Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Last Call For Go Home Dinosaur Steve, You're Drunk

Gov. Steve Beshear has done a lot for Kentucky, frankly.  But the one issue where he has absolutely embarrassed himself and the state on repeatedly has been same-sex marriage, and he did it again this week.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says the state's ban on gay marriage should be upheld in part because it is not discriminatory in that both gay and straight people are barred from marrying people of the same gender
In an argument labeled absurd by gay marriage advocates, Beshear's lawyer says in a brief filed last week at the U.S. Supreme Court that "men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, cannot marry persons of the same sex" under Kentucky law, making the law non-discriminatory. 
The argument mirrors that offered by the state of Virginia nearly 50 years ago when it defended laws barring interracial marriage there and in 15 other states, including Kentucky, by saying they weren't discriminatory because whites were barred from marrying blacks just as blacks were barred from marrying whites. 
The Supreme Court in 1967 rejected that argument in the historic case of Loving v. Virginia, in which Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a black woman, were charged with a crime for marrying.

If this sounds like that this is the most mind-numbingly stupid defense of same-sex marriage bans that you've ever heard, well that's because it is.  The man took this idiocy to the Supreme Court on behalf of his constituents.  You know, like me.

Steve, you're a moron.  Jack Conway cannot replace you quickly enough.

Sit down.

Giving Them The Iran Around

Americans want a nuclear deal with Iran, they just don't trust Iran to hold up their end of the bargain.

By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, Americans support the notion of striking a deal with Iran that restricts the nation’s nuclear program in exchange for loosening sanctions, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds. 
But the survey — released hours before Tuesday’s negotiating deadline — also finds few Americans are hopeful that such an agreement will be effective. Nearly six in 10 say they are not confident that a deal will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, unchanged from 15 months ago, when the United States, France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia reached an interim agreement with Iran aimed at sealing a long-term deal.

Naturally, party affiliation plays a big role here.

Popular sentiment among Republicans is more in line with GOP lawmakers on the issue of whether Congress should be required to authorize any deal with Iran. A Pew Research Center survey released Monday found 62 percent of the public believes Congress, not President Obama, should have final authority over approving a nuclear agreement with Iran
Republican Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and other lawmakers are building bipartisan supportfor a bill that would require Obama to submit an Iran agreement for congressional approval blocking the removal of sanctions on the Islamic republic for 60 days. The bill would require a veto-proof majority to force Obama’s hand. 
Americans’ views on Iran have been shaped by deep worry over the prospect that it could develop nuclear weapons but also a hesitance to employ military force in an attempt to prevent that outcome. A February Gallup poll found more than three-quarters of the public thinks the development of nuclear weapons by Iran would pose a “critical threat” to the United States over the next 10 years. Yet fewer than three in 10 said Iran’s nuclear program — which it insists is for peaceful purposes — requires military action now in a CBS News poll last week; more than four in 10 said the threat can be contained for now and just under two in 10 said Iran is not currently a threat.

So Iran's a major threat and will have nukes in ten years but nobody wants to send their kids to fight and die to stop them, even though a diplomatic deal is something that most Americans believe is impossible.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Indiana Pence And The Backlash Of Doom, Con't

Republicans and pundits alike are arguing that Indiana's "religious freedom" law is no different from the federal law that a Democratic Congress and President Clinton passed in 1993, and no different from the Illinois state law that Democrats, including State Senator Barack Obama, voted for and passed in 1998.

But as Judd Legum at Think Progress points out, that is false.  Indiana's bill goes much further than the 1993 federal law or any other state law:

There are several important differences in the Indiana bill but the most striking is Section 9. Under that section, a “person” (which under the law includes not only an individual but also any organization, partnership, LLC, corporation, company, firm, church, religious society, or other entity) whose “exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened” can use the law as “a claim or defense… regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” 
Every other Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to disputes between a person or entity and a government. Indiana’s is the only law that explicitly applies to disputes between private citizens. This means it could be used as a cudgel by corporations to justify discrimination against individuals that might otherwise be protected under law. Indiana trial lawyer Matt Anderson, discussing this difference, writes that the Indiana law is “more broadly written than its federal and state predecessors” and opens up “the path of least resistance among its species to have a court adjudicate it in a manner that could ultimately be used to discriminate…” 
This is not a trivial distinction. Arizona enacted an RFRA that applied to actions involving the government in 2012. When the state legislature tried to expand it to purely private disputes in 2014, nationwide protests erupted and Jan Brewer, Arizona’s Republican governor, vetoed the measure
Thirty law professors who are experts in religious freedom wrote in February that the Indiana law does not “mirror the language of the federal RFRA” and “will… create confusion, conflict, and a wave of litigation that will threaten the clarity of religious liberty rights in Indiana while undermining the state’s ability to enforce other compelling interests. This confusion and conflict will increasingly take the form of private actors, such as employers, landlords, small business owners, or corporations, taking the law into their own hands and acting in ways that violate generally applicable laws on the grounds that they have a religious justification for doing so. Members of the public will then be asked to bear the cost of their employer’s, their landlord’s, their local shopkeeper’s, or a police officer’s private religious beliefs.”

Again, the bottom line is that every other state version of this law, and the federal law Clinton signed in 1993, protects private citizens' religious beliefs from the government.  The Indiana law is the only one that applies to disputes between private citizens.  It's that second part, the aforementioned Section 9 of the law, that specifically opens up the Pandora's Box of discrimination and says that a private citizen's religious beliefs can trump another private citizen's actions and allows them to use the law as legal cover to do so.

That's the difference.  The law is a blanket permission to discriminate, plain and simple.  It's effectively a Stand Your Ground defense law for bigotry.  If you choose to discriminate against someone, you can claim the law as a defense if you feel your "exercise of religion is substantially burdened."

Oh, and Section 9 also defines person in this case as "not only an individual but also any organization, partnership, LLC, corporation, company, firm, church, religious society, or other entity" as Legum mentions up there.  You can imagine what this can mean.  If Indiana's Hobby Lobby locations wanted to refuse to serve LGBTQ customers on religious grounds, then they could theoretically claim this law as a defense and say that allowing them to shop there would "substantially burden" their "exercise of religion".

Indiana's law is particularly awful, hence the backlash.  The legal difference is the clause that allows the law to be claimed as a defense in disputes between private citizens.

I'm expecting that part to be challenged in court.  For now, it's being challenged in the court of public opinion. The front page of the Indianapolis Star:


We are at a critical moment in Indiana's history. 
And much is at stake. 
Our image. Our reputation as a state that embraces people of diverse backgrounds and makes them feel welcome. And our efforts over many years to retool our economy, to attract talented workers and thriving businesses, and to improve the quality of life for millions of Hoosiers. 
All of this is at risk because of a new law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that no matter its original intent already has done enormous harm to our state and potentially our economic future. 
The consequences will only get worse if our state leaders delay in fixing the deep mess created. 
Half steps will not be enough. Half steps will not undo the damage. 
Only bold action — action that sends an unmistakable message to the world that our state will not tolerate discrimination against any of its citizens — will be enough to reverse the damage. 
Gov. Mike Pence and the General Assembly need to enact a state law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Good luck with that, Indiana.  You elected Republicans.  This is what Republicans do.


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