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Wisconsin Union Uprising: Why This Is The LGBT Community’s Moment

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Presents U.S. LGBT Movement New Opportunity To Forge Progressive Political Agenda With Allies

From Madison to Tripoli, the conventional understanding of political order at home and abroad has been upended–turned on its head in a matter of days and weeks since the beginning of 2011. So why is this moment so critical for the future of the progressive LGBT political agenda?

I was struck by these juxtaposed electrifying events as I watched television, slack jawed from my hotel room in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, last month as news of Wisconsin’s public workers, including police officers and fire fighters, stormed the state capitol pushing back against a newly-elected Republican governor bent on union busting, who has been backed by Tea Party supporters and financed by the uber right-wing Koch Brothers. Indeed, Koch Brothers, Inc. opened an office in Madison, within a convenient couple of blocks of the Capitol building, which they apparently bought and paid for with Republican Scott Walker ‘s election into the governor’s office.

Events in Madison were being reported side-by-side with unthinkable news coming from Tripoli, Libya, as the country became seized in a rebellion which continues to throttle the first significant challenge to dictator Muammar Qaddhafi’s rule during his 41 years in power. Could it be that Libya’s oppressed citizenry were following in the giant steps of a North African revolution that had already ended ossified dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt–the latter being the keystone state of the Arab world–consequently shaking Middle East capitals to their autocratic foundations in Bahrain, Oman and Yemen? I was awestruck by the globalized nature of political change coming at lightning speed–political change that had seized the attention of the entire planet, as well as our imaginations and fears, depending on your point of view.

Read: “Wikileaks, Twitter, Cable News Fuel Tunisia Uprising Perfect Storm

Why do these events have relevance to the U.S. national LGBT movement and the current state of its national and local politics?

Ever since I watched progressive journalist Laura Flanders‘ (who happens to also be a lesbian) terrific GRITtv December interview of Urvashi Vaid, lesbian activist and thinker, self-proclaimed community organizer and former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the AIDS epidemic of the late 1980s, I have wanted to write about her astute political analysis of the current state of the LGBT political movement. Flanders’ interview was about Vaid’s mostly overlooked lecture delivered at CUNY (the City University of New York) in November, post mid-term elections, entitled:  “What Can Brown Do For You: Race, Sexuality and the Future of LGBT Politics?” that called for intersectional, grassroots movements that look beyond formal equality to true social justice.

Vaid, an Indian-American whose partner is comedian Kate Clinton, delivered this lecture before the dizzyingly-rapid revolutions took place in Tunisia and Egypt, which was followed by an unprecedented public worker uprising in Madison, Wisconsin, that saw the Senate Democrats leave the state and decamp to Urbana, Illinois, where they currently remain. The fire fighters and state police, although exempt from the governor’s union busting proposed legislation, joined ranks with targeted workers, leading demonstrations while playing bagpipes as they marched on the streets of Madison and the state police announced and organized a “sleep over” job action in the capitol building, keeping the state government open to all, against the directives of the governor and Republican controlled legislature. Workers and their supporters came together 13 days after protests began last month, more than 100,000 strong according to some media reports, arguably one of the largest demonstrations in the country since the Vietnam War; certainly, a record-gathering outside of the nation’s capital.

This too was largely overlooked and under-reported by mainstream media.

Whatever the legistlative outcome in Wisconsin, the public worker push back there has shown all of us that when enraged people unite together against injustice, voices can be heard creating an opening of some political space in the country that most progressives did not think was possible just a few weeks ago. Even Rasmussen Reports, a Republican-aligned polling company (that some say has been discredited,) has announced a March 4 opinion survey that indicates 66 percent of Wisconsin’s likely voters are opposed to Gov. Walker’s intention to eliminate collective bargaining for public workers. There is a growing consensus within Wisconsin today that Walker will be recalled and the most likely challenger is progressive and former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, who recently launched ProgressivesUnited.org, a political action committee.

http://blip.tv/play/gdElgpbzEgI

This progressive moment is a major opening for the LGBT movement–a moment that should be pounced upon–an opening that LGBT politicos should be exploiting, knowing just how difficult the federal legislative terrain will be at least through the 2012 elections. Vaid’s analysis of an increasingly narrowed political agenda by the national groups could not be more fortuitous given this progressive moment and political opportunity now present in Wisconsin that is spreading across America.

“The national movement has shrunk its vision,” says Vaid, who is also a Visiting Scholar with CUNY’s Graduate Center’s Department of Sociology. “The LGBT movement has become too focused on appeasing, and remains centered around the needs and wishes of white middle-class men–at the expense of women and people of color, and poor people around the country.”

Furthermore, she said, “My contention is that it is exactly this narrow and limited focus that is not only causing us to stall in our progress towards formal equality, it is leading us to abandon or ignore large parts of our own communities, with the consequence of making us a weaker movement.”

Vaid makes the point that during the 1990s the LGBT movement, at least the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), was working in coalition on a whole host of progressive issues, from reproductive rights, to D.C. statehood, to funding the National Endowment of the Arts, to health care, racial equity and hate crimes, women in combat, and gays in the military.

As the political space has continually narrowed under both Democratic and Republican leadership during the past 16 years, so too has the LGBT political agenda setting inside the beltway, as it has increasingly focused on “gay only” organizations, going it alone in ways that Vaid points out that has significantly undercut our advances toward achieving legal equality.

As the Republican war escalates against women and girls’ reproductive rights and access to safe and legal abortions, constitutionally protected rights, the LGBT community should be working shoulder to shoulder with the women’s groups who are fighting like hell against this extreme right wing agenda that does not respect constitutionally protected  privacy rights, initially established for women’s access to birth control by the U.S. Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965, and in the Court’s Lawrence v. Texas decision for gay sexual privacy rights, 37 years later in 2003.

Who does the right wing continually target:  time after time it is women and gays. It also has a strong racist undercurrent to its extreme agenda and politics in general, which has now migrated to the insurgent Tea Party movement. We should be front and center on confronting racism because not only does that comport with our progressive core values and principles, but because LGBT people are members of those communities too.

Here are Vaid’s other reasons for combating racism as part of an LGBT progressive agenda: because it is a matter of justice and we are about a fairer society; because we need to reciprocate – so when we ask communities of color to support us around sexuality, we need to show up on issues of race; because there are LGBT people of color in our communities and racism affects us, so our movement must deal with it; and because dealing with race is in our own self-interest, and “brown,” as Vaid said in her CUNY address, will help us win at the ballot box.

Vaid persists in her harsh, but fair critique of the LGBT movement on the vexing question of racism as an issue the LGBT community which has assiduously avoided–addressing the structual racism that exists within the movement and has done very little to substantially advance laws and policies addressing the persistent presence of racial inequity and discrimination in American society.  Vaid has been the only person of color to lead a national non-minority affiliated LGBT organization for a significant period of time since the Stonewall uprising in 1969 (NGLTF had a Latina executive director for a short period of time in 1990s) and points out the lack of minority outreach, leadership development for executive and board positions within all the major national groups.

The ugly specter of American racism continues into the present moment, manifestly evident in our shoddy public discourse about “illegal immigrants” and Muslims–American citizens who happen to be Muslim and those Muslims outside of America–two highly charged issues that present both challenges and opportunities for the gay community.

Read: “The GOP’s War On Women And Children

Today, the LGBT movement is strong across all fifty states with hundreds of organizations delivering direct services and lobbying for rights before city councils and state legislatures. Vaid’s lecture outlines the milions of dollars, the hundreds of professional staff and diversity of services now provided to the LGBT community by organizations and foundations alike.

NGLTF continues to build the movement through its unparalleled Creating Change conference that reinvigorates activists annually by training emerging LGBT leaders and by bringing activists together in sharing lessons learned.  NGLTF’s work with state and local organizations is exemplary and has been steadfast in this effort over many decades in the trenches and at the barricades.

But the only national LGBT organization that possesses dynamic leadership at its helm in this moment in our history that has a progressive agenda is GetEqual, the youngest national LGBT organization on the scene, that has been growing by leaps and bounds and has nimbly created openings in a political space virtually calcified for nearly 20 years. Its effectiveness was made evident during the military equality fight, pressuring everyone from President Obama to members of Congress, including the Human Rights Campaign, creating political space that made possible the passage of the DADT repeal in December.  GetEqual filled a vacuum that had become a gaping wound with the demise of ACT UP! in the early 1990s which substantially grew as the LGBT movement narrowed its political agenda in the aftermath of the failed military ban fight in 1993, as Vaid has described.

Setting a new progressive agenda with a new vision, Robin McGehee, the director of GetEqual, sent out this note to its supporters on Feb. 27:

Organized labor has long stood in solidarity with the LGBT community — in Wisconsin alone, the labor community was among the first to stand against a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. Government shouldn’t be about taking away existing rights — it should be for expanding equality.

NGLTF was the only other national organization to call for solidarity with Wisconsin workers on their blog Feb. 27.  Where was Human Rights Campaign on Wisconsin?  A deafening silence from the movement’s “largest LGBT organization” as well as the most wealthy–far, far removed from the lives and daily concerns of working LGBT people.

If we support the defense of D.C. marriage equality, we should support the equality of all residents of D.C. to be equally represented by two voting senators and a member of Congress. If we care about economic justice and nondiscrimination on the job for LGBT people, then certainly we should work toward the attainment of economic fairness and justice for all workers in America. If we care about creating a more just society that will include those immigrants who want a fair chance to realize the American Dream, then we should work to achieve comprehensive immigration reform that can include federal recognition of bi-national couples. If we care about extending Martin Luther King Jr.’s progressive agenda to eliminate poverty and hunger and create more opportunity in America, then we should commit resources toward education reform and creation of worker trainings for the 21st century and push for adopting a more progressive tax code that can lift all boats during a troubled time when Americans are truly hurting and more that 16 million children live below the poverty line.

But a “go it alone” agenda will no longer do–we can not get to the mountaintop by ourselves, at least not very quickly. I do not want to wait for another extended period of time before enjoying the fruits of legal equality advanced.

GetEqual’s Robin McGehee clearly articulates this progressive vision and agenda:

Our movement should be working with allied groups to find intersections of inequality and to work together to win equality. This [Wisconsin] is a chance for us to also highlight the need for worker protections that a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act would provide. The rights of those who are working to provide for themselves and their families — regardless of income level, sexual orientation, or gender identity — should be protected at a federal level. Anything less is unconscionable.

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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COMMENTARY

Trump An ‘Enemy of the Constitution’ Declares Nicolle Wallace, Blasting Call to ‘Terminate’ Nation’s Founding Document

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MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace slammed Donald Trump as an “enemy of the Constitution” on Monday after the ex-president, over the weekend, called for the U.S. Constitution to be terminated.

Trump demanded “the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” in light of his most recent – and false – claim the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

That was Saturday, on his Truth Social account.

On Monday, Trump denied having ever said it, despite the post still being up.

Wallace characterized Trump’s call to terminate the Constitution “an extraordinary statement even by the standards of a failed wannabe autocrat who plotted a coup against his own government and recently dined with white supremacists.”

READ MORE: ‘Venom’: Experts Shocked as Gorsuch Angrily Accuses Colorado of Forcing Anti-LGBTQ Baker Into ‘Re-Education Program’

“The disgraced ex-president made his contempt for our democracy as clear as ever, when he called for the United States Constitution to be ‘terminated.'”

Quoting The Washington Post, Wallace said: “Trump’s message on his Truth Social platform reiterated the baseless claims he has made since 2020, that the election was stolen, but he went further by suggesting that the country abandon one of its founding documents.”

She also played a clip of Republican Congressman Dave Joyce of Ohio from Sunday’s ABC News.

Rep. Joyce in the clip twists and turns but ultimately admits that if Trump is the GOP nominee for president in 2024 he will vote for him.

READ MORE: Anti-LGBTQ Slurs on Twitter Up Over 800% as Musk Allows Thousands of Previously Banned Users Back: Reports

“Well, again, it’s early I think there’s gonna be a lot of people in the primary I think at the end of the day, you will have — wherever the Republicans tend to pick up I will fall in behind because that’s –”

ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos interjected, asking,”Even if it’s Donald Trump, as he’s called for suspending the Constitution?”

“Again, I think it’s gonna be a big field. I don’t think Donald Trump’s gonna clear out the field like he did in 2016.”

“I will support whoever the Republican nominee is,” Joyce added.

“And I don’t don’t think that at this point he will be able to get there because I think there’s a lot of other good quality candidates out there.”

“He says a lot of things,” Joyce continued, refusing to denounce Trump.

“Let’s not speed past that moment,” Wallace urged. “This is exactly how Trump happened. All the Republicans in Washington and around the country said, [Trump] ‘says all sorts of stupid you know what. Dorsn’t mean he’s going to do it.'”

“He did all of it, all of it. And then some,” she chastised.

Watch below or at this link.

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'REGURGITATING RIGHT WING TALKING POINTS'

‘Venom’: Experts Shocked as Gorsuch Angrily Accuses Colorado of Forcing Anti-LGBTQ Baker Into ‘Re-Education Program’

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch appeared angry and even hostile at several points throughout Monday’s oral arguments in a case brought by a Colorado right-wing evangelical Christian website designer who is suing the state because she wants to be able to discriminate against same-sex couples who are getting married.

The case, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, promises to be one of the most important of the term, and arguments extended more than two hours.

During one of the more heated moments, conservative Justice Gorsuch attacked Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson, claiming the state forced an infamous anti-LGBTQ baker who also went before the Supreme Court, winning his 2018 case in a very narrow ruling, into a “re-education program.”

RELATED: ‘What the Hell, Sam’: Justice Alito Slammed for Making ‘Joke’ About Black Children in KKK Costumes

Jack Phillips, a business owner who refused to bake cakes for same-sex weddings, citing his religious beliefs, was required to attend a class so he could become familiar with Colorado anti-discrimination law.

The Supreme Court’s ruling at the time called it, “additional remedial measures, including ‘comprehensive staff training on the Public Accommodations section'” of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law.

Justice Gorsuch instead called it a “re-education program,” and slammed the state’s Solicitor General, Eric Olson, with it on Monday.

“Mr. Phillips did go through a re-education training program, pursuant to Colorado law, did he not, Mr. Olson?” Gorsuch asked the solicitor general.

“He went through a process that ensured he was familiar –” Olson responded, before Gorsuch cut him off.

“It was a re-education program, right?” the justice blared.

“It was not a ‘re-education program,'” Olson replied, holding his ground.

“What do you call it?” Gorsuch, dissatisfied, pressed.

“It was a process to make sure he was familiar with Colorado law,” Olson explained.

“Some might be excused for calling that a ‘re-education program,’” Gorsuch snapped.

“I strongly disagree, Justice Gorsuch,” Olson said, defending the law.

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, who provided the clip above, warns: “It does not bode well for the future of civil rights law that Gorsuch believes a state imposes ‘reeducation training’ on employers when it reminds them how to comply with nondiscrimination rules.”

RELATED: 5 Things You Need to Know About the Supreme Court Ruling in the Gay Wedding Cake Case

“Astounding that Gorsuch, A Supreme Court Justice,” tweeted Adam Cohen of Attorneys for Good Government, “Refers to Colorado giving courses on following civil rights law, As ‘reeducation training.'”

“Like being taught not to discriminate against LGBTQ is the same as being sent to a gulag for protesting communism in the Soviet Union,” he added.

Professor Elizabeth Sepper of the University of Texas at Austin School of Law says, “Justice Gorsuch describes education about antidiscrimination law and compliance as a REEDUCATION PROGRAM. This is beyond offensive. It was a central and SOFT tool of many civil rights movements and was essential to targeting market discrimination.”

Columbia Law School’s Elizabeth Reiner Platt, the Director of The Law, Rights, and Religion Project responded, “OMG Gorsuch repeatedly insists that a training on civil rights law is a ‘reeducation program.’ Good grief.”

Attorney Andrew L. Seidel, Vice President of Strategic Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State tweeted, “WHOA. Gorsuch asks a very hostile question about sending the bakery to ‘a re-education program.’ He spits the phrase with venom and repeats it several times. He’s regurgitating right wing talking points.”

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'INAPPROPRIATE'

‘What the Hell, Sam’: Justice Alito Slammed for Making ‘Joke’ About Black Children in KKK Costumes

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The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in one of the most important cases of the term, a case that will determine if the nation’s highest court will or will not allow a person citing their personal religious beliefs to openly discriminate in the marketplace against same-sex couples.

In likely the most salient and important hypothetical example, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson described in great detail a photographer wanting to re-create scenes from 1940’s Christmases with Santa Clauses and children, in sepia tones, and making them historically accurate.

She asked the attorney representing the right-wing Christian website designer who does not want to have to provide her product to same-sex couples, if under her legal theory the hypothetical photographer would have to create photos of a white Santa with Black children.

Kristen Waggoner, the Alliance Defending Freedom‘s attorney arguing in favor of anti-LGBTQ discrimination, was forced to admit that the photographer would be able to say they would not take photos of Black children with a white Santa.

RELATED: Listen Live: SCOTUS Hears Christian Right Religion vs. LGBTQ Civil Rights Challenge

Later, Justice Samuel Alito, one of the Court’s most far-right jurists, decided to use Justice Jackson’s hypothetical analogy to make a point, and he did so by mockingly joking about Black children wearing KKK costumes.

“Justice Jackson’s example of that, the Santa in the mall who doesn’t want his picture taken with Black children,” Justice Alito began, getting the basics of the analogy incorrect.

“So if there’s a Black Santa at the other end of the mall, and he doesn’t want to have his picture taken with a child who is dressed up in a Ku Klux Klan outfit, now does that Black Santa have to do that?”

Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson replied, “No, because Klu Klux Klan outfits are not protected characteristics under public accommodation laws.”

READ MORE: ‘Anathema to the Soul of Our Nation’: Trump Pilloried for Demanding ‘Termination’ of the US Constitution

“And presumably,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor interjected, “that would be the same Ku Klux Klan outfit regardless whether if the child was Black or white or any other characteristic.”

That’s when Alito decided to make a “joke,” while thousands of Americans were listening to the Court’s live proceedings.

“You do see a lot of Black children in Ku Klux Klan outfits all the time,” he said, presumably sarcastically.

He then laughed, and some viewers in the gallery joined with him.

Many on social media were outraged and offended.

“He is so inappropriate today. And offensive,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, the former President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF). “The Black kids in KuKluxKlan outfits? Not funny. Is this the highest Court of the most powerful country in the world? Good grief.”

Minutes later, NYU School of Law Professor of Law Melissa Murray weighed in, saying, “I’m going to need Justice Alito to stop joking about seeing ‘Black children in Ku Klux Klan costumes.'”

“Seriously, what am I listening to?” she asked, to which Ifill replied, “Just awful.”

“The joke about Black kids in KuKluxKlan outfits?” Ifill also lamented. “No Justice Alito, these ‘jokes’ are so inappropriate, no matter how many in the courtroom chuckle mindlessly.”

Columbia University Professor of Law Katherine Franke tweeted, “Justice Alito is resorting to KKK jokes. Ha ha ha. As if what’s at stake here is funny, and isn’t taking place in a context in which LGBTQ people feel like we have a target on our backs. And, ahem – Klan jokes aren’t funny under any context.”

The Rewire News Group tweeted, in all caps, “I knew Alito wouldn’t be able to resist bringing up the Ku Klux Klan,” and then: “What the hell, Sam.”

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