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Can Eureka Springs, Arkansas Buck Recent Trend Of Voters Repealing LGBT Protections?

Eureka

Voters in Eureka Springs, Arkansas — known as "the gay capital of the Ozarks" — will decide today whether to repeal the town's LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. 

The Eureka Springs City Council hurriedly approved the ordinance in February, hours after the Arkansas Senate passed a bill prohibiting cities from adding classes to nondiscrimination ordinances that aren't included in state law.  

Council members in the gay-friendly enclave hoped to send a message to state lawmakers and set up a possible future court challenge to the law. However, opponents of the Eureka Springs ordinance gathered the 96 signatures needed to place a repeal on the ballot. Even if the ordinance is upheld, the city will no longer enforce it after July 20, when the state law takes effect.  

Nevertheless, today's vote has plenty of symbolic significance and has drawn national attention. In addition to its designation as "the gay capital of the Ozarks," Eureka Springs is overlooked by the 66-foot-tall "Christ of the Ozarks" statue, the site of a play depicting Jesus' final days. 

The Associated Press reported this weekend: 

CHristOpponents of the ordinance argue it's another step in a direction that they say threatens the future of the Great Passion Play, a seasonal outdoor production that draws about 50,000 people a year to a campus that includes a Bible museum and the statue of Jesus.

Randall Christy, the play's chief executive officer, has been among the most vocal opponents of the ordinance, arguing it would unnecessarily split the town and force churches to perform same-sex weddings.

"They have divided this city," Christy said.

But supporters of the ordinance say the pro-repeal campaign is one doing the dividing with a campaign they say is preying on voters' fears. Signs hung on residents' doorknobs urge voters to "keep our daughters safe in Eureka Springs bathrooms" and argue that sexual predators would use the law to falsely claim they're transgender.

The divide in Eureka Springs was evident last month when a pro-LGBT church was excluded from a "Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade." 

If voters uphold the ordinance, they will buck a recent trend in the region. Voters in Fayetteville, Arkansas and Springfield, Missouri, have recently repealed LGBT protections. 

More from the AP

Mayor Robert "Butch" Berry, who supports the ordinance, said he believes his town eventually will come together.

"It doesn't matter which side of the fence you're on, let those without sin cast the first stone," Berry said in Biblical terms. "There's been a lot of stones cast."


Texas Lawmakers Advance 'Pastor Protection Act,' Continue Full-Fledged Assault On Same-Sex Marriage

Bellalert-450w

Last week, we told you how witnesses compared same-sex marriage to bestiality and pedophilia when they testified in support of a bill that would prevent churches and pastors from being forced to participate in gay weddings. 

On Monday, the Texas Senate responded by advancing the bill in a 21-10 vote, with one Democrat joining the chamber's 20 Republicans. 

The Texas Tribune reports on passage of the so-called "Pastor Protection Act": 

State Sen. José Rodríguez, an El Paso Democrat who voted against the measure, questioned whether it could be used to justify a refusal to perform interracial marriages — shielding religious officials from prosecution "no matter how extreme [their] views are."

Pointing out that same-sex marriage is banned in Texas, state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, asked what problem the bill was trying to fix. 

Whitmire said it was "unheard of" that a same-sex couple would try to force a pastor to perform a wedding ceremony if that pastor did not accept their marriage. 

"They just want to be left alone to love their partner, they want to get married with clergy in a setting that embraces that union," he said.  

More from the The American-Statesman

The legislation also stipulates that clergy, religious organizations and people employed by a religious group could not be sued for damages, prosecuted for criminal violations, lose tax-exempt status or forfeit a government contract or grant for refusing to provide services, open facilities or sell goods related to same-sex marriages.

“I think the language is awfully broad,” said Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, adding that a clause protecting groups supervised and controlled by a religious organization would seem to allow for-profit health care, nursing home and other companies to refuse to serve same-sex couples.

The Texas House is set to vote on an identical bill Tuesday. 

Also Tuesday, the House will vote on a far more dangerous bill, by Rep. Cecil Bell (above), that seeks to undermine a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. 

The Texas Observer reports: 

The bill would bar state and local employees from issuing, enforcing or recognizing same-sex marriage licenses—and prohibit public monies from being used to do so—regardless of any court order.

LGBT advocates say if the high court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, HB 4105 would set up a showdown between state and federal law, costing Texas millions of dollars in litigation and potentially delaying the effectiveness of the decision by years. They say the bill would unleash chaos similar to what’s been seen in Alabama over same-sex marriage, and generate the type of business backlash associated with passage of an anti-LGBT religious freedom law in Indiana. ... 

Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director at the ACLU of Texas, said HB 4105 is designed to give Texas another legal basis for challenging same-sex marriage in court: state sovereignty. And she said it could be used as a model by other states for resisting the Supreme Court ruling.

“The last time that we saw similar efforts to undermine court rulings about what the Constitution requires was when Southern states attempted to use the power of the purse to avoid having to comply with federal court orders ordering school desegregation,” Robertson said. “Those tactics were rejected, but obviously it took years of litigation to get to that point. HB 4105 is trying to do the same kind of end run around the Constitution.”

Despite comparisons to Indiana's religious freedom law, few businesses have come out publicly against the Texas anti-gay marriage bill, according to The Washington Blade

As Texas lawmakers prepare to vote on legislation aimed at circumventing an anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage, the state's business leaders are largely keeping quiet.

The business community's opposition in Indiana helped ignite a media firestorm against a religious freedom law there that is so far absent in the Texas debate. ... 

Robert Wood, spokesperson for the Texas Association of Businesses, said his organization hasn't "taken any position, nor testified" on the legislation and doesn't have any comment at this time.

You can take action against House Bill 4105 here and here


Atlanta Megachurch Pastor Rejects His Father’s Offensive Anti-Gay Bigotry: VIDEO

Andy

Atlanta Pastor Andy Stanley, the son of a Baptist preacher who once hired armed security guards on horseback to protect his church from Atlanta gay pride, has rejected his father’s anti-gay stance and voiced his support for LGBT youth, reports Raw Story.

Stanley, who is pastor at North Point Ministries, one of the biggest churches in the U.S., said Christians must stop driving LGBT teens away from the church.

His father Charles Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church Atlanta, has said AIDS is God’s punishment for America’s acceptance of homosexuality. He also believes that being gay is a choice.

However, speaking at the Catalyst Conference in California last month, Andy Stanley said:

“There is not consensus in this room when it comes to same-sex attraction. There is not consensus in this room when it comes to gay marriage. We just can’t continue to look into the filter of our politics at our spirituality. It’s got to be the other way around — and specifically when it comes to this issue.

“If all the Christians for just one year, would quit looking at porn, would quit smoking weed, would quit having premarital sex, would quit committing adultery, would pay their taxes, and every church just foster one kid — in one year our nation would feel different.

“There are so many Christians, so basically — if we would just be better Christians, everything we would like to see changed for the most part would change.”

In the past, Andy Stanley has spoken out against religious right to discriminate laws because “serving people we don’t see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity.”

He added”

“Jesus died for a world with which he didn’t see eye to eye. If a bakery doesn’t want to sell its products to a gay couple, it’s their business — literally. But leave Jesus out of it.”

Watch Andy Stanley speak at the Catalyst Conference, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Atlanta Megachurch Pastor Rejects His Father’s Offensive Anti-Gay Bigotry: VIDEO " »


Jeb Bush Again Blows Anti-LGBT 'Religious Freedom' Dog Whistle in Liberty University Commencement Speech: VIDEO

Jeb Bush

During his commencement address at Jerry Fallwell’s Liberty University in Virginia on Saturday, Jeb Bush accused the Obama administration of using “coercive federal power” to prevent Christians from pursuing their right to discriminate, reports TPM.

The former Florida governor did not specifically mention same-sex marriage but said that “easy calls...in favor of religious freedom have instead become an aggressive stance against it."

Although alluding to “the dignity of every person”, Bush warned about the consequences when Christians "don’t genuflect to the latest political dogmas.”

"Somebody here is being small-minded and intolerant, and it sure isn’t the nuns, ministers, and laymen and women who ask only to live and practice their faith. Federal authorities are demanding obedience, in complete disregard of religious conscience — and in a free society, the answer is no.

"The stories vary, year after year, but the storyline is getting familiar: The progressive political agenda is ready for its next great leap forward, and religious people or churches are getting in the way. Our friends on the left like to view themselves as the agents of change and reform, and you and I are supposed to just get with the program.”

Bush also went after "secular dogmas," saying:

“Those dogmas can be hard to keep up with. So we find officials in a major city demanding that pastors turn over copies of their sermons. Or federal judges mistaking themselves for elected legislators, and imposing restrictions and rights that do not exist in the Constitution. Or an agency dictating to a Catholic charity, the Little Sisters of the Poor, what has to go in their health plan – and never mind objections of conscience.”

Watch the speech in full, AFTER THE JUMP...

In March, Bush spoke out in favor of religious right to discriminate laws. 

Announcing his 2016 White House bid while at Liberty University back in March, Sen. Ted Cruz asked America to imagine a world where gays stay second class citizens

Continue reading "Jeb Bush Again Blows Anti-LGBT 'Religious Freedom' Dog Whistle in Liberty University Commencement Speech: VIDEO" »


Gay Florida Couple Wins Battle To Have Son Baptized At Episcopal Church: VIDEO

McCaffrey

After a week of national outcry, an Episcopal church in Florida has decided to baptize a same-sex couple's baby after initially canceling the ceremony. 

The controversy began last Saturday, when Rich McCaffrey (above with his husband, Eric) reported on Facebook that the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando had canceled their son's baptism because some members of the congregation objected: 

JackWe chose Sunday, April 19 for the baptism. We attended Sunday services and recommended classes, becoming more familiar and pleased with our choice. We invited friends and family, both local and from out of town, and we looked forward to celebrating with Jack on what was to be an important day. On Thursday, April 16 we received a message from Dean Clark asking us to contact him regarding “a development” concerning the baptism. With relatives in the room, I called and what I heard still creates a lump in my throat. The Dean shared there were members of the congregation who opposed Jack’s baptism and although he hoped to resolve the conflict, he was not yet able to (the Bishop of Central Florida, Greg Brewer, was also involved). After probing further the Dean said “the issue is with you and Eric being the first two men who will baptize their child at the Cathedral.” He offered his apologies and further explained this was a bigger deal because of the exposure that comes along with the baptism taking place at the Cathedral. In essence “this is not no forever, just not now.” Three days before our son was to be baptized he was turned away. At that moment, he was unwelcomed by the church, and denied his rite to be recognized as a Christian. I was speechless, angry, and heartbroken.

McCaffrey's post was shared more than 1,000 times and garnered national media attention. An online petition calling for the church to baptize Jack reached almost 25,000 signatures.  

The outcry prompted Brewer, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, to reach out to the couple. And McCaffrey reported Friday that Brewer had agreed to allow Jack to be baptized in the church: 

Bishop Brewer extended an invitation to meet with us and we had the opportunity to speak with him yesterday evening. We spoke frankly and openly about the chain of events. ... He genuinely wanted to learn about us and expressed his apologies for how it had been handled. Most importantly, he was clear he is supportive of Eric and I, two dads, baptizing our son at the Cathedral and offered to be a part of it. 

We are appreciative and are looking forward to the baptism to take place this summer. At the same time we know on many fronts there is healing to be done which will take time. ...

I close with one more lesson for Jack – Aspire to live your life with grace and forgiveness. You will be better for it.

Change is seldom easy. I thank each of you for listening to us, supporting us, and engaging in the conversation.

Watch a report from WFTV.com, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Gay Florida Couple Wins Battle To Have Son Baptized At Episcopal Church: VIDEO" »


Sen. Marco Rubio Headlines Fundraiser for Anti-LGBT Arizona Group Advocating for 'Ex-gay' Conversion Therapy

Marco rubio

At Arizona Christian University Wednesday night, presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio held a fundraiser for the Center for Arizona Policy, which is widely known for its support of conversion therapy and for backing much of Arizona's conservative legislation, reports BuzzFeed.

The event was closed off to media however, a congressional staffer of Rep. Trent Franks attended the fundraiser and posted highlights from it including quotes from Rubio himself regarding abortion, gay marriage and entering an "era of moral relativism," on Twitter:

Rubio's quotes fall in line with the center's views on homosexuality, although the senator stated last month that he believes sexual preferences are something that "people are born with." However, Rubio did not openly reference or discuss the center's support of conversion therapy at the fundraiser; a spokesmen for Rubio declined to comment when asked if the senator agrees with group's idea that "homosexuals can modify their behavior and becoming heterosexual through Christian ministries and counseling."

Rubio recently reiterated that he believes same-sex marriage is not a constitutional right, calling the belief "ridiculous and absurd."


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