"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Friday, July 01, 2016

RFRAs, Thy Days Are Numbered

Via Joe.My.God., this:

U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves late Thursday night issued an injunction blocking a bill by the Mississippi legislature that would have allowed private citizens and some public officials professing a “sincere religious belief” to deny services to gays and lesbians.

Just minutes before House Bill 1523 was to take effect at midnight, Reeves eviscerated the bill — the most sweeping attempt by a state to undermine the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to legalize gay marriage — as being in violation of the First and Fourteenth amendments.

“The State has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others. Showing such favor tells ‘nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and . . . adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.’ ” Reeves wrote, citing precedent. “And the Equal Protection Clause is violated by HB 1523’s authorization of arbitrary discrimination against lesbian, gay, transgender, and unmarried persons.”

“The plaintiffs’ motions are granted and HB 1523 is preliminarily enjoined.”

Coupled with a ruling Reeves filed earlier in the week — preventing circuit clerks from denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples — the proposed law is, for the moment, stillborn.

The preliminary injunction will hold until any appeals are completed. Then, if upheld, they will be filed as permanent injunctions.

This is a preliminary injunction pending appeal, and unfortunately, appeals will be heard by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is notoriously conservative. And even worse, the Circuit Justice is your friend and mine, Clarence Thomas. No doubt, the state of Mississippi will appeal, and the appeal will be accepted. As for a ruling, who knows? The preponderance of the judges on the Circuit are Republican appointees (although that's not a sure indicator -- remember Richard Posner?), but given the history, this will wind up at the Supreme Court.

What's key here is Judge Reeves' finding that the Mississippi law violates both the First (Establishment Clause) and Fourteenth (Equal Protection) Amendments, which to me seems pretty obvious. Apparently, it's not so obvious to the state of Mississippi.

And a footnote: With his usual perspicacity, Jason Chaffetz (R-Oblivion), chair of the House Witch-Hunt Committee, has scheduled hearings on the hysterically mis-named "First Amendment Defense Act" (which eviscerates important parts of the First Amendment) for one month to the day after Orlando.

And as one can easily suspect, the hearings are stacked:

Currently, only anti-gay witnesses have been invited to testify before Chairman Chaffetz's committee hearing on July 12, as the Blade reports. They include heroes of the anti-gay religious right, including former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, fired for not obtaining permission to publish and distribute to his employees a virulently anti-gay book steeped in religious dogma, while using his title and position to promote the book. Also invited is Alliance Defending Freedom's Kristen Waggoner, who represents Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers to a same-sex couple for their wedding and refused to settle the case for $1000. Waggoner repeatedly and falsely claims Stutzman may lose her home, business, and life savings because she refused to sell flowers to a same-sex couple.

In the remote chance that this bill actually passes, Obama will veto it, and Congress won't won't have the votes to override. But it will make great ammunition as Chaffetz runs against Obama (as every Republican will be doing.)

Your tax dollars at work.

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