Indiana RFRA

The Impossible Successor

#PresidentRyan | ¿#WhatTheyVotedFor?

Republican U.S. vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaks at a campaign rally, Oct. 22, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Amid everything else over the last week or so, we ought not forget this:

We’re left with an unsettling picture. Flynn told the transition team he’s the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, and either that information either reached Pence or it didn’t. If Pence was out of the loop, he was dangerously incompetent at his job. If Pence knew, and Flynn became National Security Advisor anyway, that’s worse.

Remember, as the turmoil surrounding Flynn grew more serious, the vice president said he was completely unaware of Flynn’s alleged misdeeds. In March, when Fox News asked Pence about Flynn having to register as a foreign agent, Pence said he was hearing the story for the first time.

Except, as Rachel has explained on the show, that’s literally unbelievable. Not only were there multiple news reports for months about Flynn’s foreign work, but Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote to Pence’s transition team to make sure Team Trump was aware of this.

(Benen)

Because, quite frankly, it still cracks me up that once upon a time, when Rubio was fumbling for water, Paul was drowning in plagiarism, and Christie apparently had nothing to do with that bridge, we might have heard Mike Pence’s name whispered as the cyclical dark horse. The Indiana governor, by Republican accounts, was politically savvy and a dedicated conservative. And while others might disagree about the savvy, it seemed for naught when he signed a RFRA and failed to comprehend what happened next. Except, of course, his dramatic revitalization as Donald Trump’s vice presidential candidate, and then vice president. It was easy enough to joke that we might yet see a President Pence.

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The Similarity ‘Twixt Sinister and Stupid (McCrory Molestation Mix)

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory addresses the Wake County Republican Part6y 2016 Convention at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, 8 March 2016. (Photo: Al Drago/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

“One could write off Pence’s surprise at the RFRA-inspired boycott of his state as the natural result of a person who lives in a right-wing bubble. After all, even though he must have known about Indiana’s struggles, North Carolina governor Pat McCrory seemed similarly shocked by the national outcry over the infamous anti-trans ‘bathroom bill’ he signed into law earlier this year. A religious conservative like Pence, even one who worked in D.C. for better than a decade, could easily have been trapped in a bubble of epistemic closure.”

Gary Legum

It seems a place to start. Gary Legum’s analysis of why Indiana Gov. Mike Pence would be a poor pick to run alongside Donald Trump certainly had its merits, though in truth we can speculate with reasonable confidence that selecting the Hoosier dullard will not, ultimately, be what sinks Republican presidential hopes. To the other, Gov. McCrory’s infamy has taken an even more compelling turn of late; Steve Benen offers three of the most uncomfortable paragraphs you might read this season:

The point is not to diminish the pain of the woman featured in the ad, who was the victim of a horrible crime. Rather, the point is the disconnect between what happened to Gina Little and the purpose of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law.

Let’s not forget how we reached this point: city officials in Charlotte approved a broad anti-discrimination measure, which included protections for transgender North Carolinians, allowing people to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity. The Republican governor and state legislature took action soon after, undoing what Charlotte had done.

Five months later, McCrory’s re-election campaign is defending the policy by pointing to a woman who was molested as a child in her home by members of her own family.

(more…)

Another One

Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) takes the oath of office during Organization Day at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Tuesday, 18 November 2014. (AP Photo/A.J. Mast)

So …

Indiana House Majority Leader Jud McMillin, a cosponsor of the state’s controversial “religious freedom” law resigned his seat abruptly Tuesday, after a sexually explicit video starring the representative was sent via text message from McMillin’s cell phone. The Indianapolis Star reported it is unclear who sent the text or how broadly it was distributed.

This is the second time McMillin has resigned from a job over sexual misconduct allegations.

McMillin was a rising star in Indiana Republican politics, a conservative who also spoke out against marriage equality, opposes nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, and coauthored legislation to prevent an LGBT youth group from obtaining a specialty license plate. In a prepared statement released yesterday, McMillin said the “time is right for me to pass the torch and spend more time with my family.”

(Browning)

… what, really, is anyone supposed to say?

Here’s another paragraph about this paragon of Indiana virtue:

In 2011, a Bilerico Project expose on the lawmaker highlighted McMillin’s past brushes with the law and allegations of sexual impropriety. The site reported that McMillin had faced petty theft allegations, vehicular homicide charges, and was forced to resign a job as a deputy prosecutor after a domestic violence victim claimed he forced her to press charges against her will and coerced her into a sexual relationship. Court filings in the victim’s subsequent lawsuit against for the former prosecutor show McMillin sent her incredibly graphic sexually explicit photographs from his phone and was caught having sex with her in a state park.

This is a guy who Indiana Christians rallied behind, because, you know, he said he would “protect the institution of marriage”.

Now that we understand a bit more about what that actually means, can any of us really say we are surprised?

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Image note: Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) takes the oath of office during Organization Day at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Tuesday, 18 November 2014. (AP Photo/A.J. Mast)

Browning, Bil. “Antigay Indiana Lawmaker Resigns After Sex Tape Text”. The Advocate. 30 September 2015.

Something Important

Evangelist Joshua Fuerstein, April, 2015.  (Image: WKMG)

Well, right. Almost missed this. How could we almost miss this?

Days after the anti-gay pizzeria controversy rocked Indiana, former televangelist Joshua Feuerstein went after a Longwood, Florida, bakery for refusing to put the words “We do not support gay marriage” on a cake.

Feuerstein made the request himself, and when Cut The Cake owner Sharon Haller refused, she said threats started pouring in.

“He wanted us to put a hateful message on a cake, and I said, ‘We’re not gonna do that,’” Haller told Orlando news station WKMG Local 6, adding, “We started getting some hundreds of phone calls and making very nasty and negative gestures towards our business, towards us.”

As for Feurestein, he believes he’s teaching a lesson about tolerance.

(Weingus)

This is just another example of a conservative failing to comprehend basic differences. In this case, what, between merely existing and choosing how one exists? Or between existing and expressing? How about the basic difference between celebration and antagonism? Sympathy and hatred? Any of this ringing a bell? Of course it isn’t.

Christianity is a choice; being gay isn’t. Ms. Haller can no more refuse Mr. Fuerstein service for simply being Christian than any other baker can refuse service to a gay person simply for being gay. Asking businesses to go out of their way to be hateful and provocative? That’s a different notion altogether, and apparently one that is too complicated for those who have sacrificed their intellects for the appearance of pious faith.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Weingus, Leigh. “Florida Bakery Faces Threats After Refusing To Print Anti-Gay Message On A Cake”. The Huffington Post. 5 April 2015.

Fifteen Minutes, and Then Some

Detail of 'This Modern World' by Tom Tomorrow, 6 April 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.

Cynicism can be difficult.

Well, okay: Cyncism can be difficult for a person with a conscience.

Not long ago there emerged in my circles a notion that bakers and florists refusing to serve gay weddings “were probably going under before”, a note that prompted a brief and general reflection at the time: “blaming the government and calling yourself a victim is one way to appeal to the fifteen minutes”, and, “It seems like almost a side note, but watch how showbiz and the fifteen minutes become so many Americans’ backup plans”. It really is a cyncial outlook, except reality keeps suggesting it; funds raised on behalf of picking a fight with gay people reinforce the notion that “a stunt like this would seem more plausible to the actors because they can reasonably hope for a crowdsourced bailout”.

That seems to be where this is all going. Over at Huffington Post, Cavan Sieczkowski reports on the fundraising response to over $840,000 given in support of an Indiana pizzeria that picked a fight, cried that they were being bullied, and shut down their business; it’s been a profitable “fifteen minutes” for the O’Connor family. And Dominique Mosbergen reports on Baronelle Stutzman, a bigot from Richland, Washington, who has collected $94,000 in donations with a similar publicity stunt.

Meanwhile, also via HuffPo, a bit of good news: At least the courts can still tell the difference.

Or, as Curtis M. Wong brings word that Marjorie Silva did not discriminate against William Jack when she refused to decorate a cake with “derogatory language and imagery”.

It is really easy to be cynical toward these stunts posing alleged acts of conscience as an appeal to crowdsourcing and the proverbial fifteen minutes of fame. To the other, we hear a lot from conservatives about “sincere beliefs”, so it’s not entirely fair to be so condemning in our assessments; after all, there remains a strong possibility that people like the O’Connors and Ms. Stutzman really are that stupid.

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Image note: Detail of This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow, 6 April 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.

Sieczkowski, Cavan. “That Anti-Gay Indiana Pizzeria That Received $840,000? This ‘Pizza’ Supports The LGBT Community.” The Huffington Post. 5 April 2015.

Mosbergen, Dominique. “Supporters Raise More Than $94,000 For Florist Who Refused To Sell Flowers For Same-Sex Wedding”. The Huffington Post. 6 April 2015.

Wong, Curtis M. “Colorado’s Azucar Bakery Did Not Discriminate By Refusing To Bake Anti-Gay Cakes, Court Rules”. The Huffington Post. 6 April 2015.

When the GOP Turns Against ‘Job Creators’

Mike Huckabee, circa 2012.  (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“But let’s not miss the forest for the trees – since when do Republicans argue, in effect, ‘Let’s stop listening to private-sector business leaders’?”

Steve Benen

It’s a fair question. And it’s also an ugly, sticky mess Republicans have gotten themselves into.

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Benen, Steve. “The GOP finds itself at odds with ‘job creators'”. msnbc. 6 April 2015.

Mr. Paul’s Priority

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) listens during a news conference on military sexual assault November 6, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  A bipartisan group of senators are pushing to create an independent military justice system with the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images).

It’s pretty simple. To the one, we can all grasp the idea of taking a bit of time to charge up before a long, hard run. To the other, there is a question of priorities:

Should an aspiring presidential candidate break a self-imposed silence for …

• … a matter of war and peace?

• … a civil rights question of vital importance and escalating clamor?

• … the satsifaction of some lobbyists in Iowa, where you hope to win the Ames Straw Poll later this year?

Whatever you or I might decide, we are not Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

Scott Conroy of Huffington Post explains:

Despite the Paul camp’s avowal of reticence in the week leading up to his announcement, in a story published in Politico on Wednesday afternoon, an anonymous Paul aide was quoted affirming the senator’s support for a bill backed by the ethanol industry―an influential lobbying bloc in Iowa.

At least we know what is important to Sen. Paul. You know, because he is about to spend months telling us how much he cares about this issue or that. His priorities are clear.

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Image note: WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 06: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) listens during a news conference on military sexual assault November 6, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. A bipartisan group of senators are pushing to create an independent military justice system with the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images).

Conroy, Scott. “Rand Paul Opts For An Extended ‘No Comment’ On Indiana Law, Iran Deal”. The Huffington Post. 2 April 2015.

Not Exactly News

Most 2016 GOP hopefuls support original Indiana law.  (TRMS, 3 April 2015)

We should not be surprised that “most 2016 GOP hopefuls support original Indiana law”. Just, you know, remember it next year, when it’s actually important because one of them might actually last long enough to look like a real candidate.

Otherwise, of course they support the original discrimination law. I mean, really, you know?

Still, it’s a good segment, and Steve Kornacki examines the numbers: “half of GOP primary voters are religious conservatives”.

And, you know, they are Republicans, after all. Some of them probably actually believe in this sort of thing.

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3 April 2015. “GOP candidates back religious freedom policy”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 3 April 2015.

Something Approaching Sanity in Georgia

The Seal of the State of Georgia.

As answers go, this counts:

Georgia’s “religious liberty” legislation succumbed to a quiet death on Thursday, but it will surely return in January just in time for election-year politicking.

(Bluestein)

Gov. Nathan Deal (R) advised supporters of the measure to follow the 1993 model in order to avoid unintended consequences. It is an interesting outlook:

“As close as a state can stay to the original federal language, the safer you are,” said Deal, who voted for the federal legislation while a member of Congress in the 1990s. “It has been interpreted in the courts, so by having that model you narrow some of the arguments about what it does or does not do.”

He called the anti-discrimination clause “the most important” addition.

“And that is a delicate thing to do,” he said. “There’s been so much hyperbole. It’s hard to identify what can you say without saying too much, what can you say without saying too little, and what will people read into either version.”

Another benefit from the bill’s failure, Deal said, is a year’s distance from the uproar over similar bills in Arkansas and Indiana, which led to threats of boycotts, travel bans and international criticism.

As Laura Clawson suggests:

That’s not exactly a strong “don’t discriminate because discrimination is bad” statement, but if the threat of lost business and reputation is what it takes to keep more states from passing laws allowing anti-gay discrimination in the name of religion, so be it.

Additionally, the tabling of this bill provides us an answer of sorts. It is important keep two points close at hand when watching these situations play out:

Unintended consequences: There is nothing “unintended” about it; this is not a matter of “hyperbole”. The whole point of these laws is to create a context in which this sort of discrimination is acceptable. Deal is saying what he must, and exactly nothing more.

This bill is even worse: While the situation in Indiana and its fallout in Arkansas has made the point pretty clearly about anti-gay discrimination, this was an especially awful bill, and here we might wonder about unintended consequences, because while the whole point is to empower discrimination, we also know that such zealotry does not often pause to consider the implications of its pursuits. More directly, even with the discrimination issue being resolved by force of basic sanity, this bill might well have implications in domestic violence and child abuse cases when the accused cites religion as part of the legal defense. And that part, well, apparently Nathan Deal is just fine with that.

And to think they’re going to try again next year.

Last month, Jay Michaelson wondered at the silence around the rest of the country:

Oddly, the most effective forces in killing Arizona’s “Turn The Gays Away” bill—corporations and the Chamber of Commerce—seem to be sitting this battle out. Maybe it’s because Arizona was bidding on a Super Bowl and Georgia isn’t. Or maybe it’s because no one is paying attention. But for whatever reason, the corporate silence is deafening ....

.... If big business, national media, and national LGBT organizations continue to sit on the sidelines, the bill’s fate may be a matter of vote-counting. The House bill had 59 cosponsors, out of 180 total members. But Graham pointed out that a pending non-discrimination bill has 78, including 19 Republicans. So it is up for grabs.

So here we find something of an answer. The business community just thrashed Indiana hard enough that Arkansas folded and Georgia balked. And as answers go, that counts.

We’ll see if anyone cares about the rest of it. A nondiscrimination clause? Sure. Are we going to do this again next year for a nonviolence clause? Or, you know, is that part not going to be important?

(Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn ....)

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Bluestein, Greg. “Nathan Deal’s advice for ‘religious liberty’ supporters next year”. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 3 April 2015.

Clawson, Laura. “Georgia watches Indiana and Arkansas, then lets discrimination bill die quietly”. Daily Kos. 3 April 2015.

Michaelson, Jay. “Georgia Bill Helps Wife Beaters”. The Daily Beast. 13 March 2015.

What Victory Will Mean

Detail of 'Tom the Dancing Bug' #1232, by Ruben Bolling, 2 April 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.And it’s Tom the Dancing Bug for the score. And the win, really.

No, seriously, just click the damn link.

Or the picture. That works, too.

And when you do, read. Understand. Get the point.

You know it’s the only way this can go.

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Bolling, Ruben. “Lo, in the land of Indiana …”. Tom the Dancing Bug. Daily Kos Comics. 2 April 2015.