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Federal Judge Declines To Lift Injunction Blocking FMLA Benefits For Gay Couples In 4 States

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An untold number of gay workers in four states remain unable to take unpaid time off to care for their ailing spouses, after a federal judge in Texas declined to lift an injunction Friday. 

Last month, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (shown with Sen. Ted Cruz) filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over a new labor department rule extending benefits under the Family & Medical Leave Act to same-sex couples who live in states that don't recognize their marriages. 

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, a President George W. Bush appointee, issued an order blocking the new FMLA rule from taking effect as scheduled on March 27 in Texas and three other states that joined Paxton's lawsuit — Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska.  

The U.S. Department of Justice appealed the order, but O'Connor declined to lift it during a hearing Friday, according to NBCDFW.com.  

Paxton, a tea partier who took office in January and is under investigation for securities fraud, is also seeking to void the marriage of a 30-year lesbian couple, one of whom has ovarian cancer. 

Presumably, the Justice Department will appeal O'Connor's decision, which will be overturned anyway if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of nationwide marriage equality in June. 

The Family Medical & Leave Act grants workers 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year "to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition."  

So perhaps we should thank Paxton for drawing further attention to the tremendous harm inflicted by state same-sex marriage bans. 


Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson Sees No Urgent Need for LGBT Protections Order

HutchinsonArkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson says an executive order protecting LGBT people from discrimination is not necessary after he signed a reworked "religious freedom" bill, the AP reports:

Hutchinson told reporters Thursday he had considered such an order as an alternative in case lawmakers didn't agree to his request to revise the religion bill after it faced widespread criticism that it was anti-gay. The Republican governor last week signed the compromise measure, which supporters say addresses discrimination concerns by more closely mirroring a 1993 federal law.

Advocates still want the governor to sign the order.

And this just in:

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday he plans to move quickly to appoint special justices to replace members of the state Supreme Court who recused themselves from a new case spun off from a challenge to Arkansas’ ban on gay marriage.


LGBT-Affirming Church Barred From 'Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade' In Gay-Friendly Eureka Springs, Arkansas: VIDEO

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Eureka Springs, Arkansas, has long been known as "the gay capital of the Ozarks." 

But in a state that recently banned LGBT protections and passed an anti-LGBT "religious freedom" law, the popular resort town increasingly finds itself at the epicenter of the battle for equality. 

The latest culture clash occurred this weekend, when Eureka Springs simultaneously hosted one of its three annual "Diversity Weekends" as well as the Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade. 

A pro-LGBT Methodist Church asked to participate in the parade, but was turned away. OzarksFirst.com reports: 

The Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade has been growing in Eureka Springs over the past three years. This year the Eureka Springs First Methodist Church applied to be in the parade, wanting to carry a sign saying "Jesus loves all." The church was denied, and now they're asking why. 

First United Methodist of Eureka Springs applied to be in the parade, and was initially accepted. One week before the parade, however, they were told they were no longer welcome. Church member Suzie Bell believes it's because of their stance on the LGBT community. 

"They wanted to know what our banner was going to say, and it said "Jesus loves all. They had decided that they did not want us in the parade, and that we weren't welcome." Bell said. 

Bell said she believes the church was turned away "based purely on our love and acceptance of the LGBT community." Meanwhile, parade director Laura Nichols released a statement that failed to explain the decision. From the statement: 

"This day isn't a day of pointing fingers or playing the blame game. This parade is to honor our Lord and Savior and for praising God for sending His only Son who willingly went to the cross, died and rose on the third day that when we repent of our sins and accept Him. ... 

"Regardless of what has been stated in the papers. We do not have anything against the Methodist Church. After all my uncle was a Methodist minister. Nor do we have anything against the homosexual community. When I worked downtown I had homosexual people that I considered my friends and still do."

With the Arkansas Legislature set to ban local LGBT protections in February, Eureka Springs quickly passed a nondiscrimination ordinance, in hopes that officials could eventually challenge the state law in court. Then, last week, the Legislature passed an anti-LGBT religious freedom law that was ultimately revised before being signed by the governor due to backlash. But the friction between LGBT-friendly Eureka Springs and anti-LGBT forces goes back far beyond that. 

ChristThe massive Christ of the Ozarks statue (right) overlooks the town from a theme park that is home to theatrical re-enactments of the events around Jesus’s crucifixion. But attendance at the park dropped off as Eureka Springs became known as a gay destination, and it closed in 2012 before reopening recently, according to The Guardian.  

The Rev. Phil Wilson, of First Christian Church, was one of the stars of the American Family Association's 2007 video, "They're Coming To Your Town," billed as “a look at how a handful of homosexual activists infiltrated the Eureka Springs, Arkansas, government and changed the very moral fibre of the city”.

Wilson is now leading opposition to Eureka Springs' LGBT protections — which will be voted on in May — based on discredited arguments about transgender bathroom use. 

The Guardian reports: 

“There have been many things that have happened in Eureka Springs that have made us be perceived as an eminently desirable homosexual destination,” he said. “We have 6,000 years of Judeo-Christian history that has affirmed that homosexuality is morally wrong and we live in a society that says it’s morally right.”

Asked if he truly believed that Christians in the US were under threat of oppression and needed laws to protect them, he referenced the Islamist terror attack that killed 147 people in Kenya on Thursday.

“It’s on Fox News continually in the last day or two,” he said. “I see persecutions.”

Watch OzarksFirst.com's report on the parade and a promo for AFA's hate video "They're Coming To Your Town," AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "LGBT-Affirming Church Barred From 'Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade' In Gay-Friendly Eureka Springs, Arkansas: VIDEO" »


SNL's CNN Newsroom Sketch Breaks Down Arkansas and Indiana's Debate Over 'Religious Freedom' - VIDEO

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On SNL's CNN Newsroom sketch last night, Brooke Baldwin (played by Cecily Strong) walked viewers through all the major headline news from this past week - the Germanwings plane crash, Iran nuclear weapons deal, and the "religious freedom" debate in Indiana and Arkansas.

"We couldn't get a CNN reporter in either of those states, but we might have something even better," Baldwin said. "A local performance art group has agreed to give us a general sense of what's been happening in both those states."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "SNL's CNN Newsroom Sketch Breaks Down Arkansas and Indiana's Debate Over 'Religious Freedom' - VIDEO" »


Mike Huckabee Slams 'Phony' #RFRA Backlash, Says Gays Won't Stop Until There Are No More Churches: AUDIO

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Appearing on hate group Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” on Wednesday, Mike Huckabee claimed that gay rights activists have turned the controversies surrounding ‘right to discriminate’ legislation in Arkansas and Indiana into a “phony crisis," reports Right Wing Watch.

Huckabee added that intolerant LGBT activism is like something out of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984:

“It is a classic example of — really a page out of 1984, when what things mean are the opposite of what they really are. And that’s what I’m seeing here is that in the name of tolerance, there’s intolerance. In the name of diversity, there’s uniformity. In the name of acceptance, there’s true discrimination.”

Forgetting recent history, he went on to claim that unlike the gay community, conservative Christians would never boycott a business.

Host Tony Perkins in fairness interjected that he plans to boycott Walmart since the company is “taking a stand against religious freedom.”

Huckabee continued:

“There may come a day in which [Christian conservatives] realize how close they are to losing all of their freedoms. And maybe there will be a day in which every one of the believers of this nation, people of faith and even some people who aren’t necessarily Christian but they’re people of conscience and they’re people of fairness, and they’ll just say that we will have a national boycott of the following businesses, and let’s just see if they really feel that they are taking the right position.”

Listen, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Mike Huckabee Slams 'Phony' #RFRA Backlash, Says Gays Won't Stop Until There Are No More Churches: AUDIO" »


Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) Says Activists Should Be Thankful Indiana Doesn't Execute Gays: VIDEO

Tom Cotton

Appearing on CNN Wednesday, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) said that critics of Indiana’s “right to discriminate” law should get “perspective” because the state doesn’t execute gay people, reports Think Progress.

Cotton also - incorrectly - suggested that Indiana’s law was the same as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) signed by President Clinton in 1993.

According to Indiana trial lawyer Matt Anderson, the Indiana law opens up “the path of least resistance among its species to have a court adjudicate it in a manner that could ultimately be used to discriminate.”

Yesterday, Dan Savage dismantled Cotton's argument in a segment over on MSNBC.

Watch both videos, AFTER THE JUMP...

Cotton has the dubious honor of support from the National Organization For Marriage.

Continue reading "Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) Says Activists Should Be Thankful Indiana Doesn't Execute Gays: VIDEO" »


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