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What LGBT And Progressive Groups Think About SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision

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LGBT and progressive groups have stern warnings and commentary on today’s Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision.

For more on the decision:

What Every LGBT Person Needs To Know About The Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Decision

Hobby Lobby: Read The Complete Full Supreme Court Decision

Breaking: Supreme Court Rules Some Closely Held Family Companies Have A Soul In Hobby Lobby Case

Heather Cronk, GetEQUAL Co-Director:

“Today’s ruling sends an unfortunately clear message that the Supreme Court of the United States thinks more highly of private, for-profit corporations than individuals. While we’re disappointed in this ruling because of the implications for women across the country whose access to contraception is being attacked, we’re equally disappointed because of the implications for LGBTQ individuals. The same entities that are fighting women’s access to healthcare are also fighting LGBTQ equality — and this ruling simply sets the stage for future efforts to reduce the ability for individuals to make their own decisions about their lives and about their bodies. Today’s ruling sets the stage for further and wider challenges to the idea that employers should treat all of their employees and potential employees equally, and opens the possibility for employers to refuse to provide employees with health insurance that covers HIV or AIDS medication, blood transfusions, anti-depressants, and all manner of other life-saving care.

“We must re-double our commitment to push back on the dangerous efforts to write discrimination into law under the guise of ‘religious liberty.’ These efforts, such as the religious discrimination law in Mississippi that will go into effect tomorrow, are smokescreens for religious bigotry. GetEQUAL will continue to call out religious discrimination when and where it happens, and will continue to work closely with our friends in the reproductive justice movement to win our collective liberation from government-sanctioned oppression.”

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow:

“Religious groups have a long-established first amendment ability to operate according to their own beliefs. Instead of protecting religious liberty, this ruling gives license for businesses to use their personal beliefs as a reason to deny people access to basic, yet crucial medical services.”

Constitutional Accountability Center:

“For the first time in our Nation’s history,” said CAC President Doug Kendall, “the Supreme Court has ruled that for-profit corporations have religious rights and have accorded them religious exemptions. Despite their attempts to qualify that ruling, it opens the floodgates to claims by corporations for religious exemptions.”

“As Justice Ginsburg explained in a powerful dissent,” continued CAC Civil Rights Director David Gans, “the Court puts claims of corporations over those of its employees and allows a corporation’s owners to override the Federal rights of its employees, many of whom have a different set of religious beliefs.” CAC Chief Counsel Elizabeth Wydra said, “While the Court purports to limit its ruling to closely-held corporations on this issue only, the majority opinion invites a number of ‘me too’ religious objections by other companies on matters ranging from anti-discrimination law to other medical procedures such as blood transfusions or vaccinations.”

Truth Wins Out:

“This divisive ruling is disgraceful, and will go down as one of the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court,” said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. “Because of this decision, business owners will have enormous leverage to impose their religious beliefs in the workplace, and to coerce employees into abiding by them. The court has decided, as in Citizens United, that corporations are people. The sooner this ruling is reversed the better it will be for America.”

“The Supreme Court may have just sent our nation down an actual slippery slope,” said TWO’s Besen. “As the liberal justices on the Court pointed out, this is a ruling of ‘startling breadth,’ and it goes against everything we used to stand for as a nation. When our Founding Fathers guaranteed religious freedom to all citizens, they didn’t amend it to say that your boss’s religious freedom is more important than your own. What a disgraceful day for the Court and for the United States.”

“This was not a victory for any rational definition of ‘religious freedom,’ but for religious coercion,” said Truth Wins Out Associate Director Evan Hurst. “This ruling, far from simply being about contraception, is chilling in that it could potentially allow any crackpot who owns a company to deny his employees all kinds of health coverage, simply because his religious beliefs don’t allow for them.”

Family Equality Council:

“Today’s Supreme Court Decision declares that ‘closely held for-profit corporations’ run by owners with ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ are exempt from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate that employer-provided health insurance include access to contraception,” said Family Equality Council Director of Public Policy, Emily Hecht-McGowan.

“Religious liberty is a constitutionally protected interest, but what the Court did today is allow individual business owners to impose their religious beliefs on their employees, thereby limiting an employee’s ability to make their own healthcare decisions and access necessary and sometimes critical medical care,” Hecht-McGowan continued.

National Center for Lesbian Rights, Legal Director Shannon Minter, Esq.:

“The majority’s holding that closely held corporations can claim religious liberty protections designed for individuals—and can rely on those protections to avoid complying with generally applicable laws—is a dangerous and radical departure from existing law that creates far more questions than it answers and shows a callous disregard for the health care needs of women workers. Thankfully, however, the majority recognized that even under its sweeping new rule, corporations cannot rely on claims of religious liberty to evade non-discrimination laws. That limitation is extremely important and means that employers cannot exploit today’s decision to justify non-compliance with laws that prohibit discrimination against LGBT people and other vulnerable groups, but we will need to be vigilant to make sure that principle is respected and enforced.”

Political Research Associates:

Executive Director Tarso Luís Ramos:
“The foundational principle of religious liberty is facing a sustained, coordinated attack from leaders of the Religious Right, who insist that businesses have the right to discriminate against employees and customers according to their owners’ religious beliefs. This redefinition of religious liberty effectively transforms the Framers’ shield against religious tyranny into a sword institutions can wield to impose religious dictates on individuals in the marketplace.”

Senior Fellow Fred Clarkson:
“If corporations enjoy exemptions from federal laws in the name of religious freedom, the rest of us may be compelled to cede our personal liberty to the views and whims of our employers-forcing us to choose between our livelihoods and our consciences. If a business owner happens to believe God demands women always be subservient to men, could the company legally be allowed to deny women managerial positions (or refuse to hire women at all)? Could private education institutions reliant on public money again claim religious freedom to defend racial segregation (as did Bob Jones University)? Could business owners claim ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ to deny service or jobs to people of color, Jews, or atheists? Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in whole-blood products; even if you don’t happen to share that faith, could your boss nevertheless deny you coverage for surgeries? And so on. If a business enterprise’s ‘religious belief’ can be used to justify discrimination in one thing, why not other things?”

NARAL Pro-Choice America, Ilyse Hogue, President:

“Today’s decision from five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights. This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination.

“Allowing bosses this much control over the health-care decisions of their employees is a slippery slope with no end. Every American could potentially be affected by this far-reaching and shocking decision that allows bosses to reach beyond the boardroom and into their employees’ bedrooms. The majority claims that its ruling is limited, but that logic doesn’t hold up. Today it’s birth control; tomorrow it could be any personal medical decision, from starting a family to getting life-saving vaccinations or blood transfusions.

“Ninety-nine percent of women use birth control at some point in our lives, and none of those stories made it into the arguments. It’s outrageous that these five male justices chose to single out birth control for special discrimination.

“NARAL Pro-Choice America’s message has always been clear: bosses who want control over their employees’ personal medical decisions are offensive, out of touch, and out of bounds, and so is this ruling. We call upon Congress to right this wrong, and we will work tirelessly with our allies and member activists to make sure that the people who would stand between a woman and her doctor are held accountable.”

Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Cecile Richards, president:

“Today, the Supreme Court ruled against American women and families, giving bosses the right to discriminate against women and deny their employees access to birth control coverage. This is a deeply disappointing and troubling ruling that will prevent some women, especially those working hourly-wage jobs and struggling to make ends meet, from getting birth control.

“This ruling does not strike down the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit. Today, more than 30 million women are eligible for birth control with no co-pay thanks to this benefit, and the vast majority of them will not be affected by this ruling. But for those who are affected, this ruling will have real consequences.

“It’s unbelievable that in 2014, we’re still fighting about whether women should have access to birth control. Some politicians want to get rid of the birth control benefit entirely and take away coverage from millions of women. To the majority of Americans, birth control is not a controversial issue. Birth control is basic health care – and it’s only a ‘social issue’ if you’ve never had to pay for it.

“We hope most businesses will do the right thing and let women make their own health care decisions. We urge Congress to act and protect women’s access to birth control, regardless of the personal views of their employer.”

And, from the Task Force:

 

Image by NARAL via Twitter

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MN Police Officer Sentenced 3.5 Years for Death of George Floyd

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Former Minneapolis police officer J. Alexander Keung has been sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for aiding and abetting manslaughter in the death of Black city resident George Floyd.

Keung, age 29, had accepted a plea deal in order to avoid an additional charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder. His guilty plea acknowledged that the restraining holds used by police on Floyd were excessive and likely to cause serious harm.

Video of Floyd’s May 25, 2020 murder at the hands of city police captured footage of Keung kneeling on Floyd’s back while another officer knelt of the man’s neck. for over nine minutes, officers applied pressure to Floyd while he laid face down in the street, crying and telling officers that he couldn’t breathe while also calling out for his mother.

Video of Floyd’s murder sparked international outrage and inspired protests against institutional racism and police brutality.

Keung is the fourth and final police officer to receive prison time for his role in Floyd’s death. He will serve his new sentence and a federal sentence for Floyd’s death concurrently, serving a total of about 2 1/2 years for the killing.

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Virginia Republican Files Bill Defining a Fertilized Egg as a Human

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marie-march-virginia-abortion

Virginia State Delegate Marie March (R) has pre-filed House Bill 1395, a law that would define life as beginning at fertilization.

“Life begins at conception and each person is accorded the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons by the Constitution of the United States,” the proposed bill states.

The proposed bill would effectively outlaw all abortions in the state and even endanger the use of Plan B (aka. “The morning-after pill”), a medication that prevents fertilized egg cells from attaching to a woman’s uterine wall.

The bill could also effectively criminalize in vitro fertilization, a method of inducing pregnancy that uses fertilized eggs and discards any unused ones.

Even though Republicans control the state’s House of Delegates, it’s unclear if the bill would have any chance of passing the state’s Democratic-led Senate. The legislature won’t reconvene until January 11, 2023.

Virginia currently allows a woman to get an abortion within roughly 26 weeks of pregnancy. Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has proposed passing a law that would reduce that window to 15 weeks, a period of time in which most women may not even realize they’re pregnant.

In response to March’s bill the Virginia Reproductive Equity Alliance said in a statement, “In the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and despite the vast majority of Virginians who oppose it, Virginia’s anti-abortion elected officials keep proving there are no limits to their extremism and true intentions to ban abortion for all Virginians.”

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Georgia GOP Says Its Voting Restrictions “Backfired” & Helped Dems Win Senate Seat

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When two Republicans lost Georgia’s special runoff senate elections in January 2021, state Republicans in the General Assembly re-wrote voting laws to restrict absentee ballots and give voters fewer days to vote in future runoff elections.

However, after Republicans lost yet another runoff election for Georgia’s Senate seat — with Herschel Walker losing to his Democratic competitor, Rev. Raphael Warnock, earlier this month — state Republicans want to re-re-write the rules, hopeful of a more favorable outcome.

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), the official who oversees the state’s voting procedures, said he plans on giving three proposals to lawmakers when they return to the General Assembly in January.

“[The proposals] include forcing large counties to open more early-voting locations (in an attempt to reduce the hours-long lines some voters waited in) … lowering the threshold candidates must achieve to avoid a runoff from 50 percent to 45 percent; and instituting a ranked-choice instant-runoff system that would not require voters to come back to the polls again after the general election,” The New York Times reported.

To be clear, it’s unclear whether these changes would’ve helped Walker win. But they stand in contrast to the changes state Republicans made to voting laws following their failed January 2021 Senate runoff ambitions.

The changes after that time severely restricted the types of people eligible to receive an absentee ballot. While 24 percent of the January 2021 vote came via mail-in absentee ballots, the rule changes resulted in 5 percent of mail-in votes coming in for the January 2022 runoff.

Republicans also lowered the number of in-person early voting days to five (though the rule change allowed counties to add extra days.) The Times found that 28 of Georgia’s 159 counties opted to add extra in-person early voting days — 17 of the counties that did largely backed Warnock while 11 backed his challenger.

Before the recent run-off election, Raffensperger also tried to enforce a state law forbidding in-person early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. However, Warnock successfully sued to prevent the law from going into effect.

Overall, the changes may have “backfired,” Republicans told The Times, actually encouraging Democratic voters to come out in greater numbers.

While Republicans point to the large turnout of runoff voters as “proof” that their changes didn’t discourage voting, Warnock’s campaign criticized the changes, saying that such restrictions shouldn’t make it harder for people to vote in the first place.

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