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“Night Of The Living Bigots”: Religious Discrimination Laws Are Just Zombie Jim Crow, Legalizing Anti-Gay Prejudice

Back in November, I wrote this piece on so-called “religious discrimination.” In short, a florist in Washington state refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding because it violates her religion. That’s right, she claims she won’t engage in the for-profit business of commerce because her religion tells her not to for certain groups of people. To quote “South Park’s” Mr Mackey “mkay.”

Now I thought maybe this was just a one-off. I mean sure, there are going to be a few folks, a few businesses around the country who won’t serve black people or maybe someone won’t photograph a gay wedding. But these types of things are few and far between, not the norm in society right?

Actually, while they happen more than you may think, as a part of the whole of American society, this isn’t some widespread thing popping up all across the country. What is rearing its ugly head up is the conservative movement’s insistence on using state legislatures to fighti what they claim is gay marriage’s “attack” on family values across the country. Lawmakers in Arizona, Kansas, Idaho, Tennessee, South Dakota and Maine have all debated and/or passed “religious discrimination” bills to protect for-profit businesses from having to serve gays and lesbians. The Arizona legislature just yesterday passed legislation and it’s now on its way to Gov. Jan Brewer.

I know, I know, the states are the incubators of democracy, where great ideas come from but this, my friends, is pure unadulterated crap. Jim Crow was supposed to have died a long time ago but like some horrid episode of “The Walking Dead,” Zombie Jim Crow has arrived with a vengeance.

Do conservatives actually think it’s OK to deny someone a meal, a photograph or a flower arrangement by using God as their reason? Will national Republican leaders try to pass similar legislation in Washington, D.C. or is it better for this type of Jim Crow foolishness to remain under the radar screen (in other words in the state legislatures)? I wonder how Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus feels about these types of bills being promulgated across the country. He is, after all, the national leader of the Republican Party right?

I really don’t have a problem if a business owner thinks I’m gay. I actually don’t have a problem if a business owner doesn’t like that I’m gay. But here’s the deal business owners of America: I have money and you have a for-profit business that opens its doors to the public. That means you that you don’t get to put up a sign in your window that says “We cater to heterosexual trade only” like this one from a Lancaster, Ohio business during Jim Crow. If I walk into your place of business and am willing to pay what you’re asking for your service or product, who I marry is none of your damned business. I’m a huge fan of equality. I don’t get to ask you if you’re a bigot and you don’t get to ask me if I’m, well, gay.

If you want to be a church, a non-profit or a private club, then you have the right to tell me you don’t want my money. That’s really stupid of you but hey, it’s your inalienable right to be stupid in America. I also have the right to tell my friends you don’t want my money because it’s gay money. And they get to tell their friends, and then we’ll treat you like we did Anita Bryant back in the 1970’s. That didn’t turn out so well for her.

I’m not angry about what’s happening in these state legislatures. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised frankly. Like I said, there are a lot of dumb people out there. But what no one in this country should be allowed to do is profit from bigotry. What no business in this country should be allowed to do is tell me their God tells them I’m a second-class citizen.

 

By: Jimmy Williams, U. S. News and World Report, February 21, 2014

February 24, 2014 Posted by | Bigotry, Discrimination | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Standing With The People”: Democratic Governors and Statehouse Candidates To Adopt Obama’s Minimum-Wage Message

Democratic governors and candidates competing in battleground states are planning to make a minimum-wage increase a centerpiece of this year’s campaigns, taking the baton from President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, according to a memo shared with National Journal.

Raising the wage was a core part of Obama’s larger theme of boosting “opportunity” for all, and it’s a policy that Democrats running for statehouses think will help them politically, according to the memo from the Democratic Governors Association.

“No issue better crystalizes the broader debate between 2014 Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates than that of a minimum wage hike,” DGA Communications Director Danny Kanner says in the memo.

This is a big year for the Democratic Governors Association, given the number of Republican governors swept in during the 2010 wave who are now up for reelection.

Republican governors from Florida to Wisconsin have consistently opposed efforts to raise the minimum wage, and Dems think that choice will come back to bite the GOP. The DGA points to a recent Wall Street Journal poll showing 63 percent of Americans support raising the wage and a separate Quinnipiac poll showing a plurality of Republican voters agree.

While it’s not surprising that Democrats would echo the president on a central policy goal, raising the minimum wage has until recently been seen as the domain of the party’s progressive wing and an issue that candidates in battleground states might shy away from.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to a handful of gubernatorial races, at least. In Maine, while Republican Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed legislation to raise the minimum wage, Rep. Michael Michaud, the presumed Democratic nominee, cosponsored a bill in the House to raise the wage nationwide.

Democrat Mark Schauer, who is hoping to oust Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, has proposed boosting the wage to $9.25 an hour and indexing it to inflation, and said he would make hiking it a top priority if elected.

In Iowa, Jack Hatch wants to go even further and raise the wage to $10.10, which would give the important political state the highest minimum wage in the country. Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-Democrat former governor, who is running to reclaim his old seat in Florida’s statehouse, also supports setting the wage at $10.10.

Meanwhile in Illinois, where Democrats are hoping to defend Gov. Pat Quinn as he heads into a tough reelection battle, all four Republican challengers oppose Quinn’s proposal to boost the wage.

And Democrats think the message will resonate as well in redder states like Kansas, where they’re hoping to push aside Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

Kanner says Democrats will use the minimum wage to present a larger economic message.

“These are two starkly different economic philosophies, and the minimum wage debate makes that clear. In this case, Democrats are standing with the American people while Republicans, once again, thumb their nose at them,” he said.

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, The National Journal, January 29, 2014

February 3, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Minimum Wage | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The State Of Where We’re At”: Lizz Winstead Delivers ‘State Of The Uterus’ Address

It wasn’t an official response, but it was probably the most colorful.

After President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night, comedian, author and “The Daily Show” co-creator Lizz Winstead delivered to the world the “State of the Uterus,” a progressive response complete with a uterus hand puppet.

“I thought, ‘Well, maybe the uterus needs to do a recap of the state of where we’re at,’” Winstead told Whispers. “So instead of being like vitriolic or ‘we’re so angry,’ we decided to take the satirical page of celebrating how great it is that government has gotten so involved and the great plans that they have for all the uteri in the country.”

So what did the Uterus have to say?

The Uterus thanked “Republicans and Republicans alike” for “tirelessly fighting so the uteri of America will have the same rights as the uteri of Saudi Arabia.” The Uterus name-dropped former Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, two anti-abortion conservatives who’ve voiced controversial positions on abortion and the Democratic Party, respectively. And, at the end of the video, the Uterus tipped over a Deer Park water bottle as an homage to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

“There’s not really a whole lot of comedy rapid response – in fact, there’s none,” Winstead said. “And so we kind of want to carve out our space there.”

The State of the Uterus was posted on the website Lady Parts Justice, which Winstead helped create. The site already got some attention because of a video comedian Sarah Silverman made for it, where she talks to Jesus Christ about birth control.

“So it went out and then all of a sudden our project exploded a month before we were actually getting our staffing in place and getting our people on board,” Winstead laughed. “It’s fine, it’s really fun actually.”

In the coming months, Winstead will have other famous faces – including “Girls’” creator Lena Dunham – participate in her progressive, pro-abortion rights videos. The spots will shine light on what lawmakers are up to on a more local level in the areas of abortion and birth control. And a big event, entitled “V to Shining V” is being planned for Sept. 27, where women will gather in every state capital to have a gay pride-like celebration for reproductive rights.

“We’re really, really, really focused on local and state legislatures, that’s really our thing,” Winstead said. “Because no one is and those are the feeder programs where we go, ‘Oh, my God, somebody needs to dam up this horrible, horrible river because it is spawning people who are absolutely not invested in compromise or the truth or science or education or anything else.’”

 

By: Nikki Schwab, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, January 29, 2014

January 31, 2014 Posted by | State of the Union, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sending A Strong Message”: Oklahoma Judge Permanently Strikes Down State Restrictions On Emergency Contraception

An Oklahoma district court judge ruled late Wednesday to permanently strike down an unconstitutional state law restricting women and girls’ access to emergency contraception. Judge Lisa Davis found that the law violated the state’s “single-subject rule,” which prohibits legislators from addressing unrelated issues in one law.

Oklahoma politicians added a provision restricting women and girls’ access to a law focused on regulating health insurance benefit forms. The measure required women to provide proof of age in order to obtain emergency contraception, and required anyone under the age of 17 to have a prescription to access emergency contraception. Prior to the ruling striking down the measure, Oklahoma was one of nine states with laws restricting women’s access to Plan B One-Step and other generic emergency contraceptives.

“This unconstitutional provision was nothing more than an attempt by hostile politicians to stand in the way of science and cast aside their state’s constitution to block women’s access to safe and effective birth control,” said David Brown, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, the group behind the legal challenge.

“We hope the court’s ruling sends yet another strong message to politicians in Oklahoma that these underhanded tactics are as unconstitutional and deceptive as they are harmful to women in their state.”

In November, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear Oklahoma’s appeal seeking to reinstate its law banning medication abortions, which was also found to be unconstitutional by a lower court.

 

By: Katie McDonough, Salon, January 24, 2014

January 27, 2014 Posted by | Birth Control, Reproductive Rights, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hurting Real People Who Have Real Needs”: Republicans Are Suppressing Obamacare Enrollment

Republicans have done everything they could think of to repeal, defund, undermine and otherwise disrupt Obamacare. But they’ve failed, and that’s why they’ve turned to a last-ditch strategy to stop the law and take away the rights of millions of Americans to get the health care they need.

Governors and state legislators are adopting state laws and regulations to sabotage the work of “navigators,” the community organizations that will help consumers sign up for care. We are witnessing navigator suppression, and the Republicans’ objective is simple: the harder they make it for navigators to do their jobs, the harder it will be for people to benefit from Obamacare.

Republican governors in 21 states are already denying more than 5 million people health care by refusing to expand Medicaid. Navigator suppression is another way for the Obamacare haters to pile on and limit the reach of the law.

In a new report, Health Care for America Now conducted a detailed review of the most egregious laws and regulations found in 13 selected states: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. These states are home to 17 million people without health insurance who are eligible for coverage under the health care reform law–fully 41 percent of the nation’s uninsured.

The excessive requirements we found include such things as residency rules, extra fees, additional and unnecessary training requirements, superfluous certification exams, and prohibitions against navigators talking with consumers about the benefits offered by different plans. These measures constitute direct interference in the enrollment process.

For example, in Missouri, state and local officials are barred from providing any assistance to an exchange. In Florida, the Department of Health released a directive prohibiting navigators from conducting outreach at any of the county’s 67 health departments. Fortunately, two big counties, Broward and Pinellas, are ignoring the order.

And just this month, Texas Gov. Rick Perry ordered the Insurance Commissioner to write new navigator regulations that require, among other things, that navigators complete 40 hours of training in addition to the 20 hours required by the ACA and then pass a “rigorous” state exam. Perry is even trying to limit the hours of navigator operations to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. None of these rules is going to help get people covered in Texas, which has the nation’s highest percentage of uninsured residents.

These roadblocks and restrictions have caused groups to withdraw from the program and return their navigator grants. This is why President Obama in Maryland today criticized the Republicans for creating these sorts of “roadblocks” for the “churches and charities” working as navigators to educate the public about enrollment.

The Republicans claim these laws are about protecting consumers. But Georgia’s commissioner of insurance cleared that up when he boasted on video that he was doing everything he could to be “an obstructionist” to Obamacare.

Some of the Obamacare opponents may think they’re attacking the President or the law, but mostly they’re hurting real people with real health care needs. They’re making it harder for people to buy health care. This isn’t just an abstract political debate. For people without health insurance, this is about whether or not they can get medical care and get it without going bankrupt.

In a growing number of states, navigators are turning back their grants to help consumers because of navigator suppression policies.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, for example, which was planning to enroll people at three hospitals, turned back $124,000 in federal grant money because of state restrictions that went into effect this past July.

Cardon Outreach was going to educate people in Florida, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Utah. It returned its $833,000 grant.

In West Virginia, the Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey, a vocal opponent of the ACA, launched a harassment campaign against one of his state’s navigators, West Virginia Parent Training and Information. Morrisey posed dozens of questions to the group about its navigator program and gave them only 14 business days to respond. Instead, the organization decided to send back its $366,000 enrollment grant.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council along the Texas border with Mexico just returned $288,000 in navigator grant funds this week in response to Perry’s attack, and four other Texas navigator groups reportedly may follow suit.

These state officials have taken their cues from members of Congress. Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to 51 groups in 11 states, including food banks, legal aid societies, and United Way organizations. The committee demanded that these groups produce reams of paperwork about their operations and schedule a briefing of the committee by Sept. 13. The only purpose of the inquiry was to interfere with the ability of these groups to prepare for enrollment. That’s sabotage, and it’s a politically motivated abuse of power.

Many of the states now going after navigators are also passing laws to suppress voter registration and make it harder for minority, low-income and elderly residents to participate in elections. Just like voter suppression, enrollment suppression is an attack on people’s right to be healthy and free from financial hardship and bankruptcy.

That’s why navigator suppression shocks the conscience: it perpetuates the systematic denial of affordable health care to huge numbers of the most vulnerable individuals in our society, especially those in minority and lower-income populations.

Thanks to Obamacare, Americans no longer have to worry about getting the health care they need. They only have to worry about the Republicans taking it away.

 

By: Ethan Rome, Executive Director, Health Care for America Now; Health Care for America Now Blog, September 26, 2013

September 29, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans, Rick Perry | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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