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For LGBT Voters, Stakes Couldn’t Be Higher In 2016 Presidential Race

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Trump Victory Would Threaten Movement’s Progress Under Obama

The 2016 presidential election is a high-stakes affair. Much of the progress made by the equal rights movement over the last eight years will likely be reversed if Donald Trump is elected president of the United States. Anyone who cares about the rights of LGBT people must vote for Hillary Clinton.

The difference between the candidates for president could not be more stark. Clinton has been an outspoken advocate for equal rights. She has pledged to protect and extend the gains we have made. She knows that LGBT rights are human rights.

Trump, on the other hand, has secured the support of Christian evangelicals and other homophobes by pledging to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will reverse marriage equality and the other gains we have made through the federal courts. In addition, he has chosen as his running mate one of the most virulently anti-gay politicians in the country, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.Â

The Historic Election of 2012

To understand the context of the 2016 presidential election, and its crucial significance for the equal rights movement, we need to remember the historic election of 2012. The 2012 election was a significant turning point for the equal rights movement. Not only did the country re-elect as president of the United States an outspoken and unapologetic supporter of LGBT rights, including marriage equality, but also openly gay and lesbian candidates were elected to Congress and to state legislatures across the country, including the first out lesbian U.S. senator.

Writing in Out, Richard Socarides described the 2012 general election  as “The Gay-Rights Election.” He pointed out that “President Obama’s support for marriage equality helped him win the election and helped us win the ballot initiatives. During this latest campaign, President Obama’s support for gay-rights … worked to his advantage to energize progressives and young people.”

Socarides observed that as long as he has been in politics, it had been received wisdom that “gay issues are dangerous and only mean trouble for elected officials, even ones who are sympathetic to our cause. It is now a new day — one that has been a long time in coming. Politicians need to recognize that their embrace of us is not only the right thing to do, but leads to success at the ballot box.”

In 2012, Obama won a narrow but decisive victory, sweeping the battleground states and winning in excess of 300 electoral college votes. Facing the prospect of being vastly outspent by Republican superpacs, the Obama campaign made an early decision to concentrate on a handful of battleground states that could lead to the magic number of 270 votes in the electoral college.

In effect, the 2012 presidential campaign was a competition for the electoral college votes of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado and, above all, Ohio. The president won all of them except North Carolina and Florida.

In winning his victory, the President crafted a coalition of key constituencies: African-American, Hispanic, Jewish, Asian, LGBT, women and younger voters. All groups in the President’s coalition were necessary. For example, had the African-American vote or the women’s vote or even the smaller Asian-American demographic been depressed, he likely could not have won.

Although mainstream journalists did not emphasize the fact, the LGBT support was also crucial. It is important to stress this point because many pundits thought that when the president “evolved” to support same-sex marriage, he endangered his prospects for re-election. They thought his support for same-sex marriage would alienate potential supporters who were opposed to marriage equality. But the President did not shy away from his support for equal rights. He constantly reminded the nation of the promises he had made and kept to his LGBT constituency.

His campaign also showcased LGBT supporters of the president and what his support meant to them.

As it turned out, rather than hurting his prospects, the president’s steadfast support of LGBT rights helped him to victory. Not only did he receive considerable financial support from LGBT donors, but exit polling suggested that record numbers of gay men and lesbians showed up at the polls and that we represented 5 percent of the total electorate, with 77 percent of us supporting President Obama.

Strong support from LGBT voters put the president over the top in the popular vote and probably made the difference between victory and defeat in several swing states. President Obama’s support for gay rights may well have assured his re-election.

His re-election, and the triumphs of openly gay candidates, coupled with the ratification of marriage equality in four states, gave hope that the nation had taken a step toward accepting the proposition that LGBT people deserve equal rights under the law.

The re-election of President Obama meant that, for at least four years, there would be no return of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no repeal of the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act, no intervention by a right-wing Justice Department to defend the Defense of Marriage Act at the U.S. Supreme Court, no revocation of executive orders requiring that same-sex partners be allowed hospital visitation rights, no relaxation of the Department of Education’s anti-bullying guidelines, no end to the State Department’s important support for LGBT rights abroad, and no retreat from the goal of equal protection.

The 2016 Election

But all of those gains, and the others added by President Obama and the United States Supreme Court in the last four years — including marriage equality (thanks to a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling), the executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by federal contractors, the regulations issued by the Department of Defense incorporating sexual orientation and gender identity into the military’s nondiscrimination policy, the guidance promulgated by the Department of Education protecting transgender students, the recent rulings of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finding that sexual orientation and gender identity are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and others — are imperiled by the possibility of a Trump presidency.

Unlike in 2012, LGBT issues have not been at the forefront of the presidential campaign in 2016. Notwithstanding the GOP’s horrific anti-LGBT platform, written with Trump’s acquiescence by Tony Perkins of the hate group Family Research Council, adopted overwhelmingly by the Republicans at their convention, LGBT people have not been demonized by mainstream Republicans to the same extent that we have been in past campaigns.

Indeed, in a campaign in which Trump and his supporters have so often made ethnic and racial slurs, denigrated women and mocked the disabled, it is remarkable that there have been relatively few slurs directed at the LGBT communities. However, that does not mean that the anti-LGBT supporters of Trump have not demanded (and received) a promise to roll back the gains we have made as the price of their support.

In fact, opponents of equal rights realize that their antipathy for LGBT people is now a decidedly minority position, at least in the country at large. They know that they can no longer expect to succeed through a national campaign that becomes a referendum on LGBT rights or in which they attack us directly.

Consequently, they now attack our rights more covertly. They use code words such as “religious liberty” and strategic endorsements to advance their agenda of discrimination and hatred, an agenda that Trump has implicitly endorsed in his promise to allow anti-gay hate groups to dictate his Supreme Court appointments and his frequent references to “religious liberty” when campaigning in the South.

Moreover, in his choice of his running mate, Trump strongly affirmed his commitment to the religious right.

Pence is a fervent cultural warrior, whose anti-gay positions have included opposition to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act, and both civil unions and marriage for same-sex couples. He continues to support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

In 2015, Pence created a national furor when he signed into law a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that licensed discrimination against LGBT people. Only after protests and threats from businesses to relocate from Indiana did he sign an amendment that diluted the bill’s power to discriminate.

Contrasting Candidates

Clinton is undoubtedly the most qualified and best prepared candidate for president of the United States in living memory. She has a distinguished record of public service. Not only does she understand issues and is committed to equal rights, but she also possesses the temperament to provide the kind of steady leadership necessary in a tumultuous and dangerous world.

In a recent interview with the Washington Blade‘s Chris Johnson, Clinton pledged to build a “hopeful, inclusive America where everyone counts.”

“We have so much more work to do, and I want LGBT people in every corner of this country to know that as president, I will always have your back,” Clinton said.

“As president, I’ll make fighting discrimination against the LGBT community a top priority — including by working with Congress to pass the Equality Act,” Clinton added. “And we won’t stop there. We’ll also take on harassment, bullying, and violence — and youth homelessness, which disproportionately hurts LGBT kids.”

She also committed to veto the “First Amendment Defense Act,” a pernicious “religious freedom” bill pushed by Christian conservatives that would permit discrimination against LGBT citizens, should it pass Congress.

In contrast to the thoughtful and fair-minded Clinton, Donald Trump is an unstable narcissist who has appealed to the very worst instincts of the American people. He has demeaned the office he seeks by his incivility and insults. He has surrounded himself with fascists and racists. He is a bully, a sexual predator and a habitual liar.

A promoter of birtherism and a host of other crackpot conspiracy theories, he has mainstreamed the hatred and misinformation perpetuated by right-wing radio.

Giving us a glimpse of the tin-pot dictator he would like to be, he has threatened the press and promised to jail his political opponents. He has no appreciation of the bedrock principles of our democracy.

His domestic and foreign policies are incoherent and dangerous. His election would likely precipitate a financial collapse and would undermine the stability of American alliances around the world. No wonder his campaign has received so much aid from Russia.

As President Obama has remarked, everything we stand for is at stake. Tolerance is on the ballot.

As Hillary Clinton’s openly gay campaign manager, Robby Mook, has recently observed, every vote matters.

Hillary Clinton knows that the fight for equal rights is not over.

Clinton ends her campaign on a positive note with an appeal to young voters, one of whom says he is voting against hate.

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Chief Justice Refuses to Meet With Senate Judiciary Chairman Over Alito Scandal

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Chief Justice John Roberts, presiding over a court Democrats and government watchdogs say is riddled with corruption and ethics scandals, on Thursday once again refused to meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and a Democratic Senator who for more than a decade has been working to reform the nation’s highest court.

Last week, after bombshell reports revealed Justice Samuel Alito, a Bush-43 appointee, had two insurrection-linked flags flying at two of his homes, Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin and U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent the chief justice a letter requesting a meeting to discuss their call for Justice Alito to recuse from cases involving the January 6, 2021 insurrection, the 2020 election, and any cases involving Donald Trump. They also asked to meet to discuss the ongoing ethics scandals plaguing the Roberts Court, and the need for congressionally-mandated reforms.

“By displaying the upside-down and ‘Appeal to Heaven’ flags outside his homes, Justice Alito actively engaged in political activity, failed to avoid the appearance of impropriety, and failed to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary,” the two Senate Democrats wrote. “He also created reasonable doubt about his impartiality and his ability to fairly discharge his duties in cases related to the 2020 presidential election and January 6th attack on the Capitol. His recusal in these matters is both necessary and required.”

“Until the Court and the Judicial Conference take meaningful action to address this ongoing ethical crisis,” they warned, “we will continue our efforts to enact legislation to resolve this crisis.”

READ MORE: ‘Incompetently Bad’: Judge Cannon’s Latest Move ‘Approaching This Level of Stupid’

The Chief Justice cited the Court’s recently adopted code of ethics which some say merely codified existing behaviors without doing much to hold the Justices to the same standard every other judge who sits on the federal bench is required to observe.

“Members of the Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the practice we have followed for 235 years pursuant to which individual Justices decide recusal issues,” Chief Justice Roberts said in his letter to Durbin and Whitehouse.

Roberts insisted he was obligated to refuse to meet.

“I must respectfully decline your request for a meeting. As noted in my letter to Chairman Durbin last April, apart from ceremonial events, only on rare occasions in our Nation’s history has a sitting Chief Justice met with legislators, even in a public setting (such as a Committee hearing) with members of both major political parties present. Separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence counsel against such appearances.”

“Moreover,” he added, “the format proposed – a meeting with leaders of only one party who have expressed an interest in matters currently pending before the Court – simply underscores that participating in such a meeting would be inadvisable.”

The Nation’s justice correspondent Elie Mystal, pointing to the Roberts letter, remarked: “John Roberts, again, has already spoken about Alito’s ethical failures. And Roberts is IN FAVOR of the corruption, not against it.”

READ MORE: Alito’s Opinion in a 2022 Christian Flag Case Flies in the Face of His Recusal Refusal

Image via Shutterstock

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‘Incompetently Bad’: Judge Cannon’s Latest Move ‘Approaching This Level of Stupid’

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U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon’s latest move in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s Espionage Act prosecution of Donald Trump appears to have at least one legal expert throwing up his hands in disbelief.

Back in February, Trump’s legal team claimed Special Counsel Jack Smith’s appointment was unlawful, as is the method of funding his office and his investigations.

“Neither the Constitution nor Congress have created the office of the ‘Special Counsel,'” Trump’s attorneys wrote, CBS News had reported, “arguing the attorney general did not have the proper authority to name Smith to the job.”

“The authority he attempts to employ as Special Counsel far exceeds the power exercisable by a non-superior officer, the authority that Congress has not cloaked him with,” they claimed. There are decades of precedence of Attorneys General appointing special counsels, special prosecutors, or independent counsels – possibly the most well-known being Ken Starr who investigated then-President Bill Clinton.

READ MORE: Alito’s Opinion in a 2022 Christian Flag Case Flies in the Face of His Recusal Refusal

CBS News also noted that “Garland cited numerous laws and regulations that he and other attorneys general have said confer necessary authority onto the selected prosecutors.”

Issuing her latest edict, Judge Cannon, who likely has already delayed the trial until after the 2024 election, responded to the Trump legal team’s challenge of Smith’s appointment on Thursday.

“Judge Cannon is giving Trump’s legal team and the government 12 days to tell her how the SCOTUS decision upholding the CFPB’s funding/appointment impacts Trump’s claim that Jack Smith was unlawfully appointed and funded…,” reports Reuters’ Sarah N. Lynch, who covers the Justice Dept.

The CFPB is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Earlier this month the Supreme Court ruled the methods by which it is funded are constitutional, overturning a lower court’s ruling.

READ MORE: ‘Doesn’t Know Most Basic Rule’: Conway Blasts Cannon Over ‘Perplexed’ Reaction

Constitutional law professor Anthony Michael Kreis, mocking Judge Cannon’s order, wrote:

“Jack Smith,

You have 12 days to tell me how what Martha-Ann Alito ate for lunch on May 30, 2024 affects your appointment as special counsel.

Xoxo,

Judge Cannon”

He added, “We’re approaching this level of stupid,” and concluded, “Judge Cannon is incompetently bad.”

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‘Giddily Bouncing Off the Walls’: Legal Experts Predict Trump Conviction

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With the jury dismissed for the day after more than four hours of deliberations and a series of notes to Judge Juan Merchan, legal experts are predicting Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg will win his case against Donald Trump, and see jurors convict the ex-president on 34 criminal counts. The ex-president is on trial for allegedly falsifying  business records as a means to cover-up a conspiracy scheme to promote his election to the Presidency by “unlawful means.”

“If I were in the DA’s office I’d be giddily bouncing off the walls right now,” attorney George Conway wrote on social media late Wednesday afternoon.

Minutes later attorney Tristan Snell, who helped secure the New York Attorney General’s $25 million settlement in the Trump University civil case, also predicted a likely Trump conviction:

“BREAKING: Trump jury asks for testimony transcripts, including 3 sections from David Pecker and 1 section from Michael Cohen. VERY bad sign for Trump that David Pecker’s testimony landed with the jury and is something they want to focus on. Jury is likely leaning toward GUILTY.”

READ MORE: ‘No Moral Compass’: Legal Experts Call for Intervention After Alito Refuses to Recuse

National security attorney Brad Moss, appearing on CNN Wednesday afternoon said, “I don’t expect a hung jury but if we get into Friday, or even next week Monday, it certainly would appear that would be more likely what’s going on. But if we have a decision tomorrow, my expectation is it will be a guilty verdict.”

Yale Law School professor of law and professor of philosophy Scott Shapiro offered this short statement:

If Donald Trump is convicted he may be the least surprised, as he appeared to predict a conviction Wednesday morning: “Mother Theresa could not beat these charges,” he told reporters.

The jury returns Thursday at 9:30 AM.

See the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Biggest Felony in American History’: Prosecutor’s Closing Argument Against Trump Praised

Image via Shutterstock

 

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