Sunday, January 11, 2015

The 3 - January 11, 2015

In this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, I outline several developments on the issue of same-sex marriage.  Also, laws that are called, "non-discrimination" but that actually provide special rights for homosexual and transgender individuals are finding less traction, and two cities halted forward progress of these types of ordinances this week.   And, the top story involves the firing of the Atlanta Fire Chief for comments made in a Christian book that he has published.

3 - Gay marriage: licenses issued in FL, 5th Circuit hears cases, Supreme Court passes - for now 

There was quite a bit of action regarding same-sex marriage this week.  County clerks in some Florida counties began to issue marriage licenses, in accordance with a ruling last year by a Federal judge that the state's marriage amendment was unconstitutional.  The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had placed the decision on hold, but that "stay" expired this week and was not renewed.

Meanwhile, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit heard oral arguments Friday on marriage laws in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.   A report on the website said that, "gay marriage advocates seemed to find a receptive audience in the 5th Circuit U.S. Appeals on Friday (Jan. 9)..." The piece went on: "Two of the three judges on the panel -- Obama appointee James Graves and Reagan appointee Patrick Higginbotham -- asked skeptical questions about the state's position in defense of the ban, barely letting attorney Kyle Duncan, representing Louisiana, conclude his opening remarks."

The report says that:
Outside the courthouse, Gene Mills of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum said he expected a ruling in favor of the state's marriage ban, and that the courts should not decided [sic] the definition of marriage.
Mills said he expected that the Supreme Court, however, would have the last word on marriage.
The website,, quoted Jonathan Saenz, an attorney and the president of Texas Values, as saying, "What happened today is only a few people are going to be involved in the decision about whether or not marriage gets redefined. But through the demo process, the people of Texas have settled this issue."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement following the hearing. He said, “In 2005, Texans overwhelmingly supported a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman."  He added, "I am committed to defending the Texas Constitution, the will of our citizens and this sacred institution."

And, USA Today reports that the U.S. Supreme Court "delayed action Friday on its most closely watched deliberation -- whether to rule this year on states' remaining bans against same-sex marriage.

After considering petitions filed by gay and lesbian couples in five states that still prohibit gay and lesbian nuptials, the justices did not agree to hear any of them. The article said that their decision could come next week.

The piece said that:
Although the decision did not come Friday, the justices' hands most likely will be forced by a split among federal appellate courts, created when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld four states' marriage bans in November. While gays and lesbians can marry in 36 states, most recently including Florida, the practice is banned in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, along with 10 other states. 

2 - Communities pull back on so-called "non-discrimination" laws

After the debacle involving the Houston non-discrimination ordinance that was passed last year and the rescinding of a similar ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas by the voters, it appears that the trend toward passing such legislation could be heading in a different direction.

According to the Family Research Council, this week, in Starkville, Mississippi, members of the city council voted 5-2 to rescind a special rights ordinance.  FRC states that, "People on the ground knew there was storm brewing when Human Rights Campaign came to Starkville and convinced the Mayor to back it."  The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Mayor Parker Wiseman issued a veto on Friday. That veto would be overturned if the five-vote block holds.

And, in Glendale, Arizona
on Tuesday, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the City Council postponed a vote on a proposed ordinance, which it says is similar to Houston’s so-called “non-discrimination” law and could be fraught with First Amendment problems. The council held a closed-session workshop Tuesday to discuss the proposed law and recommended hiring a facilitator to research the issue before proceeding further.

ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley is quoted as saying, “Citizens should always have a say on laws that could greatly affect them. The Glendale City Council was right not to pass this ordinance without taking into account the concerns of its citizens and the serious ramifications for religious freedom...Other cities in the nation have found such ordinances unnecessary, and we hope Glendale will reach the same conclusion after further research.”

1 - Atlanta fire chief fired for writing book consistent with his Christian beliefs

It's been quite a week for Kelvin Cochran.  He came back to work this week as Atlanta's Fire Chief after a 30-day suspension, due to his publishing of a book including Biblical views of sexuality, including its opposition to homosexuality.  Later in the day that he returned, he found himself without a job.

Christianity Today reports that Cochran was a 34-year veteran of various fire departments (including a 2009 stint as President's Obama's pick for the nation's fire administrator) and deacon at a Southern Baptist megachurch, Cochran wrote Who Told You That You Were Naked?, aimed at Christian men and titled after God’s query to Adam after the Fall.

Mayor Kasim Reed is quoted as saying that, "I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran's book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the administration's work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all citizens—regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, and religious beliefs."

The Christianity Today piece states that though Cochran stated he had prior permission to release the book, Reed said it was done without proper review and that Cochran violated the terms of his suspension by publicly defending his stance, according to reports from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Georgia Baptist Convention has placed a petition on its website, and is calling on the city to:
  • Acknowledge Chief Cochran’s First Amendment Rights.
  • Make a public apology for the termination and grief it has caused the Chief and his family.
  • Restore Chief Cochran’s position and reputation as an honorable Fire Chief.
In the introduction to the petition, it says that, "The Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) is calling on the Christian community to “stand up for biblical principles and fellow believers who are punished or marginalized for their faith.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quotes the former chief as saying, "LGBT citizens deserve the right to express their beliefs regarding sexual orientation, and deserve to be respected for their positions without hate and discrimination.” He added, “But Christians also have the right to express their beliefs regarding sexual orientation and be respected for their position without hate and without discrimination. In the United States, no one should be vilified hated or discriminated against for expressing their beliefs.”

A rally in support of Chief Cochran has been scheduled for the Capitol Rotunda in Atlanta on Tuesday, January 13th at 1:30pm.

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