New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday vetoed a measure sent to him by overwhelming vote of the City Council that required contractors who do more than $100,000 in business with the city to offer the same benefits to same sex couples as they do to married couples. The mayor had supported the concept during his mayoral campaign.
Bloomberg explained that his change of mind came as he considered the effect overall of the policy. "When companies choose to forgo dealing with the city based upon our efforts to dictate their employment policies, all New Yorkers lose." He added, "Not only because we still do not succeed at achieving the social policy change we seek, but also because competition for the city's business is reduced."
The City Council is expected to override the mayor's veto.
In the last 3 weeks Eritrean police have taken into custody 3 prominent Protestant pastors and a popular Eritrean Christian singer as part of a 2 year government move against the predominantly Muslim country's evangelical Christians.
Eritrea, a small country the size of Pennsylvania, lies on the west coast of the Red Sea, north of Ethiopia and south of Sudan, is very poor, and has a population of just under 4.5 million. It has been independent of Ethiopia since 1993, after 30 years of civil war with Ethiopia for independence.
Compass Direct, a watchdog organization for international religious persectution, reports that Haile Naizgi, chairman of the Full Gospel Church, and Dr. Kifle Gebremeskel, chairman of the Eritrean Evangelical Alliance, were seized by police at 6 AM from their homes in the capital of Asmara on Sunday, May 23. Pastor Tesfatsion Hagos of the Rema Evangelical Church was seized 4 days later as he was visiting the port city of Massawa. None of them have been heard of since, produced in court, or charged with legal offenses, contrary to Eritrean law, which requires open court appearances and charges within 48 hours.
Popular Christian singer Helen Berhane, 29, was arrested earlier, on May 13, and has been held since then in a shipping container at the Mai Serwa military camp. Compass Direct reports that she has refused demands to renounce her Christianity in writing and promise to stop participating in Christian activities in Eritrea.
Tuesday, June 01 2004 @ 02:55 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
While it might have been the case that simply calling someone a homosexual or gay carried a nearly universally recognized stigma, recent changes in the law make that no longer the case, according to a ruling by Judge Nancy Gertner. Last week she threw out a lawsuit by a former bodyguard for Madonna who claimed in his suit that the pop star had libeled him because of the gay association made with his name in a biography of her by Andrew Morton (Madonna, St. Martin's Press, 2001).
Judge Gertner cited recent court rulings making anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional and legitimizing same sex marriages to show that being labeled homosexual or gay was not inherently derogatory. She emphasized, "In fact, a finding that such a statement is defamatory requires this court to legitimize the prejudice and bigotry that for too long have plagued the homosexual community."
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has introduced legislation expected to pass quickly into law banning same sex marriage and preventing the legal recognition of adoption abroad by same sex couples. The expectation for quick passage is based on both leading parties, including the Labor Party opposition, supporting the legislation.
Interviewed today, Howard explained that he had no intention of offending anyone, "but I equally don't apologize for wanting to put into the law the simple proposition that a marriage is a union between a man and a woman -- hopefully for life."
Howard's action came in response to a letter drafted by conservative senator Guy Barnett and signed by 31 ruling coalition lawmakers, urging Howard's quick action. An Australian homosexual couple who married last year in Ontario, Canada, have said they will petition the courts to have their union declared legally binding in Australia.
The adoption ban would only cover adoptions done internationally, since adoption is not a federal issue in Australia, but one left to the states. Among Australia's 6 states and 2 territories, same sex adoption is legal in one of each.
Judge Roy B. Moore, who was removed from office for his refusal to remove a monument of the 10 Commandments from the judicial building in Montgomery, AL last year, is launching a new appeal to the US Supreme Court for reinstatement in his job as chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court. Last year the Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.
This year Moore is arguing that his Constitutional rights were violated since he was removed from office for his sincerely held religious beliefs. Moore explained, "We are planning to petition the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari in this case, regarding the removal of a person from office because of what he believes."
Moore argues that the court system is inherently hypocritical about religion. "The federal courts all open with 'God save the United States and this honorable court,' as does the United States Supreme Court. To deny the sovereignty of God is to deny their very opening of court and the basis of their oath, [which concludes] 'So help me God.'"
Reversing a May 21 decision refusing tax exempt status to the Unitarian Church on the grounds that it "does not have one system of belief," Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn today sent the issue concering the Red River Unitarian Church to the Office of the General Counsel.
With the Comptroller's reversal, the IRPP is encouraged that Texas will uphold religious freedom for the Unitarians and others, concluding, "The Institute commends the legal staff in the Comptroller's Office for their respect for and protection of religious rights of minority groups, and hopes that this serves as an example and precedent for any and all future misunderstandings of the law."
Two Republican Senators, Gordon Smith and Orrin Hatch, have re-introduced legislation that would define and criminalize hate crimes on a federal level. Because the legislation includes "sexual orientation" in its list of protected issues, some pro-family and conservative Christian advocates are worried it would make free speech and religious beliefs illegal as hate crimes, especially regarding designating homosexual behavior as sin or wrong.
A previous bill that was worded nearly identically was introduced by liberal lawmakers but was defeated before it could come to a general vote.
Those opposing the current legislation express three areas of fear: (1) it could be used to discriminate against those who possess real beliefs and opinions about behaviors even though those beliefs or opinions are not used to justify otherwise illegal behavior (such as beating someone up or vandalizing a home or other building); (2) it could force law enforcement to focus more time, attention, and funding on victims of crimes against protected classes and away from victims of the same crimes who are not in protected classes; and (3) it could restrict the Constitutional rights of freedom of religion and freedom of speech for those who believe sincerely that certain behaviors are wrong.
Bob Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute (a division of the Concerned Women of America), warns about the second concern, saying, "So if your grandmother is mugged, it won't be a big deal, and the law enforcement authorities may have to put more of their revenues toward the mugging, say, of a homosexual guy walking down the street. Now both deserve protection, but certainly the gay guy doesn't deserve more than your grandmother."
Recent Canadian legislation similar to this bill has become law that forbids anyone from publishing materials or speaking in any way that could result in "the incitement of hatred and genocide" against certain specificed groups. The Canadian law makes an exemption for religion, but observers there worry that the subjective nature of the wording of the law puts all religious expression at risk, too. It may mean that anyone who commits a "hate crime" as defined in the law and who credits a pastor's sermon, a biblical passage, or a Christian friend's opinion with inspiring his action, could condemn the source to criminal charges, even if the source never intended to incite criminal behavior.
Thursday, May 27 2004 @ 11:16 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
The 9th Circuit Federal Appeals Court in San Francisco yesterday ruled that US Attorney General John Ashcroft has exceeded his federal authority in asserting the right to file charges against Oregon doctors who prescribe lethal dosages of medication to their terminally ill patients who want to commit suicide. The practice was legalized by a public vote in 1994, which passed the Death with Dignity Act. Since that time, an estimated 30 people each year have chosen to commit suicide in this way. Under the Oregon law, doctors who prescribe the medication cannot administer it themselves and cannot be prosecuted for it.
The three judge panel ruled 2-1 in favor of excluding the US government from interfering in the Oregon law. Judge Richard C. Tallman wrote for the majority, "The attorney general's unilateral attempt to regulate general medical practices historically entrusted to state lawmakers interferes with the democratic debate about physician-assisted suicide and far exceeds the scope of his authority under federal law."
The majority made it clear that Congress was free to override the Oregon law, but that since they have not done so, the attorney general is not free to prosecute anyone in Oregon for following the law.
The US Attorney General's office must now decide whether to drop the issue, appeal it to the full 11 member 9th circuit, or attempt to gain a hearing from the US Supreme Court.
Thursday, May 27 2004 @ 10:59 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
Special legislation is expected to be introduced and passed with expediency in the Irish legislature (the Dail) today that will allow certain Irish officials to be exempt from prosecution for possessing, distributing, printing, publication, or sharing of child pornography. But "the rest of the story" is that the legislation only exempts them for materials introduced as evidence in the impeachment process against Judge Brian Curtin, who is charged with violating the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act of 1998. In other words, the officials taking part in that impeachment proceeding will be exempt from prosecution if their only association with child pornography is in the course of executing their duties in this case. If the legislation were not passed, all of the officials and their staffs would be subject to prosecution themselves for any exposure during the case to the very child pornography with which the judge is charged. The exemption is very narrowly written for this case only and has application only within the limits of the case.
Oral arguments were presented today before the California Supreme Court regarding the approximately 4000 marriage licenses issued to same sex couples by the city of San Francisco earlier this spring. The city argued for the court to uphold the validity of the licenses, while California Attorney General Bill Lockyer and advocates of tradtional marriage between a man and a woman argued for the court to overturn the licenses. The court took the issue under advisement and is expected to issue a ruling within 90 days.
Arguing against the licenses was the Arizona-based traditional values legal advocacy organization called the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). ADF was allowed to argue its case for 30 minutes, the same length of time given to Lockyer to argue the state's case. ADF attorney Jordan Lorence presented the group's argument to the court.
The California Supreme Court limited today's hearing to the very narrow issue of whether a local official (in this case, the mayor of San Francisco) can unilaterally decide that a state law (in this case, limiting marriage to between a man and a woman) is unconstitutional. In addition to the 60 minutes total given to each side, the court received written arguments, called amicus or "friend of the court" briefs, from 14 other groups or individuals.
ADF chief counsel Benjamin Bull described the hearing, saying, "Two things became crystal clear; one, that the mayor and the clerk acted outside the law. Two, that the purported marriage licenses amount to nothing more than pieces of paper. The court seemed to recognize both those points. As Justice Marvin Baxter said, the city made a mess. As another justice said, if there's any detrimental reliance on these licenses the couples have only the city to blame, and no one else."
The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26