Legalizing hate in Georgia

It only took three days before the Georgia General Assembly saw a bill filed that, if passed and signed by Governor Deal, will mark us a state that allows discrimination based on religious faith. Filed by Republican Representative Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville, HB756 allows business owners the right to deny services or the selling of goods to a “religious organization” or for a “religious or matrimonial ceremony” if the business owner says the organization or ceremony conflicts with his/her right to exercise their religious freedom.

That means HB756 legalizes discrimination by florists, bakers, bridal shops, caterers, wedding sites, and other businesses connected to the wedding industry, simply because the business owner personally opposes the marriage. That’s legislative code for opposing same-sex marriage.That also means the business owner can do the same if they don’t like the tenants of a religious organization.

In other words, if you don’t worship where I worship, I don’t have to treat you like I would the members of my church when you come into my place of business.

I used the word “church” because HB756 specifies churches for protection under this law. Temples, mosques, and other places of worship are not described at all, just churches. 

HB756 reads, “the term ‘religious organization’ means a church, a religious school, an association or convention of churches, a convention mission agency, or an integrated auxiliary of a church or convention or association of churches…”
Christians go to church, Jews attend synagogues or temples, and Hindus and Muslims worship in temples. Tanner and Hb756 co-sponsors Tom Rice, R-Norcross, Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, and Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, know this, and their choice of words is telling. They want to make sure churchgoers are afforded the right to discriminate.

Speaker of the House David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, is only supporting Tanner’s other bill, HB757, called the “Pastor Protection Bill,” a bill that allows a minister to decline a request to perform a marriage ceremony if it conflicts with his/her beliefs.

Of course there shouldn’t be legislation allowing a person who is licensed by the state to perform legal ceremonies, to deny services to anyone, but this move to “protect” pastors pales in comparison to Tanner’s HB756.

The wedding industry is huge, and state coffers benefit greatly from them. Hotel rooms are booked, gas tanks filled, gifts sent, clothing bought, and bouquets tossed to guests. Legalizing hate in HB756 doesn’t make legal sense or good economic sense.

Kim Davis does believe in divorce

Kentucky’s Rowan County Clerk of Courts, Kim Davis, has made quite a stink about her religious beliefs trumping her obligations to fulfill her duties as a taxpayer-paid elected official. Today she denied a marriage license to two men applying for one, saying she was denying the license under “God’s authority.”

Davis’ version of Christianity allows her to stand in judgement of same-sex couples who want to be legally married. Her “special for me” ruling request from the United States Supreme Court has been denied. Now she, and her deputies, have a court date on Thursday for contempt of court charges.

Interestingly, Davis has a long personal paper trail concerning her own marriages. According to US News and World Report, Davis has been married four times.

If you Google divorce in the Bible, the results at the top of the search are dominated by Christian organizations condemning divorce.

I can’t work out in my mind how Davis’s Jesus doesn’t allow same-sex marriage, but DOES allow divorce for the only people Davis says should marry, heterosexuals.

Adultery must be ok with Davis’ Jesus too. According to news reports, Davis gave birth to twins five months after her first marriage ended in divorce. The first husband wasn’t the father of the babies. The twins’ father is the man Davis married on her third trip to the altar. But the second husband adopted the twins.

That must make for some complicated seating arrangements at family holiday dinners.

I can’t wait to see who shows up where family usually sits behind the defendant in court. Davis’ current husband, Number Four, says he’s a a “redneck hillbilly” who supports the Second Amendment. This cast of characters could make for an interesting piece of “performance art.”

Read Paragraph Six

I am reposting this post written by attorney Jessica Eaves Mathews. The sixth paragraph, which begins with, ” In fact,” makes several important points.

Jessica Eaves Mathews:
I say this with sincere love to my many friends who are passionate fundamentalist Christians who believe that the SCOTUS’s decision yesterday on marriage equality is an abomination to themselves and to God: As a lawyer, I need to attempt to set the record straight.

Our country was created by our founding fathers very deliberately to prevent the establishment of a national religion from our governance. The Church – Catholic or Anglican – was central to almost every other country in the world historically, especially England from which our founding fathers separated. It was critical to our founding fathers that one central religion NOT be declared and NOT be incorporated into our Constitution or governance. They understood that an establishment of a national religion would ultimately abridge the very rights they believed were fundamental and were meant to be recognized and protected by the Bill of Rights and ultimately the Constitution.

Religion-based loss of basic rights had been their experience in England and they wanted to prevent that here.

The fact is that this decision yesterday was a LEGAL decision about the scope of our Constitutional rights as humans and US citizens. It was not about religion, religious beliefs or religious freedom. It is about equal rights, just as the decisions to give women the vote and the decision to abolish slavery were about equal rights.

Rights are not and should not be up for a popular vote or up to the states to determine. Rights are absolute and cannot be dependent upon anything other than the fact that the person is a human being and is a citizen of the US. If those two conditions are met, YOUR belief system about what is MORALLY or spiritually right or wrong does not matter and should not. You should be glad that is the case, because it would be just as easy for another religion to take over and curtail your rights as a Christian (something that has happened throughout history).

In fact, one religious party believing they know the truth for all humans is how terrible oppression starts – that is how Naziism started, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, the Klu Klux Klan, Al-Qaeda and now ISIS – the most destructive, hateful, murderous periods of human history have arisen directly out of one religious group (ironically, most of these examples were lead by Christians) believing their religion and religious beliefs were THE truth, and therefore they had the right to take away the rights (and lives) of those who lived or believed differently than them.

Our founding fathers wanted to prevent that outcome. So does our current Supreme Court. THAT is the law of the land and I could not be more grateful to be an American than when human rights are protected. I don’t have to agree with you to believe with all my heart and soul that YOUR rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should be protected against oppression or prejudice. LGBT US citizens deserve exactly the same treatment. God Bless America.

p.s. Those railing against the decision of marriage equality as a basic constitutional right are confusing the idea of constitutional (i.e human) rights with certain types of behavior (the stuff they call “sin”). But human rights are inherent in all human beings and US citizens – not doled out based on who is behaving “well” and who isn’t. All US citizens should have the equal right to pursue life, liberty and happiness, regardless of the “sins” they commit. The only behavior that should curtail your constitutional rights is if you commit a crime (a felony) and are convicted. But even then, criminals can still marry, have kids, own property, work and live in our communities. The only things they can’t do is vote and carry firearms. If committing a sin was a barrier to receiving basic constitutional rights in this country, we would all be in big trouble, not just the LGBT community.

The language of love

The Tonys are one award show worth watching, and I tuned in for a little while on Sunday night. This ad by Wells Fargo, which aired between the incredible theatre performances, is worthy of an award in its own right.

Conservative Christian leader Franklin Graham, took to Facebook to announce he would move the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s money out of Wells Fargo to “fight the tide of moral decay that is being crammed down our throats by big business, the media, and the gay & lesbian community.”

Graham counted on Facebook as an effective tool for announcing his outrage and call to action action Well Fargo.

I guess Graham made an exception, just this once, about using Facebook, a company that promotes same-sex equality. As Domenick Scudera points out, Graham is going to have to make a lot of exceptions if he wants to go much past snail mail for broadcasting his calls for moral righteousness.

I’d sure like to know who did the homework on finding a new bank for stashing Graham’s cash. On Monday, Graham announced that the association bearing his father’s name is moving its money to BB&T.

Ooops. BB&T sponsors a Gay Pride parade in Miami. The bank even set up a makeshift chapel in their South Beach branch for a wedding ceremony legally uniting two men who have been together for 55 years.

Graham did mention, while announcing that BB&T is his newly anointed bank, that the organization would save $100,000 a year on fees.

Does this mean if the savings are large enough, it is ok to compromise on “fighting the moral decay” brought on by equality?




As we gather around the table

Who’s coming to Thanksgiving and what will you serve? Two keen pieces on families and Thanksgiving (FYI Sullivan uses strong language in his post. He’s spot on).

The perfect argument for higher minimum wages captured in one photo.

And Andrew Sullivan on the Cheney sisters, “Christian compassion,” and equality.

Rings and licenses

The Friday Photo
A weekly photo inspired by art, community and spontaneity
March 29, 2013

photo (78)

I got this ring almost 29 years ago. It has a lot of miles on it.

There are millions just like it, some brand new and waiting to be exchanged, others worn thinner after decades of doing all the things that make up our adult lives.

The day I got my ring I also signed a marriage license in North Carolina to go with it.

This week we’ve heard a lot about who should, or should not, be able to get a marriage license.

What real benefits do we gain as a country because we deny consenting adults the right to be legally married anywhere within our borders?

And who are we fooling if we think we are better for it?


Being present

This year I will sign petitions, write letters, and call elected officials about the things that matter to me. And this year I will be more present in my beliefs by showing up.

I began yesterday in Decatur at a “We Do” event organized by the Campaign for Southern Equality. The couple in this video, filmed by the GA Voice, speaks volumes about why I want to be more present in what I believe:



The rights of a minority decided by a few of the majority

Senator Bill Bradley has been making the rounds promoting a new book, and much of what he is talking about has to do with Super PACS and the obscene amounts of money required to run a successful campaign. Bradley said “Democracy is not a vicarious experience. They (American voters) have to pay attention to public policy and to politics. It takes all of us acting together to make America better.” (emphasis added)

Last week, a small percentage (34.38) of  eligible voters in North Carolina (my home state) turned out and voted in support of an amendment to the state constitution which states that marriage is between a man and a woman. Period. Voters had already been to the polls to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Of the 6.2M+ voters who are eligible to vote, 1.3M showed up to say Yes to an amendment that now changes the North Carolina Constitution to not only deny marriage rights to same-sex couples, but also puts into jeopardy domestic partnerships between heterosexual couples. Just over 833K voted No, which would have left the Constitution unchanged but still kept same-sex marriage off the books. A fraction of North Carolina citizens, less than a quarter of registered voters, reduced the rights of their fellow citizens.

In 2008 voters turned out at rates of 70 percent to elect President Obama, making it one of the highest states for turn out. Then and now, we take much of what we have in our country for granted. Yet it is a privilege to live in a country where men and women, every day of the year, are willing to risk their lives in combat to protect our right to vote and be engaged in the course our nation sets. But this time less than 35 percent of registered voters bothered to show up. To be engaged. To exercise the right that fellow citizens fight to protect every day.

Who were the 61.06 percent of voters who decided on the rights of the majority and why did they choose to vote as they did?

The majority of voters were rural or from smaller cities, and did not have college degrees.   Voters don’t need a college degree to make an informed decision at the polls. Where they live shapes their opinions, but rural voters don’t live in silos, and they didn’t walk barefoot down a dirt road to vote.

But some people in the majority, a stunning 26 percent, were uninformed. According to Public Policy Polling, among voters who admitted they didn’t understand what the amendment would do, 26 percent supported it. That’s scary.

Which brings me full circle to my mini-rant about turning out to vote in this country; how many of those 26 percent have a friend, son or daughter, husband or wife, parent, or cousin serving in harm’s way every day,  and yet turned out with no clue on what they were voting for or against? And even worse, cast an uninformed vote to deny the right to marry for same-sex couples, as well as putting domestic partnerships and civil unions between heterosexuals at risk. Yes, they got there, but they didn’t do their homework. A third of the voters supporting Amendment One really had no idea what they were supporting.

So who can get married in North Carolina?

In North Carolina you don’t have to marry a stranger. Cousins can marry each other. That’s the case in over 25 states. But you can’t marry your cousin if you are the same sex, at least in North Carolina. last Tuesday’s vote cleared that up.

Married to someone who is physically impotent in North Carolina? Not really. The law says those are void. Which raises an interesting question; if an impotent spouse is remedied by something like Viagra, but otherwise impotent, is the marriage void? And why does the North Carolina think it needs a statute about anyone’s ability to “perform” in the bedroom?

In 1971 the state adopted a new constitution which removed the barriers to inter-racial marriages, but the champion of Amendment One, State Senator Peter Brunsetter, seems to have had race at the heart of his proposed amendment.

According to comments made by Jodie Brunstetter, the wife of state Senator Peter  Brunstetter, the REAL reason Amendment One was necessary is because the “Caucasian race” needs to be protected.

That’s right. Apparently Senator and Mrs. Brunsetter think that Caucasians making up 68.5 percent of the state’s citizens isn’t enough.

Where’s the logic in that? Do they think that with only one type of legal marriage in the state that white heterosexual couples will start reproducing like rabbits?

Unfortunately we all learned a lot and lost a lot last Tuesday. It was a hard lesson in hate and intolerance, made clear in the voting booth.


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