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House panel OKs ‘religious freedom’ anti-LGBT adoption amendment

A sign of things to come

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Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) introduced an “religious freedom” anti-LGBT adoption amendment. (Photo public domain)

A House committee approved on Wednesday as part of major appropriations legislation an amendment seen to allow taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to deny placement into LGBT families over religious objections.

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), would bar the federal government and state or localities from denying funds to adoption agencies that have “declined or will decline to provide, facilitate or refer for a child welfare service that conflicts with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs of convictions.”

The measure would empower the secretary of health and human services to withhold 15 percent of federal government funds from state and localities if they penalize adoption agencies for acting on their religious beliefs in terms of child placement.

Although the impact isn’t explicitly stated in the amendment, the measure would essentially bar states and localities from penalizing taxpayer-funded agencies for denying placement into homes with same-sex parents or LGBT homes.

The measure is virtually identical to the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, legislation introduced by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) in the U.S. House and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) in the U.S. Senate last year.

The House Appropriations Committee adopted the amendment on Wednesday by a party-line 29-23 vote as part of funding legislation for the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services and Education. The only Republican on the committee to vote against the amendment was Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.).

Ian Thompson, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union, blasted the House committee for the adopting the amendment on the basis it would anti-LGBT discrimination.

“The ACLU strongly opposes the amendment because it essentially privileges the religious and moral beliefs of providers over the best interest of children who are in their care,” Thompson said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also criticized Republicans in a statement for adopting the amendment, calling it “a sickening new low.”

“House Democrats will fight this disgusting, deeply immoral and profoundly offensive effort  with all our strength,” Pelosi said. “There is no place for bigotry or discrimination in our foster and adoption systems – or in any part of our democracy.”

The amendment is along the lines of new laws in many states enabling taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse placement into homes, including LGBT households, over religious objections. Those laws are in place in Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas.

With same-sex marriage the law of the land, Catholic groups have been spearheading these initiatives, saying adoption agencies will have to close down if they are forced to place children into LGBT homes contrary to their religious beliefs.

Praising the amendment was Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, who called the measure “good news for children, birth moms and adoptive families.”

“It’s sad that this amendment is necessary but faith-based adoption and foster care providers are facing increasing discrimination by state and local governments,” Perkins said. “The federal government must not do the same, and should not fund states who engage in this discriminatory action.”

There are good signs neither the underlying legislation, nor the amendment, would make it to the desk of President Trump. A Senate committee already approved its version of the bill without a similar anti-LGBT amendment, meaning if the bills were conferenced the anti-LGBT amendment would likely be stripped out.

Moreover, in years past, the minibus funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services and Education has never reached the House floor and those programs continued to receive federal funds through omnibus spending legislation, according to the ACLU.

Thompson said it’s unlikely the appropriations bill would ever see the light of day on the House floor, but still urged caution.

“There’s no hard and fast rule that is preventing the Labor-H appropriations bill from coming to the floor, so it definitely could, but if past is any indication, it may not,” Thompson said.

Aderholt’s office didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on why he thought introduction of the amendment was necessary.

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Christian pastors launch flood of vituperation against Canadian law

Some 4,000 U.S. pastors spoke about it from their pulpits in a show of concern about similar laws coming into effect here

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Pastor John MacArthur speaking at Grace Community Church in LA (YouTube screenshot)

LOS ANGELES – A campaign launched by Liberty Coalition Canada and promulgated in the United States by Pastor John MacArthur of Los Angeles, who has a lengthy record of hateful & extremist public attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, against the Canadian Parliament’s recently passed legislation banning conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people culminated in over 4,000 clergy in both countries protesting the new law Sunday, January 16.

In an editorial posted to his Facebook page, influential evangelical leader Franklin Graham, who has decades long actions of spreading misinformation and deceptive lies against the LGBTQ+ community decried the law writing:

The Canadian Parliament passed legislation banning what they refer to as “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ, and the law describes as a “myth” the belief that heterosexuality is preferable. They added a stiff penalty that can carry up to a 5-year jail sentence, and Canadian pastors feel they have been stripped of their religious freedoms. Critics of Bill C-4 say it is broadly worded and could even encompass private conversations about the topic, such as when a pastor or any Christian shares what the Bible teaches about sexuality.

One Canadian pastor said, “All socialistic and communistic movements hate the authority and law of God…Much of the church in Canada believes that compliance and compromise will promote peace and freedom, but this attitude only feeds the beast and will increase persecution and eliminate freedom.”

Today, some 4,000 U.S. pastors spoke about it from their pulpits in a show of concern about similar laws coming into effect here. Pray for pastors in Canada as this legal oppression continues to grow, and pray that all of us as Christians will have the boldness to continue to proclaim the life-changing truth of the Word of God—the only hope for this world.

Pastor John MacArthur, the 82-year-old leader of the Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, in an interview with FOX News, said that he believes widespread sexual immorality is evidence of divine judgment on a culture and predicted increased efforts to silence those who speak out against it.

Ultimately, the dissenters, the ones who will not cave in, are going to be those who are faithful to the Bible,” he said. “And that’s what’s already leading to laws made against doing what we are commanded to do in Scripture, which is to confront that sin. And that’s just going to escalate,” MacArthur said.

The fact that they identified it as a criminal conduct that could give you as much as five years in prison takes it to a completely different level, because Canadian pastors have been put in jail for just having church services,” he continued.

Legislation banning conversion therapy passed in the states of California, New York, New Jersey and Nevada, among other U.S. jurisdictions. Alarmed by this, MacArthur sees Canada as a portent for the potential of a national ban in the U.S. telling Fox; “I think it’s reached a level there in Canada that it hasn’t yet reached here, but it’s coming,” he said. “It’s coming fast.”

The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and a host of therapeutic professional organizations oppose the use of conversion therapy, stating it is ineffective, harmful and not evidence-based.

Currently, 20 states and numerous localities, including D.C., ban the use of this discredited practice.

In two recently issued reports from the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE), anti-LGBTQ groups “easily” spread dangerous disinformation online about the so-called conversion therapy as tech companies fail to de-platform such content, especially in non-English languages.

The reports detail that even though conversion therapy is a widely condemned practice, content related it is “distressingly easy” to find through simple searches on various platforms.

Both Graham and MacArthur’s anti-LGBTQ+ animus has been well documented. New York City-based journalist, editor, and blogger Joe Jervis who publishes the widely popular ‘Joe My God’ website has a partial tabulation of MacArthur’s egregious vitriolic statements.

John MacArthur says God gave humanity a “disposable planet.” MacArthur declares that the response to COVID is setting the stage for the Anti-Christ. MacArthur says lockdowns are “Hitler false science.” MacArthur says gay people do not exist. MacArthur signs petition condemning churches that advocate for social justice. MacArthur declares that Christianity which isn’t “offensive” about homosexuality isn’t really Christianity at all. MacArthur signs statement declaring that Jesus hates people who don’t hate LGBTs. MacArthur tells parents that if their child comes out, “turn him over to Satan.”

The GLAAD Accountability Project has cataloged anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and discriminatory actions by Graham including: 

Said celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride is like celebrating “lying, adultery, or murder.” Graham’s comment came in a Facebook post marking the end of Pride Month. “This is an entire month set aside to celebrate a lifestyle that God defines as sin.”

Claimed that public schools have no right to “teach our children something that is an affront to God” in his support for Alfonso Cirulli, the mayor of Barnegat Township, New Jersey, who was fighting a state law requiring schools to teach about LGBTQ history.

Called out Taylor Swift “for using her platform to try to push the socialist left’s so-called Equality Act, which has nothing to do with equality, but is about pushing the LGBTQ agenda down the throats of the American people.”

Said: “LGBT agenda wants to force everyone to accept & condone their lifestyle which God’s Word defines as sin.”

Said: “LGBT activists are trying to hook their caboose to the ‘freedom train’ & drag an immoral agenda into our communities.”

—When HB2 was rolled back in North Carolina, tweeted: “Thanks to the gov, people of NC will be exposed to pedophiles & sexually perverted men in women’s public restrooms.”

In Facebook post since deleted, claimed Satan is behind LGBTQ rights and advocacy: “This is a full-scale assault against Christianity and the followers of Christ. When prayer is banned from the public square, when our President fails to defend biblically defined marriage, and he openly and zealously advocates for gay rights; when legislators rush to overrule existing laws to promote gay marriage; when schools and courts consistently suppress religious freedoms; we know we are locked in a war against the Christian faith, not culture. The architect behind this offensive is none other than Satan himself. The Scripture says that the devil, our archenemy, is bent on as much destruction as possible.”

—Insists that gay and lesbian people cannot have families: “[Same-sex marriage] takes the family away and there is no way you can have a family with two females or two males, if you just think biologically how God made us our plumbing is completely different.”

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Politics

GOP VA AG-elect fires dozens of lawyers including in Civil Rights Division

Miyares campaigned promising to refuse to allow coronavirus mitigation including masks & vaccine requirements, despite the surging pandemic

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Virginia’s Republican Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares (Screenshot via Fox News)

By David Badash | RICHMOND – He has yet to be sworn in but Virginia’s Republican Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares has already fired dozens of lawyers, including those working in the Office of Civil Rights, and including those who are not political appointees but career civil servants.

Miyares campaigned on enforcing the law while promising to refuse to allow coronavirus mitigation efforts including masks and vaccine requirements, despite the surging pandemic.

But enforcing the law – certainly specific aspects like civil rights – will be much harder when he is sworn into office on Saturday.

“I’ve been told incoming AG @JasonMiyaresVA just FIRED the entire civil rights division in the Attorney General’s office,” tweeted Virginia Democratic state Senator L. Louise Lucas, the President Pro tempore. “My bill helped create and expand the authority that this division uses.”

“This whole campaign we had to listen to @JasonMiyaresVA whining about local prosecutors choosing not to prosecute certain crimes- then he gets elected and eliminates an entire division dedicated to enforcing civil rights law. Total hypocrisy and it needs to be SEEN,” she added.

It’s unclear if Miyares has fired the entire civil rights division but the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports he has fired 30 attorneys including “Helen Hardiman, an assistant attorney general who focuses on investigating and litigating against housing discrimination in the Office of Civil Rights.”

“I am not a political appointee. I don’t have a political job,” she says, adding she has 20 cases that are in court or going to trial.

“I don’t want those people who have been discriminated against to be left hanging,” Hardiman said. “I also felt like a cursory email with 24 hour notice was unprofessional. And I’m disappointed that the new administration seems to be signaling that they care less about civil rights issues like fair housing than the current administration.”

On his Twitter page Miyares posted numerous platitudes and promises like, “My oath of allegiance is to follow the law, to respect the code of Virginia, and the people of Virginia As AG, I am going to go back to calling balls and strikes and we are going to enforce the law.”

He also posted tweets attacking coronavirus mitigation policies, saying, “no Virginian should be forced to choose between their job and the vaccine.”

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The preceding article was previously published by The New Civil Rights Movement and is republished with permission.

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California Politics

Newsom highlights blueprint investments in infrastructure & transportation

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more than 50% of emissions

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Governor Newsom speaks at Santa Clara Depot which serves Caltrain, the Altamont Corridor Express, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and Amtrak (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SANTA CLARA – Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday touted his California Blueprint’s major investments in transportation and infrastructure while visiting the Santa Clara Depot rail station, highlighting the plan’s $9.1 billion in funding for climate-friendly clean transit projects that will create thousands of jobs.

The Blueprint also includes $2.3 billion to support ports and goods movement throughout the state and an additional $6.1 billion to accelerate the state’s transition to zero-emission vehicles – creating a total package of $10 billion that will invest in affordable cars, clean trucks and buses. The Santa Clara Depot serves several transit agencies, including Caltrain, which is scheduled to complete electrification of its system in 2024. 

“These bold investments will deliver safer, faster and greener transportation options connecting communities across the state while creating thousands of jobs and tackling our largest source of harmful pollution and emissions,” said Governor Newsom. “With California on the frontlines of the intensifying climate crisis, the state is committed to building a clean transportation future that protects the health of our communities, environment and economy.”

Transportation is the state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more than 50% of emissions when considering the production and deployment of fuels. California’s commitment to decarbonizing the transportation sector also advances the state’s affordability goals, increasing access to opportunity and amenities through a network of affordable, clean transportation options and pushing zero-emission vehicle innovation to continue driving down costs for everyone.  

The California Blueprint includes a proposed $9.1 billion package to advance clean transit initiatives that support the state’s climate and public health goals, promote equity and bolster the green economy, including $4.9 billion for transit and rail projects to improve connectivity, climate adaptation, bicycle and pedestrian safety and more locally driven initiatives. In addition, the Blueprint proposes a $4.2 billion investment in California’s High-Speed Rail project, which will eventually share the electrified Caltrain corridor, as well as funding for projects that encourage active modes of transportation and improve equity and safety, including converting underutilized highways into corridors that better serve residents. The Blueprint positions California to take advantage of additional federal infrastructure investments.

The California Blueprint also furthers the Administration’s ongoing work to support ports and build supply chain resilience, outlining a $2.3 billion package that includes $1.2 billion for port-related infrastructure projects that increase goods movement capacity and additional funding for zero-emission port equipment, drayage trucks and infrastructure. The Governor in October issued an executive order directing state agencies to help identify additional ways to alleviate congestion at California ports and announced a state-federal partnership to help kick-start infrastructure projects designed to improve goods movement. In addition, the Governor has launched a multi-agency Supply Chain Task Force working to find opportunities to lease state and privately-owned land for container storage space, Caltrans has issued temporary truck weight exemptions on State Highways to keep goods moving efficiently and the Department of Motor Vehicles has worked to nearly double its capacity to conduct commercial driving tests.

The Blueprint also builds on the California Comeback Plan’s $3.9 billion zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) package with an additional $6.1 billion in proposed investment to accelerate the transition. The additional funding will add thousands of affordable clean cars, zero-emission trucks and transit buses, support school transportation programs and electrify our school bus fleet, expand equitable access to ZEV charging infrastructure and fund equity-focused clean transportation community projects.

Governor Newsom in 2020 made a commitment to require that sales of all new passenger vehicles be zero-emission by 2035 and aggressively decarbonize heavy-duty vehicles such as trains, trucks and buses. The state has targeted emissions from the heavy-duty sector with bold action to reduce pollution in disproportionately impacted communities.

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