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marriage amendmentAccording to news reports, Representative Paul Stam will hold some kind of legislative “briefing” tomorrow on a “religious freedom” bill that would permit magistrates and other state employees to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses if it violates their own religious beliefs.

This is an enormously troubling idea.

From a legal standpoint, permitting state employees to refuse to perform the duties of their job based on their faith opens the door to all sorts of potentially absurd new practices. There are many religions out there with many different beliefs, including some that are contrary to our state laws or policies. Are we now saying that a person’s individual, albeit sincerely-held, beliefs take precedence over the duties of their job? Can an EMT refuse to provide medical treatment to a member of the LGBT community because their lifestyle violates her religious beliefs? If a police officer, whose religion beliefs include the right of a man to discipline his wife, witnesses domestic abuse while on the job, can he choose not to arrest the husband? We’re heading down a very slippery slope with this bill.

But let’s think about this bill itself, which Stam claims is intended to defend religious freedom. The irony of this, of course, Read More

Commentary
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State Rep. Paul Stam

If you had any hopes that this year’s version of the North Carolina General Assembly would be less reactionary than the last two, these should have been quickly dashed in recent days by the announcement that the 2015 session will commence its substantive work next Wednesday with a “briefing” on a bill to sanction and promote discrimination against the state’s LGBT population.

The proposal comes, of course, from that irrepressible foe of tolerance and modernity, Rep. Paul Stam of Wake County — a man who has devoted the lion’s share of his years in elected office to advancing a narrow and backward-looking social agenda. Under this latest proposal, Stam would attempt to allow registers of deeds and magistrates to opt out of serving LGBT citizens seeking marriage licenses if doing so “would violate their core religious beliefs.” No word yet on whether Stam would allow similar treatment of officials with “religious” objections to interracial marriage.

Happily, there is a deep and growing wellspring of opposition to Stam’s sham. Chris Sgro of Equality NC does a fine job of explaining this opposition on the editorial page of this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. Here is an excerpt: Read More

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Paul Stam 2It’s funny how time usually seems to catch up to hate and bigotry (and the people who purvey them).  As society progresses and humans become more enlightened, language and viewpoints and images that once were widely held and expressed become less and less acceptable. Sometimes, the change happens rather suddenly — so suddenly that the proponents of the noxious views miss the memo and go right on spouting off until they suddenly become laughingstocks and pariahs for saying the same things they’ve been saying for years.

The current sports world controversy surrounding the use of the name “Redskins” by the Washington, DC NFL team is an example of how public mores can reach a tipping point and then change rapidly.

America witnessed countless such incidents in the late 20th Century around the issue of race and gender — usually in the form of clueless public figures saying embarrassingly stupid things about members of racial minorities or women. The pathetic thing about so many of these incidents. of course, was the befuddlement that gripped the clueless bigots. Frequently, they simply couldn’t fathom how their once-funny “jokes” or “common wisdom” observations had, all of a sudden, become offensive and unacceptable.

Let’s hope with all our hearts that we’re witnessing another such event take place right before our eyes in North Carolina with the latest noxious utterances from North Carolina’s longstanding champion of hatred and intolerance toward the LGBT community, State Rep. Paul Stam. Read More

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[UPDATED] Lest you have any doubts or fall for the bill of goods being peddled by the sponsors of the anti-choice legislation under consideration in the North Carolina General Assembly, listen to the words of House Majority Leader Paul Stam as he responded to a question from WRAL TV’s David Crabtree on this past weekend’s edition of “On the Record” — the relevant section (which appears below) took place about seven and half minutes into the program.

Here is the transcript:

Crabtree: Well if we cut to the chase, is this purely an attempt to limit abortions as severely as you can in North Carolina? And all the other things are just added to it “on the tree”?

Stam: Well it’s partly that but not certainly not mostly that.

Stam then goes on to provide a detailed description of the bill and the myriad ways it limits access to and the availability of abortion services.

In other words, one of the bill’s chief supporters — a powerful man who has long made no bones about the fact that oulawing abortion is one of his top priorities in public life — publicly admits that the at least one purpose of the controversial legislation is to “limit abortions as severely as you can in North Carolina.”

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Paul Stam 2There was time not that long ago in the North Carolina General Assembly in which anti-choice conservatives were at least willing to be minimally consistent with the their claims of being “pro-life.”

Take State Rep. Paul Stam, for instance.

Stam has been in the General Assembly for a long time. Prior to his current series of half a dozen terms, the Wake County Republican also served during the 1989-90 legislative session. It was during that initial term that Stam first made his name as a crusader for right-wing social causes and, specifically, a passionate opposition to abortion.

Now, flash forward to 2013 and see that things aren’t much different. Stam is still leading the anti-choice charge (and the anti-gay rights charge and the pro-death penalty charge).  Along with many of his conservative colleagues, Stam is doing everything he can to make abortion more inaccessible, prevent LGBT equality and revive the death penalty.

Here’s one important difference, however, Read More