Should I wear a safety pin?

“As a show of support, groups of people across America are attaching safety pins to their lapels, shirts and dresses to signify that they are linked, willing to stand up for the vulnerable” says the New York Times. pin

While I clearly stand with that group, I have not yet worn a pin.

And mostly it’s because I am not sure the “vulnerable” want me to. I mean, it seems kind of condescending to me.  Am I wrong there?

Some are saying the pin is a meaningless gesture, like sending your prayers and thoughts after a tragedy. A friend of mine recently pointed out, however, that as an attorney, my pin may mean more to someone–because I really am in a position where I might be able to actually help someone who needs it.

I’d really like to hear from my friends on this, especially those who will be impacted by Trump’s policies, such as the LGBT community and the Muslims and racial minorities and women and atheists and … okay, everyone except for Christian white males, I guess.

Nothing about gay marriage, but Jesus does talk a lot about greed…

Hey, remember those fun-loving evil bakers who claimed they were being discriminated against because they were not allowed to discriminate against other people? And how the court said, “You know, that sure seems to violate the law. Pay the fine.”? Remember them?cake

Are you shocked to learn that they are refusing to pay the fine? Like bigot Kim Davis, they claim that God’s Law is more important than United States’ law (and of course, only their version of “God’s law” since there are plenty of Christians who think these people are absolute jerks).

If you ask these bakers where in “God’s Law” it talks about gay marriage, they can’t answer you because, you know, it’s not there. Jesus said nothing about it. He did, however, talk an awful lot about greed and how that was a terrible sin.

You see, these bakers were pretty smart about one thing: They got a lot of rubes to contribute to their “legal fund” and now they’re sitting on half a million dollars. You’d think that paying a fine would count as a “legal cost” but geez, that would mean they’d have to give up a small percentage of that lovely cash.

No, that cash is much better used elsewhere. Since Jesus told us all we should be giving to the poor and helping charity, it will go there.

Ha ha!  Just kidding! Of course they’re not giving a cent to charity!

Bigotry is very profitable these days.

Answering Your Legal Questions about that Kentucky Clerk

I really didn’t want to write more about Kim Davis, the Kentucky Clerk who refuses to issue legal marriage licenses to people she is bigoted against … but she just won’t go away. People keep emailing me about the case.  So let’s answer a few legal questions.

Has she broken the law? No, she has not “broken the law” in the strictest sense.  What she did was refuse to do her job for religious reasons and ordered everyone in her office to refuse too. As someone pointed out, this would be like having a Jewish postmaster who feels that delivering Christmas Cards was against his religion, so he orders all the mail carriers under him to not deliver any of these cards. Or maybe a better example is a Muslim clerk at the DMV who doesn’t believe women should drive and so prevents any licenses to be issued to women.

Kim Davis and the Constitutional scholars she relies upon

Kim Davis and the Constitutional scholars she relies upon

Kim Davis is not following the law. This denied basic civil rights to citizens who were entitled to them. The judge ordered her to give people what they are entitled to under the law. She refused, and got to see the jail from the inside.

But there really isn’t a “law” to allow gay marriage, is there?  Her idiot supporters argue with a straight face that there is no “law” allowing gay marriage and therefore she is doing nothing wrong. I have no idea what this stupid argument means. There is a law providing for marriage, and the Supreme Court has said that the law must be applied without discriminating. There is also no “law” that specifically says a marriage is allowed between different races, yet no one thinks this Clerk could refuse to issue one, do they?

This argument comes from morons like Mike Huckabee, who wants to swear an oath to the Constitution but has apparently never read it. He argues with a straight face that since the legislature never passed a law allowing gay marriage, the Supreme Court didn’t have the right to make the decision in the first place and therefore we can all ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling. This is the kind of argument that we lawyers refer to in our legalese way as “bullshit.”

Can she fire the clerk who is issuing these licenses? Fortunately, one of the Clerks in her office has stated that he will continue to issue marriages to anyone eligible even if she comes back and orders him not to (as she has vowed to do in her loving, Christian way). Can she fire him? Sure, but would it be a legal firing? Probably not. How can you justify firing someone who did their job when you ordered them not to? He’d have a pretty good case against the state for an unjust firing. (Since this is Kentucky, I can be fairly sure these people aren’t unionized like they are in my area.)

Can she cancel the licenses her office has given out already? No. She doesn’t have a job that allows her discretion. If you are eligible for a license, you get one.

She may try, of course, and I think that will not be appreciated by the judge.

Can she go back to jail, and how long can she stay there? She is out of jail now, because the judge assumes she will either do her job or allow others to do their job. If she still refuses to do so, the judge will probably send her back to jail. That’s what Contempt is for — they’re not meant to be punishment, but instead to force people to do what they are supposed to do.

You might recall cases where journalists refused to reveal their sources and were held in contempt. Some stayed in jail for months.

How can we get rid of her? The only way to get rid of this elected person is to impeach her. This is Kentucky, so that’s probably not going to happen, any more than Alabama would have impeached George Wallace when he disobeyed the courts to block black children from going to school with white children 50 years ago. The judge cannot force the legislature to do this; all he can do is keep jailing her if she refuses to obey his orders.

Why are her lawyers doing this? Davis’ lawyers are a bunch of right-wing hacks supported by a lobbying group that is propping her up to use as a fundraising measure. Their briefs have little law in them and read more like the kind of rants you see on crazy blogs that talk about “God’s Law” ruling over secular law. They probably know they have no legal basis for their appeals and so instead are writing what their donors want to read. That way, when the judge rules against them, they can argue that he is “denying God.” Ca-ching! More donations. Appealing to bigotry has become quite profitable lately, you know.

Her own lawyers have to know she will never be successful. A recent legal panel on Fox unanimously was against her, calling her lawyer “incredibly stupid.” (Yes, I did say “Fox” — not a mistake.) When even the experts at Fox News are against you…

Why is there a double standard when Obama violates the Constitution all the time and gets away with it? Seriously, people ask this, and usually their definition of “violating the Constitution” boils down to “does stuff I don’t like.” Some people know in their hearts what the Constitution says and means without that pesky need to actually learn anything about it (in much the same way Kim Davis has done with the Bible).

Is the judge some sort of liberal crusader?  No. The judge is a conservative Republican, appointed by George W. Bush. He probably doesn’t support gay marriage, but he does support the law. You gotta admire him for that.

Quit the damned job already, bigot

I had a nicer headline originally but you know, this better expresses my feelings.

The United States Supreme Court yesterday denied the Kentucky clerk’s appeal wherein she claimed that she should not be forced to perform her job because of her religious beliefs.

As a Christian, she has vowed to obey the Bible, which says gay couples should not get married. (It actually doesn’t say that at all, but that has never stopped True Believers). She is still refusing to do it. appealsAs a clerk, she is supposed to certify marriages and not discriminate, but she is claiming that God’s Law supercedes American law. (It actually doesn’t, but that has never stopped True Believers.)

All the standard hypocritical nonsense is there — for instance, she’s been married herself four times (which actually is prohibited very clearly in the Bible).

Bigotry in the name of religion is still bigotry. If her religious order was against, say, interracial marriage, she would not have the right to deny marriage licenses to interracial couples either. I assume her religion also says that marriages should be between people in her own religion, yet this woman grants marriage licenses to people from every religion and no religion all the time.

No, this is just plain bigotry.

I blame the Hobby Lobby case for some of this, wherein the Supreme Court decided that businesses can have religion (WTF?) and thus discriminate on the basis of it. The Supreme Court views this case differently for one major reason: This is not a business.  Seriously. Businesses always win in the Supreme Court these days.

But back to this woman: I’m sure she has firmly held beliefs. But if those beliefs prevent her from performing her job, then she should resign. Issuing marriage licenses is part of her job requirements.

Can you imagine if you refused to perform part of your job because your religion said you couldn’t do it?  How long do you think you’d keep your job?

 

The Cake is a Lie

Hey remember those poor, persecuted bakers who were forced to pay a huge fine simply for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple?

Well, guess what — it’s not true! I know, I know;  you’re shocked to learn that a right-wing talking point turns out not to be true. I mean, who would have guessed that they were being dishonest?cake

Now that the settlement order has been released, we see that what really happened was this:

The lesbian couple asked for a cake. The bakery refused, cited Bible verses, and treated them terribly. The women then emailed a complaint to the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries. The email contained their names and address.

The bakery then went to Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media. They used this attention to promote their good Christian nature by naming the women specifically, giving out their address, and calling them out as evil. Because that’s what Jesus would do, right?

Sure enough, the women started getting death threats and otherwise being attacked when they should have been celebrating their happy marriage. And the bakers didn’t stop — until they found themselves as the subject of protests. Their business suffered as people who are against discrimination refused to do business with them, and they ended up closing. Those poor, poor bigots!

Anyway, in the meantime, the complaint with the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries proceeded. Filing with them is the proper thing to do when a business discriminates against you and is harassing you. After an investigation, the bakers were found to have violated Oregon’s anti-discrimination law.

The fine, however, was not for refusing to bake the cake but for causing such terrible pain and suffering to two women who merely wanted to celebrate their wedding. Had the women filed a civil lawsuit and claimed damages, they might have gotten more.

The bakers are heroes to many conservative Christians who think that people should be able to discriminate based on their religious prejudices. These same Christians look the other way when confronted with the damage these bakers did to these women. Had the bakers merely said “no” and not tried to use the occasion as an opportunity to promote their bigotry, then it is likely we would have never heard about this. They would have gotten a letter from the Bureau of Labor warning them of what the law says, and that would be the end of it.

“As long as it’s our religion doing it, it’s OK”

As expected, there have been plenty of proclamations from religious extremists about the upcoming end of the world. They think God will judge the US harshly for allowing people in love to get married. Slavery? Killing of natives? Internment camps? Nope, those didn’t attract God’s judgment, but this will.

Catholic priests are saying, without a hint of irony, that this decision will cause children to be sexually molested. Various commentators are once again floating the “Now we have to allow people to marry their pets” argument because, as we all know, whenever new rights are gained, logically we have to extend them to animals next. That’s why dogs have the right to vote.

Then there was that “friend” on Facebook who said, “Since sin is now legal, murder will be next.” Yes, of course. The two are absolutely comparable. There’s just no way to refute such logic.

I’ve stopped trying to argue with True Believers whenever possible (including the gun nuts, the 9/11 “Truthers”, the various conspiracy-minded among us). But what bugs me the most is when they can’t even see the basic irony in their own arguments.

These Christians are almost always the ones screaming about how terrible it is that Sharia Law could be used in America.  Sharia Law has many things in common with evangelistic Christian law — a prohibition against gay marriage, admonitions about women being subservient to men, and so on — but if anyone tried to use the Quran to pass these into our laws, these Christians would be up in arms.

But it’s not because they’re against forcing religious laws upon America — they just want it to be their religion we’re all forced to follow.

What the Court’s Gay Marriage Decision Really Says

By Guest blogger Terri Lynn Coop

June 26, 2015 was one of those days when the wheel of history turned. At the center of the social media celebration and barrage of rainbows is the 35-page opinion on marriage equality penned by Justice Kennedy.

As both a lawyer and an ally, I find the opinion to be succinct, elegant, iron-clad, and a doorway to further equal rights activism here in the good old USA. After I held a series of light-hearted law “lectures” on the subject on Facebook, Mike invited me here to the ‘Quest to take a look at some of the key parts, both obvious and less so, of the opinion.

Overall, the Court grounded the opinion firmly in the 14th Amendment rights of Due Process and Equal Protection under the law. Out of that principle has sprung the right to privacy in what the court calls “intimate relations.” Kennedy went straight to the keystone cases such as Loving that struck down racial bans on marriage and Griswold that protects the right of married people to use contraceptives (yeah, that had to be litigated).

“This Court has invoked equal protection principles to invalidate laws imposing sex-based inequality on marriage . . . and confirmed the relation between liberty and equality . . .”

Strong words right there. We can’t have personal liberty without equality.

“The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

Part of deciphering judicial opinions is to look for the key words and phrases. Here it is “may not.” In other words – NO. No as in Grumpy Cat NO. Nyet. No way, no how are same-sex couples to be deprived of the fundamental civil right to marry.

The Court went on, conflating liberty and personal identity:

“The fundamental liberties protected by this Clause include most of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights . . . In addition these liberties extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs.”

The Court has just connected being gay with personal identity, autonomy, dignity, and civil rights. That sets up a key statement from later on in the opinion.

This Court is heavy on precedent. It is a thread through their decisions. This Court backed this pronouncement up with three cases where marriage rights were affirmed for mixed-race couples, prison inmates, and men who were behind in child support cases. Bottom line, other than the requirements that the parties be of age, of mental competency, and not related by a certain degree of marriage or blood, American citizens have the right to marry whoever they want to.

Answering the “traditional marriage” naysayers, the Court held that times change. Society changes and marriage has changed. Traditionally, women were essentially the legal property of their husband under coverture laws. As society began to accept that women were, you know, people, the equal protection laws were used to throw out the old laws.

“These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution of marriage. Indeed, changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations, often through perspectives that begin in pleas or protests and then are considered in the political sphere and the judicial process.”

In other words, there is no such thing as traditional marriage. There is only marriage as defined by the mores of society. The odd argument that same sex marriage will cause the demise of opposite sex marriage was dismissed as being “without logic.” That is judicial shorthand for “that’s just weird, shut up now.”

The last big issue addressed was the question of states’ rights and use of the legislative process to parse civil rights. The answer was another resounding NO.

The states’ rights argument centers on marriage being traditionally left to the states to regulate under the 10th amendment. Kennedy says “Okay, you asked for it . . .”

“Yet by virtue of their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just material burdens. Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriage all the more precious by the significance it attaches to it, exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching that gays and lesbians are unequal in important respects.”

Inherent in the right to regulate is the responsibility to regulate fairly. Or else SCOTUS will step in and make you play nice.

A nod is given to the “religious conscience” opposition movement, but doesn’t bode well for the flurry of what I call hate-pizza laws sure to come pouring out of statehouses in the red states.

“Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied. Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.”

Object all you want on a personal level, but when you codify it into law, well then you’ve poked the bear and that bear has big sharp legal teeth. This opinion uses the word “but” like a ninja sword.

More proof that the Court does watch TV and knows what is being said about “activist” and “imperial” courts. This is a reminder of the role of the courts delivered with straight and hard with a verbal clue-by-4:

“An individual can invoke a right to constitutional protection when he or she is harmed, even if the broader public disagrees and even if the legislature refuses to act. The idea of the constitution “was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. This is why “fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

BOOM! We don’t vote on the rights of our fellow citizens just like they don’t vote on ours. That’s why they are called rights. Also another warning to states that are toying with discrimination laws – the Court is ready and waiting for you.

This opinion is full of this type of elegant direct language. However, toward the end of the opinion is a single sentence that is easy to miss and could be a game-changer:

“And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.”

Immutable nature. Civil rights language. In that sentence the Supreme Court of the United States just said that being gay is not a choice, that it is an unchangeable part of a person’s personal identity. That opens the door, really kicks down the door, to sexual orientation becoming a protected class. Twenty-nine states now allow employment discrimination on the basis of being gay. This could be the first pebble in the landslide that buries those and other laws.

That big rainbow out there shines on everyone. We are watching history every bit as important as women getting the right to vote and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s a good time to be an American.

Thanks for the invite!

Terri Lynn Coop is a lawyer by education, a writer by profession, and an unapologetic geek the rest of the time. She’s been known to blog at Readin’ Ritin’ & Rhetoric. Her first novel, a legal thriller, “Devil’s Deal,” is available through Amazon.