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Gabby Giffords’ NYT Op-Ed

By: Teddy Partridge Thursday April 18, 2013 11:45 am

Via email, former Congresswoman Giffords asked me to share her New York Times opinion piece published today with family and friends:

A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip
By Gabrielle Giffords

Giffords in the House after the assassination attempt.

Giffords in the House after the assassination attempt.

SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.

On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.

Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.

I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending. Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.

I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.

People have told me that I’m courageous, but I have seen greater courage. Gabe Zimmerman, my friend and staff member in whose honor we dedicated a room in the United States Capitol this week, saw me shot in the head and saw the shooter turn his gunfire on others. Gabe ran toward me as I lay bleeding. Toward gunfire. And then the gunman shot him, and then Gabe died. His body lay on the pavement in front of the Safeway for hours.

I have thought a lot about why Gabe ran toward me when he could have run away. Service was part of his life, but it was also his job. The senators who voted against background checks for online and gun-show sales, and those who voted against checks to screen out would-be gun buyers with mental illness, failed to do their job.

They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.

They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done — trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you — but their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest. I say misplaced, because to preserve their dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their constituents. They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their agony.

This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I’ve always known would be a long, hard haul. Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list.

Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s. To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way.


The Marriage Equality Majority & SCOTUS

By: Teddy Partridge Monday March 18, 2013 12:04 pm
Protest Sign: Defend Love, Destroy DOMA

A growing number of Americans support an end to the Defense of Marriage Act which bans gay marriage and other LGBTQ protections.

Strong majorities of Americans in all categories but GOP and Olds support marriage equality today. According to a new ABC-Washington Post poll, support for legal same-sex marriages has now reached 58%.

The poll shows that 58 percent of Americans now believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married; 36 percent say it should be illegal. Public attitudes toward gay marriage are a mirror image of what they were a decade ago: in 2003, 37 percent favored gay nuptials, and 55 percent opposed them.

Even a decade ago, when the past ten years’ progress was almost unthinkable, same-sex marriages were vastly more approved in America than interracial marriages were at the time the US Supreme Court weighed in on them:

The 1967 Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia ended all restrictions on interracial marriage in the United States. But a Gallup poll a year later in 1968 showed that only 20 percent of Americans supported marriage between whites and black; 73 percent opposed

Now, we all know that the Supreme Court isn’t bound by polls, and may not even read the newspapers as important decisions approach, but this sea change of American opinion cannot be overlooked, especially by a Chief Justice who seems to worry about the legitimacy of his Court. It took a long time for Americans to catch up with the Court’s decision on interracial marriage:

Note that a plurality did not support interracial marriage until 1991, almost 25 years after Loving v. Virginia was decided, and it was another six years until there was an actual majority!

Unless the Roberts Court wants to look hopelessly disconnected from the Marriage Equality Majority in America — as the Warren Court was on interracial marriage! — the Chief Justice is going to need to find some way to strike down both Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, just as he found his way to a majority vote upholding the Affordable Care Act.

NOM Calls CJ Roberts’ Family “Second-Best”

By: Teddy Partridge Thursday March 14, 2013 10:43 am

SECOND BEST: Roberts family members: Jane Marie Sullivan Roberts; son, Jack, 4, and daughter, Josephine (Josie), 5, July 19, 2005.

I predicted this, but I really thought now that we were within two weeks of oral arguments, the Talibangelical bigots would hold off criticizing the very foundation of the family of the Chief Justice of the United States of America.

But no:

John Eastman, the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the lead religious right organization fighting against marriage equality for gay couples, called Supreme Court Justice John Roberts’ decision to adopt two children “second best,” less than two weeks before the Supreme Court considers two high-profile gay marriage cases.

The Chief Justice and his wife, Jane, have two adopted children, John and Josephine. They charmed America on the day President Bush announced the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.

Eastman told AP (via Towleroad):

“You’re looking at what is the best course societywide to get you the optimal result in the widest variety of cases. That often is not open to people in individual cases. Certainly adoption in families headed, like Chief Roberts’ family is, by a heterosexual couple, is by far the second-best option,” said John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage. Eastman also teaches law at Chapman University law school in Orange, Calif. [emphasis added]

Regardless of the radical right’s views on adoption (who knew?) it flies in the face of sanity for their leadership to criticize the foundation of the Chief Justice’s family life. But, most likely, their last stand on opposite-sex marriage (that its purpose is to enshrine accidental pregnancies into a matrimonial two-gendered unit) leads them to this conclusion.

And, as we’ve learned from NOM before, they just can’t help shooting themselves in the foot. I really did believe, though, that they had their worst instincts under control as their critical high-court date nears. Now, we get to watch them wiggle and squirm out of this: every supporter of their views must be asked if, in fact, they support this view. Speaker Boehner? Governor Christie? CPAC attendees?

Does adoption really create a second-best family unit, even for heterosexual married couples?

Scott Brown and Joe Lieberman Find Work

By: Teddy Partridge Monday March 11, 2013 2:58 pm

I know you were worried. Could these two ex-Senators find work, one a rookie, the other a veteran? Leaving the Senate nest is always precarious, whether it’s voluntary (as Joe Lieberman can claim, not having sought re-election) or not (as Scott Brown must attest, having lost to Elizabeth Warren).

Well, worry not. Both these esteemed gentlemen have found paying gigs with organizations in Washington that will probably make very good use of their service to their country.

First, Short Ride Joe has found employment with the American Enterprise Institute (pull up your waders, it gets deep):

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) president Arthur Brooks announced today that former Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman will join AEI Visiting Fellow Jon Kyl as co-chair of the American Internationalism Project, an important new effort from AEI’s Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies. The Project’s focus will be to rebuild and reshape a bipartisan consensus around American global leadership and engagement.

“Senator Joseph Lieberman’s knowledge, deep commitment and vision for American greatness is all too rare in Washington,” said AEI president Arthur C. Brooks. “The American Internationalism Project, under the leadership of Senator Lieberman and Senator Jon Kyl, is critical to opening a discussion about the challenges facing America in the coming decades–and strategizing about how to meet them.”

Survey says: War On Iran! By the way, the New Republic‘s Jonathan Chait wins the prediction sweepstakes on JoeLie, even though he hedged his bet more than two years ago, with a corresponding ‘liberal version’ of his guess about Rape Gurney Joe‘s future:

I’m guessing he has a sinecure at a foundation or think-tank dedicated to promoting hawkish foreign policy or centrism. The right-wing version of this career plan would be an AEI fellowship where he will produce a book and a series of op-eds on the theme I Did Not Leave The Democratic Party, The Democratic Party Left Me. The left-wing version is a Brookings fellowship consisting largely of providing quotes to the mainstream media bemoaning the decline of bipartisanship, punctuated by service on a large number of blue ribbon panels. Or, again, possibly some kind of foreign policy-centered think-tank.

On to Cosmopolitan nude model and short-time Senator Scott Brown. Unsurprisingly, he’s found work with Goldman Sachs’ law firm!

During his nearly three years in the U.S. Senate, Scott Brown (R-MA) frequently came to the aid of the financial sector — watering down the Dodd-Frank bill and working to weaken it after its passage — and accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from the industry. Now, the man Forbes Magazine called one of “Wall Street’s Favorite Congressmen” will use those connections as counsel for Nixon Peabody, an international law and lobbying firm.

The Boston Globe noted Monday that while Brown himself will not be a lobbyist — Senators may not lobby their former colleagues for the first two years after leaving office, under the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 — “he will be leaning heavily on his Washington contacts to drum up business for the firm.” The position will also allow him “to begin cashing in on his contacts with the financial services industry, which he helped oversee in the Senate.”

Among the lobbying clients represented by Nixon Peabody is Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street behemoth that reportedly skirted the Dodd-Frank rules . Brown received $10,000 in PAC contributions from Goldman and more than $100,000 in contributions from its employees.

I wonder if he’ll find mates for his daughters among the equity partners at the firm.

Child’s Testicle Crusher John Yoo to Rand Paul: Leave Barack Obama Alone!

By: Teddy Partridge Thursday March 7, 2013 1:54 pm

John Yoo, Berkeley Professor and endorser of the presidential power to crush a child’s testicles, thinks Rand Paul has gone too far in his libertarian criticism of Barack Obama and John Brennan, now confirmed as CIA Director.

John Yoo, the author of the Bush administration legal memos justifying the use of torture, thinks President Obama is really getting too much grief over targeted killing. And he wants Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—who filibustered Obama’s nominee to head the CIA for 13 hours on Wednesday—to lay off.

Especially enjoyable, after seeing Lawrence O’Donnell denounce the Brennan talking filibuster as a stunt, is John Yoo’s characterization of the Rand Paul Senate floor action:

Referring to Paul’s marathon filibuster, an attempt to force the Obama administration to clarify its views on the use of military force against terror suspects in the United States, Yoo said “It sort of reminds me of young kids when they first read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged and they suddenly think that federal taxation equals slavery and they’re not going to pay any federal taxes anymore.”

For more in the ‘strange bedfellows’ department, we have the once-tortured John McCain denouncing the filibuster as well:

McCain, a staunch foreign policy hawk, said Thursday that Paul’s warnings that the U.S. could target “Jane Fonda” or “people in cafes” bring the debate into the “realm of the ridiculous.”

“If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids,” McCain said, adding: “I don’t think what happened yesterday is helpful to the American people.”

But the best reaction to Rand Paul’s filibuster has come from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-Closet):

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) echoed these criticisms, adding that he was “disappointed” in the 13 Republican Senators who supported Paul’s filibuster last night.

Graham later told reporters that he will vote to confirm Brennan as a result of the filibuster.

There are strange bedfellows supporting Rand Paul today, while making sure everyone knows it’s on this one single issue only. But his denouncers are shaping up to be an odd bunch as well.

Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA) Asks Obama to File Amicus Brief in Prop 8 Case Before SCOTUS

By: Teddy Partridge Tuesday February 26, 2013 5:23 pm

Openly gay congressman Mark Takano, Democrat of California, whose family has some basic understanding of discrimination as outlined in his letter below, called on President Obama to file a brief as a Friend of the Court in the Prop 8 case now being considered by the Supreme Court.

There’s a big difference between saying your government won’t enforce the parts of the Defense of Marriage Act you consider unconstitutional and, on the other hand, saying you oppose discriminatory amendments that divide us as Americans against one another. Coming out on the right side of the Prop 8 case shows an affirmative stand in favor of our relationships, not simply a president who is opposed to people ganging up on others.

It would make a tremendous difference for the president to show courage, or even to advocate fiercely, on this subject. He still has time, and Congressman Takano has given him some very important ideas to think about.

February 25, 2013

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As the Member of Congress representing California’s 41st Congressional District, I thank you for filing a brief on behalf of the United States in United States v. Windsor and urge you to file an amicus brief for the United States in Hollingsworth v. Perry.

I have a unique perspective on the discrimination and harm occasioned by prejudice. During World War II, the United States Government removed all four of my grandparents, along with my parents, from their respective homes and sent them to Japanese American Internment camps. After the war, my family settled in Riverside County and rebuilt their lives. Despite the injustice they suffered, my parents raised my brothers and me to believe in the promise of America, that all of us are equal under the law.

In addition to being Japanese-American, I am proudly and openly gay. My road to Congress was not an easy one. When I ran for Congress in 1994, my LGBT status was a detriment to my efforts. Four years ago, 64.3% of Riverside County, where my District is located, voted for Proposition 8. But this past November, I ran again as a candidate for Congress, and the people of Riverside overwhelmingly elected me.

I am the first and only openly LGBT member of California’s 55-member Congressional Delegation and the first and only openly LGBT person of color to serve in either House. Despite the progress we have made and the historic significance of my election, there remains much to do before LGBT Americans achieve the promise of America.

My district includes thousands of loving gay and lesbian couples, who are not able to marry due to Proposition 8. They are our families, our friends and neighbors. They are doctors and veterans, teachers, gardeners, firefighters and police officers. They are Americans. Every day that they cannot enjoy the same rights and obligations enjoy by other Americans, they and their families suffer.

On behalf of my constituents and myself, I am grateful for the brief in Windsor and the United States’ position that heightened scrutiny should apply under the United States Constitution to all laws that classify individuals based on whether they are gay or lesbian.

I strongly and respectfully ask that the United States provide an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in Perry to explain how heightened scrutiny, the standard that the United States urges be applied to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, to Proposition 8. A brief by the United States will assist the Supreme Court to see that Proposition 8 fails heightened scrutiny and does not further any proper governmental objectives.

It is critical that the Supreme Court find Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional. It is time for marriage equality. And although Federal law provides numerous protections for married couples, most of the LGBT couples in California and their families may not be able to enjoy the benefits of those protections even when DOMA is found unconstitutional unless they are able to marry.

Thank you Mr. President.


Mark Takano

Member of Congress

Laura Bush Gets Marriage Equality Ad Dropped Completely

By: Teddy Partridge Saturday February 23, 2013 4:57 pm

Complete and utter cowardice on display here from the marriage equality advocates among Big Gay Inc. First of all, Respect for Marriage Coalition chose war criminals, and Laura Bush, to demonstrate the broad acceptability of marriage equality in America.

Not a good idea to include war criminals, first of all. No one cares what Colin Powell and Dick Cheney think. They aren’t going to bring the majority of Americans in to the marriage equality mainstream; they are followers, not leaders. And they should be consulting with their war criminal defense attorneys, not being used to illustrate the broad acceptance of marriage equality in America.

But not getting the permission of the people whose images are used in the ad? Priceless.

The former first lady, along with Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and President Obama, was featured in a new commercial from the Respect for Marriage Coalition. The ad was supposed to run for weeks, but Bush asked to be removed, and the group quickly agreed: Instead of editing her out of the 30-second spot, which has aired on CNN and MSNBC, they’ll stop running it altogether after Friday, a coalition spokesperson told us.

Oh, did we tread on the former First Lady’s toes? Oh, pardon us, that must have offended AFER fundraisers like Ken Mehlman. Let’s drop the ad completely and pretend it never happened.

Courage. And while you’re at it, please leave the ad on the Respect for Marriage website, along with the press release announcing it, as if nothing has changed.

The right thing to do would have been to challenge the First Lady’s request to have her image removed: “Oh did you not mean you supported full legal equality and recognition for same-sex couples? Because that’s what it sounded like you said to Larry King. But maybe you could clarify your views for us, please?”

Instead, the entire ad campaign is dropped. Without any explanation, except to The Reliable Source at the Washington Post, as if it’s a gossip-columnist item. This ad was a serious stumble by a coalition of organizations dedicated to making marriage the central LGBT issue of our time: they spent donor money making the ad, and they haven’t accounted for their choice of “leaders” in it, or their decision to end the ad’s run.

If you’re going to pre-empt every other LGBT issue, as marriage has done to fair employment and housing laws, you need to tread carefully and act transparently. Time for some explanations from the Coalition, and its chairs, Freedom to Marry and the Human Rights Campaign.

AP Backs Down, Will Acknowledge Legal Marriages with “Husband” and “Wife”

By: Teddy Partridge Thursday February 21, 2013 12:06 pm

wedding rings

The Associated Press, only two months after from the announcement that the word “homophobia” did not meet their style guidelines, decided last week to be homophobic. Their guidelines would now no longer permit the use of “husband” or “wife” for persons in legal marriages when the partner was same-sex.

GLAAD summarizes the AP position:

GLAAD reached out to the Associated Press today for clarification on a memo reportedly circulated today that appears to instruct writers to use different vocabulary to describe legally married same-sex couples than they would use to describe opposite-sex couples.

This morning, journalist and media reporter Jim Romenesko posted this item, regarding an internal memo from the Associated Press that covered how they choose to refer to a same-sex couple that is married:

SAME-SEX COUPLES: We were asked how to report about same-sex couples who call themselves “husband” and “wife.” Our view is that such terms may be used in AP stories with attribution. Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.

Later, AP spokespeople told Romenesko that the memo had been revised and reissued, and that this was the correct version:

SAME-SEX COUPLES: We were asked how to report about same-sex couples who call themselves “husband” and “wife.” Our view is that such terms may be used in AP content if those involved have regularly used those terms (“Smith is survived by his husband, John Jones”) or in quotes attributed to them. Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.

The ensuing protest included an effort by one physician in the Central Valley of California to organize couples to write to the AP one at a time to advise that “we regularly use these terms.” Now, though, the AP has backed down. The AP will use the term “husband” to apply to a male partner in any legal marriage and the term “wife” to apply to the female partner in any legal marriage, regardless of the gender of the partner.

Another small step for equality.

The Associated Press stated Thursday that “husband” and “wife” are “acceptable in all references” to same-sex married couples, reversing an internal style guidance initially publicized by Jim Romenesko this past week.

In a news release Thursday, the AP states, “The following entry was added today to the AP Stylebook Online and also will appear in the new print edition and Stylebook Mobile, published in the spring.” This is the new entry:

husband, wife: Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested.

The style guidance issued this past week had said the terms “husband” or “wife” could only could be used with same-sex married couples “if those involved have regularly used those terms … or in quotes attributed to them.” Instead, the guidance continued, “Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.”

Nice to see the AP agree that the legal marriages in the nine states (and DC) that permit them aren’t any different with regard to how the partners’ titles should be reported. What a silly unforced error by AP!