Another day, another discriminatory ban struck down. Today a federal judge ruled in Whitewood v. Wolf that Pennsylvania’s 1996 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. This victory for marriage equality follows closely on the heels of the striking of Oregon’s ban only yesterday and makes Pennsylvania the 19th state allowing same-sex couples to marry.
Congratulate Pennsylvanians by sharing our graphic below:
Republican Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said last week that policies friendly to undocumented immigrants "reward people who want to tear down our laws and make us a third-world country."
Speaking with radio host Lars Larson at the anti-immigrant group FAIR's "Hold Their Feet to The Fire" event, Barletta complained about "sanctuary cities," which he has previously proposed cutting off from federal funding. Barletta is the former mayor of Hazleton, Pa., where he enacted one of the harshest anti-immigrant ordinances in the country, which was struck down by federal courts before it could ever be enforced.
"We continue to send federal dollars to mayors who are above the law," he said. "And then you have a mayor, such as myself in Hazleton, who gets sued for wanting to enforce the laws.
"And there's something wrong with the direction this country's been going when we begin to reward people who want to tear down our laws and make us a third-world country where we get to pick and choose what we want to do."
Larson: If the party picks [Jeb Bush] as the nominee, they're sending a powerful message to Americans that we're going to give away the vote and we're going to give away the whole meaning of what it means to obey the law.
Barletta: Absolutely, and it's what made our country so exceptional is that we were a country that has laws, and you cannot pick and choose what laws you enforce and what laws you can't. But here you have in the case of immigration -- illegal immigration -- you have mayors who declare themselves sanctuary cities, who are not going to enforce immigration laws. Nothing happens to them. We continue to send federal dollars to mayors who are above the law. And then you have a mayor, such as myself in Hazleton, who gets sued for wanting to enforce the laws.
And there's something wrong with the direction this country's been going when we begin to reward people who want to tear down our laws and make us a third-world country where we get to pick and choose what we want to do.
Earlier this week, the newest Religious Right tale of supposed anti-Christian victimization emerged out of Pennsylvania, involving a school that allegedly refused to allow a first-grade student to hand out cards featuring a religious message on Valentine's Day.
Donald and Ellen Abramo, with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom, have now sued Shafer Elementary School in Nazareth, PA claiming that they son had been prevented from distributing cards that said:
"St. Valentine was imprisoned and martyred for presiding over marriages and for spreading the news of God's love. In honor of St. Valentine's Day, I want you to know that God loves YOU!!!"
Predictably, Todd Starnes has now picked up the story and turned it into a column, which all but guarantees that the allegations are either overblown if not outright false, but since the school has so far refused to comment, it is impossible to know at this point.
But that is not stopping Glenn Beck from weighing in, as he did during yesterday's morning meeting when he directly compared the incident to the stoning to death of Stephen the Apostle for spreading the Gospel.
"You know what this reminds me of?," Beck asked his staff upon hearing the story, "the Martyrdom of Stephen the Apostle ... This is the same kind of thing":
Every year, the anti-immigrant group FAIR holds an event called “Hold Their Feet To The Fire,” which invites radio hosts to broacast from Washington, DC, and interview lawmakers and conservative activists.
This year, Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania, one of the staunchest anti-immigrant members of the House, showed up on FAIR’s radio row to call president Obama a dictator, associate undocumented immigrants with the 9/11 terrorists, and declare that “there may not be anything more dangerous” than comprehensive immigration reform.
Barletta told Secure Freedom Radio’s Frank Gaffney that President Obama has put us “on a road to where we’re now electing a dictator.” He took particular exception to the president’s support of immigration reform: “There may not be anything more dangerous than what he’s doing, to give amnesty to millions of people. “
Gaffney: To the extent that the president is, at best, selectively enforcing the law and in some cases rewriting the law or ignoring it altogether, do you agree with those who describe this as a constitutional crisis?
Barletta: Oh, there’s no question about it. This has been a slippery slope that this administration has taken, that the president has taken, walking over the Constitution and taking us down a path that, quite frankly, I don’t know if we’ve ever been this far down a road before, on a road to where we’re now electing a dictator who will try to pick and choose what laws and challenging Congress to try to stop me.
And there may not be anything more dangerous than what he’s doing, to give amnesty to millions of people. We know for a fact that there are people who have come here illegally who want to harm America.
In an interview with Florida radio host Joyce Kaufman, who came under fire for anti-immigrant extremism when she was briefly the chief of staff to Rep. Allen West, Barletta compared the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country to the 9/11 terrorists.
Referring to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s comment that many undocumented immigrants come to the US as an “act of love” for their families, Barletta said, “You know, sometimes we need to remind everyone about September 11. The pilots of those planes, it was an act of love to a different God that took American lives. And not everyone who is here illegally is all here for an act of love for their families.”
Kaufman agreed, adding that the Boston Marathon bombing – perpetrated by legal immigrants – was “another act of love.”
When the news broke yesterday morning that a student at a Pennsylvania high school had gone on a stabbing rampage that had injured nearly two dozen people, Glenn Beck briefly addressed it on his radio program.
After wondering why the students at the high school didn't just collectively rush and subdue the assailant before he could injure so many people, Beck said that all anyone could do at this point was to pray for this nation because we will soon face unspeakable misery because of our decision to "go against universal principles."
It was not God who made this student attack his fellow students with a knife, Beck said. Rather, it was a result of the fact that "we have disconnected from universal principles."
And because America has become so detached from those principles, this nation is headed toward mass starvation which will not be a punishment from God but simply the logical end result of embracing Marxism.
"We are now doing things that go against natural law," Beck warned. "And because of that, we will pay a very heavy price":
Wayne Allyn Root, the conservative activist who ran for vice president on the Libertarian ticket in 2008, claimed last month that President Obama won reelection because “Democratic voters across this country are voting four times, five times, 10 times each for the Democrats.”
In a video commentary posted in late March, Root insisted that “Democrats are winning elections through what appears to be massive voter fraud.”
Root — who is also a birther — cited the right-wing myth that the fact that a handful of precincts in the heavily Democratic Philadelphia recorded no votes for Mitt Romney means that Democrats were “stuffing the ballot box.” The Philadelphia myth is part of a right-wing trend of blaming Democratic victories on unproven voter fraud in urban areas.
Root also said that President Obama should be impeached over alleged IRS targeting of conservatives, citing the removal of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. “If you think impeachment can’t happen, it’s a pipe dream,” he said, “I’ve got news for you. Study Ukraine."
Yesterday, Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach suffered a double setback when the Supreme Court refused to hear appeals of decisions striking down two local anti-immigrant ordinances that Kobach had written and shepherded through the courts. Now, both towns are facing the possibility of paying legal fees for opponents on top of years of legal costs that they had already incurred.
Kobach was behind an ordinance in Farmers Branch, Texas, that required people to prove they were in the country legally in order to rent a home and one in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, that would have penalized people who rent to or employ undocumented immigrants. Both ordinances were struck down by federal courts, and neither town succeeded in appealing those decisions to the Supreme Court.
In August, the Dallas Morning News reported that Farmers Branch, a town of 29,000 people, had already spent $6 million defending the law since it was first passed in 2006, and expected to pay $2 million in legal fees for its opponents if it lost in the courts. The town has already been forced to cut back in other areas of its budget in order to keep up with the costs of defending the ordinance, despite a $500,000 contribution from real estate heir Trammell Crow.
Meanwhile, Hazleton reported last year that it had spent nearly $500,000 on legal fees since 2006, financed mostly from donations from an online fundraising campaign, along with a $50,000 gift from Crow. But the Hazleton Standard Speaker reports today that the city’s legal defense fund has dried up and it’s facing the possibility of paying millions of dollars in legal fees for civil rights groups that challenged the law. The town of 25,000 faces these costs on top of a pension fund deficit of over $28 million.
Even Kobach-backed ordinances that fare better in the courts can still present huge costs for cities that take up his anti-immigrant crusade. Residents of Fremont, Nebraska, voted last month to keep a similar Kobach-written anti-immigrant ordinance after it was upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Since the ordinance was first passed in 2010, the town raised its property taxes in order to set aside $1.5 million to pay legal fees and implementation costs; the town also risks losing millions of dollars in future federal grants.
While Kobach uses small cities to push his anti-immigrant experiments, those cities are forced to foot the bill as they work through the courts. The cities sometimes even pay for Kobach's services. The Southern Poverty Law Center noted in 2011 that "Kobach has said that he normally charges about $50,000 a year to defend his ordinances against legal challenges. He described that rate as under market and said he wants to ensure 'the cities can afford it.'"
States that push Kobach's harsh anti-immigrant laws have also faced enormous costs. Arizona spent millions of dollars defending SB1070 before it was ultimately largely struck down by the Supreme Court, and lost an estimated $23 million in tax revenue and $350 in direct spending from a resulting economic boycott.
Kobach’s home state is hardly immune from this either – state election officials are now facing the possibility of having to set up a dual elections system in which 15,000 voters caught up in Kobach’s voter ID plan will be allowed to vote only in federal elections – a costly bureaucratic nightmare.
The following is a guest blog from Reverend Michael Couch, a member of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers In Action.
On Tuesday, while speaking at the Georgetown University Law Center, Attorney General Eric Holder called for a repeal of state voting laws that disenfranchise formerly incarcerated people. In a country where nearly six million citizens are unable to vote because of felony convictions, these changes could not come quickly enough.
State laws dictating voting rights for those who have served time in prison vary, from an automatic restoration of rights after sentence completion in some states to outright bans in others. Restrictions on this civil right in states like Kentucky, Florida, Iowa, and Virginia should no longer be subject to criteria such as the type of convictions, arbitrary time frames, petitions to clemency boards and/or the state governor.
I work daily with others around the country to make sure nonpartisan voting education and voter registration of women and men who have completed their sentences takes place. Laws that disenfranchise formerly incarcerated people take away the single most fundamental American right, and they do so disproportionately to people of color. As Attorney General Holder pointed out in his speech, restrictive laws prohibit a shocking one in thirteen African Americans adults from voting.
As an African American faith leader, I find this to be both morally unacceptable and counterproductive to the goal of fostering supportive, engaged communities. I know from experience if someone has committed a crime, served their time in prison, and is released, no good could come of permanently stripping them of their most basic right and responsibility. Moreover, what isn’t often addressed is how restrictive laws keep families of those adults from helping them transition back to being a responsible, contributing citizen of their community. It’s time to change the message sent to the nearly six million Americans who have lost their voice and civic responsibility in our democracy.
Attorney General Holder is right: These laws are “unwise…unjust, and… not in keeping with our democratic values.” It’s time for states to get rid of laws that suppress those who have served their time and prevent them from fully participating in our democratic system.
In 2012, over the protests of thousands of Pennsylvanians, forty five organizations, and every Democrat in the state legislature, Governor Tom Corbett signed into law one of the strictest voter ID requirements in the country. The Speaker of the Pennsylvania House acknowledged that he pushed the law to help Mitt Romney win the state.
This morning the two-year-old law was ruled unconstitutional. Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley wrote that law was a “substantial threat” and that it would hinder the ability of many to vote freely.
In the ruling, Judge McGinley stated:
“Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal.”
People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council said of the law last year:
“The purpose of this law has been clear from the beginning. It was meant to keep African Americans, students, and other traditionally suppressed communities from exercising our hard-won right to vote. Even the law’s supporters have admitted that there is absolutely no evidence of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania. Instead, this law is a purely political attempt to disenfranchise citizens who have every right to vote. I am dismayed at today’s decision and hope that as this case moves through the courts, our judges recognize the ugly intent and real consequences of voter ID.”
A Republican state representative in Pennsylvania is circulating a memo calling for the impeachment of the state’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, for her “misbehavior in office” and “violation of her constitutional, statutory, and ethical duties.” Earlier, a Republican state senator also called for her impeachment and asked the legislature to reduce her office’s budget.
Kane recently said that she “cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA” because “it is wholly unconstitutional.”
The state representative proposing impeachment, Daryl Metcalfe, recently stopped an openly gay colleague from speaking in favor of marriage equality on the state house floor after the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on marriage, saying is colleague was in “rebellion against God’s law.” Metcalfe even opposed a resolution condemning domestic violence because he feared it would advance the “homosexual agenda.”
All public officials in Pennsylvania swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and laws of this Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Attorneys Act imposes a mandatory duty on the Attorney General to defend the constitutionality of lawfully enacted statutes in any challenge filed in court.
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane recently made a public declaration that she would not defend a federal lawsuit challenging the statutory definition of marriage. Ironically, Attorney General Kane explained that she could not “ethically” defend a law that she believed to be “wholly unconstitutional,” but making such a public statement that hinders the defense of the litigation violates the ethics rules that all attorneys are bound to follow.
In the near future, I will be introducing a resolution containing articles of impeachment against Attorney General Kane. Impeachment is a rarely used, but extremely important, tool to address misbehavior in office. Attorney General Kane’s violation of her constitutional, statutory, and ethical duties cannot be tolerated if our system of government is to work properly.
Attorney General Kane’s refusal to follow the law already led to further violations of the law when the Montgomery County Register of Wills cited Kane’s decision as a reason to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. When the Commonwealth Court entered an order that stopped this practice, the Court reiterated the well-established principle that every act of the legislature is presumptively constitutional until a court declares otherwise. Attorney General Kane has created a constitutional crisis by refusing to perform her assigned role and usurping the role of the courts.
It is our duty to stop her from engaging in further misbehavior in office.
Not to be outdone by PA's Department of Health and Human Services recently comparing gay and lesbian couples to 12-year-olds, Lehigh County PA Tea Party Commissioner Tom Creighton Wednesday explained his opposition to an initiative to expand benefits to to same-sex partners with this doozy: "I don't feel the county should be looking for new ways to give away taxpayer money. Next it could be giving money to people's pets or whatever."
Creighton sponsored the sole amendment to the 2014 county budget, pushing back against County Executive Matt Croslis’ expansion of benefits to same-sex partners whose marriage is recognized in another state.
Creighton is up for reelection this November and is evidently not vying hard for the canine vote. Thankfully even most household dogs understand bad analogies better than Creighton.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett hasn’t been helping his own approval ratings lately.
A Corbett administration legal brief filed on August 28th regarding the state’s same-sex marriage ban seemed to argue that same-sex marriage is analogous to the marriage of two 12-year-olds. Corbett rejected that argument after the fact in a written statement, but then in a TV interview made an even worse analogy.
On WHY-TV’s ‘Ask The Governor” segment Friday morning, a smirking Corbett called his legal advisors’ analogy ‘inappropriate,’ but then asked the news anchor interviewing him ‘I think a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don’t you?”
The shocked news anchor didn’t quite know what to say other than “I don’t know,” and attempted to move on to the next question after saying she was going to leave the comments to Corbett.
Things didn’t get much better from there, with Corbett saying Federal courts shouldn’t get involved in Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage cases because the U.S. Supreme Court left that decision up to the states, failing to specify what court case to which he was referring. Later Friday morning Corbett then was forced to apologize for his offensive comparison of same-sex marriage and sibling incest. Corbett’s approval ratings continue to drop after a stream of self-inflicted gaffes he has made, even when given questions in advance; leading Philadelphia Independent and Watchdog.org reporter Eric Boehm to label the Governor ‘Gaffe-tastic.’
Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett is proving once again that his priorities are out of line with the rest of the state: He just hired lawyer William H. Lamb for $400 an hour to defend a 1996 law banning same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania.
Even though the state’s attorney general declined to fight the case— and even though a majority of Pennsylvanians support marriage equality—Governor Corbett still thinks it’s worth spending $400 per hour of taxpayer money, plus $325 per hour for others in Lamb’s firm working on the case, to stop LGBT Pennsylvanians from being able to marry the person they love. It’s also worth noting that this law firm donated $39,500 to Corbett’s political campaigns between 2004 and 2012. Given the recent revelation that Governor Corbett’s former chief of staff is still being paid despite supposedly resigning, perhaps it shouldn’t be that surprising that Corbett is putting someone else on the government payroll unnecessarily.
Still, why fire your friends or let your discriminatory laws go undefended when you can just cut education funding? Why put your personal and ideological priorities aside, when the state’s children are there to take the hit? I’m sure school kids in Philadelphia won’t mind their ballooning class sizes or their after-school programs being cancelled when they know that money is being put to such good use, fighting a law to prevent people who love each other from being able to marry. Welcome to Tom Corbett’s Pennsylvania.
Yesterday, we brought you the story of the Corbett administration comparing gay marriage to marriage between 12-year-olds. Now, Governor Corbett is attempting to tamp down criticism without making any substantive changes to policy. A brief filed by his administration argued that gay marriage licenses had no “value or legitimacy” and that issuing those licenses would be like issuing marriage licenses to 12-year-olds:
“Had the clerk issued marriage licenses to 12-year-olds in violation of state law, would anyone seriously contend that each 12-year-old . . . is entitled to a hearing on the validity of his ‘license’?”
On Thursday, Corbett admitted that “[t]he analogy chosen in the legal brief filed on August 28th is inappropriate." Whoa, settle down, Governor— “inappropriate?” Strong word there, that’s some real no-holds barred talk.
Generous as it is of Corbett to acknowledge this comparison was inappropriate—let alone offensive, dumb and condescending—this admission doesn’t change much. The brief still stands; the lawsuit to stop marriage licenses being issued in Montgomery County will continue; and the officials who wrote the brief still work for the governor. The official who wrote this, who thinks that gay people are as incapable of legitimate consent as children, is still a part of the state government, charged with serving the people of Pennsylvania and representing their interests. Sadly, though, with Corbett as governor, a weak apology like this might be the best we can hope for.