On the first day of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC) released the following statement:
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will make access to health care a reality for many of our country’s most vulnerable women, men, and children. As African American faith leaders, we applaud the expansion of health care accessibility and believe that every person is entitled to compassionate, affordable, and culturally competent health care.
6.8 million African Americans who were uninsured yesterday have new opportunities for coverage today. These opportunities will make a real impact in the lives of real women, children and men.
This week, our clergy began a series of “I Care” Sundays that will focus on comfort and confidence in enrollment through March 31, 2014. Our ministerial alliance across the country will continue its outreach – to be spearheaded primarily by women faith leaders – in rural and urban churches to support health care from the pulpit to the pews. Through participating in the ACA, we are advocating a healthy future with human dignity for all.
People For the American Way Foundation's African American Ministers Leadership Council represents an ecumenical alliance of 1,500 African-American clergy working toward equality, justice and opportunity for all.
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.
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.
How do you raise “awareness” in total secrecy?
The “Ex-Gay” community loves to complain that LGBT acivists, the media, and public officials ignore their existence. They portray themselves as martyrs to political correctness. And they’re tired of it! So this year, they decided to make a big splash.
Unfortunately, plans for an “Ex-Gay Pride Month” in July imploded: a rally expected to draw “tens of thousands” drew fewer than a dozen. A dinner celebration planned for the Family Research Council building was postponed with vague explanations about security concerns.
Organizers – including Voice of the Voiceless, Equality and Justice for Fall, and PFOX – regrouped and declared September to be “Ex-Gay Awareness Month.” The culmination of the month is supposed to be this coming Monday’s “First Annual Ex-Gay Awareness Month Dinner and Reception.” Organizers have lined up anti-gay activist Harry Jackson to give the keynote address, and Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver – whose anti-gay credentials are unquestionable – to receive the “2013 Ex-Gay Pride Freedom Award.” Also set to be honored is a “former Satanic drag queen,” Trace McNutt.
What is not clear is how the event will raise the “awareness” of anyone except the attendees. The event is being held at a secret location. Organizers asserted their right to exclude anyone who they didn’t think was already completely signed on to their agenda. My payment was returned without explanation. When I sent a note asking if my registration had been rejected, I received a one-word reply: Yes.
As I told PFOX, I had no intention of being a disruptive presence. I just wanted to hear and report on what was said. You know, bring some awareness to the event. But then I took another look at the registration form and found this disclaimer:
Code of Conduct -- PFOX requires attendees to sign and adhere to certain standards of conduct, and is not responsible for the individual conduct of attendees. We reserve the right to refuse any person to register or attend for any or no reason at our sole discretion, and disruptive conduct will be grounds for removal without a refund. Attendee agrees to uphold the principals [sic] and beliefs of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays -- that we support the ex-gay community, ex-gay rights, and providing hope to those with unwanted same-sex attractions and gender confusion that change is possible. No cell phones, recording devices or photos may be used or taken during the event. I agree to the above conditions
No photos. No recording. No one who doesn’t already agree with them. They must be bursting with pride.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has for months been single-handedly holding up the nomination of William Thomas, an openly gay African American Miami judge, to a federal district court.
Rubio’s indefinite hold on Thomas’ nomination is one of the most egregious examples yet of Senate Republicans using the obscure “blue slip” procedure to prevent home-state judicial nominees from even having a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Under a Senate custom that has varied over time Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy will not advance a nominees’ consideration -- won’t even hold a hearing, let alone take a vote -- until both of that nominee’s home-state senators return a “blue slip” giving their permission for a nomination to go forward. The blue slip doesn’t indicate a senator’s approval of the nominee – the senator is still free to vote against the nominee and to lobby their fellow senators to do the same. It just means that the nominee can be considered by the Judiciary Committee and then the full Senate. But if just one senator doesn’t return a blue slip, the nomination won’t see the light of day.
Republican senators have been routinely using this tactic of withholding blue slips in order to slow-walk President Obama’s judicial nominees. Currently, five nominees are being held back because one or both senators have refused to return blue slips. And all are women or people of color.
Because the blue slip process is secretive and little-known, senators are often able to get away with holding nominees this way with little public pressure and no public explanation.
Rubio, however, faced pressure from the Florida legal community in recent weeks for his failure to return blue slips for Thomas and another Florida nominee, Brian Davis. The senator finally gave in under pressure and allowed Davis’ nomination to go forward, but is digging in his heels on his blockade of Thomas.
Rubio’s stated reasons for blocking Thomas’ nomination are exceptionally flimsy. He has cited two cases where he claims Thomas gave insufficiently harsh sentences in criminal trials; in one case, even the prosecutor has defended Thomas’ judgment and a local judge has written to Rubio to correct the record. In the other case the senator cites, Judge Thomas sentenced the defendant to death, which Rubio seems to think was insufficiently harsh. It is clear that there is no merit to the senator’s claims. Holding hearings on this nominee would help clarify that, if they were allowed to take place.
The real reason for Rubio’s blockade and his smear of Judge Thomas’ character, writes Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm, is plain and simple “crass Tea Party politics.”
Rubio has stated no compelling reason why Thomas should not have a hearing before the Judiciary Committee, where he can answer any of Rubio’s alleged concerns in the public record.
The Senate today confirmed Justice Department attorney Todd Hughes to a federal appeals court, making him the highest-ranking openly gay federal judge in U.S. history.
President Obama has nominated more openly gay men and women to the federal courts than all his predecessors combined – by a long shot. So far, the Senate has confirmed seven openly gay Obama nominees to federal district courts. Before Obama’s presidency, there had been just one openly gay federal judge, Clinton nominee Deborah Batts.
Two other openly gay district court nominees are still in committee, but one of them –openly gay district court nominee, Florida’s William Thomas – is currently being held up indefinitely by Sen. Marco Rubio.
But today, the Senate’s attention is on Todd Hughes, who will be the newest judge on the Federal Circuit. The Washington Post outlines Hughes’ impressive credentials:
Hughes, who has served as deputy director of the commercial litigation branch of the Justice Department's civil division since 2007, has specialized in the kinds of issues that come up before the bench on which he will soon sit. Unlike the other 12 Circuit Courts of Appeals, the Federal Circuit specializes in a handful of designated issues including international trade, government contracts, patents, trademarks, veterans' benefits, and public safety officers' benefits claims. Hughes could not be reached for a comment.
Geovette Washington, who is the Office of Management and Budget's general counsel and has been friends with Hughes since they attended law school together, described him as "a problem solver" who "can do very complicated constitutional issues," but also brings a degree of pragmatism to cases.
"I have always been amazed by how intelligent he is, but also how practical he is," she said, adding that Hughes is well prepared for the Federal Circuit because he's appeared before it so many times. "He's dug in and done the hard work on those issues."
Scott Lively was the guest on Bryan Fischer's radio program yesterday, and while, unfortunately, they did not discuss Lively's theory that President Obama is the Antichrist, they did discuss their mutual admiration for Russia's anti-gay crackdown.
Lively told Fischer that while he did not play a direct role in drafting the legislation, he does believe that a tour he made through Russia a few years back where he urged the implementation of just these sorts of laws served as a catalyst for legislation.
"I indirectly assisted in that," Lively said, "and it's one of the proudest achievements of my career":
Georgetown law professor Cornelia “Nina” Pillard, one of President Obama’s three nominees to fill vacancies on the influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, is one of the country’s most renowned women’s rights attorneys. She crafted the argument that convinced a nearly unanimous Supreme Court to open the Virginia Military Institute to women. She worked alongside Bush administration attorneys to successfully defend the Family and Medical Leave Act in the courts. She has opposed government policies that treat men and women differently based on outmoded stereotypes that harm both sexes.
So, of course, conservative activists and their Republican allies in Congress are calling her a “radical feminist" and threatening to filibuster her nomination.
In an interview with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins Friday, National Review columnist Ed Whelan called Pillard a “radical feminist law professor” and insisted that she would be “the most left-wing judge in the history of the republic.”
Phyllis Schlafly – who, of course, also opposed the opening of VMI to women and the Family and Medical Leave Act – calls Pillard a “scary feminist.”
The Family Research Council has also gone after Pillard, skewing the meaning of her words and even citing her use of a phrase that was actually written by the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist as evidence of her “militant feminism.”
And just this weekend, right-wing activist "Dr. Chaps" Gordon Klingenschmitt sent out an email to his backers attacking Pillard's support for women's rights, specifically charging that Pillard “attacked and questioned the Virginia Military Institute” when she argued that VMI should admit women.
Senate Republicans have picked up this line of attack. In Pillard’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the committee’s Republicans (all men) latched onto the nominee’s support of reproductive rights. When fellow nominee Robert Wilkins appeared before the committee last week, Sen. Chuck Grassley tried, unsuccessfully, to trick him into dissing Pillard’s writings.
So what exactly is it that makes Pillard such a “radical”/“militant”/“scary” feminist in the eyes of the Right?
In a series of columns last month, Whelan elaborated on what he meant. He takes particular issue with a 2007 law review article in which Pillard argues that many public school abstinence-only sex-ed curricula impose a double standard on girls – hardly a radical observation. She also specifically wrote that she took no position on the abstinence message itself. Nevertheless, Whelan and others have distorted this into the idea that she would strike down all abstinence programs as unconstitutional, which is not at all what she has said. In Pillard’s own words,
[The article] brings into focus those curricula's persistent, official promulgation of retrogressive, anti-egalitarian sexual ideologies-of male pleasure and female shame, male recreation and female responsibility, male agency and female passivity, and male personhood and female parenthood. I argue for a counter-stereotyping sex education that affirms women's and men's desire, sexual agency, and responsibility.
She explained her thoughts further in her hearing before the judiciary committee:
Let me say first, I'm a mother. I have two teenage children — one boy and one girl. If my children are being taught in sex education, I want both my children to be taught to say 'no,' not just my daughter. I want my son to be taught that, too. The article was very explicit in saying I don't see any constitutional objection … to abstinence-only education that does not rely upon and promulgate sex stereotypes.
This argument – that many government-funded sex-ed curricula promote harmful and regressive stereotypes that cheat girls – is what has made right-wing activists go ballistic.
Pillard has also made it exceedingly clear that she knows the difference between testing out legal theories in law review articles and applying them as a judge. As she said in her hearing, “Academics are paid to test the boundaries and look at the implications of things. As a judge, I would apply established law of the U.S. Supreme Court and the D.C. Circuit” – a sentiment that many Republican senators echoed when they were defending Bush nominees who had in the past expressed opinions not consistent with existing law.
To put it simply, what conservatives object to about Pillard is that she believes in women’s equality and that she’s really, really good at making the legal case for it. In 2013 in the Republican Party, that’s what it takes to qualify as a “scary,” “radical” and “militant” feminist.
Not allowing a wedding photographer to discriminate against same-sex couples is the equivalent to requiring her to photograph a KKK rally, according to Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver.
In an interview with WorldNetDaily this weekend, Staver took on the New Mexico Supreme Court’s recent decision that a wedding photographer’s refusal to provide her services to a same-sex couple violated a state nondiscrimination law.
Staver argued that the photographer saying that she would photograph gay people, but not in a wedding ceremony, was like her saying that she would photograph white people, but not at a KKK rally.
Staver warned that the decision meant that lawsuits against pastors “right around the corner.”
WND: There’s already fears out there, some churches already putting together certain policy statements, some probably putting together legal funds already in the expectation that there will be a lawsuit over either certain preaching from scripture that adheres to traditional sexual relations or refusing to perform a same-sex ceremony. How soon do you think that’ll hit the fan?
Staver: I think it’s pretty quick. I think it’s right around the corner. I think we saw the decision last week of the Supreme Court of New Mexico saying to a wedding photographer, you’ve gotta give up your religious freedom if you want to be a wedding photographer, you’ve gotta be forced to photograph same-sex ceremonies. I mean, that’s just as absurd as saying you gotta be forced to photograph KKK rallies. You know, someone who says, I’ll photograph white people, I just won’t photograph it when you’re gathering in an event with hoods on your face and you have a KKK rally.
But here, this lady says, well I’ll photograph anybody but I’m not going to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, and this court says well, you have to, you must, notwithstanding your religious convictions. Either give up your religious convictions or change them or get out of that profession. That’s the zero-sum game, that’s the zero-sum collision that we’re now facing.
The Illinois-based World Congress of Families, which works to promote anti-gay and anti-choice legislation abroad, issued a press release today touting its participation in a worldwide network of conservative groups working to bolster Russia’s recent “gay propaganda” ban. The group has joined five other American organizations in signing on to a joint statement [PDF] supporting the law and condemning the related international outrage. Also signing the statement were the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, whose president Austin Ruse has spoken out in support of the Russian law; Mission: America, the group led by conservative radio personality Linda Harvey; GrasstopsUSA, a group linked to World Congress of Families spokesman Don Feder; the anti-choice Population Research Institute; and a Christian group called His Servants that sells such books as "An Ounce of Prevention -- Preventing the Homosexual Condition in Today's Youth."
Here’s the text of the statement:
Statement by worldwide organizations in support of the Russian Federal Law On Protection of Children from Information Harmful to their Health and Development
The signing entities below are highly concerned about the heavy attacks that the Russian Federation is facing due to its recent Federal Law of June 29, 2013 No. 135-FZ “On Amendments to Article 5 of the Federal Law On Protection of Children from Information Harmful to their Health and Development …” that protects innocence and moral formation of children by prohibiting propaganda of "non-traditional sexual relationships" among them.
We affirm that the natural family created through the marriage of a man and a woman is the foundation of any human society and is entitled to protection by society and the State as stated in the international Human Rights norms, including Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art. 16 (3)). Any harmful initiative for the natural family is destructive for the society as a whole. We also affirm that the children need special protection due to their innocence and immaturity.
We acknowledge that the Russian law protects the innocence of children and the basic rights of their parents recognized in the international legislation and treaties. With its new law Russia is protecting genuine and universally recognized human rights against artificial and fabricated "values" aggressively imposed in many modern societies. We also note that the concepts of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are not outlined in the existing binding international treaties and agreements.
We thus call for respect of the sovereignty of the Russian people and we invite all organizations and people who feel responsible for the protection of the innocence of children and their rights, the natural family and parental rights to stand up for Russia, as well as for Ukraine and Moldova suffering the same pressure due to similar laws.
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.
Brian’s post today about Pat Robertson’s absurd theory of AIDS transmission – that gay men wear sharp rings in order to cut people they shake hands with and deliberately infect them with HIV – seems like something out of another era.
In fact, it seems like something out of Robertson’s own past.
The early days of the AIDS epidemic coincided with the high point of Robertson’s career, as he ran for the Republican nomination for the presidency. In the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, Robertson was an outspoken opponent of the federal funding of AIDS research, which he claimed was unnecessary because if gay men simply ceased their “aberrant lifestyle” then “there wouldn’t be any more AIDS epidemic.”
In a 1987 interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Robertson, who had just won the Republican presidential straw polls in Iowa and Michigan and was preparing for the one in Florida, claimed that the answer to the AIDS epidemic was “the self-restraint of the people” rather than research into a cure for AIDS. "The homosexuals are saying, 'Spend more government money, find a cure so we can continue our aberrant lifestyle.' And I don`t think that is a proper request," he said.
The candidate, affably parrying questions and occasionally leaning back to roar with laughter, turned serious and offered his toughest comments when asked about the subject of AIDS.
"The answer is the self-restraint of the people," Robertson said. "The homosexuals are saying, 'Spend more government money, find a cure so we can continue our aberrant lifestyle.' And I don't think that is a proper request."
About 92 percent of AIDS victims are male homosexuals or intravenous drug users, he said. "If those two groups would stop that type of conduct there wouldn't be any more AIDs epidemic."
Spending more than the half-billion dollars devoted to research would be a futile way of throwing money at a medical problem, he said.
"And to tell people there's safe sex if they use this kind of device and that kind of device to continue this kind of conduct, that's an illusion, because there is no such thing as safe sex."
"I would focus my attention on the blood supply," he said, to try to prevent the spread of AIDS through transfusions.
In a 1993 speech, Robertson expanded on this claim, urging President Clinton to drop federal funding for AIDS research:
And now a new plague is stalking our land, because the people have cast aside the sexual morals of The Holy Bible…
Instead of compelling the Armed Forces to accept homosexuals into their ranks, I would like to call on the President to take a stand against the ungodly lifestyle that destroys all it touches. Instead of seeking billions of dollars for AIDS research, let him demand that we treat AIDS as any other communicable disease -- not as a virus with civil rights.
As early as 1985, Robertson was painting AIDS as a threat to the “rights” of straight people, in rhetoric that echoes today’s Religious Right line that Christians are being persecuted by gay rights:
It is one of the most horrible things that is sweeping through our society. The blood supply is being polluted with this awful virus. And we're saying it's a civil rights matter. Those of us who do not engage in certain practices, such as intravenous drug use, etc., don't we have any rights? Don't we have any rights in America?
Of course you have compassion for those who are sick. One of our staff sent me a memo just yesterday which said, in San Francisco, the victims of AIDS in the hospital who happen to be homosexual are given visiting rights in the hospital for their "lovers" to come into the hospital. They don't even let the heterosexuals do that.
But Robertson did have a plan to cure AIDS, at least for some people. James Randi, in his 1987 book The Faith Healers, describes Robertson’s attempt to cure a man with AIDS through faith healing:
In 1986, soon after the full importance of the AIDS epidemic began to become evident, Robertson was attempting to cure it. Viewers of his program saw him pray over a man who had the dreaded disease. He invoked God’s power: We rebuke this virus and we command your immune system to function in the name of Jesus.
One of the most remarkable things about Robertson’s comments today is that even in 2013 he doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of how HIV/AIDS is transmitted, saying that he “used to think it was transmitted by saliva and other things, now they say it may be sexual contact” and fretting that someone who drives in a car with a person with AIDS may get into an accident in which they would exchange large amounts of blood.
Robertson’s weird fear of gay men in San Francisco sabotaging handshakes with sharp, infected jewelry comes right out of this mindset of ignorance and fearmongering, all too common in the early days of AIDS, which decades later Robertson doesn’t seem to have shaken.
This weekend People For the American Way Foundation turned out en masse for the 50th Anniversary March on Washington.
Some could remember the original march well. Some had driven across the country to be there on Saturday.
Our reasons for being there were as diverse as the range of topics covered by the speakers. Some wanted to see an end to Stand Your Ground laws; others spoke in support of immigration reform, LGBT equality, or voting rights.
But everyone stood in solidarity with those who marched half a century ago, while calling attention to the ongoing need to fight for social, economic, and racial justice. Everyone raised their voices in support of justice for all.
We saw Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) – just 23 years old when he spoke at the original March on Washington – take the podium again, speaking passionately about the need to protect the right to vote. He called it “precious…almost sacred.” Lewis recalled:
I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote.…I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us.
Members of the PFAW Foundation family also took the podium. Young People For (YP4) alum Sophia Campos spoke in personal terms about the need for change in immigration policies, saying:
I grew up in this country undocumented. My family is immigrant… A million people have been deported in the last five years….It’s our black and brown bodies in these cells that are being detained.
Another YP4 alum, Dream Defenders leader Phil Agnew, also spoke at the rally, calling on young people to take the lead in the progressive movement. Young people, he said, are “here today to join in a conversation that will shake the very foundations of this capital.”
And Rev. Charles Williams, an active member of PFAW Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, was named by the event organizers as being part of the next generation of leaders.
We came to honor those who marched 50 years ago, but also to call attention to the critical justice issues facing our country today. As PFAW Foundation President Michael Keegan wrote last week:
That’s what this week is about: making sure that we, as a country, continue to strive to fulfill the promise of justice for all -- the American Way.
Events commemorating the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom are already under way in Washington, D.C. If you live in the capital area or nearby, you may want to attend events at the Lincoln Memorial this Saturday, August 24th or next Wednesday, August 28th , or one of dozens of other events. The A. Philip Randolph Institute, for example is holding its 44th annual education conference and youth conference in honor of Randolph and Bayard Rustin, the organizers of the March who appeared on the cover of Life Magazine’s September 6, 1963 issue. You can find information about events here and here.
Whether or not you can get to Washington, you can catch major events on television. And you might want to get started tonight – Friday, August 23 – with the PBS re-broadcast of an award-winning documentary about author and advocate James Baldwin. James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket will be shown on PBS stations as part of the American Masters program. Broadcast times vary so check your local station’s listings. PBS will also host on interactive online screening at 5:00 pm eastern on August 28th.
For a reminder of why it’s important to know our history, and prevent it from being co-opted, see People For the American Way President Michael Keegan’s new Huffington Post op-ed, Don’t Let the Right Wing Co-opt King.