Days Before Election, Is Obama Playing Politics With Gays?
One year ago, President Barack Obama delivered an address full of hope and promise at the Human Rights Campaign’s 2009 Annual Dinner, saying, “I’m here with a simple message: I’m here with you in that fight. For even as we face extraordinary challenges as a nation, we cannot — and we will not — put aside issues of basic equality.”
“Now, I’ve said this before, I’ll repeat it again — it’s not for me to tell you to be patient, any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African Americans petitioning for equal rights half a century ago. But I will say this: We have made progress and we will make more.”
One year later, just two and a half weeks ago, the president sent his senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett, to speak at HRC’s annual dinner.
This year, after a tenacious spring and disappointing summer, the Obama White House has, some would say, almost gone out of its way to antagonize voters from one of its steadfastly loyal constituencies, the gay community. News over the past few months that the administration’s Department of Justice would appeal federal court rulings that declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA,) and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT,) unconstitutional, along with the White House’s almost utter silence on the federal court ruling that found California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional, have been met with sheer dismay, disappointment, and growing anger by the LGBT community and its supporters.
Before last week, when little more than lip service was paid — and by only the Department of Education — to news of a rash of anti-gay bullying-related teen suicides that gripped the nation, the gay community rose into anger — and action.
The growing perception throughout America that churches are partly to blame for gay teen suicides, along with many Americans finally equating the anti-gay statements and actions of some religious and so-called “pro-family” organizations with bullying and suicides, has led members of the gay community, a large percentage of whom have remained staunch Hillary Clinton supporters, to see the Secretary of State’s quick response and recent record on LGBT issues within her own domain, as a standard this White House has not met.
Even President’s Obama’s “It Gets Better” video to gay and questioning bullied and harassed teens felt to some as an important, albeit late, gesture, especially given that his Secretary of State had released her own video message days earlier. And when the Department of Justice filed for and received an emergency stay, effectively placing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” back into law on the same day as the first-ever and astonishingly, widely-observed “Spirit Day,” a day designed to honor LGBTQ teen suicide victims, many in the gay community took that as yet another example of a callous and tone-deaf administration.
(Of course, the fact that Secretary of State Clinton wore purple on Spirit Day to a Situation Room meeting in the White House, and the president did not, only helped to cement this perception in the minds of many.)
But could an Associated Press (AP) article, “Gay Voters Angry At Democrats Could Sway Election,” published Sunday afternoon, that spread rapidly throughout major media outlets, be responsible for the Obama White House finally waking up to a problem?
Late Monday night, word was leaked of a high-level legislative-strategy meeting Tuesday for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That meeting included several LGBT organizations, including HRC and the Log Cabin Republicans. Tuesday, the news was all over the Internet, along with varying degrees of support, skepticism, more skepticism, and analysis, depending on the source.
There has been a hush from all participants at Tuesday’s White House meeting, but rumor has it, as Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner reports, that “the president stopped by the meeting ‘to directly convey to the participants his personal commitment on this issue.’”
“A person outside the White House familiar with the meeting agenda told Metro Weekly that there were three main points the White House was looking to impress upon attendees: (1) President Obama was pushing for lame-duck Senate action, (2) there would would more meetings up to the vote and (3) executive options are not being looked at right now.”
It is easy to feel a degree of ambivalence with this message, given earlier reports Tuesday, one via the Washington Blade, that “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday heâ€™s unaware of any outreach the president has done in the Senate to advance â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tellâ€ repeal,” and another via Igor Volsky at Think Progress, again placing Gibbs at the center of attention when he “refused to say whether President Obama would be willing to use his stop-loss authority to end discharges under Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell should Congress fail to repeal the policy.”
But also Tuesday came another AP article, some might wonder if by way of an apology, titled, “Record number of openly gay officials serving in Obama administration.” (Wildly right-wing news outlet One News Now saw fit to re-write the piece as, “Obama most ‘gay’-friendly president in history.”) (Skepticism is truly in the eye of the beholder.)
Yet another pro-gay announcement came from the Administration Tuesday, although sources say it has been in the works for some time. The Department of Education announced a campaign to prevent anti-gay harassment and bullying. The Washington Post reported, “The Obama administration is launching a campaign to prevent anti-gay bullying and other harassment at school, advising educators that federal law protects students from many forms of discrimination.”
“The advisory from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, to be made public Tuesday, does not break new legal ground, officials said. But the officials described it as the federal government’s most comprehensive guidance to date on how civil rights law applies to the sort of campus situations that in some cases have led persecuted students to commit suicide. President Obama is expected to help promote the initiative.”
So, unlike other times when the Obama administration finally woke up to extreme unrest within the LGBTQ community, and miraculously found its way to regift some rights and provide a few tokens of appreciation, like extending some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees a year ago June, this time there is little new in the offing, but at least the message has been sent that gays matter. At least, a little. At least, for now.
Despite the confusing messages this administration continues to send, a few things are clear. The administration is trying, but needs to learn to explain its workings and processes, and work with groups, like the LGBT community, like labor, that support it more than many others. And equally clear: it’s time, despite all our frustration, to explain our frustration to this administration, not by not voting, and not by voting Republican, but by voting for Democrats who will be in position to speak our truth to power, and to vote for the change we need.
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Florida GOP Lawmaker Who Wrote ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Facing Up to 35 Years After Pleading Guilty in COVID Fraud Case
Joe Harding, the now-former Florida Republican lawmaker who authored the extremist “Don’t Say Gay” bill could face up to 35 years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday afternoon to federal felony fraud charges in a scheme to obtain $150,000 in COVID-19 relief funds, according to Florida Politics‘ publisher Peter Scorsch.
Harding, 35, was a construction project manager who started his own lawn care company. He quickly became a right-wing darling after his anti-LGBTQ legislation, officially the Parental Rights in Education Act, was embraced by Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis, who signed it into law.
Harding was charged in a December federal indictment with six counts of wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in his plot to obtain $150,000 in COVID funds.He resigned from the legislature the following day. He originally pled not guilty.
READ MORE: ‘Chilling’: Law Enforcement ‘Seriously’ Investigating Threats Ahead of Possible Trump Indictment Says Top WaPo Reporter
After Harding was charged and resigned, Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida, responded via social media, saying: “So much harm to students, parents and teachers because of his raw political ambitions. He slandered entire communities and trafficked in lie after lie that has emboldened violent bigotry. He will have his day in court but his legacy is already a despicable one.”
Harding is not the only family member accused of criminal acts.
“Harding’s indictment follows a September guilty plea from his brother-in-law, Patrick Walsh,” Florida Politics reported in December. “As reported by Fresh Take Florida, Walsh pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges connected to his receipt of nearly $8 million in disaster relief loans.”
Unrepentant to the harm many feel he has done to children and the LGBTQ community, in a statement Tuesday Harding said: “During the past legislative session I have felt the support of millions of Americans while fighting for our shared concerns and for the rights of parents. I will never forget the support I received from every corner of this great country.”
READ MORE: 18 Attorneys General Blast Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Law as Unconstitutional
Harding will be sentenced in July.
Florida’s Voice also reported Harding’s guilty plea Tuesday.
RIGHT WING EXTREMISM
‘Chilling’: Law Enforcement ‘Seriously’ Investigating Threats Ahead of Possible Trump Indictment Says Top WaPo Reporter
Ahead of a possible indictment of Donald Trump, law enforcement agencies are investigating “chilling” threats, including against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, according to top Washington Post investigative reporter Carol Leonnig.
Leonnig was careful to say she is not aware of any of the threats being deemed credible, but also noted that “all sorts of law enforcement agencies” seem to be taking much more interest than some agencies did in the weeks before the January 6, 2021 insurrection.
“I have received copies and screenshots and internal documents and emails flagging concerns about specific protests, investigations into specific online threats that have been made that are not yet determined to be ‘credible and likely to occur’ but have been chilling nonetheless in terms of the threats that have been made about killing certain people,” Leonning, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author, said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Deadline” White House.”
“Claims of, you know, ‘Alvin Bragg needs to needs to die,’ and claims online that could just be, you know, bravado, but are being seriously investigated and checked into this time around, ones that were not checked into as clearly at all in the weeks before January 6, despite significant warnings to the FBI about what these threats meant.”
Mirroring Leonnig’s reporting, Rolling Stone, citing law enforcement reports, on Tuesday noted: “Violent extremists are advocating lethal attacks and proclaiming their willingness to die for the cause.”
READ MORE: ‘All-Out War’: Trump’s Attorney Tells Kimberly Guilfoyle Ex-President Will Be ‘Loud and Proud’ When Showing Up for Indictment
“U.S. Capitol Police, the D.C. Fusion Center, and the Federal Highway Administration have all circulated warnings about the uptick in online threats over the past 48 hours. The bulletins and threat assessments detail some of the online threats and discussions about the use of specific tactics and methods for carrying out attacks — including online discussions about lethal attacks if Trump is arrested.”
On Saturday in an explosive series of social media posts Donald Trump urged his supporters to “protest” and “take our nation back.”
That “announcement was met with an immediate increase in violent online rhetoric and expressed threats toward government and law enforcement targets perceived as participating in a political persecution of the former president, as well as calls for ‘Civil War’ more generally.”
The DC Fusion Center, which analyzes threats, in a report stated it “assesses that potential criminal justice actions taken toward a former US president — or actions perceived to be taken toward the former president — remain a ‘line in the sand’ for [Domestic Violent Extremist] communities and thus have the potential to manifest in violence toward government targets or political officials,” Rolling Stone added.
Missouri Supreme Court Refuses to Disbar Lawyer Who Sexually Assaulted Six Women: Report
An 86-year old defense attorney will be allowed to keep his law license after the Missouri Supreme Court in a 4-3 ruling refused to disbar him despite having sexually assaulted six of his clients, all women.
Attorney Dan K. Purdy will be “indefinitely suspended from practicing law but allowed to apply for reinstatement after a year,” The Kansas City Star reports.
“In September 2020, Purdy made sexual advances toward four clients in a Vernon County jail interview room, including touching and kissing, that were confirmed by video provided by the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office,” The Star reports. “Each woman was later interviewed by officers and told them Purdy’s advances were unwanted.”
In addition to jail interview roos, Purdy’s sexual advances took place in court and in his car. All were locations where his clients might have felt uncomfortable to complain.
READ MORE: Trump Calls for Congress to Investigate NY AG After Judge Refuses to Delay $250 Million Fraud Trial Against Ex-President
“Purdy’s clients either did not know or did not realize they could repudiate his sexual advances,” Justice George W. Draper III wrote in the majority opinion.
There are seven justices on the Missouri Supreme Court, four appointed by Republican governors, three by Democratic governors. Four are men, three are women.
The ruling was not along party lines.
“In my view, neither the race, gender, ethnicity, nor age of an attorney should be taken into consideration to determine appropriate discipline,” wrote Justice Zel M. Fischer in his dissent. “In my view, Mr. Purdy’s conduct, which was clearly and explicitly depicted in the video evidence, warrants disbarment.”
“As recognized by the principal opinion, not only did Mr. Purdy sexually assault six female clients, he ‘exhibited a continued pattern or practice of improper and disturbing conduct, which continued, even after the present case was filed against him,'” Fischer noted. [Bolding in original text.]
Image of Missouri Supreme Court via Wikimedia
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