Will President Obama’s third State of the Union address mention gay rights, including the right of same-sex couples to marry? Few think so, given the downright hostile environment fomented by the anti-gay GOP, Obama’s recent win on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, and his earlier-kept promise of signing into law the Hate Crimes bill. Others think he has a moral obligation to do so. Regardless, the focus by some on the marriage issue has reached a new high.
In “High hopes for State of the Union speech,”Â Chris Johnson at theÂ Washington Blade last week wrote, “Whether the president will even address LGBT issues during his speech remains in question.”
“During a news conference [last] Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he didnâ€™t know whether the president would address marriage or repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act during his speech.”
But things have gotten more heated. Johnson today writes, “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs nearly shut down a news conference on Monday following inquiries about President Obamaâ€™s position on same-sex marriage.”
“Gibbs was responding to questions from the Washington Blade on whether Obama had â€œbacktrackedâ€ from a statement of support for same-sex marriage in a 1996 questionnaire during his campaign for an Illinois state Senate seat.
â€œI think thereâ€™s a whole host of issues that I would direct you to the campaign on â€” on different questionnaires and I would again reiterate what the president has said recently on that issue,â€ Gibbs said.
“The marriage questions prompted Gibbs to attempt to end the news conference.”
What we do know is through judicious leaks, the “Organizing for America” video preview,Â and the media-machine plying the White House has done in recent days that the State of the Union address tomorrow night (9 PM ET) will include a focus on job-creation, education and infrastructure investment.
Politico’s Glenn Thrush writes, “Obama â€“ recognizing that Democrats have surrendered their historic edge to the GOP on the economy â€“ will be also be focusing much of the speech on his efforts to recover some of the six million jobs lost since the start of the recession.”
â€œMy No. 1 focus,â€ he said, â€œis going to be making sure that we are competitive, and we are creating jobs not just now but well into the future,â€ he said, emphasizing his goal of improving the economy for the â€œentire American family.â€
The question is, will the â€œentire American family” Obama mentions include families of same-sex couples, to whom Obama sent a gentle nod in his speech at the Tucson Memorial earlier this month when he mentioned “life partners?” Not many caught it, but it was good to hear.
The moment Obama signed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal bill into law he began talking about repealing DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which makes it illegal for the federal government to legally-recognize same-sex marriages or partnerships, like civil unions, and thus, excludes literally millions of same-sex couples and families from accessing the 1138+ benefits that are available to married heterosexual couples by virtue of their birth.
Even before that, President Obama said he was “wrestling” with the concept of gay marriage.
The President also mentioned he would like to find ways to broaden the scope of benefits for same-sex couples, acknowledging that control of the House was moving to the GOP.
Will Obama mention repealing DOMA at the State of the Union? Most think not, but many, like columnist and “It Gets Better” creator Dan Savage think he must.
In a New York Times op-ed titled, “A Gay Agenda for Everyone,”Â Savage writes, “Iâ€™m not an idiot: Now that the Republicans hold the House, only wishful thinkers and the deeply delusional expect to see any movement on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender legislative agenda this year or next. Nevertheless, President Obama should address gay rights in his State of the Union speech this week, and he should tackle the biggest, most meaningful right of them all: the right to marry.”
“Gay Americans are eventually going to win on marriage just like we won on military service, the president should tell Congress, so why not save everyone on both sides of the debate a lot of time, trouble and money by approving the entire gay rights agenda? Send the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, the Uniting American Families Act and the repeal of the odious Defense of Marriage Act to his desk for his signature.”
CouldÂ the spotlight-seating — next to the First Lady — of Daniel Hernandez, the gay intern who helped save Gabby Giffords’ life when she was shot just three weeks ago, be tipping Obama’s hand? Or it it merely an appropriate gesture. Or neither?
Obama likes to think of himself as someone who works behind the scenes to create an environment that makes things possible. He and top-administration sources, like Secretary of Defense Gates, said as much when the Senate passed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal bill.
Perhaps Hernandez is just one more way Obama is trying to show America that gay and lesbian Americans are people, too.
UPDATE: Read Chris Geidner’s piece at MetroWeekly, “HRC’s Sainz Lowers Expectations for LGBT Americans at SOTU.”
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Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’
If you are hired to work in Senator Kyrsten Sinema‘s office on Capitol Hill there is a 37-page memo you’ll want to read detailing all the responsibilities her staffers are required to perform, from getting her groceries, calling Verizon and going to her D.C. home to wait for a repair person if the internet goes out, scheduling massages, and ensuring her very detailed airplane requirements are met.
“It is your job to make her as comfortable as possible on each flight,” the memo says, as The Daily Beast first reported in December.
But now a group of 13 non-profit organizations have joined to file an ethics complaint against Senator Sinema (I-AZ), a new Daily Beast report reveals Friday, including details from that 37-page memo which the newly-independent lawmaker directed to be drawn up. Dated Thursday, the complaint is titled: “Letter to Senate Ethics Committee Regarding Reports of Sinema Abusing Taxpayer Dollars.”
“Senate Ethics guidelines stipulate that staff should not be asked to perform personal errands for members. This is an unambiguous ethical boundary,” the group’s complaint reads.
It also points to that 37-page memo, which it says, “indicates that staff are required, as a condition of their jobs, to carry out numerous tasks that are outside the scope of public employment, including doing personal errands for the Senator, carrying out household tasks at her private residence, and advancing their own funds for her personal purchases. It makes unreasonably precise scheduling demands, and former staff have confirmed some of the allegations.”
The allegations continue.
“And, most troubling, it calls on staff members, who are employed and paid by the public and explicitly barred from campaign activity, to schedule and facilitate political fundraisers and meetings with campaign donors, presumably during the workday while they are on the clock and physically on federal property.”
“Senate staff are prohibited under your guidelines from engaging in political activity ‘on Senate time, using Senate equipment or facilities.’ While you have not prohibited campaign activity outside work hours, the plain language of the memo clearly implies that Sen. Sinema expects her staff to carry out these scheduling tasks during the workday. And these tasks may separately violate Senate Rule 41.1, which explicitly prohibits Senate employees from ‘solicit[ing]’ campaign funds.”
The complaint also alleges that “Sen. Sinema required her staff to schedule three physical therapy and massage sessions a week related to her training for athletic competitions, and to tightly manage her dietary schedule — while allotting only a 30-minute period on Wednesdays for meetings with the constituents she represents.”
The carefully-worded complaint adds, “the allegations paint a picture of a Senator who is not only unresponsive to her constituents, but also disrespectful and even abusive to her employees and wholly unconcerned about her obligations under the law.”
The Daily Beast has posted a copy of the complaint here.
You can read The Beast’s full report here.
Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report
When he left for Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. George Santos also appears to have left a string of unpaid traffic violation fines and fees in two states, including red light, double parking, and overtime parking citations totaling thousands of dollars.
The embattled serial liar and freshman New York GOP lawmaker “may owe more than $3,400 in unpaid citations, according to records from New York City and Florida,” CBS News reports.
Included in that total is $1,299.10 from Florida for toll violations that “racked up late fees and were ultimately sent to collections agencies.”
It appears that in November of 2016, as soon as he got his New York driver’s license after having one in Florida, a car previously ticket via a red light camera whose plates match one registered to Santos “began piling up citations in New York City — 29 in the next two and a half years, according to city government records, which do not identify the drivers of vehicles being ticketed.”
“More than $1,800 in payments were made for 17 citations, but another 12 remain unpaid, with $2,142.61 still due, according to city records.”
CBS News also points to a New York Post report from January revealing “a Nissan Rogue driven frequently by Santos in recent months had been issued speeding tickets at least five times since he was elected on Nov. 8, ‘including four times in school zones.'”
Santos is under numerous state and federal investigations that span the gamut from campaign finance to allegedly stolen charity funds donated to save the life of a veteran’s service dog. The dog died after the vet could not afford to pay for the operation.
‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer is pushing baseless conspiracy theories about the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon floating over the United States – currently, over Montana – that the Pentagon is tracking, and he’s being widely mocked for his unfounded fear-mongering.
Fox News host Harris Faulkner set the stage perfectly for the far-right Republican from Kentucky, declaring the balloon is “the size of three buses” and that “China says was taken by wind – wind that we can’t substantiate.”
The Kentucky congressman who has falsely described President Biden as “compromised,” and stated he is going to target and investigate him, told Faulkner, “I have concern this is going to be another example of the Biden administration’s weakness on the national scale.”
Comer, 50, a former agriculture commissioner, lamented about Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, claiming it hurt the reputation of America’s military and Commander in Chief.
The balloon, he said, should “never have been allowed” to cross over into the United States.
“My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” he asked, pushing unfounded theories while echoing the far-right’s false claims the COVID-19 virus was developed as a bioweapon and escaped the lab in Wuhan, China.
After suggesting it might have bioweapons, he then said it was “very concerning” the balloon was not shot down before reaching the U.S. – which could have spread the alleged bioweapon.
Faulkner, seen by some as a propagandist, then jumped in to exhibit her surprise that “people on Capitol Hill were not briefed” about the balloon.
“Calling for the president to ‘shoot down’ the craft,” The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona adds, “some in the GOP called the president ‘Beijing Biden’ while claiming this is further proof that ‘Communist China’ doesn’t ‘fear or respect’ Biden.”
House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer to Fox News: “My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” pic.twitter.com/0r9JmBl4zo
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 3, 2023
“Honestly,” communications strategist Doug Gordon noted, “just surprised he didn’t find a way to include Hunter’s laptop into that conspiracy theory.”
“Actually, he did later on,” Baragona replied.
National security expert Denver Riggleman, the Republican former U.S. Congressman from Virginia who assisted the Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, tweeted: “Bioweapons? FFS”
Referring to Comer’s unfounded bioweapons claim, one Twitter user observed, “Isn’t that more reason not to shoot at it? I’m not saying I know what to do, but logic would dictate ‘don’t shoot at balloons full of bioweapons.’ Right?”
Another noted that the Oversight Chairman should have been listening to the Pentagon’s briefing “taking place now instead of running to get on Fox to talk about something he has no expertise in.”
Another, mocking Comer, noted: “If they were sending a bio weapon, why would they park it over sparsely populated Montana? *rolls eyes*”
Watch the video above or at this link.
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