Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Last Call For Messing With Texas

The whole "states banning same-sex marriage thing being unconstitutional" just got very, very real.

A federal judge in San Antonio has declared Texas' ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, however, also issued a stay, meaning the ban stays in effect for the time being.

One lesbian couple had to go to Massachusetts to get married, and they want Texas to recognize the union.

A second gay couple have a courtship of 17 years and want to get married here in their home state.

Both sued the state in federal court aiming to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage, saying it is unconstitutional.

Granted, any Texas decision would go to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is probably not going to be the most open minded group of individuals.  But that's seven federal judges in a row to rule in favor of equality since last June's Supreme Court decision striking down parts of DOMA.

Also, Texas.  Pretty large state, pretty large number of people potentially affected by this ruling.  It's still going to the Supreme Court, but every ruling in favor of equality puts more and more pressure on SCOTUS.  But if banning same-sex marriage is losing in Texas, it's only a matter of time before it's legal across the land, and I'm pretty sure both sides know it.

Too Many People In Ohio Are Voting, Apparently

Ohio's GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted has now officially cut weekends from the state's early voting for 2014, cutting two Saturdays and eliminating all Sunday voting.

Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) released the schedule on Tuesday. During the four weeks leading up to Election Day, voters will be able to cast absentee ballots in person at voting locations that will be open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays. The polling locations will also be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the last two Saturdays before the election.

“In 2014, absentee voters will have the option of voting in person for four weeks, or they can vote without ever leaving home by completing the absentee ballot request form we will be sending all voters,” Husted said in a statement. “Our goal is to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat and to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity in the voting process no matter which method they choose.”

If you're wondering why Husted specifically eliminated Sunday voting, well it probably has something to do with this:

Husted’s change would spell doom for a voting method that’s popular among African-Americans in Ohio and elsewhere. Many churches and community groups lead “Souls to the Polls” drives after church on the Sunday before the election.

There’s little doubt that cuts to early voting target blacks disproportionately. In 2008, black voters were 56% of all weekend voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s largest, even though they made up just 28% of the county’s population.

“By completely eliminating Sundays from the early voting schedule, Secretary Husted has effectively quashed successful Souls to the Polls programs that brought voters directly form church to early voting sites,” said Mike Brickner, a spokesman for the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union, in an email.

No Sunday voting, no "Souls to the Polls" push to get black voters to cast their ballots.  It really is that simple.  Eliminate weekend voting, eliminate voting hours after 5 PM, you get fewer working-class Ohians voting who can't take time off because they have to work.

And working-class voters in Ohio tend to vote Democrat.  End of story.  Ohio decided Bush 43's re-election in 2004, folks.  It could happen again, and Husted and the state's GOP is ready for it.

The Freedom To Hate

Last week Kansas's legislation to allow LGBTQ discrimination based on "religious beliefs" died screaming to the state's business community.  Arizona's version of the bill is about to die on the desk of GOP Gov. Jan Brewer.  But the battle is far from over, as more red state Republicans are taking up the legislation of hate.

First, Georgia lawmakers would take the idiocy further...

A bill moving swiftly through the Georgia House of Representatives would allow business owners who believe homosexuality is a sin to openly discriminate against gay Americans by denying them employment or banning them from restaurants and hotels.

The proposal, dubbed the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, would allow any individual or for-profit company to ignore Georgia laws—including anti-discrimination and civil rights laws—that "indirectly constrain" exercise of religion. Atlanta, for example, prohibits discrimination against LGBT residents seeking housing, employment, and public accommodations. But the state bill could trump Atlanta's protections.

And it's not just same-sex couples who would be discriminated against.

Unlike similar bills introduced in Kansas, Tennessee, and South Dakota, the Georgia and Arizona bills do not explicitly target same-sex couples. But that difference could make the impact of the Georgia and Arizona bills even broader. Legal experts, including Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU, warn that Georgia and Arizona's religious-freedom bills are so sweeping that they open the door for discrimination against not only gay people, but other groups as well. The New Republic noted that under the Arizona bill, "a restaurateur could deny service to an out-of-wedlock mother, a cop could refuse to intervene in a domestic dispute if his religion allows for husbands beating their wives, and a hotel chain could refuse to rent rooms to Jews, Hindus, or Muslims."

The battle is also heating up in Missouri.

A Republican state lawmaker filed legislation Monday that would allow Missouri business owners to cite religious beliefs as a legal justification for refusing to provide service.

Although it doesn’t mention sexual orientation, the bill could provide legal cover for denial of services to same-sex couples.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Wallingford of Cape Girardeau, states that a governmental authority shall not substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion unless the government demonstrates that it has a compelling interest.

To supporters of the idea — similar to legislation filed in several other states — the goal is to make it clear that private individuals can use religious beliefs as a defense in litigation.

“We’re trying to protect Missourians from attacks on their religious freedom,” Wallingford said. 

Remember, "religious freedom" means "the right to openly discriminate".  That's what the Republican Party is up to in 2014, pretending it's 1914.


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