Expert Says Georgia Senator’s First Amendment Defense Act Is ‘RFRA on Steroids’
If 2015 was the year of RFRA madness, 2016 may be all about FADA fever.Â
The bad news is, so-called First Amendment Defense Acts (FADAs) are generally worse than Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs). In fact, one LGBT legal expert called Georgia’s FADA â€œRFRA on steroids.â€Â
This week, Georgia freshman GOP state Sen. Greg Kirk â€” a former Southern Baptist pastor â€” introduced a state version of a proposed federal law designed to give virtually every individual and entity â€” from government employees and contractors to for-profit businesses â€” a license toÂ discriminate against same-sexÂ couples, even legally-maried ones, and their children. Similar bills have been introduced in at least four other states,Â Illinois and Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington.Â
Kirk, who is in his first term, was elected in 2014 and won the GOP primary by just 222 votes. There was no Democratic challenger.
â€œThe consequences of FADA would be devastating, if upheld,â€ constitutional law scholar Anthony M. Kreis writes at GeorgiaPol.com. “The fear ofÂ discrimination against LGBT persons, women, and others, that stokesÂ opposition to the proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act is â€“ unlike [with] RFRA â€” a feature of FADA and not a bug.”Â
â€” Robbie Medwed (@rjmedwed) January 22, 2016
Kirk’s Senate Bill 284 would prohibit government from “taking discriminatory action” based on a person’s belief thatÂ â€œmarriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one womanâ€ or that â€œsexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.â€Â
In other words, SB 284Â could allow any “person”Â â€” which the billÂ defines as “any individual, corporation, partnership, proprietorship, firm, enterprise, association, public or private organization of any character, or other legal entity” â€” to discriminate against gay couples, their children, single parents, unmarried couples, pregnant women and others, based on religion.Â
â€” Robbie Medwed (@rjmedwed) January 21, 2016
Although some are calling it “the Kim Davis bill,” Kirk maintained at a press conference Thursday SB 284Â wouldn’t allow government employees to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
However, KreisÂ notes that SB 284 doesn’t define “public officer” or “official duties.” Moreover, he writes, the bill would violate free speech and equal protection under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, respectively, because it favors a particular viewpoint and singles out LGBT people.Â
“Do not be fooled,” he writes. “FADA is not an accommodation law for religious objectors. It is, however, a blunt tool to browbeat and demean LGBT Georgians, unconventional families, and unmarried individuals deemed morally corrupt.â€Â
Lambda LegalÂ called Kirk’s bill “divisive” and “dangerous,” saying it would unleash “legal havoc” and effectivelyÂ treat for-profit businesses like churches.Â
“It encourages discrimination, invites litigation, and collides with fundamental rights protected under the US Constitution,” the group said.Â
The Human Rights Campaign called SB 284 “despicable” and “reckless,” adding that it “threatens to create a breakdown of state government services.” And Georgia Equality said the FADA “flouts the rule of law.”
â€” Katie Foody (@katiefoody) January 21, 2016
“This legislation sets a dangerous precedent â€” we canâ€™t pick and choose which laws we want to follow based on our personal beliefs,” Georgia Equality wrote. â€œThis bill not only exposes married same-sex couples and their children in Georgia to harm, but it risks imperiling our stateâ€™s economy.”Â
The bill could cost the stateâ€™s economy $1 billion, according to Georgia Equality, which pointed toÂ recent surveys showing damage to Indiana’s business reputation as a result of the state’s passage of a RFRA in 2015. After weeks of intense economic backlash, the Indiana Legislature passed an emergency “fix” clarifying that the RFRA doesn’t sanction anti-LGBT discrimination.Â
Kirk claims his bill â€” which would also nullify local nondiscrimination ordinances â€” is needed to protect business owners against being “criminalized.”Â
Watch Kirk’s press conference below.Â
Some responses via Twitter:
And once again, the party claiming to be for â€œsmall governmentâ€ is trying to legislate morality – poorly. #gapol
â€” Robbie Medwed (@rjmedwed) January 20, 2016
â€” Robbie Medwed (@rjmedwed) January 21, 2016
Sen Kirk’s #fada allows non govt ppl n entities to deny services to queers, just go to the next homeless shelter over if they won’t serve u
â€” Regina Tweeta (@regina_tweeta) January 21, 2016
â€” Georgia Unites (@GeorgiaUnites) January 21, 2016
â€” Robbie Medwed (@rjmedwed) January 21, 2016
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Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Author Indicted on Federal Fraud Charges: DOJ
Florida Republican state lawmaker Joe Harding, the author of the highly-criticized and some say unconstitutional “Don’t Say Gay” law, has been indicted by a U.S. Dept. of Justice grand jury on federal fraud charges.
“A federal grand jury has returned a six-count indictment against Joseph Harding, 35, of Williston, Florida,” the Justice Dept. said in a press release, detailing an alleged scheme, which included obtaining “fraudulently created bank statements,” to defraud the U.S. Government’s Small Business Administration of $150,000.
The felony charges include wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements.
The DOJ indictment also alleges, “Harding committed two acts of wire fraud by participating in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA) and for obtaining coronavirus-related small business loans by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, and for the purpose of executing such scheme, caused wire communications to be transmitted in interstate commerce.”
Trial is scheduled for next month. DOJ says Harding could be subject to as many as 35 years in prison should he be found guilty on all charges.
Harding’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis not only signed into law but used, via his then-press secretary to further attacks on the LGBTQ community, doubled-down on one of his key components: outing LGBTQ children to their parents.
The legislation, technically named the “Parental Rights in Education” Act, prohibits “classroom instruction” on sexual orientation or gender identity in certain school grades, but as expected, has been seen as “confusing” and a total ban on any discussion of LGBTQ issues.
Making clear the legislation’s intent, Florida GOP lawmakers voted down an proposed by a Democrat that would require schools create a safe environment for LGBTQ children.
“Those are serious allegations of corruption,” Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith told Florida Politics, which first reported the news. “The courts will sort through that sordid mess but we know he’s made many false statements about the LGBTQ community. Florida parents are forced to navigate schools that are less safe for their children because Joe Harding’s political ambitions know no bounds.”
This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change.
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‘Plot Thickens’: Trump Ally Claimed He No Longer Had Storage Facility Where Classified Docs Were Found – NYT Reporter
People close to Donald Trump appear to have been misleading reporters as The Washington Post, The New York Times, and CNN all broke news regarding the stunning revelation more classified documents were found among items Trump had shipped from federal government offices to Florida – this time, to a storage facility in West Palm Beach.
The Washington Post broke the news that the Trump legal time had hired a third party to search for classified documents, after the Dept. of Justice remained unconvinced all classified documents Trump had removed from the White House had been retrieved or returned.
As it turned out, this latest batch, which The Post now reports were only two classified documents, had been shipped not from the White House but from a federal office building in Virginia Trump and his team had been using after he left the White House.
The Post in its initial story had reported its sources said no classified documents had been found. It later updated that report, including the title of the article which now reads: “Items with classified markings found at Trump storage unit in Florida.”
“Trump’s lawyers have told the Justice Department that the outside team did not turn up any new classified information during their search of Bedminster and Trump Tower, according to people familiar with the process, and have said they utilized a firm that had expertise in searching for documents,” The Post added.
Outside of her reporting with Alan Feuer at The New York Times, Maggie Haberman noted the deception or lack of information her sources presented.
“People close to the former president had insisted earlier Wednesday that no classified material had been found at any of the facilities,” Haberman tweeted, which turned out to be false.
“One person close to Trump previously insisted he didn’t have the storage facility anymore,” which was also false.
“The plot thickens,” observed constitutional law expert and retired Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, “as more criminally mishandled classified documents turn up at yet another venue. Trump’s skeletons seem to be buried in an ever-expanding array of places.”
Attorney Teri Kanefield suggested there’s more to this story.
“The thing to remember about this rapidly shifting more-classified-documents story is that the information seems to be coming entirely from Team Trump,” she tweeted. “Something is going on . . . but we don’t know what.”
“If I recall correctly, the 11th Circuit’s mandate in the MAL [Mar-a-Lago] docs case issues tomorrow. Trump has to not only appeal but also get an emergency stay before that or the Special Master process is officially dead.”
‘Are You Kidding Me?’ Legal Experts Stunned as More Trump Classified Docs Discovered – at a Florida Storage Facility
Attorneys for Donald Trump have located more classified documents, in addition to the 300 that federal agents retrieved while executing a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. These newly discovered classified documents were sent from a federal office building in Washington, D.C. to a private external storage facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, which is near the ex-president’s resort and residence..
The stunning revelation of more classified documents being found, even after a Trump attorney attested in June they had been told by the ex-president there were no more classified documents, comes after Trump’s attorneys hired a third party to search four of his properties for classified documents.
The Washington Post, which first reported on the additional classified documents, adds, “emails show that GSA [the federal General Services Administration] and Trump staffers worked together to arrange to ship several pallets of boxes and other items weighing more than 3,000 pounds from Northern Virginia to the Florida storage unit in September 2021.”
The GSA worked with the Trump team to help “secure the storage unit at a private facility in West Palm Beach on July 21, 2021,” which is 18 months after Trump left office.
“People familiar with the matter said the storage unit had a mix of boxes, gifts, suits and clothes, among other things. ‘It was suits and swords and wrestling belts and all sorts of things,’ this person said. ‘To my knowledge, he has never even been to that storage unit. I don’t think anyone in Trump world could tell you what’s in that storage unit.'”
As The Post notes, the existence of additional classified material, outside the ex-president’s Florida home, “indicates Mar-a-Lago was not the only place where Trump kept classified material. It also provides further evidence that Trump and his team did not fully comply with a May grand jury subpoena that sought all documents marked classified still in possession of the post-presidential office.”
Legal experts are stunned.
“Are you kidding me?” asked former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, now a law professor and MSNBC legal analyst. “How many more classified does he have?”
Another former U.S. Attorney turned law professor and MSNBC contributor, Joyce Vance, appeared to question how the classified documents got there.
“Trump lawyers found classified items at a storage unit GSA arranged for Trump in Florida, turning them over to the FBI. Trump sources say items were packed in No. Va, sent down & Trump had no idea what was there, but they had to get in there somehow?”
“Astounding,” comments former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. He adds, “It appears that Trump’s own team doesn’t have a good handle on all the government documents in his possession, despite a criminal investigation.”
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