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PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Supreme Court Action on Marriage Cases Is No Surprise

The Supreme Court's decision this morning to not hear appeals of any of the pending marriage equality appeals came as a surprise to some. But as PFAW Foundation's Supreme Court 2014-2015 Term Preview explained last month, most of the Justices may have strongly wanted to avoid taking these cases if at all possible:

Conservatives like Scalia and Thomas, who have in case after case shown their hostility to LGBT equality but may be unsure of how Kennedy would vote, might not be willing to risk a Supreme Court precedent that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. From their perspective, if they can't change the outcome around the country, why make it worse by adding a jurisprudential nightmare from the nation's highest court that would taint American law for decades to come?

For Justices likely to recognize the constitutional right to marriage equality, the calculation might be different. They, too, not knowing Kennedy's position, might not want to risk a 5-4 ruling in the "wrong" direction on a major constitutional and societal issue. But even if they could be certain of being in the majority, they might find advantages to having the Court stay out. Justice Ginsburg, for instance, has suggested publicly that Roe v. Wade went "too far, too fast," provoking a backlash that could otherwise have been avoided. If the legal question of marriage equality is being decided rightly in all the circuit courts, some Justices might rather leave well enough alone. In fact, Justice Ginsburg told a group of law students in mid-September that without a circuit split, she saw "no urgency" for the Court to take up the issue now, although she added that she expects the Court to take it up "sooner or later."

It looks like the "sooner or later" will be when – or if – a circuit court ever rules against same-sex couples seeking to vindicate their right to marry.

The Term Preview also discussed some of the specific legal issues that an eventual Supreme Court ruling could address, beyond the black-or-white question of whether same-sex couples can marry. For now, absent a circuit court ruling upholding a marriage ban and a subsequent decision by the Supreme Court to hear the appeal, these questions will remain unresolved at the national level. But they are important questions:

Exactly which constitutional right do the bans violate? While numerous courts have ruled in favor of same-sex couples, they have been anything but unanimous in their reasoning: Some have suggested that the bans violate the Due Process Clause, because the longstanding, fundamental right to marry includes the right to marry someone of the same sex. Other judges indicate that the bans violate the Equal Protection Clause because they deny the right to marry based on the sex of the people seeking to get married. Still others suggest that the bans violate the Equal Protection Clause because they discriminate against gays and lesbians. While the different legal rationales would all have the same immediate result (marriage equality), they could create very different legal precedents and have very different impacts down the line as lower courts consider other types of discrimination, whether aimed at gays and lesbians, at transgender people, or at others.

A Supreme Court ruling might decide what level of scrutiny the Equal Protection Clause requires for laws that discriminate against gay people, an issue not squarely faced in previous cases. Most government classifications are subject to – and easily pass – "rational basis" scrutiny by the courts: The law is constitutional as long as it's rationally related to some legitimate government interest. (The Court has said that animus against gays and lesbians is not a legitimate purpose, which in the past has let it bypass the question as to whether anti-gay laws warrant more scrutiny from the courts.)

But a few types of laws trigger heightened Equal Protection scrutiny. Sex-based classifications are subject to intermediate scrutiny: They must be substantially related to an important government interest. Race-based classifications are generally subject to strict scrutiny, the highest level: They must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest. If the Court rules that laws discriminating against lesbians and gays warrant some level of heightened scrutiny, that would have an enormous impact nationwide on all kinds of laws that discriminate against lesbians and gays, not just marriage bans.

The Court's discussion of this issue could also shed light on whether eliminating private discrimination against LGBT people is (in the Court's eyes) a compelling government interest. This could have an enormous impact as courts consider right wing challenges to anti-discrimination laws on the basis of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act or state-law analogs.

This last point is particularly important, given efforts by the far right to reframe anti-discrimination and women's health laws as attacks on religious liberty. As affiliate People For the American Way Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery wrote earlier today on Right Wing Watch:

[R]edefining "religious liberty" has become the central culture war issue and the primary legal and public relations strategy chosen by conservative evangelicals and their allies in the Catholic hierarchy to resist the advance of LGBT equality and restrict women's access to reproductive care.

This right-wing reframing effort might have been hurt by a strong Supreme Court ruling emphasizing the critical importance of ending discrimination against lesbians and gays.

PFAW Foundation

Let Freedom (and Wedding Bells) Ring

With the far-right Roberts Court, it's usually good news when they choose not to address a case, and that's especially so this morning: The Court announced it will not be hearing the appeals of any of the pending marriage cases.

That means the stays of the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits' pro-equality rulings should be lifted and marriages should soon be allowed in Utah and Oklahoma (10th Circuit), Indiana and Wisconsin (7th Circuit), and Virginia (4th Circuit).

And in the other non-equality states in those three circuits, loving couples can now go to court and cite their circuit's ruling as binding precedent guaranteeing their right to marry. And they should win: Each circuit decision binds district courts and other three-judge appellate panels in the circuit. The only way to avoid the application of three-judge panel’s decision to other states in the circuit would be for there to be a contrary ruling by a panel - called an en banc panel - made up of all of the active appellate judges in that circuit.

Congratulations to the loving couples in those states for whom the Constitution's promise of liberty and equality will no longer be ideals withheld from them. This is a textbook case of the federal courts doing exactly what they were set up to do: vindicating those whose basic legal rights have been violated.

PFAW Foundation

Kentucky Activists Protest Mitt and Mitch Fundraiser

On Thursday, PFAW members joined MoveOn.org, Kentucky AFL-CIO, and other activists to protest Sen. Mitch McConnell’s pro-corporate agenda outside of a high-dollar fundraiser for the senator featuring Mitt Romney. The exclusive event was priced at $1,000-$5,000 a ticket.

Activists, standing up against big money in politics, called for Sen. McConnell to listen to Kentuckians and not just to the billionaires and corporations that fund his politics. They held signs that read “Ditch Mitch” and “Corporations are not People.”

 

Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan joined the protest, along with PFAW organizers and grassroots activists.

 

PFAW

The Supreme Court's 2014-2015 Term: PFAW Member Telebriefing

Yesterday, People For the American Way members participated in a telebriefing to discuss the Supreme Court’s upcoming term and to preview some of the important cases the Court will be hearing this year. The call was kicked off by PFAW President Michael Keegan and moderated by PFAW Director of Communications Drew Courtney. PFAW’s Senior Legislative Counsel Paul Gordon reviewed highlights of his recent report previewing the Supreme Court’s upcoming term and answered questions from members. Also on the call and answering questions were Senior Fellow Elliot Mincberg and Executive Vice President Marge Baker.

Among the cases Gordon previewed were Young v. UPS, Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, Mach Mining v. EEOC, Holt v. Hobbs, and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama / Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama. The issues addressed in these cases range from employment discrimination and workers’ rights, to religious liberty and voting rights.

He also discussed potential cases that the Court could still add for this term, which included cases on marriage equality, the Affordable Care Act, and contraception coverage by religious nonprofits—the “sequels to Hobby Lobby.”

Members’ questions focused on how the country can move forward to change some of the more damaging decisions like Citizens United, and what each person could do to effect change and impact the courts. Emphasizing what is at stake this election, both PFAW President Michael Keegan and Gordon called on people to vote in November because “when you vote … for the Senate, you are voting for the next Supreme Court justice.”

Listen to the full audio of the telebriefing for more information.

 

PFAW

New Poll Demonstrates Bipartisan Support to Restore the Voting Rights Act

For nearly half a century, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) has helped protect each American’s right to vote, a founding principle of our democracy. Last year, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder gutted a key provision of the VRA and imperiled those hard-won voting rights. But new polling finds that across the board, Americans want to see these protections restored.

The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners and released this week, finds that Americans believe laws must be in place to ensure that each individual has a voice in our democratic process. More than 8 in 10 voters favor the Voting Rights Act for combatting persistent issues with voting discrimination, including 72 percent of respondents who are strongly in favor of VRA protections. Additionally, over two-thirds of voters from diverse racial, political and geographical backgrounds support restoring the Voting Rights Act and strengthening protections for the right to vote.

The overwhelming response in support of strong voting protections underscores the failure of Congress to listen to the American people. Even in the face of this broad consensus, House Republican leadership has made it clear that protecting the right to vote is not a priority for them.

PFAW

Fairer Elections Through Public Financing: Montgomery County, Maryland, Leads the Way

It’s no secret that our country’s elections have been taken over by out-of-control spending, and this year’s rapidly approaching midterms are no exception. Maybe that’s why it’s so refreshing to read about some recent progress in the fight to reclaim our democracy from corporations and billionaires. Today the Montgomery County Council in Maryland is set to vote on legislation that would create a system of small-donor public financing for local elections — and it’s looking likely to pass.

It’s a system based on a simple premise: swap in lots of small donations from local community members in place of a handful of large donations from powerful interests. Encourage local people to give money to candidates they support by matching those donations with public funds. Not only does this empower regular people to get involved in campaigns, since they see their dollar going further, but it makes it smart for candidates to seek support from, and be accountable to, their own community members rather than wealthy special interests.

The Baltimore Sun explains how it would work in Montgomery County:

Beginning in 2015, candidates for county executive or council would qualify to have their political campaigns publicly funded if they attracted a sufficient number of small contributions of $5 to $150. In the case of a council race, for instance, it would be 125 donations adding up to at least $10,000. After that, campaigns would be largely publicly financed on a matching basis….The system would be voluntary, but participants would not be able to accept donations larger than $150 or from political action committees or labor organizations.

Public financing has worked in other cities across the country. Take New York City as an example. A 2012 Brennan Center analysis of the effects of the city’s public finance model found that the matching system helped “bring participants into the political process who traditionally are less likely to be active.” The study suggested that the model encouraged candidates to reach out to a more diverse group of people to support their campaigns, rather than centering all of their efforts on the wealthiest donors.

And when candidates start getting into office because of the support of their constituents, rather than because a few wealthy special interests have bankrolled their campaigns, the policy agenda can shift from one designed to keep powerful interests happy to one designed to serve the common good.

Legislators across the country should take note of what’s happening in Montgomery County. Polling consistently shows that the overwhelming majority of voters want to see elected officials work to lessen big money’s impact on our elections. In other words, Americans understand the problem but are hungry for solutions. Along with long-term fixes like pushing to amend the Constitution to overturn decisions like Citizens United, small donor public financing can be a way to put everyday Americans’ voices at the center of our political process, where they belong.

PFAW

The Roberts Court vs. Ohio Voters

Earlier this month, supporters of voting rights cheered when a federal district judge struck down restrictions on early voting in Ohio. That ruling was upheld by the Sixth Circuit. But today, the five conservative members of the Supreme Court ordered that the ruling be stayed until the high court can act on a formal appeal by the state (which hasn't been filed yet).

There was no written opinion, just an order, along with a sentence saying that the four moderate Justices dissented.

It is a great day for those in Ohio who seek to make it harder for certain Americans to vote. But it is worth recalling the quote from a 1964 Supreme Court ruling cited by district court Judge Peter Economus earlier this month:

The right to vote is a fundamental right. "No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined."

Today, the Roberts Court seems to have said:

Never you mind all that pretty talk from the ‘60s about the right to vote.

This, just a few days before the official beginning of the 2014 Term. It is not an auspicious sign of things to come.

PFAW Foundation

Video: PFAW's Drew Courtney Discusses the Values Voters Summit on Politics Nation with Al Sharpton

People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch closely followed this weekend’s Values Voter Summit, an annual event hosted by the Family Research Council where GOP elected officials pander to Religious Right leaders.

On Friday, PFAW’s Director of Communications Drew Courtney joined Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC’s Politics Nation to discuss the summit, as well as the Republican party’s ongoing lurch to the right.

“The difference between the fringe Right of the party and the establishment is less and less,” Courtney told Sharpton. “That’s not because the fringe is getting less extreme; it’s because the establishment has been dragged to the right along with them.”

Watch the full interview here:

PFAW

Justice Ginsburg Would Overturn Citizens United

In a recent interview with the New Republic, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reiterated her belief that Citizens United v. FEC was the worst ruling to be handed down from the Roberts court:

“If there was one decision I would overrule, it would be Citizens United. I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.”

The interview goes on to cover a range of topics, including her growing notoriety as an internet sensation as well as her plans to stay on the court as an active justice.

“As long as I can do the job full steam, I will stay here. I think I will know when I’m no longer able to think as lucidly, to remember as well, to write as fast. I was number one last term in the speed with which opinions came down. My average from the day of argument to the day the decision was released was sixty days, ahead of the chief by some six days. So I don’t think I have reached the point where I can’t do the job as well.”

In previous interviews Justice Ginsburg has described this Court’s campaign finance decisions as its biggest mistakes, alluding to the way in which money is “corrupting our system.”

Our affiliate PFAW Foundation recently released a report examining Justice Ginsburg’s vital role dissenting against the increasingly conservative rulings of the Roberts Court.

PFAW

The ‘Tech Exodus’: Yahoo! and Yelp Follow Google’s Example, Ditch ALEC

It’s been a monumental week for our campaign to end corporate sponsorship for the right-wing group ALEC.  Three of the country’s biggest tech companies – Google, Yahoo! and Yelp – announced plans to end their ALEC membership, with tech titan Facebook stating that it is "not likely to renew membership." Google was the first to make the announcement on Monday when Eric Schmidt told NPR that the tech giant’s relationship with ALEC had been "some sort of mistake."

Wednesday brought a triple blow to ALEC’s corporate sponsorship, with Yahoo! and Yelp both announcing plans to terminate their relationship with ALEC, and Facebook stating that it would likely follow suit. Not only are ALEC’s latest defectors some of the world’s biggest tech innovators – they are some of the country’s most profitable companies, with both Google and Facebook listed in Fortune 500.

This week’s "tech exodus" comes on the heels of Microsoft’s announcement earlier this summer that it would not renew its ALEC membership.

ALEC is a key voice for corporate special interests in state legislatures across the country. The group works to connect right-wing legislatures with corporate lobbyists, and is responsible for some of the country’s worst anti-worker, anti-environment, anti-voter legislation. ALEC has helped create laws that harm consumers, endanger individuals, and deny the constitutional rights of millions. In addition to pushing legislation that discriminates against minority voters and protects corporate polluters, ALEC is notorious for its history of working with the NRA to aggressively spread passage of “Stand Your Ground” laws, which encourage dangerous vigilantism and were implicated in the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

PFAW, along with allies including Color of Change, Center for Media and Democracy, and Common Cause, has spearheaded the campaign to urge ALEC's corporate sponsors to end their membership. To date, nearly 150,000 PFAW activists to date have taken action to put pressure on consumer brand companies to cut ties with ALEC. The momentum created by this week’s "tech exodus" is an opportunity to pressure ALEC’s remaining sponsors to follow suit. Sign our petition now – and share it with others – urging these companies to separate themselves from ALEC’s extreme and reckless agenda.

PFAW

Barbara Comstock’s “FedEx” Comments Part-and-Parcel with GOP Trend of Dehumanizing Immigration Rhetoric

In a debate yesterday, Barbara Comstock, GOP candidate for Congress from Virginia’s 10th District, compared the tracking of immigrants to the tracking of Fedex packages.

I think first and foremost we need to stop playing politics with this, secure the borders, and just do it. We know how to do it. Fedex can track packages coming in here all the time. We can track people who are coming into the country, and we can do that right.

Comstock is not alone in her dehumanization of people coming to the U.S. Last year, Ken Cuccinelli 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.”

People in Virginia and around the country need to know about the hateful rhetoric coming from the Right and the extremist views held by candidates vying for leadership positions. These are not fringe conservatives, but candidates in contested races who could eventually influence how immigration policy is shaped and the way our country is run.

Immigrants are not Fedex packages to be tracked, families of rats, or drug runners with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”

PFAW

The Right Enemies: A Look Back at Right Wing Attacks on Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder, who today announced his plans to resign, has been a leader in addressing systems of racial discrimination and protecting the fundamental rights of every American to be treated equally under the law and participate in our democracy.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that the Right loves to hate him.

In February of this year, the American Family Association demanded Holder’s impeachment after he had the audacity to treat married same-sex couples like married opposite-sex couples with regard to a host of legal rights and recognitions. Shortly after, both Faith and Freedom Coalition head Ralph Reed and Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp echoed the call for Holder’s impeachment because of his support for marriage equality. Televangelist Pat Robertson also joined the impeachment parade, alleging that under Holder, “sodomy” was being “elevated above the rights of religious believers.”

Holder’s commitment to redressing racial injustice was no more warmly received by the Right than his work in support of LGBT equality. After Holder spoke out against voter ID laws, which disproportionately harm people of color, Texas Gov. Rick Perry accused him of “purposefully” “incit[ing] racial tension.” Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt argued that Holder’s open discussion of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system means that he is the real “racist,” asserting last year that Holder wants to “intimidate the rest of the country so that we don’t think about defending ourselves” against “attacks by black mobs on white individuals.” Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association went so far as to say that Holder would never “prosecute someone if the victim is white.” And after Holder visited Ferguson, Missouri last month, David Horowitz outrageously commented that the attorney general was leading a black “lynch mob.”

And those are just a handful of the attacks the Right has leveled against Holder for his work protecting equality under the law.

The fact that the far Right has reacted with so much vitriol to the attorney general’s leadership is a sign not only of how uninterested they are in the civil rights that the Justice Department is meant to protect, but also of how effective Holder’s work has been. The next attorney general should share Holder’s deep commitment to protecting the rights of all Americans – and, by extension, make all the “right” enemies among those hoping to turn back the clock on civil liberties.

PFAW

As Mid-Terms Approach, New Data on Racial, Religious, Political Polarization

The Public Religion Research Institute has published a new report on inequality and economic insecurity. The report, released this week with a panel discussion at The Brookings Institution, is based on findings from PRRI’s 2014 American Values Survey, which was conducted in July and August. The survey showed that registered voters are roughly split in their partisan preferences for the congressional midterm elections, but that Republicans have a substantial advantage with regard to likely voters, highlighting the Democratic Party’s long-term challenge of getting the mid-term electorate to look more like the electorate in presidential election years.

The survey indicates that Americans’ belief in the continuing existence of “the American Dream” is slipping amid growing doubts about the future and a widely shared belief (about two-thirds of Americans) that neither the government nor the economy is operating in the best interest of all Americans. But on those issues, like nearly everything, there are strong partisan divides.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the economic system in the US unfairly favors the wealthy, but only one third of Tea Partiers and less than half of Republicans agree. More than two-thirds of Americans believe the government should do more to reduce the gap between rich and poor;  86% of Democrats and nearly two-thirds of independents say the government should do more, but less than half of Republicans and Tea Partiers agree.

Republicans are most likely (52%) to report being in excellent or good financial shape themselves, but the least likely (15%) to believe the economy has gotten better over the last two years. Less than one-third of Republicans (32%) live in households facing moderate or high economic insecurity, while more than 4-in-10 Democrats (42% do). More Americans than not believe their children’s generation will be worse off than their own, with the most pessimistic being Americans who most trust Fox News for information about current events. African Americans and Hispanic Americans are more optimistic about the economy getting better than white Americans.

On specific economic policies: about 8-in 10 Americans favor requiring companies to provide full time employees with paid leave for birth or adoption of a child and paid sick days if they or an immediately family members gets sick; about 7 in 10 favor increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour; about 2/3 of Americans agree government should to more to reduce the gap between rich and poor; about 6-in-10 Americans, but only 4-in-10 Republicans, favor increasing the tax rate on Americans making more than $250,000 per year.

On racial justice, the survey showed significant movement between 2013 and 2014 in the number of Americans who don’t think blacks and other minorities get equal treatment as whites in the criminal justice system, from 47 to 56 percent. But there are huge partisan, racial, and generational divides. Large majorities of Black Americans (84%), Democrats (69%), and Young Adults (63%) disagree that minorities get equal justice, while only minorities of Republicans (38%) and Seniors (44%) say the same. The number of white Americans who don’t believe minorities get equal justice rose from 42% in 2013 to 51% in 2014.

On the question of so-called “reverse discrimination,” 45% of Americans believe that discrimination against white Americans has become as big a problem as discrimination against black Americans and other minorities, with large majorities of Republicans (61%), Tea Partiers (73%), white evangelical Protestants (63%) and older white Americans (59%) agreeing. Almost 60% of white working class Americans believe discrimination against white Americans has become as big a problem as discrimination against black Americans and other minorities.

Henry Olsen, a conservative and a Senior Fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center, said that the data sends a message to Republican leaders that the standard GOP playbook will not be enough for the party. Opposing gay marriage won’t energize enough voters as long as the Party is not addressing the serious economic anxieties facing white working class people who make up a substantial part of the electorate in key swing states. There is a disconnect, he suggested, between people who are feeling left out economically and many party leaders’ ideological opposition to government support programs. There is a reason, he says, that every swing state Republican governor has embraced Medicaid expansion.

Joy Reid, host of the Reid Report on MSNBC, said that southern Democratic politicians used to be better at having a “dual conversation” that would address the fact that rural white voters still had needs from the government. Many southern whites who had supported the New Deal, she said, saw the Johnson Great Society programs as a betrayal. Today, she says, many white working class people are voting more out of a sense of cultural identity than on the details of economic policy.

Among the commenters was Alan Abramowitz of Emory University, who said that partisan polarization in America is the highest it has ever been. Forty or fifty years ago, people liked their own political party more than their opponents, but they respected the other party. Now, he says, we not only hate the leaders of the “other” party, we hate their voters, too.

Abramowitz said that stark racial divides are driving political polarization. The Democratic Party, he said, is already a majority-minority party, and the GOP seems to be doing nothing to improve its appeal to non-white voters. Reid said that if the Republican Party continues its current behavior, and Democrats and their progressive allies are able to do more to improve voter turnout among Hispanics, the 2020 election will be “Armageddon” for Republicans.

In the arena of religion and politics, Americans are equally split on whether they are more concerned about government interfering with the ability of people to freely practice their religion or about religious groups trying to pass laws that force their beliefs on others. White evangelical Protestants (66%) and Hispanic Protestants (57%) are the only groups with a majority that is more concerned about the government interfering with the ability of people to freely practice their religion, while White Mainline Protestants and White Catholics are more evenly split. Black Protestants, Hispanic Catholics, Jews, and Unaffiliated Americans are more likely to be concerned about religious groups trying to pass laws that force their beliefs on others.

PRRI’s Jones noted that Latinos are becoming less Catholic, and that shift is going in two directions: some are becoming evangelical Protestants but some are also joining the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated. Jones noted that white evangelical Protestants are a shrinking part of the electorate, making up about 3-in-10 seniors but only 1-in-10 millennials. Today, he said, white evangelical Protestants are about the same size in the electorates as people with no religious affiliation.

That data point provides a bit of counterpoint to recent headlines – “More Americans Favor Mixing Religion and Politics” for example -- generated by a Pew survey showing that more Americans wanted churches and other houses of worship to get involved in social and political issues. Americans are about equally split on that question, but almost two-thirds, 63%, still believe that churches should not endorse candidates.

PFAW

PFAW & Allies Send Open Letter to RNC Chair: “Where Does the GOP Stand on Gay Bashing?”

In anticipation of this weekend’s annual Values Voter Summit, a multi-day event where GOP elected officials and presidential hopefuls rub elbows with Religious Right leaders, People For the American Way President Michael Keegan joined the leaders of the Southern Poverty Law Center and five other civil rights and LGBT organizations in an open letter calling on Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus to ask members of his party to disassociate themselves from the summit.

The letter, printed in the Washington Post and The Hill this morning, highlights the repeated and vicious demonization of LGBT people by the groups responsible for the summit, including its host, the Family Research Council:

Its president, Tony Perkins, has repeatedly claimed that pedophilia is a “homosexual problem.” He has called the “It Gets Better” campaign — designed to give LGBT students hope for a better tomorrow — “disgusting” and a “concerted effort” to “recruit” children into the gay “lifestyle.”

… Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, a summit sponsor, has said the U.S. needs to “be more like Russia,” which enacted a law criminalizing the distribution of LGBT “propaganda.” He also has said, “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine, and six million dead Jews.”

By participating in the summit, Republican Party leaders risk legitimizing this kind of virulent extremism. Given that reality, the letter asks a simple question: where does the GOP stand on gay bashing? Reince Priebus himself has said, “People in this country, no matter straight or gay, deserve dignity and respect.” But will he walk the talk and, as the letter asks, “tell the members of your party to shun groups that demean other people and deny them dignity?”

You can read the full letter here.
 

PFAW

Mike Boggs' Record Catches Up to Him

This post was originally published at the Huffington Post.

This is a good day for Americans who care about our federal courts. According to press reports, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has said that Georgia federal district court nominee Mike Boggs lacks majority support on the committee and that he should withdraw. The New York Times calls the nomination "dead."

Federal judicial nominees routinely - and appropriately - assure senators that their personal feelings and political positions will play no role in their judicial decisions. But this particular nominee did exactly the opposite when running for election as a state judge in 2004. That's when then-Rep. Boggs told voters at a judicial candidates' forum, "I am proud of my record. You don't have to guess where I stand - I oppose same-sex marriages. I supported and authored the Child Protection Act to protect children from predators. I have a record that tells you exactly what I stand for."

This connection - that Boggs himself made - between how he would approach judging cases to his views as a legislator on the legal issues that would be before him as a judge, compelled the Senate Judiciary Committee to examine Boggs' legislative record.

And what a disturbing record that was: He sought to amend the state constitution to forever lock gays and lesbians out of the promise of equality and to prohibit the Georgia legislature from ever extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians. He supported anti-choice legislation and even voted for a bill amendment that would have put abortion providers' lives at risk. He voted in support of having the Confederate battle symbol incorporated into the state flag. He sought to use the power of government to promote religion, church-state separation notwithstanding.

Given his 2004 assurance that his legislative record showed how he would rule as a judge, senators could certainly presume that Boggs has a severely cramped view of constitutional Equal Protection, reproductive rights, and church-state separation. LGBT people, religious minorities, African Americans, and women could not be assured that their basic rights would be recognized and fully protected in his courtroom.

To make things worse, his efforts to explain away his record to the Judiciary Committee raised questions about his candor.

For instance, at his hearing, he assured both Senators Mazie Hirono and Chris Coons that statements he made in 2004 while expressing his opposition to marriage equality about "the dangers that we face with respect to activist judges" were views he held as a legislator, not as a judge. Yet he sounded quite different as recently as November 2011, having been a judge for nearly seven years. At that time, Boggs was promoting himself to a different audience, the Judicial Nominating Commission of Georgia, which was considering recommending to the governor his appointment as a state appeals court judge. When asked then how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the legal system, Boggs cited as the problem "judges who abrogated their constitutionally created authority" and "judicial decisions that have ignored and violated the basic tenets of the judiciary."

At his Senate confirmation hearings just a few years later, Sen. Coons asked Boggs to name three or four examples of cases that he'd had in mind when he expressed those concerns in 2011. Boggs admitted that as a legislator in 2004, he considered cases recognizing marriage equality as a state constitutional right as fitting this category, but didn't say what cases he'd had in mind in 2011. In her written follow-up questions, Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Boggs if he could name any decisions that he believed abrogated the judiciary's constitutionally created authority (using his words). He responded that he could not recall any cases that he had been thinking of at the time.

Yeah, right. Based on what Boggs told the state Commission, he viewed this as extremely serious, going to the very legitimacy of the courts. Yet just a few years later, even after being given additional time to think about it, he could not recall even one case that he'd had in mind. One could be forgiven for believing instead that he actually had in mind the same cases he'd referred to in 2004, and that he was telling the commissioners - and ultimately, Georgia's governor - what he thought they wanted to hear.

His efforts to explain away his votes endangering abortion providers and supporting the Confederate battle symbol were equally not believable, and apparently they were not believed by a majority of committee members. Good for them.

Boggs' disturbing record showed he was unqualified for the federal bench. Today's news shows that a majority of the Judiciary Committee agrees.

PFAW