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The Most Inept Court Defense of ‘Traditional Marriage’ Comes From the Reddest of States

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Some might assume that the reddest of red states would have the strongest case prepared in defense of its ban on same-sex marriage. Well, that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Utah’s case has been so riddled with errors, mistakes, and mishaps, it could almost be mistaken for the Three Stooges’ 1936 Disorder in the Court.

Nobody was expecting to see marriage equality arrive in Utah without a federal mandate, much less in December of 2013. I mean come on, it’s Utah—home of the Mormon (LDS) church, an almost 90 percent Republican state legislature, and a voter-approved constitutional ban on not only marriage for same-sex couples, but also civil unions or anything even closely resembling similar recognition of non-hetero couples. But perhaps it was that very security in their iron-clad shield against the “gay agenda” that has caused such havoc and ineptitude in the case.

Utah was at a disadvantage in the case over Amendment 3 (its 2004 ban on marriage equality) from the beginning. At the time it was argued before Utah Judge Robert Shelby, Utah’s Republican Attorney General John Swallow was under multiple investigations for fraud and corruption by the FBI, DOJ, state legislature, Utah Bar Association, and the Salt Lake County/Davis County District Attorneys. The investigations (which ultimately led to Swallow’s resignation) caused major disruption in the Attorney General’s office, and the seemingly easy-win case for Utah wasn’t given much time or attention. The usual conservative arguments were made—same-sex couples are just awful parents, marriage has been between a man and a woman since before time, etc.—and everyone just assumed that would be enough.

But then Judge Shelby, drawing on the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, ruled in favor of marriage equality. And in what has got to be the most irrational string of mistakes in a major court case ever seen, Utah fell apart scrambling to fix things.

First, Utah was so sure of its easy victory, the AG’s office didn’t even have the usual request for a stay to be immediately issued if Shelby were to rule against them in place. As a result, the ruling went into effect immediately and more than 1300 happy couples stormed county clerks’ offices demanding marriage licenses. Working overnight to prepare the stay request, the office then incorrectly filed the request for a stay with the 10th Circuit Court (which oversees lower courts in Utah), which rejected their request because they hadn’t gone through Judge Shelby yet. After several days, Utah was able to get time in front of Judge Shelby for a hearing on the stay, but by then hundreds of couples had already been married and Shelby denied their request. Utah then went back to the 10th Circuit, which also rejected them, before filing for an emergency stay with the Supreme Court to get the hold on marriages put in place—a full 17 days (and 1,355 marriages) after the original ruling. If you watch the courts often, you’ll know how hilarious this is. If Utah had their request for a stay in before the ruling was issued—as nearly every attorney knows to do—it almost certainly would have been immediately granted before any couples could tie the knot.

Now Utah had to put together their brief for the 10th Circuit Court. In the interest of space, let’s just skip over how they were unable to put together their briefs on time, and had to file for multiple extensions of time.

The circular logic of Utah’s briefs have been nothing if not a professional-grade contortionist act to watch. New Attorney General Sean Reyes (who took over after Swallow’s resignation), argued that Utah could not, in fact, recognize same-sex couples who had married after Amendment 3 was ruled unconstitutional - because of Amendment 3.

The illogical (borderline incompetent) briefs would be hilarious, if only they weren’t coming at the expensive of our tax dollars. The Utah Legislature budgeted 2 million taxpayer dollars for the case, and spent hundreds of thousands on outside counsel brought in from the vehemently (and hilariously) anti-gay Sutherland Institute, yet still can’t get its act together. In the latest round of submitted briefs to the 10th Circuit Court, Utah was forced to submit a clarification brief, asking the court to let them correct more than ninety misspelling, grammar, and incorrect citation errors. As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, it turns out that the clarification brief had errors of its own, and Utah had to submit another brief to fix the new errors.

Adding to the hilarity of the massive list of errors (which any 1st-year law student should have caught), one of the three judges on the 10th Circuit Court is Bush Sr.-appointee Paul Kelly, Jr., back in  2004 warned attorneys submitting briefs “[P]roofread your brief (more than once) before you file it. We review hundreds and hundreds of briefs every year; you don’t want us distracted from the merits by missing verbs, misspelled names, incorrect citations, improper grammar or sentences that run for pages. Enough said.”

But the crux of Utah’s case, and the truest embarrassment to conservative cases against marriage equality everywhere, is their reliance on their argument that gay couples make lousy parents. Utah offers as its proof two different studies to back their arguments. The first is a 2002 study from Child Trends, and the second is the infamous 2012 study from sociologist Mark Regnerus. Unfortunately for Utah, neither study actually says what they claim.

Child Trends president, Carol Emig, has repeated gone on the record chastising anyone who claims that their study disparages same-sex couples, saying:

“The Child Trends brief in question summarizes research conducted in 2002, when same-sex parents were not identified in large national surveys. Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn from this research about the well-being of children raised by same-sex parents. .. We have pointed this out repeatedly, yet to our dismay we continually see our 2002 research mischaracterized by some opponents of same-sex marriage.”

The Regnerus study has been even further ridiculed and debunked by scientific community at large. The project was funded by the viciously anti-gay Witherspoon Institute—cofounded by Robert P. George, who also cofounded the National Organizations for Marriage (NOM)—for the express purpose of “proving” that same-sex couples are inferior parents.

Unfortunately, the research was unable to bear that result out, and so the final study ended up comparing children raised in a two-parent home to children of single parents who may or may not have happened to have physical same-sex relations during the child’s rearing. In fact, of the more than 3,000 children sampled,  only two were actually raised by two same-sex parents. The backlash of the Regnerus study using such dubious data to reach his conclusion that because two parents do better than single parents (who may or may not be gay), that means same-sex couples make horrible parents, was quick and severe. The study’s intent, methods, and results have been denounced by 200 of his peers, his coworkers at the University of Texas at Austin, the science community at large, and most recently by Michigan Judge Bernard Friedman who called the study “entirely unbelievable,” and “not worthy of serious consideration.”

Keep it up Utah, we can’t wait to see what you do next.

Image: YouTube

Follow Eric Ethington on Twitter @EricEthington

Eric EthingtonEric Ethington has been specializing in political messaging, communications strategy, and public relations for more than a decade. Originally hailing from Salt Lake City, he now works in Boston for a social justice think tank. Eric’s writing, advocacy work, and research have been featured on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, the New York Times, The Telegraph, and The Public Eye magazine. He’s worked as a radio host, pundit, blogger, activist and electoral campaign strategist. He also writes at NuanceStillMatters.com

 

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News

‘Supposed to Be Hard’: Political Experts Explain Their Thinking on Biden and the Election

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Two weeks after the political class’s response to President Joe Biden’s poor debate performance threw the 2024 election into chaos, four political experts share their thinking about where the race actually stands and what Biden’s supporters should do.

“He can’t win right!? They point to the polling right?” wrote political strategist and pollster Cornell Belcher, a frequent NBC News/MSNBC political analyst, linking to a report about the latest polls which show President Biden ahead of Donald Trump. “Well this is the 2nd poll (credible poll) in 2 days showing the Pres race in statistical deadlock two weeks after debate! Using polls to push Biden out feels like red wave 2020 bs all over again.”

Belcher was commenting on the latest Marist College poll produced for NPR/PBS NewsHour. It found Biden beating Trump 50-48 in a one-to-one matchup. When factoring in the four third-party/independent candidates including RFK Jr., Trump came out ahead of Biden, 43-42.

FiveThirtyEight’s regularly updated polling aggregator currently shows Trump up over Biden by 1.9 points, a drop from Thursday where he was more than two points over Biden. FiveThirtyEight also currently shows; “Biden wins 50 times out of 100 in our simulations of the 2024 presidential election. Trump wins 49 times out of 100.”

READ MORE: Critics: Where’s Trump’s Hour-Long Press Conference With Policy Questions from Reporters?

Former Republican and former GOP communications director Tara Setmayer, a resident scholar at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, says the Democratic “freak out needs to stop.”

“Enough.”

Pointing to that same Marist poll, she focuses on a different question.

“This poll also shows character matters more than age. That’s to Biden’s advantage.”

NPR’s headline on its article detailing the poll reads: “After Biden’s debate performance, the presidential race is unchanged.”

“Biden actually gained a point since last month’s survey, which was taken before the debate,” NPR reports, adding: “the survey also found that by a 2-to-1 margin, 68% to 32%, people said it’s more concerning to have a president who doesn’t tell the truth than one who might be too old to serve.”

READ MORE: ‘No Change’: Biden Debate Performance Has Had ‘Almost No Impact’ on 2024 Race Report Finds

To Setmayer’s point, NPR also says, “A majority said Biden has the character to be president (52%), while a majority also said Trump does not (56%).”

Mike Madrid, the Latino GOP political consultant and Lincoln Project co-founder, offered advice to Biden supporters on how to think about Democrats and pundits pushing for the President to drop out of the race, and how to deal with the day-to-day emotional toll.

“Getting lots of questions on how to lower the anxiety level people are feeling. Best thing you can do is unfollow the people attacking Biden gratuitously. Don’t engage them. Unfollow them. It’s not an honest discussion. It’s a frenzy that’s doing real damage.”

“You will not get an explanation from the political arsonists fueling this panic,” he added. “Stop looking for one. Unfollow them. Drop your subscription. Quit listening. That’s the best thing you can do in the pro-democracy fight right now. Their gaslighting is now a suppression tactic.”

To someone who said they are “scared,” and the situation is “confusing, maddening and sad,” Madrid advised: “Nothing has changed. Stop watching TV and get off Twitter. Take the weekend off. Please.”

The Lincoln Project’s Stuart Stevens, a political strategist for decades and author of “The Conspiracy To End America,” writes: “I worked in campaigns for 30 years. I am hardwired to respond one way when your guy is in trouble: fight harder. Don’t start looking for exit ramps or magic bullets. Play the next play. Do your job. Ignore the scoreboard. It’s supposed to be hard.”

READ MORE: ‘Betrayal’: Trump Hosts ‘Russian Puppet’ Viktor Orbán as Biden Hosts NATO Leaders

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News

RFK Jr. Apology Over Sexual Assault Allegation ‘Disingenuous’ – Unsure if More to Come

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent candidate running for president, has apologized to the woman who accused him of sexual assault, and separately told reporters he does not know if there are more potential accusers.

The 70-year old anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist who has said a worm ate a portion of his brain, has not denied allegations of sexual misconduct. A recent Vanity Fair profile reports that in 1998, Eliza Cooney, 23-years old at the time and working as a part-time baby sitter for RFK Jr. and his wife’s children, felt his “hand moving up and down her leg under the table” during “a meeting in the family kitchen.”

There are other allegations in the Vanity Fair profile that include Kennedy being shirtless in Cooney’s bedroom and asking her to rub lotion on his back, which she said was “totally inappropriate.”

And this: “A few months later, Cooney says, she was rifling through the kitchen pantry for lunch after a yoga class, still in her sports bra and leggings, when Kennedy came up behind her, blocked her inside the room, and began groping her, putting his hands on her hips and sliding them up along her rib cage and breasts. ‘My back was to the door of the pantry, and he came up behind me,’ she says, describing the alleged sexual assault. ‘I was frozen. Shocked.’ ”

RELATED: ‘What in the F’: RFK Jr. in Photo With Alleged ‘Barbecued’ Dog Carcass Disgusts Critics

The Washington Post Friday morning reported RFK Jr. “privately apologized to a woman who accused him of sexual assault, saying he does not remember the alleged incident and that any harm he caused was ‘inadvertent.’ ”

“’I have no memory of this incident but I apologize sincerely for anything I ever did that made you feel uncomfortable or anything I did or said that offended you or hurt your feelings,’ Kennedy wrote in a text message to Cooney sent at 12:33 a.m. on July 4, two days after her accusations became public. ‘I never intended you any harm. If I hurt you, it was inadvertent. I feel badly for doing so.’ ”

Cooney told The Post that Kennedy’s texted message was “disingenuous and arrogant.”

“I’m not sure how somebody has a true apology for something that they don’t admit to recalling. I did not get a sense of remorse.”

READ MORE: Critics: Where’s Trump’s Hour-Long Press Conference With Policy Questions from Reporters?

Also on Friday, hidden in the middle of a Boston Globe soft profile of the presidential candidate whose support has reportedly now hit ten percent – possibly enough to change the outcome of the election – is Kennedy’s apparent acknowledgment there could be more allegations of sexual misconduct.

“Asked if other women might come forward with similar allegations he said, ‘I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.’ ”

The Globe notes Kennedy “is currently on the ballot in nine states, and submitted enough signatures to eventually get on the ballot in 15 states. There are five other states where the campaign claims to have enough signatures but hasn’t turned in them in yet, in some cases because the window to do so hasn’t opened.”

FiveThirtyEight reports there is a 58% chance the election “is decided by a smaller margin than the vote share for third-party candidates,” meaning Kennedy, who has the largest portion of third party votes, may have the potential to change the election outcome.

In a parenthetical addition, Vanity Fair updated its report, writing: “After this story was published, Kennedy told the Breaking Points podcast, in response to Cooney’s allegations, that he is ‘not a church boy… I have so many skeletons in my closet.’ When pressed to respond directly to her claims, he told the anchor, ‘I’m not going to comment on it.’ ”

READ MORE: ‘Betrayal’: Trump Hosts ‘Russian Puppet’ Viktor Orbán as Biden Hosts NATO Leaders

 

 

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OPINION

Critics: Where’s Trump’s Hour-Long Press Conference With Policy Questions from Reporters?

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Following President Joe Biden’s 58-minute long unscripted, solo press conference without a teleprompter, fielding questions from reporters and responding with nuance and depth on a range of issues including foreign and domestic policy, some critics are calling on his opponent, ex-president Donald Trump, to do the same.

It’s been a long time since Trump has held an actual unscripted, lengthy, solo press conference, with questions from reporters, and well-over a year since he did one that wasn’t centered on his legal crises.

“When is last time Trump did an hour long press conference? Anyone know?” asked Bloomberg News’ Steven Dennis Thursday night after the President’s press conference.

“So now the media will demand that Trump hold an hour-long press conference on complex foreign policy issues — right?” snarked attorney and legal commentator Tristan Snell, who headed the successful New York State civil prosecution of Trump University.

READ MORE: ‘Dead Heat’: Biden Ahead or Tied With Trump in Two New Post-Debate Polls

“Trump is getting a free pass just like he did in 2016. No way he could do a press conference for 40 minutes after 3 long days with world leaders. He is incoherent most of time when he’s not spewing bile,” declared CNN Political Commentator Karen Finney Friday morning.

“It’s now time for the corporate media to dissect every word Trump says for the next two weeks, have debates on his mental state, amplify the small number of Republicans who want Trump to drop out and demand he hold a press conference where we can dissect him even more,” remarked attorney and SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah Friday morning.

“Per CSPAN last time Trump held a press conference that approached an hour in length at which he took questions from reporters, he was still president,” observed Aaron Fritschner, Deputy Chief of Staff for U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) Friday morning.

READ MORE: ‘Betrayal’: Trump Hosts ‘Russian Puppet’ Viktor Orbán as Biden Hosts NATO Leaders

He adds, “Per the CSPAN archive, the last time Donald Trump took questions from reporters in a press conference was on February 8th. National and campaign reporters made an issue of the lack of press conferences with Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. To date, they have not done so with Trump.”

On November 8, 2022, from Mar-a-Lago, after polls closed, Donald Trump delivered remarks discussing the midterm elections. He spoke for about four minutes to supporters and took no questions from reporters, whom he mocked. (Full C-SPAN video.)

Semafor’s David Weigel argues, “A lot of the ‘whatabout Trump’ stuff is cope, but he really is getting an easy ride with interviewers compared to 2016 or 2020.”

“Most of his interviews are softball-fests. When he did All-In the campaign had to clean up his green card/diploma answer.”

READ MORE: ‘No Change’: Biden Debate Performance Has Had ‘Almost No Impact’ on 2024 Race Report Finds

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