‘Sweeping New Right to Discriminate’: Legal Experts Warn on Latest Anti-LGBTQ SCOTUS Case That’s ‘Unlikely to Go Well’
The far-right U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday made an unusual move: it will hear arguments in a legal battle that effectively doesn’t even exist. The Court is once again diving headfirst into a First Amendment case involving the rights of LGBTQ people to exist and function equally in American society and religious right extremists who are demanding special rights to impose their beliefs on top of valid laws.
The Court this fall will hear arguments of a Colorado Christian who says she wants to expand her business into producing wedding websites but doesn’t want to do business with LGBTQ couples, who she says violate her religious beliefs.
Lorie Smith has not expanded her business and has not been approached by any same-sex couples to produce a wedding website for them. No one has been harmed in the “case,” which officially is 303 Creative v. Elenis. Some say since no harm has been shown, the Supreme Court should not have taken the case, but it’s clear they have an agenda.
Smith wants to post a statement saying she will not work with same-sex couples, but that would violate Colorado’s non-discrimination law. She could just set up shop and decide what to do if she is approached by a same-sex couple. Instead, the Supreme Court’s ultra-conservative (and some say theocratic) justices on the right have decided this case merits their review.
NBC News’ Pete Williams reports that “a federal appeals court ruled that her refusal and her proposed statement would violate Colorado’s anti-discrimination law.”
The Court has already made clear how it views the case. Smith is not a small business person but “an artist,” being “compelled,” which implies they see the case as an issue of free speech and freedom of expression:
The “Supreme Court said it would take up the case to consider ‘whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.'”
“Spoiler alert,” warns Vox’s Ian Millhiser. “This is unlikely to go well for LGBTQ people.”
He adds: “The Supreme Court appears eager to give religious conservatives sweeping exemptions from the law,” and adds that the Court “appears ready to come out and say that at least some businesses have a constitutional right to discriminate.”
Smith, Millhiser writes, “wants the Supreme Court to give her license to design wedding websites for opposite-sex couples — and only for opposite-sex couples.”
Noting that the “Supreme Court ducked this question in Masterpiece Cakeshop, but will now address it with a 6–3 conservative supermajority,” Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern writes that it “is very likely that the court will cut back LGBTQ non-discrimination laws’ application to artists, especially in the context of same-sex weddings.”
Stern calls the case “a direct threat to government’s ability to bar discrimination in public accommodations.” He says the case “reaches far beyond LGBTQ non-discrimination laws, threatening ALL civil rights laws that, as SCOTUS put it, ‘compel an artist to speak or stay silent.'”
“Dark days ahead,” Stern says. “This case is so much more than a culture war skirmish. It’s the culmination of a decades-long conservative assault on the constitutional foundations of our modern civil rights regime.”
Smith is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal firm that appears on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-gay hate groups.
Image by Ted Eytan via Flickr and a CC license
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Donald Trump Just Called for Another Coup and Hardly Anyone Even Noticed
Donald Trump, the one-term ex-president who is running for the Republican nomination for president once again, on Monday advocated for yet another coup against the United States.
Trump is currently under at least four criminal investigations: his unlawful retention and refusal to return classified and other White House documents; his alleged election fraud attempts in Georgia; his alleged hush money payment to two women and the campaign finance issues those raise; and his alleged attempted coup, sometimes referred to as an “autocoup, or “autogolpe” – a self-coup – and the actions he took surrounding the January 6 insurrection.
After Trump’s expected GOP challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, was widely mocked two weeks ago for being unable to tell a reporter from a Murdoch outlet in the UK how he would handle the U.S. efforts to support Ukraine against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal war, Fox’s Tucker Carlson submitted written questions to all current and potential GOP presidential candidates.
DeSantis, in that now-infamous interview, had responded to the Ukraine question by telling the reporter: “Perhaps you should cover some other ground?” and, “I think I’ve said enough.”
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On Monday, sharing with viewers DeSantis’ new, written response, Carlson declared the Ukraine issue is the most important question of our time: “Until tonight, no one could really say with precision where he stood on the war in Ukraine, which is arguably the most important topic in the world.”
DeSantis’ response made news largely because it is in direct opposition to current U.S. policy. The far-right Florida governor declared the war against Ukraine a mere “territorial dispute” and not in America’s “vital national interests,” as NBC News reported. (Experts disagree with DeSantis’ position, with some calling the war against Ukraine a genocide.)
Trump’s response, however, should have drawn as much attention.
Carlson, in the video below, very specifically says he submitted six questions about Ukraine to Trump, DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Kristi Noem, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Greg Abbott, Tim Scott, Chris Christie, Chris Sununu, Asa Hutchinson, John Bolton and Vivek Ramaswamy. (Not all responded.)
According to the segment on his show Monday night, none of those questions included a question about “regime change” in Russia.
And yet Trump’s, DeSantis’ and Pence’s responses did, so it’s possible Carlson wasn’t being fully transparent, although why he didn’t mention he asked that question seems important. And to be clear, the Biden administration has made clear regime change in Russia is not the goal.
So, first, here’s DeSantis’ response that mentions “regime change”:
“A policy of ‘regime change’ in Russia (no doubt popular among the DC foreign policy interventionists) would greatly increase the stakes of the conflict, making the use of nuclear weapons more likely. Such a policy would neither stop the death and destruction of the war, nor produce a pro-American, Madisonian constitutionalist in the Kremlin. History indicates that Putin’s successor, in this hypothetical, would likely be even more ruthless. The costs to achieve such a dubious outcome could become astronomical.”
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And here’s Trump’s response that mentions “regime change”:
“Should the United States support regime change in Russia?”
“No. We should support regime change in the United States, that’s far more important. The Biden administration are the ones who got us into this mess,” Trump wrote, according to Carlson.
“Regime change,” as most know, is the removal of a current government, often by force, which could also be called a coup.
If you google the definition of “regime change,” you’ll find this: “the replacement of one administration or government by another, especially by means of military force.”
Certainly not at the ballot box.
Some might say, as they often do, “Well, maybe Donald Trump doesn’t know what the term really means.”
May 27, 2019: Asked about his military buildup in the Middle East and his pull-out of President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, Trump told reporters, “We’re not looking for regime change. I want to make that clear.”
January 3, 2020: “President Donald Trump said Friday that America does not seek ‘regime change’ in Iran, less than a day after the U.S. launched an airstrike that killed the country’s top general, Qasem Soleimani.”
Donald Trump called for another coup Monday night.
Watch Carlson’s segment below or at this link.
We asked every potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate to answer six key questions on the war in Ukraine. As promised, their full responses are below. pic.twitter.com/tjcM4w54cR
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) March 14, 2023
READ MORE: Trump: ‘World War III Is Looming’ and We Are ‘Doomed’ if You Don’t Put Me Back in the White House
Sarah Huckabee Sanders Signs Law Gutting Child Labor Protections for Minors Under 16 Years Old
Arkansas Republican Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has signed into law a bill further destabilizing minors in what was once called the “Land of Opportunity.” Her signature comes on the same day lawmakers sent to her desk a sprawling bill revamping Arkansas’ education system to allow wealthy families to remove funds from public elementary and secondary schools and put them into private tuition.
On Tuesday, Huckabee Sanders, barely months into her term, signed HB1410, the Youth Hiring Act, which guts child labor protections and removes what the new governor called “arbitrary” and “burdensome and obsolete” regulations that required the state to verify the age of anyone working who is under 16-years old.
Those regulations merely required “children under the age of 16 obtain an employment certificate, which is accessible to local school officials, before a company can hire them,” Quartz reports. “The change would end one of the only oversight mechanisms for child labor in the state.”
The new law “rolls back significant portions of the state’s child labor protections,” The Washington Post reports.
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Before Gov. Huckabee signed the bill into law, children under 16 were required “to verify their age and provide a description of the work schedule, as well as a parent or legal guardian’s consent, in the certificate,” according to Quartz.
While Republican governors and lawmakers across the country have taken up the mantle of “parents’ rights” as they support bans on books, sex education, and any discussion of LGBTQ people, Governor Huckabee has removed the right of parents to be informed of or consent to their young minor children getting a job.
Before Huckabee Sanders signed the Youth Hiring Act, state law prohibited “children under 16 from working more than eight hours a day, more than six days a week and more than 48 hours per week,” KNOE reported. “Opponents of House Bill 1410 have expressed concerns it will open the door to violations of these child labor requirements and put children at risk of human trafficking.”
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Quartz also reports that Governor Huckabee, who mentions her own three children in her official state biography, signed the law stripping rights from parents and children just weeks after the U.S. Dept. of Labor fined a slaughterhouse cleaning company $1.5 million for child labor violations, involving over 100 children. That fine includes $150,000 for two locations in Huckabee’s state of Arkansas.
This week Huckabee Sanders flooded her Twitter page with tweets praising her education legislation, including from former Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other “school choice” activists who call taking public education funds and handing them to private and faith-based institutions education or school “choice.” She posted not one tweet mentioning her stripping parents’ rights and children’s protections from state law.
FBI Director Wray Promotes COVID ‘Lab Leak’ Theory on Fox News, Leading Some Republicans to Talk About ‘Bioweapons’
FBI Director Chris Wray promoted the “lab leak” theory of COVID-19’s origins in a Tuesday evening interview on the right-wing propaganda cable TV network Fox News. Wray’s poorly-worded and confusing remarks led some, including several GOP lawmakers, to wrongly propose he may have been suggesting COVID was a bioweapon from China. They also quickly made their way into a congressional hearing less than one hour later when far-right Republican Rep. Jim Banks, citing the FBI Director’s claim, asked if “there is a chance that the Wuhan lab was involved in bioweapons research?”
Director Wray, who was appointed by Donald Trump in 2017, told Fox News’ Bret Baier the “FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan.”
His “lab leak” claim is not the consensus of the medical or scientific communities, nor the intelligence community, nor the federal government of the United States, nor the World Health Organization.
Committee Member @RepJimBanks: Is there a chance the Wuhan lab was involved in bio weapons research?
Matthew Pottinger: We know the Chinese military is involved in coronavirus research. pic.twitter.com/G2OoxZBiPV
— The Select Committee on the CCP (@committeeonccp) March 1, 2023
As NPR noted, “Wray’s remarks are the first in public by a senior law enforcement official following the Energy Department’s classified report, published by the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, saying the pandemic was likely caused by a lab leak in China. That assessment was reportedly ‘low confidence.'”
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In remarks that could further fray the already damaged relationship between Washington and Beijing, Director Wray tossed around the allegation that COVID is the result of “a potential leak from a Chinese government controlled lab that killed millions of Americans and that’s precisely what that capability was designed for.”
His remarks have been seen as confusing.
In context, here’s what Wray said (video is below): “The FBI has folks, agents, professionals, analysts, virologists, microbiologists, etc., who focus specifically on the dangers of biological threats which include things like novel viruses like COVID. And the concerns that in the wrong hands, some bad guys, a hostile nation state, a terrorist, a criminal, the threats that those those could pose. So here you’re talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans and that’s precisely what that capability was designed for.”
(Wray is off on the U.S. death toll, which is estimated to be 1,145,661.)
There’s debate on what Wray meant when he said, “that’s precisely what that capability was designed for.” Some took that to mean China’s Wuhan lab was “designed for” making bioweapons, and some took that to mean the FBI’s “folks” have the capability to investigate those biological threats.
Crooked Media editor-in-chief Brian Beutler, responding to a Twitter user, said: “To state the obvious, this isn’t the most natural construction of the actual words Wray spoke. But if it’s what he *meant* he needs to correct his own error in a high profile setting, because as it stands he just told millions of Fox viewers COVID is probably a Chinese bioweapon.”
To state the obvious, this isn’t the most natural construction of the actual words Wray spoke. But if it’s what he *meant* he needs to correct his own error in a high profile setting, because as it stands he just told millions of Fox viewers COVID is probably a Chinese bioweapon. https://t.co/8jrA62pH6e
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) March 1, 2023
Economist and frequent political commentator David Rothschild also pointed to Wray’s confusing remarks, tweeting, “Pretty sure Trump’s man (Wray) *meant* that figuring out how the virus started & spread is what FBI’s capabilities are designed for not that the Chinese intentionally created & leaked the virus to kill millions of Americans: Wray should clarify what he spewed on Republican TV.”
And indeed, it didn’t take long for another far-right Republican, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, to make clear why what Wray said was dangerous and reckless: “Chris Wray made it sound like #Covid was part of a bioweapons program.”
Chris Wray made it sound like #Covid was part of a bioweapons program
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) March 1, 2023
The Director also said, “our work related to this continues and there are not a whole lot of details I can share that aren’t classified. I will just make the observation that the Chinese government seems to me has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we’re doing the work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing, and that’s unfortunate for everybody.”
Chris Wray on Fox News: “The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan … [it] killed millions of Americans and that’s precisely what that capability was designed for.” pic.twitter.com/Z383qTg3DG
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 1, 2023
NPR, reporting on Wray’s remarks, noted that “the FBI’s assessment is far from universal. Four other U.S. intelligence agencies as well as the National Intelligence Council say, with low confidence, that COVID emerged through natural transmission.”
READ MORE: ‘Just a Disgrace’: Former DOJ Officials Express Concern, Call for Resignation of FBI Director Wray
“Eight U.S. government agencies are investigating the source of COVID-19, and they remain very divided on the issue. None of them is certain about the cause. Four lean toward natural causes. Two haven’t taken a position,” NPR’s report adds.. “Meanwhile, the evidence produced by the greater scientific community points overwhelmingly to a natural cause, via exposure to an infected animal.”
NBC News reporter Kevin Collier posted the Intelligence Community’s assessment, which was produced prior to Wray’s Tuesday night remarks. He notes the IC assessment “hid which agency thinks what,” and adds: “That the FBI decided to come forth like this, and doing so by heavily touting a major Wray interview on Fox News, is certainly a choice.”
After his interview the FBI posted a portion of his remarks to Twitter.
The previous public IC assessment hid which agency thinks what re: the lab leak vs natural origins. That the FBI decided to come forth like this, and doing so by heavily touting a major Wray interview on Fox News, is certainly a choice. https://t.co/wYaWCIaVOl pic.twitter.com/xvnAXo8vH5
— Kevin Collier (@kevincollier) March 1, 2023
Others were also quick to respond to Wray’s remarks.
“Wray now claiming lab leak of bioweapon designed to kill Americans,” tweeted the founder and publisher of Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall.
Nicholas Bauer, PhD, tweeted, “Biden should fire Wray. Not because of the underlying content – the FBI hasn’t changed its position – but poor judgment to get interviewed on Fox News and participate in this clearly choreographed media influence blitz.”
Journalist, author, and conspiracy theory expert Mike Rothschild slammed Director Wray: “‘Most likely a potential lab incident’ is pretty big hedge from Wray regarding the lab leak theory. Also, why is the FBI giving an opinion on something that seems like the CIA or CDC’s territory?”
“This is a meaningless statement that sounds designed to do nothing other than get airtime on Fox News,” Rothschild added. “How did they assess this? What is the evidence? What *exact* path did the ‘leak’ take?”
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