The New York State Senate is expected to vote on Governor Cuomo’s same-sex marriage equality bill as early as Monday, optimists believe, though a vote, if indeed it takes place, could be delayed to as late as Wednesday. New York’s same-sex marriage equality battle — now just one vote shy of passage — raged on a playing field last week of so-called religious exemptions, or, as some would call it, discrimination written directly into the bill. But reports now suggest Senate staffers spent the weekend negotiating language that would appease both religious leaders and LGBT activists.
“Negotiators for the Republican-run Senate privately admitted that a deal is near after aides spent the Father’s Day weekend ironing out language to appease ‘religious liberty’ concerns that have been raised by several fence-sitting GOP senators,” Monday’s New York Post reports.
The Albany Times-Union quotesÂ Senate Deputy Minority LeaderÂ Neil Breslin (D) saying,”I think it’s the typical end of the session, but in this situation there are more important items to resolve. I believe marriage equality will be resolved…”
To try to avoid a positive resolution, today, “Gay marriage opponents â€“ including Giant David Tyree â€“ will hold a press conference/deliver 63,000 petitions outside the Senate GOP conference room at 1 p.m.,” Liz Benjamin reports this morning.
But even our staunchest opponents who have real power (not just a dried-up football career and lack of understanding of the definition of “anarchy,”) like NY State Senator Greg Ball, have shown, after saying, “no,” they are open to suggestion and debate.
The conservative Republican who has been most-vocal on religious exemptions,over the weekend, via Twitter, asked folks to tweet him their opinion on how he should vote. Tens of thousands (at least) responded, and by looking at the responses, 99% are “yes.” Ball cannot possibly vote no now, can he?
HRC adds, “On Sunday, members of the faith community all across the Empire State gathered to show their strong support for full marriage rights for all New Yorkers.Â Parishioners throughout the state, including Rochester, Buffalo, the Capital Region, Long Island, and Staten Island, came together this Fatherâ€™s Day after Sunday services in solidarity for marriage for all loving New York couples.”
While many religious groups have come out in active support of same-sex marriage equality, New York State Senator and Reverend RubÃ©n DÃaz has been aggressively and viciously attacking the LGBT community.
“Supporters of New York Hispanic Clergy Organization gathered outside the office of Bronx Sen. Ruben Diaz to protest the gay marriage legislation and affirm their strong support for Diaz, the only Democrat state senator who will vote no on the bill. The Rev. Diaz, who is a Pentecostal minister, is the president of the Christian Hispanic group,” the Christian Post writes.
The man who holds the power to call an up-or-down vote on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s marriage equality bill, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, isn’t budging.Â “There is a concern right now as to the unintended consequences of some of the religious clauses, carve-outs, protections, and we’re reviewing that,” Skelos said Friday.
The “concern” comes mainly from the Archbishop Tim Dolan and his separation-of-church-and-state-flouting Catholic Conference.
Meanwhile, Capital Tonight reports,a “group of more than 700Â faith leaders across New York who support same-sex marriage are speaking out in response to the criticism of the language in the Governorâ€™s same-sex marriage bill,” saying it offers enough protections, and that opponents areÂ â€œusing religion a smokescreen to hide their intolerance.â€
While one media outlet is calling Governor Andrew Cuomo “the new face of gay marriage rights,” Archbishop Tim DolanÂ — the man who literally tried to pray away the gay marriage bill in church on Sunday — has become the face of hate and hubris.Â New York Times’ op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd is calling New York Archbishop “ferocious.”
“The archbishop has been ferocious in fighting against marriage between same-sex couples, painting it as a perversity against nature,” Dowd writes, adding, “If only his church had been as ferocious in fighting against the true perversity against nature: the unending horror of pedophile priests and the children who trusted them.”
Further, Dowd quotes Dolan saying,Â â€œAnd, what about other rights, like that of a child to be raised in a family with a mom and a dad?â€ To which Dowd asks, “And how about the right of a child not to be molested by the parish priest?”
“Dolan acts like getting married (when done by gays) is a self-indulgent act of hedonism when itâ€™s really a leap of faith and a promise of fidelity,” she writes.
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent calls this the “most important thing to watch today,” and writes, “The larger story is striking… If New York takes this step today â€” which would make it the largest state thus far to do so â€” it will reinforce the sense that the national outcome of this decades-long civil-rights battle, which has produced a truly astonishing shift in public attitudes, is inevitable.”
If the marriage equality bill passes, licenses will be available 30 days later.
Cautious optimism with a touch of last-minute not-taking-anything-for-granted is the forecast for today.
(Image: Civil rights attorney Yetta Kurland speaking to hundreds of marriage equality supporters Sunday.)
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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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