Appeals Court Strikes Down Marriage Ban in Virginia, Ruling Will Also Affect Carolinas and West Virginia

Today the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

This is a historic step forward for equality in the South. Beyond Virginia, the ruling will also affect the other states covered by the 4th Circuit, including North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia, which have similar bans in place. In West Virginia, the district judge considering the challenge to the state’s ban said last month that he would not proceed until the federal appeals court had ruled.

In the majority opinion, the judges noted that bigotry and fear cannot be the basis for the denial of equal rights under the law:

We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws.

…The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual's life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.

For those who claim that marriage bans are legitimate because they were adopted by popular vote, the court quoted a Supreme Court case from 1964:

A citizen’s constitutional rights can hardly be infringed simply because a majority of the people choose that it be.

That one sentence perfectly encapsulates why courts matter.
 

PFAW Foundation

North Carolina GOP Senate Candidate Thom Tillis Marginalizes Minority Communities

In an interview recorded in September 2012, North Carolina Speaker of the House and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis compared the growing population of African Americans and Latinos to a stagnant “traditional population of North Carolina and the United States.”

In an interview highlighted by Talking Points Memo, which first spotted the 2012 interview, a spokesman for Tillis claimed that “traditional North Carolinians refers to North Carolinians who have been here for a few generations.”

If you listen to the full context of Tillis’ remarks, however, it is clear that he was referring to the “traditional population” as a group distinct from the “Latino population” and the “African American population.”

Right Wing Watch points out that “traditional population” and “traditional Americans” are frequently used by anti-immigrant extremists as euphemisms for “white population.” For instance, in The Social Contract, a journal founded by an influential anti-immigrant leader, the term is used in a 2012 essay by Brenda Walker when she says, “Traditional Americans are assailed by affirmative action and benefits for illegal aliens, which are not available to citizens.”

In speaking of the “traditional population,” Tillis stands alongside people like William Gheen, founder of anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, who said that immigration reform would create a situation in which “traditional Americans, like those who that have been here for hundreds of years in descendancy, will no longer govern our own nation.”

It is true that North Carolina’s African American, Latino, and Asian American populations are growing faster than its white population. For instance, the Latino population in North Carolina grew by 111.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, increasing from 4.7 percent of the population to 8.4 percent. Yet Tillis has consistently worked to marginalize Latinos, by cutting spending on education, opposing healthcare reform, and supporting a restrictive voter identification law ironically called “VIVA.” That’s why People for the American Way is working in North Carolina this year to make sure Latino voters know the threat posed by Tillis’ extreme agenda.

Last year PFAW’s Spanish-language advertising helped spur turnout among Latinos in Virginia’s gubernatorial elections, and did the same in many 2012 battleground contests. As we look to the 2014 elections, Tillis’ actions and statements marginalizing the Latino community will represent a real challenge to his standing in an increasingly powerful voting bloc.

PFAW

What Cantor’s Defeat Says About Money In Politics

As the news of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s surprising loss last night to Tea Party challenger David Brat sinks in, Brat’s anti-immigrant extremism is increasingly coming into the spotlight. Today Right Wing Watch wrote that Brat actively sought out the endorsement of ALIPAC, an anti-immigrant hate group whose leader has suggested that violence may be necessary to quell President Obama’s supposed war on “white America.” Brat campaigned on the claim that a vote for Cantor was “a vote for amnesty.”

But there is another aspect to the race also worth paying attention to: Brat’s focus on corruption in Washington. This morning our friends at Public Campaign pointed out that Brat, who was vastly outspent by Cantor, consistently made speaking out against political corruption a part of his campaign. In his victory speech, Brat said to supporters: “What you proved tonight was dollars don’t vote — you do.”

The overwhelming majority of Americans (92 percent of voters, according to a November 2013 poll) think it’s important for elected officials do more to reduce money’s influence on elections — a statistic we often highlight in our work for urgently-needed campaign finance reforms. What last night’s news brings to the foreground is the obvious fact that this 92 percent cannot possibly reflect Americans of only one political leaning. A commitment to fighting corruption and the outsized influence of big money in politics is a deeply-held belief of people of all political stripes, whatever their other beliefs may be.

This morning Politico proclaimed, “Big money couldn’t save Eric Cantor.” And despite Brat’s extremism, there is something hopeful about the fact that people can fight back against the tidal wave of cash flooding our electoral system. To be sure, this outcome is the exception rather than the rule. More than nine times in ten, the better-financed congressional candidate wins. In the post-Citizens United and post-McCutcheon campaign finance landscape, to pretend that money doesn’t matter hugely in the outcome of elections — and in who has access to and influence over politicians once the election is over — is to be willfully blind.

But it’s also important to be reminded that when voters set their minds to it, they still have the power to reshape our nation — for good or ill.

PFAW

Urgent Action Needed on Georgia Early Voting Bill on Last Day of Legislative Session

Updated March 21: Georgia's legislative session closed without final action being taken on HB 891. According to Facing South, "House sponsors declined to take up a vote on the revised bill, and HB 891 was dead." The report quotes Kelli Persons of League of Women Voters of Georgia, "The message here is that it's very important . . . to pay attention to what's happening at the local level," in reference to the bill's impact on municipal early voting.

Earlier this month we told you about legislation in Georgia that would reduce the availability of early voting in municipal elections. While it was welcome news that the bill was amended to keep early voting at three weeks, requiring cities to pass their own legislation if they wanted to make further cuts, the League of Women Voters of Georgia is now reporting a flaw in the language that could take municipal early voting down to zero.

According to the League, it's time to act:

Please call, email, facebook/twitter & fax . . . Lt. Governor Cagle and Senate members,

And tell them to protect early voting and STOP HB 891 or FIX HB 891 before allowing a vote. It is a discredit to democracy to ask our Senators to vote on a flawed bill!

There is an "agreement" to correct the error before HB 891 is signed into law, but it should be fixed now – or stopped. Timing is especially critical as today, March 20, is the last day of Georgia's legislative session.

In other voting rights news, a federal judge has ruled in the Arizona-Kansas proof of citizenship case, early voting expansion suffers a setback in Louisiana, Virginia voter ID implementation moves forward – ahead of schedule, and Wisconsin Democrats and Republicans alike are speaking out against voter suppression.

Check out even more news from our friends at Fair Elections Legal Network.

PFAW

Behind the Scenes with the Right-Wing on Arizona's "Right to Discriminate" Bill

At the end of February, Right Wing Watch introduced us to the Center for Arizona Policy's Cathi Herrod, who helped lead the effort to pass a "right to discriminate" bill in Arizona.

Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy accused the bill’s opponents of “incredible hostility to religion.”

“Our first freedom, our ability to live out our religious belief as our founders intended, as wars have been fought for our right to live out our religious belief, that is what is very much under attack,” Herrod said, adding that she is shocked that people would oppose the right-to-discriminate bill. “This was non-controversial until the last four or five days.”

She told Perkins that listeners should “pray for a miracle and to pray for an intervention” for the governor to sign the legislation.

Now that SB 1062 has been vetoed, we're learning more about the Center's involvement.

Documents recently obtained by Capitol Media Services detail meetings between the Center and Governor Jan Brewer's office.

“But the intent of the meetings, the purpose of the meetings, was to thoroughly vet the language, address their concerns, and make changes in the language pursuant to their concerns,” Herrod said. She said her organization addressed every concern raised by Hunter and Sciarrotta with the idea that this year’s version would not meet the same fate as a similar bill Brewer vetoed last year.

What led to this year’s veto, Herrod insisted, had nothing to do with the wording of SB 1062.

“Opponents made the bill about something it was not,” she said, with Brewer reacting to the highly vocal opposition, particularly from the LGBT community, rather than the language of SB 1062. “The governor vetoed a bill that didn’t exist.”

People For the American Way President Michael Keegan spoke earlier about the Right's influence:

In Arizona and across the country, Americans can see through the Right’s continued attempts to cloak anti-gay bigotry in the language of First Amendment rights. We hope that the pushback Arizona received this week will be a message, loud and clear, to the states with similar bills pending. Americans don’t want to live in a country where businesses have free rein to post a ‘No Gays’ sign.

In other LGBT news, Illinois continues implementing marriage equality; court cases progress in the Michigan and Virginia marriage battles; and Oregon Republicans stand up for the freedom to marry.

Check out even more news from our friends at GLAAD, the Victory Fund, and the Washington Blade.

PFAW

Virginia Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Struck Down

On Thursday evening a federal judge ruled that Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen stayed the decision pending appeal, meaning that while the ban has been struck down, the ruling will not immediately take effect.

Close on the heels of a federal judge’s decision earlier this week directing Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages from other states, Judge Wright Allen’s decision makes Virginia the first state in the South where a statewide ban has been entirely struck down.

In the South and across the country, it’s clear that Americans increasingly believe it is wrong to block committed couples from the protections and responsibilities that only marriage can provide. As Judge Wright Allen wrote in her decision:

Our nation's uneven but dogged journey toward truer and more meaningful freedoms for our citizens has brought us continually to a deeper understanding of the first three words in our Constitution: we the people. "We the People" have become a broader, more diverse family than once imagined.

PFAW Foundation

VT and VA Senators Move Quickly to Fill Judicial Vacancies

With a shocking 96 current vacancies in the American judiciary and another 20 new ones already scheduled to open in the coming weeks and months, some senators clearly recognize the need to move quickly to make recommendations to the White House. In just the past couple of weeks, we've seen senators from Vermont and Virginia show leadership in this regard.

Before making district court nominations, President Obama asks senators from the state where the vacancy has occurred to present him with recommendations. It's a way to identify nominees from any given state and to ensure home-state, often bipartisan, support for nominees. Unfortunately, too many senators – Republicans and Democrats alike – have often dragged their feet in recommending acceptable nominees. What results is vacancies that can remain open for years without a nominee. Frustratingly, many of these vacancies exist even though federal judges usually give months or even a year's notice before retiring or taking senior status (semi-retirement) so that a replacement can be found.

Hopefully, that won't happen in Vermont or Virginia.

In Vermont, Judge William Sessions III announced on January 15 that he plans to go into semi-retirement in June. Just nine days later, Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders announced the formation of a nine-member commission to recommend potential nominees. (Leahy chairs the Judiciary Committee.) The commission has three members appointed by each senator and three by the Vermont Bar Association. The commission has announced that applications are due February 21 and interviews will be held on March 10-11.

In Virginia, Judge Samuel Wilson announced plans on January 26 to retire this summer. A week later, on February 3, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine asked the Virginia State Bar to evaluate potential candidates, announcing that applications would be due March 3 and interviews held on March 26. In fact, current Virginia nominee Hannah Lauck was identified and recommended quickly by Sens. Warner and Kaine, which is why she is one of the too few nominees for a vacancy that has yet to open.

In an era of unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees, the identification and recommendation of qualified candidates is a factor that is completely within the control of senators who want to see America's courts function effectively for all of us.

PFAW Foundation

Ken Cuccinelli's Nativist Rhetoric Backfires Badly In General Election

Cross-posted on Right Wing Watch

Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli appears to be paying the price for his anti-immigrant record. Cuccinelli backed Arizona’s draconian SB 1070 as the state attorney general and as a state senator he proposed several bills targeting immigrants and non-English speakers, and even equated US immigration policy to pest control. Cuccinelli’s harsh comparison was captured in these Spanish-language ads sponsored by People For the American Way:

While Cuccinelli’s nativism may have appealed to the Tea Party fringe, it has upset Latino voters — already alienated by the GOP’s extremist stance on immigration — and the majority of voters who back immigration reform.

But judging by interviews with Latino voters on Tuesday, the ad — which aired heavily on Spanish-language television in the weeks leading up to the election — resonated.

“He talks about our community with no respect,” said Umberto Adrian, a Manassas resident who was born in Bolivia and has lived in Virginia for 30 of his 60 years. “I can’t understand why a professional like him would refer to immigrants as if they are not human.”

Some Latino voters who said they were spurred to action by the commercial appeared to have their own interpretations of what Cuccinelli actually said.

“Cuccinelli called Hispanic people rats,” said Mary Alba, 74, a retired bakery worker. “I want people in office who know we need immigrant people. In this country we need people like immigrants, who work hard.”

Pedro Delcid, 40, perceived the remark in a slightly different, but equally derogatory, way. “This man was talking bad about our people. He said we reproduce like rats,” said Delcid, who lives in Manassas. “This is the one issue that brought me here today. I have an issue with the way he talks about immigrants.”

It’s not just anecdotal evidence either, as new polling from Latino Decisions sponsored by PFAW and America’s Voice reveals the extent of the damage from the GOP’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy positions:

Immigration weighs heavily in Latino and Asians’ voting decisions. Over half (53%) of Latinos rank immigration as the most important issue facing the Latino community that politicians should address. While the Asian community put other issues first, their voting choices are influenced by a candidate’s position on immigration reform. When asked about the role of immigration in their voting decisions, 53% of Latinos and 46% of Asians said it was either “the most important issue” or “one of the most important issues” in their “decision to vote, and who to vote for.”



Cuccinelli’s hardline immigration hurt not only him, but the Republican Party overall.After hearing a statement from Cuccinelli comparing immigrant families to rat families, 70% of Latinos and 59% of Asians said it made them look less favorably on the Republican Party as a whole. The comments were most salient to foreign-born Latinos and US-born Asians, who said it made them view the GOP more negatively at a rate of 75% and 74% respectively. After learning that Cuccinelli sponsored a bill as state Senator that would allow employers to fire any workers who did not speak English, 75% of Latinos and 67% of Asians said this made them less favorable to the Republican Party as a whole.



Added Gary Segura, Professor of American Politics and Chair of Chicano/a Studies, Stanford University and Co-Founder of Latino Decisions, "Hostility to immigrants--once a political wedge that worked for Republicans--has clearly now become an Achilles' heel for the Party. Latinos and Asians, climbing towards 10% of the electorate in Virginia, are clearly and profoundly put off by GOP rhetoric on this litmus-test issue for these immigrant-heavy communities. Continued antagonism toward immigration reform has the potential to erode or erase GOP competitiveness in this important and growing purple state."
PFAW

PFAW Hosts Telephone Town Hall Briefing On Cuccinelli's Extremism

Last week, PFAW hosted a fantastic telephone town hall briefing about our work in Virginia holding Ken Cuccinelli accountable for his extreme record. More than 6,000 of our members joined the call to discuss this critical race with our panel of experts.

PFAW President Michael Keegan explained why the Virginia governor’s race is so important and what PFAW is doing to stop Cuccinelli, including our canvassing efforts and our six-figure Spanish-language ad buy.

Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery spoke about our report, “Ken Cuccinelli: Attorney General of the Tea Party,” and gave us some more detail on Cuccinelli’s record of extremism, particularly on LGBT equality and reproductive rights.

Pollster and strategist Lorena Chambers told us about PFAW’s Spanish-language ads in Virginia, which highlight Cuccinelli’s record of attacking Latinos, and the importance of the Latino vote in Virginia and beyond. Watch our three ads on YouTube: “¿Qué tipo de persona?" (What type of person?)”, “Tim Kaine/Apoyo” and “Job Security.”

We also took some great questions from our members, who wanted to know about the recent voter purge in Virginia, and asked why the Republican party has been taken over by Tea Party extremists like Cuccinelli.

You can listen to the full audio of the call here.

PFAW

PFAW Takes On Cuccinelli With Spanish-Language Ads

With the election in Virginia less than two weeks away, PFAW is holding Cuccinelli accountable for his record of extreme views and hateful comments. We’ve produced a series of three Spanish-language ads in partnership with the McAuliffe campaign, reaching out to the powerful—and growing—Latino community in Viriginia. Cuccinelli has a particularly outrageous record on immigration, from praising controversial Arizona SB1070-like laws to comparing immigration policy to pest control. The people of Virginia need to know that Cuccinelli holds these disgraceful views, particularly the Latino population, and we’re helping to ensure they’re well informed before they cast their vote.

Take a look at our ads:

¿Qué tipo de persona?" (What type of person?):

This ad showcases Cuccinelli’s own words about immigration, when he compared immigrants to rats: "It is worse than our immigration policy. You can’t break up rat families…and you can’t even kill ‘em." 

Tim Kaine/Apoyo:

Tim Kaine explains how Terry McAuliffe has always championed the Hispanic community, including his support of the DREAM Act.

Job Security:

Here, we highlight Cuccinelli’s disgraceful proposal to allow companies to fire workers for speaking Spanish, even on their breaks.

Please donate to help us defeat Ken Cuccinelli by clicking here>>

 

 

 

PFAW