Ben Johnson

Obama places minority status, federal benefits at heart of anti-DOMA brief

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 25, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Completing the turn against traditional marriage he began more than two years ago, President Barack Obama filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The administration has placed access to taxpayer-subsidized benefits and tax breaks – as well as its belief the homosexuals deserve a special place as an underprivileged minority group – at the heart of its legal argument.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli filed the amicus curiae brief urging the court to declare Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional on multiple grounds, including an alleged violation of equal protection under the law.

The 54-page document also claims the justices must give greater deference to homosexuals, because “gay and lesbian people are a minority group with limited political power.”

The decision acknowledges that voters in three states – Maine, Maryland, and Washington – democratically approved marriage redefinition and six additional states redefined the institution at the legislative level of through judicial fiat. However, it counts 36 additional states that have passed laws or state constitutional amendments preserving marriage as an institution between one man and one woman since 1996.

That lack of electoral success, the Obama administration argues, proves that the Supreme Court should short-circuit the popular will.

DOMA, the brief states, is “the rare case in which deference to the democratic process must give way to the fundamental constitutional command of equal treatment under law,” decreed from the federal bench.

The administration also places access to federal subsidies and tax breaks at the heart of its case. “The law denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples,” the brief states.

The protagonist in the case United States v. Windsor, Edith Windsor, is a New Yorker who “married” her lesbian partner in Canada. She is suing because she must pay $363,000 in estate taxes that would not be owed by a married couple. President Obama has argued in favor of increasing the estate tax.

The same-sex “marriage” argument turns largely, not around equal process but giving homosexuals access to government welfare benefits and tax incentives originally designed for stay-at-home mothers. Some believe, like 20-year-old Tufts University junior Grianne Griffiths, believe that “turning the conversation to [federal] benefits is crucial in changing public consciousness.”

Others believe there is no discrimination in allowing states to set their own definition of marriage, and for the federal government to establish the definition of marriage for its own purposes.

The Justice Department brief states the law, passed before a single state legalized homosexual “marriage,” “targets” homosexual couples considered married under state law. This constitutes “a harsh form of discrimination that...does not substantially advance an interest in protecting marriage, or any other important interest.”

The Family Research Council disagrees, citing a growing body of research from its own social scientists and other scholars showing that an intact traditional family may be the greatest means of reducing child poverty, dropout rates, physical abuse, mental illness, and unemployment.

“Redefining marriage would have massive economic implications,” an FRC spokesman stated. “Only an administration blinded by its extreme social agenda would fail to recognize that.”

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Obama’s radical policies will undermine marriage and morality and ultimately will harm children and society,” agreed Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel.

The Obama administration entered the legal brief on Friday, known to politicians as “the Friday news dump,” a time that produces little media exposure for an unpopular action.

Obama has not yet determined whether he will file an amicus brief in the companion case over California's Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment protecting marriage. He has until February 28 to file such a document.

"If they decide to enter the case, their brief will probably be the most important before the court," said Richard Socarides, Bill Clinton's liaison on homosexual affairs. "The position of the government on how it thinks we should treat our citizens - what could be more important?"

Obama may have signaled reticence over the weekend, saying, “I have to make sure that I'm not interjecting myself too much in this process, particularly when we're not a party to the case.”

However, he is certain to have a substantial impact on the outcome. He appointed two of the justices who will decide on the case – Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

In February 2011, Obama took the unusual step of announcing he would no longer defend DOMA in court. The Justice Department began lobbying for the law, signed by President Bill Clinton, to be overturned that June.

His appointees have been outspoken on Proposition 8, as well. Obama named defrocked Methodist minister Harry Knox to the Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009. Knox called faithful Catholics who supported Proposition 8 “foot soldiers of a discredited army of oppression.”

The president has also shown a penchant of enacting pro-homosexual policies by executive order. “Where government has historically denied things like same-sex partner benefits for federal workers or military personnel, the Obama administration has just ignored the law and awarded them anyway,” noted an FRC spokesman.

The brief seems to admit it is on shaky legal standing, stating the government's position would fall apart if the High Court uses the typical standard for evaluating laws.

“The government has concluded that heightened scrutiny governs classifications based on sexual orientation and that DOMA Section 3 cannot be sustained under that standard. If the Court disagrees and applies rational-basis review, the government has previously defended Section 3 under rational-basis review, and does not challenge the constitutionality of Section 3 under that highly deferential standard,” the brief states. 

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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