UK psychologist and professor Ian Rivers discusses his recent trip to America’s Heartland and how, as an anti-gay bullying researcher, he was received.
Editor’s note: This is Ian Rivers’ first column atÂ The New Civil Rights Movement. We welcome him and are very grateful to have such an esteemed advocate for the LGBT community on board as a regular contributor.
This year I have visited America three times â€“ once to Washington, D.C., once to Atlanta, Georgia, and, most recently, I visited Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska. In Washington, D.C., and Georgia, my sexual orientation was not a problem. No one noticed. Why would they? Occasionally the odd server noticed I was British, but that was about it. To all intents and purposes I was, on those occasions, a private citizen and not someone who is going to have a significant effect upon anyone elseâ€™s life or family.
However in Nebraska it was a different story; I was there in a different context. Now, before I begin to describe my experience let me be clear on one point, I was never subjected to homophobia of any description. I was met with warmth and respect, and for this I am truly grateful. The people I met in Nebraska were giving, supportive and willing to listen. Why were they listening to me? Well, I was an invited speaker at conference on bullying behavior and later I was an attendee at a think tank held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
For those of you who have no idea who Ian Rivers is, I am a psychologist. I am also professor of human development at Brunel University London, and a visiting professor of education at Anglia Ruskin University. I was one of the very first people to study the phenomenon that we now call â€œhomophobic bullying.” My research was neither profound nor ground-breaking, but it did unravel some of the dynamics of this phenomenon which is now seen in many of our schools.
In Omaha, I spoke about the lessons we have learned from two decades of research on homophobic bullying, and also on understanding bystandersâ€™ experiences when they observe bullying taking place.
However, it was the first topic, homophobic bullying, that had clearly caused some consternation. I learned just before I was about to give my speech that at least one Roman Catholic organisation had felt it necessary to withdraw its support for the conference because the line-up of speeches included those that dealt with â€œsensitive issues.” This was an important lesson for me, and indeed for another colleague, also gay, who was presenting his research. Sensitive issues are those for which, seemingly, there is a desire to ignore or, at the very least, leave unacknowledged.
In the case of homophobic bullying, the organisation clearly felt that by supporting the conference, it would support my standpoint. And what was my standpoint? In a state with the motto â€œEquality before the Law,” my point was simple: all children and young people should be safe at school.
As a researcher on this issue, I had also taken solace from the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzingerâ€™s pronouncement in 1986 that, “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Churchâ€™s pastors wherever it occurs.” This statement, which was contained within a letter to all bishops and authorised by the then pope, John Paul II, made it clear that while the Church considered homosexuality to be â€œinstrinsically disorderedâ€ (a term that is, in itself,Â instrinically challenging), the persecution of those who are or are perceived to be gay, lesbian or bisexual, should be condemned â€œwherever it occurs.” Doctrine suggests that good and faithful followers should condemn such discrimination, but practice seems to infer that the message from 1986 has yet to filter down to many local congregations.
At the end of the day, I spoke, I was listened to, and even a local news channel thought I had something to say, and I was happy to oblige. My visit to Omaha and then to Lincoln was a remarkable experience. I met some wonderful researchers, but I also met some very interesting Nebraskans. Along with other keynote speakers, we spoke at a local Masonic lodge and while one of my more adventurous colleagues asked members of the lodge if they would accept gay initiates (the answer was a definitive â€œno,” by the way), there was never any disrespect shown to me personally.
Back in the U.K., I am surrounded by Nebraska memorabilia, a book bag with a huge white â€œNâ€ in a sea of scarlet, t-shirts that I hope my personal trainer will one day sculpt me into, and finally the memory of my visit to Memorial Stadium and the great sense of pride Nebraskans have in football.
(image: Ian Rivers’ Nebraska baseball cap and coffee mug, and his books.)
Ian Rivers is Professor of Human Development at Brunel University, London. He is the author of ‘Homophobic Bullying: Research and Theoretical Perspectives’ (Oxford, 2011), and has researched issues of discrimination in LGBT communities, particularly among children and young people, for nearly two decades.
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Another SCOTUS Scandal: Chief Justice’s Spouse Makes Millions Placing Attorneys at Top Law Firms That Argue Before the Court
The highly controversial and highly unpopular U.S. Supreme Court isn’t just facing a historic loss of confidence, it’s now facing yet another ethics scandal that is likely to lower even further public opinion of the far-right institution that in under two decades has seen its approval rating slashed.
Although it will not hear arguments, the issue before the Supreme Court and the American people’s view of it, is, should a Justice’s spouse – in this case the spouse of Chief Justice John Roberts – be able to make millions of dollars recruiting attorneys who are placed into top law firms that argue cases before it?
That’s the latest allegation, and already a spokesperson for the Court has issued a statement denying any ethical violations.
The New York Times reports that “a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice. Seeking an inquiry, the ex-colleague has provided records to the Justice Department and Congress indicating Mrs. Roberts has been paid millions of dollars in commissions for placing lawyers at firms — some of which have business before the Supreme Court, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.”
Jane Sullivan Roberts left a law firm where she was a partner after her spouse was confirmed as Chief Justice.
“Mrs. Roberts, according to a 2015 deposition,” The Times reports, “said that a significant portion of her practice was devoted to helping senior government lawyers land jobs at law firms and that the candidates’ names were almost never disclosed.”
Documents in that case “list six-figure fees credited to Mrs. Roberts for placing partners at law firms — including $690,000 in 2012 for one such match. The documents do not name clients, but Mr. Price recalled her recruitment of one prominent candidate, Ken Salazar, then interior secretary under President Barack Obama, to WilmerHale, a global firm that boasts of arguing more than 125 times before the Supreme Court.”
That case involves “a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts,” Kendal Price, a 66-year-old Boston lawyer, who “has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice.”
“According to the letter,” sent by Price to DOJ and Congress, which the Times reports it obtained, “Mr. Price was fired in 2013 and sued the firm, as well as Mrs. Roberts and another executive, over his dismissal.”
The Times cites two legal experts, one who sees no ethical concerns with the situation, and one who does.
But critics are expressing great concern over this latest ethics issue, as they have been for years.
Doug Lindner, Advocacy Director for Judiciary & Democracy for the League of Conservation Voters, pointing to the Times’ report, remarked: “Another day, another ethics concern about another life-tenured conservative justice on the most powerful court in the world, which has no binding ethics rules.”
Indeed, the lack of a Supreme Court code of ethics has been repeatedly condemned for years, including by some of the nation’s top critics.
On Sept. 1, 2022, The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin tweeted out her opinion piece: “Ginni Thomas pressed Wisconsin lawmakers to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory .. just another insurrectionist.”
Norman Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor for the Atlantic, responded:
“Another reminder of how unethical is Justice Clarence Thomas, while Chief Justice Roberts turns a blind eye and continues to resist a code of ethics for a Supreme Court now distrusted by a majority of Americans. This defines the Roberts Court.”
The following month Ornstein slammed the Roberts Court once again.
“It is a stain on the Supreme Court that Chief Justice Roberts refuses to support a Judicial Code of Ethics, and stands by silently while Clarence Thomas flouts ethical standards over and over and over,” Ornstein charged.
Less than one month later he again unleashed on Roberts.
“Roberts is culpable,” he tweeted. “He has resisted over and over applying the Judicial Code of Ethics to the Supreme Court. This is Alito’s court, and it is partisan and corrupt.”
Ornstein is far from the Court’s only critic.
“If Chief Justice Roberts really wanted to address Supreme Court ethics, he would have immediately worked to implement a Code of Conduct after Clarence Thomas failed to recuse from cases involving January 6th despite having a clear conflict of interest,” the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tweeted a year ago in May. The following month CREW published an analysis titled: “Chief Justice John Roberts is wrong: the American judicial system is facing a major ethics crisis.”
Meanwhile, in late November Politico reported that Democrats in Congress were outraged at the Roberts Court.
“Two senior Democrats in Congress are demanding that Chief Justice John Roberts detail what, if anything, the Supreme Court has done to respond to recent allegations of a leak of the outcome of a major case the high court considered several years ago,” PoliticoJosh Bernstein reported, referring to the leak of the Dobbs decision that overturned the Roe v. Wade decision – itself a massive ethics crisis for the Court.
“Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) are also interested in examining claims about a concerted effort by religious conservatives to woo the justices through meals and social engagements. They wrote to Roberts on Sunday, making clear that if the court won’t investigate the alleged ethical breaches, lawmakers are likely to launch their own probe.”
Whitehouse and Johnson “also criticized the high court’s response to a letter they sent Roberts in September, seeking information about the court’s reaction to reports in POLITICO and Rolling Stone about a yearslong campaign to encourage favorable decisions from the justices by bolstering their religiosity.”
Nothing has changed.
When the Roberts Court earlier this month announced its lengthy investigation did not find the draft Dobbs decision leaker but also did not include the Justices themselves, Stokes Prof. of Law at NYU Law School Melissa Murray, an MSNBC host, tweeted, “This is a Roberts Court leitmotif–The Chief loves to handle things–even big things–in-house. Ethics issues? No need to get involved, Congress. We’ll sort it out ourselves. Leak needs investigating? No need to call in an actual investigative body, the Marshal will handle it.”
Pulitzer prize winning New York Times investigative reporter Jodi Kantor, pointing to how the Justices were not thoroughly investigated during the leak probe, in earlier this month said: “Last week the court released statements that confirmed the gap between how the justices and everyone else were treated.”
“The whole situation amplifies a major question about the court: are these nine people, making decisions that affect all of us, accountable to anyone?”
‘Can Be Used Against You’: Trump Took Big Risk Pleading the Fifth 400 Times in Deposition Says Legal Expert
A newly released video shows Donald Trump pleading the Fifth Amendment hundreds of times in a deposition, and a legal expert explained how that could be used against him in court.
The former president was finally hauled in to testify last year in the $25 million fraud lawsuit filed against the Trump Organization by New York attorney Letitia James, and he exercised his constitutional right against self-incrimination nearly 450 times — but MSNBC legal analyst Andrew Weissmann said the move carried potential risk in a civil case.
“I agree with him on the point of taking the Fifth,” Weissmann said. “It’s important to remember everyone has a right to the Fifth if a truthful answer would tend to incriminate you. In a civil case, it can be used against you, unlike in a criminal case.”
“One other thing I would disagree is when he is saying there’s this witch hunt, he left out jurors,” Weissmann added. “The Trump Organizations went to trial, they had their day in court. They could present all of their evidence, [and] 12 jurors, that’s everyday citizens, found beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a multi-year tax conspiracy that his organizations were involved in, and there was evidence he knew about it as would make sense. That’s one more reason for him to be asserting the Fifth Amendment.”
Image via Shutterstock
Stefanik Was Once ‘Laser Focused on Electing Santos’ – Now She Blames Voters for Electing Him as She Backs Away
One of the most powerful Republicans in the House of Representatives, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), used her reputation and geographic proximity to help get fellow New York Republican George Santos elected to Congress. But now, as her donors and his express anger at being misled and lied to, and ahead of what appears to be a likely federal investigation and possible prosecution against the freshman GOP lawmaker, Stefanik is blaming voters for electing him to Congress: “Ultimately voters make this decision,” she said Tuesday.
Stefanik is the Chair of the House Republican Conference, a role she was first elected to when the now former Congresswoman, Liz Cheney, was thrown out of GOP leadership for telling the truth about the January 6 insurrection and Donald Trump. Stefanik was re-elected to her role after the November election.
Amid Santos announcing on Tuesday he is temporarily recusing himself from the two committees he was appointed to, Stefanik was asked if she regretted supporting his candidacy.
Indeed, one of the top reasons Santos was elected was Stefanik’s endorsement – and all the donor money that came with it.
“Stefanik’s team was laser focused on electing Santos to Congress – more than just about any other race in the country,” a senior Republican strategist involved in campaigns before the midterms told CNN. “Another donor, who attended a fundraising luncheon with Stefanik and Santos, confirmed to CNN through a representative that ‘he donated to George Santos because of Elise Stefanik’s endorsement.'”
It wasn’t just her endorsements. It appears Stefanik took great interest in getting Santos elected. CNN also reported that a source “said that a top political aide for Stefanik was involved in campaigning for Santos. Multiple sources told CNN that aide was closely advising Santos’ campaign and involved in hiring people.”
Stefanik’s spokesperson denied the allegations.
In July, Santos tweeted that Stefanik “has been one of my strongest backers and closest friends. I fully stand with her vote today as she stood up for civil rights. I look forward to serving alongside her when I’m elected to Congress in November.”
In fact, this was the banner atop Santos’ Twitter account for a very long time, up until recently:
Here is Stefanik tweeting her “major announcement” – her endorsement of Santos – on August 11, 2001, more than a year before Election Day.
“Excited to endorse my friend and fellow America First conservative George Santos for Congress in #NY03. @Santos4Congress will take on NYC liberal elites and bring a new generation of GOP leadership to NY and America. He has my full support!”
🚨🚨 MAJOR ENDORSEMENT ALERT 🚨🚨
Excited to endorse my friend and fellow America First conservative George Santos for Congress in #NY03.@Santos4Congress will take on NYC liberal elites and bring a new generation of GOP leadership to NY and America. He has my full support! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/vGTnWW1ROY
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) August 11, 2021
And in May of last year: “WOW! Great lunch event for @Santos4Congress! We raised over $100,000 to help George FLIP #NY03 George has my complete and total endorsement and come November, New Yorkers will send George to Congress! #SaveNewYork #SaveAmerica”
WOW! Great lunch event for @Santos4Congress!
We raised over $100,000 to help George FLIP #NY03 🔵➡️🔴
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) May 23, 2022
She literally told voters that electing George Santos to Congress will “Save New York” and “Save America.”
On Tuesday, Stefanik told voters something very different: it’s their fault they voted for him, she said, taking no responsibility for her endorsements.
“Like all of my colleagues, particularly in New York State, I supported George Santos as the nominee, and the people of his district voted to elect him,” she told reporters – not once mentioning there was no Republican primary and Santos automatically became the Republican party’s nominee.
“Ultimately voters make this decision about who they elect to Congress,” Stefanik declared, wholly removing herself, her endorsements, and any possible assistance she or her campaign may have given to Santos or his campaign.
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 31, 2023
See the tweets and video above or at this link.
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Stefanik Was Once ‘Laser Focused on Electing Santos’ – Now She Blames Voters for Electing Him as She Backs Away