sexual orientation

Scarborough Exploits Fort Hood Tragedy To Attack Hate Crimes Protections

Earlier this week we noted that Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission was planning a rally to challenge the recently enacted hate crimes law expanding protections for sexual orientation.

It looks like Rick Scarborough of Vision America will be joining him and has decided to announce his participation via an incoherent press release linking the issue the shooting at Fort Hood:

Referring to the man being held in connection with the deaths of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas yesterday, Scarborough observed: "We know that Dr. Hasan is a devout Muslim who once told a fellow officer that 'Muslims have a right to stand up against the U.S. military.' Clearly, yesterday's rampage was not motivated by love. Given Hasan's worldview, it's probable that he was motivated in part by an animus toward Christians and Jews. Assuming that murder charges are brought against him, will Hasan also be charged with a hate crime?"

Scarborough said this highlights the absurdity of hate crimes laws. "If convicted, Hasan could face life in prison or the death penalty. Fanatics are not deterred by the prospect of an additional penalty for hating."

Scarborough predicted that the expansion of the federal Hate-Crimes statute, signed into law by President Obama recently, will not prevent crimes like the Fort Hood shootings, but will instead be used to silence dissent.

"Gay activists will use it against preachers who present the Biblical view of homosexuality. Muslim groups will use it against those who speak the verifiable truth about Islam. The federal Hate Crimes Law doesn't target crime, but free speech," Scarborough charged.

Scarborough said Hasan's case also illustrates an entrenched double standard, noting that the Army psychiatrist had received poor fitness reports for proselytizing his patients for Islam. "If a Christian doctor witnessed for Jesus to his patients, I can guarantee he would have been discharged from the United States Army in a New York minute," Scarborough stated.

Rev. Scarborough will lead a demonstration of pastors and other clergy in Washington, D.C., on November 16, where they will preach the Gospel and hold a press conference enumerating their objections to the recently passed Federal Hate Crimes Law. Will the U.S. Attorney General prosecute them for violating the expanded Hate Crimes law?

Who Are You Calling Insufficiently Anti-Gay?

A few weeks ago, we noted that Liberty Counsel was trying to force its way into the lawsuit over Proposition 8 in California, while the Yes on 8 lawyers have been trying to keep them out.

While Yes on 8 welcomed Liberty Counsel and other radically anti-gay groups during the election, they have been trying to keep them at bay ever since so that they can portray their post-election efforts as mainstream and reasonable. 

But Liberty Counsel, representing the Campaign for California Families, isn't giving up and is essentially forcing the Yes on 8 lawyers to admit that their efforts are driven by anti-gay animus in order to prevent Liberty Counsel from having any grounds to intervene. 

Basically, Liberty Counsel is arguing that the Yes on 8 defense is not sufficiently anti-gay and therefore they should be allowed to intervene in the case so that the militantly anti-gay message is adequately represented, forcing Yes on 8 to argue that their efforts are already plenty anti-gay as it is and Liberty Counsel's involvement is not needed:

Try as they might, lawyers from one anti-gay rights organization just can't get any love from judges in California.

After being barred from intervening in the federal challenge to Proposition 8, the Campaign for California Families tried their luck Wednesday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But a conservative panel sitting at Stanford Law School didn't appear any more likely to let them into the case.

Matthew Staver, whose advocacy group Liberty Counsel represents the campaign, repeated arguments previously made to Northern District of California Chief Judge Vaughn Walker: that the official Prop 8 forces weren't adequately litigating the case and had stipulated away far too many facts.

Ninth Circuit Judge Pamela Rymer had a hard time understanding how Staver's goals conflict with those already advanced by the Yes on 8 campaign, which Walker allowed to be the primary defendant in the case.

"How is your, your interest -- your particular interest -- affected?" she asked Staver.

If Prop 8 is upheld on some narrow ground, the stipulated facts still make it harder to prevent homosexuals from becoming a suspect class, Staver said. The Yes on 8 forces won't fight the idea that homosexuality is immutable, he said.

Judge M. Margaret McKeown pounced on this point, and began to read from one of the Yes on 8 filings. "'We will dispute plaintiffs' claim that homosexuality is immutable,'" McKeown intoned, whereupon Rymer started shaking her head.

...

Staver's appeal put the official Yes on 8 campaign in a bit of an awkward position, since it has tried to position itself as a defender of traditional marriage -- but not hateful or insensitive. But for purposes of defending against Staver's appeal, it had to show how many facts it was ready to contest, some of which are deeply offensive to same-sex marriage advocates.

Howard Nielson Jr. of Cooper & Kirk said his side hadn't actually agreed to stipulations, only that they were open to a discussion. They may still argue, for instance, that sexual orientation is amorphous.

"We are simply not giving away the store on that," Nielson said. 

Yes on 1's Prodigal Son Returns

Back in September, Mike Heath of the Maine Family Policy Council suddenly announced that he was leaving the organization, right in the middle of the fight over marriage equality in the state.

Heath had been finding himself being pushed aside in the Religious Right's activism and mobilization efforts, presumably because of the rabidly anti-gay insanity he'd been spreading, as the Yes on 1 side worked to portray itself as tolerant and mainstream.

Heath then all but disappeared from the scene ... but now that Yes on 1 has been victorious in Maine, Tip-Q points out that he has popped up on Peter LaBarbera's Americans for Truth website declaring that gays are sick and calling for reinstatement of Maine's anti-sodomy laws:

Homosexuality has absolutely nothing to do with marriage. Homosexuality is a sickness. It’s a sin.

We need to stop putting up with it. There is nothing civil about hiding the truth from those we love. And the truth about sex outside of marriage is that it hurts, it’s bad for us. We need to avoid it.

We need to choose life over sex. Sex is for life … it creates life. Sex and life must be connected in our thinking. We come together sexually in the context of marriage to celebrate creation, the creation of a unique individual human life. It is perilous to disconnect sex from creation. It is even more perilous to pretend that pleasurable sex should be associated with acts unspeakable.

In the interest of protecting and affirming all of Maine’s people, especially our children and grandchildren, we must repeal domestic partnership laws that provide benefits on the basis of homosexuality, we must de-fund the so-called “civil rights teams” [pro-homosexual student groups] and remove “sexual orientation and gender identity” from the Maine Human Rights Act and the Maine Civil Rights Act. It would also be prudent to reinstate Maine’s anti-sodomy law that was quietly removed from our criminal code in the late 1970s.

Everything You Need To Know About The Right's Ignorance About Hate Crimes Laws

This video and post by David Neiwert of Pat Robertson blasting the inclusion of protections for "sexual orientation" in federal hate crimes legislation tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the Religious Right's fundamental ignorance about the issue:

Then, of course, there's the Religious Right, which is holding its collective breath and pouting over the event. Case in point: Pat Robertson at The 700 Club, ripping into the new law both yesterday and today on his show.

His basis for opposing the law, however, is completely detached from reality. For instance, Robertson argues:

Robertson: You know, there’s a law – what about a law that says it’s a federal crime to attack somebody because of his religious beliefs? Not a chance!

Robertson seems completely unaware that in fact religious bias is one of the categories of bias crime covered by hate-crime laws -- and it has been from the very start, since these laws were first enacted on the state level in the early 1980s!

I had made this point time and time and time and time and time again and just assumed that the Religious Right leaders and activists were simply lying about this basic point ... but apparently they are genuinely ignorant of the fact that there already is a law "that says it’s a federal crime to attack somebody because of his religious beliefs." 

And yet people still continue to take the Right's claims seriously.  Amazing.

Religion is an "Immutable Characteristic," Sexual Orientation is Not

For months now, I've been trying to understand the reasoning behind the Republican and right-wing opposition to adding hate crimes protections for sexual orientation, noting that while they regularly complain that certain groups of people shouldn't be getting "special rights" or receiving extra protection, they are perfectly content to allow the existing hate crimes protections for religion to remain on the books.

As it turns out, the reason I couldn't understand their reasoning is that it is apparently rooted in a belief that sexual orientation is a choice, while religion is not

Last week, House Republican Leader John Boehner objected to House passage of a bill that would expand hate crime laws and make it a federal crime to assault people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

"All violent crimes should be prosecuted vigorously, no matter what the circumstance," he said. "The Democrats' 'thought crimes' legislation, however, places a higher value on some lives than others. Republicans believe that all lives are created equal, and should be defended with equal vigilance."

Based on that statement, CBSNews.com contacted Boehner's office to find out if the minority leader opposes all hate crimes legislation. The law as it now stands offers protections based on race, color, religion and national origin.

In an email, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said Boehner "supports existing federal protections (based on race, religion, gender, etc) based on immutable characteristics."

It should be noted that the current law does not include gender, though the expanded legislation would cover gender as well as sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

"He does not support adding sexual orientation to the list of protected classes," Smith continued.

Boehner's position, then, appears to be grounded in the notion that immutable characteristics should be protected under hate crimes laws. And while religion is an immutable characteristic, his office suggests, sexual orientation is not.

Is Yes On 8 Ashamed of Its Past?

As the vote on California's Proposition 8 neared last November, the organizers of the Yes on 8 effort suddenly began working hard to appear moderate and fair-minded in hopes of downplaying the radical nature of the groups that had endorsed the effort, including:

Alliance Defense Fund
American Family Association
California Family Alliance
California Family Council
Concerned Women for America
Coral Ridge Ministries
Eagle Forum of California
Eagle Forum of Sacramento
Faith2Action
Family Research Council
Focus on the Family
Liberty Counsel
Pacific Justice Institute
Traditional Values Coalition

Liberty Counsel's appearance on this list is especially interesting, considering that since Prop 8's passage, the folks behind Yes on 8 have gone into overdrive trying to prevent the organization from getting involved in the subsequent lawsuits and regularly fighting LC's efforts to intervene ... and succeeding:

It was a sunny summer morning, but inside a San Francisco federal courtroom the outlook for Rena Lindevaldsen of Liberty Counsel was cloudy.

Charles Cooper, representing the official anti-gay marriage forces in a federal court challenge to Proposition 8, wasn't fighting hard enough, she insisted. He wouldn't try to prove, for instance, that homosexuality is an "illness or disorder."

"Individuals should be entitled to treatment to change your sexual orientation," Lindevaldsen argued.

Cooper's team quickly deflected Liberty Counsel's attempt to intervene, saying it just wanted to fight battles that "can't be won." That left Cooper -- a consummate Beltway insider who avoids the kind of language favored by Lindevaldsen -- and his firm the sole legal representatives for 7 million Californians that supported Prop 8.

...

The official Yes on 8 effort has tried to distance itself from "fringe" groups that are too "strident or combative," [Yes on 8 General Counsel Andrew] Pugno said.

"I think it's fitting that the demeanor and tone of our lead counsel would reflect the demeanor and civilized tone that we tried to maintain during the campaign," he said.

So it seems that Yes on 8 was perfectly happy to have Liberty Counsel's support - along with the support of other militantly anti-gay organization like TVC, AFA, and Faith2Action - when they were trying to pass Prop 8, but now wants to distance itself from those sort of "strident and combative fringe" groups, even though those groups were the backbone of the organization and played a key role in its passage.

Another Loss In The Right’s Anti-Gay Legal Crusade

Over the last several months, we've been chronicling episodes in which Religious Right legal groups have stepped in to represent former lesbians who have decided that their former partners ought to have no access to the children they had raised together. Liberty Counsel has been active in several cases, as has the Alliance Defense Fund.

Today, the Montana Supreme Court decided another case in which the ADF was involved, regarding another custody battle involving two women who could not get married, as Montana does not grant marriage equality, and were unable to adopt children together, as state law apparently does not allow that either. One of the women, Barbara Maniaci, adopted two children and the two women raised them together for ten years until they split and Maniaci married a man and then decided that her former partner should not have access to the children.

The state Supreme Court diagreed:

The Montana Supreme Court Tuesday upheld parental rights for a Missoula woman who'd been part of a same-sex couple that cared for two adopted children, saying she's entitled to joint custody of the kids.

Supporters of the 6-1 decision hailed it as a victory for all parents, regardless of their marital status or sexual orientation.

"This is a victory for families in all shapes, sizes and colors," said Betsy Griffing, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana.

Justice James Nelson also issued a special concurrence, in which he wrote a blistering denunciation of discrimination against homosexuals.

"Naming it for the evil it is, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is an expression of bigotry," he wrote. "Lesbian and gay Montanans must not be forced to fight to marry, to raise their children and to live with the same dignity that is accorded heterosexuals."

And, predictably, professional anti-gay activists are outraged:

Jeff Laszloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation, called the court's decision "egregious."

"Basically, what the court did in this decision is said that no longer does a parent have to be declared unfit for a third party non-parent to be able to abridge the natural parents' rights and authorities over that child," Laszloffy told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN). "Now you just have to prove that that child has a psychological connection to you. And you can apply for, fight for, sue for parental rights and it's a crapshoot, you might get them, you might not."

While Laszloffy said he believed the issue of homosexual "rights" was not the original impetus behind the case, he noted, "I'm sure that the Montana Supreme Court is always looking for cases to push the homosexual agenda."

Attorney Matt McReynolds with the Pacific Justice Institute, which filed an amicus brief in the case, agreed.

"It actually seems like the plaintiff was favored in this case just because she was a lesbian," Reynolds told LSN. "It's fairly shocking how the Court wouldn't allow this person who had left the lesbian lifestyle to be freed from it - her and her children.

"It's very disturbing that someone who wants to get out of this lifestyle can still be trapped in it for years to come ... by someone who has no legal or adoptive relationship with the children."

Flashback: Bill O'Reilly Hearts Kevin Jennings' GLSEN and ‘Patriot’ Hilary Duff [video]

Fox News was against anti-gay bullying before it was for it. Or so it would seem.

Anyone who’s been watching Fox lately knows that GLSEN – which promotes tolerance and safety in schools and was founded by Obama school safety “czar” Kevin Jennings – is supposedly engaged in a secret plot to turn straight kids gay. That’s why right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin was so surprised when she saw a GLSEN ad on Fox yesterday:

Interesting. (Un)safe schools czar Kevin Jennings's GLSEN is running public service ad on...Fox News.

But she shouldn’t have been surprised. Just a year ago Fox News headliner Bill O’Reilly lavished praise on the group’s anti-bullying ad campaign and ‘patriot’ Hilary Duff:

But now that Kevin Jennings has a political target painted on his back, Fox is making GLSEN out to be public enemy #1. That’s just hypocritical nonsense.

GLSEN’s work is crucial and straightforward. It promotes tolerance and safety for all children, regardless of sexual orientation. Nothing more, nothing less. Even Fox has recognized the value of the group’s work.

Meanwhile the bashing of Kevin Jennings goes on, with Fox, the Washington Times, Limbaugh, and right-wing blogs taking turns. But the Obama Administration has given Jennings its full support. And the only way to defeat bullies is to refuse to give in to them.

[Jason Linkins at Huffington Post also reported on this story]

I Wonder What Chris Buttars Thinks His "Sexual Orientation" Is

Yesterday, I wrote a post about Utah state Senator Chris Buttars' refusal to believe that gays suffer discrimination and his threat to introduce legislation that would override any effort by Salt Lake City to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance.

The Deseret News has followed-up on Buttars' claim and just check out his utterly ridiculous explanation:

Sen. Chris Buttars has his eyes on Salt Lake City's proposed anti-discrimination law and the state lawmaker says he would likely take action to quash the ordinance should the City Council approve it.

"I don't think anybody should be discriminated against," said Buttars, R-West Jordan. "But in America, we have never given special privilege or protection to little groups. We give them to the entire nation."

Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker said he was "committed to eradicating discrimination in our city" last month as he unveiled the ordinance aimed at providing fair housing and employment protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

Buttars, however, said the LGBT community doesn't fall under the same protective umbrella as race, age and religion, which "affect everybody."

"We've never done what they're asking," he said, "nor have I seen any evidence that it needs to be done."

The Human Rights Commission of Salt Lake City released a report last month detailing incidences of discrimination in the city, many of which involved LGBT residents, but Buttars questioned the validity of some of those claims.

"I have never seen any facts to back it up," he said. "They want to say they're being hurt more than someone else, I guess. If anybody had a right to special protection it would be Mormons; they've been persecuted but not as bad as the American Indian. But they're not pounding on the newspaper's door. Or the Jewish people; the Jewish people have lots of people hate them. I love them. But you know that's true."

So apparently, things like race, religion, and age "affect everybody" so laws banning discrimination on those grounds are okay but "sexual orientation" only applies to a "little group" so any such law is unfair. and unneeded

Here's a newsflash: "sexual orientation" affects everyone too since everyone, even Chris Buttars, has a "sexual orientation," just as everyone has an age and a race.

Utah's Buttars: Gays Don't Really Experience Discrimination

You remember Utah state Senator Chris Buttars, who earlier this year compared gays to Islamic radicals, America to Sodom and Gomorrah, proclaimed that gays have no morals and declared that acceptance of their lifestyle will bring about the destruction of the nation, don't you?

Well, given such views, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that he refuses to believe that gays suffer discrimination and is threatening to introduce legislation that would override any effort by Salt Lake City to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance:

Republican State Senator Chris Buttars, who has said publicly that he believes gay people have no morals, isn’t one to shy away from giving his opinion on gay-rights issues. He doesn’t believe discrimination actually occurs against LGBT Utahns, and doesn’t believe sexual orientation should be a protected class. So if Salt Lake City passes an anti-discrimination ordinance that would apply to sexual orientation, he plans to respond from the state Capitol.

“I don’t believe the discrimination they scream about is really real,” he told KCPW. “I’m watching that to see what they try to do, and if they keep pushing it, then I will bring a bill about it.”

A Taste of What's To Come on ENDA

It was just last week that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was introduced in the Senate, so the Religious Right campaign of screaming their heads off is just getting off the ground. 

But Robert Knight of Coral Ridge Ministries gives us a nice preview of the sort of hyperbolic nonsense we can expect to see:

On Aug. 5, the GOP's Maine kleptocrats, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, joined Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and longtime sponsor Ted Kennedy in reintroducing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which we'll call the "gay quota bill" for short. ENDA is profoundly dangerous. It turns private sin into a public right and brings the force of government against morality itself. Any such law is a violation of our unalienable rights as proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. To put it more simply, a statute that directly contradicts God's moral law is illegitimate. Laws embody and reflect morality, or they are not laws. They are tyranny. That's why so-called same-sex "marriage" laws are absurd and treacherous. Forcing citizens to accept a counterfeit as the real thing is an act of despotism.

ENDA adds not only "sexual orientation" but "gender identity" to federal workplace anti-discrimination law. Thus, it takes an ax to the idea that sexual behavior has a natural normalcy or any relation to morality. It falsely equates a changeable condition (sexual desire) with race and ethnicity. Worse, it turns traditional values into a form of bigotry punishable under the law.

First of all, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act already has a short-hand name: ENDA.  So we don't need your suggestion that it should be called the "gay quota bill" because a) that's false and b) it's longer than the one we already have.

And secondly, it looks like efforts to pass this legislation are going to run into the same sort of Religious Right lies that plagued the hate crimes legislation, with right-wing activists claiming that it will grant "special rights" to those in the LGBT community. 

Of course, that will raise the exact same problems as their efforts to make that claim about hate crimes legislation, considering that there are already a number of federal laws on the books that outlaw employment discrimination based on things like race, religion, gender, and disability: 

    • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;

    • the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination;

    • the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older;

    • Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which prohibit employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local governments;

    • Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government

So, once again the Right will have to explain why gays shouldn't receive similar protections as say, Christians. 

And once again, they'll fail to do that because they have no reason other than claims that God hates gays and therefore it should be okay to discriminate against them, leading to pieces like Knight's where the Right is reduced to bellowing that any "statute that directly contradicts God's moral law is illegitimate."

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Jim Burroway is not buying Exodus' spin on the APA’s resolution against sexual orientation change efforts and Good As You isn't buying claims form other ex-gay advocates that the APA ignored research that shows sexual orientation is changeable through therapy.
  • Autumn Sandeen justifiably wonders how she became Peter LaBarbera's poster child for "Obama Tranny-Care."
  • David Weigel: A new poll from the Pew Research Center finds that 28 percent of Americans believe that there’s been “too little” coverage of “allegations that President Obama was not born in the United States” — including a plurality, 39 percent, of self-identified Republicans.
  • If you are rich and stupid, then Jerome Corsi's RED ALERT is for you!
  • Dick Morris and G. Gordon Liddy continue to demonstrate that they are despicable human beings.
  • I highly doubt that we'll be seeing the Religious Right trumpet this new poll considering that it dramatically undermines their new favorite claims that the majority of Americans have suddenly become anti-choice.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Box Turtle Bulletin: The American Psychological Association, meeting at their annual conference in Toronto, adopted a resolution today calling on mental health professionals to stop telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments. And in a direct challenge to NARTH and Exodus International, the resolution further calls on patients, guardians, families and other clients to avoid conversion therapy programs which portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder.
  • Steve Benen says it's impossible to deal with the Right because, no matter what you say or how your phrase it, "it's hard to anticipate just how paranoid some people will choose to be" and how they will distort it.
  • Kevin Drum says "every movement has its loons" but while Democrats never validate the ones on the left, Republicans make their right-wing ones the centerpiece of their movement.
  • There is just something funny about the Right trying to stoke anger and shut down Democratic town hall events while the RNC is refusing to take calls from "a bunch of angry liberals" about it.
  • And there is something even funnier about Frank Luntz complaining that Democrats would use "poll driven language" to "mislead the American people" on health care reform.
  • Salon's handy-dandy guide to refuting the Birthers.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Our latest Right Wing Watch In Focus is now available: "To Hell with Health Care Reform: Religious Right Leaders Attack Obama, Spout GOP Dogma about 'Socialism' While Fanning Flames on Abortion."
  • D.C. lobbying firm Bonner and Associates has been busted sending forged letters opposing climate change legislation to members of Congress and blames it on a "temp" who has been fired, though they seem to have a history of pulling these sorts of astroturf stunts.
  • Dick Armey explains why he doesn't believe in global warming: "[T]he lord God almighty made the heavens and the Earth, and he made them to his satisfaction and it is quite pretentious of we little weaklings here on earth to think that, that we are going to destroy God’s creation."
  • Matthew Yglesias: Just When You Thought the “Beer Summit” Story Couldn’t Get Any More Ridiculous…
  • Jim Burroway takes an in-depth look at NARTH's new "peer reviewed" study proving that sexual orientation can be changed.
  • Finally, Steve Benen takes a look at the fascinating new Daily Kos poll showing who does and who does not believe that President Obama was born in the United States.

Marginalize or Be Marginalized

One of the points I have tried to drive home regarding the Religious Right's purported opposition to the current hates crimes legislation is that they don't actually oppose hate crimes in general, they just oppose offering protection to gays. 

They claim that hate crimes laws give certain groups "special rights" and are therefore discriminatory.  If that is indeed what they believe, then the logical position for them to take would be to call for the complete repeal of all existing hate crimes laws, such as the federal law that provides protections for things like race and religion. 

But they haven't offered to forgo the "special rights" they receive as Christians or even bothered to acknowledge this basic fact, choosing instead to harp on the addition of "sexual orientation" to the existing law as somehow a threat to their religious liberty.

Well, Dan Gilgoff has written a piece taking a look at the Right's scare-tactics about this legislation and points out that they are all completely unfounded:

Legal experts note that under the hate crimes bill, a person's religious beliefs about homosexuality become relevant only once he or she is accused of a violent crime against someone from the LGBT community. The bill prohibits a defendant's religious expressions and associations from being introduced as substantive evidence at trial, though the information can be used to help determine whether the defendant was motivated by bias. "Your penalty is being enhanced because of your religious beliefs," says Prof. Douglas Laycock of the University of Michigan Law School. "But you're being prosecuted for the crime."

Proponents of an expanded hate crimes law say religious beliefs should be subject to scrutiny if they lead to violence. "Even the strongest proponents of religious freedom do not claim that religious liberty means the right to beat people up," says Prof. Andrew Koppelman of the Northwestern University School of Law.

Conservative religious activists, meanwhile, point to recent developments in Australia, Canada, and Sweden, where religious conservatives have been penalized for so-called hate speech, even where such speech did not lead to violence. But legal scholars note that those countries lack the robust free speech protections of the First Amendment. And even opponents of expanding the hate crimes law acknowledge that statutes widely adopted by individual states have not resulted in litigation over religious liberty or free speech violations—though many cover the LGBT community. "If somebody had been prosecuted simply for speech, we would have heard about it by now," says Laycock.

So why has the Right been so vehemently opposed to this legislation?  Mainly because, as Tony Perkins admitted last month, their real fear is that if protection for gays are added, it would make gays "equivalent to other categories of protection" and, if that happens, the Religious Right's anti-gays views will be seen as "equivalent to racial bigotry."

And Erik Stanley of the Alliance Defense Fund basically admitted it to Gilgoff as well: 

As religious conservatives mount a last-ditch effort to derail the bill, however, legal experts say the legislation narrowly focuses on violent acts and that pastors' speech remains protected by the First Amendment. And some religious activists acknowledge that they're less concerned about the immediate effects of expanding hate crimes protections than about the broader message it sends. "This is the first time you would have written into law a government disapproval of a religious belief held by the majority of Americans—that homosexuality is sinful," says Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. "It's more of a slippery slope argument than about the law itself."

They are afraid that as society progresses and being gay become increasingly acceptable, their right-wing views are going to become less acceptable.

In short: the more mainstream gays become, the less mainstream the Religious Right becomes ... and that is what they fear more than anything.

Hate Crimes Deja Vu

With hate crimes legislation scheduled to be voted on in the Senate next week, the Religious Right seems somewhat resigned to the fact that they do not have to votes to stop it or even slow it down, but that doesn't mean that they aren't trying.

Yesterday was apparently "National 'Stop S. 909' Day" during which "the American Family Association, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and other conservative activist groups [urged] their supporters to call, e-mail, fax, or visit their senators today to express their disapproval of S. 909, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (Senate Bill 909)."

James Dobson and Tony Perkins discussed it on Dobson's radio program yesterday, with Dobson proclaiming that its passage would be used to silence pastors and Focus on the Family is calling on its activists to contact their senators and ""ask them to oppose S.909 or 'hate-crimes' legislation in any form."

Of course, as we've pointed out before, the Religious Right doesn't really oppose "hate crimes legislation in any form," they just oppose protection for gays.

But since it looks like they'll be unable to stop the legislation's passage, they appear to be turning their attention toward stopping efforts to amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to include bullying and harassment prevention program because it also provides protection based on sexual orientation ... and so they are trotting out the exact same bogus claims they used in opposing hate crimes legislation:

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a so-called bullying bill that would require public schools to spell out special categories in their discipline policies, including "sexual orientation" and "gender identity."

Family advocates say it will pave the way for a pro-homosexual, adult-driven agenda in public schools.

The name of the bill is Safe Schools Improvement Act.

Focus on the Family's Education Analyst Candi Cushman explained that there is a way to deal with the issue in a fair and objective way, without sexualizing and politicizing the school environment.

"We recognize that bullying and the harm it causes in the lives of kids is tragic and shouldn't be allowed to happen," Cushman said. "We agree schools should be encouraged to have strong policies prohibiting bullying—applied equally and across the board, against any child for any reason."

She said parents need to keep a close watch on the progress of the bill, because if it passes, it could be used to undermine parental rights and local control.

"People need to realize that gay activists will use this federal mandate as the leverage they need to get promotion of homosexuality into public schools," Cushman cautioned.

Jeremiah Dys, president of The Family Policy Council of West Virginia, said the bill's language is taking the focus off of the real problem.

"A bully is a bully because he's a bully, not because of who he bullies," Dys said. "The rules ought to be enforced against the bullies regardless of who they're bullying or what actions he takes."

The Traditional Values Coalition has also come out against it by tying it into the Religious Right's crusade against Kevin Jennings, claiming it turn the nation's public schools into bastions of homosexuality:

If this legislation is passed, it will permit Jennings to spend millions of our tax dollars to push the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender agenda in schools under the guise of fighting “bullying” and allegedly promoting “school safety.”

...

Jennings will use millions of our tax dollars to push the promotion of lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender behaviors upon hundreds of thousands of school districts throughout our nation.

Make no mistake: The Safe Schools Improvement Act is an ATM machine for the LGBT agenda. Issues about school safety and bullying are simply smokescreens to hide the real agenda.

Note the definitions of bullying and harassment. Under this bill, any gay or cross-dressing teen who is “bullied” or “harassed,” can claim protection. It includes a teen’s “actual or perceived” sexual orientation or gender identity (code for cross-dressers or transsexuals).

If a straight teen criticizes the sexual behavior of a gay or cross-dressing teen, he is guilty of bullying or harassment. This is a direct attack upon free speech.

Let's take a look at the definitions of bullying and harrassment, as TVC suggests, shall we:

(12) BULLYING- The term `bullying' means conduct that--

`(A) adversely affects the ability of one or more students to participate in or benefit from the school's educational programs or activities by placing the student (or students) in reasonable fear of physical harm; and

`(B) includes conduct that is based on--

`(i) a student's actual or perceived--

`(I) race;

`(II) color;

`(III) national origin;

`(IV) sex;

`(V) disability;

`(VI) sexual orientation;

`(VII) gender identity; or

`(VIII) religion;

`(ii) any other distinguishing characteristics that may be defined by a State or local educational agency; or

`(iii) association with a person or group with one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics listed in clause (i) or (ii).

`(13) HARASSMENT- The term `harassment' means conduct that--

`(A) adversely affects the ability of one or more students to participate in or benefit from the school's educational programs or activities because the conduct, as reasonably perceived by the student (or students), is so severe, persistent, or pervasive; and

`(B) includes conduct that is based on--

`(i) a student's actual or perceived--

`(I) race;

`(II) color;

`(III) national origin;

`(IV) sex;

`(V) disability;

`(VI) sexual orientation;

`(VII) gender identity; or

`(VIII) religion;

`(ii) any other distinguishing characteristics that may be defined by a State or local educational agency; or

`(iii) association with a person or group with one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics listed in clause (i) or (ii).

Bullying entails "reasonable fear of physical harm" and harassment must be "severe, persistent, or pervasive" but, just as they did with hate crimes, the Right is completely misrepresenting this legislation.

And notice also that they are not complaining about the protections included for religion or race - they are simply opposed to protections for gays.

It's becoming pretty clear that even after the hate crimes legislation is passed by Congress and signed into law, we can look forward to having the same exact fight over anti-bullying legislation, complete with the same exact right-wing scare-tactics and false claims.

The Right's Hate Crimes Opposition in a Nutshell

One point I have tried to make in my various posts about the Religious Right's opposition to expanding hate crimes protection to cover "sexual orientation" is the fundamental disconnect between their claims and the basic facts.

As I've said before the Religious Right has two basic options in explaining it opposition to adding sexual orientation: 1) explain why something like religion receives and deserves protection while sexual orientation does not, even though there are nearly 2.5 times as many violent hate crimes targeting individuals because of their sexual orientation as there are violent crimes targeting individuals because of religion or 2) advocate doing away with hate crimes laws completely while explaining why the existing enhanced penalties for a racist who burns a cross on someone's lawn or a neo-Nazi who burns down a synagogue are "extraneous and obsolete."

But instead of doing either of these things, Religious Right groups tend to try and muddy the waters by conflating all of the issues.  Case in point is the written testimony [PDF] the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee opposing the legislation in which he claims to oppose hate crimes laws in general but then admits that what he really opposes is expanding existing law to cover sexual orientation:

The Family Research Council strongly opposes the enactment of a Federal hate crimes law (H.R. 1913).

Hate crime laws force the court to guess the thoughts and beliefs which lie behind a crime, instead of looking at the crime itself, in order to prosecute and convict someone of a hate crime. Violent crimes are already punishable by law. “Hate crime” laws put the perpetrator’s thoughts and beliefs on trial. Hate crime laws are tantamount to federally prosecuting “thought crimes.” The Family Research Council believes that all crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and that every violent crime has some form of hate behind it. All around the country, crimes are being prosecuted in the state justice systems. American justice is being done. There is simply no need for a federal hate crimes law ... A federal hate crime law is unnecessary and violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

This claims is immediately followed by Perkins' assertion that "expanding the Federal hate crime law would not only be unnecessary, it would be ineffective."

Note the he is not calling for a repeal of the existing Federal hate crime law that currently covers things like race and religion, even though he asserts that such laws are fundamentally unconstitutional, but is instead opposing efforts to "expand" it to cover "sexual orientation."

And to explain why, Perkins then trots out all of the standard right-wing lies:

Family Research Council has a particular concern regarding such laws, however, when they include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" (a reference to cross-dressing and sex-change operations) among the categories of protection. This sends the false message that deviant sexual behaviors are somehow equivalent to other categories of protection such as race or sex. In fact, the very term "hate crime" is offensive in this context, in that it implies that mere disapproval of sexually extreme behavior constitutes a form of "hate"equivalent to racial bigotry.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not defined in the bill. As such, it is not clear from this lack of definition what the bill authors intend for sexual orientation and gender identity to mean or how these terms should be construed in law. Since these terms are not defined by the bill itself, it is possible that someone could claim protection for their “sexual orientation” based on participation in one of the 30 paraphilias listed in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which include pedophilia and bestiality.

Note again how Perkins' main concern is not with existing hate crimes protections but rather that expanding those protection to cover gays would make them "equivalent to other categories of protection." But what he and his allies are really concerned about is the fear that, if this legislation passes, their anti-gays views will be seen as "equivalent to racial bigotry."

And that, in essence, is really what the Right's opposition is all about.

For The Last Time, Stop Lying About Hate Crimes Legislation

I have written several dozen posts debunking right-wing lies about hate crimes legislation in the last few weeks and each time I have thought to myself "this is the last time I am writing about this."  And then, inevitably, I see something even more inane than the last thing I wrote about and feel compelled to write yet another post, making the same point one more time.

So here is yet another post making the same point one more time.

First, here's Pat Robertson saying that if this legislation passes, anyone who so much as speaks out about homosexuality would be charged with a hate crime:

The standard right-wing talking point on this issue is to claim that if a pastor speaks out about homosexuality from the pulpit and then some parishioner goes out at beats up a gay person, the pastor will be charged with a hate crime and tossed in jail.

But apparently even that false claim was too complex for Robertson and his viewers, so he just skipped it entirely and went straight to warning Christians that they would be imprisoned for opposing homosexuality.

In either case, the claim is untrue.

The version that passed the House contains this provision:

Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by, the Constitution.

The version that is now in the Senate contains an even more specific provision:

CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.

FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual's expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual's membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.

Robertson also asserts that this legislation will be struck down as unconstitutional because it infringes upon free speech. But considering that, as I have pointed out time and again, hate crimes laws that protect things like race and religion already exist and they have not been struck down, so there is no reason to think that laws protecting sexual orientation would be stuck down.

The idea that hate crimes laws infringe free speech is ludicrous.  Hate crimes protections for race and religion have existed for over a decade and racist or anti-religious speech has not been made illegal and nobody has been charged with a hate crime for engaging in such speech.

If hate crimes legislation did the sort of things the Right claims, outspoken opponents of religion like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris would be sitting in jail as we speak.

But they aren't - and the reason they aren't is because hate crimes laws don't infringe upon the exercise of free speech.

You're All Going to Jail: A Friendly Warning from Charles Colson to the Southern Baptist Convention

Charles Colson, who knows his way around a jail cell, told Southern Baptist pastors that they would be headed behind bars, too, if the current Hate Crimes bill becomes law.

In an address to the Southern Baptist Convention Pastor's Conference, Colson chose to attack everything from the Hate Crimes bill to Islam:

"Sponsors of congressional hate crimes legislation insist it won't restrict speech, but Colson warned that ministers will face the threat of prosecution within the next two years.

He also said medical professionals are losing their conscience right to refuse to perform abortions, and faith-based ministries could soon have to hire non-believers.

Colson also predicted a continuing threat from Islamic terrorists and dismissed the Qu'ran as an "irrational invention of Muhammad rather than divinely inspired scripture."

It seems Colson is reverting back to the Right's tired (and false) argument: If we protect LGBT people from violent crimes targeted specifically at them because of their sexual orientation, then any conservative, anti-homosexual priest who speaks out against homosexuality will be jailed.

Maybe Colson is still shaken up, and paranoid, by his own 7-month prison sentence due to his involvement in Watergate.

Sen. DeMint: The Right's Man In Washington

Currently, the Religious Right does not have a great deal of influence on Capitol Hill.  Gone are the days when Republican leaders like Tom DeLay, Rick Santorum, or Bill Frist would regularly attend the Right's gatherings and, considering that some members of the movement have even had a falling-out with allies like Sen. Sam Brownback, the lack of leadership for the Religious Right's agenda in Congress has been particularly noticeable as of late.

But never fear, because Sen. Jim DeMint has recently stepped-up big time and established himself as the Right's most committed and loyal advocate on the Hill.

A few months back, when the Right was trying to generate controversy over the stimulus legislation, DeMint took their complaints right onto the Senate floor and forced a vote on his effort  to strip an entirely non-controversial provision from the bill at the behest of right-wing groups like the American Center for Law and Justice. 

Earlier this month, we reported that DeMint was continuing to carry water for the Right, personally telling Rick Scarborough of Vision America that he would lead a filibuster against hate crimes legislation.  Today we have come to find out DeMint is now sending out a letter addressed to pastors and other religious leaders urging them to get active in helping him oppose the legislation.

Though the letter doesn't appear anywhere on his official website, it has been posted on Vision America's website and you can get a PDF copy here:

I am writing you today to remind you that religious principles and biblical teachings produced the values and policies that made America exceptional, prosperous, and good.

In recent decades, Congress and the courts have adopted policies that have proved destructive to faith, families, and freedom in America, but no one action has been as damaging as the "hate crimes" legislation will be. This hate crime legislation will replace "equal justice under law" with arbitrary justice based on the race, religion, or sexual orientation of criminals and their victims. More importantly, it will lead to the criminalization of biblical truth as "hate speech."

Under this legislation, a pastor who teaches that homosexuality is wrong could be accused of a hate crime or charged with "inducing" a violent crime against a gay person.

Please tell your congregation this legislation is not about "hate" (all violent crimes are hateful); it is about taking away your freedom to speak and preach biblical truth. It takes away your right to say that some things are wrong. We need millions of Americans to call and email their Senators, especially Democrat Senators who are pushing this legislation. Majority Leaders Harry Reid has promised to pass this legislation in the next few weeks (the House already has).

DeMint's letter concludes by urging recipients to visit the Family Research Council's website for more info and to contact their own senators to voice their opposition.

And because good things always comes in threes, today we also learned that DeMint has introduced the Parental Rights Amendment in Congress, which is the brainchild of Michael Farris, the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College, the so-called "Harvard for homeschoolers."

It seems pretty safe to assume that we'll be seeing a lot more of these types of things from DeMint in the future, as he has become the primary conduit through which the Religious Right's agenda makes its way in the halls of Congress.

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sexual orientation Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Wednesday 03/23/2011, 9:28am
On Monday, the State Department issued a joint statement in the UN’s Human Rights Council opposing the criminalization of homosexuality. Currently, well over 70 countries impose criminal penalties for gays and lesbians, and the statement has the support of 84 countries. According to the Family Research Council, however, the US is committing a great injustice by condemning the criminalization of people because of their sexual orientation. The FRC dubs it “Operation International Tolerance,” complete with a picture of Obama wearing a rainbow helmet: The FRC claims that the... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 03/14/2011, 11:03am
Following Focus on the Family’s staunch criticism of Lady Gaga over her new song ‘Born This Way,’ Chuck Colson is now attacking Gaga for claiming that sexual orientation is not a choice. The Religious Right leader also goes after Attorney General Eric Holder, who recently announced that the Justice Department will no longer defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act and said that a person’s sexual orientation should be considered comparable to sex, religion, race, and national origin. Colson quotes conservative writer and Gaga-critic Frank Furedi in arguing... MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 03/09/2011, 6:47pm
GOP may abandon effort to defund Planned Parenthood. NOM promises to spend $1 million to defeat marriage equality and its proponents in Maryland. Disgraced former congressman Bob Livingston named the top fundraiser for the Louisiana GOP. Lisa Ling reports that even the head of Exodus International believes “you can't change your sexual orientation.” Birthers at WorldNetDaily absolutely flabbergasted that the Supreme Court rejected their lawsuit against Obama. Michele Bachmann still has no idea what she’s talking about. Bryan Fischer... MORE
Brian Tashman, Friday 03/04/2011, 5:06pm
At the end of 2010, the city commission of Manhattan, Kansas, passed an ordinance that adds sexual orientation and gender identity protections to anti-discrimination law, as neither category is protected under the statewide law against discrimination in housing and employment. Naturally, Religious Right groups were enraged and now are moving to repeal the ordinance. A new group called Awaken Manhattan accuses the commission of creating “special rights,” “exalting a lifestyle that is morally wrong,” and legalizing gay sex in the workplace. The group also features video... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 02/22/2011, 5:49pm
The Montana State House is currently considering legislation that would prevent the city of Missoula from implementing an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The legislation, proposed by Republican State Rep. Kristin Hansen, would prohibit local governments from going farther than state law in enacting protected classes, was passed out of committee after they rejected an effort to expand the state law. Since Montana does not have a statewide protection for sexual orientation or gender identity, Missoula’... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 02/22/2011, 5:49pm
The Montana State House is currently considering legislation that would prevent the city of Missoula from implementing an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The legislation, proposed by Republican State Rep. Kristin Hansen, would prohibit local governments from going farther than state law in enacting protected classes, was passed out of committee after they rejected an effort to expand the state law. Since Montana does not have a statewide protection for sexual orientation or gender identity, Missoula’... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 02/15/2011, 1:28pm
As Religious Right groups accelerate their campaign against anti-bullying policies in schools, Gary Glenn of the American Family Association of Michigan wants to use his experience fighting anti-bullying policies as a model for anti-gay groups in other states. From California to Minnesota, organizations like Focus on the Family have ramped up their efforts to stop schools from implementing anti-bullying policies that protect LGBT students, who studies show face widespread harassment in schools. Glenn joined Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality to brag about his role in... MORE