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Putting it All On the Line: Giving Up Freedom for a Little Equality

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We’ve all “liked” a post on Facebook advocating for LGBTQ rights, whether that be marriage equality, adoption, non-discrimination, or anti-bullying. Many of us have shown up for rallies, blogged, or even picked up the phone and called a lawmaker.  But there are those, a rare few, who are willing to put it all on the line and go to jail so the rest of us gain equality.

Around the nation, the community has watched in fascination as Judge Robert Shelby struck down the Beehive State’s ban on same-sex marriage in December, setting off a marriage frenzy over the next 17 days as roughly 1,400 couples got hitched before SCOTUS granted an emergency stay while Utah appeals the ruling with the 10th Circuit Court. But behind the glitz and glitter of the fight over marriage equality, tireless activists in the reddest of red states have stepped up their game for a law that’s even more important: workplace and housing protections.

A non-discrimination law, barring employers or landlords from discriminating against anyone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity has been pushed every year in Utah for the past five years, with little to no results. During the 2013 legislative session, the law successfully passed out of committee for the very first time (after which it promptly died on the floor of the state senate without receiving a debate).

Despite the state’s image, the only place a non-discrimination law is unpopular in Utah is in the state legislature itself. Multiple statewide polls have all shown support for the law hovering between 67 and 77 percent, and a few weeks ago hundreds of blue slips of paper were taped to the doors of the Utah Senate by citizens of all political stripes demanding a hearing on the non-discrimination law.

sb100 2Image by Ben Winslow via Instagram

This year, Republican lawmakers (who hold a super-majority in both the House and Senate) were advised by State Attorney General Sean Reyes and outside counsel Gene Schaerr to deny the non-discrimination bill a public hearing—regardless of whether it would pass or not—for fear that some lawmaker would make an extremely bigoted statement against LGBTQ people and hurt the state’s appeal with the 10th Circuit which is set to begin April 10th. That fear seems pretty founded, as one Senator recently penned an op-ed calling marriage equality a “massacre.”

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser heeded the Attorney General’s advice, and told the media that he was not going to allow the bill to receive a hearing because LGBTQ issues are “too emotional” right now.

That was enough to push 15 LGBTQ activists over the edge.

Without warning or announcement, the group showed up at the capitol building with “We are the 72%” and “Hear SB100” signs around their necks, forming a human-barricade in front of Governor Gary Herbert’s (R) main office doors. “If the democratic process won’t work, and if we’re allowed for procedural things like tabling to stop hearing things like the nondiscrimination bill, it’s time for regular citizens to engage in peaceful acts like civil disobedience,” said Dustin Trent.

“I don’t even have a parking ticket,” added Donna Weinholtz, “but I’m willing to be arrested today.”

Several lawmakers spoke with the group, thanking them for their passion and trying to negotiate an agreement to get them to stand down. But after each offer, including a private meeting with both the Senate President and the Governor, the activists responded with a resounding “NO.” The only way they were going to move, they said, was if the Senate agreed to give the bill a public hearing, or if they were arrested.

Eventually, the governor’s staff were bustled out a side door in an attempt to take away the power of the human-blockade. But the protesters responded by moving from the governor’s office to a legislative committee room, where crowds of people and lobbyists were trying to get in and out. The crowd was not happy they couldn’t get into the room, and shouts of “Arrest them!” rang out in the cramped space. Utah Highway Patrolmen, who handle security at the capitol building, immediately placed 13 of the protesters under arrest for suspicion of disruption of a public meeting, a class B misdemeanor; and disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor.

As they were being led away in handcuffs, protester Troy Williams shouted out “With liberty and justice for ALL!”

Was it worth it? Well, Senate Republicans have still refused to give the non-discrimination bill a hearing. But on the other hand, the Utah Legislature received a pretty fat black eye as the story of the protesters spread throughout not only local media, but on national sites like MSN (and now here on NCRM!).

While those of us who live in blue states sit back and enjoy the fruits of old labors, eagerly watching as marriage equality battles unfold, it’s easy to forget that there are many places left in the country where basic protections don’t exist and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are still vulnerable. But with heroes like this, willing to step up and put it all on the line for the sake of everyone else, I’m not too worried. Bigotry cannot long stand against the tide of justice and understanding.

protesters releasedThe 13 arrested protesters, after being released from the Salt Lake County Jail.
Photo credit: @JimDabakis

Image, top, by Ben Winslow via Twitter

Follow Eric Ethington on Twitter @EricEthington

eric ethingtonEric Ethington has been specializing in political messaging, communications strategy, and public relations for more than a decade. Originally hailing from Salt Lake City, he now works in Boston for a social justice think tank. Eric’s writing, advocacy work, and research have been featured on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, the New York Times, The Telegraph, and The Public Eye magazine. He’s worked as a radio host, pundit, blogger, activist and electoral campaign strategist. He also writes at NuanceStillMatters.com

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‘Progress and Resilience’: Biden in SOTU Will Remind Americans He Is ‘Building an Economy Where No One Is Left Behind’

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President Joe Biden will remind Americans what life was like two years ago when he took office, and paint his vision of the future that builds on his long list of accomplishments as he delivers the State of the Union Address Tuesday night.

He is expected to focus on the economy, which has been greatly strengthened during his two years in office, as unemployment has dropped to a level not seen in nearly 54 years, and as the inflation that infects the globe continues to drop dramatically.

The President will also urge Republicans to continue to work with him — Biden has a historic record of bipartisan successes despite “razor-thin majorities.”

“The story of America is a story of progress and resilience,” the President is expected to say, according to excerpts from the White House. “We are the only country that has emerged from every crisis stronger than when we entered it. That is what we are doing again. Two years ago our economy was reeling. As I stand here tonight, we have created a record 12 million new jobs – more jobs created in two years than any president has ever created in four years. Two years ago, COVID had shut down our businesses, closed our schools, and robbed us of so much. Today, COVID no longer controls our lives. And two years ago, our democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War. Today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken.”

READ MORE: Trump Pushes Meme Accusing DeSantis of ‘Grooming High School Girls’

President Biden will also say his “economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten.”

“Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades too many people have been left behind or treated like they’re invisible. Maybe that’s you watching at home. You remember the jobs that went away. And you wonder whether a path even exists anymore for you and your children to get ahead without moving away. I get it. That’s why we’re building an economy where no one is left behind. Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back because of the choices we made in the last two years. This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America and make a real difference in your lives.”

And he will call Republicans, who have already begun investigating him, his “friends,” saying: “To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress. The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere. And that’s always been my vision for the country: to restore the soul of the nation, to rebuild the backbone of America: the middle class, to unite the country. We’ve been sent here to finish the job!”

READ MORE: ‘Breathtaking’: Economists Stunned by Job Growth ‘Boom’ as Unemployment Drops to Level Not Seen Since 1969

The State of the Union begins at 9 PM ET.

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Trump Pushes Meme Accusing DeSantis of ‘Grooming High School Girls’

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Donald Trump is pushing a meme alleging when Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis was a schoolteacher he was “grooming high school girls with alcohol.”

The meme (below) appears based off a 2021 article by the HillReporter website that alleges DeSantis “was photographed partying with underaged students.”

“Darlington is a boarding and day school, for grades Pre-K through 12,” the report states. “In 2001, when DeSantis joined the staff of the high school, he’d have been in his twenties, with college and work in politics already under his proverbial belt. His students would have been high school co-eds, teenagers, some of whom would have been living on-campus. According to our whistleblower, he had a reputation among students for being a young ‘hot teacher’ who girls loved, and the girls in the photo are believed to have graduated in 2002, making them seniors at the time.”

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Trump reposted the meme on his Truth Social platform Tuesday afternoon, writing: “That’s not Ron, is it? He would never do such a thing!” His remarks appear to be sarcastic. In a separate post Trump also wrote, “No way!”

In November, Insider, citing a New York Times article, reported, “Former students of Ron DeSantis said he was a ‘total jock’ who partied with students and thought it was ‘very special’ that he graduated from Yale.”

It also alleges, “Some students recalled DeSantis fondly while others remembered ‘unthinkable’ pranks he pulled on students.”

“Multiple students told the Times that DeSantis frequented parties with Darlington high school seniors and attended some events with graduates where alcohol was served,” Insider added.

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A former student of DeSantis, who is now a teacher himself, said of DeSantis, “There’s a cruelty to the sense of humor. There’s a cruelty to the mentorship.”

That Times article on DeSantis also notes, “some students were taken aback by his comments on the Civil War and abortion.”

The Daily Beast, also citing Times’ reporting, adds that DeSantis’ former students “have accused the Florida governor of being ‘mean and hostile’ towards Black students, playing ‘devil’s advocate’ when teaching lessons about the Civil War, and teaching factually incorrect history to students.”

The Times piece also uncovers DeSantis’ future goals.

“DeSantis, then a 23-year-old graduate from Yale University, used to tell his students that he was bound for the White House,” The Times adds, citing his own students.

See the meme above or at this link.

 

 

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Warmongering GOP Congressman Declares China Spy Balloon a ‘Sputnik Moment’ for America

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A spy balloon that traversed the United States, its capabilities disabled by the Pentagon before being shot down into the ocean this weekend, is causing such alarm among the right that one Florida Republican U.S. Congressman has declared it a “Sputnik moment for America.”

America’s last “Sputnik moment” was in 1957, when the Soviet Union launched a satellite into space, leading Americans to see a technological gap between the two countries, heightening the Cold War and launching the space race.

“I believe that this spy balloon was a Sputnik moment,” U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) declared on Fox News Tuesday afternoon.

It was a dire warning, despite the fact that the Pentagon has made clear China’s spy balloon posed no threat to the nation.

Waltz also told Fox News that America is “struggling to catch up” to China’s military technologies.

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As it turns out, Congressman Waltz, who replaced Ron DeSantis in the House of Representatives, is fond of the term “Sputnik moment.”

Here he is in late 2021, declaring China’s hypersonic missile a “Sputnik moment.”

In a Fox News op-ed on Sunday, Waltz declared, “Like Sputnik, the Chinese spy balloon has drastically changed Americans’ sense of security.”

“A silver lining in the Biden administration allowing the Chinese spy balloon to violate our airspace is that the American public has received a similar wake-up call to the brazenness of Chinese spying,” he writes in his Fox News op-ed. “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee and Intelligence Committee, I can tell you the United States has been under an espionage assault from China for years, but much of it has been behind the scenes.”

READ MORE: ‘National Security Nightmare’: Experts Concerned Melania Trump Was in Situation Room During ‘Major Military Operation’

China has been spying on the U.S. for decades, and the U.S. has been spying on China just as long. All spying is done “behind the scenes.”

Sunday, on Fox Business, Waltz repeated his “Sputnik” claim, calling the balloon a “national embarrassment,” and insisting “we need to get to the bottom of it.” On Monday, back on Fox News, Waltz continued his “Sputnik” remarks as well.

 

 

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