Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Denver Baker says he’d rather go to jail after judge orders him to bake cakes for gay ‘weddings’

Life Site News ^ | December 11, 2013 | KIRSTEN ANDERSEN 

DENVER, December 11, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Denver cake baker who was ordered by a judge last week to service same-sex “weddings” or face punishing fines has told Fox News that he would rather shut down his business and serve jail time than violate his beliefs and play a role in facilitating gay nuptials.
In an interview with Fox’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck, cake maker Jack Phillips said, “You know, [I’ll serve jail time if] that’s what it takes.  It’s not like I have chosen this team or that team. This is who I am, it’s what I believe.”
“Does becoming a business owner mean you have to check your convictions at the door?” Hasselbeck asked. “Why is it important for you to have a business and not have to abandon personal religious beliefs just to make a buck?”
“I don't plan on giving up my religious beliefs ... I don't feel that I should participate in their wedding, and when I do a cake, I feel like I'm participating in the ceremony or the event or the celebration that the cake is for,” Phillips said. “My priorities would be towards my faith rather than towards my safety or security.”
Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, has been under fire since July 2012, when David Mullins and Charlie Craig filed a discrimination complaint after Phillips refused to sell them a wedding cake.
While Colorado’s constitution states, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in this state,” Mullins and Craig had nonetheless planned to “marry” in Massachusetts, where a court order made same-sex “marriage” legal in 2004.  Afterward, they planned to hold a reception in Colorado.  When they visited Phillips’ cake shop to ask him to provide a wedding cake for the event, he declined, explaining that his religious beliefs prevented him from participating in same-sex “weddings.”  Phillips said he would be happy to sell them brownies or other treats to serve at the reception, just not a wedding cake.
The two men reacted with angry disbelief.  “It was the most awkward, surreal, very brief encounter," Mullins told Denver Westword at the time. “We got up to leave, and to be totally honest, I said, ‘F--- you and your homophobic cake shop.’ And I may or may not have flipped him off.”
After the two men departed Phillips’s business, they filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission with the help of the ACLU, arguing that Phillips violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws, which were expanded in 2008 to include sexual preference and gender identity.
Phillips and his lawyers have argued that the religious nature of his objection to gay “marriage” warrants an exception to the anti-discrimination law, which also names religion among its protected classes.
But on December 7, Judge Robert Spencer ruled in the gay couple’s favor, equating Phillips’s deeply held religious beliefs against gay “marriage” with racial bias.  To allow Phillips to refuse to serve gay “weddings,” the judge argued, “would allow a business that served all races to nonetheless refuse to serve an interracial couple because of the business owner's bias against interracial marriage.”
Wrote Spencer, “it may seem reasonable that a private business should be able to refuse service to anyone it chooses. This view, however, fails to take into account the cost to society and the hurt caused to persons who are denied service simply because of who they are.”
The judge also rejected Phillips’s argument that he was simply obeying the state constitution by refusing to recognize a same-sex relationship as “marriage.”
“Although [Phillips and his lawyers] are correct that Colorado does not recognize same-sex marriage,” wrote Spencer, “that fact does not excuse discrimination based upon sexual orientation.”
Phillips’s attorney, Nicolle Martin, told the Associated Press that Spencer’s decision was “reprehensible” and “antithetical to everything America stands for.”
“[Jack Phillips] can't violate his conscience in order to collect a paycheck,” Martin said. “If Jack can't make wedding cakes, he can't continue to support his family. And in order to make wedding cakes, Jack must violate his belief system.”
Martin says her client has not ruled out an appeal.

Health Insurance

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Dems: Fixes not enough on O-Care

The Hill ^ | December 11, 2013 | Alexander Bolton 

Senate Democrats facing tough reelections say President Obama has not done enough to fix the botched rollout of his healthcare law and are vowing to repair it themselves.
The Senate Democratic leadership is not on board with lawmaker plans to begin rewriting ObamaCare and have urged for more time to assess the changes made by Obama and his team, lawmakers say.
Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Udall (Colo.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) are discussing a multi-faceted plan to rework parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Landrieu, Shaheen and Udall face reelection next year.
“The [ObamaCare implementation] upgrade has been significant, but there’s more work to be done,” said Udall.
“Sen. Landieu, Sen. Heitkamp, Sen. Shaheen and I are all working on a package that would incorporate our ideas,” he added.
Shaheen wants to extend the enrollment period for the ACA; Landrieu wants to mandate that insurance companies continue to offer plans that people like, even if they don’t meet the law’s requirements; and Udall wants to expand the pool of people included in the individual insurance marketplace.
“I’m not satisfied yet,” said Shaheen. “I’m still talking to people in New Hampshire to see what challenges we’re facing.”
“We have had a conversation about possibly introducing a package of fixes at the appropriate time,” she added in a later conversation.
The anxious centrists have an influential ally in Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), whom Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) recruited to serve as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Bennet said his colleagues facing challenging elections in 2014 should get a chance to vote on their bill, and said he would bring the issue up with Reid.
Senators are hearing a lot about ObamaCareare back home.
“In my home state, we have our own exchange. Unfortunately it’s not functioning well and the crisis remains unresolved,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who added that he’s glad some progress has been made.
Merkley, who is also up for reelection in 2014, said he would like to get a chance to vote on Landrieu’s proposal to allow people to keep their policies.
The topic came up briefly at a Tuesday lunch meeting, but Reid has urged the group of centrists to be patient and put off action until after Jan. 1.
“We talked about coming back after the holidays and reassessing where we are,” said a lawmaker who requested anonymity.
Bennet met quietly with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough in late November to discuss how the White House could help vulnerable Senate incumbents in the wake of the disastrous ObamaCare rollout.
The administration gave itself a deadline of Dec. 1 to fix the technical glitches that had made it very difficult to sign up for insurance plans through HealthCare.gov, the portal for the federal exchange.
Democratic lawmakers are worried other potential problems could crop up.
“I wouldn’t describe it as solved. I think the implementation really is just beginning,” said Bennet. “They’ve made progress, which is good, but we need to keep working.”
Bennet and other Democrats have expressed concerns about what many expect to be a wave of new ObamaCare regulations.
“I’m concerned about the regulations which have yet to be issued,” said Angus King (Maine), an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.
He expressed concern that businesses providing healthcare coverage could be hit by excessive paperwork demands.
“This town seems to like issuing regulations,” he added. “I think the administration should be exceedingly careful about the onerousness of the regulations that are issued.”
Bennet said there should be an easier process to repeal ill-conceived rules related to healthcare and other issues.
“People who are hearing from their constituents about parts of the healthcare law that need to be changed — or in their view, need to be changed — they need to be listened to and heard from,” he said. “There’s nothing about this [law] that’s etched in stone, so I expect there to be modifications, both administrative and legislative.”
Asked whether he was satisfied with the fixes made by the administration so far, Bennet responded, “No.”
In October, the administration announced it would delay penalties for people who fail to sign up for healthcare coverage.
Last month, Obama issued an order to allow insurance companies to continue offering health plans that failed to meet the requirements of the ACA.
The administration also delayed the enrollment deadline for plans beginning on Jan. 1 and pushed back the enrollment period for plans covering 2015 until after next year’s election.
Democrats facing reelection say legislation is needed to require insurance companies to continue offering plans that people like but fall short of Obama-Care’s standards.
They also have called for additional extensions of the enrollment periods and delays in penalties.
“For every day in delay in being able to utilize the website, there should be a day added to the back end so people do not feel they are not up against a wall and have appropriate time to make the transition as originally envisioned in the bill,” said Merkley.