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 The Republican has claimed the allegations, which were originally made in a Nov. 7 report in the Washington Post, are “garbage” and “fake news.”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.

Alabama Is More Than Roy Moore

I was nine years old and growing up in Spanish Fort, Ala. when then-Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from the bench in 2003 for refusing to remove a marble statue of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery.

I was too young to pay much attention, but I remember a lot of fuss being made on the news. My parents explained to me what separation of church and state was, and why it was wrong of Moore to force Christian iconography into a government space.

I was 21 in May 2016, when Moore was suspended as Chief Justice for telling probate judges not to perform same-sex marriages, despite the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges the previous summer. This time, however, I was fully aware of what was happening, and heartbroken.

I’d celebrated the Obergefell ruling with my partner in Florida the day the decision was announced. We laughed, we cried, we jumped up and down. We had never doubted our future together, but knowing for certain that we could someday get married made everything so much more real.

But back home in Alabama, things were falling apart. Government authorities were saying they would leave office before performing a same-sex wedding or issuing a marriage certificate to a same-sex couple. Many people from home, who I loved growing up and continue to love now, posted their disgust online, condemning the Supreme Court’s decision as the work of the devil.

There’s no way for them to know how much their words hurt me, and have made it hard for me to come home to visit.

I’ve moved away from the South completely, but frequently felt the need to explain Alabama within my social circles. For people in Chicago, life in the Yellowhammer State seems like science fiction–how could it possibly be real? Why would anyone even consider voting for this guy?

The thing is, I can explain the culture, and I can explain what people believe and where those beliefs come from, but I will never truly understand it. Not from where I sit as a bisexual woman who believes in God, but not that the Bible is the absolute truth, or that any group of people deserves to be relegated to second class. Not from where I sit as a person who does what Jesus commanded us to do in John 13:34to love one another fully, as Christ loved us. Not this “hate the sin, love the sinner” mess so often expressed to me.

I’ll never understand how people can commit to living in God’s image, and yet put party over His word. I’ll never understand how people can look at their friends and neighbors, who they say they love, and genuinely believe they are better. That they will leave their friends behind when they ascend into the kingdom of heaven. I’ll never understand how people can listen to the stories of Moore’s accusers and not believe them.

And yet, it’s happening. A strange Southern pride and too-strong party identification have merged with what it means to be a good Christian. Conservative values have become erroneously synonymous with Christian values. And while I don’t doubt the sincerity of their beliefs, nor do I believe that all conservative values are wrong, I firmly believe that Moore supporters are gravely mistaken in their choice.

But don’t count all of us Alabamians out. (And yes, it’s Alabamians with an “i”–I don’t know what that “Alabaman” word is.) I have seen more mobilization from Alabama Democrats than I think I ever have. Particularly in more liberal centers such as Birmingham and other college towns like Tuscaloosa, “Vote Doug Jones” is the talk of the town.

The national attention on little ‘ole Bama is making a lot of people take pause. Is a pause enough to get a Democrat in office? I’m not sure about that. But I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that the people I love back home will vote based on the values I know they live by, instead of the values toted by a party. I’m hopeful that voters won’t sit passively by and let an alleged sexual predator and proven bigot take office. I’m hopeful that my home state will someday stop being the butt of late night hosts’ jokes because, I promise, it is a state with plenty of good people.

Sweet home Alabama, please do the right thing.

Image via Getty

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

Why the ‘Religious Freedom’ Argument in Masterpiece Cannot Stand at the Supreme Court

As a veteran of the LGBTQ movement for more than 20 years, I’ve been to a lot of rallies. But the atmosphere at the Supreme Court this past Tuesday was a rare moment I don’t get to experience every day.

As the new CEO at Freedom for All Americans, I was attending my first-ever rally at America’s highest court on the day of oral argument in Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Human Rights Commission, one of the most significant LGBTQ rights cases in recent history. The energy was palpable. At its core, this case concerns whether existing nondiscrimination laws can be overridden by sweeping exemptions on the basis of religion. The outcome will have a tremendous impact on equal treatment for LGBTQ people and could extend to other nondiscrimination laws based on race, religion, sex, and additional protected categories.

More specifically, this case is the story of a same-sex couple who simply sought to buy a cake for their civil marriage in 2012. When Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins entered Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Colorado bakery refused to serve them, citing religion as the reason.

“Religious freedom” has been the primary buzzword for opponents of LGBTQ equality who have spoken out in support of the bakery these past few months. Their argument is that when individuals or businesses are compelled to provide certain services to LGBTQ people (e.g., a cake), they are by extension endorsing the purpose for which the service will be used (e.g., a wedding). They believe they should be exempted from doing so if it is a violation of their religious beliefs.

The truth is, using the guise of religious freedom in an attempt to justify discrimination has been a deliberate tactic by both opponents of LGBTQ equality and opponents of broader progressive social movements for a long time. In fact, ever since the tide turned on marriage equality, those opposed to LGBTQ rights began to cite religious freedom to try to push forward harmful carve-outs on the state and federal level that permit businesses, individuals, and government agencies a license to discriminate.

And sadly, that strategy doesn’t differ from those who tried to hold America back at the height of the Jim Crow eraan incredibly shameful period in our history.

One of the most notorious recent examples is Indiana’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), passed in 2015one of 21 states with laws on the books that allow ambiguity and exceptions in enforcing nondiscrimination protections. Sponsors of laws like the one in Indiana often claim they are rooted in the identically-named federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which passed in 1993.

But that law was actually very limited. It intended to protect people from discrimination based on religion, and had nothing to do with turning away LGBTQ people. The Masterpiece case is simply a high-profile overreach by our opposition to resist equal treatment for LGBTQ people in whatever way they can.

Ironically, a bad ruling in Masterpiece could negatively impact people of minority faiths, defeating the whole purpose of the original RFRA. Allowing a Christian business owner to turn away a person because they don’t support marriage for same-sex couples could easily lead to a Christian business owner turning away a person who is Muslim or Jewish because they don’t agree with the basic tenets of their faith.

On a larger scale, the trajectory of American history demonstrates that religious freedom has too-often been misconstrued to pursue harmful agendas that exclude certain categories of people. It’s hardly a new tactic.

During the civil rights movement, white business owners resisted serving black customers by claiming their religion prohibited it. This October, the NAACP filed a friend-of-the-court brief, a legal document expressing a compelling interest in the case, to the Supreme Court in Masterpiece. In the brief, the organization recalls an incident in 1964 following the passage of Title II of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibited racial discrimination in public accommodations. A South Carolina restaurant refused to serve three black customers because the owner believed that doing so “contravene[d] the will of God.”

Sound familiar? What took place in that case, titled Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, was nearly identical to what happened to Craig and Mullins five years ago. The 1964 case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which unanimously held that the restaurant owner violated Title II because, as the district court explained, “free exercise of one’s beliefs, as distinguished from the absolute right to a belief, is subject to regulation when religious acts require accommodation to society.”

The Supreme Court must now stand by this precedent, reaffirming that freedom of religion doesn’t provide an absolute trump card against adhering to public accommodations laws like the one in Colorado. These laws are necessary to allow individuals who have historically faced discrimination to access basic public services and enter businesses without fear of being turned away.

Freedom of religion is simply not at risk in the Masterpiece case. Religious freedom is a long-held American value which is powerfully protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It’s what makes America the great country it is. But faith-practicing Americans do not enjoy the freedom to break the law simply because of their religion. Businesses that are open to the public must be open to all classes of people and serve everyone equally on the same terms, regardless of who they are or who they love. A business cannot, and should not, enforce background checks on or screen its customers before it provides them a service.

There’s no exception for this for people of faith who happen to be business owners. Once a business opens its doors to the public, it agrees to abide by the lawin this case, Colorado’s nondiscrimination law. Religious freedom is meant to be a shield, not a sword, and it should never be used to treat people unfairly. That’s not how it was intended by the founders of our country, and it should not be the situation now.

Recent polls of American voters debunk the notion that religious freedom is under attack or in need of extraordinary protection from nondiscrimination laws.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, 72 percent of Americans support laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. This includes six out of 10 Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats. The same poll found that 53 percent of Americans oppose allowing wedding-related businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds.

In addition, nearly every major religious denominationincluding white Catholics, Hispanic Catholics, black Protestants, and unaffiliated Americansopposes the idea that freedom of religion should permit discrimination.

This is consistent with the belief of many faith communities in the Masterpiece case: Nearly 1,300 clergy, representing half a million congregants from 50 unique faith traditions, signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief in Masterpiece to oppose religious exemptions from a faith perspective.

The ruling in Masterpiece can affirm that LGBTQ people are no less than anyone else, or it can set back our movement in a detrimental way. It’s on us to have the important conversations with our loved ones, neighbors, and colleagues in order to get the word out and organize in a way we never have before. This is not about one case and it’s not about one cake. It’s about our basic freedom to be who we are, take care of our families, and pursue a happy and fulfilling life in the most fundamental way.

Masen Davis is the CEO of Freedom for All Americans, the campaign to secure LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections nationwide.

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Kate McKinnon Had Hilariously Accurate Reaction to Being Mentioned in Hillary Clinton’s Book

The very public friendship that has blossomed between Hillary Clinton and Kate McKinnon is the definition of #squadgoals. After impersonating Clinton numerous times on SNL, McKinnon was joined by the former FLOTUS and then-democratic candidate for a very special skit. They were even photographed getting dinner together at Orso in New York, earlier this year.

After Clinton’s loss last November, McKinnon gave a very memorable and Emmy-winning performance of “Hallelujah” on SNL as Clinton. It was an appropriately emotional reaction to the presidential upset, especially for someone who’d grown so close to the candidate. So, it’s no surprise that the beautiful moment shared with everyone in the world, including Clinton, made it into the book, What Happened.

“On the Saturday after the election, I turned on Saturday Night Live and watched Kate McKinnon open the show with her impression of me one more time,” Clinton writes in her memoir. “She sat at a grand piano and played ‘Hallelujah,’ the hauntingly beautiful song by Leonard Cohen, who had died days before. As she sang, it seemed like she was fighting back tears. Listening, so was I.”

As emotional as that moment was for everyone, leave it to the hilarious McKinnon to break the tension with some much-needed laughter. She recently appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where she did her best Gal Gadot impression and talked SNL with the former cast member-turned-talk show host. When the topic of Clinton came up, Fallon pointed out that McKinnon was mentioned in the book, to which she reenacted the moment she heard it on the audio version of the book. It’s a hilarious and appropriate reaction that includes wailing in the middle of a busy New York street.

Watch the clip below:

Header image byby Mike Coppola/Getty Images for NBC

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

Masterpiece Cakeshop Plaintiffs Finally Make Their Case In Front Of The Supreme Court

If the story about the baker who wouldn’t make a gay wedding cake sounds like old news, that’s because it is.

It’s been five years since Colorado baker Jack Phillips refused to make a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins.

But the case that started as a test over anti-discrimination law during uncertain times for marriage equality in the U.S. now has far-reaching consequences for LGBTQ people as the Supreme Court weighed the issue Tuesday.

At stake is whether businesses can use religion to turn away LGBTQ customers.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, expected to cast the deciding vote, appeared undecided Tuesday.

“It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs,” he said in a statement.

Still Kennedy, who ruled in favor of equal marriage in 2015, noted that if Phillips wins, other bakers might post signs reading, “We do not bake cakes for gay weddings.”

The case dates back to 2012 when Craig and Mullins approached Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop, about making a cake for their wedding celebration. Phillips declined, citing his Christian faith.

Craig and Mullins filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and won. The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld that decision.

Mullins and Craig are not alone. A spate of cases against other wedding vendors refusing to serve LGBTQ clients have cropped up in recent years across the country, playing out in lower courts.

The Trump administration has thrown its weight behind the Baker, filing a friend-of-the-court brief in September.

The case has hinged on whether or not Phillips’ cakes constitute art that should be protected as free speech.

LGBTQ advocates worry that allowing Phillips to turn away potential clients like Craig and Mullins would open the floodgates for other businesses turning away protected groups under the cover of faith.

“Think about what that would be like to walk into a hairdresser or a tailor shop or a florist or a bakery and be told we don’t serve your kind here,” says Sasha Buchert, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. “It harkens back to our worst moments in history when we denied service to African Americans.”

Roberta Kaplan, the attorney who overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, said that a win for Baker would send the country back in time.

“The Masterpiece Cakeshop case is not about either religious liberty or free speechit is about whether a business can treat certain groups of Americans as second-class citizens,” Kaplan said in a statement to INTO. “…A bakery is not exercising its right to free speech when it agrees to sell a cake to one set of customers, but refuses to sell the same cake to others.”

Phillips argues that as a “cake artist,” he cannot be compelled to make custom cakes for same-sex weddings.

Phillips did not respond to a request to comment through his attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom. But the ADF writes in a statement that, “Creative professionals should be free to create expression consistent with their faith and conscience without fear of government punishment.”

But justices appeared more concerned with whether the baker’s reasons for refusal, noting that if he had refused due to the message the on the cake might not be discrimination. On the hand, if Phillips refused solely on the basis of the identity of the clients, he may have violated the law.

Mullins and Craig note that the case extends beyond them just them.

“Through this whole process we have heard so many stories of people who have been discriminated against,” Craig says.

“Should the Supreme Court find against us, the consequences could be far reaching and not just for the LGBT community,” Mullins says. “A loss at the Supreme Court could open the door to many forms of discrimination.”

A decision is expected by summer.


Photos by Alex Wong/Getty Images