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Pope Francis tells medical professionals to defend life

Vatican City, May 17, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis Friday encouraged medical professionals to defend and promote life, highlighting the practice of conscientious objection in today’s healthcare environment.

“Defend and promote life, starting from those who are most defenseless or in need of assistance because they are sick, or elderly, or marginalized,” Pope Francis said May 17.

The pope met with the Italian Catholic Association of Healthcare Workers in Vatican’s apostolic palace and encouraged their commitment to pro-life healthcare.

The pope stressed that just because a medical technique is technologically possible does not mean it is necessarily ethical.

“Any medical practice or intervention on the human being must first be evaluated carefully to see if it actually respects life and human dignity,” he said.

“The practice of conscientious objection … can be a sign for the healthcare environment in which we find ourselves, as well as for the patients and their families,” he explained.

Francis said that in extreme cases where human life is endangered, conscientious objection based on one’s ethical convictions should be sought with respect and humility in order to prevent understandings.

“Always seek dialogue, especially with those who have different positions, listening to their point of view and trying to transmit yours,” he advised.

Pope Francis critiqued the “corporatization” of healthcare systems today, commenting that healthcare workers must treat patients as people, not numbers.

“Its corporatization … has fundamentally changed the approach to illness and to the patient himself with its preference for efficiency often preceding attention to the person, who needs to be understood, listened to and accompanied, as much as he needs a correct diagnosis and effective treatment,” Francis said.

He said that this corporatization also has an effect on medical workers leading to “burnout,” with many struggling to cope with long work shifts and a stressful working environment.

To guard against these pressures, Francis emphasized the importance of prayer and prioritizing one’s own spiritual life, commenting that this is what sustained the many dedicated saints who served the sick with love.

“To keep your spirit alive, I urge you to be faithful to prayer and to nourish yourselves with the Word of God: always with the Gospel in your pocket,” the pope advised.

“Healing, among other things, passes not only from the body, but also from the spirit.”

Despite religious freedom concerns, House passes Equality Act

Washington D.C., May 17, 2019 / 11:12 am (CNA).- The House of Representatives passed the controversial Equality Act on Friday, amid heated opposition from those who argue it would pose serious threats to critical constitutional freedoms.

“This bill undermines human dignity by threatening the fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience that the First Amendment guarantees for every citizen,” said Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of the U.S. legal division for Alliance Defending Freedom. “Americans deserve better than the profound inequality that this intolerant, deceptively titled legislation offers.”

In a May 17 statement, Waggoner said the legislation would harm women.

“It undermines women’s equality by denying female athletes fair competition in sports, depriving women of business opportunities designed for them, and forcing them to share private, intimate spaces with men who identify as female,” she said.

Waggoner added that the legislation would force Americans to participate in events and message that go against their deepest convictions.

“Many activists want to con Americans into believing that disagreement on important matters such as marriage and human sexuality is a form of discrimination that requires the government to enforce one view over another, but that is obviously wrong,” she said.

The House approved the bill by a 236-173 vote. Eight Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Seven Democrats refrained from voting for or against.

The legislation would add anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to existing protections for race, color, national origin, sex, disability and religion.

It would apply not just to employment, but other areas like housing, jury duty, credit, and education, as well as at retail stores, emergency shelters, banks, transit and pharmacies, among others. It would also specify facility access for self-identified transgender persons, such as access to male and female bathrooms.

Critics have argued that the bill’s concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity are too broad and would penalize the appropriate recognition of difference between the sexes or differences between married heterosexual couples and other couples.

Representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had opposed the measure in a March 20 letter. They said that while they support efforts to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect, the legislation would fail to advance those goals and would instead harm society.

“The Act’s definitions alone would remove women and girls from protected legal existence,” they said. “Furthermore, the Act also fails to recognize the difference between the person – who has dignity and is entitled to recognition of it – and the actions of a person, which have ethical and social ramifications. Conflating the two will introduce a plethora of further legal complications.”

The bishops also warned that the Equality Act would harm free speech, conscience, and exercise of religion. It would require that homeless shelters place biological men with vulnerable women and adoption agencies place children with same-sex couples, even if this violates their beliefs and the birth mother’s wishes. It could threaten professionals in the wedding industry who will serve all customers but cannot express messages to which they object. And it would require health professionals to provide “gender transition” treatments and surgeries in violation of their medical and ethical judgments, they said.

Furthermore, the Equality Act would exempt itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a move that the bishops noted is “unprecedented.”

The Equality Act now moves to the GOP-led Senate. Supporters of the bill will need to pick up more than a dozen Republican votes to advance the legislation. President Donald Trump has said that he opposed the measure, but has not indicated whether he would veto it if it came to his desk.

Pro-life activists call for acquittal of doctor who refused to perform abortion in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 17, 2019 / 10:55 am (CNA).- Pro-life advocates in Argentina have called for the acquittal of Dr. Leandro Rodríguez Lastra, whose trial started May 13 in Rio Negro Province in Argentina for refusing to perform an abortion.

Rodríguez is the head of the department of gynecology at the Pedro Moguillansky Hospital in Cipoletti. In May 2017, he treated a 19 year old woman who was suffering severe pain due to ingesting misoprostol, a drug administered by an abortion group.

The doctor confirmed that the woman was almost 23 weeks pregnant and the baby weighed more than 1 lb. 2 oz., so in conjunction with the medical team and the hospital board, he decided not to terminate  the pregnancy.

Rodríguez stabilized the patient and when the baby reached 35 weeks gestation, labor was induced. Days later, the baby was adopted and will soon be two years old.

However, Rodríguez and Dr. Yamila Custillo, who also refused to perform an abortion, were cited by Río Negro legislator Marta Milesi, an advocate for the protocol of non-punishable abortion, which the province had adopted in the case of rape, which the woman alleged.

Custilla was dropped from the complaint in May 2018. But the case against Rodríguez continued since the professional had allegedly stopped an abortion in progress.

Organizations including CitizenGo Argentina, Lawyers for Life, Doctors for Life, the March for Life, Medical Students for Life and Independent Federal Women delivered on May 14 more than 50,000 digital signatures calling for the acquittal of the doctor to Judge  Álvaro Meynet and Governor Alberto Wereltineck.

“It is obvious that the accusation made by provincial representative Marta Milesi, who is an abortion activist, seeks to intimidate doctors into doing abortions, even when these pregnancies are advanced,” the letter they delivered states.

“Dr. Rodríguez Lastra fulfilled his duty and the Hippocratic Oath as a doctor, committed to the defense and care of life. We  hope that justice will be done,” they concluded.

On Twitter, the hashtags #SalvarVidasNoEsDelito (Saving lives is not a crime) and #JusticiaParaRodriguezLastra (Justice for Rodriguez Lastra) were trending.

“We repudiate this persecution of a doctor who did his job: he saved both lives. Because of an illegitimate complaint, today there's an absurd trial. The only thing they want is to intimidate and impose their ideology,” wrote Twitter user Ana Marmona.

Health professionals from Costa Rica also expressed their support with photo messages.

Dr. Fernando Secin of Doctors for Life said “We are very  concerned about the persecution that we doctors are receiving.” “We're seeing a justice system acting in concert with politics, instead of going after all those people like the La Revuelta (The Revolt) group that is illegally distributing medications and illegally practicing medicine.”

Since the trial began, different groups have come to the Río Negro Court with banners expressing their opposition to the trial of Rodríguez.

 

This article was originally published by CNA's Spanish-language partner, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

‘Stand firm for life against the evil opposing it’ Kentucky governor says

Frankfort, Ky., May 17, 2019 / 10:15 am (CNA).- Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is urging his fellow governors to “be bold” on the issue of life.

The first-term governor made the call during an interview Thursday on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, as states across the country continue to debate abortion related legislation.



In recent weeks, Gov. Roy Cooper (D-N.C.), Gov. Tony Evers (D-Wisc.), and Gov. Steve Bullock (D-Mont.) all rejected their states’ versions of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Shortly after, Bullock launched a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. In contrast, Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.) and Gov. Kay Ivey (R-Ala.) signed major pro-life legislation.

Speaking to Pro-Life Weekly host Catherine Hadro, Bevin said that arguments against Born-Alive laws are “weak,” and that such measures are far from redundant.

“It would seemingly be the same argument you might say for ‘why have airbags in a car if we already have a seatbelt,’” Bevin argued.

“Not to protect a human life, and to ask a doctor to take responsibility for protecting that human life, and to hold them accountable if they do not—especially given that they have taken an oath to do so, and in fact are licensed to do so—would be irresponsible.”

Urging his fellow governors to stand in defense of unborn life, Bevin said, “Don’t be politically opportunistic, don’t be beholden to outside interests that are going to help you politically, but be bold and do the right thing.”

 

Alabama's Governor signed the Human Life Protection Act into law.
Georgia's Governor signed the Heartbeat Bill into law.

We speak with another pro-life governor on @EWTNProLife, @GovMattBevin, who says - while there is pressure - being pro-life is the right thing to do. pic.twitter.com/0BCxEIm8Mc

— Catherine Hadro (@CatSzeltner) May 16, 2019  



While discussing his work to pass pro-life legislation in Kentucky, Bevin called the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision a “travesty,” and said he believes the issue of abortion will ultimately be returned to the states.

“In the meantime, states like ours have passed very intentional laws related to things like informed consent and ultrasounds performed in advance,” Bevin said.

Bevin also pointed to a recent bill he signed into law prohibiting abortions based on the race, gender, or a disability diagnosis of an unborn child. He said that the “non-eugenics bill” might reach the Supreme Court and “may very well be involved in the ultimate decision making as it relates to Roe v Wade.”

“We passed a bill here in this past session in Kentucky that says you can’t kill a child based on its race, based on its gender, or based on some perceived disability. We used language very similar to what we find in the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal statutes that are already on on the books.”

After the anti-eugenics bill passed into law earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky promptly announced they would sue over the legislation, but the governor said he is undeterred.

 

We will see the state of Kentucky in court (again) after they attempt to ban abortion (again) #HB5 #stopthebans #kyga19 https://t.co/dJGMYRBCpc

— ACLU of Kentucky (@ACLUofKY) March 13, 2019  



Bring it!

Kentucky will always fight for life...

Always!#WeAreProLife #WeAreKY https://t.co/mFfqhGhAWe

— Matt Bevin (@MattBevin) March 13, 2019  



Critics of the discrimination abortion ban, Bevin said, “think that they’re defending folks when in fact they’re standing in the way of human life.”

“I’m grateful for the fact that ours is a strongly pro-life state, and that people are standing in the gap on the side of the vulnerable and those who cannot speak for themselves.”

The governor said he was bullish about the state’s prospects defending the law in court. “The gild is coming off the lily on the other side of this issue,” he said.

“We are standing firm and we will continue to do so regardless of the money, and the reasons, and just the evil, frankly, that is opposing us on the other side of the equation,” he said.  

Bevin acknowledged that “there is pressure of course, politically” on governors who sign pro-life legislation, “but here’s the thing, to do the right thing is the right thing.”

“Sometimes of course, in politics and in other areas, it’s easier for some to do the easy wrong than to do the difficult right,” Bevin continued. “But I think we have a moral obligation, and for many it’s maybe a religious obligation, but I think for those for whom it’s not religious based, it’s moral to save a human life.”

 

Kate Scanlon is a producer of EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

U.S. Bishops’ Chairmen Respond to U.S. House Vote on Equality Act

WASHINGTON—Five chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have responded to the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of the Equality Act (H.R. 5) on May 17, 2019. The Act would add the new terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” as well as “pregnancy […] or a related medical condition,” to the definition of “sex” in federal civil rights laws; expand the types of entities covered under those laws; and exempt itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Upon the bill’s passage by 236 to 173 in the House, the bishops said:

“Our faith calls us to uphold every individual’s dignity and rights against unjust discrimination – including in employment, housing, and services – regardless of characteristics or background. Rather than offering meaningful protections for individuals, the Equality Act would impose sweeping new norms that negatively impact the unborn, health care, charitable services, schools, personal privacy, athletics, free speech, religious liberties, and parental rights. The Act’s unsound definitions of ‘sex’ and ’gender identity’ would erase women’s distinct, hard-won recognition in federal laws. Its sex-based nondiscrimination terms would end women’s shelters and many single-sex schools. It would close faith-based foster care and adoption agencies that honor children’s rights to a mother and father. The bill would even act as an abortion mandate. We must pursue justice and equality for anyone denied it; but this is a regrettable approach. We are gravely disappointed with the Act’s passage in the U.S. House.”

The statement was jointly issued by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education; Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; some of whom had sent or cosigned letters to Members of Congress in opposition to the Equality Act in the months leading up to Friday’s vote.
 
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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Michael C. Barber, Committee on Catholic Education, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop James D. Conley, Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, U.S. Congress, U.S. House of Representatives, Equality Act (H.R. 5), LGBT, civil rights laws


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The next World Meeting of Families will focus on holiness in married vocation

Vatican City, May 17, 2019 / 03:38 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Friday that the next World Meeting of Families will focus on the vocation of married life as a path to holiness with a particular emphasis on Amoris Laetitia.

The 2021 World Meeting of Families will be held in Rome June 23-27 with the official theme selected by Pope Francis, “Family Love: a vocation and a path to holiness,” the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, the Family, and Life announced May 17.

“The meeting proposes a rereading of Amoris Laetitia in the light of the call to holiness spoken of in Gaudete et Exsultate,” according to the announcement.

“Conjugal and family love reveals the precious gift of a life together where communion is nourished and a culture of individualism, consumption and waste is averted,” it continued.

The next World Meeting of Families will mark the fifth anniversary of Amoris Laetitia -- Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on love in the family. The theme of the meeting seeks to examine family life through the lens of holiness, “the most attractive face of the Church,” as described by the 2018 exhoration Gaudete et Exsultate.

The meeting announcement quotes Amoris Laetitia’s section on Love in Marriage, which states: “The aesthetic experience of love is expressed in that ‘gaze’ which contemplates other persons as ends in themselves.”  

The World Meeting of Families, established by St. Pope John Paul II in 1994, takes place once every three years in a different country, most recently in Ireland in 2018. The 2021 meeting will be the third time World Meeting of Families will be hosted in Rome.

“As marriage and family shape a concrete experience of love, they demonstrate the great significance of human relationships in which joys and struggles are shared in the unfolding of daily life as people are led towards an encounter with God,” the announcement states.

“This journey, when lived with fidelity and perseverance, strengthens love and enables the vocation to holiness that is possessed by each individual person and expressed in conjugal and family relationships.”

Father Luke Ballman Appointed Executive Director of Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations for U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—Father Luke Ballman, a priest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, has been appointed as Executive Director of the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations (CCLV). Father Ballman has served as Associate Director of CCLV since July 2016.

The new appointment will take effect December 1, 2019. Monsignor Brian Bransfield, USCCB General Secretary, made the appointment.

Prior to his work at the Conference, Fr. Ballman served as Parochial Vicar, Pastor, Vocation Director, and Vicar for Clergy in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. He later served as Director of Apostolic Formation at the Pontifical North American College.

“Father Ballman has supported seminarians in their studies, pastors in their ministry, and formators in their essential work of training priests. His insights and experience have greatly benefitted the Secretariat,” said Msgr. Bransfield. “ I remain grateful to Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory for allowing Fr. Ballman to serve in this capacity.”

Fr. Ralph O’Donnell, a priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha has been Executive Director of CCLV since July 2015. He previously served as Parish Pastor, Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Omaha, Director of the Permanent Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Omaha, and Vice Rector/Dean of Students for Conception Seminary College. Fr. O’Donnell has now been appointed to serve as pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Omaha.  

“I am grateful to Fr. O’Donnell for his service to the Conference as well as to Most Reverend George J. Lucas, Archbishop of Omaha, for having made Fr. O’Donnell available to assist the work of the Bishops of the United States,” said Msgr. Bransfield.

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Fr. Luke Ballman, Monsignor Brian Bransfield, Father Ralph O’Donnell, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Archbishop George J. Lucas, Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations

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Media Contact:
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President of U.S. Bishops and Chairman of Migration Issue Statement on President’s Proposed Immigration Reform Plan

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, Texas, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, issued the following statement in response to the President’s remarks today on his proposed immigration reform plan. Full statement follows:
 
“While we appreciate that the President is looking to address problems in our immigration system, we oppose proposals that seek to curtail family-based immigration and create a largely “merit-based” immigration system. Families are the foundation of our faith, our society, our history, and our immigration system. As Pope Francis notes: “Family is the place in which we are formed as persons. Each family is a brick that builds society.
 
"We also are deeply troubled that this proposal does not seem to address Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status holders, nor provide them a path to citizenship to ensure their full integration into American life. Lastly, securing our borders and ensuring our safety is of the utmost importance, but this will not be achieved by heightening human misery and restricting access to lawful protection in an attempt to deter vulnerable asylum-seeking families and children. Instead, we must confront the root causes of migration and look to humane and pragmatic solutions, such as improving our immigration courts, expanding alternatives to detention, and eradicating criminal networks. We urge lawmakers to put aside differences and engage in meaningful action on humane and just comprehensive immigration reform.”
 
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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Bishop Joe Vasquez, President Trump, Pope Francis, immigration, reform, merit-based system, immigration reform plan
 
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Pope Francis Names the Most Reverend Peter Baldacchino as Bishop of Las Cruces

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named the Most Reverend Peter Baldacchino as the new Bishop of Las Cruces. The appointment was publicized in Washington, DC, on May 15, 2019 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Baldacchino, 58, was born on December 5, 1960 in Sliema, Malta. He attended the University of Malta, where he earned a diploma in science and chemistry. He attended Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Kearny, N.J., from 1990-1996 and also earned a bachelor of Arts and a Master of Divinity degree from Seton Hall University.

He was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark on May 25, 1996. On Feb. 20, 2014, he was named auxiliary Bishop of Miami, and Titular Bishop of Vatarba, and was ordained to the episcopacy, March 19, 2014.

Up until now, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, Bishop Emeritus of Tucson, had been the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Las Cruces after being appointed by Pope Francis on September 28, 2018.  

The Diocese of Las Cruces is comprised of 44,483 square miles and has a total population of 558,454 of which 139,322 or 25 percent, are Catholic.  

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Bishop Peter Baldacchino, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, Diocese of Las Cruces

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Media Contact:
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U.S. Bishops’ Chairmen Join Coalition Voicing Religious Freedom Concerns with the Equality Act (H.R. 5)

WASHINGTON—Four chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have cosigned a coalition letter highlighting key religious freedom concerns with the Equality Act (H.R. 5 / S. 788). The Act would add the new terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the definition of “sex” in federal civil rights laws and have wide-reaching consequences for both employment and delivery of service standards in religiously-affiliated schools, shelters, foster care and adoption agencies, potentially houses of worship, and other facilities and ministries.
 
“[T]he Equality Act would devastate the core ministries of a wide range of religious groups, especially those ministries that serve the most vulnerable,” the signees cautioned. Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education; and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, joined representatives of numerous denominations, schools, and charities of faith in their letter to members of Congress.
 
Among other concerns, the signers pointed out that “[t]he Equality Act amends Title VI of the Civil Rights Act so that any recipient of any federal funds, even a small amount for a subsidiary service” would be affected and that “[b]y way of example, this includes thousands of Catholic, Jewish and other parochial schools with students who participate in the National School Lunch Program, which helps poor children whose families have selected these specific religious schools.”
 
They concluded that the Act “regulates a huge new swath of religious activity and facilities as ‘public accommodations’ and transforms the conditions by which hundreds of thousands of faith-based entities partner with the federal government to serve the common good. It accomplishes these goals while bringing the daunting power of the federal government to bear against religious people and groups with non-conforming views about marriage, sexuality, and gender.”
 
The letter to Congress is available online at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/2019-Coalition-Letter-to-Congress-Equality-Act.pdf.
 
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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Michael C. Barber, Committee on Catholic Education, Bishop James D. Conley, Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; U.S. Congress, Equality Act (H.R. 5 / S. 788), LGBT, civil rights laws, religious liberty
 
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MEDIA CONTACT:
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