On Wednesday, December 1, coincidentally both World AIDS Day and the fifty-fifth anniversary of freedom fighter Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her seat on an Alabama bus, Maggie Gallagher’s National Organization for Marriage (NOM) demanded that one of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges for next week’s upcoming Prop 8 trial give up his seat on the court. That’s right, after NOM’s successful assault on the Iowa Supreme Court judges who found Iowa’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional (NOM actually helped get them voted out of office,) Maggie Gallagher’s mysteriously-funded anti-gay anti-marriage equality organization is trying to get one of three federal judges appointed to hear the case — Judge Stephen Reinhardt — kicked off the Proposition 8 trial.
NOM’s reasoning? Judge Reinhardt’s wife is the Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California.
â€œJudge Reinhardtâ€™s wife, Ramona Ripston, has been involved in this case on numerous accounts, and what weâ€™ve learned from Ed Whelanâ€™s highly informative Bench Memo yesterday, posted on National Review Online (and updated here) is that there is no way Judge Reinhardt can rightfully remain a member of this hearing without making a mockery of the federal judiciary,â€ said Brian Brown, president of NOM. â€œWe are demanding that Judge Reinhardt to step down immediately and call Californians to write an official complaint to the Ninth Circuit demanding that Judge Reinhardt be disqualified.â€
(Of course, we can all agree that Brian Brown’s primary concern in life is the federal judiciary not be made a mockery.)
Indeed, there are many ways to look at this situation. Is a federal judge capable of being objective, regardless of his wife’s (or, hypothetically, his husband’s) involvement in the case? Is there the possibility of the perception of a lack of impartiality? Can we judge a judge based on his or her spouse’s actions, political affiliations, or even sexual orientation?
NOM claims that “there are other circumstances that clearly call his impartiality into question,” and that “Ripston, Reinhardtâ€™s wife, contributed money to the NO on Proposition 8 campaign. It is not known if these funds were joint or separate funds. Ripston publicly cheered the decision by the District Court to declare Proposition 8 unconstitutional. In a media statement, she said, ‘We rejoice at todayâ€™s decision but thereâ€™s a long road ahead toward establishing true marriage equality for same-sex couples.’â€
If this is true, why haven’t Maggie Gallagher, Brian Brown, and the rest of the NOM clan called into question the impartiality of another one of the three judges on the panel who will be hearing next week’s Prop 8 case, Norman Randy Smith? Many believe Judge Smith is a Mormon, and the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) was one of the largest contributors to the “Yes On 8” Prop 8 campaign to ban same-sex marriage in California. Judge Smith, who attended Brigham Young University and received both his undergraduate and post-graduate degrees from that Mormon university, was nominated by Republican President George W. Bush to the Ninth Circuit. Is that not a problem for the National Organization for Marriage too?
If not, why is religion — and participation in religion-based activities, like donating to a political campaign — not a disqualifier for the National Organization for Marriage? And why is sexual orientation? NOM heavily protested Judge Vaughn Walker, the judge on the Prop 8 federal trial, who found Prop 8 unconstitutional. Judge Walker, as it turns out, reportedly is gay.
At the time, Gallagher called Walker’s decision which found Prop 8 to be unconstitutional, a “sin,” and “a slur against the American people.”
Given NOM’s “logic,” once Prop 8 (or the Defense of Marriage Act, or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,) gets to the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas must automatically recuse himself. After all, Virginia Thomas, Judge Thomas’ wife (who recently made headlines by demanding an apology from her husband’s sexual-harassment accuser, Anita Hill,) is a board member of the anti-gay Heritage Foundation, and founded and was the president of the Tea Party group, Liberty Central. (Mrs. Thomas was recently forced to step down from the group, presumably due to the impropriety of having a sitting Supreme Court Justice’s wife making extremist headlines.)
As a result of Virginia Thomas’ stepping down from Liberty Central, the Tea Party group will now merge with the Patrick Henry Center. Adele M. Stan in Alternet writes, “Also on the Patrick Henry advisory board are two anti-gay activists: Beverly LaHaye, founder of the Concerned Women for America, and Alan Sears, head of the Alliance Defense Fund. Rounding out the advisory board is Howard Phillips, founder of the Constitution Party, which seeks to replace secular law with biblical law. Phillips is one of the founders of the religious right, and a close associate of John Birch Society President John McManus.”
Given the ideological incestuousness of the anti-gay right, is there any possibility that Justice Clarence Thomas — a known anti-gay jurist in his own right — could judge LGBT-related cases without at least the appearance of being partial?
For what it’s worth, I don’t know if Judge Reinhardt should recuse himself, or if Judge Norman Randy Smith should recuse himself, or even, as I’m not a lawyer, if Justice Clarence Thomas should when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Defense of Marriage Act, or other LGBT-related cases come before him. But I do know that if Maggie Gallagher and NOM are to have any credibility with Americans and our sense of fairness, she must demand Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recuse himself from any LGBT-related cases.
If there’s one thing you can count on with Maggie Gallagher, it’s that she’s rarely able to see what’s around the corner. In this game of judicial chess, which Gallagher has been all-too-keen on starting, it’s clear the end result is the that forces of equality will have taken down NOM’s queen, and are poised to capture the king. Thanks, in part, to Maggie.
Editorial note: This piece represents the first of what I hope are many that will be posted also at 365Gay.com. I am grateful to the fine folks there, especially my wonderful editor at 365Gay, Jennifer Vanasco, for inviting me and supporting me. You can read this piece there as well.
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‘Boldly Ignorant’ Ted Cruz Slammed by Retired NYPD Detective for His Suggestions to Protect Kids
Appearing on MSNBC’s “The Katie Phang Show,” a retired NYPD detective expressed disgust with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) over his attempts to dismiss the idea of new gun laws to protect children in schools and instead is insisting America needs to turn schools into fortresses.
In interviews and appearing at the NRA convention this weekend in Houston, Cruz has vociferously disregarded the easy availability of high-powered weapons and instead focused on a door that was left open at the elementary school where the shooting occurred.
After host Phang shared a clip of the Texas Republican making his case, she asked former law enforcement detective Marq Claxton his thoughts on what Cruz was proposing.
Calling the controversial senator “boldly ignorant,” he proceeded to rip Cruz’s proposal apart.
“Marq, I was a prosecutor for half my career, I never prosecuted somebody for leaving a door open. How absurd is this proposal by Ted Cruz that the solution is to make sure that we don’t have too many doors at our schools?” host Phang asked.
“Ted Cruz’s statements were boldly ignorant and dismissive of the clear obvious danger that is faced by so many people in society because of the prevalence of violence and gun violence in particular,” he replied. “It really shows just how so many political electeds lack the fortitude to move forward and do the right thing: save lives.”
“Instead of sloganeering, Mr. Cruz and his other elected colleagues really should be working on legislation that provides, or minimizes the risk of damage, and could quite possibly and probably save lives,” he continued. “That is some additional gun restrictions, some background checks, there are other things that are out there that will undoubtedly be effective and save lives, and prevent these gun violence deaths.”
Watch the segment below or at this link.
‘Taking Us All for Fools’: Critics Decimate Greg Abbott’s Claims and Defense of His Actions in Wake of School Shooting
Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott in a press conference that left reporters frustrated defended his actions and insisted his earlier praise for law enforcement’s widely criticized response to the Uvalde school massacre was the result of being “misled.”
“I am livid about what happened,” Abbott declared, blaming others for his “recitation of what people in that room told me.”
“I was misled … the information that I was given turned out in part to be inaccurate. And I’m absolutely livid about that” — Greg Abbott on his initial false statement portraying Uvalde first responders as heroes pic.twitter.com/dUIdxnicjm
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 27, 2022
Critics aren’t buying his claims.
Abbott, who’s in the middle of a heated re-election campaign, appeared extremely defensive when reporters asked him questions.
“Let’s be clear about one thing. None of the laws I signed this past session had any intersection with this crime at all,” Abbott told reporters when asked if he would call the legislature back for a special session, as The Texas Tribune’s Sewell Chan noted.
“No law that I signed allowed him to get a gun,” Abbott insisted.
“The answers fell pretty flat,” opined MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, who noted the press event lasted just 36 minutes, less time than the police officers “stood outside and did nothing,” which was 47 minutes.
Abbott ended the press conference with many reporters almost begging him to take more questions. As the governor left one frustrated reporter was caught on a hot mic saying “unbelievable.”
Chan, who is the editor in chief of the Tribune, added on Twitter: “Abbott rejects background checks as a simplistic and ineffective fix. Wouldn’t have prevented Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe shootings, he says. Tries to turn focus to broken mental health system.”
Former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi on MSNBC delivered a strong rebuke to Governor Abbott’s remarks.
“No amount of free flights, no amount of free caskets, no amount of mental health counseling is going to bring back any one of those murdered children,” Figliuzzi said, referring to Abbott’s announcement an anonymous donor is putting up $175,000 for funeral expenses of those who were murdered in the shooting and said the state will pay for mental health treatment.
Abbott also insisted that since Texas became a state it’s been legal for 18-year-olds to buy long guns.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was murdered in the Parkland school shooting, blasted Abbott:
.@GregAbbott_TX responding to a question on long rifles “it seems like only in the past decade or two we have had school shootings.” Governor, the assault weapons ban ended in 2004. See the connection? You have actively helped to sell millions of weapons since then.
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) May 27, 2022
And long guns of today, as Figliuzzi noted, are often semi-automatic “killing machines.”
“The governor seems completely unable to understand that he can easily make a distinction when you’re talking about whether an 18-year-old should buy an assault rifle or not. And all he cares about is a century of history in Texas on long guns. We didn’t have the AR-15 style assault weapons back then. He can easily make a distinction and say, ‘you can go hunting, here are the rifles you can do, you can buy, you can possess – and here’s an assault-style rifle.'”
“If he thinks that people are stupid and unable to understand that there is a clear distinction between a killing machine and a hunting rifle, that he’s taking us all for fools.”
‘I Apologize for Interrupting Your Press Conference’: Tearful Texas Democrat Urges Greg Abbott to ‘Do Something’ on Guns
The Texas Democratic State Senator who represents Uvalde stood up during Greg Abbott’s Friday afternoon press conference and almost begged the Republican Governor to “do something” about gun violence after Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School that took 21 lives.
Abbott was trying to place the blame for the school shooting on mental health despite the gunman having no documented issues, and told attendees, “we’re focusing our attention on the wrong thing.”
That was not good enough for Democratic State Senator Roland Gutierrez, who politely introduced himself and said, “I’m not making a political speech.”
“My colleagues are asking for a special session, you’re getting a letter tomorrow,” from the Senate Democratic Caucus.
“We’ve asked for gun control changes – I’m asking you now, bring us back in three weeks.”
Gutierrez grew emotional, sounding as if he was choking up, and added, “I apologize for interrupting your press conference about the needs of this community. I’ve been here for three days with all of these elected officials – this county judge has been working his ass off,” he continued.
“I don’t know how to express the loss of the families that I’ve talked to,” he added.
“You have to do something, man,” Gutierrez said, all but begging the governor to take action, and saying his “own colleagues are calling me and telling me this is enough.”
“I’m sorry to interrupt your press conference… you have to do something” pic.twitter.com/OiRI1OQZWQ
— Acyn (@Acyn) May 27, 2022
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