The people of Ireland backed same-sex marriage by a landslide in a referendum that marked a dramatic social shift in a traditionally Catholic country that only decriminalized homosexuality two decades ago.

After one of the largest turnouts in a referendum there, 62 percent of voters said ‘Yes’, making Ireland the first country to adopt same-sex marriage via a popular vote.

‘Yes’ supporters crowded into the courtyard of Dublin Castle to watch in blistering sunshine as results trickled in from around the country were shown on a large screen. They cheered with joy as the final tally was announced and then burst into a rendition of the national anthem.

“We woke up today to a new Ireland. The real Irish Republic that I have dreamed of my whole life,” said Jean Webster, a 54-year-old administrator who came out as a lesbian eight years ago after separating from her husband.

Government ministers waved a rainbow flag from the stage in front of the crowd and one lesbian senator proposed to her partner live on national television.

“The answer is yes to their future, yes to their love, yes to equal marriage. That ‘Yes’ is heard loudly across the world as a sound of pioneering leadership from our people,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny told a news conference. “Ireland, thank you.”

The Catholic Church, which teaches that homosexual activity is a sin, saw its dominance of Irish politics collapse after a series of child sex abuse scandals in the early 1990s and limited its ‘No’ campaigning to sermons to its remaining flock.

The archbishop of Dublin said the result presented a challenge.

“It is a social revolution. It’s very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people, then the Church has a huge task ahead of it,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told national broadcaster RTE.

“The Church needs to do a reality check.”

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Boy Scouts President: Lift Ban On Gay Adults

Posted May 22nd, 2015 by pikapp44

Robert Gates, the president of the Boy Scouts of America, called for the organization to end its ban on gay adults in remarks (PDF) at the organization’s national business meeting Thursday.

Citing “the social, political and judicial changes taking place in our country” regarding laws and sexual orientation, Gates said that “the status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.”

He added, “Our oath calls upon us to do our duty to God and our country. The country is changing, and we are increasingly at odds with the legal landscape at both the state and federal levels. And, as a movement, we find ourselves with a policy more than a few of our church sponsors reject, thus placing Scouting between a boy and his church.”

Gates noted that the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was overturned by a judge in 2010, when he was defense secretary, prompting Congress to repeal the law. He said decisions on the Boy Scouts’ policy could also be dictated by the courts, and it would be better “to seize control of our own future.”

He also said that the Boy Scouts would not revoke the charters of councils that currently oppose the ban.

Gates’ statements were met with praise from Scouts for Equality, an organization dedicated to ending the ban.

“This is another step forward for the Boy Scouts of America,” Scouts for Equality Executive Director Zach Wahls said in a news release. “I’m proud to see Dr. Gates charting a course towards full equality in the BSA.”

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest advocacy group for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities, said it was “a step in the right direction,” though HRC President Chad Griffin said he hopes there’s more to come.

“As we have said many times previously, half measures are unacceptable, especially at one of America’s most storied institutions,” Griffin said in a news release. “It’s time for BSA leaders to show true leadership and embrace a full national policy of inclusion that does not discriminate against anyone because of who they are.”

Gates, a dedicated Scout — he told Esquire that the Scouts’ National Junior Leader Training Program, which he attended as a teenager, “was the only formal management course I’ve ever had in my life” — approved of the organization’s 2013 vote to allow gay youth into the organization when he took over as president last year.

He did not set a timetable for change but stressed urgency in his speech.

“We can act on our own, or we can be forced to act, but either way, I suspect we don’t have a lot of time,” he said.

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During the same weekend that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg presided over the wedding of a same-sex couple, evangelist Franklin Graham was writing a prayer to change her mind on same-sex marriage.

“As the Supreme Court continues to deliberate over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage,” Graham wrote in a Facebook message, “let’s pray that Justice Ginsburg’s eyes would be opened to the truth of Scripture and that she would not be deceived by the arguments of those who seek to impose their ‘new morality’ on our nation.”

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Mike Huckabee, 2016 GOP presidential hopeful, signed his own “Pledge to the People,” vowing to defend the constitution, pursue an economic agenda and turn the clock back on advancements made in marriage rights for LGBT Americans.

When discussing his pledge with Fox and Friends Saturday, the former Arkansas governor said, “I’m for term limits and ending judicial supremacy.”

In addition to “vigorously oppose any redefinition” of marriage,
Huckabee’s pledge has anti-abortion language and calls for the defunding of Obamacare and Planned Parenthood.

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Jeb Bush Stands By Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage

Posted May 18th, 2015 by pikapp44

Jeb Bush stood by his opposition to same-sex marriage in a new interview, saying he doesn’t believe it’s a constitutional right and that traditional marriage is central to Catholicism.

“It’s at the core of the Catholic faith, and to imagine how we are going to succeed in our country unless we have committed family life, a child-centered family system, is hard to imagine,” he said on Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The Brody File.”

“So, irrespective of the Supreme Court ruling — because they are going to decide whatever they decide, and I don’t know what they’re going to do — we need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage.”

The Supreme Court is expected to rule next month on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, and many observers — even opponents of gay marriage — believe the court will in some way expand marriage rights to gay men and lesbians. Many in the GOP are split over how to tackle such a ruling, as Evangelical Christians make up a significant subset of the GOP base and are adamantly opposed to gay marriage.

Those Evangelical Christians remain some of Bush’s biggest skeptics as he moves towards a presidential run.

Bush didn’t offer his own prescription for how to respond to the decision, but he again reaffirmed that he doesn’t believe same-sex marriage is a constitutional right — “but I’m not a lawyer, and clearly this has been accelerated at a warp pace.”

The expected presidential contender then took aim at his likely Democratic opponent in the race, Hillary Clinton, who surprised many in recently calling for the Supreme Court to back gay marriage, a shift from just two years prior when she said marriage was a matter best left to the states.

“What’s interesting is that four years ago Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had the same view that I just expressed to you. It’s thousands of years of culture and history is just being changed at warp speed. It’s hard to fathom why it is this way,” Bush said.

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A New Jersey priest was fired from his job at a Catholic university over a Facebook post supporting same-sex marriage, he claimed in a tweet.

“I’ve been fired from SHU for posting a pic on FB supporting LGBT “NO H8,”” Rev. Warren Hall, who until this week was the director of Seton Hall University’s campus ministry, tweeted on Friday. “I’m sorry it was met with this response. I’ll miss my work here.”

Hall has since deleted the tweet but a change.org petition to reinstate him captured a screenshot. He followed up with a second tweet later Friday.

Hall could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Archdiocese of Newark, which appoints Seton Hall’s director of campus ministry, denied that Hall was fired.

“His tenure is ending at the university as director of campus ministry and he is available for another assignment… I think people are misconstruing an awful lot,” Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness told The Huffington Post. “The church has long taught that every person is to be treated with dignity and respect.”

The conflict took a new twist on Sunday as college basketball star Derrick Gordon announced that he will be transferring to Seton Hall. Gordon is the first openly gay Division I men’s basketball player.

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Likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said that Christian business owners should not have to provide services for gay weddings if it goes against their religious beliefs.

“Yes, absolutely, if it’s based on a religious belief,” he said when asked by the Christian Broadcasting Network in an interview Saturday if businesses should be able to decline services to same-sex weddings.

The former Florida governor justified his position by claiming that not providing a service does not count as discrimination if business owners feel that it violates their religious rights.

“A big country, a tolerant country, ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating someone because of their sexual orientation and not forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs,” he said. “This should not be that complicated. Gosh, it is right now.”

The blurry distinction has become a controversial topic, as many wedding-related businesses around the country, like florists and bakeries, have turned down gay customers, citing religious freedom. The issue became politically charged in March, when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, which allows businesses to cite religious rights as a reason for refusing service. Many in the GOP presidential field, including Bush, defended the law. “Once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all,” he said in March.

After widespread backlash, Pence was forced to sign a revised version of the law, which delineated that businesses could not discriminate against customers and clients on the basis of sexual orientation or identity. But gay rights advocates argued that the revised law did little to amend the original one, and that it still leaves much room for interpretation and opens the door for discrimination.

In Saturday’s interview, Bush also reiterated his opposition to marriage equality, saying that gay marriage is not a constitutional right and that “we need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage.” He did say last month that he would attend a gay wedding if asked.

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GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said she does not support amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, a reversal of a position she held a few years ago.

“I think the Supreme Court ruling will become the law of the land, and however much I may agree or disagree with it, I wouldn’t support an amendment to reserve it,” Fiorina said Saturday. “I very much hope that we would come to a place now in this nation where we can support their decision and at the same time support people to have, to hold religious views and to protect their right to exercise those views.”

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO made her comments in an interview with the conservative blog Caffeinated Thoughts after a speech to the Dallas County Republicans in West Des Moines, Iowa.

As Right Wing Watch noted, Fiorina previously supported such an amendment. While running for Senate in 2010, Fiorina filled out a Christian Coalition survey and indicated that she backed a federal marriage amendment.

Although Republican support for marriage equality is growing, the GOP presidential candidates still oppose it.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recently introduced two bills to stop same-sex marriage, including one that would establish a constitutional amendment to protect states that define marriage as being between one man and one woman from legal action.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who is exploring a run for president, has said that although he personally does not support same-sex marriage, he has little appetite for working to repeal it.

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Texas Senate voted overwhelmingly on Monday to allow clergy members to refuse performing marriages that violate their religious beliefs, as top Republicans move to further shield the nation’s largest conservative state from a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing gay couples to wed.

The bill, approved 21-10, requires a final, largely procedural Senate vote before heading to the state House.

Democrats were quick to point out that existing constitutional guarantees separating church and state already allow houses of worship to set their own religious policies regarding marriage ceremonies and all other aspects of faith.

The measure raises some of the same issues as so-called “religious objections” proposals that sparked strong criticism nationally after being approved in Indiana and Arkansas this spring. Supporters say such measures protect religious freedoms from government intrusion, but advocacy groups argue they allow businesses to refuse service to or otherwise discriminate against gay people.

The proposal in Texas is less divisive than ones elsewhere, applying only to religious wedding ceremonies and largely restating existing law. Gay marriage has been banned in the state since voters approved a 2005 amendment to the Texas Constitution.

Still, the bill comes after the nation’s high court heard arguments about the constitutionality of gay marriage for couples nationwide, and a ruling allowing same-sex weddings by its justices would supersede the state constitutional prohibition.

“It is not my intention to discriminate against anyone with this bill,” Sen. Craig Estes, a Wichita Falls Republican and the bill’s sponsor, said during Monday’s short Senate floor debate. “My intention is to protect pastors, ministers and clergy First Amendment rights.”

Supporters of what Estes is proposing haven’t been shy about openly decrying gay marriage, with some pastors even traveling to the state Capitol last week to declare that it violates natural law and offends God.

A series of religious objections bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature, but those had stalled. That was until tea party-backed Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, allowed Estes to file his proposal weeks after the deadline and fast-tracked it through committee, setting up Monday’s preliminary approval vote in record time.

“Is it a problem today? Same-sex marriages are not allowed,” said Sen. John Whitmire, a veteran Houston Democrat. “Who forces a clergy to marry someone they don’t want to? It’s unheard of.”

Estes countered that pastors have received threatening phone calls for not agreeing to marry gay couples. He said he wants to ensure pastors can’t be sued for refusing to perform weddings they don’t believe in.

All of the Senate’s Republicans and one conservative Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, sided with Estes. The vote came a day before the House is scheduled to consider its own hot-button proposal that would prohibit state, county and local officials from issuing or enforcing same-sex marriage licenses, and prevent recognition of gay marriages performed in other states.

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Parents and students say a Pennsylvania school district suspended about 15 students who took to social media during schools hours after two classmates wore Chick-fil-A shirts during a Gay-Straight Alliance event.

Bangor Area High School senior Erin Snyder tells The Morning Call newspaper the backlash began after two students appeared wearing the T-shirts last week on the school’s morning TV announcement.

Some students felt the shirts were offensive because Chick-fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy made comments against gay marriage in 2012.

Offended students who took to Twitter were called to the principal’s office.

Snyder, who was suspended, says they were told they were being punished for tweeting during school hours and because some of their messages contained obscenities.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is investigating.

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