Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday Male Beauty

DOMA Defending King & Spaulding Puts Gag Rule on Employees

In my view, HRC needs to immediately revise the rating of Atlanta based law firm King & Spaulding to a Zero rating - or even a less than zero, if that's possible - now that the news has come out that the law firm has contracted with the GOP to bar any and all employees (both attorneys and staff) from engaging in any conduct supportive of same sex marriage. At least one progressive organization has begun a petition campaign against the firm and prominent law schools - if their non-discrimination policies mean anything more than the paper they are written on - need to block King & Spaulding from on campus interviews. Here in Virginia, that would mean the University of Virginia School of Law, William and Mary's Marshall Wythe School of Law and Washington & Lee Law School would all slam their doors in King & Spaulding's face. Will it happen? I'm not holding my breath given the spinelessness the law schools have exhibited in the past in their handling of documented anti-gay law firms. First, these highlights from Metro Weekly on the gag order provision of the GOP contract:
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All of King & Spalding's employees – lawyers and non-lawyers – are barred from advocating for the Respect for Marriage Act – the bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act – in the 112th Congress, according to the terms of the contract to defend DOMA that King & Spalding partner Paul Clement signed on the firm's behalf on April 14.
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The contract, which was entered into with U.S. House of Representatives General Counsel Kerry Kircher on behalf of the House's Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend DOMA in court, contains a provision that prohibits all King & Spalding attorneys and non-attorney employees from any advocacy to "alter or amend" DOMA.
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Human Rights Campaign vice president of communications Fred Sainz, whose organization has harshly criticized King & Spalding for taking the case, told Metro Weekly, "This particular provision adds insult to injury. Not only is K&S promoting discrimination, they also are muzzling their own employees from opposing discrimination and doing what's right."
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What's more, Jon Davidson, the legal director at Lambda Legal, told Metro Weekly that in some states the provision might be illegal. Davidson specifically pointed to California, where King & Spalding has two offices, in which Labor Code Section 1101 states that "[n]o employer shall make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy ... [f]orbidding or preventing employees from engaging or participating in politics ...."
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The current president of the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia, Brian M. Basinger, is an associate at King & Spalding and did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment. Based on Davidson's comments, in which he said that it was possible that a King & Spalding lawyer could be prohibited from serving on Lambda Legal's board since it has advocated for the repeal of DOMA, it is possible that Basinger would be prohibited under the contract from serving as president of the Stonewall Bar Association based on the group's activities if they include anti-DOMA advocacy.
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Jeffery Cleghorn, the immediate past president of the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia and a member of the board of directors of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, spoke to Metro Weekly about the decision of King & Spalding to take this case and the firm's place in the Atlanta legal community. . . . "As a past president and a gay lawyer in Atlanta, though, I do think I can say that, for gay lawyers throughout Georgia, we are traumatized by the decision of this law firm and this business to take on a client that is in essence trying to do harm to us and our families and LGBT Americans across the country."
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Huffington Post has coverage on the grass roots effort to generate backlash against King & Spaulding. Here are highlights:
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A progressive organization is targeting employees at the law firm King & Spalding with an online campaign aimed at preventing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) from using taxpayer money to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a case that one of King & Spalding's partners has agreed to lead.
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More than 31,000 individuals have signed a petition started by the grassroots organizing group CREDO Action objecting to House Republicans hiring King & Spalding partner Paul Clement, who previously served as President Bush's solicitor general, to defend DOMA using public funds.
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Because CREDO wants employees of King & Spalding to know about the petition, the group has targeted them with Facebook ads that direct them to it. On Facebook, it's possible to target ads toward people who list specific employers. There are approximately 450 people on the social networking site who are associated with King & Spalding. Some of them may be former employees, and there are likely a large number of individuals who don't list their place of work on their profiles. But that group, at the very least, represents a network of people affiliated with the firm.
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"It's appalling that a company like King and Spalding that actively touts diversity as a core value would turn around and defend a discriminatory law that treats its own employees like second class citizens," said Lockshin. "As a company that works for social change, we know that corporations have a choice. CREDO has chosen to stand up for marriage equality. And we thought it was important that the lawyers and staff at King and Spalding face the choice their company has made to stand on the wrong side of history."

Arrest Made in Lisa Miller Kidnapping Case - Christianists Appear to Have Assisted in Crime

An arrest t has been made in the Lisa "I'm No Longer Gay" Miller kidnapping case and not surprisingly it appears that Christianist whack jobs connected to Liberty University (see the screen shot above via the Advocate) and the late Jerry Falwell's Lynchburg church were likely involved in assisting Miller in fleeing the U.S. with her daughter, Isabella, after refusing to comply with numerous court orders. Miller and Isabella's whereabouts are still unknown, but hopefully as pressure is applied some of the loons will begin to talk. My gut reaction is that others besides the low level administrative assistant at Liberty University's law school were involved and it would be fabulous to learn that Matt Staver and/or anti-gay zealot Matt Barber were involved. In my view, Liberty is a major hub of the Christianist pestilence that haunts Virginia and the nation. It is disturbing that the "law school" ever received accreditation given the discrimination that goes on at Liberty and the fact that Staver and others in my opinion appear to have open contempt for the rule of law. In addition to the Advocate, Metro Weekly has coverage. An affidavit filed by the FBI describing the conspiracy to get Miller and Isabella out of the USA can be viewed here. First some highlights from the Advocate story:
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In a long-standing child custody case, an American missionary working in Nicaragua has been arrested on charges of helping a Virginia woman flee the U.S. with her daughter after a state court had awarded her former partner full custody rights.
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According to an April 1 affidavit by an FBI special agent, Timothy D. Miller, a Tennessee man who is associated with Christian Aid Ministries in Nicaragua, helped secure safe passage to Nicaragua for Lisa Miller and her 9-year-old daughter, Isabella (Lisa Miller is not believed to be related to Timothy Miller, according to the affidavit).
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Timothy Miller, 34, is one of several people named in the affidavit . . . who may have colluded in the international parental kidnapping of Isabella — including a “leader” with Liberty Counsel, the Christian legal group that has provided pro bono representation for Lisa Miller in the custody case.

In the affidavit, FBI special agent Dana L. Kaegel said that a series of e-mails as well as customer service notes from an airline company indicate that Timothy Miller helped to arrange flights to Nicaragua via Canada, Mexico, and El Salvador for Miller and her daughter, . . .
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In June 2010, Jenkins’s attorney, Sarah Star, received a phone call from an unnamed individual who said that Miller and her daughter were staying at a vacation rental house in Nicaragua owned by Philip Zodhiates, who was described by the caller as a “Liberty leader,” Kaegel said.
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According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Zodhiates heads the Christian direct-mail firm Response Unlimited. His daughter, Victoria Hyden, is an administrative assistant at Liberty University School of Law and was asked by her father to “disseminate a request to get Lisa Miller supplies.” Upon the news of the arrest breaking, Hyden's bio was taken down from the Liberty website as of noon Eastern time, but a screen grab of the page before its removal is available . . .
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Metro Weekly also cites a tie to an affiliate of Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church that appears to have been subsidizing Miller while she was in hiding and defying court orders:
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According to one FBI affidavit, the ''Lynchburg Christian Academy Payroll Account'' provided ''multiple payroll checks to Lisa Miller.'' The Academy is an affiliate of the late Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church.
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One can only hope that the FBI will seize records and determine just how high up the conspiracy extends both at the church and Liberty University and Liberty Counsel, a major player in anti-gay propaganda.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Male Beauty

A Reminder: Obama Could Easily Lose in 2012

At the moment, given - to use Pam Spaulding's term - the clown car line up of would be GOP presidential contenders, many may be over confident in believing Barack Obama is a shoe in for re-election next year. While Obama has done far more positive and progressive things than would have come to be under a McCain/Palin administration, time and time again he has shown himself to be spineless and unwilling to be a leader. As we move towards 2012, the economy is still in full depression mode for many Americans and seemingly nothing is being done to stabilize the residential housing market - the key, in my view, of having a real economic recovery - or to coerce banks into lending again to small businesses. Far too many business owners that I know are still struggling, have reduced staff, and are putting off capital investments and find themselves self-financing from cash flow. A timely piece in Salon looks at Obama's vulnerability that needs to be taken seriously both by progressive voters and Obama himself. It is foolish to simply assume that the GOP opponent will be some utterly unelectable whack job. Here are some highlights:
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Conventional wisdom has held for several month that President Obama is in reasonably good shape to win reelection in 2012. But a new poll provides a helpful reminder of the degree to which Americans are gripped by economic anxiety -- something that always has a corrosive effect on the standing of an incumbent president.
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Specifically, the survey from ABC News and the Washington Post finds puts Obama's approval rating at 47 percent, with 50 percent of voters expressing disapproval. That's a drop of four points in Obama's approval rating from the same ABC/WaPo poll last month and seven points from January.
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But even if the "decline" in Obama's numbers is an illusion, the fact is that his approval rating is pretty much exactly where it should be. The unemployment rate has dipped slightly for the past few months, but at 8.8 percent, it remains perilously high as far as Obama's reelection prospects are concerned. Moreover, the painfully sluggish pace of the recovery seems to be sapping Americans of any optimism; in the ABC/WaPo poll, 44 percent say they economy is getting worse -- the highest that number has been since early 2009.
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This underscores a basic point that can't be made enough: Under economic conditions like those that now exist, Obama is likely to be defeated in 2012
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The unusual weakness of the GOP field, we keep hearing, is Obama's ace-in-the-hole -- his way of surviving November'12 even if the economy remains rotten. There are two problems with this thinking. One is that it means little for an incumbent president to enjoy early leads over his possible general election opponents, even when the economy is struggling. . . . Rest assured, if the economy doesn't improve -- or gets worse -- the GOP will be well-positioned to oust Obama in 2012, provided the party doesn't nominate a fringe candidate.
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[T]he conservative establishment is very focused on not fielding an unelectable candidate next year. This (partly) why so many influential conservative voices have spoken up in an effort to marginalize Donald Trump in the last week. Eric Cantor, Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Stephen Hayes, Rich Lowry and Karl Rove -- to name a few -- have all dismissed or disparaged Trump recently. It is not a coincidence that they began speaking up only when Trump surged to the top of GOP polls and began looking (to some) like he might actually run for president. They understand the short- and long-term threat that Trump and his birtherism pose to their party

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In other words, it still seems likely -- for all of the zaniness in the air -- that the GOP will end up nominating a candidate like Romney or Pawlenty next year, someone generic enough to take advantage of a lousy economy (if the economy remains lousy).
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Obama needs to solidify his base and begin to seriously act like a leader. In addition, he HAS to appear to be doing something concrete to fix the housing debacle and the cash hoarding of big business and banks.

Roanoke Times Slams Adoption Discrimination

I noted previously that the Virginian Pilot had slammed the Christianist bigots and their puppets in the Virginia GOP who scuttled the proposed Department of Social Services regulations that would have allowed same sex couples to adopt or serve as foster parents. Now the Roanoke Times joins the band wagon of those criticizing the special rights given to anti-gay religious affiliated adoption agencies that out of one side of their mouths claim to be "private" organizations, even as they have their hands out receiving taxpayer derived funds. As I have stated before, once an organization receives the first dollar of taxpayer funds, their "private" status needs to disappear since they are acting as an arm of the state - something that makes them subject to all of the restrictions and requirements of the U. S. Constitution. You know, inconvenient things like the banning of religious based discrimination - the root of all anti-gay bigotry - and the requirement of equal protection under the law. Here are highlights from the Roanoke Times editorial on Christ-fascist bigotry:
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On Wednesday, the Virginia Board of Social Services, at the urging of Gov. Bob McDonnell, chose not to grant equality to unmarried couples and gay Virginians in the adoption process. Private adoption agencies may continue to discriminate against them. Loving homes will remain largely unavailable for kids in search of a family.
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The debate leading up to the decision framed things primarily as a gay rights issue, but there was much more to it. The proposed regulations also would have made gender, age, religion, political beliefs, disability and family status non-issues in adoption. The opposition primarily came from religious-based adoption agencies whose faith tells them gays are unfit parents.
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An adoption agency's faith tradition might also dictate that people of another religion are unfit parents. Maybe Democrats, too, or Republicans. People who vote for pro-choice candidates. People in wheelchairs. All remain viable, albeit distasteful, reasons an adoption agency might cite to reject parents. Yet because those groups' interests were caught up in a broader gay-rights fight, they too will continue to be potential objects of discrimination.
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When it comes to finding good families for children, sexual orientation, faith, politics and all the rest have no place in the discussion. The surprising thing was not that the governor chose not to extend equal rights to gay people, but that he did not get behind the rest of the changes.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday Male Beauty

Virginia's Regularly Ignored Statute for Religious Freedom

Given yesterday's anti-gay adoption actions in Richmond, the ongoing lies of faux historian David Barton referenced in a recent post, and the constant enshrinement of religious bigotry in the nation's laws - DOMA being a prime example - from time to time it worth re-reading Virginia's Statute for Religious Freedom written by Thomas Jefferson which remains part of the Code of Virginia even though the members of the Republican Party of Virginia - and some Democrats on the Social Services Board - ignore it regularly. Jefferson's eloquent words underscore how Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell, Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli, Bob Marshall and others of similar ilk have betrayed Virginia's and the nation's founding principle of religious freedom for ALL citizens. Here are Jefferson's words (emphasis supplied is mine):
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An Act for establishing religious Freedom.
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Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;
that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry, that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right, that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that very Religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed, these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally,
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that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:
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Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.

MAP: Has Your State Banned Sodomy?


In yet another example of why Virginia should be avoided like the plague if one is an LGBT citizen, Mother Jones has assembled a map - shown above - that shows the states that have refused to repeal their sodomy statutes notwithstanding the 2003 U. S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. In Virginia, the Christian Taliban/Republicans - the two are pretty much synonymous in Virginia - deliberately determined NOT to repeal the state's sodomy statute which serves to give Neanderthal police a tool for harassing gays to apparently indulge their sick sense of "sport." Here are some story highlights:
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Last week we reported on the debate in the Texas state legislature over whether to repeal to the state's ban on "homosexual conduct." It's been eight years since the Supreme Court officially knocked down anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas, but Texas' state legislature has thus far refused to remove the law from the books—in large part because most Texas Republicans still support it. In 2010, the state GOP made defense of the anti-sodomy statute part of its platform, calling for the state to effectively ignore the the law of the land: "We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy." Gov. Rick Perry, meanwhile, dismissed the Lawrence decision as the product of "nine oligarchs in robes" (never mind that it was a 6–3 decision).
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But Texas isn't the only state that's still legislating bedroom activity. Fourteen states currently have laws on the books outlawing anal sex between two consenting, unrelated adults—referred to variously as "deviate sexual conduct," "the infamous crime against nature," "sodomy," and "buggery." And it's taken a concerted effort to keep those laws on the books.
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Conservatives in those states know they can't enforce the laws, but by keeping them in the code, they can send a message that homosexuality is officially condemned by the government.

Yet Another Poll Shows Majority Support for Gay Marriage - So Why Are Christianists Still Getting Special Rights?

Numbers guru Nate Silver has a piece in the Washington Post (source of the chart) that looks at not only the latest CNN poll that shows that anti-marriage are now in the minority, but also the clear trend line that shows that religious based bigotry against gays is losing adherents. Yet spineless elected officials and government bureaucrats - e.g., the as*holes on the board of the Virginia Department of Social Services - continue to enshrine anti-gay religious beliefs and bigotry in the public laws and regulations. Can't anyone else see that we are implementing a Christianist version of Sharia law in this country in far too many states and in laws such as DOMA? It makes me sick. And yes, it makes me despise Christianists who apparently can only feel good about themselves while denigrating and dehumanizing others. Personally, I view them as a foul cancer on society and an affront to the principles on which this nation was actually founded no matter how much liars like David Barton try to rewrite history. Here are highlights from Nate's piece:
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A poll from CNN this week is the latest to show a majority of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage, with 51 percent saying that marriages between gay and lesbian couples “should be recognized by the law as valid” and 47 percent opposed. This is the fourth credible poll in the past eight months to show an outright majority of Americans in favor of gay marriage.
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As we noted last August, support for gay marriage seems to have been increasing at an accelerated pace over the past couple of years. [Above] is an update to the graph from last year’s article, which charts the trend from all available public polls on same-sex marriage going back to 1988.
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[O]pponents of gay marriage almost certainly no longer constitute a majority; just one of the last nine polls has shown opposition to gay marriage above 50 percent.
Gay marriage advocates still face some challenges, however
. . . . . [T]he people who turn out to vote are considerably older than the population as a whole, so gay marriage will not perform quite as well at the ballot booth as in surveys of the general population. In addition, whenever a position is gaining ground, its newly won support is often tentative and can be peeled away by an effective counter-campaign.
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But Republican candidates, who have placed less emphasis on gay marriage in recent years, probably cannot expect their opposition to it to be a net electoral positive for them except in select circumstances. If support for gay marriage were to continue accelerating as fast as it has in the past two years, supporters would outnumber opponents roughly 56-40 in the general population by November 2012.
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But this does put Republicans in a tricky position. Their traditional position on gay marriage is becoming less popular. But to the extent they disengage from the issue, they may lose even more ground. One way to read the trends of the past few years is that we have passed an inflection point wherein it is no longer politically advantageous for candidates to oppose same-sex marriage, which in turn softens opposition to it among the general public, creating a sort of feedback loop and accelerating the trend.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Gay-Rights Provision Stripped from Virginia Adoption Regulations

Once again it has been made painfully obvious to LGBT Virginians that we are viewed as less than human. In this case, the message is in the form of the stripping of non-discrimination provisions from proposed regulations of the Virginia Department of Social Services which licenses adoption and foster care agencies that function in essence as an extension of the Commonwealth of Virginia itself. Yes, sadly the hate merchants at The Family Foundation and similar foul and toxic Christianist organizations cowed state bureaucrats into shredding the concept of religious freedom and throwing it down the toilet. My advice to those LGBT individuals and couples or progressive businesses contemplating a move to Virginia: Don't do it. Run screaming from Virginia and let it be known why you refuse to relocate to a state still run as a quasi-Christianist theocracy. The situation in Virginia is disgusting and it underscores the lie that the United States is a beacon of liberty and religious freedom. Here are highlights from the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
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The Virginia Board of Social Services voted 7-2 this afternoon to approve revised adoption regulations, removing language that would have barred discrimination against potential adoptive parents based on sexual orientation.
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The board voted to remove that language after hearing from a string of commenters.
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The final regulations move on in the approval process. The regulations feature with prohibitions on discrimination in adoption based on race, color and national origin.
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The Virginia Pilot has additional details on the triumph of hate and religious based bigotry. Here are additional highlights:
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Virginia's social services board voted Wednesday to reject proposed regulations that would have prohibited adoption agencies from discriminating against prospective parents because they're gay.
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The state's Board of Social Services voted 7-2 to strip that protection from proposed regulations. The vote came despite objections from some board members who said they didn't have enough time to examine the issue after the state Department of Social Services removed the provision late last week under the advice of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
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Cuccinelli advised the board last week that it did not have the authority to prohibit private - often faith-based - agencies from discriminating based on sexual orientation because state and federal law do not offer such protections.
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Virginia allows adoption by married couples and singles, regardless of sexual orientation. But it does not allow unmarried couples to adopt. Rob Keeling brought his 6-year-old son to Wednesday's meeting. Keeling, who is gay, adopted the boy from Guatemala in 2005.
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"I did not hear anybody today talk about the best interest of the children," he told the board before the vote. "I heard them talk about their own religious beliefs.
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"Children don't come into the world wanting homes that have specific religious beliefs," he continued. "I think they come into the world wanting love - and I know that I have that to offer." Keeling said 3,350 same-sex couples in Virginia are raising more than 6,000 children, based on data from the Family Equality Council.
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Department officials said there are 1,300 children in foster care statewide who are eligible to be adopted. "We have more than enough homes to go around," he said. "We have red tape and prejudice in the way."
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If at least 25 people request that the public comment period be reopened because of a "substantive change," it must happen. Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, a lobbyist for gay rights organization Equality Virginia and a former chief deputy attorney general, said she believes that could happen. If not, the regulations will end up on the desk of Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, who likely will sign them. They would take effect in 30 days.
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Religion is truly one of the greatest scourges on this planet and I again find myself believing a world in which Christianity has become a dead religion would be a far better place than what we have at present. As for Virginia, if circumstances were different, I'd leave the state forever tomorrow. Meanwhile, PLEASE ask that the public comment period be reopened.

Rob Bell's Hell: A Threat to the Evangelical Business Plan

The twin pillars of conservative Christianity are hate and fear. Hate towards those labeled as "other" and fear of Hell which makes the faithful sheep hand over their hard earn money without questioning the self-anointed holy men. The goal of all of this hate and fear? Power, control and money. Pretty much the same pattern described in an earlier post today on David Barton's rewriting and bastardization of American history. It's a pattern that makes one truly question the Bible since its final composition was determined by those seeking control of the Christian message and power and control over the would be faithful. Now, theologian Robert Bell has propounded the proposition that there may be no such thing as Hell - the center of all scare tactics to make the sheeple turn over their cash and follow the holy men like lemmings. Time magazine has an article (photo is via Ocean/Corbis) that looks at the intense brouhaha that Bell's thesis has ignited among the Christofascists and evangelical Christians. Yep, those same folks who have turned Christianity into a message of hate. Here are some highlights:
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There are more reasons than mere theology why Evangelical Christian leaders are raising Cain over the message now being wholesaled by the Rev. Rob Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church, featured in TIME's current cover story, "What If There's No Hell?" Bell's I'm-O.K.-you're-O.K., we're-not-going-to-hell-today spin is not merely a refutation of a basic belief. If this piece of theological reordering takes hold, it's the Evangelicals' business plan that's going to hell.
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Fire and brimstone has been one of the Evangelicals' main product lines. It's based on a zero-sum outcome: heaven or hell. Believe or perish. And part of the deal, at least in practical application, is that you can't get spiritually right without monetarily supporting the church. Pay to play, in other words. It's the same with most religions. No one says so in those crude terms — it's all about the mission — but a sales pitch is a sales pitch, even one accompanied by a choir.
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But what happens if Bell is right? Is it possible that the return on eternity on these contributions has dropped compared with other spiritual investments? For instance, maybe there's a bigger ROE in giving to the poor or volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. Tithing your church may be too much of an investment risk if the returns are less certain.
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Churches operate in a marketplace of spiritual ideas, but they're directly connected to the temporal economy. The competition for the faithful can be downright unholy. Churches can and do go bankrupt if they cannot attract enough participants.
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The adverse reaction to Bell's hell among some Evangelical leaders is based first on deeply held belief, not economic consequences. But it should really put the fear of God in their accountants. There are plenty of other reasons to invest in your church other than buying eternity insurance. There's the spiritual fulfillment that faith can bring, the sense of community, the built-in support group for when you need it most. Even those awful church suppers. But these are not the zero-sum, repent-or-burn outcomes that have underwritten the business so effectively over the years. Indeed, there's no hell to pay anymore.

Wednesday Male Beauty

More Fiction Writing by Religious Right "Historian" David Barton

One of the way that the GOP and the theocrats and professional Christians dupe the general public is to deliberately rewrite history to support what in essence are out right lies about the nation's Founding Fathers and much of American history in general. Sadly, given the low priority that history and government courses are given in our public schools, far too many people fall for the out right lies an bullshit disseminated by the anything but godly folks. The high priest of Christianist revisionist history is a certifiable (in my view) lunatic named David Barton who seems to be increasingly providing Kool-Aid to the Republican Party. Like so many Christianists, Barton has utter contempt for the real history of the country and falsifies history which in fact cuts directly against the theocratic agenda he wants to force on the nation. Right Wing Watch has another major expose on Barton and his lies. Anyone who cares about the nation's future needs to understand Barton's insidious agenda and be able to refute the lies that ignorant and/or simple minded people fall for all too easily. Here's the table of contents for the expose which is a must read for anyone who cares about America:
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Table of Contents Introduction Why Barton Matters Barton 101 Sloppy Scholarship Good Timing for Bad History Barton’s Bible = Tea Party Platform Barton on Politics:GOP = God’s Own Party Barton on Environmentalism: Green = Evil Barton on Religious Minorities Immigration Racial History The Courts Gay Equality Enlisting Jesus in the War on Unions Conclusion Additional Resources
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Here are some brief highlights from the expose:
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Newt Gingrich promises to seek his advice and counsel for the 2012 presidential campaign. Mike Huckabee calls him America’s greatest historian, says he should be writing the curriculum for American students, and in fact suggested that all Americans should be “forced at gunpoint” to listen to his broadcasts. Michelle Bachmann calls him “a treasure for our nation” and invited him to teach one of her Tea Party Caucus classes on the Constitution for members of Congress. . . . . Who is this guy?
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This guy is David Barton, a Republican Party activist and a fast-talking, self-promoting, self-taught, self-proclaimed historian who is miseducating millions of Americans about U.S. history and the Constitution.
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Barton has been profitably peddling a distorted “Christian nation” version of American history to conservative religious audiences for the past two decades. His books and videos denouncing church-state separation have been repeatedly debunked by respected historians, but that hasn’t kept Barton from becoming a folk hero for many in the Religious Right. His eagerness to help elect Republicans has won him gratitude and support from national as well as state and local GOP leaders. Former senator Sam Brownback, now the governor of Kansas, has said that Barton’s research “provides the philosophical underpinning for a lot of the Republican effort in the country today.
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While Barton is best known for his claims about the religious intentions of the nation’s founders, he has become a full-service pundit for the far-right in Tea Party America. He pushes predictable positions on abortion, gay rights, and the judiciary. But he is also attacking environmentalists working to combat climate change. And he is a key figure for conservative strategists who would love to forge an even stronger political merger between the Tea Party and Religious Right movements.
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Why Barton Matters. Barton’s growing visibility and influence with m embers of Congress and other Republican Party officials is troubling for many reasons: he distorts history and the Constitution for political purposes; he encourages religious divisiveness and unequal treatment for religious minorities; and he feeds a toxic political climate in which one’s political opponents are not just wrong, but evil and anti-God.
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Barton promotes a false reality in which anyone who opposes any element of his political agenda stands in opposition to both the Founding Fathers and to God. He believes that everything in our society – government, the judiciary, the economy, the family – should be governed according to the Bible, and he promotes a view of the Bible and Jesus that many Christians would not recognize.
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Barton believes the government should regulate gay sex, relying on bogus claims about gay people to make his case, such as “homosexuals die decades earlier than heterosexuals.” Barton has also maintained that countries that “rejected sexual regulation” have inevitably collapsed.

Poll Shows Americans Oppose Entitlement Cuts - Another Sign of GOP Suicide?

I have wondered before if the Republican Party has some long term suicide wish since it continues to pander mostly to aging white racists and Christian extremists who are literally dying off. Meanwhile, the GOP espouses positions against Hispanics, blacks, non-Christians, gays and that do not resonate with younger voters. Now, a new poll suggests that the GOP effort to tear down the social safety net that began to be erected during the New Deal likewise is unpopular with a majority of the citizenry even if popular with the Koch brothers and uncharitable conservative Christians. I believe that the country needs more than one viable political party, but what happens when one party becomes so extreme that it no longer puts the best interests of the nation as a whole ahead of the insanity of extremists? The Washington Post looks at a new poll that suggests that the GOP's coddling of the super rich and desire to destroy social security, medicare and other programs that provide some minimum safety net are not playing well with a majority of the public. When is the larger news media going to stop merely regurgitating GOP sound bites and start refusing to show just how extreme the GOP has become? Here are highlights from the Washington Post:
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Despite growing concerns about the country’s long-term fiscal problems and an intensifying debate in Washington about how to deal with them, Americans strongly oppose some of the major remedies under consideration, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
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The survey finds that Americans prefer to keep Medicare just the way it is. Most also oppose cuts in Medicaid and the defense budget. More than half say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases combined with modest reductions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Only President Obama’s call to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoys solid support.
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Public resistance to many proposals in the competing plans could greatly complicate those discussions. Altering entitlement programs still involves political risk, the poll shows, and proponents of such changes face a substantial challenge in persuading the public that they are needed.
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The two sides are far apart philosophically, and neither enjoys great public confidence: Fifty-eight percent of those polled disapprove of the way the president is handling the budget deficit. Even more — 64 percent — give Republicans in Congress low marks.
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[P]olitical independents side with the Republicans on tackling the burgeoning debt. But Obama maintains a key, double-digit advantage among independents when it comes to “protecting the middle class.
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The Post-ABC poll finds that 78 percent oppose cutting spending on Medicare as a way to chip away at the debt. On Medicaid — the government insurance program for the poor — 69 percent disapprove of cuts.
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In his speech last week, the president renewed his call to raise tax rates on family income over $250,000, and he appears to hold the high ground politically, according to the poll. At this point, 72 percent support raising taxes along those lines, with 54 percent strongly backing this approach. The proposal enjoys the support of majorities of Democrats (91 percent), independents (68 percent) and Republicans (54 percent). Only among people with annual incomes greater than $100,000 does less than a majority “strongly support” such tax increases.
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Just 34 percent of Americans say Medicare should be changed along the lines outlined in the Ryan budget proposal, shifting it away from a defined-benefit plan. . . . In his speech last week, Obama attacked that idea, saying it could leave some Americans without adequate coverage and would end “Medicare as we know it.”
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The poll suggests to me that if - and it's a huge if - Obama and the Democrats would get a spine, they could end the Bush tax cuts which alone would do much to improve the budget. Sacred cow military spending also needs to spending needs to be on the table and the public needs to be forced to understand what the Chimperator's follies in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost and the role such spending has played in creating the budget debacle.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Will Some GOP Freshmen Refuse to Drink More Kool-Aid?

The willing embrace of ignorance, bigotry against anyone the white Christianists deem "other" and fiscal smoke and mirrors are the hallmarks of today's Republican Party pretty much across the board be it at the local, state or federal level. GOP candidates have shown themselves only too willing to court the nastiest and basest instincts of homophobes, racists, theocrats and other bigots in order to secure election to office. Now, at the federal level at least, some are having to contemplate the full consequences of their self-prostitution to those best defined by who they hate - which is nearly everyone. The Washington Post looks at one such GOP Congressional freshman, Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) pictured above, who now must decide to look out for the best economic interests of the USA or continue to pander to the nastiest elements of the electorate. Prostituting one's self to haters and extremists can and does ultimately have a price and, therefore, I have little sympathy for Schweikert and those like him who embraced haters for their own political advantage. Here are some story highlights:
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On his 104th day in office, Rep. David Schweikert stepped before about 60 of his constituents here and, like an economics professor, flipped through one scary chart after another to hammer home his point: America faces a tidal wave of debt.
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Then he asked for a show of hands: If you were a freshman congressman like him, would youvote to raise the government’s debt limit? Two hands went in the air.
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This is his dilemma: He knows Congress has little choice but to raise the amount of money the government can borrow to prevent the economic havoc sure to follow if the United States defaults on its loans. He also knows doing so is deeply unpopular — not only among his conservative base, but among some moderates and liberals, too.
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If Schweikert finds himself in a difficult political spot, it’s partly of his own making. He and the scores of other Republicans who were elected last fall ran on an unyielding pledge to cut spending, reduce the nation’s debt and generally get the country’s finances in order, a mission that has been fully embraced by party leaders in Washington.
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Now, a few months after taking office, they are caught between their convictions, their constituents and their duties as congressmen. If they vote to raise the debt limit, some will see them as sellouts, corrupted by the same Washington they promised to fix. If they don’t, they could endanger the nation’s economy.
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House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has privately told administration officials and Wall Street executives that he believes raising the debt limit is the responsible thing to do. Still, he has signaled that he plans to leverage the reluctance of fellow Republicans to win longer-term spending concessions from Democrats.
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In his 2010 race against the incumbent, Harry Mitchell (D), Schweikert never took a position on the debt limit, he said. But Schweikert campaigned in this relatively well-educated and wealthy suburban swing district as a fiscal conservative and attacked his opponent for backing costly legislation, including the $787 billion stimulus. At the town hall, Schweikert cast the debt situation in apocalyptic terms. “This is about the survival of your republic right now,” he said.
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Just as the GOP over reached and set themselves up for a fall post 1994, they've done the same thing now. The recall effort in Wisconsin where 4 GOP state senators are facing a recall vote is a concrete example. Schweikert embraced the ny cases of the far right to win his election. Now, he needs to face reality - and possibly pay a high price no matter what he does.

Please Show Your Support for Gay Adoption in Virginia

I've noted a number of times the raging issue in Virginia concerning a proposed change in the regulations of the Virginia Department of Social Services that would for the first time clearly endorse adoption and foster parenting by same sex couples. Unfortunately, Victoria Cobb (pictured at left) and her fellow hate merchants at The Family Foundation and their insidious network of far right churches and theocrats across Virginia - not to mention their puppets in the GOP such as Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli and Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell - have latched onto the issue as a means to denigrate and dehumanize LGBT Virginians yet again. Family Equality is working to get out supporters of gay equality tomorrow at the offices of the Virginia State Board of Social Services where a decision will be made on the proposed regulations. I urge readers in Richmond and the surrounding area who are able to do so to attend the hearing. We CANNOT yield the field to Victoria Cobb and the haters at The Family Foundation. Here are details via Family Equality Council:
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Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, April 20, 2011] the Virginia State Board of Social Services is meeting to determine whether to accept regulations that would allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt. I am personally attending the meeting tomorrow to speak up for our families.
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We need as many supporters as we can get to come to the meeting and speak during the public comment period. You and I both know that there will be folks there who don't support our right to adopt, and we need to speak up.
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Here's the address: Va Dept. of Social Services, Central Region Office 1604 Santa Rosa Road Richmond, VA 23229.
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If you can come feel free to give me a call 202-664-0079. If you can't come yourself, and know anyone who might fit the bill, feel free to email me and I will reach out to them.

Tuesday Male Beauty

King & Spaulding Takes Up DOMA Defense

Having been in the legal profession for well over 30 years, I am never surprised by the hypocrisy that seems to be the hallmark of many law firms. They claim, with wink and a nod and fingers crossed behind their backs, that they don't discriminate against LGBT individuals, yet then they do so - often over and over again. Worse yet, some law firms will claim to have non-discrimination policies that bar anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, promotions, etc., but actually have no such policy, a situation I have addressed here. Worse yet, other firms demonstrate by the clients that they choose to represent that their claims of non-discrimination are in reality a lie. A case in point: mega-firm King & Spaulding which as reported by Towelroad has signed on to represent Congressional Republicans in the defense of DOMA - a law that as its very essence embodies religious based anti-gay discrimination. Here's how King & Spaulding's website describes the firm's alleged non-discrimination policy:
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King & Spalding is committed to having the brightest and most diverse lawyers it can find, including members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. We work hard to foster and maintain an environment where our lawyers can provide the highest level of legal service while being true to themselves in the process. The firm's non-discrimination policy prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Further, domestic partner benefits are offered for same-sex couples.
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Recognitions
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Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index Rating of 95 out of 100 (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)

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Community

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King & Spalding also provides ongoing support for various LGBT-related community organizations..
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Unless I'm living in some alternate universe, representing those supporting a total non-recognition of the relationships of same sex couples, denying all spousal benefits, etc., does NOT strike me as fostering an environment where individuals can be "true to themselves." Indeed, it's something quite the opposite. No one can force a law firm to represent a given client and typically, no individual partner can commit a firm to a potentially highly controversial case. Thus, I can only believe that high ups at King & Spaulding had to have approved this anti-LGBT representation.

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Frankly, it seems to me that HRC needs to IMMEDIATELY change King & Spaulding's rating to a ZERO. As for readers and businesses that believe in full equality for LGBT citizens, I suggest they contact the following folks at King & Spaulding: Samuel M Matchett Diversity Committee Chair -1-404 572 2414 and Caroline A Abney Human Resources Manager -1- 404 572 4643. Those who are in a postion to select legal counsel might also want to make it clear that, given King & Spaulding's anti-gay representation, that law firm will no longer be in consideration for legal services.

More Backwards Thinking From the Catholic Hierarchy

I've written in the past about the insane rush to declare the less than saintly John Paul II a saint of the Roman Catholic Church and the ridiculous claim that those who oppose gay rights - even protections against violence - as being victims. The latter batshitery was most recently uttered by Vatican representative Archbishop Silvano Tomasi. Now Newsweek has a timely article that looks at the inappropriateness of sainthood for John Paul II and Religion Dispatches looks at the scientifically reputed "natural law" machinations used by the Church - Benedict XVI in particular - to maintain the Church's anti-knowledge and anti-gay propaganda. The Newsweek article asks the question that is being ignored by the untethered old queens in Rome: Why is the Vatican rushing the beatification of a pope who oversaw its worst scandal in centuries? Part of the answer lies in the "saint making factory" process John Paul II put into place. The other, in my view, is a bizarre effort to counter all of the misdeeds and misrule that occurred on John Paul II's watch. In short, it's an attempt to rewrite history much as the Christianists try to rewrite American history to alter inconvenient facts. Here are highlights from Newsweek:
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John Paul notoriously presided over what wags called a “saint-making factory” during his almost 27 years atop the Catholic Church. He produced more beatifications (1,338) and canonizations (482) than all previous popes combined—and since Catholic tradition acknowledges 263 previous popes stretching back nearly 2,000 years, that’s no mean feat.
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A substantial share of John Paul’s picks lived in the 20th century, from Padre Pio to Mother Teresa to JosemarĂ­a Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei. In that sense, John Paul’s fast-track beatification is a natural byproduct of his own policies, which have been largely upheld by his successor and erstwhile right-hand man, Pope Benedict XVI.
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[E]nthusiasm [for John Paul II's canonization] has been tempered by revelations about the role of the late pope and his aides in the sexual-abuse crisis—by any reckoning, the most destructive Catholic scandal in centuries, and one that critics say metastasized on John Paul’s watch.
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The signature case is that of the late Mexican priest Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the controversial conservative religious order the Legionaries of Christ. . . . . Maciel had sexually abused a number of former members of the order. That case was tabled until late 2001, and no action was taken until after John Paul’s death.
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Even when Ratzinger’s staff began to become convinced there was fire behind the smoke, other senior figures in John Paul’s regime gave Maciel aid and comfort. Maciel accompanied John Paul II on several foreign voyages and was extolled by top church officials as a role model for his work with youth.
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[T]he Maciel case illustrates a pattern of denial and obstruction of justice on sex abuse during the John Paul years. In cases where local bishops attempted to formally expel abusers from the priesthood, in a process known as “laicization,” Rome often counseled caution. Vatican authorities until very recently turned a blind eye to “mandatory reporter” policies that would have obligated bishops to report these crimes to police and civil prosecutors.
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Vatican spin no longer carries the weight it once did, and in many quarters critics will still see the beatification as an attempt to whitewash John Paul’s record on the crisis.
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Meanwhile, even as story after story continues to surface about the Church's protection of child rapists, the attacks on gays such as the bullshit put out by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi continues unabated. As Religion Dispatches notes, underlying the Church's jihad against gays is the farcical "natural law" argument that dates back hundreds of years before the advent of modern science and knowledge on sexual orientation. Here's a sampling:
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According to this logic the recognition of LGBT identity would “undermine his/her ontological dignity” — meaning that since gays, lesbians, and transgender persons are by their nature “intrinsically morally disordered” claiming sexual orientation identity is, by nature, false. Tomasi then likened homosexual behavior to pedophilia and incest: “But states can, and must, regulate behaviors, including various sexual behaviors.
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Since the early 1980s and the ascendency of Cardinal Ratzinger as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the moral theology of the Church has become increasingly locked into a framework of natural law anthropology, which is a logic based on male and female roles as pro-creators in the natural order of a biologistic social order emphasizing the nuclear family as the first cell of society.
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More problematic in Tomasi’s understanding of sexual orientation is the non-recognition of LGBT persons resulting in the Church’s negation of the social, psychological, cultural, and political realities in which they live.
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Prior to Ratzinger’s emphasis on natural law anthropology as foundational to contemporary moral and social issues, the Church’s social justice doctrine might have had tremendous influence in the creation of a positive Catholic LGBT human rights agenda.
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The [United Nations] Human Rights Council’s recent statement was signed by all of the Catholic countries of Europe and Latin America. Civil marriage for same-sex couples has been ratified in the Catholic countries of Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Argentina, and Mexico. Acceptance of LGBT persons is not just an American phenomenon, it’s a broadly international one with a strong Catholic character.

Of course, is precisely these trends that are most disturbing to the Vatican, especially as younger Catholics around the world are even more accepting of homosexuality and the legitimacy of sexual orientation and gender identity than their parents and grandparents. Sadly, in the fight against LGBT rights the Vatican and the U.S. hierarchy is throwing its hat in the ring with some of the most powerful and well-funded voices of religious fundamentalism in the U.S., Africa, and Latin America.
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There is an easy solution to the hierarchy’s increasing distance from the laity and ordinary clergy: just as the Church finally acknowledged slavery and racial segregation to be wrong and finally recognized full equality for black people, it can acknowledge that homophobia and sexual orientation discrimination and violence are wrong and recognize that sexual orientation and gender identity are social realities in our complex world. Otherwise, the Church lends legitimacy to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Church is not the victim.
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Will the Church come into the modern world and end its anti-gay agenda? Personally, I doubt it. At least not until thousands and thousands of Catholics walk away from the Church either for other denominations that increasingly accept modern knowledge or to join those in the category of no religious affiliation.