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BREAKING: Horrific Anti-LGBT ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill Passes Mississippi Legislature

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Mississippi Senate Passes ‘Worst Religious Freedom Bill to Date,’ And Gov. Phil Bryant Has Indicated He’ll Sign It 

The Mississippi Senate approved a sweeping anti-LGBT religious freedom bill late Wednesday. The bill heads back to the House for technical reasons but will soon be sent to the desk of Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who has expressed support for it. 

The Senate voted 31-17 to approve House Bill 1523, known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” which would allow individuals, businesses, government employees, nonprofits and other entities to discriminate against not only LGBT people, but also anyone who’s had extramarital sex, based on their sincerely held religious beliefs.  

“This legislation moves Mississippi backward, undermining equality for its residents and jeopardizing its ability to attract and retain fair-minded businesses,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement prior to the bill’s passage. “Governor Byrant should be paying close attention to the backlash against discrimination in Georgia, where Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a terrible anti-LGBT bill, and in North Carolina, where fair-minded people and the broader business community are calling on state leaders to repudiate and repeal the discriminatory law passed last week. Mississippi’s economy and its reputation hang in the balance.”

Ben Needham, director of Project One America, an LGBT advocacy group in the Deep South, told BuzzFeed News that HB 1523 is “probably the worst religious freedom bill to date.” 

GOP Sen. Jenifer Branning, who introduced the bill, said it was drafted in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in favor of same-sex marriage last June. 

“This isn’t a bill to allow any type of discrimination at all. As a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite,” Branning said. “It’s about protecting the religious freedom of those who don’t feel they can with a clean conscience assist a same-sex couple.”

Democratic Sen. Derrick Simmons, who’s black, spoke against the bill, invoking Mississippi’s long history of racial discrimination. 

“Can we afford with Mississippi’s dark past, can we afford in 2016, to pass anything that can be construed as discrimination?” Simmons said. “People were actually taken brutally from their homes and they were killed based upon what some considered to be, ‘This is my religious belief’ based on ‘We don’t want any mixing of the races.'” 

Democratic Sen. John Hohrn, also black, cited three Bible verses that implore slaves to “obey their earthly masters.” 

“These are examples of how religion and how the Bible was used to justify slavery,” Hohrn said. “So what I’m saying to you today is that religion isn’t always right about things, isn’t always just about things, because people use religion. … We don’t need to put another stain on Mississippi.”

HB 1523 would bar the state from taking action against anyone who discriminates based on their belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman, that sexual relations should be reserved to such a union, or that “male” and “female” refer to someone’s “immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”

More from HRC on some of the implications: 

Tax-payer funded faith-based organizations could: refuse to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples for provision of critical services including emergency shelter; deny children in need of loving homes placement with LGBT families including the child’s own family member; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBT person — even if the organization receives government funding. As introduced, H.B. 1523 would also give foster families the freedom to subject an LGBTQ child to the dangerous practice of “conversion therapy,” and subject a pregnant unwed girl to abuse, without fear of government intervention or license suspension. It would even allow individuals to refuse to carry out the terms of a state contract for the provision of counseling services to all eligible individuals, including veterans, based on the counselor’s beliefs about LGBT people or single mothers.

Furthermore, schools, employers and service providers could implement sex-specific dress and grooming standards, as well as refuse transgender people access to the appropriate sex-segregated facilities, consistent with their gender identity — all in conflict with the United States Department of Justice’s enforcement of federal law. H.B. 1523 even legalizes Kim Davis-style discrimination by allowing government employees to abdicate their duties and refuse to license or solemnize marriages for LGBT people. 

 

 

 

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OPINION

SCOTUS Justices Appear to Want to Toss Obstruction Charges Against Some J6 Defendants: Experts

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Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court appeared skeptical of a law used to prosecute over 300 January 6 defendants, and Donald Trump, as they heard oral arguments Tuesday.

“A decision rejecting the government’s interpretation of the law could not only disrupt those prosecutions but also eliminate two of the federal charges against former President Donald J. Trump in the case accusing him of plotting to subvert the 2020 election,” The New York Times reports.

“January 6 insurrectionists had a great day in the Supreme Court today,” Vox‘s Ian Millhiser reported. “Most of the justices seem to want to make it harder to prosecute January 6 rioters.”

Millhiser on social media put it this way: “On Monday, the Supreme Court effectively eliminated the right to hold a Black Lives Matter protest in three US states. On Tuesday, the same justices were very, very afraid that January 6 insurrectionists are being treated unfairly.”

READ MORE: ‘Scared to Death’: GOP Ex-Congressman Brings Hammer Down on ‘Weak’ Trump

Right-wing justices on the Supreme Court suggested the law, which makes it a crime to obstruct an official proceeding, could be used too broadly.

“Would a sit-in that disrupts a trial or access to a federal courthouse qualify?” Justice Neil Gorsuch asked, as NBC News reported. “Would a heckler in today’s audience qualify, or at the State of the Union address? Would pulling a fire alarm before a vote, qualify for 20 years in federal prison?”

Some legal experts appeared stunned and disappointed by the right-wing justices’ remarks.

“In oral argument today, Justice [Clarence] Thomas is minimizing the severity of the 1/6 insurrection at the Capitol. Perhaps that’s because his wife was part of the conspiracy. What a disgrace that he’s sitting on this case,” attorney and frequent CNN guest Jeffrey Toobin commented.

READ MORE: ‘I Have a Bucket of Water’: Dems to Save Johnson’s Job Over GOPer Who Wants ‘World to Burn

“The text of the obstruction law the Supreme Court is considering today pretty clearly applies to January 6 defendants. Will the purportedly textualist conservative majority, as in Trump v. Anderson, once again bypass text to avoid accountability for Trump and his supporters?” asked former federal corruption prosecutor Noah Bookbinder, who is now president of the government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

“Supreme Court expressed concern that Jan 6 prosecutions could chill violent insurrections against democracy,” wrote Scott Shapiro, a Yale Law School professor of law and professor of philosophy.

Elie Mystal, The Nation’s justice correspondent, did not hold back.

“The six conservative justices are absolutely trying to figure out how to throw out the obstruction charges against their cousins and wives and pledge brothers who attacked the Capitol on January 6,” he wrote.

Similar to Millhiser’s comparison, Mystal remarked, “If you think that trash you just heard from the Supreme Court about protecting J6 rioters will *ever* be applied to peaceful Black protesters, think again.”

READ MORE: ‘Something’s Fishy Here’: Trump’s Latest $175 Million Bond Filings Questioned by Experts

 

Image via Shutterstock

 

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‘I Have a Bucket of Water’: Dems to Save Johnson’s Job Over GOPer Who Wants ‘World to Burn’

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Mike Johnson can count on at least some Democrats to save his job after a second Republican announced he supports U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene‘s efforts to remove the embattled GOP Speaker of the House. Weeks ago Greene filed a motion to “vacate the chair,” which she can call up at any time to force a vote that could lead to Johnson losing his gavel.

“I just told Mike Johnson in conference that I’m cosponsoring the Motion to Vacate,” U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) declared late Tuesday morning. “He should pre-announce his resignation (as Boehner did), so we can pick a new Speaker without ever being without a GOP Speaker.”

“You’re not going to be the speaker much longer,” Massie directly told Speaker Johnson, Politico reports, citing two lawmakers in the room.

Asked by a social media user, “What was the straw that broke the Camel’s Back? FISA? Foreign War Funding? Spending more than Nancy Pelosi? All of the above?” Massie replied: “All of the above. This camel has a pallet of bricks.”

Like many far-right House Republicans, Massie is furious Speaker Johnson plans to put on the floor foreign aid and national security legislation to support Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan this week, only after Iran’s attack on Israel over the weekend forced his hand.

“Friday, we have one less Republican in the majority as Rep Gallagher leaves instead of finishing his term,” Massie wrote earlier Tuesday morning, referring to exiting U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI). “As a going away gift, Speaker Johnson plans to force the senate to take up Gallagher’s bill to ban tiktok and give Presidential power to ban websites.”

READ MORE: ‘Something’s Fishy Here’: Trump’s Latest $175 Million Bond Filings Questioned by Experts

“But still no border,” Massie lamented, referring to Republicans’ top priority after Donald Trump made clear he will campaign on an anti-immigrant platform and urged Republicans to block bipartisan legislation to fund additional border security.

(President Joe Biden and Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer supported the Senate’s bipartisan bill, which would have provided aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and a massive increase in border security. It was killed in the Senate after Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled his support in response to Trump’s remarks.)

Congresswoman Greene, who was accused by U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz last week of not having enough votes to “rename a post office,” much less unseat Speaker Johnson, responded to Massie’s remarks:

“Johnson is the Deep State Speaker of the House funding the Democrat’s agenda in an omnibus, blocking warrant requirements for FISA, this week ramming through billions for Ukraine, and now this after allowing Gallagher to leave his district without representation. Can’t continue.”

She also posted Massie’s signature signing onto her Motion to Vacate.

In a show of support for Johnson, last week Donald Trump held a joint press conference with the embattled Speaker, during which both attacked immigrants and Johnson vowed legislation to ban non-citizens from voting. It is already a federal felony for non-citizens to vote.

CNN’s Manu Raju reports, “after Gallagher resigns — Johnson would almost certainly need Democrats to save his job if the motion to oust him comes up for a vote. Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz says he would save Mike Johnson’s job if MTG [Marjorie Taylor Greene] brings motion to oust him.  Others like Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi also said they would vote to save Johnson  ‘Democrats don’t even let her rename post offices, I’m not gonna let her make a motion to vacate,’ Moskowitz told me.”

Moskowitz responded, saying: “My position hasn’t changed. Massie wants the world to burn, I won’t stand by and watch. I have a bucket of water.”

READ MORE: ‘Scared to Death’: GOP Ex-Congressman Brings Hammer Down on ‘Weak’ Trump
 

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‘Something’s Fishy Here’: Trump’s Latest $175 Million Bond Filings Questioned by Experts

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Attorneys for Donald Trump waited until less than two hours before midnight Monday to file revisions to the ex-president’s $175 million bond for the judgment in his civil fraud case after New York State Attorney General Letitia James questioned the validity of his first bond. Legal experts are now questioning details of the new bond filings. Some suggest a portion of the $175 million might also currently be in use to secure other debts or obligations.

After Trump was found liable for manipulation of his net worth in the civil business fraud case and ordered to pay a $354.9 million penalty plus interest, he was required to post bond to ensure the people of the State of New York would receive $454.2 million if his appeal is unsuccessful.

“The judge said that the former president’s ‘complete lack of contrition’ bordered on pathological,” The New York Times reported two months ago.

Trump’s attorneys later declared it impossible for him to come up with a bond of that amount, and an appeals court drastically reduced the required bond amount to $175 million.

READ MORE: ‘Your Client Is a Criminal Defendant’: Judge Denies Trump Request to Skip Trial for SCOTUS

After 10 PM Monday night, ahead of the midnight deadline, attorneys for Donald Trump in court filings said the $175 million bond is secured, and is tied to a Trump account at Charles Schwab that has over $175 million in cash, CNN reports. The filing states the California company securing the bond, Knight Specialty Insurance Company (KSIC),  has administrative access to it and can pay out the $175 million if needed.

Trump’s attorneys “asked the judge to set aside the attorney general’s challenge to the bond and award him costs and fees.”

Professor of law Andrew Weissmann, a frequent MSNBC legal analyst and former Dept. of Justice official, is raising questions.

“Something’s fishy here,” he wrote late Monday night. “If Trump has $175M free and clear, why not just directly post it and not pay a fee for a surety bond? And the agreement does not give Knight a lien on the account as collateral and seems to afford Trump a two-day window to dissipate the account.”

A screenshot of a portion of the filing, posted by MSNBC’s Lisa Rubin, states, “Schwab, as custodian of the account, has acknowledged KSIC’s right to exercise control over the account within two business days of receiving notice from KSIC of KSIC’s intent to activate the control.”

Attorney and journalist Seth Abramson in a series of posts on social media claimed, “so this is looking very bad for Donald Trump. He says in his Monday night filing that the Schwab account has $175.3 million *in total*, so *if* Axos Bank is depending on that same account for a (semi-)liquid $100M in collateral on another loan, this bond filing is DOA.”

After asking, “Is Trump double-dipping?” Abramson posted more details.

NCRM has not verified those claims.

Attorney Lupe B. Luppen adds, “it took about ten seconds from opening the account security agreement to find a significant drafting error, which makes the signature page look like it belongs to a different agreement (DJT Jr’s attestation identifies the wrong secured party—a Chubb co.).”

READ MORE: ‘Scared to Death’: GOP Ex-Congressman Brings Hammer Down on ‘Weak’ Trump

Late Monday night on MSNBC Weissmann “expressed incredulity,” as Mediaite reported, saying of Trump and his bond: “It is just so remarkable. This is somebody who has been found by two juries to have defamed somebody, who has been found to have sexually assaulted somebody – the company of which has been found criminally liable for a decade-long tax conspiracy, criminally, and has been found to have committed fraud, has to post a bond of $175 million, is on trial starting today for a criminal case involving 34 felonies.”

“And he can’t find a frigging company that is registered in New York? Meaning, that they are licensed to do business here, which it appears they are not, and that has the wherewithal to pay the money because remember, the whole point is that you either have to put up the money now or you have to find a bond company that is sufficiently liquid that the plaintiff can look to that bond company if at the end of the day the judgment is affirmed.”

Attorney General Letitia James earlier had alleged KSIC, the company that secured the bond, was not registered to do so in New York. Experts questioned the language of that filing, claiming it did not require the company that secured the bond to actually pay out $175 million should Trump lose his appeal and be ordered to pay the full amount.

Calling it a “bizarre contract,” earlier this month The Daily Beast reported, “the legal document from Knight Specialty Insurance Company doesn’t actually promise it will pay the money if the former president loses his $464 million bank fraud case on appeal. Instead, it says Trump will pay, negating the whole point of an insurance company guarantee.”

READ MORE: ‘Not a Good Start’: Judge Slams Trump’s ‘Offensive’ Recusal Claims as a ‘Loose End’

 

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