Tag: LGBT rights

ENDORSEMENT: Tammy Duckworth for U.S. Senate in Illinois

With U.S. Representative Robin Kelly of the 2nd Congressional District of Illinois declining to run for U.S. Senate, I am now endorsing Tammy Duckworth for the U.S. Senate seat that is currently held by right-wing Republican Mark Kirk.

Prior to being elected to the U.S. House, Duckworth served our country in the Illinois Army National Guard, losing both of her legs when a Black Hawk helicopter that she was co-piloting over Iraq in 2004 was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and shot down. Duckworth has served the people of the 8th Congressional District of our state, located in the western Chicago suburbs, with honor, having supported background checks on gun sales, supported reproductive rights, supported raising the minimum wage, and, best of all, sharply criticized a federal contractor for falsely claiming that he was a service-disabled veteran.

Duckworth currently has one primary opponent that I know of, Andrea Zopp. While Duckworth isn’t exactly an Illinois progressive’s dream candidate, Zopp represents most of what is wrong with Illinois politics. First off, Zopp has the backing of Bill Daley, who was a member of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s transition team prior to Rauner being sworn into office. As an appointed member of the Chicago school board, Zopp voted for Rahm Emanuel’s plan to close dozens of Chicago’s public schools. That means that Zopp is aligned with three of the most odious people in Illinois politics: Bill Daley, Rahm Emanuel, and Bruce Rauner. Additionally, State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmor) is considering running against Duckworth and Zopp. However, Harris refused to vote for the Illinois marriage equality bill, meaning that LGBT Illinoisans can’t trust Harris to fight for and protect their rights.

I encourage my fellow Illinois Democrats to cast a Democratic primary ballot for Tammy Duckworth next year.

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Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum wants to make income inequality even worse

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) announced yet another bid for the Republican presidential nomination earlier today. This time, he’s trying to appeal to working-class voters, saying that “working families don’t need another president tied to big government or big money”.

However, Rick Santorum is not a real champion of the working class.

For starters, Santorum has a long history of taking far-right positions and making offensive remarks on various issues, especially on social issues like abortion and marriage equality. For example, Santorum has staunchly opposed marriage equality, going as far as to claim that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to people marrying dogs, which is absolutely false and absurd. On LGBT rights in general, Santorum has claimed that the Boy Scouts allowing openly gay people to join the Scouts would “murder” the organization, another absolutely false and absurd claim. On abortion and reproductive rights, Santorum has staunchly opposed the idea that women should be able to make their own decisions about their reproductive health, going as far as to say that survivors of rape who get pregnant via rape should “accept what God has given”, effectively saying that he thinks that women should be forced to carry an unwanted fetus to term.

When it comes to economic issues, Santorum’s “appeal” to working-class Americans is phonier than a $3 bill. For starters, Santorum supports eliminating the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and instituting a flat federal income tax rate. I have two things to say about this ridiculous idea. First, a flat income tax would make income inequality, already a serious problem in this country, even worse, because the wealthiest Americans would receive most, if not all, of the tax cuts from a flat income tax. Second, who the hell would be responsible for collecting taxes if the IRS were eliminated?

Rick Santorum is a phony and a far-right crackpot who would make an absolutely horrible president.

Bhuaigh Comhionannas!

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The title of this diary is in the Irish language; the English translation of the title is “Equality wins!”. I am providing an American English language version and an Irish language translation of my article. The translations are courtesy of Google Translate, because I have no actual working knowledge of the Irish language.

NÓTA AN ÚDAIR: Is é an teideal an dialann i nGaeilge; Is é an leagan Béarla-theanga an teideal “Equality Wins!” Tá mé ag soláthar leagan Meiriceánach Béarla agus aistriúchán Gaeilge de mo earra. Is iad na haistriúcháin caoinchead Google Translate, toisc go bhfuil mé aon eolas ag obair iarbhír ar an nGaeilge.


A strong majority of voters in the Republic of Ireland have voted to ratify an amendment to the Irish Constitution that will allow gay and lesbian couples to enjoy the same right to marry that heterosexual couples currently enjoy. With all 43 Dáil (lower house of the Oireachtas, the Irish national legislature) constituencies having counted votes, there were a total of 1,935,907 valid votes cast in the marriage equality referendum. Of those valid votes, 1,201,607 votes were cast in favor of marriage equality, and 734,300 votes were cast in opposition to marriage equality. Rounded to the nearest hundredths of a percent, 62.07% votes were cast in favor of marriage equality, and 37.93% of votes were cast in opposition to marriage equality. As only a simple majority is required to ratify an amendment, marriage equality is officially law of the land in the Republic of Ireland.

This is an historic victory for supporters of equality for two major reasons. First, the Republic of Ireland will now and forever be known as the first sovereign country to approve marriage equality in a public referendum. Second, the Republic of Ireland is an historic stronghold of the Catholic Church, which has aggressively defended discrimination against gay and lesbian couples and has strongly opposed all efforts around the world to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Irish voters have bravely stood up to the Catholic Church and other supporters of discrimination by voting to ratify the marriage equality amendment. Love has won in Ireland!


Tromlach láidir na vótálaithe i bPoblacht na hÉireann tar éis vótáil leasú ar Bhunreacht na hÉireann a chuirfidh ar chumas lánúineacha aeracha agus leispiacha chun taitneamh a bhaint as an ceart céanna chun pósadh go taitneamh a bhaint as lánúineacha heitrighnéasacha láthair a dhaingniú. Le gach 43 Dála (teach íochtarach an Oireachtais, na hÉireann náisiúnta reachtas) dáilcheantair a bhfuil vótaí a chomhaireamh, bhí iomlán de 1,935,907 vótaí bailí a caitheadh sa reifreann chomhionannais pósadh. As na vótaí bailí, bhí a caitheadh 1,201,607 vóta i bhfabhar comhionannas pósadh, agus cuireadh chaith 734,300 vóta ina gcoinne comhionannas pósadh. Slánaithe go dtí na chéadú gaire de faoin gcéad, bhí chaith 62.07% vóta i bhfabhar an chomhionannais pósadh, agus bhí 37.93% de na vótaí arna gcaitheamh i gcoinne comhionannas pósadh. Toisc go bhfuil ach tromlach simplí de dhíth leasú a dhaingniú, tá comhionannas pósadh hoifigiúil dlí ar an talamh i bPoblacht na hÉireann.

Is é seo an bua stairiúil do lucht tacaíochta an chomhionannais ar dhá chúis mhóra. Gcéad dul síos, beidh an Phoblacht na hÉireann anois agus go deo ar a dtabharfar an chéad tír ceannasach chun comhionannas pósadh cheadú i reifreann poiblí. Dara, is é an Phoblacht na hÉireann ina dhaingean stairiúil an Eaglais Chaitliceach, a bhfuil a chosaint aggressively idirdhealú in aghaidh lánúineacha aeracha agus leispiacha agus tá láidir i gcoinne gach iarracht ar fud an domhain chun ligean lánúineacha aeracha agus leispiacha chun pósadh.

Vótálaithe na hÉireann a sheas cróga suas go dtí an Eaglais Chaitliceach agus lucht tacaíochta eile idirdhealaithe ag vótáil an leasú chomhionannais pósadh a dhaingniú. Grá bhuaigh in Éirinn!

Refusing to provide a certain type of product is not the same thing as refusing to serve customers because of who they are

In the wake of Republican-controlled state governments in Indiana and Arkansas passing religious discrimination laws, right-wing bible-thumpers have tried to frame small businesses who refuse to bake cakes containing messaging that LGBT people would find highly offensive. The bible-thumpers are doing this by trying to order a cake containing anti-LGBT messaging and, when the business refuses to make such a cake for them, claiming that the business is discriminating against them.

Azucar Bakery, a Denver, Colorado small business that makes cakes and Peruvian-style desserts, was the target of a bogus legal complaint for refusing to make a cake that contained offensive anti-LGBT messaging. Bill Jack, an anti-LGBT bigot from Castle Rock, Colorado, tried to order a cake from Azucar Bakery that featured icing depicting two groomsmen with a red “X” over them and messages claiming that homosexuality is a sin. Marjorie Silva, the owner of Azucar Bakery, refused to write the messages that Jack wanted on his cake, and Silva offered to bake a cake that contained no messages whatsoever and give Jack a pastry bag and icing so that he could decorate the cake with bigotry himself. Jack filed a state civil rights complaint against Silva and Azucar Bakery, and the Colorado Civil Rights Division rejected Jack’s complaint, ruling that Silva and Azucar Bakery did not discriminate against Jack. Azucar Bakery is selling t-shirts with anti-hate messages printed on them; you can buy the t-shirts here.

Cut the Cake Bakery, a Longwood, Florida small business that also makes cakes, has been subjected to threats and negative online reviews for refusing to provide bigoted televangelist Joshua Feuerstein with a cake decorated with anti-LGBT messaging. After Feuerstein uploaded a video of his phone call with Cut the Cake Bakery to YouTube, Feuerstein’s bigoted followers posted negative reviews of Cut the Cake Bakery online and left phone messages threatening the owner of the business, Sharon Haller. Cyndol Knarr, Haller’s daughter, has launched a GoFundMe campaign to support Cut the Cake Bakery; you can donate to that campaign here.

What the bible-thumping bigots in this country don’t understand is that refusing to provide a certain type of product, in this case, cakes decorated with hateful messages that gays, lesbians, bisexual people, and transgender people would find highly offensive, is not discrimination, so as long as their policy to not provide certain types of products is applied equally to all customers. What is discrimination is when a business refuses to serve customers because of who they are, such as the Walkerton, Indiana-based pizza parlor Memories Pizza publicly refusing to cater to the weddings of same-sex couples because the people who are getting married are of the same gender. Business owners have the right to refuse to manufacture and/or sell a product that they don’t want to provide to anybody, whether it be because the product in question conflicts with their values or otherwise.

I strongly oppose this effort by right-wing hate mongerers to frame small businesses who are unwilling to sell anything with bigotry and hate speech on it.

Martha Laning: The Corporate Candidate for Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson

It’s official: Martha Laning, who we last saw running unsuccessfully for a seat in the Wisconsin State Senate and running television ads claiming that far-right Republicans, who have, over the past few years, implemented a destructive agenda that has hurt Wisconsin’s economy and reputation, have “good ideas”, is running for state party chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW). Additionally, political fundraiser Mary Lang Sollinger officially dropped out of the race for DPW Chair on the same day Laning entered the race.

Since not long after current DPW Chairman Mike Tate decided not to run for re-election after leaving the DPW in shambles after six years of his failed leadership, Jason Rae, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) member, has been the insider candidate for DPW Chair. Now, Martha Laning is the corporate candidate for DPW Chair.

Laning has only recently entered the race for DPW Chair, but she’s already made a noticeable campaign blunder. Laning unveiled a campaign website that includes a “Why I’m Running” page riddled with grammar errors, such as failing to properly capitalize the first letters in the words “Democratic Party” more than once, referring to northern Wisconsin as “the north woods” instead of “the Northwoods”, and using the past tense verb “needed” to refer to elections that are scheduled to take place in the future. Additionally, the “Values” page of her campaign website also includes grammar errors, including using the grammatically incorrect phrase “equality opportunity” when either “equality and opportunity” or “equal opportunity” would be grammatically correct. I find it shocking that someone who was a business executive prior to entering politics would make repeated grammar errors on a campaign website for a state Democratic Party leadership post.

Regarding some of the promises that Laning has already made as a DPW Chair candidate, I do like a couple of ideas that Laning has, including expanding the geographical distribution of DPW staffers across the state, instead of having most or all of the party’s staffers in one city, and supporting year-round DPW offices, something that at least one other DPW Chair candidate, Jeff Smith, also supports. However, there are some terrible ideas that Laning has. One of Laning’s terrible ideas is to deepen the DPW’s relationships with partner organizations, and Laning cited Wisconsin Progress and Fair Wisconsin as two organizations that she wants the DPW to work more closely with. While I know very little about Wisconsin Progress, outside of the fact that they’re an organization that trains Democratic candidates to run for public office in Wisconsin, the fact that Laning wants the DPW to be more closely tied to Fair Wisconsin sets off alarm bells to any progressive who has followed Wisconsin politics for the past few years. While Fair Wisconsin is a pro-LGBT rights organization, and LGBT rights are supported by nearly all Wisconsin Democrats, Fair Wisconsin has received a lot of its funding from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who has implemented a right-wing corporate agenda as the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county. Among the things that Abele has done as Milwaukee County Executive include vetoing nearly every item of progressive legislation that the progressive-controlled Milwaukee County Board has passed, strongly opposing worker’s rights, publicly opposing efforts to put a non-binding referendum on the Milwaukee County ballot calling for a federal constitutional amendment to get rid of the undue influence of money in politics, and attempting to convince the Republicans who control the Wisconsin State Legislature to prevent counties from passing living wage ordinances. The fact that Laning wants the DPW to partner with an organization that is funded heavily by someone like Chris Abele indicates to me that Laning is not one bit serious about moving the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in a more progressive direction.

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Supreme Court to hear cases that could bring marriage equality to entire country

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a group of cases that could legalize same-sex marriage in the entire country. The consolidation cases are from the 6th Circuit Court of Federal Appeals, which ruled against marriage equality last year:

The Supreme Court has just granted certiorari — i.e. agreed to hear oral arguments — in the Sixth Circuit marriage cases. They were consolidated.

This means that the question of whether or not the United States Constitution protects the freedom of same-sex couples to marry is likely to be decided by the end of June.

It will be only a matter of months before the fate of marriage equality in this country will be decided by our nation’s highest court. Marriage equality supporters need at least one of the five conservative justices on the bench to side with all four of the liberal justices in a ruling declaring bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional in order for marriage equality to become law of the land nationwide.

Vladimir Putin ally Dmitry Medvedev signs discriminatory measure banning transgender people from driving in Russia

In cased you missed it, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, signed into law a legal amendment banning, among other groups of people, transgender Russians from driving in the country:

Transgender people have been banned from driving in Russia, according to a new legal amendment published this week.

The regulations, which affect people deemed to have “sexual disorders”, also affect fetishists, voyeurs, exhibitionists and transvestites, and were immediately condemned by human rights activists as discriminatory.

The amendment to the law listing medical impediments to driving was signed by prime minister Dmitry Medvedev at the end of last year, but only published this week.

(editing to correct a grammar error mine)

This act by the far-right government in Russia discriminates against transgender Russians and many other Russians based on their gender identity and sex life. There is no scientific basis whatsoever to ban people from driving based on their gender identity and sex life, yet the far-right Russia government is doubling down on their bigotry by trying to blame transgender people for the country’s high rate of automobile crashes:

The Russian government says the new rules are to help cut down on the number of car accidents. Although most of the provisions refer to physical impairments, such as blindness, “gender identity disorders” including transsexualism and dual-role transvestism are referenced in the revised provisions. Sadomasochism and exhibitionism are included as well, according to BuzzFeed’s J. Lester Feder and Susie Armitage.

(editing to correct a grammar error mine)

While I can understand banning blind people from driving, as that is a legitimate reason to ban someone from driving, banning transgender people and others based on their gender identity and sex life is absolutely absurd and blatantly discriminatory. Instead of enacting new regulations to make automobiles safer, making roads and highways safer, expanding public transit, and other measures to actually make Russian roadways safer, the far-right Russian government blames transgender people for the country’s high rate of automobile crashes. That logic is absurd and bigoted.

I thank Meg Gorski, a progressive political blogger here in the United States, for bringing this discriminatory measure by the Russian government to my attention.

The last progressive victory of 2014: Far-right Obama judicial nominee Michael Boggs will NOT be confirmed or re-nominated

Michael Boggs, a former right-wing Democratic Georgia State Representative (yes, there used to be right-wing Democrats in office in Georgia and other Southern states), will not be confirmed by the U.S. Senate and will not be re-nominated by President Barack Obama to a lifetime term to a federal judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

While this isn’t a pretty victory by any stretch of the imagination, since there’s still a large number of federal judicial vacancies, this is a progressive victory because Boggs would have been a rubber stamp for the Republicans’ far-right agenda had he been confirmed as a federal judge.

When Boggs ran for and won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, Boggs campaigned as an ultra-conservative, supporting the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda, the Confederate flag, and school prayer and opposing openly-gay Boy Scout leaders, reproductive rights, and marriage equality. During his 2000 campaign, Boggs’s campaign distributed this flyer touting his pro-discrimination and anti-equality views on social issues and stating that he was running as a Democrat simply to get a committee chairmanship and advance far-right legislation (at the time, Democrats controlled the Georgia House of Representatives). More importantly, as a Georgia State Representative, Boggs built up a right-wing, pro-discrimination, and anti-equality voting record that is far out of line with what is expected of Democrats of today’s Democratic Party.

Michael Boggs’s bid to be a federal judge is, at least for the next two years, is over, and this is the last progressive victory in 2014. While I expect very few progressive victories in 2015, given that Republicans will have increased power in Congress and in numerous state governments, I hope that us progressives score some victories, and I wish everyone a safe and happy New Year.

Four Minnesota newspapers publish full-page ad calling for transgender people to be banned from playing sports

An anti-transgender group called the Child Protection League (CPL) paid for a full-page ad in four Minnesota newspapers calling for the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), the governing body of high school sports in Minnesota, to reject a proposal to allow transgender athletes to participate in high school sports in Minnesota and ban transgender athletes from participating in Minnesota high school sports.

The ad ran in Duluth, Mankato, St. Cloud, and Winona newspapers covering parts of northeastern, central, south central, and southeastern Minnesota.

These ads amount to anti-transgender bigotry, right-wing fearmongering, and hate speech being published in Minnesota newspapers. Unlike the anti-transgender bigots, I firmly believe that transgender people should be allowed to play in sports with athletes of the same gender identity (i.e., transgender people who identify as male should be allowed to play on boys’/men’s teams, and transgender people who identify as female should be allowed to play on girls’/women’s teams).

U.S. Supreme Court lists marriage equality cases for consideration at its next conference

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), which has five Republican-appointed judges and four Democratic-appointed judges, has formally listed seven marriage equality cases with cert petitions pending from five different states (three from Virginia and one each from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin) for consideration at its upcoming conference on September 29, the first such conference after SCOTUS’s summer recess began:

The U.S. Supreme Court has formally listed all marriage cases with cert petitions pending — Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Indiana — for consideration on September 29, at its very first conference after coming back from summer recess.

Kathleen Perrin, the legal eagle behind Equality Case Files, adds: “While this is an encouraging move, if the Court follows the pattern it followed last term, no case will be granted cert without being relisted at least once… For comparison, the (California) Prop 8 case was distributed to four conferences and (United States v.) Windsor to three before the Court granted cert in those cases.”

Indeed, the AP reports that the justices could put off deciding to take up a case until as late as January and still be able to hear arguments and issue a decision by the end of June.

The marriage equality cases that have been formally listed by SCOTUS are as follows: Herbert v. Kitchen (Utah), Smith v. Bishop (Oklahoma), Rainey v. Bostic (Virginia), Schaefer v. Bostic (Virginia), McQuigg v. Bostic (Virginia), Bogan v. Baskin (Indiana), and Walker v. Wolf (Wisconsin). SCOTUS could decide to take up the marriage equality cases at its next convention or at a later date.

I hope that the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling in favor of marriage equality for the entire country because same-sex couples deserve the same right to marry that heterosexual couples currently enjoy. Given that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) for violating the U.S. Constitution last year with Republican-appointed justice Anthony Kennedy joining Democratic-appointed justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer, those same five justices forming a majority opinion in favor of marriage equality is certainly a possible outcome.