Pastor Scott Lively as pirate | Award winning attorney’s insights into Smug v Lively

Straight ally attorney to be honored for equality work at ST. Paul’s dinner – would like to file an Amicus brief in CCR case of  SMUG v. Lively

By Melanie Nathan, February 01, 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-02-01 at 8.45.57 PMRev. Canon Albert Ogle, President of St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, recently interviewed Eric Isaacson, a straight attorney and LGBT ally, who is behind some of the “friend of the court” briefs opposing California’s Proposition 8.

Amongst the many questions asked by Ogle was one, which provided Isaacson with the opportunity to provide his legal insight into the SMUG v. Scott Lively case, and where he noted that he would also be interested in filing an amicus curiae brief to support the claims of Sexual Minorities Uganda, “given Lively is citing his religious liberty as a reason to allow him to deliberately misinform Uganda members of parliament about LGBT people.”

On March 14, 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a non-profit umbrella organization for LGBT advocacy groups in Uganda, against Scott Lively, the President of  Abiding Truth Ministries. Filed in the United States District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts, the suit alleges that Lively’s involvement in anti-gay efforts in Uganda, including his active participation in the conspiracy to strip away fundamental rights from LGBT persons, constitutes persecution. This is the first known Alien Tort Statute (ATS) case seeking accountability for persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Ogle asked Isaacson:

“Pastor Scott Lively recently appeared in court in Massachusetts charged with crimes against humanity by Sexual Minorities Uganda. What can American courts do about the exportation of homophobia through the kinds of propaganda campaigns illustrated by this case? “

Isaacson explained:

“One of the first laws created by George Washington was the First Judiciary Bill (the Alien Tort Statute) saying American courts would have jurisdiction over claims by aliens in violation of The Laws of Nations” (a tort is simply a wrong), which allowed foreign aliens to use the courts of the newly established Republic to find justice for grievances that may have occurred outside the jurisdiction of the U.S.

The law has not been used much over 200 years but it has long been recognized been used against piracy on the high seas and also used to fight the slave trade and in more recently in the 1970s used against basic human rights violations abroad. So there is legal precedent for Sexual Minorities Uganda to bring charges against an American pastor in the American courts for his role in meeting with Ugandan lawmakers to raise levels of homophobia and punishment for the LGBT community.

There is an important case before the U.S. Supreme Court where some Nigerian nationals living in the U.S. are bringing charges against Shell Oil for their role in the 1995 execution of a local rights activist, Barinem Kiobel and the systemic persecution of his ethnic minority. Shell Oil is basically supporting what the Nigerian government did to set up false charges against Kiobel. (The Kiobel v Shell story can be read.)

There is a lot of attention on this case because if the Court rules against the charges, then the Lively case will go nowhere. Extraterritorial wrongs and how our courts deal with them are now clearly open for interpretation.

One of four applications of this law has historically been about piracy on the high seas-it strikes me as ridiculous to see corporations (who are sometimes engaged in violations of human rights –a kind of piracy!) are not brought to account in US Courts. This larger case will assert the right of foreign nationals to seek legal recourse through our courts and interpret the First Judiciary Bill/Alien Torte Act for our time.”

Eric Isaacson, according to Ogle,  has done “more than any attorney I know to bring religious and secular organizations together on marriage equality. He has written extensive amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs that have been filed since 2004 to argue the case for marriage equality “from a religious perspective” and using a wider interpretation of the law and constitution.”

He will be honored Feb. 14 for his work to “Legalize Love for Everyone,”  at a dinner event with St Paul’s Foundation’s to celebrate Valentine’s Day with awards presentation to two individuals who are outstanding advocates for LGBT global equality.

The event: Co-owner and chef Pascal Courtin will create a special cocktail in honor of the saint associated with romantic love and all drinks (including wine) are part of this special celebration. Heat is one of the newest restaurants in San Diego, so don’t worry about finding the perfect table for the one you love, just join us on February 14th.

(For more details on the San Diego event – Valentine’s Dinner honoring Eric Isaacson and the Rev. Mike Scheunemeyer at Heat Bar and Kitchen in North Park, please reserve your table or seat HERE.)

The rest of the interview at SDGLN, which talks about other LGBT issues, such as SCOTUS DOMA and Prop 8 cases can be read here

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