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.

Supreme Court: No more Gay Marriage

The United States Supreme Court, in its second attempt to make Scalia’s head explode in two days, has discovered that gays and lesbians are “people” and therefore protected by the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause which prohibits discrimination against any person.mawage

So it’s official. No more gay marriage in America. From now on, there are only marriages.

Religious conservatives across the country are now screaming about “judicial activism” and claiming that the court ruled against the will of the people, completely ignoring the fact that the majority of Americans support marriage equality these days.  (Hey kids! Today’s challenge: Find a conservative that complained about the Citizen’s United decision which definitely went against what the majority of Americans wanted!)

Half of the fun of decisions like this are reading Scalia’s dissents, which contradict previous decisions he’s made and read less like a learned treatise from a Supreme Court Justice and more like your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving: “Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality (whatever that means) were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.”

Pure comedy gold. And so, so satisfying to those of us who love to see this freedom-hater lose.

So now I can stop posting “such-and-such state enters the 21st century” whenever a new state embraced marriage equality. And I, for one, am thrilled.

I am Pro-Happy

I support people being happy.

I am against the shaming of people who are not just like me, and I will always fight against people who try to force everyone to be just like them and live by their own personal or religious rules.

So it bugs me when I see people criticizing Caitlyn Jenner. She’s happy, she wanted to do this — what business is it of yours?

Some people want to be happy in ways I cannot imagine — piercing every part of their body, engaging in sexual acts I find disgusting, enjoying entertainment I can’t stand — but so what? So long as they aren’t forcing everyone else to be just like them, why should I care? Why should I be against people being happy?

This is one of the strongest reasons I talk about marriage equality a lot. I like having people be happy when it does not hurt anyone else. I want to encourage more of it. Happy is good.

Let’s have “Traditional” marriage in our laws

Republican Politicians like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee constantly argue that we need to have our laws follow “God’s laws” concerning marriage.

Therefore, here are some proposed laws to make sure that we support traditional marriage:

A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)traditional-marriage

B. Marriage shall not impede a man’s right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother’s widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

G. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36) 

Wait, wait — you mean those politicians don’t want traditional marriage at all? They just want to prevent gays from marrying? You mean they say that they want to obey God’s law but they are picking and choosing which of God’s laws they want to enforce?

Surely that can’t be right. I mean, if that was the case, then they’d all be a bunch of lying hypocrites, wouldn’t they?

Shock! Anti-gay crusader secretly homo!

In a move that surprised absolutely no one, a fierce right-wing politician who fights against giving rights to gays has been outed after he sent nude pictures online to another man!

I mean, what are the odds?  Other than the fact that this seems to happen about once a month these days.BOEHNING__RANDY_1695687

Rep. Randy Boehning (R — Fargo, eh?) is the latest. I wonder if his last name is pronounced “boning.” That would be fun.

It seems to me that gay men who are raised to believe that homosexuality is wrong (because of their religion, usually) have to fight their natural urges in whatever way possible, so they tend to become some of the most avid fighters against their own. It’s a way for them to say to their God, “See? I know it’s a sin and I am doing everything I can to distance myself from it!”

This also explains why they believe so strongly that being gay is a “choice.” They assume that everyone has these desires, and they are superior because they don’t act on them (except, of course, they do).

The good news is that this belief is dying out day by day and especially as more and more people reject that kind of religion in their lives. And so we can all celebrate whenever another hypocrite like this guy is exposed.

I wonder what is taking Michelle Bachmann’s husband so long.