Under a President Mitt Romney, there are at least 22 advances in LGBT civil rights delivered by President Barack Obama that most likely will disappear. While Nancy Pelosi and, to a far lesser extent, Harry Reid, have worked to support civil rights and protections for the gay community, Barack Obama has — sometimes with great fanfare, oftentimes in the shadows — delivered important advances.
Back in 2010, at Change.org, I wrote a somewhat controversial (at the time) article, “Obama’s Gay Rights Come With An Expiration Date,” which stated:
President Obama should know better than to incrementalize gay rights, and tie them to his presidency. And yet, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
President Obama has slowly and quietly doled out rights to the LGBTQ community. These are rights we should have by the very nature of our existence, rights that every other American has upon birth, but the president has doled them out cautiously, meekly, without pomp or circumstance, and, worse, he has tied them to his presidency.
This tactic is problematic for two reasons.
First, by expanding our civil rights by issuing executive orders and memoranda, President Obama’s gay civil rights come with an expiration date. Yes, that’s right. The rights he has decreed, without working through Congress, are tied to his presidency. Any of his successors can, simply with the stroke of a pen, wipe out all our hard-earned rights, just because he or she wants to. Do you honestly think the next Republican presidentÂ won’tÂ do that?
Today, the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson posts a long list of 21 LGBT advances a President Romney could — with the stroke of a pen or incrementally — make disappear into a more progressive history.
Asking, “Would President Romney undo pro-LGBT advances?,” Johnson notes:
Many of the pro-LGBT advances that have happened under the Obama administration occurred through changes made by the executive branch rather than through legislation. Changes that were made without the consent of Congress could be reversed under an administration that wanted to cozy up to the religious right.
The Washington Blade has identified five regulatory changes and 16 sub-regulatory changes enacted by the Obama administration that could be reversed if Romney were elected to the White House. These changes include giving greater recognition to same-sex couples, protecting federal LGBT workers against discrimination and ensuring the federal government recognizes the correct gender of transgender people.
The one Johnson doesn’t include in his list of “five regulatory changes and 16 sub-regulatory changes” is the most-obvious: Obama’s support of same-sex marriage equality.
Here’s the list from the Blade:
The Administrative Procedures Act provides safeguards against politically motivated policy switches.Â Thus repealing the policies below would involve a multi-year process.
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) adopted a regulation ending the ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants.
- President Obama issued Presidential Memorandum in April 2010 directing HHS to issue regulations requiring all hospitals receiving Medicaid and Medicare to prohibit discrimination in visitation against LGBT people.Â HHS issued a final regulation that went into effect in early 2011.
- HUD issued final regulations in January 2012 prohibiting discrimination in federal public housing programs and federally insured mortgage loans.Â HUD also requires its grantees to comply with LGBT-inclusive state and local housing discrimination protections.
- The Office of Personnel Management published final regulations in the Federal Register expanding the eligibility for long-term care coverage to same-sex partners and sick leave to care for a same-sex partner.
- Â The federal Prison Rape Elimination Commission proposed national standards to reduce sexual abuse in correctional facilities, including standards regarding LGBT and intersex inmates. They were later instituted as a rule finalized by the Justice Department last month.
Sub-Regulatory Guidance/Policy Announcements
These are policy advances instituted by â€” and subject to the will of â€” the administration.
- The Department of Health and Human Services revised its funding guidance around abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs, requiring that recipient programs are inclusive of and non-stigmatizing toward LGBT youth.
- HHS, in partnership with the Department of Education and Department of Justice, launchedÂ stopbullyingnow.com.
- The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency recently released new 2011 Performance Based National Detention Standards.Â These new standards provide guidance that aims to improve treatment of LGBT and HIV-positive people in detention facilities.
- In summer 2011, ICE published a memo and clarifying guidance providing that an individualâ€™s family relationships, including a same-sex relationship, would be considered as a factor in labeling certain deportations as low-priority deportations.
- The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol announced a proposed regulatory change expanding the meaning of â€œmembers of a family residing in one householdâ€ for the purposes of the customs declaration form, which must be completed prior to re-entry to the United States.
- The DOJ issued an opinion clarifying that the criminal provisions of the Violence Against Women Act related to stalking and abuse apply equally to same-sex partners.
- The State Department revised the standards for changing a gender marker on a passport, making the process less burdensome for transgender people.
- In September 2011, the Social Security Administration confirmed that it ended the practice of allowing gender to be matched in its Social Security Number Verification System (SSNVS). This resulted in the immediate cessation of SSA sending notifications that alert employers when the gender marker on an employeeâ€™s W-2 does not match Social Security records.
- The State Department extended numerous benefits to the partners of Foreign Service officers, including diplomatic passports and access to emergency evacuation.
- The State Department reversed a Bush administration policy that refused to use a same-sex marriage license as evidence of a name change for passports.
- The Department of Education issued guidance clarifying when student bullying may violate federal law, distributed a memo outlining key components of strong state anti-bullying laws and policies and made clear to public schools that gay-straight alliances have a right to form and meet.
- The Department of Education published guidance and, in coordination with the Department of Justice, has pursued Title IX complaints filed by LGBT students experiencing harassment based on sex or sex stereotyping.
- OPM added gender identity to the equal employment opportunity policy governing all federal jobs.
- The Department of Labor issued guidance clarifying that an employee can take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a same-sex partnerâ€™s child.
- The IRS clarified that domestic partners (and their children) can be designated beneficiaries for VEBA funding/payment purposes.
- The Census Bureau overturned the Bush administrationâ€™s interpretation of the Defense of Marriage Act and agreed to release data on married same-sex couples along with other demographic information from the 2010 Census.
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‘Dystopian’: Potential Trump Cabinet Picks Send ‘5-Alarm’ Shock Waves of Terror
Attorney General Stephen Miller? Vice President Tucker Carlson? White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon? CIA Director Kash Patel? A new report detailing a second Donald Trump presidency’s “loyalty first” potential cabinet nominees is sending shock waves over their extremist positions and in some cases an entirely insufficient level of experience for the job.
“Former President Trump, if elected, would build a Cabinet and White House staff based mainly on two imperatives: pre-vetted loyalty to him and a commitment to stretch legal and governance boundaries, sources who talk often with the leading GOP presidential candidate tell Axios,” the news outlet reported in an exclusive Thursday morning. “If Trump won in 2024, he’d turn to loyalists who share his zeal to punish critics, purge non-believers, and take controversial legal and military action, the sources tell us.”
Some of these possible picks for the very top levels of government hold or have promoted white supremacist, Christian nationalist, authoritarian, or fascistic policies or beliefs.
Axios calls them “full, proud MAGA warriors, anti-GOP establishment zealots, and eager and willing to test the boundaries of executive power to get Trump’s way.”
“They want to target and jail critics, including government officials and journalists; deport undocumented immigrants or put them in detainment camps, and unleash the military to target drug cartels in Mexico, or possibly crack down on criminals or protesters at home,” Axios’ Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei report, adding, “They want to scrap rules that limit their ability to purge government workers deemed disloyal.”
“Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas — a former Army infantry officer known for his hard edge, and who wrote a New York Times op-ed in Trump’s first term supporting use of the Insurrection Act against civil disorder — would be considered to head the Pentagon,” according to Axios.
Most of the names mentioned in the Axios report are well-known, and they are being promoted by many surrounding the disgraced criminally-indicted ex-president.
“Donald Trump Jr. has floated [Mike] Davis, the former chief counsel for nominations to then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), to be Trump’s interim attorney general — saying it would be a ‘shot across the bow of the swamp,'” Axios reports. “In his public auditions for the job, the bombastic Davis has promised a ‘three-week reign of terror‘ in which he would ‘put kids in cages’ and jail prosecutors and journalists who have gone after Trump — even telling MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan that he has ‘his spot picked out in the D.C. gulag.'”
Meanwhile, Melania Trump is pushing for “booted” Fox News propagandist Tucker Carlson to be Trump’s running mate.
Other vice presidential possibilities mentioned include Arkansas governor and former Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, U.S. Senator J.D Vance, and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Some close to Trump are promoting themselves for the vice presidential role, including U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL).
Axios also reports that “Johnny McEntee, Trump’s loyalty vetter and enforcer, [who] headed presidential personnel in the first term … might return to that role with even more power. He also could be Trump’s gatekeeper as head of Oval Office operations, or could be Cabinet secretary, riding herd on the White House liaisons to each department.”
“By late 2020, McEntee had explicit lists of top officials to fire and hire in a Trump second term, reaching far down the federal bureaucracy in a mission to truly ‘clean out’ the ‘Deep State.’ That project has continued outside of government with a $22 million presidential transition project led by the Heritage Foundation.”
On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Axios’ Jim VandeHei, who co-authored the report, dove even further into how concerning these potential picks are, leading the Biden campaign to post a clip of a small portion of his remarks on social media:
Vandehei: For Trump’s Cabinet, Tucker Carlson could be the VP pick. Stephen Miller could be AG and has said that he wants detainment camps and mass deportations. Kash Patel has talked about using government to go after the media and could be the head of the CIA or NSC pic.twitter.com/u62nO4s5ZX
— Biden-Harris HQ (@BidenHQ) December 7, 2023
Vandehei went on to say, “you might like that, then you’re going to be electrified by this group but if you don’t like it, you’re probably going to be horrified by some of the picks. But what’s in common with all of these people is they share at least a willingness to do all the things that Donald Trump would say.”
And he reminded that none of Trump’s previous team that guarded the American people against his worst instincts will be part of a second Trump administration.
“None of those shackles will exist. He’s going to come in with a group of enablers and a group of executors. So whatever you thought about the first term, he’s going to be able to do things at a velocity rate he wasn’t capable of because he didn’t really know how to govern,” Vandehei added. “Now he knows a little bit better, but he’s surrounded by people and there’s these multimillion dollar efforts outside of his own orbit at the Heritage Foundation.”
“It’s not necessarily about substance,” he said of how the people choosing who becomes part of any next Trump administration would be, “it’s basically an ideological litmus test. Are you willing to believe wholly in Donald Trump, serve loyalty to Donald Trump and then implement his view of what the world should look like? If you can pass that test you might be one of the 50,000 people who get to come into [his] government.”
Meanwhile, critics responding to the Axios report are voicing extreme concern.
“This is about the most dystopian article ever written,” observed The Bulwark’s Tim Miller. “Like asking ChatGPT to write about a fantasy Trump administration cabinet that blends Nazis and celebrities in the style of 2008 Politico playbook.”
Former Biden Commerce Dept. official Caitlin Legacki wrote, “This Axios reporting should be a 5-alarm fire. Terrifying stuff in here and it’s barely making waves.”
U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) warned, “This is what is at stake in 2024 & lurking behind every single thing the extreme MAGA GOP is doing. Don’t lose the plot in their chaos or we will lose our democracy.”
New Jersey Treasury Dept. official Darryl Isherwood summed up what many seemed to be saying: “If this doesn’t scare you, you’re not paying attention.”
Watch the video above or at this link.
Image: Screenshot from Trump’s first cabinet meeting in 2019
Republicans Release Resolution for Expected Vote on Formal Biden Impeachment Inquiry
Republicans have released the text of a resolution ahead of an expected full House vote next week to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, despite having provided to the American people no actual proof of illegal activities or impeachable offenses.
The right-leaning news outlet The Hill, reporting on the resolution Thursday, notes Republicans’ current impeachment inquiry “has struggled to connect President Biden to the activities of his son, and they’ve failed to prove their most salacious allegation — and the one that would be most key for impeachment: that the president accepted a bribe.”
One of the main pillars of Republicans’ allegations against President Biden, the “narrative that President Biden pushed Ukraine to fire its prosecutor to help his son, who served on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burimsa, has largely been refuted.”
The resolution for the formal impeachment inquiry all but admits Republicans have not produced proof to impeach President Biden, by drafting it with no actual allegations. It is a boilerplate document focused on how the inquiry should be conducted, laying out rules and regulations related to handling evidence and testimony of witnesses.
Like his predecessor, now-former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Speaker Mike Johnson has repeatedly pushed for the House to move forward on an impeachment trajectory, despite even some “mainstream” House Republicans voicing concerns over a lack of actual evidence.
“The speaker said he would move forward with a vote that Republicans have long avoided for fear that some in their ranks would refuse to endorse an investigation without incriminating evidence,” The New York Times reported Tuesday. “Republicans have engaged in wide-ranging inquiry into Mr. Biden for months, hunting for evidence to back up their allegations that he corruptly profited from his family members’ overseas business dealings and accepted bribes. To date, they have failed to deliver compelling evidence to back up their boldest claims.”
Last month, Vanity Fair reported “Republicans in Washington have all but owned up to the blatantly political rationale behind their impeachment inquiry against the president,” noting that in “a closed-door meeting, the House Speaker apparently suggested that Republicans can de-prioritize ousting Biden, given his waning popularity in the polls.”
‘Making It Up’: Trump Lawyer’s Claim It’s Not An Insurrection If It’s Only 3 Hours Doesn’t Fly in Court
Donald Trump’s attorney Wednesday tried to argue the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol didn’t constitute an insurrection because it was only three hours long, then quickly admitted his definition was made up, new courtroom footage shows.
Scott Gessler presented arguments to the Colorado Supreme Court considering the appeal of 14th Amendment challenge seeking to block Trump from the 2024 presidential ballot based on its “insurrectionist ban,” CNN reports.
An awkward exchange captured by PBS News Hour shows Gessler struggling to convince the panel that last month’s ruling from a lower court, which found Trump had engaged in insurrection (but that the 14th Amendment does not apply to presidents), was wrong.
“It has to be for a substantial duration,” Gessler said. “Not three hours.”
The Justices retorted that Gessler’s limits did not appear in the definition of insurrection — Encyclopedia Britannica’s entry on the subject includes the Jan. 6 attack — and demanded to know his source.
“Where is all that coming from?” a Supreme Court justice asked. “You’ve added a whole lot of conditions there.”
To this, Gessler replied, “We’re all sort of making it up at the end of the day.”
This comment, shared on social media, spurred both outrage and laughter from followers of the contentious legal battle.
“So basically, ‘Yeah I got nothing, but he definitely didn’t do it,'” summarized Bill DeMayo.
Quipped X user Amy: “Trump’s Law Firm: Dewey Cheatem & Howe.”
Gessler’s further argument that the Jan. 6 rioters were not armed at the level “necessary to overcome” police drew rebuke from Justice William Hood, CNN reports.
“There were a lot of makeshift weapons that did a lot of damage,” Hood reportedly said, noting more than 100 officers were hurt.
One Justice did admit the definition of insurrection was up for debate and would play an important role in their ruling as the 14th Amendment doesn’t define it.
Gessler compared the definition of insurrection to a common quip about pornography: “I don’t know a definition of it, but I know it when I see it.”
Watch the video below or click the link.
This was an actual comment made by Trump’s lawyer today in the 14th Amendment case in Colorado as Trump’s lawyers sought to challenge the definition of an insurrection:
Trump lawyer: Now you’re gonna tell me, “Mr. Gessler, you’re making it up.” And I’m going to say, “Well so did… pic.twitter.com/A9iTpJhOA2
— MeidasTouch (@MeidasTouch) December 6, 2023
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