Florida

African American Pastors Praise Court’s Upholding of Voting Rights in Florida

Jacksonville, Fla. – The African American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC), a national coalition of African American clergy, today praised a federal court’s decision to strike down Florida early voting restrictions in five counties that would disproportionately affect African American voters.

“Sadly, the voter suppression tactics that the Voting Rights Act was meant to combat are alive and well in Florida,” said Elder Lee Harris of Mount Olive Primitive Baptist Church in Jacksonville. “But thanks to the Voting Rights Act, those trying to suppress the African American vote in Florida aren’t going to get away with it. The court was right to apply the act to what was a blatant attempt to keep African Americans from the polls.”

A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Florida legislature’s decision to cut early voting from 12 days to eight, for as little as six hours a day (potentially all during the standard workday), violated section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires federal review of voting rights changes in states and counties with a history of voter discrimination. The court’s decision applies just to the five counties covered under section 5 --Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe. The panel said it would approve a plan where the five counties held early voting open for 12 hours a day for each of the 8 days.

“Thanks to this sound decision, which we urge Gov. Scott to accept, Black voters in five counties will reclaim access to the ballot box during these critical early voting days,” continued Elder Harris. “However, residents of counties not covered by section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – including Duval County – continue to face these suppressive new rules. We urge officials in all of Florida’s counties to adopt the same early voting opportunities as approved by the court.”

The African American Ministers Leadership Council, a program of People For the American Way Foundation, founded in 1997, has been working nationwide to help bring African Americans to the polls in every election, most recently through the newly-launched non-partisan “I Am A VESSEL and I Vote!” program.

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Court Rejects Florida's Efforts to Curtail Early Voting

In an opinion affecting 5 counties, a federal court rules that Florida's curtailed early voting would disproportionately harm African Americans.
PFAW Foundation

YEP Primary Winners

The results are in from Tuesday’s primaries, and People For the American Way is proud to commend seven Young Elected Progressives endorsees on their victories.

In Connecticut, PFAW applauds Assemblymen Matthew Lesser and James Albis, both running for reelection. Lesser, of Connecticut’s 100th district, has been a proven advocate for the middle class, education, and equal rights since he was first elected in 2010. Albis, a tireless voice for seniors and the middle class, was first elected in a 2011 special election. Both assemblymen face challengers in November, but are continuing their momentum into the fall’s general election.

PFAW also extends its congratulations to five YEP endorsees who emerged victorious in primary elections in Florida: Dwight Bullard, Andrew Gillum, John Alvarez, Leo Cruz, and Ricardo Rangel. While Bullard, winner of this year’s Barbara Jordan Leadership Award given by affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s YEO Network program, defeated four primary challengers in the state Senate’s 39th district, Gillum, YEO Network National Director, defeated three challengers to his Tallahassee city commission seat in a landslide victory. Elsewhere, openly gay state House candidate Alvarez continues to shatter ceilings, advancing onto the general election after an exciting 15 point victory. Cruz and Rangel, state Senate and House hopefuls, respectively, now also face challengers in November.

For more information on PFAW’s other Young Elected Progressives endorsees, click here, and be sure support these strong progressive voices!

PFAW

Florida Pastor: Gays Can't Handle the Truth

Jack Hakimian is a Florida pastor who is turning into something of a Religious Right martyr after the North Miami public schools rebuked him for delivering anti-gay screeds on school property. Today, Hakimian took his case to American Family Radio, where he complained of “censorship” by gay groups. He said gay rights advocates “know that if we keep debating from biology, from theology and from sociology that homosexuality is not a healthy lifestyle, it’s not God’s plan, we will persuade people’s minds,” and so those advocates “want to destroy our presence.”

Watch:

Young Elected Progressives Program

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

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

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 .

PFAW

US Reps decry Florida purge

In a letter written to House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, Ranking Member John Conyers and 15 colleagues stress the need for a formal review.
PFAW Foundation

Conservatives Denounce 'Anti-God' Human Rights Ordinance in Jacksonville

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.”

Registration drives to resume in Florida

With the worst of the “Voter Suppression Act” blocked, pending litigation, community groups are set to get back to registering voters.
PFAW Foundation

Florida Poised for Another Voter-Purge Disaster

 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.

PFAW

Another Anti-Gay Day at Liberty Counsel

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.”
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