LGBT equality

Scenes from today's ENDA debate - final votes tomorrow

The final Senate votes on ENDA will take place tomorrow, starting at 11:45 am EST. Now is your last chance to call your senators. There are more instructions here and here, and you can always reach both of them by dialing 202-224-3121. Don’t forget to sign our petition. The time is now – say yes to common sense and no to anti-gay extremists – pass ENDA!
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Scenes from the floor on the second day of ENDA debate

Today's speeches have already begun, and amendment votes are also in progress. Please keep calling the Senate. There are more instructions here and here, and you can always reach both of your senators by dialing 202-224-3121. Don’t forget to sign our petition. The time is now – say yes to common sense and no to anti-gay extremists – pass ENDA!
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Scenes from the floor on the first day of ENDA debate

From letters to alerts and more, the entire PFAW family has been working on ENDA. We still need your help. Please keep calling the Senate as this week's debate continues. There are more instructions here and here, and you can always reach both of your senators by dialing 202-224-3121. Don’t forget to sign our petition. The time is now – say yes to common sense and no to anti-gay extremists – pass ENDA!
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Why We Need ENDA

Guest post by Enbar Cohen, City of Aventura Commissioner and member of affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network.
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Senators Pryor and Manchin join list of ENDA supporters, contact your senators now

ENDA and workplace fairness for all have a clear majority on their side, but every vote is still critical. Thank those already in support for protecting LGBT workers. Tell those who aren't yet on board to say yes to common sense and no to anti-gay extremists.
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Senator Nelson cosponsors ENDA, leaves 3 votes to go, contact your senators now

Every vote will be critical to passage. Thank those already in support for protecting LGBT workers. Tell those who aren't yet on board to say yes to common sense and no to anti-gay extremists.
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Leader Reid announces ENDA vote – contact Senate now

Every vote will be critical to passage. Thank those already in support for protecting LGBT workers. Tell those who aren't yet on board to say yes to common sense and no to anti-gay extremists.
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Put this toolkit to good use and call your Senators today, "pass ENDA now!"

The government may be shut down, but Congress is still on the job, and we need to show them that they need to get back to work not only on the budget but on all of the urgent issues that we care about.
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PFAW Releases New Toolkit on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

First introduced in 1994, ENDA has been introduced in every subsequent session of Congress except one, including its introduction this April by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate. Advocates in Congress and on the ground believe that the growing momentum surrounding LGBT equality should help ENDA move forward this year.
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Employment Non-Discrimination Act: Judging Employees by Their Work Performance, Not by Who They Are or Who They Love

First introduced in 1994, ENDA has been introduced in every subsequent session of Congress except one, including its introduction this April by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate. Advocates in Congress and on the ground believe that the growing momentum surrounding LGBT equality should help ENDA move forward this year.

New Poll Finds “Overwhelming Support” for ENDA

An “overwhelming majority” of Americans support federal legislation protecting LGBT people from workplace discrimination, new data from Republican pollster Alex Lundry finds – including a majority (56%) of Republican voters.  In fact, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is so in keeping with basic American values that eight in ten people think that it is already on the books, according to the poll.

While past polling has shown that most Americans support workplace protections for LGBT people, this poll sought to gauge support levels across all fifty states specifically for federal legislation:

An innovative statistical modeling method…allows us to estimate support for ENDA in all 50 states by combining data from our national survey with state level census data. The result? We estimate that across all 50 states a majority of voters support passing federal nondiscrimination protections.

Politico’s Maggie Haberman writes that the new data comes as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seeks more Republican support for the bill and as advocates urge Congress to move it forward this fall.

As we have noted in the past, passing ENDA is simply common sense.  Employees should be evaluated on how well they do their job, not on who they are or who they love.  And as poll numbers increasing show, Americans from all parts of the country of all political stripes agree.

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The Scandal Cuccinelli Can't Dodge: His Extremist Positions

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wants to be the state's next Governor. But he has been dogged by an ethics scandal involving gifts he received from the head of a company that has sued the state. So last week, Cuccinelli tried to put the issue to rest by saying he'd contribute $18,000-the value of his questionable gifts-to a medical charity, saying, "I'm trying to wipe the slate clean here so we can focus on what's gonna matter in people's lives in Virginia in the next four years."

Of course, Cuccinelli's contribution doesn't magically wipe away questions about his character. And there's plenty of other evidence for Virginians to consider about the character of his record, and what four years of Cuccinelli as governor could do for -- or rather to -- the state.

Cuccinelli says his campaign is focused on jobs and the economy, but his extreme record as a state legislator and attorney general makes it clear that he considers himself commander-in-chief of the Religious Right's culture warriors.

He has bullied members of the Board of Health into adopting his anti-choice extremism. He has smeared and tried to defund Planned Parenthood. He even slams comprehensive sex education programs. As the Washington Post noted this week, he "was instrumental in ensuring that new regulations will result in the closure of many of the state's abortion clinics."

As a state senator, Cuccinelli was one of a handful of sponsors of an unconstitutional "personhood" bill that would have criminalized many common forms of contraception. Cuccinelli hasn't disavowed his support for "personhood" bills or their goal of making abortion illegal. But as a candidate for governor, he is trying to distance himself from the effects such legislation would have on women and families in Virginia. He claims that such legislation, which would grant legal rights to an egg at the moment it is fertilized by a sperm, wouldn't interfere with access to birth control. He is not telling the truth.

Here's another reminder of what kind of governor Cuccinelli would be: one of his first steps as Attorney General was to tell Virginia's public colleges and universities that they had to abandon policies against anti-gay discrimination. He reversed a legal opinion by his predecessor in order to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children. He refused to support repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law. He argues that consensual sex between gay adults is a detriment to society and should be illegal. As a state senator, he even opposed legislation that permitted private companies to voluntarily extend health benefits to employees' domestic partners.

Cuccinelli is also a champion of the Tea Party's anti-government extremism. He calls President Obama a tyrant. He filed suit against the Affordable Care Act five minutes after it was signed into law, a self-aggrandizing publicity stunt. He has falsely told people that under the law the government could send people to jail for not buying insurance. He even slams safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for making people dependent on government. 

There is seemingly no right-wing fringe to which Cuccinelli will not pander. He has used the power of his office to harass scientists in a climate-change-denying witch-hunt. He has called for a constitutional convention to rescind 14th amendment birthright citizenship. He said he was considering not getting his infant son a social security number because it was being used to track people. He flirted with birtherism.

And this week, he celebrated Constitution Day by appearing with right-wing radio host Mark Levin. Levin is an anti-union, anti-environmental-regulation, anti-public-education activist who rails against "establishment" Republicans and calls President Obama a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer. In 2007, Levin's Landmark Legal Foundation nominated Rush Limbaugh for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Cuccinelli is an example of the strong political coalition that has been made between right-wing Catholics like himself and conservative evangelicals, including Virginia-based powerhouses like Falwell-founded Liberty University and Pat Robertson's broadcasting empire. Cuccinelli has criticized people, like President Obama, who support marriage equality for thinking they "know better than God." And he says homosexual behavior is "intrinsically wrong" and destroys people's souls and shouldn't be allowed in a "natural law based country."

Cuccinelli has clearly aligned himself with the far right within the Catholic Church and, like Paul Ryan, opposes the Church's advocacy on behalf of anti-poverty programs. He hasslammed the Catholic bishops for advocating for government assistance for the poor, saying that has "created a culture of dependency on government, not God." He complained that the archdiocese of Arlington, Virginia included issues like poverty, hunger, and health care on a voting guide without making clear that they, in Cuccinelli's opinion, are clearly less important than abortion.

Cuccinelli has convinced the Religious Right that he's their guy. That's why Rick Santorum has endorsed him and the Family Research Council's PAC is helping him raise money. 

But if Ken Cuccinelli wants to convince Virginia voters that he's not going to govern as a right-wing culture warrior, he'll have to do more than trying to "wipe the slate clean" on his ethical standards. He'll have to erase from the public record his own extreme record. And that will be a lot harder than writing a check.

(also posted at Huffington Post)

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Scalia Claims Courts "Invent New Minorities"

Scalia tells the Federalist Society that "it's not up to the courts to invent new minorities that get special protections."
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PFAW Calls Target’s $50K Donation to a Group Supporting Anti-Gay VA Candidate Ken Cuccinelli “Disappointing”

WASHINGTON – In response to the revelation that Target Corporation gave a $50,000 donation this year to a group supporting anti-gay Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign, People For the American Way President Michael Keegan released the following statement:

“This is a disappointing move from a company that vocally supports LGBT rights. Last year, Target put out a line of gay pride t-shirts and the company has gone out of its way to talk about its commitment to LGBT families.  But through the Republican Governors Association, Target is supporting one of the most extreme anti-gay candidates in the country.  Gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has worked to rescind non-discrimination policies covering sexual orientation, favors turning back the clock by reinstating sodomy laws, and believes that being gay ‘brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul.’ If Target wants to be seen as a pro-equality company, it is going to need to rethink its contributions to groups supporting virulently anti-gay candidates.”

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The ENDA is Near: The Top Five Religious Right Claims About the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

With the Employment Non-Discrimination Act scheduled for a Senate committee vote this week, here’s a look at Right Wing Watch’s collection of recent – and classic – claims from the Religious Right about ENDA.  Because ENDA is common-sense civil rights legislation that would expand federal employment protections against discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity, the Right cannot gain much traction by opposing ENDA on its merits.  Instead, resorting to fear-mongering and lies, they contend that ENDA will lead to everything from the end of religious freedom to sexual assault and death.

Here are highlights of Right Wing Watch’s reporting on right-wing opposition to ENDA:

5. Tony Perkins: ‘Totalitarian Homosexual Lobby’ Out to Destroy Religious Freedom with ENDA (March 2013)

“Like a B-grade 1950’s horror-movie, ENDA is coming back from the dead,” warned Family Research Council President Tony Perkins in a recent mailing. Perkins said President Obama is working with the “totalitarian homosexual lobby” to sneak ENDA into law, and if that happens, “Our freedom of religion will be destroyed.”

“In fact,” says Perkins in his letter, “under ENDA biblical morality becomes illegal.”

Read the full article here.

4. Steve Crampton: ENDA is Insanity (June 2012)

Speaking about a Senate hearing on ENDA, Liberty Counsel’s “Faith and Freedom” radio host Steve Crampton marveled that a transgender person was actually allowed to testify on behalf of the legislation and complained that ENDA is not about “equal rights” but rather “special rights” for gays and cross-dressers.

Crampton stated that if ENDA passed, he could come into work – “God forbid,” he said – wearing a dress and would be allowed to use the women’s restroom.  “In years past,” Crampton said, “we had another word for this: it’s called insanity.”

Read the full article here.

3. Andrea Lafferty Cites CT School Shooting to Rally Opposition to Non-Discrimination Policies (December 2012)

Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition used the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in order to bolster her campaign against ENDA. While speaking to Janet Mefferd about the Orange County, Florida, school system’s new non-discrimination policy that is similar to ENDA, Lafferty said that just as parents are upset about the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting and are concerned about keeping their children safe, they should also be worried about ENDA’s “devastating effects” as schools will have “people with some real issues playing out their personal problems in the classroom.”

Lafferty maintained that ENDA is part of the left’s “open season” on Christians on behalf of “fringe minorities and people that are truly sick.”  She warned that Chick-fil-A restaurants may soon be “forced” to hire “weirdos” seeking to undermine Christian businesses, warning that transgender people are committing “the ultimate act of self-hatred” and need “special medical treatment” rather than job protections.

Read the full article here.

2. Bryan Fischer: Businesses Threatened by ‘Flaming Homosexual’ Job Applicants and the ‘Return of Jim Crow Laws’ (January 2013)

American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer warned in a blog post that “ENDA would represent the return of Jim Crow laws.” On his radio program Focal Point, Fischer warned that if ENDA is signed into law businesses will be faced with a barrage of “flaming homosexual” job applicants. “The homosexual lobby,” Fischer said, “will send a guy in there wearing stilettos, a dress and dangly earrings” in order to provoke Christian business-owners “not to hire him.”

Read the full article here.

1. Mat Staver: ENDA Will Result in the 'Death of Some Individuals' (June 2012)

Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver is ratcheting up the rhetoric in opposition to ENDA, even going so far as to say that if passed the legislation may lead to child molestation, sexual assault, and death. Staver told Jim Schneider of VCY America on Crosstalk that ENDA “will put individuals at risk and ultimately result in significant damage and even death of some individuals”:

Staver: So you can go into these restrooms or changing rooms, if you’re a man, and want to go in and molest, or watch, or sexually assault young girls. So, I mean, the absurdity of this is just beyond understanding how someone could be in favor of it. This will ultimately, in addition to colliding with religious liberty, in addition to forcing a radical agenda on people, this also will put individuals at risk and ultimately result in significant damage and even death of some individuals.

Read the full article here.

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American Family Association: Gay-Accepting Straights Inviting 'Devastation Wrought by God's Wrath'

In last month’s American Family Association magazine, Ed Vitagliano lamented that gay people might not want to be friends with Christians who are opposed to marriage equality. Vitagliano is probably not boosting his chances of making gay friends with his article in June’s AFA Journal, a two-page spread with “Sodom” plastered across the top.

The thrust of the article is that “embracing homosexuality is a sign of deep spiritual sickness” in a culture.  America, he writes, is on the verge of suppressing the truth about God’s plan and the duality of gender. “A downward death spiral results from such suppression,” he warns.

The homosexual movement has had such great success because Americans have become arrogantly self-indulgent and idolatrous. Straight America has embraced homosexuality because straight Americans first embraced the sexual revolution for the satisfaction of their own perverse sexual appetites.

Judgment came to Sodom because violent homosexuality was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. As a prevalent sin, however, it was the manifestation of an underlying wickedness that permeated the entire culture – a wickedness that was not limited to the homosexual.

Thus homosexuality often becomes the barometer of a culture rotting out from the inside. If the problem were only homosexuality, then the simple act of pushing it back into the closet  (if that were possible) would be enough to forestall judgment.

But what Ezekiel 16 teaches us is this: By the time a culture accepts idolatry, abortion and homosexuality, it is already ripe for the devastation wrought by God’s wrath.

Whether they live in a decidedly pagan culture or one, like America, that is an admixture, Christians are called to be salt and light.

Standing against the unrighteousness permeating our society might not be the easy thing to do, but it’s a whole lot easier than running from the fire and brimstone that inevitably follow.

Tony Perkins Knows What's Best for Gays – and the GOP

The latest fundraising pitch from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins blasts “the national Republicans” whom he says are “running away from the natural and biblical definition of marriage, flocking to the radical side in support of same-sex ‘marriage.’”

Perkins’ letter insists that allowing same-sex couples to get married is dangerous to religious liberties, to the next generation, and “dangerous to civilization itself.” Perhaps worst of all is that Obama’s “machine” would benefit from the GOP alienating its conservative base:

Sacrificing our values, and their distinctives as a Party, will send millions of voters packing. One terrible side effect: President Obama’s machine will be stronger than ever. Their radicalization of American public policy will intensify.

But be assured that Perkins “cares deeply” about gay people:

Please understand: this is no vendetta. We care deeply about those who engage in either heterosexual sex outside of marriage or homosexual behavior in any context. Both are immoral and unhealthy. We want what is truly best for them and for our nation.

What is truly best for them is a lifestyle of biblical morality. (emphasis in original)

Perkins calls for a “massive outpouring of outrage from principled conservatives” and urges supporters to sign a petition to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. And, of course, to send a check.

The Myth of American Christians as Persecuted Minority, part 256

The claim that American Christians are facing horrible persecution for their religious beliefs – and are on the verge of being rounded up and thrown into jail by tyrannical secularists – has been a staple of Religious Right groups’ rhetoric for decades. And as conservative evangelicals’ anti-gay views have lost popular support, they’ve doubled down on their claims that gay rights are incompatible with religious liberty. In recent years, conservative Catholics have joined in crying “religious persecution” in response to the advance of marriage equality for same-sex couples and the Obama administration’s requirement for insurance coverage of contraception.

On CNN’s Belief Blog, correspondent John Blake has given voice to these claims in a post titled “When Christians become a ‘hated minority.’” That headline hinted that this piece would be problematic. And that was confirmed with the opening sentence, which cites the Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg, who goes on to say that anti-gay Christians are victims who are being forced into the “closet.”

Where to begin?

We could start with the problem of Peter Sprigg being a spokesperson for tolerance. In Blake’s story, Sprigg is quoted saying “Maybe we need to do a better job of showing that we are motivated by Christian love” and “Love is wanting the best for someone, and acting to bring that about.” It’s hard to square Sprigg’s assertion that he is motivated by the best interests of gay people, given that he:

  • has called for the criminalization of homosexual conduct both in the U.S. and abroad;
  • said he would like to “export” gays from the U.S. rather than support legislation to give same-sex couples equal treatment under immigration law;
  • dislikes the idea of a gay judge, because he says gays don’t make good role models;
  • opposes making children raised by a same-sex couple eligible for social security benefits if a parent’s spouse dies;
  • dismisses anti-bullying and safe-school programs as attempts to indoctrinate impressionable children
  • has suggested that schools should be allowed to fire openly gay teachers and coaches;
  • has cheered the kidnapping of a child by a mother who refused to abide by a court’s order to share custody with her former partner.

Sprigg says the “real goal of homosexual activists” is not protection from discrimination or marriage equality, but is “to create a society in which it is unacceptable for anyone, ever, anywhere to say that homosexual conduct is wrong, or that homosexual relationships are anything other than fully equal to heterosexual ones.” The CNN piece also cites Bryan Liften, a professor at Moody Bible Institute, saying Christians should be able to publicly say that God designed sex to take place within a marriage between a man and a woman.

Should be? If you haven’t noticed, plenty of Christians have been saying that loudly and proudly and with millions of dollars they have used to enshrine that belief into a majority of state constitutions. People like Sprigg and his boss Tony Perkins, Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage, and any number of conservative evangelicals and Roman Catholic bishops have pretty much an open invitation to say so on national television and before state legislative and congressional committees. Not to mention through their own radio and television networks and vast church networks. Or from the platform of the Republican convention.  Freedom of expression, including anti-equality expression, is alive and well.

The CNN post does include Christians with differing views on gay rights, and who acknowledge that simply claiming religious backing for one’s beliefs does not insulate those views from criticism in the public arena. Neither does disagreement equate to discrimination or persecution. Conservative Christians did not see it as a form of religious discrimination to enshrine their view of marriage into laws and state constitutions; but as public opinion shifts and more states make equality the law, they warn of dire threats to their freedom.

Among the Religious Right horror stories linked to in the CNN piece are complaints about pastor Louie Giglio’s withdrawal from President Obama’s second inaugural ceremony in the face of criticism about anti-gay remarks that surfaced online. Criticism of those remarks – even anger and disappointment among pro-equality Obama supporters over Giglio being given a place of honor at the inaugural – does not mean, as some pundits claimed, that people of faith are no longer welcome in the public square. Anyone who heard the prayers, music, and speeches at the inaugural would see that such claims are ludicrous.

It should be noted that Religious Right groups made similarly shrill claims that the addition of sexual orientation to federal hate crimes laws would result in preachers being thrown into jail for quoting scripture on homosexuality. And they claimed that allowing gay members of the armed forces to serve openly would destroy the military. Those claims have been proven to be not just wrong but ridiculous.

Baker quotes evangelical blogger Joe Carter (who used to work at Family Research Council), warning that young people will abandon anti-gay churches “for fear of being called haters.” What is far more likely is that many young Christians will leave anti-gay churches because they have gay friends and disagree with both the anti-gay theology and anti-equality policy positions of the Religious Right. And some may continue to hold traditional theological views on homosexuality while supporting legal equality as a civil matter. Polling shows that the generation gap on LGBT issues is huge within as well as outside the evangelical community – and that many young Christians are disillusioned with the anti-gay fixation of many church leaders.

The CNN piece finishes blogger Carter saying “he foresees a day when any church that preaches against homosexuality will be marginalized. Just as many churches now accept divorce, they will accept sexual practices once considered sinful.”

So let’s end with a consideration of divorce. The Catholic Church denies its religious blessing to divorced couples who get remarried without obtaining a religious annulment of their previous marriage. Many evangelical churches also frown on divorce. But all marriages – first, second, third, or fourth – are treated equally under civil law (good news for Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh!).  Yet no one is arguing that the status quo on divorce amounts to an attack on religious freedom – or that Christians who oppose divorce have been marginalized or hounded out of the public square. Their religious beliefs about divorce coexist with public policy that reflects societal reality and the opinions of a religiously diverse America. 

PFAW President Michael Keegan to Jason Collins: ‘We Are With You’

This week, NBA center Jason Collins made history when he became the first active player in a major men’s pro sports league to come out as gay.  In an interview with George Stephanopoulos aired yesterday on Good Morning America, Collins reflected that “when you finally get to that point of acceptance, there’s nothing more beautiful.” Collins has demonstrated his commitment to being open about who he is – and in doing so, has become a role model to all who are struggling to accept themselves.

Today People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan sent Collins a letter of congratulations and support:

Dear Jason,

Thank you. 

Becoming the first active player in a major men’s pro sports league to come out as gay could not have been an easy decision.  You said yourself that if you had your way, “someone else would have already done this” – but you were the one to take this step, and we’re grateful for your courage.

The majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people report experiencing harassment at school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and the need for supportive LGBT role models has never been greater.  At this moment, no one can know the full effects of your decision to come out, but what I do know is that it will change the lives of so many others who are struggling to accept who they are.

On behalf of People For the American Way’s staff, board, and members all across the country, congratulations.  We are with you. 

With best regards,

Michael B. Keegan
President, People For the American Way

 

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