Sunday, June 10, 2012

The 3 - June 10, 2012

On this edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3", we first of all take a look at a husband and wife in New Mexico whose photography business is being chastised because they did not want to photograph a gay wedding.  Then we move on to the Federal courts, where this week, there were more rulings by judges concerning the definition of marriage.   And, preserving religious liberties was the theme of rallies in over 150 cities across America, as people of faith gathered to stand in opposition to government's attempt to force people to violate their conscience regarding health care.

3 - New Mexico court says photographers wrong to refuse lesbian clients

A growing trend in the business sector was brought to light again this week in the case of a New Mexico photography studio that was asked to take pictures at a wedding - between two lesbians.   The couple politely refused, saying that same-sex marriage violated their moral beliefs.   The gay couple found another photographer, and you would think that would settle the matter.

Not so - just as in the case of a Kentucky t-shirt company that refused to print gay pride shirts, a complaint was filed with the state Human Rights Commission.   The commission determined that the photography studio, Elane Photography, had committed "sexual orientation discrimination", and ordered the owners to pay over $6,600. 

The photographers contacted the Alliance Defense Fund, and they appealed the commission's ruling.   In 2009, a trial judge sided with the Commission's decision, and this week, the New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld the Commission's decision on the grounds of the state's Human Rights Act.   The owners now intend to appeal the case to the New Mexico Supreme Court--and beyond, if necessary.

Here's the story from the Family Research Council's website.

Jordan Lorance of the Alliance Defense Fund wrote an excellent op-ed piece that was published in the Santa Fe New Mexican.   In it, he says:
We should encourage business owners to operate their businesses with ethics and higher principles so that they do not mindlessly dispense goods and services with no thought to the impact of their actions. The Constitution protects people's expression of their views, even when it comes in a commercial context...Business owners do not surrender their constitutionally protected rights at the marketplace gate.
This is a trend that is being seen not only regarding business owners' rights to choose who their customers will be, but in a variety of other areas, such as sports and entertainment, as well.   Just ask fighter Manny Pacquaio, or Ron Brown of the University of Nebraska, or actor Kirk Cameron.   Those who express their deeply held moral views publicly in opposition to gay marriage have been chastised and ridiculed.   But, while it is discouraging, we should continue to express Biblically-based viewpoints, aware of the consequences that could ensue, and reliant on the Lord to sustain us when we are criticized.

2 - More court decisions on the definition of marriage

This week, more court decisions were handed down concerning the definition of marriage.   The most notable was the decision by the entire 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals not to review the ruling by a 3-judge panel of the appeals court, stating that Proposition 8, the amendment to the California constitution stating that marriage was defined in the state as one man and one woman, was unconstitutional.   This sets up a scenario that likely will lead to the case being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In another development concerning marriage and its definition, a New York Federal district judge ruled in a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, striking down a component of the Federal law that defines marriage as one man and one woman.    According to the Christian Post:
U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones said the Defense of Marriage Act’s definitions “intrude upon the states’ business of regulating domestic relations” by re-examining the marriage definitions by the various states - six of which, plus the District of Columbia, recognize gay marriages.
“That incursion skirts important principles of federalism and therefore cannot be legitimate, in this court’s view,” Judge Jones said.
The ruling came in a case brought by a woman whose partner died in 2009, two years after they married in Canada.  Because of the federal law, the woman didn’t qualify for the unlimited marital deduction on her late spouse’s estate and was required to pay $363,053 in federal estate tax. 
The woman sued the government in 2010 and the judge ruled that the plaintiff was to be reimbursed for the money she paid in estate tax.

The issue here is apparently partner benefits, a topic also dealt with in a decision out of the 1st Circuit recently.   And, apparently courts are saying that in order to change the eligibility for benefits, the traditional definition of marriage should be changed.   DOMA is facing a host of challenges, and one of these cases, presumably the one dealt with by the 1st Circuit, could end up at the high court.   The defense of DOMA is being carried on by attorney Paul Clement on behalf of the U.S. House of Representatives, as the result of the Obama Administration's refusal to defend traditional marriage.  

In other news concerning marriage, two more states, Maryland and Washington, are on their way to voting on the definition of marriage, as a result of petition drives to reverse action taken by the respective legislatures and governors of those states to redefine marriage.    Maryland marriage supporters met their first deadline last week, and Washington supporters have turned in the required number to get a referendum on the ballot there.

The national debate is continuing on this important issues, and it's important to reinforce the benefits of marriage, not only to the parties involved and members of the families, but to our communities and society at large.

1 - Thousands "Stand Up for Religious Freedom"

In March of this year, thousands took to the streets of a variety of American cities to stand against the mandate by the Department of Health and Human Services that employers, including most religious institutions, provide free contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees.   And, while Catholics have been most impacted because of the church's teaching on contraception, this is really an affront to people of faith of all denominations, because it is an attempt by government to force someone to take an action that violates their deeply held religious convictions.

I do believe this is a move indicative of somewhat of a "contraception culture" that is seemingly offering a license to engage in premarital sex without the consequences of a pregnancy.   So, in one sense, I think that contraception is an issue here.   And, the fact that drugs that cause abortion are being funded is another issue.

The widespread issue of religious liberty has gained the majority of attention here.   And, people are mobilizing - lawsuits have been filed by dozens of entities against this mandate on religious freedom grounds.   Plus, the first round of "Stand Up for Freedom" rallies in March has now led to another round this past week.   Indications were that over 150 cities were holding rallies, which also coincided, to a certain extent, with the expected U.S. Supreme Court decision on the national health care law.   The date also marked the 223rd anniversary of the passage of the Bill of Rights. 

LifeSite News offered a broad overview of the coast-to-coast rallies.

According to their piece:
Early media coverage showed hundreds of people attended each major rally, holding yellow balloons that say “Religious Liberty” and waving signs that read, “Stop the HHS Mandate.”
In the nation's capital, Michele Bachmann and Lila Rose expounded upon the Constitutional liberties enshrined in the First Amendment.
Jill Stanek spoke in Chicago. The San Francisco rally was emceed by Dana Cody of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. In Montana, a crowd gathered outside the officers of U.S. Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat who supports the mandate.
It's helpful to have a series of events continuing to keep this issue in the collective consciousness of people across the nation.   So often, we take part in "one-and-done"-type of events and lose momentum on important issues of faith - consistent prayer and action can be highly effective in demonstrating public opinion and influencing decisions.  

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