SCOTUS Sides With Masterpiece Cakeshop in Strange Ruling

UPDATE #4: Via KUNC’s Bente Birkeland:

Statement from One Colorado:

Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court does not change our country’s long-standing principle that businesses open to the public must be open to all. While we are disappointed the Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop and their discrimination against Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, the fact remains that Colorado has a civil rights division and anti-discrimination laws that equally protect the fundamental rights of all Coloradans.”

“We strongly believe that the freedom of religion must be defended as one of our most fundamental values as Americans, but that freedom cannot be used to harm others or discriminate against others. Coloradans across our state – including LGBTQ Coloradans and their families – can take heart from today’s decision that no matter who you are, who you love, or what you believe, you will still be protected in our state from discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.

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UPDATE #3: There appears to be plenty of agreement among legal experts that today’s ruling is fairly pointless. From CNN:

“Today’s decision is remarkably narrow, and leaves for another day virtually all of the major constitutional questions that this case presented,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “It’s hard to see the decision setting a precedent.”

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UPDATE #2: Rep. Jared Polis, a leading Democratic candidate for governor:

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UPDATE: AP via Colorado Public Radio:

The Supreme Court of the United States has ended a five-year legal battle in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, ruling that the commission’s actions violated the Free Exercise Clause.

The court is not deciding the big issue in the case, whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to gay and lesbian people. [Pols emphasis]

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the the opinion for the court, which voted 7-2 to reverse a lower court’s ruling. Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented. The justices’ limited ruling turned on what the court described as anti-religious bias on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission when it ruled against baker Jack Phillips.

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CNN reports, we’re working on getting more local responses to today’s important but narrow decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of a Lakewood cake baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple:

The court held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility toward the baker based on his religious beliefs. The ruling is a win for baker Jack Phillips, who cited his beliefs as a Christian, but leaves unsettled broader constitutional questions on religious liberty.

“Today’s decision is remarkably narrow, and leaves for another day virtually all of the major constitutional questions that this case presented,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “It’s hard to see the decision setting a precedent.”

The ruling, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, held that members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed animus toward Phillips specifically when they suggested his claims of religious freedom was made to justify discrimination.

It’s a decision sure to energize both sides of the debate, since it appears to focus very specifically on the circumstances of this one case rather than addressing the broader issue of whether religious freedom entails a right to refuse service to persons who offend a business owner’s beliefs. Conservatives are certain to overreach in their interpretation, but the lopsided ruling does oblige LGBT rights advocates to fully understand their reasoning in order to properly respond. Colorado’s Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a separate concurring opinion with Samuel Alito, which may well stake out ideological ground the court’s majority does not.

There will be much to update as reactions come in, so watch this space.

Cynthia Coffman Just Keeps Digging and Digging

Cynthia! Are you down there, Cynthia?

We’ve been tough on Attorney General Cynthia Coffman in this space, but it would be impossible to ignore the fantastical absurdity that is her campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Ever since her belated announcement for Governor in November, Coffman has been unable to figure out if she is here or there or anywhere else.

Ernest Luning reports on Coffman’s latest political gymnastics for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Coffman…told a GOP group last week she would sign a bill removing protection based on sexual orientation from Colorado’s anti-discrimination law.

Her remarks drew criticism from the state’s leading LGBTQ-advocacy organization, but Coffman later said she meant she would repeal the protection only if it turned out it wasn’t needed anymore. [Pols emphasis]

Coffman, who has staked out a position as a defender of LGBTQ rights, made the remarks at a March 21 meeting of the Greeley Republican Politics for Breakfast group at the end of a discussion about her controversial role defending the state’s nondiscrimination law in a U.S. Supreme Court Court case about a Lakewood baker who cited religious reasons when he refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

Well, except that she probably did.

Coffman is seeking a place on the June Primary ballot via the caucus/assembly process, which concludes on April 14, and she’s been taking a strange approach in courting diehard Republicans across the state. Coffman’s pitch to GOP voters is that she is the most moderate Republican in the race, and therefore the candidate with the best chance of winning a General Election in November. But it seems like every time she tries to make this case, she ends up walking it back in a very public manner.

Put aside, for a moment, the question of whether or not it makes sense to court right-wing Republicans with a moderate message; Coffman’s bigger problem has been her persistant inability to be consistent in her positions. Coffman’s supposed support of LGBTQ rights is one of her main talking points for her “moderate” image — but when she gets into a room with conservative Republicans, she compulsively un-moderates herself. As Luning explains further:

Last summer, Coffman praised Colorado’s anti-bias laws as among the strongest in the country when she addressed a rally celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered equality on the steps of the state Capitol. She pointed out that her office had recently helped pass bipartisan legislation adding sexual orientation and transgender status to the state’s existing law covering bias-motivated crimes.

“Whatever happens on the national front, and I know there is great fear about what lies ahead because it is unknown to us, let me tell you what we do know about Colorado,” Coffman, the only Republican on stage, told the rally. “This state, your legislators, your state officials — we will all stand up for gay rights, for human rights in Colorado.” [Pols emphasis]

Cynthia Coffman will stand up for LGBTQ rights! Unless she won’t.

We’d guess that Coffman isn’t likely to win over many conservative Republicans with this dance, so why risk losing potential supporters from the LGBTQ community?

After reviewing a recording of Coffman’s remarks before the Republican group, a spokesman for One Colorado, the state’s leading LGBTQ-advocacy organization, said her statement “feels like a betrayal” from someone the group has long considered an ally.

Of course, this isn’t the only issue that has Coffman flopping about. Coffman thinks Colorado voters are anxious to vote for a female candidate at the top of the ticket (which they did in 2016 with Hillary Clinton), yet she is an unabashed supporter of President Trump.

Coffman doesn’t want to talk about Planned Parenthood, but she can’t very well sidestep the issue because of her involvement in important court cases about funding the organization. In fact, Coffman has waffled so much in the past few months on the issue of abortion that it is nearly impossible to ascertain if she is really “pro-choice” or “pro-life” (as far as we can tell, she’s definitely sorta “pro-life” at the moment).

If Coffman’s political strategy is intentional obfuscation, then she’s doing a hell of a job staying on “message.” But if this is NOT the plan, and we’re guessing it isn’t, then it’s almost sad to see Coffman winding down her political career by pulling up whatever policy stakes she once planted.

Con Man Chaps Interviews CD6 candidate Roger Edwards

Roger Edwards, Colorado Polster and candidate for Congressional District 6, was recently interviewed on Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s Pray in Jesus Name online “news” program.

Screenshot, Pray in Jesus Name program 12/21/17

Edwards should be more careful about the people he associates with; Chaps is a known nutcase, homophobe, and a con man who has made millions by exploiting the hopes and fears of his gullible subscribers.

Klingenschmitt’s nonprofit, “Persuade the World Ministries” declared income of $1,362,548 in 2016, while making no charitable grants whatsoever. (2016 990 form, from Propublica Nonprofit Explorer) In 2016, Klingenschmitt was still employed as the Representative for HD15, and attempted to run for Senate District 16.  And he wasn’t too fussy about keeping his political and religious finances separate.

Klingenschmitt: You, Too, Can Discern Demons

How did Klingenschmitt make 1.3 million dollars?  By selling such gems as his $99 “Discern the Spirits” program.

Screenshot – Youtube video of PJIN program

That’s right, for only $99, Chaps will teach you how to see demons and angels. This would be just another laughable claim by a religious fanatic –  if not for the political applications of Chaps “discernment”. He famously tried to exorcise a demon from President Obama, and claimed that gay and transgender people were inhabited by demons.

Also possessed by demons, according to Chaps: Zales ad execs, and anyone who criticizes him.

On the same 40 minute PJIN progam, at 19:11, Chaps promotes his petition to protect the altars of military chapels from the “desecration” of being used for “homosexual wedding ceremonies”. Because, of course, this is a legit national security concern.

Chaps Facebook page is a compendium of conspiracy theories (How Planned Parenthood Killed Toys R Us!!), Trumpism, and fundraising appeals for his various campaigns against gays and abortion, Mexican and Muslim immigrants, etc.  This is how he has become a millionaire. People donate to his “ministry”. A lot.

Edwards: Gays OK to keep their jobs

Chaps’ interview with candidate Roger Edwards starts with the standard biographical questions. Then the two proceed to check the right boxes: Anti-abortion / Pro Personhood? Check. Pro Concealed Carry? Check. Trump voter? Check.

When Chaps probes to find out what policies Edwards is for, the best Edwards can say is that he is “Not Mike Coffman”. There are no specific policies on Edwards’ campaign website, either. Sample: We must recognize that evil exists in the world. 

To Edwards’ credit, at 25:11,  Edwards  declines to denounce the ENDA (Employment Non Discrimination Act), which protects gay people from employment discrimination. Edwards refuses Chaps’ request to get on the homophobic bandwagon against ENDA, and says that gay people should be able to keep their jobs. Edwards says:

I believe in religious freedom, but I also believe that, if you’re a gay person,. . .that you should have equal opportunity to have a job and work a career that you want to work in.

I’m sorry that we live in a world in which we should be grateful that an aspiring politician declines to discriminate against a tenth of the population. Edwards does say that he thinks that Jack Phillips, the baker who wouldn’t make the gay cake, probably did the right thing for “artistic freedom”. So he checked that box for Chaps.

Roger Edwards is trying to establish himself as a legitimate, electable candidate in CD6, a diverse district. The Adams County Republicans endorsed his candidacy over Coffman’s. It does not serve Edwards well to associate with opportunistic right wing hucksters like Dr. Chaps.

In the unlikely event that Edwards defeats Coffman in the primary, Dr. Chaps’ blessing of Edwards will serve the likely CD6 Democratic candidate, Jason Crow, very well, indeed.

Civil Rights Commission: The 800-Pound Gorilla in the Room

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Following a large rally yesterday at the Colorado State Capitol in defense of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, whose funding reauthorization was stalled by a deadlocked party-line vote of the legislature’s powerful Joint Budget Committee, Republicans found themselves once again on the defensive–and they complained bitterly about the overwhelmingly negative attention the vote has caused for the Senate GOP majority in particular. As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports:

Republicans say that their intention was never to defund the commission indefinitely or even put its existence into question, and that they just wanted to have a part in the process and to voice their concerns about the panel.

“It seemed very well orchestrated that they were able to come out and scream about the defunding of the department when that in fact is wholly untrue,” said Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Cañon City Republican. “This happens all the time across the street (from the Capitol where the JBC meets) where more questions want to be asked about a particular department before the funding is passed.”

“The end result was never in doubt,” Grantham added, saying what Democrats on the JBC did amounts to a breach of protocol. “… We will have a civil rights commission and we will also have a say in what it looks like.” [Pols emphasis]

FOX 31’s Joe St. George:

“We are committed to the reauthorization of the Civil Rights Commission,” Republican State Sen. Bob Gardner said.

“I believe the make up of the commission is not balanced right now.”

9NEWS’ Anna Staver:

“It wasn’t a no,” [Sen. Kevin] Lundberg said. “It was a no, not now.”

He asked to postpone the vote until after the review process finished, but Democrats on the committee called for a vote.

“I am not prepared to vote for funding until I understand what this commission will actually be all about in the coming years,” Lundberg said during the budget meeting. [Pols emphasis]

One of the most inviolate customs observed between lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly–as we expect it is elsewhere–is a tradition that legislative colleagues do not “impugn the motives” of fellow lawmakers in the course of debate. The goal is to suppress acrimony over hot-button issues by creating a degree of separation between the subject being argued and the people doing the arguing. Of course sometimes the motive is plainly obvious, and that can lead to a stilted debate in which one side is basically hiding behind courtesy to dodge criticism for a distasteful underlying reality that everybody knows.

In the case of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the vote by JBC Republicans to block its funding, the motive everyone is too polite to acknowledge is this: two of the most homophobic senators in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate serve on the JBC. Sen. Kevin Lundberg praised Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis for “abiding by the laws of God” when she went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Sen. Kent Lambert said that Colorado’s civil unions law is a “mind-control experiment” intended to force Coloradans “to believe in homosexual marriage.”

How is it that this standoff has been developing for almost a week and not one single mainstream news story has pointed this out? We understand that turnover at local media outlets is quite high and some of these events occurred literally before yesterday, but at some level that’s just no excuse. In our view, you can’t tell the story of three Republicans blocking funding for the Civil Rights Commission without explaining the openly homophobic views of two out of three of them.

The public needs the unsanitized truth about what the Republicans who did this actually believe. There’s no guesswork about what they believe. It’s all on the record. Voters can Google it. And above all, reporters are not bound by the niceties of legislative decorum.

So please. Tell the whole story.

Senate GOP Reels After Civil Rights Commission Miscalculation

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Marianne Goodland of the former Colorado Statesman reports on the explosive controversy resulting from last week’s vote by Republicans on the powerful Joint Budget Committee against funding for the Colorado Civil Rights Commission–the same commission party to a major case before the U.S. Supreme Court alleging discrimination by a Lakewood cake-baker against a same-sex couple:

The deadlocked vote last week over funding the Colorado Civil Rights Commission continues to draw reaction, as well as a Tuesday rally to defend the agency. Both the Division of Civil Rights and the Civil Rights Commission are up for a sunset review hearing on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., the first step in re-authorizing the agency.

In a story first reported Thursday by Colorado Politics, the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) failed to pass a 2018-19 budget for the commission last week with a 3-3 tie vote, split along party lines. For now, that vote means the agency will not be funded as of July 1, 2018.

Reaction to the decision has been swift and angry. Sunday, the Colorado Working Families Party, which backs progressive candidates, issued a statement calling on the Republican members of the JBC to end their efforts to undermine the state civil rights agency.

Goodland directs us to a statement from the Good Business Colorado coalition denouncing last week’s vote, and a rally coming up tomorrow on the Capitol steps:

“The vote to defund the Civil Rights Commission may not seem on its surface to be a business issue — but it truly is because it ensures we have the strong foundation on which we are building the Colorado economy.

“Creating a baseline of respect and dignity for all people is a key component to building Colorado’s economy, one of the strongest in the country. If people don’t feel secure, they can’t work, they can’t spend money, and they can’t support our businesses. The Civil Rights Commission gives our employees, customers, and community the confidence that they can be treated fairly and equally in our state.

“Good Business Colorado urges legislators to quickly repair any harm done to the state’s business reputation by reversing this action to undermine the protection of civil rights.”

The pushback against Senate Republicans over this vote against funding for the civil rights commission appears to have significantly exceeded expectations. Today the Senate GOP released this statement from Senate President Kevin Grantham:

The problem is that nobody is buying this feeble excuse. Two out of three Republican members of the Joint Budget Committee, Sens. Kevin Lundberg and Kent Lambert, are among the most ardently anti-LGBT members of the Colorado General Assembly. Lundberg praised Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis for “abiding by the laws of God” when she went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Lambert says Colorado’s civil unions law is a “mind-control experiment” to force Coloradans “to believe in homosexual marriage.”

For these and a host of other reasons that everyone knows, the attempt by Senate Republicans to defend this vote against funding for the civil rights commission has fallen entirely flat. It was Kevin Grantham who appointed two of the most homophobic senators in his majority to the JBC. Everybody knows exactly what is going on here and why. If Republicans really didn’t think this puerile attack on the civil rights commission while the commission argues the nation’s biggest LGBT discrimination case before the nation’s highest court wasn’t going to blow up in their faces, they’re more clueless than even we could have imagined.

Because politically, this is just madness. Colorado Republicans who have desperately been trying to turn over a new leaf with tolerant Colorado voters on social issues like LGBT rights have been set back years by this vote. Every day Grantham and company tries to defend their actions only compounds the disaster. So many elections in recent years have punished Colorado Republicans for obsessing with social wedge issues over practical matters, and they just voluntarily saddled themselves with the same baggage once again.

We are honestly surprised this lesson hasn’t been learned. How many more ass-kickings at the polls will it take?

Kevin Lundberg: Making Colorado Hate Again

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

As the Colorado Independent’s John Herrick reports, yesterday Republicans on the Colorado General Assembly’s powerful Joint Budget Committee took a swipe at the Colorado Civil Rights Commission–the state agency charged with defending Coloradans of all stripes from discrimination in housing, public accommodation, and the workplace:

Republican state lawmakers are effectively shutting down a state agency that is at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court case involving the rights of a gay couple who were refused service by a Christian baker.

The Joint Budget Committee held up funding for Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission following a split, party-line vote this afternoon. The decision would cut off state funding for the regulatory agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws on July 1. This drew protests from Democrats and the LGBTQ community.

The agency is fighting a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that pits religious liberties against anti-discrimination protections. It involves the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because he said it conflicted with his First Amendment right of artistic, religious and free speech expression…

Because the Civil Rights Commission is up for “sunset review” reauthorization of its funding this year, notoriously anti-LGBT Sen. Kevin Lundberg of the JBC is stalling the budget appropriation citing the possibility that the division will be allowed to “sunset.”

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, who voted against the budget request, wants to wait for the review to play out. The Civil Rights Division, which includes the commission, is requesting $2.1 million for next year.

“My argument against approving their funding today is we need to wait and see what the legislature does with the renewal of the law authorizing the commission,” Lundberg said on Facebook on Thursday.

Because of the commission’s role in the discrimination case currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court of Lakewood cake-baker Jack Phillips, this action by Republican members of the JBC could quickly become a national flashpoint in the post-Obergefell debate over LGBT rights in America. The religious right since that decision has been on a quest to carve out an exemption in anti-discrimination laws for “religious objections.” That’s why Sen. Lundberg drew scorn for his praise of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis after she was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

And that’s what is critical to understand. This is no accident. Colorado Senate Republicans appointed Kim Davis-loving Kevin Lundberg to the Joint Budget Committee where everyone knew he would have this power to put the Civil Rights Commission in jeopardy. It will be the choice of the entire Senate majority to block reauthorization of the Civil Rights Commission in the middle of a U.S. Supreme Court case if they do so, but yesterday’s vote on the JBC makes that all the more likely.

Politically, Republicans are audaciously playing with fire here. The situation is eerily similar to the fight in 2012 in the state legislature over civil unions legislation. Republicans pulled out all the stops to oppose the civil unions bill that year, leading to a widely-publicized spectacle at the session’s end in which Republicans leaders shut down the House to prevent a vote.

And then they lost their asses that November.

With a wave election headed Republicans’ way this year that could dwarf 2012, sweeping the Colorado Senate GOP’s single-seat majority from power and growing Democratic control of the Colorado House even more than the status quo, this is either a Hail Mary to invigorate the religious right or the actions of a party that simply doesn’t care about winning anymore. Or maybe both.

Either way, this is a story that needs a lot of attention–and right now.

Behold! The Dumbest Legislation of 2018!

So much stupid.

We’ve seen some pretty ridiculous legislative proposals emerge from the State Capitol over the years, from cat microchips to a pre-emptive ban on microchipping humans. Most of these stupid proposals have little support and are quickly killed in committee, but sometimes idiotic legislation emerges that somehow garners the support of multiple lawmakers.

The primary sponsors of House Bill 18-1206 are Republicans — State Rep. Stephen Humphrey and GOP Sen. Kevin Lundberg — but 19 other Republicans were listed as co-sponsors at last check. The legislation seeks to establish something called the “Live and Let Live Act,” which is outlined in 16 pages of some of the most excruciating gibberish you’ll ever read. The primary purpose of HB-1206 is to make it legal for religious- and faith-based organizations to discriminate on the basis of their opposition to any sort of marriage that does not involve one woman and one man.

It doesn’t take long before the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which originated in Lakewood, Colorado, garners a mention…though the explanation is a little bizarre:

In Colorado, a cake baker who willingly served customers from every walk of life [Pols emphasis] was forced to shut down an entire facet of his business, forced to undergo government “reeducation,” and required to file constant compliance reports when he declined to add his artistic talents to the creation of a wedding cake that would have celebrated a marriage his conscience required him not to participate in.”

Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips in fact refused to bake a cake for two men who were planning a wedding. The only reason we even know about any of this is because Phillips expressly refused to serve customers “from every walk of life.”

“Protecting religious freedom from government intrusion is a state interest of the highest order. Legislation advances this interest by remedying, deterring, and preventing government interference with religious exercise in a way that complements the protections mandated by the state and federal Constitutions.”

In other words, the “Live and Let Live Act” is a fancy way of saying that it should totally be okay for people to discriminate against others based on their personal opinions of the definition of marriage. A similar “Live and Let Live” bill was passed in the Arizona legislature in 2014 — The New York Times called it “A License to Discriminate” — and was  subsequently vetoed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer.

House Bill 18-1206 has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, where it will likely be killed good and dead.

Somebody please run against Jerry Sonnenberg

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Jerry Sonnenberg is winding up his first term in the Colorado Senate. He is up for re-election in 2018, and no one has stepped up to run against him.  Sonnenberg ran unopposed for his first Senate term, and for all four of his previous House terms, until he was termed out in 2014.  No wonder he doesn’t return liberal constituent’s phone calls – he feels pretty safe ignoring their concerns. What are they going to do, run a Democrat against him?

Sonnenberg has referred to a fellow female Senator as”eye candy” and tweeted that he’d like to lube his assault rifle with “Obama tears”. He legislated against eminent domain for water pipelines, and for eminent domain for oil and gas companies. He sponsored legislation to prohibit protesting at oil  and gas sites, and he is a climate science denier.

In an excellent piece by Win the Fourth (WTF),  the author makes the case for fielding a Democrat to run against Sonnenberg.

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Dr Chaps celebrates Roy Moore Week – and blames leftists for church shooting

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Gordon Klingenschmitt spent a week in Alabama promoting his old friend, Judge Roy Moore.

Screenshot of Klingenschmitt’s interview with Moore on Pray in Jesus’ Name program 10/5/17.

Former HD15 Representative Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, working his $1.3 million* a year hustle, alt-right “news program”, Pray in Jesus’ Name News, ran a 5 part series promoting his old friend and mentor, Alabama Senate candidate and accused pedophile Judge Roy Moore. Chaps campaigned for 5 days  with Roy Moore in Alabama last October.

For those with strong stomachs, here is the entire series:

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Attorney: Arguments to SCOTUS in baker case will allege bias of CO Civil Rights Commission

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Nicole Martin, the Alliance for Defending Freedom attorney who has represented Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, appeared Denver’s KNUS radio Thursday, September 7, to update listeners on preparations for the highly anticipated hearing of arguments in Phillips’ case by the United States Supreme Court in the coming months.

Speaking with show hosts Chuck Bonniwell and Julie Hayden, Martin highlighted developments surrounding the case since the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and subsequent court appeals ruled against Phillips, who refused services in 2012 to a gay couple requesting a wedding cake for their matrimony celebration.

Martin explained how these developments have steered her legal team’s strategy and tactics in preparing to argue Phillips’ defense to the Supreme Court.

One evolution in the ADF case is to claim that Phillips faced a biased Civil Rights Commission, which demonstrated a prejudice against people of faith. In her radio appearance, Martin points to a statement made by Commissioner Diann Rice:

“So, we pointed out to the court — […] when we were trying to get the stay of that Colorado Civil Rights Commission order while the appeal and the Colorado Court of Appeals was pending, she revealed herself to be openly hostile and biased toward people of faith when she compared Mr. Phillips – whose father was a World War II vet and helped liberate one of the first concentration camps – when she compared Mr. Phillips and his assertion of his First Amendment rights to slaveholders and Nazis. So, we focused on that.”

Rice’s actual statement, however, appears to be a broad, historical observation, framing the root of the debate.

At issue is whether equal protections for the couple, guaranteed under public accommodation laws, supersede Phillips’ claim to his First Amendment rights, which his legal team has framed in terms of religious liberty and artistic expression. Phillips’ devout Christian beliefs were cited in his refusal to sell gay wedding cakes.

Right wing online news outlets have widely cited Rice’s comments as proof of bias against people of faith in general, and against Phillips in particular.

In July 2014, while announcing the commission’s decision to stay the order against Phillips, Rice made the following statement:

“I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting,” Rice said during consideration of Phillips’ case. “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust, whether it be – I mean, we – we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to – to use their religion to hurt others.”

Another development which Martin believes will bolster Phillips’ case came from the activism of a Christian radio host and provocateur from Castle Rock named Bill Jack, who, in response to the original ruling against Masterpiece Cakeshop, solicited cakes with anti-gay messages and imagery from bakeries.  Jack filed a complaint with the Civil Rights Commission when those bakeries refused his request.

Martin explained how Bill Jack’s case, in which the commission ruled against his complaint, will be used in arguments to the Court:

“So we did beef up the brief extensively, based on that blatant double standard that it depends on […] who the message speaker is.”

Interestingly, in an interview from April 2015, Bill Jack made his own Nazi comparison from the other side of the debate, saying he believed the Civil Rights Commission were “acting like the Nazis. They are acting like those who want to re-educate the public,” referring to the commission’s order that Masterpiece Cakeshop rewrite company policy to comply with lawful, non-discriminatory practices.

Martin’s appearance on KNUS coincided with the filing of amicus curiae briefs – or, “friend of the court” briefs — in the Supreme Court case.

When Hayden inquired who had authored amicus briefs in support of Phillips’ case, Martin replied that she didn’t know specifically, but the list of supporters was long.  The only amicus author she mentioned was The Conference of Catholic Bishops.

After Martin’s interview aired, it was revealed that the United States Department of Justice, led by Trump-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, had filed a brief in support of Phillips’ defense.

(more…)

Civil Rights Leaders Slam Colorado GOP For “Bizarre” SPLC Attack

SUNDAY UPDATE: Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette:

A coalition of civil rights groups and left-leaning organizations on Friday demanded an apology from the Colorado Republican Party for “viciously attacking” the Southern Poverty Law Center on Twitter, but the state GOP’s chairman called the request ridiculous and doubled down on the party’s criticism of the watchdog group.

The dispute centers around what the civil rights groups term “a bizarre outburst on Twitter” by the state GOP’s official account — a series of tweets and retweets questioning the SPLC’s credibility as an arbiter of hate groups and extremists…

Citing articles critical of the SPLC “from across the political spectrum” and a letter written this week by prominent conservatives that calls the SPLC a “discredited, left-wing political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a ‘hate group’ label of its own invention,” Hays told Colorado Politics he has no intention of apologizing.

“The notion that the Colorado Republican Party should apologize for joining this broad chorus of critics is ridiculous,” Hays said in a statement. “Our tweet was correct to suggest the SPLC is an unreliable source of information, and stories that cite it uncritically ought not to be trusted.”

—–

A late-arriving press release today from several local civil rights leaders including the Denver Ministerial Alliance and LGBT rights group One Colorado calls for an apology from the Colorado Republican Party–who in the last couple of days has engaged in a series of off-message attacks on the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the nation’s leading anti-discrimination organizations:

Following a bizarre outburst from the official Twitter account for the Colorado Republican Party viciously attacking one of the nation’s foremost civil rights defense and anti-hate group organizations, Colorado civil rights leaders called on the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party to publicly apologize and hold the staffer responsible for these tweets accountable.

“Today’s conservative movement under President Donald Trump is empowering and mobilizing the forces of hatred in America, threatening America’s most fundamental values,” said Superintendent Patrick L. Demmer of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance. “The Southern Poverty Law Center’s job since 1971 has been to fight back against organized hatred, and they’ve done that job brilliantly. Less than one month since Charlottesville, the solution to the growing epidemic of hate in America is not to vilify the messenger.”

“It is outrageous to witness the Colorado Republican Party attacking an organization that has fought for civil rights and equality for over 45 years,” said Demmer. “With racist hatred and violence on the rise across America since Trump took office, the Southern Poverty Law Center is sounding the alarm that something very bad is happening. Instead of smearing the SPLC, Colorado Republicans should be reading Hatewatch—and making sure that hate is not being legitimized within the Republican Party, in Colorado or any other state.”

“The Southern Poverty Law Center’s has a long history of tracking and documenting the individuals, organizations, and funders of anti-LGBTQ extremism in this country,” said One Colorado Executive Director Daniel Ramos. “It is indeed possible that being marked as a hate group makes it harder for groups to retain their legitimacy and they may lose support from the public. That’s how it should be. Over the last two decades, we have made enormous progress in putting the days of anti-LGBTQ hate and discrimination behind us. SPLC’s ongoing work to expose hate in America is crucial to that progress.”

“Instead of denying the problem and attacking the messenger, every American should ask themselves: what am I doing to help put a stop to hatred in our country?” said Felicia Griffin, Executive Director of FRESC, Good Jobs, Strong Communities. “Sen. Cory Gardner, the top Republican elected official in this state, has repeatedly disavowed the racism that manifested in Charlottesville last month. If those words were more than platitudes, Gardner must demand that the Colorado Republican Party apologize for smearing one of the nation’s foremost civil rights organizations.”

In the aftermath of the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last month–but really since the beginning of President Donald Trump’s administration, and even before as the GOP sought to accommodate and exploit the rise of the so-called “alt-right”–there’s been what seems to be a concerted push to de-legitimize the SPLC, as well as its mission to identify and hold hate groups accountable. Where SPLC has called out organizations that promote bigotry against LGBT Americans, they’ve been on what you might call a “civil rights frontier.” As a result, SPLC’s equation of bias against LGBT people with racial prejudice makes people who still think it’s okay to be biased against LGBT people…well, uncomfortable.

The commonality between “traditional” racial hatred and prejudice against LGBT people is not a new concept, and has been increasingly recognized in civil rights law–but there are some people out there who still don’t want to acknowledge that they are equally unacceptable in a just society. That includes, apparently, the Colorado Republican Party in its official capacity. Despite the fact that the party has on many occasions tried to soften its image on LGBT rights. And hopefully, the benefit of the doubt we’re affording them on the matter of straight-up racism is justified.

Instead of (metaphorically) shooting the messenger, maybe it’s time to consider what SPLC is saying.

Donald Trump Finally Gets Around to Condemning Racists

The actual President of the United States.

President Trump finally found some time to condemn the KKK and other white supremacist groups today. As CNN reports:

“Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said in response to the attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend…

The comments came in a hastily scheduled White House event in the Diplomatic Reception Room, where Trump — speaking with the help of a teleprompter — spoke straight to camera after meeting with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss the Department of Justice’s civil rights investigation into the attack…

…Trump had been excoriated for his unwillingness to condemn the groups behind the violent protests that left one woman dead who was hit by a car allegedly driven by a man with ties to white supremacy groups.

After blaming the violence “on many sides” Saturday, Trump stayed silent for close to 48 hours, letting his trademark bluntness and campaign pledges to call terrorism what it is succumb to silence and vagueness.

Trump was asked by reporters after he spoke why he waited so long to condemn these hate groups by name and did not respond.

You can read Trump’s full comments here. Yes, he really did kick things off by talking about the economy.

Good news! July 1-7, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary is about small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine, and categories often overlap.

Attorneys General across the country (including Colorado’s Coffman)  are claiming that they will check Big Pharma’s pushing of opiods, “clear the swamp”, ensure fair voting, and protect transgender people. AGs be aware – people will check to see that you follow through on your promises.

Voting rights roundup

flag with I voted

Image by debaird on flikr

Fourth of July, Fireworks, and the Franchise – what could be more patriotic? Voting seems to be on everyone’s minds right now.

Alabama seeks to inform felons of restored voting rights in jail

Kentucky also ordered the voting rights of 284 felons to be restored.

Kris Kobach, Vice-Chair of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity,  requested that all 50 states send him their voter information by July 14 so that the Commission can create a national voter registry to prevent what he claims is rampant voter fraud.

Unfortunately, rather than creating a process to make it easier for voters to register and vote, the Commission’s goal appears to be to selectively disenfranchise voters. The good news is that 45 states now have refused to provide part or all of the information requested. President Trump is not pleased, and has let us know this in his usual way.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, KY Secretary of State said that there is  “not enough bourbon in Kentucky” to make  Trump’s request seem sensible.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann suggested that, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from…”

Floridians are also petitioning to restore voting rights to felons.

Colorado’s Secretary of State Wayne Williams is trying to have it both ways  –  comply with Trump’s request, while still protecting the privacy of Colorado voters by supplying only publicly available information. Many voters are choosing to keep their data confidential by filing a form and paying $5 at the Secretary of State’s Office.

Voters seldom commit fraud in Colorado – but when they do, they are usually Republicans.

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Good News! June 23-30, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary is about small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine.

This week, it’s all about healthcare and the resistance to the BCRA Wealthcare bill.  We’ve come too far to give up now. Keep our eyes on the prize:  A public healthcare system like every other industrialized country has.

Healthcare, the ACA, and the Senate Wealthcare bill

The Senate Democrats fought hard to keep the BCRA, aka Trump’s Wealthcare bill, from being voted on without hearings or public input. It was good to see some Senate backbone on display.

Hawaii’s Maisie Hirono led  filibustering on the Senate floor.

Our own Senator Bennet spoke at length,  outlining what’s at stake in this health care bill.

But – we don’t know what Cory Gardner really thinks about the Senate healthcare bill he supposedly helped to draft. Right now, he looks to be in the “Yes on BCRA” camp, because he pretends that insurance costs will go down with the Senate bill.  However, Cowardly Cory will not give his constituents the courtesy of in-person meetings or town halls to discuss his position. Even when said constituents try really, really hard.

To keep the heat on, keep contacting

Senator Bennet: Contact Us

Senator Gardner: Contact Cory*

More good news about healthcare in Colorado: we get to keep all of our insurance brokers next year, said Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar. No Colorado counties will be without an insurance provider, according to the Summit Daily News.

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Good news! Week of June 11- 17, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate…that’s what this diary is about. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine. And that’s fine. Something I’m missing? Add it in the comments.

LGBT:

Massive Marches may move us, but the  biggest and gayest parade this year in Colorado will be Pridefest, this Sunday June 18. Civic Center Park will host the celebration all weekend. For your daily minimum requirement of fabulousness, go to Pridefest Denver. (Photo from 2016 Pridefest, Wikipedia Commons)

Pridefest Denver 2016 -from Wikipedia commons

LGBT hero: One of the Capitol Police agents wounded in the recent terrorist attack in DC was Crystal Griner, a married lesbian woman. Griner and her fellow officers, including David Bailey , rushed the shooter, taking him down and preventing a massacre.

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