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Americans United for Separation of Church and State today expressed
disappointment with the California Supreme Court ruling upholding
Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in the state.
"Marriage is a civil right and should not be subject to
majority rule or a religious litmus test," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn,
executive director of Americans United.
"It is a decision at odds with both the Constitution and
basic decency," Lynn continued. "History will judge that this was a
step backward for religious freedom and civil rights."
After a divisive campaign led largely by conservative religious
groups, California voters narrow approved Proposition 8 in November of
2008. The vote had the effect of nullifying a May 2008 ruling by the
state high court legalizing same-sex marriage.
Gay-rights groups subsequently challenged the vote in court, arguing
that fundamental changes to the California Constitution can be made
only through a deliberative process that begins in the legislature, not
Americans United, the Anti-Defamation League and 30 other civil
rights and civil liberties groups joined the effort, filing a
friend-of-the-court brief asserting that a bare majority of voters
should not be permitted to remove fundamental rights from a minority
"If Proposition 8 can strip fundamental rights from gay and lesbian
people by a 52 percent majority, future amendments can strip away
fundamental rights from other disfavored groups based on race, national
origin, gender or religion," read the brief.
"Today's ruling is unfortunate, but it's not the end of the fight,"
Lynn said. "I'm confident that Californians will rise up and reject the
divisive agenda of the Religious Right."
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in
Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans
about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
"A lifetime appointment to the federal bench is perhaps the most privileged seat in our country," said one economic justice advocate. "It shouldn't be handed out like a party favor."
Advocates for workers' rights and economic justice were among those applauding on Thursday as Michael Delaney, the former attorney general of New Hampshire, asked U.S. President Joe Biden to withdraw his nomination to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, following outcry from progressives regarding his record and his positions on issues including regulation and abortion rights.
Delaney's request came a day after eight progressive groups wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee and asked the panel to block Delaney's nomination.
"Mr. Delaney’s record in private practice, as deputy attorney general for the state of New Hampshire, and as a volunteer member of the New England Legal Foundation's (NELF) board of directors demonstrates a hostility to victims' rights, reproductive rights, employee rights, and government regulation that is unsuitable for the lifetime appointment for which he is being considered," wrote the groups, including Demand Progress, the American Economic Liberties Project (AELP), the Revolving Door Project, and the National Employment Law Project.
Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, who both represent New Hampshire, had been pushing their colleagues to support Delaney's confirmation. Unanimous support from all Democrats on the Judiciary Committee is needed to bring the nomination to the Senate floor for a vote, and some members had been hesitant to back Delaney.
"His nomination for a lifetime appointment to a federal appellate court in an age where these groups are under sustained courtroom attacks does not meet the moment."
Democratic lawmakers and rights advocates have particularly objected to Delaney's work defending St. Paul's School when a student filed a civil suit alleging a sexual assault by a classmate.
The elite boarding school requested that the survivor only be given anonymity in the case if she and her legal team met certain terms. The survivor, Chessy Prout,
came forward after the school made the request, and she and her family lobbied aggressively against Delaney's nomination.
"I know Michael Delaney," wrote Prout in The Boston Globe after Delaney's nomination was announced. "After what he did, he doesn't deserve to be a judge."
Delaney has also been under fire since his nomination for signing a brief that defending an abortion restriction in New Hampshire and for his connection to NELF, whose stated mission champions "individual economic liberties, traditional property rights, properly limited government, and inclusive economic growth" as well as "vigorous advocacy of free market principles."
The group filed an amicus brief in 2021 in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, arguing that the EPA's ability to impose emissions regulations to fight the climate crisis should be curtailed.
The eight groups that wrote to the committee on Wednesday focused on Delaney's position on monopoly power. In his response to a question from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) during his confirmation hearings, they noted, Delaney said a threshold of 80% to 95% of market share qualified as a monopolization claim—denoting what Katherine Van Dyck, senior legal counsel at AELP, said was "a firm allegiance to corporate power, and an animosity toward efforts to hold corporations accountable."
As the groups wrote, "This suggests that Mr. Delaney could set a threshold of 80% or more if seated on the 1st Circuit, a position that is inconsistent with federal jurisprudence where a threshold market share is not even a mandatory element of monopolization claims."
"Granting Mr. Delaney a seat on the 1st Circuit would be a gift to opponents of the so-called 'administrative state' and a boon to corporate power," the groups added. "It would pose serious threats to the rights of some of the most disadvantaged members of our economy, from women who cannot obtain reproductive health services to underpaid and overworked laborers. His nomination for a lifetime appointment to a federal appellate court in an age where these groups are under sustained courtroom attacks does not meet the moment."
The withdrawal of Delaney's nomination, said Van Dyck on Thursday, represents "a big win for the rights of many."
\u201cA lifetime appointment to the federal bench is perhaps the most privileged seat in our country. It shouldn't be handed out like a party favor. This was the right result, and I'm confident that we can find a better nominee for the 1st Circ.\u201d— Katie Van Dyck (@Katie Van Dyck) 1684425981
"This was the right result, and I'm confident that we can find a better nominee for the 1st Circuit," Van Dyck added.
"Republicans have made it clear that they are prepared to hold our entire economy hostage unless you accede to their demands to reduce the deficit on the backs of working families. That is simply unacceptable."
Sen. Bernie Sanders and 10 other senators on Thursday ramped up their calls for President Joe Biden to strongly consider invoking his 14th Amendment authority to avert a debt default as the GOP continues to demand steep federal spending cuts and attacks on critical aid programs.
"It is unfortunate that Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate are not acting in good faith. Instead, Republicans have made it clear that they are prepared to hold our entire economy hostage unless you accede to their demands to reduce the deficit on the backs of working families," the 11 lawmakers wrote in a new letter to Biden. "That is simply unacceptable."
The letter and a flurry of urgent statements from progressive lawmakers came amid continued uncertainty over whether the White House and Republican negotiators would be able to reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling before the June 1 "X-date"—the day the federal government could no longer be able to pay its bills.
Progressives have vocally condemned the GOP's push for new work requirements for recipients of federal aid and deep austerity in the form of spending caps, which would devastate key programs and services and hamstring the government's ability to respond to economic turmoil.
During a press conference on Thursday following the release of the new letter, Sanders (I-Vt.) slammed Republicans for pursuing "savage cuts" to "the needs of working families, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor" in exchange for any agreement to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a default.
"If the right-wing Republicans force a default, it will mean the loss of millions of American jobs, interest rates on mortgages and credit cards will soar, and Americans will lose trillions of dollars in household wealth," Sanders warned.
But the senator added that "as disastrous as it would be to default on our debt, it would be equally disastrous to pass the outrageous Republican proposals," which he noted would kick millions off nutrition assistance, Medicaid, and other key programs.
Republicans have demanded a 1% cap on overall federal spending growth over the next decade—which would amount to real cuts to spending, given that growth would be unable to keep up with inflation.
Sens. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who has said he could not support a debt ceiling deal that harms vulnerable people, argued in a statement Thursday that Biden "needs to consider using the 14th Amendment if necessary."
"The entire GOP debt ceiling negotiation is a sad charade, and it's exactly what's wrong with Washington. We're playing with fire and the livelihoods of millions just for the GOP to try and turn the screws on hungry Americans," Fetterman said. "This is the whole reason why the 14th Amendment exists, and we need to be prepared to use it. We cannot let these reckless Republicans hold the economy hostage."
Biden said earlier this month that he has been "considering" invoking the 14th Amendment but added that he doesn't believe it "solves our problem now."
The 14th Amendment states that "the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned," and some constitutional law experts contend—given that debt payments are for spending already approved by Congress—that it provides a legal basis for Biden to end the current standoff without congressional action.
The 11 senators who signed onto the new letter agreed, writing that "using this authority would allow the United States to continue to pay its bills on time, without delay, preventing a global economic catastrophe."
"The choice we face is clear," the lawmakers argued. "We cannot reach a budget agreement that increases the suffering of millions of Americans who are already living in desperation. At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we must ask billionaires and large corporations who are doing phenomenally well to start paying their fair share of taxes."
"Republicans' unwillingness to consider one penny in new revenue from the wealthy and large corporations, along with their diminishment of the disastrous consequences of default, have made it seemingly impossible to enact a bipartisan budget deal at this time," they added.
"The G7 in Hiroshima is an opportunity for PM Kishida and other leaders to deliver a clear and just renewable energy agenda for a peaceful world," said 350.org's Japan team lead.
As Group of Seven leaders and representatives from other key countries travel to Japan for a three-day summit set to start on Friday, the global movement for climate action is renewing demands for swiftly shifting away from planet-heating fossil fuels.
" The G7 leaders' summit in Hiroshima represents a crucial juncture at which the world's most powerful nations have the opportunity to demonstrate true leadership and make good on their promises," declared 350.org executive director May Boeve on Thursday. "There is no point powering up on renewables without powering down on fossil fuels—a commitment to expand renewable energy development is not enough."
Andreas Sieber, 350.org's associate director of global policy, pointed out that the summit comes after "a year of global suffering due to fossil fuel-driven inflation, soaring energy prices, and exorbitant profits for oil corporations, following the G7's 2022 pledge to end international fossil fuel support."
Stressing the necessity of cutting off international public financing of fossil fuels, Simone Ogno, finance and climate campaigner at the Italian group ReCommon, said that "what will emerge from the G7 will also strongly influence the decisions" at COP28, the next United Nations climate conference, later this year.
"For the United States and the G7 to continue doubling down on this suicidal fossil fuel dependency... is beyond careless."
Earlier this year,
Oil Change International (OCI) exposed multiple countries for breaking their promises to stop pouring money into international fossil fuel projects and released a briefing on how top economies—including G7 nations like Japan, the United States, Italy, and Germany—have dumped billions into new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal capacity.
Leaders of G7 nations—which also include Canada, France, and the United Kingdom, plus the European Union—are headed to Hiroshima after their climate, energy, and environment ministers met in Sapporo last month and crafted a 36-page communiqué that critics said showed a "shameful disregard for what people and planet urgently need."
Campaigners noted this week that the communiqué ultimately wasn't as bad as it could have been—it stated that any gas sector investments should be "implemented in a manner consistent with our climate objectives and without creating lock-in effects." Still, leaving the door open to fossil fuels and recent actions by member nations concern climate action advocates.
"While just a month ago we saw G7 countries successfully pushing back against a Japan-led push for gas investments and fossil fuels, we now see Germany pushing the G7 to endorse gas investments and the United States approving financing for an oil refinery in Indonesia,"
said Laurie van der Burg, OCI's co-manager of global public finance.
"We cannot afford backsliding and the G7 must urgently get on track for 1.5°C," she continued, referring to the Paris climate agreement's more ambitious temperature goal for 2100. "This means closing the door to gas investments and instead providing their fair share of climate, loss and damage, and just transition finance."
\u201cNOW HAPPENING: Climate campaigners are mobilizing outside the Japanese Embassy in Manila, joining rallies across 12 cities this week to protest against Japan and the G7\u2019s continued promotion of fossil gas and fossil fuel prolonging technologies. \n\n\ud83e\uddf5(1/4)\u201d— APMDD (@APMDD) 1684378586
Going into the summit, campaigners are taking aim at its host. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida "has acted as a laggard on the global stage by attempting to block a phaseout of coal and pushing false solutions like ammonia co-firing, dangerous nuclear, and LNG into the Sapporo communiqué," said Masayoshi Iyoda, 350.org's Japan team lead. "The G7 in Hiroshima is an opportunity for PM Kishida and other leaders to deliver a clear and just renewable energy agenda for a peaceful world."
OCI Asia program manager Susanne Wong highlighted that "activists are mobilizing across 20 countries for a global week of action to stop Japan's dirty energy strategy and expose Japan's dirty G7 presidency," which the prime minister is using "to benefit Japanese corporate interests over the health and security of people and our planet."
"Japan must stop derailing the global energy transition by pushing for the expansion of fossil gas and other dirty fossil-based technologies," said Wong. "Prime Minister Kishida and other G7 leaders must uphold and strengthen their commitment to end public finance for all fossil fuels and shift investment to renewable energy. This is the surest path to peace and security."
Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden met Thursday to discuss various issues expected to dominate the summit—as American lawmakers reintroduced federal legislation that would ban fossil fuel exports from the United States.
"It is time for President Biden to take responsibility and ensure that the G7 is not co-opted for global LNG expansion and industry greenwashing," asserted Lukas Ross, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth (FOE) U.S. "Marketing ploys like Big Oil's so-called 'hydrogen-ready' LNG will only prolong our fossil fuel nightmare. The world cannot afford more dirty diplomacy."
\u201cWith two days to the #G7Summit in Japan, we took our message for Japan to stop fueling the climate crisis to the Japanese Embassy in Washington. @SierraClub @foe_us @PublicCitizen \n#JapanLovesDirtyEnergy #FossilFreeJapan\nSign the petition: https://t.co/QZpxzOrTG7\u201d— Mighty Earth \ud83c\udf0d (@Mighty Earth \ud83c\udf0d) 1684310423
FOE, OCI, and 350.org were among dozens of groups—including Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, For a Better Bayou, Greenpeace USA, Mighty Earth, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, and Zero Hour—who sent a letter Wednesday to Mike Pyle, Biden's deputy national security adviser, urging the administration to "lead the way for fossil-free diplomacy."
"It would be a climate and environmental justice disaster if the coming G7 was hijacked to support LNG," the coalition wrote, calling on Biden to block "vague promises of hydrogen readiness," additional public financing for polluting projects, long-term LNG contracts, the promotion of so-called " certified gas," and permitting reforms that disregard frontline communities.
"As a resident of Southwest Louisiana, I have seen firsthand the devastating impact that gas export terminals have on our wetlands and communities," said James Hiatt, director of the Louisiana-based advocacy group For a Better Bayou. "For the United States and the G7 to continue doubling down on this suicidal fossil fuel dependency—one that inflicts suffering on already overburdened communities like mine and will inflict unlivable suffering on future generations—is beyond careless."
"We must prioritize protecting our people, environment, and a livable future over short-term privately held and heavily tax-subsidized corporate profits," he argued. "Environmental and climate justice are not just talking points—they require action that centers people and a livable planet. We cannot afford more deadly shortsightedness—enough is enough!"