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Mennonite Pastor Under Review For Presiding Over Same-Sex Wedding - VIDEO

Assembly Mennonite Church Pastor Karl Shelly

The Mennonite church is set to review the credentials of Pastor Karl Shelly who in May presided over a same-sex wedding in violation of the church’s rules, reports The Michigan City News-Dispatch.

Mennonite church guidelines state that pastors may not perform a same-sex covenant ceremony. Because the church has a strong focus on social justice issues, many members view its non-recognition of same-sex marriage as incompatible with its identity as a whole. 

Shelly wrote in a statement submitted to the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite conference that he performed the service after determining that "being born with a same-sex sexual orientation and entering into a life-long covenant of fidelity and love with another human being is not sin.”

Mennonite Central District Conference minister Lois Johns Kauffmann said that although the body once before reviewed a pastor who performed a same-sex marriage ceremony, the credentials were not revoked.

According to Nancy Kauffman, denominational minister for Mennonite Church USA, a debate on whether the church should allow same-sex covenant ceremonies is likely to arise at the national assembly next year.

Back in June, Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia said that it would defer its decision on hiring gay faculty while the Eastern Mennonite University community continued its “discernment of human sexuality."

Watch Pastor Shelly speak about Assembly Mennonite Church's journey to becoming a member of the LGBT-affirming Supportive Communities Network, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Mennonite Pastor Under Review For Presiding Over Same-Sex Wedding - VIDEO" »


Gay Marriage Could Bring Over $53 Million To Michigan, Study Finds

MichiganA new study out of UCLA Law School's Williams Institute indicates that Michigan could stand to generate over $53 million in revenue from same-sex marriage ceremonies over three years. The study also found that nearly 7,300 couples could be married in those three years alone.

The data is based on census and experiential statistics from states that have already legalized same-sex marriages, and though there is indication that same-sex couples filing jointly would reduce the state's income tax haul, the boon to business would more than make up for the loss. 

Edge Boston reports:

Researchers say the couples and their loved ones would spend about $34.1 million on wedding paramagnets and Michigan tourism in the first year alone. Another $19.2 million would be spent over the following two years. According to the study, that spending could support between 152 and 457 full-time and part-time jobs and generate about $3.2 million in sales tax and revenue for Michigan and the local government...

"What we've seen, over and over again, is that the tides are shifting on marriage equality," Gina Calcagno, coalition manager for Michigan for Marriage, told [MLive.com]. "Aside from the heartfelt belief this is the right thing to do, we're seeing this is the economically correct thing to do as well. $53.2 million coming into a state like Michigan is nothing to scoff at."

After a district court judge ruled Michigan's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional in March, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals placed an indefinite stay on the decision. Only time will tell if the appeals court upholds the lower court ruling, though the track record for appeals thus far is a positive indicator. 

Fingers crossed for the thousands of same-sex couples and businesses who would benefit from marriage equality in Michigan.


Restaurant Patron Says 'Religious Principles' Compelled Him To Hurl Hate Speech at Gay Man: VIDEO

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In another exhibit for the "Who Would Jesus Hate?" archives, Michigan man Victor Sadet (who appears to be this man) was so moved by the Holy Spirit that he followed diner Isiah David Tweedie [pictured below] and his friends out of the Fire Mountain restaurant to hurl homophobic slurs.

TweedieCalling Tweedie a "f*cking fa**ot", the holy roller was certain to clarify that the book of Leviticus called for Tweedie's death. The man was later interviewed by WILX 10 News and confirmed that it was indeed his religious principles that drove him to act like an utter lunatic.

If you can bear the bigotry, you can watch the original video and WILX's report AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Restaurant Patron Says 'Religious Principles' Compelled Him To Hurl Hate Speech at Gay Man: VIDEO" »


Marriage Equality Hangs in the Balance at the Sixth Circuit

6th circuit

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

Yesterday's marathon arguments before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reminds us that one judge can have a lot of power. A three-judge panel consisting of one Clinton appointee and two George W. Bush appointees could be the first federal appellate court to side against marriage equality in the post-Windsor era or they could join the chorus of colleagues tossing these discriminatory bans on the ash heep of history. Based solely on the questioning from oral argument, it may come down to one judge: a conservative named Jeffrey Sutton.

6Attorneys for Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee took turns arguing that the bans are justified because only opposite sex couples procreate naturally. Judge Martha Craig Daughtry questioned how it was possible that keeping gays out of the institution of marriage could in any way help or encourage heterosexuals to give birth to more kids. One attorney even cited the decreased birth rates in Europe and Russia as a reason for encouraging opposite sex couples to marry. But, as Judge Daughtrey, the most vocal judge, noted, it is unclear how discriminating against gays achieves that goal.

Judge Deborah Cook spoke the least. She has a history of anti-plaintiff, conservative decisions on discrimination. When she did speak, she seemed to suggest that states have broad power to regulate marriage and could maintain traditional institutions as they see fit.

Judge Sutton is a bit of a wild card. A conservative -- he wrote in the Harvard Law Review: "Count me as a skeptic when it comes to the idea that this day and age suffers from a shortage of constitutional rights" -- Judge Sutton voted in favor of the constitutionality of Obamacare and does not always follow a party line. His questioning was back and forth, balanced between the sides. A review of his questions and a cursory analysis of some of his writings and decisions suggest that he is primarily concerned with judicial modesty and restraint. He thinks that the federal courts have done too much, creating new rights and reading rights and regulations into the Constitution that do not belong.

It is unclear whether that preference for restraint means that he will deny that a right to marry exists for gay couples.

He wondered if his court could even make a decision or whether the judges were bound by a 1971 Supreme Court decision (Baker v. Nelson) that said that marriage lawsuits do not belong in the federal courts. Almost every other court to address marriage equality addressed and dismissed the Baker canard: gays had not recognized federal rights in 1971; today, after Windsor, after Lawrence, and after Romer, is a different time. Judge Sutton didn't seem too sure.

I Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 5.39.25 PMf he could get passed the Baker threshold, Judge Sutton still was holding his cards close to his chest. He was pretty clear that the states could not win if antigay discrimination merited some form of heightened scrutiny, but he did not hint that he was leaning in the heightened scrutiny direction.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Judge Sutton's questioning came later in the day when he wondered aloud if the plaintiffs in the cases really want the courts to get involved when the marriage equality movement seems to be gaining political steam and social esteem. Judge Sutton implied, true to his radical vision of judicial abdication of responsibilities, that political outcomes are somehow more legitimate than judicial ones.

It is hard to imagine that view as a legitimate basis for deciding against the marriage equality. Judge Sutton has written a lot about how federal judges do too much. He would prefer that judges take a back seat to the political process, an entirely conservative position given the greater access that money and majorities have to political votes. But just because he prefers judges abdicate their constitutional responsibilities should not absolve him of actually deciding the legal questions before him. The legal questions involve equality and fundamental rights, not some policy preference for more judicial modesty.

This is why marriage equality hangs in the balance. Judge Sutton was not clear where he stands. 

***

Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook. Check out my website at www.ariewaldman.com.

Ari Ezra Waldman is a professor of law and the Director of the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School and is concurrently pursuing his PhD at Columbia University in New York City. He is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. Ari writes weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues.


Anti-Gay Activist Gary Glenn Wins GOP Primary in Michigan House Race

GlennGary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, has won a GOP primary for a seat in the Michigan state House this week, Right Wing Watch reports:

Glenn was a prominent supporter of Michigan’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning marriage equality and was a big backer of his “very special friend” Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential bid. As the head of the American Family Association’s Michigan affiliate, Glenn has pushed any number of extreme anti-gay positions.

Among those anti-gay positions:

  • Wants states to be able to recriminalize homosexuality: “[W]e believe that states should be free to regulate and prohibit behavior that’s a violation of community standards and a proven threat to public health and safety — including, as most of the United States did throughout its history, homosexual behavior.”
  • Warned that companies should be wary of hiring LGBT people.
  • Wanted public schools to ban Gay Straight Alliances because they promote “homosexual propaganda” and “risky behavior.”
  • Called anti-bullying measures the “Trojan horse” of “homosexual activists.”
  • Was a plaintiff in a lawsuit to stop the 2009 federal hate crimes law by falsely claiming it would criminalize the Bible.

Glenn will face off against Democrat Joan Brausch in November for the seat being vacated by State Rep. Jim Stamas (R). 


A Few Takes on Yesterday's Historic Gay Marriage Arguments at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals

6th_circuit

Here are a few takes on yesterday's historic hearing of six separate gay marriage cases from Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee, at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Above, Judges Martha Daughtrey, Jeffrey Sutton, and Deborah Cook.

Our legal editor Ari Ezra Waldman posted a preview of the arguments yesterday and will have some analysis coming up. For now, here are a few excerpts from various media reports.

Listen to audio from the proceedings HERE.

The Washington Blade:

Based on their line of questioning, two judges — U.S. Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey and U.S. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton — seemed prepared to rule against bans on same-sex marriage. The remaining judge, U.S. Circuit Judge Deborah Cook, was relatively quiet, but appeared poised to rule in favor of the laws. Similar to other federal appeals courts, the panel seems headed to make a 2-1 decision in favor of marriage equality.

Although Sutton didn’t make an effort to telegraph how he’d rule, throughout his questioning he suggested he believes  prohibition on gay nuptials are unconstitutional. Ruminating on the changing societal perception of marriage, Sutton said a ban a same-sex marriage “seems to hard to justify even on rational basis grounds” if the institution is intended to express love and commitment.

That said, Sutton also had tough questions for attorneys seeking to overturn bans on same-sex marriage, posing the inquiry of why the LGBT rights movement would want to proceed through the judicial process — as opposed to legislative and ballot process — if the desired result was changing hearts and minds to achieve greater acceptance.

The NYT:

In three hours of back-and-forth questioning, it appeared that neither side could take victory for granted in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where the cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee were heard by two judges appointed by President George W. Bush and one by President Bill Clinton.

Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, one of the Bush appointees and a likely swing vote among the three, repeatedly asked why gay rights advocates wanted to use the courts to hasten an outcome they were gradually winning through elections and changes in attitude.

“I’d have thought the best way to get respect and dignity is through the democratic process,” he said, expressing a view that, in practice, would most likely deliver a victory to the states seeking to keep bans on same-sex marriage.

The Washington Post:

It became clear after three hours of arguments that the panel could become the first roadblock for proponents of same-sex marriage who have had an extraordinary winning streak in knocking down state restrictions following a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2013.

That 5 to 4 ruling struck down the part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.

But a panel of three randomly chosen judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit left questions about whether it would follow the lead of two other appeals courts. Those courts said the reasoning of the Supreme Court’s decision meant that states lacked the right to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples and to deny recognition of unions conducted elsewhere.

Al Jazeera:

Cook, also a Bush appointee, was largely silent throughout the afternoon, with the exception of a few questions that seemed intended to help anti-gay-marriage attorneys hone their arguments. She is so known for her conservatism that she was on the short-list to be appointed to the Supreme Court for the vacancy filled by Samuel Alito.

One concern for Sutton was the fact that the Supreme Court passed last year on a prime opportunity to assert a federal right to marriage. At the same time the high court considered the Windsor case, it also dealt with Hollingsworth v Perry, an appeal of a federal court in California’s decision to strike down a gay marriage ban put in place by voters in 2008 via Proposition 8. The court dismissed that case — and in the process let the California decision stand — on technical legal grounds unrelated to the question of gay rights.

“It does seem fair to say the Supreme Court’s trajectory favors” the pro-gay side, Sutton said. Citing cases that went in favor of gay rights, he then noted, “but they didn’t reach today’s issue in Hollingsworth.”

The 6th Circuit presents gay marriage foes with their best opportunity so far to halt an unbroken streak of more than 30 state and federal cases that have gone for pro-gay groups since Windsor. Sutton and Cook are both appointees of the Bush administration, which vetted federal judge candidates to ensure their conservative bona fides.

That’s a shift from the 4th and 10th circuit panels, which were dominated by more liberal or moderate appointees. In all, 15 of the 22 federal judges who have ruled on gay-marriage bans were Democratic appointees.

The AP:

Constitutional law professors and court observers say that the 6th Circuit could be the first to uphold statewide bans on gay marriage following an unbroken string of more than 20 rulings in the past eight months that have gone the other way.

They point to Sutton, the least predictable judge on the panel. In 2011, he shocked Republicans and may have derailed his own chances to advance to the U.S. Supreme Court when he became the deciding vote in a ruling that upheld President Barack Obama's health care law.

If the 6th Circuit decides against gay marriage, it would create a divide among federal appellate courts and put pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the issue in its 2015 session. The panel did not indicate when it would rule.


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