Christian conscience

Either Significant or Not

Evangelist Franklin Graham speaks before the Festival of Hope at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Frank Couch)

This is interesting …

Evangelist Franklin Graham announced Monday that he left the Republican Party and is now an independent over the GOP’s failure to defund Planned Parenthood in last week’s omnibus spending bill.

(Koplowitz)

… I think. Maybe. Possibly.

Still, though: And?

You know. Like―What now?

Oh, right. Go on tour.

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Image note: Evangelist Franklin Graham speaks before the Festival of Hope at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Frank Couch)

Graham, Franklin. “Shame on the Republicans and the Democrats for passing such a wasteful spending bill last week”. Facebook. 21 December 2015.

Koplowitz, Howard. “Franklin Graham quits GOP over not defunding Planned Parenthood; ‘I have no hope in the Republican Party'”. AL.com. 22 December 2015.

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Liberty Counsel

Liberty Counsel

Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch put together a brief list―and thank him, since that means you don’t have to do it yourself―of strange arguments offered in support of Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who asserts her ad hoc religion entitles her, as an equally protected constitutional right, to decide who is entitled to their equally protected constitutional rights.

The list itself is pretty straightforward except for its unbelievability; yet here we are, and this is real:

(1) God’s law trumps U.S. law

(2) Davis was elected before Obergefell, so she’s exempt

(3) Davis is the only clerk obeying the law

(4) Gays can just drive to another county

(5) Anti-religious test for office

While it is true that these are all nonsensical, we might take a moment to consider that first, reminding of two points: Insurrection and bad attorneys.

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Another Obvious Question (House Divided Hot Mess Mix)

Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens to Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz as they speak with her at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. (Photo: Ty Wright/Getty Images)

Let us start here:

Importantly, Davis is not claiming a substantial burden on her religious freedom or free speech rights if someone else authorizes and approves a SSM license devoid of her name.

(Mihet and Christman [Liberty Counsel], 28 August 2015; accents per source)

Follow the bouncing ball:

“The stay request offers several options such as removing Davis’s name from the marriage license, thus removing the personal nature of the authorization,” Staver pointed out. “Another accommodation would be to allow licenses to be issued by the chief executive of Rowan County or developing a statewide, online marriage license process,” Staver suggested. “There is absolutely no reason that this case has gone so far without reasonable people respecting and accommodating Kim Davis’s First Amendment rights,” Staver concluded.

(Liberty Counsel, 31 August 2015; boldface accent added)

And then came Friday:

Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel which represents Davis, said he believes Friday’s licenses are invalid because they were not issued with her approval. Davis’ name does not appear on the licenses.

“They are not worth the paper they are printed on,” Staver said, standing in front of the Grayson, Kentucky, detention center where Davis is being held. He added she had no intention of resigning as clerk.

(Bittenbender; boldface accent added)

Would any among Ms. Davis’ defenders care to attempt reconciling, or at least merely explaining that sleight? This much is true: We don’t expect Mr. Staver, nor his colleagues, Messrs. Christman and Himet, to do so. Indeed, we might wonder if they would find demands for such an explanation offensive to their religious freedom.

To be clear, because some need it so expressed:

If Kim Davis’ name was not on the marriage licenses, then the “personal nature of the authorization” would be removed. (Liberty Counsel, 28-31 August)

If the licenses were issued without Ms. Davis’ name on them, then they are “not worth the paper they are printed on” because Ms. Davis has not given authorization of a personal nature.

In the end, Mark Joseph Stern’s question of whether Kim Davis is “getting taken for a ride by her lawyers”, as the headline put it, asserts itself more insistently.

More and more, it’s beginning to look like the Liberty Counsel is taking Davis for a ride, using her doomed case to promote itself and its extremist principles. Davis has certainly humiliated and degraded the gay couples whom she turned away. But I wonder if, on some level, she isn’t a victim, too.

(Boldface accent added)

I mean, really.

This is a sick joke playing out before our eyes.

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Image note: Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens to Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz as they speak with her at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. (Photo: Ty Wright/Getty Images)

(Tip o’ the hat I don’t actually wear: JoeMyGod)

Mihet, Horatio G. and Jonathan D. Christman. “Emergency Application to Stay Preliminary Injunction Pending Appeal”. Davis v. Miller et al. Supreme Court of the United States. 28 August 2015.

Liberty Counsel. “Accommodations Would End Rowan County Dispute”. Press Release. 31 August 2015.

Bittenbender, Steve. “Kentucky clerk’s office ends ban on same-sex marriage licenses”. Reuters. 4 September 2015.

Stern, Mark Joseph. “Is Kentucky’s Infamous Anti-Gay Clerk Getting Taken for a Ride by Her Lawyers?”. Slate. 31 August 2015.

An Obvious Question (Mix A Mat)

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel.

There comes a point when we really must revisit Mark Joseph Stern’s point last week for Slate:

More and more, it’s beginning to look like the Liberty Counsel is taking Davis for a ride, using her doomed case to promote itself and its extremist principles. Davis has certainly humiliated and degraded the gay couples whom she turned away. But I wonder if, on some level, she isn’t a victim, too.

Think of it this way: Mat Staver has been on an eleven year losing streak. Think about that for a moment; his old claim to fame is a Pledge of Allegiance case, but in the question of Christians having the right to decide who else gets rights, he has been exactly the loser he sounds like for over a decade. Something about track record goes here.

We might also recall, more recently, Mr. Staver’s pledge to defend marriage, which was rooted in the same assertion of religious supremacism and comparisons to historical victims we hear now. Of late, though, he has ratcheted up the hatred:

With Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis jailed for refusing to follow the orders of U.S. District Judge David Bunning, her deputies issued a marriage license to James Yates and William Smith on Friday. The couple had previously been denied five times.Liberty Counsel

However, Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel which represents Davis, said he believes Friday’s licenses are invalid because they were not issued with her approval. Davis’ name does not appear on the licenses.

“They are not worth the paper they are printed on,” Staver said, standing in front of the Grayson, Kentucky, detention center where Davis is being held. He added she had no intention of resigning as clerk.

(Bittenbender)

At this point, it seems a pretty straightforward question: Is Mr. Staver really so cruel and desperately determined to disrupt and denigrate other people’s marriages, or is he just that bad of a lawyer?

Sigh. Nothing says it can’t be both.

Think about it, though; not only does he assert that his client need not follow the law, now he claims she can prevent others from following the law.

This is what “family values” culture comes to?

____________________

Bittenbender, Steve. “Kentucky clerk’s office ends ban on same-sex marriage licenses”. Reuters. 4 September 2015.

Holland, Gina. “Court declines gay marriage case”. The Herald-Tribune. 29 November 2004.

Michelson, Noah. “Kim Davis’ Attorney Compares Her To Jews Living In Nazi Germany, Invokes Images Of Gas Chambers”. The Huffington Post. 5 September 2015.

Stern, Mark Joseph. “Is Kentucky’s Infamous Anti-Gay Clerk Getting Taken for a Ride by Her Lawyers?” Slate. 31 August 2015.

The Not-So-Gay Divorceé

VIII. Adjustment.

The question of a divorceé has long plagued Christian supremacists who denounce marriage equality and gay rights, but, you know, really? Not only has Kim Davis already licensed transgender man and his pansexual wife, and most likely also issued plenty of marriage licenses to divorceés, but it also turns out that Ms. Davis is herself a serial adulterer.

On this point, Travis Gettys of Raw Story considers an appearance by Dan Savage on msnbc; the author, advice columnist, and editor of The Stranger, Mr. Savage spared no punches:

“I think Kim Davis is waiting to cash in,” Savage told MSNBC. “I predicted from the beginning that she would defy all the court orders, defy the Supreme Court, she would ultimately be held in contempt of court, lose her job, perhaps go to prison for a short amount of time. And then she will have written for her, ghost written books. She will go on the right-wing lecture circuit and she’ll never have to do an honest day’s work ever again in her life.”

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, in a mugshot, 3 September 2015, after being held in contempt of court by U.S. District Judge David Bunning, after she refused to comply with the law and issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples.“This is about someone hypocritically cashing in, and she is a hypocrite,” he added.

Savage referred to the defiant clerk’s statement complaining that courts were asking her to “violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage” — which the columnist dismissed as ridiculous.

“This is a woman who’s been divorced three times and married four times,” he said, reading from the US News & World Report article that pointed out Davis “gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband, (and) they were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second husband.”

“She’s now onto her fourth husband,” Savage said. “Jesus Christ himself in scripture condemned divorce, called it adultery and forbids it. Jesus Christ himself in scripture says not one word about same-sex marriage.”

Savage said the U.S. Supreme Court had already decided the issue of same-sex marriage, and he said Davis clearly should have followed the law all along.

“She’s not being asked to perform a sacrament, she is tasked with ascertaining that the people in front of her, the couple in front of her, have a legal right to get married and to provide them with that license,” he said. “She is not a minister. She actually thinks she works for God there in the county courthouse, when she actually works for Caesar — and someone needs to acquaint her with that fact.”

Or we might attend Mr. Savage himself, who recently blogged, among other notes:

I would say I can’t wait for a Muslim county clerk in, say, Dearborn, Michigan (which has a huge Muslim community), to refuse to issue a marriage license to a Christian couple on the grounds that the this kafir couple hasn’t been paying jizya… but that’s not going to happen. Religious minorities in this country intuitively understand that to empower religious bigots like Davis is to paint bullseyes on their own backs. So the Jesus-freak goons at the Liberty Counsel work to frame discrimination as a “religious freedom” because they’re confident that American Christians will be the ones doing the discriminating, not suffering from it.

This is an important point. Something about functional reality goes here.

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A Matter of Appearances, and Other Notes

Huang reflects on a mission barely accomplished. (Darker Than Black, ep. 14)

Although my permission doesn’t matter, yes, you have my permission to enjoy the next three paragraphs.

A transgender man and his wife stepped forward Saturday with paperwork showing that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis apparently issued them a marriage license in February even though she has blocked forms for same-sex couples over the past two months.

Camryn Colen, who is transgender, and his wife Alexis, who identifies as pan sexual, said Davis’ office provided the license on Feb. 26 without asking to see Camryn’s birth certificate, which still identifies him as female. The couple married that night.

“She saw just a straight couple in love, and she should see everybody like that,” Camryn said. “She shouldn’t just see straight couples like that.”

(Wynn)

No, seriously. When petulant laughter―Ah! Ha! Ha ha! Hahaha! HaHahaHahHaHa!―is all we can think of, why not just go with it?

This moment of pure ironic bliss is brought to you by Kentucky, because why not and where the hell else? (more…)

An Alleged Million Moms (Jazz Mix)

Actress Jazz Jennings attends the 2015 ESPYs at Microsoft Theater on 15 July 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

[Deliberately catty sigh]

One Million Moms, the vehemently right-wing group known for getting worked up over everything from Toys ‘R’ Us to Oreo Cookies to Chobani yogurt, is back with what could be its most obnoxious conviction yet.

This time, the group is targeting Jazz Jennings, the remarkable transgender teen who has inspired so many through her LGBT advocacy work and TLC series, “I Am Jazz.”

In two separate blog posts, one of which was titled “God doesn’t make mistakes (but humans do),” One Million Moms condemned the team behind “I Am Jazz,” arguing that the show aims “to desensitize America’s youth.”

“The show is attempting to normalize the transgender lifestyle and make it appear OK while using a young cast member to lure a young audience,” officials wrote in the blog.

(Wong)

I am of two minds about this sort of thing. “We don’t follow this group’s logic,” notes HuffPo Gay Voices Senior Editor Curtis M. Wong, “but when have they been logical?”

It is a fair question, but also one that begs recursively. To wit, we might wonder why we should bother attending the antics in this particular psychomoral cesspit when we already know they are both excrementally wrong and nearly entirely ineffective?

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Justice (Northern Flicker)

Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand, with son Khaya, in court at Mobile, Alabama, 24 July 2015, after Visiting Judge James Reid approved an intrafamily adoption petition.  Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange protested the Searcy-McKeand marriage all the way to the United States Supreme Court.  (Detail of photo from Let Love Define Family)

This is why:

Imagine sitting at your critically ill son’s bedside with your wife, watching the life ebb from the infant’s tiny body. Your baby is losing weight and desperately needs a feeding tube to sustain him until he receives an open-heart surgery, his only hope for survival, that is still two weeks away.

Your wife, upset and emotional, is unable to learn how to insert the tube. She is bullied by nurses and becomes hysterical so you step in and volunteer to take her place. But, because you are also a woman and living in a state with arcane marriage and adoption laws, you are denied. You are told, “You are not his mother.”

Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand of Mobile, Alabama, didn’t have to imagine this nightmare, because they had to live it. First they were stunned, then they were furious. And then they waged war against those arcane laws and changed history when they won.

(Hallstrom and Nichols)

And last month, on 24 July, Cari Searcy, whose name might ring a bell, and her wife Kim McKeand, went before Visiting Judge James Reid―sitting in for the infamous Probate Judge Don Davis―to receive approval for an intrafamily adoption. Khaya’s mothers are now both legally his mothers.

And this is why. Stand, speak, fight, win. Love. Live.

For all these years of fighting, Cari and Kim and Khaya now begin their adventure anew. It is our honor to bear witness, that this family should triumph over harmful and hateful Alabama “values”.

This is what Attorney General Luther Strange sued to stop. This is what even Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas could see when he conceded the inevitability of marriage equalityα. This is why Chief Justice Roy Moore would refuse the U.S. Constitution, and Probate Judge Don Davis choose derelection. This is why Alabama would disgrace itself.

This family.

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Image note: Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand, with son Khaya, in court at Mobile, Alabama, 24 July 2015, after Visiting Judge James Reid approved an intrafamily adoption petition. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange protested the Searcy-McKeand marriage all the way to the United States Supreme Court. (Detail of photo from Let Love Define Family)

α From Justice Thomas’ dissent in Strange v. Searcy, in which the Court majority denied the State of Alabama stay against recognizing the same-sex marriage of Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand: “In this case, the Court refuses even to grant a temporary stay when it will resolve the issue at hand in several months.”

Hallstrom, Beth. “Here’s How Two Women Changed The Lives Of LGBT Families In Alabama Forever”. Ed. JamesMichael Nichols. The Huffington Post. 8 August 2015.

Thomas, Clarence. “On Application for Stay”. Strange v. Searcy. Supreme Court of the United States. 9 February 2015.

An Exercise in Contrasts

Garterbelt's head explodes. (Detail of frame from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, episode 3, 'Pulp Addiction')

Michelangelo Signorile, on a looming spectre in the tale of equality, liberty and justice for all, and other such Americana such as virtue and citizenship:

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has finally lifted its ban on gay adults―except for those groups that still want to discriminate. Sure, it’s cause for optimism that the BSA is not enforcing the ban on every chapter and group. But by allowing some to discriminate by choice―at this particular juncture in American politics―the BSA is setting a dangerous precedent. By allowing the religiously-affiliated troops to still ban gay adults, the BSA is making a religious exemption seem like a reasonable compromise when in fact it is allowing the very people who would discriminate to keep discriminating.

(Boldface accent added)

That last is a particular point of Signorile’s; he raised it last week in a piece about the 2016 Republican presidential candidates we had cause to note for our own reasons. His point isn’t merely valid, it is important. This is the ostensible point of these religious freedom arguments conservatives keep asserting.

We would also remind that this is about more than gay marriage; this is about more, even than the Gay Fray itself.

This is dangerous.

But there is another recurring theme, as well; as Signorile noted, “The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has finally lifted its ban on gay adults―except for those groups that still want to discriminate”.

We would remind a point from our recent misfortune to consider Gov. Scott Walker’s response to the idea that the Boy Scouts of America would reinvest discriminatory authority in local leaders … er … ah … right. That’s the point. While the BSA has lifted its official national gay ban, they have simply chosen to reinvest discriminatory authority in local Boy Scout leaders.

Mr. Walker responded to the mere proposition by considering the “larger political and cultural debate” juxtaposed with “camping and citizenship and merit badge and service awards”, and therein we find the true measure of what the Boy Scouts of America has done: We won’t force you to discriminate, but, hey, you know, if you want to demonstrate citizenship and merit and service by going out of your way to be cruel and harmful to others, that’s just fine with us.

Downstream reinvestment seems to be the new trend for conservative resistance against equality. It’s hardly anything new; in 2012 we saw Republicans try to reinvest authority to deny contraception in employers. Then again, that’s not so far downstream as it used to be, when a woman needed her husband’s permission to do any number of things.

In the end, it is a poisonous formula. The whole point is to present a compromise in which, okay, discrimination is wrong and shouldn’t be allowed unless you want to discriminate. Downstream reinvestment might fit well into anti-institutional appeal to local sentiment, but its entire purpose is to ensure authority to discriminate is invested somewhere, with someone. The whole point is to protect the discrimination itself.

And perhaps the larger political spectacle of disruptive empowerment demands greater attention, but it really is important to remember what the Boy Scouts of America has done. Protecting bigotry stands among their virtues of proper citizenship.

This is problematic, to say the least.

It is almost enough to obscure the fact of even greater stupidity.

No, really, we promised a contrast. Kyle Mantyla tries to explain:

Today, the Boy Scouts National Executive Board is expected to lift the organization’s ban on gay scout leaders and Colorado state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt is not happy about it, warning parents on his “Pray In Jesus Name” program today to remove their sons from the organization before they are molested.Say what?

“If your boy is in one of those organizations, you need to get the out of there,” Klingenschmitt said, “because what they’re going to do is promote homosexual men to mentoring and camping with your boys in the woods and it will lead to child abuse.”

Thanks, Gordon. We … really needed to know what was on your mind.

No, really, with everything else going on ....

Actually, it’s probably a better tack than trying to explain the whole discrimination thing. But there is also apparent irony in the idea of the traditional bigoted appeal about how the homosexuals are coming for the children.

Still, though, the contrast only begs the question: We take these people seriously … why?

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Image note: A preacher’s torment ― Garterbelt’s head explodes. Don’t ask. Detail of frame from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, episode 3, “Pulp Addiction”.

Mantyla, Kyle. “Klingenschmitt: Remove Your Sons From The Boy Scouts Before They Are Abused By Gay Child Molesters”. Right Wing Watch. 27 July 2015.

Signorile, Michelangelo. “Why the Boy Scouts New Policy on Gays Sets A Dangerous Precedent”. The Huffington Post. 28 July 2015.

—————. “The GOP Plan to Stoke Anti-Gay Bigotry in 2016”. The Huffington Post. 23 July 2015.

Tomorrow, Today

Detail of frame from Sekirei.

I should be embarrassed. Or, you know, maybe not.

Really, I thought the right wing would have taken the hint and moved on to the next front. That is to say, my prognostication somehow failed to account for just how stubborn is this conservative desperation:

There have been predictions for several years that gay-bashing by GOP presidential candidates would be dead by 2016, some of it wishful thinking by gay advocates. Back in 2012, Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, for example, commenting on the lack of discussion of gay issues in the three debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney, said, “What we’re seeing is proof positive that gay issues aren’t the wedge they used to be.” The public, he said, has “moved on.”

Fast forward to 2015: Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and Rick Perry have expressed blatant anti-gay positions, from banning gay scout leaders to supporting yet another marriage amendment. Some pundits believe this to be politically dangerous, certainly in a general election, and they’re right when it comes to the more overt bigotry. As I noted last week, Scott Walker clearly crossed a line — and walked back — when he said the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adults “protected children.”

But new polling underscores that covert messaging — the dog whistle — could do the trick for the GOP, just as it has worked for the party on race and gender for decades now. Jeb Bush has defended “religious liberty” — the new code words for anti-gay positions — even while saying gay couples deserved “respect” for their relationships. And just last week, Bush said he supported the idea of anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people, though he thought they should be handled “state-by-state” (contrary to a comprehensive federal bill introduced by Democrats in Congress today that would protect LGBT people nationally).

But in comments that directly followed, Bush said that he believes there should be an exception for people with religious objections to allowing gays and lesbians to marry, such as a florist who refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding. In other words, those who would discriminate in the first place should be exempt from laws banning discrimination. This will in fact be the more subtle — but no less vile and discriminatory — gay-bashing of the 2016 election.

The one and only Michelangelo Signorile recalls predictions “for several years that gay-bashing by GOP presidential candidates would be dead by 2016”, and appropriately notes at least some of it was wishful thinking. And perhaps we might simply be considering a different perspective on the question of gay-bashing, but it seems unclear just how any of that wishful thinking would have worked. We would not fault Mr. Signorile for his recollection; he isn’t wrong. But it has never been clear quite how that relief should work.

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