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Posts for January, 2014

Indiana GOP moves gay ban bill to the floor

Timothy Kincaid

January 22nd, 2014

As expected, the hand-selected committee chosen by Indiana House Leader Brian Bosma has given its rubber stamp to the divisive and discriminatory HJR-3, a proposal to put a gay marriage ban before voters in November. (Journal Gazette)

A panel of Indiana lawmakers has approved a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage, sending the measure to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The House Elections Committee voted 9-3 to advance the measure Wednesday evening. The vote followed weeks of intense lobbying, emotional testimony and widespread uncertainty on the issue.

Indiana marriage ban moved to another committee

Timothy Kincaid

January 21st, 2014

You may recall that last week the Indiana Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill to place a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality on the ballot this fall.

At the time, I said that if Republican Party leadership was smart, they would kill the bill in committee. Not only will it hurt the future of the party in the state, it may go down to embarrassing defeat in November and drag Republican candidates down with it.

And, for a moment, it appeared as though that might have happened. No vote was called on the bill.

But, as it turns out, the party leadership is astonishingly stupid. Stunningly so. (IndyStar)

In a highly unusual move, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma today moved the controversial same-sex marriage ban to a new committee — where it stands a better chance of passing — after the measure stalled in another committee.

The measure had a hearing last week in the Judiciary Committee, but House Republican leaders decided against bringing it to a vote amid concerns that three GOP lawmakers might vote against it and kill the amendment.

Bosma said Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, Elections Committee chairman, told him he was not confident the amendment was going to come to the floor. Bosma said he didn’t talk to the members, but let Steuerwald do that.

The Herald on three gay GOP candidates

Timothy Kincaid

January 19th, 2014

The Boston Herald

Each ultimately must unseat a Democratic incumbent, overcome brushes with hate and confront passionate divisions within the GOP about the way they live their lives. The Republican Party is trying to soften its tone on divisive social issues, but many religious conservatives see homosexuality as immoral.

Indiana to consider marriage ban bill today

Timothy Kincaid

January 13th, 2014

Today legislators in Indiana are scheduled to vote on a bill to put a marriage ban into the state constitution. It is likely the last time that a state will undertake such an effort.

In a sign that the public’s appetite for institutionalized discrimination is waning, this bill is facing uncertainty, despite Republicans holding majorities in both houses.

The problem is that for the amendment to be brought about, identical language must be approved by two consecutive legislatures and then approved by popular vote and, in their arrogance, the 2010 legislature went into full ‘ban everything’ mode.

Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.

Now the ‘no marriage, no civil unions, no other-state recognition, no employment benefits, no nothing, never’ approach seems heavy-handed and cruel. And many moderates and business leaders are warning that such an approach makes the state appear oppressive and hostile, neither of which are good for business.

Left with a start over or risk it choice, Legislative leaders are trying to have it both ways. Starting over would mean that the likelihood of passage of anything would be much lower in four years. And risking it runs the chance of defeat, which would almost certainly be seen as a sign that the nation has tired of anti-gay amendments.

So instead they are trying to “explain” the second half of the amendment language. (News Sentinel)

“I think it’s very advisable to have an expression of legislative intent that accompanies HJR 3 (the proposed amendment),” Bosma said last week. “There are valid questions raised about the second sentence of the amendment.

“It seemed to make a lot of sense to address the issues, but still make it quite clear that civil unions are not allowed — which is the substantially similar or identical language to marriage — and define it as a man and a woman, but remove these concerns people validly are raising in most cases.”

The opposition has pointed out specific situations in which this bill would hurt lives of people in Indiana, such as partners of employees at the state colleges. Which, based on the history of other states going for the “no, no, no, no” approach is true.

The legislative leaders are hoping that by “explaining”, they can confuse the issue enough that the voters will somehow overlook the problems that the bill would bring and the image of their state as the final Hate State. But the business community is not on board and moderates are not letting the leaders get by with such a flimsy card game.

Today is the first test in whether the social conservatives have sufficient grasp on the legislature so as to push the bill through. (abc57)

The amendment vote falls in the hands of the Indiana House Judiciary Committee, a panel of just 13 lawmakers.

All 4 Democrats on the committee are expected to vote it down, but they’ll still need at least 3 of the Republicans to join them in order to defeat the amendment.

If the party is smart, they will kill this bill in committee, promise to bring it back again, and then lose it in the shuffle. The odds are that they will instead taint the image of their party and their state and plop this steaming pile of animus and self-righteousness into the laps of the voters.

UPDATE:

You can watch the hearing here.

So far opponents have included gay Republicans, business groups and chambers of commerce. Actually, some pretty hard-hitters from our side. All either hard-core Republican activists or high-level businesses integral to the economy.

Perhaps one of the most unusual arguments from a very conservative attorney is that because the second sentence is so ambiguous, then the courts will make all future decision and not the legislature.

UPDATE TWO:

Legislator just ate up ADF’s representative by asking for an example of what the second sentence would prohibit. She kept trying to say it would not effect benefits, but couldn’t say what it would do. And the silly girl said “I can say with certainty” only to have it pointed out to her that her assertions disagree with history and have no weight.

UPDATE THREE:

The Judiciary Committee has adjourned and the vote has been delayed.

Michigan GOP leadership rebuffs Agema

Timothy Kincaid

December 13th, 2013

Two years ago, Michigan Representative Dave Agema (R – Grandville) sponsored a bill called the Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefit Restriction Act (real name) which was designed to do exactly that: probit the government closest to the people (cities, counties, library commissions) from enacting protections for the people (firemen, assessors, librarians). Specifically, it provided that “a public employer shall not provide medical benefits or other fringe benefits for an individual currently residing in the same residence as an employee of the public employer” unless they were the opposite sex.

And being a pretty despicable bunch, the Michigan GOP representatives passed it with a party-line vote (plus one Democrat) and Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill into law.

As the bill was an obvious violation of the US Supreme Court decision in Romer v. Evans, this June a judge issued an injunction against its implementation. It is assumed that the bill is dead.

Well now Dave Agema is not longer in the state legislature. But at last year’s GOP state convention, the party decided that he was an ideal representative to send to the Republican National Central Committee, ousting their former party chair who had been a national RNC candidate but, apparently, just wasn’t batpoop nuts enough.

So now they have Dave Agema making news by trotting off to the Berrien County Republican Party Holiday Reception this week, and saying the following:

… I stand for traditional marriage, not homosexual ones. (audience applause) … the basic unit of government in society.

“When you tear the family apart, you tear the country apart. I worked with these individuals for almost 30 years with American (Airlines). I know what they do. I know what happened to American Airlines when San Francisco said we could not land in San Francisco and do business with American Airlines unless we paid same sex unmarried benefits.

“The pilots said, ‘Bologna. Don’t go there anymore.’

“Can’t do it. Too big a market. Can’t do it. Well, what happened? Say me and, what’s your name again, first name? Martha. I’m a flight attendant. You have AIDS. You come to me and say, ‘hey, tell them I’m your lover for the last six months.’ You get on our health care. American Airlines spends $400,000 before you die of AIDS. And he goes on to the next, and the next, and that’s what was happening.

“Folks, they want free medical because they’re dying between 38 and 44 years old. It’s a biggie. So, to me it’s a moral issue. It’s a Biblical issue. Traditional marriage is where it should be and that is in our platform, so people that are opposed on that issue within our party are wrong. It’s in our platform. (audience applause)”

Well that there’s a whole lot of crazy. Not a word of fact, but a great big serving of hot juicy crazy hate ladled over a holiday pastry. And the Berrien County GOP biddies just lapped it right up, burped, and asked for more.

But outside the context of hardcore party extremists in county committees, crazy hate just doesn’t sell very well anymore. And as his statements started hitting the blogs, normal folk were a bit shocked.

And though the party joyfully voted for the bill generated by Agema’s radical hatred, now the Michigan GOP politicians have began backpedaling. (MLive)

House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said Wednesday that he respects religious beliefs that may not make room for gay marriage. “But I do not respect, and frankly am disgusted by, anyone who demonizes someone because of their sexual orientation,” he continued.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, said he had not heard Agema’s comments directly but had picked up on the basic tenor.

“He’s not speaking on behalf of me, or I think most of the people who call themselves Republicans, when he says stuff like this,” said Richardville. “It’s not the first time. Hate isn’t one of my values.”

Naturally, Log Cabin called for his resignation. Jason Watts, secretary of Allegan County’s Republican Party, has drafted a resolution that the state party (which meets this weekend) disavow those who “espouse demagogic rhetoric that is incendiary and unbecoming of civil discourse.”

And the Governor, who signed the anti-gay bill two years ago, now rebuffs Agema’s agenda. (MLive)

Snyder, the state’s top ranking elected Republican, “feels comments like that are unfortunate, discriminatory and that we can and must do better and make sure everyone is treated with respect and dignity,” spokesman Sara Wurfel told MLive.

Wurfel was even more direct with the MIRS subscription news service, calling Agema’s remarks “extreme” and saying that there “shouldn’t be room for that in any political party, period.”

Just a week ago I discussed how the extra-special brand of crazy right-wing nutcases can be useful. And Agema is proving to be particularly so.

Michigan Republicans are seriously considering updating Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians. And Agema’s outburst couldn’t come at a better time.

This gives GOP members on the fence a clear choice, do they want to move along with the rest of the country in the direction of inclusion, respect, and equality, or do they want, like Dave Agema, to stay a pretty despicable bunch? Do they think that protecting gay employees in Michigan would result in Agema’s bizarre pipe-dream or to they reject his blatant bigotry?

Thanks to Dave Agema, they know that their constituents will be paying close attention.

Boehner support gay GOP candidates

Timothy Kincaid

December 5th, 2013

Sometimes the extra-special brand of crazy right-wing nutcases are useful. Like, for example, Virginia Representative Randy Forbes. (Politico)

Forbes has waged a lengthy crusade to convince his colleagues and the National Republican Congressional Committee brass they shouldn’t back some gay candidates. His efforts on Capitol Hill were described to POLITICO by more than a half-dozen sources with direct knowledge of the talks.

Republican leadership is only in the infancy stage of wooing gay voters, but they recognize that to be a viable party in the future they need to shed the anti-gay rhetoric and ideology (among other positions). And they have taken steps, including putting party support behind a handful of gay GOP candidates.

Yet they also recognize that this will not sit well with a segment of their constituency, so they are not trumpeting their support of gay candidates on a broad scale. However, Forbes’ obnoxious hate-filled grandstanding forced the hand of leadership.

On Thursday, following POLITICO’S report, Speaker John Boehner said his party should support gay Republican congressional candidates.

Many Republicans seem willing to back DeMaio. Rep. Darrell Issa, a senior California Republican who has endorsed him, said that “he will be supported by the NRCC when he wins the primary.”

“I will see to that,” said Issa, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Asked about Speaker John Boehner’s policy toward gay candidates, an aide pointed to several contributions the Ohio Republican made to Tisei during the past election cycle. Boehner also visited Boston to raise money for Tisei during the summer of 2012.

This is, of course, no indication that the party as a whole is supportive of gay issues or that it is going to become so overnight. It does, however, suggest that the leadership now recognizes that it can no longer be associated with blatant bigotry and it sends a signal that the power of the far right within the party may be waning.

Geidner: Christie’s argument has been procedural, not personal

Timothy Kincaid

October 21st, 2013

Chris Geidner

Christie’s entire defense of the marriage law, in fact, has been premised — like Monday’s statement — upon process and not upon his personal opposition to same-sex couples’ marriages, which he has continued to maintain in his bid for reelection.

When the trial court ruled against Christie in September, for example, he did not defend “traditional marriage” or something similar. Instead, he looked to process, with a spokesman saying, “Governor Christie has always maintained that he would abide by the will of the voters on the issue of marriage equality and called for it to be on the ballot this Election Day. Since the legislature refused to allow the people to decide expeditiously, we will let the Supreme Court make this constitutional determination.”

NJ Assembly Republican Leader weighs in

Timothy Kincaid

October 21st, 2013

Dropped in at the end of an article (PolitickerNJ)

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) praised Christie’s decision. “This is why he’s so respected,” Bramnick said. “He’s a practical realist.”

Bramnick, it should be remembered, is not an equality supporter, taking the Governor’s “let the people vote” position.

It’s an interesting peek into how Republicans in deep blue states want to get the issue behind them. They know marriage equality is coming and that any protracted battle is not going to benefit them. They just need a way to graciously concede without changing their public stance.

A vote of the populace is ideal. It allows them to hold their “personal view” while upholding “the will of the people”. And it shields them entirely from the debate. Which is, to some extent, why Democratic politicians in New Jersey fought that option.

Absent that, a swift court decision gives them an out. The judges can have “overstepped” and “dictated”, but it gives Christie and the Republicans a way to be “practical realists” and accept the eventuality.

And today’s dropping of the appeal in New Jersey allows that state’s Republicans to put this issue completely behind them. There is zero chance that they will make any effort to “take it to the people” and within the next week or so, some GOP legislator is going to conduct a wedding of a close friend or staff member and then this issue will cease to be trouble for the party at all.

NYT features gay GOP Pennsylvania Rep.

Timothy Kincaid

September 28th, 2013

Frank Bruni’s New York Times op-ed on rural Pennsylvania GOP Representative Mike Fleck:

At the end of last year, he announced that his marriage of 10 years was over. And that he’s gay.

Plenty of people figured that he’d exit state politics after that. But on Monday he’ll announce his campaign for a fifth term. This time, it will almost certainly be a campaign, with rivals and an uncertain outcome, hinging on whether he can persuade his constituents that he’s the same politician they embraced before, the same man, apart from a reality owned up to, a truth embraced.

Their acceptance or rejection of that will be an unusually clear-cut referendum on attitudes about homosexuality in rural America, or at least in this verdant stretch of the heartland about 75 miles west of the state capital of Harrisburg. Fleck, 40, hasn’t changed his position on issues like gun control, of which he’s skeptical. (He owns a pistol, two rifles, one muzzleloader and 10 other firearms.) He didn’t come out of the closet in a swirl of scandal. There was no news about an intern, no talk of an affair. He just came out, because his marriage had unraveled, because the toll of staying in was too steep and because he saw an opportunity to challenge the bigotry in his community by presenting its residents with something that he certainly never saw when he was growing up here, an openly gay man who doesn’t conform to the sorts of stereotypes that are especially prevalent far away from metropolitan areas.

Anti-gay sports commentator can’t find a job

Timothy Kincaid

September 7th, 2013

In February 2012, Craig James was running for the Republican nomination for US Senator from Texas. He figured that as an ESPN Sports Commentator, he had face and name recognition, but the pols (and polls) were against him. So at that time it seemed the smart and bold choice to be as anti-gay as possible, even giving (eventual) Sen. Ted Cruz competition.

During a debate, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert (also running) was trying to explain that even though he had participated in Dallas Gay Pride, he was not in favor of gay marriage (he just believed in representing everyone in the city) when James saw his opportunity to get some press. (keranews)

Former television sports analyst Craig James then weighed in.

James: I think right now in this country, our moral fiber is sliding down a slope that is going to be hard to stop if we don’t stand up with leaders who don’t go ride in gay parades. I can assure you I will never ride in a gay parade. And I hear what you’re saying, Tom, but leaders – our kids out there people need to see examples.

Moderator: Do you think people choose to be gay?

James: I think it’s a choice, I do.

Moderator: It’s not in the genes?

James: I think that you have to make that choice. But in that case right there, they are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions. We should not give benefits to those civil unions.

Later Texas Republicans went on to elect Ted Cruz, who has certainly missed no opportunity to advance his opposition to civil rights or equality for gay citizens. David Dewhurst, who came in second, remains as the state’s Lieutenant Governor and Tom Leppert, third, went to work as President of Kaplan, Inc. an education company.

But James, who finished fourth with 4% of the vote, has had trouble returning to his former career.

ESPN said that there wasn’t a place for him at their network after his anti-gay comments. And since then he has been “decompressing” and “been busy with business activities”.

But last Friday it looked like he had a break, a chance to get back on television. It looked like FOX Sports Southwest, targeting good ol’ Texas boys, wasn’t so concerned about his anti-gay statements. (Houston Chronicle)

When FSSW general manager Jon Heidtke, an A&M former student, heard of James’ interest, he approached him about joining that network.

“Jon said he heard I was interested in getting back in, and this came together overnight,” James said. “I think it was the Lord putting us together. I went to the studio (Thursday) for rehearsal, and when I drove past the airport I had a big smile on my face.”

James will work with Erin Hartigan and former Texans quarterback Tony Banks. “Big 12 Live,” which airs at 11 p.m. Saturdays, is hosted by Ric Renner with Gary Reasons.

But it turns out that neither the Lord nor Heidtke had cleared the decision with FOX Sports upper management. And, after only one Saturday, James is out again.

And though James’ shaky reputation among college sports fans may have made it an easier decision, FOX is saying that he was booted because of his phoby antics. (Dallas Morning News)

During the campaign James took a strong anti-gay stance.

“We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department,” said a Fox spokesman. “He couldn’t say those things here.”

No doubt the usual rabble will claim that James is being persecuted and blacklisted because of his stance for traditional marriage. And James will no doubt have a new gig as keynote speaker for the type of dinners that specialize in professional martyrs, where he can rant his bile to appreciative elderly ladies and Peter LaBarbera.

But it won’t be televised. Not even on FOX.

Political media discovers that John Bolton supports equality

Timothy Kincaid

August 24th, 2013

You may recall John Bolton from his stint as ambassador to the United Nations in 2005 and 2006. You might know him from his op-ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal. But you probably best know him as that guy with the mustache.

Bolton is an unquestionable conservative, a national security hawk, a Republican that could never be called a RINO (“Republican in name only”), and a darling of a large faction on the right. He may also be a candidate for nomination of the Republican Party in 2016.

And if you are a regular Turtler, you may recall that we have known for some time that John Bolton supports marriage equality. But many of those who watch him on Fox News – and most of those who would never watch Fox News – probably do not.

They are now discovering this to be so. (Daily Beast)

However, in an interview with Robert Costa of National Review, Bolton let slip a surprising bit of information; he’s for gay marriage. He said “On gay marriage, I support it, at both the state level and the federal level. Gay marriage is something I’ve thought about at length as I’ve looked at my future. I concluded, a couple years ago, that I think it should be permissible and treated the same at both levels.”

This is of value to our community. The more that run of the mill Republicans and conservatives hear of prominent leaders in their community who endorse equality, the easier it will be for them to do so.

And it will be interesting if Bolton runs. Undoubtedly one candidate or another will make marriage part of the campaign, and his views during debates will challenge presumptions in the room.

NM GOP Lawmakers Announce Lawsuit To Stop Marriages

Jim Burroway

August 23rd, 2013

When Doña Ana County, New Mexico, Clerk Lynn Ellins began issuing licenses to same-sex couples in Las Cruces on Wednesday, the state’s Attorney General Gary King responded by saying that he would not intervene to halt the Doña Ana County marriages. But a group of Republican lawmakers have now vowed to pursue a legal challenge. Sen. William Sharer (R-Farmington) announced that he would file a lawsuit by the end of the week:

“It has to do with a county clerk cannot make law. That is the Legislature’s job,” said Sharer, who sponsored a constitutional amendment in 2011 to define marriage as between a man and woman.

He said more than two dozen GOP lawmakers have agreed to join the lawsuit. It likely will be filed with the state Supreme Court, but Sharer said lawyers were trying to decide the best legal strategy.

House Republicans stop anti-marriage efforts

Timothy Kincaid

July 18th, 2013

In a slightly oddly worded filing, the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), under the direction of Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, has ceased defending any of the laws which seek to distinguish between opposite-sex and same-sex marriage. The BLAG’s last-minute filing in a case involving service member’s marital benefits was the venue through which this retreat was announced. (BuzzFeed)

The Supreme Court recently resolved the issue of DOMA Section 3’s constitutionality. See United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. __ (2013), 2013 WL 3196928 (U.S. June 26, 2013). The Windsor decision necessarily resolves the issue of DOMA Section 3’s constitutionality in this case. While the question of whether 38 U.S.C. § 101(3), (31) is constitutional remains open, the House has determined, in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Windsor, that it no longer will defend that statute. Accordingly, the House now seeks leave to withdraw as a party defendant.

In other words, while Windsor only addressed DOMA3, not the myriad of laws that are written such that they limit application to male-female marriage, the decision on DOMA3 made clear the court’s intent. And so – unlike the Proposition 8 supporters in California – the Republicans in the House will not spend any more time or money fighting the minutia in court.

This is a bit further than I expected.

The broad stroke exclusion of gay couples found in DOMA3 was struck down as unconstitutional. This does not mean, from a legal perspective, that every exclusion of same-sex couples is unconstitutional. The BLAG could have continued on a case-by-case basis to argue that while broad exclusion is not allowed, in the instances at question there are good and valid governmental interests in upholding unequal laws and it’s possible that they would prevail in some.

So this decision to pull out and the language utilized suggests that more than just a legal determination has been made. This also heralds a shift in political will.

Today is Boehner’s deadline to oppose service member benefits

Timothy Kincaid

July 18th, 2013

BuzzFeed reminds us that not all of the legal questions relating to federal same-sex marriage benefits have been answered.

The House Republican leadership faces a Thursday deadline to decide if it will continue to defend laws that limit veterans benefits to opposite-sex couples in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling striking down a similar provision in the Defense of Marriage Act.

“We’re reviewing the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision, and don’t have any announcement to make at this time,” House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, told BuzzFeed on Wednesday when asked if the defense of the veterans’ statutes would continue.

This is a no-win situation for Boehner.

The Republican Party has a real problem on their hands when it comes to marriage equality. The country in increasingly supportive and even many of those who oppose equality don’t want strident anti-gay action to be taken. But “the base” of the party is strongly opposed to equality, so for the last year Boehner has “defended” DOMA (while trying hard never to discuss it and, in some instances, not even filing even the most flimsy of responses).

This particular situation is even more troublesome for Republican leadership. Service members are also a base of the Republican Party, and opposing military benefits sets one loyal party group against another.

So here’s betting that Boehner woke up late, forgot his watch, lost his briefcase, and got tied up in meetings all day and just, gosh darn it, just didn’t have time to file a motion today.

Ohio’s Petro to endorse marriage initiate

Timothy Kincaid

July 5th, 2013

From the Columbus Dispatch

Republican Jim Petro, Ohio’s former attorney general and state auditor, is expected to endorse a 2014 Ohio ballot measure that would permit same-sex marriages in the state.

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