Equality Matters

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  • NRO: Supreme Court Should Reject Marriage Equality Because The "Older View Of Marriage" Is "Superior"

    Blog ››› ››› MEAGAN HATCHER-MAYS

    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.

  • O'Reilly Falls For Absurd Campaign Demanding Justices Ginsburg And Kagan's Recusal From Marriage Equality Case

    Blog ››› ››› SOPHIA TESFAYE

    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":

  • The "Religious Freedom" Case That Wasn't -- Right-Wing Media's Slippery Slope Argument Debunked

    Blog ››› ››› MEAGAN HATCHER-MAYS

    Right-wing media have falsely suggested that the civil rights protections in Indiana's "religious freedom" bill force business owners to endorse messages that they share serious ideological disagreements with. But a recently-decided discrimination case in Colorado debunked this argument, differentiating between discrimination on the basis of ideology and discrimination on the basis of membership in a protected class.

    On April 2, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed an anti-discrimination amendment to his state's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) after facing widespread criticism due to the law's potential to authorize anti-LGBT discrimination. To address that danger, the amended law explicitly prohibits individuals and business owners from invoking RFRA to deny services on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

    Right-wing media were quick to criticize Pence, arguing that the amendment "gutted" the state's RFRA and claiming that the revision would "force" the devout to violate their religious beliefs by holding them accountable to generally applicable civil rights protections. A number of conservative media outlets like The Wall Street Journal took this argument further, falsely claiming that forcing religious business owners to abide by anti-discrimination laws would also "compel" them to serve customers with "politically unacceptable thoughts":

    For that matter, should a Native American printer be legally compelled to make posters with an Indian mascot that he finds offensive, or an environmentalist contractor to work a shift at a coal-fired power plant? Fining or otherwise coercing any small number of private citizens -- who aren't doing anyone real harm but entertain politically unacceptable thoughts -- is thuggish stuff.

    But a recent "religious discrimination" case from Colorado illustrates how this hypothetical betrays a fundamental inability to understand that the RFRA debate was over discrimination against gay people, not gay "thoughts."

  • Right-Wing Media Downplay Legal Dangers of Indiana's Anti-Gay Religious Freedom Law

    Blog ››› ››› MEAGAN HATCHER-MAYS

    Right-wing media are continuing to defend Indiana's newly-enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and dismissing concerns that the law could provide cover for religious individuals or business owners intent on discriminating against LGBT customers. In fact, RFRA has been used as a defense against discrimination claims in the past, New Mexico's version was used against a gay couple just recently, and supporters of these expanded forms of RFRA have explicitly pointed to anti-gay sentiment as their intent.

    Since the passage of Indiana's RFRA, right-wing media have erroneously claimed that criticism of the law is overblown, because it does nothing more than mirror the federal version of RFRA and RFRAs in other states. But Indiana's law is more expansive than other versions because it provides a legal defense to both private individuals and for-profit businesses in lawsuits even where the government is not a party, and unlike several other states who have passed RFRAs, Indiana lacks a statewide law that protects LGBT residents from discrimination.

    Conservative media figures like National Review's Rich Lowry have also argued that Indiana's RFRA will not be used as a license to discriminate against LGBT customers because if RFRA laws "were the enablers of discrimination they are portrayed as, much of the country would already have sunk into a dystopian pit of hatred." Right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt also downplayed the potential legal ramifications of Indiana's law, claiming on his show that the federal version of RFRA has "been the law in the District of Columbia for 22 years [and] I do not know of a single incident" of the law being used to discriminate against gay people. He did not address the fact that it is the newer state versions that have sparked the current outrage.

    On the March 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy made a similar argument in an attempt to pretend fears of the law's discriminatory effects were baseless, claiming that Indiana's RFRA is not "anti-gay" because it has "never not once" been used as a legal defense by religious business owners accused of anti-LGBT discrimination:

  • Mark Krikorian Ignores Economic Benefits Of Marriage Equality

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Mark Krikorian was surprised to learn on Thursday that labor unions are lobbying in support of marriage equality in Maryland. In his National Review Online post, he wrote that the reason it "seems improbable is that until recently, American organized labor, while misguided on many economic questions, was deeply traditionalist." He concluded that unions are now supporting marriage equality only because "the unions no longer represent many workers."

    But what Krikorian has apparently failed to understand is that marriage equality has many economic benefits. The Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law argues that marriage equality creates jobs. It also estimated that in the first year same-sex marriage was legalized in six states, wedding spending from those marriages totaled at least $249 million:

    Forbes estimated in 2004 that if laws were changed to legalize same-sex marriage in the entire United States, the wedding industry would see "a short-term gain of prodigious proportions" and eventually provide a nearly $17 billion boost to the economy over time. In another estimate, San Francisco's chief economist stated in 2010 that the "annual wedding-related spending would rise by $35 million in San Francisco, with an additional $2.7 million in hotel spending, if same-sex marriage were legal."

    Business groups and leaders have also expressed support for marriage equality due to its economic benefits. The executive director of the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce in New Hampshire praised the economic potential of civil unions in December 2007. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce argued that marriage equality in California "would improve the business climate" and would enhance "the ability of California businesses to compete nationwide for top talent."

    In April 2011, top New York business leaders urged the state to adopt marriage equality "to remain competitive" and "attract top talent." A few months later, more than 75 business leaders in North Carolina signed an open letter opposing a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages "because of the significant harm it will cause our state's pro-business environment, its major employers, and efforts to spur job-creation in North Carolina."

    The lack of same-sex marriage recognition has been shown to be costly to workers as well. As CNNMoney reported last week, same-sex couples "are paying as much as $6,000 a year in extra taxes because the federal government doesn't recognize gay marriage."

  • Dr. Keith Ablow: Misinformer Of The Year On LGBT Issues

    ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    In 2011 Fox News' Dr. Keith Ablow brought a toxic mix of homophobia and pseudoscientific anti-LGBT talking points to new lows. The "Fox News Medical A-Team" member has been a prolific source of anti-LGBT misinformation, disguising his animosity toward gay, lesbian and transgender people as expert commentary on human sexuality. His bigoted rants against J. Crew, Dancing with the Stars, and the Girl Scouts have earned widespread criticism and mockery, eventually causing him to resign from the American Psychiatric Association. For his consistent promotion of known falsehoods and shirking of established medical opinions on LGBT issues, Ablow has earned the title of LGBT Misinformer of the Year.

  • Myths And Falsehoods On Don't Ask, Don't Tell

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    At 12:01 a.m., the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy will expire under the bill President Obama signed in December, allowing gay and lesbian servicemembers to serve openly in the armed forces.

    As required under that legislation, President Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen all certified in July that the repeal would not adversely effect military readiness or unit cohesion.

    During the extensive debate over whether DADT would be repealed, Media Matters identified and debunked several falsehoods about the policy:

    MYTH: Don't Ask, Don't Tell is working

    MYTH: Repeal would undermine morale and unit cohesion

    MYTH: Military experts oppose the repeal of DADT

    MYTH: The public does not support repeal of DADT

    MYTH: Right-wing attacks on DADT repeal are not anti-gay

    MYTH: DADT repeal would adversely affect retention

    MYTH: Experience of other nations aren't relevant because "nobody counts on" their armies

    MYTH: Only progressives support the repeal of DADT

    MYTH: DADT repeal would expose servicemembers to greater HIV risk

    Credible media outlets should see to that as the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy expires, so do these myths.