The New Civil Rights Movementâ€™sÂ John Culhane is the official blogger for Equality Forum,Â Philadelphiaâ€™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 postsÂ here.Â
Well, that was interesting.
About an hour into last night’s Equality Forum “Featured Nation: Israel” panel, four or five protesters barged into the room and began shouting about Israel’s inhumane treatment of the Palestinians. They had a huge banner that they never managed to unfurl, and what looked like a manifesto that they never managed to read — because they were quickly dragged out of the room by the hotel’s security staff.
All but one woman. Inexplicably wearing what looked like a Mardi Gras mask, she moved toward the front of the room and tried to speak. For a minute or so, there was a bizarre stand-off between her and several loud and angry audience members, who shouted (unhelpfully) “Get out.”
Enter Nurit Shein, the panel moderator (and Executive Director the Mazzoni Center), who tried to quell the disturbance by calming stating that she understood the reason for the protests, but that this wasn’t the right forum. Then, in a welcome surprise, another panelist — Anat Nir, a young Israeli activist who works on the economic side of LGBT equality — somewhat disagreed with her, contending that these were issues that needed airing. Then she and other panelists described the work that the LGBT leadership in Tel Aviv was doing with Palestinians in Gaza and Arabs living in Israel in order to help them deal with a culture that was more repressive than Israel’s. The activist seems disarmed by this civil response, and, while she didn’t exactly go quietly (a security guy “helped” her out), the panelists had found the antidote to the venom in her voice.
Was the event the better for the protesters? I’d say yes, but not in the way they’d intended. They did succeed in getting the panelists to talk about the challenges of doing LGBT rights in a society where there are other injustices that go unaddressed; although, as more than one of them painfully pointed out, the situation isn’t markedly different in the U.S. (It was either Shein or Nir who pointed out that, for example, the continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan is problematic, but that’s no reason for the work of LGBT activists to stop.) And they did, in a way, get people to consider what they were saying. But really, their goal was to disrupt and to shut people up. And that rarely (not never!) seems like a good idea to me. Why not be part of the audience and ask penetrating questions? And then set up your protest outside? They did that — as I walked to my car, a small group of college-age students were standing on the sidewalk bearing signs that rebuked the “pink washing” of Israel — by which I gather they mean the effort to use progress on LGBT rights to camouflage the deeper human rights abuses that continue.
The protest aside, the panel was remarkably informative. Shai Doitsh, the Chairperson of the Israeli National LGBT Task Force, provided a succinct summary of LGBT rights progress in Israel over the past thirty years. Until 1988, it was illegal to be gay (by which I took him to mean that the law criminalized acts of same-sex intimacy, as the Israelis had uncritically imported English law into their system when the nation was founded). Then that law changed, and, a few years later, the exclusion of gays from the military was lifted. (More than one panelist described the importance of this legal change in Israel, given the social standing of the Israeli Army and the expectation that everyone will serve.) And — in a reminder that high-profile media events are as important as legal change in moving a rights agenda — he pointed to the 1998 EuroVision win of an Israeli transgendered woman, Dana International, for the song (wait for it!) “Diva.” (For those who don’t know what EuroVision is, shame on you! One word: ABBA!)
Doitsh said that many of the advances had come from the courts and not Parliament, a statement that provided a smooth segue into the remarks by Irit Rosenblum, a very smart lawyer who directs the New Family Organization. This title isn’t a politically motivated misdirection for a group that deals with LGBT rights — as its name implies, “New Family” is concerned with the rights of all kinds of families that aren’t recognized under Israeli law. And because that law is grounded in religion, the group of legal outliers includes couples interfaith couples, non-religious couples, and foreign workers — along with LGBT couples. The strategy has been to pursue practical solutions to the legal problems of parenthood, private contracting, inheritance, and so on by “flooding” the family courts with petitions and cases. And this has paid off, because dozens of adverse rulings are quickly swamped by one or two good ones. Once a court has simply seen and protected the couples in front of them, it becomes harder for later courts to backtrack. This approach has also gained some traction here in the U.S., with scholars like Nancy Polikoff emphasizing the need for the law to “value all families” — not just the LGBT ones that are, for many of us, our primary concern. Small victories can be used to pry bigger ones out of the courts. (I was particularly interested in the story of how a gay couple was forced to cool its heels in India with the baby they’d created with a surrogate, until a combination of legal and social pressure resulted in their repatriation.)
Yaniv Weizman, a Tel Aviv city council member and advisor to the mayor on LGBT issues, thanked Rosenblum for her work and then, movingly, gestured to his husband in the front row as evidence of its effect. “Tel Aviv is so gay!”, said Weizman. While we have a “Gayborhood” (I hate that name!) in Philadelphia, Tel Aviv is an entirely gay-open city. (I also learned that it was recently named the No. 1 Gay Tourist Destination in the world.) But the rest of the country isn’t as progressive. In this way, the city isn’t too different from American cities and their surrounding areas. But it’s often described, he noted, as a “bubble” — an image that I’m sure would have appealed to the protesters as a way of describing the LGBT’s focus on their own equality (but the image isn’t accurate or entirely fair to the LGBT community, even though Weizman conceded that they “weren’t doing enough” to help their Palestinian gay brothers (not sisters so much, who I gather are so invisible at this point that there’s not much to be done right now)).
Anat Nir was the most practical, and, in a way, the most compelling (which is saying something given the effectiveness of all the panelists). She clearly understands the need for financial backing in support of social spaces and artistic ventures as ways of pushing things forward. She began by opening a lesbian bar because there was no place for her to go. But then she realized that there was a need for broader social opportunities, and has pushed forward with a gay and lesbian film festival. She has also provided funding for the first year of a safe living space for LGBTQ youth, and has campaigned for medical facilities to serve our population. Then there’s mortgage financing and life insurance issues, which she is currently working on.
Thanks to committed activists like this, a lot’s getting done in Israel, and especially in Tel Aviv. And they’re not leaving out their Arab neighbors. I can’t resist closing with this quote from the Epilogue of one of the best books I’ve ever read, A History of the Jews. I include it here as a counterweight to the sometimes veiled anti-Semitism that too-often colors otherwise accurate criticisms of Israel:
“Human confidence…, if it is strong and tenacious enough, is a force in itself, which pushes on the hinge of events and moves them. The Jews believed they were a special people with such unanimity and passion, and over so long a span, that they became one. They…indeed have a role because they wrote it for themselves.”
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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In Angry Letter McCarthy Warns Thompson J6 Docs ‘Do Not Belong to You’ – After Defending Trump Taking Classified Info
House Minority Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy in an angry letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) warned the Chairman of the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack that his role will end on January 3 and it is “imperative that all information collected be preserved.” The California Republican congressman had a dramatically different position on Donald Trump‘s unlawful retention of well over ten thousand items from the White House, including at least 300 documents with classified markings, including some classified at the highest levels.
McCarthy, who is running to be Speaker of the House but is facing strong opposition from some of the GOP caucus, nevertheless is acting as if he will wield the gavel.
His letter, angry and accusatory in tone, also strongly suggests Republicans will hold their own hearings on the January 6 attack on the Capitol and on democracy, but with a vastly different focus.
“The American people chose Republicans to lead the 118th Congress,” McCarthy’s letter begins. “On January 3, 2023, your work as Chairman of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol will come to an end,” McCarthy told Thompson in his letter, which was reported on by CBS News.
“For those reasons, I remind you and your staff on the Committee to preserve all records collected and transcripts of testimony taken during your investigation in accordance with House Rule VII. As the Chairman, regardless of who may be directing the work of the Committee, you are responsible for the work done by its members and staff.”
Some have suggested that Thompson could transfer some or all of the Committee’s work product – all transcripts and other evidence – to the Senate.
McCarthy continued with his angry attack.
“It is clear based on recent news reports that even your own members and staff of the Committee have no visibility into the totality of the investigation. Some reports suggest that entire swaths of findings will be left out of the Committee’s final report. You have spent a year and a half and millions of taxpayers’ dollars conducting this investigation.”
House Republicans, including McCarthy, spent million dollars on six Benghazi investigations, the last one of which McCarthy admitted was designed to harm former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping,” McCarthy bragged in 2015.
Unlike his defense of ex-president Donald Trump unlawfully removing and retaining at Mar-a-Lago approximately 13,000 items belonging to the National Archives from the White House, McCarthy warned Thompson the Committee’s work does not belong to the Chairman.
“It is imperative that all information collected be preserved not just for institutional prerogatives but for transparency to the American people,” McCarthy wrote. “The official Congressional Records do not belong to you or any member, but to the American people, and they are owed all of the information you gathered – not merely the information that comports with your political agenda.”
That’s actually false.
The Committee has undoubtedly uncovered government secrets, including national security information, classified information, and information, for example, the Secret Service needs to keep secret to allow it to continue to secure its protectees. It also has entered into agreements with witnesses that prevent it from releasing those documents, transcripts, and other evidence to the public.
Politico’s senior legal affairs reporter Kyle Cheney says, “Kevin McCarthy’s letter demanding that the Jan. 6 committee preserve its records is mostly nonsense because the committee is planning to release all but a few of its transcripts.”
McCarthy continued, warning: “Although your Committee’s public hearings did not focus on why the Capitol complex was not secure on January 6, 2021, the Republican majority in the 118th Congress will hold hearings that do so.”
He then served up what some might say is a threat.
“The American people have a right to know that the allegations you have made are supported by the facts and to be able to view the transcripts with an eye toward encouraged enforcement of 18 USC 1001.”
18 U.S. Code § 1001 is the federal statute that makes it a crime to knowingly make false statements.
McCarthy had a very different take when the U.S. Dept. of Justice executed a legal search warrant of Donald Trump’s Florida residence and resort, Mar-a-Lago, to retrieve government-owned materials, including classified documents.
“Joe Biden and the politicized Dept. of Justice launched a raid on the home of his top political rival, Donald Trump,” McCarthy said on Sept. 1. “That is an assault on democracy.”
“Joe Biden and the politicized Department of Justice launched a raid on the home of his top political rival, Donald Trump. That is an assault on democracy.”
— House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, before Biden gives remarks in Philadelphia, attacks the lawful Mar-a-Lago search pic.twitter.com/qDwPSzrYs8
— The Recount (@therecount) September 1, 2022
Watch the videos above or at this link.
Treasury Dept. Finally Hands Over Six Years of Trump’s Tax Returns to Powerful House Committee
The U.S. Dept. of the Treasury has finally handed over six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns, after the U.S, Supreme Court denied the ex-president’s request to block the document transfer. The powerful House Ways and Means Committee is now in receipt of all six years, according to a Wednesday afternoon report from CNN.
The returns are primarily from Trump’s time as president.
The Committee will need to work quickly, as Republicans will take over the House majority early next year, and the current Chairman, Richard Neal, will no longer serve in that role.
Republicans are expected to end any investigations into Donald Trump, including his tax returns, as they begin investigations into top GOP priorities: Hunter Biden’s laptop, the origin of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
This is a breaking news and developing story.
Image via Shutterstock
Trump Allies So Shaken by His White Supremacist Dinner a Top Campaign Aide Will Now ‘Be Present With Him at All Times’
Top allies of Donald Trump were so disturbed by his decision to have dinner with white supremacist Nick Fuentes last week that the ex-president and 2024 GOP candidate will now have a handler with him around the clock.
The Associated Press also reports the campaign has also changed the protocols for visitors and will start to vet guests who come to see Trump, after the few procedures in place allowed antisemite Kanye West to bring along three guests.
“In an acknowledgment of the severity of the backlash and an effort to prevent a repeat, Trump’s campaign is putting new protocols in place to ensure that those who meet with him are approved and fully vetted, according to people familiar with the plans who requested anonymity to share internal strategy,” the AP adds, revealing the campaign apparently does not trust the 76-year old ex-president to make decisions about who he should or should not spend time with.
“The changes will include expediting a system, borrowed from Trump’s White House, in which a senior campaign official will be present with him at all times, according to one of the people,” the AP adds, revealing what appears to be a previously unknown fact.
The lax security at Mar-a-Lago was in place when Trump was storing 300 documents with various classified markings, including documents with top secret information and a set with the highest level of classification.
In yet another stunning revelation the AP reports that the antisemitic Holocaust “denier” and white supremacist Fuentes “arrived by car with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, and was waved into the club by security, even though only Ye had been on the security list, according to one of the people present and others briefed on the events.”
The AP also reports that “Fuentes apparently did not show his ID and the car’s driver, a frequent guest at the club, got in using a credit card after misplacing her license.”
The report does not mention the other two guests Trump dined with, reportedly far right wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who has supported adult men having sex with young teens, and Karen Trump 2016 aide Karen Giorno, who was reportedly involved in a pay-for-pardon scheme.
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