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Hobby Lobby and the Democrats Who Want to Fix It

SupremesBY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court's conservative majority allowed a large swath of for-profit companies to deny contraception to their female employees. Hobby Lobby, a national chain of arts and crafts stores, is a privately held, for-profit company that is run by a religious family. It's not a church. Nor is it a religious-based organization. It is simply a company that happens to be owned by religious people, but employs about 21,000 of varying beliefs. The owners objected to the part of Obamacare that required employers to provide health insurance that includes access to certain forms of contraception. They challenged that requirement and won, leaving the Supreme Court with a decision that declared that Hobby Lobby was a "person" entitled to the religious rights of persons.

We discussed the details of that decision here, in Part 1 of this three-part series on Hobby Lobby. In Part 2, I discussed how the Supreme Court actually made Hobby Lobby worse! For now, let's put aside our understandable anger at a decision that discriminates against women, denies necessary health care to those who need it, abuses precedent, and bloats religious freedoms to dangerous levels.

Hobby Lobby was a confusing decision and it is worth discussing it again not only so we can all understand it, but so we can fully appreciate its potential effects on the LGBT community. The ruling discussed religious freedom, which is enshrined in the First Amendment, but it was really based on a statute passed by Congress called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (as if religious freedom needed to be restored). It talked about corporations deserving the freedoms of persons, but it never fully explained if corporate personhood applies to everything or just certain freedoms and rights. Then, after going out of its way to explicitly narrow and cabin the decision to very specific situations, the Court majority did an about-face the next day, possibly expanded the scope of the decision, and admitted to the American people that, sometimes, the majority's words are just words, nothing more.

The decision did a lot of damage. So much damage, in fact, that Democrats in Congress are introducing legislation to overturn the decision. Speaker Boehner's conservative majority in the House is never going to bring the bill to the floor; the act of introducing the bill of pure (and great) politics. But to most of us, the entire scenario begs the question: How can Congress introduce a bill aimed at overturning a Supreme Court decision?

AFTER THE JUMP, I delve into the legal background of the Hobby Lobby decision so we can see how the case was decided and how legislation could fix it. 

Continue reading "Hobby Lobby and the Democrats Who Want to Fix It" »


The Supreme Court Made Hobby Lobby Worse, for Women and for the LGBT Community

Hobbylobby

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

The end of a Supreme Court term usually brings a flurry of action on big cases. Last year, we got Justice Kennedy's decision in United States v. Windsor that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and ushered in an unbroken marriage equality winning streak in the courts. This Supreme Court docket did not include any similar LGBT law cases. Nor did it end as heroically. This year, the Court's conservative majority allowed for profit companies to discriminate against women in the provision of health care in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

But sometimes, it's the less heralded maneuvers that make all the difference: a silent nemesis that creeps up behind you can do a lot more damage than a screaming Visigoth charging head on.

SupremesThat's what happened at the end of the Court's term last month. Justice Alito's Hobby Lobby majority opinion explicitly limited the decision to closely-held (family-run) corporations and explicitly limited it to the particular forms of contraception that were at issue in the case. The justices in the majority went out of their way to say that the decision leaves antidiscrimination laws intact, that it does not apply to publicly-traded corporations, that the decision should be confined to its facts. What's more, the Court also stated that one of the main reasons the government could not compel for-profit companies to provide objectionable health care was because there already was a viable work around aimed at religious nonprofits. Those organizations fill out a form attesting to their religious objection and the contraception would be provided directly from the health care company and not through the employer.

Not 24 hours later, the Court proved to us that all those words meant nothing. After issuing a decision, the Court also ordered lower courts to rehear related cases that could be changed by the decision. If Justice Alito and the majority could be taken at their word, the only cases that would need rehearing were those cases within the explicit narrow confines of Hobby Lobby. But the order went further. To the great consternation of Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan (notably, the three female justices on the Court), the majority ordered lower courts to rehear all pending cases involved religious exemptions to the contraception requirement, not just cases involving companies like Hobby Lobby and not just cases involving the particular forms of contraception involved in the case. And, as if that were not enough, the Court enjoined the very workaround meant for nonprofits that it appeared to endorse in Hobby Lobby as a viable alternative.

Left-leaning bloggers and writers -- not to mention the three female justices on the Court -- were apoplectic. The Court seems to have gone back on its word. Perhaps worse, the Court has broadened an already dangerous decision.

I summarize what the Court did, why Justice Sotomayor seemed so irate in her dissent, and why this matters for the LGBT community, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "The Supreme Court Made Hobby Lobby Worse, for Women and for the LGBT Community" »


Veet's 'Don't Risk Dudeness' Ads Border On Homo- And Transphobic: VIDEOS

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Veet is advertising its hair-removal products with ads that implying that women turn into dudes if they go even one day without shaving their legs and armpits. The ads go a step further by suggesting that men are rightfully repulsed by such women, depicting them as a bearded, bearish dude with a lady's voice.

The not-so-subtle subtext is that if you don't conform to men's standards of beauty, you're a unattractive dude worthy of rejection from your boyfriend, taxi drivers, EMTs, manicurists, Veet and viewers at large. Furthermore, being attracted to any person with body hair makes you gay or a lover of mannish women.

Yes, the ads are meant to be lighthearted and funny, but the underlying sexism, homophobia and transphobia has not gone un-noticed by ad groups.

Check out the ads AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Veet's 'Don't Risk Dudeness' Ads Border On Homo- And Transphobic: VIDEOS" »


An Editor Once Mistook Gloria Steinem's Feminism For Lesbianism: VIDEO

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In an interview with PBS' Makers, American feminist, journalist and activist Gloria Steinem revealed that one of her early editors mistook her for a lesbian because she wrote about gender equality:

An editor, a friend, nice guy (laughs) at Show magazine where I’d been freelancing, after I was writing feminist articles and was identified writing about feminism, he called up several mutual friends and said, “Y’know, I didn’t know that Gloria was a lesbian.” Cause he just couldn’t believe that anybody who wasn’t a lesbian and wasn’t interested in 'getting a man' quote unquote would be interested in equal pay or being treated equally and this was a very nice guy.”

Watch the video, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "An Editor Once Mistook Gloria Steinem's Feminism For Lesbianism: VIDEO" »


Q&A: 'Concussion' Director Stacie Passon Talks Marriage Equality and the Future of Gay Cinema

Concussion

Stacie Passon's debut feature Concussion made a big impression at this year's Sundance Film Festival and was snapped up by the Weinstein Company's RADiUS label after just one screening.  In the film, Robin Weigert (who you may know for her Emmy-nominated turn as Calamity Jane in HBO's Deadwood) plays Abby, a disillusioned housewife who embarks on a double life in the city as a high-end escort.  I spoke with Passon on the phone as her producer Rose Troche -- of The L Word -- drove her to Williamsburg after a day of interviews in Manhattan.  Concussion opens in New York and Los Angeles this Friday.

JC: I wanted to hear in your words how you came to this story and how the project started.  What was the genesis for you?

Stacie Passon Headshot 300DPISP: I just wanted to make a little film in the backyard with my friends.  When I showed the script to Rose, she felt that it sort of deserved a little something bigger, so we quickly ramped up the production.  Robin [Weigert, who plays Abby, the film's main character] was the first reel that I was just totally blown away with.  That was really the genesis of the project: getting Robin and Rose on really took it to a different level.

JC: You didn't think this would be a film that would go into theaters?

SP: Oh no.  I live in Montclair, New Jersey and I have a lot of friends who are techies; all we talk about are new digital platforms.  I just wanted to make a film that I could monetize--being with a film collaborative was my highest thought.  Or maybe I could put it on Vimeo and charge for it.

I knew that the lesbian audience was an underserved audience.  I didn't set out to write a lesbian themed movie; it just sort of came in.  My intention for it was, let's put on a show.  And it was born out of a need to do something creative after a career of serving clients.

JC: Right.  You were a commercial director?

SP: Yeah.

JC: As for the story itself--the script and the writing process--is it based on your own experiences?  Where did the idea come from?

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Q&A: 'Concussion' Director Stacie Passon Talks Marriage Equality and the Future of Gay Cinema" »


Bryan Fischer: Hillary Clinton Won't Win In 2016 Because She'll Be A 'Saggy Old Woman' - VIDEO

Bryan Fischer

For Towleroad readers, the AFA's Bryan Fischer is the homophobic gift that keeps on giving. Any time there's a controversy surrounding gay people...be it human rights violations in Russia, homophobic politicians, or futile attempts to revive anti-gay laws, we can always count on Fischer to spew ignorant and hateful vitriol. 

But we'd like you all to know that Fischer is more than just a homophobe. He's also a vocal and blatant misogynist. His most recent brush with sexism came earlier this week on his radio show, where he dismissed the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency simply because of what she might look like in three years:

"She's just going to be too old, going to be too saggy, gravity will have done too much of its mojo on her; she's just going to look old and tired next to virtually anybody that the Republicans run out there."

We're not exactly sure what's most problematic about his so-called "logic". Maybe it's the fact that Fischer doesn't seem at all concerned with his own sagginess...

Judge his comments for yourself, thanks to Right Wing Watch ... AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Bryan Fischer: Hillary Clinton Won't Win In 2016 Because She'll Be A 'Saggy Old Woman' - VIDEO" »


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