LGBTQ Alabamans React to Roy Moore’s Defeat

“Our community is thrilled to say, ‘No more,’ once and for all tonight. ”

Eva Kendrick, Alabama director for the Human Rights Campaign, echoed the thought on many minds as Alabama voters rejected anti-LGBTQ senate candidate Roy Moore Tuesday. Democrat Doug Jones narrowly defeated Moore, who faces multiple allegations of sexual assault against teens and was twice removed from the state’s Supreme Court.

“Pro-equality voters are a force to be reckoned with,” an exuberant Kendrick tells INTO. “When they wake up tomorrow, the message will be, ‘Our voices matter.’”

From longtime activists to young students, LGBTQ Alabamians expressed exuberance and relief as news outlets across the country called the race for Jones.

Matt Mefford, a doctoral student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, watched the results come in while studying.

“I tried to tell myself before the election that either way, I was going to take a positive from it,” he says. “I can’t believe this. I feel great. I’m extremely proud of the voters of Alabama today. I think this was an extremely nice statement to make.”

In more conservative Dothan, Alabama, Ambrosia Starling watched the returns at a PFLAG Christmas party. Starling was well-acquainted with Moore. After Moore was suspended from the Supreme Court, he blamed the “professed transvestite” for speaking out against him. Starling actually identifies as a drag queen.

Starling and friends watched nervously Tuesday as the numbers came in, comparing results. With 80 percent of the vote counted, Jones was down.

“I spent two years talking about how good the people of Alabama really are,” she says. But in recent weeks, her faith was waning. And now, it looked like Moore might win.

And then things turned. She and friends scrambled to confirmed the results on their phones.

“I thanked the host for the best miracle Christmas party I have ever been to in my entire life,” Starling says.

In Montgomery, Alabama, Miss Harvey McDaniel was settling in for the night with the flu, still waiting on news of the results. A trans woman, McDaniel was set on proving to Moore that trans people had rights, and she had fought hard, speaking out against him at rallies and protests with her wife, Meta Ellis.

“We really hate that Roy Moore had put Alabama in such a bad light and made us the laughing stock of the nation,” McDaniel says. “That’s not who we are at all.”

Hearing the results, McDaniel says, she felt vindicated as a trans person. She could assert her rights. And she added, she was proud of Republican voters who rejected Moore.

According to Kendrick, LGBTQ people put more than 540 hours into Jones’s campaign. She is already looking to 2018, where she says swing states look good for pro-LGBTQ candidates.

McDaniel and Ellis are still enjoying their win.

“We’ve been working to get Moore out,” Ellis says. “This would be his third office, and we figure if this didn’t work out, he’d probably run for governor.”

“It’s almost a part-time job,” Harvey adds, laughing.

Photo via HRC Twitter

Early Exit Polls Show 90 Percent of Roy Moore Voters Are White

An overwhelming majority of voters who cast a ballot for Roy Moore in Tuesday’s special election in Alabama had one thing in common: They were white.

Nine in 10 of voters checking off Moore’s name in the contentious Senate race were Caucasian, according to early exit polling released by CNN. The network notes that white men made up a “slim majority” of the total population of voters who supported the embattled Republican in the race, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least nine women.

Those figures, however, are likely to change as the election unfolds. Polls closed at 7pm Central Time, and polling places have yet to release voting data.

If unofficial, the early numbers are eerily similar to the 2016 election, in which Republican Donald Trump defied the odds to overcome Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College. Nearly two-thirds of white men (62 percent) favored Trump in the race, while just 62 percent of this group cast a ballot his challenger.

Even white women could not be persuaded to vote for the former Secretary of State: Just 43 percent of Caucasian females went for Clinton, while 52 percent voted for Trump.

White people made up 71 percent of the overall vote.

Should Doug Jones win in the hotly contested runoff to fill Jeff Sessions’ vacated Senate seat, it will be on the backs of black voters and people of color. CNN polling conducted outside the ballot box shows that approximately 3 in 10 people who cast a ballot in the election were African-American. Numbers were not provided for other racial minority groups in Alabama.

That turnout is much higher than in last November’s election: Estimates show that 12 percent of overall voters in the 2016 election were black, a noticeable drop from previous elections.

The discrepancy is partially attributable to Alabama’s disproportionately high black population: More than a quarter of the state’s residents (26 percent) are African-American, despite the fact that black folks make up around 13 percent of the overall U.S. population.

If people of color were energized to vote against Moore in Alabama on Tuesday, that fact is likely influenced by comments during the campaign in which he claimed that America was at its greatest during the antebellum South. He told supporters in September that “even though we had slavery,” families “were united” and “cared for one another.”

Moore also claimed in 2011 that nullifying subsequent amendments to the U.S. Constitution after the Bill of Rights would “eliminate many problems” for the government. It would also abolish the 13th Amendment, thus legalizing slavery.

But Jones supporters have a steep hill to climb if they hope to defeat Moore in the race.

The Republican, who is one of America’s most vociferously anti-LGBTQ public figures, led consistently in polling conducted in the wee hours of the Senate race. Although polling varied wildly, the final poll averages from RealClearPolitics indicated that he led by 2.2 points across surveys.

Images via YouTube/Vice

Conversion Therapy Advocate Will Serve in Federal Court for Life After Senate Republicans Give the OK

Get used to hearing L. Steven Grasz’s name, because he’s not going anywhere for a very, very long time.

Grasz will serve for a lifetime appointment after Senate Republicans confirmed his nomination by a 50 to 48 vote on Monday. The Trump nominee was tapped to serve on the United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in August pending a majority vote in the upper house of Congress.

The former Chief Deputy Attorney General for the state of Nebraska has been declared as “unfit to serve” as a federal judge by several leading civil rights groups and bar associations.

The American Bar Association questioned Grasz’s impartiality in an October press release, disputing whether he “would be able to detach himself from his deeply held social agenda and political loyalty to be able to judge objectively, with compassion and without bias.”

Grasz is the first nominee since 2006 that the ABA has universally deemed unqualified to sit in a circuit court position. The revered law association voted 14 to 0 against his appointment.

The ABA outlined its position in an eight-page document that outright condemned his 11-year record in the Attorney General’s office. Colleagues interviewed by ABA members described Grasz as “gratuitously rude” and noted that he is heavily influenced by his personal political convictions.

“[H]e spends about 50 percent of his professional time lobbying and 50 percent of his time in litigation,” the ABA notes.

If Grasz brings his personal platform to the courtroom, that could be bad news for the LGBTQ community. The 56-year-old currently sits on the board of Nebraska Family Alliance (NFA), a right-wing lobby group which advocates for the “lifelong, faithful union of a man and a woman,” refers to transgender women as “men who profess a female identity,” and believes LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws are “government coercion.”

Most alarmingly, the NFA has condemned states which pass laws banning conversion therapy (also known as “reparative therapy”), the discredited practice of attempting to “change” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth. Likened to torture, it has been condemned by every leading medical association.

Grasz’s son, Nate, penned an op-ed for the organization’s website in which he described the growing movement to ban conversion therapy as “extreme.”

“If a young person is asking questions about their sexuality or gender, outlawing a form of talk therapy helps no one,” he claimed in July. “Forcing children to reach conclusions about these sensitive and important issues without even the option of talking through their questions or feelings with a licensed mental health professional serves the interests of a political agenda over those of a child.”

The group also touts the alleged success story of “Jayson,” a sexual abuse survivor who was able to overcome his “unwanted same-sex attractions” through conversion therapy, falsely linking pedophilia and LGBTQ identity. The NFA claims that religious counseling “transformed his life and realigned his sexual identity with his faith.”

When Grasz was asked about his beliefs on the practice during Senate confirmation hearings, he didn’t actually condemn reparative therapy. Instead the conservative told Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that he didn’t know that much about it.

“I’ve never researched the topic,” Grasz said. “I’ve never written on the topic. I’ve never commented on the topic.”

It’s not merely the Republican appointee’s views (or stated lack thereof) on conversion therapy that may alarm equality advocates. During his time in the Nebraska Attorney General’s office, he claimed that LGBTQ-inclusive hate crime protections would open the door for laws shielding bigamists and pedophiles. He also pushed to block same-sex marriages conducted in other states from being recognized in Nebraska.

The Human Rights Campaign claimed that Grasz’s appointment is yet another sign the current administration is not the “friend” to LGBTQ people Trump once claimed to be.

“Grasz’s confirmation is in line with the Trump-Pence administration’s alarming trend of advancing under-qualified nominees with terrible anti-equality records,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “This radical ideological transformation of our justice system will lead to long-term, harmful consequences that will live well beyond the Trump-Pence administration.”

The Nebraskan is one of several court nominees tapped by Trump with a vociferously anti-LGBTQ record.

Former Mayor’s Comments Comparing Gay Men to Pedophiles Sparks Universal Condemnation—Even From His Son

It’s a bad week to be Kirk Humphreys.

The former mayor of Oklahoma City ignited a firestorm of controversy on Sunday night when he compared gay men to pedophiles in a bizarre televised debate. Humphreys appeared on Flash Point, a Hardball-style segment that airs on local news station KFOR-TV, to discuss the allegations against Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who resigned last week following allegations of groping or sexual misconduct by at least eight women.

The Republican came to Franken’s defense by asking why Democrats didn’t call upon Rep. Barney Frank (D-N.Y.), who is openly gay, to resign along with the former SNL comedian.

“So you’re asserting that there’s a right and wrong, and that people’s personal behavior matters in their public standing, and yet you defend Barney Frank,” Humphreys argued in a heated discussion with Democratic State Rep. Emily Virgin. “Is homosexuality right or wrong? It’s not relative. There’s a right and wrong.”

“If it’s OK, then it’s OK for everybody and quite frankly it’s OK for men to sleep with little boys if it’s OK,” he continued.

Virgin, an outspoken LGBTQ ally, was visibly shocked by the apparent non sequitur.

“I’m unclear on what Barney Frank did other than being a homosexual,” she responded in dismay. “Are you saying there was some inappropriate conduct on his part? Because I’m not aware of that.”

Humphreys didn’t stop there.

“I’m saying there is a standard of right and wrong,” he added. “In our society we’ve gotten to whereI’m going to make a lot of people mad todaywe’ve gotten to where there’s no right or wrong, it’s just all relative. It’s not all relative.”

Those comments were met with near-universal condemnation, even despite Oklahoma’s reputation as a conservative state that’s often less than friendly to LGBTQ rights. The state legislature introduced a record number of bills attacking queer and transgender people in both 2015 and 2016, more than any other state in history. This year legislators debated passage of an anti-trans bathroom bill nearly identical to North Carolina’s controversial HB 2.

After Sunday’s episode of Flash Point aired, the station quickly distanced itself from Humphreys’ remarks. “Neither the host nor the analysts or guests speak for KFOR and the sponsor of the program,” the news program said in a press release.

Virgin called the comments “disgusting, offensive and just plain wrong” in a Facebook post, while University of Oklahoma Press Secretary Matt Epting claimed that Humphreys, who sits on its board of regents, “wasn’t speaking on behalf of the University of Oklahoma.” The college’s student body president, J.D. Baker, called Humphreys’ statement “ignorant” and “outright disrespectful.”

“Nobody’s defended him,” Troy Stevenson, executive director of the LGBTQ organization Freedom Oklahoma, tells INTO.

“It gives us hope and shows the level of work that’s been done here,” he continues in a phone interview. “For it to have taken this blatant and horrific of a comment for some of these folks to have responded is unfortunate, but we’re glad they responded.”

But perhaps the strongest condemnation of Humphrey’s remarks has come from his own son.

Blair Humphreys, an urban developer in the capital city, emailed Freedom Oklahoma on Monday to say that his father’s comments are not “reflective of [his] own views.” “I wanted to reach out personally and let you know that I am sorry for my father’s unfair and hurtful comments,” the younger Humphreys said in a message to the advocacy group.

In response to the backlash, Humphreys has claimed that his remarks were misunderstood.

“I regret that my comments regarding homosexuality were not clear and led some people to believe that I was equating homosexuality with pedophilia,” he said in a statement. “That was not my intention or desire.”

But Stevenson claimeds the former mayor’s anti-LGBTQ historys anti-LGBTQ history is “finally coming home to roost.”

Humphreys, who sat in the mayor’s office between the years of 1998 through 2003, once attempted to block local LGBTQ organizations from hanging Pride banners along Classen Bvld., one of the main thoroughfares running through downtown Oklahoma City.

Freedom Oklahoma, which was then known as the Cimarron Alliance, had to file a lawsuit in 2002 to fight for its right to hang the displays.

LGBTQ advocates won that court battle, but Stevenson says that the mayor “fought very hard to keep [them] from putting up those Pride banners.” Humphreys claimed that queer and trans rights groups weren’t entitled to freedom of speech and expression, claiming that the flags amounted to “paid advertising.”

Stevenson says his organization has been lobbying to see that the one-time politician is finally held accountable for his anti-LGBTQ views.

Although Humphreys no longer occupies the mayor’s desk, local activists are pushing to have the divisive Republican removed from the many boards on which he holds a position of leadership. He is chairman of the board of John W. Rex Charter Elementary School, a director of Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company, vice-chairman of the Oklahoma Industries Authority, and vice-chairman of the Oklahoma City Airport Trust.

Activists have written these entities “thousands of letters,” Stevenson claims.

“Our understanding is that [Humphreys] is planning to resign from the board of regents today,” Stevenson claims. “The board of Oklahoma City Public Schools is calling today for him to be removed from the elementary school board.”

The Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company has told Freedom Oklahoma that the company is “working on it,” he adds.

LGBTQ advocates are planning to protest at a meeting of the board of regents at 2:30pm this afternoon, with hundreds expected to attend the rally. Stevenson claims that Humphreys, who currently serves as vice chairman, is poised to become chair of the board next year.

The Oklahoma Industries Authority and Oklahoma City Airport Trust were not available to comment on any planned disciplinary action against Humphreys by press time.

This article will be updated should INTO receive comment.

Here’s Where to Vote Against Roy Moore in Alabama Today

Voting has begun in the contentious Alabama Senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, a tighter contest than many once expected.

Polls opened at 7am Central Time and will close at 7pm.

For those who are unsure where to vote in Alabama, Secretary of State John Merrill has set up a website where registered voters can check their polling place. The webpage for Alabama Votes allows users to search by county but requires a birth date and last name to look up polling centers in one’s county.

As polls opened Tuesday, President Donald Trump began tweeting to boost the embattled Republican’s support. Just weeks ago, Moore’s victory was considered a sure thing.

“The people of Alabama will do the right thing,” the POTUS assured his 44 million followers. “Doug Jones is Pro-Abortion, weak on Crime, Military and Illegal Immigration, Bad for Gun Owners and Veterans and against the WALL [sic]. Jones is a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet. Roy Moore will always vote with us.”

Moore has been leading the final days of polling following up to the runoff election, one that will decide which candidate fills Jeff Sessions’ vacated seat in the Senate.

Although surveys are all over the map, the polling averages from RealClearPolitics show that the GOP nominee has a 2.2 percentage point lead, despite nine women coming forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct. The Republican has claimed the allegations, which were originally made in a Nov. 7 report in the Washington Post, are “garbage” and “fake news.”

One of his accusers was 14 at the time she claims Moore, then a district attorney in Gadsden, Ala., molested her on their second date.

Early numbers in the special election were not available at the time of writing, although Moore rode in on a horse Tuesday morning to (presumably) cast a ballot for himself. There have already been multiple reports of voter suppression and long lines in the state.

Header image via Flickr

She Faced Discrimination at Her Job For Being a Lesbian. Now the Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Her Case

Jameka Evans would spend breaks on her job as a security guard crying in the closet.

After coming out at the age of 13, Evans tells INTO that she had to develop a thicker skin. She preferred wearing boys’ clothingsneakers and oversized shirtsbecause that’s what made her most comfortable. When she wasn’t in foster care, Evans was raised by her grandmother, who she claims was from an older generation stricter about how a young girl should behave. Adults would tell her that her sexuality, as well as the way she dressed, was a “phase.”

“When I was growing up, it wasn’t really accepted,” she says in a phone interview. “But I lived through it and never let it hold me back.”

Nothing, though, could prepare Evans for her experiences at the Georgia Regional Hospital. After getting a job at the psychiatric care facility in 2012, she claims that she faced constant harassment by her supervisor. Evans says her boss, Charles Moss, resented the fact that she didn’t conform to standard notions of femininity. She dressed in a men’s uniform at work and preferred to wear her hair in either short, tight locs or closely shaved down to her head.

Moss denied her career advancement instead selecting a less-qualified colleague for a promotion, as Evans claimed in court filings. He also allegedly slammed a door into her.

During this time, Evans says she stopped sleeping. And she dreaded coming to work every day. She was all but forced to leave, telling INTO that the treatment from superiors “made my work environment so hostile and dangerous that I couldn’t work at that job anymore.”

“It happens more often than others are willing to admit,” she says. “I know I’m not fighting this fight for just me.”

That fight suffered a severe setback on Monday when the Supreme Court denied to hear a lawsuit Evans filed against her former employer in April 2015, claiming that she was a victim of discrimination. Courts have, thus far, been split on whether the former security guard has the right to sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which offers protections in employment on the characteristics like race, gender, religion, and national origin.

After turning down a Texas case on partner benefits for same-sex couples last week, SCOTUS has again declined to get involved. The nation’s highest bench did not state the reasons it would not be hearing Evans’ case, as is customary.

For now, that means a lower court ruling denying the plaintiff’s right to sue under Title VII will stand. Judge William Pryor of the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals claimed in a July opinion that the courts are not “the appropriate venue” to debate Evans’ civil rights. The conservative justice, who was on Donald Trump’s shortlist to replace the late Antonin Scalia, wrote that the matter was up to Congress, which “has not made sexual orientation a protected class.”

But a contrary opinion from the Seventh Circuit Court all but ensures that the Supreme Court will be called upon to decide the issue eventually.

Reversing its own ruling from just a month prior, the Illinois federal court ruled in April that a lesbian college professor, Kim Hively, had the ability to sue for discrimination on the basis of her sexual orientation under Title VII, as prejudice on the basis of gay or lesbian identity is rooted in gender. Judge Diane Wood claimed that sexual orientation claims are the “ultimate case” of gender-based discrimination.

“[I]t is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex,” she said.

Lambda Legal Attorney Greg Nevins, who represented both Hively and Evans in their respective suits, claimed that the battle for LGBTQ employment rights would go on. He said in a statement that the Supreme Court is merely “delaying the inevitable,” even though that delay would continue to “cause confusion across the country.”

“[T]his was not a ‘no’ but a ‘not yet,’” said Nevins, who serves as director of the legal advocacy group’s employment fairness project.

Evans, who claimed she would be meeting with her attorneys to determine next steps, was unable to confirm whether she would continue to pursue legal action against her former employers.

Evans nonetheless says that Monday’s ruling was a “loss” for LGBTQ rights.

“Not only was I looking forward to it, a lot of strangers have reached out to me via social media and Facebook telling me, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing,’” Evans says. “For me to have gotten that kind of support from people I don’t know these past few years while Lambda Legal has been fighting my case meant a lot, and [this decision] hurts because I was thinking about them.”

But the LGBTQ may get another chance to get its day in court. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals is poised to rule on Zarda v. Altitude Express, in which a Long Island skydiving instructor claims that he was fired from his job because of his sexuality. Donald Zarda was let go from his job in 2010 after telling a female client that he was “100 percent gay” before a jump, sensing the woman felt discomfort being strapped to a man.

Zarda would be killed in a skydiving accident in Switzerland four years later, and the case is being pursued by his sister and longtime partner, Bill Moore.

No matter how the panel of 13 appellate judges rules, the New York-based court’s decision is likely to face an appeal. LGBTQ advocates are hoping that SCOTUS debates the Title VII issue before 81-year-old Justice Anthony Kennedy abdicates the bench. The moderate conservative, who has been a deciding vote in favor of many of the bench’s most progressive gay rights rulings, is widely expected to retire.

Should Zarda’s case (or another like it) reach the Supreme Court, Evans will be satisfied knowing she contributed to the greater good.

“I see my case being part of the bigger fight for LGBTQ rights,” she says. “Even if my case doesn’t continue to move forward, there will be more individuals who have the courage to step forward and to fight.”

Roy Moore Doesn’t Hate Jews Because His Lawyer Is Jewish, Says Wife

Kayla Moore, wife of embattled Senate candidate Roy Moore, defended her husband from claims of bigotry at a rally Monday night. She told supporters, for instance, the GOP hopeful couldn’t hate Jews because the couple has Jewish friends.

“Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews, and I tell you all this because I’ve seen it and I just want to set the record straight while they’re here,” Moore said, gesturing to members of the press gathered in the back of the crowd. “One of our attorneys is a Jew. We have very close friends that are Jewish, and rabbis, and we also fellowship with them.”

Although the Alabama politician’s history of anti-Semitism isn’t as extreme as his record on Islam or LGBTQ equality, Jewish people have as much reason to be concerned about his candidacy as the other minorities he’s attacked in his four-decade career.

When four women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct in a Nov. 7 report in the Washington Post, supporters of his campaign launched a fake robocall in Alabama on behalf of a fictional journalist named “Bernie Bernstein.” The reporter, who claimed he was with the Post, was seeking out women who would be willing to make defamatory claims about Moore in exchange for cash.

Late night host Stephen Colbert spoke to the underlying message embedded in the hoax.

“A Jewish journalist part of a media conspiracy?” Colbert said in a Nov. 15 broadcast of his program. “The only worse stereotype would be a family-values Southern evangelical who turns out to be a secret perv.”

Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, further pointed out the voice on the robocall was an absurd Jewish caricature.

“I don’t even know what that accent was,” Noah claimed on his show during a Nov. 16 airing. “It sounded like a guy trying to do a New York Jewish voice based on hearing a friend describe a Woody Allen movie.”

Moore may not have been behind the faked calls himself, as the source has yet to be determined. But he also failed to condemn them.

The twice-fired former judge, whose campaign received a donation of $1,000 from a prominent Nazi, most recently landed in hot water when he told a conservative radio program earlier this month that the Jewish business magnate George Soros is “not of our culture.”

He added that because Soros doesn’t worship the Christian God, the billionaire mogul is doomed to burn in hell for all eternity.

“No matter how much money he’s got, he’s still going to the same place that people who don’t recognize God and morality and accept his salvation are going,” Moore told radio host Bryan Fischer, who once claimed restaurants serve bacon because America is a Christian nation, not a Jewish one. “And that’s not a good place.”

But Kayla Moore would also like voters to know that in addition to having Jewish friends, her husband hired a black man one time.

“Fake news would also have you think that my husband doesn’t support the black community,” she told the crowd gathered in Dothan, Ala. “Yet my husband appointed the very first black marshal to the Alabama Supreme Court, Mr. Willie James. When he first took office as the chief justice many years ago, he brought with him three people from Etowah County. Two were black, and one of them is here tonight.”

It’s doubtful that Moore’s comments on civil rights would go down smoothly the with “black community” his wife claims that he supports.

When asked during a campaign stop in September when he thinks America was last “great,” Moore cited the antebellum South. He claimed that “even though we had slavery,” families “were united” and “cared for one another.” The Republican added, “Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

The audience member who asked him that question was black.

Moore, who has now been accused of sexual misconduct by nine women, will face off today against Democrat Doug Jones in a runoff election for Jeff Sessions’ vacated Senate seat. He believes that homosexuality should be illegal, once compared same-sex marriage to slavery, and blamed gay people for the Sept. 11 attacks.

The conservative currently leads in early polling by 2.2 percentage points.

Roy Moore Must Lose

Editor’s note: This is an opinion editorial and not reflective of the author’s reporting on LGBTQ issues for this site.

When Sarah Palin was nominated for Vice President and later mounted her own campaign for the Oval Office, it opened the door for Donald Trump. Both are political neophytes whose cults of personality appeal to the most extreme and excitable fringes of the GOP, even while having almost no knowledge of how the world works. But until now, it’s been an open question: Who does Trump’s presidency open the door for?

Unfortunately, we may have our answer tomorrow.

A man accused of sexual misconduct by at least nine women is leading by 2.5 percentage points in the Alabama Senate race, even despite a nightmare news cycle that would have derailed just about any other candidacy.

One of Roy Moore’s accusers, Leigh Corfman, was 14 when she claims he manipulated her mother into getting her alone, gave her his number, and then fondled her over her clothing on her second date. A former waitress in Gadsden, Ala., Beverly Young Nelson, says that Moore attempted to rape her after offering her a ride home from work. Nelson was just 16 when the former prosecutor attacked her in his parked car, telling her that no one would believe her story if she came forward.

“You’re just a child, and I am the district attorney,” he allegedly told her.

A single woman accusing a powerful man of abusing his power in order to coerce her into sex should have been enough, let alone nine.

But Moore has withstood these extremely consistent and extremely well-sourced claims. The allegations were well-known to colleagues and common enough knowledge in his small Alabama town that police were advised him to keep him away from shopping malls and high school cheerleaders. This is not political spin but the very facts of public record. Many, many people have known about Moore’s history for years and it hasat no point in his improbable four-decade career in public lifebeen a disqualifier.

The 70-year-old, who has been fired from the Alabama Supreme Court twice, isn’t merely a man accused of second-degree sexual abuse or giving alcohol to minors in order to coerce them into having sex. Moore’s entire existence is the antithesis of every fiber of progress that women, people of color, and the LGBTQ movement have made in the past five decades.

For those worried that Trump would embolden the darkest forces in American life to lift their skeletal hands through the dirt, look no further.

Moore’s anti-LGBTQ record is not a bug but a feature of his public platform. The former judge has claimed that homosexuality should be illegal, blamed gay people for September 11, and compared same-sex marriage to slavery. When CNN anchor Anderson Cooper asked his campaign manager, Janet Porter, last week if Moore’s positions on the subject had changed, she couldn’t answer the questionclose to a dozen times. Porter instead pivoted to his belief in the word of the Bible and the Constitution.

For those following along at home, that’s a “no.”

It’s not just that Moore isn’t sure if gay people should face the death penalty, offering up a glorified answer of “maybe” on the question when asked by radio host Kevin Swanson. The politician has defended slavery, saying that Americans “were united” and “cared for one another” before black people were recognized as human. He refers to Native people and Asian-Americansas “reds” and “yellows.”

It’s been widely reported that Moore, who has likened the Quran to Mein Kampf, claimed that Keith Ellison’s Muslim faith should disqualify him from Congress. But what has been left out of those headlines is that the Alabama conservative suggested his future colleague could be a terrorist in an op-ed for World Net Daily.

“Perhaps Ellison is confused about what he believes, or else he has another agenda,” Moore wrote of the Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee back in 2006.

Porter was also unable to state whether Moore’s opinion on Ellison has changed since.

That’s another “no.”

Voters will decide on Dec. 12 if a man who claimed that a lesbian mother’s sexuality posed a danger to her children should be allowed to stand alongside giants like Elizabeth Warren, Barbara Boxer, and Dick Durbin. Moore would sit in the same chamber as figures like John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, and Lyndon B. Johnson.

But in many ways, Republicans have already spoken: After initially abandoning his campaign, party leaders have failed to condemn him. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has backtracked on calling for Moore’s removal from the race, as well as any potential action from the Senate Ethics Committee. McConnell claimed that Congress will look at the election as a referendum on his guilt. Trump, who has never condemned Moore’s actions, stumped for him at a Friday rally. The president even recorded a robocall for the embattled candidate.

The GOP was never realistically going to abandon Moore. After allowing a man accused of sexual assault by nearly 20 women to be presidentone who announced his campaign for the Oval Office by calling Latinos “rapists”the line of what constitutes acceptable behavior has been erased several times over.

It’s telling that Moore voters told NBC reporters that he “could have killed Obama” and his base “wouldn’t care.”

Should the Republican win tomorrow, he will defeat a man who devoted his life to putting men like Moore behind bars. Doug Jones, a former prosecutor, has spent his career prosecuting child pornographers, pedophiles, and rapists. A victory for Moore would speak volumes about what conservatives value: putting party above safety, bitter tribalism over the rights of women and minorities, and dogmatism over dignity.

Put plainly, Alabama voters would be sending the messageall over againthat a sexual abuser is preferable to a Democrat in Congress.

Tomorrow’s special election is about more than deciding which of these two men will fill Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat, which should be more of a no-brainer than polls indicate it is. The race is about deciding what America we want to live in and what it stands for.

After Trump won the Electoral Vote in November, people from several nations have been banned from entering the United States based on what color their skin is and which God they worship. Hate crimes against Muslims, Jews, and LGBTQ people have skyrocketed. The president attempted to ban transgender troops from serving openly in the militarya policy that was pushed by extremist religious groups who believe the exact same things about queer and trans folks that Moore does.

The man who paved the way for the conservative’s candidacy told voters on Friday that the GOP “cannot afford” losing a Republican vote in the Senate. That may be true, but after a year where Pandora’s box has been unlocked, jackhammered, and its remains tossed into the air like confetti, our country cannot afford the dangerous precedent that Moore’s victory sets.

When Roy Moore is in the Senate, there’s simply no door left to open.

The Gay Man Kim Davis Denied a Marriage License Is Coming for Her Job

Wednesday marked an unlikely reunion in Rowan County. David Ermold and his partner, David Moore, first arrived at the courthouse in Morehead, Ky. two years ago to obtain a marriage license. The Supreme Court had recently legalized marriage equality. The two first met through personals ads posted on The Globe, a since-defunct social networking site, in the late ‘90s. They instantly bonded over a mutual love of Depeche Mode and Tori Amos.

After 17 years of dating, it was like they were already married.

Ermold and Moore were refused that license by a woman with a single long braid who stepped out of her office to tell them the story of Adam and Eve, an attempt to explain why they would not be getting married.

“She was afraid of going to hell and damning her soul,” Moore says of their conversation.

Now the couple was sitting across the desk from her againthis time making small talk about the Christmas season. Last week marked the celebration of “Hometown Holidays” in the little Appalachian town, an idyllic scene complete with carolers, horse and buggy rides, and musicians serenading shoppers at stores along main street.

But this was not a social call. Ermold had come to put his former adversary out of a job.

The 43-year-old filed paperwork on Dec. 6 to run for Rowan County clerk in the 2018 electoral race, as the Associated Press initially reported. His candidacy makes him one of four Democrats to challenge Kim Davis for the position.

Davis became the denim-skirted darling of the religious right in 2015 after spending five days in jail for refusing marriage licenses to four couples, two of whom were opposite-sex couples. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz visited the thrice-divorced clerk in county lockup, calling her imprisonment “judicial tyranny.” Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee appeared at a rally upon Davis’ release, raising their arms in synchronized exaltation.

The 53-year-old has remained in the national spotlight since the right anointed Davis its martyr du jour. She went on a nine-day tour of Romania in October to lobby against same-sex marriage on behalf of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Liberty Counsel, who defended her in court.

Ermold says that having Davis in office sends the wrong message about what Rowan County stands for.

“Whenever Kim Davis pops up in the news somewhere, it drags our community right back through the mud,” he tells INTO over the phone. “She runs off to Romania and she feels she can tell them what to do and support a referendum in a completely different country. She’s ruining the reputation of a very good community.”

“The focus needs to be on the people who elected her to office,” Ermold continues. “That’s why I’m running.”

The irony of Wednesday’s photo-op is not lost on Ermold and Moore.

Davis served as a deputy clerk in Rowan County under her mother, Jean Bailey, for 27 years before campaigning for a promotion in 2014. She ran as a Democrat. The couple, who voted straight-ticket that year, punched the hole on the ballot next to her name on election day. She defeated Republican John Cox with 53 percent of the vote.

Just over five months after Davis took office, the woman that Ermold and Moore helped get elected would refuse them their Constitutional right to marry.

“I don’t think she has ever been held accountable for what she did,” Moore says. “She still has her job. She got what she wanted. It feels like this person got away with discriminating against a whole group of people, and she hasn’t had to pay for it.”

Davis has continued to dodge accountability for her actions in the two years since.

Rather than forcing the Apostolic Christian to sign her name to same-sex couples’ marriage licenses, she struck a deal with the state of Kentucky. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin took the names of county clerks off certificates entirely. When Ermold and Moore joined with the three other couples to sue her in court over the denial of service, the plaintiffs were awarded $224,000 in court costs.

It wasn’t Davis, however, who paid the fine. Taxpayers footed the bill.

But Ermold says that Davis’ actions have had a galvanizing impact on the local community. Morehead held its inaugural Pride event in August 2016, which also featured the city’s first-ever drag show. Nearly 1,000 people weathered the punishing summer heat to attend.

This year’s event marked another milestone for the Eastern Kentucky town, which counts just under 7,000 residents. Republican Mayor Jim Tom Trent came out to make a proclamation in support of Morehead’s LGBTQ residents, declaring October to be Pride in Diversity Month in the city. Trent quoted the Kentucky state seal in a speech delivered to a packed crowd: “United we stand, divided we fall.”

Ermold and Moore, who sit on the board of the Morehead Pride committee, helped organize that festival.

“I think the amount of people we had come out to those events shows local leaders and politicians that you can’t just ignore the LGBTQ community anymore,” Ermold says. “There are enough people who showed up at those events who could sway a local election easilyin either direction.”

“So I think they’re going to start paying attention,” he adds.

When Ermold mulled entering the 2018 election race, he says local officials told him that Rowan Country “isn’t ready” for a gay county clerk, calling him an “outsider.” He certainly faces an uphill battle: Donald Trump won the county by more than 21 points in last year’s elections, defeating Hillary Clinton 58.5 percent to 37.2 percent.

But Morehead isn’t as conservative as one might expect, Ermold claims. The city attracts a younger, more liberal crowd than neighboring counties due to the presence of eponymous Morehead State University. Engulfed by the Daniel Boone National Forest, the school is known for its basketball team and its nursing program. Students often stay in the city after graduating, putting down roots and raising families.

The mentality in Morehead, Ermold says, is “small town, not small mind.”

The Democratic hopeful believes the local community is preparedand even eagerfor his candidacy. The day of his announcement, his Facebook feed was flooded with messages of support from neighbors and friends wishing him luck in the race. Even comedian Patton Oswalt tweeted to ask if he could be of service.

“I had one young man email me today and say that this was the first time he’s ever contributed to a political campaign,” Ermold claims. “I was honored and humbled he chose me.”

Although Davis is part of what inspired him to run, Ermold wants to bring Rowan County government into the 21st century. One way to do that, he says, is to “completely overhaul” the website for the clerk’s office, a relic of an earlier digital age. A professor at the neighboring University of Pikeville, he also believes that the office has a greater role to play in encouraging voter registration in the area.

But more than anything, Ermold hopes to inspire unity in a town that’s been polarized by the political battles of the past two years. Bringing people together, he says, means meeting with his constituents, getting to know them, and listening to their ideas.

Ultimately it’s not Kim Davis who will decide the race, he argues. It’s the voters.

“People said I would have a hard time, but I’ve been here for 14 years,” Ermold says. “This is my home. This is where I want to be. I have faith in the people here. I have faith in my neighbors. This is as simple as asking my friends and my community to have faith in me.”

As Ermold finished filling out his paperwork on Wednesday, his old foe didn’t give him another lecture about the Bible or God’s plan for creation. Davis shook his hand.

“May the best candidate win,” she said.

Images courtesy David Ermold

The Pivotal Anti-Gay Baker Case Before the Supreme Court Will Be Decided By One Man’s Vote

It’s a position that Justice Anthony Kennedy has found himself in many times before. The Supreme Court justice is likely to be the deciding vote in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case heard before the nation’s highest bench on Monday.

Judges heard oral arguments in the pivotal case, in which Colorado baker Jack Phillips claims that he shouldn’t be forced to bake cakes for same-sex weddings. In 2012, Phillips denied services to Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a gay couple planning their nuptials. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission later ruled that the refusal violated the state’s nondiscrimination laws, which prevent unlawful bias on the basis of sexual orientation.

The nine justices’ sympathies appeared to fall along party lines. The moderate Kennedy found himself wedged somewhere in the middle.

The court’s four-member liberal blocwhich includes Elena Kagan, Sandra Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburgquestioned Phillips’ lawyers as to their assertion that baking a cake constitutes artistic expression and, thus, should be protected under his First Amendment rights. Kristen Waggoner, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, compared a wedding cake to “creating a painting.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked where the line is drawn on artistic expression.

“Who else is an artist?” asked the 84-year-old justice, the court’s most reliably left-leaning member. “Say the person who does floral arranging, owns a floral shop? How about the person who designs the invitation?”

Kagan jumped in to continue the line of questioning.

“So the jeweler?” she added. “Hair stylist? Why is there no speech in creating a wonderful hairdo? The makeup artist? It’s called an artist. Why wouldn’t that also count?”

“When have we ever given protection to a food?” Justice Sotomayor wondered.

But the other side of the bench appeared moved by Phillips’ claims that Colorado’s civil rights commission discriminated against his religious beliefs by mandating he undergo sensitivity training. Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch claimed that the decision was “possibly in violation of his free-exercise rights.”

Kennedy added that such treatment would force Phillips to tell his family “that state law… supersedes our religious beliefs.”

The Reagan appointee is a conservative moderate often called upon to be the tie-breaker when the two sides cannot reach a consensus. That has given Kennedy a great deal of power: The judge has been behind some of the Court’s most progressive decisions on LGBTQ rights. He wrote the majority decisions in both Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state prohibitions on sodomy, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which gave same-sex couples the right to wed.

Kennedy worried that siding in favor of the Colorado bakery would serve to undermine the court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling. “It means that there’s basically an ability to boycott gay marriages,” he said.

The right-leaning judge added that allowing people of faith to discriminate on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs could be a slippery slope to Jim Crow-era discrimination. Kennedy claimed that Christian bakers could place signs in their window stating, “We do not bake cakes for gay weddings.”

“And you would not think that an affront to the gay community?” he asked Noel Francisco, the Principal Deputy Solicitor General who appeared on behalf of the Trump administration. The White House has backed Phillips in the case.

But Kennedy’s written opinion in the Obergefell decision signaled he may be sensitive to the arguments put forward by religious claimants on Monday.

“[I]t must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned,” the 81-year-old argued at the time. “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection. … The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.”

Kennedy’s line of questioning in the 80-minute oral argument, which ran well over the scheduled hour of debate, will likely keep LGBTQ advocates awake at night as they attempt to determine where his vote will fall.

The justice questioned whether Mullins, Craig, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had been sufficiently “tolerant or respectful” of Phillips’ faith beliefs, stating that “other good bakery shops… were available” to accommodate their requests. He claimed, in particular, that the commission’s verdict indicated a “hostility to religion.”

“Tolerance is essential in a free society,” Kennedy said. “Tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual.”

He took particular issue with a statement from Commissioner Diann Rice in which she claimed that religion has been used to “justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history,” pointing to the Holocaust and slavery. “[T]o me, it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use… their religion to hurt others,” she claimed during debate over the original complaint five years ago.

That quote has been taken out of context and exploited by the ADF to prove bias against people of faith, reports The Nation’s Sarah Posner. The firm is behind the introduction of numerous anti-LGBTQ bills across state legislatures, including legislation denying transgender people restroom access corresponding with their gender identity.

Posner said religious conservatives have falsely claimed that the Colorado civil rights board compared Phillips to a Nazi.

“[T]he statement does not evince a hostility to religion itself, only opposition to the invocation of religion to justify discrimination,” she wrote. “Nonetheless, Kennedy and others seized on it to suggest that fears of anti-Christian bias might indeed be real.”

In perhaps the most damning strike against LGBTQ rights, Kennedy appeared unconvinced that the Christian baker’s actions were motivated by animus toward same-sex couples. He told David Cole, an ACLU attorney representing Craig and Mullins, that an identity-based explanation for Phillips’ actions is “too facile.”

“It’s not their identity,” he said. “It’s what they’re doing.”

Analysts appeared divided as to whether Kennedy’s often conflicting remarks indicated he would cast his vote in favor of the Christian baker or the rights of LGBTQ people, as the justice has in the past. National Review correspondent David French claimed the judge “put identity politics on blast” in a tweet, while Vox’s German Lopez argued he was “sending mixed signals.”

Both sides will have to wait until June to find out where Kennedy stands, when the Supreme Court is expected to issue its formal ruling.

Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images