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Why Marriage Equality in Florida Is a Sign of Good Things to Come

FloridaBY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

When last we spoke, the freedom to marry had just been handed a setback: the Sixth Circuit let stand marriage discrimination laws in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. Over the holiday season, though, we took many steps forward in defiance of that egregious and wrongheaded appellate court opinion: Marriage equality officially came to Montana and South Carolina. And although she tried every trick in her book, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi could not stop the arc of justice from sweeping ashore in the Sunshine State.

The arrival of marriage freedom in Florida is particularly notable because of how it happened.

BondiIn Florida, a federal district court judge ruled in August that the state's marriage ban was unconstitutional; the judge stayed his decision until January 5, 2015. The Republicans running the state wanted to delay as much as possible as they appealed the judge's ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. But neither the district court nor the circuit court would grant the state a stay beyond January 5. So, Attorney General Bondi asked the Supreme Court. The Court said no, with only Justice Scalia and Thomas willing to issue the stay.

Note the difference between South Carolina and Montana, on the one hand, and Florida on the other. South Carolina is under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit, which declared Virginia's marriage ban unconstitutional some time ago. Montana is in the Ninth Circuit, which made a similar decision in Idaho's case in October. Because marriage equality was just steps away from all the other states in those jurisdictions as a result of the appellate court decisions, the Supreme Court declined to issue a stay in the South Carolina case.

Florida is in the Eleventh Circuit, which has not had occasion to rule on a gay marriage case. So the Supreme Court's refusal to grant a stay and to allow marriages to start in Florida was a stronger pro-equality signal than denying a stay in South Carolina.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Rachel Maddow Looks At Anti-Gay Former VA Governor Bob McDonnell's Dramatic Sentencing Hearing: VIDEO

Maddow

As we reported yesterday, anti-gay former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell was sentenced to only two years in prison after being convicted on 11 counts of corruption this past September. The sentencing was somewhat of a shock to observers, as McDonnell had originally faced up to two decades in prison for his crimes. Even after the sentencing guidelines were reduced to between six-and-a-half and eight years, the final sentence still fell dramatically short of the minimum recommended incarceration period.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow dug into the bizarre and dramatic moments in the courtroom during yesterday's hearing, including a look into the fraught politics of McDonnell's marriage. You'll recall his wife was also convicted of corruption and was chosen as the scapegoat for Mr. McDonnell by both his lawyers and other members of his family, including his daughter.

Find out about McDonnell's day in court, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Wingnut Bob Marshall Introduces 'Unethical, Abusive And Dangerous' Anti-Gay Legislation in Virginia

6a00d8341c730253ef01b7c73089a3970b-800wiAnti-gay bigot and Virginia Republican delegate Bob Marshall has introduced new legislation that would allow for widespread discrimination against LGBT people in the state, reports LGBTQ Nation.

Marshall is no stranger to anti-gay policy making - in 2006, he co-authored Virginia’s constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

The new bill HB 1414 states that “a person shall not be required to perform, assist, consent to, or participate in any action or refrain from performing, assisting, consenting to, or participating in any action as a condition of obtaining or renewing a government-issued license, registration, or certificate where such condition would violate the religious or moral convictions of such person with respect to same-sex marriage or homosexual behavior.”

Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal, who fought the state’s ban on same-sex marriage last year, said a bill as broad in scope as HB 1414 would allow a doctor to refuse to prescribe HIV medication to a gay man, or a therapist to refuse counseling to an individual in a same-sex relationship.

He added that it “threatens the mental and physical health of Virginia residents...is unconstitutional...unethical, abusive and dangerous.”

Although the bill could pass both the Republican-majority House and Senate, openly gay delegate Mark Sickles said he believes Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe would veto the measure.

Last year, Marshall called for the impeachment of Attorney General Mark Herring over his refusal to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in court.


Anti-Gay Former VA Governor Bob McDonnell Sentenced To Two Years For Corruption

Mcdonnell

(Photo via Twitter)

Anti-gay former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison after being convicted in September on charges of corruption. While McDonnell had originally faced up to two decades in prison, the maximum possible sentence was reduced by Judge R. Spencer to between six-and-a-half and eight years. The New York Times reports:

For hour upon hour before sentence was passed, the court heard accounts of Mr. McDonnell’s good deeds, and the judge said they were a mitigating factor. But, he said: “A price must be paid. It breaks my heart.” 

Mr. McDonnell, who arrived in court with two of his daughters, looked on silently through the hours of testimony from friends and former associates. He was the last to address the court.

“I stand before you as a heartbroken and humbled man,” he said, as many supporters in the packed courtroom dabbed at their eyes with tissues.

Mr. McDonnell said his life in the governor’s mansion had become unbalanced. Now, he said, he will dedicate the rest of his life “newly to service.”

McDonnell’s wife was also convicted on corruption charges and still awaits sentencing. Mr. McDonnell, along with other members of the family, alleged it was Lady Macbeth who was to blame, having introduced Mr. McDonnell to Virginia businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. who eventually gave the couple “$120,000 in low-interest loans, paid for much of the wedding of their daughter Cailin McDonnell Young, bought a Rolex for the governor, picked up bills for golf outings and lent them his Ferrari.” However, Judge Spencer, perhaps making a biblical allusion, insisted that Mr. McDonnell still bore the blame for his crime:

Judge Spencer, referring to Mr. Williams, said Ms. McDonnell “may have let the serpent into the mansion.” But the governor, he said, let Mr. Williams into his financial affairs

Upon release, Mr. McDonnell will face two years of supervision. The prison term and the supervision are all well below the recommended sentencing guidelines, which could have put the former governor behind bars for up to 20 years, and less than the 78 months sought by the government.

“The Jonnie Williams of the world are a dime a dozen," Michael Dry, a lead prosecutor in the case, told the court. “Corrupt governors are not. But when we find one,” he said, the official must be brought to justice. When Mr. Dry left the courtroom, his face was twisted in anger. He declined to comment.

During his tenure as Governor McDonnell had been a vocal opponent of both gay adoption and providing protections for LGBT individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity


Hundreds Gather To Protest Virginia 'Ex-Gay' Billboard - VIDEO

Richmond

Hundreds of people gathered at the Gay Community Center of Richmond yesterday to show their support for the city’s LGBT community after a billboard supporting “ex-gay” therapy was erected in the Virginia city by anti-gay activist group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX), reports GAYRVA.com.

PfoxPFOX claimed that the billboard with the words “Nobody is born gay”, which was based on dodgy interpretations of two studies that purportedly deny the existence of a “gay gene”. 

Attending Sunday’s demonstration of support, Richmond resident and mother of two Terra Courtland said it was important for gay families to “show we’re just like everybody else, just trying to raise our kids and live here.”

Another resident, Jason Coast, who identified himself as a straight ally, said “if some of us are being discriminated against, then we all are.”

Following the erection of the billboard, which is set run through the holiday season, Virginia Del Patrick Hope released information about a bill he plans to bring before the 2015 General Assembly to combat ex-gay therapy on minors. The damaging practice has already been banned in New Jersey, California and Washington, D.C.

“Out and proud” gay model Kyle Roux has spoken of his shock at being used for the billboard.

Watch a report on the PFOX billboard, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Model Featured on 'Ex Gay' Virginia Billboard Is Neither 'Ex-Gay' Nor a Twin: VIDEO

Billboard1

Richmond, Virginia's new "Nobody Is Born Gay' sign from 'ex-gay' activist group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) has drawn the ire of the model featured on the billboard, who says he's quite happy being gay and not actually a twin like the sign would have people believe. 

Richmond's WWBT reports:

RouxSpeaking via Skype, Kyle Roux said he was shocked his image was used. Especially since he calls himself an "out and proud" gay man. 

"I was obviously quite shocked, so that why I decided to send you guys an email saying hey, I'm that guy in that billboard," Roux said.

Roux hasn't thought about that photo shoot in nearly a decade. He says the pictures used on the billboard were part of a stock photo shoot he did. Roux signed away the rights and was told the pictures would be used in commercial and corporate ads and brochures. [...]

"It's actually quite a big thing that there is this kind of discrimination and borderline hate speech going on, you know," he said.

Roux says he's worried about teens struggling with their sexuality, and he hopes to empower others. 

DoyleChristian Doyle, a self-professed 'ex-gay' and former board member of PFOX also chimed in on the story, saying Roux is irrelevant to what the billboard is trying to accomplish.

"The issue isn't the photo on a the billboard, but the actual science." 

And by "actual science" Doyle presumably means "thoroughly discredited, pseudo-scientific soul poison"

Watch a segment of Roux's interview with WWBT, AFTER THE JUMP...

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