Friday, March 22, 2013

Kentucky Governor Beshear Vetoes Religious Freedom Bill But Sponsor Of Measure That Threatens Civil Rights Says He Will Urge House Leaders To Vote To Override, Five Rhode Island Mayors Join Campaign To Legalize Same Sex Marriage, Archbishop Cordileone Argues Same Sex Marriage Will Make Mothers And Fathers “Irrelevant,” Member Of Aryan Brotherhood Sentence Extended After Admitting He Committed Federal Hate Crime By Severely Beating Inmate He Presumed Gay, Sony Pictures Co-Chair Amy Pascal Urges Film Industry To Purge Scripts Of Gay Slurs And Stereotypes, Governor Perry And Glenn Beck Consider Madonna’s Boy Scout Protest “Crazy,” Joe Jonas Sex Tape

In Frankfurt, Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear vetoed the controversial “religious freedom” bill Friday, setting up a potential override next week by a legislature that overwhelmingly passed the measure. Rep. Bob Damron, the Nicholasville Democrat who sponsored House Bill 279, said he will urge House leaders to let the chamber vote to override the veto when lawmakers reconvene Monday. “Looking at the vote totals on the bill, I would say the veto is in serious jeopardy,” he said. The bill passed the House 82-7 and the Senate 29-6. Only a majority vote in both chambers is required to have the bill become law over Beshear’s veto, reports the Courier-Journal. In a news release, Beshear said he had “significant concerns” that the bill would “cause serious unintentional consequences that could threaten public safety, health care and individuals’ civil rights.” Opponents of the bill — including the Louisville Human Rights Commission, the American Civil Liberties of Kentucky and the Kentucky Equality Federation — have said it could lead to discrimination. Gay-rights groups have argued that the legislation could be used to challenge civil-rights laws in Louisville, Lexington, Covington and Vicco that are designed to protect gays and lesbians. Damron and proponents contend the bill would merely restore the proper legal standard for government to force compliance over religious beliefs that was in place before recent rulings of the U.S. and Kentucky supreme courts. The bill is endorsed by the Catholic Conference of Kentucky and the Kentucky Baptist Convention. It would require government to show “clear and convincing” evidence that it has a compelling interest to enact and enforce laws that infringe upon people’s religious freedoms. Damron has said that it mirrors the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. The House would vote first if majority leaders there decide to attempt an override of the veto. On Friday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, released a one-sentence statement saying that House leaders “will be discussing what action to take with our caucus.” House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said in a statement that he fully expects “we will override the governor’s veto with strong bipartisan support.” And Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said last week that he was certain that if given the chance, the Senate would override a veto of the bill. HB 279 stirred emotional debate during the session, and Beshear’s veto did the same. “We were confident that the governor would do what was right and so we’re just truly happy that he followed his heart and his conscience and what we believe is the will of a majority of Kentuckians,” said Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who asked Beshear to veto the bill this week, said he applauded Beshear “for making this bold move.” Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation, which supports the bill, said the veto “puts churches around the Commonwealth of Kentucky on notice that the First Amendment religious freedoms they thought their government respected may now be negotiable.” Damron said he thought the Beshear administration hadn’t properly analyzed the bill. “It will not create these horror stories the opponents have been talking about,” he said. Beshear’s veto message, the first he’s issued this session, was brief. It said vague wording of the bill “would render compliance with and enforcement of the law difficult, and would undoubtedly lead to considerable litigation.” His message also said, “As written, the measure calls into question the scope and efficacy of many laws regarding public health and safety, as well as individual civil rights.” Beshear said in his news release that “groups as varied as the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs Inc. to the National Association of Social Workers Kentucky Chapter to the Center for Accessible Living” asked him to veto the bill. He said they cited unintended consequences that could weaken local civil rights laws, complicate the implementation of new curriculum standards in schools, damage economic development efforts, complicate enforcement of drug laws, cost local governments money and allow the use of religion as justification for physical abuse or the withholding of medical care. Beshear said he is willing to work with lawmakers to eliminate “unintended consequences” and pass the measure in 2014. Damron, however, said the bill is not vague, adding that it has been adopted by other states. “The bill got 82 votes, mostly Democrats, in the House,” he said. “That sends a message that the House understood the bill and supports an individual’s right to religious freedom.”

The Associated Press reports that five of Rhode Island's mayors are joining forces in the push to legalize same sex marriage. Angel Taveras of Providence, Scott Avedisian of Warwick, Donald Grebien of Pawtucket, Daniel McKee of Cumberland and James Diossa of Central Falls will headline the launch Monday of "Mayors for Marriage Equality." The event will take place at Providence City Hall. A bill to allow same sex marriage has passed the House, but its fate remains unclear in the Senate. Lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee heard 12 hours of testimony from Thursday afternoon into Friday morning from supporters and opponents of the legislation. The panel has not yet scheduled a vote. Rhode Island is the only New England state that does not allow same sex couples to wed.

Profiled by USA Today, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone (who chairs the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage) is asked what the greatest threat posed by allowing gays and lesbian to marry. Cordileone answers, “The better question is: What is the great good in protecting the public understanding that to make a marriage you need a husband and a wife? I can illustrate my point with a personal example. When I was Bishop of Oakland, I lived at a residence at the Cathedral, overlooking Lake Merritt. It's very beautiful. But across the lake, as the streets go from 1st Avenue to the city limits at 100th Avenue, those 100 blocks consist entirely of inner city neighborhoods plagued by fatherlessness and all the suffering it produces: youth violence, poverty, drugs, crime, gangs, school dropouts, and incredibly high murder rates. Walk those blocks and you can see with your own eyes: A society that is careless about getting fathers and mothers together to raise their children in one loving family is causing enormous heartache. To legalize marriage between two people of the same sex would enshrine in the law the principle that mothers and fathers are interchangeable or irrelevant, and that marriage is essentially an institution about adults, not children; marriage would mean nothing more than giving adults recognition and benefits in their most significant relationship. How can we do this to our children?”

In Texas, the AP reports that a member of the Aryan Brotherhood is facing an extended prison sentence after admitting he committed a federal hate crime by severely beating another inmate he believed to be gay. The FBI says 27-year-old John Hall was sentenced Thursday to nearly six years, which will be added to the sentence he's currently serving in federal prison in suburban Dallas. He had been scheduled for release in August. Authorities said Hall yelled homophobic slurs as he attacked the inmate in December 2011 by repeatedly punching and stomping on his head. The victim suffered a fractured eye socket, broken teeth and multiple lacerations. Hall pleaded guilty in November 2012 to violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. It was not immediately clear why Hall was originally incarcerated.

In Los Angeles, in remarks made on Thursday at a fundraiser, Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal emphasized Hollywood's influence in shaping public perception on sexual orientation, specifically in doing away with gay slurs and offensive stereotypes. "Now, there is not much any of us can do about what people hear from families and friends, but there is a whole hell of a lot we can do about what people see," Pascal said, according to prepared remarks. Near the conclusion of the speech, she encouraged industry figures at the event to simply edit out those offensive references in screenplays. "How about next time, when any of us are reading a script and it says words like fag, or faggot, homo, dyke, take a pencil and just cross it out," she said. "Just don’t do it. We can do better, and we will do better. We have to." Pascal was speaking at an event held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel to raise funds for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center. In her remarks, she described the harassment that some gay teenagers face and praised the work that the Center does to foster "a non-judgmental and loving home." Turning her attention to the media and industry, she elaborated on stereotypes and slurs commonly seen in entertainment. "How many times have you heard a character imply to another that the worst thing about going to prison isn’t being locked up for the rest of your life, it’s the homosexuality? And old stereotypes still exist," Pascal said. "The most benign stereotypes would have a gay kid believe that they will end up being the asexual, witty best friend of the pretty girl, or a drag queen, or a swishy hairdresser. The list goes on." After encouraging attendees to Google Hollywood depictions of gay characters, she noted: "We still have a long, long way to go."

The Houston Chronicle reports that Texas Governor Rick Perry was back on his favorite radio show this week, offering advice Glenn Beck’s program on subjects including on education, business, and pop-star wardrobe choices. When asked about his experience at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Perry said it was more exciting than what Madonna did at the GLAAD media awards show — wearing a Boy Scout costume to protest their refusal to admit gay scouts. The GLAAD Media Awards recognize news and entertainment media that represent the LGBT community in a fair and accurate light. Speaking at the event on Saturday night, Madonna called on Boy Scouts to lift their ban on gay members. Madonna joked she wanted to join the troops, but was turned down for lack of qualifications. “I can build a fire. I know how to pitch a tent…I can rescue kittens from trees. Most importantly, I know how to scout for boys,” Madonna said in her speech. “I think they should change their stupid rules.” Madonna said she wants to start a revolution. She said the bullying and torture of America’s young kids is an atrocity, and makes her want to “sit down and cry a river of tears.” Predictably, Glenn Beck said Madonna’s protest was crazy, and Perry agreed. “It’s fascinating that someone would make that kind of gratuitous shot at an organization that has probably done as much to promote young men to the type of values that the vast majority of the people in this country aspire to,” Perry said. Perry has been an outspoken advocate for the Boy Scouts for years. He authored the book, “On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For” in 2008, explaining why the organization should adhere to its conservative values. When the Boy Scouts considered changing their policy earlier this year, Perry protested openly. “I think most people see absolutely no reason to change the position and neither do I,” Perry said at the Texas Scouts’ 64th annual Report to State in February. In his radio interview, Perry said that by in large scouts are very good citizens. He said that he reviews a lot of resumes, and when he sees an Eagle Scout, he sets it aside because he knows the individual is promising. “I know that as a young man they made a decision to follow a long and arduous path to reach that Eagle Scout award and that if they went through that long process between the ages of 10 and 15—16 years old, that those qualities, those characteristics, those values are still very much alive in that young man who’s asking to work for you and that’s the kind of people I want surrounding me. That’s the type of individuals I want to be working with and I’m counting on to take the great State of Texas forward,” Perry said.

An explicit Joe Jonas sex tape featuring various bondage accoutrements is allegedly on its way, although a representative for the Jonas brother says there is “no truth or validity to this story. It is completely false.”

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