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Posts for October, 2013

Iowa bistro sues to deny access to gay couples

Timothy Kincaid

October 8th, 2013

The Görtz Haus Gallery operates a “bistro, art gallery, frame shoppe and floral shoppe” out of what used to be the St. Peter Lutheran Church in Grimes, IA. The bistro is in what was once the sanctuary and is an attractive setting that is occasionally rented out for weddings.

But when Lee Stafford wanted to rent out the bistro for his wedding to his fiance Jared, the owners, Betty and Richard Odgaard refused. And after Stafford filed a claim with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the Odgaard’s sued. They are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. (Quad City Times)

Emily Hardman, spokeswoman for the Becket Fund, said the organization doesn’t want to eliminate “sexual orientation” as a protected class in Iowa and said the Odgaards are opposed to hosting the ceremony because of their Mennonite beliefs.

“The Odgaards have long hired and served gays and lesbians, and are happy to serve all persons regardless of their sexual orientation,” Hardman wrote in an email. “The only remedy they are seeking is not to be forced by the government to host a religious ceremony that would violate their own beliefs. The Iowa Civil Rights Act supports this remedy, as it expressly states that the Act is not intended to force individuals to recognize same-sex marriage.”

I tend to err on the side of individual rights and I am no fan of non-discrimination laws in general. They tend to pit people against each other and the blurry line between my right to get what I want and your right to do what you want with your property, time and body tends to leave all sides feeling imposed upon.

But I’m having a hard time finding sympathy for the Odgaards. Their feelings of entitlement run far beyond the right to refuse service based on religious (or any other) convictions or beliefs. (HuffPo)

In an interview, Betty Odgaard defended her decision to turn away the couple, saying it came from “our faith, our convictions.”

“Can I have my beliefs without being ostracized for that? I think I have my right … to stand firm to my convictions and beliefs,” Odgaard, who said she and her husband have received threatening emails and calls in response to the news, noted.

Well, no, Betty. You can’t have your beliefs without being ostracized; that’s what ostracization is for. When your beliefs result in hurtful behavior to other and attitudes that society finds to be counter-productive, the right and proper response is to ostracize you. Or, perhaps, as a Mennonite you’d prefer the term ‘shunning’.

And then there’s all the quivering hurt about having to ‘host a religious ceremony’.

Nonsense.

This isn’t like Elain Photography where Elaine Huguenin would have had to physically participate in the event. Or one of those cake bakers who object to putting same-sex cake toppers atop their confectionary creation. It’s not even one of those bed-and-breakfast people who don’t want to be under the same roof as a couple of guys who are doing… you know… it!

It’s a bistro, a friggen room, Betty, and you don’t have to “host”. You don’t even have to be there. If you absolutely must have someone on the premises to make sure no one stills the artwork, you can turn that task over to one of those many gays and lesbians that you’ve hired.

And about that “religious ceremony”… who said it was religious?

Now maybe Lee and Jared wanted incense, blown shofars, latin incantations, the ubiquitous Whether Thou Goest sung badly by a relative and a sermon carefully distinguishing between Lutheranism and Calvinism, followed by saptapadi. But I’m guessing that if they were wanting a ‘religious ceremony’ then they would have chosen a religious venue. And whatever it is that they wanted, you can bet it wasn’t a Mennonite service, and since anything else is not kosher for her anyway it’s no skin off Betty’s nose.

Now I know that the Becket folk will try for an emotional appeal. Mumble mumble former church. Mumble mumble art gallery free speech. Mumble mumble Mennonites and candles and horse-drawn buggies and religious freedom!!

But when it comes right down to it, this is a bistro that doesn’t want to rent out the dining hall to Lee and Jared because they are gay. Period, end of conversation.

Election Liveblog

Jim Burroway

November 6th, 2012

2:00 EST: One more thing:

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Retention Vote:
David Wiggins:
Yes (retain): 54% 
No: 46%
83% reporting.

NOM is having a very bad night. A historically bad night. I’m going to bed now and I will sleep very, very soundly.

1:39 EST: President Obama is now giving his victory speech. And with that, I’m going to sign off for the night. I will provide an update with the latest results again tomorrow morning.

1:30 EST: Here is a rundown of all of the LGBT-related races I’ve been following:

BALLOT MEASURES:

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 54.2% √
No: 45.8%
58.1% reporting.

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 51.2% 
No: 48.1%
96.8% reporting.

Minnesota, Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 49.2.5%
Blanks: 1.5%
Yes: 49.2%
67.4% reporting.
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

Washington, Referendum 74: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 51.8.9%
No: 48.2%
49.9% reporting.

SENATE RACE:

Wisconsin:
Tammy Baldwin (D, openly lesbian): 51.2%
Tommy Thompson (R): 46.2.%
86.8% reporting.

CONGRESSIONAL RACES:

Arizona:
Kyrsten Sinema (D, openly bi): 47.4%
Vernon Parker (R): 46.3%
86% reporting.

California:
Mark Takano (D, openly gay): 54.4%
John Tavaglione (R): 45.6%
13% reporting.

Colorado:
Jared Polis (D, openly gay): 54.6%
Kevin Lundberg (R): 40.4%
45.3% reporting.

Massachusetts:
Richard Tisei (R, openly gay): 47.1%
John Tierney (D) 48.4%
98.3% reporting.

New York:
Sean Patrick Maloney (D, openly gay): 51.7%
Nan Hayworth (R): 48.3%
96.7% reporting.

Rhode Island:
David Cicilline (D, openly gay): 53.1%
Brendan Dohert (R): 40.7%
97.0% reporting

Wisconsin:
Mark Pocan (D, openly gay): 67.4%
Chad Lee (R): 32.6%
90.5% reporting.

12:55 EST: Gov. Mitt Romney is now giving a very classy consession speech, congratulating President Obama for his win.

12:50 EST: Here is a rundown of the ballot measures addressing same-sex marriage. Voters in two states have approved marriage equality. Voters in Washington are on their way to approving marriage equality, and Minnesota voters look poised to turn down a proposal to write a permanent ban on same-sex marriage in the state’s constitution. After voters in 30 states have written marriage equality bans into their state constitutions, we now have a remarkable turnaround in 2012. Remember this day.

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 54% 
No: 46%
51% Reporting

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 52% 
No: 48%
93% Reporting

Minnesota, Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 48.5%
Blanks: 3.7%
Yes: 47.9%
53% reporting.
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

Washington, Referendum 74: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 52%
No: 48%
50% reporting.

12:40 EST: Tammy Baldwin has now given her victory speech. With 79% reporting, she has defeated Gov. Tommy Thompson 51-47%, making her the first openly gay Senator in American history.

12:38 EST: Now I’m ready to call Maryland’s Question 6 a win for equality! With 92% reporting, Question 6 has passed 1,126,598 to 1,050,179 (52-48%) Maryland voters have joined those in Maine to approve marriage equality at the ballot box. I don’t know about you, but this really feels like a truly historic turning point.

12:30 EST: Colorado has now gone to Obama, bringing his lead to 290-201. There’s a lot of talk about whether Ohio was prematurely declared, but even if Ohio went red, this would still be Obama’s victory. An ugly one, especially if he doesn’t win the popular vote, but it is a win.

12:28 EST: Another gay congressman is headed to Washington. Sean Patrick Maloney (D) has defeated Rep. Nan Hayworth (R), 52%-48%.

12:15 EST: Believe it or not, Politico has had the results swapped between Question 6 and the “Illegal immigrant tuition” question all night long. For the love of god!!!  Question 6 is up, but only 52-48%, way too early to call.

12:00 EST: With 44.1% reporting in Maine, Question 1 is projected to win!

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 54.4%
No: 45.6%
44.1% Reporting

11:45 EST: With 81% reporting in Maryland, Question 6 is projected to win!

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 58%
No: 42%
81% Reporting

11:31 EST: Remember James Hartline?

I took my Bible with me today and proudly honored God with my decisions. I refused to vote for the demonized Mormon Cultist Mitt Romney or Obama. Instead, like nearly two million other voters, I marked other and wrote in Jesus.

11:30 EST: Has Tammy Baldwin won her Senate race? Reuters called it, but right now with 53% reporting, she is only up 49-48%. She may yet win, but it looks like a lot of folks might have jumped the gun a bit.

11:23 EST: CNN has given Ohio to Obama. President Barack Obama, the most pro-gay president in American history, has been re-elected.

11:05 EST: A slew of new projections has put Obama on top 243-191. Ohio continues to lean toward Romney, but CNN is now mapping out multiple possibilities for Obama to win even without Ohio.

Here are the state marriage ballot measures. All of them are still looking good so far.

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 53%
No: 47%
30% Reporting

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 58%
No: 42%
55% Reporting

Minnesota: Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 52%
Blanks: 3.8%
Yes: 45%
19% Reporting
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

10:55 EST: Obama is now tied with Romney, 172-172. Ohio is leaning toward Obama, and FLorida and Virginia are very nearly tied so far. It’s going to be a long night.

10:35 EST: Great news so far in the three states with marriage on the ballot that are reporting:

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 55%
No: 45%
16% Reporting

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 60%
No: 40%
41% Reporting

Minnesota: Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 57%
Blanks: 1.5%
Yes: 42%
7% Reporting
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

10:25 EST. In Rhode Island, it looks like openly gay Rep. David Cicilline has defeated Republican challenger Brendan Doherty. With 82% reporting, Cicilline is ahead 50-44%.

In Massachusetts, Richard Tisei is trailing in his question to become the first openly gay Republican congressman. Rep. John Tierney is leading 49-47% with 58% reporting.

10:15 EST: We can celebrate Tammy Baldwin’s win now. Fox News is projecting that she will be the new fabulously openly lesbian Senator from Wisconsin. History is made!

Question 1 in Maine is now tightening. With 11% reporting, it is now up 53-47%.

10:00 EST: Mitt Romney has won his home state of Utah. But he lost New Hampshire

With 7% reporting, Question 1 is passing in Maine, 55-45%.

With 23% reporting, Question 6 is passing in Maryland, 61-39%.

With only 3% reporting, Amendment 1 is trailing in Minnesota. 61-38%, with about 1.5% of the ballots blank for the proposed amendment. Blank ballots are will be counted as no votes.

9:45 EST: CNN Projects Elizabeth Warren (D) has unseated Scott Brown (R) in Massachusetts, and JOe Donnelly (D) has defeated Richard Mourdock (R) in Indiana. God’s will, you know. These are both pick-ups for Dems.

9:42 EST: NBC and Fox have given Wisconsin to Obama. CNN has finally given Pennsylvania to Obama also.

9:35 EST: The Associated Press has declared Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) the winner in her Senate race against former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), making Baldwin the first openly gay Senator in U.S. history. Oops, take that back. The AP has NOT called for Baldwin.

9:20 EST: Fox called Pennsylvania for Obama. I’ll take it.

9:15 EST: Vote counts for Maryland’s Question 6 and Maine’s Question 1 are excruciatingly slow. With 3% counted in Maine, Question 1 is trailing 4,253-5,362. In Maryland, Question 6 is passing 192,860-157,767 with only 1% of the vote counted. Obviously with vote tallies this low, it’s way to early to see any trends.

9:00 EST: Polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Wisconsin, Wyoming. Last polls close in Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Texas. And with it, a whole slew of new projecitons, mostly lining up with expectations. So far, it looks like the red states are going heavily red, while the blue states are slower to come in. Right now, Romney is up 152-123.

CNN says that the Republicans will hold on to the House. Obama is getting a lot of grief for not campaigning in key House races on behalf of Democratic candidates.

8:50 EST: Alabama is red. Romney is up 82-64.

People are still in line in Florida and Virginia, even as polls have officially closed. Those who are in line will get to vote. Twitter hashtag #stayinline is now trending upward. It sure would have been nice if someone had mentioned to Florida and Virginia election officials that they were supposed to be ready for an election today.

8:30 EST: Polls just closed in Arkansas, which CNN has called for Romney. CNN has also called Tennessee as well, putting Romney ahead 73-64.

So far, only about 1% of the results are in for Maryland’s Question 6 and Maine’s Question 1, which means that there aren’t enough results to talk about yet.

8:25 EST: In the Senate races, it looks like the Angus King, the independent candidate for Maine’s Senator to replace Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) is headed to Washington. He hasn’t said which party he will caucus with, but most observers expect that he will caucus with the Dems. Another possible pickup for the Dems might be Joe Donnelly, who is leading Richard Mourdock by 50-44% with 30% of the votes counted. Mourdock, you may recall, got in trouble during the debate when he said that when a child is born as a result of rape, it’s God’s will.

8:16 EST: Georgia now goes to Romney, bringing the EC count to 64-56 for Obama.

8:00 EST: Polls have now closed in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

CNN has called a Delaware, DC, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island for Obama, and Oklahoma for Romney. This puts Obama up 64-40 in the Electoral College, with Maine splitting its vote 3-1 for Obama. (Nebraska is the only other state that is not winner-take-all in the Electoral College.)

Virginia officially closed but:

Polls closed in Virginia at 7 p.m. ET, but with long lines at polling places around the state — and those in line still able to vote — the state is delaying counting votes so as not to unduly influence those still waiting in line. Smart move.

7:43 EST: CNN has now called South Carolina and West Virginia for Romney. Not much of a surprise. It’s now Romney, 33-3 in the electoral count.

Polls close in Maryland and Maine at 8:00. Hopefully we’ll start to get an early look at the marriage ballot measures in those states soon after.

7:30 EST: Polls have now closed in North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia. CNN’s exit poll has Obama up by 3 in Ohio and tied in North Carolina.

7:19 EST: CNN has called Kentucky for Romney, and Vermont for Obama, which means that Romney leads the electoral college count 8-3. And we’re off!

7:00 EST: Polls have closed in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. First results will probably begin within the half hour. Here are the races I’ll be watching, in addition to the presidential election and any others you think I should keep an eye out for.

Consider the comments thread for this post an open thread, which I’ll be watching for whatever tips you have. And jokes. We may need some jokes. Or videos of cute kittens. Whatever you got. You can also email them by hitting the Contact Us link on the sidebar.

You know that you’ve lost the “protect marriage” battle, when…

Timothy Kincaid

July 6th, 2012

… less than 10% of Republicans in Iowa consider overturning gay marriage to be a high priority. And when people who consider themselves “social conservatives” and Rick Perry supporters endorse marriage equality. (CBS)

Conservative lawmakers are watching public opinion move away from them on the gay marriage issue, and now fear that voters might not approve a ban even if the GOP can put one on the ballot by winning control of the Legislature in the November elections.

Geddes, who is managing a handful of GOP statehouse campaigns, said internal polls in conservative Iowa districts show that fewer than 10 percent of Republican voters now consider overturning gay marriage a high priority.

GOP Senate leaders no longer list the issue high on their agenda, although they have promised to propose a ban if they control the legislature. A handful of Republican leaders, such as former county Linn County chairwoman Kathy Potts of Cedar Rapids, recently have announced support for gay marriage.

“If it weren’t for the loud voices of a few in our party, I do believe more Republicans would stand up in support” of gay marriage, said Potts, a social conservative who backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential bid.

But the HOMOSEXUALS!!! Are getting MARRIED!!! And, and, and… oh, what the hell… where’s the reception and are they serving top shelf?

Letting People Do Things They Used To Be Prohibited From Doing Is Just Like Slavery

Jim Burroway

March 21st, 2012

Or something like that, according to NOM’s Brian Brown who likened his efforts to roll back marriage equality to those of abolitionists “in the late 1800s.”

Santorum wins in Iowa!! (kinda)

Timothy Kincaid

January 19th, 2012

“Wasn’t that weeks ago?” you may be wondering. “And didn’t Romney win by 8 votes?”

Mitt Romney 30,015
Rick Santorum 30,007

Well, that was with 100% of the precincts counted. But now that the Iowa Republican Party leadership has officially “lost” eight precincts, the official winner is Rick Santorum:

Rick Santorum 29,839
Mitt Romney 29,805

No, I’m not making this up. In a scenario that could only be dreamed up by Dodgson, the leadership of the Republican Party in the great state of Iowa have “officially” declared Santorum to have received more votes than Romney in their (meaningless) caucus tally. (WaPo)

“It’s done,” said a party spokesman, who asked that his name not be used. About the missing votes, he said: “We never got ‘em. We tried to track ‘em down, and for whatever reason, we don’t have them.”

Romney graciously chose not to debate the validity of a tally based on “lost” ballots, saying, “The results from Iowa caucus night revealed a virtual tie . . .We once again recognize Rick Santorum for his strong performance in the state.”

But in characteristic manner, Rick Santorum gloated.

This latest defeat of Governor Romney in Iowa is just the beginning, and Rick Santorum is committed to continuing the fight as the clear, consistent conservative voice in this race.

I’m guessing that Rick Santorum actually believes that when they lose your opponents votes, it means that you’ve “defeated” him. The Box of Rocks, which has been enjoying some quiet time with its family, said through a spokesman, “I really pity that man. He is dumber than… well… it’s hard to come up with a comparison.”

What Iowa means

Timothy Kincaid

January 4th, 2012

Coming out of the Iowa caucuses, the total delegate count for each of the GOP presidential candidates now stand at zero. Because yesterday, Iowans didn’t vote for a presidential nominee; they voted for delegates to the Iowa Republican Convention.

And while the delegates they elected ran as stand ins for a specific candidate, they have no obligation to vote for that candidate at the convention and likely some will not do so. Because by the time that the Iowa delegates to the state Republican Party convention select their delegates to the national convention, the primary season will be virtually over and the candidate of their choice may no longer even be running.

Nor is the Iowa caucus process indicative of the views of the electorate and who will be victor in November. Last cycle, Mike Huckabee was the clear winner of the caucuses and eventual GOP nominee John McCain came in fourth.

In fact, Iowan caucusers should probably be known best not for what they predict, but for their inclination to give support to candidates that are so far out of the mainstream as to be laughable. In 1996 they gave Pat Robertson 23%, just slightly less than Bob Dole and in 2000 wackadoodle extraordinaire Alan Keyes had 17%.

And I would caution against seeing this process solely in terms of pro-Mitt or anti-Mitt. It is my observation that while a populace may switch loyalties between various similar candidates (Bachmann, Santorum, Perry, Gingrich), those who are loyalists to their candidate (the ones elected as delegates) often hold greater enmity towards the other comparable candidates than they do to the alternate choice. Perry delegates may well hate Santorum more than they do Romney.

So what exactly did yesterday’s vote determine? Nothing.

Well, nothing other than fodder for pundits and marketing tools for candidates. And market they will.

It’s Romney By A Perfectly Coiffed Hair

Jim Burroway

January 4th, 2012

After spending millions of dollars and campaigning more or less nonstop for four years, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney barely squished passed the late surging Sen. Rick Santorum by a mere eight votes. Santorum is now the last Not Mitt in the race, having dethroned a long line of other Anyone-But-Mitts who had held the frontrunner or near-frontrunner status over the past several months. And what a line that was, beginning with Rep. Michele Bachmann, then Texas Gov. Rick Perry, then pizza magnate Herman Cain, then former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, all of whom courted the tea party and Evangelical wings of the GOP. When caucus day came, it just happened to line up with being Santorum’s turn. According to entrance and exit polls, Santorum came in first with the tea party vote and the Evangelical vote, both by wide margins. If you were against abortion or wanted a candidate with “strong moral character,” then you almost certainly voted for Santorum. You also voted for him if you had only made up your mind in the past few days, indicating that he likely captured the vote that had been shifting from one candidate to another in search of the socially conservative Not Mitt for the past several months.

While Santorum soundly won the expectations race in Iowa, it’s hard to see how he can carry the momentum forward through the rest of the long primary season. He’s been effectively broke throughout the race, although this win will likely bring a huge fundraising bonus with it. But it will come too late to put together badly needed organizations in the upcoming races. Already, he has lost the ability to appear on the ballot in Virginia; he had no organization there to collect the signatures and turn them in. And so far, he’s been relatively untouched by the so-called super-PACs which played such a huge role in the campaign. That won’t last long now that he has their attention.

Meanwhile, third place Ron Paul’s entrance and exit poll results reveal his challenges ahead. If his critics charge that he is not a “true Republican” — whatever that’s supposed to mean these days — they can probably find data to back that up. Iowa is an open caucus state, meaning that it’s easy for anyone to show up at a caucus and participate even if they hadn’t been registered as a Republican for very long. Of those who identified as independent, Paul captured 43% of those votes, smashing the rest of the filed with that segment. He also captured 40% of those who claimed they were “moderate or liberal” and 33% of those who had never participated in a caucus before.  These numbers demonstrate the challenge he faces. He came in third in a state with a relatively open caucus. We might expect him to do similarly well in other open primary states as well. But his base of support will almost certainly be sharply curtailed in closed primary states where non-Republicans won’t be allowed to easily change their registration or participate.

Which means that it now looks like the GOP nomination is Mitt’s to lose.

But while we’re discussing Paul, here’s another surprising thing about his numbers. He came in second place among Evangelicals, capturing 18% of the vote behind Santorum’s 32%. That’s comfortably ahead of Romney’s 14%. It’s also well ahead of Gingrich’s and Perry’s 14% each and Bachmann’s 6%. The latter three assiduously courted that vote and lost. Paul’s play for the Evangelical vote took place mostly behind the scenes by hiring anti-gay activist Michael Heath to serve a leading role in the Iowa campaign. It won him the endorsement of a prominent Christian Reconstructionist, who advocated for the death penalty for gay people. Not that Rev. Phil Kayser thought it should be necessary to kill very many homosexuals. Just killing a few of them “would have a tendency of driving homosexuals back into their closets.” It turns out that Paul’s campaign platform of effectively demolishing the role of the Federal Government in most affairs fits in very nicely with Christian Reconstructionsist theology, and Paul’s campaign was initially thrilled with Kayser’s endorsement. “We welcome Rev. Kayser’s endorsement and the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul’s approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs.,” his campaign announced, before quietly erasing that announcement from Ron Paul’s web site with nary an explanation. “We’re thankful for the thoughtfulness with which he makes his endorsement and hope his endorsement and others like it make a strong top-three showing in the caucus more likely.” A top three showing is exactly what he got.

As for the rest, Rick Perry is going back to Texas to find out what God wants him to do next, Michele Bachmann is bowing out so her husband can keep on buying doggie sunglasses in a totally not-gay way, Gingrich has become bored by the whole thing now that he’s not the center of attention, and Jon Huntsman — well, we’re not quite sure where he is exactly.

This Iowan Is Tired of the Bad Press

Jim Burroway

January 3rd, 2012

Don’t let the focus on the GOP caucuses affect what you think about Iowa. (NSFW, so get your earphones.)

YouTube Preview Image

Iowa’s Republicans not to reintroduce anti-marriage bills

Timothy Kincaid

November 29th, 2011

The Iowa Senate Majority Leader, Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs), has the power to stop any bills or provisions to amend the state constitution from being brought to the floor of the Senate. And he’s promised to use that power to stop any effort to remove marriage equality from the state.

But that certainly doesn’t have to stop the Republicans in the House of Representatives (where they have a majority) from trying to pressure Gronstal and make him appear to abuse power by bombarding him with bills from the House. And the House Republicans did pass a constitutional amendment bill in the last session.

However, they will not be doing so when the House reconvenes. (Trib)

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said he has no plans to revisit volatile social issues like gay marriage and abortion when lawmakers convene Jan. 9. Republicans who control the House approved tough restrictions on abortion and a resolution calling for a statewide vote on banning gay marriage last time around, but the Senate’s Democratic leader blocked debate on both measures.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, has indicated he would do the same again, and given that, Paulsen said there’s little incentive to revisit the issues.

It seems hardly worth noting. Just a decision not to waste time. A choice not to grandstand. An option for statesmanship over partisan politics. And, to be sure, any praise due for this decision is of the weakest sort.

However, this is the sort of indicator that we often overlook. And sometimes the little things, the absence of an action tells us more than a headline grabber.

For example, we see that today, in Iowa, the public sentiment just isn’t anti-gay enough to pressure Gronstal. And while they’d happily vote away our rights, the issue isn’t important enough for Republican legislators to waste their own time. And, more importantly, “sending a message” by voting again in this session is being considered a waste of their time.

This little non-action tells us quite a bit, really. It’s an indication that time is on our side, that “the Republican base” just doesn’t have the influence it once had, and that – at least to some extent – anti-gay activism is now a luxury issue.

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, November 19

Jim Burroway

November 19th, 2011

TODAY’S AGENDA (OURS):
Transgender Day of Remembrance: Several locations. While tomorrow is officially the day set aside to remember those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia, some TDoR events are taking place today. TDoR began in reaction to the brutal murder of Rita Hester, who was killed on November 28, 1998. Her murder resulted in the creation of the Remembering Our Dead web site and a candlelight vigil in 1999. In the first nine months of 2011, 116 transgender people have been killed around the world, according to Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM). They also say that there have been at least 681 murders in 50 countries since 2008. Observances for the Transgender Day of Rememberance typically consist of the reading of the names of those who have died because of their gender identity, expression, presentation or perception of gender variance. Observances are being held in cities all around the world. Click here to find an observance near you.

TODAY’S AGENDA (THEIRS):
Thanksgiving Family Forum: Des Moines, IA. The anti-gay Family Leader will host a Thanksgiving Family Forum with GOP presidential candidates Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Ron Paul, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, pizza magnate Herman Cain, and Rep. Michele Bachmann “sitting shoulder to shoulder around a ‘Thanksgiving table’.” That hokey piece of stagecraft is the brainchild of organizer Bob Vander Plaats, who has this as a dress code: “the audience attire will be ‘business casual,’ but the candidates were asked ‘to dress like they’re going to Thanksgiving dinner’.” Which means that one of them will be wearing a loud green sweater with a giant white snowflake.

Noticably absent from the banquet is Gov. Mitt Romney, which has Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats steamed at the snub. “Mitt Romney has dissed this base in Iowa and this diss will not stay in Iowa,” he told Fox News. “This has national tentacles. … This might prove that he is not smart enough to be president. …I think what will happen is what happened in 2008. He’s been in this position before. He’s been on top of polls only to find his campaign tanking and sucking air.” Tell us how you really feel, Bob.

Family Leader promises that “ALL the questions will be centered around issues relating to the family and are designed to gauge the constitutional and biblical worldviews of the candidates.” And to make sure none of the candidates move too far from an anti-gay agenda, two ten-minute segments of the two-hour forum will be headed by Focus On the Family’s Tom Minnery, and the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown. The remainder of the one hour and forty minutes will be moderated by Fox News’ Frank Lutz. It begins at 4:00 p.m. at the First Federated Church in Des Moines. While the event is open to the press, the latest word has it that no major network will be televising it. Thank God for small favors.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
American Council of Christian Churches Calls AIDS “God’s Wrath”: 1989. Peter Steinfels wrote in the New York Times about a gathering earlier in November of U.S. Catholic Bishops in Baltimore that had met to hammer out a document responding to the AIDS crisis. The bishops decided overwhelmingly to reject the theological proposition that AIDS was in any way a punishment from God, a position held by one in four Americans, according to a recent poll. J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, had published 68 statements on AIDS from 45 different religious groups in the United States, Canada and Great Britain, and found “a remarkable” across both liberal and conservative religious groups recognizing that AIDS was not just a gay problem, and “that special ministries should be established to serve AIDS victims, their families and friends, and that the civil rights of homosexuals or of those with the AIDS virus should be protected.” But, The Times learned, that consensus wasn’t unanimous:

The Bible repeatedly describes God as employing all kinds of terrors, natural and human, to punish those who disobey his commands. These biblical accounts naturally governed the reaction of the American Council of Christian Churches, a fundamentalist group that recently expressed dismay at the consensus discovered by Mr. Melton. The council, which claims to represent about two million ”Bible Christians,” promptly went on record upholding the idea that AIDS is God’s wrath visited on homosexuals and drug addicts, although for their ultimate benefit if they turn to Jesus.

If you know of something that belongs on the Agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

Gay, Pro-Gay Candidates Win Big

Jim Burroway

November 9th, 2011

Yesterday was a very good day for gay and -pro-gay candidates throughout the country. Here is a wrap-up. Please let me know what else is out there in the comments.

NOM Loses Big: Same-sex marriage remains secure in Iowa as Liz Mathis won big, 56-44%, over her NOM-backed opponent, Cindy Golding, in a special election for the Iowa state Senate. The National Organization for Marriage threw about $40,000 toward their failed attempt to elect Golding by making same-sex marriage an issue in the race. But soon after it was clear Golding lost, NOM’s cultural director Thomas Peters tweeted: “That’s what happens when a state GOP nominates a weak candidate.” Wow. Talk about your fair weather friends.

Virginia’s First: Adam Ebbin became the first openly gay state senator in Virginia after defeating his Republican challenger by a margin of 64-35%. His district, which is solidly Democratic, includes parts of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax counties.

First Openly Gay, African-American Republican Mayor: At least that’s what we think happened when Bruce Harris was elected mayor of Chatham Borough, New Jersey.

Charlotte’s First: LaWana Mayfield became the first openly gay city council member as part of a Democratic landslide in North Carolina’s largest city. North Carolina, which will see a marriage amendment on the ballot next year, saw a number of other LGBT victories:

  • Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt won re-election with 78% of the vote.
  • Lee Storrow, a gay 22-year-old UNC grad won his race for a seat on the Chapel Hill city council.
  • Carrboro incumbent Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle was re-elected to another term for city council.

Cincinnati’s First: Chis Seelbach became the first openly gay city council member. He worked in 2004 to help defeat Article XII in the city charter which banned anti-discrimination ordinances for gay people.

Indianapolis’s First: Zach Adamson became the first openly gay city council member. S

Missoula’s First: Caitlin Copple became the first openly gay city council member. She defeated one of only two city council members who voted against the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance in 2010, which made Missoula the first city in Montana to provide discrimination protections in housing and employment regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Youngest Mayor: Alex Morse, 22, beat incumbent mayor Mary Pluta in Holyoke, Massachusetts, to become the nation’s youngest mayor.

Houston Re-elects: Mayor Annise Parker was re-elected with more than 50% of the vote, a margin which allows her to avoid a run-off. Mike Laster also became the first openly gay member of Houston’s city council.

Traverse City Supports Anti-Discrimination Ordinance: Voters in Traverse City, Michigan voted by a 2-to-1 margin to keep an anti-discrimination ordinance.  The vote came more than a year after Traverse City adopted the ordinance to prevent discrimination against gays in employment, housing and other areas. Opponents of the measure collected signatures to place a referendum for repeal on the ballot.

And on a final note, there were a number of gains in school board elections around the country which I didn’t cover, but I would like to point one out anyway: Daniel Hernandez, Jr., Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s openly gay intern, was elected to as seat on the board of the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tuscon’s south side. Hernandez was one of the recognized heros during the January shooting at a Northwest side Safeway which killed  six and critically injured Rep. Giffords. And on a more personal note, I couldn’t be happier about the stunning news that Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, architect of infamous anti-immigrant S.B. 1070 which was later found unconstitutional, was ousted by voters in favor of a political newcomer in Mesa.

Iowa Man Describes the Horrors of Home-Grown Ex-Gay Therapy

Jim Burroway

October 7th, 2011
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Samuel Brinton, a student at Kansas State University, describes growing up under his Southern Baptist missionary father, who beat him, burned him and shocked him with electricity to try to change him from being gay after Samuel came out at the age of twelve. The video is compelling.

We first heard from Samuel about a year ago when he first talked about his experiences for an “It Gets Better” video for the web site I’m From Driftwood.

Update (10/10): Wayen Besen at Truth Wins Out posted this comment yesterday on Towleroad:

Truth Wins Out has tried verify this story for more than a month. Our phone calls have gone unanswered. We hope that the full range of facts can come to light. For example, who was the specific therapist who performed these abusive actions?

We are always pleased when “ex-gay” survivors are brave enough to come foward and share their experiences. We look forward to Samuel providing further information in the very near future.

Iowa Teen Beaten To Death By Anti-Gay Attackers

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2011

A nineteen-year-old youth died Sunday afternoon following an attack and severe beating early Friday morning. Marcellus Richard Andrews was officially pronounced dead after life support was removed at an Iowa City Hospital.

According to friends, it all began when Andrews was at a friend’s house late Thursday night:

She said the problems started at about 12:45 a.m. Friday when she and Tudia Simpson, her cousin, went for a walk down the street. Andrews opted to stay behind, waiting on the enclosed porch, she said.

The two women hadn’t made it as far as Adams Street a block away when they heard yelling back at the house. They ran back and found a truck stopped in the street, and the occupants were taunting Andrews, calling him “faggot” and “Mercedes,” a feminization of his first name, Simpson said.

The arguing and name calling continued, said Simpson, who admitted throwing the first punch, striking a girl.

“She kept saying it, and I hit her,” Simpson said.

At one point in the ensuing melee, Andrews fell to the ground. Simpson tried to help him up but another male kicked him in the face. She tried to help him back up again after the fight ended, but he wasn’t able to get up. Another girl called 911. When paramedics arrived, they found Andrews with severe head trauma and had him flown to Iowa City for treatment.

Police are investigating. No arrests have been made.

Santorum Supports Tenth Amendment Except When He Doesn’t

Jim Burroway

August 12th, 2011

And in last night’s GOP debate in Iowa, he carved out a HUGE exception for the Tenth Amendment when it comes to marriage equality:

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Chris Wallace: Sen. Santorum, I see you wanting to jump in, your thoughts about RomneyCare.

Rick Santorum: Well, first, I was the first author of medical savings accounts back in 1992 whith John Kasich in the House. But this is a very important argument here. This is the Tenth Amendment run amuck. Michele Bachmanm says that she would go in and fight health care being imposed by states mandatory-up, but she wouldn’t go in and fight marriage being imposed by the states. That would be okay. We have Ron Paul saying, oh, whatever the states want to do under the Tenth Amendment’s fine. So if the states want to pass polygamy, that’s fine. If the states want to pass impose sterilization, that’s fine. No, our country is based on moral laws, ladies and gentlemen. There are things the states can’t do. Abraham Lincoln said, “the states do not have the right to do wrong.” I respect the Tenth Amendment, but we are a nation that has values. We are a nation that was built on a moral enterprise. And states don’t have the right to tramp over those because of the Tenth Amendment.

We are accustomed to seeing anti-gay extremists like Santorum lie unashamedly when it comes to gay people. And so it is a special treat to see him running amuck and lying about the positions of fellow Republicans right to their faces. Reagan must be rolling over in his grave. Bachmann has been an unwavering supporter of the Federal Marriage Amendment which would short-circuit the Tenth Amendment exactly as Santorum argues it should. She reiterated her support again last night.  And as for polygamy, Paul handed Santorum’s head right back to him on a platter: “It’s sort of like asking the question if the states wanted to legalize slavery or something like that, that is so past reality that no state is going to do that.” But who ever said that Santorum was working with reality in the first place?

Now It’s Tea And Not Basketball

Jim Burroway

August 11th, 2011

The metaphors become even more strained:

Rick Santorum today finally wrapped up his 50-city tour de Iowa. He continued to press anti-gay views, saying that calling same-sex marriage a marriage would be like calling a cup of tea a basketball. He repeatedly quoted a study that families do better in heterosexual marriages. Though that study actually uses the phrase “nuclear” family, which can include same-sex couples.

He made those remarks yesterday at a very lonely stop of the “Value Voters Bus Tour” which is making its way through Iowa. He’s really been straining at the metaphors: napkins and not paper towels, water and not beer. But none of those metaphors have the punchiness of ”frothy mix.” His weird metaphors may go on a temporary hiatus: Santorum is reportedly developing  laryngitis. That development will be particularly timely if it affects his participation in tonight’s GOP debate.

Pawlenty, Santorum join FRC’s and NOM’s Iowa Bus Tour

Jim Burroway

August 10th, 2011

The “Values Voters Bus Tour,” sponsored by the Family “Research” Council’s lobbying arm, the National Organization for Marriage, and the Susan B. Anthony List, kicked off yesterday in Des Moines, Iowa, with the goal of hitting several Iowa communities ahead of Saturday’s GOP presidential Straw Poll. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was on hand for the tour’s start, which was greeted by a sparse crowd that appears to have been outnumbered by reporters:

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The bus made five more stops before the day was done yesterday. This morning, the bus tour resumed with a breakfast in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum met the bus.

Maybe There’s A Theory of Ex-Gay Relativity

Jim Burroway

August 8th, 2011

The way the Bachmans have been ditching questions about Marcus Bachmann’s counselling clinic providing ex-gay therapy in direct conflict with the position of every major medical and mental health organization, you’d think they would be extra careful to avoid anything which would invite further scrutiny in that particular area. And if you thought that, you’d be wrong. Yesterday, Michele and Marcus Bachman attended an Iowa church in which the main point of the sermon was the promotion of the ex-gay movement.

[Point of Grace Church Pastor Jeff] Mullen’s sermon concluded with video testimonial from a man named Adam Hood, who claims to have been gay before experiencing a conversation with God. “I am so happy God has given me natural affection for a woman,” Hood said in the video, adding that his wife is nine months pregnant.

“We need to have compassion for people that are bound by that sin,” Hood added. “And it is a sin. Call a spade a spade.”

Yes, that Adam Hood, a.k.a Scarfboi. And if Hood is now accepted as being completely, totally, believe-you-him straight, then I guess you can see how Marcus Bachmann might start to look a little butch. If you squint.

“In Iowa, You Can’t Smoke A Fag But You Can Marry One”

Jim Burroway

July 19th, 2011

That’s the punchline to a joke that had Iowa’s The Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats laughing and saying, “That’s pretty good! Oh shoot!”

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Igor Volsky at ThinkProgress reacts:

Vander Plaats’ reaction is not entirely surprising, since the group has previously compared homosexuality to the cancerous effects of second-hand smoking and links supporters to ex-gay reparative therapy. What’s more telling is the willingness of Republican presidential candidates like Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich to attend the group’s presidential forum and Michele Bachmann’s and Rick Santorum’s eagerness to sign its pledge.

The curse of the anti-gay pledge

Timothy Kincaid

July 13th, 2011

There is something truly delightful in watching the Family Leader’s anti-gay pledge – which was supposed to pressure Republican candidates into a commitment to fight the civil equality promised by the Fourteenth Amendment – go up in flames.

After it was discovered that Bob Vander Plaats had thrown in a statement that suggested that African-Americans were better off when white people owned them and after Michelle Bachmann was put in the unenviable position of having to explain to the media that, yes, she does think slavery is a bad thing, no one else wants to have anything to do with this pledge.

Mitt Romney rejected the pledge, calling it “undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign”, Newt Gingrich found too many unspecified problems (divorce, perhaps?), and even those who are slogging hardest to get the theocrat vote, Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain, couldn’t distance themselves fast enough.

And as for Bachmann, this error combined with her husband’s wacky ex-gay counseling may prove just too much even for social conservatives who have a very high tolerance for crazy.

Bachmann Is First To Sign Iowa Anti-Gay Pledge

Jim Burroway

July 8th, 2011

Michele and Marcus Bachmann

GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was the very first out of the gate to sign a new Anti-Gay pledge drafted by Bob Vander Plaats and Iowa’s Family Leader. Titled, “The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family” (PDF: 1.02MB/8 pages), its points include (page 3):

Social protections, especially for women and children, have been evaporating as we have collectively “debased the currency” of marriage. This debasement continues as a function of adultery; “quickie divorce;” physical and verbal spousal abuse; non-committal co-habitation; exemplary infidelity and “unwed cheating” among celebrities, sports figures and politicians; anti-scientific bias which holds, in complete absence of empirical proof, that non-heterosexual inclinations are genetically determined, irresistible and akin to innate traits like race, gender and eye color; as well as anti-scientific bias which holds, against all empirical evidence, that homosexual behavior in particular, and sexual promiscuity in general, optimizes individual or public health.

Under “The Candidate Vows,” candidates are required to affirm that they will perform “Vigorous opposition to any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage — faithful monogamy between one man and one woman — through statutory-, bureaucratic-, or court-imposed recognition of intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, same-sex, etc.” The vow also requires the “Steadfast embrace of a federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman in all of the United States.”

Michele Bachman at the New Hampshire debate

During last month’s GOP debate in New Hampshire, Bachmann reaffirmed her support for the federal marriage amendment.

Footnote 8 of the document includes an explicitly pro- ex-gay plank, indicating the political utility that social conservatives find in the movement: “No peer-reviewed empirical science or rational demonstration has ever definitively proven, nor even has shown an overwhelming probability, that homosexual preference or behavior is irresistible as a function of genetic determinism or other forms of fatalism.”

The footnote also claims that LGBT people have an average life expectancy of about 40 years, and cites a 1997 report by Robert S. Hogg et al., from the International Journal of Epidemiology. That study, which has become a favorite study for anti-gay extremists to distort, was based on research performed in Vancouver from 1987 through 1992, at the very height of the AIDS crissis The question that they were trying to answer was not about the mortality of gay men overall, but rather the impact that HIV might have on the Vancouver’s gay population. Vancouver was one of the epicenters of the epidemic in the early 1990s. When anti-gay extremists misrepresented that study to claim that the average lifespan was forty years, Hogg and his colleagues responded in a 2001 letter to that same journal, saying:

The aim of our research was never to spread more homophobia… [I]f we were to repeat this analysis today the life expectancy of gay and bisexual men would be greatly improved. Deaths from HIV infection have declined dramatically in this population since 1996. As we have previously reported there has been a threefold decrease in mortality in Vancouver as well as in other parts of British Columbia .

In fact, several recent studies have shown that people with HIV have near-normal life expectancies, and there is no peer-reviewed data showing that gay people overall have a life expectancy that is any different from anyone else’s.

The same vow also requires candidates’ “rejection of Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control.” Because, you know, the imminent imposition of sharia law is the pressing issue right now in the U.S.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has declined to sign the pledge, saying that he has a policy of not signing any pledges. Rep. Rom Paul (R-TX) has said he has reservations. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said last night he was reviewing the pledge. The agreement to “personal fidelity” to his or her wife could be a thorn to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and retired Georgia businessman Herman Cain have not yet responded to the pledge. Vander Plaats has set a deadline of August 1.

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