Monday, October 22, 2018

The Courts Are Being Stacked to Strip Away LGBT Rights

German judges during the Nazi era in Germany. These judges  - all the while purporting to support
the rule of  law - handed down rulings that deprived people of basic human rights.

As noted before, besides being a political junkie, I was a history major in college and have continued to read historical works in the decades since.  One of the periods in history I find most disturbing and horrifying is the period when Hitler rose to power in Germany which then progressed into World War II and the Holocaust.  Hitler used several tools to rise to power some of which included (i) fanning hatred against racial and religious minorities (e.g., Gypsies and Jews) and depicting them as dangerous and less than human, (ii) attacking the press and calling legitimate news that sought exposed Nazi tactics as the German equivalent of "fake news" and (iii) used the courts and legislation to strip away the rights of targeted minorities. In his effort, he was aided by "good Germans" who either looked the other way at wrong doing or supported Hitler's efforts because he played to their prejudices and bigotry.  Many of these "good Germans" were  - or at least pretended to be - good Christians.  

Fast forward to today and we see a number of the same tactics being employed.  Watch a Trump rally and then watch a clip of from a Hitler rally.  The similarities are disturbing and certain groups are being targeted for hate and mistreatment today just as in the 1930's.  Then, of course, we hear the constant lie that main stream media is disseminating "fake news."  And we are seeing the third element, as well, as Trump is packing the federal courts with right wing extremists.  Voting rights are being stripped from minorities and others seem destined to see a right wing controlled U.S. Supreme Court declare them as open game for discrimination. Just as disturbing, I see far too many - including "friends" - cheering all of this on as they remain seemingly oblivious to the very real harm that many will suffer. Among these cheerleaders are the Christofascists to whom Trump promised the moon in exchange for their political support.  They, however, know full well the harm they are doing and find it perfectly fine.  Like the Auschwitz staff in the image below, they see others who do not subscribe to their beliefs as less than human and worthy of mistreatment.  In the case of gays, they even use the same sorts of lies merely swapping the word "Jew" for "gay" or "homosexual."  They are now seemingly poised with the help of Trump judicial appointments, including that of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, to begin stripping away the rights of LGBT citizens with the help of the five "conservatives: on the high Court.  A column in Huffington Post looks at this frightening prospect: 

While much of the country was in an uproar over the nomination (and confirmation) of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-LGBTQ religious extremists in Texas filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Austin targeting its anti-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ people, claiming it infringes on their religious liberty. Two days later, another anti-LGBTQ group in Texas filed a second, separate and even broader lawsuit attacking the Austin ordinance in state court.
[I]f the U.S. Supreme Court ― or individuals’ state Supreme Courts ― were to rule such laws in violation of “religious liberty,” hundreds of such laws protecting LGBTQ people across the United States could be wiped out.
The Supreme Court did, in fact, have a chance to do that earlier this year ― or to do the opposite and make it clear that LGBTQ people are constitutionally protected ― in its Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision. But it punted on either outcome.
And while Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that Colorado and ostensibly any other state or locality “can” protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, he and the court didn’t emphatically state that those protections are constitutionally guaranteed, leaving it for another case to decide the issue.
The optics of the case, however, were terrible ― seen as a victory for anti-LGBTQ extremists, no matter how narrow, and emboldening them moving forward.
With Kennedy gone, the Supreme Court could indeed clarify the issue when another case reaches it; and it could quite possibly be a very dark decision.
So on Oct. 6, as the Senate narrowly confirmed the hard-right Kavanaugh to replace Kennedy, the Houston-based U.S. Pastor’s Council, representing 25 churches, filed its lawsuit in federal court in Austin seeking to overturn the city’s employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, claiming they violate the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“I firmly believe they waited to file until [Kavanaugh] was confirmed,” Meghan Stabler, a noted Austin LGBTQ activist and former board member of the Human Rights Campaign, told me. She thinks the groups had been working on their respective filings for some time and coordinated their efforts. It’s “a clear indication of what is to come with regards to the religious liberty issue” and the high court, Stabler said. “If this effort succeeds in the courts, it would be open season for discrimination against LGBT people not just in Texas, but across the country,” said Dan Quinn, communications director of the Texas Freedom Network, which has long battled both groups that filed the lawsuits. . . . . the lawsuits are not about “religious freedom,” but rather an attempt at “sweeping away anti-discrimination protections that have been on the books for decades.” As with abortion rights issues, the larger goal of anti-LGBTQ groups is to keep filing these kinds of lawsuits until they hit judges or justices who will help them score a win, overturning any precedent or narrowing previous Supreme Court rulings.
The road through Texas seems like a strategic decision. The lawsuits are two-pronged: One is challenging the law in state court, the other in federal court. If the very conservative and anti-LGBTQ Texas Supreme Court were to rule in favor of the religious extremists ― which doesn’t seem like a stretch ― Texas Freedom Network’s Dan Quinn speculated other states hostile to LGBTQ rights would move in the same direction. 
The federal lawsuit, meanwhile, could find its way to the Supreme Court via the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which turned away a challenge by LGBTQ advocates to Mississippi’s broad and discriminatory Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2017, . . . . That law, viewed by many legal advocates as among the most discriminatory anti-LGBTQ laws ever passed, allows businesses that offer wedding-related services to refuse them to LGBTQ people and allows religious groups to discriminate in employment and housing. It allows adoption and foster agencies to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. And it even allows doctors and mental health counselors to turn away LGBTQ people simply based on the practitioners’ religious beliefs.
LGBTQ advocates then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which, in January of 2018 ― with Kennedy still on the court ― jarred advocates when it refused to hear the case, letting the horrendous Mississippi law stand.
Neil Gorsuch is a religious liberty crusader who is chomping at the bit, waiting for such a case. His past writings and a dissenting opinion on the court last year have made that clear. And Kavanaugh’s own record and his responses to questions about marriage equality during his confirmation hearings ― not to mention the partisanship and anger at “the left” he displayed during the hearing on the sexual assault allegations against him ― show that he can’t be relied upon to be a swing vote to protect LGBTQ rights.
[W]ith Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, the timing of the suits ― filed as he was confirmed and sworn in as a justice ― should also be a blaring siren for everyone who cares about civil rights for LGBTQ people. 
Some of the staff from Auschwitz - none looked like monsters despite the horrors
they perpetrated. Do not be fooled by appearances or false claims of morality and decency.
 If you are LGBT, you have good reason to be very afraid.

1 comment:

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

We were warned. The other candidate for president told everybody that there was more at stake that just 'the presidency'. But people did not pay attention. She told us. On national television and in many interviews. Now the Repugs have put their trojan horse in SCOTUS and McConnel is mining the judicial system with conservative judges. It's a full-on assault on human rights.