PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Windsor's Echoes in New Jersey

This afternoon, a trial court in New Jersey ruled that the state is required under the state constitution to extend full marriage to same-sex couples. This is an appropriate and predictable outcome of the Supreme Court's decision in June striking down Section 3 of the misnamed Defense of Marriage Act.

In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state had to treat same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples equally under the law. But it left it to the legislature to determine if civil unions would fit the bill, and that's the route the legislature took. As long as same-sex couples were restricted by DOMA from enjoying the 1000+ federal rights and responsibilities that go along with marriage, one could argue that New Jersey could offer civil unions and still comply with that 2006 ruling.

But the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor changed everything. Now, Section 3 of DOMA is no more. So for a same-sex couple in New Jersey, it makes an enormous difference whether you have a civil union or a full marriage. So today's ruling by a state trial court makes perfect sense. As the court noted:

The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts: civil union partners who are federal employees living in New Jersey are ineligible for marital rights with regard to the federal pension system, all civil union partners who are employees working for businesses to which the Family and Medical Leave Act applies may not rely on its statutory protections for spouses, and civil union couples may not access the federal tax benefits that married couples enjoy. And if the trend of federal agencies deeming civil union partners ineligible for benefits continues, plaintiffs will suffer even more, while their opposite-sex New Jersey counterparts continue to receive federal marital benefits for no reason other than the label placed upon their relationships by the State.

So New Jersey, by denying marriage equality, is no longer in compliance with its state constitutional requirement of Equal Protection.

We do not yet know if New Jersey will appeal the decision and try to stop the state's march toward equality.

PFAW Foundation

Three Exceptional DC Circuit Nominees

Next week, the Senate Judiciary is expected to complete its review of President Obama's three nominees for the DC Circuit by advancing the nomination of Robert Wilkins to the full Senate. As with Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard, committee Republicans have already signaled their plans: vote against Wilkins in committee because (they claim) the DC Circuit's caseload is too low, then filibuster the three nominees to deny them a yes-or-no confirmation vote.

The caseload argument is so obviously bogus that it ought to be accompanied by a laugh track.

But it is no laughing matter when ideologues in the Senate threaten to filibuster three unquestionably qualified nominees just because they were nominated by President Obama. You can read some of the highlights of Millett, Wilkins, and Pillard's qualifications here.

Denying such exceptional nominees a fair confirmation vote makes about as much sense as shutting down the government or defaulting on our nation's debts. Yet that is today's Republican Party.

PFAW

Republican Admits His Party Does Better When People Don't Vote

How’s all that new outreach going, GOP? Not that well, it seems.

This week, Nevada Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey gave meaning to that old political saying, “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.” Speaking on a conservative talk radio show about the Republican Party’s chances in 2014, Hickey said:

"Probably where we had a million voters turn out in 2012; we'll have like 700,000 [in 2014]. A lot of minorities, a lot of younger people will not turn out in a non-presidential year. It's a great year for Republicans!"

It’s a great year for Republicans-- when people don’t vote! Particularly those young people and minorities, so never mind them! Really, just a great job rebranding there, GOP, I think you’ve nailed it.

Of course, it’s amusing when a politician accidentally reveals the truth like this, but it points to a serious problem in our democracy. The Republican assault on the right to vote in this country is moving full steam ahead, with bills introduced in 31 states just this year. It’s clear at this point that no amount of accidental truth-telling is going to embarrass them into stopping this attack: they’ve had slip-ups like this in the past, but they still keep pushing to make it harder for people to vote. We can’t wait for them to start feeling ashamed of their position, because that’s clearly never going to happen. It’s up to us to actively defend the right to vote, wherever it is under attack. 

PFAW

Sen. Richard Blumenthal Discusses the GOP’s Judicial Obstruction and the DC Circuit with PFAW Members

President Obama has nominated three extraordinarily well qualified individuals to serve on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. But the Republican Party's intransigence and opposition have turned this into one of the most important obstruction fights we've seen in the last five years.

On Tuesday, September 24, People For the American Way hosted a telebriefing with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to discuss the matter.

Senator Blumenthal, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, chaired last week’s hearings on the nomination of Nina Pillard to a seat on the D.C. Circuit. He gave a first-hand account of how very qualified she is to serve on this all important court. He explained how important the D.C. Circuit is in the federal judicial system, why it’s important to fill the current vacancies on the court, and how Pillard exemplifies the brilliance and integrity that is so important in filling these vacancies.

Listen to the call for yourself here:

We had a lot of questions from callers about the need to overcome the GOP’s obstruction on these nominees and talked about how important it is for constituents to let their Senators know that it’s time for the obstruction to end.

Thanks to all the PFAW members who the time to join our call. We’ll continue to fight to make sure President Obama's nominees get the simple yes or no votes they deserve.
 

PFAW

After Outcry From PFAW Foundation and Others, NC School Board Rescinds Ban on ‘Invisible Man’

The North Carolina school board that voted to ban Ralph Ellison’s landmark novel Invisible Man from school libraries last week has now voted to reinstate the book, reports Asheboro’s Courier-Tribune.

Last week after hearing about the ban, PFAW Foundation president Michael Keegan sent a letter to Randolph County school board members urging them to reverse their decision.  Area media outlets documented the local, national, and even international response.

The board listened to the outcry.  The Courier-Tribune reports that yesterday evening, the Randolph County Board of Education voted 6-1 to reinstate the book to school libraries in the county.  At the meeting, some board members reflected on their changing perspectives about censorship and constitutional liberties:

Lambeth said since the last meeting he had listened to other viewpoints and still was concerned about the book’s content and protection of students, but realized that the decision was about a child’s First Amendment rights and educational values, not his personal perspective.

Board member Tracy Boyles said he had wondered as he drove home from the last meeting whether he had made the right decision….He also reflected on his son being in the Air Force and ‘in war twice.…He was fighting for these rights. I’m casting a vote to take them away. Is it right of me? No.’

Fighting censorship has long been a priority of People For the American Way Foundation.  Freedom of expression – whether in schools, museums, or any public place – is a fundamental right of Americans that PFAW Foundation will continue its work to protect.
 

PFAW Foundation

Rubio Holding Up Nomination of Openly Gay African American Florida Judge

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has for months been single-handedly holding up the nomination of William Thomas, an openly gay African American Miami judge, to a federal district court.

Rubio’s indefinite hold on Thomas’ nomination is one of the most egregious examples yet of Senate Republicans using the obscure “blue slip” procedure to prevent home-state judicial nominees from even having a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Under a Senate custom that has varied over time Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy will not advance a nominees’ consideration --  won’t even hold a hearing, let alone take a vote -- until both of that nominee’s home-state senators return a “blue slip” giving their permission for a nomination to go forward. The blue slip doesn’t indicate a senator’s approval of the nominee – the senator is still free to vote against the nominee and to lobby their fellow senators to do the same.  It just means that the nominee can be considered by the Judiciary Committee and then the full Senate. But if just one senator doesn’t return a blue slip, the nomination won’t see the light of day.

Republican senators have been routinely using this tactic of withholding blue slips in order to slow-walk President Obama’s judicial nominees. Currently, five nominees are being held back because one or both senators have refused to return blue slips. And all are women or people of color.

Because the blue slip process is secretive and little-known, senators are often able to get away with holding nominees this way with little public pressure and no public explanation.

Rubio, however, faced pressure from the Florida legal community in recent weeks for his failure to return blue slips for Thomas and another Florida nominee, Brian Davis. The senator finally gave in under pressure and allowed Davis’ nomination to go forward, but is digging in his heels on his blockade of Thomas.

Rubio’s stated reasons for blocking Thomas’ nomination are exceptionally flimsy. He has cited  two cases where he claims Thomas gave insufficiently harsh sentences in criminal trials; in one case, even the prosecutor has defended Thomas’ judgment and a local judge has written to Rubio to correct the record. In the other case the senator cites, Judge Thomas sentenced the defendant to death, which Rubio seems to think was insufficiently harsh. It is clear that there is no merit to the senator’s claims. Holding hearings on this nominee would help clarify that, if they were allowed to take place.

The real reason for Rubio’s blockade and his smear of Judge Thomas’ character, writes Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm, is plain and simple “crass Tea Party politics.”

Rubio has stated no compelling reason why Thomas should not have a hearing before the Judiciary Committee, where he can answer any of Rubio’s alleged concerns in the public record. 

PFAW

Senate Confirms First Ever Openly Gay Circuit Court Judge

The Senate today confirmed Justice Department attorney Todd Hughes to a federal appeals court, making him the highest-ranking openly gay federal judge in U.S. history.

President Obama has nominated more openly gay men and women to the federal courts than all his predecessors combined – by a long shot. So far, the Senate has confirmed seven openly gay Obama nominees to federal district courts. Before Obama’s presidency, there had been just one openly gay federal judge, Clinton nominee Deborah Batts.

Two other openly gay district court nominees are still in committee, but one of them –openly gay district court nominee, Florida’s William Thomas – is currently being held up indefinitely by Sen. Marco Rubio.

But today, the Senate’s attention is on Todd Hughes, who will be the newest judge on the Federal Circuit. The Washington Post outlines Hughes’ impressive credentials:

Hughes, who has served as deputy director of the commercial litigation branch of the Justice Department's civil division since 2007, has specialized in the kinds of issues that come up before the bench on which he will soon sit. Unlike the other 12 Circuit Courts of Appeals, the Federal Circuit specializes in a handful of designated issues including international trade, government contracts, patents, trademarks, veterans' benefits, and public safety officers' benefits claims. Hughes could not be reached for a comment.

Geovette Washington, who is the Office of Management and Budget's general counsel and has been friends with Hughes since they attended law school together, described him as "a problem solver" who "can do very complicated constitutional issues," but also brings a degree of pragmatism to cases.

"I have always been amazed by how intelligent he is, but also how practical he is," she said, adding that Hughes is well prepared for the Federal Circuit because he's appeared before it so many times. "He's dug in and done the hard work on those issues."

 

 

PFAW

PFAW Foundation Urges North Carolina School Board to Reverse Decision Banning ‘Invisible Man’

People For the American Way Foundation president Michael Keegan sent a letter to members of the Randolph County, North Carolina, Board of Education today urging them to reverse their decision banning Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man from school libraries.  Following a complaint from a parent, the board voted 5-2 on Monday to remove all copies of the acclaimed American literary work from school libraries in the county, Asheboro’s Courier-Tribune reported.

The Courier-Tribune is now reporting that the board may indeed reconsider the ban, noting that they plan to hold a special meeting about the book on Wednesday, September 25.

The full text of the letter is below:

Randolph County Board of Education
c/o Dr. Stephen Gainey, Superintendent
McDowell Governmental Center
2222-C  S. Fayetteville St
Asheboro, NC 27205

September 20, 2013

Dear Members of Randolph County Board of Education:

On behalf of our 816,840 members and activists, we urge you to reverse your decision to remove all copies of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man from Randolph County school libraries, which was reported by Asheboro’s Courier-Tribune.

Since its 1952 publication, Invisible Man has been targeted multiple times for censorship attempts.  To be sure, it is a piece of literature that explores painful themes – one that, as journalist Roger Rosenblatt put it, “captured the grim realities of racial discrimination as no book had.” Yet despite the opinion of one board member that the novel lacks “any literary value,” Invisible Man is among the most acclaimed American novels of the past century.  It won the 1953 National Book Award for fiction and was deemed by TIME magazine one of the top 100 English-language novels since 1923. 

As an organization that works with elected officials, we recognize that school board members often face difficult decisions that require balancing the concerns of parents with the educational development of students.  But denying students access to landmark novels such as Invisible Man because of a parent’s complaint harms students’ ability to learn from and engage with the rich body of literature our country has produced.  In addition, multiple committees in your district recommended against its removal. 

Our nation’s education system is designed to teach students critical thinking skills – to expose them to new, and sometimes challenging, ideas.  This classic literary work must not be banned from schools.  We urge you to reconsider this decision, and to make this book available once again to students in your school district.

Sincerely,


Michael Keegan
President, People For the American Way Foundation

PFAW Foundation

New Toolkit for Getting Money Out and Voters In

Americans today face twin threats to the integrity of our elections. The threats are multifaceted and formidable, involving all branches of government at the local, state and federal level – from legislative bodies, to governorships, to courthouses. The aims are clear:

  • Manipulate the campaign finance system to get "the right people" elected.
  • Manipulate the balloting process to make it harder for "the wrong people" to vote.

These measures must be confronted. But we also need long-term proactive and pro-democracy strategies of our own.

The “Money Out, Voters In” campaign embodies this long-term vision premised on the concept of political equality, of one person = one vote.

We believe in a democratic system where all Americans have equal access to the voting booth and where all Americans, regardless of wealth, can express their views to one another and their government on a level playing field.

Through A Guide to Democratic Reform, a new toolkit released today by People For the American Way, we provide the structural framework for enacting this vision. We do not have all the answers, nor could we. We must embrace an evolution of ideas, tactics, and legislative language to achieve our goals. Yet, as the local, state, and federal initiatives cited herein show, much of that work is already well-underway.

Click here for information about critical allies and other resources.

PFAW

DC Circuit Nominee Nina Pillard's Broad Bipartisan Support

Georgetown Law professor Nina Pillard, who has had a long and impressive career in law and public service, was approved today by the Senate Judiciary Committee to serve on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Her nomination now goes to the full Senate.

Scores of people and organizations who have worked with Professor Pillard or observed her work have written to the Senate in support of her nomination. Her supporters include:

Alumni of the Virginia Military Institute, which Pillard helped open to women:

VMI gauges its success as an institution by measuring the societal contributions of its alumni. Professor Pillard would rank high for her work to open VMI to female cadets. The case was initiated by the George H.W. Bush Administration and made its way to the Supreme Court during Professor Pillard’s tenure at the office of the Solicitor General of the United States. Professor Pillard drafted the five Supreme Court briefs for the United States and her winning arguments opened VMI’s doors for women who have become leaders in the armed forces, elsewhere in public service, and in the private sector.

Josiah Bunting III, superindent of the Virginia Military Institute when women were first admitted:

During the course of the United States v. Virginia case, I was impressed by Pillard’s fairness and rigor. She respected others’ strongly held views about male-only education at VMI, and I always felt that while we had opposing positions at the time, she comported herself with integrity and understanding — qualities that distinguish the best judges at all levels.

A bipartisan group of former attorneys of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, where Pillard served for two years:

We believe that Ms. Pillard has the skill, character, and objectivity that would make her a superlative judge on the D.C. Circuit. She was a respected leader and trusted advisor in OLC, valued for her fair-minded and meticulous approach to legal questions of all sorts. She is an exemplary nominee whom we wholeheartedly endorse.

Dozens of retired members of the armed forces:

Our experience advocating for the full participation of women in the armed forces has shown us that women, indeed, are suited for rigorous military training, service, and leadership. Our military and our nation benefit when both women and men are able to fully contribute to the defense of our country. We support Professor Pillard’s nomination because her accomplishments and credentials demonstrate that she has the qualifications to be a federal
appellate judge, and because her dedication to principles of equality demonstrates that she will be a great one. We urge you to give her a swift and fair hearing, and vote to approve her nomination.

The deans of 24 top law schools:

In her legal advocacy and scholarship, Professor Pillard shows a clear understanding offundamental distinctions between the roles of courts and the political branches, and between law and culture, morality, politics or other important sources ofnorms that guide and constrain human behavior. Throughout her work, she has shown an appreciation ofnuance and respect for opposing viewpoints, grounded in a profound commitment to fair process and fidelity to the law.

In short, Professor Pillard is a talented advocate, a brilliant legal mind, a sensible and moderate problem solver, and a careful thinker who has devoted her career to public service and work for others. We wholeheartedly urge that you confirm her to the D.C. Circuit.

Prominent prosecutors and law enforcement officials:

We urge her  confirmation because she is unquestionably eminently qualified, and is a sensible and fairminded lawyer and scholar who has worked extensively with law enforcement in her career. She brings to the bench sensitivity to the compelling need for effective and legitimate law enforcement in the modern era. She stands for fidelity to the law above all, and has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the important, albeit limited, role of the courts in our federal system

William S. Sessions, director of the FBI under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush:

I believe that Ms. Pillard has had invaluable work experience that makes her especially well-suited to the bench. While I do not know Ms. Pillard personally, others in the law enforcement community whom I know and respect are supporting her, and their views, combined with her superb experience and qualifications, convince me that she would make an excellent judge, especially on the DC Circuit, which requires someone with such experience and qualifications.

Viet Dinh, conservative scholar who served as assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration:

Based on our long and varied professional experience together, I know that Professor Pillard is exceptionally bright, a patient and unbiased listener, and a lawyer of great judgment and unquestioned integrity. We certainly do not agree on the merits of every issue, but Nina has always been fair, reasonable, and sensible in her judgments. She approaches faculty hiring, teaching and curriculum, and matters of faculty governance on their merits, without any ideological agenda--at times even against the tide of academic popularity to defend and respect different views and different types of people.

As we do not share academic specialties, I have not studied Professor Pillard's writings in full, but I know her to be a straight shooter when it comes to law and legal interpretation. She is a fair-minded thinker with enormous respect for the law and for the limited, and essential, role of the federal appellate judge-- qualities that make her well prepared to taken on the work of a D.C.
Circuit judge. I am confident that she would approach the judicial task of applying law to facts in a fair and meticulous manner.

The Women's Bar Association of the District of Columbia:

Ms. Pillard’s record of achievement, and unanimous rating of Well-Qualified, the highest rating available, from the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, reflects her significant talents as an appellate litigator and scholar. Her legal career is remarkable for her accomplishments and the breadth and depth of her experience, and her reputation for fairmindedness, collegiality, and dedication to principles of equal justice is well founded. 

PFAW

To Understand GOP Government Shutdown Threats, Follow the Money

If you’re curious why many House Republicans are on board with an unhinged plan to threaten a government shutdown or default over demands to “defund” Obamacare, you should follow the money.  That’s what the New York Times editorial board argued in a compelling op-ed Tuesday. 

Far-right groups such as the Club for Growth are striking out at Republicans who refuse to take this reckless stance, wielding their considerable funds to “inflict political pain” on those who do not share their extremist position. And they are titillating their Tea Party supporters with political fantasies in order to get them to send in even more money, so they can ramp up their attack on Republicans who don’t toe the line. In “The Money Behind the Shutdown Crisis,” the editorial board wrote:

These groups, all financed with secret and unlimited money, feed on chaos and would like nothing better than to claim credit for pushing Washington into another crisis. Winning an ideological victory is far more important to them than the severe economic effects of a shutdown or, worse, a default, which could shatter the credit markets.

[…] Brian Walsh, a longtime Republican operative, recently noted in U.S. News and World Report that the right is now spending more money attacking Republicans than the Democrats are. “Money begets TV ads, which begets even more money for these groups’ personal coffers,” he wrote. “Pointing fingers and attacking Republicans is apparently a very profitable fund-raising business.”

And as more money pours into these shadowy groups, their influence – and thus their potential for inflicting further damage on our democracy – grows.  With fewer effective campaign finance regulations left standing in the post-Citizens United landscape, there is little that can stop these groups from using their money to bully elected officials.

But the functioning of our government is not a game.  And though for these fringe groups making an ideological point may seem more important than keeping our government from shutting down or defaulting, Americans are tired of having our basic economic security called into question over political posturing.

As the Times editorial board put it:

It may be good for their bank accounts, but the combination of unlimited money and rigid ideology is proving toxic for the most basic functioning of government.

PFAW

What the GOP Isn't Saying About the D.C. Circuit's Caseload

Senate Republicans are working overtime to come up with ways to distract Americans from the unmasking of their partisan motives for blocking President Obama from filling the three vacancies to the D.C. Circuit – vacancies for which there are currently three unquestionably qualified nominees.

Their latest gambit – citing the number of written decisions per active judge – comes after their previous efforts blew up in their faces at a Senate hearing last week. Among other things, that's when Judge Timothy Tymkovich, the chair of the Judicial Conference's Committee on Judicial Resources explained that raw case filings – which the GOP has been citing as showing that the court has a low caseload – are not useful in determining the actual caseload of D.C. Circuit judges. He explained that it has an unusually heavy proportion of extremely complex administrative cases, and he specifically cited the high number of administrative appeals per panel.

The Administrative Office of U.S. Courts makes this data available on its Federal Court Management Statistics Archive. Below is all the data they provide for 2003-2006 (when Republicans pushed to fill the ninth, tenth, and eleventh seats) and all the data since early 2011 (when Senate Republicans began citing caseload as an excuse to block Caitlin Halligan).

From 2002-2006, the number didn't get higher than 119 in these reports. But since early 2011, it has been higher than that in every report but one.

Administrative Cases Filed Per Panel

  • 2002 (Sept 30): 100
  • 2003 (Sept 30): 98
  • 2004 (Sept 30): 119
  • 2005 (Sept 30): 117
  • 2006 (Sept 30): 105
  • 2011 (March 31): 121
  • 2011 (June 30): 143
  • 2011 (Sept 30): 129
  • 2011 (Dec 31): 133
  • 2012 (March 31): 149
  • 2012 (Sept 30): 140
  • 2012 (Dec 31): 130
  • 2013 (March 31): 112

So when there were fewer administrative cases per panel, the GOP said all eleven seats needed to be filled. But with a heavier administrative caseload, they say only eight seats are needed. And it's that administrative caseload that makes the D.C. Circuit unique and which Judge Tymkovich specifically cited in his committee testimony last week.

Let's keep that in mind when Republicans pretend that blocking President Obama's nominees to the D.C. Circuit is anything but partisan politics.

PFAW

Carl Sciortino's "Coming Out" Ad Makes A Splash

Back in July, PFAW Voters Alliance was proud to endorse state Rep. Carl Sciortino in the Massachusetts Fifth District special election. A true progressive, Carl made waves when he was first elected in 2004 as an openly gay challenger to an anti-marriage equality incumbent. Since then, Carl has fought tirelessly for LGBT rights, as well as workers’ rights and a woman’s right to choose.

Yesterday, Carl went on the air with his first TV ad—and we think it’s pretty great:

We love this ad: it’s sweet, funny, and gets to the heart of why it’s so important to have progressives like Carl in Congress. It seems like a lot of people agree, too, with the ad receiving coverage in outlets from NBC to the New York Times. And, as Arit John of the Atlantic points out, the ad is more than just a cute promo for Carl: it also highlights “one of the biggest longterm problems facing the GOP”, in their inability to capture the youth vote.

You can read more about Carl and the issues he’ll fight for in Congress at his website

The Scandal Cuccinelli Can't Dodge: His Extremist Positions

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wants to be the state's next Governor. But he has been dogged by an ethics scandal involving gifts he received from the head of a company that has sued the state. So last week, Cuccinelli tried to put the issue to rest by saying he'd contribute $18,000-the value of his questionable gifts-to a medical charity, saying, "I'm trying to wipe the slate clean here so we can focus on what's gonna matter in people's lives in Virginia in the next four years."

Of course, Cuccinelli's contribution doesn't magically wipe away questions about his character. And there's plenty of other evidence for Virginians to consider about the character of his record, and what four years of Cuccinelli as governor could do for -- or rather to -- the state.

Cuccinelli says his campaign is focused on jobs and the economy, but his extreme record as a state legislator and attorney general makes it clear that he considers himself commander-in-chief of the Religious Right's culture warriors.

He has bullied members of the Board of Health into adopting his anti-choice extremism. He has smeared and tried to defund Planned Parenthood. He even slams comprehensive sex education programs. As the Washington Post noted this week, he "was instrumental in ensuring that new regulations will result in the closure of many of the state's abortion clinics."

As a state senator, Cuccinelli was one of a handful of sponsors of an unconstitutional "personhood" bill that would have criminalized many common forms of contraception. Cuccinelli hasn't disavowed his support for "personhood" bills or their goal of making abortion illegal. But as a candidate for governor, he is trying to distance himself from the effects such legislation would have on women and families in Virginia. He claims that such legislation, which would grant legal rights to an egg at the moment it is fertilized by a sperm, wouldn't interfere with access to birth control. He is not telling the truth.

Here's another reminder of what kind of governor Cuccinelli would be: one of his first steps as Attorney General was to tell Virginia's public colleges and universities that they had to abandon policies against anti-gay discrimination. He reversed a legal opinion by his predecessor in order to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children. He refused to support repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law. He argues that consensual sex between gay adults is a detriment to society and should be illegal. As a state senator, he even opposed legislation that permitted private companies to voluntarily extend health benefits to employees' domestic partners.

Cuccinelli is also a champion of the Tea Party's anti-government extremism. He calls President Obama a tyrant. He filed suit against the Affordable Care Act five minutes after it was signed into law, a self-aggrandizing publicity stunt. He has falsely told people that under the law the government could send people to jail for not buying insurance. He even slams safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for making people dependent on government. 

There is seemingly no right-wing fringe to which Cuccinelli will not pander. He has used the power of his office to harass scientists in a climate-change-denying witch-hunt. He has called for a constitutional convention to rescind 14th amendment birthright citizenship. He said he was considering not getting his infant son a social security number because it was being used to track people. He flirted with birtherism.

And this week, he celebrated Constitution Day by appearing with right-wing radio host Mark Levin. Levin is an anti-union, anti-environmental-regulation, anti-public-education activist who rails against "establishment" Republicans and calls President Obama a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer. In 2007, Levin's Landmark Legal Foundation nominated Rush Limbaugh for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Cuccinelli is an example of the strong political coalition that has been made between right-wing Catholics like himself and conservative evangelicals, including Virginia-based powerhouses like Falwell-founded Liberty University and Pat Robertson's broadcasting empire. Cuccinelli has criticized people, like President Obama, who support marriage equality for thinking they "know better than God." And he says homosexual behavior is "intrinsically wrong" and destroys people's souls and shouldn't be allowed in a "natural law based country."

Cuccinelli has clearly aligned himself with the far right within the Catholic Church and, like Paul Ryan, opposes the Church's advocacy on behalf of anti-poverty programs. He hasslammed the Catholic bishops for advocating for government assistance for the poor, saying that has "created a culture of dependency on government, not God." He complained that the archdiocese of Arlington, Virginia included issues like poverty, hunger, and health care on a voting guide without making clear that they, in Cuccinelli's opinion, are clearly less important than abortion.

Cuccinelli has convinced the Religious Right that he's their guy. That's why Rick Santorum has endorsed him and the Family Research Council's PAC is helping him raise money. 

But if Ken Cuccinelli wants to convince Virginia voters that he's not going to govern as a right-wing culture warrior, he'll have to do more than trying to "wipe the slate clean" on his ethical standards. He'll have to erase from the public record his own extreme record. And that will be a lot harder than writing a check.

(also posted at Huffington Post)

PFAW

DC Circuit Court of Appeals Nominee Nina Pillard: 10 Things You Should Know

On June 4, 2013, President Obama nominated Georgetown Law Professor Nina Pillard to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Over the course of her law career, Professor Pillard has won historic Supreme Court victories, and served two tours as a high-level government lawyer at the Department of Justice. She has spent 15 years teaching at Georgetown Law, where she is co-director of Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute. As the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to vote on her nomination tomorrow, here are 10 things you might not know about Professor Pillard:

1) She helped open VMI to women. Professor Pillard wrote the briefs in United States v. Virginia, a case originally filed by the George H.W. Bush Administration. Professor Pillard’s arguments persuaded the Supreme Court to open the Virginia Military Institute to women, ending one of the last male-only admissions policies at a state college. Read an op-ed about Professor Pillard from a VMI alumna here

2) She protected the Family & Medical Leave Act. Professor Pillard argued Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs before the Supreme Court, alongside Department of Justice  officials from the George W. Bush administration. Their defense of the Family and Medical Leave Act successfully vindicated a state employee’s right to take unpaid leave to care for his ill wife. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the majority opinion.

3) She has bipartisan support—including from top Republican former Justice Department officials. Professor Pillard’s impressive record, integrity, and impartiality have earned her the support across the political spectrum, including from top Department of Justice officials in previous Republican administrations. President George W. Bush’s Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh and former FBI Director William Sessions both wrote personal letters to the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsing Professor Pillard for the DC Circuit.

4) She has argued or briefed dozens of cases before the Supreme Court. Over the course of her career, Professor Pillard has litigated at all levels and throughout the country, from trial court to the Supreme Court.

5) If confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, Nina Pillard would be only the sixth woman to serve on that court in its 120-year history.

6) She is admired for her integrity and fairness. In an op-ed in Politico today, Josiah Bunting III, who was the superintendent of VMI when it opened to female students, writes that he was opposed to the integration at the time but now sees it as “VMI’s finest hour.” Bunting writes that during the case, he was “impressed by Pillard’s fairness and rigor” and  said she “comported herself with integrity and understanding – qualities that distinguish the best judges at all levels.”

7) Professor Pillard has substantial expertise in matters affecting law enforcement. Professor Pillard served two tours at the U.S. Department of Justice and has repeatedly defended and advised law enforcement officials. Her expertise has earned her the endorsement of the International Union of Police Associations and more than two dozen top attorneys in law enforcement and national security.

8) She’s a beloved professor. Over the last 15 years, Nina Pillard has distinguished herself as a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. One of her favorite classes to teach is Civil Procedure, which covers the crucial role that fair process plays in the American legal system.

9) Professor Pillard serves as a Co-Director of Georgetown University’s Supreme Court Institute. Here, she prepares lawyers for argument on a pro bono, first-come basis, without regard to which side they represent. Over the past term, the Institute prepared lawyers on one or both sides of every case heard by the Supreme Court. 

10) Professor Pillard has devoted considerable time and energy to mentoring others throughout her career. During her years at Georgetown, she has mentored countless law students.  As a college student, moreover, she mentored low-income girls through a Big Sister program.  In addition, she served on the Board of Friends of the Double Discovery Center at Columbia College, which works with low-income and first-generation-college youth to ensure academic skills building, high school graduation, college entrance and completion, and responsible adulthood.

PFAW