TIME 2016 Election

Democrats Caught Up in Controversial Indiana Religious-Freedom Law

Mike Pence
Michael Conroy—AP Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announces that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services has approved the state's waiver request for the plan his administration calls HIP 2.0, during a speech in Indianapolis.

Obama, Clinton have backed similar religious-freedom bills

Indiana’s new religious-freedom law, which has prompted calls for a state boycott because it might permit discrimination against gays and lesbians, was made law by a Republican governor and Republican legislature. But the controversy could also ensnare leading Democrats like President Barack Obama, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who previously supported bills with similar effects years ago.

“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed into federal law by President Bill Clinton more than 20 years ago,” said Indiana Governor Mike Pence on ABC’s This Week, defending his state’s actions by pointing to similar federal legislation. “Indiana properly brought the same version that then state senator Barack Obama voted for in Illinois before our legislature.”

The Indiana law prohibits the state from enacting statutes that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. Critics argue it could be used to allow businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian Americans in the state, prompting criticism from executives at companies like Apple, Salesforce.com and the NCAA, which will host the men’s Final Four basketball tournament in Indianapolis next weekend.

Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and aides to President Obama have also criticized the law. “Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn’t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love,” Clinton tweeted over the weekend.

But the Indiana law was modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) introduced by then Representative Chuck Schumer, who is now a senior Democratic Senator from New York, and signed into law in 1993 by then President Bill Clinton. The bill passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 97 to 3 in 1993. “The power of God is such that even in the legislative process, miracles can happen,” President Clinton joked at the time of the bipartisan consensus.

Unlike the federal law, which is focused on restricting government action to protect religious freedom, the Indiana version has a broader scope, potentially giving new rights to claim religious beliefs for private parties, like wedding-cake vendors who do not want to serve gay couples.

As an Illinois state senator in 1998, Obama also voted in favor of a version of the new Indiana law. Years after that law passed, Illinois passed an explicit ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation, making clear that the law could not be used to deny service between private parties. That provision is not on the books in Indiana.

Despite weighing in on other controversial legislation in states, including this month’s passage of an anti-union bill in Wisconsin, Obama has not commented on the Indiana law, leaving his aides to critique it.

“Look, if you have to go back two decades to try to justify something you are doing today, it may raise some questions about the wisdom of what you’re doing,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Sunday on ABC’s This Week. Obama ducked a question on the Indiana law Saturday from reporters before departing on a two-day golf vacation to Florida.

The 1993 federal RFRA formed the underpinning of last year’s Hobby Lobby decision at the Supreme Court, which allowed some employers claiming religious objections to avoid providing contraceptive coverage to their employees as required by the Affordable Care Act.

In a contentious interview with NPR’s Terry Gross last year, Hillary Clinton repeatedly called same-sex marriage a state issue when explaining her decision to reverse her opposition to such unions after leaving the State Department. She has yet to weigh in on whether she believes same-sex marriage should be protected at the federal level, even as the Supreme Court is set to hear cases that would do just that in the coming months.

Asked by Gross if her views on gay rights had changed since the 1990s, Clinton said, “I think I’m an American, I think that we have all evolved, and it’s been one of the fastest, most sweeping transformations that I’m aware of.”

David Axelrod, a former top political aide to Obama, wrote in his book published last month that Obama believed in same-sex marriage before he ran for the White House, but hid that position for political reasons.

 

TIME LGBT

Puerto Rico Drops Opposition to Gay Marriage

"Today is a great day for my island," wrote Puerto Rican superstar Ricky Martin.

The Puerto Rican government announced on Friday that it would drop its opposition to same-sex marriage.

Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda said at a news conference that the Puerto Rican justice department would no longer oppose a suit challenging the constitutionality of the socially conservative island’s ban.

“Our constitutional system does not allow discriminatory distinctions such as that contained in the Civil Code concerning the rights of same-sex couples,” Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said in a statement posted to his office’s website. “Everyone knows my religious beliefs, but it is not for political leaders to impose our beliefs. We must push for progress in civil and human rights for all citizens equally. As Governor of Puerto Rico, that’s my duty.”

Puerto Rico native Ricky Martin, who has advocated for gay rights since he announced he was gay in 2010, said on Twitter that he was grateful for the move.

In a lengthier statement, the singer called Padilla a “leader who is not afraid of the present challenges.”

“Today is a great day for my island,” he wrote. “How proud I am to live a country of equality. I love you Puerto Rico.”

TIME Italy

Italian Politician Looks to Highlight Gay Rights by Getting Married in Canada

Nicola Vendola attends the 'Che Tempo Che Fa' Italian TV Show on March 18, 2013, in Milan, Italy.
Stefania D'Alessandro—Getty Images Nicola Vendola attends the Che Tempo Che Fa Italian TV Show on March 18, 2013, in Milan

“From their elevated social rung they don’t really understand what it means to live in a country where homophobia kills"

Nicola Vendola, one of the first openly gay politicians in Italy, has announced his plan to marry his Canadian partner in Canada, as Italy has no current plan to legalize gay marriage.

The 56-year-old LGBT activist, who is also the left-wing representative for the traditionally conservative southern region of Puglia, is giving serious thoughts on starting a family and having children, Agence France-Presse reports.

“Everything is going to change, I’m going to marry Ed,” Vendola said about his partner Eddy Testa.

Although Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has announced plans to allow same-sex civil partnerships, the influential Catholic Church vehemently opposes extending this to nuptials.

Vendola also clashed with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Italy’s influential gay fashion-designer duo, who recently drew the wrath of pop legend Elton John by describing children born to gay parents via IVF as “synthetic babies.”

“From their elevated social rung they don’t really understand what it means to live in a country where homophobia kills and the lack of basic rights weighs heavily on many people’s lives,” said Vendola.

[AFP]

TIME Religion

3 Other Christian Denominations That Allow Gay Marriage

The Presbyterian Church (USA) formally recognized same-sex marriages Tuesday

On Tuesday the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to redefine marriage as “a commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman,” formally allowing same-sex marriages within the church. The vote to modify the church constitution follows last year’s recommendation from the church’s General Assembly.

Here’s are other major churches in the U.S. that allow same-sex marriage:

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America allows same-sex couples to get married, but leaves it up to individual ministers of congregations to decide, according to a 2009 resolution. “There is nothing that prescribes who a congregation pastor can marry or not marry, so long as it is consistent with state law,” ELCA Secretary David Swartling said in 2012.

The Episcopal Church established a rite of blessing for same-sex couples in 2012 and prohibited discrimination against transgender people. It has welcomed gay people since 1976, when its General Convention decided that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.” Technically it has no official policy sanctioning same-sex marriage, but it will take up the issue in June.

The United Church of Christ has allowed same-sex couples to get married since 2005. At the 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Atlanta, it “affirm[ed] equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender and declares that the government should not interfere with couples regardless of gender who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriage.” It was the first major Protestant denomination to do so.

TIME celebrities

Lena Dunham Won’t Marry Boyfriend Until Gay Marriage Legal Across U.S.

"The idea of having a celebration that can't be fully shared among all the people in my life and all the people that we love just doesn't really feel like a celebration at all"

Lena Dunham and Jack Antonoff have been dating for three years, but don’t expect them to get married anytime soon.

The actress and producer, 28, revealed to Ellen DeGeneres that she doesn’t intend to wed until gay marriage is legal in all 50 states.

“Well, it’s something that … the idea of having a celebration that can’t be fully shared among all the people in my life and all the people that we love just doesn’t really feel like a celebration at all,” Dunham shared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Monday.

“So, until that’s something that everyone can join into with no sense of being left out on any level, politically, emotionally, it’s just not something that we’re gonna do,” she said.

Earlier this year, Dunham and Antonoff were dogged by engagement rumors when she stepped out wearing a ring on her engagement finger. However, it was just a friendship ring she shared with her friend and co-executive producer on Girls, Jenni Konner.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME 2016 Election

Likely Jeb Bush Campaign Manager Steps Back from Gay Marriage Advocacy

Jeb Bush speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.
Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME Jeb Bush speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.

A decision to shift roles in advance of the presidential campaign

David Kochel, the campaign manager-designate for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has stepped back from his outspoken role in support of same-sex marriage as he prepares to lead the presidential campaign.

Kochel, an Iowa-based veteran of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns, signed a Supreme Court friend of the court brief when justices overturned California’s gay marriage ban in 2013. But this week Kochel’s name was off the list when more than 300 Republicans signed another amicus brief this week in support of legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

In an email to TIME, Kochel, who is currently working for Bush’s Right to Rise PAC, said he was stepping back from his public role. “In my full time role at the PAC, I have decided not to sign advocacy petitions of any kind,” he said.

After the 2012 election, many former Romney aides, including Kochel, joined Republican operatives and a handful of congressional lawmakers in signing the amicus brief. Kochel spoke openly about the issue in local and national news interviews.

TIME reported on the full list of amicus signers on Thursday. Among those who dropped off between 2013 and 2015 were actor and director Clint Eastwood and former Romney advisor Ben Ginsberg. It was not clear why they did not sign on once again.

In an interview Thursday, Ken Mehlman, who organized both amici briefs, declined to comment on conversations with potential signers.

A staunch social conservative who supported a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, Bush has long been opposed to same-sex marriage. But after a court cleared the way for such unions in his home state, Bush urged “respect” from all sides.

Bush consultant Mike Murphy, who is expected to remain a part of the Right to Rise Super PAC, as opposed to joining the presidential campaign directly, signed the amicus brief.

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: 300 Republicans Support Gay Marriage

300 veteran Republicans filed a friend of the court brief to the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage.

Watch #KnowRightNow, and click here for more on this story.

TIME Supreme Court

Super Bowl Champions Back Gay Marriage At Court

Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on in Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 1, 2015.
Tom Pennington—Getty Images Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on in Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 1, 2015.

"Our players have traditionally been supportive of these kinds of things," said Rays president.

WASHINGTON — The New England Patriots are for same-sex marriage. So are the San Francisco Giants.

The reigning baseball and football champions, along with baseball’s small-market Tampa Bay Rays, are among the thousands of businesses, religious groups, advocacy organizations and politicians who are filing legal briefs at the Supreme Court in support of gay marriage.

The cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee will be argued April 28, and a decision is expected by early summer.

Roughly six dozen briefs backing pro-gay rights plaintiffs in the four states are expected by the Friday deadline. Included is a “people’s brief” filed by the Human Rights Campaign with the signatures of 207,551 people.

The Super Bowl champion Patriots, the World Series-winning Giants and the Rays are part of a brief from hundreds of U.S. businesses.

The Patriots play in Massachusetts, the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry, and the Giants represent a city that is notable for its gay and lesbian community.

Rays president Brian Auld said it was important that his team stand up, as well.

“We’re a small but visible business and I actually think it’s important that we send this signal of inclusion to the entire region,” Auld said in a telephone interview Thursday as he watched the Rays’ first spring training game in Port Charlotte, Florida.

The team also has participated in the “It Gets Better” project to encourage gay and lesbian teenagers who’ve been bullied.

“Our players have traditionally been supportive of these kinds of things,” Auld said.

Mayors of 226 U.S. cities also are expressing their support for same-sex marriage. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley says he is not sure how his constituents feel about the issue, but said it wouldn’t affect his view either way. “I don’t think constitutional rights are subject to public opinion,” Cranley said.

Four couples from California and Virginia who had wanted the court to use their cases to settle the issue of same-sex marriage nationwide also are calling on the justices to strike down state gay-marriage bans everywhere.

TIME Supreme Court

More Than 300 Republicans Call on Supreme Court to Recognize Gay Marriage Nationally

Signers include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sens. Susan Collins and Mark Kirk and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker

More than 300 veteran Republican lawmakers, operatives and consultants have filed a friend of the court brief at the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage late Thursday.

The amicus brief, organized by former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, was filed for the four same-sex marriage cases the Court will hear on April 28 that could legalize the unions nationwide. In 2013, Mehlman marshaled a similar effort for the case that overturned California’s Proposition 8, which had banned same-sex marriage in the state.

Among the signatories are 23 current and former Republicans members of the House of Representatives and Senate and seven current and former Governors. Sens. Susan Collins and Mark Kirk have signed onto the brief, as has Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Other notables include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal and billionaire GOP mega-donor David Koch.

The 2013 brief included 131 signatures, featured many former top aides to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, including his general counsel and two senior advisors. The list has now grown to 303 signatories.

In an interview with TIME, Mehlman pointed to the growing national consensus and within the GOP on the issue. “There’s been an increase since the last time in public support for marriage equality across all ideological, racial, and political groups,” he said.

The brief makes a conservative case for the court to strike down same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, arguing they are “inconsistent with amici’s understanding of the properly limited role of government.”

“Although amici hold a broad spectrum of socially and politically conservative, moderate, and libertarian views, amici share the view that laws that bar same-sex couples from the institution of civil marriage, with all its attendant profoundly important rights and responsibilities, are inconsistent with the United States Constitution’s dual promises of equal protection and due process,” the brief states.

Some aides to Republican presidential candidates are hoping that if the Court’s rules in favor of the unions it will provide cover for their bosses, who are hoping to avoid talking about the issue. After the party’s 2012 electoral defeat, its autopsy found that gay rights issues are a gateway subject not just for LGBT voters, but also for young voters of all stripes. “We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too,” the Growth and Opportunity Project report stated.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie both dropped opposition to same-sex unions in their state after court rulings forced their hand, but they remain personally opposed. After marriages began in his state in January, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called for respect from all sides. “I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue — including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty,” he said.

More conservative Republicans may seek to cater to Iowa and South Carolina’s large evangelical primary blocks in order to attract votes, setting the stage for potential clashes. But the political ground is shifting. According to an NBC/Marist survey last month, roughly half of likely GOP caucus and primary voters in Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire find opposition to same-sex marriage “mostly” or “totally” unacceptable.

Mehlman said he was not concerned that the Court’s ruling could prompt a backlash among conservative voters that might alienate moderates.

“Republicans traditionally have great respect for court decisions, particularly the Supreme Court,” he said. And pointing to rapid shifts in public opinion in states that have legalized same-sex marriage, he predicted Republicans wouldn’t drum up the base against the Court should it overturn the marriage bans. “The data shows that public acceptance increases very quickly, and very significantly.”

The full list of Amici:

The full brief:

Read next: Supreme Court Sets Date For Same-Sex Marriage Arguments

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME 2016 Election

Ben Carson Apologizes For Saying Prison Makes People Gay

Conservatives Gather For Annual CPAC Convention
Alex Wong—Getty Images Ben Carson addresses the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference on February 26, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland.

A quick backtrack after a comment made during a television interview

Likely Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has apologized for saying that going to prison can make you gay.

On Wednesday morning, Carson was asked on CNN whether homosexuality is a choice. “Absolutely,” he replied. “Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay.”

Later that day, Carson backed away from his comments in a statement emailed to reporters. “I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation,” he said. “I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive. For that I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended.”

He then cited his scientific training as informing his views of homosexuality. “I’m a doctor trained in multiple fields of medicine, who was blessed to work at perhaps the finest institution of medical knowledge in the world. Some of our brightest minds have looked at this debate, and up until this point there have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality,” he said. “We do know, however, that we are always born male and female. And I know that we are all made in God’s image, which means we are all deserving of respect and dignity.”

Carson said he supports “rights and Constitutional protections for gay people,” including civil marriage and the rights of states to sanction gay marriage. Carson has said in the past that he personally opposes same-sex marriage. “Religious Marriage is an oath before God and congregation,” he said in the statement. “Religious marriage must only be governed by the church. Judges and government must not be allowed to restrict religious belief.”

Carson has recently made several staff hires for his prospective campaign and is expected to announce his candidacy for president in May.

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