Sally Kern, the homophobic Oklahoma state legislator who last week made racist and misogynistic comments on the House floor, has received an official rebuke from her peers. On Monday, Kern apologized, then was rebuked by a 76-16 vote.
“Is this just because they’re black that they’re in prison or could it be because they didn’t want to work hard in school?” Kern asked last week, addingÂ “I taught school for 20 years and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t want to work as hard — they wanted it given to them.”
The Oklahoma legislator added, “women usually don’t want to work as hard as a man” because “women tend to think a little more about their family.”
In June of 2009, Kern wrote, “Granting marriage status to homosexuals who comprise little more than 3 percent of the population would be like granting all applicants admission to a prestigious college just because a few meet the qualifications. That schoolâ€™s status would fall. Likewise, the status of marriage will fall if same-sex marriage is legalized.”
The following month she signed a â€œProclamation for Morality,â€ which blamed the U.S.â€™s economic crisis on, among other acts of â€œdebauchery,â€ same-sex marriage.
â€œWHEREAS, we believe our economic woes are consequences of our greater national
moral crisis; and
WHEREAS, this nation has become a world leader in promoting abortion,
pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse, and
many other forms of debauchery; and
WHEREAS, alarmed that the Government of the United States of America is forsaking
the rich Christian heritage upon which this nation was built; and
WHEREAS, grieved that the Office of the president of these United States has refused
to uphold the long held tradition of past presidents in giving recognition to our National Day of
WHEREAS, deeply disturbed that the Office of the president of these United States
disregards the biblical admonitions to live clean and pure lives by proclaiming an entire month to
an immoral behaviorâ€
In 2008, Kern said, “Studies show that no society that has totally embracedÂ homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it’s the death knell of this country. I honestly think it’s the biggest threat our nation has, even more so thanÂ terrorism orÂ Islam â€” which I think is a big threat, okay? Cause what’s happening now is they are going after, in schools, two-year olds…And this stuff is deadly, and it’s spreading, and it will destroy our young people, it will destroy this nation.”
Here is the text of Kern’s apology:
“I want to humbly apologize for any statements last night about women and African Americans.Â My words were, obviously, not spoken correctly and for that I humbly apologize.Â Unfortunately, when we take “words or sentences” out of the total context of a speech debated on the floor, there can be false misrepresentations, but the most important part is to always go to the heart of the matter.
“I never intended to convey anything more than all races include people who can be lazy at times.Â Laziness never accomplishes much for anyone.Â Certainly laziness is not the reason for this but it can be a contributing factor just as it can be for any other race.Â I completely agree with Martin Luther King’s statement that it should be the content of one’s character and not the color of their skin by which we judge them.Â I have endeavored my whole life to practice that statement and truly believe that we are all created equal.Â In a very inadequate and poorly worded way I was meaning to say that government should not give preference based only upon race or gender.Â I deeply regret the anguish and insult I have caused to all African Americans and sincerely apologize and ask for your forgiveness.Â My husband and I serve in an inner city church ministering to people of every race because we love all people.
“I also want to humbly apologize for my statement that women do not work as hard as men.Â Every woman is a CEO–a Chief Everything Officer.Â Whether they enter the work force or stay at home, women are some of the hardest workers in the world.Â When a woman enters the work force, because they have a job and a family they often decide not to make the same level of commitment to their job as a man does simply because they must juggle home and job.Â Thank God for the many wonderful men who understand this and help their spouses but the saying “a woman’s work is never done” certainly shows that women have to balance the two more than most men.Â Usually, women are more family-first orientated.Â This is all I meant.Â There are thousands of women all over the world who are wonderful examples of hard workers.Â Â Also, please keep in mind, I am a working woman.
“We live in a sound bite society and our media likes to take only a portion of a dialogÂ and use just a slice of it.Â You can take a portion of something someone says and make it say anything you want it to say.Â Without a doubt, what I said was poorly stated and did not convey the meaning I wanted to get acrossÂ for this I am truly sorry and humbly apologize.”
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On World AIDS Day, DOJ Says Tennessee Law Discriminates Against Those With HIV
The Department of Justice celebrated World AIDS Day by calling out a Tennessee law that discriminates against people with HIV.
The DOJ released a report Friday that the state’s aggravated prostitution law violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. A person arrested under the aggravated prostitution law is normally changed with a misdemeanor, and faces up to six months in prison and a $500 fine. However, if the person arrested has HIV, the crime becomes a felony, and if they’re convicted, they would face between three and 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“Tennessee’s aggravated prostitution law is outdated, has no basis in science, discourages testing and further marginalizes people living with HIV,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “People living with HIV should not be treated as violent sex offenders for the rest of their lives solely because of their HIV status. The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that people with disabilities are protected from discrimination.”
The law was originally passed in 1991. It classifies HIV-positive sex workers as violent sex offenders, according to WKRN-TV. This means that in addition to the sentence, those convicted are put on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry, usually for the rest of their lives.
The DOJ advised the state—and particularly, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, which enforces the statute most frequently, the department says—to stop enforcing the law. It also calls on the state to repeal the law and remove anyone from the registry when aggravated prostitution is the only offense. If this doesn’t happen, Tennessee could face a lawsuit.
Tennessee isn’t the only state to have laws applying to only those living with HIV. In 1988, Michigan passed a law requiring those with HIV to disclose their status before sex, according to WLNS-TV. The law is still on the books, but was updated in 2019 to lift the requirement if the HIV-positive person has an undetectable viral load. The law now also requires proof that the person set out to transmit HIV.
Laws like these can work against public health efforts, according to the National Institutes of Health. The NIH says these types of laws can make people less likely to be tested for HIV, as people cannot be punished if they didn’t know their status. In addition, critics say, the laws can be used to further discriminate. A Canadian study found a disproportionate number of Black men had been charged under HIV exposure laws.
World AIDS Day was first launched in 1988 by the World Health Organization and the United Nations to highlight awareness of the then-relatively new disease. The theme of the 2023 World AIDS Day is “Let Communities Lead,” calling on community leaders to end the AIDS epidemic.
Featured image by UNIS Vienna/Flickr via Creative Commons License.
John Fetterman Says Bob Menendez ‘Senator for Egypt,’ Should Be Expelled Next
Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) called Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) a “senator for Egypt,” and said he needed to be expelled from Congress, much like the now-former Representative George Santos.
Fetterman appeared on The View on Friday. The live broadcast aired as Santos had been kicked out of the House. When host Joy Behar asked what he thought of the vote, Fetterman immediately replied, “I’m not surprised.”
“If you are going to expel Santos, how can you allow somebody like Menendez to remain in the Senate? And, you know, Santos’ kind of lies were almost, you know, funny,” Fetterman said. “Menendez, I think is really a senator for Egypt, you know, not New Jersey. So I really think he needs to go.”
Host Sunny Hostin then asked if Fetterman was uncomfortable with expelling Menendez, as, like with Santos, he had only been indicted, not convicted.
“He has the right for his day in court and all of it, but he doesn’t have the right to to have those kinds of votes and things. That’s not a right,” he said. “I think we need to make that kind of decision to send him out.”
This September, Menendez was indicted on corruption charges. He is accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold and a car, as well as giving “highly sensitive” information about U.S. Embassy staffers in Cairo to the Egyptian government, according to USA Today. Menendez was forced to step down as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was replaced by Ben Cardin, Maryland’s Democratic senator.
Menendez denied wrongdoing, and has refused to resign, despite many calls to do so from both Democrats and Republicans.
“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” Menendez said in a statement following his indictment. “Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”
This is not Menendez’s first brush with the law. Menendez was indicted in 2015 on federal corruption charges. He was accused of helping Salomon Melgen, one of Menendez’s campaign contributors, by intervening in a dispute with federal regulators and helping Melgen get a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.
In 2017, Menendez’s trial ended with a hung jury, and the Department of Justice declined to retry the case, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Menendez denied all wrongdoing.
House Votes to Boot George Santos 311-114
Representative George Santos (R-NY) has been expelled from Congress following a 311-114 vote; two House members voted “present.”
The expulsion of Santos follows a debate on his fate on Thursday. The vote required a two-thirds majority, or 290 of the 435-seat chamber. This is Santos’ third vote of expulsion; last month, a vote failed with 31 Democrats voting against, according to The Hill.
While the vote was decisive, some notable Republicans voted to save Santos, including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN).
“We’ve not whipped the vote and we wouldn’t,” Johnson told CNN Wednesday. “I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this, I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”
Santos himself had harsh words for the House following the vote. Leaving the capitol building, he briefly spoke with reporters.
“The House spoke that’s their vote. They just set new dangerous precedent for themselves,” he told CNN. “Why would I want to stay here? To hell with this place.”
He then cut his time short, telling reporters, “You know what? As unofficially no longer a member of Congress, I no longer have to answer your questions.”
Santos also faces 23 federal charges, which include fraud, money laundering and misuse of campaign funds, according to CNN. He has pleaded not guilty. An Ethics Committee report found evidence that Santos used campaign funds for Botox and even an OnlyFans account.
On Thursday, Santos said he refused to resign because otherwise, “they win.”
“If I leave the bullies take place. This is bullying,” Santos said. “The reality of it is it’s all theater, theater for the cameras and theater for the microphones. Theater for the American people at the expense of the American people because no real work’s getting done.”
Santos also threatened to file a resolution to expel Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY). Bowman pulled a fire alarm in September. Bowman pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge, and said it was an accident. He said he thought the fire alarm would open a locked door as he rushed to a vote. Bowman paid a $1,000 fine.
There have only been six total expulsions from the House, including Santos. Santos is the only Republican to ever be expelled from the House.
The previous expulsion was in 2002, when Representative James Traficant (D-OH) was expelled after a 420-1 vote. Traficant had been convicted on 10 counts of corruption-related crimes.
Before Traficant, Representative Michael “Ozzie” Myers (D-PA) was the first representative of the modern era to be expelled. Myers got the boot following his conviction for accepting bribes. Myers couldn’t keep out of trouble; in 2022, he was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison on charges of election fraud.
Prior to Myers, the only expulsions from the House were in 1861, at the start of the Civil War. Henry Cornelius Burnett (D-KY), John William Reid (D-MO) and John Bullock Clark (Whig-MO) were all expelled for joining the Confederacy.
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