimination against LGBT people and same-sex couples, the bill itself did not provide such narrow grounds for claiming an exemption. Instead, the bill sought to exempt anyone from anti-discrimination laws or any other law or regulation if it would “Constrain or inhibit conduct or expression mandated by a person’s sincerely held religious tenet or belief.” That would include any kind of act, whether its discrimination against a gay couple or an African-American family or a single woman. Two Democrats, Rep Stan Short (Pittsfield) and Steve Stanley (Medway) voted for the measure. Five Republicans — Reps. Michael G. Beaulieu (Auburn), Richards Campbell (Orrington), Aaron Libby (Waterboro), Sharri MacDonald (Old Orchard Beach), Joyce Maker (Calais) — voted to kill the bill.

While Maine’s lawmakers showed their sanity in turning down the bill, Arizona’s lawmakers are working diligently to preserve their state’s reputation for being among the most hostile and retrograde in the nation. House Bill 2153 would provide a similarly broad exemption for religious people by allowing them to “act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.” As Dan Savage describes it in a post titled “It Could Soon Be Legal For Satanists to Discriminate Against Christians in Arizona“:

That’s not the law’s intent, of course. Arizona’s proposed new law, like the ones in Kansas and Idaho, is about legalizing discrimination against gays and lesbians. But in an effort to hide the anti-gay prejudice behind their “religious liberty” bill, Arizona lawmakers have worded it so vaguely that it empowers anyone of any faith to discriminate against anyone for any reason—provided, of course, that the person doing the discriminating remembers to cite their sincerely held religious beliefs as a justification.

It also adds a new element of discrimination into the law: atheists would have no grounds to claim protection for refusing to serve gay people in a restaurant or rent to Latinos or hire Jews. This law and others like it carve out a special privilege available to religious people only.

An identical bill sailed through Arizona’s Senate last Wednesday in a 17-13 party-line vote. And true to form, the Arizona House passed the measure in another 33-27 vote. Republicans Rep. Kate Broohy McGee (Phoenix), Heather Carter (Cave Creek), and Ethan Orr (Tucson) voted no.  It will now land on Republican Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk by nightfall.

Mother Jones reports that these rash of bills are hitting state legislatures in rapid succession:

Republicans lawmakers and a network of conservative religious groups has been pushing similar bills in other states, essentially forging a national campaign that, critics say, would legalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Republicans in Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee recently introduced provisions that mimic the Kansas legislation. And Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have introduced broader “religious freedom” bills with a unique provision that would also allow people to deny services or employment to LGBT Americans, legal experts say.

The Arizona and Idaho bills were brought forward by state policy organizations associated with CitizenLink, a Focus On the Family affiliate. Others, like the Kansas bill, were crafted by the American Religious Freedom Program, which is part of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The sponsor of the Tennessee bill withdrew it yesterday, while lawmakers in Idaho, Kansas, South Dakota turned back measure in their states. This came on the same day that the Kansas Senate president announced that her chamber would not consider a discrimination exemption bill that had passed the House earlier. The Kansas version was perhaps the broadest bill of all, as it would have covered all government employees including first responders.

GOP Slams Brakes On Rebranding Effort

Jim Burroway

April 11th, 2013

The Republican National Committee is meeting in Los Angeles over the next three days beginning today, and one of the first items on the agenda for consideration is a resolution that states:

WHEREAS, the institution of marriage is the solid foundation upon which our society is built and in which children thrive; it is based in the conjugal relationship that only a man and a woman can form; and

WHEREAS, support for marriage has been repeatedly affirmed nationally in the 2012 Republican National Platform, through the enactment of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, signed into law by President Bill Clinton), and passed by the voters of 41 States including California via Proposition 8; and

WHEREAS, no Act of human government can change the reality that marriage is a natural and most desirable union; especially when procreation is a goal; and

WHEREAS, the future of our country is children; it has been proven repeatedly that the most secure and nurturing environment in which to raise healthy well adjusted children is in a home where both mother and father are bound together in a loving marriage; and

WHEREAS, economically, marriage is America’s greatest weapon against child poverty no matter what ethnic background individuals are; and, based on the facts of stunning recent articles, marriage is the best way for society to get out of poverty and raise emotionally healthy children; and

WHEREAS, The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of laws adopted  to protect marriage from the unfounded accusation that support for marriage is based only on irrational prejudice against homosexuals; therefore be it

RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee affirms its support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and as the optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of American; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee implores the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the sanctity of marriage in its rulings on California’s Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The GOP platform last summer was probably the most anti-gay platform in the party’s history. After Barack Obama won re-election in a campaign which included support for marriage equality, there were some suggestions that the Republican Party should soften its anti-gay positions. But after RNC Chairman Reince Priebus issued the official “autopsy” of the 2012 presidential elections which called on the party to become more “inclusive and welcoming,” a coalition of social conservatives responded with a letter to GOP leadership warning that “an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support.” The letter writers also protest that their anti-gay stance does not mean the party can’t can’t attract gay voters:

Many homosexuals are active in the GOP because they agree with Republicans on economic issues. The fact that the Party is strongly committed to traditional marriage has not prevented their involvement through GOProud or Log Cabin Republicans. We deeply resent the insinuation that we have treated homosexuals unkindly personally.

And we would like to point out that in the four blue states where voters narrowly voted for same sex marriage in 2012, Mitt Romney, who refused to discuss the issue, lost by an average of five points more than the state initiatives to preserve marriage.

Republicans would do well to persuade young voters why marriage between a man and a woman is so important rather than abandon thousands of years of wisdom to please them.

…Real and respectful communication is needed with our organizations. Alleged gaffes by candidates in 2012 on social issues could have been avoided if Party leadership had consulted us, the experts on how to articulate those positions.

Those so-called “experts” who signed the letter were:

  • Gary Bauer, President, American Values
  • Paul Caprio, Director, Family-Pac Federal
  • Marjorie Dannenfelser, President, Susan B. Anthony List
  • Dr. James Dobson, President and Founder, Family Talk Action
  • Andrea Lafferty, President, Traditional Values Coalition
  • Tom Minnery, Executive Director, CitizenLink
  • William J. Murray, Chairman, Religious Freedom Coalition
  • Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
  • Sandy Rios, VP of Government Affairs, Family-Pac Federal
  • Austin Ruse, President, Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute
  • Phyllis Schlafly, President, Eagle Forum
  • Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, Founder, Traditional Values Coalition
  • Tim Wildmon, President, American Family Association

According to Politico, the anti-gay resolution is expected to pass overwhelmingly tomorrow when it goes before the full committee, although it’s not clear whether the resolution’s final form will be the same as the version that has circulated today.

Elaine Donnelly Still Trying To Keep Her Day Job

Jim Burroway

September 20th, 2011

It’s hard to know what the raison d’être for Elaine Donnelly’s Center for Military Effectiveness could possibly be except to hang around for a possible GOP president in 2013 who can reimpose “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” via executive order. Maybe that’s why she’s still pounding the pavement defending dead DADT. The American Family Association’s OneNewsNow commiserated with Donnelly on DADT’s passing this way:

“The law requires more than just PowerPoint presentations,” she tells OneNewsNow. “The administration is supposed to describe exactly what will happen under the new LGBT law. [But] they haven’t done that! They’re barreling ahead anyway. The president [is] just determined to impose LGBT law on the military, regardless of the concerns of Congress.”

The CMR leader predicts litigators for homosexual activists and the homosexual movement are going to have a field day. “Without the law on the books, they will go into court and challenge anything that stands in the way of what they perceive as a civil rights issue,” she warns.

Donnelly told Focus On the Family’s CitizenLink that people should “watch and report to Congress about the fallout from the repeal.”

GOP Names Focus Officer to Debate Committee

Jim Burroway

April 4th, 2011

Tom Minnery, director of Focus On the Family’s CitizenLink has been selected to serve on the GOP’s committee to determine what role the Republican National Committee will play in primary Presidential debates. Says Minnery:

They wanted someone who represents social conservatives, who is not a member of the (Republican National) Committee,” he said, “and that’s why they asked me.

“The party wants the candidate forums to be driven by party activists and grassroots representatives, and less by the national media that televise these events. The idea is that the party ought to be able to have some say over who poses questions to the candidates running for the party’s nomination for president.”

Kinda explains the GOP’s sudden shift back toward social issues, doesn’t it?

Pot, Meet Kettle

Jim Burroway

May 8th, 2008

Pot, Meet KettleThose so-called “professional journalists” at Focus On the Family’s CitizenLink are repeating that tired old theme again — that the “homosexual lobby” is so incredibly well-funded that its a miracle that anti-gay activists can get a word in edgewise. If only it were true.

This time, they’re upset over the Human Rights Campaign’s “Year to Win” initiative, specifically HRC’s plan to train 1,500 advocates in thirteen cities to participate in the upcoming elections.

Wow. Thirteen cities. Imagine that.

CitizenLink then enlisted Matt Barber to complain:

“Their main purpose for existence is to influence public policy and politics, and to get people elected to office who are going to push their militant homosexual agenda,” said Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues at Concerned Women for America.

Of course, nobody at Focus and none of the Concerned Women are at all interested in public policy, politics or getting people elected.

Oh, wait a minute. Wasn’t it just a few months ago that the world held its collective breath wondering who Dobson would endorse for the GOP primaries?

And isn’t Focus On the Family in its third year of flogging its own so-called “Truth Project”, a series of regional and local training sessions they’ve been putting on across the country? And what about Dobson’s radio program and Focus’ own “Family News In Focus” program, both going out daily to hundreds of radio stations across the country — all of it to push their militant anti-gay agenda?

But then, HRC does have a weekly radio program on XM Satellite, or so I hear. I don’t get satellite radio.

But that’s not the only thing that CitizenLink is worried about. They’re terribly upset over HRC’s massive bankroll:

Brad Miller, director of the Family Policy Council department at Focus on the Family Action, said family advocates could face an uphill battle. HRC has an annual budget of more than $50 million.

True, when you add up the revenues of the Human Rights Campaign, Inc and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, you end up with a figure of about $50 million.

But go to GuideStar and look up the financial statements from Focus On the Family and Focus On the Family Action. Add those figures together and you’ll end up with revenues in 2006 of some $157 million.

That’s more than three times the size of HRC’s combined budget.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, maybe two will help.

Bar chart
Pie chart

I think Focus On the Family should spend some of their money on math lessons.

Ex-Gay Watch Corrects Stanton’s Error

Jim Burroway

March 20th, 2008

Last Tuesday, Focus On the Family’s Glenn Stanton explained to us why CitizenLink unceremoniously changed their entire “anthropologists agree” article. Given what we know now, it appears that CitizenLink’s thin veil of  “professional journalism” has utterly disintegrated. I know of no professional news service that completely re-writes their article. In fact, I know of at least one blogger who makes its own corrections very public for all the world to see.

Stanton also said this:

Ex-Gay Watch insinuated that the paper was cobbled together quickly to answer the complaints generated from the first article. Not quite. I worked on this research for quite a few weeks.

Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts and David Rattigan both disputed Stanton’s charge in comments left here at Box Turtle Bulletin. Rattigan also set the record straight on Ex-Gay Watch:

Ex-Gay Watch in fact made no reference (even indirectly) to the paper, and focused solely on the Citizenlink article. A commenter made the suggestion Stanton refers to, which may have confused him.

CitizenLink’s Needle In The Haystack

Jim Burroway

March 19th, 2008

The so-called “Professional journalists” at CitizenLink are at it again. They’re claiming vindication over a new pamphlet (PDF: 132KB/6 pages) by the American Psychological Association. That pamphlet repeats what we’ve been saying for quite some time: Nobody knows what “causes” homosexuality. According to the APA:

There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both place complex roles…

The mere mention of developmental roles is tiny sliver of a silver lining that has Exodus vice president Randy Thomas and Focus On the Family’s Glenn Stanton very excited:

“They are starting to have the integrity of reporting accurately about the condition of homosexuality,” said Randy Thomas, executive vice president of Exodus International. “We find this to be a very exciting move and hope that it indicates future movement toward recognizing that people can and do overcome homosexuality.”

Glenn Stanton, director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, said the brochure has an activist bent, but he sees a ray of hope.

“This doesn’t mean that we’ve completely succeeded in all the things that we’ve wanted to,” he said, “but it’s a move in the direction that we’ve wanted them to move in, and I think that’s very positive news.”

CitizenLink, Stanton and Thomas chose to focus on one lone paragraph and ignore the rest of the six-page document, including topics like the role of prejudice in LGBT’s lives and well-being, the importance of “coming out,” the nature of same-sex relationships, gay parenting — and, oh yes, this:

All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation. To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons.

Nope. Instead, CitizenLink advises readers to go to Love Won Out to learn more. What they might learn is, in fact, more stereotypes which contribute to that negative climate the APA is talking about.

Glenn Stanton Responds to CitizenLink story

Jim Burroway

March 18th, 2008

I received this email this afternoon from Glenn Stanton, explaining the events surrounding the recent CitizenLink change:

Yes, it looks like Focus on the Family did a sneaky bait and switch on the anthropology article that has been discussed at the BoxTurtle. And it would be a much easier world to fight the culture war in if everyone from the religious right were slippery tricksters and all homosexuals were sex-saturated profligates. But such is not the case, we are all not so easily pigeon-holed. Reality is far less exciting than accusation.

The original article was published before I reviewed it and I was disappointed to see the final piece online. It didn’t come close to communicating my work comparing the definitions anthropologists and leading same-sex marriage advocates use for describing and understanding what marriage is. I shared my concerns with the the CitizenLink editors and they welcomed my corrections. My main concerns were that the original article didn’t link to the whitepaper that the article itself was about. Ex-Gay Watch insinuated that the paper was cobbled together quickly to answer the complaints generated from the first article. Not quite. I worked on this research for quite a few weeks.

The original title — “Anthropologists Agree on Traditional Definition of Marriage” — bothered me for two reasons. One, I appreciate that no scientists in any discipline totally “agree” on anything. Two, “traditional” is far too imprecise a term to use when talking about marriage and family as a humanly universal phenomenon. Same with the conclusion attributed to me that “there’s a clear consensus among anthropologists” on what marriage is. Admittedly, “consensus” is a word that cannot be used in relation to any community of scientists. There is not even literal consensus among scientists on Newton’s Law, for goodness sakes. Science’s strength is it’s ability to constantly question. The editors kindly incorporated the changes I recommended. The second story reflects those changes. That’s the story. Sorry to disappoint the conspiracy theorists.

I have been invited by the editors of the BoxTurtle Bulletin to respond to a critique of my paper by a real-life anthropologist, which I am happy to do and look forward to a spirited and hopefully intelligent and informed exchange.

Yes, that’s right. Glenn Stanton and real-life anthropologist Patrick M. Chapman will be discussing Stanton’s paper, “Differing Definitions of Marriage and Family” (PDF: 80KB/10 pages) on this very web site. Stay tuned.

CitizenLink’s Lack of Transparency

Jim Burroway

March 14th, 2008

Update: I’ve changed the title of this post based on Glenn Stanton’s explanation.

Last week, we reported on Focus On the Family’s Glenn Stanton’s Citizenlink article in which he claimed that “anthropologists agree” that there is only one definition of what constitutes marriage and family. That article, when it first appeared on March 3, looked like this:

Anthropologists Agree on Traditional Definition of Marriage

‘A family is a unit that draws from the two types of humanity, male and female.’

There are two definitions of marriage in today’s culture — one of them has been around for centuries; the other is brand new.

Glenn Stanton, director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, said there’s a clear consensus among anthropologists.

“A family is a unit that draws from the two types of humanity, male and female,” he said. “Those two parts of humanity join together, create new life and they both cooperate in the legitimization of the child, if you will, and the development of the child.”

Maggie Gallagher, co-founder and president of the National Organization for Marriage, said gay activists want to change the definition of marriage because they say the traditional definition is irrational and bigoted.

“What does that mean down the road, if the idea that our ideas about marriage and about sexual morality generally make us the exact equivalent of bigots?” she asked.

“You can’t have a professional license in this country — you can’t be a physician, a social worker, a teacher, a lawyer, a psychotherapist, a marriage counselor — if you’re openly racist.”

That article prompted three sharp rebukes from real anthropologists, including the American Anthropological Association itself. Now it looks like Glenn Stanton has responded by re-writing the article and giving it a new title. This is how that same article appears now:

Classic Anthropology at Odds with New Same-Sex Definitions of Marriage and Family

‘A family is a unit that draws from the two types of humanity, male and female.’

There are two understandings of marriage in today’s culture — one of them has been around for centuries; the other is brand new.

According to a new research report, Glenn Stanton, director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, said, “if you look at the work of leading anthropologists through the past century, one is struck by the consistent understanding of marriage and family as a social unit that brings together male and female. The comparison between this diverse and learned understanding with the paper-thin, ahistorical and acultural definitions offered by leading same-sex proponents is stark. The former show great understanding and complexity, while the latter shows immense creativity.”

Stanton cited anthropologist Suzanne Frayser’s definition of marriage in her 1985 book, Varieties of Sexual Experience :

“Marriage is a relationship within which a group socially approves and encourages sexual intercourse and the birth of children… Marriage is not usually a transaction confined to the bride and groom. It extends beyond them, to include members of their own families or kin group.”

Stanton also cited same-sex “marriage” activist Evan Wolfson’s definition:

“Marriage is what we use to describe a specific relationship of love and dedication to another person.”

“The ways leading anthropologists and the brightest same-sex marriage advocates define marriage are breathtaking.” Stanton said. “This comparison should show us that the gay ‘marriage’ experiment is exactly that, without any rootedness in human experience.”

This new article retains its original publication date and URL, leading the casual reader to believe that this is how the article originally appeared. There is no notice anywhere that there were ever any changes or corrections. CitizenLink has often tried to portray themselves as “professional journalists” without actually behaving as professionals or as journalists.

When Box Turtle Bulletin makes a correction or an update, you’ll know it. There will be strikeouts, apologies, explanations, maybe even a poor excuse here or there. But regardless of the circumstances, we have nothing to hide. I believe that this level of transparency is indispensable to the task of keeping ourselves honest. Unlike CitizenLink, we don’t try to promote the delusion of infallibility. When we need to revise something, we make sure we do it in a way that everyone can know about it. That is what ethical discourse is all about.

CitizenLink however operates under their own set of rules. Their lack of transparency is more evidence that as far as Focus is concerned, the message is more important than honesty or the truth.

Focus on the Family Policy: When All Else Fails, Lie

Timothy Kincaid

November 9th, 2007

jennifermesko.jpgJennifer Mesko, associate editor at Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink had this to say about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA):

ENDA would prevent employers from taking sexual orientation into consideration when hiring, promoting or firing. That could spell trouble for Christian business owners, churches and faith-based groups, which could be obligated to hire people who don’t share their beliefs. ENDA also could silence religious speech in the workplace.

The problem with that? Churches and faith based groups are specifically excluded from ENDA. Even though protections were in place in the original language, the House reinforced religious organization exclusions by means of an amendment.

Does Jennifer know that? I think you know the answer to that.