Supreme Court

Supreme Court Rejects Attempt At Restrictive Six-Week Abortion Ban

There has long been a debate raging within the anti-abortion movement between those who have mapped out a careful strategy to slowly chip away at Roe v. Wade through incremental restrictions on abortion and those who want to launch legal broadsides against abortion rights in the hopes that one will take Roe down once and for all.

The incrementalists will have their big day in court on March 2, when the Supreme Court hears arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a challenge to a set of laws in Texas that seeks to cut off access to legal abortion even as the procedure remains legal. Whole Woman’s Health is the culmination of a decades-long strategy by groups like Americans United for Life to choke off abortion access by creating unnecessary regulations on clinics. These groups are also hoping to get the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe in the form of laws banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, just before when the court has said that abortion bans are legal.

But those who want to find a silver bullet to end abortion rights completely just had a day in court too … and it didn’t go well for them.

The Supreme Court today declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down North Dakota’s “fetal heartbeat” law, which would have banned abortion at about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know that they are pregnant. The law was clearly unconstitutional — one prominent anti-choice lawyer has called such efforts “futile” — but North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said that it was an “attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.”

The boundaries of Roe v. Wade, it turns out, however much they may be weakened by incremental restrictions, still prevent banning almost all abortions.

Yet today’s rejection is unlikely to halt the efforts of “heartbeat bill” crusaders, the most prominent of whom is Religious Right activist Janet Porter, who is currently running for the legislature in her home state of Ohio in an effort to push such a bill through.

Conservative Pundit: Impeach Kennedy Over Marriage Equality Ruling

On Tuesday, Sandy Rios of the American Family Association denounced the nomination of Wilhelmina Wright for a seat on the federal district court in Minnesota, urging Senate Republicans to not only oppose Wright but also to block every single one of President Obama’s remaining judicial nominees.

The Senate confirmed Wright’s nomination yesterday, angering Rios, who invited right-wing activist Phillip Jauregui of the Judicial Action Group on to her radio show this morning to talk about the importance of judicial nominations.

Rios told Jauregui that the Senate must stop even holding a vote for President Obama’s judicial nominees because “when you put judges on the court who do not respect the Constitution or are not really loyal to American values as expressed in the Constitution, there is no justice.”

The two moved on to discuss the Supreme Court’s decision to take up a case on the legality of Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which Rios found “tremendously concerning because that court is out of control itself and is not delivering justice, they’re delivering their own personal opinions.”

She cited the Obergefell decision, which struck down state bans on same-sex marriage, as one such ruling, saying she was “just devastated” upon hearing about the “absolutely irrational” decision. “It made no sense whatsoever and I don’t trust them anymore,” she said.

Jauregui, criticizing Justice Kennedy’s “horrendous” opinion in Obergefell, said that the justice is “horrible and he’s honestly a judge that ought to be impeached”

Later, Jauregui claimed that members of Congress would never block the president’s executive actions, giving him a reason to issue further ones of questionable legality. “This is not far from an imperial dictator we’re talking about,” he said.

Rios urged congressional Republicans to “find their spine” and stop spending time hating on Ted Cruz.

Ben Carson: Gay Marriage Jeopardizes 'Live And Let Live,' Free Speech

Back in November, Ben Carson appeared on “Kingdom Connection with Jentezen Franklin,” to discuss how the U.S. Constitution “was written at an eighth-grade level” so “that the American people could understand it.”

However, Carson said that “the people who claim they are constitutional scholars,” like justices on the Supreme Court, are making a “mess” because, he alleged, they haven’t read the Constitution.

The Republican presidential candidate alleged that gay rights advocates want to classify certain speech as “hate speech,” claiming that they use “hate speech ridicule” to silence others and don’t believe in “live and let live.”

The way it works now is they target you and they have all kind of hate speech ridicule, if there’s a way they can bring action against you they will do that, try to ruin your life. Look at all the people who because of their religious convictions and their belief in what the Bible says have lost their livelihood and they’re put in jeopardy over the gay marriage issue, when in fact this is supposed to be a country where you live and let live. I personally don’t have any problem with any two people, regardless of what their feelings are, of living together, of getting a lawyer to create some documents so they can share property and have hospital visitation rights, but to change the definition of marriage, the problem is once you do that for one group, why wouldn’t you have to do that for the next group?

“Everybody gets equal rights, but nobody gets extra rights, extra rights to change everything for everybody else to suit them,” he added.

Carson went on to warn that “the secular-progressive movement” is bent on “beating people down so that they are silent” and having them “sit down and shut up so they can drive the boat.” If evangelical Christians don’t “stand up,” Carson warned, “it’s going to be too late.”

Anti-Gay Activists Rally Behind Roy Moore, Who Touts 'States' Rights'

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is winning plaudits from Religious Right groups after he issued an administrative order directing probate judges in his state not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Moore was an anti-gay activist in his own right before returning to the court in 2013, founding the far-right Foundation for Moral Law, which has published yesterday’s order on its website.

Moore told the far-right site WorldNetDaily that the Obergefell case provides “a wonderful time to teach the people of our country about states’ rights,” explaining that his order reflects the fact that “states do have powers.”

Already, Moore is winning support from those who called on state and local officials, such as Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, to defy the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling.

Phillip Jauregui of the Judicial Action Group:

This Order is both courageous and very well-reasoned. We need more federal and state officers like Chief Justice Moore who understand that the job of the Federal Judiciary is not to legislate from the bench, but rather to simply decide disputes between parties consistent with the text of the Constitution. Judicial opinions, like Obergefell v. Hodges, that purport to set policy for all of America are simply not supported by the Constitutional grant of powers given to the Judiciary.

Thank God for Chief Justice Moore! Please keep him, his family, and his staff in your prayers!

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel:

“I applaud Chief Justice Roy Moore for this order reaffirming the marriage law in Alabama,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The Alabama Supreme Court issued an order in March 2015 barring probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses after a federal court in January of last year overturned Alabama's voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman,” Staver explained. “In Alabama and across America, state judiciaries and legislatures are standing up against the federal judiciary or anyone else who wants to come up with some cockeyed view that somehow the Constitution now births some newfound notion of same-sex marriage."

“The opinion of five lawyers on the U.S. Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage is lawless and without legal or historical support," Staver concluded.

National Organization for Marriage:

These legal developments are consistent with the developing resistance in America to the Supreme Court's attempt to legislate from the bench when it comes to marriage, ignoring the federal constitution in the process and inventing out of thin air a "right" to same-sex 'marriage.'

The American people reject judicial activism of the US Supreme Court and their attempt to redefine marriage. They continue to support marriage as it has existed throughout our nation's history, the union of one man and one woman.

Sanctity of Marriage Alabama:

Sanctity of Marriage Alabama applauds Chief Justice Roy Moore for doing his job and clarifying what is, in fact, the current law in Alabama. Chief Justice Moore has a constitutional duty (see Ala. Code 12-2-30) as head of the judicial system to "[take affirmative action to correct any] situation adversely affecting the administration of justice within the state." He has done this today. We expect that the associate justices of the Alabama Supreme Court will once again follow the line of duty before God and the Constitutions of the United States and Alabama as they did back in March."

Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio:

Roy Moore Tries To Block Gay Marriage In Alabama, Again

Roy Moore, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, is trying to stoke yet another fight with the federal judiciary over marriage equality. 

Moore, a Republican with a harsh anti-gay record, was elected to serve as chief justice in 2012 after being removed from that same office in 2003 for defying a federal court ruling on his installation of a Ten Commandments monument in the courthouse rotunda. 

Early last year, Moore similarly challenged a federal court’s ruling striking down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage, cementing his status as a Religious Right hero and martyr.

It appears that he is not backing down from that fight, as today Moore released an administrative order, provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center, claiming that probate judges must abide by a state law barring same-sex marriage, despite the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling.

Confusion and uncertainty exist among the probate judges of this State as to the effect of Obergefell on the "existing orders" in API. Many probate judges are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in accordance with Obergefell; others are issuing marriage licenses only to couples of the opposite gender or have ceased issuing all marriage licenses. This disparity affects the administration of justice in this State.



Yet the fact remains that the administration of justice in the State of Alabama has been adversely affected by the apparent conflict between the decision of the Alabama Supreme Court in API and the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell.



IT IS ORDERED AND DIRECTED THAT:
Until further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court that Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain in full force and effect.

As Bryan Lyman of the Montgomery Advertiser pointed out, Alabama’s attorney general directed state agencies to comply with Obergefell, which struck down state bans on same-sex marriage.

Moore hinted that he would issue such an order back in July, when he claimed that states should defy gay marriage because it is “unlawful” and violates “higher law,” much like Nazi decrees. He has also stated that gay marriage is a Satanic plot that will usher in divine punishment and “literally cause the destruction of our country.”

In September, Moore vocally backed Kentucky clerk Kim Davis in her fight to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, comparing her to Holocaust victims.

The Foundation for Moral Law, which Moore founded and is currently led by his wife, Kayla Moore, also called on states to defy Obergefell and said it was “determined” to fight the decision in Alabama.

In a statement from his wife in June, which Moore shared on his Facebook page, the group said Obergefell was invalid and illegitimate: “Not only does the U.S. Supreme Court have no legal authority to redefine marriage, but also at least 2 members of the Court’s majority opinion were under a legal duty to recuse and refrain from voting. Their failure to recuse calls into question the validity of this decision.”

Elsewhere, Republican lawmakers in several states are trying to nullify Obergefell.

GOP legislators in Michigan and Tennessee are attempting to pass legislation negating the ruling in their states, and the Spartanburg Herald Journal reported yesterday on two Republican legislators in South Carolina who want to see the state challenge the marriage equality ruling:

Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Woodruff, and Rep. Mike Burns, R-Taylors, pre-filed a bill in the House to define marriage as between one man and one woman. He also aims for his bill to invalidate same-sex marriages in South Carolina. The bill is titled as the South Carolina Natural Marriage Defense Act.

"I represent the people, and the people have shown several times that they are opposed to this, and are in favor of traditional marriage," Chumley said.



The Supreme Court ruling in June legalizing same-sex marriage came down to a 5 to 4 vote, Chumley said. He said the split vote was indicative of the views of all Americans.

"Apparently, those four people believe like we do," he said. "I do believe that something that's a close vote like that sends a message, it's not cut and dry."

An Arizona Republican lawmaker has also filed a bill that would prohibit the state from implementing any executive order or Supreme Court decision.

HB 2024 would forbid the state from using its resources to implement any presidential executive order unless it had been approved by Congress and found to be constitutional. Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said he crafted it even before President Obama announced on Tuesday he is taking executive action to redefine who is a gun dealer and subject to requirements to do background checks.



But HB 2024 also would extend the same language to decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Finchem said that, absent congressional action, there is no reason that Arizona should have to do anything — or use state resources — to comply with court rulings.

In fact, Finchem told Capitol Media Services it’s wrong to even call what comes from the high court a “ruling.” And he derided the idea that the justices created “case law.”

“It’s not law at all,” he said.

“It’s case opinion and past practice, past application,” continued Finchem who got seven other Republicans to sign on as co-sponsors of the measure. And he said that it really is just the opinion of the majority of justices in a given case.

“The court can pass an opinion all day long,” he said. “But until that opinion goes back to Congress and becomes an enactment, and is signed into law, a statute, by the president, it’s not operable.”



One ruling in that category is the decision by the justices that states cannot deny the right to wed to same-sex couples. The net effect was to tell states that if they issue marriage licenses they have to make them available to all couples regardless of sexual orientation.

Finchem said he sees no reason why the justices, on their own, can force that on states. He said civil marriage is essentially a creation of the Internal Revenue Service on the premise the taxing agency needed to know who was entitled to certain benefits.

“If the federal government wants to issue a gay marriage license, they’re free to do that,” Finchem said. “But it’s not a state license.”

More to the point, he said the federal government — and a federal court — cannot force the state to do something when it’s contrary to the state’s own constitution.

Carly Fiorina Promises To Nominate Anti-Choice Supreme Court Justices

In a conference call with anti-abortion activists last night, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina promised that, if elected, she would “nominate pro-life justices” to the Supreme Court along with signing a budget defunding Planned Parenthood and pushing through a national 20-week abortion ban.

“Here’s what I will do and here’s what I want people to hold me accountable for,” she said on a conference call hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List's Marjorie Dannenfelser and Priests for Life's Frank Pavone. “If President Obama vetoes our attempts between now and the election — which, unfortunately, sadly, he may — I will deliver a budget that defunds Planned Parenthood. I will nominate pro-life justices. I will get the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protect Act passed.”

When she ran for Senate in California in 2010, Fiorina said that abortion rights would not be a litmus test for her votes on Supreme Court nominees.

Fiorina, who has come under fire for a series of falsehoods on the campaign trail, including repeatedly describing a video of Planned Parenthood that does not exist, also told participants that her main strategy for handling hostile questioning is to always “speak the truth.”

“You know, the truth shall set you free,” she said. “We all know this, we read it in the Bible. The truth shall set you free.”

“Don’t worry so much about finding exactly the right words, if that’s what you’re worried about,” she advised. “Worry about, concentrate on speaking the truth. Speak what you know to be the truth. that’s a powerful thing, it’s always a powerful thing, and that’s what I will keep doing. No one is going to frighten me into silence.”

Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, has made no secret of her admiration for Fiorina, telling call participants that Fiorina is a model candidate for her organization, which largely endorses female candidates opposed to abortion rights.

Ben Carson: 'America As We Know It Is Gone' If Hillary Clinton Pick Next Supreme Court Justices

On the Saturday edition of Breitbart News’ Sirius XM show, Ben Carson said that while he would consider leaving the Republican Party if officials “subvert the will of the voters” in the presidential nomination contest, he would rule out running as a third-party candidate for president.

“That would guarantee Hillary’s victory,” Carson said of a third-party bid. “If we get another progressive president and they get two or three Supreme Court picks, America as we know it is gone.”

Carson has previously said that if he is elected president, he would not feel obligated to recognize Supreme Court rulings, claiming the executive branch does not “have the responsibility to carry out a judicial law.”

Ginsburg Calls Out The Roberts Court's Empowering The Powerful

The Supreme Court issued a ruling today in another of its series of arbitration cases. Yet again, the Court upheld the ability of a powerful corporation to force consumers to agree to arbitration and sign away their right to engage in class action should the company violate their legal rights. Class actions are a vital mechanism to hold large businesses accountable. We’ve been writing about this trend for the past several years in cases like AT&T v. Concepcion and American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant.

Unlike the other cases, today's ruling in DIRECTV v. Imburgia was not 5-4 in the predictable lineup. Instead, it was 6-3, with Justice Breyer writing the opinion, joined by Justices Kagan, Scalia, Alito, Kennedy, and Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Ginsburg (joined by Justice Sotomayor) dissented, while Justice Thomas had a separate dissent.

Ginsburg’s dissent opened up with clear description of how the Roberts Court has empowered corporations and weakened consumers:

It has become routine, in a large part due to this Court’s decisions, for powerful economic enterprises to write into their form contracts with consumers and employees no-class-action arbitration clauses. … Acknowledging the precedent so far set by the Court, I would take no further step to disarm consumers, leaving them without effective access to justice.

Americans have long been able to count on strong consumer protection laws to protect them for being victimized by predatory corporations. Those laws, including the right to class actions, have been essential in letting ordinary people stand as equals to giant corporations and hold those businesses accountable. Ginsburg is correct to say that the line of 5-4 arbitration cases has left us “disarmed,” because giant corporations are increasingly empowered to change the relationship between buyer and seller into one between predator and prey. We are, indeed, disarmed and without effective access to justice … despite laws designed to protect us. In closing, Ginsburg wrote that the Court is:

further degrading the rights of consumers and further insulating already powerful economic entities from liability for unlawful acts.

We deserve better from our nation’s Supreme Court.

Mike Huckabee: Ignoring Gay Marriage Ruling Is 'A Matter Of Saving Our Republic'

Mike Huckabee once again insisted that Supreme Court rulings are simply opinions that carry no legal authority if not for the “good will” and “assent” of the legislative and executive branches, this time making the case for defiance of the top court in an interview with Robert George on the Catholic television network EWTN this weekend.

If elected president, Huckabee said, he would “absolutely decline” to enforce the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision and order the Justice Department to “protect in every way the rights of those citizens who joined in disagreeing.”

“It’s a matter of saving our republic to say that as president, we’re not going to accept this decision, we will ignore it and we will not enforce it,” Huckabee said, adding that he would only recognize same-sex marriages in states that legalize same-sex marriage, or polygamy, for that matter, “by a vote of its people.”

When George asked if conservatives then “couldn’t criticize” President Obama for acting lawlessly “if he refused to enforce” recent Supreme Court rulings on campaign finance reform and gun control, Huckabee responded, “Well, no.” He said that if that were to happen, Congress should then exercise its power to impeach the president or defund the executive branch, seeming to open himself up to impeachment if he decided to defy the courts on same-sex marriage.

Ted Cruz: President Can Ignore 'Fundamentally Illegitimate,' Nazi-Like Gay Marriage Decision

In an interview with influential social conservative commentator Robert George on the Catholic television network EWTN last month, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that the president should defy the Supreme Court’s “fundamentally illegitimate” decision striking down bans on same-sex marriage, which he compared to “Nazi decrees.”

George, the co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage and a mentor of Cruz’s, likened the court’s “tragic mistake” in Obergefell to infamous Supreme Court decisions including Dred Scott, asking Cruz, “Was Lincoln right to defy the court on [Dred Scott] and would you, as president, do that with the Obergefell decision?”

“Lincoln was absolutely right, I agree with President Lincoln,” Cruz responded. “And courts do not make law. That is not what a court does. A court interprets the law, a court applies the law, but courts don’t make law.”

Saying that it is “profoundly wrong” to refer to the gay marriage decision as the law of the land, Cruz said, “I think the decision was fundamentally illegitimate, it was lawless, it was not based on the Constitution.”

Cruz then brought up remarks that Justice Anthony Kennedy made recently at Harvard Law School, in which he discussed when it is the duty of public officials to resign rather than carry out laws that they think are unjust, such as in the case of opponents of marriage equality. Kennedy used the extreme example of judges who resigned under Nazi rule, saying that whether they can morally carry out their official duties is “a fair question that officials can and should ask themselves” and that “great respect … ought to be given to people who resign rather than do something they think is morally wrong in order to make a point.”

This, Cruz declared, amounted to Kennedy comparing “the Supreme Court of the United States to the Nazis.”

“This isn’t me calling them the Nazis,” he said, “this is Justice Kennedy calling the court on which he serves, calling the opinion that he wrote, analogizing that to the Nazi decrees that we must obey.”

George interjected: “Just to be clear, surely Justice Kennedy was not embracing Nazism.”

Cruz hesitated and smiled. “He drew the analogy,” he said, “and the obvious implication was just as you were forced to obey the Nazis, you’re forced to obey us as well … even if we are tyrannical and oppressive. Now, look, certainly he wasn’t embracing all of the horrible things the Nazis did but to make that analogy, that is essentially saying, we wear the jackboot and you must obey us.”

Michigan Republicans Urge State To Ignore 'Illegitimate' Marriage Equality Ruling

A Michigan lawmaker is introducing a resolution urging state officials to ignore the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, calling the decision “illegitimate” and urging officials to “re-claim this state’s sovereignty by not recognizing or enforcing.”

MLive.com reports:

State Rep. Tom Hooker, R-Byron Center, read his pending resolution out loud Wednesday during a "rally to protect religious people and stop persecution of religious people" outside the Michigan Capitol.

"The Supreme Court is not a Legislature," Hooker said. "Courts do not substitute their social and economic beliefs for the judgement of legislative bodies or elected and passed laws."
The rally, organized by a Christian non-profit called Salt & Light Global, drew a couple hundred people to Lansing.

Other speakers included Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, who is expected to introduce a similar resolution in the upper chamber, and Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, who told the crowd that he will co-sponsor Hooker's version in the House.

Hooker’s resolution reads, in part:

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of the Michigan Legislature that the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is illegitimate because the five justice majority, in reaching its decision, acted without constitutional authority and unconstitutionally usurped power expressly reserved by the United States Constitution to the states and the people; and be it further

Resolved, That under these circumstances, it is the duty of the politically accountable branches of the federal and state governments to preserve and protect constitutional governance under the rule of law; and be it further

Resolved, That we urge the Governor and all executive officers in the state of Michigan to uphold their oaths of office and re-claim this state’s sovereignty by not recognizing or enforcing the United States Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision as a rule of law …

Speaking at the “religious liberty” rally outside the state capitol, Colbeck, who plans to sponsor a Senate version of the bill, compared the position of Christians in America to that of people persecuted by ISIS.

Mike Huckabee: 'There Will Be No Abortion' When I'm President

At Friday’s “Presidential Family Forum” hosted by the Iowa conservative group The Family Leader, Mike Huckabee doubled down on his pledge to “ignore the court” and “defy the court” as president by recriminalizing abortion and gay marriage through executive fiats.

“I’m convinced the next president should ignore the unconstitutional and illegal rulings of the courts, including that of same-sex marriage, because it is not the law of the land,” Huckabee said.

He also reiterated his plan to outlaw abortion with a sweeping presidential decree: “We [should] simply say, there will be no abortion because that unborn child is a person.”

Only then, Huckabee argued, would God be able to bless America.

Supreme Court Takes Up Major Test Of Anti-Choice Movement's Strategy

The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear Whole Women’s Health v. Cole next term. The case, which deals with abortion restrictions that Texas passed in 2013, represents a major test of the anti-choice movement’s long-term strategy of cutting off abortion access through incremental legislation rather than directly challenging the right to abortion. This comes after the court’s announcement last week that it will hear another challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate, testing how far the Religious Right can stretch the meaning of religious liberty in attempting to cut off access to reproductive rights.

In the Huffington Post today, People For the American Way’s Elliot Mincberg explains what’s at stake in the Texas case:

The Texas case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, concerns a law imposing restrictions on clinics so severe that they would reduce the number of clinics that perform abortions in the state from more than 40 a few years ago to just 10, including none at all in the 500 miles between San Antonio and the New Mexico border. The state has claimed that the limits, requiring extensive hospital-like equipment and doctors with hospital admitting privileges even for clinics that offer abortions only through oral medication, are important to protect women’s health. These claims are belied not only by the medical evidence, but also by Texas politicians’ statements, such as Governor Rick Perry’s vow to “pass laws to ensure” that abortions are “as rare as possible.”

That law clearly violates the 5-4 ruling of the Court in Casey, which upheld the basic right to choose of Roe v. Wade, and held that such laws must truly be important to protect women’s health and not impose an “undue burden” on that right. Will the Court uphold and correctly apply Casey and continue to protect reproductive rights? Given the stark divisions on the Court, the answer may well come down to the vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the last member of the five-person Casey majority who is still on the Court today.

This case represents the culmination of a decades-long strategy by the anti-choice movement — most notably the legal group Americans United for Life, which helped draft the Texas bill — to restrict abortion access to the point where the right to abortion exists in theory but not in practice. If the Supreme Court agrees to further weaken the protections of Roe v. Wade, it could open the door for many more onerous restrictions on abortion providers and women seeking abortions.

David Vitter: Gays Have 'Shoved' Same-Sex Marriage 'Down The Throats' Of Christians

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., addressed the Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge yesterday in an attempt to burnish his conservative credentials as he campaigns for governor.

Vitter, who is perhaps best known for his involvement in a prostitution scandal, announced at the beginning of his speech that he had received the endorsements of a number of Religious Right activists and organizations, including Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana state lawmaker.

In his speech, Vitter criticized the notion of the separation of church and state and denounced the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality decision, claiming that gay rights advocates want their views “shoved down the throats of folks who have sincerely held religious views that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

After declaring his support for a bill that grants legal protections to those who oppose same-sex marriage, Vitter said that the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling “will clearly unleash all sorts of assaults against conservative Christian beliefs who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. And make no mistake about it, those assaults are coming on churches, pastors and believers who are trying to live their faith in a quiet but important way, including in terms of how they choose to live their lives and run their businesses.”

“They want to make believers like us second class citizens,” he said. “They want to completely push us out of the public square and in some cases persecute folks who simply want to live their faith in terms of how they do business and other things.”

SCOTUS Will Hear Latest Contraception Coverage Refusal Cases

The Supreme Court today announced that it will hear several cases involving the accommodation for religious nonprofits seeking to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage requirement.  This is not a surprise; as People For the American Way Foundation wrote in its Supreme Court 2015-2016 Term Preview:

Under the accommodation, the employers simply tell the insurer or the federal government of their objection, at which point the insurer must offer the coverage separately to employees who want it. This way, the employees can get the coverage without their employers having to contract, arrange, or pay for it.  But some religious nonprofits assert that even the accommodation violates their religious liberty under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  Under RFRA, no federal law imposing a substantial burden on religious exercise can be sustained unless it is the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government purpose.

The list of circuit courts that have roundly rejected this argument is long:  The DC Circuit, the Second Circuit, Third Circuit, the Fifth Circuit, the Sixth Circuit, the Seventh Circuit, and the Tenth Circuit.  But in September 2015, the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of the nonprofits and found the accommodation violated RFRA.  Now that there is a circuit split, it seems likely that the Supreme Court will take up the issue via the appeals from one or more of these circuit decisions.

The premise of those challenging the accommodation is a severe distortion of RFRA and of the very concept of religious liberty set forth by the Court’s hard-right conservatives in the 5-4 ruling in Hobby Lobby.  That law was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 1993 as a means to protect the free exercise of religion.  But conservative ideologues have sought to transform RFRA from a shield into a sword, one that they can use to violate the rights of third parties.  The right wing’s enthusiastic embrace of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis shows just how far they want to extend the reasoning of Hobby Lobby.

Here, the conservatives argue that filling out a form so that insurance companies can know about their legal obligations to provide certain coverage is a substantial burden on the exercise of their religion.  That strained reasoning is a cynical use of religion to deprive women of needed healthcare, an effort to force women employees to live by their employers’ religious strictures rather than their own.  But what the Supreme Court said about the First Amendment in a 1985 case called Estate of Thornton v. Caldor is equally true of RFRA:

The First Amendment . . . gives no one the right to insist that in pursuit of their own interests others must conform their conduct to his own religious necessities. [quoting from a lower court opinion by Judge Learned Hand]

Justice Kennedy, who voted with the Hobby Lobby majority, is likely to be the deciding vote in this case.  His concurrence in Hobby Lobby hinted that he might not go as far as his fellow conservatives in granting people the latitude to use RFRA to deprive others of their rights:

Among the reasons the United States is so open, so tolerant, and so free is that no person may be restricted or demeaned by government in exercising his or her religion.  Yet neither may that same exercise unduly restrict other persons, such as employees, in protecting their own interests, interests the law deems compelling.  In these cases [involving for-profit employers] the means to reconcile those two priorities are at hand in the existing accommodation the Government has designed, identified, and used for circumstances closely parallel to those presented here [the accommodation for religious non-profits].

Given the circuit split on the accommodation for religious nonprofits, the Supreme Court had little choice but to take this issue on.  They do have a choice, however, in how they rule.  Hopefully, a majority of justices will take the first step in restoring RFRA to the law it was intended to be.

Pat Robertson: Gay Marriage Will Legalize Pedophilia

Only Pat Robertson could manage to transform a question about why bad things happen to children into a rant about gay marriage, and the right-wing televangelist managed to do just that today on “The 700 Club.”

When a viewer wrote in to ask why God would allow tragedies like child abuse to occur, Robertson responded by whipping up fears that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision will pave the way for the legalization of pedophilia.

“The time is going to come in America, the Supreme Court said homosexuality is a constitutional right, now they’ve said homosexual marriage is a right, then they’re going to say polygamy is a constitutional right, then they’re going to say polyamory is a constitutional right, then they’re going to say pedophile [sic] is a constitutional right,” he said. “You mark my word. They’re talking about transgender and sex change and all of this stuff. We have lost our mind, collectively, and it’s going to get worse and worse and worse and worse. Trust me.”

He went on to say that “sex with little babies” is widely encouraged in Islam: “There is no such thing as pedophilia in that religion.”

How Conservative Justices Are Allowing Corporations To Bypass The Courts

If you ever think that courts don’t matter, ask yourself this: Why are major corporations and arch-conservative judges going to such lengths to prevent you from having your day in court when someone has violated your legal rights?

The New York Times has an in-depth three-part series of reports on arbitration, the system by which ordinary people are increasingly being coerced into surrendering their right to the protections provided by the American judicial system.

Agreements to resolve disputes by arbitration are increasingly becoming a standard part of the all-or-nothing contracts that enormous corporations force individuals to sign as a condition of doing business with them. With private arbitration, you surrender your right to a courtroom with a neutral judge and a wide variety of substantive and procedural protections for all parties.

Instead, the company picks a private arbitrator whose living depends on getting cases from corporate interests. The protections of the court system are cast aside. And you can’t have class action lawsuits, which are often the only way to hold wrongdoers accountable when they harm large numbers of individuals relatively small amounts, so it is often not worthwhile for a wronged party to pursue arbitration.

Contracts have existed for centuries. In theory, they are negotiated by two people or businesses in a process of give-and-take, where both parties fully understand what they are agreeing to. But as anyone who has cable TV or a cell phone can tell you, most contracts we sign are handed to us “as is,” take it or leave it.

If you don’t agree to the terms imposed by some enormous corporation with millions of customers, the cost to you (life without a phone) is a lot more than the cost to the company (the loss of one of millions of customers). With vastly unequal bargaining power, the consumer has little choice but to agree. And, in fact, most people sign consumer contracts or click the “I agree” box online with little to no knowledge or understanding of the agreement.

As the Times reports:

By inserting individual arbitration clauses into a soaring number of consumer and employment contracts, companies like American Express devised a way to circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices.

Over the last few years, it has become increasingly difficult to apply for a credit card, use a cellphone, get cable or Internet service, or shop online without agreeing to private arbitration. The same applies to getting a job, renting a car or placing a relative in a nursing home.

By banning class actions, companies have essentially disabled consumer challenges to practices like predatory lending, wage theft and discrimination, court records show.

“This is among the most profound shifts in our legal history,” William G. Young, a federal judge in Boston who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, said in an interview. “Ominously, business has a good chance of opting out of the legal system altogether and misbehaving without reproach.”

How did we reach a point where individuals can be routinely victimized by large corporations and denied access to the courts to vindicate their legal rights?

To a great extent, the blame can be laid at the feet of five people: The conservative majority of the Supreme Court. Their devastating 5-4 rulings like those eviscerating the Voting Rights Act or allowing billionaires and special interests to spend unlimited money in politics are well known. Less well known are 5-4 decisions in arbitration cases. Particularly notorious are AT&T v. Concepcion, where the conservatives ruled that giant corporations can use arbitration agreements to undermine state consumer protection laws across the country, and American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant, where the conservatives empowered monopolists to use arbitration agreements to bypass federal antitrust laws.

As if this weren’t bad enough, arbitration is hardly the only weapon corporate interests are using to block their victims from vindicating their rights in court.

In fact, just today, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in Spokeo v. Robins, where corporate interests claim that their victims can’t sue in federal court if their “only” injury is that a right created by Congress was violated.

Last month, the Court heard oral arguments in Campbell-Ewald Company v. Gomez, where a large company argued for the power to terminate a class action suit against it early on by quickly offering a settlement to the lead plaintiff representing the class.

Fair and just courts are vitally important in providing equal justice under the law to those who would otherwise be powerless against the enormous entities who have so much more power and resources. So it is no surprise that those powerful interests are so dedicated to blocking ordinary people from having their day in court.

Reposted from People For the American Way Foundation.

At World Congress of Families, Anti-Choice Activists Celebrate Victories & Map Strategy To Overturn Roe v Wade

The first day of the World Congress of Families summit in Salt Lake City was focused on restricting access to abortion — the program described the day’s theme as “the value of life in all its stages and conditions.” 

During one anti-abortion panel, Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life — which Miranda once described as a sort of ALEC of the anti-choice movement —  celebrated the movement’s recent successes and mapped out a cultural and legal strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade, a strategy grounded in portraying abortion as harmful to women and the pro-life movement as pro-women.

Yoest told the audience to be encouraged, citing a graph from the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute showing that “more abortion restrictions have been enacted since the tidal wave election of 2010 than were enacted in the entire previous decade.” Said Yoest, “I’m really proud of this progress, because it comes from a deliberate strategy that we have enacted as a movement to concentrate on state legislatures.”

Yoest said after the 1983 failure to pass a constitutional amendment in Congress, activists convened their own congress and strategized.

“We came up with a strategy and emerged with a plan: focus on the statehouses and test the limits of Roe v. Wade. The story of the next several decades is one of trench warfare and gaining ground under the radar.”

This summer, she said, the Planned Parenthood videos have provided an “earthquake” which gives anti-abortion movement an opportunity to move forward strategically. [See PFAW’s report on the anti-Planned Parenthood attacks.] The legal strategy is aimed at Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s writing that overturning Roe would come with a “certain cost” to women who rely on it. “As pro-lifers, we need to understand that that’s the way he thinks, and his fellow justices on the court,” said Yoest. “But they are ignoring that there is a certain cost to the culture of death.”

Yoest said abortion brings women grief and dramatically increases a woman’s suicide risk. “What an Alice in Wonderland world that we live in where the defenders of so-called women’s health are the promoters of abortion. Let’s call them abortion harm deniers.”

Yoest cited Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing in dissent in Gonzales v. Carhart that “women cannot enjoy equal citizenship status” without access to abortion. And she quoted a feminist author telling women who have had abortion that she hopes they will begin to know their own power.

Ladies and gentlemen, our strategy for the next decade must engage this debate. Abortion for women is not power; it is poverty….

This is our way forward. We must engage a mother-child strategy. The mother-child strategy is rooted in a very careful study of the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence. The court has told us pretty clearly what they think about abortion. Going back again to Planned Parenthood v. Casey, they told us that the state has two areas of legitimate interest: one is protecting the health of the woman and two is protecting the life of the fetus that, according to them, may become a child. Anything that we bring before two courts – the court of public opinion and the Supreme Court — must engage both of these elements, both the mother and the child.

We must keep coming back to what we know to be the truth: pro-life is pro-woman.

Yoest paraphrased a saying by G. K. Chesterton —  seemingly the most quoted conservative at the conference — saying that fairy tales are “more than true,” not because they tell us dragons are true, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten. “The culture of death,” she concluded,” is a dragon that must be beaten.” 

Pat Robertson: Gay Marriage Is Still Illegal!

Televangelist Pat Robertson reacted to the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality with warnings about bestialityimprisonmenttyrannyfinancial collapse and God’s wrath.

And today, he advised a “The 700 Club” viewer to respond to gay marriage supporters by making the case that the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling is only an opinion that can only impact the “couple of people” directly involved in the case. The ruling would only have a wider impact if Congress or state legislatures pass gay marriage bills, Robertson claimed, making the same specious argument made by other Religious Right leaders such as Mike Huckabee.

“In the legal system, party A sues party B over marriage, ‘I want to get married to them,’ and the court says, ‘Okay, you can get married,’” he explained. “That doesn’t mean that I’ve got to get married to homosexuals, it doesn’t mean that you have to nor does it mean that it’s the law of the land. Congress didn’t pass any law. Your state legislature didn’t pass a law. So you’re not under anything, it’s a decision of the court having to do with a couple of people. Now they would like to make it bigger than that but, in terms of the Constitution, it isn’t.”

While Robertson is correct that no one will be forced to “get married to homosexuals,” the Obergefell ruling has struck down bans on same-sex marriage nationwide.

Little Red Riding Hood And The Big Bad Gay Wolf

Leave it to the folks at the far-right Christian Action League, the American Family Association’s North Carolina affiliate, to come up with an anti-gay twist to the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

In a column for BarbWire today, the group’s executive director, Mark Creech, rewrites the childhood fairy tale into a rather confusing attack on gay rights and the Supreme Court.

Once upon a time there was a dear little girl who loved her grandmother supremely. The grandmother had given to her a little cap of red velvet, which suited her so well she would never wear anything else. Thus, everyone called her Little Red Riding Hood.



For a little while longer the wolf spoke with Little Red Riding Hood, mostly telling her about the way wolves are wrongly perceived by people. “Wolves are nothing to be feared, they just want to be treated like everybody else,” he told her.

While on her way, Little Red Riding Hood pondered, “Yes, I think I can understand how the wolf must feel. Perhaps he is a victim, as he says, and his way is not decadent.”



“Oh grandmother,” she said, “What big ears, eyes, hands, and mouth you have.”

“Certainly you can appreciate diversity,” replied the wolf. And just when he thought the time was right, he sprang from the bed to eat Little Red Riding Hood.

A woodcutter nearby heard her screams and rushed to save her.

He overcame the wolf with his trusty axe. The townspeople hurried to the scene, cheered and supported the woodcutter, except for five foolish judges.

The five foolish judges declared the woodcutter prejudiced, bigoted, and intolerant. They said he had no right to defend either the grandmother or Little Red Riding Hood. They said the axe must be cast away.

Standing with the five foolish judges were also some clever foxes, relatives of the wolf, who argued the wolf’s proclivity for carnage was completely normal. In fact, to suppress the wolf’s appetites, something which was inherent to his nature, would be wrong, they said. Besides, it was claimed that grandmothers are like old traditions that need to give way to the new anyhow.

And so, on the basis of these considerations, not only did the mindset of many of the townspeople start to change, but the wolf was lauded and praised. Many townspeople would fly the wolf flag from atop their village cottages and buildings. An advocacy group called WUVS, standing for “Wolves, Underfed, Voracious, and Famished,” fought to give wolves special protections in law. And no one dared challenge the true nature of the wolf for fear his house, his livelihood, and even his freedom might be taken away.

So the years passed, grandmother was dead and Little Red Riding Hood would live her life in confusion, always in danger of many wolves and never to enjoy the basket of goodies with her grandmother, whom she had known and loved for so long.

I would not do all the work for the reader here, but if it helps, in this fable of Little Red Riding Hood, the Grandmother is traditional marriage. The wolf is homosexual activism. Little Red Riding Hood is an unsuspecting public, and, in another way, children and their future. The basket of assorted goodies signifies the many blessings and joys of real marriage. The woodcutter is true religion’s opposition to so-called gay rights. His axe is state constitutional amendments to define marriage as one man and one woman. The five foolish judges are the U.S. Supreme Court justices who ruled to redefine marriage for the nation. The clever foxes are professionals who argue homosexuality is inherent, fixed, unalterable, and normal. The townspeople represent ever-changing public opinion.
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Supreme Court Posts Archive

Miranda Blue, Wednesday 05/11/2016, 11:29am
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that the Senate won’t confirm any Supreme Court nominee unless that nominee has the support of the National Rifle Association, which has been stretching the truth in its efforts to oppose the nomination of Merrick Garland. The absurdity of this position was reinforced yesterday when, as Media Matters reported, NRA board member and perpetual loose cannon Ted Nugent posted on his Facebook page a fake video of Hillary Clinton being shot, with the caption “I got your guncontrol right here bitch!” This is who McConnell wants in... MORE
Miranda Blue, Tuesday 05/10/2016, 2:31pm
About an hour after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia was confirmed in February, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shaped the tone of his party’s refusal to consider any person President Obama would nominate for the open seat on the court. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” McConnell said in a statement. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” The message that not allowing a popularly elected president to fulfill his official duties by nominating a Supreme... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 05/10/2016, 11:30am
Senate Republicans continue to hemorrhage support for their unprecedented decision to not hold any hearings on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, with a new poll from Public Policy Polling finding that Americans continue to oppose the GOP’s obstructionism. The poll, conducted for Americans United for Change between May 4 and 5, finds that 58 percent of voters believe that the “vacant seat on the Supreme Court should be filled this year,” and that 65 percent think the “Senate should hold confirmation hearings for the nominee.” Fifty percent of voters... MORE
Miranda Blue, Monday 05/09/2016, 1:15pm
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus attempted to reassure Republicans wary of supporting Donald Trump today, telling conservative radio host Mike Gallagher that Trump is “not wanting to rewrite” the party’s platform and that the election comes down to “a conservative Supreme Court for generations.” “Number one, Donald Trump is not wanting to rewrite the platform, okay?” he said. “He’s just not. So all that anxiety, just take it off the table. Not willing to do that. But, you know, get into that, tell people that, that... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 05/09/2016, 11:40am
On Friday, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended from his position after being charged with violating judicial ethics in his response to federal court rulings on same-sex marriage. Despite a ruling by a federal judge in Mobile making same-sex marriage legal in Alabama last year, and in the face of a United States Supreme Court ruling last year making its legality the law of the land, Moore instructed probate judges throughout Alabama to ignore those higher courts and to refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples. Moore's actions led the Southern Poverty Law Center to file... MORE
Miranda Blue, Wednesday 05/04/2016, 11:11am
When Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, the Senate GOP quickly vowed to keep his Supreme Court seat open until the next president takes office. They kept that vow even after President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, somebody whom Republicans had previously praised as a best-case scenario for a nominee from a Democratic president. Now, after Ted Cruz dropped out of the Republican race last night, it’s all but certain that the next president will be Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. We can assume that Senate Republicans aren’t hoping that Clinton or Sanders... MORE
Miranda Blue, Tuesday 05/03/2016, 11:28am
Among the groups pressuring Republicans in the Senate to continue their blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee is Gun Owners of America, a gun lobby group that holds considerable sway on Capitol Hill despite its history of promoting wild conspiracy theories, frequent warnings to elected officials that they should fear assassination and deep ties to radical militia groups and white supremacists. GOA has circulated a petition to its members claiming that Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, “would reverse your ability to own a gun” and “hates the Second... MORE