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At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.

– President Obama, May 9, 2012

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April 16, 2012, 3:56 PM CET By Veronika Gulyas

The Budapest municipal court last week allowed Hungary’s annual Budapest gay march to take place at its original place and time, overruling the police in a decision that highlights continued controversy over gay rights in Hungary.

  • AFP/Getty Images
  • Members and sympathizers of a right-wing group at the 2011 Budapest Pride

The Hungarian arm of Amnesty International, civil rights group Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, and organizations of homosexual activists welcomed the court’s decision. The organization expect some 1,500 people to show up at the march on July 7.

Like in recent years, the police refused to grant permission for the Budapest Pride, saying the march would restrict commuters’ right to free movement. The court said, however, that traffic can be diverted from a road that otherwise frequently hosts marathons and bicycle rides.

Some organizations and a parliamentary opposition party in Hungary have said the march should be banned because it would set “a bad example” for children. Radical Jobbik party last week submitted an amended proposal of its original bill aimed at protecting “public morals and the mental health of the young generations” from homosexuality, transsexuality, transvestitism, bisexuality, and pedophilia, said MP Adam Mirkoczki, the bill’s proponent. The amendment seeks to outlaw “promotion of sexual deviations.” Several regions of Russia have similar legislation in place.

The governing Fidesz party last year passed a new constitution for Hungary, enacted on Jan. 1, defining marriage as “a relationship between a man and a woman.” The wording is identical to the Polish constitution of 1997. Polish conservative leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski referred to that definition of marriage in 2010 to claim that even same-sex civil unions, which the Polish ruling Civic Platform party has said it would consider introducing, would violate the constitution.

Though he does not officially support gay marriage, President Obama voiced opposition to a proposed anti-gay marriage ballot measure in Minnesota today.

Obama for America Minnesota Communications Director Kristin Sosanie said:

“While the President does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples.”

“That’s what the Minnesota ballot initiative would do – single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples – and the President does not support it.”

The proposed Minnesota marriage amendment reads simply, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.”

It’s the second time in as many months Obama has weighed in on the issue.

The Obama campaign in North Carolina issued a statement in March with the same language in opposition to Amendment One, which would also define marriage in the state’s constitution as between one man and one woman.

Just as in North Carolina, same-sex marriage is already banned by a statute in Minnesota. Unlike the North Carolina amendment, the Minnesota amendment does not mention civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Today’s news comes after White House press secretary Jay Carney stated that First Lady Michelle Obama – in referencing how Supreme Court decisions will impact whether people can “love whomever we choose” – was not commenting about marriage equality.

Her husband, though “evolving” in his views on marriage equality, technically opposed marriage equality and supported civil unions in his 2008 campaign.

April 9th, 2012 4:32 PM by Free Britney

Published: 26 minutes ago

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) – Chile’s Congress has passed an anti-discrimination law after the killing of a gay man whose attackers beat him and carved swastikas into his body.

The House of Deputies approved the measure in a close vote Wednesday, seven years after it was first proposed. The Senate passed the law in November.

President Sebastian Pinera had urged lawmakers to accelerate approval of the law after 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio died March 27. His death came 25 days after he was attacked, and his case set off a national debate about hate crimes in Chile.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called last week for Chile to pass new laws against hate crimes and discrimination after Zamudio’s death.

By Associated Press, Published: April 3

MONROVIA, Liberia — An anti-gay group in Liberia distributed fliers over the weekend with a hit list of people who support gay rights, and one member of the group threatened to “get to them one by one.”The fliers mark the latest development in an increasingly hostile national debate about gay rights in this country on Africa’s western coast.

Lawmakers in February introduced two new pieces of legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by possible jail time. And a vow by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last month to preserve an existing law criminalizing “voluntary sodomy” prompted a statement of concern from the U.S. State Department.

The fliers distributed over the weekend in parts of Liberia’s capital were signed by the Movement Against Gay’s in Liberia, or MOGAL. The group said those involved in promoting gay rights “should not be given space to get a gulp of air.”

“Having conducted a comprehensive investigation, we are convinced that the below listed individuals are gays or supporters of the club who don’t mean well for our country,” the fliers read. “Therefore, we have agreed to go after them using all means in life.”

No individual members of MOGAL signed the flier. But Moses Tapleh, a 28-year-old resident of the main community where the flier was distributed, said he was affiliated with the group and stressed that its threats should be taken seriously.

“We will get to them one by one,” Tapleh said. “They want to spoil our country.”

Asked what specific action might be taken against those on the list, he said they could be subjected to “dangerous punishments” including “flogging and death.”

A relative of one of those targeted, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the person on the list already had received threatening phone calls.

Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, said the emergence of the hit list should put pressure on Liberia’s president to take a stance in support of gay rights. Simply refusing to sign the new anti-gay laws, he said, was insufficient.

“She cannot sit on the fence when there’s this kind of provocation taking place. She needs to take a clear and unequivocal stance on this issue,” Reid said.

Robert Kpadeh, a deputy minister at the Ministry of Information, said the ministry had not heard about the fliers but that it would be open to receiving complaints.

The list includes two men who launched a campaign in January to legalize gay marriage, and who have since been subjected to protests by angry mobs and threats of violence.

That campaign began one month after the United States announced a new government-wide policy to push for the decriminalization of homosexuality overseas. As in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa where homosexuality remains a largely taboo topic, the announcement drew swift condemnation from Liberian officials and media outlets.

Liberian law currently does not explicitly address homosexuality. “Voluntary sodomy” is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison.

One of the two new bills would make same-sex sexual practice a second-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. The other anti-gay bill would make same-sex marriage a first-degree felony, with sentences ranging up to 10 years in prison. Both bills are being reviewed in committee.

The U.S. Embassy in Monrovia has kept quiet throughout Liberia’s gay rights debate. In an interview last week, David Bruce Wharton, deputy assistant secretary for public diplomacy in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, said by phone from Washington that the department was wary of being seen as “seeking to impose Western values on more conservative African societies.”

Homophobia is rife in many African countries. Last year, Nigeria’s Senate voted in favor of a bill that would criminalize gay marriage, gay advocacy groups and same-sex public displays of affection. A newly added portion of the bill levels 10 years in prison for those found guilty of organizing, operating or supporting gay clubs, organizations and meetings.

And in 2009, a Ugandan legislator introduced a bill that would impose the death penalty for some gays and lesbians. The bill was reintroduced earlier this year, though its author has said the death penalty provision will be dropped.

Even in South Africa, the only African nation to recognize gay marriage, gangs carry out so-called “corrective” rapes on lesbians.

The flier distributed in Liberia warned that the group would begin taking action shortly. “Let these individuals be aware that we are coming after them soon,” the flier reads. “We urge them to also begin saying their Lord’s prayers.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

POLITICO By JAKE SHERMAN and ANNA PALMER | 3/30/12 4:38 AM EDT
Just a few years ago, House Republicans were trying to etch their opposition of gay marriage into the Constitution.

Now? They’re almost silent.

It’s been one of the swiftest shifts in ideology and strategy for Republicans, as they’ve come nearly full circle on same-sex politics. What was once a front-and-center issue for rank-and-file Republicans — the subject of many hotly worded House and Senate floor speeches — is virtually a dead issue, as Republicans in Congress don’t care to have gay marriage litigated in the Capitol.

Even more than that, Republican leadership has evolved, too. It has quietly worked behind the scenes to kill amendments that reaffirm opposition to same-sex unions, several sources told POLITICO.

It’s not like the GOP has become a bastion of progressiveness on gay rights, but there has been an evolution in the political approach — and an acknowledgment of a cultural shift in the country. Same-sex relationships are more prominent and accepted. There are more gay public figures — including politicians — and it’s likely that many Washington Republicans have gay friends and coworkers. Just as important — there’s also a libertarian streak of acceptance on people’s sexuality coursing through the House Republican Conference.

“In one decade, what’s shocking on TV is accepted as commonplace in the other,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a veteran of the culture wars of the 1990s. “It’s the same with sexual mores all over that if you look at campuses and universities, they have a lot of gay pride clubs and so there has been a deliberate and effective outreach to the younger generation about being more accepting of same-sex relationships.”

But there’s also a political strategy at work: The economy has displaced moral issues in today’s politics. Ask most House Republicans today if they have deep convictions about gay relationships, and it hardly registers.

“I personally have deep convictions about my children having a financially stable country that they can live in,” Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said in an interview. “I want my daughters to have the opportunities that I had, and that’s what concerns me. That’s what keeps me up awake at night, not worrying about who’s sleeping with who.”

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), a 32-year veteran of Congress, never a man of many words, simply said, “I don’t hear it discussed much.”

Even die-hard social conservatives like Texas Republican Louie Gohmert aren’t digging in.

“That’s not something we’re focused on now,” Gohmert said.

Social issues haven’t fully escaped the party. They’ve worked vociferously to ensure the federal government doesn’t spend money on Planned Parenthood and talked for weeks about the contraception mandate and religious liberty.

But there’s no question that for Republicans, the politics of gay rights has dramatically changed. In 1994, lawmakers say, there was “sticker shock” when President Bill Clinton created “don’t ask, don’t tell” for the military. They dashed to the House floor to rail on what they perceived as his immorality.

“It’s been realized that back in ’94, you could jump up on the House floor and pound your chest about [gay issues], and secure a good voter intensity, which you can’t do anymore,” Kingston said, describing the shifting dynamics of the issue.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released earlier this month showed a 9 percent increase in support for gay marriage among Republicans to 31 percent. Support among 18-to-34-year-olds was nearly 70 percent, according to a 2011 Washington Post/ABC News poll.

The Senate also has undergone a shift. When Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) held the first hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act since it became law, few Republicans showed up and those who were there didn’t use it as an opportunity for fire-and-brimstone speeches on same-sex unions.

National party operatives have taken notice. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions all did fundraisers in the 2010 cycle with the national gay and lesbian GOP grass-roots organization, Log Cabin Republicans.

The group’s Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper said that while the three party leaders got flak for doing the events, they stood their ground.

“Twenty years ago they would have thrown us under the bus,” Cooper said. The group recently hosted a 40th birthday fundraiser for Priebus.

Even among the most conservative ranks there has been some softening. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) — who holds a 93 percent lifetime score with the American Conservative Union — recently attended a Log Cabin Republican meeting in Houston. Poe’s office said his “views on same-sex marriage have not changed, however, he found that there were plenty of things they did agree on and he really enjoyed listening to what they had to say.”

Even liberal champions of gay rights — like Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) see the political evolution.

“Republicans see an issue that was a good wedge issue no longer is and will be a losing issue in the future,” Nadler told POLITICO. “They can’t just walk away from it; their base will get mad at them. They’re slowly walking away from it because it’s an increasingly losing issue.”

At Third Way, the prominent centrist think tank has undertaken a bipartisan “Commitment Campaign” pushing gay marriage. The group has made it easier for lawmakers to shift views on the issue, laying out steps for elected officials to change their position.

Leadership, too, has played a role. At the top levels of House Republican leadership, aides have tried to “quell” legislative proposals on the sanctity of marriage.

It’s not that Republicans have completely given up on the issue.

Human Rights Campaign’s Michael Cole-Schwartz said that while there has been a shift, “the House Republican leadership has not been friendly to the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community.”

“Substantively there has not been a lot of progress getting made even if the rhetoric has toned down a bit,” Cole-Schwartz said.

Much to the chagrin of many Democrats, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is spending millions of dollars on defending DOMA. But gay-rights activists said the decision to keep it in the court and not force a floor vote was illustrative of GOP leadership’s feelings on the issue.

“A lot of moderate Democrats would be scared to vote on DOMA,” Third Way’s Lanae Erickson said. “There was no question House Republicans were going to defend DOMA … but they made it as low profile as humanly possible.”

Some members have tried to introduce bills to cut back on same-sex rights, but they’ve been few and far between.

The House passed an amendment that prohibited chaplains from performing same-sex marriages on Navy bases. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) introduced the Marriage Protection Act of 2011, which banned federal courts from hearing same-sex marriage cases, instead kicking them to states. But even he said he didn’t expect anything to be done at the federal level.

”I still feel very strongly about that because I think it has a great deal to do with the stability of the whole country,” Burton said. “I don’t know that people’s opinions have changed that much, but what I think has happened is that people realize the dire straits this country has been in and they think we better deal with that before we get back to the social issues.”

Most Republicans maintain that the commitment is still there — but the time is not right.

“I don’t think there is any less commitment on the part of conservatives and Republicans to protect traditional America values,” said Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee. “I think that’s still strong, but I also understand that a lot of families across the [country] are very nervous and concerned about our fiscal and economic situation.”

Then there are those Republicans who have been fighting for gay rights for decades — people like Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Ros-Lehtinen, who has a transgender son named Rodrigo, was the first Republican to co-sponsor the repeal of DOMA.

“Also,” she wrote in an email to POLITICO, “the younger generation is not as fixated on many social issues, as important as they are to other folks. Marriage equality is an issue that is evolving in people’s minds and hearts. As with many controversial issues, the passage of time makes us more comfortable with change.”

FORBES 3/15/2012

Santorum Promises Broad War on Porn

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

You had better not be watching what Rick Santorum thinks you’re watching. (Image via Wikipedia)

The Daily Caller flags a little-discussed position paper on Rick Santorum’s campaign website—his pledge to aggressively prosecute those who produce and distribute pornography. Santorum avers that “America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography.” He pledges to use the resources of the Department of Justice to fight that “pandemic,” by bringing obscenity prosecutions against pornographers.

I would note that this is very different from what the Bush Administration did. The Bush DOJ did establish an Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in 2005, but this body focused on bringing prosecutions against small-time producers who made porn with extreme content. (Even so, it faced significant pushbackfrom U.S. Attorneys, some of whom viewed such prosecutions as a distraction and a misuse of resources.) Many social conservative groups were disappointed with the task force, contending that more mainstream hardcore porn violates obscenity laws, and they urged the Bush Administration to bring obscenity cases against major producers.

Some of Santorum’s defenders have taken the tack of separating his personal views from his policy views. Santorum thinks contraception is “not OK” and he has announced his intention to use the bully pulpit to discuss “the dangers of contraception.” But he doesn’t think contraception should be illegal, and he voted for Title X contraception subsidies (though he said in a recent debate that he opposes Title X, despite voting for it.) On pornography, though, Santorum’s views can’t be written off as purely personal—he has stated a clear intent to use the levers of government to stop adults from making and watching porn.