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Equality Forum: Legal Panel (Part I): Chewing Over Prop 8



The New Civil Rights Movement’s John Culhane is the official blogger for Equality Forum, Philadelphia’s internationally known and always interesting cavalcade of events that celebrates, informs and provokes on all (or many, anyway) things LGBT. John will be sharing reports daily over the next few days. Read all John’s Equality Forum posts here. 

You could tell that National Legal Panel had some serious heft: The event (like the National Politics Panel, which followed) was held in the Constitution Center on Friday, and introduced by a public relations/education leader there. And then there was the way the panelists filed in — in single file, from stage right, while being announced like the day’s contestants on Jeopardy!

The credentials and background of the panelists, along with the absurd depth of their knowledge, justified this folderol. Moderator Jennifer Pizer is the Legal Director at the Williams Institute (LGBT research initiative) at UCLA; William Eskridge is a Yale law professor who has written extensively on many issues related to the LGBT community, but perhaps especially about marriage equality; Hayley Gorenberg is the Deputy Director of Lambda Legal and has litigated many high-profile cases; and Janson Wu is a staff attorney for the Gay and Lesbian Legal Defenders (“GLAD”) who has also been successful in cases brought in New England to secure LGBT rights — especially with regard to the vile Defense of Marriage Act.

In fact, the panelists had so much to say that one post can’t do the panel justice. In this Part I, let’s talk about Eskridge’s analysis of the Prop 8 litigation. (Stay tuned for a second post in a day or two.)

Pizer’s effective style was to get each panelist to catch the audience up on recent developments by asking a series of provocative, yet open-ended questions. Eskridge began the discussion by asking us how many thought there’d be full marriage equality in the U.S. within five, then ten, then twenty years. When he moved from ten to twenty years, the “yes” vote jumped from about half to almost all. And, as it turned out, that’s what Eskridge thinks, too. Instead of saying that directly, he used the progress of the Proposition 8 litigation to make his point. He’s hoping for a narrow win that would toss out Prop 8 — and thereby restore marriage equality to California — but leave other anti-equality laws intact.

As we know, Prop 8 is now before the Ninth Circuit court of appeals. The Prop 8 opponents (our side!) have won in both the federal district (trial) court and before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit. Next, the judges are soon to decide whether to rehear the case en banc (in a group of twelve judged), or decline to do so, in which case the matter could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court right away. (The Court would not be obligated to hear the case; in that event, the decision by the Ninth Circuit that Prop 8 is unconstitutional would stand).

The most interesting aspect of Eskridge’s presentation was his discussion of the narrow basis on which the Ninth Circuit had decided the case — a basis, it turns out, that Eskridge had advocated in an amicus brief he filed with the court. Instead of asking the appellate court to affirm the lower court’s broad ruling that excluding same-sex couples from marriage is a violation of both their right to equal protection under the law and of the fundamental right to marry, the Eskridge brief, asked the court to rule that Prop 8 is unconstitutional only because it bears a close resemblance to another Supreme Court case, Romer v. Evans. In Romer, the court ruled that an amendment to the Colorado state constitution that prevented localities from providing gays and lesbians with legal protections was a violation of equal protection of the law in the most fundamental way. Eskridge drew three clear parallels between that case and Prop 8:

(1) Voters took away a fundamental right from a discriminated-against minority (before Prop 8, same-sex couples had a right to marry that the California Supreme Court had identified from principles in the state’s constitution);

(2) The rationalizations for Prop 8 sweep too broadly. Let’s put this in terms non-lawyers can understand, by using an example. One of the procreation arguments advanced to justify the measure is that marriage is needed to increase the chances that opposite-sex couples who “accidentally procreate” will stay together. But how  is this end served taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry?

(3) The campaigns and the effect of the initiative was to “effect a status denigration” on a particular class — in express defiance of Romer.  For example, ads emphasized that school children might now draw the inference that same-sex relationships were just as good as opposite-sex ones. Well, they should, if gays and lesbians are equal citizens. So these ads and the whole tenor of the campaign, then reflected in the vote, was in part to create a sort of forbidden caste system. That’s in defiance of Justice Kennedy’s quote in Romer that “the Constitution neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”

Why pitch your legal tent on such a narrow piece of land? Eskridge, like many, thinks that Justice Anthony Kennedy’ vote will be decisive. And since Kennedy wrote Romer and might be reluctant to issue a ruling that would decide the marriage equality issue once and for all, this laser-focus might make sense.

We’ll see, but probably not too soon. This case probably has another year or two of twists and turns before the last word is spoken.

Were he born 10,000 years ago, John Culhane would not have survived to adulthood; he has no useful, practical skills. He is a law professor who writes about various and sundry topics, including: disaster compensation; tort law; public health law; literature; science; sports; his own personal life (when he can bear the humanity); and, especially, LGBT rights and issues. He teaches at the Widener University School of Law and is a Senior Fellow at the Thomas Jefferson School of Population Health.

He is also a contributor to Slate Magazine, and writes his own eclectic blog. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you’re blessed with lots of time.

John Culhane lives in the Powelton Village area of Philadelphia with his partner David and their twin daughters, Courtnee and Alexa. Each month, he awaits the third Saturday evening for the neighborhood Wine Club gathering.

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Watch: Republican Wrongly Tells Constituents ‘Of Course’ Inflation Is 40% in Ad Shopping, Complaining About Prices



A sitting U.S. Congresswoman who may have violated a federal conflict of interest law by incorrectly reporting receipt of $500,000 in stocks took a page out of Dr. Oz’s playbook Wednesday, cutting an ad showing her shopping – not for crudité, but for back-to-school supplies as she complains about prices while falsely claiming U.S. inflation is 40%.

Rep. María Elvira Salazar, Republican of Florida, who voted against the Inflation Reduction Act, recorded the ad (below) in Spanish with English subtitles inside a Target and posted it to her personal Twitter account.

In it she falsely states the rate of inflation. Current U.S. inflation is 8.5% annually. For the month of July it was at zero percent, which caused the annual rate to drop from 9.1% in June to 8.5%.

Many other countries have much higher inflation. The UK’s annual rate just jumped to 10.1%, a quarter of what she claimed the U.S. inflation rate is. Inflation is highest in Venezuela at 1198%. Sudan is at 340%. Argentina is at 51.2%, and Turkey is at 36.1%.

Congresswoman Salazar voted against the Inflation Reduction Act, as did every House and Senate Republican. Defensively, after she posted her video, on Twitter she wrote: “Let me be clear: the Inflation Reduction Act will do NOTHING to reduce inflation. Instead, it’s going to raise your taxes, send American jobs overseas, and weaponize the IRS to come for your hard-earned dollars.” All of which is false for the vast majority of Americans.

In a press release targeting Rep. Salazar the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced the House passed “the Inflation Reduction Act, broadly popular legislation that will lower the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance, and everyday energy costs — all while reducing the deficit and carbon emissions, by making the wealthiest corporations finally pay their fair share.”

“Despite Americans supporting every component of this bill, María Elvira Salazar chose to play politics, lie to voters, and vote against legislation that will benefit American families.”

According to reported Insider, Salazar “appears to have violated a federal conflicts-of-interest law by improperly disclosing a 6-figure stock trade.”

“On June 10, Salazar disclosed in a congressional financial filing that, on February 14, she had received up to $500,000 worth of publicly traded stock in Cano Health Inc., a company that provides health care services for seniors.”

Watch Rep. Salazar’s video below or at this link:


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Weisselberg Expected to ‘Criminally Implicate’ Trump Organization in Plea Deal Admitting to 15 Felonies: Reports



Allen Weisselberg, the ex-Trump Organization CFO who has worked for the former president’s family since 1970, is expected to plead guilty to 15 felonies and “criminally implicate” the real estate empire.

“The Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer will admit to conspiring with the Trump Organization and Trump Payroll Corporation in a 15-year tax fraud scheme while head of the company’s finances at a Manhattan Supreme Court hearing on Thursday,” the Daily News reports. “Allen Weisselberg is expected to criminally implicate Trump’s family real estate business when he pleads guilty to criminal tax fraud charges, a source familiar with the matter told The News on Wednesday.”

READ MORE: Trump Jr. Whines for 13 Minutes About 15 Felony Count Indictment Against Family Company: ‘This Is What Russia Does’

Weisselberg is also expected to agree to testify against the Trump companies, and agree to a five-month sentence at Rikers Island, the horrific New York City jail that is slated to be shut down by 2026.

Rolling Stone adds that Weiselberg “will say in Manhattan court Thursday that he conspired with several of the ex-president’s companies when he pleads guilty to state tax crimes,

The New York Times calls the impending plea deal “a serious blow to the company that could imperil its chances in an upcoming trial.”

This is a breaking news and developing story. 

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Dr. Oz Trounced in Newsmax Interview as Host Demands Explanation for ‘Wegner’s’ and ‘Crudité’ Ad



Republican Mehmet Oz is having a tough time in his entrance to Pennsylvania politics. The multi-millionaire celebrity TV doctor, running for a U.S. Senate seat, released a video which this week went viral with liberals – and his Democratic opponent, Lt. Governor John Fetterman – picking it apart.

In the video, an attack ad on President Joe Biden, who he is not running against, Dr. Oz says he’s shopping at “Wegner’s,” a grocery store that does not exist. Internet sleuths deduced he was shopping at Redner’s, although some believe he was at Wegmans — including a Newsmax TV host, who Oz did not correct.

Why did he get something as simple as the name of a beloved Pennsylvania grocery store wrong?

“I was exhausted,” Oz told Newsmax, after “campaigning 18 hours a day.”

RELATED: ‘Gone Dark’: GOP Nominee Dr. Oz Has Disappeared From TV in Critical Senate Race – Report

He also admitted he gets the names of his children wrong.

Curiously, the 39-second video Oz recorded is from April, and it got criticized then, but he left it up – only for the Fetterman campaign to go after it again. Back in April it led to questions about his tremendous wealth, put at around $400 million, and calls of being a “carpetbagger,” as many say he actually lives in New Jersey, not Pennsylvania.

Politico reports the Fetterman campaign “said it had raised more than $500,000 from the crudité video alone — including a sticker of the non-existent ‘Wegners.’ ‘Oz clearly has never been in a grocery store before. That’s why this is resonating with supporters across Pennsylvania,’ said Brendan McPhillips, Fetterman’s campaign manager.”

The Fetterman campaign appears to have created a “Wegner’s Groceries” account on Twitter, and is pounding Oz with snark.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania voters do not appear to be impressed with Oz.

One Republican poll shows Fetterman beating Oz by 18 points.

“New poll conducted by GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies for Pittsburgh Works Together shows big leads for Dems in the PA Senate and governors races. Fetterman up 18 points over Oz,” reports Politico’s Alex Isenstadt. The Democratic nominee for governor, Josh Shapiro is up 15 points over Republican Doug Mastriano, he adds.

READ MORE: Watch: Dr. Oz Says Legalizing Marijuana Is ‘Giving Them Pot So They Stay Home’

Back over at Newsmax, here was host Shaun Kraisman hammering Oz:

“As you know, this video went viral,” Kraisman says, as Mediate reports. “You were at Wegmans going through the veggie aisle, essentially hitting on inflation and how things cost more, putting together a plate of crudité would cost you more than 20 bucks. You said that you were at Wegner’s – this is a very popular local grocery in this region called Wegmans.”

Kraisman later says, “I don’t mean to fixate on it, but just for those watching in Pennsylvania, you know how particular many people are about their groceries, what happened with Wegmans and Wegner’s? Can you explain that to them?”

“Yeah. I was exhausted. Well, you’re campaigning 18 hours a day. I’ve gotten my kids’ names wrong as well. I don’t think that’s a measure of someone’s ability to lead the Commonwealth.”

Kraisman also says, “it does get to the factor: Is Dr. Oz relatable to the everyday, hardworking American there in Pennsylvania?”

“We’ll do whatever we need to do to make sure the people of Pennsylvania respect what we’re about,” Oz replies, “and that we’re going to work as hard as we can to fix their problems. It’s what I’ve done my whole life. It’s what I’ll continue to do. I challenged my opponent. What have you done? Rolling your sleeves up in your own life to make life better for the people of Pennsylvania?”

Before he was elected Lt. Governor, Fetterman was elected mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, four times, and served for 13 years.

Oz concludes, “I’m the person who put us on the right track and addressed many of the challenges. Cost of living, crime, and our schools that afflict so many Pennsylvanians.”

Some have also questioned if Oz understands what job he’s running for.

U.S. Senators don’t have tremendous responsibility over their state’s cost of living, crime, and school issues. Nor do they “lead the Commonwealth,” as he said to the Newsmax host.



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