Mike Huckabee said he’ll ignore the Supreme Court because Congress or Unicorns. And in White Wingia, “homicide” is just another word for “accident.” (More)

“That’s the process”

Mike Huckabee reminds me of the too-optimistic child who, in a room chest deep with manure, is certain there must be a pony under the pile somewhere. Or maybe a unicorn:

Until the Congress of the United States puts on my desk a bill that basically defies the laws of Nature and Nature’s God and defies the longstanding tradition of marriage, the federal government will not recognize same-sex marriage because there is no law that requires it and that would be true for the military and it would be true for all federal institutions. If the Congress decides that they want to pass enabling legislation, they could put it on my desk and I would veto it, and they can attempt to override it. That’s the process.

Actually, that isn’t the process. Congress has already passed statutes that define benefits for couples who are married under their states’ laws. In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, including Section 3 that preempted state laws and restricted federal benefits to only opposite-sex couples. In United States v. Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional.

With Section 3 overturned, marriage benefits defined in other federal statutes now apply for all couples, including LGBTs, who are married under their states’ laws. That is the process, and Huckabee’s claim that Congress must pass special “enabling legislation” for federal agencies to offer benefits to LGBT couples is … manure.

Oh, and Huckabee’s entire argument assumes he might someday be President of the United States. He’s more likely to ride into Washington on a unicorn.

“Death was an accident – not murder”

Next up, an item from our Exactly Wrong file:

The Freddie Gray autopsy was leaked today to the media and shows the young Baltimore man’s death was an accident – not murder

And yes, that is Exactly Wrong:

Freddie Gray suffered a single “high-energy injury” to his neck and spine – most likely caused when the police van in which he was riding suddenly decelerated, according to a copy of the autopsy report obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

The state medical examiner’s office concluded that Gray’s death could not be ruled an accident, and was instead a homicide, because officers failed to follow safety procedures “through acts of omission.”

Specifically, the Baltimore P.D. officers did not secure Gray with a seat belt, and several other cases suggest that wasn’t a mere oversight:

Critics argue that the reason a prisoner would be left unbuckled is not to protect officers but to dole out extrajudicial treatment. Baltimore juries have on occasion agreed. In 2004, a man named Jeffrey Alston won $39 million from Baltimore after he was paralyzed from the neck down during a police-van ride. The following year, Dondi Johnson Sr. won $7.4 million after a ride left him a paraplegic. In 2013, Johns Hopkins librarian Christine Abbott filed a suit against the department for a “rough ride” after a 2012 arrest that resulted from a noise complaint. Her lawyer alleges she was not buckled and an officer drove “maniacally” as she was taken in, throwing her around the unpadded van. (Abbott is white; Alston and Johnson, like Gray, are black.) Arrestees and advocates say drivers will jam to abrupt stops and take corners hard to toss riders around. In addition to rough rides, my colleague Conor Friedersdorf notes, the Baltimore Police Department has a long and ignominious rap sheet of brutality not befitting a place that calls itself Charm City.

As one might expect, it’s hard to know how common this practice is, and there are no good tallies. There are multiple ways a suspect could be injured, including while being apprehended, and the accounts of police and suspects about what happened may vary. (The Bureau of Justice Statistics found about 688 arrest-related deaths per year from 2003 to 2009, with 60 percent ruled homicides.) The multiplicity of slang terms is one metric. “Bringing them up front” refers to jamming on the breaks so a prisoner flies forward. “Screen tests” are the same, so that a prisoner rams into the screen between the front seat and the passenger area of a van or cruiser.

In short, the officers bound Gray, put him face down on the floor of a van, and then made fast starts, stops, and swerves to bounce him around against the van’s unpadded metal benches and walls. But White Wingers insist his death was an accident … because the medical examiner concluded the officers probably didn’t use their hands to slam Gray around.

You know, in the same way 18 people in Salem died by accident… because the hangman didn’t use his hands to strangle them.

“RFRA does not entitle them to block third parties from engaging in conduct with which they disagree”

And in good news, because we need some, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held the Obama administration’s contraception compromise for religious groups does not violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act:

Although the plaintiffs have identified several acts that offend their religious beliefs, the acts they are required to perform do not include providing or facilitating access to contraceptives. The acts that violate their faith are the acts of the government, insurers, and third-party administrators, but RFRA does not entitle them to block third parties from engaging in conduct with which they disagree.

The plaintiffs, all religious groups, argued that merely filling out a form to notify the federal government that their employee health insurance will not cover birth control would violate their religious freedom … because their employees would be eligible for birth control coverage, free of charge, through a separate insurance rider.

In other words, “Our health insurance won’t cover that because it offends our religious beliefs … and we won’t let you get coverage anywhere else either.” That second part, the court concluded, is not what the RFRA protects.

Of course the U.S. Supreme Court might ignore that unanimous Fifth Circuit opinion – and every other circuit that has considered this issue – and decide to overturn them all. But for now, at least, it’s good news.


Good day and good nuts