Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hate Crimes Laws Threaten Freedom

Robert H. Knight, Director of the Culture and Family Institute, wrote an excellent explanation of why so-called "Hate Crime" laws must be opposed. The article begins:

"Hate crime" laws pose a danger to civil liberties in three ways:

  • They pave the way for suppression of the freedoms of speech, association and religion.
  • They violate the concept of equal protection under the law.
  • They introduce the un-American concept of "thought crime," in which someone's actions are "more" illegal based on their thoughts or beliefs.

A grandmother walking down the street should have at least as much protection under the law as someone who is leaving a "gay" bar. But under "hate crimes" laws that include "sexual orientation," the same assault would be punished with greater penalties if the victim were perceived as homosexual.

Per capita, the most vulnerable class of crime victims is young, black men who are assaulted and murdered by other young, black men.1 But "hate crimes" laws divide people into racial and other categories. The drive for "hate crime" laws diverts attention from the unfolding tragedy in our nation's cities.

There is no evidence that victims of "hate crimes" are receiving any less protection than victims of other crimes. To suggest otherwise insults the men and women of the nation's law enforcement community.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Florida Marriage Protection Amendment Goes To The Florida Supreme Court

Today, Florida4Marriage.org, the sponsor of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment, filed a 45-page brief with the Florida Supreme Court in preparation for the voter initiative to be placed on the 2006 ballot. Florida4Marriage.org is represented by Liberty Counsel President and General Counsel, Mathew D. Staver, and Mary McAlister, Litigation Counsel.

The Amendment states: “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

Prior to being placed on the ballot, amendments to the state constitution must be reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court to ensure that they address a single subject and that the title and summary are clear and unambiguous. The Court cannot address the substance of the language. The ACLU, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality Florida and the AFL-CIO have joined together in a brief voicing opposition to the Amendment by seeking to inject unfounded fear designed to mislead the public. They erroneously argue that the Amendment will strip unmarried same-sex couples of all legal protections. These allegations are not true. Similar scare tactic arguments have been rejected by courts in Louisiana, Kentucky and Massachusetts.

The Florida Marriage Protection Amendment will enshrine in the state constitution what has been true since Florida was a territory – marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Same-sex marriage advocates know that when the people have the opportunity to vote they overwhelmingly uphold marriage between one man and one woman. Their only hope is to misrepresent the facts and derail the Amendment. Pure and simple, the ACLU and its allies want to take away our right to vote. But that will not happen. We will vote and we will protect marriage between one man and one woman because it is best for the family and for Florida’s children.

Petitions for the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment can be downloaded at www.Florida4Marriage.org. This Sunday, September 25, Florida churches of all denominations will be participating in Marriage Protection Sunday. Tables will be available for people to sign the Marriage Petition.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Liberty Counsel Settles Dispute With Colorado Library That Rejected Its Application To Use Community Room

After filing a federal lawsuit in Denver, Colorado, Liberty Counsel has now settled its dispute with the Rampart Library District Board of Trustees after its application to use the Woodland Park Library Community Room was denied.

The original Library policy stated that the Community Room is “available to nonprofit civic, cultural and educational organizations for events open to the public.” Additionally, the policy stated the following: “Meetings open to the public that are religious or political in nature must provide a balanced view and [meet] with the Board of Trustees’ approval.” Liberty Counsel applied to use the Community Room for specific dates at the end of May and on June 6, 2005. The application stated that the meeting would present a biblical perspective on marriage and homosexuality. The meeting would include prayer and Scripture reading. David Mula, the director, rejected the application, stating that Liberty Counsel would have to invite someone to present an opposing viewpoint on marriage.

Liberty Counsel filed suit. The library has now repealed the prior policy and adopted a new one that no longer discriminates based on the viewpoint of the speaker or message. The Library also agreed to pay attorney fees and court costs. The settlement has now been submitted to the federal district court in Denver for approval.

We are pleased that the library responded to the suit by repealing its unconstitutional policy. One library official was quoted in a newspaper as saying that she expected to start a dialogue by rejecting Liberty Counsel’s application, not start a lawsuit. But when government officials enforce policies that censor religious viewpoints, they ought to expect consequences. For over two years, the American Library Association has recommended that discriminatory facility usage polices be repealed. It’s time local libraries heeded the warning.

Interestingly, the ALA's "Library Bill of Rights" states: "Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

San Francisco Federal Court Strikes Down Pledge of Allegiance

Today a San Francisco District Court declared the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. The plaintiff in the case is Michael Newdow, the same man whose case was thrown out when the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that he had no standing to bring suit on behalf of his daughter, because he did not have parental authority to do so following his divorce.

In today’s ruling the District Court ruled that it was bound to follow the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down the Pledge in 2003. That decision was set aside by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004. Mr. Newdow then filed the current suit.

Earlier this year, on August 10, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a Virginia case that the Pledge was constitutional. The San Francisco ruling will be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and if the Pledge is there ruled unconstitutional, the Supreme Court will likely take the case and this time address the merits.

In the current judicial climate, today’s ruling is not surprising but it is dismaying. This history of the Pledge of Allegiance illustrates that the phrase “under God” is a permissible acknowledgement rather than an establishment of religion. If the Pledge established or tended to establish a religion, then that would have happened during the past 50 years of its existence. Day after day we have recited the Pledge from the classroom to the stateroom, from private meetings to public events, and not once has it tended to establish a religion. Today’s ruling illustrates why we need judges who are umpires applying settled law rather than activists intent on imposing their own ideology.

Liberty Counsel filed a brief in the Newdow case when it was before the United States Supreme Court in support of the Pledge of Allegiance. Liberty Counsel will now file a brief in this most recent Newdow case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and before the Supreme Court if the case ends up there.

Conflicting Rulings on Vermont Same-Sex Union Case Argued Today At The Virginia Court of Appeals

--The cases pit two states against each other and implicate the Federal DOMA

Today at 10:00 a.m. in Richmond, Virginia, the Virginia Court of Appeals will hear oral argument on a case that pits Vermont’s same-sex civil union law against the laws of Virginia, which preserve marriage as one man and one woman. The Vermont Supreme Court heard arguments on the same case last week. Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, and Rena Lindevaldsen, Senior Litigation Counsel, represent Lisa Miller in both cases.

The cases involve Lisa Miller, her biological child, and Janet Jenkins. Lisa and Janet traveled to Vermont to obtain a civil union while living in Virginia. Lisa gave birth to a child through artificial insemination. Janet never adopted the child. The relationship ended when Lisa became a Christian and Janet became abusive. Lisa is no longer a lesbian. She resides with her daughter in Virginia. A Vermont court awarded Janet “parent-child” contact and visitation. A Virginia court declared Lisa to be the sole parent and ruled that the Virginia Marriage Affirmation Act barred any recognition of civil unions. In addition to state law, the cases involve the application of the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (which requires courts to recognize out-of-state custody and visitation orders) and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (which allows states to reject out-of-state, same-sex unions).

The Miller v. Jenkins case is unique because it represents the first time that the courts of two states have issued conflicting decisions over the same same-sex union case. It is also the first case to involve dueling federal laws. If the rulings of both courts continue to conflict after the courts issue their decisions later this year, then this case will proceed to the United States Supreme Court.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has the right to define its own marriage policy. In Virginia, marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Traditional marriage is the bedrock of society. The state of Virginia has a right to guard its borders to uphold the family and marriage. The people also have a right to amend their state and federal constitutions to protect the family and marriage.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Babies May Cry While in the Womb

An article by Jennifer Warner posted on Fox News today says:

A baby’s first cry may happen in the womb long before its arrival in the delivery room. New research shows that fetuses may learn to express their displeasure by crying silently while still in the womb as early as in the 28th week of pregnancy.

New York Appellate Division To Hear Second Same-Sex Marriage Case Today

New York, NY – Today the New York Appellate Division, First Department, located in Manhattan, will hear oral arguments on the same-sex marriage case known as Hernandez v. Robles. The appellate court converted Liberty Counsel’s request to intervene into amicus status and accepted the brief. The intervention was filed on behalf of the New York Family Policy Council, state Senators Ruben Diaz Sr. and Raymond Meier, state Assemblyman Daniel Hooker, business owner Michael Long, and City Action Coalition, a large coalition of pastors representing numerous religious denominations.

On February 2, 2005, Judge Doris Ling-Cohan issued a decision in the Hernandez case declaring New York’s marriage laws unconstitutional. Judge Cohan’s decision came on the heels of three separate New York state court decisions which upheld the state’s marriage laws. Liberty Counsel filed briefs in each case that upheld the marriage laws. Following the lower court’s ruling in Hernandez, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made public statements that he favored same-sex marriage. Mayor Bloomberg also directed his Chief Legal Counsel to write a letter to the Empire State Pride Agenda in which he reaffirmed his support for granting marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Every court in New York but one has followed common sense and the clear law that declares marriage is the union of one man and one woman. The New York situation, where one judge can tip the scales of history, underscores the point that marriage is a matter for the people to decide. Moms and dads, husbands and wives, are best for children.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Liberty Counsel Argues Same-Sex Marriage Case Today Before New York Appeals Court

Albany, NY - Today the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, will hear oral arguments regarding same-sex marriage. The case began last year when New Paltz Mayor Jason West sought to solemnize same-sex marriages. Representing Robert Hebel, a New Paltz Village Trustee, Liberty Counsel filed suit and obtained a court order stopping the mayor.

Following the example of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, New Paltz Mayor Jason West prepared his own form and sought to solemnize same-sex unions. Liberty Counsel filed suit, and Judge E. Michael Kavanagh issued an injunction stopping the mayor, noting that marriage in New York is between one man and one woman. Mayor West then appointed Rebecca Rotzler and Julia Walsh - two other Village Trustees - to solemnize same-sex "marriages." Liberty Counsel filed suit again and obtained another order blocking any Village official from violating the law. Liberty Counsel also requested that the court declare the illegal ceremonies void. Mayor West appealed the ruling, and this case is being heard today before the Appellate Division at 1:00 pm ET. Liberty Counsel Senior Litigation Counsel, Rena Lindevaldsen, will be presenting the oral argument.

Preserving marriage is the social battle for this generation. Our social stability hangs on the strength of families. To the extent we weaken marriage and family, we destabilize our communities and damage our children. Law breaking mayors have no right to undermine marriage. The people must decide this issue once and for all by passing state and federal constitutional amendments to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

In the past 18 months, Liberty Counsel has defended almost 40 marriage cases throughout the country. Liberty Counsel is a national litigation, education and policy support organization defending religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

California Governor Vetoes Same-Sex "Marriage" Bill

A day after California's Legislature became the first in the nation to pass a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced through an aide Wednesday that he would veto the measure "out of respect for the will of the people." In a careful statement, Schwarzenegger press secretary Margita Thompson invoked the voter approval in March 2000 of Proposition 22, which said: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Displaying the American Flag Comes Under Fire


Orlando, FL – Nancy Maddox, the owner of Peacock Home Collection, located in Orlando Florida, has been cited by City of Orlando Code Enforcement Bureau for displaying the American flag in the windows of her business. Ms. Maddox has now obtained the representation of Liberty Counsel, a national litigation, education and policy organization.

Nancy Maddox is the daughter of a United States Veteran of three Foreign Wars and the wife of a federal agent who has served our country for 25 years. Nancy founded her business upon the proud principles of the American dream. She believes that those who fight to defend the United States have afforded her the privilege to live safely each day. To honor our military heroes, Ms. Maddox displayed a small American flag, no bigger than 34 ½ inches by 23 inches, in each of the 15 windows at the home furnishings company. The flags are temporarily being displayed in observation of the following holidays: Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, V-J Day (the surrender of Japan), Labor Day, and Patriots Day (9-11). City officials cited Ms. Maddox and have now ordered her to remove the flags. A violation hearing is scheduled for September 14, 2005.

Erik Stanley, Chief Counsel of Liberty Counsel, has sent a letter to the City demanding that the citation be rescinded. The demand letter points out the procedural defects in the citation and also warns that the sign ordinance is unconstitutional. Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, stated: “I am astounded that the City of Orlando would reprimand anyone for displaying the American flag. We should encourage patriotism, not punish it.”

If the City proceeds with enforcement action, Liberty Counsel will file suit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the sign ordinance.