The Dangers of Junk-Polling: Libertas Institute’s Phony LGBT Poll

Posted By on November 27, 2013

**Originally published on

Libertas Institute Logo“Should it be illegal for the government to fine you or put you in jail just because you fire an employee who doesn’t fit in with your other employees or who will likely need a lot of time off in the future?”

I’d be willing to bet if you polled the right group of people in Utah, you could easily get 8 out of 10 to agree with that question. But what if we wrote the same question another way?

“Should it be legal for employers to fire people of color for not being white, or women because they might get pregnant?”

Phrased that way, the same 8 out of 10 Utahns would probably saying ‘No way!’

Two polls, same question, different phrasing, opposite outcomes. That’s the danger of junk-polls, that feature questions written in just the right way so as to illicit a predetermined answer and desired outcome.

I saw a great example of a junk-poll earlier this week, when the Libertas Institute (one of two Utah affiliates of Heritage Foundation’s State Policy Network), and their president Connor Boyack, released a “poll” showing roughly 8 out of 10 Utahns saying “no way” to a non-discrimination law—a law being proposed in the Utah Legislature which would make it illegal to fire someone or evict them from their home just because they happen to be gay or transgender.

Like many, I found Boyack’s results shocking, considering multiple other polls have all shown consistent results of Utahns being vastly in favor of such laws (despite the Utah Legislature’s stubborn opposition to passing them). A poll commissioned by Equality Utah (conducted by professional polling firm Dan Jones & Associates) found 73 percent of Utahns in favor of a non-discrimination law. A poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign found 77 percent in favor. And yet another poll by the Salt Lake Tribune showed 67 percent in favor.

How could three polls show identical results of an overwhelming majority in favor of a non-discrimination law, while Libertas Institute’s poll shows the exact opposite?

Well, the three polls showing massive support all asked roughly the same question: Should it be illegal for employers to fire someone just because they’re gay or transgender?

The poll question from Libertas Institute asked whether respondents supported fines or jail time for employers who choose not to associate with people they disagree with.

As BYU polling expert Quin Monson said in his article shredding Libertas’ poll, “The questions are unbalanced and inaccurate.. The methodology isn’t methodologically sound. .. The survey also also has some serious ethical and legal problems.

Boyack’s questions are pre-designed to fit the outcome he was hoping for, and used deceptive tactics like adding in the threat of jail time for violators—the proposed law in no way proposes jail time—and heavily weighting the sample with older age brackets. We also have no idea who was actually polled or their geographic location. Were they all from Provo?

There’s also the obvious question of bias. The Heritage Foundation’s State Policy Network (which includes both Libertas Institute and Sutherland Institute) has a set policy of opposing non-discrimination laws. Trusting Libertas Institute on non-discrimination laws is akin to trusting John Swallow’s opinion on ethical behavior.

True, Equality Utah has an obvious bias of hoping Utahns will favor of non-discrimination laws. But Equality Utah’s poll was conducted by an independent and reputable polling firm—the results of which were duplicated by the Salt Lake Tribune, again using a professional polling firm.

But let’s boil this all down to brass tacks. Allowing discrimination against hard working Utahns just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is simply evil. Tens of thousands of LGBT people live in Utah, and half have experienced discrimination. The status of your employment and housing should be about your ability to do your job and pay your rent, nothing more.

Sharone Belt: The Obamacare Story You Won’t See In the News

Posted By on November 19, 2013

**Originally published on

If you watch cable news, you’ve probably seen story after story about Americans losing their insurance plans thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare.” Despite the passage of the ACA into law in 2010, and despite the Supreme Court’s decision in 2012 to uphold the legislation, and even despite the failed attempt to use a government shutdown as a bargaining chip—Right-Wing Republicans in Congress, governors’ mansions, and state legislatures are continuing their push to blame Obamacare for Americans losing health coverage.

But what about the Americans who didn’t have any health insurance to begin with, and are now being denied acceptance into Medicaid by those same conservatives? There are five million of them, people who have jobs but aren’t paid enough for private health insurance, being left out in the cold by the Right-Wing. On cable news, you don’t hear about people like Sharone Belt in North Carolina, who is being denied healthcare thanks to conservatives.

These are the stories we cannot in good conscience ignore.

Sharone Belt, 47, can’t get health insurance to cover her diabetic neuropathy because her state refused to expand Medicaid

Sharone Belt, 47, can’t get health insurance to cover her diabetic neuropathy because her state refused to expand Medicaid

Sharone Belt is 47 years old and lives in Hickory, North Carolina. She’s a deacon candidate at her church, collects donations for the local homeless shelter, and volunteers for the Special Olympics and Make-a-Wish Foundation. Sharone took some college classes when she was younger, but even with help from grants and student loans, she was priced out of her education pretty quickly. She now works as a balloon twister at children’s parties and restaurants to make ends meet.

“It’s not a job that pays very well,” says Sharone, “but I love working with the kids.”

Picking up as many gigs as she can, Sharone has managed to get herself just above the poverty line, making a little too much to qualify for Medicaid under the old system, but far too little to be able to afford private health insurance. Sharone also suffers from diabetes, which has led to diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) because she can’t afford the medications she needs. It’s a particularly difficult thing for her to work with, given her profession.

“I tried to use the free clinic in town,” says Sharone, “it took me six months just to get an appointment, and when I did get in, the medications I need are so expensive the free clinic wasn’t even able to get them for me.”

When the Affordable Care Act was passed, Sharone thought maybe there was finally some light at the end of the tunnel. “I was so excited, I thought maybe I could finally get my health back on track.”

Last week, Sharone found out that North Carolina is one of the 25 states refusing to expand Medicaid to cover people, like her, who are just above the poverty line. Back in March, conservative Governor Pat McCrory signed legislation that blocked Medicaid expansion for 500,000 North Carolinians, like Sharone, who don’t make enough money to purchase healthcare on their own, but don’t qualify for Medicaid, either. According to a report from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, Medicaid expansion in North Carolina would have not only provided coverage for 500,000 low-income Tar Heelers but would also have added tens of thousands of jobs thanks to the injection of federal dollars. McCrory’s decision also caused a hospital in Belhaven to close, after it couldn’t keep up with unpaid medical bills from low-income patients.

Conservatives argue participation in Medicaid expansion, allowing those who make up to 133 percent of the federal poverty limit access to the healthcare program, would bankrupt states. The claim has been repeated in media outlets around the country, despite policy experts debunking it as a conservative myth being perpetuated by ideological beliefs rather than facts. The ACA actually covers the cost of expanding Medicaid 100 percent for the first three years states participate, after which federal dollars slightly curtail over the next decade. Even at the lowest point of federal funding, states would only be liable for 10 percent of the cost of the expansion in their state, but still reap 100 percent of the benefits of not having a populace burdened by the under-insured.

To add to Sharone’s woes, she was also just notified that Congress has made significant cuts to Food Stamps, which is going to make it even harder for her to put food on the table—another instance of the Right-Wing’s assault on the poor under the pretext of “fiscal responsibility” and “small government.”

“I’m just not sure what I’m going to do next,” says Sharone. Even with all the hardship she’s facing, still manages to keep a sense of humor and giggle as she asks, “Think there’s any chance Congress will pass a single-payer system soon?”

Sharone’s story is only one of 5 million from across the country. From the 500,000 people being denied coverage in North Carolina, to the 133,000 in Utah, to the 40,000 in Alaska, the stories of the working poor being denied healthcare are everywhere. Why don’t we hear about them on the nightly news?

Right Wing Messaging on Marriage Equality Continues to Evolve

Posted By on November 14, 2013

As we watched New Jersey, Illinois, and Hawaii become the 14th, 15th, and 16th states to embrace marriage equality in the last 30 days, it’s worth taking a look back at how the U.S. Right Wing has continued to evolve their messaging around marriage. As equality pushes forward step by step, the Right—particularly the Christian Right—is continually refining their talking points in order to slow down the inevitable.

Click the image to read the full report

Click the image to read the full report

As recently as the mid 90s—I know it seems forever ago, but 20 years really isn’t that long—marriage for same-sex couples was virtually unthinkable. Now, the needle couldn’t be moving faster, and equal marriage is seeing success after success in the courts, legislative bodies, and even at the ballot box. But each success comes on the heels of countless defeats by an incredible skilled Right Wing PR machine, who have spent decades learning how best to counter human rights. Understanding their tactics, and how their messaging strategies evolve and where they come from is crucial to the LGBTQ movement’s future.

In January, 2013, David Dodge authored a report for Political Research Associates called The Right’s Marriage Message: Talking Tolerance, Marketing Inequality. The report culls lessons from how the Right has waged successful electoral campaigns in the past in order for LGBTQ rights groups to extend and defend their gains. In particular, the report tracks the effective media campaigns run by opponents of LGBTQ rights, such as the National Organization for Marriage(NOM), groups aligned with the Family Research Council (FRC), and Right-Wing spin masters such as Frank Schubert.  

Perhaps the most significant point of the report is the evolution of the Right from blatant homophobic campaigns claiming that “gays are evil who will pervert your children,” and the Anita Bryant-style ads claiming that “accepting gays will lead to bestiality,” to the softer nuance of today’s lines of “we just want to protect our religious freedom.” The arguments are the same, but in the world of politics tonality and language choice is everything.

Being able to effectively counter the Right’s arguments is a massively simpler task if you understand the origins of their arguments, and are able to strip their messaging down to its foundation of misconceptions and intolerance.

Here are some of the great takeaways Dodge highlights in his report, as he highlights advertising used by the Right from 1998 to May of 2012:

  • In states where they enjoy a large base of support, anti-LGBTQ advocates aired conservative Christian-oriented media describing the deep roots of traditional marriage between a man and a woman that is under threat. Seventy-five percent of the ads tracked used this argument.
  • They reached moderate voters with advertising focused on the supposed harm to children that will occur if pro-LGBTQ ballot measures pass – particularly from the teaching of LGBTQ issues in schools. The California LGBTQ rights group Vote For Equality found this to be a potent argument for its opposition. Forty-eight percent of all media reviewed had this theme.
  • Forty-two percent of the ads warned of elites like judges or powerful people from outside the state seeking to advance a “gay agenda” against the will of the people, resonating with existing Right-Wing populist arguments.
  • In ten percent of the ads, the Right relays stories of Christians as “victims” suffering from religious persecution as same-sex marriage becomes legal.
  • Twenty percent of the anti-LGBTQ media reviewed prominently features people of color, and were largely aired in California, Arizona, and Oregon. They tended to use arguments about “defending traditional marriage.”

**This post was originally published on

Mormon Church Pushing for Second Prop 8 in Hawaii

Posted By on October 29, 2013

Protesters march around the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City

Protesters march around the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City

*Originally written for Political Research Associates, and cross-posted to The New Civil Rights Movement

The current battle over marriage equality in Hawaii isn’t the first time the Aloha State has tried to legalize equality. Back in 1998, after the state’s Supreme Court ruled a ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, a ballot initiative went directly to the voters who chose to reject the rights of same-sex couples.  And just like Hawaii’s 1998 fight—and the 2008 Prop 8 battle in California—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a.k.a. the Mormon Church) is once again leading the charge against equality.

According to Mormon Church doctrine, worthy male members who marry a worthy woman in the Church’s temples are eligible to become gods and kings after the Second Coming. (The women are eligible to become goddesses and queens “unto their husbands.”) These gods and goddesses will be tasked with having numberless children in the afterlife and will form worlds of their own to reign over. The Church has used this unique belief of the afterlife as the basis for its opposition to marriage equality. As marriage equality becomes law in a growing number of states, the Mormon Church has asserted that same-sex married couples, being unable to produce children, threaten that familial structure. It doesn’t make any difference that the religion’s ministers and clergy would never be required to perform the ceremonies for gay couples themselves, nor would the Church’s sacred buildings be required to host such functions.

It was against this backdrop that the leaders of the Mormon Church first got involved in the battle against equality in the 1990s. As I detailed in Political Research Associates’ “Resisting the Rainbow” report several years ago, the Mormon Church was acutely aware of its unpopularity among more mainstream Christian communities. Leaked letters between Mormon “apostles” and “prophets” (their highest ranking leaders) revealed a coordinated campaign they had created with the Catholic Church and Evangelicals, where the other faiths would provide a public front, while the Mormons would use their substantial wealth and volunteer abilities in the background. The campaign was an enormous success, overwhelmingly defeating advocates for justice and overriding the Hawaiian Supreme Court’s ruling.

Emboldened by their victories (and underestimating the growing strength of the LGBTQ movement), the Utah-based church attempted to repeat its success in California by funding and backing Proposition 8, a similar ballot initiative which would override the CA Supreme Court’s ruling which legalized gay marriage. Yet unlike in Hawaii, where it worked largely behind the scenes, Church leaders were more willing to take a public stance, relying less on the Catholics or Evangelicals to front for them. While the campaign was successful, the PR backlash against the Mormon Church was massive and nationwide, as dozens of well-attended protests erupted around temples across the country, even on the Church’s home turf in Salt Lake City.

While the Mormon Church holds its membership numbers close to the chest, church historian D. Michael Quinn has said that the number of members who fled over the religion’s involvement in the organized opposition to marriage equality “deeply shook the church.” For a church that has historically struggled with national favorability and acceptance, watching those numbers plummet even further was vastly alarming to Mormon leadership and led to their endorsement of a non-discrimination law in Salt Lake City in 2009, and the creation of a website that seemed to soften its rhetoric (not its policies) towards LGBTQ youth.

But while the Mormom Church has been busy working to regain favorability and shift activist and media attention away from themselves on LGBTQ issues—particularly during the presidential campaign of prominent Mormon Mitt Romney in 2012—it has become increasingly apparent that its ideological agenda has never truly deviated and is moving ahead full steam.

In a precursor to what would come later, one of the Mormon Church’s “12 apostles” broadcast a televised message to all 15 million church members worldwide last month, telling them:

“Dallin H. Oaks bemoaned America’s dropping birthrates, later marriages and rising incidence of cohabitation as evidence of “political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God’s decrees about sexual morality and the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and child-bearing.” These pressures “have already permitted same-gender marriages in various states and nations … Other pressures would confuse gender or homogenize those differences between men and women that are essential to accomplish God’s great plan of happiness” … An LDS eternal perspective does not allow Mormons “to condone such behaviors or to find justification in the laws that permit them,” said the apostle, a former Utah Supreme Court justice. “And, unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has declared to be unchangeable.”

The statements were the first time Mormon leadership had directly addressed the issue of gay marriage (publicly) in quite a while, and marked a dark precursor of things to come.

LGBTQ activist and political watchdog Fred Karger, who was the first to expose the Mormon Church’s involvement in Hawaii in the 90s and Prop 8 in California, has just filed an official complaint letter with the Hawaii Ethics Commission, alleging that the Church has been extensively lobbying the Hawaiian legislature without publicly registering. According to Karger, the Mormon church has been applying political, monetary, and grassroots pressure on lawmakers for months (if not years), but only within the past few weeks did they register a lobbyist.

The single lobbyist they registered? Linda K. Rosehill. The same virulently anti-gay lobbyist the Mormons used in Hawaii during their 90s campaign.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are extremely clever in what they do. Expect to see their Hawaii campaign adopt a hybrid of their two models of affecting anti-gay legislation by infusing cash and volunteers behind the scenes while only taking a moderately public stance so as to limit PR exposure.

Their work has already begun. On September 15th of this year, a letter was read over the pulpit to all Hawaiian Mormon congregations from the high leadership, demanding that members ”study this legislation prayerfully and then as private citizens contact your elected representatives in the Hawaii Legislature to express your views about the legislation.” Less menacing sounding, and much less likely to grab many newspaper headlines, but when coupled with the direct orders from an apostle that all members oppose marriage equality, no less effective and an eerie reminder of the similar letter they sent out in June of 2008 to California members. That letter was followed by nearly $20 million in donations from members around the world, and over 500,000 hours of volunteer hours logged by faithful members.

The biggest thing standing in the Mormon Church’s way this time is the difference of venue. While the 1998 fight was in the form of a ballot initiative, this time it is the lawmakers themselves who are taking the initiative under the encouragement of Governor Abercrombie to change the law.

Lesson From 2013 Values Voters Summit: It’s Not Just the “Old People” We Need to Worry About

Posted By on October 11, 2013

Young attendees at the 2013 Values Voters Summit

Young attendees at the 2013 Values Voters Summit


It’s a common saying among pro-LGBTQ folks, “We just need to wait for some of these old guys to die off.” But based off of my observations so far at the Values Voters Summit, that old saying just isn’t true.

For years, national polling has shown that while voters over the age of 60 remain the largest group opposed to marriage equality, non-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people and other similar issues, voters under the age of 30 are swinging strongly in favor of equality in all of its aspects.

But that doesn’t mean we should kid ourselves into thinking that once “the old generation dies off” anti-LGBTQ sentiments will magically disappear.

Will things be easier once people like Tim Dolan, Bryan Fischer, Boyd K. Packer and others pass away eventually? Sure. But there’s a whole new young crop of arch-conservatives who are being trained to take their place.

“I don’t think homosexuality is natural, one of my best friends is a gay and he says he was abused by his step-dad when he was really little. I think that’s probably the case for most people who think they’re gay,” says Sarah, a 17 year old from Oregon who is attending the Values Voters Summit with her church group.

I also ran into Ian Ferth, a 19 year old who describes himself as a “Warrior for God” from Atlanta. “I just don’t see why someone would want to defy God like that [referring to gay people],” says Ferth. “God created us all equal, and that means we were all born in the natural order of things. It’s sad that some of these guys choose to oppose God and I want to attend theological school so I can preach to the world and show [gays] why they should repent.”

I’ve actually been shocked at the number of young kids attending the summit this year. Easily 30 percent of the audience appears to be younger than 35, and a large portion of that are under 20.

Conservative groups like Summit-organizer Family Research Council have been making concerted efforts recently to expand their base of young people, worrying that their followings will disappear quickly if they don’t. For many groups, that means creating clubs in high schools for kids, while in churches it means missionary work (the Mormon Church just recently lowered their age for missionaries from 19 to 18, hoping to get them into church work for two years before going off to college).

Some may find the dark irony in this conservative push to target kids younger and younger, while at the same time they continually push their talking points that “gays are recruiting your children!”

If there’s one lesson I’ve taken away so far today, it’s that as long as conservatives are training new “Warriors for God,” we’ve still got a long road ahead of us.

2013 Values Voters Summit – Day 1 Live-Blog

Posted By on October 11, 2013

This was a live-blog originally written for Political Research Associates

9:00 a.m. EST:

Family Research Council opened the proceedings by proclaiming the government shutdown is merely a “slowdown,” similar to being stuck in “a perpetual TSA line.” He also had some stage hands come up to remove barracades that had been placed on the stage “by Obama.”

9:10 a.m. EST: 

Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee was introduced by FRC President Tony Perkins as “one of the original architects” of using a government shutdown to defund Obamacare. Lee himself lambasted Congress, blaming the widespread government disfunction on politicians forgetting to honor conservative values. Lee went on to thanks Republican Senator Ted Cruz for his work on beginning the shutdown. “We make no apologies, and we stand with you!”

Lee had an odd moment when he said conservatives “understand we’re not all on our own, we’re all in this together,” which was a line repeated over and over at the 2012 Democratic Convention by Democrats.

While many Republicans are pointing out that the more Republicans focus on anti-equality stances, Senator Lee charged right through, saying “the problem isn’t that conservatives focus too much on the family, the problem is that they don’t focus on the family enough.”

Lee then turned to public schools, claiming that “Poor people and poor children are trapped in public schools.” He added that he is working on new legislation right now, that will “break up the cartels holding our children hostage.”

Lee wrapped up by saying “The best economic growth doesn’t come from CEOs or Silicon Valley, it comes from a young couple back home in a church saying ‘I do.’”

9:40 a.m. EST: 

Senator Ted Cruz’s introducer lambasted Senator John McCain as a “fake conservative and fake Republican” for calling Sens Cruz’s and Lee’s shutdown tactics to repeal the Affordable Care Act “implausible.”

Cruz himself opened by slamming the Obama administration for “violating almost every single right in the Bill of Rights, except perhaps the third, although I expect them to start quartering soldiers in our homes any day soon.”

The scare tactics are flying quick. Cruz says that America has less than 10 years to “change things around before we go off the cliff into oblivion.”

One by one, three protesters stood and questioned Cruz on his immigration stances. They were quickly escorted from the room by security, and Cruz himself called them “paid Obama operatives.”

At least 9 individual protesters have now stood and interrupted Cruz’s speech. The audience has turned near-violent towards them. Waving bags and coats towards them.

Cruz threw down a challenge at Obama. Says if the president will answer questions from 10 Cruz-supporters for 1/2 an hour, Cruz will answer questions from Obama-supporters on TV.

Despite falling poll numbers for Cruz individually and lack of support for the shutdown, Cruz is doubling down. “We need to stand strong!”

10:10 a.m. EST

Senator Rand Paul takes the stage.

Sen Paul is starting out by saying the Muslims are attacking Christians all around the world. “This is a war. More than 40 million Muslims are ok with attacking Christians.”

Paul went on to say that the United States “is now arming those who attacked us on 9/11,” and “we need to take a stand against anyone who wants to aid the Muslims.” He also pointed the finger squarely against the Obama administration, saying the argument can be made that “they are directly funding those who are killing christians.”

Paul also made the point that the “War on Christianity” isn’t just abroad, but also here at home. He elaborated by pointing towards the Boston Bombings earlier this year. “These Islamic extremists didn’t target a mosque. They targeted us. Christians.”

Paul says Military actions can be useful, and that “we were right to go to war after 9/11.” But he also cautioned that “military actions can empower radical Islam. I think if we go into Syria that’s what it will do.”

Senator Paul is throwing a warning to Libya, Egypt and Syria. “The Middle-East used to be something beautiful, but they’ve got to police their radical Islamists.”

10:30 a.m. EST

Senator Marco Rubio takes the stage.

Rubio says the reason the country is suffering is “not just because of big government. The fundamental truth is that the economy cannot be strong unless we strengthen our values.”

Rubio acknowledges the analysts who have warned the conservatives that they cannot win national elections if they focus too much on social issues. “But we must continue because the American Dream depends on it.”

The Senator also ignored those who are being persecuted by laws passed by conservatives imposing their religion. “Who are we hurting? How do our values hurt anyone? We are tired of being told to keep our opinions to ourselves!”

Rubio closed by saying Americans must “pray to restore the American Dream.”

10:46 a.m. EST

Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina takes the stage. Says he wants to preach, and is throwing around “hallelujahs.”

Scott takes his first swing at President Obama, it’s over gay marriage. “We have a president who picks and chooses which laws he wants to enforce.” He’s referencing the administration’s decision not to enforce Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or the Defense of Marriage Act.

Not sure where the Senator is getting his math, but he’s claiming that even if Obamacare is fully implemented, there is no chance America will see a decrease in the rate of uninsured because of it.

Scott is also taking a swing at public education, saying “we cannot allow teachers and unions to stand in the way of educating our children.”

11:00 a.m. EST

Tony Perkins and Mark Levin take the stage.

Mark Levin says that the Supreme Court is letting Congress pass laws they have no authority to pass.

“The Supreme Court overturning Prop 8 is ABSOLUTE TYRANNY”

Levin says that “America is a blue state right now,” and the “only way to fix it is for the state legislatures to get involved.”

Levin is also advocating for returning the election of U.S. Senators to state legislatures. He says Obamacare never would have passed if things still worked that way, because Senators were ignoring the will of their state legislatures.

Today’s theme as heavily revolved around the idea that there are “fake Republicans” in the House of Reps and the Senate. Right now, Perkins and Levin are strongly warning any Republicans who don’t keep fighting to defund Obamacare, or who “trash” Sens Cruz and Lee. This is fascinating to watch, as every national poll shows the public turning extraordinarily sour on the shutdown and the fight to defund the ACA. Even Mike Lee’s home state of Utah has two polls out showing his favorability with his own voters has fallen 10 percent in the last week.

11:30 a.m. EST

Dr. Ben Carson taking the stage.

Carson is starting off with anti-abortion lines. Says that there “is no war on women. Women are getting all riled up because we won’t let them have an abortion. Ladies, we love you! The war is on your babies!”

Carson has moved on to gay marriage, and is enjoying a standing ovation when he says “don’t change the definition of marriage.” Interestingly enough, he says that gay couples should be able to “get legally bound” and have visitation/property rights etc.. “Just don’t change the definition of marriage.”

Fascinating to listen as Carson says it is “insulting” when liberals try to give black people “food and healthcare.”

Gasps from the audience as Carson says that “Obamacare is the worst thing in America since slavery. Because it’s enslaving the people.” He added later that “It was never about healthcare, it was about power and control.”

Listening to Ben Carson can only be done with your “twisted logic” hat on. He’s now arguing that “other countries aren’t afraid to proclaim their beliefs, why are we?” And yet just a moment ago he was arguing that America should not be following the lead of other countries.

12:00 p.m. Lunch Break. Sessions resume at 2:00 p.m. EST.

2:00 p.m. Back from lunch

The afternoon session kicked off with a video scaring parents by asking “what would happen if your child was forced to dress up like a transgender?”

Representative Paul Ryan didn’t attend in person, but sent in a video message saying “we need to protect our values in the 21st Century.”

2:05 p.m.

Former-Rep Allen West says that while President Obama was speaking at the anniversary of the March on Washington, all he could think of was “the millions of black babies who have been killed.”

According to West, opposing marriage equality “isn’t about hating others, it’s about protecting our own values.”

West opened his remarks reading the Bible story about Joseph and Pharaoh who saved the Egyptian people from famine. He’s arguing that they were wrong.

In an interesting twist from his opening remarks arguing against government programs, West used his later time to complain about government services that were closed due to the shutdown. 

“Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, please resign!”

2:25 p.m. EST Joel Rosenberg

Rosenberg is making some rather drastic comparisons. He says the U.S. economy is like the movie Titanic, “when there’s an iceberg in front of you, you don’t speed up.”

Nazi reference! Women who have abortions are just like the Nazis at Auschwitz. Anyone else remember how just a couple hours ago, Dr. Ben Carson said there’s no such thing as a GOP War on Women?

Rosenburg has spent the last 10 minutes lamenting about Iran’s belief that a messiah will return to bring about the end times. He’s apparently completely oblivious that every Christian in the room he’s talking to believes the same thing.

2:50 p.m. Townhall with Reps Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise

Scalise says that Obama is specifically targeting Christians with Obamacare, tryign to hurt them.

Gohmert says the shutdown has been the Democrats’ plan for years. He’s claiming that Republican congressmen have been doing nothing but caving to every single Democrats’ demand for years.

I’m thinking someone should let Gohmert know that while he’s claiming that the shutdown is the result of the Dems and the president, Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee took credit for it this morning.

That was odd. Congressman Jordan just compared the Obama Administration to King George. “Our ancestors had to get away from that to protect their religion, and so do we.”

Rep Jim Jordan says that the government shutdown will help the Republicans win back the Senate next year.

Gohmert: “I don’t believe the polls saying people blame the GOP for the government shutdown. People always hate Congress.” Not 5 minutes later, Gohmert then said the shutdown will end when Obama and the Democrats recognize that the public blames the Dems.

3:25 p.m. EST – Michelle Bachmann

Interesting, the other Representatives had to leave early to get back to the Hill for a vote. Why isn’t Bachmann there?

Incredible. Bachmann is recapping all of the things that are closed during the shutdown. She’s complaining that they’re closed and belittling the park rangers who are enforcing the shutdown she voted in favor of.

If there’s one thing about Michele Bachmann you can take away while listening to her, it’s how little she knows about anything. She is extraordinarily talented at whipping a crowd into a frenzy, but she has yet to clearly articulate a single policy initiative.

“Obamacare will become known as Deathcare.”

3:45 p.m. EST – Alveda King

Quick note before Alveda King (the niece of Martin Luther King Jr.) starts: the rest of the King family have denounced her and her false claims about MLK’s “anti-choice” beliefs.

Alveda is blaming the Southern Poverty Law Center for the shooting at the FRC’s headquarters last year, because SPLC spreads “lies” (they’ve labeled FRC an official Hate Group) about them and once published their address.

Alveda also referred to gay people as “sexual persions” and said that birth control pills are “poison. Girls need them like they need a hole in their heads.”

4:00 p.m. EST – Gary Bauer

Bauer says our country is being “killed by the radical left.” Says the radical left and the radical islamists want to destroy Christians in order to remake the nation.

He is also adding that Christianity has “always taken piece and tolerance” with it wherever it has gone.

Bauer’s speech sound like he thinks it’s 2011 again. He’s hitting all the highlights, including “that promiscuous co-ed Sandra Fluke.”

Attention has now turned to Wendy Davis of Texas-filibuster fame. Bauer claims that Wendy was fighting for better access to 8-month abortions.

While half of the speakers today have been praising Senators Cruz and Lee for creating the government shutdown, the other half are busy blaming Obama. You would have though the Family Research Council would have gotten them all onto one side or another.

Nice for those of us who are liberals in the audience to get a chuckle. Bauer forgot where he was and said “right here in Chicago, folks.” (We’re in D.C.)

4:28 p.m. EST – Sandy Rios

Rios is kicking things off by mocking the Southern Poverty Law Center by reading a letter written by them to Congressmen and Senators asking them not to attend the Summit. It probably wasn’t a good idea, the letter was extremely well written about why FRC and AFA demonizes LGBT people. Feels like the audience kinda liked it.

It’s always hilarious to hear people who work for hate groups (in this case the American Family Association) whine about those who call them out for their work.

Rios is telling the audience not to listen to gay family members. “That would be like having a cousin who is a doctor and thinking you understand medicine.” she also is blaming propaganda from the media for any support for LGBT rights.

I can’t lie, I am quivering with rage right now. Rios is now claiming that the story of Matthew Sheppard is a fraud.

4:52 p.m. EST – Rick Santorum

In not a huge surprise, Santorum is spending his first few minutes pimping his new film projects, including showing a trailer for his film. Guess he needs more money.

Santorum hasn’t missed a beat since getting trounced in the GOP 2012 primaries. “We don’t need to listen to the polls, we know the truth!”

It’s statements like this that perpetuate the stereotypes that the Right isn’t intelligent: “The Left has pie charts and line graphs, we need to tell people stories!”

Most of Santorum’s speech has just involved screaming random words. The only point he’s managed to make for a while is that the economic struggle our country faces means nothing unless, apparently, we can stop gay marriage from moving forward.

Interestingly enough, Santorum got the biggest standing ovation of the night.. after he said that when it comes to his anti-gay and anti-abortion views, he “really means it.”

7:40 EST – Bishop E.W. Jackson

Jackson says he will never apologize for being opposed to marriage equality.

Jackson is giving more of a campaign speech than anything real. Lot’s of freedom juice and liberty syrup.

Every bit of research produced shows that discrimination against LGBTQ people causes suicides at alarming rates. Bishop Jackson says he can’t stand gay people, but he really wants to do something about teen suicides by strengthening marriage between one-man and one-woman.

Outside of Obamacare, there hasn’t been much of “moochers and takers” rhetoric today. But Bishop Jackson just said “We care about poor people, and we care about Hispanics. But the difference is that we don’t want them to rely on us.”

Jackson also announced that except for Jesus Christ, America is the greatest gift every given to mankind. Adding quickly after, “we’re not trying to force anything on anybody,” which is true, if you don’t count his religion and “values.”

8:02 p.m. EST – Mike Huckabee

Huckabee is being introduced by Rick Scarborough, the man who said that AIDS is a punishment to gay people from God, and that God killed Americans in Bengahzi as a “warning for pornography.”

Scarborough says people told Huckabee his candidacy was doomed from the start, but “he proved them wrong.” Apparently no one told him that Huckabee lost almost immediately in the race.

Huckabee’s spending quite a bit of time on Benghazi. Says he would not be surprised if someday we discover that illegal weapons were being sent from Syria to Libya and were captured by terrorists.”

After getting trounced in the 2012 elections, Republicans have obviously learned their lesson. They’re not changing any policies, of course, but Huckabee is the third or fourth speaker tonight to completely co-opt the Democrats’ line from their 2012 convention: “Democrats are saying that ‘you’re on your own,’ we want to say We’re All In This Together!”

Huckabee also took a little dip into the anti-transgender pool. Bringing up the old favorite about hos “Boys are now showering with girls” scare tactic.

8:27 p.m. EST – Jim DeMint

DeMint opened with 3 jokes, one on the IRS, one on the NRA, and one on Obamacare. Not a single one got a laugh.

We just had the biggest WHAT?! moment of the night, as DeMint said “We would be violating others’ civil liberties if we were to try and force our values and beliefs on them.”

DeMint is focusing his speech on love (“and not the liberal mushy gibberish kind”). It’s almost disgusting, in a calm and clear voice, he’s co-opted the entire liberal message about the importance of embracing diversity, never forcing your opinions, and respecting different beliefs. The irony, of course, is that is opposite of the mission of the Heritage Foundation, which he now heads.

DeMint also lauded trans-vaginal ultrasounds, despite the rape-like pain and trauma they put women through.. because hopefully “once a woman sees a picture, they’ll change their minds.”

8:45 p.m. EST – Marriage Panel

Starting off is Jennifer Marshall from the Heritage Foundation.who says that America has to now defend not only against gay marriage, but “we have to fight against our kids being indoctrinated in schools.”

Ryan Anderson from the Heritage Foundation is also hitting the “men have penises and women have vaginas” argument, but he’s adding a bit of a twist on it. According to Anderson, “there’s no such thing as ‘parenting.’ But only ‘mothering’ and ‘fathering,’ each have their own specific roles.”

It took Anderson less than 3 minutes to start equating Marriage Equality to polygamy. He also started making some weird claims, such as gays and lesbians wanting “marriage leases,” which only last a couple years. Maybe I’m being naive, but has anyone else ever heard of this happening?

NOM’s Brian Brown is also speaking, is spending quite a bit of time complaining that media outlets such as CNN and ABC rarely let him on their shows anymore.

It’s worth pointing out that more than a third of the entire audience walked out before Brian Brown and this panel started. Presumably they’re headed to the book signings by Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

The audience has died down so much that Ryan Anderson couldn’t even get applause on his applause line, he stopped, then said “there should be applause for that,” before getting a meager clapping.

The panel died pretty quickly, and Tony Perkins cut it off early.

Testing the Water: Mormon Church Tests to See If “Safe” to Re-Enter Gay Marriage Fight

Posted By on October 7, 2013

Dallin H Oaks

If you’ve never seen or attended one of the semi-annual General Conferences of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), it’s truly a sight to behold. 20,000 faithful members attend a two-day conference in Salt Lake City to listen to their leaders, while millions more around the world tune in to watch on live TV, hanging on every word from men they believe have spoken directly to God.

While many Americans still view the Mormon religion as an oddity or curiosity, the Church’s numbers are growing quickly as it continues to send every young man on a two-year proselytizing mission around the world at age 18.

Unlike many religions today, where each congregation or parish holds some level of autonomy over their teachings, the Mormon religion’s power structure is top heavy­—meaning no individual or local clergy has the authority to preach anything not authorized by the Church as a whole.

Historically, the Mormon religion has taken a proactive stance against civil rights issues, from their refusal to allow people of color full membership until the late 70s, to their political fight against gay marriage.

In Political Research Associates’ publication “Resisting the Rainbow: Right-Wing Responses to LGBT Gains” (p. 72), I wrote about the Mormon Church’s heavy involvement in the fight to ban gay marriage in Hawaii in the 90s, a sort of text of their capabilities and a battle in which they masked much of their involvement at the time. Emboldened by their overwhelming success in that fight, the Mormon leadership then turned their attention to California, infamously leading the charge to pass Proposition 8 in 2008. Unlike the Hawaiian battle in the 90s, the Mormons took a much more public position this time, fueling the “Yes on 8” campaign with millions of dollars in donations and thousands of door-knocking volunteers, and flooding the airwaves and cyberspace with ads and websites promoting false propaganda (such as the all-too-common lie that if gay marriage were legal, religions would be forced to perform gay marriages in their holy buildings).

The backlash against the Mormons was severe. Protests launched nationwide with thousands of angry LGBTQ people, concerned citizens, and even some members of the Church itself marching around Mormon temples. Even in Salt Lake City at the Mormon Church headquarters, 5,000 protesters surrounded the Mormon complex with chants of protest.

For a religion that is already viewed as a bit odd by the majority of the world, the Mormons cannot tolerate continued bad press, as it heavily damages their ability to proselytize and bring in new members. The backlash for their involvement in Prop 8 was so severe, and so sustained, that the Church finally capitulated and made some overtures to the LGBTQ community, including an endorsement of a non-discrimination law in Salt Lake City in 2009, and (after a 4,500 person protest surrounded their Salt Lake City temple in 2010) an official retraction of 2nd-in-command Boyd K. Packer’s speech claiming that gay people can somehow become heterosexual if they try hard enough.

However, since 2010, the fight seems to have been on hiatus as both activists and Church leaders waited to see what the other would do.

Now, it seems, the Mormon Church is testing the waters to see if it is safe to once again begin their antigay political campaigns. This last weekend at their latest General Conference, two of the Mormon’s “Prophets” told their 15 million members that they have a duty to oppose gay marriage.

Dallin H. Oaks bemoaned America’s dropping birthrates, later marriages and rising incidence of cohabitation as evidence of “political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God’s decrees about sexual morality and the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and child-bearing.” These pressures “have already permitted same-gender marriages in various states and nations … Other pressures would confuse gender or homogenize those differences between men and women that are essential to accomplish God’s great plan of happiness” … An LDS eternal perspective does not allow Mormons “to condone such behaviors or to find justification in the laws that permit them,” said the apostle, a former Utah Supreme Court justice. “And, unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has declared to be unchangeable.”

And yet another of the Mormon’s highest ranking leaders, Russell M. Nelson, later added:

“Marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to the Lord’s doctrine and crucial to God’s eternal plan,” Nelson said. “Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fullness of life on Earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood or misconstrued.”

These overt anti-LGBTQ sentiments have not been seen for several years from the Mormon leadership, and indicate a strong desire to reenter the culture war and political fight to block civil rights for LGBTQ Americans.

If history is the best teacher, the only thing that will stop the Mormons’ political power, money and manpower from flowing back into the fight against equality would be an immediate and strong reaction from activists and citizens who care about civil rights.  The Latter Day Saints have made their opening move, and it remains to be seen what will happen next.