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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Questions Whether LGBT Civil Rights Are ‘Necessary or Even Possible’

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GOP Incumbent Says ‘Religious Freedom’ Takes Precedence Over Nondiscrimination

For a brief moment during Indiana Gov. Mike Pence‘s State of the State Address on Tuesday, it sounded as though he might have learned his lesson from the state and national outcry over his decision to sign an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” law last year.

It sounded as though, after 10 months of studying the issue, Pence would finally heed the calls of Democrats, some business-minded Republicans, LGBT advocates and hundreds of the state’s employers, by endorsing a statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“Our state Constitution declares that all people are created equal, and I believe that no one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are, who they love, or what they believe,” Pence said near the end of his widely anticipated speech. “We cherish the dignity and worth of all our citizens. Here in Indiana, we are an open and welcoming state that welcomes anyone, and anyone that doesn’t know that doesn’t know Indiana.”

Then, things took a dramatic turn for the worse.

“Hoosiers also cherish faith, and the freedom to live out their faith in their daily lives,” Pence added. “Whether you work in a church or a synagogue or a temple or a mosque, religion brings meaning to the daily lives of millions of Hoosiers and no one should ever fear persecution because of their deeply held religious beliefs.” 

RELATED: As New Poll Shows 70% Support LGBT Protections, Mike Pence Says ‘Hoosiers Will Know Where I Stand’

Pence told lawmakers the question they face is “whether it is necessary or even possible” to pass LGBT protections while also preserving religious freedom.  

“Our Supreme Court has actually made it clear that our state Constitution protects both belief and practice,” Pence told said. “So, as you go about your work on other issues, know that I will always give careful consideration to any bill that you send me, but legislation must be consistent with the Indiana Constitution. I will not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or interferes with the Constitutional rights of our citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service or work.”

With that, Pence appeared to dash any hopes that the Legislature will pass a nondiscrimination law in 2016 that has the blessing of LGBT groups. According to professor Sheila Suess Kennedy, former director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, the governor also committed political suicide. 

“He has chosen his side — the religious extremists, the people who really do not believe that gay and lesbian Hoosiers should be entitled to equal rights,” Kennedy told The Indianapolis Star. “And he is certainly entitled to do that, but I think politically it was suicide.”

In November, Pence will face Democrat John Gregg, who supports adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Indiana’s existing civil rights law. 

“Once again Mike Pence has proven he’s just an officeholder, not a leader,” Gregg said in a statement responding to Pence’s speech. “On issue after issue critical to the state of Indiana, he passes the buck, rather than doing the job he was elected to do. His refusal to take a stand for equality is unconscionable given the fact that he created this mess, which continues to damage Indiana’s economy and reputation.” 

Drew Anderson, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, called Pence “delusional,” saying the governor’s decision to sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 2015 “threw Indiana into a $250 million economic panic.” In response to intense backlash over RFRA, lawmakers quickly passed an emergency “fix,” but LGBT groups say it doesn’t go far enough. Indiana remains one of about 30 states where anti-LGBT discrimination is legal, although cities like Indianapolis have passed local bans. 

“Mike Pence doesn’t ‘abhor discrimination’ — he actively promotes it, and that is why Indiana’s ‘Hoosier Hospitality’ reputation is in jeopardy,” Anderson said in response to Pence’s speech. 

This year, Indiana GOP lawmakers have introduced several bills purporting to ban anti-LGBT discrimination that contain broad religious exemptions. Lambda Legal, the LGBT civil rights group, said those bills “fail miserably to address the very real issues facing LGBT Hoosiers today.”

“Let’s remember the national fury unleashed on Indiana last spring, when the legislature passed, and Governor Pence signed, a religious refusal law that allowed businesses and service providers to discriminate against LGBT people,” Lambda Legal’s Christopher Clark said. “It is clear from tonight’s address that Governor Pence forgot all about it and he has once again, started to back himself into that same corner.”

The Human Rights Campaign accused Pence of “punting” on the issue of LGBT rights, and Freedom Indiana called his speech “a complete letdown.” 

Not surprisingly, though, socially conservative lawmakers and groups rallied to the governor’s defense. 

Ron Johnson Jr., executive director of the Indiana Pastors Alliance, told The Indy Star that Pence made a “pretty strong statement” and that LGBT protections would mean “people’s religious beliefs, and in particular here Christianity and Christian beliefs, become criminalized, because if you believe what the Bible says about sexuality, you are now a bigot.” 

RELATED: Indiana GOP Gov. Mike Pence Sends Pride Letter, Just Can’t Bring Himself To Mention LGBT People

“That’s what the law tells you — that it is a terrible thing for people of faith who simply respectfully disagree with the LGBT community,” Johnson said. 

Ironically, Pence concluded his speech by reciting lyrics from “Back Home Again in Indiana,” a song made famous by openly gay musician Jim Naibors, who sang it before the Indianapolis 500 for 30 years. 

“For the moonlight is still fair tonight along the Wabash, and from the fields still comes the breath of new mown hay,” Pence said. “The candle lights are still gleaming, thro’ the sycamores, on the banks of the Wabash, far away.” 

Below are a few more reactions to Pence’s speech from Twitter:

 

EARLIER:

Indiana GOP Introduces Nondiscrimination Bill LGBT Group Calls ‘Road Map For Discrimination’

Guess How Much $$ Indiana Spent Fighting Against Marriage Equality In Court

Indiana Spends Millions On PR Firm To Fix Image Fallout From ‘Religious Freedom’ Fight

 

 

Image: Screenshot via RTV6 | The Indy Channel/YouTube 

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COMMENTARY

FDR, JFK, and LBJ: White House (Finally) Takes (Cautious) Victory Lap on Biden’s (Huge) Successes

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The White House is coming off a year of approval rating declines, thanks in large part to Republican obstruction and attacks, but President Joe Biden, Democrats, and the nation now have a lot to celebrate.

“We now have a presidency where the president has delivered the largest economic recovery plan since Roosevelt, the largest infrastructure plan since Eisenhower, the most judges confirmed since Kennedy, the second largest health care bill since Johnson and the largest climate change bill in history,” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, not known for bragging, told Politico’s Ryan Lizza. “The first time we’ve done gun control since President Clinton was here, the first time ever an African American woman has been put on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“I think it’s a record to take to the American people,” Klain added.

Lizza and Eugene Daniels of Politico’s Playbook note, “At the start of the summer, this conversation would have been vastly different. Now, gas prices have dropped, and the last CPI report hints that inflation may finally be trending down after hitting a peak. Election forecasters are writing pieces at least entertaining the idea that Democrats might not suffer the long-predicted midterm wipeout. And there’s that burst of legislative victories that were squeezed out of Congress in July and August that had Biden, a lover of alliteration, calling this period ‘a season of substance.’”

The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly observes, “Klain’s references to historical figures chimes with Biden’s own interests. The president has regularly consulted historians, among them Doris Kearns Goodwin, Michael Beschloss and Eddie Glaude Jr, while Jon Meacham, a biographer of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and George HW Bush, has been a close adviser in shaping Biden’s effort to restore ‘the soul of the nation’ after the presidency of Donald Trump.”

Pengelly adds: “Democrats control Congress by narrow margins. Opposition parties commonly do well in the first elections of a presidential term, and Republicans remain favoured to take control of one or both chambers. But legislative successes, most recently the passage of a major domestic and climate crisis spending plan, the Inflation Reduction Act, have given Democrats hope.”

With just 80 days to Election Day – less, if you include early voting – FiveThirtyEight put the likelihood of Democrats retaining their Senate majority at 63 in 100 chances, but give Republicans 78 in 100 chances of taking over the House.

You can hear Chief of Staff Ron Klain on Politico’s podcast here.

 

Image: Official White House Photo by Erin Scott via Flickr and a CC license

 

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Trump Is Privately Admitting Dr. Oz Will ‘F–king Lose’: Report

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Donald Trump has a long list more than 200 hand-picked candidates he’s endorsed, and he’s very proud of his record – for the most part.

Dr. Oz is going to “fucking lose” his race for a U.S. Senate seat “unless something drastically changes, Trump has said privately of his chosen man in the Keystone State, according to two sources who’ve discussed the midterm election with the ex-president,” Rolling Stone reports.

The magazine adds, “the former president is coming to the same conclusion that numerous party consultants and conservative bigwigs arrived at earlier this summer: Oz is very likely doomed.”

Trump seems to be taking this projected loss personally, given the Pennsylvania GOP nominee, like himself, has wide name-recognition thanks to his TV show.

READ MORE: Dr. Oz Trounced in Newsmax Interview as Host Demands Explanation for ‘Wegner’s’ and ‘Crudité’ Ad

“In recent weeks, some Trump allies have repeatedly flagged polling for the former president showing Dr. Oz down, at times by wide or double-digit margins, to his Democratic opponent. Trump has sometimes responded by asking advisers how it’s possible that someone who was that popular on TV for so long is doing so poorly in the polls. When Trump has inquired if the polling has been ‘phony’ or skewed, multiple people close to him have assured him that — as one of the sources describes to Rolling Stone — ‘this is not a matter of the polls being ‘rigged,’ there are major problems with this campaign and, more specifically, this candidate.'”

Indeed, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who suffered a stroke just days before winning the Democratic primary for that Senate seat, is beating Oz in polls by double digits. One recent GOP insider poll showed Fetterman beating Oz by 18 points. The latest Fox News poll shows Fetterman beating Oz by 11 points.

The Fetterman team is displaying massive political savvy with its mocking memes of the celebrity TV doctor, mostly around his “crudité” video from April. They’ve resurfaced it, making a mockery of the man they already claim doesn’t actually live in Pennsylvania, but is a carpetbagger from New Jersey.

READ MORE: ‘Grifter’ Dr. Oz Mocked for Video Blaming Biden for $6 Salsa as New Disclosure Puts His Wealth at Up to $400 Million

Oz calling Redner’s, a local grocery store chain, “Wegner’s” in the video while complaining about the high cost of vegetables to make “crudité” has not helped the celebrity physician known for selling “diet scams” and “false and baseless medical claims,” and the Fetterman team has milked it for all it’s worth – even creating a parody account for the non-existent supermarket.

37% of respondents in that Fox News poll added they are “extremely” concerned that Mehmet Oz (Dr. Oz) “may not be familiar enough with the state of Pennsylvania to carry out the job of senator effectively.” Just 13% of respondents said they were “extremely” concerned that John Fetterman “may not be healthy enough to carry out the job of senator effectively.”

 

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Fulton County DA Slams Lindsey Graham’s Efforts to Avoid Testifying: Causing ‘Substantial Injury’ to Grand Jury

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Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis is punching back hard at U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s efforts to avoid testifying to the Special Purpose Grand Jury (SPGJ) investigating efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Politico’s Kyle Cheney points to a new court filing in which Willis urges the judge to not indulge Graham’s efforts to delay.

A stay would “significantly harm” and “result in substantial injury to the Special Purpose Grand Jury,” Willis warns. She calls Graham’s testimony “crucial,” and notes that Graham has already delayed the grand jury’s work by six weeks by filing motions in “three separate jurisdictions.”

READ MORE: Georgia DA Says ‘Possible’ Trump Could Be Subpoenaed, Lindsey Graham ‘Doesn’t Understand Seriousness’ of Investigation

Granting Graham’s request “will ensure that the Senator’s involvement with the SPGJ will not be resolved for months.”

She notes on Monday U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May denied Graham’s attempt to delay his testimony, but on Wednesday Graham filed an emergency motion to get the court to grant his request.

In her conclusion she eloquently reminds Sen. Graham and the judge what the law is about.

“Senator Graham insists that he seeks to delay his appearance before the Special Purpose Grand Jury not just for his own sake, but also for the sake of the separation of powers, federalism, and ‘for the People,'” Willis writes. “The Special Purpose Grand Jury, however, is the People: a collection of citizens called together to perform their civic duty on behalf of their neighbors and families. They have sacrificed their time, effort, energy, and attention for months in order to investigate matters that affect themselves, their community, and the nation as a whole. The District Attorney asks that this Court deny Senator Graham’s motion in order that he, for a single day, can assist them in that great task without further delay. The People have requested Senator Graham’s testimony and stand ready to receive it. All that is left is for the Senator to meet them.”

READ MORE: ‘Should Expect to Be Indicted’: Giuliani Now Target of Georgia DA Investigation Into Efforts to Overturn Election – Report

Willis also explains exactly why the grand jury needs his testimony.

“As this Court recognized in its Order, Senator Graham’s testimony is sought by the SPGJ not simply because he possesses necessary and material information but also because he is expected to provide information regarding additional sources of relevant information,” Willis tells the court. “As a result, delaying the Senator’s testimony would not simply postpone his appearance; it would also delay the revelation of an entire category of relevant witnesses or information, each of whom would require additional time and resources to secure on behalf of the SPGJ.”

On Monday, Judge May wrote: “Senator Graham has direct personal knowledge of conversations with Georgia election officials which have been the subject of public dispute as to the nature of his inquiries and requests, including any implicit or overt suggestions to discard ballots or otherwise alter the election results.”

Judge May added, “the District Attorney described Senator Graham as a ‘necessary and material witness in [the Special Purpose Grand Jury] investigation’ not only because of his personal knowledge of the phone calls with Georgia election officials, but also because he possesses ‘unique knowledge’ concerning ‘the Trump Campaign and other known and unknown individuals involved in the multi-state, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.’”

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