People For the American Way is dedicated to fighting for equal rights, freedom of speech, religious liberty and equal justice under the law for every American. One way we do that is by supporting great progressive candidates throughout the country through the Young Elected Progressives (YEP) program. The YEP program supports progressive candidates 35 and younger running for local and state offices, helping them win elections so they can start enacting change nationwide. This is done with an endorsement from PFAW’s Action Fund, along with monetary donations, volunteer hours and political support from people like you!
We will be revealing this year’s Young Elected Progressives program endorsed candidates through a series of blog posts highlighting a few candidates and their accomplishments. Today, we’ll introduce you to State Senator Angie Buhl (SD), Representative Dwight Bullard (FL), and Mary Gonzalez (TX).
Angie Buhl is running for reelection to the South Dakota Senate, where she represents the city of Sioux Falls. Buhl was first elected in 2010 at the age of 25, becoming the youngest woman to ever serve in South Dakota’s Senate.
Buhl has quickly become a leader in the state Senate and a voice for South Dakota Democrats. She has already risen to the position of Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and she serves on the Judiciary, Commerce & Energy, Retirement Laws, and Interim Rules Review Committees.
Buhl is a proven progressive champion and an advocate for equal rights. She has served on the board of Equality South Dakota, as well as South Dakotans Against Discrimination and The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. She is also an active member of affiliate PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, which provides a network of support to elected officials 35 and under, and the National Women’s Political Caucus of South Dakota. Visit her website here.
Dwight Bullard is running for Florida Senate in the 39th district. He has served in Florida’s House of Representatives since 2008.
Bullard, a high school teacher by trade, has shown great leadership in Florida’s education system both in and out of the classroom. As the ranking Democrat in the education committee and the pre K-12 education policy committee in the state legislature, Bullard is a leader in fighting for public education reform. Bullard also sponsored the Florida DREAM Act, which creates a pathway for undocumented immigrants to get in-state tuition.
Bullard has been recognized often for his work, including receiving the Barbara Jordan Leadership Award from affiliate PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network. Additionally, he was awarded the Young Democrats of Miami Dade Outstanding Leadership Award from the Miami-Dade Democrats and the Next Generation Leader Award from the Florida Association of School Administrators. Visit his website here.
Mary E. Gonzalez
Mary E. Gonzalez is running to represent District 75 in the Texas House of Representatives. Gonzalez won the Democratic primary with 52% of the vote in a three way race back on May 29th. She will become the only current openly gay member of the Texas legislature.
Gonzalez has spent the past several years working in higher education. She has served as the Program Coordinator in the Multicultural Engagement Center at the University of Texas at Austin and was the Assistant Dean for Student Multicultural Affairs at Southwestern University. She also serves as the National President of the service sorority Kappa Delta Chi and Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for allgo, Texas' state-wide Queer People of Color organization.
Gonzalez has been named as one of the Hot 25 under 25 most influential young Latinos in the country by Latino Leaders Magazine for her leadership in education. Once elected, Gonzalez will join former state representative Glen Maxey as the only two openly LGBT members ever to serve in the Texas House. Her election may show a cultural shift in what is still a largely conservative state and gives the Texas LGBT community a voice in the Texas state government. Visit her website here .
Remember gay-demon-exorcist, Halloween-candy-foe and NAR Apostle Kimberly Daniels? The preacher was elected to the Jacksonville City Council last year despite her claims that “the Jews own everything,” Haiti’s 2010 earthquake was divine punishment and that President Obama is tied to the illuminati. As Jacksonville weighs passing an anti-discrimination ordinance strongly opposed by the Religious Right due to its protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, the freshman councilwoman said that proponents of the ordinance have “discriminated against” her and are “anti-God”:
Councilwoman Kimberly Daniels, who is also a local pastor, took a point of personal privilege to address how some individuals laughed at her and made comments at the May 22 meeting.
“I am a believer; I am a Christian,” Daniels said. “Religion is a protected class. What I experienced last Tuesday night, it was not pro gay; it was anti God.”
“My family is being harassed; my life is being threatened,” Daniels continued. “I have experienced so much hate from the homosexual community…I don’t care who sleeps with who… I love America…I would like not to be discriminated against, too.”
John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council is organizing the opposition to the bill, warning that “this artificial, social construct called gay” is “new” and “dangerous”:
“We have basically exposed this piece of legislation for what it is,” Stemberger said following a June 5 hearing. “And that is an infringement upon religious liberties, the Constitution, and rights of association.”
Stemberger put the issue into a larger context.
“Same-sex attraction has always been with us since the beginning of time. That’s nothing new. … What is new, and what is dangerous and what we oppose, is this artificial, social construct called gay,” Stemberger said. “It’s in your face; it’s shoving down your throat; and it’s intimidation. It’s not just, ‘let’s be left alone and let’s just have rights.’ It’s now forcing everyone else to agree—by the force of law and lawsuits with money damages. That’s what we oppose.”
Shortly before the 2000 election, the state of Florida undertook a massive purge of its voter rolls, eliminating the names of 12,000 residents who the state believed ineligible to vote because of felony convictions. The problem? The sloppy purge eliminated the names not just of felons who had lost their right to vote under Florida law, but also of people who had just committed misdemeanors; felons who had regained their voting rights; and even of people who simply shared the name of an ineligble voter. The result was a mess which left countless eligible Floridians, disproportionately African American, stripped of their right to vote in a state that ultimately decided the presidential election by 537 votes.
Now Florida, under the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott, is poised to start another disastrous voter purge. Think Progress reports that a purge of “non-citizens” from Florida’s voting rolls has already struck hundreds of eligible citizens. Many more have not replied to a letter that informs them they will lose their right to vote if they don’t reply with proof of citizenship. Despite the clear inaccuracy of the purge, the burden is on registered voters to prove that they are eligible, not on the state to prove that they are not.
Rep. Ted Deutsch is now calling on Gov. Scott to suspend the flawed purge, saying it will “create chaotic results and further undermine Floridians’ confidence in the integrity of our elections.”
As we investigated in our report “The Right to Vote Under Attack,” right-wing politicians have been using the specter of “voter fraud” to carry out a number of programs meant to suppress the vote of progressive-leaning groups. The flawed voter purge in one of the closest of swing states is just the most recent blatant example.
Liberty Counsel’s fixation on attacking the LGBT community was on full display today.
First, LCAction released a memo claiming that President Obama is giving gays and lesbians preferential treatment in order to bring about the “collapse of American culture,” offering examples of the administration’s support of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, push for LGBT rights abroad, funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, and an order prohibiting health insurance plans from discriminating against LGBT customers, which LCAction claimed would mean that “every individual is going to pay higher health care premiums.”
On Freedom’s Call, LC chairman Mat Staver attacked President Obama for backing marriage equality, alleging that the “sexual anarchists” in the White House are pushing “social engineering on steroids,” and the debate over marriage “is not and never has been about equality:
Some speculate that Vice President Joe Biden is to blame, others point to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, still others say to follow the money trail and point to the nearly $15 million he raised within days of the announcement. Despite the reason for his evolution, what the radical sexual anarchist community in their allies in the White House are seeking to accomplish is social engineering on steroids. There is simply no basis in history, science, or higher law, to justify the redefinition of marriage. This debate is not and never has been about equality; instead it is a debate over the laws of nature and whether the government is willing to recognize them.
Staver today also blasted an ordinance in Jacksonville, Florida, that would bar “discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations” based “on a person’s sexual orientation or sexual identity.” “Morality and privacy will be in jeopardy if this ordinance passes,” Staver warned.
The City Council of Jacksonville will vote next week on an ordinance that will add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of other protected classes, such as race, age, and disability.
“This ‘civil rights’ ordinance takes away more rights than it supposedly grants,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. If passed, Jacksonville will be another city whose restrooms and locker rooms will not be segregated by one’s sexual identity at birth, but rather his perceived gender. Citing a case in Orono, Maine, where a teenage boy, who self-identifies as a girl, is allowed to use the girls’ bathroom at school, he said, “Wherever this is passed, privacy and decency are eroded.”
Jacksonville’s ordinance carries an exemption for churches and religious organizations. However, religious people do not live in churches, but the community. People of faith use community day care centers and YMCA locker rooms. They participate in Boy Scouts and sporting events. “Wherever people gather, morality and privacy will be in jeopardy if this ordinance passes,” Staver said.
“This has never been about discrimination,” Staver said. “These ordinances are meant to legitimize and codify the homosexual and transgender lifestyles.”
The Freedom Federation – an anti-Obama amalgam of Religious Right groups, "apostolic" ministries, and the corporate-funded astroturf Americans for Prosperity – is holding its third annual Awakening conference in Orlando, Florida this weekend. Here’s how it describes the event:
Uniting our Voices Around Shared Values: Turning Voices into Votes
A war is raging against our shared values. Our faith and freedom are under attack. Silence in the face of this war is not an option. Decisive action is needed. Join with others who share the core values that make America a great nation. Take a stand for righteousness and justice and be part of a new revolution to take back America. The time has come to turn our voices into votes and to change the course of history.
Outreach to the Hispanic community is a major goal of this year’s Awakening and the theme of Friday’s opening night session. That marks a continuation of the Freedom Federation’s efforts to re-brand the Religious Right as a multiracial and multigenerational movement, and to re-brand the culture war as a “social justice” movement. Last year’s gathering included a major effort to claim a religious grounding for the anti-tax, anti-government agenda of Grover Norquist and the Tea Party.
This year’s conference features Samuel Rodriguez, the head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who tries to sell the Religious Right’s culture war to Latinos while trying to get Religious Right leaders to make themselves more palatable to Latinos. Rodriguez recently said that Latinos are here to “bring panic to the kingdom of darkness” and “make the gospel of Jesus Christ, the church, the most influential institution in America.” He said God has sent illegal immigrants here to “redeem Christianity” in America.
Also scheduled to address this year’s conference is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a favorite of Tea Party and Religious Right leaders who describe him as the party’s Latino Ronald Reagan. Rubio is reportedly concocting a hollowed-out version of the DREAM Act that will try to help Romney and the GOP fix their well-earned image as hostile to the aspirations of millions of immigrants.
A new feature at this year’s Awakening is Patriot Camp on Saturday for kids ages 5-15. Organizers promise that kids will learn about “the Christian principles on which America was founded,” which is important since, “As most Christians know, our true American heritage is not taught in schools, especially not in an objective manner.”
Notably for this Obama-bashing group, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sending a video presentation; senior Likud official Moshe Ya'alon, Vice Premier, Minister of Strategic Affairs, is also listed as a speaker. Also on the list, some of whom might appear by video: Former GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, and Reps. John Mica and Allen West. West has been warming up for the conference by announcing, McCarthy-style, that dozens of progressive members of the House of Representatives are communists.
The list of speakers is a Who’s Who of the Religious Right and conservative legal movements, including characters like spiritual warrior Lou Engle and Cindy “God kills birds when America supports gays” Jacobs, who once haunted the fringes of the far right but have since been welcomed into a movement seeking to build the broadest political base possible. Among them:
Should be more fun than Disney World. Watch for updates.
As is tradition, the Florida Family Association is raising money to hire a plane to fly over Orlando with a banner “to warn families” about “same-sex revelry” at Disney World. The FFA claims that Gay Days at Disney in June, which last year brought approximately 150,000 people to the theme park even though it is not an official Disney event, led to steep declines in attendance as families fear witnessing “thousands of same-sex couples holding hands, hugging, kissing and wearing tee-shirts that promoted their lifestyle.” “Just like activists’ attempts to gain access to youthful minds through LGBT characters in video games,” referring to the group’s fervent protests of Star Wars: The Old Republic for allowing users to enter same-sex relationships, “they also want to impact a captured audience of tens of thousands of children during the first Saturday of Summer Break”:
How would you feel if you entered the Magic Kingdom anticipating a normal day of fun with your family only to witness thousands of same-sex couples holding hands, hugging, kissing and wearing tee-shirts that promoted their lifestyle?
LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender) activists converge on the Magic Kingdom the first Saturday of every June for an event called Gay Day at Disney.
Just like activists’ attempts to gain access to youthful minds through LGBT characters in video games they also want to impact a captured audience of tens of thousands of children during the first Saturday of Summer Break.
Last year Florida Family Association hired an aircraft company to pull a banner for ten hours the day before and ten hours the day of to warn families about this offensive event before they arrived at the park on Saturday.
The airplane banner influenced mainstream family attendance at Disney during Gay Day to DROP between 50% to 60%. We believe this aircraft banner warning to families SPARED TENS OF THOUSANDS of children from the unexpected exposure to this coming out party. This airplane banner is the most cost effective manner to warn families before they:
• Expose their children to same-sex revelry.
• Spend hundreds of dollars on tickets.
• Pay for parking.
• Commit a day for fun now ruined.
• Purchase food and novelties.