Conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is again raising conservative media talking points in court, advancing the debunked idea that the definition of marriage has remained unchanged for a "millennia."
On April 28, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that will determine whether state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. During arguments, the conservative justices, including Scalia, expressed concern about "redefining" the institution of marriage to include gay couples. In one exchange with Mary Bonauto, the lawyer representing the same-sex plaintiffs, Scalia wondered if it was appropriate for the court to "decide it for this society" since marriage has applied only to heterosexual couples "for millennia."
The idea that the definition of marriage has had a fixed tradition or definition "for millennia" is untrue, although right-wing media have pushed that notion in varying forms for years -- and Scalia's propensity for embracing right-wing talking points is well-known. In 2012, he repeated the idea that if the Affordable Care Act was upheld, the federal government might be allowed to force Americans to buy broccoli -- an argument borrowed from Rush Limbaugh's talk show. Earlier this year, Scalia claimed that if the court struck down the availability of health care subsidies, Congress would move quickly to fix the problem -- apparently convinced by right-wing media's false claims that Senate Republicans had a viable back-up plan if the court hobbled the Affordable Care Act. When the Supreme Court struck down Arizona's notorious anti-immigrant racial profiling law in 2012, Scalia dispensed with legal arguments to instead attack the unrelated deferred action program for DREAMers and scaremonger that the "state's citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants." Professor Jeffrey Rosen of George Washington University said Scalia's commentary in that case "sound[ed] more like a conservative blogger or Fox News pundit than a justice."
National Review Online is calling on the Supreme Court to uphold states' rights to ban same-sex marriage because, in its view, recognizing marriage equality would redefine the institution to favor lesser "emotional unions" and adopted children over married procreation.
On April 28, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that could finally allow same-sex couples to marry in every state or, at minimum, require states that ban same-sex marriage to recognize the legality of same-sex marriages performed legally elsewhere. During arguments, Mary Bonauto, the lawyer representing the same-sex couples challenging state marriage bans, asserted that such bans "contravene the basic constitutional commitment to equal dignity" and that "the abiding purpose of the 14th Amendment is to preclude relegating classes of persons to second-tier status."
Several justices were receptive to Bonauto's argument, including conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is widely expected to cast the deciding vote in the case.
But NRO is less convinced. In an April 28 editorial, the editors called on the justices to "refrain from taking [the] reckless step" of recognizing that the fundamental right to marry should be extended to gay couples. The editorial also rejected the idea that gay couples who can't get married are routinely denied the same dignity that "traditional" married couples enjoy, and argued that the "older view" of marriage -- which prioritizes "the type of sexual behavior that often gives rise to children" -- is "rationally superior to the newer one":
An older view of marriage has steadily been losing ground to a newer one, and that process began long before the debate over same-sex couples. On the older understanding, society and, to a lesser extent, the government needed to shape sexual behavior -- specifically, the type of sexual behavior that often gives rise to children -- to promote the well-being of those children. On the newer understanding, marriage is primarily an emotional union of adults with an incidental connection to procreation and children.
We think the older view is not only unbigoted, but rationally superior to the newer one. Supporters of the older view have often said that it offers a sure ground for resisting polygamy while the newer one does not. But perhaps the more telling point is that the newer view does not offer any strong rationale for having a social institution of marriage in the first place, let alone a government-backed one.
Fox News' Special Report cherry-picked Justice Antonin Scalia's religious freedom concerns from the Supreme Court's oral arguments on constitutional protections for same-sex marriage to question whether clergy may "be required to conduct same-sex marriages." But this selective reporting ignores the fact that Scalia's line of questioning was immediately debunked by his fellow justices as well as the pro-marriage equality lawyer.
On April 28, the court heard landmark arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that will decide whether the U.S. Constitution forbids states from banning same-sex marriages, or at least requires them to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it's legal.
During the April 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report, anchor Bret Baier highlighted a dubious line of questioning between Scalia and Mary Bonauto, the lawyer representing the same-sex couples, that suggested a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage would require clergy with religious objections to perform those ceremonies. Baier reiterated Scalia's question to The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes, who agreed and argued that a ruling in favor of marriage equality would leave religious liberties vulnerable:
BAIER: There's one more thing. If states license ministers to conduct marriages, would those ministers -- if it is constitutional -- then be required to conduct same-sex marriages?
HAYES: Right, and then you go to the religious liberty argument. I mean, this is one area where I think conservatives are shifting their focus now, in a sense almost conceding that the gay marriage debate for all intents and purposes in the political realm is over, but can they sort of protect those religious liberties that, you know, certainly I would argue that the founders intended.
In the lead up to next week's landmark Supreme Court hearings on the constitutionality of marriage equality, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly is amplifying a fringe -- and absurd -- right-wing campaign calling on Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elana Kagan to recuse themselves because they have officiated same-sex marriages. But these actions, along with Ginsburg's comments noting the American public is rapidly turning against anti-LGBT discrimination, are not grounds for legitimate recusal.
In January, the American Family Association (AFA) -- a notorious anti-gay hate group -- announced a campaign titled, "Kagan and Ginsburg: Recuse Yourselves!" In a statement, the AFA, best known for its infamous anti-gay spokesman Bryan Fischer, called on the justices to recuse themselves ahead of next week's oral arguments before the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage. The group argued that Kagan and Ginsburg "should recuse themselves from making any same-sex marriage decisions because they have both conducted same-sex marriage ceremonies."
On April 20, Fox legal correspondent Shannon Bream twice reported on "public calls, petition drives, and appeals directly to Justices Ginsburg and Kagan to recuse themselves from hearing next week's case on same-sex marriage." During Fox News' Special Report, Bream pointed to the justices' past history officiating same-sex weddings and a February 2015 interview during which Ginsburg said that it "would not take a large adjustment" for Americans to get used to nationwide marriage equality. On April 21, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly picked up the argument in his "Is It Legal" segment on The O'Reilly Factor, declaring "these ladies have to recuse themselves," because "[t]he Supreme Court is supposed to be an incorruptible institution, but reports say Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has herself performed three gay marriages, and Justice Elena Kagan, one":
As the newspaper world scrambles to figure out why New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson was forced out this week, her ouster has drawn attention to another mystery: Why are there so few women running America's largest newspapers?
With Abramson's departure, only two of the top 25 circulation daily papers in the U.S. -- as listed by the Alliance for Audited Media -- have women as their top editors. Newsday's Debbie Henley and the Houston Chronicle's Nancy Barnes are the exception rather than the rule.
And with Abramson gone, replaced by Dean Baquet -- the paper's first African-American executive editor -- none of the top 10 daily papers have a woman at the helm. That's unusual since at least half of those papers have seen female newsroom leadership in recent decades.
Along with the Times, the New York Daily News, New York Post, Chicago Tribune, and USA Today were led by women during the past 15 years.
Among the remaining top 25 daily papers, at least eight had women as the top newsroom bosses during the same time span. Today, only two, Barnes and Henley.
"There was this time where there were quite a few of us. It was a nice list," said Ann Marie Lipinski, who was editor of the Chicago Tribune for seven years before resigning in 2007 and being replaced by a man, Gerould Kern. "One by one, all for varying reasons, most of that group just dissipated. I can't tell you what all of that means, each story is very different. The sum of it is a fairly depressing lack of female leadership in major newsrooms."
Susan Goldberg, a former top editor at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and the San Jose Mercury News, said, "it's terrible that half of the jobs aren't filled by women. There certainly are tons of qualified women who are ready and able to lead newsrooms, whether those are print or online newsrooms."
Goldberg, who recently became the first female editor-in-chief of National Geographic magazine, said things were on the rise for women editors, but the trend has reversed. "We made progress for a while, then it seemed to plateau," she said. "Then the [financial] upheaval in the industry came and that may be part of it. There have not been the line of women to replace the ones who left. I'm sorry to see that there hasn't been a deeper bench of women who can step into these roles when they are vacated."
Melanie Sill, former editor of The Sacramento (CA.) Bee and the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., called the trend "definitely something to be concerned about."
"It is something that I have wondered about," added Sill, now executive editor of Southern California Public Radio. "It is part of a larger reverse trend in diversity in news in general. We've lost some ground in terms of ethnic and gender diversity."
Fox News chose not to air live coverage of press events immediately following the Supreme Court's consideration of a historic marriage equality case, while MSNBC and CNN both covered the event live.
The Supreme Court was hearing arguments for and against California's Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage. The landmark case, Hollingsworth vs. Perry, examines whether Prop 8 "unconstitutionally discriminates against gays and lesbians." After oral arguments wrapped up, a press conference took place on the steps of the Supreme Court during which attorneys and plaintiffs in the case spoke to the media.
Here's what Fox News aired instead of the live press conference (11:45 AM):
During the same minutes, MSNBC and CNN aired the following:
CNN (11:45 AM)
MSNBC (11:42 AM)
Chick-fil-A is now confirming in no uncertain terms that the company maintains an anti-LGBT philosophy -- a stance supported in practical terms by the company's history of donations to anti-gay groups.
Although his company's policies seemed to indicate otherwise, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy previously claimed that the company is not anti-gay -- "not anti-anybody." Cathy, who on Monday foreshadowed his public comments in a blog post titled "Thought For The Week: Become A Part Of The Story," cleared up any confusion by denouncing marriage equality and its advocates in interviews published in Baptist Press and on The Ken Coleman Show over the past two days. From OnTopMag.com (emphasis added):
Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy has described gay marriage supporters as "arrogant" for going against God on marriage.
In an interview on the Ken Coleman Show, Cathy defended his company's support of groups opposed to marriage equality.
"I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,'" Cathy said. "And I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about."
Richard Spencer, executive director of the National Policy Institute (NPI), was beginning his opening remarks as I settled uneasily into my seat in the back row of a small, brightly lit banquet room. From a podium at the front of the room, the brown-haired young man pointed to a projection of a color-shaded world map that he claimed depicted regional variations in the average Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of indigenous populations.
According to the map, East Asian and European peoples possess the highest IQs while African and Australian indigenous populations possess the lowest. He then switched to a NASA photograph of the world at night, depicting city lights around the globe visible from space. He compared the brightest-lit areas (China, Europe, North America) to the previous map, proclaiming that the brightest localities were also those with the highest IQ.
"You can see, Africa is literally the Dark Continent."
It was on that note that NPI's national conference, titled Towards a New Nationalism: Immigration and the Future of Western Nations, began. This was the first such event for the fledgling white nationalist organization NPI, a think tank of sorts dedicated to "promot[ing] the American majority's unique historical, cultural, and biological inheritance - and advances policies that, without prejudicing the legitimate rights of others, fearlessly defends our rights...our heritage." Dedicated, in other words, to advancing the interests of the white race.
The event was a first for me as well. I would be, for the first time, experiencing a gathering of white supremacists from such an intimate perspective. Watching, learning, interacting -- I would attempt to sort out what they believe and why and explore the relationship between the white nationalist movement and the more mainstream political spectrum. As a clean-cut white male, my presence wasn't suspicious and the other attendees assumed I shared their views. For my part, I let them assume, and I did my best to blend in.
I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at 9 a.m., but a part of me anticipated swarms of protestors, a strong police presence clashing with private security forces and a raucous racist crowd inside the hall, cheering on some podium-smacking orator bloviating about the evils of the Jewish race and the need to oppress the black community.
Instead, I was greeted jovially upon arrival to a scene that more closely resembled a modest cocktail party, with no security and a few people standing around sipping coffee and discussing literature. I picked up my name tag and glanced at the design -- a photograph of a white family smiling over a white background adjacent to the well-known political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin depicting a severed serpent and the phrase "JOIN, or DIE."
Reading over the conference program, I caught a glimpse of what I was in for from the titles of the speeches to come. They ranged from the blandly predictable - "Is Arizona the Answer?", "Prospects for a Nationalist Right in America"; to the ominously enigmatic - "Apocalypse Now," "Totalitarian Humanism and Mass Immigration," "The Masters of the Universe"; to the truly chill-inducing -- "The Idea and Ideal of the Ethno-State."