Freedom to Dissent, Especially By Calling Out Bigotry, Among Civil Liberties That’s Gradually Being Stripped Away
Itâ€™s been 15 years since the Towers came down; 15 years since the very core of who we are as a nation was viciously attacked.
Our country has changed drastically since then â€” I donâ€™t need to list the myriad of ways weâ€™re not who we once were.
For many of us, the years immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, were filled with a sadness-tinged optimism. Perhaps, many of us hoped, this was going to the catalyst that truly transformed America into who we were meant to be. Perhaps we would heed the call of pluralism and acceptance and elevated debate and passionate discourse-as-patriotism.
Instead, we followed the path toward a nationalism that prides itself on exclusion. We told those who refused to follow every single one of our nationâ€™s policies that they were no longer worthy of citizenship. We told anyone with darker skin or an accent that they werenâ€™t welcome here and we used them as an antagonistic stand-in because we werenâ€™t quite sure who our enemies were. We stopped pursuing meaningful engagement.Â
Weâ€™ve willfully given up one of our most basic and foundational American rights â€” the right to dissent. Too many have forgotten how dissent was the foundation of our Republic and that civil disobedience â€” like refusing to stand for the National Anthem â€” is rooted in patriotism.
The White Nationalist Movement has become mainstream, and when we try to caution against it people become more upset about how we deliver the message instead of the message itself. We are afraid to be confronted with the reality of our actions.
If there is a lesson to learn from 9/11 â€” at least, for me â€” itâ€™s that our right to dissent is so powerful and so important we have to fight for it every day. There are so few places in the world where a citizen can speak out against their own government without fear. If we keep following in this path â€” the path that continues to embrace white supremacy and racism and bigotry and fear â€” that right will be stripped away within the blink of an eye.Â
Thereâ€™s a famous quote most people think is by Voltaire that folks like to fall back on: â€œI disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.â€Â However, most people completely misunderstand its intention.Â
Defending someone elseâ€™s right to free speech does not mean shielding them from critique or even ridicule. Absolutely, yes, the White Nationalists deserve to use their constitutional right to say whatever disgusting things they want, and if a police officer tried to shut them down, I would unflinchingly step between them. But at the same time? I would be shouting down their statements even louder. Guarding someoneâ€™s right to free speech doesnâ€™t mean guarding them from societal consequences and it certainly doesnâ€™t mean staying silent in the face of bigotry.Â
As Americans, we should be encouraging dissent and discussion. We should be praising those who are working to make our Union more perfect. And we should be calling out those who seek to do us harm, even from within.Â
There are very few imperatives weâ€™re tasked with as Americans. Speaking out against racism, xenophobia, Islamaphobia, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, anti-Semitism and all other forms of bigotry is a requirement in my book. Itâ€™s a responsibility that every single one of us is called to. We canâ€™t let that slip away. If weâ€™re going to claim any kind of moral superiority over those who want us dead â€” and I think that we can â€” itâ€™s this. Itâ€™s our legal right to disagree without impunity â€” whether it be with one other or with our government or with those who would lead it.Â
Today, and every day, I hope we carry with us the power that each and every one of us has to change the world for the better and to refuse to accept the status quo because it makes some people comfortable. I hope we remember our responsibility to speak out against those who seek to do us harm, and I hope we never, ever stay quiet.
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Republican Attempts to Create Special Religious Rights Fail as Bipartisan Historic Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes Senate
Far right activists and organizations for months have been falsely claiming legislation to protect same-sex marriages would destroy different-sex marriages and take away religious rights from ordinary Americans, but early Tuesday evening on a bipartisan basis the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, 61-36.
61-36: Senate passes marriage equality legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriages under federal law. 60 votes were needed. The Respect for Marriage Act now heads back to the House for final approval. pic.twitter.com/vKvliW5pIU
— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) November 29, 2022
The legislation itself is very simple. It essentially leaves in place the status quo on marriage from the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling. Should right wing Supreme Court justices strike that ruling down, the Respect for Marriage Act would require the federal government and states to recognize any marriages that were legal when they were entered, now and in the future.
35 states currently still have same-sex marriage bans on the books. If the Supreme Court overturns Obergefell, many of those could become law immediately.
In order to overcome a Republican-led filibuster Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday agreed to allow three GOP Senators to offer amendments to the legislation, amendments that would have created special religious rights to discriminate.
An amendment from Senator James Lankford (R-OK) failed, as did one from Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT). 60 votes were needed for each.
Sen. Lee’s was seen by some as the most extreme, and was strongly supported by the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council and former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts, in a false claim, had said: “The ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ contains so many infringements and encroachments on religious freedoms and on conscience that Republicans should unite solidly against it. Instead, it should be called the ‘Destruction of Marriage Act.'”
Far right evangelical activist Franklin Graham falsely claimed the “bill strikes a blow at religious freedom for individuals & ministries & is really the ‘Destruction of Marriage Act.'”
The Pennsylvania Family Council wrongly called it “a bill that would redefine marriage and attack religious freedom & Christian social services.”
But despite GOP fear-mongering, the legislation has religious protections built in, protections so strong 20 faith-based organizations including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, have supported its passage.
The bill now heads back to the House for a final vote, and then to President Joe Biden, who has said he will sign it into law.
"What a great day," says Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as Senate approves legislation to codify protections for lawful same-sex and interracial marriages.
— ABC News (@ABC) November 29, 2022
‘Punditry, Not Leadership’: McConnell Slammed for Refusing to Say if He Would Support Trump in 2024
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is refusing to say if he would support Donald Trump if he becomes the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2024. McConnell spoke in broad terms about antisemitism and white supremacy Tuesday afternoon, a full week to the day after the former president had dinner with the antisemite Kanye West, and the white supremacist Nick Fuentes, but could not bring himself to disavow Trump by name.
NEW: McConnell begins his weekly presser unprompted, right off the bat by addressing the Trump/Ye/Fuentes meeting by saying anyone meeting with people who espouse anti-Semitic views will not likely be elected to the presidency. pic.twitter.com/xgAXzTn5oe
— Caitlin Huey-Burns (@CHueyBurns) November 29, 2022
“First, let me just say, there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy,” McConnell said as he began a press conference, his first remarks about Trump’s dinner with West and Fuentes. “Anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected President of the United States.”
MCCONNELL: First, let me just say that there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy. And anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States. pic.twitter.com/IbUrlmwXvD
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) November 29, 2022
McConnell did not mention Trump, and moments later, when CNN’s Manu Raja specifically asked about the former president, McConnell would only repeat his previous statement.
“Look, let me just say again, there is simply no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy, and that would apply to all of the leaders in the party who will be seeking offices,” he told CNN’s Raju.
After saying there’s no room for antisemitism and white supremacy in the Republican Party, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t answer CNN’s @mkraju as to whether he’d support Donald Trump if he wins the GOP nomination for president in 2024. pic.twitter.com/cm3coNXAZl
— The Recount (@therecount) November 29, 2022
Many were critical of McConnell’s refusal to denounce Trump.
Boston Globe opinion writer Abdallah Fayyad said, “McConnell will absolutely back Trump if he wins the GOP nomination.”
Previously, McConnell had said he would support Trump if he is the GOP’s nominee.
“Notice how McConnell said such a person is ‘highly unlikely’ to be elected, rather than manifestly unfit. He needs to keep his rhetorical options open for Trump getting the nomination again,” observed Media Matters’ Eric Kleefeld.
Law professor and former president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), Sherrilyn Ifill says, “McConnell, Pence, McCarthy and the other folks clutching their pearls today stood beside this man. Distancing from Trump over ‘the dinner’ is way late.”
Political consultant and writer Jamison Foser criticized the Republican Minority Leader, saying: “‘Will not likely be elected’ is punditry, not leadership. McConnell will support Trump if Trump is the Republican nominee; everything else is his attempt to distract from that.”
Before McConnell’s remarks, Ifill had taken the media to task.
“The most dispiriting aspect of the discussion about Trump’s meal w/those two odious ppl is that I thought there was consensus that Trump is a white supremacist. In which case 3 white supremacists had dinner. Why is Trump getting portrayed as an innocent who was snookered?”
‘Beyond Horrific’: Tucker Carlson’s Fox News Producer Is an Out Gay Man Helping ‘Ramp Up’ Hate Says LGBTQ Journalist
Fox News propagandist Tucker Carlson, whose nightly show frequently has the largest reach of any on cable news, regularly attacks the LGBTQ community with fear-mongering and hate-filled segments about gay people, transgender people, “groomers” and the latest target: “drag queen story hours.”
His senior executive producer, who oversees Carlson’s media empire at Fox News, is a married, out, gay man named Justin Wells, according to veteran journalist and SiriusXM Progress host Michelangelo Signorile, who is calling it “beyond horrific to think a gay man has helped to shape and widely disseminate a message of hate against LGBTQ people.”
Last week, in the wake of the horrific anti-LGBTQ hate crime mass shooting Carlson hosted a guest, the head of the so-called “Gays Against Groomers,” who told Fox News viewers the attack on LGBTQ people at a gay bar in Colorado Springs was “predictable” and warned that these hate crime massacres will continue, “until we end this evil agenda” of gender-affirming care.
Tucker Carlson guest: Shootings like the Club Q shooting are going to keep happening “until we end this evil agenda” of gender-affirming care. pic.twitter.com/4ajSonqlug
— Kat Abu (@abughazalehkat) November 23, 2022
Carlson has repeatedly hosted Jaimee Mitchell, the Gays Against Groomers founder who fear mongers against LGBTQ people, with the apparent consent of Wells, who “helped promulgate the kind of hate that leads to violence,” says Signorile.
“It’s unlikely that any narrative would get broadcast by Tucker without significant buy-in from Justin,” Angelo Carusone, President and CEO of media watchdog Media Matters, told Signorile.
Indeed, referring to the Colorado Springs mass shooting massacre, Signorile noted it is “the same kind of nightclub at which Wells, in years past, danced the night away in Miami Beach and elsewhere, liberating himself from the world outside and surely never imagining he’d be shot dead.”
“Now he’s aided the extremists who deny that sense of safety and liberation to every future generation of queer people,” says Signorile, explaining that “Wells runs the entire Tucker Carlson operation, and is responsible for imprinting the Tucker Carlson brand, which is all about emboldening white heterosexual male grievance, furthering the racist conspiracy of ‘replacement theory’ and pushing an increasingly virulent anti-LGBTQ agenda.”
One of Carlson’s frequent LGBTQ targets is Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who he has called an “unqualified ‘kid’ who ‘breastfeeds,’ and has no business running the agency,” as Mediaite reported.
“And as Carlson further pushed white nationalism, attacked transgender people and embraced Hungary’s authoritarian leader Victor Orban,” Signorile reports, “Wells, in 2021, was named a Vice President at Fox News, in charge of all Carlson product that airs on Fox News TV as well as on Fox’s streaming network, Fox Nation.”
Signorile says, “it’s quite stunning that Wells would work for Carlson, who has a well-known history of visceral homophobia. That’s something that came to light again last year when it became known that Carlson had offered a tribute to Dan White, the assassin of San Francisco supervisor and gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk, in his college yearbook back in 1991, as well as to the late vociferously anti-gay Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who whipped up homophobia during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.”
“I wrote about those jarring revelations when they surfaced last year,” he continues, “as well as about what I dubbed Carlson’s ‘pathological obsession with homosexuality’ throughout his career. Carlson has expressed revulsion at homosexuality, and in one incident he reveled in a violent response. In a TV interview in 2007 he described having smashed a man’s head ‘against the stall’ in a public rest room, after the man ‘bothered’ him.”
“Wells, as a gay man, only emboldens Carlson further,” Signorile concludes. “He gives him permission to launch the ugly attacks and helps Carlson validate, for himself (and likely for executives at Fox News), the vitriol he espouses. That makes Justin Wells’ presence as the powerful gay man behind Tucker Carlson all the more newsworthy. And all the more dangerous.”
Signorile notes that his reporting is not an outing.
“This story is not, however, about a warped closet case, tormented by self-loathing, hiding his true self while bashing those like him. And thus, this story is not an outing, which involves exposing someone who covers up their sexual orientation while publicly presenting as heterosexual — though it certainly may be a startling revelation to a great many. It is, rather, about connecting the dots regarding a reality that seems to have been hiding in plain sight.”
You can read Signorile’s entire report on his Substack newsletter.
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