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Judge Claims “Religious Liberty” Means Her Beliefs First, Laws Second.

Judge Ruth NeelyThe so-called Alliance Defending Freedom (i.e., discrimination) has struck again with another frivolous appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. This time, they’ve picked a terrible case. They’re arguing that judges should have the right to express their religious views publicly.

In October 2014, the Wyoming Supreme Court declared that Wyoming had to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples. A couple months later, local Wyoming judge Ruth Neely was hanging Christmas tree lights (an attempt to make her a sympathetic plaintiff) when she received a call from a reporter asking her if she would conduct same-sex weddings. Judge Neely advertised in the local paper that she was available to officiate at weddings, and that “Fees are based on time and location. Arrangements can be made by contacting the judge directly.”

The reporter made clear that he was asking Judge Neely on the record in preparation of an article for the local paper.

“Will you perform same-sex weddings? ” the reporter asked.

Instead of politely declining to comment, Judge Neely replied, “When law and religion conflict, choices have to be made.”

Choices have to be made? Yes! Follow the law. Put your religious beliefs second. And if you don’t like that, you shouldn’t be a judge.

Now that Judge Neely is on the record about same-sex relationships, what LGBT person would feel comfortable in her courtroom after that pronouncement? Bye-bye, judicial equality. And if a gay person ever found his way into her court and lost? Then hello appeals court.

We can argue about bakers and florists, but can’t we at least agree that judges need to follow state and federal law FIRST and not substitute their personal views about God’s law?

Judge Neely took an oath when she became a judge:

“I, Ruth Neely, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me under the Constitution and laws of the state of Wyoming and the United States. So help me God.”

By expressing her view publicly on same sex marriage and stating that she will answer to God’s law instead of federal and state law, Judge Neely violated her oath.

Her case made its way through the Wyoming judicial ethics commission and to the Wyoming Supreme Court.

As a result of her statement on the record, Judge Ruth Neely was censured by the Wyoming Supreme Court. Her punishment? All they asked her to do was to officiate at all weddings or stop officiating weddings at all.

This wasn’t her primary job or source of income. But she wasn’t content with that and refused. She needed to insist that the same-sex relationships shouldn’t be recognized the same as opposite-sex marriages.

To counter that concern, in her earlier case, Judge Neely brought out a cast of LGBT characters to testify that she was a good person and that she loved gay people. She made the classic “I can’t be prejudiced because I have a black friend” argument. Well, that dog don’t hunt, as my grandpa used to say.

I’m willing to discuss “religious freedom” for people whose profession is innately intertwined with artistic expression and whether there are limits on the reach of the public accommodations laws with respect to what customers they are required to serve.

But judges? If you don’t want to give the protection of the law to everyone, then you’re in the wrong job!

Can I Survive a Morning without the Internet?

Los Olivos CabinThe husband and I are spending a few days away from home, and it’s been an extremely relaxing and wonderful trip. Except for this morning. The internet is not working. I did what my husband refers to as a a “Microsoft” on the modem (I turned it off, counted to thirty and then turned it back on.) But even though I’m getting a strong Wifi signal, there’s no internet connection.

I look out from the window of the place we’re staying onto the rolling brown hills, dotted with dark green trees. The fog paints a light gray background, and other than some tall power poles in the distance, I don’t see any other signs of civilization. The husband and I could be all alone here, and the rest of the world could have ended.

Right now, my phone is still trying to save data by connecting through the Wifi instead of using cellular, so for all I know, we are alone.

And even though our purported reason for taking this trip was “to get away,” it’s really the last thing that we do. Don’t get me wrong. We are away from our normal physical environment. Instead of 107F this week, we’re enjoying temperatures that swing between 50F and 85F in the wine country of Santa Barbara County. Here in Los Olivos, the scenery is bucolic and relaxing. The wines are top notch, and finally, the cuisine is starting to catch up. It has everything that we enjoy in a vacation (except for shopping).

But as we were driving back from Presqu’ile Winery yesterday (the one wine club that we decided to join this trip), I was on my iPhone, checking texts from my family, looking at photos of my niece who graduated high school yesterday, and commenting on a friend’s annual photoshoot with her kids. I was everywhere but “here.” When we got back to the house, my husband got on his iPad, checking Facebook and reading updates on the terror attack in Manchester.

Just writing the word “Facebook” makes me want to check it. I’m gonna try “Microsofting” the Wifi again.

Do you feel a constant need to stay connected?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why is it so hard to charter a jet for 12?

sipping champagne on a jetMy husband and I were having caviar cones at our favorite restaurant in Beverly Hills, when I raised the specter of chartering a jet and taking some friends to Sonoma for his 50th birthday. It should only be an hour and half flight from Palm Springs, and I figured I could schedule a lunch with Liz in the Bubble Room at J winery, our favorite spot for sparklers. Afterwards, I imagined an afternoon of pinot tasting at Banshee with Zack followed by an early dinner at Chalkboard, featuring their pasta tasting menu.

My husband doesn’t like birthdays and doesn’t want a fuss, but I feel that I have standards to maintain. The night before, we’d been at a smashing birthday fete for one of my husband’s longest friends. He turned 50 as well, and his fiancé hosted an intimate dinner for twenty-four at Osteria Mozza, the most upscale Italian place in Los Angeles. It was an evening of excess. The first clue? The tray passed hors d’oeuvres included full slices of pepperoni pizza. After four starter courses, two seafood courses, two pasta courses and short ribs, we had cupcakes and then a full dessert course. I would have never imagined that much food being served to a gaggle of gays so close to West Hollywood, but I guess swimsuit season is a ways off for most. (Unfortunately, for those of us in Palm Springs, it’s already started, and I need to slim down about six and a half pounds before I’m ready for any pool parties).

I wanted to go to San Sebastian on the north coast of Spain. They have more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the world, and my husband and I love modern Spanish cuisine. My husband wants something more low-key, or so I thought, until I saw the twinkle in his eye when I mentioned this private jet idea.

We talked about what we might do, and that evening, I put in an online request with a jet service based here in the desert. I got an immediate call from the service, as one might expect in the private charter business. She said that currently the largest jet they had would only accommodate eight passengers, but that they were buying a new jet this summer and would be able to fly ten people at a time by fall. She asked if I could trim my list down to ten people. I’ve often thought that my husband could shave his friend list by a couple so I was down for her suggestion. I told her that we could definitely cut out at least two people, and then inquired about how much it would be for ten.

She gave me a price of about $15,000, and then explained that one person would have to use the lavatory seat. Not being familiar chartering a jet, I assumed that in the lexicon of the uber rich, “lavatory” must have a different meaning. Not wanting to expose my naivety, but not yet wanting to whittle down my husband’s list of friends to seven, I had to ask.

“So someone will ride in the toilet?”

“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” she replied. “There’s a little pad on the toilet lid.”

“That’s really exactly as bad as I expected,” I said and was about to go on about how ridiculous her proposition, but she had another limitation for our trip.

“Our crew is limited to a fourteen and a half hour day, so we wouldn’t be able to accommodate a 9am departure and 7pm return,” she said.

Math was always my strong suit so I said, “Assuming worst case a two-hour flight, that’s only twelve hours.”

“The crew is based in Thermal,” she said, “so there would be time associated with getting to Palm Springs and flight pre-check and,” blah blah blah. “You’d have to leave Sonoma by 4pm.”

I hesitated because at this moment, everything I aspired to came crashing down. If I ever had enough money to charter a jet, I’d have to deal with these limitations? I was about to hang up, but she had a counter-proposal.

“Of course, if you wanted to drive to Thermal, then we could accommodate your proposed schedule.”

I was about to pull out my credit card, but then I realized we were going to drive an hour to Thermal, each way. Didn’t that defeat the purpose of a private jet?

“I guess this just isn’t going to work,” I said, ready to call the whole affair off, but she wasn’t done.

“Maybe you could rent two jets?”

I hung up. Renting two jets? That just seems over the top.

 

Earlier Posts

There’s no First Class without Coach

The moments in life when you are special, when you are treated differently, and when things are going great – How can you cherish those unless you’ve been through a lot? We only get to enjoy first class because we’ve spent most of our times in coach. I encourage you to relish those moments at the back of the bus because they’re training you for when you get your moment. If everything is first class, then nothing is first class. READ MORE.

How I Live the Nike Mantra with Mistakes but no Regret.

Nike’s motto is not something best left on a T-shirt. “Just Do It” should be the mantra for how we all live our lives. The battle is not to figure out how to solve all the problems before acting or overcome all the fears before doing. There’s never the perfect time. Sometimes, you just have to take that leap and then pick up the pieces. You can’t perfectly plan your life (and I’m talking to my fellow Virgos in particular here). There are some things that you’ll screw up, but you’ll have the memories of all the things that you did do.

And not the regret of all the things you did not.

Follow your passions, loyal readers. It’s the best advice you’ll ever get.

It’s not business class without the champagne and cashews

A proper flight begins with champagne, and I’m not talking the $7 a bottle Prosecco that US carriers try to give you for pre-flight. I mean the fancy French stuff that can actually be called Champagne because it’s from that region in France.

I’ve Handled the Election of Donald Trump like a Death. One way I’m coping.

I’ve responded to the election of Donald Trump like a death. On November 8th, I went to bed in denial thinking that maybe I’d wake up, and it would have been a bad dream. Then I was angry that people would vote for someone I considered unfit for the most important job in the world. Next, I was willing to bargain with the courts in Michigan and Pennsylvania to do a recount. And finally, I was just depressed.
I can’t hide in my liberal California bubble, praying that God does indeed cause an earthquake splitting my state from the rest of the country.

To Make America Great Again, We Need to Rediscover Precious Values

As we honor the memory of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., I think we should never forget that he was a reluctant leader of the civil rights movement. His true calling was as a pastor. And every year on this day, I’m inspired by all of the MLK-quote memes shared on Facebook to dive deep into his wisdom and read a few of his sermons.

GREY MATTERS: Why in your marriage, you should pick being happy over being right.

This week, I’m dispensing with the normal Grey Matters format to share with you something I’ve learned the hard way. Marriage takes work, and relationships are never perfect. On Halloween, I celebrated my 8th wedding anniversary. And I’ll be honest. On October 31, 2008, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get married. It’s not […]

Grey Matters: What Determines Unsportsmanlike Conduct? Actions or Race?

Three months ago, Philip and Brooke moved with their ten-year old son, Andre, from their predominantly black neighborhood on the south side of Atlanta to a white suburb on the north side. Andre just started at his new school and is playing on a local football team. Although fictional, this story is inspired by true […]

Grey Matters: Should gay conversion therapy be provided to minors?

Miles is 17 years old and wants to be a Southern Baptist preacher, the same as his father and grandfather. But Miles has a problem. He struggles with same-sex attractions. For the past year, he’s been dating Tracy, a girl who goes to his church. But Tracy has a brother named Scott, and Miles is more attracted to the brother than his own girlfriend. Tracy’s family has a pool, and Miles spent all summer over there, trying not to look (but failing) at Scott. Miles just wants to have normal feelings like everyone else. He wants to look at Tracy and notice her for what she has to offer. But he can’t stop thinking about the fact that her brother has the same emerald green eyes and red hair, and that if he squints hard enough, he can pretend that he is kissing Scott.

Grey Matters: Why those who attack micro-aggressions are fighting the wrong war

Jake was born in South Korea. He was adopted by a lesbian couple when he was ten months old and has lived in North Carolina ever since. Gay, right-handed, a baseball player, and eighteen-years old, he just started college at Stonewall Jackson University, a small liberal arts college in South Carolina. General Stonewall Jackson was […]

Grey Matters: What to do if you say something offensive to a friend?

Chad checked his watch. He and his friends had been waiting in the bar area of the restaurant for almost an hour. He loved this place, but it didn’t take reservations, and getting a table for eight on a Friday night required a wait. It did give him a chance to catch up with his […]

Grey Matters: When to apologize when you’re not totally to blame

This is a story about apologies featuring Liz and her best friend, John. “I can’t believe it’s only Tuesday!” Liz texted her gay BFF. “Señor Miguels and margaritas?” An instantaneous reply. “YEAASSS!” It had been a couple weeks since Liz and John had gone out for drinks after work. Liz’s fault. She had a new […]

Grey Matters: We Need to Talk about the Facts of Aging

Please enjoy this week’s guest blog post from Amanda Toler Woodward.  Birds do it, bees do it, and I hate to break it to you, we do it, too.  I’m aging as I type this. You’re aging as you read it. If we’re both lucky we’ll keep aging until we are . . . gasp […]

Grey Matters: Should co-workers discuss politics?

ISSUE: This election year, our nation is deeply divided over who should lead our country for the next four years. In this week’s Grey Matters, we look at the issue of talking about politics at work. Specifically, is there any reason for a Trump supporter and a Hillary supporter to talk about this year’s election? […]

Grey Matters: When is it ok to share your faith in the workplace?

ISSUE: More than half of Americans say that faith is important to them, but it’s not something that many people talk about. In this week’s Grey Matters, we look at the issue of sharing your faith at work. Specifically, should Gayle be able to invite her co-worker Amanda to a church event or does her […]

What’s in a name?

ISSUE: This week in Grey Matters, we look at a dilemma facing every married couple, gay or straight. What do you do about the social convention where the wife takes the husband’s last name?  Let’s examine this topic with a fictional story about Juan Gomez, an attorney, and Billy White, a personal trainer. The couple has […]

Is it ok for religious-affiliated hospitals to limit treatment options for patients?

ISSUE: This week in Grey Matters, we look at a trend in the healthcare industry where religious-affiliated groups are taking over public hospitals and applying their ethics and values.  Specifically, is it ok for religious-affiliated hospitals to limit treatment options for patients ? Let’s examine this topic with a fictional story about Carol and Dr. […]

Grey Matters* – Should the CEO of Big Bass Sports come out of the closet?

The characters and events in Grey Matters are fictitious. ISSUE: This week in Grey Matters – We look at the issue of “coming out” relative to the consequences. Specifically, does the CEO of a company have the right to publicly announce that he is gay even if it might affect his employees, corporate earnings and […]

Let’s Stop Fighting Cultural Wars

A cultural war is brewing – even the media is speaking of it in these terms – as hundreds gather in Raleigh, North Carolina to either support or protest last month’s overturning of a controversial law.  The city of Charlotte had passed an ordinance protecting the LGBT community from discrimination and allowing people to use […]

Pride in My Home State of South Carolina 

It’s nice to be proud of where you’re from.  I grew up in South Carolina, and I was always jealous of North Carolina. This started when I was in first grade and someone from North Carolina moved into our neighborhood. He bragged about how the North defeated the South in the Civil War, and I […]

Mississippi decides that being gay is a “super sin”

  This is the first blog in my “All the Words in Red” series where we take a look at what Jesus said and apply that to 21st century problems. When I was a kid growing up in rural South Carolina, we had a saying, “Thank God for Mississippi.”  The reason we said this: even […]

Georgia and North Carolina Governors take very different approach to discrimination

It’s been a crazy week in anti-LGBT legislation. For a boy from South Carolina, it’s been interesting to see how my neighbors, Georgia and North Carolina, have behaved. On March 23, 2016, the state of North Carolina passed a law that struck down an ordinance passed by the city council of Charlotte, the state’s largest […]

North Carolina Legislature and Governor Hate Gay People

I try my best to be balanced. I want to be a voice of reason and try to understand both sides of an issue– any issue – and see how we can reach common ground.  But there are some times that I just have to call out hatred and discrimination for what it is. In […]

Advice for Same-Sex Couples on How to Navigate Anti-Gay Discriminatory Laws

This November, Missouri voters will be able to pass an amendment that will enshrine in the Missouri Constitution the right to discriminate against same sex couples on the grounds of a sincere religious belief. With a change in their procedural rules, Missouri Republican Senators stopped a thirty-nine-hour filibuster of the anti-gay bill, sending it to […]

For God’s sake, “Christians” need to learn how to discriminate

  It’s been in the news for a couple of years now. Across the United States, small business owners have refused to provide services for same sex weddings. Just last month, in Longview, Texas, the owners of Kern’s Bakery, Edie Delorme and her husband, refused to bake a cake for an engaged gay couple, Ben […]

The South Carolina writer who inspired me – Pat Conroy passed away

Pat Conroy died last night. As his wife, novelist Cassandra King Conroy, said, “The water is wide and he has now passed over.” It’s a common question writers get. Who were your main influences? I know that I’m a writer today primarily because of Pat Conroy. Growing up in South Carolina, I had an inferiority […]

South Dakota Governor flies high in protecting transgender kids

As a gay man, I’d never understood transgender people. In fact, until recently, I never even bothered to try. I didn’t know anyone who was “that way” and just thought that a guy that wanted to be a girl was just taking the stereotypical gay effeminate nature to an extreme. But after watching Caitlyn Jenner’s […]

Peanut Butter Crackers and Childhood Memories of Myrtle Beach

Every summer when I was a kid, we’d go to Myrtle Beach for a week. It was a four hour drive from where I grew up in Upstate South Carolina so there would be a couple stops along the way. Dad would give us a couple bucks, and my brother and I would go into […]

Finding my way back to Church with the guiding light of Sarah Bessey

On Friday night, my husband and I went to the First Church of the Nazarene to hear Sarah Bessey, a Christian blogger from western Canada. From the moment we arrived in the gym where chairs and a mock living room stage had been set up for the conversation, I was touched by the energy in […]

Pope Francis tells Trump he’s not a Christian. Trump calls himself humble.

The New York Times reported today that Pope Francis suggested that Donald Trump is not a Christian. Returning home to Rome after a six day trip to Mexico, the Pope told a reporter, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” Earlier that day, Pope […]

Turning the other cheek and foregiveness

My husband and I were robbed on Saturday. It wasn’t our personal home, but one of our rental houses in Palm Springs. This was the second robbery at that property in a month. The first time they stole three brand new TVs. This time they took two of three TVs we had just purchased to […]

Learning from my failures in the sermon of Franklin Graham

I failed today in my mission to be a voice for discourse in our nation, not a voice of discord. My high school debate coach always told us to agree to disagree without being disagreeable. And that’s what I want to do, but I let my temper and anger get the best of me today. […]

Any glory in 2nd? Carolina Panthers suffer same fate as Clemson Tigers

What does it mean to come in second place? Last month, the Clemson Tigers tarnished their undefeated record with a loss to Alabama in the college football playoff. In the Super Bowl last night, the Carolina Panthers were stunned by the Denver Broncos. Is there any glory in 2nd? In the United States, coming in second doesn’t […]

Why would someone vote for Trump? Watch video to find out.

I had lunch yesterday with some friends, several of whom are Republican, and nobody got Donald Trump’s appeal. But it’s very important to me to understand the other side. To listen to the views of Trump supporters on issues and try to figure out if we have areas of common ground. I grew up in Anderson, SC. […]

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz need new friends

My Momma always told me, “You’re known by the company you keep.” I’m not sure the origin of this phrase, but the sentiment comes from Proverbs 13:20. “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the one who walks with fools will be destroyed.” Last night, Ted Cruz won the 2016 Iowa caucus […]

Donald Trump’s take on Christianity

I’ve questioned how and why Donald Trump would have any support from evangelical Christian voters. But as one of my favorite Christian bloggers points out, a chunk of the right wing evangelical movement started in response to racial integration, and Mr. Trump certainly hits all the right notes with his anti-immigrant and overtly racially charged language.  This […]

5 Favorite Southern Expressions

I’m in South Carolina this week visiting my family, and I’m reminded how much I miss the Southern language. Beyond the accent, us Southerners have our own language. Some of my favorites. He’s as country as a turnip. Said by the sales rep for the local gas company about one of the workers.  It means […]

Sarah Palin, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz Hate Apologies

A week ago, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) captured ten U.S. sailors whose boats reportedly drifted into Iranian territorial waters.  The sailors were kept overnight and released in the morning. The IRGC released a statement: “Following technical and operational investigations and in interaction with relevant political and national security bodies of the country and after […]

One-third of Americans still uncomfortable to see two guys holding hands.

I had dinner with a friend in downtown San Diego last night. My friend walked me to my car, and we saw a gay couple walking in front of us with arms around each other. “That’s rare,” he said. I asked him why, and he said, “Outside of Hillcrest, you don’t see two guys affectionate […]

South Carolina Republican Primary is One Month Away

When I was in high school, I got a job with NBC News doing exit polls for the South Carolina primary. It was one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever had, and I wish that I could be there on February 20th to interview Republican primary voters. The latest polls show Trump with a 14.5 […]

MLK reminds us to rediscover lost values

On February 28, 1954, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a sermon at Detroit’s Second Baptist Church. The theme of his sermon sounds like it could come from any of the Republican Presidential candidates.”There is something wrong with our world, something fundamentally and basically wrong. I don’t think we have to look too far to see […]

Kim Davis pops up at State of Union.

Kim Davis popped up at President Obama’s final State of the Union address to “encourage Christians” to discriminate against LGBT people. In his state of the State address, Governor Pence of Indiana has forgotten last year’s debate over his state’s “Religious Freedom” act and stated, “I will not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or […]