Entries Tagged as 'Civil Rights'

Lone Star Republic

Some times I think the one star on the Texas flag is more representative of the IQ of the average Texan than anything else… clearly though the State of Texas seems to miss the point about separation of church and state.

Last March the Texas Board of Education removed Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum of Texas schools and substituted John Calvin and Sir William Blackstone in his place to put a religious spin on the ideology of the found of this country (and many other revolutions around the world) rather than teach about Jefferson — the man who coined the phrase “separation between church and state.”

Now the State of Texas has judged many text books to have a pro-Islamic / anti-Christian tone.

Freedom of religion and freedom from religion are the fundamentals that this country was founded on; however, the Christian right understands how fragile their belief system is, and cannot take any risks that allowing individuals access to information that might enlighten their thinking and question the mis-guided beleifs the Christian right bases their bigotry and hatred on might defuse their strangle hold on backwards locations.

The really alarming aspect of the Texas Board of Education rulings is that with 4.7 million students subject to their regulations and rules text book publishers pay attention to their demands and thus Texas view points find their way into classrooms throughout the county.

It is a travesty to allow religion to be promoted in the public school system any place in this country.

Originally posted 2010-09-27 02:00:17.

Proposition 8 – aka The Mormon Proposition

Two Ideological Foes Unite to Overturn Proposition 8
By Jesse McKinley
Published: January 10, 2010; The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — The last time David Boies and Theodore B. Olson  battled in a courtroom, the presidency hung in the balance as they represented opposite sides arguing the fate of the 2000 election.

So Mr. Boies, who worked for Al Gore  in the 2000 case, says he has some perspective on their latest fight. It finds him and Mr. Olson, one of the nation’s most prominent conservative litigators, working together in an attempt to overturn Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot measure that outlawed same-sex marriage.

“About nine years ago, people accused me of losing the whole country,” said Mr. Boies, a Democrat. “But this time, Ted and I are together.”

Opening statements were expected Monday in Federal District Court in San Francisco, in a case that is being anxiously watched by gay rights groups and supporters of traditional marriage nationwide.

“It’s not just a trial of gay marriage,” said Maggie Gallagher, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, a backer of Proposition 8 and other measures to forbid same-sex marriage nationwide. “It’s a trial of the majority of the American people.”

The case comes at a time when gay groups have suffered several setbacks, including the defeat of same-sex marriage legislation in New York and New Jersey and a vote last fall that overturned such unions in Maine. Efforts to overturn Proposition 8 with another ballot measure in California also face uncertain prospects, with most major groups having decided to wait until at least 2012 to go back to the voters.

All of which has heightened expectations for the Boies and Olson case, filed in the spring after the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, which passed with 52 percent of the vote after a bruising and costly campaign.

Groups advocating equal rights for gay people were planning to rally in front of the courthouse here on Monday morning, and officials were expecting large crowds in the courtroom and in a separate viewing room. Live video and audio were to be piped into federal courthouses in California, New York, Oregon and Washington.

In addition, under a decision last week by Judge Vaughn R. Walker, the district court’s chief judge, who is hearing the case, the trial was to be videotaped and distributed online. Supporters of Proposition 8 have objected to that, and they appealed to the United States Supreme Court on Saturday to keep cameras out of the courtroom.

“The record is already replete with evidence showing that any publicizing of support for Prop. 8 has inevitably led to harassment, economic reprisal, threats and even physical violence,” Charles J. Cooper, the lead counsel for the defense, wrote in a brief to the court. “In this atmosphere, witnesses are understandably quite distressed at the prospect of their testimony being broadcast worldwide.”

Indeed, several of the figures who helped pass Proposition 8 are expected to be called to testify under oath, something that gay rights advocates hope will play in their favor.

“It has the potential to be an extraordinarily powerful teaching moment because it’s going to be televised,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, senior counsel and national marriage project director with the gay civil rights group Lambda Legal in Los Angeles. “This is usually just bandied about on attack TV shows. But this promises to be a serious examination of the arguments in a trial setting, with evidence and cross-examination.”

During the trial, which is expected to last three weeks, Mr. Olson and Mr. Boies plan to argue that Proposition 8 violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection and due process.

“The biggest challenge with any of the judges we’ll face is simply to get them to focus on the law and the facts and not on the inertia of history,” Mr. Boies said. “I think the only real argument that the other side has is, ‘This is the way its always been.’ ”

But supporters of Proposition 8 say that California voters were well within their rights to establish marriage as between a man and a woman, as voters in more than two dozen other states have done.

“There are very sound public policy reasons to define marriage as one man and woman, including the inevitable fact when you put men and women together, they produce children,” said Jordan Lorence, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Arizona-based group that will argue for Proposition 8. “To put that under the microscope of a compelling state interest test is the wrong thing for the court to be doing.”

Some gay rights groups were also initially skeptical of the case, fearing that Mr. Olson and Mr. Boies lacked expertise in the issue and that a loss in federal court could set back efforts for years to come. But most have since rallied behind it.

“I think that having Olson and Boies lead this effort is phenomenal because it’s not just gay rights activists pushing,” said Geoff Kors, the executive director of Equality California, a gay rights group. “It shows that this is not a partisan issue and not an ideological issue. It’s a clear constitutional issue.”

The case is being financed by a recently established nonprofit advocacy group, the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Chad Griffin, the president of the group’s board, said he had been cheered by the surge of support for the case. “We’re all on the same page,” he said “We all have the same goals.”

Mr. Griffin, a communications specialist who served in the Clinton administration, hired Mr. Boies and Mr. Olson, who are ideologically opposed but are friendly outside the courtroom. On Friday, both men were ensconced in a suite of legal offices in downtown San Francisco, prepping witnesses and getting ready for trial.

And while anticipation was running high, Mr. Boies said that much of the testimony would probably “be a little boring,” even if it were televised.

“You don’t get the drama in the presentation,” he said, “that exists in the importance of the issue.”

Originally posted 2010-09-10 02:00:03.

Patriot Act

I’ve made it clear a number of times that I believe the USA Patriot Act should have never been passed, and that it should have been repealed a long time ago — it doesn’t help the US win the “war” on terrorism, it’s an admission to the world that the US has lost.

The Patriot Act moves civil rights in the United States back in time to where due process was nothing more than a term with no substance.

On 26 February 2010 the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved an extension to the USA Patriot Act just one day after the US Senate approved the extension.

The really sad thing in all of this is the President Barrack Obama requested that the extension be approved and almost immediately signed the bill (28 Feburary 2010).  So we have to hold Obama accountable — while he did join a filibuster as a US Senator to block the bill, and then he promised to support repealing it, and voted to make key changes to prevent abuse; as President he asked for an extension to it with no changes to it.

As Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) explained, “this legislation would extend section 215 powers of the PATRIOT Act, which allows the government to order any entity to turn over ‘any tangible things’ as long as it specifies its for ‘an authorized investigation.’ Section 215 orders constitute a serious violation of Fourth and First Amendment rights by allowing the government to demand access to records often associated with the exercise of First Amendment.” Under the Patriot Act, gone are the requirements for probable cause, oaths, warrants and particularity.

Passed during the panic of the post-9/11 era of the Bush administration, Representative Kucinich noted of the Patriot Act that “passage of this legislation continues to make Congress complicit in the violations of constitutional rights.” He added that a vote for extension of the Patriot Act is a clear violation of the congressional oath of office: “As Members of Congress swore to protect the rights and civil liberties afforded to us by the Constitution, we have a responsibility to exercise our oversight powers fully, and significantly reform the PATRIOT Act, ensuring that the privacy and civil liberties of all Americans are fully protected.”

Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office Laura Murphy saying, “Congress refuses to make reforming the Patriot Act a priority and continues to punt this crucial issue down the road. Once again, we have missed an opportunity to put the proper civil liberties and privacy protections into this bill. Congress should respect the rule of law and should have taken this opportunity to better protect the privacy and freedom of innocent Americans. We shouldn’t have to live under these unconstitutional provisions for another year.”

Maybe Der Führer can lighten us as to what country and time we live in.

Originally posted 2010-03-01 02:00:58.

Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell

Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is inevitable
By Christopher Wolf, CNN
22 September 2010

Senate Republicans successful in blocking the repeal Tuesday of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military’s discriminatory policy on gays and lesbians in the military, obviously did not read or simply chose to ignore a California federal judge’s ruling several weeks ago that the policy violates fundamental constitutional rights.

Given the opportunity to undo the bigotry that was written into law 17 years ago, the senators chose not to follow the lead of the House of Representatives, which voted in May to repeal the law. Instead the Senate opted to pander to socially conservative voters. For now, at least, the law remains on the books.

But the march to repeal or invalidation must and will resume. The unfairness and wastefulness of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been demonstrated repeatedly.

Twelve years ago I handled a case that by itself showed the absurdity and mean-spirited nature of the law. In 1998, I represented a highly decorated 17-year veteran of the United States Navy who had served honorably and continuously since he was 19 years old.

Out of the blue, the Navy decided to kick him out of the service because he was gay, and not based on anything he did as a sailor. (I was called into the case the night before the discharge was to take effect.)

At the time of the Navy’s decision to discharge him, he was the senior-most enlisted man aboard the United States nuclear submarine USS Chicago, the sole source of income for his mother and nearing retirement eligibility.

The “offense” triggering the Navy’s witch hunt was an e-mail the sailor had sent from his AOL account seeking donations of toys for the children of his shipmates at Christmas. (His AOL username made the Navy officials suspect the sailor might be gay, but nothing in the contents of the e-mail or anything else in the sailor’s behavior in the service justified what the Navy did.)

The Navy decided to go on a “search and destroy” mission against the service member (those are the words of the judge hearing the case), when it asked AOL to get information about the sailor to confirm he was gay.

Then-Judge Stanley Sporkin–formerly general counsel of the SEC and CIA, so no bleeding heart liberal — found that the Navy had violated federal electronic privacy law by demanding information from AOL to make its case against the sailor, and that it had violated the strictures of the “don’t ask” part of the military policy on gay and lesbian service members. He stopped the Navy from throwing out a distinguished service member in light of its illegal activity.

The case made news at the time. The decision was a courageous one and against the conventional wisdom that Congress had accommodated gays and lesbians just fine with “don’t ask, don’t tell” and it was not up to civilians to tell the military how to operate.

Sporkin wrote in his opinion that “It is self-evident that a person’s sexual orientation does not affect that individual’s performance in the workplace. At this point in history, our society should not be deprived of the many accomplishments provided by the people who happen to be gay.”

He said the court “cannot understand why the Navy would seek to discharge an officer who has served his country in a distinguished manner just because he might be gay” and that the case “vividly underscores the folly of a policy that systematically excludes a whole class of persons who have served this country proudly and in the highest tradition of excellence.”

He acknowledged that the case specifically did not reach any of the constitutional issues underscoring the “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” policy, but he felt compelled to note that “the defenses mounted against gays in the military have been tried before in our nation’s history — against blacks and women.” Sporkin concluded: “Surely, it is time to move beyond this vestige of discrimination and misconception of gay men and women.”

Twelve years later, a successor of Sporkin’s on the federal bench in California decided just that — that it is time to eliminate discrimination, as a matter of constitutional law. In the meantime, scores of qualified and committed service members have been ousted based solely on a policy whose foundation is unconstitutional bigotry.

They did not have a Sporkin to take up their cause of justice. They will never get their careers back, or purge the trauma of being labeled second-class citizens, and neither will our country be able to recover their valuable lost service.

Although the Senate stopped repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in its tracks yesterday, the California ruling will work its way through the appellate process. In the end, this will turn around and the day will come when gay and lesbian service members and their allies can say we were right all along, and just as in the days of segregation, the country was wrong.

Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is inevitable on CNN

Originally posted 2010-09-25 02:00:31.

Florida Ban On Gay Adoption — ILLEGAL

The Third District Court of Appeals three judge panel has ruled that a Florida law prohibiting gays from adopting children is unconstitutional.

The rational is based on the fact that Florida is the only state which has a law that forbids gays from adopting children; and is the only class of individual forbidden in Florida from adopting — convicted criminals, those with a past history of substance or child abuse are considered on a case-by-case basis.

For thirty three years this Florida law stood on the books; almost from the time of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay stand.

For me it’s hard to believe that lies propagated by the religious right have been enforced as laws to enforce a morality that has not basis in fact.

I don’t consider it progress; I just consider it a mile stone in bigotry.

Originally posted 2010-09-22 02:00:07.

Stonewall

President Obama declared June 2009 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgenders Pride Month, citing the rights that began at Stonewall Inn, 51 &53 Christopher Street, Greenwich Village, New York City, New York, United States of America on 29 June 1969.

Forty years since the event that is generally considered to be the beginning of the gay civil rights movement (though there were previous efforts at gay civil rights) President Obama makes a token gesture of recognition of the inequity individuals who are not part of the heterosexual majority suffer on a daily basis, but fails to mention that their is still no protection of sexual orientation in the United States and that many states have on the books laws which effectively attempt to make illegal same sex relationships (or at least sexual activities between same sex — and some anything considered deviant sexual activities even between legally married individuals).

Simply put, it is time for the United States of America to recognize and provided equality to each and every American regardless of their age, sex, creed, national origin, ancestry, race, color, sexual orientation, political affiliations, religion, beliefs, physical limitations, or marital status.

Plain and simple, all Americans are Americans and they deserve to be treated equally.

NOTE: June 1999 the US Department of the Interior designated 51 and 53 Christopher Street, the street itself, and the surrounding streets as a National Historic Landmark.

Let it forever be remembered that here—on this spot—men and women stood proud, they stood fast, so that we may be who we are, we may work where we will, live where we choose and love whom our hearts desire.
· John Berry, Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior

Originally posted 2009-06-01 02:00:39.