The same-sex couple, parents to two foster children, received death threats after filing discriminationÂ charges against an Oregon baker.
A simple anti-discrimination case filed against an Oregon baker a few years ago has become a rallying cry for the religious right. It’s even been cited by anti-gay lawmakers as a reason to enact so-called “religious freedom” laws to “protect” Christians from being forced to follow the law and treat all customers equally.
Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer are a same-sex couple who wanted a wedding cake in January of 2013. Rachel and her mother visited Sweet Cakes By Melissa, a localÂ Gresham, Oregon bakery. When Aaron Klein, Melissa’s husband, asked her the name of the groom, Rachel “giggled a little bit,” he says, and told him she was marrying a woman.Â
Aaron Klein says he “didn’t want to make anybody upset.” In court today, he told a state administrative law judge for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and IndustriesÂ that he said to her, Â “I’m very sorry, I believe I have wasted your time. We do not do cakes for same sex weddings.”
The Kleins have maintained they are Christians and that baking wedding cakes for same-sex couples would violate their deeply held religious beliefs.
Later, Rachel’s mother returned alone to the bake shop to tell Aaron how she felt.
“She stated that you have your opinion and you have a right to it, but I’d like to say my piece,” Klein testified. “She told me God had made her children gay and that her truth had changed and that she accepted them.”
Klein said he did not mean to belittle anyone when he spoke next.
“Why would the Bible say, and I quoted Leviticus,” Klein testified.
Shockingly, the Bowman-Cryers received death threats after the story gained media attention and their personal contact information was posted toÂ Aaron Klein’s personal Facebook page,Â according to OregonLive.
Rachel Bowman-Cryer said she and her wife received death threats as media attention and criticism from strangers escalated in the months after the story went national in January 2013.
She said the threats were part of a stream of “hateful, hurtful things” that came after the couple’s contact information (home address, phone and email) was posted on Aaron Klein’s personal Facebook page. She said she feared for her life and her wife’s life.
It’s unclear if Aaron Klein or someone commenting on his Facebook page posted the contact information that was apparently used to threaten theÂ Bowman-Cryers family.
Also shocking is that the Kleins’ attorneys blamed Rachel andÂ Laurel Bowman-Cryer for the stress placed on their family after they reported the discrimination. At the time, the couple was only fostering their two young girls, and the state warned them they could lose their children because of the increased level of stress caused by the posting of their personal information.
“During cross-examination, lawyers for the Kleins suggested that the Bowman-Cryers themselves ignited the media coverage by filing complaints with the state,” OregonLive reports.Â “Their point in doing so was to argue that any pain and suffering sustained by the women was due to their own or others’ actions rather than their clients’.”
“Isn’t the real reason you felt stress after the media firestorm was that the state threatened to take away your kids,” attorney Tyler Smith asked.
Of course, those facts never make it into the fundraising letters sent by religious right anti-gay hate groups, who portray the Kleins as good Christians who wouldn’t hurt anyone, and who merely want to serve god.
Last month, the judge ruled against the Kleins.
A state administrative law judge will decide how much, if anything, the Kleins will have to pay theÂ Bowman-Cryers. Prosecutors are asking for $75,000 for each woman, totaling $150,000. Same-sex marriage opponents have already claims for months that the amount has been set and paid, and the Kleins have been bankrupted and lost their business because of the discrimination lawsuit. Of course, not one iota of those charges are true.
Image via Facebook
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Trump Considered Selling Puerto Rico: Ex-DHS Chief
President Donald Trump’s former acting Secretary of Homeland Security says the leader of the free world considered selling Puerto Rico.
Elaine Duke, who describes herself as a lifelong Republican, spoke with The New York Times in a “wide-ranging interview” about her 14 months working for Trump.
“Among her most searing moments during the response to the hurricanes came when she heard Mr. Trump raise the possibility of ‘divesting’ or ‘selling’ Puerto Rico as the island struggled to recover,” the newspaper reported.
“Can we outsource the electricity? Can we can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?” Trump reportedly asked.
Puerto Rico is an American territory, the island’s three million people are American citizens. The territory’s government estimates that 2,975 Americans were killed by the hurricane.
Duke also said she was not ready to support Trump’s re-election.
“That’s a really hard question,” she said. “But given the choices, I don’t know yet.”
Read the full report.
10 Hate Groups Got Millions in COVID-19 Government Loans Intended for Small Businesses
Several groups listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) got millions in government-backed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, money intended for businesses with 10 or fewer employees that have been harmed by the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic.
The groups include the anti-Muslim organization The Center for Security Policy; the two anti-immigrant groups, the Center for Immigration Studies and the Federation for American Immigration Reform; and three rabidly anti-LGBTQ groups, the American Family Association (AFA), Liberty Counsel and the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI).
According to the SPLC, all three groups regularly fight against LGBTQ civil rights. The PJI has said gay marriage would lead to legalized polygamy and incest, LGBT History Month in schools promotes gay pornography, and compared gay marriage to Nazism.
Spokespeople for the Liberty Counsel have called homosexuality immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive; called same-sex marriage “destructive to individuals and … our very social fabric,” has said gay marriage would lead to a “rampant increase in diseases,” and have called LGBTQ rights a “direct assault on our religious freedom and freedom of speech.” The group is currently suing a Connecticut school board in order to ban transgender students from participating in high school sports.
The Liberty Counsel received somewhere between $350,000 and $1 million from the PPP program, and the Pacific Justice Institute received between $150,000 and $350,000.
The AFA has called transgender people sexual predators and child molesters, declared homosexuality as hazardous to one’s health, said Islam is a religion of intolerance and war, and claimed that gay men were responsible for “Adolph Hitler… the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.”
“Many of these groups that traffic in hate are already well-resourced, with a constant injection of funding from far-right mega-donors and dark money foundations,” Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of the Arizona branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said to the Center for Media and Democracy.
“This just highlights more cases of vital funding getting into the hands of those who didn’t need it, while many small businesses in our communities came up empty and are having to fold,” Siddiqi added.
Facebook & Instagram Ban All Content Promoting So-Called “Ex-Gay” Conversion Therapy
On Friday, Facebook and Instagram announced a ban on all videos, images, and written content promoting so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy or reparative therapy, a widely disavowed and debunked form of psychological torture that purports to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The social media giant which owns both platforms said that the ban was merely an expansion of its policies banning hate speech and a progression of its pre-existing ban on conversion therapy ads.
“We don’t allow attacks against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity and are updating our policies to ban the promotion of conversion therapy services,” said Tara Hopkins, Instagram’s public policy director for Africa, Europe and the Middle East, although the ban will apply to the U.S., South America and Australia as well.
Although Twitter and Vimeo both have bans on similar content, it’s unclear whether YouTube does as well. The Google-owned video-sharing platform came under fire in June 2018 for running conversion therapy ads before videos made by LGBTQ content creators. At the time, the platform said it didn’t allow ads that promote hatred or illegal services, but that could feasibly allow such ads to continue running in the 30 states where the practice remains legal.
Religious conservatives have previously fought bans on the practice as violations of their constitutionally protected rights to “free speech” and “religious freedom.” Proponents say that people should have the right to rid themselves of “same-sex attraction” and “gender confusion.”
However, the actual methods of ex-gay therapy have never been proven to actually change anyone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Such programs often tell clients to avoid masturbation, to exercise to exhaustion, to view queerness as physically disgusting or threatening to one’s health, or to “reframe” one’s desire onto opposite-sex partners. Other practitioners have used electroshock therapy, molestation, sexual assault, forced medication, or strict gender-typed dress and grooming codes to try and change people.
A 2013 survey said 84 percent of former ex-gay therapy clients still feel lasting shame and emotional harm from undergoing such “therapies.” Numerous conversion therapy advocates later come out as still gay, admitting that it doesn’t work and apologizing for ruining lives while lying to people about its effectiveness.
Most Americans oppose conversion therapy and almost every major American psychological, health and pediatric association does as well. In the past, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear cases challenging the constitutionality of conversion therapy bans as violations against religious freedom, but it remains unclear whether the court will continue to refuse such cases now that it has a more conservative majority.
While the bans are helpful, some states still allow the harmful practice to be marketed towards adults or to everyone under the guise of “religious counseling.” Even states that ban the practice still allow abusive “teen discipline” work camps where parents send their queer and “troubled” youth to be “straightened out.”
Featured image by Daniel Tobias. (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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