Governor Bryant Receives Second Award based on HB 1523

The Heritage Foundation awarded our governor a Conservative Leadership Award last week.  It was bestowed for signing HB 1523 into law in April of this year.

The Heritage Foundation is a conservative non-profit think tank based in Washington DC.  It gives Conservative Leadership Awards each year to “conservative leaders who have persevered in the face of the liberal machine.”  While there is no doubt that the governor did accomplish the signing of HB 1523, it seems tongue-in-cheek to suggest that he persevered in the face of the liberal machine.  I don’t think there is a liberal machine in Mississippi.  I believe that Governor Bryant was simply going with the flow.

Governor Bryant was gracious:  “I was humbled to receive the Conservative Leadership Award from the Heritage Foundation…I was joined in this class by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).  [It was a] great honor for Mississippi and all those who believe in our religious freedoms as provided in the Constitution.”

Vice President Biden

When I was a law student, I had the pleasure of meeting Senator Biden (a very young senator at the time).  He spoke at my law school and I was quite impressed with him.

I remain impressed.

In August, Biden, a Catholic, officiated at a same-sex marriage of two White House staffers.

There was push-back.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement that did not mention Biden, per se, but noted that “[w]hen a prominent Catholic politician publicly and voluntarily officiates at a ceremony to solemnize the relationship of two people of the same-sex (sic), confusion arises regarding Catholic teaching on marriage and the corresponding moral obligation of Catholics.”  The Conference also suggested that this prominent Catholic politician presents to the world “a counter witness, instead of a faithful one founded in the truth.”

My theory is that Vice President Biden put his money where true faith is:  “…and the second [commandment] is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Edward Peters, a canon lawyer at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit says that officiating a same-sex wedding is not an excommunicable offense, although it could become one.  Peters suggested that any official punishment coming from the Church would be through an action of D. C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl.  Peters said that a most appropriate punishment, should Cardinal Wuerl, choose to reprimand the Vice President, would be to deny him communion.  Denial of communion in the Catholic church is called for when an individual “obstinately perserveres in manifest grave sin.”

Thank you, Vice President Biden, for being the Christian that you are.

Who is Warren Hall?

Warren Hall is a priest who was fired in 2015 from his position as chaplain at Seton Hall University after he posted support online for a group supporting marriage equality.  Thereafter, he was appointed to a parish in Hoboken.  Two days ago he was suspended from this position by the Newark Archbishop John Myers.  The reason, according to the Archbishop’s spokesman, that Hall is “not allowed to function as a priest in any way” is because all priests promise “reverence and obedience” to their bishops and support of church teachings.

Hall attributed his firing from Seton Hall to be a result of a photo he posted on his Facebook page which supported the NOH8 campaign, supporting “marriage, gender and human equality.”  He then publicly announced he was gay and furthermore that he has kept his vow of celibacy.  The Archbishop’s spokesman indicated that the matter at Seton Hall was resolved when Hall removed the post from his page.

Where does one go in life as one called to the priesthood and a lifelong Catholic?  The Episcopal Church welcomes you.

LGBT Friendly Institutions of Higher Learning

For several years now, CampusPride.org has offered a list of LGBT friendly colleges and universities.  The top for fall 2016 include:  Cornell University; Elon University; Harvey Mudd College; Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Indiana University, Bloomington Campus; Ithaca College, Macalester College, Montclair State University, Portland State University, Princeton University, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick Campus; San Diego State University; Southern Oregon University; The Pennsylvania State University; Tufts University; University of California, Los Angeles Campus; University of California, Davis Campus; University of California, Santa Barbara Campus; University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Maine at Machias; University of Maryland, College Park Campus; University of Massachusetts, Amherst Campus; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus; University of Pennsylvania; University of Vermont; University of Washington; University of Wisconsin, Green Bay Campus; University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Campus; and Washington State University.

The same poll noted 102 campuses with documented anti-LGBTQ policies and cited as dangerous environments for LGBT students.  (CampusPrice.org/ShameList)  They include:  Blue Mountain College and Mississippi College, two (2) Baptist colleges in Mississippi.

While Mississippi’s major state supported universities aren’t in the LGBT friendly list, at least they are not noted in the Shame List.  That’s a good thing.  And we can continue to work on that!

Salem, Mass

When I think of Salem, I think of the witch trials.  That’s what history reminds us of.  The more I learned about the witch trials, I realized that fear was at the heart of the witch trials — fear and intolerance.

The folks in Salem are at it again.  Yesterday, one of the newspaper boxes that sells Salem’s Rainbow Press was burned, after several others had been vandalized during the same week.  The Rainbow Press is an LGBT newspaper that touts the largest readership in the area.

Setting a newspaper box on fire seems more like a kid-prank than a hate crime, and had other boxes not been vandalized, I would have suggested that the police were on the wrong track when looking at it as a hate crime.  But again, fear and intolerance have triumphed — but just for a Saturday.  Because today, the last Sunday in August, rainbow flags fly high in Salem.  Support is important; a show of support is terrific!  Fly those flags.  Ostracize hate and intolerance.

Housing Relief? Perhaps not in our town…

There are times when LGBT couples have difficulty finding appropriate housing, particularly if the issue is renting rather than purchasing.  We are reminded, often, that in small Southern towns — well, in any small town — people talk and other people care deeply about what is said about them.

Imagine you live in one of those small towns and you are reticent to rent to people who are “unique.”  Are you going to run afoul of the law?

Here’s where to look:

42 USC 3604 (a), which is a section of the federal Fair Housing Act, prohibits a person from refusing to rent, refusing to negotiate the rental of, or otherwise make unavailable, or deny a dwelling to any person “because of …sex.”  Sub-section (c) prohibits a person from making, printing or publishing “any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination “based on…sex.”

Sub-section (a) also prohibits a person from refusing to rent, refusing to negotiate the rental of, or otherwise make unavailable, or deny a dwelling to any person “because of…familial status.” And likewise, sub-section (c) prohibits dissemination of advertising which discriminates “based on …familial status.”

What happens if you do this?  Well, it all depends whose wrath you incur.  But the legal remedies under 42 USC 3613 (c) include actual damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.  I wouldn’t take the chance.

LGBT issues clash with Immigration Issues

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion on August 9 of this year which is worthy of note.  It was an appeal from the Board of Immigration Appeals (Straus, IJ A038 575 464).  The petitioner in this case was Gavin Tariano Walker, a Jamaican citizen residing in the state of Connecticut.  It is unclear how long Walker had been living in the US, but clearly long enough to rack up a couple of state law convictions (aggravated felony and controlled substance offense).  Hence, an Immigration Judge determined to remove him from the US.  He appealed, indicating that the Immigration Judge, reviewing the BIA, should have deferred his removal from the US based on the Convention Against Torture.

Walker’s problem, you see, is that he contends that he is a “widely known homosexual in Jamaica.”

In order to relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), one has to demonstrate that it is more likely than not that he would be tortured if removed to t he proposed country of removal, and government officials in that country would inflict such torture.  It is true that in Jamaica acts of gross indecency between persons of the same sex are criminalized.  The Human Rights report for Jamaica indicates that LGBT individuals suffer “serious human rights abuses, including assaults with deadly weapons, ‘corrective rape’ of women accused of being lesbians, arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings.”

Pointing out that it was unlikely that the Immigration Judge had appropriately applied the applicable standards outlining CAT’s intent by conflating or diminishing the nature of government acquiescence, the Second Circuit remanded the matter to the Immigration Judge for further study.

What would Donald Trump make of that?  What do you make of that?  Is he a felon to deport or a life to be saved?  And if he is a life to be saved, what is the likelihood that he will commit another aggravated felony?  Geez…….these are tough questions.

Why ask?

Governor Bryant requested that US District Judge Carlton Reeves stay the ruling he handed down July 1 — the thrust of which precluded the Governor from enforcement of HB 1523.  The only question I have is “Why ask?”

It seemed pretty clear to me, reading the original opinion, that Judge Reeves was pretty clear.  By filing a motion to stay, the Governor wasted state resources/funds to have the motion drafted and filed.  Moreover, he wasted federal resources by filing the motion that clogged up the already clogged docket, required a fairly immediate response, and had literally no hope of success.

What is it the Governor doesn’t get?

In my favorite slice, Judge Reeves reasoned:  “Issuing a marriage license to a gay couple is not like being forced into armed combat or to assist with an abortion.  Matters of life and death are sui generis.  If movants truly believe that providing services to LGBT citizens forces them to ‘tinker with the machinery of death,’ their animus exceeds anything seen in Romer, Windsor, or the marriage equality cases.”

Yep, folks, that’s Mississippi.  Animus capitol of the world. And don’t you hate it?  Mississippi leads the nation in per capita charitable giving.  Communities are, for the most part, warm and loving, regardless of race or creed.  Its the government with most of the animus, not the citizens.

I realize that the citizens have elected the government, and I bemoan that.  But the government has gone too far.  Fair minded Mississippians just want you to know that while the Governor and his government are correctly characterized by Judge Reeves, most of us are not.

Judge Reeves’ opinion blocking Mississippi’s Religious Freedom Law

Judge Carlton Reeves, in blocking HB 1523, called it “state-sanctioned discrimination.”

He went further:  “There are almost endless explanations for how HB 1523 condones discrimination against the LGBT community, but in its simplest terms it denies LGBT citizens equal protection under the law.”  Judge Reeves noted that the law, if implemented, would create a separate system designed to diminish the rights of LGBT citizens, thus violating the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.  He also noted that it gave an official preference for certain religious beliefs over others, thus violating the 1st Amendment.

Governor Bryant had argued that HB 1523 would protect discrimination against people like him — who he defined as “Christians with deeply held religious beliefs about marriage and sex.”  And my deeply held religious beliefs are “chopped liver”, Governor?

Reeves show down the (admittedly weak) defense of HB 1523 by saying that this legislation granted “special rights” to certain citizens who held beliefs “reflecting disapproval of lesbian, gay, transgender and unmarried persons…..People who held contrary religious beliefs (than the Governor and his supporters) would remain unprotected….meaning the State has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others….” — a violation of the Establishment Clause.

But Judge Reeves says it all when he says that enforcement of HB 1523 would create “an official preference” for certain religious tenets while offering no protection for people who had differing beliefs.

I admittedly have one aspect of my personal theology that causes me concern.  God doesn’t work on my timetable.  That’s right.  I beg him to smite my enemies.  Sometimes he doesn’t answer at all; often he says…hold on, Lydia.

Unfortunately there is an aspect of the personal theology of others I know that causes me concern also.  Many people think that they have a direct line to God.  If everyone who believed that they had a direct line would listen to what was said/sanctioned on that line, there would not be so much divergence of theological opinion.  Please don’t explain to me what your God said in his direct communication to you.  How do you know that you have the right connection?  Moreover, how do you know that you heard/understood what he said to you?

Thank you, Judge Reeves, for reconizing that Mississippians are a people of differing faiths and/or no faith at all.  Please keep reminding leadership that Republicans want to keep government “little” — not big.  Please keep reminding leadership that Republicans do not need to interfere in the personal rights of others.  Please keep reminding leadership that people in glass houses should be careful…..

 

Earlier this week…

Earlier this week, Judge Carlton Reeves of the Southern District of Mississippi, denied an injunction to a same sex couple in Meridian because their marriage was not eminent.  They were planning to marry in 2017.

However, in another case the following day, which was apparently on the merits (I have not had time to read it yet), he ruled that Obergefell established law in the United States relative to same sex marriage in Mississippi and that it really didn’t matter what legislators tried to do to invalidate the Obergefell decision.

More on this over the weekend!