Saturday, March 28, 2015

ITALY: Activists Counter Neo-Nazis With Public Reading Of LGBT Children's Books

Yesterday I reported that Italy's neo-Nazi New Front Party planned to hold a burning of LGBT children's books in a central plaza in Milan. Local activists had demanded that city authorities stop the event and that may have happened. Not stopped, however, was a large counter-protest by LGBT activists and allies, who this afternoon staged a public reading of numerous LGBT children's titles.  Bravo Milano! Meanwhile the neo-Nazis are mocking the counter-protest on their Facebook page.

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You Knew This Was Coming

British and German tabloids are claiming that the Germanwings pilot was "tormented" about being gay. From Britain's Daily Star, which has more than twice the circulation of the Guardian:
Lubitz’ relationship with his girlfriend is said to have broken down and it has been claimed that he was secretly homosexual. He was even taunted by pilot pals for previously being a “trolley dolly” airline steward and dubbed Tomato Andy – a derogatory gay slur. It also emerged the David Guetta fan enjoyed partying at a German nightclub which holds boozy, circus-themed events involving drag queens and dwarves. The lively Agostea club in Koblenz lies 20 minutes from the home he shared with his parents in the German town of Montabaur. The revelations came as German airline Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, announced it would pay up to e50,000 “immediate financial assistance” to relatives of every victim of the horror crash.
From The Mirror tabloid:
Former colleagues told how Lubitz was mercilessly taunted over his cabin crew past. He was nicknamed “Tomato Andy” because they believed he didn’t know if he was a “fruit or veg” – a reference to his sexuality. One ex-workmate said it was slang term for a “straight who was really gay”. Another added: “Everyone thought it strange that he kept on going back home to his mum and dad at weekends. "He had a nice car, a good job, and good prospects, but he seemed to spend all his time by himself.” Lubitz bought two top-of-the-range Audi cars earlier this month. One was said to be a present for himself and the other for his girlfriend. Habibalah Hassani, 53, who runs a pizza restaurant near the killer pilot’s Dusseldorf home, said he had often seen him with his lover. But neighbours in Montabaur claimed she had not been seen there recently.
Rumors about the pilot's sexuality have even been picked up by the reputable Independent:
Mass-murdering Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had had a “serious relationship crisis” with his girlfriend, investigators told Germany’s Bild newspaper yesterday, and according to one report last night he split with her the day before the crash. An ex-girlfriend told Bild that Lubitz had once told her he wanted his name remembered and that he planned to go down in history by doing something to “change the whole system”. "People all over the world will know my name." Other theories concerned his sexuality. There was speculation yesterday that he may have been gay and felt forced to keep it secret, after it emerged that a male friend had sent a message to Lubitz’s personal website after the crash. It read: “We were only talking yesterday about what we would do together when you came back. You always made me smile.” It was suggested to The Independent that “Tomato Andi” was a joke gay term used to describe someone who repressed their homosexuality, a tomato being commonly referred to as a vegetable despite being a fruit. In any case, it now seems certain that Lubitz had serious psychological problems which he kept secret.
Meanwhile American crackpots like Pam Geller and Jim Hoft are predictably claiming that the pilot was a recent convert to Islam.

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States File Their Briefs To SCOTUS

Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio all filed their marriage ban defense briefs with the Supreme Court yesterday afternoon. Chris Geidner reports at Buzzfeed:
In Michigan, where a same-sex couple wishes to marry and has sued the state, the state filed its brief with the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon, arguing that the Constitution does not require that states allow same-sex couples to marry. “This case is not about the best definition of marriage or any stereotypes about families. Families come in all types, and parents of all types—married or single, gay or straight—love their children,” lawyers for the state write. “This case is about whether the Fourteenth Amendment imposes a single marriage view on all states such that the people have no right to decide. It does not.”

Former Michigan Solicitor General John Bursch has been brought back on board as the counsel of record for the state and will be arguing before the justices in defense of such bans for Michigan and Kentucky on April 28. Tennessee Associate Solicitor General Joseph Whalen will be arguing in defense of recognition bans for Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio.  In Ohio, where the state’s law and amendment banning recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages granted elsewhere are being challenged, Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office filed a brief arguing that the marriage issue is best left to the “democratic process” — an argument that formed a significant portion of the appeals court decision upholding the four states’ bans.
Here are all four briefs: Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio. Dig and excerpt the parts that jump out at you.

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Bryan Fischer On Indiana

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Brian Brown Applauds Indiana

"The state of Indiana has stepped up to the plate in defending marriage and religious freedom. If you remember, a federal judge recently struck down Indiana's state marriage amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. That decision will be subject to whatever Supreme Court ruling is issued this summer. But the marriage champions in the Hoosier state wouldn't sit back and wait. They acted to defend marriage and religious liberty by passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act this week by overwhelming majorities in the state House and Senate. Governor Pence just signed the bill yesterday. The new legislation protects individuals who wish to live their lives and run their businesses in keeping with their sincere and deeply held religious beliefs. I'd like to thank Governor Pence and the brave legislators of the state of Indiana for being pro-active in defending marriage and religious liberty, and urge every state in the union to follow their lead in passing similar legislation." - Brian Brown, in yesterday's money beg for Hate March III.

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Satan Crashed That German Airliner

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Tony Perkins Has The RINO Sadz

"Almost a dozen Republicans -- some who visibly campaigned on natural marriage -- sided with Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) in tearing down the last two federal holdouts that respect state marriage laws: the social security and veterans' administrations. Unlike other departments, these agencies have consistently recognized marriage for couples based on the state where they live -- not the state where they 'married.' In a stunning betrayal of voters and the GOP platform, 11 RINOs decided the federal government should trump state laws on marriage and force states to bow to the Left's definition. In other words, the question was not just about what marriage is, but who gets to decide. Senators Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Shelley Capito (W.Va.), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nev.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Ron Johnson (Wisc), and Bob Corker (Tenn.) made it clear that they were quite comfortable undermining state marriage laws -- even when many of these same Republicans (Tillis in particular) -- were fighting last year to defend them!" - Hate group leader Tony Perkins, via email.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

WASHINGTON: Court Fines Anti-Gay Florist $1000, Gives Her 60 Days To Pay

Via the Associated Press:
A Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding was fined $1,000 Friday, plus $1 for court costs and fees. Benton County Superior Judge Alexander Ekstrom's ruling gives Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Washington, 60 days to pay the state for her refusal to serve Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed when they sought to buy wedding flowers in 2013. Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office requested the fine, said in a statement Friday that the ruling is a reminder of the reach of Washington's anti-discrimination laws. "My primary goal has always been to end illegal discrimination," Ferguson said. "I'm pleased that today's ruling clearly prohibits discrimination against same-sex couples." Before Ferguson's office filed the consumer-protection lawsuit against Stutzman, it had sent her a letter asking for an agreement to no longer discriminate, which she refused. Ferguson's statement Friday said the office would not have sued if Stutzman had accepted the agreement.
The judge also ruled that the gay couple is entitled to damages, but he reserved setting that amount until the appeals process runs its course. The Alliance Defending Freedom is very upset. Via World Net Daily:
Kristen Waggoner, ADF senior counsel, said the award to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson boils down to a government threat to Christians: “Surrender your religious liberty and free speech rights, or face personal and professional ruin.” Waggoner said the judgment Friday “affirms the court’s earlier decision that Barronelle must pay a penalty for her faith and surrender her freedom and conscience.”

“The penalty and fees imposed today are only the first punch,” Waggoner said. “The ACLU, on behalf of the same-sex couple also suing Barronelle, has asked the court to award them penalties, fees, and costs, which will financially devastate Barronelle’s business and personal assets – including taking this 70-year old grandmother’s retirement and personal savings. The message sent by the attorney general and the ACLU to the people of Washington is quite clear: surrender your religious liberty and free speech rights, or face personal and professional ruin.”

WND reported earlier when the state offered to settle its case for $2,001, but Stutzman rejected the offer out of hand. That was after Ekstrom authorized the state and the homosexual plaintiffs to pursue the business and personal assets of Stutzman, including her home, savings and retirement, in payment of damages and attorneys’ fees.

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Ellen DeGeneres Slams Indiana

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INDIANA: Restaurant Owner Tells Radio Show That He'll Refuse Gay Customers

From a morning chat radio show in Indianapolis:
Kyle & Rachel were discussing the ‘Religious Freedom’ bill today when they received a call from a local business owner, Ryan, who not only supports the bill 100% but refused service to a gay couple before. Ryan was so honest with his answers that he mentioned he once blamed a mechanical failure in the kitchen in order to refuse service to a gay couple! Listen to the call that had all circuits busy this morning for an entire hour!
The station's clip auto-plays so you'll have to listen to it here. (Tipped by JMG reader Scott)

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Sen. Rand Paul Courts Fundies: Same-Sex Marriage Is The Result Of A Moral Crisis

“Don’t always look to Washington to solve anything. In fact, the moral crisis we have in our country, there is a role for us trying to figure out things like marriage, there’s also a moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some sort of other marriage. We need a revival in the country. We need another Great Awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying reform or see what’s going to happen if we don’t reform." - Sen. Rand Paul, speaking today at a prayer breakfast attended by evangelical pastors. After his speech, Sen. Paul competed in the 17th Annual Chuck Norris Hideous Toupee Open, where he placed third behind John Travolta and the late Howard Cosell.

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ARKANSAS: Senate Approves Anti-Gay License To Discriminate Bill, Gov. Asa Hutchinson Says He Plans To Sign It

Arkansas Online reports:
The chamber voted 24-7 to approve House Bill 1228, the Conscience Protection Act, a day after representatives from the Human Rights Campaign spoke out against the bill in Little Rock and called it discriminatory. HB1228's lead sponsor, state Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, has said the bill will shift Arkansas to a strict scrutiny standard, which makes it more difficult to infringe on religious rights. He told House members when the legislation passed that chamber last month that it would require the government to have compelling interest and for it to take the least restrictive action to regulate a "legitimate, deeply-held religious belief."
The bill must now return to the House to reconcile minor changes made by the Senate. The House first approved the bill in February. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said yesterday that he intends to sign it.

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INDIANA: Hacker Takes Down State Site

Via the Indianapolis Star:
The State of Indiana's website was apparently hacked in response to Gov. Mike Pence's signing of a controversial "religious freedom" bill. The state's website,, had been down for several hours, according to readers, before coming back online after 3 p.m. An individual using the Twitter handle @YourVikingdom is claiming responsibility. "@IN_gov enjoy your website being #OFFLINE," one Tweet said. Another said: "#Target http://IN.GOV #OFFLINE#Vikingdom2015 #OpIndianaKnocked it down for @xxdjsethxx :)." The link goes to an article at Perez Hilton's website titled: "The Governor Of Indiana Just Signed A Religious Freedom Bill That Would Allow Businesses To Discriminate Against The LGBT Community." State officials did not immediately respond to questions from The Star.
(Tipped by JMG reader Charles)

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White House Slams Indiana

Justin Snow reports at Metro Weekly:
The White House voiced concerns Friday over a new religious freedom law in Indiana that could allow discrimination against LGBT people. White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law yesterday by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) has raised legitimate concerns among companies reconsidering doing business in the state and is not a step toward equality for all Americans.

“I have seen that there are a number of private businesses and nonprofit organizations that have said that the signing of this law prompts them to reconsider doing business in the state of Indiana,” Earnest said. “All those business and some of those who are considering having conventions in Indiana have raised concerns about whether all of their employees can count on being treated fairly in Indiana.

“I think that is a testament to the kind of reaction I think a lot of people all across the country had, which is that the signing of the bill doesn’t seem like it’s a step in the direction of equality and justice and liberty for all Americans. Again, that’s not just the view of the administration, I know that’s the view of the Republican mayor of Indianapolis and a whole host of nonprofit and private sector companies who have legitimate concerns about the impact of this legislation.”
It appears that this is first time that the Obama administration has spoken out on the recent wave of anti-LGBT legislation.

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Viral Video Of The Day

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ITALY: Neo-Nazi Party To Stage Public Burning Of LGBT Children's Books

Two days after a civil unions bill advanced in the Italian Senate, tomorrow Italy's neo-Nazi New Front Party will stage a public burning of LGBT children's books in Milan. Local progressives are demanding that city authorities step in to stop the event.

Members of the Democratic Party are outraged: "Burning books with a theme of homosexuality was a typical behavior of the Nazi regime. This horrendous return to the most terrible past must be censured and rejected with the greatest commitment. Milan is a noted city of the resistance and in the seventieth anniversary year of its liberation it cannot suffer such an outrage."

Another group is calling for a counter-protest: "We invite the citizens of Milan to come to Piazza Oberdan [tomorrow] with one of the books contained in the list in question or with books like those of Sappho, Tondelli or Oscar Wilde. Read them together with us." (Tipped by JMG reader Andrea)

RELATED: The New Front Party was formed in 1997 by members of a Nazi punk band. In the 2013 general election New Front candidates got nearly 200,000 votes but won zero seats in the national legislature. Among its stated objectives are the "humane repatriation" of immigrants, a ban on abortion, the abolition of capitalism, and "the recovery of Christian religiosity and faith in the Catholic Church."

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Black Church Group: We Are Ever So Pissed At The Presbyterian Church

The National Black Church Initiative today declared that they are furious with the Presbyterian Church's decision to endorse same-sex marriage. They are now totally no longer besties and have "broken fellowship" with them. Whatever that means. Via press release:
This arbitrary change of Holy Scripture is a flagrantly pretentious and illegitimate maneuver by a body that has no authority whatsoever to alter holy text. Rev. Anthony Evans, NBCI President noted "NBCI and its membership base are simply standing on the Word of God within the mind of Christ. We urge our brother and sisters of the PCUSA to repent and be restored to fellowship." PCUSA's manipulation represents a universal sin against the entire church and its members. With this action, PCUSA can no longer base its teachings on 2,000 years of Christian scripture and tradition, and call itself a Christian entity in the body of Christ. It has forsaken its right by this single wrong act.
The NBCI claims to represent "34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans."

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NEW YORK: Gay Pol Thanks Miley Cyrus For Help With Homeless Youth Funding Bill

Openly gay New York Sen. Brad Hoylman today thanked pop star Miley Cyrus for helping win millions of dollars in state funding for homeless youth shelters. Via DNA Info:
The 2015 New York State Budget now has $4.5 million in funding for homeless youth shelters, the first significant increase in seven years — thanks to Miley Cyrus. State Sen. Brad Hoylman said credit for convincing Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to include the funding belongs to the "Wrecking Ball" singer. "I want to thank Miley Cyrus for her advocacy in helping raise awareness through our #5000TooMany social media campaign," Hoylman said in a statement. "Miley’s advocacy on behalf of homeless kids made a difference and is a perfect example how star power can be used to help others." Cyrus sent a letter to the Albany power trio a week ago urging them to include the funding in the budget.
State funding for homeless youth had been cut by two-thirds since 2008. The restored funding will reportedly pay for 1000 new shelter beds. The above-linked story does not specify how the new funding might be distributed to homeless LGBT youth services such as the Ali Forney Center.

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Family Research Council: God's Army Must Rise Up & Fight The Evil Of Gay Rights

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CHERRY GROVE: Fire Destroys Two Hotels, Gay Nightclub, And Several Residences

A massive fire swept through Cherry Grove's commercial district on Fire Island last night, destroying several private homes, the Holly House Hotel, and the Grove Hotel, the last of which was home to the famed Ice Palace nightclub. For decades the Ice Palace hosted the Miss Fire Island pageant and served as the kickoff location for the annual Fire Island Pines Drag Invasion. Local authorities say that the source of the blaze, which reportedly broke out on the nearby boardwalk, is unknown. About 80 firefighters were on the scene and two suffered injuries, but no residents were hurt, possibly because most of Fire Island is unoccupied at this time of year. Last night's fire was yet another in a recent string of disasters to strike Fire Island's two predominantly gay towns. The commercial district of neighboring Fire Island Pines was destroyed in a 2011 fire and both towns were flooded during 2012's Hurricane Sandy.
(Via Towleroad)

UPDATE: Contrary to the above-linked Newsday report that the Grove Hotel is a "complete loss," this news item says the Ice Palace nightclub portion of the complex suffered only minor damage.

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Proposition Jake

Clip recap:
Hey Gang! So there's this ridiculous bill circulating the Attorney Generals Office of California that calls for the execution of Gay TV Characters!..... Wait no... I mean the execution of REAL GAY people. What's called the "Sodomite Suppression Act" (rude) is legislation that essentially legalizes the execution of gay people by "bullets" to the head is not only completely insane but also in itself illegal. Why is our government circulating it in the first place? What state am I living in? What century is it?

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Try To Remember The Fantasticks

Playbill has the news:
The Off-Broadway revival of The Fantasticks, still the longest-running musical in world history and the longest-running play of any kind in American history, has announced that it will close in May. The little musical about a Boy, a Girl and the wall that separates them will close May 3, the 55th anniversary of the opening of the show in 1960. At the time of its closing, the production will have played a total of 20,672 performances in NYC: 17,162 at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village, and 3,510 at the Jerry Orbach Theatre at the Snapple Theater Center at the corner of Broadway and 50th Street. Producer Catherine Russell told, "It has become increasingly challenging to sell lots of tickets consistently--we are either incredibly busy and selling out or selling fewer tickets that we have been in previous years. It's feast or famine. So due to this uncertainty,I have reluctantly decided to close The Fantasticks on the 55th anniversary of its opening on May 3, 1960.

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Eleven Senate Republicans Vote For Benefits For Married Same-Sex Couples

Chris Geidner reports at Buzzfeed:
Eleven Senate Republicans joined with all of the Democrats on Thursday night in supporting an amendment to guarantee equal Social Security and veterans benefits to married same-sex couples — even if they live in a state that does not recognize such marriages. The vote was one of many, nonbinding Senate votes of a broad range of hot-button issues for a budget that might not even pass the upper chamber.

Nonetheless, the vote gives rare insight into the potential changes going on within the Republican Party on the marriage issue in advance of the coming Supreme Court decision widely expected to hold that bans on same-sex couples’ marriages are unconstitutional. Six of the 11 Republicans voting for the measure are up for re-election in 2016.

The amendment, proposed by Sen. Brian Schatz, addressed the fact that both Social Security and some provisions of veterans’ benefits are, by statute, provided to spouses on the basis of whether a couple’s marriage is recognized by the state in which they live. The amendment would provide for benefits for spouses for all married same-sex couples, regardless of where they live.
Also voting "yes" was Sen. Joe Manchin (WV), the lone Senate Democrat yet to endorse same-sex marriage. Hit the link for the list of Republicans.

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Country Radio Stations Pull Hit Single Following Complaints About "Gay Agenda"

Country radio stations nationwide have ceasing playing a hit single after listeners wrongly complained that the song promotes homosexuality. Via the Washington Post:
Alana Lynn, a morning co-host on country music station 104.3 FM in Boise, Idaho, was excited to play Little Big Town’s latest single for her listeners. “Girl Crush,” a powerful ballad about a woman envious of her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, seemed destined to be a hit. “I want to taste her lips, yeah cause they taste like you / I want to drown myself in a bottle of her perfume,” vocalist Karen Fairchild sings. “I want her long blond hair, I want her magic touch / Yeah cause maybe then, you’d want me just as much. . . I got a girl crush.” Sure, it’s a provocative way to describe jealousy. But when Lynn played the song on the air, she didn’t anticipate that she would get furious phone calls and e-mails accusing “Girl Crush” of “promoting the gay agenda” and threats to boycott the station. In recent weeks, multiple radio stations from coast to coast have been inundated with similar complaints about “Girl Crush,” forcing several to take it out of a regular rotation. (Sample comments heard by a Texas program director: “You are just promoting the gay agenda on your station and I am changing the channel and never listening to you ever again!!”)
The song is currently #4 on the iTunes country chart and is at #17 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart.

(Tipped by JMG reader Eric)

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SAN FRANCISCO: Mayor Ed Lee Bans Work Travel To Indiana For City Staffers

"We stand united as San Franciscans to condemn Indiana’s new discriminatory law, and will work together to protect the civil rights of all Americans including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Effective immediately, I am directing City Departments under my authority to bar any publicly-funded City employee travel to the State of Indiana that is not absolutely essential to public health and safety. San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by the State of Indiana." - San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, via press release.

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Headline Of The Day

Via the London Standard:
The co-pilot who deliberately crashed a plane into a mountainside in the French Alps was suffering from depression and 'a personal life crisis,' according to reports. Andreas Lubitz, 28, had deliberately put the Germanwings airliner into a descent after the captain left the cockpit, French prosecutors said after analysing evidence from the recovered cockpit voice recorder. 150 people were killed, including babies, 16 schoolchildren and the flight's cabin crew and pilot. The head of Lufthansa, Germanwings parent company, admitted Lubitz had taken a long break from pilot training, while German media reported he had been battling mental health issues. Investigators are focusing on his "personal, family and professional environment" to try to determine why he locked his captain out of the cockpit and reset the autopilot to take the doomed plane from 38,000 feet to just 100ft. According to German newspaper Bild, Lubitz was going through a "personal life crisis", while the Der Spiegel newspaper said he had taken a break in training because of "burnout-syndrome".
More from the Daily Mail:
Yesterday, the boss of Germanwings admitted Lubitz had slipped through the ‘safety net’ and should never have been flying. It was also revealed that the fitness fanatic had suffered from depression and ‘burnout’ which had held up his career. He reportedly received a year and half of psychiatric treatment and was at one point recommended to be examined by a doctor before flying. But, incredibly, he passed his psychological assessments and was later considered fit to fly. Germany’s Federal Aviation Office confirmed this morning that Lubitz had a medical condition noted in his pilot’s records which required him to have a regular examination. It was reported this morning that during his education at the Lufthansa Flight School in Phoenix, Arizona, he was listed temporarily as 'unfliable'. It was suggested today that Lubitz - who had worked for Lufthansa as a cabin attendant for nearly a year before being accepted for flight training - may have been teased by other pilot's over his previous role. A friend said: 'His nickname was "Tomato Andy" - a reference to his past employment as a flight steward'.
And from Sky News:
Prosecutors investigating the Germanwings crash have said there were indications the co-pilot hid his illness from his employers. In a news conference on Friday, the prosecutors said that Andreas Lubitz hid a sick note on the day the Airbus A320 crashed into a mountainside during a flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf. The torn-up note, dated on the day of the crash on Tuesday, was found in the 27-year-old's flat in Dusseldorf. The prosecutors added that documents showed he was receiving medical treatment, but that no suicide note or claim of responsibility for the crash was found.

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The Sound Of Music Turns 50

Via the Daily Mail:
Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer reunited on Thursday for a 50th anniversary screening of their hit film The Sound Of Music. The 79-year-old actress looked radiant in a loose white blouse, black jacket and matching trousers upon arrival at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Christopher, 85, was dapper in a black suit and blue dress shirt with dotted black tie. The screening featured a restored version of the musical and it opened the TCM Classic Film Festival that runs through Sunday. The restored 4K version of the film also will be screened at over 500 movie theatres in April. The 1965 film was an adaptation of the hit Broadway play by Rodgers & Hammerstein and both provided a fictionalized account of the life of Maria von Trapp.
The first clip below is from last night's event. 

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Sen. Harry Reid To Retire In 2016

The New York Times has the big news:
Senator Harry Reid, the tough tactician who has led Senate Democrats since 2005, will not seek re-election next year, bringing an end to a three-decade congressional career that culminated with his push of President Obama’s ambitious agenda against fierce Republican resistance. Mr. Reid, 75, who suffered serious eye and facial injuries in a Jan. 1 exercise accident at his Las Vegas home, said he had been contemplating retiring from the Senate for months. He said his decision was not attributable either to the accident or to his demotion to minority leader after Democrats lost the majority in November’s midterm elections. “I understand this place,” Mr. Reid said. “I have quite a bit of power as minority leader.”

His departure at the end of 2016 will create an opening both at the top of the Senate Democratic hierarchy and in a Senate contest that would have been a megaspending slugfest in the presidential battleground of Nevada. Conservatives such as Charles G. and David H. Koch, the billionaire brothers who were a favorite target of Reid criticism in 2014, would have spared no expense in trying to oust him. Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who helped Democrats capture the Senate in 2006 and has led their political messaging operation, is considered the favorite to succeed Mr. Reid as party leader. Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, could also be a contender for the job, but it is unclear how strongly he would pursue it.

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CONNECTICUT: 11-Member Household Challenges Hartford's Definition Of Family

The city of Hartford, Connecticut has been socking an 11-member household in a wealthy neighborhood with zoning violations because most of the adults living there are unrelated. Yesterday the household fired back with a federal lawsuit challenging the city's definition of a family.
In a complaint filed in federal district court Wednesday, the eight adults who live in a Scarborough Street mansion said they are part of a functional, taxpaying household that includes three children, but that Hartford's zoning laws forbid them from living together. "This issue of the government deciding who is a legitimate family and who is illegitimate is unacceptable to us," said Joshua Blanchfield, a Hartford public school teacher who lives in the nine-bedroom home with his wife and two children.

The plaintiffs said the city's refusal to accept them as a family and efforts to evict some of the occupants violate their rights under the state and federal constitutions, including a right to privacy and personal autonomy under the Fourteenth Amendment. They are seeking damages for legal fees and "pain, suffering and emotional distress."

The city did not return a request for comment by Wednesday night. Peter Goselin, an attorney representing the Scarborough group, argued that the city's "antiquated" zoning code encroaches on his clients' freedom to live as a family and raise children together through a partnership among longtime friends. "This is an important right that is part of a long American tradition of extended families, part of a long American tradition of cooperative and collective living arrangements, something that goes all the way back to the Iroquois Nation, even before there was a United States," Goselin said.
More about the group from CBS News:
Just like like others, the home making headlines was purchased by a "family" who live in apparent domestic harmony -- except they're not. The group of 11 actually includes three couples, with three children and two single people. They're all longtime friends who decided years ago they wanted to live together. "I think there's a real extension of our values as people," English teacher Kevin Lamkins said. "The values I'm speaking of are sustainability, cooperation, living more, living well but within your means. Being connected to other people and not being in a silo, so to speak." The group of friends includes three teachers, a grants manager and a mental health therapist. "It's not a cult, there's no religion, there's no intermingling," Julia Rosenblatt said. "We're really living like most people are, you know, we are just doing it together." They purchased the nine-bedroom home and moved in last August. They have a legal partnership agreement and a shared bank account to pay expenses.
Although the zoning law restricts households to two unrelated adults, it permits an unlimited number of live-in servants. The household's neighbors are citing a 1974 Supreme Court ruling which upheld a similar zoning law in New York state. A law professor quoted in the above-linked story says that the federal government has never ruled that "unrelated people can be a family entitled to constitutional protection." (Tipped by JMG reader Arcane)

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Yelp CEO: We Will Not Expand In States With License To Discriminate Laws

From Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman:
It is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large. I encourage states that are considering passing laws like the one rejected by Arizona or adopted by Indiana to reconsider and abandon these discriminatory actions. (We’re looking at you, Arkansas.) I hope that in the future the legislatures in the nineteen states that have these laws on the books will reconsider their actions. In the mean time, Yelp will make every effort to expand its corporate presence only in states that do not have these laws allowing for discrimination on the books. I also hope that other companies will draw a similar line in the sand for equality on behalf of their employees and the greater public to persuade legislators to do the right thing and stop or rescind these harmful laws.
San Francisco-based Yelp went public in 2012 and says it will gross about $575M this year.

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Audra McDonald Vs Gov. Mike Pence

Six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald went after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Twitter last night. New Civil Rights has more of her rant. (Tipped by JMG reader David)

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Hillary Clinton Slams Indiana

RELATED: #BoycottIndiana is trending nationwide on Twitter this morning.

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PUERTO RICO: Liberty Counsel Seeks To File Brief In Marriage Equality Case

Last week the Puerto Rican government announced that it was dropping its opposition to same-sex marriage. Enter, as always, the Liberty Counsel:
Today Liberty Counsel filed a motion seeking permission to file an Amicus Curiae brief at the First Circuit Court of Appeals in defense of Puerto Rico's law memorializing that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Liberty Counsel's brief is particularly important because Solicitor General Margarita Mercado-Echegaray abandoned her duty to defend Puerto Rico's laws.

Initially the Solicitor General successfully defended Puerto Rico's marriage law at the district court, but when she filed the brief at the court of appeals, she announced that the Commonwealth had changed positions and would no longer defend the marriage law. Liberty Counsel is having to seek the court's permission to file the brief, because one of the plaintiffs has refused to consent.

Liberty Counsel’s position shows how same-sex marriage leads to the devaluation of both a mother and father, who each provide a unique contribution to the family. Studies have estimated that $229 billion dollars in government spending between 1970 and 1996 could be directly attributed to the breakdown of the family culture and its resulting social consequences.

“Homosexual activists are not only seeking to push their values into Puerto Rican laws, but they are attempting to mute anyone with a different opinion. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and no court has the right to undermine it,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.
Liberty Counsel is representing the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which claims to represent 500,000 churches globally. Perhaps obviously, the Liberty Counsel's losing track record is rather spectacular.

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Federal Court Blocks Medical Leave For Married Gay Couples In Four States

Last night a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against a recently-issued Labor Department policy that grants family medical leave benefits to married same-sex couples in states that forbid same-sex marriage. Chris Johnson reports at the Washington Blade:
In a 24-page decision, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, an appointee of George W. Bush, issued the preliminary injunction based on the threat of irreparable harm to Texas, which filed the lawsuit against the regulation. “The Court finds that Plaintiffs have demonstrated that irreparable injury would occur,” O’Connor writes. “For example, the Final Rule would require Texas agencies to recognize out-of-state same-sex unions as marriages in violation of Texas Family Code § 6.204(c)(2), which expressly prohibits state agencies from ‘giving effect to a . . . right or claim to any legal protection, benefit, or responsibility asserted as a result of a marriage between persons of the same sex or a civil union in this state or in any other jurisdiction.’…Defendants’ argument that the Final Rule only affects the states in their capacity as employers does not take into account the clear and expansive language of the text. Accordingly, Plaintiffs have met their burden under this factor.”
The suit was filed last week by Texas AG Ken Paxton and was followed by thrilled press releases from anti-gay hate groups. Yesterday Louisiana AG Buddy Caldwell announced that he had joined the suit. Read the ruling.

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Louis Gohmert: I'm Not Backing Ted Cruz Because I Might Run For President Myself

Via The Hill:
Conservative firebrand Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) told The Hill that he might run for president in 2016. Gohmert indicated he might launch an exploratory committee for president when originally asked if he would support Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) White House bid. "Ted is a good friend and would be an outstanding President; however, I haven't ruled out an exploratory committee myself," Gohmert said in a statement to The Hill. Gohmert launched long-shot bids for Speaker in January and for chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of House conservatives. But the Texas Republican accrued just three votes during the Speaker election — from himself as well as Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and Randy Weber (R-Texas).
The above-linked piece notes that Gohmert holds the 2014 House record for extemporaneous speeches mostly delivered to an empty chamber, babbling for 29 hours. The next-closest House rep spoke for 10 hours during last year's session.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

CALIFORNIA: Former NOM Staffer Files For State To Secede From United States

JMG reader Ben points out yet another crackpot 2016 ballot measure for California. This one calls for the state to become an independent nation.
Sovereign California is challenging the bankrupt and dysfunctional American political system with a new hope for California. Our new hope lies in greater autonomy so we can do what is right for California. For the past three decades, the United States has used us as a donor state – reinvesting a quarter of our tax dollars every year to bankroll infrastructure and education in other states while roads in California remain neglected – now 3rd worst in the nation – and our children attend substandard schools – now 5th worst in the nation. Is this ever going to stop? Not unless we change the status quo – and that means a new relationship with the United States. We will define that new relationship by establishing a state panel that puts ideology aside and puts California first. This panel represents a new hope for California.
If the name on the below referendum filing seems familiar to you, that's because he is the very same NOM tour bus driver that later came out in support of same-sex marriage. In blog posts after his April 2011 defection, Louis Marinelli claimed that Brian Brown had instructed him to take photos of counter-protesters that made them appear to be "crazy." Brown then dismissed Marinelli as "nothing more than a volunteer bus driver," but Good As You then proved that Marinelli was the administrator of NOM's Facebook page and had actually come up with the idea of the bus tour in the first place.

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Massive Explosion Rocks East Village

Multiple fatalities are feared after a massive explosion rocked the East Village this afternoon and caused the collapse of at least one apartment building. Dozens of apartments are reportedly engulfed in flames and the FDNY has declared a seven-alarm emergency. All local television stations are covering the scene live and reporters there say there is a strong smell of gas. The fire started in a building at Second Avenue and East Seventh Street and hundreds of first responders are on the scene. I'll update this post when more is known.

UPDATE: Some video is coming in.

UPDATE II: From the Wall Street Journal.
An explosion in New York City’s East Village on Thursday afternoon led to a building collapse and multiple injuries, a law-enforcement official said, with hundreds of emergency workers on the scene fighting the fire and searching the rubble for trapped people. A preliminary investigation indicated the fire and building collapse was due to a gas explosion, the official said. Two other buildings were in flames, the official said. The explosion, which sent flames into the sky near the corner of Second Avenue and St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, happened shortly after 3 p.m., according to police officials. A ground-floor store was blasted out, a law-enforcement official said. The scene created chaos in the East Village, a neighborhood filled with apartment buildings, restaurants and bars. Perry Kroll, who lives a block away, said he felt his whole building shake, and all of his neighbors spilled out into the street. “There’s an epic smoke column rising from the block,” he said. “I can see really big flames everywhere and chunks of ash falling from the sky. It looks like a building just blew out into the street. It’s just absolute chaos.”

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Alma Mater Of Sodomite Suppression Act Author Declines To Condemn Referendum

Christian activist Matt McLaughlin, author of the Sodomite Suppression Act, graduated from law school at Virginia's George Mason University. Today the Washington Post published their reaction:
Emails to various members of the Mason community have informed us that Matthew McLaughlin, a 1998 graduate of this law school, has filed a ballot initiative in California where he has apparently lived for the past seventeen years. The effect of this initiative, if it were enacted by voters, would be to amend the state’s Constitution by enacting a bill of attainder (the “Sodomite Suppression Act”). Among other things, this act would impose the condition of outlawry on gay and lesbian people in California, thus withdrawing from them the protection of law and allowing them to be killed out of hand, by anyone at any time, with legal impunity.

Some correspondents have called upon the law school to repudiate this initiative – and Mr. McLaughlin. With respect, we must decline, as it is not the function of schools or other institutions to denounce things with which they have nothing to do. Law schools are not guarantors of the views or acts of their former students. No one ever suggested that Harvard Law School should repudiate the treason of Alger Hiss, or that the University of Puget Sound law school should disclaim murders committed by Ted Bundy. Responsibility for those crimes belongs to the criminals, not to the schools they attended. The same principle applies here. Mr. McLaughlin must answer for himself, and not we answer for him, concerning what he says or does. Of course individuals, speaking for themselves, remain free to express their own opinions if they so choose.

Another consideration contributes to the conclusion that we should stand to one side. Mr. McLaughlin’s filing suggests views that undeniably are out of keeping with the normal civilities of life. But so far as appears, they are also lawful and constitutionally protected expressions. Mr. McLaughlin has a right to say what he wants and to petition the government for redress of his grievances – and it is up to him to determine what aggrieves him. Other people have the same rights and are free to use them in a different way – including to criticize Mr. McLaughlin. And still others are free, for a variety of possible reasons, to refuse to be conscripted into a contretemps that has nothing to do with them.

There is real advantage, apart from the principles of constitutional law, in limiting how much one should discourage people from expressing even very revolting ideas if that is what is on their mind. Tolerance of this kind facilitates self-disclosure by those whose hearts are septic with senseless rage. So disclosed, respectable people can see who they are and simply avoid them. But if suppressed, they may nurture their loathing in afflicted silence, even as they continue to mingle freely in the world with less-stricken and unsuspecting souls.
Yesterday California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a court request to quash the proposed ballot measure before it can proceed to the petition-gathering stage.

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FOTF: Something, Something, Gays, Marriage, Tourism, Shitty Weather, Jesus

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SLOVENIA: Legislature Rejects Bid For Referendum To Repeal Same-Sex Marriage

The Slovene National Assembly today approved a bill that bans the proposed referendum on repealing same-sex marriage. Today's action cites the 2013 constitutional amendment that forbids popular votes on human rights issues. Anti-gay factions are now expected to appeal to the Slovene Constitutional Court with the claim that marriage is not a human right. Early this month Slovenia became the 12th European nation to legalize same-sex marriage. (Via JMG reader Robin)

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Pope Francis To Visit White House

Via White House press release:
The President and the First Lady will welcome His Holiness Pope Francis to the White House on Wednesday, September 23. During the visit, the President and the Pope will continue the dialogue, which they began during the President’s visit to the Vatican in March 2014, on their shared values and commitments on a wide range of issues, including caring for the marginalized and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities. The President looks forward to continuing this conversation with the Holy Father during his first visit to the United States as Pope.
Something seems to be missing from that list of topics.

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Aaron Schock Says Goodbye To Empty House, Compares Himself To Lincoln

Well, both ARE rumored to have slept with men, so...

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WASHINGTON: Catholic Archdiocese Joins Fight To Block DC Gay Rights Measure

Via the Washington Blade:
The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington signed on to a letter to members of the U.S. Senate on March 20 calling for Congress to block a D.C. bill that would protect LGBT students from discrimination at religious schools operating in the city. The letter, which was signed, among others, by Cardinal Donald Wuerl calls the Human Rights Amendment Act approved by the D.C. Council last year an attack on religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of association in the nation’s capital.

The letter also calls on Congress to kill another bill approved by the Council and signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act. That measure would prohibit D.C. employers from discriminating against employees based on their personal reproductive health choices, including a decision to have an abortion. D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton joined city officials in strongly disputing claims that the two bills would infringe on religious freedoms or freedom of speech. The Archdiocese of Washington oversees 139 Catholic parishes and 95 Catholic schools in D.C. and five counties in Maryland.
The campaign is being led by Ted Cruz. His "disapproval resolution" would require passage from both chambers of Congress and the signature of President Obama. Ain't gonna happen.

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From The CEO Of Salesforce

David Badash has the story. (Tipped by JMG reader Scott)

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