Nel's New Day

July 16, 2016

Congress Takes Seven-Week Vacation

Congress hobbled out of town two days ago for a seven-week recess, one of the longest in its modern history after they filed a resolution to impeach the IRS commissioner, John A. Koskinen, who had nothing to do with the issue of asking political Tea Party PACs to show that they weren’t political. Another witch hunt was the committee to destroy Planned Parenthood and anyone who had any relationship—no matter how intangential. Thus far, its efforts have been as unproductive as the multi-million-dollar effort to find an involvement between Hillary Clinton and the deaths at Benghazi, Libya.

Two bills – both bad jokes – were sent to the president for signing: genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and opioids.

The bill to “label” foods with GMO ingredients was designed to stop states from taking action on this issue after the federal government had refused to deal with it. The so-called “label” is a small square code that must be scanned with a smart phone for a person to get information. An option for small food companies is printing a website URL or phone number where customers can request information about the GMO content. Not all ingredients must be identified, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture gets to pick which ones. For example, refined products such as soy oil or sugar from beets might be exempt because they are made from GMO crops but the final product supposedly doesn’t contain GMO material. Corn, an ingredient in a great deal of food products, may also be exempted from the labeling requirement.

The Agriculture Department also determines the quantity of GMO material before requiring identification, leaving many products with GMOs unidentified with a high threshold. In addition, penalties for noncompliant companies are minimal or none, and the bill prevents any states, including those that have already passed labeling laws, from regulations requiring actual information on food labels.

The bill is largely thanks to Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who have received more than $2.1 million in campaign contributions this cycle from agribusiness donors. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fast-tracked the bill with no amendments or debate by pasting the content into the empty shell of a bill that had already been passed by the Senate, but not enacted into law. The act was passed by a vote of 63-30.

The FDA pointed out a number of loopholes, and labels won’t start appearing for at least two years. Nicknamed the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” (DARK Act), the bill is in opposition to the 90 percent of people in the nation who want clear labeling for GMOs.

The second bad joke in recently passed bills addresses the painkiller overdose epidemic. The bill that was passed and sent on to the president includes a pain management task force, research, better access to treatment options and drug rehabilitation instead of incarceration. The bill, however, doesn’t provide any funding. President Obama had proposed $1 billion, and Democrats tried to get $920 million in funding. The GOP rejected both.

The rising death tolls from overdoses of painkillers came from the pharmaceutical industry pushing higher and higher levels of prescribing opioids for even minor pain. Thirteen years ago, Purdue Pharma gave doctors 34,000 coupons for free OxyContin prescriptions along with OxyContin “fishing hats, stuffed plush toys, coffee mugs with heat activated messages, music compact discs, [and] luggage tags.” Within ten years, the prescriptions for opioids almost tripled from 1991. Pharma-paid doctors changed pain guidelines to favor opioids.

The bill allows greater access to buprenorphine, a medicine treating addiction, from 100 to 275 patients at a time. Nurses and other medical professionals can also administer the drug. Corporations will now make money from buprenorphine, as addictive as opioids, that gives a high as does OxyContin. While Congress rewards pharmaceutical companies with more money for another addictive drug, it ignores the fact that deaths from painkillers are down 25 percent in states with medical marijuana.

The House passed a $32 billion spending bill for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency that rolled back regulations on coal-fired power plants, but it’s only the fifth of twelve funding bills for Cabinet agencies. It passed, also on party lines, a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran and the Conscience Protection Act, which prohibits the government from discriminating against health care providers who do not want to perform or cooperate in abortions.

The House “celebrated” the one-month anniversary of the massacre at the LGBT nightclub in Orlando (FL) where 50 people died with a hearing on anti-LGBT legislation to allow anyone to avoid federal protections for LGBT couples and families with an excuse of religious liberty. Those who discriminate would have no legal repercussions, financial or otherwise, for refusing to provide spousal tax, medical, or educational benefits, to same-gender couples. The measure is similar to a Mississippi law overturned by a federal judge  because it would in reality hurt religious liberty by favoring certain beliefs over others. As of April 2016 over one hundred active bills across 22 states legalized discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

The House’s approval of its financial services appropriations bill repealed a law passed by Washington, D.C. that protects workers from employer retaliation over reproductive health choices such using birth control, getting a baby, or obtaining an abortion. Congress has control over the city’s laws and budget because it does not have state status.

That’s what Congress “accomplished.” Their failures? A major one is that ignoring the Zika virus epidemic. When a few cases of Ebola came to the United States in 2014, lawmakers went to pieces and approved $5.4 billion in emergency funding. Yet Florida has over 300 Zika cases reported, among the almost 1,200 cases confirmed in continental U.S. Pregnant women infected with the virus can carry fetuses with a number of birth defects, including microcephaly that causes abnormally small heads in fetuses. Caring for each microcephalic child can cost between $1 million and $10 million.

As of June, seven babies had been born in the U.S .with Zika-related birth defects. A baby was born with microcephaly in Texas on the day that Congress left Washington for the rest of the summer. Zika is also linked with Guillain-Barré syndrome with possible permanent nerve damage and paralysis.  The virus is transmitted either by mosquito bites or through sex and extremely difficult to track because 80 percent of infected people do not exhibit symptoms.

The Zika virus is a public health crisis in the nation, and Congress disappeared from Washington for seven weeks, perhaps hoping that the mosquitoes will be dead by the time they get back. A bill would provide emergency resources for vaccine development, mosquito control efforts, and other research into containment and prevention. House Republicans refused to move the bill forward without restricting abortion, overturning clean water regulations, defunding part of the Affordable Care Act, and undoing the ban on flying the Confederate flag at federal cemeteries. Republicans insisted on blocking Planned Parenthood funding in Puerto Rico to fight the virus, and Democrats voted against the measure.

House Speaker Paul Ryan managed to get out of town before Democrats could stage another sit-in to demand votes for gun safety measures. He had promised to put an NRA-approved gun bill on the floor but called it off after protests from GOP conservatives. Senate Republicans had previously blocked a bill to keep people on the federal terrorist list from buying guns. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said, “This is going to be a long, hot summer for people who aren’t going to be able to take nice long vacations, people who are in our streets fearing for our children, people wondering why Congress has failed.”

The Senate has not moved on a new Supreme Court justice and done little for other judicial approvals. A $575 billion Pentagon funding bill failed because of concern that it would boost defense while freezing domestic programs and unravel the hard-fought budget deal from last year reversing caps on both Pentagon and domestic budget lines. No resolution means that September may bring a stopgap  spending measure to stave off a shutdown.

Lawmakers, mostly in the House, have already been debating whether to write a short-term government spending measure that runs into December or a six-month stopgap measure that would expire in March under a new Congress and president. The last two election years for presidents saw funding bills pushed into March following the election.

The GOP House “celebrated” the one-month anniversary of the massacre at the LGBT nightclub in Orlando (FL) where 50 people died with a hearing on anti-LGBT legislation to allow anyone to avoid federal protections for LGBT couples and families with an excuse of religious liberty. The bill would permit those who discriminate to have no legal repercussions, financial or otherwise, for refusing to provide spousal tax, medical, or educational benefits, to same-gender couples. The measure is similar to a Mississippi law overturned by a federal judge  because it would in reality hurt religious liberty by favoring certain beliefs over others. As of April 2016 over one hundred active bills across 22 states legalized discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

Maybe it’s a good thing that congressional members left town.

June 18, 2016

Orlando Shooting, Not the First Hate Crime

Last night Bill Maher talked about the Orlando killing being the only act of violence against LGBT people. I’m always amazed at the ignorance of self-proclaimed liberals about the subject of homophobia.

We expect this behavior from conservatives. They refuse to mention anything about the LGBT community since the Orlando shooting as they cry crocodile tears about the deaths of 50 people. They send “thoughts and prayers” and hold a “moment of silence” before voting down rights for LGBT people. Two days after the Orlando shooting, Rep. Pete Sessions blocked a bill that would have permanently banned discrimination against workers by federal contractors, President Obama’s executive order that covered 20 percent of the nation’s workers. This is the third time that the House has stopped the LGBT protections bill. Sessions also even insisted that Pulse was not a gay nightclub; he called it “a young person’s nightclub” with “some [LGBT people], but it was mostly Latinos.”

Most people don’t try to persuade conservatives to vote for equal LGBT rights in employment, housing, lodging, and other issues that greatly impact everyone’s lives. But liberals and independents who think that the shooting in Orlando is the first time and place that LGBT people have faced violence need some education.

LGBT people suffer from more hate crimes than any other minority group in the United States. Almost one-fifth of the 5,462 so-called single-bias hate crimes reported to the F.B.I. in 2014 occurred because of the target’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Hate crimes against LGBT people in the U.S. Americans are 8.3 times the expected rate based on the size of LGBT population—higher than the rate for Jews (at 3.5) and black people (at 3.2). Crimes against LGBT people increased after same-gender people gained marriage rights.

These statistics may be the tip of the iceberg because most hate crimes are not reported to the police and local jurisdictions frequently fail to classify those reported as hate crimes. Thousands of city police and county sheriff’s departments filed not one hate crime to the FBI between 2009 and 2014. Mississippi reported only one hate crime throughout the state in 2014. Data in just 12 states shows 88 homicides of LGBT people from 2012 to 2015, and homicides are almost surely much higher for the entire country.

Early reports from the Orlando shooting stated that the Orlando killer called 911 and claimed his crime supported ISIS. Since then, the investigation thinks that this might have been for attention, but conservatives cannot let go of what makes them the most comfortable. South Florida criminal defense attorney Khurrum Wahid, who has represented several defendants accused of terrorist-related activities such as supporting Islamic radicals, said, “It’s a lot easier to call it Islamic terrorism because we’re all united against that. But it’s not as easy to call it homophobia because we’re not all united against that.” The conservative belief also allows them to continue their hateful rhetoric toward the president. For example, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said on the campaign trail that “Barack Obama is directly responsible” for the deaths of 50 people last Sunday morning.

Investigations into the crime reveal that the killer was a mentally unstable, self-loathing, bigoted, violent man who abused his first wife and hated himself for being gay. Southern Poverty Law Center Mark Potok describes three strands:  “he hates gays, … he doesn’t like his life at all, … [and] Islamist ideology, which is the weakest of the three. It’s almost like an afterthought.”

The motivations behind attacks against LGBT people “have always been, and continue to be, [about] seemingly religious rhetoric,” says Kaila Story, a professor of women’s and gender studies at University of Louisville. Like politicians, conservative religion avoids mentioning that most, if not all, the people killed in Orlando are LGBT. The Vatican’s statement referred only to “innocent victims, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution read, “We regard those affected by this tragedy as fellow image-bearers of God and our neighbors.” The religious group then passed Resolution 3 that supports the overturn of marriage equality, enables religion-based discrimination against LGBT people, and opposes inclusion and respect for transgender people.

Conservative religious leaders who openly recognize that LGBT people were killed in the gay bar are gleeful about their deaths. Television evangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson responded toward the tragedy in which a Muslim “gentleman” killed 49 LGBT people: “The best thing to do is to sit on the sidelines and let them kill themselves.”

Sacramento pastor Roger Jimenez went farther than Robertson in his sermon to the members of the Verity Baptist Church, posted the day after the horrific event:

“I think that’s great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job—because these people are predators. They are abusers….

“I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put the firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out.”

YouTube removed the video the day after Jimenez posted it.

Pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church (Tempe, AZ) released this venom, again in a video uploaded to YouTube:

“The good news is that there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world, because, you know, these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles. That’s who was a victim here, are a bunch of, just, disgusting homosexuals at a gay bar, okay?”

The acceleration of hate toward LGBT people in the past year is shown by the 200 bills introduced in state legislatures and localities that would strip LGBT people of equal rights. These bills are accompanied by lies such as the danger of washing hands in a bathroom next to a transgender person. In the conservative tradition of controlling through fear, Republican lawmakers are claiming that they can protect LGBT people because of the falsehood that Muslims want to kill all “homosexuals.” Those who make that claim haven’t looked at their own Christian religion. Most Christians don’t want to “kill homosexuals,” but there are enough that LGBT people are in danger. You might want to do a little reading in that department, Bill Maher.

Donald Trump calls himself the only candidate who will protect LGBT people from Muslims—who are not a serious problem for LGBT people considering all the other issues faced in that community, including violence from so-called Christians. Although some of the 20 percent of the LGBT community who vote Republican have said that they will support Trump, the conservative gay group Log Cabin Republicans has not yet endorsed Trump for president. As with all other Trump statements, he changes his mind frequently on LGBT rights but did announce that he would select Supreme Court justices who would overturn marriage equality.

Dominique Hernandez holds up her fist painted in the colors of a rainbow, with a heart on her pulse, attends a vigil in memory of victims one day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Dominique Hernandez holds up her fist painted in the colors of a rainbow, with a heart on her pulse, attends a vigil in memory of victims one day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

What does homophobia feel like? James Michael Nichols writes that homophobia means that he is “living in constant fear of violence.” In this piece he describes his feelings as he arrives in his “home state of North Carolina”:

“But what does it mean to feel unsafe as you walk down the street, through the airport, on the subway, at the grocery store? How do you communicate that feeling to people who have never had to feel uncomfortable and regulated because of their gender presentation or self-expressions of queerness?”

He wrote about always having to assess the level of threat no matter where he is, being careful of where he goes and how he dresses, checking out places before travel, not getting a job because of being “too gay,” watching older people return to the closet to survive in nursing homes where they may die alone because families have already declared them dead, and being unable to show any affection for a loved one in public. Bill Maher should not declare that LGBT people when he has no idea that we go through in our daily lives.

Hopefully, some people can change. As a young adult, Jeremy Todd Addawy was a part of the racist skinhead movement who hated everyone except white straight people. According to an interview with Erin Nanasi, he decided that he could not live in a life “filled with rage and bigotry. This video shows his belief—in a comedic way—about his belief that “marriage is not a religious issue, it’s a freedom issue.” If he can learn, maybe others can too.

March 29, 2016

Cracks in LGBT Discrimination, SCOTUS Hearings

Two huge events in LGBT rights occurred in the past week—one for and one against. A week ago, North Carolina’s legislators, traumatized by Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance, went into a special session that cost taxpayers $42,000 in order to prevent any city or county from allowing LGBT people rights—especially using the bathrooms that match their gender identities. The justification for this legislation, deemed the “worst anti-LGBT bill in the country,” was that straight men would have the freedom to go into public restrooms and molest women. Shortly after the successful North Carolina legislation, Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a bill that would allow any government entity or private business to discriminate against LGBT people by declaring “religious belief.” The bill was similar to the one in Indiana last year that caused such an uproar that GOP Gov. Mike Pence most likely lost his hopes for a presidential candidacy after he signed the bill.

The uproar this time against Georgia and North Carolina came from the GOP darlings, big business. The Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United  and a later case from Montana  cemented the control of corporate control in both elections and political positions. Corporations know that bigotry keeps them from appealing to a broad customer base. The bigger the business, the more they rely on global acceptance, and the businesses that spoke out against the discriminatory bills are some of the biggest ones in the nation, especially in tech, entertainment, and sports industries. These include Google, Facebook, Paypal, Disney, Sony Pictures, CBS, Netflix, NFL, and NBA.

A great deal of discretionary spending comes from millennials who they are far more accepting than older people. Gen X is even more so. According to a recent study, less than 48 percent of U.S. youth ages 13 to 20 describe themselves as “exclusively heterosexual,” and over 70 percent of these young people “strongly agreed” that public spaces should be required to provide gender neutral bathrooms. About 18 states and 200 towns and cities have added specific LGBT non-discrimination protections.

After Indiana’s law was slightly narrowed, the state lost only about $60 million with its “religious freedom” act, but North Carolina are aggressively marketing themselves as good for business. The nine other states joining the “War on Bathroom Use” may look carefully at the differing success rates between two states who have taken opposite stances on human rights. Missouri is facing both a discrimination bill and rejection from many businesses, including Petco, with its passage.

North Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill in the same 12 hours in which it was introduced and passed in the legislature, but he faces opposition from the state AG Roy Cooper in this fall’s election. Cooper claims that McCrory’s action not only jeopardizes the state’s economy but also allows discrimination against protection of veterans and wages. The new law may revoke a fair housing ordinance in Greensboro and a policy governing municipal contracts in Raleigh.

North Carolina’s law has also frozen the minimum wage everywhere in the state to $7.25. Thus far, New York (both city and state), Washington State, San Francisco, and Portland (OR) have banned state travel by state workers to the state, and 20,000 retail and interior-design companies won’t attend the twice-annual High Point furniture market. The largest economic event in the state, this market generates over 600,000 visitor days to the state with an annual economic impact of $5.38 billion. The Market and the home furnishings industry provide 37,000 jobs in the state. The NFL may pull out the Super Bowl in 2019, an event that brought $800 million to Arizona’s economy last year. ESPN may look elsewhere for its summer X games, and the NBA may change its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.

payton_transgender_ncIf McCrory and his Republicans stick to their guns, they’ll lose a lot more than economic support from big business. States fighting marriage equality lost millions of dollars in lawsuits, and legal action against North Carolina has already started. The ACLU, Lambda Legal, and Equality North Carolina are suing the state, and AG Cooper said he won’t defend the state against the lawsuit. One plaintiff is Payton McGarry (right), a transgender student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is one of the people who McCrory wants to send into the public women’s bathroom.

ACLU lawyer Tara Borelli, said:

“[In 1996], Colorado enacted a law that said there could be no statewide protection whatsoever for lesbian, gay, bisexual people. The law was so clearly aimed at lesbians and gay people that the Supreme Court didn’t have any trouble striking it down as being clearly motivated by animus against them. This law goes further because it says there are no protections for transgender people. Even more than that, the law specifically requires discrimination against them in all schools and all public agencies.”

By violating Title IX in keeping transgender student out of bathrooms, North Carolina could also lose more than $4.5 billion in federal funding for schools.

McCrory is trying to justify the law with a series of false arguments:

 “We are not taking away any rights.” McCrory overturned the rights that Charlotte provided to its residents along with 11 other cities and five counties. The University of North Carolina system can no longer enforce its LGBT nondiscrimination policy on its 17 campuses.

No business has threatened to leave the state. News articles show how laughable this claim is.

“We have the same rights … that Houston, Texas has [after they overturned the Equal Rights Ordinance.]” North Carolina’s law goes much farther by mandating discrimination in all public arenas. Transgender people aren’t banned from accessing the appropriate restrooms in Houston’s public spaces, and other Texas cities and counties aren’t banned from providing protections.

Discrimination is just “common sense.” McCrory complains about too much “political correctness,” a frequent excuse currently used for conservative bad behavior.

Donald Trump came to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) home town of Janesville today; last night the city approved an ordinance to protect LGBT people from discrimination. The Speaker’s home now has broader protections than provided at the state and federal level. In Janesville, transgender people can use a public restroom based on the gender they identify with, rather than the gender on their birth certificate. Ryan has no comment.

Corporations have created the monster of discrimination that they now decry. The Bank of America’s PAC consistently donated large sums to campaigns for McCrory, state Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, state House Speaker Tim Moore, and the North Carolina GOP. The PAC’s treasurer is Wendy Jamison, BofA senior vice-president for public policy. North Carolina-based Lowe’s “opposes any measure in any state that would encourage or allow discrimination,” but its PAC treasurer, Lowe’s Assistant Treasurer Cindy Reins, donated heavily to the same politicians. Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, criticized the new state law, but its PAC, run by Managing Director for Government Affairs Edward Ingle, has donated to the same GOP campaigns. The American Airlines PAC gave to Berger and Moore.

 

The best news today! A case about public sector unions got a 4-4 vote in the Supreme Court, meaning that union members must still pay for the benefits that they receive because of the lower court ruling. Unions are required by law to bargain on behalf of all the workers, even if workers don’t join the union. One union benefit is the wage premium of almost 12 percent higher than in non-union shops. In California a wealthy organization trying to break unions found a teacher to challenge this law. A win against the unions would create a class of “takers” who would then starve the union by not paying fees for these benefits. Justice Antonin’s Scalia’s death caused the 4-4 split in the Supreme Court for Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association which kept the mandated fees.

Today’s tie retains a 40-year SCOTUS decision, impacting unions for millions of government workers. The plaintiffs stated that they would ask for another hearing because of the tie, but the justices may be reluctant to provide them with one especially if the number of court justices stays at eight for the next two or three years because of GOP obstructionism.

Today’s judgment may be the shortest ever delivered. It reads: “Per Curium. The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.”

Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) maintains his refusal to consider any President Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia, 16 Republican senators now say they will meet with Merrick Garland. That’s more than 25 percent of McConnell’s senators who are defecting.

November 3, 2015

Election Day: Odd Year, Odd

 

Today is Election Day for some of the people. I say “some” because many citizens aren’t eligible to vote on this election day. Some of them are too young whereas others are in prison. Only Vermont and Maine allow prisoners to vote. Yet millions more are ruled out for other reasons. After release from prison, people may not vote until the end of probation and parole in 24 states; another 11 states may permanently prevent convicted felons from ever voting.

The most egregious laws against voting, however, affect married women, the elderly, the poor, students, non-drivers, and others who have difficulty obtaining the photo IDs mandated in many states from the GOP desire to keep Democrats away from the polls. Fifteen years ago, only 14 states required IDs, most of them non-photo and all non-strict. As of April 2015, 32 states enforced voter identification requirements with 17 of these mandating photo ID. Thus the constitutional and legal right to vote varies from state to state.

voterid_history

Last summer, Fulton County (GA), which includes Atlanta, was fined $180,000 after admitting that it illegally disenfranchised and misled voters in the 2008 and 2012 elections by improperly rejecting eligible ballots and deliberately sending voters to the wrong precincts. The county has a large black voting population and leans progressive. When neighboring DeKalb county, also largely black, opened an early voting location in a popular mall, Georgia State Senator Fran Millar (R) publicly lamented that “this location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches.” He added, “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters.”

Last year during a tight race for an open Senate seat, over 40,000 newly registered Georgia voters—mostly young, low-income, and black—disappeared from the rolls. Georgia’s Secretary of State accused voting rights groups suing to process registrations of committing voter fraud.

After the Supreme Court overturned part of the 1964 Voting Rights Act, Alabama closed 30 driver’s-license offices in the state, all in counties where blacks compose over 75 percent of registered voters. GOP presidential candidates such as Jeb Bush oppose restoration of the voting rights because the “dramatic improvement in access to voting” makes it unnecessary to impose protections “as though we’re living in 1960.” In contrast to the restrictions on voting, Arizona and California lead the way to automatic registration of voting for their residents. Perhaps the embarrassment of national outrage concerning the close of Alabama’s helped partially reverse the decision to completely close the offices: Alabama has announced that a license examiner be one day a month in 28 counties and two days a month in the remaining two counties.

The White House should take action to promote voter registration through a combination of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The NVRA requires that eligible people may register when applying through a variety of programs, including Medicaid. People apply for most health care benefits, including Medicaid, on a state or federal health care exchange. Therefore, the NVRA requires that voter registration be offered on these exchanges. State exchanges are in compliance with the NVRA, but the federal government is not, losing as many as 1.7 million voter registrations through the Federally Facilitated Exchanges (FFE). King v. Burwell requires that state and federally-facilitated exchanges must be treated exactly the same, and the federal government needs to follow ACA and NVRA.

Virginia, one of three states electing state legislators today and one of the most gerrymandered states in the country, has admitted that the GOP deliberately rigged the congressional districts to obtain a Republican delegation. They justified it to keep the “partisan division established in the 2010 election.” The Supreme Court is not likely to be of any help. In 2004, A 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court case Vieth v. Jubelirer, held that a specific gerrymandering suit could not proceed because courts couldn’t determine if it existed or how to fix it. It appears that Virginia is keeping the GOP dominate in the legislature despite the majority of Democrat voters for legislators. jen hendersonbizloop 70My favorite vote manipulation story this year occurred in Columbia (MO) when Jen Henderson, 23, became the only voter in a district. Property owners petitioned the city council to establish the Business Loop 70 Community Improvement District to eliminate any voters so, with no registered voters living in the district, the property owners could then impose a half-cent sales tax increase to cover the “significant debt” that the district had incurred. They overlooked Henderson. The district’s executive director went so far as to ask Henderson to consider “unregistering her vote,” thus allowing the property owners to make the decision. The city council postponed the vote until December 1 (or maybe December 8), and an investigation by the local NPR station found 13 more voters.

Despite the lack of federal candidates, today’s elections include races and initiatives that affect people’s lives. Two states, Kentucky and Mississippi, will elect governors, and another two will determine the party majority in state legislators—Pennsylvania and Virginia. The GOP win for governor in Kentucky means that 400,000 people in the state will most likely lose health insurance. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will be replaced in a November 21, 2015 vote because of term limits. Campaign donations for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court election hit almost $16 million, much of it from people who fight judges who are “soft on crime.” Nine states have 28 measures that impact the state budgets. Other legislation shapes LGBT rights, minimum wages, marijuana laws and more.

LGBT Discrimination: Houston (TX), a city with a higher population than 15 states, again voted on an Equal Rights Ordinance. Opponents claim that the existing ordinance allows men to go into bathrooms and molest little girls because it permits transgender people to use the restroom of their gender identity. The text just prohibits “discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing” based on sexual preference or gender identity. Last summer, Jordan Klepper presented a hilarious view of the Christian opposition to an LGBT rights ordinance in Eureka Springs (AK) on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. Houston is also electing a mayor; openly lesbian incumbent Annise Parker is term-limited. [Houston voters came out in favor of LGBT discrimination.]

Marijuana Legalization: Ohio is voting to decide whether it will be the fifth state to legalize recreational marijuana, but the constitutional amendment would allow only one group of seven investors to grow it. The “marijuana monopoly” has drawn opposition for people who want legalized marijuana in the state. [Ohio voted against legalizing marijuana.]

Marijuana Tax Distribution: Colorado is required to reallocate the taxes from the sale of cannabis, thanks a 1992 law promoted by no-new-taxes Grover Norquist. Passing the initiative would send the millions of dollars to school and law enforcement; opposing it gives the money back to the growers and taxpayers. If the initiative fails, each resident would get about $8.

Minimum Wage: Tacoma (WA) has two measures, one requiring all city employers with at least $300,000 in annual gross revenue to provide a $15 minimum wage and the other to mandate all employees to gradually phase in a $12 minimum wage by 2018. Seattle gradually started its $15 minimum wage last April, resulting in surprising successes despite conservative naysayers.

Donations to Candidates: Seattle has an initiative to give all citizens four “democracy vouchers,” $25 coupons, each election year that they can donate to the qualified candidates of their choice. The initiative also has regulations, but the $100 per citizen makes it more interesting.

Limiting Influence of Special Interest Money: Maine already uses public money in elections, but this measure would strengthen it by increasing the public fund that incentivizes politicians to refuse private money for campaigning. [Maine voted to further limit special interest money.]

Increase of Affordable Housing: Airbnb has spent $8 million to defeat a ballot measure in San Francisco to limit short-term housing rentals. Affordable housing advocates support the initiative because much of the city’s housing is used for the short-term rentals, pushing lower-income people out through higher rents.

School Funding: Mississippi residents are voting on a constitutional amendment which would allow people to sue the state to increase public school funding. Other states including Kansas and Washington have sued the state regarding the lack of funding for schools. [The measure was passed.]

The “Right to Hunt”: One Texas’ seven constitutional amendments is designed to prevent “possible legislative action that could limit the right,” which could include “pressure from animal rights or environmental groups” who might want to limit hunting of certain vulnerable species in the future.

Coos County (OR) has a gun law on the ballot just one month after ten people died in a mass shooting in neighboring Roseburg. Earlier this year, Oregon passed a law requiring universal background checks for gun purchases except within immediate family members. Residents of Coos County vote today on prohibiting local authorities from enforcing that law or any other future gun safety laws passed by the state. If it passes, the Coos County sheriff would determine what state and federal gun laws are unconstitutional although he must swear to uphold the state and federal constitution.

County commissions in the state’s Wheeler and Wallowa counties have approved almost identical measures. Many other rural counties have dodged the issue by saying that they uphold all laws but some of them get very low priority. In my home county, Lincoln, Sheriff Dennis Dotson announced to the press that enforcing background checks is at the bottom of his priorities.

As Fox is fond of saying, everyone should own as many guns as they want, but not everyone deserves the right to vote.

April 6, 2015

The ‘Cake Wars’

lego cakeThe second decade of the twenty-first century may go down in history as the time of the “cake wars”: fundamentalist Christians think that the only problem with declaring unfettered religious freedom in the business world is that same-sex couples would be denied wedding cakes. And maybe a few flowers and a bit of pizza too. The whole rumor started after Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a Gresham (OR) bakery, refused to fill an order for a wedding cake from a lesbian couple. Although the couple did not sue, they filed a complaint with the state of Oregon. An administrative law judge declared that Sweet Cakes’ action was discriminatory and allowed the Bureau of Labor and Industries to impose a fine of up to $150,000.

The firestorm swept across the country after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law that allowed anyone to deny any service or product to anyone else because of declared religious beliefs. The final section of the law stated that “there is not a higher protection offered by the state than the person’s protection of a person’s right to religious belief.”

Hundreds of business leaders, sports figures, celebrities, Christian groups, and almost a dozen cities and states—even NACAR–threatened to boycott Indiana because of the new law. The religious right, however, fought back. “Cake is speech,” Indiana pastor Tim Overton said on NPR. He followed that up by saying that no one would use any Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to deny anyone anything except flowers and wedding cakes. Just because people can do it, they probably wouldn’t.

Lee's graphicWorse than this mistaken belief is the downright misconceptions of RFRAs throughout the nation. The federal law was passed for religious minorities in 1993 after an American Indian was fired because of his religious use of peyote. After fundamentalist Christians felt threatened by marriage equality, 19 states jumped on the bandwagon with state RFRAs. Although conservatives claimed that Indiana’s law was patterned after the federal one, it granted far more rights on the basis of “religious liberty.” The law that Pence originally granted “religious rights” to any person or company if those religious objectors had a “substantial ownership,” not even majority control. Also, the government does not need to be a party to case, geometrically increasing the number of lawsuits possible. When some legislators tried to add an amendment to block the law’s use for discrimination, the majority refused, acknowledging that they wanted to use it for discrimination, allowing majority religions the control.

Other conservatives argued that the new Indiana law was no problem because the state had no protections for LGBT people. Although they are correct about the state, various municipalities throughout Indiana had anti-discrimination ordinances which were then negated by the new state law.

Exactly one week after Pence signed the law and subsequently declared that he didn’t want to change the law, he signed a new bill last week that stopped people from using the first law from discriminating to against LGBT people. The fix to Indiana’s discriminatory overreach, designed to mollify protesters, was still not satisfactory, at least to some businesses. “Our position is that this ‘fix’ is insufficient,” Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle said. “There was not a repeal of RFRA and no end to discrimination of homosexuals in Indiana. Employers in most of the state of Indiana can fire a person simply for being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning. That’s just not right and that’s the real issue here.” That’s from a man who led the campaign of Pence’s GOP predecessor.

After the Indiana fiasco, Georgia dropped its discrimination bill—for now. Montana, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming also defeated RFRAs.

Arkansas passed a watered down religious belief bill that lacks non-discrimination protections. It can still be used against people of color, minority faiths, women, and anyone else with references in the bible. It is also binding for the entire state because Arkansas passed a law in February that prohibits anti-discrimination ordinances to protect LGBT people in any of the state’s municipalities.

North Carolina is lukewarm about a bill that goes farther than Indiana’s law. Unlike 17 RFRAs in the country, it states that obeying the law is a “burden” to their religious liberty, not a “substantial burden.” Even Arkansas included the term “substantial.” North Carolina added that there must be a “governmental interest of the highest magnitude” to justify overriding religious beliefs. Unworried about the bill’s effect on people, state House Speaker Tim Moore said he wants to know how such a law would “improve North Carolina’s brand.” He also wants “to make sure we don’t harm our brand.”

Eight other states are considering the creation or alteration of RFRAs.

Before the uproar about the Indiana law, most people believed that LGBT people faced no discrimination in lodging, renting, hiring, etc. across the nation. Indiana’s law forced that information out into the open. Now their only justification is to say that those who face discrimination are not “tolerant” or that LGBT people make a “choice” to face this discrimination.

Conservatives who wail about their lack of rights try to punish pro-LGBT businesses.  Former Arizona TV evangelist Joshua Feuerstein called Cut the Cake in Longwood (FL) to order a cake that stated, “We do not support gay marriage.” Bakery owner Sharon Haller thought it was an April Fool’s joke and told him no. Feuerstein posted a recording of the telephone call on YouTube, and Haller received death threats. Her business came to a halt until people posted positive comments on her Facebook page. Haller could prosecute Feuerstein. Sarasota lawyer Andrea Flynn Mogensen said Florida law requires all parties to consent before recording a telephone conversation. Violation is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies determined that a Denver bakery did nothing wrong when the owner refused to write “God hates gays” on a cake because the message on the cakes would be “derogatory.” Bill Jack wanted a cake showing two groomsmen with a red “x” over them and messages about homosexuality being a sin. There was no discrimination because Silva would have responded to any other customer in the same way.

Bigotry is becoming a cottage industry across the nation. Memories Pizza in Walkerton announced that it would not cater any gay weddings, despite the fact that they have never been asked to do so. The owner garnered not only the free publicity that she wanted but also a large donation for a GoFundMe account. The irony is that half the $842,500 that she received will go to the government in the form of taxes; conservatives who hate the government are giving it a nice little chunk of money. A florist in Washington, fined $1,000 for not serving a lesbian couple, has received $90,000.

David Brooks, columnist for the supposedly liberal New York Times, criticized LGBT people for not using politeness and “gentle persuasion” until society decides to grant same-sex rights. Syndicated columnist Mark Shields agreed with Brooks on PBS News Hour last Friday on a panel that has featured contrasting viewpoints before the Koch brothers started massive funding of public television. They agreed it ws acceptable to deny services, employment, etc.—in short, fairness—to LGBT people until society voluntarily changes its mind with no impetus. Shields said that the question of religious liberty has been “lost” in the debate over gay rights. Michael Hulshof-Schmidt wrote, “[This position] puts the blame on the victims, wondering why we have to push so hard to make ourselves heard.”

Brooks and Shields forgot to ask the evangelical Christians to develop this “politeness.” In fact, fundamentalists are more of a minority in approval ratings than the LGBT community. In a recent poll of likely voters, 53 percent responded favorably to LGBT people whereas only 42 percent had a favorable view of evangelical Christians. Eighteen percent had unfavorable views of LGBT people, and 28 percent were negative toward evangelical Christians.

 

lee.s picture 2People who want to wait until religious people are voluntarily willing to give LGBT rights neglect history. The people who sat waiting for service at Woolworth’s 55 years ago didn’t want a sandwich: they wanted fairness and equality. Approval rating of biracial marriage when it was legalized in 1967 was 20 percent compared to the 59 percent approval of same-sex marriage now when it’s still not recognized in the entire United States.

Fed up with his religion being defined by hate, Rev. Drew Ludwig, pastor at Buffalo’s (NY) Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, has organized the “Christian Cake Mob.” The group bakes cupcakes and hands them out near Allentown’s gay bars. People from all faiths are chipping into the effort that Ludwig posted on social media. Ludwig said he won’t be discriminating because they will also give cupcakes to straight people.

cupcakeWhen is a cake not just a cake? When it’s used as a symbol to refuse service to anyone.

October 19, 2014

Vatican Shifts Left, Backtracks to Right

Pope Francis  seemed to lead the Catholic Church away from the former narrow bigotry last week when an assembly of Roman Catholic bishops called for the church to welcome and accept LGBT people, unmarried couples and divorced individuals as well as the children of these families. In past interviews, the pope has criticized his own church for putting moral doctrines above serving the poor and marginalized and said that the church is “obsessed” with gays, abortion, and birth control. His move was a moved to the Second Vatican Council convened over a half-century ago which brought great changes in church liturgy, relations with other faiths, and the roles of priests and laypeople.

A Vatican official said the church should “respect the dignity” of every person, and a 12-page report stated that pastors should recognize that there are “positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation.” LGBT people have “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” and some gay and lesbian couples provide each other “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice” and “precious support in the life of the partners,” according to the report.

The report led to discussion and modification by bishops within the next week with a final report issued for worldwide discussion. Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert with the Italian newsmagazine L’espresso, said that the “progressives” who want change in the church “are in positions of strength, put there by Pope Francis.” The Rev. James Martin, editor at large of the Jesuit magazine America, that “even though this is an interim document, it represents a revolution in the way the church speaks about our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

That was all last week. Now the Vatican has released another statement that removed welcoming language toward LGBT people from the message after Timothy Dolan, New York City’s homophobic archbishop cardinal, vowed that he would fight with fellow conservative Catholics against the language until it was taken out of the document. On CBS This Morning, Dolan gave this message:

“All of this is almost like antipasto to help the holy father arrive at a fresh new way to teach the timeless teaching on marriage and family…I know there is remarkable unanimity and enthusiasm in backing the holy father’s attempt to present the teachings of the church in fresh, exciting and engaging new ways, but there might be some good, deep discussion on the way that is being expressed.”

Instead of the subtitle “Welcoming homosexual persons,” the document, formally known as the Relatio of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, uses these words, “The pastoral care of people with homosexual orientation.” The new language:

“55. Some families live the experience of having members who are of homosexual orientation. In this regard, questions have been raised on pastoral care which is appropriate to deal with this situation by referring to what the Church teaches: ‘There is no basis whatsoever to assimilate or to draw even remote analogies between same-sex unions and the plan of God for marriage and the family.’ Nevertheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. ‘In their regard should be avoided every sign of unjust discrimination. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons , 4).

“56. It is totally unacceptable that the Pastors of the Church pressures in this matter and that international bodies condition financial aid to poor countries, on the institution of laws that establish the ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex.”

All the following has disappeared:

“50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

“51. The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

“52. Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.”

Gone is any respect. No “mutual aid” among couples. And certainly no indication of accepting “civil unions.”

The elders of the Catholic Church, a description aptly fitting the older men who lead the religion, are in direct contrast to 85 percent of young Catholics in the U.S. who express support for gays and lesbians.

Acceptance of those who have divorced and remarried also got knocked out of the report because of lack of votes.

Despite the loss of acceptance for the pope’s report, he managed to demote U.S. anti-LGBT Cardinal Raymond Burke to a figurehead position as the Patron of the Knights of Malta which works among the sick. Almost a year ago, the pope dropped Burke from an important Vatican bureau. As the head of the Roman Catholic Church’s version of the U.S. Supreme Court, he had been the second most-powerful man in the Vatican.

Burke recently said that legally-married gay and lesbian family members should be shunned from family celebrations during the upcoming holidays, asking “what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?” As a member of the Congregation of Bishops, Burke had led the group in such controversial positions as moving Salvatore Cordileone, the church’s leader in California’s Prop 8 movement that reversed marriage equality in the state, to San Francisco. Burke also wants the Latin Mass and prefers the clerical clothing popular before Vatican II in the 1960s modernized the Catholic Church.

Francis has also replaced outspoken Chicago Cardinal Francis George with Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane (WA). Although Cupich opposes same-sex marriage, he rejected attempts “to incite hostility towards homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity.” In a pastoral letter that was read in all Catholic parishes in the diocese, he wrote, “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”

The most telling parts of the changes in the Vatican report is that they are only in English. The other versions stay the same.

September 2, 2014

Taxpayers Shouldn’t Pay for Discrimination

Filed under: Discrimination — trp2011 @ 7:37 PM
Tags: ,

Schools demanding the right to discriminate, using Christianity as an excuse, are hopefully learning that they might have to pay their own way instead of using taxpayer resources. Gordon College in Wenham, north of Boston (MA), is one of those discriminatory colleges.

Disturbed because of President Obama’s order for federal contractors to end discrimination against LGBT workers, college president D. Michael Lindsay wrote to the White House requesting an exemption. The first shoe to drop after that request was Salem’s refusal to permit the school to use the city-owned Old Town Hall. Mayor Kimberley Driscoll also cited the college’s longstanding policies prohibiting LGBT student activities to show that the contract with Gordon violates the city ordinance prohibiting Salem from contracting with entities that discriminate.

Lindsay’s request for exemption also offended college students, faculty, and alumni; within a few days after his letter was sent, over 100 people connected with Gordon College signed a letter to the White House supporting the president’s executive order banning discrimination. In addition to other Gordon activities in a city building, a group affiliated with the college has given seasonal performances of Cry Innocent. The play recreates the trial of Bridget Bishop during the Salem Witch Trials to caution against religious extremism and unjust persecution.

Following Lindsay’s letter of request to discriminate against LGBT employees, the region’s higher education accrediting agency, New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ Commission on Institution, decided to audit Gordon College to see if the agency’s standards are being violated. Accreditation standards require that each “institution adheres to nondiscriminatory policies and practices in recruitment, admissions, employment, evaluation, disciplinary action, and advancement” and that each school “fosters an atmosphere within the institutional community that respects and supports people of diverse characteristics and backgrounds.” The association is scheduled to discuss their findings this month.

Among critics of Lindsay’s actions is Michael Alexander, president of Lasell College in Newton, who stated:

“The clear message is that homosexuals are not worthy of employment, or even recognition of their existence, in the Gordon community. It is a slap in the face of every gay and lesbian person, particularly every gay and lesbian Christian, that says you are somehow less of a human being, you do not belong in the embrace of God’s merciful arms.”

The second shoe dropped against Gordon College when the Lynn School Committee decided last week to no longer continue an 11-year arrangement between the two schools to accept Gordon student volunteers in the public schools. During that time, Gordon has placed small groups of volunteers from its 2,100+ student body for student teaching or other positions to fulfill requirements toward degrees in education and social work.

Gordon College reports that it plans to find other schools for these students. With its discriminatory policy, the school may have difficulty. At least one other school, Manchester Essex Regional High School, stopped the training of Gordon students to teach about two decades ago. Tim Averill, former chair of Manchester’s English department, said, “We became aware that they either added, or became more explicit about, their rule that they would not allow gays and lesbians as [student-teacher] candidates.” Averill now chairs the writing department at the Waring School in Beverly.

Goodwin Procter, Gordon College’s law firm, sent a letter to the school district’s attorney, suggesting that “there may be a legal context” in violating Lindsay’s constitutional right to freedom of speech and religion. Lynn’s attorney said that Gordon “has no desire to pursue a legal avenue to preserve the partnership” although the term “legal context” could be construed as a threat. No legal contracts or money are involved because the students are considered volunteers.

Lindsay claims that he doesn’t plan to discrimination. He merely signed a letter asking for permission to discriminate. The question would be why he signed the letter if he didn’t plan to discriminate. After all, he didn’t sign the letter for an exemption from purchasing insurance that provides contraception after the Hobby Lobby decision.

Spring Arbor University, which recently received an exemption from Title IX, also doesn’t plan to discriminate against LGBT people, according to SAU President Brent Ellis. “We will still be welcoming, but we will not be affirming.” Alumni believe that the exemption still gives SAU the right to openly discriminate, the right to “wage war” against LGBT students and faculty.

 

In North Carolina, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood has ruled that the state’s private school voucher program is unconstitutional because of religious discrimination and public taxpayer funds to support a system of private education. Just this year the program would have provided $730,000 in tuition funds for over 360 students to attend schools that discriminate in admissions and don’t have to maintain curriculum or teacher certification standards. The decision means that private schools, including those with anti-LGBT discriminatory, religious policies and doctrines, cannot receive state funds. One such school, Wilmington’s Myrtle Grove Christian School, had already withdrawn from the program. Its policies require that students and parents agree not to support or participate in “sexual immorality, including homosexuality and bisexuality.”

 

For schools that want to discriminate, there is a very simple answer: pay your own way. Don’t expect support from taxpayers. There is a constitutional amendment separating church and state. If you want this separation to allow you to discriminate, don’t ask for money for the government.

August 30, 2013

Bullying Has Long-lasting Effects

safe spaceYou’d think that school officials would want to protect all of their students, wouldn’t you? You’re wrong, at least in Rutherford County (TN). When the national and state ACLU asked that students and teachers be permitted to hand “Safe Space” posters, the school board turned them down. Vice Chairman Wayne Blair said that there is no need for the posters.

GLSEN’s 2011 survey showed that at least 90 percent of students in Tennessee heard the word “gay” used in a negative way or other homophobic remarks. They also heard negative remarks about a person’s gender presentation. Students weren’t the only ones talking like this; 30 percent of students heard the school staff commented negatively on an individual’s gender expression, and 23 percent heard the staff use homophobic remarks.

Many Tennessee students are also verbally and physically bullied: 88 percent of LGBT youth were verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation, and 64 percent were harassed because of their gender presentation. Worst of all, almost no LGBT youth had access to necessary support at school. Only 3 percent attended a school with a comprehensive anti-bullying program that specifically includes LGBT youth. While 87 percent could identify one supportive staff member, only about a third could identify many.

Posters won’t solve all these problems, but the school board refused even this small attempt at helping LGBT youth because of the terms “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender,” stating that they were of an inappropriate sexual nature. The school board’s attorney also accused the terminology of being inappropriately political.

Without any school support, LGBT youth may have nowhere to go for help. A 2011-2012 survey shows that approximately 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT: of those, 68 percent said they had experienced family rejection, and 54 percent said they had experienced abuse in the family.

The bullying that the school board denies has far-reaching effects for both the bully and the victim. According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, bullies who were also victims have the biggest problems as adults—14.5 times more likely to develop panic disorder and 4.8 times more likely to experience depression. are 18.5 times more likely to have had suicidal thoughts, and females are 26.7 times more likely to have agoraphobia.

Previous research from Finland found the same adverse long-term outcomes, particularly anxiety for victims and antisocial personality disorders for bullies.

A newer report in Psychological Science shows the same affects as well as difficulty in keeping a job and poor social relationships. Because they had greater difficulty saving money, they were more likely to be poor. Those who were both bullies and victims are six times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious illness or psychiatric disorder and to regularly smoke. Bullies also have a greater chance of riskier behavior and criminal records.

The hatred for LGBT rights from the religious right and schools was evidenced in a hate crime last Sunday in Orlando (FL). Three men taunted a women walking along a sidewalk, calling her “lesbian” and “dyke” before they got out of the car and raped her. One of the men supposedly said, “I’ll show you how a real man feels.”

A gay Iraq war hero was booed and shouted in San Antonio for supporting anti-discrimination laws for sexual orientation and gender identity. A Tennessee church expelled an entire family because they wouldn’t reject a lesbian daughter. Bryan Fischer, American Family Association spokesman, wants the United States to follow Russia in its anti-LGBT laws which arrest and imprison people even for appearing to be or supporting of LGBT people.

Ex-gay therapist Jerry Mungadze continues the cruel stereotypes with his system of determining who is gay or possessed by demons by asking people to use crayons to color in a picture of the human brain. Black, gray, or brown—that’s possessed. And—of course!—pink proves a person is gay.

In Virginia, gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, currently the state’s AG, wants to bring back the anti-sodomy law. Tom Tomorrow’s black humor shows how doing so would impact people:

comic

After a Pennsylvania county clerk issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Gov. Tom Corbett filed a legal brief against the action—because the state AG refused to stop the licenses. The legal team compared these licenses for LGBT couples to allowing 12-year-old children to be married. As usual with gaffes like this, Corbett has called the analogy “inappropriate,” according to Corbett’s spokesman.

Even after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA as unconstitutional, the Veterans Administration refused to provide federal benefits to veterans’ legally married spouses. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said that the law explaining these benefits define spouse and surviving spouse as someone of the opposite sex. Fortunately, a federal judge in California, Consuelo B. Marshall, declared the VA’s decision is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court didn’t even begin to overturn the 1,038+ unconstitutional federal laws that discriminate against same-sex couples. At this time, Social Security will give benefits only to married same-sex couples who live in states and other jurisdictions that recognize marriage equality. State and federal government will continue to model bullying for everyone in the United States, costing taxpayers a millions of dollars.

Even Wal-Mart has decided to allow health benefits to same-sex partners of its 1.3 million workers, in keeping with 62 percent of Fortune 500 companies. The VA might take note.

Note: The IRS is following the spirit of the Supreme Court anti-DOMA ruling. Legally married same-sex couples in the United States have achieved marriage equality for federal tax purposes no matter where they live even if they reside in a state that does not recognize the union. U.S. Treasury secretary Jacob J. Lew issued the following in a press release:

“This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change. Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.”

Refund claims can still be filed for 2010, 2011, and 2012, and some people may have special circumstances that allow them to file such claims for earlier years. Earlier today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that legally married same-sex couples will receive the same treatment under Medicare as opposite-sex couples.

May 16, 2012

Gay Issues at Top of Politics

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 10:05 AM
Tags: , , ,

Last week the media concentrated on LGBT news. It began with Vice-President Joe Biden saying on Meet the Press that he was comfortable with marriage equality. Three days later President Barack Obama agreed with him just before The Washington Post published a long story about Mitt Romney’s cruelty at prep school when he bullied a teacher and other students. At least two of Romney’s subjects were “different”: he forced one of them into a closet and cut his hair and continually called “Atta girl!” to the other one. The House of Representatives passed a superlative anti-gay “we-support-DOMA” bill.

In the midst of all the talk, North Carolinians voted in favor of Amendment 1: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized.” Just over 20 percent of the state’s registered voters passed this amendment by a margin of 61 to 39 percent. A state law had already made marriage equality illegal, but less than 13 percent of registered voters in the state voted to join the other Southern states in also having a discriminatory constitutional amendment. What many people who voted to add the amendment to the state constitution didn’t know is the law’s impact on heterosexual couples and children.

Because, according to the amendment’s wording, North Carolina will not recognize any kind of partnership or union that isn’t marriage, the vote has weakened or removed protections against domestic violence for people in unmarried partnerships. After Ohio voters passed a similar amendment, no relationship outside marriage was recognized under domestic violence laws, a disaster that took three years to correct. During those three years, 27 domestic violence convictions were overturned or dismissed; women who were not married to their abusers had no legal protection.

Unmarried couples may not be able to visit one another in the hospital and won’t be allowed to make emergency medical and financial decisions for the incapacitated partner.

Employers will no longer be required to provide benefits, such as health insurance, to the partners of unmarried employees.

Couples who separate will not have legal protection requiring the wealthier partner to divide property or help provide for the children’s expenses.

End-of-life arrangements between unmarried couples, such as wills, trusts, and medical powers of attorney, may be invalidated.

Unmarried parents can lose health care and prescription drug coverage for their children, putting their health at risk.

A committed parent who has cared for children throughout their entire lives may lose these children if something happens to the other parent.

Unmarried parents may lose the child custody and visitation rights that are designed to protect the best interests of a child.

In summary, Amendment 1 destroys the family unit, banning all legal protections if parents are not married.

Supporters of this amendment include televangelist Billy Graham, who ran a full-page ad in 14 North Carolina newspapers in support of the law. “The Bible is clear—God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment.”

Ironically, the Bible, used to validate discrimination against marriage equality, does not state that a ceremony must be legalized by government. The Bible requires only that marriage be sanctioned by clergy in front of witnesses. Nowhere does the Bible state that there must be a legal document proving this ceremony. In fact, there was no government involvement in marriage until the 16th century.

Also, the Bible states that marriage is between a man and woman, but doesn’t state “only” between a man and a woman. People who want to nitpick about the faulty translations of ancient documents should understand the distinction.

Almost two-thirds of the people voting on Amendment 1 didn’t understand the measure: just 36 percent of voters knew that it banned both same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships. An additional 26 percent thought it banned same-sex marriage alone; 10 percent of voters thought a “yes” vote on the amendment would legalize rather than ban same-sex marriage, and 27 percent weren’t sure what it did.

But many voters also don’t understand what a Bible is, as shown by a recent debate in the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee about giving military service members a “conscious clause” to not perform some actions. In response to this idea, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), said, “Let’s just say I read the Bible and it says gays should be killed. Stoned.” When asked for clarification, Sanchez continued, “If you read Leviticus 20:13, it says man must be put to death if man has sexual relations with not a woman.”

“That’s the Old Testament,” protested Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA).

“It’s the Bible!” proclaimed Sanchez.

Scott repeated, “It’s the Old Testament.”

It appears that people who don’t know what a Bible is are using it as a justification to vote on an amendment that they don’t understand. And this proscribes discrimination in the United States.

In conclusion, a little humor from Andy Borowitz:

Flush with victory from yesterday’s statewide vote, supporters of North Carolina’s Amendment One today moved forward with a bold proposal to ban electricity and soap. Cal Pinckton, a leading proponent of Amendment One who has helped craft the new law, says the principles behind it are simple: “If the Bible doesn’t mention something, it’s against the law, and the Bible makes no mention of either soap or electricity.” He adds that North Carolina will “still have plenty of stuff that the Bible does mention, like boils and locusts.”

While some critics of the proposed law said that it could be damaging to North Carolina’s economy since it would drive away fanciers of soap and electricity, Mr. Pinckton sees it differently. “I think we’ll see a huge boom in tourism,” he says.  “North Carolina is on its way to becoming one great big old timey theme park, like Colonial Williamsburg.”

But Mr. Pinckton is careful to emphasize that under the proposed law, there would be certain situations in which the use of electricity would be permitted: “You could still use electricity for things that are explicitly mandated by the Bible, like transvaginal ultrasounds.”

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